Like us on Facebook

 photo Final-About.png photo Final-MenuYA.png photo Final-MenuGoAway.png photo Final-MenuContact.png

Monday, July 29, 2013

YA Book Club Chat: The Westing Game

I knew I liked this book. I just knew it, even though I didn’t have the slightest idea why. Well, thanks to you lovely lovelies who chose The Westing Game for our July novel, I remember.

In her dedication, Ellen Raskin says Jenny asked for a puzzle-mystery, and that’s exactly what she got. The Westing Game isn’t so much about solving a murder, though that’s part of it, but about putting together a puzzle that will, once complete, hold the key to the mystery. And, well, that aspect of the book is extremely fun. I say this as a person without patience for puzzles.

Part of what I enjoyed so much wasn’t guessing who the murderer was (because of course after all these years I forgot), but in piecing together the riddles—trying to figure out the how of it all.

The other part of what made The Westing Game so incredibly fun: Many of the 16 characters wrapped up in Sam Westing’s game are unlikeable, but Raskin spends time humanizing most of them. The interactions between characters were sometimes sweet, sometimes hilarious as personality types clashed.

I might have liked for the story to end with the “A Happy Fourth” chapter, not really needing information on what happened five years down the line. The last chapter was touching, though, so I’m mostly on the fence.

No matter. Regardless of the extended ending, The Westing Game is a fun, twisty puzzle that I love just as much now as I did as a kid—definitely worth a re-read.
Later this week, we’ll be picking the August book, which will be a YA beach read. Get your suggestions ready!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Letter to My WIP

To the so-called work in progress taking up space on my hard drive and laughing at me with one annoyingly raised eyebrow and the words check mate on its tongue,

I am on to you.

You think you’re real funny whispering about poor character development and sparse settings while I fumble through paragraphs and scenes you say are pure … excrement. I see how you refer me my favorite novels: Look, see! That’s how you write a complicated mystery! That’s how you create characters readers love! Listen to those words. Those are words people will want to read. Not like yours.

And I get it, I do. I’m 30,000 words in and you’re getting scared and so you’re trying to scare me. But I’m done pouting. I’m done hiding from you, nose in someone else’s book.

From now on, I’m the Supreme Ruler of All That Is Written* and you are the story that must do as I say lest I delete you out of existence and write Sad Bella fanfiction in your place.

Hugs and kisses and unicorns,

*On My Laptop

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bookanistas Review: Croak

I’m not a big fan of Grim Reapers. Not in, you know, in a philosophical sense. Or literally, though I suppose I wouldn’t be a fan if one came for me. No, when it comes to YA literature, I’m not really into Grims.

(I did, however, go through a serious Six Feet Under phase when I discovered it on Netflix Watch Instantly and, because of my deep love for Mandy Patinkin and Inigo Montoya, watched them pretty much back to back.)

Anyhow, that was the main reason I kept seeing Croak on my TBR list and passing it by. This went on for a year. Every so often I’d click to the Goodreads page and become interested and then pick up something else. So finally a couple weeks ago I was IN THE MOOD and that mood happened to be for something funny. I’d read reviews of Croak and I re-read them just to assure myself that the book was, in fact, written with the exact kind of humor I was looking for.

I think you know where I’m going with this.

Where I’m going is straight to Gina Damico’s house to beg on her front lawn for a copy of Rogue, the third book in the series.* Why yes, I did say third. Of course I read the second directly after the first. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I need a copy of Rogue like humans need coffee. TO LIVE, people.

Of course, you geniuses have already deduced how much I love Croak. Don’t let it go to your head: You already knew that the Bookanistas only review books they love.

But, oh, do I love it.

