Monday, May 11, 2015

4 Great Reads

I always feel a bit off after disliking a book everyone else loves. Like we’re a show choir and everyone’s belting out some big, epic song—maybe from Wicked because those songs are always big and epic and meaningful on Glee—and I’m over here singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and not even remembering all of the words.

So I had this off-ness at the start of April and I had a feeling I was about to enter a massive book slump. But miracle of all miracles, the exact opposite happened.

Not that I suddenly gained musical talent and knew the words to Wicked songs but that I loved pretty much every single book I read.

Here are the books you should be buying this month:

This is probably the most adorable book I’ll read all year. It’s smart. It’s funny. It’s 320 pages of Oreo-sweet scenes with depth and mystery.

It’s so rare that I read a book with such a strong friendship between girls. I wanted to insert myself into this young America—forget the dangers of the wild West—just to be part of the magic that was Samantha and Annemae. This book is Sam and Andy. It’s a captivating story (with a diverse cast!) of love and hope, family and friendship. Above all, the kind of friendship that turns strangers into family.

Wonderful. Just wonderful. It’s somehow both slow building and fast paced, the characters both quiet and gentle and as vicious as beasts. If you don’t fall in love with Feyre and Tamlin, you may not have a heart.

I feel a little like face-blind Finn trying to describe this book. It’s lovely when you look at all of its parts neatly arranged—this plot here, those characters there, the setting just like that—but absolutely beautiful when you stop looking and start feeling. It’s magical and haunting and powerful. This may just be the best book I’ll read this year. 

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Catching Up

I used to love What’s Up Wednesday posts because they told me exactly what to write, allowing me to maintain my status as a mindless drone. Which is all I ever want in life.

Which is why I’m joining Katy Upperman for her Tuesday Currently post. Here’s how it goes:

It’s no secret I’m a sucker for a great book cover design, and I’m loving the cover art for these two adult novels (they’re part of a larger list of books over at The Book Smugglers). 

I’m crazy about the way the illustrated birds overlap the title and author’s name. The design is so appropriate considering the title.

And then there’s Written In Blood which is chilling in its simplicity. The streaks of color that reveal the girl’s face beneath remind me a bit of water drips on a foggy mirror. Water drips that maybe reveal something scary behind you.

If every book I bought was as good as the ones I read in April I wouldn’t have to worry about broken e-readers. Those things do not take being thrown across the room well. Anyhow, I loved the books I read last month so much that I’m going to write all about them in a separate post, complete with ❤️ ❤️ and !!! and pronouncements that you must read them immediately.

Right now, though, I’m getting ready to read Jessi Kirby’s Things We Know by Heart. If it’s anything like her previous books, I’ll be sad crying and happy crying and avoiding the mirror until I hit The End. (I’m not one of those pretty-cry people. My face turns into something from an episode of CSI.)

I’m slowly making my way through Supernatural—I’m on season nine and seeing the end. That sort of feels like an accomplishment, but mostly it feels like I’ll soon have commercials and weekly waits crashing my friendship with the Winchesters. Not cool, man.

I’ve also really been loving iZombie, which has been cracking me up with the way the main character adopts the personalities of the people whose brains she eats. Add bonus points for a loveable sidekick and personality-changing former-Arthur boyfriend and I’m hooked.

If I tried to write to music with lyrics my novel would read something like this:
“What’d she say?” I asked.
 “Nice to meet you, where you been? I could show you incredible things. Magic, madness, heaven, sin. Saw you there and I thought, ‘Oh my God, look at that face. You look like my next mistake.’ Love’s a game. Wanna play?”
Not that I listen to Taylor Swift ALL THE TIME. Only most of the time.

Anyhow, I’m an instrumental-only kind of girl when putting words on paper, but I like to listen to other sorts of music while staring into space (though the literary term for that is brainstorming.)

And this songs is basically my book in broken into beats and measures and other musical terms someone as tone deaf as me wouldn’t understand. Here’s how my book goes:

Fear. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve been struggling with my current WIP, and that has nothing to do with how much I love it.  (Because I really, really love it. Like, risk-of-death-by-hug love it.) It has everything to do with fear and doubt and worries that it’s not original enough, not well-written enough—never mind the fact that it’s not actually written yet—not exciting enough, not surprising, not smart, not…oh, you get it. I recently went back to Susan Dennard’s posts on facing fear, and reading how a published author handles this is super helpful. If you’re blocked by fear, it’s worth a read. Her post on taking writing-related fears and putting them in their place is especially helpful.

Getting my hands on one of the eleventy billion books that released today. I need a pause button to hold time until I’ve had a chance to read some of these:

Nothing feels like summer quite like watching a cartoon wiener dance for a circus ringmaster during a double feature at the drive-in. I’m lucky enough to live close to a few—something I didn’t realize was so rare until I moved to Philly and then Northern Virginia, neither of which are near working drive-in theaters. The theater’s opening seems to usher in summer, and I don’t care that the movie selection is smaller than at the cinema. Will a 1950s announcer tell you that ladies can arrive in casual housedresses at Showcase Cinemas? Will he tell you to have a gay old time? I don’t think so.

