We drove across the English border, then through England for a while. We drove past rivers and down rumbly dirt roads under low-hanging trees. And we finally ended up in the Forest of Dean, a beautiful old forest I'd never visited before with tons of dramatic viewing points over valleys and gorges. I LOVE forests - my second full-length novel (written when I was 16, which is why you'll never see it published!) was even set completely in a forest because I'm so obsessed with them. Just walking under old trees fills me with a sense of peace and happiness.
(You should have seen me when we visited Sherwood Forest a few years ago - it's an old, old forest AND the site of so many childhood fantasies! I could barely talk, I was so blissed out.)
I'm not going to post any photos from the Forest of Dean today, because I know Patrick's planning to post his own entry about it soon. But I will just say again how happy I am that he knows me so well. :) I had a really, really wonderful time.
I've been meaning for a long time to talk about two different YA novels I've read recently. They're each VERY different from each other, actually, but both so good that I wanted to point them both out.
Ice, by Sarah Beth Durst: I bought this one based on the excerpt I read on Sarah's website, and oh, I am so glad I did. I devoured the whole book in one evening!
Of course, I've always loved the fairy tale "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" (I even did my own retelling of it a few years ago in my story "By the Light of the Dark"), but that actually made me a little wary of this book before I read it. When I love a fairy tale so much, sometimes it's hard to read other people's versions of it! But this one was just wonderful.
Ice starts out on an Arctic research station, where 18-year-old Cassie has grown up preparing to be a scientist. The shift from gritty Arctic realism to the dazzling magic of the Polar Bear king's palace is just perfectly handled, and oh, I loved Cassie's very modern reactions to the king's fairy tale expectations. Their relationship was perfectly drawn, the developing romance was just right...and the final adventure, as Cassie combines her scientific know-how and intelligence with her growing understanding of how magic really works, was so much fun. I loved how fierce and strong she was, and this book was just a joy to read. Really, really fun and recommended!
The Snowball Effect, by Holly Nicole Hoxter: I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this from Holly (one of my fellow Tenners). Wow, is it different from Ice - but also so, so good. This one reminded me of a darker version of a Sarah Dessen novel, and some parts of it were so painful to read that I had to take time away and read the novel in slow bites...but again, I am so glad I did.
Lainey Pike's family is truly broken. Her dad's out of the picture, her stepdad died recently, and her mother, who always suffered from depression, has just committed suicide in the family's basement, just after Lainey's high school graduation. Now Lainey and her estranged older half-sister are suddenly left to look after their five-year-old adopted brother, who has major emotional and behavioral issues. Lainey's never had a protected childhood, and now she's expected to take on a parent's responsibility for a brother who has never felt truly part of her family anyway...and all while grieving (and raging) over her mother's voluntary death. Lainey has a supportive boyfriend, but she feels suffocated even by him and by the way the rest of her life has been forced onto her.
Lainey and the other characters feel utterly real, and her anger and fear and frustration are palpable and completely understandable. She makes a lot of really questionable decisions as she flails around, trying to find her way, but every single one of them felt true to her character, even when they led her into even worse situations. This was often a hard book for me to read, but it was absolutely emotionally truthful, and it had a hard-won hope to it in the end.
What about you guys? What books have really stood out to you lately? I'm always looking for reading suggestions!