Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: The Summer I Learned To Fly

Dana Reinhardt
Wendy Lamb Books
Thirteen-year-old Drew Robin Solo is a cautious girl living a careful life in the that consists mostly of helping out at her mother's cheese shop and crushing on Nick, the college-aged pasta-maker who works for her mother. Her friends from school aren't much to brag about and her true friends are her mother, Nick, Aunt Swoozie, and her pet rat (Hum, short for Humbolt Fog). This changes when she meets Emmett Crane, who writes her notes on paper cranes but whose past is  a mystery.

This is a short, meandering, emotionally powerful story that reminds me in many ways of Sara Zarr's Sweethearts or Haley Tanner's Vaclav & Lena; at its core it's about the intense and powerful friendship/budding-romance between a young girl and boy. The writing is simple, but effective and emotionally powerful. Drew's love for those around her -- the crush on Nick, her love for Swoozie and even for her mother, though their relationship is rapidly changing -- is the center of this book. I have a hard time discussing the plot because really, there's not one to speak of. This is a literary sort of book, and none of the events that happen are quite big enough to be considered the primary plot of the book, no matter how important they are.

The characters in this book are realistic and well-defined, with wonderfully realistic relationships between them. The fact that it takes place during the 1980s may be a problem for some readers, though I understand the reasons Reinhardt may have made that choice and it didn't hinder my own reading enjoyment. The Summer I Learned To Fly is the sort of short, creative, straight-to-the-heart novel that I absolutely love and recommend for those who enjoy a more literary, slow-moving writing style that hinges on those tiny turning points that happen during childhood and early adolescence.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: A Million Suns

Beth Revis
Warning: this review contains spoilers for the FIRST book in the Godspeed trilogy, Across The Universe.

With Elder as the new leader of Godspeed, things are different. He's determined to lead his people without the use of Phydus and to face the truth of what's wrong with Godspeed. This is, of course, more complex than it at first seems as it quickly becomes apparent that Godspeed's problems are deeper than he ever imagined and that, without Phydus or the firm leadership of Eldest, the society on Godspeed is falling apart. While some people are depressed, others still take their newfound freedom to new heights, demanding a change in leadership. Meanwhile, food supplies are dwindling and Amy's on her own quest to discover what lies at the end of the mysterious clues Orion left for her as well as struggling with her feelings for Elder.

I am so glad I kept reading this series. In my review of Across The Universe, I stated that it was a book I wanted to like so much more than I actually did, but that the world was complex and interesting enough to keep me interested in the sequel. As it turns out, I was right. A Million Suns is the rare sequel that actually surpasses the first book. It's complex, mysterious, interesting, and all the different plots are woven together so neatly. As in the first book, there's a series of murders, but there's also so much other stuff happening. Dwindling food supplies. Rebellious or depressed citizens. For Amy, there's the threat of Luthor (the man who attempted to rape her in the first book) around citizens of Godspeed who still regard her as a "freak." Elder has to contend with being thrust into a position of power at a young age, and must somehow gain control of the ship's population all while he tries to fix the numerous problems - most of them hidden from everyone else - that are happening. Elder and Amy's storylines fit together perfectly and while I still sometimes had some trouble differentiating between their voices, because everything else was so good it bothered me less this time.

Though I wasn't a fan of the reveal of the murderer near the end of this book (the scene felt a little overwrought to me), the ending itself was fantastic, with the different storylines coming together so nicely and a perfect set up for the last book in the trilogy. Having read this second book in the series I can say that I definitely recommend the Godspeed trilogy for anyone wanting a good, honest sci-fi series. Call it dystopian if you want, but this book (and series) is so solidly sci-fi and I love it for that.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday Ten: I Hope People Are Reading These Books 30 Years From Now

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is books published in the last 10 years that I hope people are still reading 30 years from now. This is a really interesting topic to me, but I was shockingly unable to decide on ten books, so I'm only listing the five I was most sure of.

1. Hunger Games series (2008-2010)
Suzanne Collins
Obviously this series deserves to be a classic. In the future I hope it's taught in schools the way 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 are, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

2. Before I Fall (2010)
Lauren Oliver
This is without a doubt one of the most powerful books I've read and though in 30 years it'll definitely be dated, I think the story and characters and themes are strong enough to warrant it being read in the future. (And after all, even our most "timeless" classics have aged and become dated by now.)

3. Stupid Fast (2011)
Geoff Herbach
YA is still such a new genre that I don't know what sorts of books will be the type to become "YA classics," but I hope it's books like Stupid Fast -- with strong characters, a great voice, and an honest viewpoint. This is one of the best "boy books" I've read in so, so long and I hope it sticks around.

