A Few Books (And a Few Questions)

I don't know where to start with Melissa Marr's Ink Exchange, and I don't know how to express how much I loved it without giving away spoilers, so I'm not going to say much. I know there are a lot of mixed reactions to the book out there, and I understand that. But my experience of reading it was very emotional, and my take is that it's an important, delicate, beautiful book about survival -- about choosing to live after trauma, even though that means choosing to feel the pain you'd rather numb yourself to.

I believe in this book. I found it to be full of heart, feeling, and disturbing truth. Did you read it? What did you think?

Next up, I just finished Donna Jo Napoli's The Smile, which takes place in Florence at the turn of the sixteenth century. I don't think it's much of a spoiler for me to tell you that the smile referred to is the Mona Lisa's smile; the novel is Mona Lisa's story, as Napoli imagined it. (Napoli explains in a postscript that no one is certain who da Vinci's model was for the painting; this is definitely a work of fiction and imagination; but the political history is real and fascinating, and the imagined story is beautiful). I confess that I didn't give this book the attention it deserved, because I've been running around like a headless chicken lately. But even my scattered attention could tell that it was a wonderful book. I'm going to read it again. And here's a question -- can anyone recommend more Napoli books, particularly taking place in Italy? I think I've found a writer whose books touch my soul. I want to read more.

Finally, I forgot to mention the other day, when I blogged the Andre Norton finalists, how much I liked The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. The link, btw, will take you to the Readergirlz blogspot, which is featuring Pearson's book this month and which describes the book better than I could -- and which has a lovely playlist going ^_^. Read it! It's great. And hello, beautiful cover!

The main reason I'm a headless chicken these days is that I leave for Italy on Thursday. I'm going to the Bologna Children's Book Fair, and right after that, to the Penguin sales conference back in the states. I'll be gone almost two weeks, and it's tax season and copyediting season and so many seasons that have me running around like crazy trying to prepare for my disappearance! So forgive me if I seem a little all over the place.

What are you reading and loving these days?


Anonymous said…
I just got done with Hunted,the fith book in the House of Night series. It was pretty good. It's a vampire series.
But I'm waiting for City of Glass by Cassandra Clare and Stargazer by Claudia Gray to come out the 24th.
Ink Exchange was a really good book. Melissa Marr is an excellent writer.

Unknown said…
I'm currently reading 'The Knife of Never Letting Go' by Patrick Ness published by Walker Books, UK. An excellent, thought-provoking title I must add and an award-winning one too.
tinkandalissa said…
Ink Exchange (and other Marr books) are on my TBR list. (I've had to start keeping a list because I literally have like 200 books I want to read! Yowza!)
Having 2 tattoo artists in my immediate family, I am partial to ink!! I saw this book a while back and googled Melissa. After reading her bio I instantly liked her and knew that I'd read her books just based on that.
I've never heard of Napoli :( but will definitly check her out now!
My comment is entirely unhelpful.
I am reading the Tir Alainn series by Anne Bishop right now. It is pretty good, but I am not DYING for more like I have been w/other books I've read lately. After that, I have a box of about 15-20 books, that are loaners from my mom, that I have to get thru before I get back to my TBR list. I also have a few series' that have new books coming out soon that I will be reading...
Sarah Miller said…
Donna Jo Napoli is my FAVORITE.

In Italy:
Daughter of Venice
For the Love of Venice (which I haven't read yet)

Song of the Magdalene
The Magic Circle
Alix said…
I just finished Saving Francesca, which was amazing and started The Forest of Hands and Feet, which is excellent and creepy.

I still have Wicked Lovely (which I bought for the great title) on my TBR pile. The 3 books looks great though.
Anonymous said…
I just finished reading The Smile for the second time and I love it even more. I'm going to have to read it again. As for other Napoli books in Italy, I would recommend Daughter of Venice(I didn't read it yet, but I plan to read it next).

I was going through a phase of Italian/renaissance history,(and still am, if I find good books on it) but if you're like me and enjoy books from that period, I have another recommendation.

Primavera by Mary Jane Beaufrand takes place slightly before The Smile. It's an interesting twist and view to the history. Without giving away spoilers to The Smile, it mentions Il Magnifico's brother Giuliano being assassinated and Primavera goes through that.
Pam said…
I have a ridiculous number of books in process. I love them all (a few were recommended by your readers), but haven't been able to concentrate very well lately. I have been able to concentrate on cookbooks though! "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" has fantastic instructions for making a boule that actually tastes like a boule. And I fell asleep last night reading "Encore with Claudine." Have a wonderful trip to Italy. Looking forward to hearing about it.
Unknown said…
Zel is my favorite Napoli book to date. It doesn't take place in Italy but it still has all the lush richness of The Smile. I highly recommend it.

I also loved The Magic Circle and The Great God Pan.

