Farewell, Psych

 

psych

This past Wednesday night my family gathered together to say goodbye to our beloved friends, co-conspirators in irreverence, fellow pop culture referencers, and long-time supporters of the pineapple industry.

The menu for the wake was easy to coordinate. A simple spread, largely orange and unhealthy, high in sodium, sugar, and preservatives.

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The dress was casual, because knowing our friends, they wouldn’t want us to be the stick up Principal Richard Vernon’s ass during Saturday detention.

Sad Gus
Sad Gus

They had given us time to process the loss, to grieve for the years we’d spent hearing it both ways while sucking it until we couldn’t any longer. It wasn’t really over, they’d claimed. Imagine them carrying on in their antics and goodwill, riding off into the sunset in the blueberry.

Only, the blueberry had died long before, her carcass split in two by that assassin that time.

We had to trust them, our friends who once serenaded us to Tears For Fears “Shout” while moonwalking, that they were leaving us with a legacy, a hope…obscure 80s references on a never-ending loop.

Eight years. Eight years ago, I was about to marry my husband. I was 21, a size zero, a girl not yet a woman, eight years ago I was young.

So were they.

My entire marriage thus far we have watched these characters, and I don’t think I’m being dramatic (psh) when I say, this loss is significant. It really is like saying goodbye to friends you learned to lean on, that you feel you’ve shared something — and no, not like I actually think they are real or we know each other or have made them my sons co-Godfather’s —so special and singular it can never be duplicated.

Over the eight seasons, Shawn and Gus have slowly shed their adolescence. Do they still eat like fourteen-year-old athletes, make juvenile jokes and alienate with obscure trivia only they understand? Yes. Thank God. There is a realness to their prolonged adolescence that speaks to my generation. Kids raising kids, or Shawn and Gus being raised by the Santa Barbara Police Department. There is an honesty to the trajectory many of us find ourselves on.

If the series finale is any indication, they aren’t just kids anymore.

And neither am I. The bittersweet sentiment of my goodbye to characters I have, myself, grown up with, is met with my own revelations. My own tentative acceptance of aging and maturity and admittance that I’m not the twenty-one-year-old I was when the show aired in one of the less awkward Pilots ever put on TV.

As Shawn said, in the final moments of the final episode, “I am done cowering from the big decisions.” That statement sums up his internal conflict, his character’s ultimate, overreaching arc. And there is nothing more satisfying for a viewer to see their hero (he’s really co-hero with Gus. Come on, son!) achieve his goal. In terms of closure, this finale delivered.

We leave these character in a good place. We leave them with a future.

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So, even though we say goodbye, and we admit we sort of think you guys are being like “Topher Grace in In Good Company“, we say thank you.

Thank you for eight years of your lives.

Thank you for growing up with us.

Thank you for being our friends.

Thank you for teaching us about the 80s.

We won’t forget about you.

 

Side Effects of Making a Bucket List

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This coming week, March 18th to be precise, Side Effects May Vary releases from HarperCollins / Balzer & Bray. Debut author Julie Murphy has enlisted friends, bloggers, and her future readers to help with her online launch by sharing snippets from their own Bucket Lists.

Why? In Side Effects May Vary the main character, Alice, is diagnosed with leukemia and decides to spend her remaining months righting wrongs. This results in an unusual Bucket List of sorts that ends up having surprising consequences for Alice when she goes into remission.

When Julie asked us to share our own Bucket List, I’ll admit I was a bit flummoxed. I have never given this subject any real consideration. I haven’t even given my own I’m about to turn 30 list much thought. I am not much of a life planner at all, actually.

This may take a while. I leave you in good hands until I return.

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And….back. These are in no discernible order other than they were jotted down first.

Item #1 —

Get a book Published. I have written one book. Am 90% done with a second. Writing a book never gets easy, but it is something I have done and never thought I would actually do, therefor had I made a previous Bucket List it would be totally crossed off now. (May see the appeal to this phenomenon, now. Am a big fan of crossing things out in general.) Seeing my book in a library, on a booksellers shelf, in the hand of a reader while she waits for the train — that would be pretty sweet.

Item #2 —

Go to San Diego Comic Con. I would ideally like to go before Game of Thrones ends so I can see Jon Snow. I figure that show will be on for a few more years, so  I have some time to make this happen. Hopefully, Jon Snow doesn’t die beforehand.  As a card-carrying member of multiple fandoms, SDCC is like the mothership of Cons, a place where being a fan, a nerd, a person more comfortable with fantasy worlds than real ones, is totally acceptable. I want to see it once. That’s it. Once would be enough.