4. The Mockingbirds (2010)
Daisy Whitney
It's rare for a book to come where I think, okay, teenagers NEED to read this, but The Mockingbirds hits that mark. Not only does it tackle complex, important subjects while paying homage to everyone's favorite American classic (To Kill A Mockingbird), but it does so in such a straightforward manner. It totally deserves to stick around.

5. The List (2012)
Siobhan Vivian
Like with The Mockingbirds, I immediately thought that this is a book that needs to be read. It's powerful and hard-hitting without being didactic or pushy.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Monday Writing: Books of the Heart

Project: sister story
Status: another edit round (a mix of rewriting and revising)

My Heart Has No Book
Earlier this week author Beth Revis posted a blog post called "The Book of My Heart" which is about, as you probably guess, the book of her heart. If you're a writer who has somehow managed to miss this heartfelt and truthful post, I suggest you go read it. According to Revis, a book of the heart is: 
All books are works of art and take some of ourselves to write, but a "book of your heart" is one that is ripped from your very soul. It's the important one, your baby, the one that you wrote with blood, sweat, and tears; the one that means more to you than any other.
I read the blog post, saw it discussed and applauded on Twitter and in the comments, and was fascinated not only by the post, but also by all the writers (both successful and aspiring, at varying points in the publishing journey) who talked about the book of their heart so... surely. Those writers knew instantly what Revis was talking about in her post and knew which of their books it fit.

I've definitely heard this term -- "book of my heart" -- somewhat regularly lately and in the past, but I've never used the term to describe any of my books. And now, thinking on it as I have been since reading the post, I've realized that unlike so many other writers, I don't think I actually have a book of my heart. The book I'm working on now, my "sister story," is definitely personal and special and important to me. As is the last book I queried, Sing Me Away, and all of the books that came before it, whether they were edited to the point of querying or abandoned at some point earlier in the process.

I love my stories. They're difficult, stubborn, and at times I hate them, but even then... even then I love them. It's just that none of them have reached that level of all-consuming, infused-with-magic, this book is me status that I think writers talk about when they talk about the book of their heart. And for me that's weird to say because I've always felt like each book I write has that magic. But none of them so much that I can instantly pick it out as "the book of my heart."

Another thing Revis says about these books is:
Very often the book of your heart is a practice novel-- you've written it too early in your career, and the quality isn't there (even if you can't see that). Or it's so close to your heart that you can't properly edit it. Or it's a story important to you-- but not the rest of the world. 
I've written what I now consider "practice novels" (of course, being unpublished, unagented, you could say that everything I write is practice). And I've written stories I never could properly edit, for whatever reason. At least one story is one that's intensely personal and important to me, but to nobody else -- the novel itself was more like catharsis than anything else. And then there's that as-yet-unwritten novel that's also incredibly personal and that I haven't yet figured out how to tell. But none of those are so much that I'd consider them "the book of my heart."

And so I have to wonder, and I have to ask, are there any other writers out there who don't have a "book of the heart?" Or if you do have one, what makes that book more important than any others you've written?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

All The Books: May 26, 2012

Aside from the book I abandoned this week (172 Hours On The Moon), this has been a really good reading week. Both A Million Suns and The Summer I Learned to Fly were so much better than I was expecting. A Million Suns is maybe the best YA sci-fi I've read that's not straight dystopia and I love that it's total sci-fi. And The Summer I Learned to Fly was exactly right up my alley.
Alright, with the books I've added to my wanting list this week I guess I should mention how I decide what books I add to this list. Basically: anything that looks interesting gets added to the list and then every month or so I go through and delete a bunch of books that I know I probably won't actually read. Shine Shine Shine is one book that looks interesting (published this coming July) while Cold Hands, Warm Heart is one that a few Twitter buddies recommended after I mentioned that I'd like to read stories about heart transplants.

Ahhhh I'm super-excited about both of these (yeah, I already read one of them...) since they're contemporary YA and they both look really cute.

& A SONG...
"Watching You Watch Him" - Eric Hutchinson

I always seem to really like songs that have sad lyrics but super-happy music, so this one's definitely one of my recent favorites. (Also it should be noted that Khy, from Frenetic Reader, started adding music to this meme first and I just loved the idea.)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cover Talk: Paperback Swap

Visiting the topic of covers once again, I wanted to talk about hardcover-to-paperback changes. You know what I mean. When the hardcover of a book has a great, artistic, stunning cover and then the paperback comes out and... what? Generic photo of a pretty girl glancing off to the side wistfully as her hair blows around her face? Yeah. Fortunately that's not the only kind of hardcover-to-paperback cover swap that happens, but it is the kind that bothers me most. So today we're looking at dramatic cover changes of books that I love.

Book #1: If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
One of the worst offenders. And the truly sad thing is that, not only does hardcover of the sequel (Where She Went) match the paperback cover, but the paperback, generic as it looks, actually fits the story. Which sort of diminishes this very beautiful, moving story of love and family and difficult choices and makes it seem, instead, like the basis for a Lifetime Original Movie. The book is so much better than that. My choice: hardcover.

