All tagged Melina Marchetta

Podcast Episode #26 - Talking with Courtney Summers About Everything, Part 3

We were lucky to recently spend over three hours (!) talking with noted Supernatural expert Courtney Summers. (We hear she writes books too.) We covered a range of subjects from zombies with fashion sense to writing characters experiencing trauma and everything in between. 

You can find the first part of this conversation over here, and the second right here--we highly recommend listening to them in order. In this episode, we chat about books, but we spend the bulk of our time talking about television and women's representation, and Justin Timberlake and the 50 Shades of Grey movie trailer.

Connect with Courtney: Website Twitter | Tumblr | Facebook 

If you've not read Courtney's books, two are now available in a nifty bind-up that will have a Justin Timberlake song frolicking in your head for days, What Goes Around. 

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If you enjoy the Clear Eyes, Full Shelves podcast, you can say thank you by enrolling in a free trial of Audible (I've been a subscriber for a year now and love it) or by clicking here the next time you're shopping on Amazon. This helps support the hosting and production costs of the podcast.

We certainly appreciate all the support, tweets, shares and all-around enthusiasm we've received for the podcast! 

Stream-It Saturday: Dance Academy (TV)

In my continuing selfless service to the world (ahem), I'm always looking for the next awesome thing to stream. And, of course, I must share my finds with you fabulous folks. Hence, Stream-It Saturday. Check out all my previous recommendations over here. 

This week's recommendation was pretty much inevitable: ABC Australia's charming half-hour teen ballet drama, Dance Academy. 

Here's the deal: Dance Academy is set in Sydney, Australia at an elite school for aspiring dancers. Just getting into the school is intensely competitive, and it's a feeder for the National Ballet Company. Over three years, the students train in hopes of being one of two or three students selected to join the Company. It's intense and brutal, physically. Amidst all that competition and training, these are still teenagers dealing with all the stuff that teenagers deal with. And, it's also a boarding school story, since they live at the school at which they train. 


Podcast #20: Diversifying the Shelves (Part 2) with Author Sarah Ockler & Blogger Racquel of The Book Barbies

We're super-thrilled to publish the second half of our discussion with author Sarah Ockler and Racquel, blogger from The Book Barbies, about diversifying our bookshelves, how writers can work to authentically represent people of color in their fiction and recommendations for books and authors that do this successfully. You can find the first half over here. 

In this half, we get down to the nitty-gritty and recommend some novels that really, in our eyes, get it right, and why. It's important to emphasize that this is most definitely not a comprehensive conversation--if anything, it's framing questions and talking about our personal experiences. We hope to continue to explore this topic in future episodes. If you'd like to be involved in a future podcast discussion on this subject, get in touch and let's talk.


I Love... YA

One of the titles on my profile is “YA Evangelist.” A few (ok, maybe none) of you might wonder what that means.

The thing is, couple of years ago, I found myself in a bit of a reading funk. I’d been an avid fantasy fan for years because I loved being immersed in these other worlds and cultures, and they made me consider my own world and culture and how they came to be. (Hey, I’ve always claimed to be a nerd, ok?) But I found myself burned out on their tendency to turn into Never Ending Series.

I was also over my pretentious phase that most people go through during college involving meta books by authors such as Richard Bach and James Redfield. And Very Serious Literature, the kind of books I was supposed to be thoughtfully reading as a 30 year old…bored and depressed the freakin’ hell out of me. I settled for random books that I found on my library’s staff recommendation table that spanned all genres, but there was no denying that the volume of my reading had decreased immensely. Instead of reading at least 50 books a year, I was down to 15-20 (of which I liked/loved maybe 5). Which for me was sad and unacceptable.

Around the same time, I joined twitter to see what the whole “social media” craze that I had thus far avoided was all about (I still refuse to join the facebook). I soon found myself following fellow Blazers fan Sarah, due to a hilarious tweet regarding the semantics of the “melodramatic” (see what I did there, basketball fans?) trade that sent superstar Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. Eventually, I noticed a frequent tendency of others to ask Sarah for book recommendations. I was all,

“Hey. I can’t seem to find books I like on my own. I may as well read something that a fellow Blazers fan suggests. Since Blazers fans are so well known for their rationality and savvy and all.”

So, against my better judgment upon hearing the weird title, I picked up The Hunger Games at the library. After reading, oh, a chapter or so, I went online and put the other two books in the trilogy on hold.

I Love... YA - On Clear Eyes, Full Shelves

So, I then began scouring Sarah’s timeline for other recs whenever I finished a book. Eventually, I stopped my silly covert searches in favor of proper stalking by actually tweeting her for a personalized list. On that list was Melina Marchetta’s The Piper’s Son, which I adored. A few months later came Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races, which made me—ME!—late for work. Twice.