Item #3 —

Travel to the UK. I have never been to Britain, Scotland, or Ireland. My family roots go straight back there. As a girl, I was pretty much hardwired to love all things British thanks to books (and the amazing movie adaptations) like The Secret Garden, The Little Princess, The Chronicles of Narnia, and so many more. I want to have a real high tea, to drink in a pub, to walk a moor, to stay in a castle. Be it one trip or many, this needs to happen.

Item #4 —

Teach my son to read. I have a four year old who is right on the cusp of learning to read. There is something magical about watching your child begin to recognize not only the language they speak written out, but the joy those words can bring when you discover them for yourself. I want to be there with him as he does. I’m not the most maternal individual. I don’t gush over babies, I don’t feel the urge to nurture, and am in no real danger of overcommitting myself to the PTA or Sunday school. For me, the magic of motherhood is found in the relationship I have with my son, in watching him learn and grow and become who he’s going to be. And what could be more powerful than words?

Item #5 —

Go skydiving. Not that indoor nonsense where you hover in the air for ten minutes inside a giant, concrete building. I want to jump from an airplane, screaming, crying, but flying. If there is one thing I can honestly say I have to do before I die (and hopefully it won’t be the thing that kills me) it’s jumping from an airplane.

Item #6 —

Be involved in a feature film. As a screenwriter, I dream of seeing a script I’ve written on spec turned into a film. As an actor, I have always wanted to be in a film doing some actual acting. As a control freak, I am afraid of all of the above. So, maybe conquer that fear first and then shoot for the stars? Right. This last year, I produced one of my short film scripts through Kickstarter, and it was an incredible learning experience. So more of that, but bigger, longer, and so on.

Item #7 —

I believe every bucket list should have one vague item. One thing to achieve, maybe for the good of mankind, maybe just so, should all else fail, you can say you did something you set out to. Mine? Not take the ones I love for granted. Life is risky, and busy, a jumble of tasks to tick off and dreams to strive for. In the hubbub of everyday life, or because we need to get shit done so we just don’t think about it, it’s easy to forget what’s most important. I want to say thank you, at least once a day, for the people who make my life meaningful, possible, sustainable.

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I realized as I compiled this list that it was merely the tip of the iceberg, the scratch on the surface of all the living I’d like to do, have already done, and can’t begin to imagine I”ll do.  A few years ago we moved to New York City (a place I never planned on living), I wrote a book (a thing I wanted but didn’t think I could achieve), and so, as a side effect of making this list I acknowledge its state of utter incompleteness. It is less a Bucket List and more a To Do Sooner Rather Than Later List. It is a Get Up Off Your Ass and Do List.

It is an If Not Now When List.

For more about Julie’s stunning debut novel follow the links below!

Amazon

The description and link to add it to your Goodreads:

What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

Julie Murphy Author PhotoJulie lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she’s not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. Side Effects May Vary is Julie’s debut novel.

Website :: Tumblr :: Twitter

 

Christa Desir is the Shiz : A Goal for the Week

https://twitter.com/ChristaDesir/status/440140746780200960

This is not the first time I’ve shared what Christa is doing. This morning I composed my own Tweet telling my fellow Twitter addicts to spread the word. But I didn’t feel it was enough.  Christa already donates half of everything she earns from Fault Line to rape survivors all the time, but for a stretch of forty days, she will make nothing from the sales of her book. And I want everyone to know it because the reason is an amazing one.

Writers work for years on manuscripts before they ever reach the shelves. Sometimes, we work for years on manuscripts that will never be published. Sometimes we never make any money on the hours of labor, and most writers will tell you, it’s not about the money anyway. (If you want to be rich, this is not the profession for you.) When the time comes for publication, and you actually begin making a profit on your book sales, I can only imagine that the taste of victory is sweet, must be savored, and probably makes your stomach hurt a little.

It is so easy for us as consumers to lose sight of what it is we’re investing in. We’ll spend $6.50 on a coffee, but dammit that ebook for $8.99, that thing that was someone’s life for two years, that thing that just might change our day, month, year, perspective, that thing I’ll buy when it goes on sale, or if it makes it to paperback, or maybe I’ll borrow it from my friend who already has it.

I am not saying we don’t share books. We absolutely share books, in every form and fashion, we give them away so someone else can read them. We gush about them on Twitter or Goodreads or from the rooftops. I am not saying buying a cheaper version of a book makes you a villain. Books are expensive, and the economy is not improving. I get that, I feel it just like you. Anyway it gets into your hands is good.