Book #2: Bunheads, by Sophie Flack
This one is a bit trickier. Confession: I didn't like the original cover the first time I saw it. I was looking at the book from a distance and couldn't quite tell that those are dancers (and not, like, weird flowers) on the cover. But, after I saw the cover up close I realized that it's actually pretty awesome. A sort of kaleidoscope effect. But now there's this new paperback cover that focuses on only one of the dancers and I just don't know what to think of it. Not because it's not pretty (it is; they both are), but mostly because of the color/font combination. The black works on the hardcover but I feel like there's too much of it on the paperback and honestly I'm not loving the font, especially so huge. But it's still a really close call for me and this is one cover change where I feel like the covers really complement each other and both fit equally well for the story. My choice: hardcover, but just barely.

Book #3: The Mockingbirds, by Daisy Whitney
This is another tricky one, but for a different reason. There are two ways to think of The Mockingbirds: you can think of it as a book, or you can think of it as the first book in a series. Granted, this series only has two books and (because I think it was originally intended to have more books) ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. But still. There's a sequel here (The Rivals) and for that I think the yearbook-esque cover works so much better. The cover is pretty great and matches the original (hardcover) cover to its sequel. On the other hand, if you're looking at The Mockingbirds as its one, one-shot book, you can't get any better than the To Kill A Mockingbird-inspired hardcover edition. It's artsy, mysterious, and just... perfect. My choice: hardcover, which gives you a clue as to how I view The Mockingbirds.

Book #4: Imaginary Girls, by Nova Ren Suma
Too easy. It's not that the paperback cover is bad, necessarily -- it totally has the whole eerie/mystery feeling to it that matches the story. But it's bleak. Dark. It looks like a book that's all mystery, and Imaginary Girls isn't. It's a story that, at its core, is about the love between two sisters, and the hardcover, in addition to being brilliant in every way (colors. font. layout. everything.) hints at more than just a dark and stormy night. My choice: hardcover.

Book #5: Suite Scarlett, by Maureen Johnson
Let's end this with an interesting cover set. Historically I feel like Maureen Johnson's covers sort of get the short end of the stick. She has all these headless girls everywhere, but surprisingly Suite Scarlett has a cover (two, actually!) that match the book really well. The girl on the hardcover looks just like how you'd expect Scarlett to look (except that the model is probably older than Scarlett) and is seated behind a hotel desk. And the paperback has the whole hotel-key/New York thing going on. I don't dislike either of these covers, but I do much prefer the paperback. It's more simple and, despite Scarlett being the protagonist of the book, there's a whole host of important characters. My choice: paperback, surprisingly.

Thanks to space and time and not wanting this post to be so incredibly long, I'm forcing myself to stop after five cover comparisons, but there are so many others out there that I wanted to include. Anyway, what do you think: does it bother you when the paperback of a book has a drastically different cover than the hardcover?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Unwind

Neal Shusterman
Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
I rarely do this, but for Unwind I'm using Goodread's summary of the book because it's much better than whatever I might write: "The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive."

I'd been hearing about this book for a while, but never really planned to read it until I came across it at the used bookstore and decided to give it a try. There are a myriad of problems, I think, with the chilling premise of this book. Like, whatever your views on abortion are, I can't imagine anyone thinking oh, yeah, this is a good idea. Compromise! Huzzah! But the amazing thing here is that, despite the problems I had with the premise the writing was such that it made this creepy, horrible thing feel completely real. Usually, I'm a very character-driven reader and the surprising thing is that, with this book, I didn't particularly like any of the characters. The book itself is very plot-driven and this plot was good enough to keep me completely riveted despite not hugely caring about the characters. Shusterman twists certain things (like the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme, or storks bringing babies) from our current culture for his futuristic world, and makes them fit perfectly, which makes the book both more real and more creepy.

Each of the three characters in this book have a slightly different set of circumstances, which gives a broad view of the society within Unwind. While rebellious, short-tempered Connor is the typical "Unwind" -- difficult to control, often thought of as a criminal type -- the other two come from very different situations and the one thing that unites these three is the reality they're faced with: the unwinding. Will they die? Or will it be like everyone tells them -- just a change? None of them know, and the prospect of finding out is terrifying. However, we do find out, in bits and pieces (how appropriate) as the book heads to its ultimate, surprising, climax. Though this is set to be the first in a trilogy, it works well as a stand-alone.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: Unbreak My Heart

Melissa Walker
Bloomsbury USA
Clementine doesn't love the idea of spending the summer stuck with her parents and younger sister Olive on their sailboat, but it's better than the alternative of staying home as a social pariah. Ever since Clem fell for her best friend's boyfriend, she's been frozen out by her friends, especially her best friend, who's forgiven the boyfriend. Because of this, Clem's perpetually sad and feeling pretty anti-social despite her family's best efforts to cheer her up. And even when she meets the happy-go-lucky James (who's spending the summer sailing with his dad), it's hard for Clementine to let go of her past and her sadness enough to capture something that might be good.

