Saturday, April 28, 2012

Book Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Leviathan
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Illustrator: Keith Thompson
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: YA (steampunk)
Why I read it/how I found it: I've been wanting to read a steampunk, and as Scott Westerfeld introduced me to dystopian, I thought having him introduce me to steampunk seemed like a good idea.

It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, a Clanker, and Deryn Sharp, a Darwinist, are on opposite sides of the war. But their paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure….One that will change both their lives forever.

First: ILLUSTRATIONS! After this book, I am determined that more YA books should have illustrations. Especially for fantasy, sci-fi, and steampunk. I loved that they included illustrations in this book, as it helped me envision what they world looked like, since it was different from what I'm used to reading. I think that Westerfeld took an interesting turn with history for this, and the genetic engineering or the Darwinist English and the mechanics of the German Clankers made sense, and he built that up great.
The first half of the novel seemed to just be building up to the last half. Every two chapters or so, the POV of the third-person switched between Alek and Deryn. I kept waiting and waiting for them to finally meet. It took about half the book, and I feel that's when the story really started picking up, at least for Deryn. 
I have to say, the most entertaining part for me was Deryn hiding the fact she's a girl, and I have a feeling that in the sequels that will get more interesting with Alek.

Other information: This is the first in a trilogy. Scott Westerfeld's website is here and Keith Thompson's is here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

School's out for summer!

Well, for me at least. :) These past few weeks have been crazy with finals, but now they're over and I get to breathe. Right now I'm staying at my sister's house, and in a week and a half, I'm going to the LDStorymaker's Conference. Whoohoo! It's going to be my first "real" conference, and I'm excited and nervous and keep looking and the schedule and trying to figure out what I want to go to.

And this summer looks like it's going to be super busy. I'm going to be getting a job as school costs money. And I'm also going to be working on my honors thesis to graduate with honors next year. I'm going to be writing a book for my honors thesis (surprise, surprise, right?). And this is even more awesome than usual because I'm going to work under Dr. Chris Crowe, who's a professor at BYU that specializes in YA literature, both in writing and studying it. And my fantastic writing teacher this past semester, Carol Lynch Williams, will also be helping to make sure my thesis is ready to turn in for defense this next January.

What type of things do you guys have coming up you're looking forward to?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Book Review: Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Title: Poison Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Publisher: Mira Books
Genre: YA (fantasy)
Why I read it/how I found it: I've heard from people this is a good book before, and I've just gotten around to it.

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear.

This is an awesome book. I feel that the world is very concrete and detailed, we understand the nature of their government and lifestyle, along with the magic system. I love how well thought out the system is. And the characters are fleshed out as well. I liked Yelena as a narrator, but the supporting characters really make the story lush and exciting. Valek, Ari, and Janco especially kept things fun and intriguing with their relationships to Yelena. It was a little slow at the beginning, but picked up soon enough that I wasn't horribly bored. Overall, the plot was amazing and I didn't see a lot of the things happening, but at the same time, other pieces were so painfully obvious I wished the characters would've picked up on them sooner. This book is awesome and I look forward to the sequel.

Other information: This is the first in a trilogy. The next two are Magic Study and Fire Study. Maria V. Snyder's website is here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Trends: Just like Utah weather

First, looking back at my blog I realize how poorly I've done with it this semester, and keeping up commenting on other's blogs as well. I'm sorry, but this semester has been busy for me. I'll be doing my best to comment and get back into things once finals are over.

Now, the reason for my post. This might be a bit late, considering the post on Mary Kole's blog that made me think about this is from a few weeks ago. But on reading Mary Kole's post about Bologna I thought about some things she talked about, namely, the prediction that realistic-contemporary fiction will be the next big trend in YA. In thinking about this, though, all I could think was, "but trends are just like Utah weather."

For those who aren't familiar with Utah, this is what I'm talking about:

Maybe this is normal for those who live outside of the always-perfect weather of California, but for me, it's really weird when weather has been one way, and later on that day is completely different from what you'd be expecting.

I find that trends are the same. You can't predict it.
When J.K. Rowling got her agent, he told her that children's books, and especially fantasy, didn't make much money (well, she did just lose the billionaire status to only be a millionaire, so I guess he was right about that).
At a writing conference on fantasy, Brandon Sanderson said how in 2003, one editor claimed vampire books were done and there wouldn't be another successful one again (yeah, I mean, who knows of a vampire book that's been successful lately?).
After Tangled, Disney cancelled their plans to make a movie of Han Christian Anderson's "The Snow Queen" because fairy tales don't make money (I can't think of any TV show now that's based off of fairy tales and extremely popular).

All sarcasm aside, these reasons are why I don't believe in predicting trends. You might as well be predicting Utah weather.

Why predicting trends doesn't work, to me, comes down to the fact that one book/movie/TV show is what will make the trend happen. It's not as if humans have a clockwork that go "I like contemporary now, but in two years I'll like fantasy, and a year after that I'll read dystopia, and two years from that I'll like historical..." etc. People read a book, see a movie or a TV show they like, and it's SO FREAKING AWESOME that they want more more more! of the same thing.

J.K. Rowling didn't make a billion dollars off of Harry Potter because it was time for children's fantasy to be a trend. It's because she wrote a freaking awesome book. Stephenie Meyer, despite some clamoring of how bad Twilight is, wrote a book that grabs the female demographic and makes them obsessed. Suzanne Collins didn't just publish a book at the beginning of a dystopian trend, she started it, because The Hunger Games was so amazing.

Whenever I hear a prediction of a trend, I roll my eyes and chuckle to myself. Maybe they'll get it right, but when it comes down to it, it's all about who'll write the next book that can grab us, no matter the genre.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

High School Misconceptions

In June, it will be two years from the time I graduated high school. I'm not far out of the loop when it comes to how high school is like now. Sometimes when I read or watch movies and TV set in a high school, I find myself getting disjointed, perhaps because it's been a while since the writer was in high school or they fall back on stereotypes. These are some of my high school misconceptions:

  • "Everyone (except perhaps for that one rebel) wants to be popular." This is very much false. "Popular" is a very subjective term nowadays. I found that overall, people are content with whatever level of "popularity" they have. The people who don't have a lot are fine with that. The only ones who freak out about becoming "popular" are already "popular." And the kicker? Most of the people who aren't "popular" hate the people who are. They don't want to hang out with people they don't like, so they don't want to be popular. Do teens want to be included and have fun? Yeah, but they do that with their friends. For a high school student, friends=contentment. As long as people aren't bullying them or making fun of them, they're fine. Honest to goodness, fine.
  • "People hate nerds/"jocks are bullying idiots"/"cheerleaders are mean, shallow, and popular." Nerds can be well-liked and even embraced for how nerdy they are (I should clarify that I took honors and AP classes in high school, so maybe my vision was clouded). Jocks don't bully nerds just for being nerds. Jocks aren't even idiots. Sometimes, jocks are nerds, too. Cheerleaders aren't witches with a b, or supermodels. They're girls who like to cheer. They can be witches with b's, and they can be nice, although not that ambiguous "popular." Add some grey, people.  
  • "All teens want sex, except for that one Christian girl (who will be seduced and get pregnant anyway)." Um, actually, no. Whenever I read/watch something where every single teen is plotting to get laid, it's just Not really. Some people aren't interested in opening up that part of their life yet. And they don't even have to be the born again Christian. Of course some teens do have sex, but it's rarely the horny sex-fest some works present it to be.
Have you found things in books/movies/TV shows that misrepresent high school or teens in general?