My interview @ YA Gotta Meet

Just to let you know that the amazing Kris at Voracious YAppetite has a very cool feature called YA Gotta Meet every Friday, to link with the Book Blogger Hop meme hosted by Jennifer at Crazy for Books, where she interviews some bloggers she discovered !

Aaaaaand she chose to interview me this week (Who's blushing heavily ? Not me. Nope. Not at all.), you can check it out here !

Thanks Kris !!! You're awesome ! (I only take cash for bribe money ;-) )

By the way, if you haven't been on her blog yet, don't hesitate to follow all her interesting features !!!

Lost in Translation

Hello people!!

Just a quick message to tell you that I have created a new meme called Lost in Translation (LiT) to present books from non-English speaking writers. 

I will concentrate on French and Italian writers: aside from English, I speak French (mothertongue) and Italian (lived in Italy for 2 years).

You can check out the info here or go directly in the LiT page in the menu above.

Lonely Werewolf Girl - Martin Millar

People, I am writing on this cold yet sunny day to talk about a crucial matter. It is a matter that has the utmost importance and that will surely have its effects spreading through countries and generations. One can't know how many people will be affected, nor to which degree, but the matter can't be ignored any longer.

I will therefore advise the faint-hearted not to read below for fear of having their lives turned upside down.  The rest can proceed the reading at their own risk.

      It is with unabated emotion, powerful convinction and exquisite honor that I, Caroline, award Lonely Werewolf Girl author Martin Millar a place next to J.R.R. Tolkien, George Orwell, Arthur Miller and Jane Austen in my personal sacred books that I cherish every day for changing my life forever and whose awesomeness makes me want to cry and scream very loud (and even louder than that actually).

*deep breath* That being said, let's review the book ! *grin*

      The story takes place in contemporary United Kingdom, between London and Scotland where the MacRinnalch family has its origins. The MacRinnalch are considered werewolf royalty among the race, where the chief is called a Thane. Not only do the MacRinnalch rule the werewolves, but they have far greater abilities since they don't need the full moon to change in werewolves and have incredible power, making them unbeatable.
      The youngest of the MacRinnalch, Kalix, was born in werewolf shape when her mother Verasa was herself in werewolf form a night of full moon. This most unique circumstance makes Kalix one of the strongest werewolf that ever existed. But it doesn't make her popular. On the contrary, as the youngest of many decades, Kalix is ignored if not taunted by the various members of her family, earning the nickname of Lonely Werewolf Girl. 
      At the beginning of the story, Kalix has fled Scotland and is hiding in London after attacking her father violently. She never forgot how her family banished her lover Gawain. As the story unfolds, Kalix meets two very curious and friendly humans, Daniel and Moonglow, who will help her when everyone else wants to kill her. When Kalix's father finally dies of his injuries, another matter will arise: a clan politics struggle for the Thaneship begins with Kalix's two older brothers, the brute Sarapen and the cross-dressing Markus, both resorting to murders, bribes and manipulation. Only Kalix and her older sister Thrix, a powerful werewolf Enchantress who runs a fashion house and befriends Elementals like the Fire Queen, don't want any part in this conflict. But will the others let them in peace if they represent swing votes in the Great Council ?

        I most entirely and whole-heartedly love this book. There is no other word for it.
      Martin Millar's story-telling is so incredible that your mind gets snatched from your body at the first page, it gets shaken, squeezed, teary, tickled, blown away and given back to you, at the very last page, with the most exquisite feeling ever. 
      The characters are all so unique, captivating and funny that you can't imagine them never existing before. There are so many characters in this story and all of them are awesome, and you meet new ones all along the story, which makes you love the book even more !

      The plot in itself is so sophisticated that I personally feel that everything is true and no I am not crazy, though technically, I probably wouldn't admit it if I was. Martin Millar is a genius for inventing all of this. It is just entirely brilliant and perfect. He is very descriptive of where the action is taking place, so you travel around London thinking you might bump into Kalix or Moonglow anyday (when you live in London yourself that is).