The narrative of Melissa Walker's latest novel is split between Clem's summer of sailing with her family and meeting James, and the past school year when she found herself falling for Ethan, her best friend's boyfriend. And though this sort of back-and-forth storytelling doesn't always work, this book really pulls it off, managing to make both storylines interesting, engaging, and obviously connected. You need the backstory of what Clem did in order for her present situation to carry the same amount of weight.

The story is full of realistic, likable characters, especially within Clementine's family. Her younger sister, Olive, is relentless in her quest to cheer Clem up while James' happy attitude adds a lightness to the situation. That said, despite the cuteness of the characters and their interactions, I found myself wanting a bit more depth here. James' and Clem's relationship in particular is quirky and sweet, but also felt a bit lukewarm to me. In fact, I feel bad saying this, but I preferred Clem and Ethan, as I felt that Ethan was a better-developed character and the two of them just worked for me, despite how ill-advised they were.

Which brings me to the crux of this book: the (broken) relationship between Clem and her best friend. I'm such a sucker for books that tackle this particular topic and Walker handles it with the right amount of heartbreak. It's completely believable to me that Clem would be cut off from her family and essentially a brooding mess at the start of the story, not because of Ethan, but because she'd lost her best friend. While I wanted a bit of a resolution between Clem and her best friend, the rift was handled well and realistically, especially with the many drafts of a letter that Clem kept trying to write throughout the summer. For the most part this was a cute book, but every so often, with certain turns of phrase, it soared above "cute" or "entertaining" and right into "perfect."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

All The Book: May 19, 2012

This week I read Unwind, which was a total trip. It's a book I've been hearing about for a while but hadn't really planned to read until I found it at the used bookstore. Definitely one of the weirder books I've read. I also read Melissa Walker's new one, Unbreak My Heart, which was cute and heart-tugging.

Flat-Out Love just looks adorable and the summary, vague as it is, is definitely interesting enough to pique my interest. And I'm tossing around the idea of writing a story inspired by my favorite song; Trish Dollar mentioned Lit Riffs to me over Twitter and though short story collections are usually hit-and-miss with me, I want to give it a try. Last is This Is Not A Test, which I sort of have mixed feelings about reading. On the one hand it's Courtney Summers and I know how great her writing is. On the other hand I've only tried a couple of zombie books and none of them were ones I really ended up liking (I'm not even sure if I finished them). The subject matter definitely isn't one that appeals to me but I've heard enough people say even if you don't like zombie books that I'm willing to give it a try.

I remember reading and loving this book as a kid, so when I stumbled across it in a used bookstore, I decided I just had to buy and reread. So far it's just as charming as I remember. It's totally a comfort read.

This week I went though my YA bookcase and ended up getting rid of five stacks of books. If I had to guess I'd say it ended up being around 60 books that I cleared out. I tossed all the ARCs (and there were lots), my sister took a few books, and the rest I'm trying to either sell, trade, or donate. The sad thing is that since I had my books double-stacked in the bookcase, it looks like I didn't really get rid of any because they all came from the back. This also means getting rid of a few signed books (sadface) because, signed or not, I'm trying to clear out everything that I don't see myself ever reading again (or that I don't really, really like). This means I even got rid of a Sarah Dessen novel. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Love and Peaches and Troubles

I'd managed to forget much of the events in Love and Peaches between the first time I read it and this reread. I still remembered the stuff about Murphy's dad and Birdie and Enrico's broken engagement, but a lot of Leeda's story had been forgotten.

There are thing in this series I don't like. As with most series, things don't end up exactly the way I wanted them to and while I loved how Leeda ended up and was surprised but happy about Birdie's ending, her breakup with Enrico made me sad and Murphy's ending was one I really didn't care for, probably because her and Rex were just one of those pairings I just never really "got." This book was very much about coming to terms with the past and facing the future -- each of the girl's stories highlighted this in some way. Birdie with the orchard. Leeda with her grandmom's letters. Murphy with Rex and the identity of her dad. And all three girls finding a place they fit and finding a way to be happy.

It strikes me that in large ways this series as a whole is really, really sad. Full of impossible relationships, family tension, and characters who think they know what they want but don't even really know who they are. Things end nicely, but in a way that doesn't altogether seem to fit with the rest of the series. I still love this series. It's one of my favorites, so full of beautiful, lush writing, huge emotions, and well-developed characters that I relate to in different ways.

