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YA Wednesday: Dreaming of Gods & Monsters with Laini Taylor

At the beginning of this month Laini Taylor came to town and we got together to talk about Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the final book in her trilogy.  I first met Taylor in 2011 when I interviewed her here in Seattle for Daughter of Smoke & Bone and we bonded over our shared love of YA novels and John Fluevog shoes.  At the time, I tried not to sound like an obsessed fan girl. Even though I kind of was. And am. 

If you haven't read this trilogy yet, prepare to get hooked on a beautifully told otherworldly story of angels, monsters, and a couple of key humans, enmeshed in love and hate, bound by friendship and family. The detail is so rich, but not cumbersome, that now I picture other angels or monsters as Taylor describes hers, in all their glorious variety and contradiction. I would wear a sandwich board for these books.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters is our spotlight pick for April's Best YA Books, and in this final piece of the puzzle Taylor introduces an additional main character, a woman named Eliza, who ties all three books together in a stroke of storytelling genius.  In the video below, Taylor and I discussed Dreams of Gods & Monsters, the happiness of organic storytelling, and resurrecting Mark Twain.

As for the shoes...well, some things never change and so it was that three years later we had ourselves another Fluevog moment.  Shoe lovers, scroll down to see photos from the interviews.

 

The Interview Shoes:

Daughter of Smoke & Bone interview, 2011 / Dreams of Gods & Monsters interview, 2014

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YA Wednesday: The Best Books of April

Usually it's May that has a ton of amazing books, but this year April is tearing it up with goodness.  So much so, that when it came time to whittle them down to a list of four books for Best of the Month, it just wasn't gonna happen.  So there are six books on April's Best Books list, every one a keeper. 

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Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
Anyone who knows me has probably heard me talk about how much I love Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. This is the final book that I've been waiting for for two long years, and it was worth it.  Taylor wraps things up beautifully but without closing the door on the possibility of more from the incredible world she built in these books.  An important new character and setting is introduced and some of my favorite things from the earlier books are revisited.  It's hard to talk about without giving too much away, but suffice it to say that I would wear a sandwich board for this series.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Ava Lavender is a girl born with wings. Not angel wings, but bird wings. Aside from this, she is a normal teenage girl and what unfolds in these pages is Ava's self-discovery, the history of tortured love that plagued her family for generations and may or may not continue, and the mad imaginings of Nathaniel Sorrows who becomes obsessed with Ava and brings this incredible tale to a crescendo.  There is  magical realism, passion, love lost and love found. A powerful debut novel from an author to watch.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Page
We are not in Kansas anymore...Amy Gumm is living a lousy life in Kansas when she gets caught in her trailer during a tornado and dropped into Oz. In this Oz things are very different than when Dorothy arrived.  In fact, ol' Dorothy is no longer the sweet innocent who just wanted to go home, but instead she returned to Oz, seized power and became an evil tyrant, cruelly punishing all who defy her.  And Amy Gumm, the new girl from Kansas? Turns out she's the one who needs to kill Dorothy and free the land. This twist on The Wizard of Oz is dark, disturbed, and may have L. Frank Baum rolling over in his grave.  And guess what?  There's a sequel. :)

What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
April is when it really starts feeling like summer is just around the corner, and this follow-up to My Life Next Door sets just the right tone with a coastal island romance.  But don't get me wrong, there is meat on these bones.  Fitzpatrick knows how to write a love story that also has powerful discoveries and consequences that give her characters authenticity and make her books more than just fluffy summer romance reads.  Gwen Castle is a teenager who just wants to escape it all--her hometown, her family legacy on the island, and especially rich boy Cass Somers.  A coming-of-age story wrapped in a love story that is the best kind of read for days spent on the beach, or just wishing for summer.

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
This is time travel for even the non-science fiction reader.  A group from many decades in the future goes back to 2014 in order to correct things that led to the harsh world they came from. These visitors are supposed to assimilate as much as possible, but are also given a strict set of rules about their behavior and are closely monitored by the leaders.  Prenna is one of these travelers and a high school student who starts falling for a "time-native" and simultaneously questioning what she's been told about the group's mission and motives.  In her latest, Brashares has written an instantly inviting novel that led me to a reinvigorated appreciation of love and freedom.

