Thursday, June 30, 2011

Forgotten


Title: Forgotten
Author: Cat Patrick
Genre: YA contemp (itsy bit of paranormal, since I don't know anyone with London's unique memory)
Release: June 2011

I got a box of books recently, and I think seven of the eight had faces of girls on the covers . . . not something I usually like. Still, the font is really cool, and I especially like the way the author's name is scrawled into the T. A kinda creepy (awesome) thing about this, though you can't really see it here, is that the girl's shadow wraps around the spine. It looks just a little ominous.

Goodreads summary here.

London Lane remembers the future the way most people remember the past. The events of each day are in her mind until they actually happen, and then, at 4:33 AM, they disappear as if they never happened. And London can't remember why.

Through detailed notes before bedtime each night and the knowledge of her friends in the future, London manages to live normally--until a new boy shows up, a new boy of whom she has no knowledge. Despite not remembering him in her future, she's drawn to him, and she begins to wonder if his absence in her future is because she's repressing the memories. One thing is for sure: he does have a secret, and he may know more about her "memory" than he's letting on.
After I heard rave reviews from a few bloggers and learned Cat Patrick would be coming to Seattle, I added FORGOTTEN to my to-read list. When it arrived, I read WRAPPED and my sister read FORGOTTEN, and when she liked it, I knew it would be good. I had her read it to me when I was driving her around, and then blew through it on my own.

FORGOTTEN has mystery, romance, a strong protagonist, and a very unique premise, if a little confusing. Cat Patrick does a great job of not info dumping while not making "remembering forward" too difficult to understand (though it's still hard to wrap my mind around). While I loved most things about FORGOTTEN, I guessed the major twist from the very first appearance of the relevant scene, and that took away a lot of the suspense and made London's discovery a let down. There was one really well-done twist about the love interest.

I definitely recommend FORGOTTEN, especially if you are usually a paranormal reader who wants to venture into contemp, or a contemporary reader looking to dip your toe into paranormal.

I read while: well, I made my sister read to me while I drove :)
Time: 2:10
Kelsey scale: 4

Handstands and Commitment

A few days ago I mentioned that I've been working with my sister on some gymnastics-ish-things. I am pleased to say I can, occasionally, pull off a pretty solid handstand (yay!).

When I was learning, I spent a lot of time not committing to getting vertical, and that had me falling down over and over, legs flailing like a failed donkey kick. My sister went as far as to suggest I should get a t-shirt stating "Trust Issues" or perhaps "Fear of Commitment." (Both true, but that's a post for another day.)

Finally, with the knowledge that my sister is one a first name basis with most of the emergency room and she's doing okay, I committed. And I overshot it.

As I tumbled backward, my body instinctively reacted, arms lowering in a sort of push-up and back curving into a roll. My reaction was to roll, and guess what? I executed a perfect roll-out.

By committing into something I'd never done, I found something at which I was good.

So, that scene you're working on? That mystery you're writing, even though you've only ever worked on fantasy? Commit. Don't do it halfway. You'll look like a flailing failure. Because even if you fall, you'll learn something about yourself on the way down.

Tell me your experience with commitment! And I don't just mean dating again after that boyfriend who dumped you on Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mummies and Mommies


Title: Wrapped
Author: Jennifer Bradbury
Genre: YA historical mystery
Release date: May 2011

If I had to use one word to describe this cover, it would be quirky. The colors, the font, the style of the drawing--they're all so intriguing and fun and QUIRKY. So I'll stick with quirky. Also, the back cover is pretty cute too--it's like parchment. Which has a lot to do with the book.

Goodreads summary.
In 1815 London, Agnes is the girl every debutante wants to be--witty, beautiful, rich, and well-connected. Catching the eye of wealthy, charming, handsome Lord Showalter is her only task. And she does it, easily. Too bad she's more distracted by the secret message she unearthed from the mummy at his house.
As the mummy's message proves to be more sinister than she imagines, she teams up with a museum intern who is handsome, kind, and frustratingly poor. When those who have touched the mummy start to be attacked, Agnes is next in line--unless she can figure out the connection first.
I. Loved. WRAPPED. It's historical, cute, clever, and funny, with a heroine reminiscent of Gemma Doyle. It's a touch of Liar Society, a dash of Trickster's Choice, a pinch of Heist Society, and a whole lot of 1800s fun. Seriously--mummies, the Rosetta Stone, a museum. Debutantes, beautiful dresses, overbearing mothers. Mummies and mommies, if you get my drift.

Let me say this: I don't usually fall in love with characters, but I would be Agnes's BFF anytime. And the hero? Mmmmm. Though, yes, it is 1815, so there isn't much in the way of making out.

