Friday, 31 May 2013

Remembrance by Michelle Madow

by Michelle Madow

Summary: Lizzie Davenport has been reincarnated from Regency Era, England ... but she doesn't know it yet.

Then Drew Carmichael transfers into Lizzie's high school at the beginning of the year, and she feels a connection to him, almost like she knows him. She can't stop thinking about him, but whenever she tries talking with him about the mysteries behind her feelings, he makes it clear that he wants nothing to do with her. Reaching him is even more difficult because she has a boyfriend, Jeremy, who has started to become full of himself after being elected co-captain of the varsity soccer team, and her flirtatious best friend Chelsea starts dating Drew soon after his arrival. So why can't she get him out of her mind?

Even though Lizzie knows she should let go of her fascination with Drew, fighting fate isn't going to be easy.
So this is the first book I've read as part of the whole TBR jar challenge thing, and I'm glad I read it. I did like the book, but just a warning in advance: this review probably will seem mostly negative. I'll try and keep the negatives short as possible (but I normally suck at the whole short and to the point thing, so...).

I did not like the characters. Any of them (well, except for Keelie--I think that was her name--but she wasn't in it enough to annoy me much). None of them had much depth, all of them made the most stupid decisions and just seemed so...flat, like cardboard cutout characters instead of believable people.

The romance aspect of it sparked the discussion post I wrote yesterday, so I won't go into that specific part of it and instead I'll focus on the other issues I had with the romance:

All they seemed to talk about was how they felt about each other but we never really see why they feel that way about each other. It was very, very insta-love. Now, with stories about reincarnation, insta-love can work but even their past selves seemed to be a case of insta-love so I just wasn't buying it. The only reason I wanted them to be together was because that's what we're told to want, not because they were actually a good couple (and also because her current boyfriend was a total ass).

Words like love and friendship were thrown around all the time without it ever really being shown (I think there was only one scene where I felt Lizzie came across as being a good friend). There was so much tell going on and virtually no show.

We're told that two people are together, but never shown why they are together, we're told that two people are best friends but their actions don't really reflect that unless we're supposed to view it as a crappy friendship (I don't think we are), we're told two characters are meant to be together but never actually shown why--beyond the whole destiny nonsense--and yet we're shown a lot of good reasons why they shouldn't be.

The constant references to Jane Austen drove me nuts. I wouldn't mind a few here and there, if the character is a fan of the novels, but it was a bit over the top in this--going as far as having the characters use Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett as an analogy for their own relationship during serious conversations which was just kfjvldfkbgvklbv. 

There were a few other little things that bugged me (like Drew being insanely rich--which isn't so much a flaw with the book, it was just something I don't particularly like when it's done the way it was done in this book. It's the same as Edward in Twilight or Christian in Fifty Shades of Gray, where their wealth is used as if it's supposed to make them be more appealing love interests) but yeah...I'll stop there.

I told you the review would seem mostly negative, but that's because there was a lot that I didn't like about the book even though I did actually enjoy reading the book itself...if that makes sense? It's kind of like watching reality TV and you know it's not that great and the flaws in it are like big neon signs and yet you watch it anyway because it keeps you entertained and you still want to see how it all plays out.

I liked the book because it kept me hooked from start to finish, even when there were things I didn't like or things had me rolling my eyes or made me want to scream at the characters for being mind numbingly idiotic, I still wanted to keep reading, so it was clearly doing something right.

It might not linger with me or have a whole lot of depth to it, but it kept me from being bored for a while and I liked reading it. I'd rate it 3 stars out of 5. Apparently there's sequels too, I'm not sure if I want to read those--on one hand, it sounds like they might be better than this was, but at the same time I'm not sure it's worth the effort and this did work as a standalone anyway.


Thursday, 30 May 2013

Discussion: Romance Pet Peeves

We've had a discussion about romance in YA books on here before, and there was a section in that post about romance pet peeves but I don't think either of us mentioned the one I want to discuss today. But anyway, I read a book the other day and it was guilty of something that bugs me so much in books (also in TV shows, movies, and even in songs).

Basically, I really hate when certain characters are portrayed in a negative light, but it seems like they're only written that way to make other characters seem better than they actually are. Like, in a love triangle type situation, the author puts so much effort into making one character seem awful that they don't seem to bother showing us what is so great about the other--it's as if they think not being as bad as the competition makes them good, which it doesn't.

And I'm not sure I explained that particularly well, so I'll give a few examples:

The Awful Boyfriend

The current boyfriend of the character comes across as really horrible. Maybe he's the overly jealous type, or possessive, or shallow, or mean, or he takes his girlfriend for granted, etc. And in most cases* it kind of seems like it's just a lazy way of making the new love interest seem like the better choice. And it wouldn't be so bad, except that they often don't show why the new guy is a good love interest in his own right, he's just better in comparison to how terrible the other dude is.

And I really hate that. For one thing, it doesn't say much about the character if they choose to be with someone so awful at all and to stay with them for so long.** If the author wants to show that their relationship changed over time, that's cool, but at least show us some reasons for them even being together in the first place, or throw in even one scene that shows why they stay in the relationship (it makes even less sense when the boyfriend is awful and the MC spends every waking minute lusting over some other guy who clearly likes her too, so...just...why?).

