Women Writers Wednesday 6/10/15

This week’s WWW review comes to us from Jennifer Waldo, who reviewed the Divergent series by Veronica Roth here back in January. This time she’s writing about another YA series, the Pure books by Julianna Baggott.

 

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Pure by Julianna Baggott follows several characters but the main heart of the story belongs to Pressia, a young girl turning sixteen in a world that’s been obliterated by an atomic bomb ten years prior.

 

PURE by Julianna Baggott

 

Everyone on the outside of a Dome which served as protection for the “pures” are considered “wretches” and have some kind of fusing. In Pressia’s case, one hand has been covered by the doll’s head that she was holding at the time of the blast. Another character is fused with birds that are still alive and implanted on his back. Other characters are fused with other people like Siamese twins. It’s grotesque, and part of Pressia’s arc is to figure out whether she can accept herself for who she is or if she is better off finding a “cure” for her deformity. When a pure escapes from the Dome on a mission to find his mother, Pressia saves his life and the two of them start a journey discovering the truth about the Dome, the outside world, what happened, their families. As in The Wizard of Oz, they collect newcomers along the way who become integral to the overall story.

Pure (followed by Book 2 Fuse and Book 3 Burn) is an excellent series that offers a true sci-fi world, variety of character, and some more complicated writing than the young heroine in a dystopian/apocalyptic society stories we have seen in other series such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, Legend, Matched… Baggott’s use of changing POV within a selection of main characters but not ALL the characters offers the reader an opportunity to at times be complicit in wrongdoing, something not seen in these other series. I found myself uncomfortable with at least one of the main characters who kept disappointing my expectation of becoming the hero and rising above external manipulation. It was enlightening to see/read/experience characters from a direct POV who ultimately failed in their character arc. It was expertly handled by Baggott.

I highly recommend it. I’m not sure it came to a full resolution at the end of Burn, but endings are always hard, and in such a rich and complex story, I am not sure what I would have done differently.

In all, I’m not sure I understand why it hasn’t done as well as the previously mentioned series like The Hunger Games.  When I wanted to purchase Pure, I had to order it online; no store carried it.  I wonder if it’s because the love story is not as central as it is in the other series, though it’s certainly there.  It’s a more difficult read and I didn’t get caught up in the same passion and urgency to continue reading the way I did with the other series.  However, I think it’s a testament to its writing and characters that it couldn’t be treated as pulp.  I can see how it may have benefited from more action and a different style of description for the dramatic conflict scenes.  As a writer, it’s an interesting question.  Thoughts always welcome!

 

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Jennifer Waldo has been writing and directing for film and video for the last ten years, including the short video SISTERS now in post production. A lifelong writer and photographer, Jennifer began her career working in the documentary/educational film industry of her hometown, Washington, DC.  She graduated from the Quaker school Sidwell Friends and went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts with honors in English at Oberlin College. Wanting to hone her skills as a filmmaker, Jennifer spent three years earning her MFA in Film Production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts where she won the Edward Small Directing Scholarship for her existentialist film ROOM 119 (2001) and wrote and directed her 35mm USC graduate thesis SEARCHING FOR ANGELS (2006).  After graduating USC in the spring of 2004, Jennifer’s thesis film screened at the Director’s Guild in Los Angeles as part of the April 2006 First Look Festival. Working in Houston, Texas, over the last few years, Jennifer completed a set of twelve educational videos for a local Montessori School and EVERYTHING BEGINS AT B.I.R.T.H. (2007) about non-profit organization BIRTH founded by midwives. Jennifer’s romantic comedy screenplay HONEYMOON ADVENTURERS was selected as a “Screwball Comedy” Finalist in the Broad Humor Screenplay Contest in July 2006 and her feature-length script adaptation of SEARCHING FOR ANGELS was a quarter-finalist in the 2008American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest.  In November 2008, Jennifer won the “NaNoWriMo” writing challenge with an 85,000-word novel written over a 30 day period. In addition to writing and directing, Jennifer is also a producer, most recently working on the independent feature film THE PREACHER’S DAUGHTER (2012), showing on Lifetime.  Jennifer produced several USC graduate thesis films including the festival favorites UNSYNCABLES AT ANY AGE (2003), FIST OF IRON CHEF (2004), and PEBBLES (2005), as well as the A.C.E.-sponsored HD documentary  THE CUTTING EDGE: THE MAGIC OF MOVIE EDITING (2004). Jennifer currently teaches filmmaking at Houston Community College’s Audio Recording and Filmmaking Department, Spring Branch Campus. She is also a longtime member of Women in Film in Los Angeles, California.

