Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Recommended Reading: The Dark Guardian Series

I've been wanting to post about Rachel Hawthorne's Dark Guardian series of novels for a while now, but I keep missing out on book 3. As it stands, I've read books 1,2, and 4 and as far as I know book 4 is the last of the series. I hesitate to post about a series without having read all of it, especially because I know that book 3 centers on a character who (for valid reasons) is obsessive about their exercise regime. The motivations aren't problematic so it could be fine, it's just difficult to imagine a focus like that not taking on a damaging vocabulary when written by someone who is human and in America. But I've grown impatient, so I'll just have to update this post whenever I get to read book 3.

Moving on, the Dark Guardian series is a collection of books that brings us into the world of "Shifters" or people who can change into animal form, in this instance all the characters can turn into wolves though we are told that there are other clans that can shift into different animals. The series is comprised of four books, Moonlight, Full Moon, Dark of the Moon (which I haven't read), and Shadow of the Moon.

From Hawthorne's website:

Moonlight Book 1 in the Dark Guardians series
Kayla has always felt a kinship with nature. Adopted as a child, Kayla has no idea that she’s inherited the gene that will turn her into a wolf. She can’t understand why she’s so drawn to distant, aloof Lucas...

As the leader of the Dark Guardians, a pack of werewolves that gather in the national forest, Lucas must watch Kayla until she discovers her destiny as his perfect other half. Just when Kayla finally begins to understand her fate, a new danger emerges...one that threatens their very existence.
Full Moon Book 2 in the Dark Guardians series
Lindsey has always known that Connor was her destined mate, but this summer as her full moon approaches, she finds herself dreaming about darkly handsome and silent Rafe. When the others are captured by their enemies, she and Rafe must work together to save them. As they spend time together, Lindsey will come to realize that some dangers come from within as she is forced to face her true feelings for Connor and Rafe. One is a friend. The other is her true love. But listening to her heart could cost her everything. 
Dark of the Moon Book 3 in the Dark Guardians series
Brittany has never had a guy declare her as his mate, so she faced her full moon alone. But she has always loved Connor from afar. When they are imprisoned by their enemies, they must depend on each other to survive. But Brittany harbors a dark and dangerous secret that could destroy them both.
Shadow of the Moon Book 4 of the Dark Guardians series
HAYDEN was born a werewolf, a Dark Guardian. But her ability to sense the feelings of fellow werewolves has made her life unbearable. She runs away, only to be tracked by charming, mysterious Daniel, a newcomer to their pack and the one Shifter immune to her powers.  As she reluctantly follows him home, Hayden finds herself falling dangerously in love…
But even as her feelings for Daniel deepen, Hayden begins to wonder if he is who he claims to be.
Shadow of the Moon actually depends very little on the other three books. It was the first one I read, and I picked it up randomly  not even realizing it was part of a series. It's my favorite of all the books, so if you're going to read just one I'd go with it. I think it's probably my favorite because it spends most of the narrative in Wolford, the Shifters home base as it were, and you get a more in depth look at their society and at how outsiders might be viewed in a place that is largely insular.

The books are remarkable to me, because they are quick and easy reads that also manage artfully done, complex world building and three dimensional characters. That's a tricky balance.  In addition, especially in Shadow of the Moon, Hawthorne is great at building the heat in a romance without any romantic physical contact to speak of between the characters. So if you or your kid like a good romance without any overtly sexual displays, this would be a series to get into.

The only thing that gets a bit tiresome is the whole "alpha male" possesiveness of women thing. Hawthorne explains it as being modeled on wolf society, and there are other things that explain this dynamic that I can't discuss here without spoilers, but it can still grate a little. Especially if you've had a bad experience with a possessive or overly jealous/suspicious partner.

Also, apparently it has been optioned for television so if you don't want pop culture to flood you with spoilers, get to readin!

Recommended Reading is a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive and respectful manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Recommended Reading: Devilish and Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

A little while ago, I read two books from Maureen Johnson (Suite Scarlett and Devilish) because I'd heard they were good but also because one is urban fantasy and one is straight up contemporary, and since I have similar aspirations I wanted to see what that looked like in a published Young Adult author.

I was super impressed with both books, and if you've read Suite Scarlett it's pretty easy to see how Johnson could write in either genre. She makes perfectly earthbound events and places seem somehow otherworldly, but still highly relatable.