It just doesn't make much sense to me. 

Basically, if you want the love interest of a story to seem wonderful and insist on the main character already being in a relationship at the start of the story, then don't make the love interest the lesser of two evils by portraying the boyfriend negatively, make them both good guys but make the love interest better (can't believe I'm using this as an example, but it's like The Notebook--both Noah and the other dude are portrayed as being good guys). Or if you really want the boyfriend to be awful, at least put the effort into making the new guy actually decent. 

Choosing to be with someone because they aren't as awful as your current boyfriend isn't romantic because it's not much of a choice is it, it's just making him the only option (aside from being single, but we're talking about romance in books here so that's ruled out).

The Bitchy Current Girlfriend

Then we have the flipside of the coin...the main character is single, but at the start of the story, the love interest is already with someone. And I've seen that someone portrayed way too many times as popular, bitchy, shallow, and yeah she's usually beautiful but it's often described as very...Barbie beautiful, very plastic, while the main character is the "natural beauty."

I hatehatehate this character type (Taylor Swift is guilty of this catty portrayal of the crushes current girlfriend in some of her songs). Again, what does it say about the love interest if they would actually choose to be with someone like that and stay with them for so long? What does it say about the protagonist that they want to be with someone who would be that shallow?

It's fine if maybe you want the love interest to actually be kind of shallow and awful in the beginning and show how he changes, but again, that's not always the case. It's usually just demonizing the current girlfriend to make us think the protagonist is better. I have read a couple of books that handled the other girlfriend situation well, but those books are in the minority.

Just...why does the current girlfriend have to be awful? Like the other example, it just seems like a lazy way of getting us to root for the main character to be with the guy and excusing any bad behaviour on their part--like, "Oh, it's okay if she pursued another girls boyfriend/they cheated, because his girlfriend is awful anyway."

The Shallow (and often "slutty") Love Rival

That female character that swoops in and asks out the love interest first and he says yes while clearly being into the main character, because Conflict. This character is always portrayed as being promiscuous or shallow or fickle when it comes to relationships. They're loud, confident, never as smart as the main character, rarely shown to have any real depth. 

Occasionally, they also happen to be the main characters best friend which is a bit WTF because, really, you're going to sit there and think all of those awful things about your best friend just because she asked out your crush? Then you're going to swoop in and steal him from her because she doesn't deserve him, right? Fjbdklfcbj. No. You are a sucky friend if you do that.

Fair enough, there are people like that in the world but this is another stereotypical character in a lot of romance stories and, once again, she seems just like a plot device to manipulate the reader. The main character is so much nicer, so much smarter than this girl so clearly she deserves to get the guy and not that other girl. The main character Loves Him, while the other girl is obviously only interested in him for his looks/his money/his popularity, so she doesn't deserve him. (I won't even get into a rant about slut shaming or I'll be here all day.)

Also...why are these characters always portrayed as being the popular types? The cheerleaders, the football players, the prom kings and queens...why is it always them who are shoved into these negative character boxes? Maybe Scotland is just really, really different from the US, but it's just not like that here (at least not where I went to school--perhaps I was just lucky).

The girl characters like this bug me more than the guy ones. Maybe because I just don't like that attitude--anytime I've liked someone who liked someone else or had a girlfriend or even went out with a friend of mine, I didn't start hating on the other girl for daring to be with someone I was into. I mean, most of the time they were really nice girls and I could see why he would like them, and can you really blame someone else for liking someone that you like? They're just seeing the same things in that person that you are, that doesn't make them awful.

To sum up: I find it way more romantic in books if someone has other good options but chooses to be with the main character anyway. Choosing the only option*** or choosing someone because they're not as bad as someone else, that's not romantic.

And I just realised I kind of talked about two overlapping things that I dislike. The first being not putting in the effort to make someone a good love interest, and instead taking the easy way out by making their rival awful. The second being the whole hating someone just for being with someone you want to be with attitude--jealousy is fine, it's natural, but I don't like when it crosses the line and just decends into this mess of cattiness.

1. What are some of your romance pet peeves?
2. Does the one I discussed bug anyone else, or just me?
3. Can you think of any examples of these characters written well? (As in, they're written that way but the author also makes the other love interests just genuinely good love interests?)

* and ** The exception to the awful current boyfriend/girlfriend thing being books that are actually about abusive or unhealthy relationships and they acknowledge it and handle it well. Again, that's just rarely the case in the types of stories I'm talking about.

***Re: choosing the only option -- the exception is of course if there is no love triangle, it really is just a romance between two people. But at least in those stories, the author has to put some effort into it and show us why those two characters are good together, they can't fall back on the awesome in comparison to awful love rival crutch.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Drummer Girl by Bridget Tyler

Drummer Girl
by Bridget Tyler

Summary: It was supposed to be the summer of her life. Instead, 17-year-old Lucy finds her best friend Harper shot dead in an LA swimming pool. How did it come to this? Lucy Gosling is the drummer in Crush, a rock band formed by five London schoolgirls that has just won the UK semi-final of an international talent contest. But when the band lands in Hollywood for the big final, things are not quite as they seem. The band's lead singer, Harper, has just one thing on her mind - using sex, drugs and rock and roll, not to mention Crush itself, to win back her bad-news ex-boyfriend. Lucy must decide whether she's playing to Harper's tune, or setting the rhythm for the rest of the band.
So, normally I have an aversion to books like this, because books that have things like fame as a focus--they can often come across as so...superficial? And that annoys me so much, but I actually enjoyed reading this one.