Books are almost always a wise investment, no matter your method or means, but if there ever was a time to buy the full-cost version a book, this would be it.

Lent begins on March 5 and ends on April 17. (I am providing handy links below to Christa on Twitter and her blog, where I am sure she will talk more about this.) During that time, pick up a few copies of Fault Line. I plan to pick up a handful to donate to libraries in my area (there are several). I plan to give a copy to a friend who might not otherwise pick one up herself. I plan to make my friends who are readers buy at least one copy for themselves.

I plan to do this because it feels right to me. All we can do is what feels right to us. That’s all I’m asking of you here. So, if you’re feeling it, here are some links to get you started!

faultline

Fault Line on Goodreads:

Ben could date anyone he wants, but he only has eyes for the new girl — sarcastic free-spirit, Ani. Luckily for Ben, Ani wants him too. She’s everything Ben could ever imagine. Everything he could ever want.

But that all changes after the party. The one Ben misses. The one Ani goes to alone.

Now Ani isn’t the girl she used to be, and Ben can’t sort out the truth from the lies. What really happened, and who is to blame?

Ben wants to help her, but she refuses to be helped. The more she pushes Ben away, the more he wonders if there’s anything he can do to save the girl he loves.

Christa’s Blog :: Twitter :: Facebook

Links to where you can buy online or find it in your area:

IndieBound

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

The Balance Keepers — The Fires of Calderon COVER REVEAL

Here’s the description:

The first book in an epic middle grade fantasy adventure series that takes place in an underground society at the center of the earth. Packed with action, humor, magic, and mystery.

After following a mysterious map into the woods and then under the woods, eleven-year-old Albert Flynn learns he’s a Balance Keeper—someone with special magical skills for fixing problems in three underground Realms at the Core of the earth. His new job is important; if the realms fall out of balance, the world above could be in great danger.

Albert and his Balance Keeper teammates Birdie and Leroy arrive in the Core not a moment too soon. There’s an Imbalance in the Calderon Realm and it’s threatening to bury Albert’s hometown of New York City in a mountain of ash.

The three must train hard completing mental and physical challenges, but above all, they must harness the power of their Tiles—unique superpowers given to each Balance Keeper. So far, Albert’s mastered the art of not mastering his Tile….

With the situation in Calderon growing worse every day, can Albert, Leroy, and Birdie restore balance before New York is destroyed forever? Will Albert master his Tile before it’s too late?

Perfect for fans of Percy Jackson, The Unwanteds, and the classic Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Sounds pretty fantastic, right? Lindsay posted the cover on her blog this morning, many of you may have already seen it, but as a friend and registered Booknerdigan I was too excited. I had to share it!

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balance keepers

It publishes September 23, 2014 from Katherine Tegen/ Harper Collins and is the first book in a trilogy.

Buy a copy:

International at The Book Depository

Go add it on Goodreads:

The Balance Keepers — The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings

Can’t wait to read my copy!

Interview with Susan Bishop Crispell, author of LOVE & CUPCAKES

CoverFinalSM-LoveAndCupcakesFrom Goodreads:

For Jaclyn “Jack” Pace, sensing what sweets people crave is as easy as breathing. But it’s not enough to keep her cupcake bakery in the black.

So, when her estranged sister Harper comes back to town with an affinity for making art out of icing—and a past full of secrets—she reluctantly gives Harper a job and a place to crash. As their sisterly relationship begins to thaw, the one with her business partner Graham starts to heat up. Given the legend that says Hollingsworth men will recognize their soul mates at first touch, Jack’s always been resigned to the fact that she’s not his.

But when she starts sensing desires that are decidedly not dessert-related, it’ll take all of her magic to set things right with customers and make her own desires come true.

Buy it here:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

(At only $0.99 – a crazy low price for such a fabulous book— you cannot lose!)

Interview:

Me: Jack can sense what food —and in some cases, drinks— people desire. How did you come up with this specific magical ability? Was it before or after you decided she owned a cupcakery?

Susan:

The cupcakes definitely came first. From there it was a matter of finding something magical that fit with the cupcakes but also fit with a girl who couldn’t seem to get her relationships (with Graham or her family) to be what she wanted.

Me: Love & Cupcakes is set in a small Southern town, what is it that specifically drew you to that setting? I know you are from the south, is Sugar a reflection (or idealism) of your own town?

Susan:

I am from the south and just love the sense of hospitality here. I worked in a coffee shop in college and for a few years after. It was one of those places where I knew most customers by name, where they hugged me on a regular basis, where I still go every Saturday to drink coffee with some of them. I wanted that feeling on a whole-town scale.