If I wanted to pick any nits, I would have to say that the denouement was a little too perfectly mapped out for Agnes, though it does open up a whole slew of sequel adventures.

I read while: Sister reading date! She and I sat on the same couch, me reading this, and her reading Forgotten (to be reviewed tomorrow). It was awesome.
Time: ~2:00
Kelsey scale: 4

Monday, June 27, 2011

Breaking it down

I swear, I'm not planning to talk about Crossfit for every blog post.

This morning my workout was 30 reps of squat clean, 30 pull ups, and an 800 meter run (I only did a 400 because I'm new), three times through. The top Crossfit athletes do that in about 20 minutes.

It's a long, hard series of exercises, and ten reps into my squat cleans, I was exhausted. But there were 80 more of those, 90 more pullups, and 3/4 of a mile left. The only thing that got me through that was breaking it down.

I started doing sets of tens for the squat cleans and the pull ups, but soon I couldn't do ten. Then it was four sets of seven plus two. By the last round, I was in sets of five. But I did it. 25:19. First one done. I credit that wholly to my stick-to-it-iv-ness.

So. There's a writing tie-in there somewhere.

Often we look at our strory ideas or outlines or blank pages and wonder how we could possibly make 50- or 80- or 100,000 words from that. We look at people who can pound out stories in nine days, and try to figure out how that's possible. But the truth is, Kiersten White and I (Let me have my moment of comparison) do it just like you: one word at a time.

Words--> sentences.

Sentences--> paragraphs.

Paragraphs--> pages.

Pages--> scenes.

Scenes--> chapters.

Chapters--> acts.

Acts--> book.

Break it down.

Once, when I was a swimmer (lol), I wrote up my goal time for the 50 backstroke with each hundredth of a second written down solely so I could see the time drop in little increments. It looked like this:

I was at the red, and wanted to get to the blue. I'd done so much--surely it wouldn't be hard to do more.

Do that with your writing. 2000 may not seem much compared to 60,000, but hey. 2000 is a LOT on its own.

Happy writing!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Shelley Watters' Birthday Blowout First Page Contest

Yay! Shelley Watters is having ANOTHER first page contest! This one is judged by agent Victoria Marini of Gelfman Schneider Literary Agency. Ms. Marini was one of my query goofs* when I queried Splashback, so I'm hoping Playing God will be different.

First, I want to thank you all so much for your wonderful feedback on the last first page contest which got me an honorable mention and a full request from Judith Engracia who seems super nice.

Here we go!

Title: PLAYING GOD
Genre: YA dystopian
WC: 70,000
First 250:

Kalyn knelt at the back stone wall to read the faded inscription, only pausing to send a nervous glance over her shoulder into the darkness.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.
No matter how potent it seemed to her, it had probably been there for centuries—one, at least, since no one had believed in the myths of religion for over a hundred years—and the weathered lines suggested even longer.
Every time she came to this spot, the inscription seemed bolder, deeper, more prominent than the last, as if time itself were going backward and erasing the very marks of age. At that ridiculous idea, Kalyn gave a rueful laugh, the sound echoing in the empty ruins of the old building. Progress. That was the key word of this era. Moving forward step by step and leaving behind anything that would suggest man did not have control of the world.
Kalyn’s gaze slid from the thick gray wall and searched the sky above. Through a jagged hole in the roof of the crumbling structure they used to call a chapel, she saw the moon hanging like a fat fist amongst a glimmering array of stars. A burst of light cut the darkness in half, and for a moment Kalyn could almost bring herself to believe she’d seen a shooting star.
But no. Reality told her it was most likely a shuttle, or a passenger plane, or even a ship off to the colony on the moon.

Critique away! I'm going to hop around the other participants' blog this afternoon.

*After changing everything about the query (personalized tidbit and email and the amount of pages pasted in the email), I forgot to change the name. *headdesk*

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Writing Flu

I have a problem. It's called doing too much. I've been sick the last couple days with a fever of 100, and it most likely stems back to the 5 hours of exercise I did on Wednesday.

5:30-6:30: Crossfit (a leg workout today)
7:30-8:30: More weights. An arm workout, because I figured I hadn't hit them in Crossfit.
8:30-9:30: Swimming.
2-4: Gymnastics with sister. I can do a handstand now!

Too. Much.

This, most likely, weakened my immune system and let in the flu germs, which is why my temperature is disgusting. And don't get me started on the soreness from the exercising coupled with the achyness of the flu. Owww.