It wasn't the most amazing book in the world, but it kept me hooked. It has alternating POV's (which, if you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that that is one of my pet peeves in books), and there were some characters who were less interesting than the others so I wasn't a big fan of their POV's being in there, but it didn't really have much of an impact on my overall opinion of the book.

The plot did get a bit soap opera-ish at times, especially nearer the end. I think this is a story I would've preferred watching instead of reading, and it didn't really get under my skin quite as much as it should've with the issues it covers--there are things that should've made me feel upset, but instead I really did just feel entertained, I didn't emotionally connect with what was going on in the story.

Lucy was my favourite character, she's the one who I liked the most and she frustrated me the least--with most of the other characters I kind of wanted to bop all of their heads together to knock some sense into them because they just kept making the dumbest choices and it's so obvious to the reader that they're being idiots but it takes them forever to really get that. I liked Lucy's attitude towards music too and she had the most interesting relationships in the book.

This review is sounding more negative than I meant it to. I think that's because I liked the book purely because it kept me entertained, I did want to keep reading to find out what happened but it didn't go much deeper than that. I'd rate the book 3 stars out of 5.


Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Behind the Books (5)

Let's just jump right into updates, shall we? I got a lot to cover.

1.) I finished my spring semester last week...mostly. I actually still have some things to do for one class, but it's all online. Oddly enough, it's largely blog posts and comments. I've only got one grade in so far, but I'm hoping it'll be a pretty good semester.

2.) I moved! Well...almost The dorm is SUPER expensive considering how little time I actually spend here during the year. It wasn't a problem for the past year because part of my honor's perks was a year of free dorming. But from now on? No way. Plus, I want to stay in NYC over the summer. I don't have anything specific to do this summer, but I may have something in the future. So, I'm currently sitting in my mostly empty dorm room and my roommate is staying at her parents' until we get internet in our apartment Wednesday morning. I'll be moving out pretty much everything that's left this morning/afternoon. Then I'll sleep here again tonight, get up early, check out, and head over to my apartment to wait for wireless hook up. Then...

3.) Since I live here, I'm going to BEA this year! First, I'll be helping out with Teen Author Carnival stuff tomorrow and then obviously going tomorrow night. Then I'll be up bright and early Thursday morning to head to Javitz! My schedule looks kind of crazy, including an extra early start on Thursday. I'm hoping to finally meet a lot of bloggers and authors and publicists that I haven't met before or haven't seen in a while. If you see me, please say hi! I'll have a badge that says my name and the blog. I'm awful at faces/names so...yeah. Come say hi to me. And don't feel bad if you think I'm ignoring you. I probably just don't realize who you are. (I walked past someone like twice once when we were trying to meet up before realizing who it was. Then I didn't say anything until she looked up in case I was wrong.) I've already met MG and Jen and Christina. Today, I'm having lunch with Bailey and pre-dinner dessert with Kelly. So, yeah. Not moving, not a bad knee, not exhaustion will keep me from seeing all the people I want to see.

4.) I've been doing a lot of editing recently. But, I'm still open for the summer. So, if you need an editor, go hop on over to Teen Eyes Editorial. We also have a special surprise coming this summer! And...lots of other ones!

5.) I'm obsessed with the song Brave by Sara Bareilles. Come, be obsessed with me, mmk?

6.) I'm also really obsessed with some shows. Game of Thrones. Scandal. Doctor Who. How I Met Your Mother. Once Upon a Time. Call the Midwife. I'm kind of...confused now that everything but GoT is on hiatus and GoT wasn't even on this week. At least I have The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. And Pretty Little Liars comes back soon. What are you guys addicted to?

7.) With summer and BEA comes my return to blogging. Promise. Just give me a week/week and a half for the dust to settle with BEA and TAC and moving and then I should be back to what it was a year ago. Hopefully.

What's new in your life? Anything you want to know more about or have questions about?


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Bone Dragon Blog Tour

The Bone Dragon 
by Alexia Casale

Summary: Evie's shattered ribs have been a secret for the last four years. Now she has found the strength to tell her adoptive parents, and the physical traces of her past are fixed - the only remaining signs a scar on her side and a fragment of bone taken home from the hospital, which her uncle Ben helps her to carve into a dragon as a sign of her strength.

Soon this ivory talisman begins to come to life at night, offering wisdom and encouragement in roaming dreams of smoke and moonlight that come to feel ever more real.

As Evie grows stronger there remains one problem her new parents can't fix for her: a revenge that must be taken. And it seems that the Dragon is the one to take it.
I haven't got a copy of the book yet, but it sounds really bizarre and original so hopefully I'll get a chance to read it soon. Alexia has written up a guest post for us, about deciding the best time is to get feedback when you're writing a book.
I don’t want your opinion yet! 

It’s always difficult to decide when to get feedback. Some people say it’s never too early, but I don’t agree. For me, it’s really important not to have feedback too soon. This is one of the reasons I think that the approach a lot of university writing courses take is problematic: they assume that everyone will benefit from sharing their work-in-progress, but it’s just not true for everyone.

