Posts Tagged ‘Maggie Stiefvater’

Letting Go Is Hard To Do

Published by Kirsten on December 16th, 2013 - in Uncategorized

        It happens to us all…

We fall in love with a character. Maybe it’s not the main character. Maybe you don’t even like the book. But for some reason, you want him, or her, or it, back again, even if you have to put up with people, places, and things you’d rather never experience again. “Love” might not be the exact feeling you have for that character, even. It’s possible to feel that way about some villains, like, for instance, the mayor of Sunnydale in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

That’s probably why I kept reading Game of Thrones. Martin doesn’t really have one main character, and just when you think you hate one completely, there’s a total turnaround in the character. So when the characters start dropping like flies, there’s always another connected story to entangle you. My son heard a comment about Martin killing off all his characters and said, “Oh, does he write The Walking Dead? My friend says everyone on The Walking Dead dies, too” (a second grader watching The Walking Dead is mind-bending to me, but that’s another soapbox).

I  like good world building and good genre fiction that plans to explore the nooks and crannies of  an imagined world or universe (the Liaden universe created by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller, for instance, or the Dark Tower books by Stephen King). It’s easier to excuse a less-than-successful story, when there are many others to fill things out (I find this to be true of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover books, for instance). But sometimes there is not as much chance that you’ll run across the same characters regularly, and when they’re gone, you can’t necessarily expect them to reappear in the next book. And then you miss them.

I would say that right now it’s more likely now to find a series with one main character who narrates the story (in romance or in YA fiction you often find alternating points of view, but from a core of main characters) and, frankly, sometimes the main character, or the one who is supposed to be most sympathetic, is the one you wish weren’t there. In Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves, the characters I loved were Calla and Persephone, who have very minor roles in the book. In Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan series, I keep reading partly because I love Jenks and Matalina, and want to find out what will happen with David and Ceri. Rachel’s mother is also a fantastic character. I want to know what happens with them. Rachel, the point of view character? Her, I could live without.

When a character you love, or love to hate, disappears from the story, or the series, or your life, of course you miss him, or her. When the story’s done, and you loved the world it was in, it’s hard to return to your daily life. That character is still there in the pages you turned, in the imagined world the author created, unforgettable. As hard as it is to tear myself away, I know I can always return… but it will be time to put my kids to bed before I know it, and someday soon, even though the characters I loved on the page will still be there, the ones in my life will change, and I’ll never get this day back.

 

What worlds do you visit? What characters do you miss?
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Waiting for Godot

Published by Kirsten on January 22nd, 2012 - in Uncategorized

I wasn’t paying attention, but there has been some sort of brouhaha online about reviews on Goodreads. Apparently someone on there posted a negative review of  a book, and a  friend of the author’s who responded  in a less-than-professional manner, causing a stunning flame war on Twitter (the author herself apparently was very gracious when she finally responded to the whole discussion).

I’m not sure what the big deal is here. Reviews on Goodreads or Amazon are reader opinions. As a librarian neither of those are places I would go to decide whether to buy a book for my collection, and as a reader, well, one bad review(or one good review) on Goodreads or Amazon is something I take with a grain of salt. Our philosophy here is that the individual reader’s taste is personal. Not everyone will have the same taste. And that’s okay.

But out of all of this craziness came this post by Maggie Stiefvater. Maggie Stiefvater, if you don’t know, is a bestselling YA author who has written a series called The Wolves of Mercy Falls. Last year she wrote an article for Knowledge Quest, the journal of the American Association of School Librarians, about the responsibilities of a YA author toward her teenage audience, which I thought was pretty good.

Apparently this Goodreads debacle caused her to step up and inform her readers that

A review is an unbiased, careful look at a book — basically it is a little academic paper. It involves an itty-bitty thesis on your opinion of the book, surrounded by tiny supporting sentences describing the strengths and weaknesses of said book. Every month, dozens upon dozens of these reviews come out in professional journals. Because they’re fair and thorough, they’re prized and respected in the publishing world.

I’m not going to quibble with everything she says here. A review SHOULD BE a careful look at a book. But it will never be unbiased and it shouldn’t be. At MonsterLibrarian.com we have reviewers who enjoy and are knowledgeable about extreme horror and bizarro. Those are the people we ask to review extreme horror and bizarro, because they like reading it, have experience with it, and understand what it means to write well in those genres. If you write in those genres, be glad that we have those (awesome) people on staff.

Ms. Stiefvater’s post suggests that ONLY the reviews that appear in professional journals matter. I strongly disagree that a review must be a “little academic paper” with a thesis and supporting statements, though. If that were the case, I can guarantee academic and professional journals would not be publishing “dozens and dozens” of reviews(Also, her publisher wouldn’t have sent me a copy of Forever for review).  Just out of curiosity, I used the INSPIRE database Academic Search Premier (INSPIRE is Indiana’s virtual library) to find some “little academic papers” that have been published about Ms. Stiefvater’s own books. Reviews of her books have appeared in well-respected journals, including The Horn Book, Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. I’ve read all of these at some point, read some of them regularly and have great respect for the work they do.

But many reviews are mostly plot summaries. This is from the review of Shiver from Publishers Weekly. Eighty percent of it described the plot- only part of the first sentence and the last sentence provide an evaluation of the “strengths and weaknesses” of the book.