Me: You have some pretty amazing (read: mouthwatering) cupcake flavor combinations in Love & Cupcakes. What kind of research did you have to do to come up with them?

Susan:

So, there’s a scene in Love and Cupcakes where Graham and Jack are fighting about making new cupcake flavors and Jack says that she reads blogs, and Graham kinda laughs at her. That’s basically me and my husband. I read a ton of blogs and looked at menus on cupcakery websites, and honestly I just made some up that I thought sounded cool. I desperately wish Pinterest had been around when I was writing this book. It would’ve been so much fun!

Me: You write both Adult and Young Adult, is one easier or more interesting for you?

Susan:

About 90% of the books I read in 2013 were YA. (I’m almost 33, so anyone who says YA is just for teens has no clue what they’re talking about!) My last two manuscripts have been YA because that’s the mindset I’ve been in. There’s just something about writing (and reading) about teens that appeals to me. All the heightened emotions, the intense friendships, the almost desperate need to figure out who the hell you are apart from what everyone wants you to be. It just gets in my head and refuses to leave.

But my adult books allow me to explore the person who’s lived through all of that and come out on the other side—and not always for the better.

Me: You have won NaNoWriMo five times, which is an impressive number! What words of advice do you have for writers struggling to finish their manuscript or revise a NaNo project?

Susan:

Put your ass in the chair and your fingers on the keys. No, seriously, do it. That’s the only way you’re going to get it done. Books don’t write themselves, not matter how much we might want them to some days. (Cats don’t either, by the way. I’ve asked.) Set goals for yourself and force yourself to follow them. The goals can be as small as “I’m going to write one page every day,” or “I want to have a first draft by X date.” Just make it something you can stick to.

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The non-writing cat, Chaucer, standing on top of a book outline.

I also highly recommend finding some writing friends who write in a similar genre and style to critique with. The support system of others who are going through the same struggles (and highs) as you does wonders for your productivity. I don’t know where I’d be without my CPs. (That’s not true. I’d probably glaring at my cats for not writing my books for me and finding any excuse I could to not do it own damn self.)

(Me Aside: As one of Susan’s CPs, I don’t know where I’d be without her. I love knowing when I get stuck or freaked — and believe me you will inevitably get stuck or freaked — I can email, Tweet, or text — sometimes all three!— Susan and she will help me unstuck and de-freak.)

Me: You make some very clever pop-culture references in Love & Cupcakes. My favorite is when Harper, Jack’s younger sister, appears wearing a t-shirt with the words Grr Argh written on it. Which is a reference to Joss Whedon’s production company, Mutant Enemy. As a fellow fangirl, these little nods made me smile. If you could share a cupcake with three of your fangirl inspirations, who would they be and what flavor cupcake do you think Jack would give them?

Susan:

Oh, my. Of course you would ask me to choose between my favorite fangirl inspirations! (Me: Muahahahahaha!) Okay, since you’re forcing me, here goes:

1) Bryan Fuller (creator of Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls, and Dead Like Me) is a no-brainer. I feel like Graham would have to make a special gruyere-topped, apple pie-filled cup for him. Or maybe it would be a simple white chocolate and honey. But it would definitely relate to The Piemaker since he was the inspiration for Graham.

2) Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars (yes, I’m going fictional inspiration here! I mean, have you seen that boy?). His cup would most definitely be a dark chocolate with whipped marshmallow filling and icing because he is the ultimate Marshmallow.

3) Zoe and Wash from Firefly (yes, I’m picking two because they come as a packaged deal and I refuse to separate them, leaves on the wind be damned!). They would split a milk and white chocolate marbled cupcake with a spicy cinnamon icing. Then they’d hightail it back to their bunk on Serenity to eat it in private.

Me: If you walked into Crumbs, and Jack was behind the counter, what flavor cupcake or scent would she smell for you?

Susan:

Ooh, if we’re talking strictly cupcakes, Jack would probably sense chocolate caramel from me. Chocolate and caramel, in almost any form, is my weakness. But if we’re talking desires in general, it would be more like salty air and suntan lotion and a hint of peaches because I’m a beach girl and my husband grows peach trees.

Bio:

susanSusan Bishop Crispell is not one of those writers who’s been scribbling down stories since she could hold a pencil. She didn’t read constantly growing up (blasphemy!), and she can still be found in public without a book tucked into her purse (again with the blasphemy!).

She is, however, the kind of writer who lives for the imaginative spark that introduces her to a new character or story idea that pushes her to turn everyday life into something magical.