I find getting feedback too early in the process is both demoralising and frustrating. First drafts are allowed to be a bit rubbish; if you get feedback on one, you have to expect it to be less than fully encouraging.

I’m very good at seeing past what’s wrong with my work to what it will be when I’m finished, but I do it in a weird upside-down, back-to-front dyslexic way. Most people don’t approach text in the same way, so what I see as small flaws that I can easily sort out, they see as disaster. As a result, I often get very negative feedback when I show early drafts to people.

Take The Bone Dragon. When I wrote the first five pages, I showed it one of my trusted ‘first readers’ because I was so thrilled I just had to share it. I knew it was the best thing I’d ever written, but my first reader hated it, even though she loves the finished book. The experience taught me a valuable lesson and I barely talked about the project again until I had a reasonably advanced draft. When I next asked for feedback, it was both enthusiastic and helpful.

The trick is knowing when the problem is that your draft is a mess because you’re still in the early stages of developing it and when the book is doomed. If you’re writing rubbish, it’s probably best to know as soon as possible. Equally, if you’re writing something that will be good, even if it isn’t good yet, negative feedback at an early stage can kill your confidence.

It’s all about balance and timing: getting enough feedback, and listening to it, at the right time.

For me, the ‘right time’ depends on whether the feedback will prove useful or frustrating. If feedback tells me something I know already and am working to fix then I get very irritated with the whole process: something that happened quite a lot in relation to my PhD novel because of the requirement to submit work at least every six months. In supervisory meetings, my teeth were permanently clenched against the urge to shout ‘I know that! You don’t need to tell me! I’ll fix it if you just give me a chance!’

There’s no point in getting feedback that tells you what you already know unless you’re asking someone to give you advice on how to fix the problems you’ve already spotted.

One of my rules of thumb is to ask for feedback only when I feel I’ve accomplished everything I can by myself.

Initially, I show my work to a group of between three and six ‘first readers’ who I will tell me honestly (or at least relatively honestly) what they think. Writing groups are a great way to go if you trust the other members. In this instance, trust has two main aspects: you need to trust the other group members to be honest without being unkind, but you also need to trust that they’ll give you good advice. It’s also important to find a team of ‘first readers’ who are likely to have relatively representative views – and the ability to articulate them clearly.

Don’t be afraid to share your work online, but do consider doing it via a subscribers- or members-only group rather than an open forum. Always put a little copyright notice like this © Alexia Casale 2013 at the top and bottom. Anything you write is automatically copyright anyway (even personal letters are!), but it never hurts to remind people that this is the case. For scripts, consider registering your work with the Writer’s Guild of America. A good rule of the thumb is that if you post work online, someone may steal it to repost online, but rarely will they steal it to publish it for money.

The main thing to be wary of isn’t the possibility that someone might steal your work: the biggest danger lies in getting feedback from people who are only prepared to offer praise. Praise is very nice, but it won’t help you improve your writing.

‘Praise and only praise’ is great when you’ve just started showing people your work and don’t intend to pursue publication. If you are interested in getting published, then it’s a different kettle of fish: if you’re serious about publication, then the more criticism, the better. It can be emotionally draining but it’ll make all the difference to your writing.

It’s often a good idea to ask for feedback on specific points. People who aren’t used to giving feedback will find it helpful to know what type of input you want: often they’ll be more forthcoming if they know where to start. Pick between four and six things that you want the reader to focus on. Remember that you can always ask different people to give feedback on different points.

If you’re not used to getting feedback, and/or are terrified about what people will say, why not spell out what sort of feedback you’re willing to receive? If you find you can take more criticism than you thought, you can always push the reader to be more forthcoming. It’s better to limit things initially than shy away from seeking feedback at all.

Another thing to consider is how you pick people to approach for feedback. It might seem sensible to pick someone who is likely to enjoy your work, but feedback from someone who isn’t a natural ‘fit’ for the project can often be particularly insightful. Apart from anything else, it’ll give you an indication of how narrow your readership is likely to prove.

If you’re serious about developing your writing skills, critical feedback is vital. But remember that timing can make all the difference between feedback being helpful and counter-productive. Never submit to an agent or publisher without seeking feedback first, but do say no if friends, family or colleagues push you to show your work before you’re ready. Just be honest and explain that there’s no point having them point out errors you’re aware of: their feedback will be much more valuable when you’ve achieved everything you can by yourself and only outside input will help you move forwards.

You can read more about the book and Alexia on The Bone Dragon website


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Hostage Three by Nick Lake

Hostage Three
by Nick Lake

Summary: The last thing Amy planned to do this summer was sail around the world trapped on a yacht with her father and her stepmother. Really, all she wanted was to fast-forward to October when she’ll turn
eighteen and take control of her own life.

Aboard the Daisy May, Amy spends time sunbathing, dolphin watching and forgetting the past as everything floats by . . . until one day in the Gulf of Aden another boat appears. A boat with guns and pirates – the kind that kill.

