A few days back I invited readers to ask questions ...
What did you study in college/grad school? I'm only wondering because your new job looks so amazing and I'm currently applying to colleges, but don't really know what to study.
At 17 I didn't possess a great desire to become a teacher. I didn't know what I wanted to be post-high school and chose teaching as I liked working with young kids. I chose to minor in Children's Literature for obvious reasons. I was in your position twelve years ago having no idea what I wanted to do or be - just knowing what I loved. Go with your gut.
Elena, New York
I am partial to the snide remark so 'snark' was easy. 'Persnickety' is a word I had been using the previous year as I loved the sound of all the consonants bouncing off one another, the fact it wasn't often used and snobbery is unfortunately something I have been accused of. Together they sounded great. Extra geek factor - I liked that the name of my blog sounded like the noise coming from Wolverine's (X-men) claws when they unsheathed.
Do teens really read steampunk books? I think I saw this addressed somewhere, but I'm curious. I haven't gotten into steampunk yet. I'm not sure why the reticence. But I'm curious. Dystopia seems big. But is steampunk really a big sell?
Linda, Chicagoland area (Illinois) USA
I want to know how the blog will change with your new job.
At this point I have no idea. There are three options - 1) It stays the same, 2) I stop reviewing but present other content, or 3) cease blogging altogether. I'll get back to you...
I can't think of any questions right now but I do want to use this as an opportunity to beg/implore (on my hands and knees) that you not stop writing this blog. I religiously read your blog and think it is one of the most entertaining and well written blogs around. I love your writing and your sense of humor and I will shed many tears (not of joy) should this blog end. I understand that you might not have as much free time with the start of your new job but please do not consider discontinuing this blog. Slow content is better than no content so maybe consider posting fewer entries rather than shelve this site all together. I rarely make comments so you might not know that I am an avid fan but I am most definitely an avid fan of Persnickety Snark. Whatever you decide best of luck on your new job; it sounds so exciting.
Danielle from San Mateo, California (San Francisco bay area)
Thank you so much, Danielle! You've made my week. Unfortunately the blog's future is dependant on the position I am about to fill. I will be in constant contact with YA authors and as such there might be a conflict of interest if I continue to review. I won't ever be a pandering reviewer so stopping might be the best option. We'll see. But thank you so much for your kind words and support.
What are you looking forward to most about your new position? What are you most nervous about?
Also, how did you go with the move to Melbourne?
I am looking forward to working in an organisation that strongly promotes and believes in the power of the written word and our youth. I am really excited to work as part of a team that is equally passionate about youth literature. Nervous...new jobs are always nerve wracking as there is so much to process. I am actually flying to Melbourne in the morning and starting at the library the morning after that so there isn't much time to get nervous (which is how I planned it). The move hasn't been too bad but I have moved from Japan 20 days prior so it has at times been a little overwhelming.
How does the development of your critiquing skills as reviewer help/hinder you with your own writing? And further, what are your aspirations for your own writing?
I think critiquing does both. It helps in that you have a greater understanding of what is required in terms of quality characterisation and plotting but it also has the opposite effect. When your own writing doesn't meet what you know is quality then that can make continuing a problem. At this point in time I find it extremely hard to turn off the critiquing part of my brain and just relax into writing.
Thanks for the questions!
Saturday, 8 January 2011
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen. Goodreads.
Review - I love life's grit as presented in youth literature and Black has managed to brilliantly integrate the urban scrounge with fantasy elements. It makes for a compelling mix especially with her unique voice. Disregard all the surface elements and world building and you have a story that thoughtfully explores family, isolation, sacrifice and responsibility. There is a hefty amount of smoke and mirrors which weaves effortlessly around the more universal elements that struck emotional chords. Black is an author that has eluded my attention previously, however White Cat has created an appetite for her perspective on teen life within a fantastical context.
Recommendation - Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels with teen boys and magic - love.
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Format: Hardcover, 310 pages
Published: May 4, 2010
Friday, 7 January 2011
Magic is dangerous--but love is more dangerous still.
When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.
Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own.
Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by--and torn between--two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm's length...everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world...and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all. Goodreads.