This got me thinking about writing parallels, and I wonder if there is one. When you write a lot, do you get burnt out by it? Or does it make you want to keep the ball rolling? I'm definitely one who likes to build on those words until I finish a novel, but after I finish, I get exhausted and have to take a break from any story.

What about you?

Miles from Ordinary, Possession, and Starcrossed + GIVEAWAY!


Title: Miles from Ordinary
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Genre: YA contemp
Release date: March 2011
Goodreads.

When I was in Utah, Kate and I went on a book buying spree, mostly getting books by the authors who would be at WIFYR. She convinced me to grab both MILES FROM ORDINARY and THE CHOSEN ONE. Wow. Not only is Carol Lynch Williams the nicest woman ever, but she also has some of the most hard-hitting, beautiful prose I have ever read. Read this book. Now.

Title: Possession
Author: Elana Johnson
Genre: YA dystopia
Release date: June 2011
Goodreads.

On the off chance you live under a rock, POSSESSION has been the subject of online buzz for the last month. I'll say one thing--Elana Johnson knows how to market herself. The voice in POSSESSION was certainly the selling point for me. In addition to an intriguing premise, that's what carried the book. I have to admit, I got a little lost at certain, illogical, plot points, but overall, it was an enjoyable, recommendable read.

Title: Starcrossed
Author: Josephine Angelini
Genre: YA paranormal
Release date: May 2011
Goodreads.

When I heard STARCROSSED was about Greek gods (seriously, TWILIGHT with gods is a really appropriate description of this, minus the fact that STARCROSSED's plot is a million times cooler.), I jumped on it. Plus the cover is sparkly. There's a great twist toward the end, and I couldn't finish it fast enough. The only thing that slowed down my reading a little was the writing itself--an editor should have been able to shave at least 100 pages out of it. But the story is great.

*

GIVEAWAY!

I'll be giving away one of these books to a lucky commenter. +1 for commenting, +2 for commenting with a tweet to spread the word, +3 for commenting with something on your blog to spread the word.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fail Better

I do this thing.

No, not the swimming, or the writing, or the swim instructing, or the cycling, or the reading, or the lifeguarding. It's called Crossfit. It's basically a really well-rounded strength and conditioning program using weights, body weight, and some cardio.

Since I'm pretty strong and have done some weight stuff before, I went into Crossfit a couple weeks ago thinking it wouldn't be a problem. I would be impressive. The strongest girl. One of their youngest champions.



Let's just say I'm not quite doing that yet.

As someone who's super competitive, someone who has been very good at everything she's tried and refused to try something at which she may fail, this is new territory for me. I started writing full length novels at age twelve, so I have a head start.

But it's still hard to watch myself be surpassed by other teens, and even other twenty-somethings. It's hard to no longer be the prodigy. Like most people, before I knew about publishing, I set ridiculous goals.

Book deal before graduating high school.

That didn't pan out, so it became: Agent before graduating high school.

Then: Agent before turning 18.

Then: Agent before end of freshman year.

Now it's: Book deal before end of college.

I don't see a problem with setting goals like this, goals I can't control, goals which may depress me. Maybe this is because I'm an athlete, someone who likes to push herself against failure. Sure, I wish I'd been published by now, but I'm also happy being patient. Learning.

Mary Kole, in her talk at WIFYR, had some amazing points about failure, and I'll leave you with them:

-->Failing is learning

SO

-->Fail better.

But be warned: you may feel like this:

Hourglass


Title: Hourglass
Author: Myra McEntire
Genre: YA time travel (yes, it is its own genre.)
Release date: June 2011

I'll let you get the OMG beautiful cover-ness out of the way. Again. Also, I'm ashamed to say that when Myra unveiled the cover, I didn't get it at first. Now I'm all "Duh, Taryn, you freak--she's obvs standing on the wall!" Sigh. I'm so mean to myself. The best part about this cover is that it's very true to the book. The main character, Emerson, actually is blonde and actually does wear a dress similar to this. (Except shorter. And with 3/4 sleeves.)
Emerson Cole is a pretty troubled teen. On drugs (more like crazy pills), dead parents, and ghost-seeing. Except they're not really ghosts--she just wishes she knew what they were. Then super hot Michael walks into her life and tells her she's a sort of superhero with the ability not only to see "rips" (ripples in time), but also to travel to the past. But him finding her isn't just coincidence, and he needs her help in a dangerous mission that may break all the laws of science--and be the only way to save a man's life.
Guys. Listen. If you're only going to buy one book this summer, make it this one.* Hot boys (two! But in a non-love-triangle-y way!)! Time travel! Best friends! Vivid setting! Un-put-down-able pacing! (I'm really liking hyphens today.)