Immediately, the pirates seize the boat and its human cargo. Hostage One is Amy’s father – the most valuable. Hostage Two: her stepmother. And Hostage Three is Amy, who can’t believe what’s happening. As the ransom brokering plays out, Amy finds herself becoming less afraid, and even stranger still, drawn to one of her captors, a teenage boy who wants desperately to be more than who he has become. Suddenly it becomes brutally clear that the price of life and its value are two very different things . . .
Well then... I now have another book to add to my favourites shelves. This book was awesome.

It took me quite a while to get through it, because it's one of those books that is really good and you don't want to stop reading it...but you kind of end up putting it down a lot too because you just know it's not going to end all rainbows and butterflies and you're not emotionally ready for that yet, so you delay getting to the end for as long as you can. Or am I the only one that does that?

But yeah, this was one of those books. It was really well written and it's weird, because like... I cared about the characters, but I didn't realise how emotionally invested I'd gotten until near the end when it got to a certain point and had me crying pretty consistently until the last page. It's been a while since a book has gotten to me like that.

If a book can make me cry like a baby, it's definintely doing something right.

I love books about Stockholm Syndrome, which may seem weird, but it's really fascinating and I love how books like that can screw with the readers mind just as much as the characters and it makes you really understand it. This book was a perfect example of that.

And I loved that the book kind of shows two sides of the story. Like, it doesn't condone what the pirates do, but it makes you understand it and realise it's more complicated than simple right vs. wrong... I'd heard about Somali pirates before, of course, but I never really knew much about how they came to be what they are until I read this book and then read more about it online once I was finished (another sign of a good book: it makes me want to learn more about something).

The only thing I didn't like was the way the dialogue was written without punctuation marks, I didn't see the point in it, it didn't add anything to the story and was annoying a lot of the time (because while it was clear when someone was talking, the actual talking part was smooshed together with dialogue tags and Amy's narration so it was unclear a lot of the time where what characters were saying out loud and what were Amy's thoughts). You get used to it, but still, I'd have preferred the dialogue just written normally.

So...that's all I'm going to say about the book. I'd rate it 4.5 out of 5 stars...maybe 5/5 for making me feel like someone pulled out my heart, stomped on it, before putting it back in my chest (read: Because feelings. Lots of feelings).


Drummer Girl Blog Tour & Contest

by Bridget Tyler

Summary: It was supposed to be the summer of her life. Instead, 17-year-old Lucy finds her best friend Harper shot dead in an LA swimming pool. How did it come to this?

Lucy Gosling is the drummer in Crush, a rock band formed by five London schoolgirls that has just won the UK semi-final of an international talent contest. But when the band lands in Hollywood for the big final, things are not quite as they seem. The band's lead singer, Harper, has just one thing on her mind - using sex, drugs and rock and roll, not to mention Crush itself, to win back her bad-news ex-boyfriend. Lucy must decide whether she's playing to Harper's tune, or setting the rhythm for the rest of the band. 
I'm currently reading Drummer Girl (liking it so far), and I should have a review up within the next few days but until then, Bridget Tyler has written up a post for us about the importance of music when writing the story.

Anyway, over to Bridget:

I don’t think I really understood Lucy Gosling until the first time I sat down and tried to imagine how she really felt about drumming.  Sure, I knew Lucy was a teenage girl. I knew she had a big brother and a little sister and parents who loved her enough to be a tremendous pain in the neck. But who was she really? What did the world look like through her eyes? What did it sound like? What did it feel like?

For me, the answers to questions like these can only be found once I understand what it’s like to love the thing that my character loves most. For Lucy, that was playing her drums. Now, I’ve played music before. My mother is a piano teacher so I learned to play the piano when I was little. I mangled John William’s medleys on my flute with the best of them in middle school and I even took some voice lessons in high school.   I enjoyed it all, but I never loved making music.

And I never played the drums.

But I’m a writer, and imagining things I’ve never done is kind of my job, so I figured I could imagine what it was like to play the drums… and what it was like to love doing it. In order to do that, I had to do what I love most. I had to write.

I sat down with my laptop and started typing, and I stayed there for a long time. I wrote about Lucy’s siblings. I wrote about her parents. I wrote about the day she met her best friend and worst enemy, Harper McKenzie.  And that was when this passage came pouring out of my keyboard:

Lucy loved the drums.  She loved the pulsing snap that you could feel all the way up your arms while you played.  And the feeling you got, if you were really doing it properly, that it wasn't you playing at all, that you could look down on yourself and see this awesome, impossible dance of sticks and arms and symbols and think, "Christ, nobody can do that."  And then realize that YOU, in fact, can do that. 

Suddenly, Lucy Gosling was alive. All of the facts I’d accumulated about her suddenly added up to something, in that moment when I understood how she felt when she played her drums. Suddenly she was a real girl who laughed and cried and cursed her hair when it wouldn’t do what she wanted (which was approximately 99% of always, naturally). She idolized her brother, she loved to hate her atrocious little sister… she had a million different sorts of feelings about Trent Eisner, none of which she understood. She was a real girl with a real story.  A girl I was only able to find, once I knew why she played the drums.

I wish I could play the drums--I was ridiculously hopeless at it in school. But anyway, as part of the blog tour there's also a giveaway (UK only for this one, sorry), just fill out the form below if you'd like to enter to win some of this make-up:

Contest Closed

You can find the other stops on the blog tour over in the sidebar. 


