Category Archives: Young Adult Literature

Amanda Hocking – My Blood Approves

“Whenever I said the word vampire, I felt like a complete tool. Like I was in a bad horror movie or I was being Punk’d. It just wasn’t a possibility.” – Alice in My Blood Approves

Amanda Hocking is a brilliant, brilliant girl. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’m not even (necessarily) talking about her writing. I’m talking about her self-publishing savvy.

As for her writing… yes, she could use a new editor. But her stuff is Young Adult fiction with a lot of pop culture references (to items like Chuck Taylors and Dickies, and artists like Kanye West and the Violent Femmes) and it does its job, which is to carry a story that readers find engaging. It’s a fast, easy read – though editorially excruciating – and 56% percent of the way through the first book, it may or may not start to grow on you.

Now, I’ve been told that I’m exceptionally quick at predicting plots, but I’d think with a title like My Blood Approves the gist of the book is pretty evident. Alice, the main character, doesn’t think so. One of the other characters finally has to reveal the book’s premise to her out of what I presume to be exasperation at her slowness at figuring it out.

Alice is the average girl; apparently her pretty friend Jane’s sidekick, she isn’t used to a lot of attention at home or socially.  Jane, on the other hand, is a pretty, fast girl with a drinking/drug habit (she doesn’t start rolling until book two, if you make it that far).  Alice’s mother is busy working swing shift, sleeping, smoking, and drinking, so her closest family member is her brother Milo, who cooks and cleans for the family.

When Alice and Jane unsuccessfully attempt to go clubbing with fake IDs one night, the book borrows a page from Twilight as they’re followed by some menacing men and rescued by a stranger. That stranger is Jake, a thin, trendy, sensitive, and bored vampire that lives with his wealthy “family” of vampires:

  • Peter, who Alice is irresistibly attracted to
  • Ezra, the head of the household
  • Mae, the sweet, nurturing vampire woman

True to form, Jake has nothing better to do with himself after a few hundred years than hang about with a teenage girl whose thoughts are, for some reason, enigmatic to him. She spends her time being torn between her strong bond with Jake and her strong attraction to Peter, and obsessing about becoming a vampire herself.  Alice is less interesting than Bella, but the vampires are equally or more likeable if you can overlook the seriously awful spelling, punctuation and usage and some clumsy plotting to get to know them.

I’m incredibly impressed with Amanda Hocking’s persistence, savvy, and narrative ability. Despite the editing gaffes, I’m going to download the third in the series soon.

You can download My Blood Approves for $.99 here.

Twilight Past Midnight

So, I just finished reading Twilight. It might be because I was so riveted by the book and I couldn’t put it down, so I stayed up until 2am reading. Then again, it might be that I’m grappling with a bout of insomnia the past few nights. Actually, it’s market research. I’m fairly certain that I’m going to write a vampire novel to contribute to the gross oversaturation of the market. (If you’ve walked around a Barnes & Noble in the past three years, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

How some readers feel about Twilight

If you’ve already read Twilight, you know that you read the book from Bella’s perspective, hopefully identifying with her as the “every-girl” that doesn’t know how special she is until enough strangers affirm it for her. Her affirmation comes from Edward, a 90 year-old vampire in a 17 year-old body. We all know that vampires are inexplicably rich and drive fast cars (in a variety of expensive makes and models), are handsome to a fault, and have charisma coming out the yin-yang. Thanks to this book, the entire female population of North America (with the possible exception of the Amish) knows that vampires sparkle. 

The first half of the book was slooooow. Then, the vampires start playing baseball. That’s when things get interesting, because that’s when the bad vampire that wants to eat Bella shows up.

I’m not going to say awful, nasty things about this book. I’m a 20-something, and not a big romance reader, but this book managed to keep me up until 2am reading. I’m not sure if I’ll bother with any of the others or not, but I’m not ruling it out. However, I found Edward’s repeated talk of how “dangerous” he is as off-putting as if any teenage boy were saying it. If you ARE dangerous, shut up about it already, and do something dangerous. Like be an actual vampire, instead of an animal-hunting emo sissy. 