She lives and writes near Wilmington, NC.

Handy Social Media Links:

Twitter :: Facebook :: Tumblr :: Pinterest :: Website :: Publisher

YA Superlative Blogfest: Best in Show

C2013 Banner The YA Superlatives Blogfest is hosted by Katy UppermanTracey Neithercott, Jessica Love, and Allison Miller. It’s a chance to highlight the best, most affecting, most entertaining YA reads of 2013. Get ready to add to your TBR pile!

Favorite Cover —

Three-way tie:

Cutest Couple —

Two-way tie:

Eleanor and Park from Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. I love these two more than almost any two ever.

by Simini Blocker
by Simini Blocker

Gansey and Blue from The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. I know they aren’t a couple yet, but that scene in the mountains by the Pig…oh God.

by Maggie Stiefvater
by Maggie Stiefvater

Most Likely to Succeed (Or, pick a Printz Winner.) —

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Honestly, this book is a love story to fandoms, and nerds, and authors (which often overlaps), and should be recognized for that.

Most Likely to Make You Miss Your Bedtime (Book you just couldn’t put down!) —

Three-way tie:

Eleanor & Park because all the feels.

The Dream Thieves because obviously I am obsessed. I read it in just over a day.

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The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black because I sat in a chair a read it while my husband gave me dirty looks and tried to convince me to do anything else.

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Best Repeat Performance (Your favorite sequel or follow-up. —

Two-way tie:

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. I am a broken record.

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

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Runner up: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo.

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Favorite Finale or End of Series Novel—

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The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. One of the most satisfying series enders I’ve read. We could all learn a thing or ten from Rae Carson.

Romance Most Worthy of an Ice Bath—

Two-way tie:

Wren and Charlie in The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle. I mean, if you’ve read it, you’ll know. I am actually a twelve-year-old girl who giggles and blushes when she reads sexy scenes. These two embarrassed me.

Celeana and Chaol in Crown of Midnight. Oh my holy geez.

Breakout Novel (Your favorite book by a debut author.) —

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Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. The voice is so unusual, and the story has a quiet power that sneaks up on you. I don’t know what a “debut” should feel like to read, but this book definitely read like it was written by a seasoned storyteller.

Best Old-Timer (Your favorite read of the year, published BEFORE 2013.)

Two-way tie:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

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Book Most Likely to Make a Grown Man Cry—

Eleanor & Park. If this book doesn’t make you cry, your heart may seriously be stone. Like, get it checked out pronto, Tin Man.

Most Pleasant Surprise (Best book you didn’t think you’d like, but totally did.) —

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OCD Love Story by Cory Ann Haydu. I won this on Twitter from Alison Cherry, and was bummed because I wanted The Dream Thieves. (I entered every ARC contest I came across for The Dream Thieves. It was a admittedly, not my finest hour.) I ended up being totally enthralled and emotionally invested in this book. I wouldn’t have read it otherwise, so I’m glad I ended up with it.

Most Creative Use of a Love Triangle —

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. Or quadrangle. She’s with Mal. She’s wooed by Nikolai. She’s seeing visions of the Darkling. It’s all very sexy and confusing for Alina and me.

Sleeper Hit (Book you found so awesome you wish it had been hyped more.)

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Poison by Bridget Zinn. The frothy, fabulous narration. The magical, whimsical world-building. Bridget Zinn passed away before her book debuted, and that made it extra sweet and special to read this already brilliantly done debut novel. If you haven’t read it, do!

Favorite Outlier (Your favorite middle grade or adult 2013 book) —

I don’t have any. This is really, quite sad. I have problems.

Now for my own Superlative category…

Twist Ending/Plot Point that Most Caught You Off-guard (Spoiler Free) —

17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. Just so unexpected and so much more painful than I was prepared for.

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. I couldn’t turn pages fast enough. Then I just wanted to go back and un-know what I knew.

Honorable Mention:

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Allegiant by Veronica Roth. I still don’t know how I feel about this. I may never. I will just have to accept that.

I read an article once (and this isn’t it, but it’s basically the gist) that no matter how many books we read per year (40 for me this year so far) we will NEVER read all the books published. We will never get “caught up”, because every year there will be books published we can never get to, and there are always classics we haven’t made time for, and etc., etc., etc.  

Putting together my responses for the Superlatives, I was overwhelmed by the volume of books read in 2013 that truly exceeded my expectations, and even more by the amount of books I can’t wait to read, and again was reminded that I will never read them all, no matter how hard I try. 

Having a problem of too many books to read, that is a very good problem to have!