Review - Clockwork Angel isn't reinventing the wheel for Cassandra Clare but it is plowing into the world that she had created with the Mortal Instruments series. While the historical setting and the inclusion of a steampunkish storyline deviates from what she's previous accomplished there continues to be the elements that make her such a popular author - love triangle, dark origins, conflicted feelings and compelling characters. Whereas the tight familiar ties of the previous series conflict invested the audience more, the main dilemma of this narrative is distinctly inhuman and cannot be personified so there is decidedly less investment. However, the story and characters are fun company on an intriguing journey with some big questions that need to be answered.
Recommendation: Entertaining read.
Publisher: Margaret K.McElderry
Format: Paperback, 479 pages
Published: August 31, 2010
Since she was twelve, Meriel Garland has lived with her grandfather in London, exiled from her beloved India following the death of her mother. Now sixteen, Meriel chafes against the strict regime of tests and study that her grandfather imposes on her. Escaping, she discovers a world outside her narrow existence - one that promises admiration for her acting skills, social success and the excitement of seances. But what should have been a game turns serious as the young medium Sophie Casson passes on a message from Meriel's dead mother - and Meriel begins to suspect she might not be alone in the world after all. In searching for the truth about her past, Meriel uncovers a sinister scheme - and soon it's hard to know who she can really trust. Goodreads.
Review - In most respects the title, cover and synopsis are rather misleading in presenting this story to the world. Not that the synopsis is incorrect but I was expecting something altogether different. Eagland has tried something different within the historical setting that works in some context and not in others. The ultimate mystery is one that was rather unique and intriguingly played into the clash of scientific beliefs of the era. The integration of the mystical elements was less successful as it felt more of a plot device than an element to colour the world. That being said, while there are disparate parts of this novel that don't gel together as well as I would have hoped, the book is an interesting and curious read.
Recommendation - Historical intrigue with an unique premise.
Published: August 6, 2010
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
Publisher: Young Picador
Lia and Alice always knew the Prophecy would turn those closest to them against them. But they didn't know what betrayal could lead them to do. In the end, only one sister will be left standing. Goodreads.
Review - Some distance separated my reading the first title of this series (Prophecy of the Sisters) and its follow up and yet it was possible to pick right up with no confusion and even better - no intelligence insulting, exposition laden recapping. It is a testament to Zink as her narrative is rife with mythology and emotional complex interactions that one could seamlessly re-join the warring sisters and their rivalry that impacts the fate of the known world. The middle child of the Gothic trilogy this book is less about the intrigue and more about the characters making realisations about themselves and others, motivations being clarified and the stakes reinforced. Yet Zink manages to depict all this with beautifully constructed sentences that paint the setting, the era and the circumstances richly. I love that the history of the Milthorpe family is sketched in greater detail which ultimately plays into what will be the ultimate showdown in the third title.
Recommendation - Sink your teeth into this tale of familial fate, romance and sacrifice!
Published: August 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover,340 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Younger Readers.
When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of why? Why when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on...but are some questions better left unanswered? Goodreads.Review - Summers' third title joins her previous titles as kinetic reads that possess a force that propels the plot and the protagonist's emotional arc. That's where the similarities end. Grief is an emotion that is often explored in youth literature and yet Summers has managed to present a gloomy and inward emotion into something with unique direction. It is a hard book for me to quantify but the reader's emotions in situations tend to mirror that of Eddie's experience. The power of the words, the characters and the emotions that cloud everything are intoxicating and yet beneath, there is a subtlety about the human condition that very much resonated. Summers is an author that excites me - she is wonderfully unpredictable, scarily intense and hugely relatable. Fall For Anything reflects evolution as a storyteller and a push towards exploring oft depicted themes with a tighter handle on what teens are like versus an idyllic version.
Recommendation - Read it, read it now.
Published: December 21, 2010
Format: ARC, 230 pages
Publisher: St Martin's Griffin
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
new position at the Centre for Youth Literature on Monday. I thought I would offer to answer any questions that readers of this blog might have as the content may cease (and/or slow) with that position.
I would love if you chose to leave your first name and location but I understand some people find that uncomfortable.
I would love if you chose to leave your first name and location but I understand some people find that uncomfortable.