I'm not usually a fan of troubled teens. Call me heartless, but I don't really care how screwed up you are. Get over it. That said, Emerson was done really, really well. Her reactions were true to her temperament and experiences, and they didn't run the book. The book wasn't about her coming to terms with her dead parents or accepting she belonged in a psych ward. Because of this, I saw how strong of a character Emerson was.

I read while: lying on my bed.
Time: 2:10 (fast read and very enjoyable)
Kelsey scale: 5, easy. This is the kind of book we both love.

*Be aware the summer just started, and this is likely hyperbole. But still.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Imaginary Girls + WINNER


Title: Imaginary Girls
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Genre: YA (I'm gonna leave it there.)
Release date: June 2011

This. This cover. I know I gushed about Mara Dyer's cover, but I think I might like this one even more. The red. The bright, bright blue. Is she drowning? Is she flying? So beautiful. Yes, between Mara and this and Hourglass, YA is full of floating girls, but I don't care. These covers are so beautiful. /tangent.

Goodreads summary:


Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. When a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrong and Chloe discovers the dead body of her classmate London Hayes left floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away from town and away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns to town two years later, deadly surprises await. As Chloe flirts with the truth that Ruby has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complex bonds of sisterhood.
I preordered this book forever ago (with my Christmas bonus, if you want to know when forever was), and when I learned I would be in Utah when it would arrive, I was devastated. I toyed with the idea of shipping it to the hotel, I was so excited for it.

After arriving home Friday night, I started immediately in, fell asleep reading, woke up and read again. And wow. It's beyond beautiful, super compelling, full of character, and a little too close to real life to be comfortable.

More than a mystery, more than a paranormal novel, Imaginary Girls is a sister story, and as an older sister, I know how we can seem larger than life to the younger ones. This "power" is taken to another level in Imaginary Girls, and the beautiful climax will keep you wondering if what is worth a sacrifice.

I read while: I should have been sleeping. Also while walking through Costco with my dad.
Time: Well, I fell asleep, but I'd say . . . 2:45? Slow for me, but I wanted to savor the language.
Kelsey scale: 4, but only because I know this isn't Kelsey's cup of tea.

+

Winner of the Mara Dyer giveaway:

Funny story: today I couldn't decide if I wanted to review Hourglass or Imaginary Girls, so I did the random drawing for the giveaway. Nova Ren Suma won. Of course, I thought to myself, now I have to review IG.

Congratulations to her for both the giveaway and the wonderful book! Email coming soon.

How I Became Lit World-Savvy

So, on the off chance that your internet exploded and you missed the way I babbled on and on (and on and on) about the WIFYR conference last week, let me tell you again: I was at the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference last week.

Do you feel redundan-ated yet? (It's my blog. I can make up words if I want to.)

Anyway, everyone seemed very surprised to hear that I didn't have a critique group / had never been to a conference / didn't know any other YA writers / etc. This is because I know A LOT about publishing/writing/reading/agenting/etc.

So they all asked me how.

Short answer:



Long answer:

Read. Read blogs, read acknowledgements, read twitter. Don't be scared to click on links in blogs you love. Google things. Google people. Read archives of authors you love--authors who just got a huge book deal. Because then you stumble across posts from a couple years ago, when they were unpublished, un-dealed, unagented. When they didn't even know they wanted to write.

Wanna know why I started blogging? This. Andrea Cremer's blog. I read every single entry, from the early ones where she wondered if anyone was listening, to the ones where she was cautiously optimistic, until she took over the world with Nightshade.

Stalk things. Stalk people. Stalk their journeys, their agents, their twitter feeds.

Now I'm to the point where I've been stalking since about November (7 months), and a few of the people who were my peers, people like Gennifer Albin and Demitria Lunetta--those people found agents, went on submission, and got book deals.

And it's so cool because it says it's real.

So many more people have found agents. Teens Lindsay Cummings and Kate Coursey both got one in the last couple months.

It's real, and it's happening, and it's going to happen to more of us.

Go forth. Stalk. Get inspired. Write. Let's do this.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

WIFYR Day 4, AKA "I'm feeling really good about myself" day

7:30: breakfast, blah blah blah. You know the drill.
8:30: MS critiques, blah blah blah. So. Much. Fun. I'm learning so much. Funny story: today I mentioned to someone that she overused exclamation points, and then I looked through my MS, and a couple passages had way too many exclamation points. Take your own advice, Taryn!
12:30: Break time! Katie (my author crush), Robin, Emalee (17 y/o), Daniel (our lone boy), and I spend some time working on our revisions together. Katie says my revisions are good. I grin.
3:00: Ally Condie's keynote address on her publication journey! Awesome, awesome.
4:00: Book signings! A couple authors weren't there, but whatever. I got Ally Condie, Carol Lynch Williams, Emily Wing Smith, Matthew J. Kirby, Kris Chandler, and Holly Black. Enough for now :)
6:00: Pizza and frozen yogurt for dinner!