If I was thirteen I’d have loved the book, hands down. I know gals in their 30s that love the book, so it’s certainly readable.  Odds are good that if you’re a guy, you won’t like it. If you read a lot of books that are not romance or Young Adult novels, you probably will not like it. If you don’t believe in love at first sight, you probably aren’t gonna like it. If you’re a big vampire/romance novel/creepy vampire-human crossbreed/unicorns and princess fan, this book is for you.


We sat silently, looking into each other’s eyes – trying to read each other’s thoughts.  

He broke the silence first.

“Maybe that’s not the right comparison. Maybe it would be too easy to turn down the brandy. Perhaps I should have made our alcoholic a heroin addict instead.”

“So what you’re saying is, I’m your brand of heroin,” I teased, trying to lighten the mood.

He smiled swiftly, seeming to appreciate my effort. “Yes, you are exactly my brand of heroin.”

“Does that happen often?” I asked.

(It’s apparently not odd to this teen that her sweetie is talking about alcoholism and heroin; all she wants to know is, how many “brands” he takes up with.)

If you haven’t read it and you want to, get it here.

To Download, or Not to Download: That is now the question.

It started with The Hunger Games. I wanted to read it, preferably right this minute, and all of the bookstores were sold out. I don’t have a Kindle, and I’ve always claimed to abhor ebooks. I caved. I downloaded the Kindle app to my android phone, and was reading The Hunger Games in mere seconds. I scrolled through the quasi pages so fast they were almost a blur.

By the next day, I had to have another one, and I consumed it so fast it probably ought to have made me sick.  By the day after that, my little habit was growing. I downloaded two ebooks (Mockingjay and The White Queen) because I finished the first so fast I had to have another one.

It turns out that it’s a dangerously addictive habit. Downloading books gives the thrill of instant gratification, and you can get your fix anytime, anywhere. It’s easy to get hooked. 

Now, I know what people are saying about these devils lurking in ebook culture, killing our local bookstores and ravaging innocent townspeople with their big, scary corporateness and unwillingness to cooperate with the infinite sharing policies of public libraries. Here’s what I say to all of that:

Libraries, used bookstores and the lot don’t pay royalties for each person that reads their books. Now, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but considering that the average author advance on a full-length novel is well below ten thousand dollars, and considering the measly percentage the author makes on sales (usually below 30%, and the advance is just that- an advance on the author’s cut of the sale), the author – the person that creates this product you love so – isn’t exactly making a bundle in most cases. It’s radical, but I propose to you that there’s absolutely no difference between downloading movies without paying for them and reading books without paying for them, except that one is legal and the other isn’t. The irony here is that on average, books make a much smaller profit than movies in the first place. Even a bestselling book (with the exception of freak hits like Harry Potter) doesn’t make as much money as the average Hollywood “meh” movie.

Contrast the infinite shareability of a paper book, passed around a circle of friends and finally donated to the Goodwill and re-sold for fifty cents, with the ebook. You want to read the book- you pay for it. The author takes their cut, the publisher (if there is one) takes theirs, and the seller takes a tiny slice of the pie, too. You’re paying the people that published the book. And you’re paying them without overhead. Basically, they’re getting paid for producing quality products at a much higher margin than they are even if you buy a paper copy.

Take Amanda Hocking, for example. This girl self-publishes on Amazon at a much higher percentage than she could ever get through a traditional publisher, and she gets paid 70% commissions on her book sales (which are over 10,000 per month). But she’s earned it, because it’s her product. She’s self-marketing and offering products people like (and at a very low price), and she’s being paid accordingly.  A novel concept, if you’ll pardon my pun.