Here's a quote that pretty well sums up much of the problems in the book(s):
What worried her [Leeda], sometimes, was that she had never been able to capture the feeling of being completely real. (Love and Peaches, pg. 106)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Mixed Experience of Rereading The Secrets of Peaches

There are a few spoilery thing in this post. So just be aware.

In rereading The Secrets of Peaches, it took quite a while for me to fall into the story and be reminded of just why it is that I love this whole series so much. This book, at least in the first half-ish, moves much faster than the first book and Anderson's incredibly lush writing takes a backseat during this time as so much happens with Birdie's family and her relationship with Enrico, Leeda and her mother, and Murphy's boyfriend (Rex) and plans to escape to NYU. I was frustrated quite a bit with Murphy and Leeda during this installment and was very glad when things started falling into place once again, falling into the familiar rhythms that I loved from the first book. Still, The Secrets of Peaches is very much a book about things falling apart -- Murphy and her plans, Murphy and Leeda, Birdie's family, Leeda herself -- than it is about things being put back together. And I feel like the only way to talk about this book is to maybe just list the things I liked and didn't like:

Murphy - LIKE. But I got annoyed with her even though I understood why she made the decisions she made. She's pretty manipulative here, and even if it was sort of a defense mechanism so she wouldn't end up (more) hurt, it still really bugged me. I love that Birdie called her out on how cruel she can be.

Leeda - UM. I like Leeda. I love Leeda. Everything with her mom is so harsh and painful in this book. Leeda's whole Ice Queen routine got old though, and like with Murphy I just wanted her to show that she had feelings.

Birdie - LIKE. Birdie is just the best in this book. I just love her.

Murphy and Rex - DIDN'T LIKE. I don't really remember what I thought of these two the first time I read the books, but this time around I just found myself so not caring. Rex is the sort of bland character that I just can't muster up much feeling for. He's supposed to be this really great guy and in some ways he is, but mostly he's just like BLAH and his relationship with Murphy being portrayed as true love never really hit home with me.

Leeda and her mother - LIKE. As much as I hate Leeda's mom, their storyline in this book was all but perfect.

Birdie and Enrico - LIKE. Honestly, it wasn't until a good way through the book -- when Birdie goes to visit Enrico and his family in Mexico -- that I realized how much I love these two. They're quietly perfect for each other.

This is a quiet book and it's part of a quiet series, but the emotions and decisions within it are so huge and so real. I think reading it now I have a different perspective than I did the first time I read it, even though it was only four years ago. I think I see more easily how immature these characters act at certain points during the story and even though it makes sense I still found myself wanting them to just fix things already. For a huge part of the book Leeda and Murphy are fighting and I kept wanting to yell at Leeda to just talk to Murphy and stop avoiding her, but at the same time their stand-offish fight was so real and heartbreaking that even when I didn't like how they were acting, it made sense to me in a weird sort of way. It might not be how I would act (or at least, not how I'd want to act), but I understood why they would.
There was nothing [in the notebook] about the times that Murphy and Leeda hadn't liked each other, when they had still been mostly strangers. There was nothing about the times they had wounded each other or broken each other's hearts. (The Secrets of Peaches, pg. 156)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Beauty of Peaches

Since my May reread is the entire Peaches series by Jodi Lynn Anderson, I've decided to do a post for each book. I've just finished the first in the series, Peaches, and it strikes me that for years I've been comparing these books to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and while there are some obvious similarities, there are also some pretty glaring differences that I forgot about. First of all Peaches isn't a summer book. I mean, it is, but it's also not. The story begins at the start of spring and winds its way all the way to the end of that summer. Second, and most importantly, the three girls at the center of Peaches aren't the sort of friends that the Sisterhood is. They don't begin as friends, but as (mostly) strangers. This first book is the story of them finding each other, finding that special sort of friendship that they'd been missing their whole lives, and also of beginning to figure out who they are. Growing up. Coming into themselves a bit. And though the girls fit neatly into labeled boxes -- the slacker, the rich girl, and the quiet one -- they are bigger and more complex than those labels right from the beginning. Their personalities are not nearly as simple or clear-cut as a summary of the book would have you believe. Additionally, Anderson's writing style is absolutely beautiful. The way she tells the story, the way her words work together, is like the perfect Southern drawl or the perfect long summer day. It's lazy, wandering, and just brilliant.

And I don't know what there is to say about this book. It's so layered and so wonderful. This is a book so completely ripe with setting and reading it again just pulled me right back in. To the Darlington Peach Orchard, to Leeda, Birdie, and Murphy, to the wandering descriptions and slow-burning epiphanies that sprinkle the pages. I've highlighted quite a bit in this book, but a couple of passages in particular offer the best of this book.