Friday, 10 May 2013

This Love Cover Reveal!

This Love
Nazarea Andrews
Mel Stevens of The Illustrated Author created the cover art.
She wants a summer job and a ride to a wedding.
He wants an assistant and a distraction from the mess his life has become.
They didn't know they needed each other.

Avery Emili needs two grand. Two grand and a plane ticket--her sister is counting on her to get to Jamaica for the wedding. But the semester is over, and tutoring college freshman and high school students has dried up until the fall.
Atticus Grimes needs help--the messy split with his wife left the twenty-eight year old professor scrambling to keep things together as the semester winds down. Now he's got a research grant he has to actually do research for and all he wants to do is drown himself in a tall bottle of bourbon.
When Avery sees his ad for an assistant, all she's thinking is a summer job. But as they spend time together, in the office and out, both of them begin to realize something is there. Something that can't happen--he's a professor and she's a student. And both of them have histories, pasts that won’t let go. Can two broken people pulled apart by expectations find a way to be whole?

Coming JUNE 2013

 Doesn't this sound fantastic? As soon as Nazarea emailed me, I knew I had to get my hands on this book. And because I'm super interested, I figured some of you probably would be as well.

Add it to your to-read list on Goodreads!

About the Author:
Nazarea Andrews is an avid reader and tends to write the stories she wants to read. She loves chocolate and coffee almost as much as she loves books, but not quite as much as she loves her kids. She lives in south Georgia with her husband, daughters, and overgrown dog.
You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Discussion (also, help?): LGBT Books

I think every reader has experienced--or will at some point--that frustration when you can't find the right book for you.

You read book after book but you just can't find that one book that, even if the story isn't exactly your story, still feels The character feels things that you have felt, they experience things that you have experienced--and when you find that book, it just clicks with you and it's kind of like that feeling you get when you meet someone and they just get you in a way that most other people don't.

When you read that book, it's like the author rummaged around in your head for a while then wrote down things you've felt that you couldn't find words for and you just have that moment of, "Yes, that's it. That's exactly how I feel."

Every reader deserves to have books like that in their life. So maybe you can help me find that book for someone.

On our book blog tumblr earlier, we got a message from someone who is trying to find That Book and since I couldn't think of one that fits what he is looking for, I decided to ask you guys if you can think of any recommendations.

Basically, he's looking for a book where the main character is gay. In his words, "A boy whose life doesn’t revolve around the fact that he’s gay, but yes, who just to happens to be gay." and you can find a more detailed version of what he's looking for on his tumblr in this post and this one.

What he's searching for? That's one of the main reasons I can't think of any books for him. I don't read much LGBT fiction, and it's not because I don't want to, it's because none of the books are what I'm looking for (closest that comes to mind is Will Grayson,Will Grayson by John Green by David Levithan).

So many YA LGBT books still come across as Issue Books. The ones that get shoved into the same category as teens dealing with eating disorders or self harm or that sort of thing, and they all focus on the Coming to Terms With Your Sexuality/Coming Out stage in the characters life.

And that's fine, that's great, and maybe some of them are wonderful. It is something that should be written about. But trying to find books that are written after that point, and the character is gay and they're not questioning it, they're not in denial, not dealing with the whole coming out thing and they're content with who they are as far as their sexuality and gender identity goes? Trying to find books like that is is like trying to find a needle in a haystack (at least for me).

There are teens out there who are struggling with their sexuality, and it's good that there is books out there that explore that, but shouldn't there also be more out there for the ones who aren't at that stage and just want a book that represents who they are now too? Or, even for the ones still struggling, shouldn't there be books out there that can show where they can be once they figure things out? 

If someone wants to read a LGBT romance, for example, then why can't it just be about two people falling in love; just a romance. Why does the whole falling in love thing have to seem like an afterthought with the fact that they're both male/both female stealing all the limelight?

I've also found that girl/girl seems to be easier to find than boy/boy, but maybe I'm just not searching hard enough.

I was trying to find books that have LGBT characters, and these are the ones I could find that seem to have a gay protagonist that doesn't sound like the focus is on coming out or all about sexuality related angst. But, I haven't read any of them so I don't know for sure if they're any good or like the summary makes them sound:
And that's all I got...there will be more out there, it's just a pain trying to finding them (I think I read over the synopses of about 30 books and only found those two that didn't include coming out, or struggling to come to terms with being gay, or mention of a gay guy dating a girl).

Anyway, it's 4:30am and I have not slept, but before I shut up, some questions for you (the first obviously being the most important one):
1. Can you recommend any LGBT books (preferably with a male main character) that are good and might be what this guy is looking for?

2. Have you read any of the books I listed? If yes, did you like them?

3. Just something I'm curious about: what do you think of the approach most YA books seem to take with the LGBT subject matter (i.e. putting a lot of focus on the issues, writing characters who are Gay Characters instead of characters who are gay)?

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Book Jar

One of my most annoying flaws (and by that, I mean flaws that annoy me about myself--there's probably a multitude of flaws I have that annoy other people) is that I can be ridiculously indecisive.

I'll be in the mood to watch a movie, but I can't choose which one to watch. So I don't watch any.