For the record, I wasn't as big a fan of Sirena or Prince of the Pond. I'd start with the others first.
Anonymous said…
Ink Exchange was so inspiring. I agree, that kind of strength and resilience put into words moves me. Plus, I love Melissa Marr's writing in general. I'm currently rereading Diana Wynne Jones Dalemark Quartet. I am on book 4, The Crown of Dalemark. I love these books, and I haven't read through them all for a couple years, so I devoted myself to that task on my spring break :)
Debbie said…
Hi Kristen, I just read Graceling on Saturday in less than 24 hours upon recommendation of my co-worker's 14 yo daughter (I am WAY older than that....LOL...turning 40 this year). Anyway, just wanted to drop you a comment that I LOVED your book and I'm looking forward to reading more from you. Have fun in Italy, I love eating my way through Italy! I'm jealous.
Q said…
Well, I did read/love Graceling recently...

Otherwise... I loved Chalice (the newest Robin McKinley book), and always always always anything Shannon Hale or Brandon Sanderson.
Senta Claws said…
Um.. hi first time commenter. Reading: Too Far Afield by Gunter Grass and After Dark by Haruki Murakami. Both have are excellent thus far. Just finished this book called Graceling, which I liked quite a lot.
Faith said…
If you liked Ink Exchange you'll love her next one (out in April, I think) Fragile Eternity. She has a wonderful writing style that is so sparse yet conveys so much. I love it.

I'm taking a break from YA lit at the moment and reading some Dorthy Sayers. I'm finding her lovely but a little dry for my taste. I have Bones of Faerie waiting for me at home. I'm looking forward to that one too.
Parisa said…
Dear Kristin Cashore,
I have read the Melissa Marr books and have enjoyed them immensely. If you liked them perhaps half as much I did I would The City of Masks by Mary Hoffman to you, if you haven't already read it. It takes place in modern day London and then in a parallel reality/world in Belizzia, a city that bears a strong resemblance to Venice. I read this book around two years ago and I still remember every main point and trivial detail, it was SUCH a good book.
I strongly recommend it, along with The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer, which also takes place in Venice. I love Venice, I've never been but it's among my "I Hope To Live There Someday But Probably Never Will" list of various and remote places I've seen in magazines and gotten romantic notions about.
Thanks for your time if you've read this- I'm sorry I meant it to be a short comment.
Meredith said…
I just finished The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (wow, very bleak, but compelling. It made me think. A lot). And I just finished the 4th Enola Holmes book by Nancy Springer. It's a series about Sherlock Holmes' much younger sister. They're wonderful and fun, and really quick, which is great after fighting through something intense.

Now I'm starting the second volume of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing by M.T. Anderson. Talk about an involved read. But I'm loving it so far.
Jazz said…
I've been thinking about reading the Melissa Marr books, but I wasn't sure until this post. Moving on after trauma = win. The Smile sounds great because it is based on a piece of art.

I've been reading lots of Shakespeare since January because of my Intro to Shakespeare class. I finished Hamlet an hour ago, and I will move onto Othello tomorrow. Although it is not on the course syllabus, The Winter's Tale is at the top of my personal reading list.

I recently finished The Midnight Twins by Jacquelyn Mitchard. She tried writing a mystery, but it was not suspenseful. The prose read like it she thoughts she needed to dumb things down for young adults.
Jenni Elyse said…
I just got done with Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. And, I started Dune today.
pie said…
For lighter reading, I've been loving the Casson family series by Hilary McKay. This family has the same feel as the Penderwicks, just as loving, although slightly crazier.
Aria said…
Brave Story. A japanese novel by Miyuki Miyabe, about 800 pgs long. Very good thus far.
Looking Glass Wars, Frank Beddor. I only just read all of Alice in Wonderland which was a bit of a chore seeing as how I'm not... on anything. But I love the looking Glass Wars.
I was watching the Black Cauldron today when I discovered that it was based off a series of books. So I'll hopefully be digging those up soon.
I just finished the Sevenwaters Quartet by Juliet Marllier. It took me over a month and was totally worth it.
Anonymous said…
Right now I'm reading Graceling-again! A couple questions: How is Lienid pronounced? Is the ie said a, e or i? Between all my friends, I've heard it all three. Also, when Po explains his rings he mentions a few people he doesn't wear them for because he didn't know them before they died...is it because they don't wear the ring after a person dies, or is it because he didn't know them?

I just finished reading The Hunt For Dark Infinity (bk. 2 of The 13th Reality Series), and I'm about to start Genghis: Birth of an Empire.
Anonymous said…
Ah, Kristin, you know just what to say to make me want a book, and make my mother wish I wasn't so passionate about reading (I prefer to own books rather than borrow them). I just recently did a surprisingly long post of TBR books. Long post short I have a lot to read and just finished Mary Poppins. I'm currently reading Mary Shelly's Frankenstein for Eng. 12 and when I finish I'm planning on reading the House of Night Series by P.C and Kristin Cast.

I'll definitely be looking into the books you mentioned. They all look neat and may end up on my Amazon "To Buy" list.

yay, u mentioned jenna fox!!!!! i <3 that book. by the way, if others actually read this, it is sci-fi (that is not a spoiler. i am only stating the genre. so THERE!). but it is totally awesome yet sad.
also, read the book thief. just finished it and loved it. death is my new favorite charecter of all time.
sorry kristin, kasta got booted.
and yay, the new max ride book came out yesterday!!! go kids with wings!!!!
Kristin Cashore said…
Hi, thanks everyone, especially for the Napoli recs!