Kate and I are planning to watch Easy A tonight with whoever decides they like us enough.

During the signing, I was talking to Ally Condie, and Louise (my teacher) leans over and says, "This girl. This girl is going to be a writer. This girl is a writer." And when you hear things like that, from a woman who has taught NYT bestsellers and has published 5 books . . . well, it's hard not to feel good about yourself.

Though I am stuck at a dumb scene in Playing God which refuses to revise itself, so maybe that balances things out.

It's so sad I have to go home tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

WIFYR Day 3

Sorry these are kinda boring, guys, but I'm saving my creativity for the conference and my revisions. Hi to all my novel class buddies who are reading this now! *waves*

7:30: Up. Breakfast. Leave.
8:30: Critique 4 MSs
12:00: Talk about first pages (we only got to mine, which made me feel bad, b/c I wanted to hear everyone else's. Oh well. Maybe tomorrow.) and then about talent vs working hard.
12:30: Lunch @ Olive Garden! Yum.
1:41: Realize we're going to be late to Mary Kole's presentation. Panic, and start screaming for the check.
2:05: Dash into the auditorium just in time for a wonderful talk on creativity.
3:00: Kris Chandler (Boys, Wolves, and Other Things that Might Kill Me) gives a talk on voice and characters.
4:00: Leave for hotel with Emalee and Lana. Revise at hotel.
5:00: Have awesome talk with Emily Wing Smith (Back When You Were Easier to Love). Nicest woman ever.
6:00: Have the following exchange with Mary Kole:
Mary: Hey, stalker girl*
Me: (internal: omg, she remembers me!) Hi
Mary: Emailing Jenn Laughran?**
Me: No, actually. But I did email you.
Mary: Well, I'm ignoring my email.
Me: It was about the reader thing.
Mary: Oh. I have better things to do this week.
Me: Like go out and party with awesome people? *pointing to the crowd of authors and editors behind her*
Mary: Yeah. We're pretty cool. See you around.
Me: Bye.

*When Mary came to our class, she didn't have enough business cards, so I said I didn't need one since I stalk her.
**She invited us all to query her, and I asked if, since I had already queried Jenn, I could query her too. She said we'd talk later. I wonder when "later" is.

This week is so much FUN. I absolutely adore five people in my workshop class, and everyone in it is awesome. What do you mean I have to leave?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

WIFYR Day Two

6:00: Wake up, panicking I'm going to be late. Look at clock. Fall back asleep.
6:30: Repeat
7:30: Wake up for reals, throw on clothes, and head downstairs for breakfast where I spend my time bumbling around the kitchen/dining room area, brushing again Claudia Mills, Sharlee Glenn (authors), and Alyson Heller (editor, Aladdin).
8:15: Kate picks me up, and off we go.
8:30: Critique a MS
9:00: I create great comic relief by leave my squirty water bottle unscrewed and going to take a drink. This may or may not have resulted in the water spilling across the MS we were critiquing, my laptop, and myself.
9:30: Alyson visits our class
10:00: Lisa Yoskowitz (editor, Disney-Hyperion) visits our class. Both editors are accepting unagented subs from conference attendees.
10:20: Mary Kole (agent, Andrea Brown) visits our class. She and Louise keep up a steady banter that turns into a dirty innuendo-fest that turns us all into giggling tomatos. The lone male in our class is decidedly less amused.
10:45: Critique another MS
11:20: Critique another MS
12:00: Critique another MS
12:30: Break-time! Kate and I sit in the sun to let my laptop dry, and it starts to work again. (Yay!) We talk a little to other writers, and then it's time for the afternoon sessions.
2:00: Plenary from Lisa Yoskowitz who discusses how to create a page-turner.
3:00: Emily Wing Smith presents on "Back When You Characters Were Easier to Love."
4:00: Ken Baker talks about "Creating Full Circle Stories."
5:00: Back to hotel, where Kate and I may not be stalking authors, editors, and agent. Plus doing revisions and other important things, like this blog post.

Miss you all!

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Weekend of Books

I'm at WIFYR this week, so reviews will be a little different. It's time for the lightning round!

Saturday, I picked up Wake, Fade, and Gone by Lisa McMann, along with Emily Wing Smith's Back When You Were Easier to Love, and a second copy of Clockwork Angel. My copy of Elana Johnson's Possession finally came in the mail.