Or be in the mood to write, so I'll wander through my Idea Graveyard folder and choose some novel outlines I want to work on...but I'll open up about 6 of them and scroll through what I've got to work with so far and then I'll still be sitting there an hour later not knowing what to choose. So I just procrastinate on tumblr or something instead and end up not writing anything at all.

And I do the exact same thing with books.

I find myself really wanting to read but not knowing what to read, and I stand in front of my shelves and there's just so many books to choose from that it's 100 people trying to get through a doorway at the same time and they just get stuck in the doorway and none get through. The easy solution is for them to walk through it one-by-one but it's just not happening. It's a really ridiculous thing to do, it's not that difficult to choose a book and just read the damn thing, but fvdkjvbldkjbv. Sometimes, I do not make sense and this problem is an example of those times.

I've whined about being in a reading funk before, so I won't do that again, but this indecisiveness is always especially annoying when I'm in reading funk mode (like I am now).

And all this rambling is basically to say I'm going to try this book jar thing. A booktuber I'm subscribed to is doing this and it looked fun and like it could be a solution to my inability to ChooseADamnBook! So...yeah.

Basically, you get a jar and you fill it with pieces of paper, and on those pieces of paper you write down your TBR books and you use the jar to choose what book you're going to read next. 

I've made two jars, the first is a jar for sequels (for if I've read at least the first book in the series and own the next one/the rest of the series). If I own more than one sequel from the series, I just wrote down the series name for each book in the series I
own, that way I wouldn't pick out book 4 before I've read book 3 or something, I just pick out the series title and read whichever book is next for me.

The second jar is basically just everything else; it has everything from childrens to adult books (most are YA though) and it has a bunch of genres. Normally I'm a mood reader, so that should be interesting.

I haven't included every book I own, just the ones from my main TBR bookcase (I have another two; one has mostly classics on it, the other is books I've considered getting rid of/I'm not as interested in reading anymore but I will still give them a try at some point). I own a lot of e-books too, it would've taken me forever to write all those down so if I ever include those in this challenge, I probably won't make a jar, I'll just use a random number generator to choose or something.

I'll start by just choosing one sequel a month and two from the other jar. Ones for this month:

Sequel: Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty (Jessica Darling series #2)
Other: Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin and Remembrance by Michelle Madow

...This post has been way more rambling than necessary, sorry (another one of those annoying flaws I have that probably annoys other people as well as bugging the hell out of me).

Anyone else going to try this? Or have you done it before? And does anyone else have this same problem (where you want to read but don't know what to read, so you don't read anything)?


Monday, 6 May 2013

Dead Silence by Kimberley Derting

Dead Silence
by Kimberley Derting

Summary: Violet thought she’d made peace with her unique ability to sense the echoes of the dead and the imprints that cling to their killers…that is until she acquired an imprint of her own. Forced to carry a reminder of the horrible events of her kidnapping, Violet is more determined than ever to lead a normal life. However, the people who run the special investigative team Violet works for have no intention of letting her go.

When someone close to Violet becomes a suspect in a horrific murder, she finds herself pulled into a deadly hunt for a madman with an army of devoted followers. Violet has survived dangerous situations before, but she quickly discovers that protecting those closest to her is far more difficult than protecting herself.
I really adore this series, but this book wasn't my favourite. It wasn't bad, it's just - well, my opinion of the book kind of depends on whether this is the last book or not. I've read that it is, but I'm not sure if that's definitely true yet. I'm going to have to split it into two reviews to really explain my thoughts:

If it was not the final book: I really liked it. I'd rate it 3.5/4 stars out of 5.

It wasn't quite as gripping as the previous books in the series had been, but it was still good. The whole body finding plot was starting to feel a bit repetetive in this one, and I wish that maybe there was something new done with her power instead of following the same kind of formula as the other books in the series had. I wish that the whole working with the team thing had been explored more too, because it felt like she wasn't really working with them, they were just there for her to call to help deal with things she stumbled across on her own.

Enjoyed the writing. Still really liked the characters, just not as much as I did in the other books.

The romance...well, the whole Violet/Jay thing used to be really sweet and they made sense and I believed that they were best friends and I was rooting for them but in this one it was pretty...bland. And it was made worse by the whole Rafe thing. The romance was something I really liked about this series, because it was cute and it was subtle and it took a backseat to the plot but it just wasn't as good as it had been in the other books.

I think that's my problem with this book: It was good, and the things that I liked were all still present but they just felt...less than they had in the rest of the series and some of the things that were great before started to seem kind of repetetive/monotonous.

If it is the last book in the series: 3 stars out of 5 (maybe a bit less).

All of the above stuff is still true, but the reason my opinion of it lowers if it is the final book is just that it didn't feel like it was the last book, it felt more like a filler book that was still setting up for a sequel.

As a final book, it was pretty disappointing. It introduced things that felt like they were rushed or thrown in there to conveniently resolve certain things (I can't really explain without spoilers). And there was a little detail thrown in at the end that felt a bit cliff hanger-ish and really not necessary if it really is the last book (unless the author intentionally did that to leave room for more books if she wanted to continue).