      The mythology in fantasy books is very important to me. I like reading about logical (in their imaginary way) myths and well developed creatures. And here, it is so incredible and the fantasy part isn't even the centre of the story. It isn't really about being a werewolf as it is about those people, who are werewolves, interacting with those people who happen to be humans or elementals. 

    The female characters are all kick-ass women: from the manipulative Verasa, to the vain Fire Queen Malveria and the equally vain Thrix who can cry their heart out over fashion but kill people in a nanosecond without the slightest remorse, and Kalix who becomes unstoppable in battle but whines when there is no more Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Spongebob Squarepants on TV. 

       Some society themes are also introduced very cleverly in the book (parent/child relationship, drugs, ambition, sexuality...) and I just love the ending (which I can't talk about for obvious reasons).

I don't want to say too much (not that I can anyway without giving spoilers) because you really do need to discover this book by yourself and, hopefully, take as much pleasure as I did reading it.

Clay - David Almond

I discovered David Almond reading Skellig. He has the incredible ability to write spooky and sinister books for younger readers as well as for adults. There seems to be a very thin line between writing children books and writing challenging books and David Almond seems to be extremely talented at writing precisely on that line.
In the same way, Neil Gaiman's books for younger readers have the same capacity to captivate children and develop at the same time very serious themes. I really love the fact that you can read these books on many different levels, depending on your age but also your personality. 

Anyways, Clay is the story of best friends Davie and Geordie who are  your regular young teenagers. They are altar boys but rebels on the inside: smoking some 'fags' and drinking altar wine (which I find hilarious). Like many groups of young kids, they are at war against another gang of kids from their small village of - wait for it - Felling-on-Tyne in Northumberland (UK), led by the horrible Mouldy who "already drank like a man". They both meet Stephen Rose, who has come to live with his aunt, Crazy Mary, and are asked to make friends with him by Father O'Mahoney. 
There is something strange and maybe evil about Stephen Rose. He makes those little figures out of clay which look very realistic, he stays by himself and he has a quite sinister personality. But he might be able to help Davie with Mouldy and his gang. Davie also lives the very first moments of love with Maria, a girl who isn't like any other and might like Davie too.

Though I prefered Skellig to this one, I think it is an incredible story. The type which makes you question your beliefs and make you think about the difference between good and bad, even when reading it as an almost adult.
It is very unusual, I believe, but I might be wrong (don't hesitate to contradict me and hit on my head with a stick), to portray such a peculiar and maybe evil character as Stephen Rose. You never really know if he is crazy or has strong beliefs or is simply right and we're all a bunch of blinded fools. You won't only enjoy reading this book but it will make you think, and not just about what you're going to eat for diner.

On the style, I really like David Almond's storytelling talent. You have to read it to believe it (I am definitely trademarking this sentence, people, no stealing it). I also liked the fact that for the dialogues, Almond wrote how the characters would have said the words, with the accent, like "Bliddy Hell" and "He's nowt to us", which makes you even more inside the story. 

Another very interesting point, which is just hinted throughout the book, and is therefore given a very strong latent power (and, yes, I just said that), is the mention of the enmity between protestants and catholics. Davie and Geordie are living in Felling, where there is a strong catholic minority and Mouldy and his gang live in Pelaw where there is instead a majority of Protestants. Though the Pelaw/Felling fight is more of a tradition for the younger ones like Davie, the entire enmity is rooted in the religious hatred that was still very vivid a few decades ago. You see Davie's father reaction when Davie comes home after a fight saying this is how it escalates into a bloody war.

I really liked this book. So if you are a YA fan, David Almond is a definite must-read, and if you like spooky disturbing stories, this one's a treat !

Delphine de Vigan in London !

Following my post on the talk with No and Me French author Delphine de Vigan, I am posting now what was said !