I thought I’d miss the paper when I started down this slippery slope. I love the feel of paper, the scent of it, its weight. I’m the girl that has stacks of books on every conceivable surface in my house, a book or two in my handbag at all times, shelves stacked horizontally two-rows deep. What I’m finding is that I no longer have backaches lugging extra pounds of book around by my shoulder strap, and I’m not bringing books into my already-crowded nest of them, contributing to a vast book storage problem (and possible fire hazard). I’m not saying I’ll ever quit buying paper books. Some of them are just too pretty to see on a screen, and some of them absolutely need to be held, touched, and even smelled to be properly devoured. But I will be buying all of the space-hogging bestsellers that I know I’m likely to read fast and give away in Kindle format from now on.  This saves a few trees and helps me avoid contributing to the current saturation of the book market that keeps authors among the lowest paid people in the book industry.

To my local bookstore: Stock books that are as quirky and individual as you are. I’ll come see you for those, I promise. Just make sure the coffee and conversation are ready for me when I get there.

Harry Potter Hype by a Non-fan

What is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 like if you aren’t a fan? This is the blog of a woman on a mission.  A mission to see the show after not having seen any of the films or read any of the books since the first of each.

Disclaimer: This was my third stop of the evening and I had a huge tanker of beer sitting between me and my incredibly attractive date.

While my earlier Harry Potter post may lead you to believe I’m one of you trendy Harry Potter-loving nerds, I’m not; the truth is that I’m just a big admirer of J.K. Rowling’s business acumen. I’m not not a fan, mind you – I just read the first book, said, “It’s cute,” and shelved the thing. I didn’t think the movie was cute at all. I thought it was downright disappointing after the vibrant world that I’d imagined, chalked it up to the way of things, and moved on.

Well, here’s what I thought of the movie: It was flashy, visually mesmerizing, and it really ticked me off because I just found out that Ron and Hermoine are together. Um, excuse me? Emma Watson is much, much too cute for Ron or Rupert Grint (apologies to Rupert and all of his cult followers), and I hope that in some of the upcoming releases, she realizes this and kicks him to the curb. Hermoine is obviously meant to be with Harry. (Ginny who? He doesn’t even hang out with Ginny, she just makes random appearances when nothing important is going on.) Harry and Hermoine, now- power with depth, and a much shorter attractiveness gap to bridge.

As a standalone movie, this really wasn’t half bad, but I guess the other pieces of the puzzle might enrich it further. Here’s my conundrum: I didn’t like the first movie (though the book was alright) but I liked the last a lot. Do I read the books or watch the movies, or leave it alone now that it’s over and the Libran-o-meter has tipped towards “like”?

By the way…. do these make anyone else anywhere on this whole planet think of Narnia?

Reading Material for the Season

I loved reading ‎the Hunger Games. I picked it up on the recommendation of a friend and took to it in ‎keeping part of my current favorite genre -preteen fiction. As novels go, I do love me some ‎good Tom Clancy and Charles Dickins is peerless, but I have really come to enjoy the lightness ‎and ease of kids’ books. ‎

As Summer reading goes, this one is a real stand out piece that will satisfy your thirst for ‎action, tension, interpersonal drama, a little bit of romance and science fiction. What it won’t ‎do is last for more than a few days.

It’s a lightning fast read, so once you’ve devoured this set, ‎here are a few comparably enjoyable works of the genre:‎

‎We Have Always Lived in the Castle‎

Written by Shirley Jackson 1962‎

This is a disturbing tale of two sisters and their uncle who live holed up in their house, rarely ‎leaving for fear of the other inhabitants of their ordinary-seeming neighborhood. The backstory ‎is that some years before the story, their family had several other members murdered over ‎dinner one night. The prime suspect was the elder sister, but she got off on some lack of ‎evidence. The town never believed in her innocence, and deep animosity developed between ‎the surviving trio and their neighbors, a problem which is augmented by the psychosis of the ‎younger sister who narrates the book. ‎