YA Superlative Blogfest: Elements of Fiction

C2013 Banner

The YA Superlatives Blogfest is hosted by Katy UppermanTracey Neithercott, Jessica Love, and Allison Miller. It’s a chance to highlight the best, most affecting, most entertaining YA reads of 2013. Get ready to add to your TBR pile!

Most Envy-Inducing Plot (Or, the plot you wish you’d thought of yourself.) —

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The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. This is part me wishing I had come up with this plot, which is totally mind-boggling, another part my desire to write like Maggie Stiefvater, and the rest, embarrassingly, a longing to write Gansey kissing scenes. There is no reality in which any of these things are possible, and my pride (flimsy as it is) will not allow me to write Gansey fan fiction.

Most Formidable World (Or, the setting you definitely would NOT want to visit.)—

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Rural Ohio without water from Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. First of all, it takes place in Ohio. It’s not a place I long to visit period let alone post-apocalyptically. Second, there is a water shortage, starving coyotes, and a bunch of horny men with guns. Nothing is easy in this world and nothing is safe. Third, it’s lonely and isolated.

Wanderlust-Inducing (Or, the setting you’d happily travel to.) —

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The world of Mages in The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas. Much like in Harry Potter, this world exists within but separate from our own. It’s a place where magic is real, and controlling the elements is a skill to kill for. It’s set in England, which I am programmed to love from early childhood thanks to The Secret Garden and The Chronicles of Narnia. There’s a magical book that allows you to traverse fantasy kingdoms like a virtual reality video game. There’s a hot Prince…I’m straying from my point…it’s all the things I enjoy about fantasy plus the UK and an all-boys school.

Loveliest Prose —

(A tie and a cheat.)

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (not published in 2013, but I read it in 2013). Cadence is a big draw for me. As is atmosphere. As is language choice. More than her other books (which also have all the things I love) The Scorpio Races sings. It yearns. You can feel the wind whipping your face, soaking your skin with soggy air. I never stumbled while reading, I was just swept away.

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17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. There are moments when you actually almost think you can smell fire. When the snow crunches beneath your feet. When the whole broken world she’s created just crumbles and you are left unable to pick up the pieces.

Best First Line —

I find this basically impossible to answer. So I will do it multiple times.

Fire was easy.

~ The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas

A secret is a strange thing.

~ The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

He’s stopped trying to bring her back.

~ Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The boy and girl had once dreamed of ships, long ago, before they’d ever seen the True Sea.

~ Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Most Dynamic Main Character —

Art by Cassandra Jean
Art by Cassandra Jean

Richard Gansey (The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater) You could argue there isn’t one main character in these books because it’s an ensemble cast. You can argue that, but for me there would be no Raven Boys without Gansey. The story wouldn’t — no, couldn’t — exist without him. Gansey is their leader, their driving force. If you look up dynamic in the dictionary you will find a picture of Gansey (because I pasted it there to make my point). He is the epitome of dynamic because his depths are unseen by the casual onlooker. (I have a Gansey problem. I’m seeking help.)

Most Jaw-Dropping Ending — 

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I think many of us will say Allegiant. I did the flip backwards and forwards. I did the WTF, Veronica? I did the stare into nothing from bewilderment.

Best Performance in a Supporting Role —

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Nikolai (Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo) Usually you want the girl to love the guy. With Nikolai, I don’t mind if Alina doesn’t end up with him. He’s my love interest. He stands on his own feet, is powerful but kind, a secret brainiac, and an actual prince. He’s not just a game piece in the story, but a person you end up wishing you knew.

Best Use of Theme —

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The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. Throughout the series, Elisa is faced with a complicated question: Is she powerful because of her Godstone, or is she powerful because she’s intelligent and fearless? I think Rae Carson does a beautiful job of examining the difference between destiny and choice, between being a person of faith and a zealot, between being just and being vengeful.

YA Superlative Blogfest: Popularity Contest

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The YA Superlatives Blogfest is hosted by Katy UppermanTracey Neithercott, Jessica Love, and Allison Miller. It’s a chance to highlight the best, most affecting, most entertaining YA reads of 2013. Get ready to add to your TBR pile!

Class Clown — 

Noah Czerny (The Raven Cycle series) Slightly traumatized and a bit self-depracating, but quite funny if you can get past that.

Most Likely to Become a Rock Star—

Jace Wayland (The Mortal Instruments) Body. Runes. Hair. Face. Who cares if he can sing? I’d pay to watch him on stage.

Mostly Likely to Start a Riot —

Ronan Lynch (The Raven Cycle series) And I would want to watch.