I'm also impressed by how different the voice is from Scarlett of Suite Scarlett to Jane of Devilish. A lot of the writers I've read--for better or for worse--seem to find a main character voice and largely stick with it throughout their body of work. To my mind, these are completely different characters and I think that's awesome.

In short, whether you're primarily a contemporary or a fantasy fan, I think you'd like both of these books.

From Maureen Johnson's website:

Suite Scarlett

Scarlett Martin is the third of the four Martins. Scarlett is fifteen, blonde, and broke. Her friends are gone for the summer. And she’s got this one curl that exists just to stab her in the eye and blind her. Welcome to her life.

Before the summer is over, Scarlett will have to survive a whirlwind of thievery, Broadway glamour, romantic missteps, serious mishandling of unicycles, and theatrical deception. And every element and person in Scarlett’s life will converge in one night that will make or break them all . . .
The show, as they say, must always go on.


It’s Jane versus the demons, and nothing is what it seems. There will be perfume bottles, dogs, explosions, dancing, death, badly misused textbooks, ex-boyfriends, very long falls, unusual weaponry, and lots of sugary snacks before it’s all over.
Hey, you do what you have to do. Everyone knows high school is hell.
I read these a few weeks ago, but I remember specifically thinking that there wasn't anything triggering so if there is it can't be too out there. Scarlett is slightly self-conscious about being generally larger than her older sister, but that isn't played up in an unrealistic way, nor are we led to believe that that actually makes Scarlett deficient in some way.

Recommended Reading is a recurring feature on this blog. I'm doing this in an effort to build a list of YA books that I believe are both great stories and treat people's bodies in a sensitive and respectful manner. I will do my best to point out things about books I suggest that might be triggering even if I feel the book as a whole is worthwhile. If you have suggestions for future recommended books or comments/criticisms of books I write about please feel free to leave them in comments.

Funday Thursday

So I missed Funday Monday by a lot, but that's because I've been busy with happy shiny things like this.


So I'm participating in a sweet contest over at YAtopia, where agent John Cusick has challenged writers to provide a three sentence synopsis of their novel for the chance of winning a full or partial request. I don't know how well mine came out. I always feel like I'm making it seem over-simplified when I do short summaries, but I think it does a good job of capturing the main plot.

Yay! Let's all eight of my readers cross our fingers shall we?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Unofficial Recommended Reading: Twenty Boy Summer

If you haven't already heard, Sarah Ockler's Twenty Boy Summer has been banned from libraries in the Republic, MO school district on the grounds that the content is not age appropriate for high school students. The committee went so far as to say that it "sensationalized sexual promiscuity."


I think that there's a real problem in the world when a girl who is an upperclassman in high school making a considered decision to have sex once with someone she likes is considered "sensationalizing promiscuity" just because the girl does not regret her decision. I mean, there are even other characters who make a different choice. Plus, as I've hinted at, it isn't even the damn main plot arc of the book.

I'm against censorship in general, but anyone promoting the notion that teens are just oblivious to sex, drinking, or (gasp!) lying to their parents until they read some dirty dirty book about a teen who has sex once and sneaks out occasionally and is sometimes in the vicinity of alcohol is either being deliberately disingenuous or just mind-bogglingly stupid.

Ockler has an awesome response here, but this is my favorite part.

Not every teen who has sex or experiments with drinking feels remorseful about it. Not every teen who has sex gets pregnant, gets someone pregnant, or contracts an STD. Not every teen who has sex does so while in a serious relationship. Not every teen who has sex outside of a relationship feels guilty, shameful, or regretful later on. And you can ban my books from every damn district in the country — I’m still not going to write to send messages or make teens feel guilty because they’ve made choices that some people want to pretend don’t exist.

I can't put Twenty Boy Summer on the official list due to the fact that it does have a couple of occasions of talking about fat as a bad thing that to my mind are completely gratuitous. It's not that the conversations in which this occurs are atypical of teenagers (or most people in our society), it just doesn't do anything to develop a character or move the plot forward. It's not especially vicious or anything, but it's there. It's enough if you're having a fragile day.

Otherwise though, it's a fun and emotional read with well developed characters. I would especially recommend it if you wanted a book that talked about the concept of virginity in a sensible way. And, it's a good example of a girl character being proactive about her sex life while still representing the complex emotions that guide that decision making process for a lot of teens. But again, read the cover blurb because that's not even what it's about.