FYI: I bought the French version of the book and she signed it in French

No and Me Amazon summary:
Lou Bertignac has an IQ of 160 and a good friend in class rebel Lucas. At home her father puts a brave face on things but cries in secret in the bathroom, while her mother rarely speaks and hardly ever leaves the house. To escape this desolate world, Lou goes often to Gare d'Austerlitz to see the big emotions in the smiles and tears of arrival and departure. But there she also sees the homeless, meets a girl called No, only a few years older than herself, and decides to make homelessness the topic of her class presentation. Bit by bit, Lou and No become friends until, the project over, No disappears. Heartbroken, Lou asks her parents the unaskable question and her parents say: Yes, No can come to live with them. So Lou goes down into the underworld of Paris's street people to bring her friend up to the light of a home and family life, she thinks.

      Delphine de Vigan is a very laid back and inspired writer, it is very interesting to hear her talk about various subjects. She had been working full time for her first four books, writing only at night, and has now quit. She used to work in companies and analyse the work relations between employees. No and Me is her fourth novel but her first and only book for Young Adult.

      By the way, the entire genre of YA books is actually not very developed in France, there are books for children, some books for teenagers and then adult books. YA books are very hard to classify, that's why they get printed by 'adult books' publishers, because there are no publishers specifically specialised in YA. Even if the genre is gaining momentum, it is still very limited to very popular books like Twilight or Harry Potter, and doesn't reach public recognition, in the sense that most adults and book critics wouldn't know that it constitutes a genre in itself and thousands of YA books are published worldwide every year.
      No and Me has been published and marketed in France as an 'Adult Book' at first but was also included into school curriculums. It was actually clear during the talk, that Delphine de Vigan herself didn't know exactly how to classify the book, saying that it isn't because the main character is 13, that the book is made for children, and that her publishers had some discussions about how to present the book to the public.

On the writing style
      Delphine de Vigan explained that it had been a choice, very early on, not to try to mimic the language of young people. First because it would have been completely ridiculous: she doesn't speak like this, and it would have been hard to present anything credible. But also because she thinks that most of the kids are today "bilingual" when it comes to the French (or English, or other) language and their own expressions and ways of communicating. So even teenagers would understand a normal use of the language. It's also a way of making the story timeless in the sense that the teen slang she would have used would become outdated in a few months.
      What she describes in the book are actually real places with sometimes real homeless people that are 'famous' in their parts of Paris. She wanted to give a sense of reality to the story. Delphine de Vigan made a lot of research with social workers, also by talking to homeless women to give that sense of reality to the story. 

On the character of Lou
      Delphine de Vigan told us that she had written a first version of the book, and that upon reading it, her editor told her she had done only half of the work and that she needed to develop the character of Lou. It was her fourth novel, and it was the first time she had this reaction from her editor. After thinking about it, she realised that her editor was right. She had meant to write the story to raise awareness on the situation of homeless people, especially young women, but from the point of view of another character. So she rewrote completely her novel to give more space to Lou to actually become a character of its own. Which makes that now the story is also about Lou and not just about No.
      She used the characteristic of being precocious to isolate Lou from other characters. She is tiny compared to all the persons in her class, they call her "the brain", she doesn't have many friends etc. She also liked the idea of the love story between Lou and her complete opposite Lucas.
      Delphine de Vigan did get some inspiration from her life, especially concerning that sense of exclusion, that is very common among teenagers. 

On the response she received
      Delphine de Vigan explained how she had completely different responses as to what the book meant. Some people said it was very grim and dark, because it talks about a young homeless girl ; and others thought it was funny and light saying that it presented this homeless issue in a very sensitive way. 
      She also pointed that she had very mixed reactions depending on the age of her readers. Her young readers would get completely the contrary from the adult readers. Fo rinstance, of the twenty something people there were at the talk, only a handful (me!) were in their twenties, and the rest were people in their forties and above.

So technically, I haven't read the book yet, so I can't advise you to read it now, but I will post a review soon.

On the other hand, Becky @ The Bookette did read the book and wrote an amazing review on No and Me, so you can check it out here !