This quote takes place (minor spoiler) as Murphy is watching Birdie Darlington try to start fires in order keep the peach trees in the struggling orchard alive through the coming frost:
Murphy knew there was no use searching herself for the cynicism that would make it seem distant and dark instead of raw and terrible. Birdie was trying to save her home single-handedly, and there was no way she could. (pg. 99) 
And this is just one of my absolute favorite lines:
And the rain sounded like it was washing the whole world away. (pg. 283)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Writing: Sharing The Sister Story

Project: sister story
Status: edit round finished!!

A Little Scene
I'm breathing a bit of a sigh of relief today because I finished the latest edit round of the sister story. There are more edit rounds to come later, but for now I'm finished with this story and moving on to editing/rewriting something else. Today I'm thinking I'll share just a little bit of the sister story with you guys because I feel like I've been talking about it a lot and I'm really, really private and protective of my writing. This book is told from two different perspectives, Zooey and Piper: at this point I've written five drafts of Zooey's story and three drafts of Piper's. I still haven't let any beta-readers read the book yet, and I'm still not ready to. 

But I am so excited about this book. I love it so much. And I want to share at least part of what I've written right now. It's just a tiny scene. Not even a scene really, but just a few paragraphs of internal monologue. This is from the POV of Piper, the older sister, who has just kissed her ex-boyfriend (who has a current girlfriend). Like I said, this is a really short scene but I love it because it encapsulates so much of what this story is about (especially Piper's half of the book) - Piper and her ex-boyfriend, Piper and Zooey (and how she views Zooey), and Piper's issues with herself.

After the party, it's impossible to sleep. There's this restless, crazy bubble of energy inside of me. I roll over onto my side and stare at Zooey, breathing calmly as she sleeps on her bed. I will her to wake up, but she doesn't. And I'm bursting, bursting, bursting with the news of what happened. That kiss. That look he gave me after the kiss. The feelings that just won't go away.

There's a part of me that wants to wake Zooey up and tell her.

There's another part of me -- a bigger part -- that knows telling her will only result in reality getting in the way of my fantasy. Because Zooey is good. From the top of her hair down to the very soles of her shoes, there's not a mean or bitchy or selfish bone in her body. And what I did is selfish. And mean. It makes me horrible, I know, but somehow as long as Zooey doesn't know, I can ignore that part of it. I can ignore that what happened was wrong.

So I let her sleep and I keep my secret close to me.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

All The Books: May 12, 2012

This week I reread the entire Peaches series. I expected it to take much longer than one week, but I got really caught up in the characters and the ongoing story. Write-ups of my rereading adventures will be posted later this month but for now I'm really excited about reading something new. (Also, I can't for the life of me get these book images to be in order, but it goes Peaches; The Secrets of Peaches; and then Love and Peaches. In other words: orange, purple, green.)

It's sort of a miracle: this week I managed to only add one book to my wishlist, and then that was only because MacMillan sent me their fall catalog and this just looked so right up my alley: a story about a girl running a secret advice column. Win. (Okay, total honestly? A big part of why this appeals to me so much is all about that one Lizzie McGuire episode where Lizzie was the newspaper advice girl.) Okay but also, I went into Barnes & Noble this week and saw all these books that I've had on my list for practically ever that are out now. The Selection; Second Chance Summer; When You Were Mine. I really had to restrain myself, and even then I walked out of the store with one book (see below).

I bought this one! This!!! The sequel to Stupid Fast, which I loved! Plus, Stupid Fast won the YA Fiction Cybils last year and I WAS ONE OF THE JUDGES and THE CYBILS IS MENTIONED ON THE BACK OF NOTHING SPECIAL. I mean, look at this picture that I took of the back of the book. I don't know if it's too small for you to read, but it has a line about the Cybils Award, which makes me happy both because Stupid Fast is awesome and because I was lucky enough to be one of the judges. 

This Is What Happy Looks Like, by Jennifer E. Smith, is set to come out next year (so far away!) but I love that it's billed as a sort of You've Got Mail-style story. This makes me happy.

Destroy Me, by Tahereh Mafi, is set to come out as an e-novella October of this year. According to this video it bridges the gap between Shatter Me and the second book (Unravel Me) and is told from Warner's POV. I'm super un-excited about reading Warner's POV and I probably won't even read it because I don't understand how anyone could possibly like Warner he's just an awful killer I'm really worried that Juliette might fall for him or something and I don't want that to happen and I could go on longer about this but I won't. But I thought I should mention the book because I did, after all, superlove Shatter Me.

You still have time to enter the Terra McVoy giveaway (ALL OF HER BOOKS!!!!). I'll be randomly choosing a winner this coming Thursday.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fangirl Friday: Disenchantments Pandora Station

So me and Bri, from Bri Meets Books, have decided each week to do a post on a book, character, or some other element of a book, that we especially love. We'll be sharing a variety of things that remind us of that book/character (you can probably expect a lot of music-inspired posts on my end).