I’m usually a bigger fan of first person than third and even then I much prefer close third. Croak is neither of those. But the voice drew me in immediately and as I read I realized the benefit of a narrator that is close to Lex but not in her head. Because with it come some pretty funny jokes at the characters’ expense. Take, for instance, the lust-hate relationship between Lex and another reaper, Driggs:
It suddenly occurred to both Driggs and Lex, in that very same instant, that neither of them wanted anything more in the world than to tear off every single piece of each other’s clothing and make wild, passionate, messy adolescent love under the radiant glow of the full moon.
Their chests rose and fell. A few seconds passed. 
“I’m going to sleep,” Driggs panted, clambering off the roof. 
“Me too,” Lex huffed, right behind him. 
And without another word, they fled to their rooms, slammed the doors, and threw themselves into bed, where they both spent the next five hours dazedly contemplating their respective ceilings.
See what I mean? The entire book is like this. The writing, that is. Not the romance, though the relationship between the two is hilarious. As is Lex’s badass reaper uncle and the rest of the characters. 

I had considered going more in depth as to why you should read this book yesterday, but aside from mentioning the fact that there’s also a story in with all of those characters (and it’s a good one), I think I’ve done my job. Oh, and in case you’re curious, the second book, Scorch, is just as good if not better than the first.

And now for a reminder: The YA Book Club is currently reading The Westing Game. Well be chatting about the book and posting reviews on our blogs on in the comments here on July 29. For more info on the book club, head here.

Heres what the other Bookanistas are reviewing today:

Rebecca Behrens leaps over The Moon and More by Saran Dessen
Elana Johnson has props for The Pledge by Kimberly Derting
Kimberly Sabatini delves into The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

* Not really. I don’t recommend adoring fans visit their favorite authors at their homes. It’s creepy.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Starting A New Story

In case you’re curious as to how I work, I am revealing my previously unknown process for starting a story. This is an actual transcript from an actual writing session.

Me: It’s time to write the amazing story that I’ve been thinking about nonstop.

Brain: You should cast your characters because then you’ll be able to really see them and your descriptions will be so much better.

Me: I see them in my head.

Brain: But maybe someone posted a better example of your character to Pinterest and if you don’t look now you’ll miss it forever. Then, when you’re a published author and people are asking whom you’d cast in the just-optioned movie of your book, you will have no one to show. NO ONE.

Me: Er, that’s not really the most important thing right now.

Brain: Then what about Tumblr? You haven’t browsed it in four hours and you never know what interesting photos may have popped up.

Me: No.

Brain: No? No what? No you will not expand your imagination with photos that could very well inspire a scene in the book you want to write?

Me: Stop trying to trick me.

Brain: Fine, go ahead and write, but you should know that all of your friends are on Twitter having fun without you.

Me: I don’t have time for that!

Brain: Well, make time.

Me: But I really need to start this story.

Brain: How do you know you’re even ready to start the story? Have you considered spending more time googling hypnotherapy?

Me: I’ve spent a lot of time doing that.

Brain: What if there’s new research that just came out today? You might want to re-read every site you’ve ever used for research.

Me: That will take forever.

Brain: It’s research, so it’s okay.

Me: Now I’m going to write and you can’t stop me.

Brain: Go ahead. Be my guest. So what if there’s a one-day sale at J.Crew. It’s not like you need to look cute or anything.

Me: I do look cute.

Brain: You’re wearing leggings, a T-shirt, and sweatshirt. You look like a hobo.

Me: Who’s going to see me, huh? No one.

Brain: That reminds me of that book… You know the one. You’ve been dying to read it forever. Oh hey, doesn’t it come out today?

Me: Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.

Brain: What? Don’t they say the best way to improve your writing is to be well read?

Me: Well, yeah…

Brain: And the book’s getting great reviews. I’m only trying to help you here. I want to see your publishing dreams come true as much as you do.

Me: Maybe one chapter.


Brain: Wasn’t that better?

Me: It was good. But no more. Time to write.

Brain: I suppose I can whip up a paragraph for you.

Me: Aim higher.

Brain: I’m tired!

Me: Whose fault is that?

Brain: Tomorrow can we browse YouTube?

