Monday, October 24, 2011

Review of Virtuosity by Jessica Martinez

Virtuosity
Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better?

Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands her--and riles her up--like he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what's expected.

Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall....


When I marked Virtuosity as to-read on GoodReads some time in May of 2011, I didn’t give it a lot of deep thought. I figured I might enjoy it because I play the violin and hey, the cover is really pretty. Turns out, I was able to read an ARC of this one through Teen Book Scene. Virtuosity is a beautiful, poignant, heart breaking and hopeful novel to add to your must read list.

I read Virtuosity over the course of 48 hours, which is very fast for me. The was only willing to stop to sleep, eat and do chores. I had to know how Carmen’s story ended.

Martinez’s debut automatically earns brownie points in my book for its original premise. While there are a lot of teenage musicians in young adult literature, I haven’t read about many who are classical music professionals. I know some people are tired of reading about wealthy teens and their problems, but I admire Carmen’s desire to reconnect passion and music.

What sent me head over heels in love with this book, however, was the writing. Martinez’s writing is incredibly poetic and enchanted me every step of the way. She has a gift for finding the perfect images to pair with her descriptions of music and rhythm. It seemed like every five pages I was stopping to write down a quote I loved because the imagery was so incredible.

No matter what I write, I’m not sure if I can convey how much I loved this book. There are some reviewers who like to use the phrase “well-crafted” to describe novels they love, and that is absolutely true of Virtuosity. Yet in this case, every plot point and every word is expertly crafted. Virtuosity made me want to pick up my own violin and start playing again. Martinez has written an exceptional debut, and I will be clamoring to read any other books she publishes.

Disclosure: I received an ARC of this book through Teen Book Scene.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review of Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya's Ghost

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part . . .

Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.

Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.

Or so she thinks.

Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.

You know the rule from Ghostbusters where “If someone asks if you’re a god, you say, ‘Yes!’”? Well, when Neil Gaiman claims that something is a masterpiece, I run out and buy a copy right away. I’d pre-ordered Anya’s Ghost this summer and after sticking it in my box of books to go to school, I was pretty excited that my new book club picked it for a group read. Although Anya’s Ghost was beautiful, well-plotted and captivating in so many ways, it left me wanting more in a bad way.

I loved the artwork in Anya’s Ghost. Not only is the book nicely laid out but every single image was filled with emotion and story. Anya is a fantastic main character because she struggles with her desire to fit in versus what makes her Anya, which is something that I think nearly everyone confronts at some point.

Once the plotline of Anya’s Ghost took off, I couldn’t put the book down. I had to know how the story ended. As I turned the final pages of Anya’s Ghost, I found myself saying, “But I wanted more!” Sometimes leaving a reader with this feeling is a sign of an amazing book, and while I think Brosgol has talent, I actually felt like I didn’t get enough. Brosgol tied up the plot nicely, and all of her characters were unique and well developed. However, I almost felt as though she could’ve given a few of her characters a little bit more show time, but didn’t because she wanted to avoid having her ghost story labeled as a paranormal romance. Then again, maybe I'm reading too much into it.

My one complaint was not enough to stop me from enjoying this story. If anyone asked me for a good graphic novel, I’d recommend Anya’s Ghost in a heartbeat. I hope Brosgol continues to publish graphic novels, because I am hungry for more of her artwork and stories.


Disclosure: I purchased a copy of this book.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Guest Post: Jessica Martinez On Music

Virtuosity
Hey guys! Today I have author Jessica Martinez here to post about music and the main character of her debut novel Virtuosity. Take it away, Jessica!


Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better?

Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands her--and riles her up--like he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what's expected.

Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall....


Like Carmen, I’m a violinist. VIRTUOSITY is not an autobiography (I swear!), but some readers have wondered what Carmen and I actually have in common. Here’s a list of things that Carmen experiences and the TRUTH about me as a teenage violinist:

Carmen

Me

Won a Grammy

Nope

Performs as a soloist with symphonies

Yup

Has an intense mother

Not at all

Experiences performance anxiety

Yes

Uses drugs to control it

No

Owns a million-dollar violin

No, but I played one once for five minutes.
It ruled.

Eccentric teacher

Hello! Not all of them, but wow. Some.

Dangles her violin off a balcony

No, but I did accidentally step on mine.
Crushed it.

Falls in love with her competition Weirdly, I only go for non-musicians.
Not sure why.

Feels like violin alienates her from her

peers

Definitely.

Loves/hates the pieces she’s learning

Yes, yes, yes

Lives for music

Yes. Now I live for chocolate. (Kidding, but I am slightly more well-rounded. And not just from the chocolate.)

Finds a British accent irresistible

WHO DOESN’T?

Thanks so much for stopping by, Jessica! Be sure to keep an eye out for my review of Virtuosity, which will be live soon!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

In My Mailbox (48) and What Are You Reading?

In my mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

For review:
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst
Borrowed:
The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill
Purchased:

Shine by Lauren Myracle
Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Blogs and bloggers mentioned:

Heidi of YA Bibliophile

Read:
The Giver (I read this during Banned Books Week and was in tears on my very crowded bus route. Wow. Review to come.)
Currently reading:

Saving June by Hannah Harrington
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill
Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
What I plan to read:

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

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