For my first Fangirl Friday, I'm sharing the Pandora station I made that was inspired by Nina LaCour's The Disenchantments. In the book, each of the characters has a favorite girl band (and I love that one of those bands is The Supremes) and I used all four bands for my Pandora station. (The Runaways, The Supremes, Heart, and Sleater Kinney, who I admit I'd never heard of before reading The Disenchantments). I wanted to create an actual girl band playlist inspired by this book, but as it turns out I have almost none girl band music so for now the Pandora station will have to do.

The Disenchantments Pandora playlist.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: My Invisible Boyfriend

Susie Day
Scholastic Press
For the first time in her somewhat nomadic life, Heidi Ryder has friends. Real, actual friends. And she belongs. But when  those friends come back to school after summer break with significant others, Heidi feels herself slipping out of that belonging feeling she loves and, in a moment of panic, she maybe accidentally invents an imaginary boyfriend.

Of course, the premise of inventing a boyfriend (and then giving him an online personality/life) is one ripe for hilarious complications and hijinks. In Heidi's case it turns out that her super-sensitive boyfriend (who is actually her pretending to be an imaginary boy online) finds out more about her friends seemingly perfect lives than she herself does, leaving her in the awkward position of wanting to fix everything, when she's not even supposed to know anything. As she sets out, with the help of a fictional time-traveling detective character named Mycroft Christie, to figure out why her best friend isn't talking to her and who it is that her other friend's boyfriend might be cheating with, she discovers that not only is having an imaginary boyfriend super-confusing and difficult, but she maybe wants an actual human boyfriend. Add to this the fact that the tea shop where she works is closing down, the owner and her (super-super-cute) son moving to America, and Heidi's pretty much a mess.

It's a little impossible for me to not compare this book to serafina67 *urgently requires life* and the fact is that Heidi's quirky and weird in nearly the same way that Serafina is -- at least on the surface. She's in love with a fictional character (and then an imaginary boy she makes up), she has much online drama, and she's a bit awkward. But despite these obvious superficial similarities, unlike Serafina, Heidi never felt fully real to me. Her worries are very specific things and though her friends are all very unique and original, they all seemed a bit like charicatures of people. Some odd quirks, accessories, a specific role in her life and the drama that unfolds. The exception to this is her American boss, Betsy, and her cute-but-unavailable son, Teddy. The two of them give Heidi and the book itself a much-needed dose of reality.

Much of the book is full of Heidi's detective work as she tries to solve the mysteries of her friend's lives. Unfortunately, Heidi is an awful detective and while this is funny for a while as some of the answers to her questions really are surprising, near the end of the book it gets a little tedious, maybe because the answer to the last mystery seemed really obvious right from the start of the book. This is a short-ish book, but somehow it felt longer than it was. The single-minded character of Heidi is big on quirk, but doesn't quite have the depth to carry the full length of her novel.

And having said all of that, I should also say that I liked this book even if I didn't love it. It's cute and funny and endearing. And completely, totally unique and teenager-y. I wish I could have read it without internally comparing it to serafina67 *urgently requires life* because the similarities are a bit too many, with this book always falling short.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: Shooting Stars

Allison Rushby
Walker Childrens
Jo Foster is a teenage paparazzo (paparazza?) whose small size and young looks gives her an advantage over other, older paparazzi. Despite having a paparazzo dad who loves the life, for her it's a means to an end -- photography school, and a goal of becoming a portrait photographer in the same vein as Annie Leibovitz. When she's offered an undercover job taking shots of teen sensation Ned Hartnett at a treatment facility, she takes the job only because she needs the money for school; with any luck, it'll be the last paparazzi job she'll need to take. But Ned's the one celebrity she might actually care about and the deeper into the job she gets, the stronger her feelings become and the more she realizes this job is too underhanded for even a teenage paparazzo like herself.

The idea of a story about a paparazzo and celebrity falling in love is an undeniably catchy premise and right off the bat sets the book up as something unique. Though, to be fair, this story is much more about Jo's undercover job than her feelings for Ned and for much of the book the story is centered around Jo's ethical dilemma when it comes to the job. Though generally she has no problem (or at least not much of one) with what she does, the whole undercover aspect, along with the fact that she's starting to see Ned as an actual human being, makes her realize more than ever that she needs to get out of the game -- it's just a matter of when, and how.