What are you currently up to?

Monday, March 30, 2015

YA Book Club Review: Red Queen

Hello book clubbers, and thanks for joining in on the discussion of Red Queen, which is not The Red Queen, no matter how many times I typed it.

Let’s start with a description, shall we?
Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard’s sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king's palace. Will her power save her or condemn her? 
Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. 
To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.
First off, can we all agree that the cover rocks? It so simply gets at the plot and theme of the novel, and does so in such a striking way. I think what first drew me to Red Queen was the cover.

It also sounded pretty awesome from the blurb. But I think that’s what tripped me up. It’s reads like YA fantasy (and that’s how it’s been pitched elsewhere), so I was a bit turned around at the beginning when I realized the world was really dystopian.

I should also point out that the blurb calls Red Queen a sort of Graceling meets The Selection, which didn’t feel like the most appropriate mashup. Yes, the Silvers have abilities, but they felt more X-Men than Graceling. (Which is fine; I love X-Men.) And while, like The Selection, there’s a contest for the princes’ hands in marriage, it’s a small part of the book.

No, Red Queen felt more like Hunger Games (girl becomes face of a revolution, and both sides want to use her for their own purposes) meets Shatter Me (girl with unheard of power is torn between two boys, one who may be may be her enemy).

I liked Mare as a character. She’s strong without being cold—even second-guesses her role in the revolution when faced with the loss of innocent lives. She hurts for the children she’ll leave fatherless. Some might say that makes her wishy-washy, but I think it’s a realistic reaction for a 17-year-old girl. Hey, I’m an adult and I’m not sure I could sentence people to die.

What I had a hard time with were some plot elements. For instance, I couldn’t quite buy the queen’s plan to hide Mare in plain sight. The king and queen tell their people that Mare has Silver blood, but was raised as Red and only came into her abilities recently. I’ll believe a Silver could grow to 17 without using her powers. But I’m not sure an entire kingdom would believe a 17-year-old girl never got a cut, scrape, bloody nose, or even her period.

There were also a lot of characters who were suspicious of Mare, and I wondered why no one cut her “by accident” to see the color of her blood.

I don’t want to talk too much about the ending and [spoiler], but I will say I liked Mare’s final decision on the romance. Red Queen has a love triangle between two princes—two brothers—and, well … read my Goodreads review, which hides spoilers, for my full thoughts on that.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What's Up Wednesday and the YA Book Club

It’s time for What’s Up Wednesday again. If you’re unfamiliar with the idea, here’s the deal: What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk for like-minded writers to meet and encourage one another. Everything you ever wanted to know about it (now, 50 percent off the retail price!) is right here.

I’m so excited so many of you are interested in joining the YA Book Club this March. Let this serve as official proclamation that the book club is a go—and our book of the month is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. (See, I’m getting in the royal spirit and all.) On Monday, March 30, we’ll post our reviews. Be sure to link to your review here, then hop to everyone else’s blog to see what other book clubbers thought about the novel! (More about how the book club works here.)

I’m still drafting my Island MS, which seems to be going much, much slower than any other book I’ve written. Recently I’ve been having a hard time getting my inner editor to shut up. She’s incredibly rude and only interested in deleting words. I’m hoping this is only a temporary thing.

Just about the only way I can get any words on the page is if I tell myself that even ridiculously low word counts make a difference. So I aimed for 1,000 words in a writing session and got 200. That’s better than zero, right?

But really I’d love to hear what works for you when it comes to killing your inner editor.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sapphire Blue Readalong

Well, February is over which means I’ve reread Ruby Red and realized I don’t really know myself as well as I thought I did. It also means we’re closer to tax day, but I’m doing my best not to think about that because it makes me want to turn the Boston Harbor into a giant cup of tea.

But back to my identity crisis.

See, I thought I loved Gideon de Villiers from the first moment I met him. Looking back, I imagined this sweet guy who was also really capable and swoon-worthy and all of the other good things. Except he’s not.

As I reread Ruby Red, I was all “What witchcraft is this?” because Gideon was not kind and he wasn’t swoon-worthy and he was only mostly capable because he did need Gwen to save his life after all.

Then the month ended with me looking at a dress and seeing it go from white and gold to blue and black and back again, and that really cemented this personality disorder. Anyway, what became clear very early in the book is that Ruby Red is about Gwen being awesome and kicking butt even though pretty much everyone but her equally awesome BFF underestimate her.

So if you’re one book in and thinking, “These jackholes promised me a swoon-worthy boy and all I got was Judgy McJudgerson and his Cloak of Superiority,” well, you’re mostly right. But you also got an amazing heroine who learns quickly, stands up for herself, and is basically hilarious.

And there’s more of that in the second book, Sapphire Blue. There’s also a kinder Gideon and a gargoyle who steals every scene he’s in.

Join in the big readalong this month by tweeting your thoughts under the hashtag #SapphireBlueReread.

In other reading news, I have an announcement about the YA Book Club … but you’ll have to wait until Wednesday for that.