List-O-Rama: Some of Our Favorite Male POV Contemporary YA

Gabrielle’s excellent post this week, “The Broken Boys of YA,” and subsequent huge Goodreads list inspired me to dedicate today’s post to highlighting some of our favorite young adult novels written from a male point-of-view.

These are all contemporaries, which is near and dear to us here, though there are some excellent paranormals and dystopians which Gabrielle’s Goodreads list highlights as well. It’s interesting, because I didn’t realize until now that many of my favorites are written by women. It’s funny, because many of the books I’ve had the biggest problems with have also been written by women. It seems like authors either knock this out of the park for me or absolutely fall flat. Funny… I would have thought there’d be more of a gender divide. 

Freefall by Mindi Scott 

“I just love that feeling when things are about to change. Like when you know that in a few seconds you’re going to do something and become someone else.”

I’m pretty sure that Laura and I are friends thanks to this book. Seth’s voice is one of my absolute favorites, it has a wonderful note of authenticity that makes Seth seem absolutely real. (I read Mindi’s new book last week and I literally squealed because Seth is mentioned and thought something along the lines of “I hope he’s doing well” before reminding myself that Seth is a fictional character.) Freefall has a very strong theme about actively choosing to make things change and it really resonated with both Laura and I. Seth Rocks.

{Laura’s Review | Amazon | Goodreads}

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

He was the person all of us should be, but most of us aren’t. And if I could have taken his place to buy him a little more time in the world, I’d have done it. I’m sorry I couldn’t.

Trish Doller’s debut is still reigning as one of my absolute favorite books of 2012. A 19-year old Marine coping with PTSD, on leave back in his hometown, in his family home, Travis’ should be pretty unrelatable for a dorky girl like me, but his story is told with such emotional authenticity that ultimately I found extremely compelling and familiar. 

{My Review | Amazon | Goodreads}

Book Matchmaker: Roxanne Just Wants a Good Book

Y’all, I have really fallen off the book matchmaker wagon. 

You see, the last chunk of submissions (probably around twenty) have been really, really hard. Like, how the hell am I supposed to find books for Janina, who’s basically read every book? Anyway, so y’all have basically stumped the band, so to speak.

So, I went through our (massive) backlog and found a bit of a gimme—a request from one of my clients and former students, Roxanne, who’s a very cool artist and all around creative thinker. 

Roxanne filled out our handy-dandy—and extremely scientific—Book Matchmaker Questionnaire, here are her responses:

YA or Adult: Surprise Me 

Genres: Contemporary, Historical, Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Paranormal, Mystery/Thriller, Magical Realism, Steampunk

Point-of-View/Narrative Style: First Person, Multiple POV, Epistolary (told wholly or partially though documents), Present Tense, Male POV, Main Character or Narrator, Female POV, Main Character or Narrator, Unreliable Narrator

Likes: “Bathtub mysteries that actually surprise me. Well done and documented historical (and hysterical) fiction. Learn-read ie. ” “How To Think Like Leonardo DaVinci.” “Coming of age or narrative memoir.  Metaphysical or energy themes. Promotion of hope.

Dislikes: “When I read, I try not to think that hard, Sarah. I basically like to read well written material across any genre. I’m totally annoyed by lazy authors.”

Swoon Factor: 3

Gross-out Factor: 1

Smut Factor: 1

 Fluff Factor: 3

The Results

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

I’ve never once thought about the interpretative, the storytelling aspect of life, of my life. I always felt like I was in a story, yes, but not like I was the author of it, or like I had any say in its telling whatsoever. You can tell your story any way you damn well please. It’s your solo.

The Sky is Everywhere is an odd book—people seem to have extreme reactions to it. I love it. It’s got a touch of magical realism but it’s also very accessible and has a strong theme of hopefulness. 

{Amazon | Goodreads}

Book Matchmaker: Sarah (not our Sarah) Seeks Good Coming of Age Stories

Sarah (not our Sarah) is looking for some novels that tell a good coming of age tale.

This is one of our favorite themes, though we were a bit stumped on finding some that are also ’50s, ’60s or ’70s period novels. But it sure was hard to choose just a few to recommend! Sarah filled out our extremely scientific Book Matchmaker Questionnaire and here are her responses:

YA or Adult: Surprise Me
Genres: Contemporary, Historical, Romance
POV/Narrative Style: First Person, Third Person, Multiple POV, Present Tense, Past Tense, Male POV, Main Character or Narrator, Female POV, Main Character or Narrator
Turn-ons/Likes: Easy by Tammara Webber, Summer Sisters by Judy Blume, The Romantics by Galt Nierderhoffer.
Coming of Age is a favorite theme. Also period novels set in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.”
Turnoffs/Dislikes: None that I can think of…
Swoon Factor: 5
Gross Out Factor: 2
Smut Factor: 5 
Fluff Factor: 3

The Results

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

My brain is like a water faucet that I can turn on or off. Only now there is no off and the water of thoughts just flows.