A special hi to new posters! :o)

I pronounce Lienid LEE-nid, but you can pronounce it however you like. :o) Which reminds me that I hope to get my FAQ page up soon.

Itdependsontheday -- I'm happy for Katsa to get booted by Death! (Meaning Death, the character in The Book Thief, in case I'm confusing or worrying anyone.....) Death is an awesome character... and death is leading my poll from the other day... :o)
Anonymous said…
I haven't read Ink Exchange yet, but I was deeply impressed by Wicked Lovely. Marr's characters feel real in a way that is both casual and intimate. She makes you care about their internal struggles and cheer their slightest accomplishments. Her work doesn't need an epic feeling to draw you in (something so many fantasies depend on), because in the end it's all about those little moments that make characters feel so real.

Regarding Napoli, I find that reading her work is like studying a classic oil painting. She's painting a beautiful portrait that you watch come to life, stroke by stroke, until you finally see her full vision at the end.

It's not set in Italy, but Hush is a compelling story that is much more about the journey of the character than the destination she will ultimately reach.

I envy your trip to Bologna! I have a friend who lives there who I haven't seen in about a year. What I wouldn't give to be having some truly authentic Italian pasta with her family right now. Ah, well...
Kristianna said…
The thing I must have in life is music. Music defines the world and usually my life.

CLM said…
Bologna sounds extremely fun (and tasty) but as someone who used to work at Penguin and suffered through many tedious sales conferences (and they used to be held over the weekend with no comp days), I only wish a congenial author or two had attended back then!

I was disappointed in Jenna Fox. It reminded me so much of Peter Dickinson's Eva that I was able to anticipate most of the plot developments. Melissa Marr sounds like an author I would enjoy while I wait for your new one, however.
CL said…
I'm reading The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley, trying to catch up on YA fantasy classics. She's awesome. I also wanted to say my book club (which is a group of middle aged women who love to read YA fantasy and scifi) just read Graceling; everyone loved it, which never happens. We are all looking forward to reading more by you! Thanks for an excellent book! Constance Lombardo
Anonymous said…
Just a little fyi that the larger theme is in the blog/lit world...this comment is actually referencing a comments threads earlier about fans awaiting new books from authors...

nathan branford's post today...http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/NathanBransford/~3/TrQEZY6hQEs/you-tell-me-what-do-authors-owe-their.html

is interesting about author websites and as he wonders what authors owe fans...(corollary is not discussed...what fans owe authors)
Anonymous said…
I was actually at the very end of Ink Exchange when you posted this...It's 100x better than wicked lovely! Oh might I also suggest the obsessive amazing Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini...He's amazing!
Also although I love your writing to death I'm ready to eat you alive! Because of graceling I have to rewrite like 5 chapters of my novel because I liked your time frame better:(
Miss Shears said…
I just finished The Time Traveler's Wife by Niffenegger. It's not a YA, but it was a "WOW book" for me. I loved it. I can't believe that I hadn't read it sooner! I guess it slipped through the cracks.
Unknown said…
I'm almost through with Graceling! Wonderful book..can't believe I have to wait for September to read the prequel.

I also have enjoyed Melissa Marr's work, and I just finished Jenna Fox. for Melissa Marr fans, I suggest that you also try Holly Black's Valiant series - more dark faeries.

I also just went through all of Nancy Werlin's and Sarah Dessen's more contemporary works, and they are really great and thought-provoking.
McKayla Chaffee (chay-fee) said…
I just finished Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange! I love how Marr pulls you in and traps you inside the pages. The down side is that I finished both books in a week...I couldn't stop!!!
Also, a book I think you would like(if you haven't already read it) is Eragon, Eldest, and Brisngr! They are amazing!!!
RobinPS said…
I just finished Ink Exchange and I did enjoy it, as I enjoyed Wicked Lovely. What I like about Melissa marr's characters is that they are gritty and utterly real, always. They are complicated and messy and their lives aren't easily wrapped up in a neat little bow, and they can't be categorized, ever, as purely good or purely bad.

What I found distracting, is that throughout both books, Marr mostly wrote in a beautiful prose that utilized a high level of language ability. It was complicated, intelligent language that she then marred (no pun intended) by hitting the reader over the head over and over again by writing things like "It was wonderful" or "It was fabulous." I'm guessing it's a writer's "quirk," as we all have them, but it just drove me crazy and stopped me from fully engaging in the world she had created.

However, I'm looking forward to Fragile Eternity, and kudos to Melissa Marr for taking on some pretty tough topics with grace.
Unknown said…
I got Graceling out of the library yesterday, started it this morning, and finished it by 5pm today by reading in my spare time (actually my homework time, but oh well). Then I went looking for a website or blog for the book or author. I'm looking forward to Fire.

As for recommendations, I'm adding myself to the list of people who recommended Daughter of Venice and City of Masks. I'm currently on a Diana Wynne Jones kick, as usual, but am thinking of re-reading some Le Guin or L'Engle.

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