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
Reality shows have effectively replaced the sitcom, and if you watch reality TV or ever thought about what it would be like to participate in one of the series', you'll want to read The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy.  Set at an arts high school in Minnesota, Ethan and his closest friends are the outliers who don't appreciate the taint of For Art’s Sake, a reality t.v. show being cast and filmed at their school. As Ethan and the others' underground protest takes hold, questions and betrayals crop up in unexpected places.  Vigilante Poets is a funny contemporary novel about friendship, standing up for your beliefs, hamster love, and the truth in "reality."

Page to Screen -- Spring to Summer 2014

With or without warmer weather, summer is on its way. And plenty of book-based stories are about to appear on our TVs and in movie theaters. We've rounded up the trailers for a few of our favorites below and an even bigger list of upcoming book adaptations in our Page to Screen store.


Divergent, the first book in Veronica Roth's Divergent Universe series, is officially an adaptation hit! The movie, starring Shailene Woodley (The Descendents) opened March 21, and two more are already planned to follow Roth's trilogy. Here's a glimpse of what you can now see on the big screen.

While everyone's trying to predict what will happen if George R.R. Martin doesn't finish A Song of Ice and Fire fast enough, "Game of Thrones" returns to HBO for its fourth season on April 6. This season draws from the second half of the third book in the series, A Storm of Swords. HBO has released four trailers for the season, but this one's my fave (maybe because Arya is my favorite character and that cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees "Cities in Dust" is wickedly perfect!)


 

The news recently broke that another of author John Green's books (Paper Towns) will be getting the Hollywood treatment soon, but right now, let's enjoy The Fault in Our Stars, starring... oh look, it's Shailene Woodley again! You'll also see Willem Dafoe and Laura Dern. It opens June 6.


 

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are starring in an action movie called The Edge of Tomorrow, opening on June 6. But if you're looking for the book it's based on, check out Hiroshi Skaurazaka's breakthrough sci-fi novel All You Need is Kill.


 

The How to Train Your Dragon movies don't correspond directly with the book series by Cressida Cowell. Guess you'll just have to read them all before seeing How to Train Your Dragon 2, opening June 13.


 

The Giver, Lois Lowry's children's novel about a utopia that's not what it seems, was published way back in 1993, but it's hitting the big screen this summer on August 15. Australian actor Brenton Thwaites takes on the lead role of Jonas, with Alexander Skarsgård as his father. Other faces you'll recognize: Meryl Streep, Katie Holmes, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Swift...


YA Wednesday: 2014 Teen Choice Finalists

Voting has opened up for the 2014 Teen Choice Award and the finalists are a handful of the best books from last year.  You have until May 12th to vote, but why wait?  The winner will be announced on May 14 at a big gala event during Children's Book Week.

Here are the finalists:

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Vote for your favorite

 

YA Wednesday: Exclusive "Divergent" Photos

This Friday, the film adaptation of Divergent will finally (finally!) open in theaters across the country.  There've been teasers along the way in the form of trailers and photos from the set, but now we will get to see it all put together.  Will it meet expectations?  Exceed them? Disappoint? 

I managed to get a seat at an advance screening last night and the audience around me laughed, cheered, and clapped at the end.  It was pretty cool. To be totally honest, I went into it thinking I probably wouldn't like the movie much, and possibly not at all, but I ended up loving it from the opening shot to the end.  I thought Summit did an amazing job recreating Veronica Roth's Chicago and the tension between Four and Tris came off like a genuine older boy/younger girl attraction you might see unfold in a high school hallway rather than a brutal training ground (the brutal training ground making it much more exciting, of course).  I'm eager to hear what other fans of the series think.

Whether you are dying to see it, or still on the fence, here's an amuse-bouche to Friday's big fête--two exclusive photos of author Veronica Roth on the set of Divergent. 

Veronica Roth (center with the green accents) and the cast of Divergent

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Photo by Jaap Buitendijk. TM & © 2014 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

 

Author Veronica Roth with Divergent Director Neil Burger (wouldn't you love to know what she's talking about??)