A Single Shard‎

Linda Sue Park 2001‎

If personality studies and local color appeal to you, then you should check out some Linda Sue ‎Park. A Single Shard is the story of an orphan boy in ancient Korea who takes on work assisting ‎a potter in his village. Of all Ms. Parks’ excellent books, this one stands out especially to me ‎because of the endearing lead character. Orphan stories are hit or miss; they can be very sappy ‎or charming, and this one is well written.‎

‎The Thief of Always‎
Clive Barker 1992‎

If you like a story with a little of the creepy factor, Clive Barker has penned some decently dark ‎material. The Thief of Always is a monster that lures bored children in and devours them. ‎Reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, there is no explanation for the creature, except that it ‎seemingly exists to feed off little boys and girls who aren’t satisfied with what they have. It’s ‎unsettling like Pinnochio.‎

‎The Boy Who Reversed Himself‎
William Sleator 1986‎

Ignore the hideous cover. This is science fiction about a suburban girl named Laura. She ‎reluctantly befriends a neighbor boy whom, she learns, is somehow entrusted with ‎communication with the fourth dimension. Yes indeed. Alien creatures and strange landscapes ‎in tow, the fourth dimension is described as a set of directions which are so inaccessible to ‎common 3D humans that they can exist around us like a whole other world without our even ‎noticing. It’s creative and a fun read.‎

Catching Fire – More Hunger Games!

Katniss Everdeen lives in a dangerous world. Her district is one of twelve that is punished yearly for a previous uprising against the imperialism of the City of Panem by a perverse lottery which lands those teens whose names are drawn in a televised fight to the death, and for the impoverished families of the districts to gain further coal and grain allotments to survive, the children must enter must enter multiple times.

Spoiler Alert! If you don’t want the details from me, just buy the book, already, and read it yourself! I know many bookstores are sold out, but you can download it!

Katniss has already survived the Hunger Games once, along with Peeta Mellark, the good-hearted young man from her district that confessed to being madly in love with her before the games. Instead of being free to survive in peace with her extra supply of food, fuel and acclaim as they expected, the Capitol is furious that they have made the government appear foolish by humanizing the contestants with their refusal to kill one another, and neither of them are safe. Will they be thrown back into the arena again?

And what of Gale, her lifelong friend and hunting partner, who also has feelings for Katniss?

This book is equally as fascinating as the first, and even more fraught with tension and intrigue. Read it, read it!

The Hunger Games

I read this book in one night. And the second the next night. And the third, the one after that. Riveting, to the point of addictiveness. After being rendered virtually incapable of entertaining any thought outside the arena of these books for three days, all I have to say is that Suzanne Collins is a very talented lady. Granted, her plots aren’t unpredictable for those of us that read plenty of post-apocalyptic literature, but the way she writes! With a style similar to that of Margaret Atwood, but aimed toward a much younger target audience, these books are accessible and engaging for nearly any reader.

Since I was turned on to the books by my dear friend, Kirinjirafa, let me give you her take on The Hunger Games:

 With the impending end of two wildly popular book/movie series, it’s no wonder Hollywood has been quick to jump on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.  

This post-apocalyptic sci-fi follows sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen through a life or death survival contest.  The plot is rich in action and pathos; it’s easy to get pulled into the story, and hard to put the book down once you’ve started.

 Collins has an arresting technique in creating an instantly recognizable fantasy world. Her likeable main character is far from the stereotypical teenager without any compromise in believabilityEvery step Katniss takes in the book seems exactly as it should be. The environment around her rings true as well; for instance, the first ominous mention of “the reaping” occurs within a few paragraphs of the beginning, and we are immediately disconcerted. The reader can worry about the event without having to know what it is.

As a stand-alone piece of work, it’s a great investment of both the time and money.  Having read this first installment in the set, I’m already looking forward to the movie and hoping that the next two can deliver as much impact.  

Tune in tomorrow for my take on Catching Fire, the second book in the trilogy. And tune in each week for the next 5 weeks for Kirinjirafa’s thoughts on more exciting Summer Reading!