 

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To see more kinds of reviews like the ones in this series, check out these blogs by Melanie Page and Lynn Kanter. And of course go to the Sappho’s Torque Books page here to see other reviews by me and by other contributors to the Women Writers Wednesday series.

The Women Writers Wednesday series seeks to highlight the contributions of women in literature by featuring excellent literature written by women authors via reviews/responses written by other women authors. If you’d like to be a contributor, wonderful! Leave a comment below or send me an email, tweet, or Facebook message with your idea.

Women Writers Wednesday 3/11/15

This week’s review comes to us from Joyce Thierry Llewellyn, who has chosen My Ex From Hell, a YA novel by Tellulah Darling.

Joyce Thierry Llewellyn is a film and television screenwriter and story editor, screenwriting instructor at the Vancouver Film School, and heads off into the sunset whenever she can to explore new territories for her creative non-fiction travel writing. Find her online at http://tamarackjourneyproductions.com/.

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You’ve heard her name given to a character in two Matrix movies, one Stephen King book, numerous video games, read about her in Greek mythology, and seen her name on the side of the logging tug in the longest running Canadian TV series, The Beachcombers. Persephone. In Greek mythology Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. She was abducted by Hades, the king of the underworld, leaving Demeter so distraught she refused to let anything grow on Earth until Hades agreed to let Persephone spend half the year above ground. In My Ex From Hell, YA author Tellulah Darling has taken this familiar myth and given it a red hot chili pepper update. As the author herself writes: “It’s a Greek mythology smackdown as love meets comedy with a whole lot of sass in Book One of this teen romance series. Compared to Kai and Sophie, Romeo and Juliet had it easy.”

My Ex From Hell jpg

In My Ex From Hell (Book One in the Blooming Goddess Trilogy), sixteen-year-old Sophie Bloom’s life is a daily mix of standard teen drama constantly being stirred up by the fact she keeps saying and doing what she shouldn’t at her boarding school. But a kiss from bad boy Kai at the Halloween dance changes everything and awakens Sophie’s true identity, that of Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She suddenly finds herself the target of unwanted attention from Hades and Zeus because she is the only person who can save humanity from their Underworld versus Olympus battle for world domination. There’s also the frustrating fact that Sophie remembers someone tried to murder her when she was last Persephone, but who was it? Add into the story mix her need to figure out what she can and cannot do with her goddess powers — and just how can she outsmart the bad guys? Then there are those Kai kisses, but his dad is Hades. Complications just keep piling up.

My Ex From Hell has it all: smart writing, secrets hidden and revealed, fight scenes, comedy, and good old-fashioned romance. Although this book was written for a YA audience, this novel and its two follow-ups are rich in action and kick-ass repartee that will appeal to adults, too. The author’s film and television screenwriting background is evident in the snappy dialogue that zaps back and forth between friends and enemies. If you and I had Sophie in our pack in high school, there wouldn’t have been a dull moment in our days. The second and third books in the series, My Date From Hell and My Life from Hell are also available. As Tellulah Darling writes on her website, “Sassy girls. Swoony boys. What could go wrong?” In Darling’s books, plenty!

See more about Darling’s work at her website here.

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To see more kinds of reviews like the ones in this series, check out these blogs by Melanie Page and Lynn Kanter. And of course go to the Sappho’s Torque Books page here to see other reviews by me and by other contributors to the Women Writers Wednesday series.

The Women Writers Wednesday series seeks to highlight the contributions of women in literature by featuring excellent literature written by women authors via reviews/responses written by other women authors. If you’d like to be a contributor, wonderful! Leave a comment below or send me an email, tweet, or Facebook message with your idea.