Biggest Flirt —

Celeana Sardothien (Throne of Glass) I girl crush her, but that is not important. She’s already proven willing to use her feminine wiles to get what she needs.

Fashion King and/or Queen —

Isabel Lightwood (The Mortal Instruments) The leather-clad version.

Girl You’d Most Want For Your BFF —

Alina Starkov (The Grisha trilogy) She’s the Sun Summoner, guys. She got a great sense of humor and could probably handle her liquor cause she’s Ravkan. We’d get into trouble, but it would be fun.

Boy You Wish You’d Dated in High School —

Richard Gansey (The Raven Cycle) Gansey relocates my heart to my stomach. He’s someone I would have secretly crushed on in high school, but watched from afar. His intensity and passion would make me want to follow him anywhere, a skill he has utilized in the past to get what he needed. He’s got a depth and charisma that makes him equally lovable, heartbreaking, and intimidating.

Runner Up: Noah Shaw (The Mara Dyer trilogy) because he comes off as an asshole and isn’t really. Also, not marriage material. Also, sexy.

(I think I should be applauded for my restraint. I didn’t just answer Jon Snow when I totally could have.)

Most Likely to Become President —

Tobias Eaton (Divergent trilogy) He’s a true leader, even if he’s deeply flawed and can be swayed to extremes. As a politician, I believe he would be very effective.

Quirkiest Character —

Gavriel (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown) For a vampire, he’s quite unusual, and not in the boring sense (*coughs* Edward). He’s also half-way to crazy town, but it comes off as endearing and a little sexy.

Villain You Love to Hate —

The Darkling (The Grisha trilogy) I can’t imagine a villain I would want to kiss — I mean kill — more.

Favorite Parental Figure —

Park’s Mom and Dad (Eleanor & Park) Two of my crying fits while reading that book involved his parents. They are flawed, but their unconditional love for their son isn’t.

Runner up: Maura, Calla and Persephone (The Raven Cycle) Blue’s Mom and aunts are aware, involved, but hands off. They allow Blue to run around doing crazy shit with her raven boys because they trust her judgement, but they don’t stick they’re heads in the sand either.

Coolest Nerd —

Cath (Fangirl) Because being a nerd is cool.

YA Superlative Blogfest: Head of Class

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The YA Superlatives Blogfest is hosted by Katy Upperman, Tracey Neithercott, Jessica Love, and Allison Miller. It’s a chance to highlight the best, most affecting, most entertaining YA reads of 2013. Get ready to add to your TBR pile!

Favorite Dystopian —

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Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. I choose this book because it’s an unusual take on the dystopian genre. The rural setting and quiet story were deeply affecting, haunting even. Lynn, the protagonist, is one of the most unusual voices I’ve read this year.

Favorite Science Fiction —

So, I need some more straight Sci-Fi in my reading life. I WATCH oodles of science fiction, but I only have two books on my list this year. Since I had lukewarm feelings about both, I refuse to answer.

Favorite Fantasy —

I think it’s nefarious to peer pressure me into answering this question. I am a fantasy writer. I definitely read more fantasy than any other genre, which means almost all my answers can also be considered fantasy. I am picking two. (three)

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The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. I can’t talk about these books coherently. The Raven Boys was my first read on 2013, and then I reread it before The Dream Thieves (which I read in a little over a day). Feels. I feel too many things about this series. It makes my stomach swim. Maggie Stiefvater is easily my favorite author.

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Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas. I enjoyed Throne of Glass, but Crown of Midnight destroyed me. It is YA High Fantasy at it’s best. It is all the things I love about High Fantasy with a super-freaking-sexy love story woven in.

Favorite Contemporary —

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Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. Duh. I was late to the Rainbow Rowell fan club, but I’m now a firm believer. This book will make my top five for the year. I can’t begin to explain it, and nothing I say can prepare you for the experience of reading it. I had heard nothing but praise and still I was shocked by my reaction.

Favorite Action/Adventure —

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Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. It counts. They’re on a quest through a big chunk, on the run through another, and it’s just so flipping fantastic the whole time.

Favorite Historical Fiction —

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Yeah, it’s not ACTUALLY historical fiction, but it works because it takes place in a historical setting. Plus, it’s brilliant. I seriously loved this book. It’s all atmosphere and feels.

Favorite Comedy —

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I don’t know that I read anything truly considered COMEDY this year. But the book that made me laugh most was Austenland (which I know isn’t YA, but it’s the best I can do.) by Shannon Hale. It was also a super fast, lighthearted read.