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Photo by Jaap Buitendijk. TM & © 2014 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

YA Wednesday: Lauren Oliver--To Play or Not to Play

Panic344Lauren Oliver's new book, Panic, is her first return to realism since her best-selling debut, Before I Fall, and our spotlight pick for the Best Young Adult Book of March. Panic tells the story of Dodge and Heather, two teenagers, caught up in a high stakes rite of passage game (called Panic) played in secret each year in their small, poor town.  As I read, I found myself wondering if I would have entered the competition as a teenager, at what point I would likely have quit, and would I even think about it now.   I asked Oliver her thoughts on this and here's what she had to say about the question of to play or not to play...

My new book, Panic, is about a small, rundown town called Carp, in which a sense of isolation, an almost institutionalized boredom, and the social competition native to every American high school combine in one explosive, legendary game.

I didn't grow up in a rundown town--far from it--but my town was certainly small, and we were certainly bored. We did a lot of stupid things in high school: we drove too fast once we got our licenses, and I resolutely and universally refused to wear‎ my seatbelt, for reasons I no longer remember. We mixed whiskey and vodka and chugged it (not recommended). We scored fake IDs in the city, cut class, smoked cigarettes, and bounced from party to party on weekends, looking for something to do.

I wasn't just an inveterate bad-decision maker, though--that was just a pastime. I was also an excellent, ambitious, and enthusiastic student, nerdy and more than a little insecure, trying to conceal my fears and frustrations beneath an attitude of recklessness and indifference.

Would I have participated in Panic back then? Heck yeah. Because Panic, the game, is about more than resistance to fear; it’s about the promise of escape. ‎And although the kids of Carp have real problems to outrun, they're also (like many teens; like myself, at that age) trying desperately to outrun themselves, to escape their identities, their anxieties, their creeping sense that they've inherited a life that is broken or misshapen in some way. Paradoxically, the reason I was so reckless in high school was because of my fears, not in spite of them.  I was hoping that if I could pretend to be fearless I might not only become fearless, but the very things I feared would never come to materialize.

I'm less afraid now than I was at eighteen, and also far less reckless, though I have a deeply ingrained adventurous streak that now finds expression in activity, travel, and experimenting with new things. I'll be the first to hop on a rock-climbing wall or jump out of a plane, fly across the world armed with just a passport and a sense of fun; sample fried insects (not, like, off the street, but in places where people eat insects)‎ or monkfish liver. I've built a life I love. I'm no longer plagued by the insecurities and fears that used to eat at me constantly, the suspicion that if I let my guard down for a second, everyone would know how weak I really was.

Would I play Panic now?‎ Absolutely not. I'm not running from anything. I don't need money to escape. And I'm lucky enough to say there's really nothing I could win that I don't already have. ---Lauren Oliver

 

YA Wednesday: Andrew Smith on "Grasshopper Jungle"

Grasshopper200I loved Andrew Smith's 2013 book, Winger, and the same goes for his latest, Grasshopper Jungle, our Teen & Young Adult spotlight pick for February

This is not the sort of book you meander through--it is 432 pages of one of the wildest, most outlandishly original stories I've read in a very long time. The raw honesty of 16-year-old narrator Austin Szerba's f-bomb dropping, sex obsessed voice made anything--and everything--in this book seem possible.  

Smith was in Seattle recently, and we chatted about Grasshopper Jungle, his influences, some of this favorite books (including Breakfast of Champions), and his bout with invisibility that seems to be coming to an end.  It's all here in this exclusive video:

 

Graphic Novel Friday: Guilty Pleasures No More!

I’ve harbored a secret since May of 2013. It’s nothing to be ashamed of—more like a guilty pleasure—but I didn’t advertise it to my comics reading friends. I’m ready to come clean: I read both Avengers Arena and Young Avengers (and I’m in my mid-30s).

Avengers Arena is The Hunger Games meets Avengers sidekicks (note the Battle Royale homage cover pictured at right), an infectious, jump-in-and-read soap opera where the stakes are life or death—and sometimes both. The premise is thin, and yet this comic is more readable, funny, clever, and addictive than most marquee books.