Women Writers Wednesday 2/11/15

This week’s review, of Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia, comes to us from Brenna Layne, whose bio follows.

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My mother got her third tattoo on my seventeenth birthday, a small navy hummingbird she had inked above her left shoulder blade, and though she said she picked it to mark my flight from childhood, it mostly had to do with her wanting to sleep with Johnny Drinko, the tattoo artist who worked in the shop outside town.

 

KP Madonia cover

 

With her very first sentence, Kristen-Paige Madonia paints a vivid portrait of the relationship between a mother and daughter. Judy Blume has called Madonia’s writing “luminous,” “original,” and “compelling.” As far as I’m concerned, if Judy Blume likes something, that’s reason enough to give it a try. As it happens, there’s a lot to love about this impressive debut novel.

Madonia tells the story of seventeen-year-old Lemon, who leaves her nomadic mother, Stella, and sets off on a journey of her own. As Lemon seeks out the father she’s never known, she carries her unborn baby, certain that her own child will never know its father. From the hot haze of a Virginia summer to the chaos and color of San Francisco, Lemon embarks on the best kind of odyssey—both outward, into the larger world, and inward, discovering exactly who she is and what matters most.

The interaction between quietly rebellious Lemon and larger-than-life Stella will strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt overshadowed by a parent. Lemon’s struggle to define her life and relationships on her own terms is an instantly recognizable one, and her thoughtful, introspective voice brings it strongly to life. Both wonderfully quirky and sometimes painfully authentic, Lemon’s story is compelling from the first, marvelous opening sentence.

I’ve now read and re-read Fingerprints of You, and what strikes me most is Madonia’s ability to home in on the specific—one girl’s cross-country bus trip—while at the same time telling a classically American coming-of-age story, but with a difference. One of Lemon’s favorite books, On the Road, comes up again and again. Lemon, too, is on the road, but with an important difference—she’s a girl. American literature is full of stories of boys who hit the road, hop trains, see the world. It’s refreshing to read about a girl embarking on this iconic American journey. And it’s powerful. In her search to find where she belongs, not only for herself but for the child within her, she brings a new element of femininity to a familiar and usually masculine theme.

With her distinctive voice and wry sense of humor, Lemon is an entertaining narrator. With her flawed yet lovable personality, she’s one with which real teens can identify. But Fingerprints of You, like all the best young adult literature, is a great read for adults, too. The lessons Lemon learns on her journey are ones that we can all use reminding of from time to time. We all leave fingerprints on each other, indelibly marking each other’s lives in ways both great and small. And, as Madonia shows us, recognizing and accepting those invisible tattoos is an unavoidable step in the difficult and beautifully messy journey of growing up.

I was fortunate to meet Kristen-Paige Madonia at a local writer’s group shortly after the publication of Fingerprints of You. I’ve met a number of YA novelists over the past few years, but Madonia is the one who really stands out. She was engaged, helpful, and encouraging. I met her at a point in my own writing journey when I was becoming overwhelmed by discouragement. Her kindness and generosity in sharing her own journey—both its ups and downs—was a powerful reminder to me that as writers, we’re all on this journey together, and that no one, no matter how accomplished, has an easy time of it. Like its creator, Madonia’s work is encouraging, powerful, and deeply humane. Not bad fingerprints to leave on the publishing industry, or on the world in general.

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Brenna Layne writes fantasy novels about young adults because she believes in magic, likes dragons, and hasn’t figured out how to be a grown-up yet. She is currently seeking an agent. She lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her family and a growing menagerie of stray dogs, cats, and chickens. She blogs about the intersections between writing and life at www.brennalayne.com. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys beekeeping and broadsword combat.

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To see more kinds of reviews like the ones in this series, check out these blogs by Melanie Page and Lynn Kanter. And of course go to the Sappho’s Torque Books page here to see other reviews by me and by other contributors to the Women Writers Wednesday series.

The Women Writers Wednesday series seeks to highlight the contributions of women in literature by featuring excellent literature written by women authors via reviews/responses written by other women authors. If you’d like to be a contributor, wonderful! Leave a comment below or send me an email, tweet, or Facebook message with your idea.