Sunday, at the absolutely amazing indie bookstore The King's English, I got The Chosen One and Miles from Ordinary, both by Carol Lynch Williams, the conference organizer. I also grabbed Red Glove (Holly Black, who's teaching a class at WIFYR), The Replacement (Brenna Yovanoff), The Clockwork Three (Matthew Kirby), and Starcrossed (Josephine Angelini).

So far I have read Back When You Were Easier to Love, The Chosen One, and Possession.

Stay tuned for giveaways and reviews! The contest for the ARC of Mara Dyer closes 6/19 at midnight!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Utah, WIFYR, Kate, and Other Things

I flew into Salt Lake City this morning, and from my first step off the plane I was imagining writers. That is 50% related to the fact that I'm here for the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference, and 50% due to the knowledge that All YA Authors Live in Utah. (This is hyperbole. Do not take me seriously. Everyone knows 1/3 YA authors live in Utah, 1/3 live in NY, and 1/3 live elsewhere.)

Then I walked outside where Kate was going to pick me up, but I didn't know where she was. This led to me staring like a creeper into every car window, hoping I would recognize a girl I'd never met. (Everything worked out.)

So WIFYR will be my first conference ever, and I'm super excited. Blogging may be a little spotty this week, but I'll definitely do my best to keep up, especially with my new book blog. (Contest for the ARC of Mara Dyer still up for grabs!)

Beauty Queens


Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Genre: YA satire (ish thing)
Release date: May 2011
 A plane crash. A deserted island. A fight for their lives. We've seen it all before. But add in a flight full of teen beauty pageant contestants and you have something else entirely. Bray plays with feminism, materialism, and (of course) humor in this account of getting rescued, finding oneself, and learning the fine art of bathing in a tropical lagoon.
(Official Amazon summary here.)

One thing that worried me about Beauty Queens was that I didn't see a plot. Great premise, sure, but how many hilarious antics can pampered girls get up to? (Answer: MANY.) Though I would have been completely fine to just watch these colorful characters have mishaps all over the island, Bray brings in a larger than life antagonist with over-the-top plans for world domination and more.

Perhaps the funniest thing about this book is the series of footnotes inserted throughout the book. I snorted milk out of my nose reading one. Here's an example:


I've adored Libba Bray since A Great and Terrible Beauty, and Beauty Queens does not disappoint. From the hilariously in your face cover, to the humor, to the relationships between the girls (omg, the girls!), this book is un-put-down-able.

I read while: driving (oops. But then I realized I was being dumb and pulled in to the nearest Starbucks. Grocery shopping could wait.)
Time: Didn't count
Kelsey scale: This would probably only be a 4, but only because I don't think it's Kelsey's "thing." It's a very unique type of book.

+

Next up: Possession

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer + ARC giveaway!

I'll give you a minute to stare at the cover. It's so obscenely gorgeous. The font. The dress. The way he's holding her. The surface of the water. How you can't tell if she's being drowned or saved. I want to paper my room with this image. Or at least have a poster of it.

I guess my ARC is enough for now. And guess what? I'm giving it away! And all you have to do is spread the word in some fashion (link to Twitter/blog) and comment on this post. If you Tweet, mention me so I know (@aswimmerwrites). And please, since this is a new blog, think about following me!

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Genre: YA (well, that would be telling)
Release date: September 2011
After Mara's best friends die in an accident that leaves her unharmed, her family moves to Florida for a change of pace, but instead of peace, Mara discovers a deadly secret about that night, a strange knowledge about herself, and an enigma of a boy who makes her feel in a way she never thought she would again.
I don't want to summarize this book, because saying anything more than "It's amazing" would give something away. And you don't want that, believe me. The things I knew about Mara:

1. It had a mystery
2. It had a beautiful cover
3. It was going to be amazing.

And I was totally right on all counts. If I had to pick a genre, I would call UMD a mystery, but it's also a love story that can stand alone. Romance. Mystery. And have I mentioned how FUNNY this book is? It's like Anna and the French Kiss's darker, troubled cousin. I'm also leaving out a genre because ruining things for you is no fun.

I read while: driving (at a stoplight, GOSH.), Starbucks-ing, I should have been revising, and being late to pick my sister up from school.
Time: 2:03
Kelsey scale: 5 (AKA drop everything and read this NOW)

Remember to comment on this post for a chance to win this ARC!

What Taylor Swift Teaches about Characterization


C'mon, how many of you guys don't like Taylor Swift? I think disliking her is like disliking kittens and puppies and rainbows. Some people may not, but they keep it to themselves. And kicking one of those things? You are EVIL.

/tangent.