And if this was the final book then I like the romance aspect much less. The way it ended with the Rafe thing...I can accept that not being explored properly, but what it was hinting at in the end was just really, really disappointing (again, trying not to give spoilers) and was another thing that felt more like it was done because it was convenient. I just don't like the way the romantic relationships were handled in this book, especially if it's the last book and it was a bit of a let down because that was something that was done so well in the previous books.

...This review is probably a bit confusing. To sum up: I love the series and really recommend it, in spite of this book not quite living up to the expectations set by the first books. As the final book in the series the book was a bit - meh, but judging it as just part of the series instead of the end, it was still good.

I really hope there's another book and that this isn't the last one (although, I kind of dread that too because I'm not too into the direction some things in the book were heading).


Thursday, 2 May 2013

Becoming a Reader

Even though I've been a failure at blogging lately, reading is still a huge part of my life. Heck, it's a huge part of my identity. We were discussing identity in class and our professor asked one student to name two things he would use to describe himself and I started thinking of what I would say and my first response would have been "reader" or "book lover."

But despite the fact it feels like I've been reading my entire life, I was not born knowing how to read. That's not how it works, sadly. So, how did I get here?

My mom. My mom has always been a bit of a workaholic. When I was young, I at least had the benefit of my mom working at home most of the week, but even then, she put in a lot more hours than the average person. Despite this, she always made a point to read to me. To all her kids, really. My mom loves reading, but she never has much time to read for herself because she's always working or being a mom or cooking and during her downtime, she's too tired to focus on a book. But she'll take 10 or 20 minutes to read to her kids for as long as we want her to. Even my younger brother, who's not a big reader, let her read to him until he was 6 or 7.

I started Kindergarten when I was 4 years old (since I have a late birthday). They brought in a person to read to us at least once a week and as more and more kids learned to read, they would sometimes get to be the readers. It was a really great way to encourage us to learn to read as well. Since I was one of the younger kids in the class, there wasn't as much pressure on me to get there. It was okay for me to be a bit behind the others. 

But that wasn't enough to get me to start reading on my own. I mean, I had other people to read FOR me. What else could I need?

Then it happened. I found a reason to start. I was really anxious to start reading the book with my mom one night. I don't remember why, but I REALLY wanted to start and my mom was simply taking FOREVER in Small Julie's mind. I kept calling for her to hurry up, come on, I want to read! Then I started the threats. If she didn't come in, I was going to read this book all on my own! See how she felt about that, you know? She kept saying she'd be right there, but eventually I did the 5-year-old equivalent of "Eff This!" in my head and started reading by myself, just like I'd threatened (because you always have to make good on your threats, yeah?). Very slowly, I read out loud to myself. In my head, it was kind of a "Take THAT" to my mom, to prove I was reading on my own.

I'm sure I had the basics of reading down by this point, or at least the basics of sounding out words. And I don't know how much I read, but it was at least a few pages. But this is the first time I really remember reading. And it was...basically because I was tired of my mom's excuses about doing dishes before reading to me or whatever.

I still kept reading with my mom, though. She had a good reading voice and it was a nice way to spend time together. As I've mentioned before, we even read the Harry Potter books together, the first four of them, outloud (my mom's a champ). This went on until I was 9 and my mom was pregnant. She was often too tired to read and then put me to bed. She'd fall asleep before me. She was working an office job by then and since it was a pretty new job and she was going on maternity leave less than a year after starting, she wanted to make a good impression while she was there. 

I kind of fell into a lull after that. My mom and I would read the newest Harry Potter books on our own and discuss (which is why we still have two copies of the last 3 books at my parents'). But otherwise, I didn't have much interest in reading. This wasn't the happiest time in my life. The new little brother was taking up whatever time and patience my parents' had after work. I didn't have a lot of friends. I gained a lot of weight because I no longer played baseball or had friends in the area or could go play out in the streets. Much of my time was spent online, mostly on the Nickelodeon message boards.

In the summer of 2008, my younger brother was 4 and I was asked to watch him over the summer. This wasn't my first time watching him, but he was at an age where he actually had to be WATCHED to make sure he didn't destroy things. The computer was on a different floor, so I could be online, and I couldn't watch TV in the other rooms, mostly because nothing of interest was on. So, I asked my parents to take me to the bookstore.

Oh how I read that summer. About 8 books in the Princess Diaries series, probably another 8 books in the Clique Series. Sarah Dessen. Judy Blume. Almost all contemporary, all YA or MG books. I devoured books. My parents were taking me to Barnes and Noble, literally, every weekend to stock me up for the week. I'd buy up to 5 books at a time and read almost a book a day while babysitting and putting together meals. Anything and everything. 

The reading bug didn't leave after that. Shortly after school started again, I wasn't able to get away with buying many books at a time, so I'd just try to get one or two long books. It's how I started Twilight, which pushed me into vampires (Vampire Academy and Blue Bloods). The Gemma Doyle trilogy drew me in with its gorgeous covers, which spawned a love of historical fiction and books with pretty dresses on the covers. The Luxe series was one that followed shortly after. And it kinda spiraled after that. I've never really fallen out of reading for more than a couple weeks at a time, and even then I still manage to read a book or two. And sometimes it's just a matter of not having the time/energy.

So, I'm curious, how did you start reading? And then how did you become a real reader? Was it as weird a path as it was for me? Any important people play a part?



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