Writer Dennis Hopeless (don’t let the ominous name dissuade you) smartly assigns visible life meters to each character, and they deplete with each act of aggression. It’s a great way for readers to keep powers and character fights in check amidst the explosions, shape-changers, and killer tidal waves. Hopeless doles out the love triangles, and artist Kev Walker supplies jagged, frenetic lines to everyone and everything—giving it all page-turning momentum. All three volumes are now available and tell one heck of a complete and satisfying story.

No less addictive but much headier, the restart to Young Avengers introduces a young Loki to the team along with Ms. America (I didn’t know her, either). The former addition proves to be writer Kieron Gillen’s winning formula, as Loki’s mischievous, know-it-all attitude gives the book its funny backbone. Rejoining the team are series stalwarts Hawkeye (Kate Bishop, who’s also co-starring in Matt Fraction’s sublime Hawkeye), Wiccan and his boyfriend Hulkling, and Marvel Boy. The longtime romance between Wiccan and Hulking has always been the lynchpin of the team, and here it is tested thanks to Loki’s boss-level scheming.

The villain of the first two arcs (a monster mom!) could have quickly run aground, but Gillen keeps the narrative upright by dropping meta-sized plot bombs onto the team, resulting in a book that is full of young adults but reads like a crossover drama. Jamie McKelvie’s art is a pleasure, all clean lines, distinctive character designs, and believable expressions.

My secret’s out, and it seems silly to have kept it so. These are great books that deserve wider recognition. Join me on the rooftop. I’ll be the one shouting.

--Alex

How Do I Love Thee? 150 Ways...

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When we think of February, love frequently comes to mind--and let's face it, for better or worse this four letter word is probably one of the most enchanting, infuriating, and exciting subjects to read about.  From stories of an idyllic marriage gone terribly wrong to mortals falling for immortal lovers, or the flush of crazy, passionate, first love, romance has always captivated readers and writers alike.  Where would Shakespeare be without Romeo and Juliet?  Or Hollywood without its larger-than-life affairs of the heart, often adapted from beloved novels?

Whether you like classic romance or stories of love gone wrong, we decided this month was the perfect time to look at some of our favorite novels of amour.  To that end, we chose 150 love stories in a dozen flavors—our own box of chocolates for the mind and heart, if you will.  The Beatles say, “all you need is love.” But maybe all you need is a good love story. 

Check out our hand-picked treats in:

 

YA Wednesday: 2014 Printz Award Winners

The Printz award is always exciting because there are no lists of nominated titles or finalists--it's anyone's guess and sometimes the outcome is not what I expected (I'm thinking of last year's omission of The Fault in Our Stars).  For 2014, there were four honor books alongside winner Midwinterblood, including our own pick for the best YA book of 2013, Eleanor & Park.   Here are all five recipients of this year's Michael L. Printz award and honors--consider it a great way to choose your next book.

  • Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick - Winner!: Seven intertwined stories told through time, Midwinterblood has been compared to Cloud Atlas but it also carries a dark edge of horror mixed in with love and fate. Highly praised by critics and readers alike, this is a novel that grabs on with both hands.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - Honor: 2013 was the year of Rainbow Rowell as far as I'm concerned.  Now I really want to go back and read her adult novel, AttachmentsEleanor & Park is contemporary fiction at its best and this story of family, coming-of-age, and first love tattooed itself on my memory and heart.
  • The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal - Honor: In this debut novel, detailed descriptions evoke the daily life and political atmosphere of the royal court during the European Renaissance.  Two young women laboring in the court--a seamstress and a mute nursemaid--become entwined with mad Queen Isabel and a struggle of power and greed.
  • Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner - Honor: Brutal, allegorical, and original, Maggot Moon is set in a nightmarish alternate 1956 under a ruthless totalitarian government.  Our narrator is a teenage boy with his own set of problems, who uncovers a global hoax that, if exposed, could destroy the regime under which he's been suffering.  Short chapters that pack a punch.
  • Navigating Early by Claire Vanderpool - Honor:   Vanderpool won a Newbery Medal for Moon Over Manifest in 2011 and she's a masterful storyteller.  Navigating Early, set at the end of WWII, follows two boys on an epic journey along the Appalachian Trail.  There, they encounter pirates, a mythic bear, hardship, and finally forgiveness.

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Omnivoracious™ Contributors

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