Stiefvater leaves the faeries oí Lament and Ballad for a lyrical tale… Stiefvater skillfully increases the tension throughout; her take on werewolves is interesting and original while her characters are refreshingly willing to use their brains to deal with the challenges they face.

Where’s the thesis and its multiple supporting sentences?

Here’s a review, this time of Linger, from the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. Once again, a majority of the review was a plot summary. Here’s the reviewer’s conclusion:

The sequel is as enjoyable as its predecessor but might benefit from more action. Both stories are basically love stories with supernatural elements. The new characters in Linger keep the story interesting, and readers are unlikely to sense an opening in the ending for a third book.

And here’s a review from Booklist, for Forever.

Once again, a large chunk was devoted to a plot summary. Here’s the part that actually commented on the book.

The parallel love stories contrast beautifully with each other: Grace and Sam are sweetly innocent together, constant and enduring; while Isabel and Cole’s relationship is more knowing, with sharp edges and an uncertain future. Stiefvater’s emotional prose is rich without being melodramatic, and she clearly shares her fans’ love of these characters.

She clearly shares her fans’ love of her characters? Is that supposed to be a strength or a weakness?

If it matters, I’m happy to share the citations, in proper format, on request.

MonsterLibrarian.com isn’t Booklist, and doesn’t pretend to be. We strive to write honest reviews, and to remember the audience we’re writing for. Every one of us is a volunteer and many of us devote hours each week to writing reviews that are so much more than what you see above, that our reviewers put their hearts and minds into to provide librarians and readers with reviews and information they aren’t going to find anywhere else. Kirkus Reviews may produce 5,000 reviews a year, but how many books are there out there with authors who will never make their cut? Ms. Stiefvater is one of the lucky few who can count on getting reviewed in the journals that libraries and bookstores use to choose the books they order. Not everyone gets that chance. But just because their review didn’t appear in a professional review journal doesn’t mean that the book isn’t worth reviewing or that those of us who genuinely strive to serve a professional or reading audience matter less.  As you can see above, even the reviews written for professional journals don’t quite meet her vision. Most authors who wait for a “little academic paper” complete with thesis and supporting sentences are waiting for Godot.

But authors, readers, and librarians looking for honest reviews of horror and paranormal fiction and the related genres, or scary stories for kids, will find that here.

 

MonsterLibrarian.com’s Top Picks for 2011- Young Adult and Children’s Books

Published by Kirsten on January 4th, 2012 - in Uncategorized

So here we are- part two of the Top Picks list for 2011.

Each book on the list below was reviewed in the past year, although not all the books were published in 2011. If the book made a Top Picks list in the past, it won’t be on this year’s list (Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson, was first reviewed in 2009 and made the list that year, so it’s not on this year’s list).

Books that made this list were chosen by our reviewers as exceptional examples of compelling writing, creativity, and original illustration or presentation. Many of them provided considerable food for thought as well as entertainment value. The choices were made only from books reviewed for the site, so there are many fine titles that do not appear here. The Monster Librarian’s Top Picks for 2011, listed below, have not been ranked in any order(although I tried to list them alphabetically). We created lists for adult books, young adult books, and kids’ books. I previously posted the Top Picks for Adult Fiction in 2011. You’ll find the Top Picks booklists for young adults and children below. Enjoy!

Note for librarians and readers: As with all recommended reading lists, not all of The Monster Librarian’s Top Picks for 2011 will be appropriate for or appreciated by every reader. Please take the time to check out reviews of these titles at MonsterLibrarian.com before making a decision about reading them or recommending them to others.

 

The Monster Librarian’s Top Picks for Young Adults, 2011

A special mention goes to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, chosen as a top pick by four different reviewers independently of each other.

 

Abarat series by Clive Barker (Abarat, Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War, and  Abarat: Absolute Midnight)

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Cryer’s Cross by Lisa McMann

Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst

Ghost Town (Morganville Vampires, Book 9) by Rachel Caine

Ink Exchange (Wicked Lovely) by Melissa Marr

Lockdown: Escape from Furnace 1 by Alexander Gordon Smith

Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Nickel Plated by Aric Davis

Red Moon Rising by Peter Moore

Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls) by Maggie Stiefvater

Skulls by Tim Marquitz

Subject Seven by James A. Moore

Teeth: Vampire Tales edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

The Dead (An Enemy Novel) by Charlie Higson

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

 

 

The Monster Librarian’s Top Picks for Kids, 2011

A special mention goes to Crooked Hills: Book One by Cullen Bunn, reviewed independently by two different reviewers and highly recommended by both.

 

Crooked Hills by Cullen Bunn

Dragonbreath series, books 1-3, by Ursula Vernon (Dragonbreath,

Attack of the Ninja Frogs,

Curse of the Were-wiener

)

Fear: 13 Stories of Suspense and Horror edited by R.L. Stine

Monster and Me (Monster and Me) by Robert Marsh

Scary School by Derek the Ghost

Little Goblins Ten by Pamela Jane, illustrated by Jane Manning

The Island of the Skog by Steven Kellogg

The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere: Volume 1 by Jacqueline West

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