This was a cute story with some unexpected twists. I kept trying to guess at what issues Ned might have that would land him in the treatment facility, but didn't even come close to what was actually going on. Sadly though, for as interesting as the story is and as surprising as certain twists are, there's not a ton of depth here. This book is cute, nice, entertaining enough, but not a whole lot more. It was fun to read and I recommend it if you're looking for a quick and cute romantic comedy, but it's also easily forgettable and doesn't stand out much in the genre.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday Ten: Quotes

This week's topic from The Broke and the Bookish is top ten favorite quotes. I thought this would be a perfect topic for me thanks to my notebook full of lines and passages from the books I read (my quote-book), but as it turns out it's impossible to choose my ten favorites. I have funny quotes, quotes that remind me of myself or something in my own life, quotes that are just flat-out gorgeously written, etc. And narrowing them down is too hard. Additionally, I know there are quotes I love that somehow haven't made it into the book. BUT ANYWAY. I've decided to choose my top ten quotes from books I've read (and managed to add to the book) this year.

In truth, it always hurt. It always hurt not to breathe like a normal person.
--The Fault In Our Stars, pg. 45

"I believe in true love, you know? I don't believe that everybody gets to keep their eyes or not get sick or whatever, but everybody should have true love, and it should last at least as long as your life does."
--The Fault In Our Stars, pg. 75 (Isaac)

"I don't think defeatism is honest," Dad answered. "I refuse to accept that." 
--The Fault In Our Stars, pg. 222

 This warm rush comes over me, like we're all in this giant snow globe together, a perfect moment captured under the glass, all histories and futures forgotten.
--Bittersweet, pg. 151-152

"Friends or not, I don't want to spend the rest of my life hating you."
--Bittersweet, pg. 243 (Kara)

In recent years her joy at seeing them was always mixed with anxiety that there would be some telltale change... a this or a that, that would separate one of them from the rest, or from their bond or from the past.
--Sisterhood Everlasting, pg. 46

That's how it feels to me. Everyone is doing it; everyone knows how. To live and be who they are and find a place, find a moment. I'm still waiting.
--How To Save A Life, pg. 157 (Mandy)

"You don't know. All kinds of people make all kinds of decisions that aren't by the book, and they have their reasons."
--How To Save A Life, pg. 161 (Dylan)

"I'm still going to love you, always. And in the rock-paper-scissors of life, love is rock. Fear, anger, everything else... no contest." Love is rock.
 --How To Save A Life, pg. 328 (Dylan)

And this last quote that's too long to be formatted like the rest but that I absolutely love.

"Oh my God," I say, pushing Thomas out of the way. "It's the tuba guy."
"The what?"
"This guy that Justine likes. He's in the same youth orchestra as her, but she's never spoken to him. He looks at her at the bus stop every morning, but there's no way that he'll ever know her name because she's so tongue-tied around him."
"Those relationships go nowhere," Thomas says. "Six years down the track you're still referring to her as the 'chick with the ponytail at the bus stop.' Tell her to stay away from it. It'll only end in heartbreak."

--Saving Francesca, pg. 173

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Writing: Help Me?

Project: sister story
Status: editing Piper (ch 8)

Help! I Don't Know What To Do.

I'm always torn, when I go to write a post for Monday, between talking about my own writing/editing (which, at the moment, is going slowly but nicely) and giving writing advice/tips. The problem with talking about my own writing is that it's probably interesting only to me. The problem with giving advice is I am completely totally unqualified to be giving advice in the first place.

Which means I don't know what to write about. What do you want to know about, writing-wise? Do you want me to talk about my own writing? Give advice? Is there a specific question you want answered? CLICK HERE TO GIVE ME YOUR INPUT BECAUSE REALLY I NEED IT.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

All The Books: May 5, 2012

I read Shooting Stars, which was cute but forgettable. And then My Invisible Boyfriend, which I was really nervous about not liking (the author's previous book is one of my absolute absolute faaaavorites). And though the book had plenty of flaws, it was quirky and sweet enough for me. At the moment I'm reading Little Princes: One Man's Promise To Bring Home The Lost Children of Nepal. My sister loves this book and I finally agreed to read it. So far it's very interesting and not nearly as depressing as I was afraid of it being.

In a true testament of the effect a good cover/title can have on me there's the fact that I immediately added the forthcoming (but not until Dec.) Love And Other Perishable Items to my wanting list despite having seen the Australian version, Good Oil, numerous times before and never wanted to read it. So, bravo to whoever came up with the American title and cover. (Also, my local library actually has Good Oil in stock -- no idea how -- and I'm still going to wait on the US version of the book.) I've also added Prodigy, the second in Marie Lu's Legend series, to my list. The first one was so good and I'm eager to see Lu's futuristic world develop. I'm also really excited about Diverse Energies, the upcoming dystopian short story collection featuring racially diverse stories -- including one by Cindy Pon. (I'm extra excited about this one.)

This book is out in September and I love the cover. However, since the book is paranormal there's a good chance I'm not going to read it, despite the fact that I adore both Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han's writing. There's not a very clear summary for it yet, so I'll have to wait and see what the "supernatural element" is, but anyway I love the cover.