One of the things I find really cool about Taylor Swift is her marketability and the way she uses that to her advantage. She released "Mean" as a single to the country music market simultaneously as "The Story of Us" to the mainstream crowd. Both are loved by her fans, but "Mean" definitely has a higher appeal to country listeners who are used to more eccentric song topics.

"Mean," for those of you who live under rocks or don't speak English, is about bullying. The lines I want to focus on go like this:
I bet you got pushed around,
Somebody made you cold,
But the cycle ends right now,
You can’t lead me down that road,
You don’t know, what you don’t know
So, did everyone see that? Taylor takes this caricature of a bully and gives him motivation in that very first line. "I bet you got pushed around / Somebody made you cold." Ta da! That's why he's been a bully. And suddenly we understand more about this character because it's relatable.

It's a common theme in most of her songs. For another example, let's take "Back to December." This song stabs me in the heart every time I hear it because it's my story from September.

There's a proud girl who realizes what she had too late, and the boy had already picked up his broken heart and moved on. But she's grown. The character development in this song--in a SONG, people!--is obvious. Now they're talking. And they're missing each other, but it's not enough to change the past.

What's your favorite Taylor Swift song? Or are you going to kick a puppy?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

RTW #82: The Dreaded Question

You're walking down the hall at your very first authorly event (conference, critique group, whatever), and another writer falls into step with you. After the polite what-do-you-writes, he or she may ask this:

"Plotter or pantser?"

And you panic. Because you like this person, and your answer could mean the end of whatever blossoming CP relationship is there.

While that's a little bit of hyperbole, we writers do joke about the great divide of plotters and pantsers. I've always labeled myself a plotter, but to be honest, that's a lie.

1: Plotted
2: Pantsed
3: Pantsed
4: Plotted but it turned into pantsed
5: Plotted
6: Pantsed
7: Plotted
8: Plotted but it turned into pantsed
9: Pantsed

That's 3 plots, 4 pants, and 2 hybrids. What should I call myself? Plantser?

Viva la Revolution!

Title: Revolution
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Genre: YA contemporary/historical fiction
Release date: October 2010
Externally Andi's got one of those high society, poor-little-rich-kid lives, but inside she's dying with guilt about her little brother's brutal death. Now her mom's walking dead and her never-home dad doesn't only want to take away her life-saving music lessons--he wants to take her away. To Paris.

There she stays with an eccentric history professor and in his stash of trash and treasure, discovers a little diary written by Alexandrine in the height of the French Revolution. Her interest turns into obsession which climaxes in a race through the Paris catacombs into a world she's never seen before.
(Or you could read the official summary on Amazon.)

When everyone was raving about Revolution way back in October, I ignored the hype. Troubled teen? Yuck. Historical? Uh-uh. Possible time travel? No, thanks. I'd like "Regrets" for 200, please, Alex. Because last week I had some time to kill and a coupon to spend at Borders, so I grabbed this book. And started reading. This was sort of my thought process:
pg 1: ughhhhh teens drinking. Poor little rich kids. Bah humbug.
pg 5: it's good writing, though. And ironic.
pg 10: hmmm, can we find the journal already?
pg 15: OMG a twist, I LOVE THIS.
pg 496: WAIT. Where'd the book go?
It's an elegant cover, an engrossing read, and very educational on the French Revolution. (One explanation was a little dry, but only one.)

I read it while: doing nothing else. Thank God I had an empty day. I did end up being late to pick up my sister from school, though . . .
Time: 4:45
Kelsey scale: 5

+

Next up: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

On Reading and Writing and 'rithmetic (or 2 of the 3)

Maybe some of you saw my tweet earlier today: I'm starting a book blog. Because, ya know, a personal blog, and a contributor blog, and a chat hosting blog (errr not really. but you know what I mean) . . . those aren't enough alone.

I need MORE.

Or I need to stop being an overachiever.

Anyway! I'm starting a book blog: Word Bubbles.

I'm launching tomorrow with a review of Jennifer Donnelly's Revolution, and then I'm going to have a contest or two over there for signed books from Holly Black, Ally Condie, and more. That's where I'll be giving away my ARC of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Which you REALLY don't want to miss.

Next week I'm going to Utah for the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference. It will be my first conference EVER, and I'm going to meet fellow Noveltee(n) contributor Kate! Lots of excitement.

Before I go, I hope to have at least some revisions on Playing God finished so that I can get it off to Sarah Enni ASAP. Fingers crossed.

Then I'm going to draft again.

Which is where you all come in. *waves hands* ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION?

Good.

Vote for my next WIP!