Favorite Mystery —

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17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. This could almost be a Genre Bender, the story is that layered. It is not what you expect, which makes it a successful mystery.

Favorite Romance —

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The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson. It counts. It’s the love story I love the best.

Favorite Paranormal —

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The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black. This one is a love or hate situation. I loved it. I didn’t ever willingly put this book down.

Favorite Family Drama —

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A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I know it’s not YA, I know it’s fantasy, but if A Game of Thrones isn’t one messed up family drama, I don’t know what is.

Favorite Genre Bender —

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The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. This book seems paranormal, kind of has a mystery, and also is a love story. Noah Shaw is one of the sexiest boys ever written.

YA BOOK CLUB: ALLEGIANT

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YA Book Club is a product of Tracey Neithercott’s brain. This usually results in a lot of fun times and general shenanigans. For full details and instructions click the link.

The book of the month is…

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Allegiant by Veronica Roth.

I will not even try to do a post without spoilers. At this point I can’t imagine what purpose that would serve any of us. Though, I will say, THIS POST CONTAINS MANY SPOILERS AND DRAMATIC EXCLAMATIONS. 

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SPOILERS THROUGHOUT!

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I have a lot of good things to say about the Divergent trilogy as a whole. I think the creation of Four (because when you can be called Four why would you ever go by anything else?) and his existence in our imaginary world is one blessing that cannot be taken from us. The story is absorbing. The world is compelling and largely believable as a functioning future version of our own world. The swoon and the feels present in all three books never disappointed me.

I am impressed by Veronica Roth’s storytelling ability. Her prose is clean, bold, sometimes stark, but always engaging. She created characters that were flawed, strong, weak, broken, beautiful, and deeply real.

I have a lot of good things to say about Allegiant individually.

For me, Tris was never my favorite narrator. I had a hard time connecting with her from the beginning of the series. It’s hard to explain. I loved Four, though, and while I don’t think the dual POV in Allegiant was distinct enough for me, I still very much enjoyed having his POV because it helped me see Tris in a new and kinder way. I found myself more attached to her and more aware of her beauty and goodness than when I was confined to her head.

I think this was genius on Veronica Roth’s part because…when Tris dies, it resonated with me for days. Tris became a woman capable of true sacrifice over the course of this series. She became solid but vulnerable in Allegiant, and losing her was truly devastating. However true to the character and the story as it may be, watching Tris die still didn’t sit well with me and it has taken me a a few weeks of intermittent mulling to discern why.

My reasons are three-fold:

1. I can see a way out. I can see how Tris could sacrifice herself for Caleb (which, yep, she had to do) and still survive. As writers we give ourselves outs in our prose, sometimes they are small and wobbly because you don’t ever intend to use them but feel safer with them there. Sometimes they are foreshadowy and red-inked because you need to know they won’t go away. It was written, in multiple places, that Tris could withstand serums. I believe she could have survived had David not shot her. I also think there was a way to redeem Caleb’s character and save Tris from David’s bullet. I think Caleb could have done something. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m reaching. Maybe she could have reached a little too. For us and for Four.

2. Four didn’t get to say goodbye. The death will never feel satisfying to me, and it will never feel worthwhile for this reason. It will always be a little incomplete and unfinished. I needed more than I was given. I can even understand the argument that the way in which she died — and all the unsaid and unfinished — was appropriate for this series and world. I am not sure I care though. As a reader, I felt a little let down. It hurt.

3. Taking those other thoughts into consideration, this next one is completely and utterly personal. I am writing a series (hopefully someone else will agree and want to publish it), in first person POV, so I know what it feels like to share headspace with a character. As attached as I am to my protagonist, and as much as she is a part of me, I try to believe that if I HAD to kill her to tell her story honestly then I would. I respect Veronica Roth for her willingness to do this with Tris, because I am sure it was very painful. Having said that and understanding why she felt this was the right ending, it bothered me that she (Veronica Roth) didn’t fight harder for Tris. This is not an attack on her writing ability, nor is it an attack on her person. I just feel this way, and it won’t go away.

Beyond my problems with the books (overall and Allegiant specifically) I still think the Divergent trilogy is a well-written, engaging and accessible series. Veronica Roth is a talented writer, and someone I expect, and hope, to be writing for years to come. I think the ending overshadowed some of the other big, fascinating aspects of the book. The world outside the fence is a broken but interesting place. The relationships feel real and vulnerable, which make the characters feel more human.

For Veronica Roth’s first series, at such a young age, Divergent is a powerful example of her talent. I am able to get past my own muddled feelings to still recommend this series to everyone and anyone, and that speaks volumes to its value.