Anyone have a similar process?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What's Up Wednesday No. 2: The Case of the Childhood Photos

Look at this. I had my doubts, but here I am writing my second What’s Up Wednesday post. I’m feeling very accomplished and like the sort of girl who follows through on things. Please go with me on this.

So, here’s what I’ve been up to…

What I’m Reading: I’m dying to start Kasie West’s The Distance Between Us. I loved Pivot Point (you can read my review here), and though this is a straight contemporary I have faith I’m going to completely love it. I’ve ordered The Westing Game, which, might I remind you, the YA Book Club is reading this July. So, you know, feel free pick up the book at your local bookstore or library and join in.

What I’m Writing: I’m still plugging away at that YA sci-fi novel I’ve been talking about for the past few weeks. And now a PSA: If you need a little push with writing, follow the #ReadySetWrite hashtag. Most nights you can find me and other writers pounding out words. It’s a great accountability tool. Why, just the other day Ready, Set, Write! co-coordinator Katy Upperman threatened to scoop my eyeballs out with a spork if I didn’t write.* That’s what I call service.

As promise, I’ve also come prepared with another snippet from my story. Have I mentioned before that this is a very, very rough draft? Please do not judge. Or, if you do, remember that making fun of rough drafts kills puppies.
Cold finds its way under the covers and I shiver. Our building controls the temperature in all units, but my father has hacked our system to keep our apartment cooler. Better to fall asleep to, he says. I flip to my side and tug the comforter to my chin. The thin fingers of the oak on my balcony scratch against the glass. When I was younger, my father and I would climb onto the first thick branch, swinging our legs in the space between us and the earth. It’s been a year since we sat up there, mostly because his work got complicated and I got boobs, but looking at the branch trying to claw its way into my room, I can smell the dirt and fallen leaves. The crisp taste of wood smoke–scented cold air. 
“Syna, honey,” he’d said, peeling a leaf along the veins, “there are three truths in life. Nothing good happens before 10 a.m. and I love you more than the sun and the moon and the stars and those guava chews we get with takeout.” 
“And the third?” 
“Boys are snakes. Avoid them at all costs.”
What Else I’ve Been Up To: My parents are preparing to sell their house so I currently have in my possession boxes of photos from my teen years. I haven’t even attempted to sort through them yet, but when I do, dear friends, get ready for me to reveal teen Tracey in all her flat-chested glory. Maybe I’ll even find some from the middle school years when I had braces and those giant glasses everyone thought was cool. The horror.

What’s Inspiring Me: I’ve finally found some photos of my characters, which I love to look at while writing. I don’t stick too closely to the real humans in the pictures, but they’re helpful to look at (or, in the case of Linden’s character, gaze longingly at) when I’m feeling a bit stuck.

How about a quick introduction?



Finally, I wanted to send out a giant CONGRATULATIONS to my friend Caroline Richmond who has just sold her book to Scholastic! Might as well memorize her name because when her book comes out you’re going to want to read it. Two words: Nazis. Superpowers. Yep.

What have you been up to?

* Based on a true story.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The YA Book Club's July Pick Is...

You’ve done well, friends. Somehow you read my mind because the book the majority picked for the YA Book Club’s July read is the one I was crossing my fingers for.

Drum roll, please…

When an eccentric millionaire dies mysteriously, sixteen very unlikely people are gathered together for the reading of the will ... and what a will it is! 
The mysterious death of an eccentric millionaire brings together an unlikely assortment of heirs who must uncover the circumstances of his death before they can claim their inheritance. 
That’s right, we’re reading The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. I read this so long ago that I can’t tell you much about the book. I do remember loving it. I also remember a scene with plush carpet and stilettos that sink three inches into it. This made a big impression on me as a kid because I had only played with my mom’s high heels on our thin carpet.   

Anyhow, I’m excited to re-read this and chat about it with you. We’ll be posting our reviews to our blogs on July 29. If you don’t have a blog or don’t have time to write a review, you can discuss your thoughts on the book in the comments on my post. (More details about the YA Book Club here.)

Happy summer reading!