A. Victoria Grey: (magical realism) America's sweetheart Victoria Grey has been told she's many things--beautiful, talented, intelligent, yaaawn--but never arrogant. Not until her eccentric great-aunt Faye insists her ego's about to consume all her talent and leave her *gasp* AVERAGE. Yeah, right. But then Faye promises to make Victoria look in the mirror, and a perfect replica of herself shows up and steals her limelight.
B. If I Were You: (urban fantasy) Just after average Nellie Erickson declares herself an emancipated minor, she accepts an offer offer to attend an elite boarding school. More shocking than the Principal’s violent feministic tendencies is her explanation that magic does exist and many people have some sort of talent. Nellie learns that one can only access his skill if he is told he has it, and the Principal herself is the only one who has the magic to discern these talents. But something else is going on behind the closed doors of the Principal’s study, and Nellie is determined to find out what it is.

C. Undesirable: (magical realism) Alexis O'Hara has been cursed to desire every boy and never to have that desire returned. Johnny King has been cursed to desire the most undesirable girl. But the joke's on the witch when their two curses collide, and Alexis is Undesirable.

D. Overheard: (thriller) Shane Marx suffers from what he calls The Edward Issue--the thought that all girls love a boy who care enough to stalk her. So when he bugs Tricia Zimmerman's car, he figures she'll think it's romantic. And he sure doesn't mind listening to her conversations with friends and the rare treats when she sings along to country music. It's not like Tricia the Canadian intern and proven Ironwoman would ever look at tech-geek Shane otherwise. But when Tricia gets kidnapped in a case of mistaken identity, Shane's bugs provide the only lead, and it's up to the nerd and his best friend to cross the country and find Tricia before the kidnappers decide what to do with the wrong girl.

E. The World in Shades of Green: (YA dystopia) After meteors and nuclear war break the US into two distinct sections separated by a long strait, there are four types of people left: the Government (on the coasts), the Artists (in the south), the Scientists (in the north), and the Straitkeepers, lucky men and women who get peace in exchange for policing the strait. When a tidal wave splits straitkeeper-daughters Tiffany and Gretchen Lyre apart, they wash up on opposite ends of a bank they've been told never to cross. Two sisters. Two sides of the Strait. Two groups of rebels. Who's the enemy?

Thanks :) What are YOU working on?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Regarding WSJ, my long absence, and other things of great importance

If you haven't read the Wall Street Journal article calling YA too dark, do so. It doesn't make me mad, since I completely understand the problem of assuming 12 y/os are mature enough for some books in the YA section. The Duff is marketed along with the Alex Rider series, and while The Duff has a little note saying "14U," who honestly looks for that note?

Anyway, I think the writer missed the mark for what she needed to address, but it didn't make me mad. What irritates me is the column on the side entitled "Books We Can Recommend for Young Adult Readers."

Not only does that title seem weary (like "Okay, the YA section is hopeless, but after weeks and months and years of tireless reading for king and country, we picked out some diamonds in the rough"), but it's also split into "Books for Young Men" and "Books for Young Women." I've read 8 of the 10 books they offer, 4 of the "boy" books, and 4 of the "girl" ones. We need to stop labeling books as such.

Girls may not be turned off by a "boy" label (I know I've always wanted to cross gender lines), but boys are way less likely to pick up something packaged to girls. For instance, I have a guy friend who didn't pick up the City of Bones series because the blurb called it the next Twilight (or something).

And then, at the end of the book recs, the author says this of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn:

"This vivid novel of early 20th-century Brooklyn is proof that mature material can be rendered with such subtle humanity that a younger teen can read it with as much enjoyment as a person many years older. I got my copy in a used bookstore when I was 11 and was so entranced by the story of book-loving Francie Nolan and her impoverished Irish-Catholic family—her beautiful mother, her handsome drunken father and various other misbehaving or censorious relatives—that I read it over and over throughout adolescence. Only years later did I grasp everything that happened between the adult characters. Isn't that what being a young reader, or indeed a teenager, is all about? "

No, that's not what being a teen is about. Being a teen is about beginning to grasp things that you will very likely be introduced to in a few short years. Being a teen is about an introduction to all sorts of things and not having a frame of reference.

Being a teen who reads YA is about getting that frame of reference.

In other news, I'm internet-ed again, and I'll be back!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Live! (and my internet sort of does.)

So. We got our internet router today . . . too bad none of us can figure out how to hook it up.

Maybe tomorrow?

For now, go check out Cayla Kluver's interview on Noveltee(n). (I'm too lazy to even post a link.)

Also! I finished The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer today, and it was SO GOOD, I'm going to pass on my ARC.

I know. You can thank me later. I haven't decided when yet, but you'll be the first to know.