Rebeca aka Renegade suggests Francisco X. Stork’s (what a cool name!) YA novel about a 17-year old boy with a mild Autism-like condition who spends his first summer in the “real world” outside his specialized school. There’s a strong theme of self-discovery and the point-of-view is distinctive. 

{Amazon | Goodreads}

{Book Matchmaker} Unah Wants a Dash of Magic, Adventure and Romance

Today’s book matchmaker victim participant is Unah, who likes a bit of everything, but especially likes young adult fiction with adventure, romance and magic.

We’ve got a mix of suggestions from all the CEFS contributors, drawing on a bunch of different genres. But first, Unah’s responses to our very scientific questionaire. 

YA or Adult: YA

Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery/Thriller, Magical Realism, Steampunk

Narrative Style: First Person, Multiple POV, Graphic Novel or Graphic Elements, Present Tense, Past Tense, Male POV, Main Character or Narrator, Female POV, Main Character or Narrator

Swoon Factor: 3

Gross Out Factor: 2

Fluff Factor: 2

Smut Factor: 4 

Likes: The Lost Hero, Percy Jackson, Wild Magic, Sabriel, Lireal, Abhorsen, Keys to the Kingdom, Mortal Instruments, Infernal Devices, I am Number Four, Power of Six

Dislikes: Stories with no plot (not Twilight *cough*)

The Recommendations!

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

…somehow, even in the worst of times, the tiniest fragments of good survive. It was the grip in which one held those fragments that counted.

Laura recommends Melina Marchetta’s fantasy series as an outstanding mix of all the qualities Unah likes. And, because it’s Melina Marchetta, the character development is second to none. 


In between mint juleps, we were talking at book club this weekend about series and how frustrating it is that the publishing climate is such that series see to be the norm. And, dammit, sometimes you just want a book to have a beginning, middle and end! However, there have been a few times when I’ve found myself surprised by how much I love an unnecessary sequel. Here are three that are near and dear to my heart, that gave me the chance to revisit characters and settings when I didn’t even know I needed or wanted to see again. 

The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta 
{Sequel to Saving Francesca}

The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta

It may be a bit of a stretch to call The Piper’s Son a “sequel,” it’s probably closer to a companion novel, but after reading and loving Saving Francesca, a fabulous Australian novel about a group of friends, I felt like the story had a level of closure that satisfied me. But! Along came Thomas Mackee and his aunt to sweep me away in The Piper’s Son. I loved catching up with characters from Saving Francesca several years later and despite that this focuses on a different character than in the first book, it brings closure that couldn’t exist without the sequel. (Also, I’m so happy that this one is finally getting a good cover in the U.S.)


{Buy it at Amazon | The Book Depository}
{Add it on Goodreads}

When I reviewed The Sharp Time last week, I mentioned that it would be a great gateway young adult novel for people who avoid the YA category. While it’s debateable whether or not that particular novel is a YA or not, I got to thinking about what would be good gateway YAs—particularly contemporary YA, which is near and dear to my heart.

Here are three suggestions (all Printz honorees, which helps your case for reluctant adult YA readers) for contemporary YAs you can trick your friends into reading, taking both plot and cover artwork into consideration (because let’s admit it, some people will never read a book if the cover screams, “I’m a teen book!!!”)

Looking for Alaska, John Green

John Green’s 2006 debut is one I shove in people’s hands all the time when I hear the words, “There’s no way I’d read a book for kids.” While the boarding school setting may turn a few folks off (because YA characters attend boarding school at a far higher rate than normal kids), the dark, literary-looking cover should cancel out any boarding school phobias. Plus, the main character, last words-obsessed Miles, is a fantastic narrator who’s equally angsty and clever. I’m yet to force anyone to read this one who’s regretted the time spent reading it. 


If you’re a sports fan, and you’ve ever made a comment on a sports blog or Twitter, you’ve been trolled.

As a female sports fan, and Asian to boot—before the Jeremy Lin phenomenon, thank you very much—well, you just have to learn to roll with the punches or punch back even harder. It can be ugly and unpleasant.

Then I found Goodreads.

Goodreads quickly became my happy place. More than that, it felt like a safe little corner of the internet where book lovers discussed what they were reading and what they wanted to read. And then things turned ugly in a very familiar way earlier this year with authors attacking reviewers and vice versa. But that’s not what this post is about. You can find posts about all that other bullshit elsewhere.

This is about how Goodreads reviewers and my local library led me to Tom Mackee and one of my favorite authors.