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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Magic and the Healing Review

The Magic and the Healing
by Nick O'Donohoe

BJ Vaughan is in her last year of vet school--and in the first year of mourning her mother's death. Her grades have slipped, and she wonders if she really is capable of working with animals after all. Then her mentor, Dr. Sugar Dobbs, asks if she will join a few other select students to treat some very unusual animals. They go offsite, to Crossroads, a world where the creatures of imagination live and breathe--and hurt. And where BJ, tending to centaurs and griffins and magical cats, will discover the joy of healing and the wonder of magic.

This book could've been so much better than it was. The premise showed so much promise, but everything else was off. The vet parts were interesting, but felt like a fantasy-version of a James Herriot book and were weighted down with terminology. I almost stopped reading this one several times.

The narrator, BJ, really got under my skin. She was so obsessed with the fact that she might be losing her motor skills due to her Huntington's Chorea that she pushed everyone away. I might have liked her more if she at least gave Stefan an explanation, but instead she just pushed him away and let him think that she wouldn't get with him because he was a faun.

Brandal's story actually intrigued me more than BJ's through the first half of the book, but by the second half I was wondering why he was even king. My favorite character by far was Stefan. He was very well done and I almost wish the book had been about him instead. I loved Morgan and the Griffin. Morgan was an excellent villain.

Overall: 5/10. This book had so much potential but it fell flat for me.

***SPOILERS AHEAD***

I didn't really buy Stefan and BJ's first kiss. I didn't feel any chemistry between them prior to it. In fact, I had no idea they even liked each other like that. Despite that, I wish we'd found out whether they ever end up together.

I don't understand why Morgan doesn't just get one of the Wyr to show her the way to Crossroads and draw her own map and then lead the armies through on her own. I know the roads change, but it doesn't seem like they would be able to change within a couple days or even a few hours if she could do it that fast.

I can't believe how long it took them to realize the Griffin was the Inspector General. I knew it after the sheep attack when justice was written on the truck in blood. It was obvious no one else was around to do it so it had to have been Griffin.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Writing is like a Journey

***Quick Note: I won't be participating in RTW this week because I'm currently at college orientation and won't be back until sometime late tonight.***

The need for adventure hits you. You pack your things, load up the car, and head off into the sunset. Some jerk flips you off while you try to get onto the highway. There's twelve miles of construction. Halfway there and your car blows a tire and you have to pull over and figure out how to change it. While you're standing on the side of the road wondering why you ever thought this was a good idea, families in minivans and guys in sportscars rush by.

You find your courage and get back on the road. You get off at your exit, but there's a detour that takes you several miles out of your way. You finally into the parking lot of your hotel, rent a room, and collapse in bed, too exhausted to do anything else until you at least get a nap.

The decision to take the trip is like getting an idea. It sounds fantastic at first but once you buckle down and start packing you wonder if you'll be able to pull it off and maybe you should just stay home. You buck up and write those first words anyway and off you go.

You'll have rough patches where you're moving so slow that it seems you'll never get there or you'll be trucking along and all of a sudden a plot problem will blow up and you'll have to pause and figure out how to get around it. New ideas will drag you in whole other directions that you never planned on taking through places that you never knew existed. But in the end, through it all, you'll make it to the end. You'll take some time to relax and look back on that journey and smile. Because despite all those hardships, you made it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New Releases -- Ten Things We Did; Sisterhood Everlasting; Paper Covers Rock

Ten Things We Did by Sarah Mlynowski

2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have.
If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe "opportunity" isn't the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: "Lied to Our Parents"). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up "Skipping School" (#3), "Throwing a Crazy Party" (#8), "Buying a Hot Tub" (#4), and, um, "Harboring a Fugitive" (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them.
In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart . . . one thing-she-shouldn't-have-done at a time.

Sisterhood Everlasting
by Ann Brashares
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ann Brashares comes the welcome return of the characters whose friendship became a touchstone for a generation. Now Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting.

Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness.

Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.

Paper Covers Rock
by Jenny Hubbard
At the beginning of his junior year at a boys' boarding school, 16-year-old Alex is devastated when he fails to save a drowning friend. When questioned, Alex and his friend Glenn, who was also at the river, begin weaving their web of lies. Plagued by guilt, Alex takes refuge in the library, telling his tale in a journal he hides behind Moby-Dick. Caught in the web with Alex and Glenn is their English teacher, Miss Dovecott, fresh out of Princeton, who suspects there's more to what happened at the river when she perceives guilt in Alex's writing for class. She also sees poetic talent in Alex, which she encourages. As Alex responds to her attention, he discovers his true voice, one that goes against the boarding school bravado that Glenn embraces. When Glenn becomes convinced that Miss Dovecott is out to get them, Alex must choose between them.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Writer and Beta Reader Etiquette

Guidelines for The Writer
Do...
  • Objectively discuss critique points.
  • Wait a couple of days between reading the critique and doing anything besides thinking about it. Give it time to soak in first. If you have any ideas of how to fix some of the points addressed, jot them down so you don't forget, but do not start.
  • Ask politely for clarification on a point
  • Thank them for their time, even if you don't like some of the points they make
  • Ask for a certain kind of critique if that's what you want. If you want someone to be gentle, ask them. If you want a through line-by-line critique, ask for it. Unless what you're looking for is just straight praise.
  • Consider all advice and disregard what you don't agree with
Do not...
  • Get defensive after reading a critique
  • Insult your beta reader's writing ability
  • Ask a beta reader to read something of yours and then not listen to any of their points
  • Email your beta and tell them exactly why they're wrong
  • Use published books as an excuse for a criticism.
Guidelines for The Reader
Do...
  • Provide the type of critique that the writer asks for to the best of your ability and decline projects if you can't provide that. If a writer asks you for a detailed line-by-line critique and you're best at doing big picture critiques, say so.
  • Be as tactful as possible
  • Let the writer know if a critique is taking longer than expected
  • Offer to critique a couple of chapters before agreeing to take on the entire thing (unless you know for sure that your critiquing style matches the writer's wants)
Don't...
Get into an argument with the writer. Even if they start it. It's just not worth it.
  • Accept a beta read you can't handle. If you are so busy that you barely have time for your own writing, say so.
  • Promise to have a beta read back by a certain date and not carry through within a reasonable amount of time
  • In short: Writers take your critique in good grace, take what you can use, leave what you can't, and move on. Readers, be tactful but thorough.

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Week in Short

    I cannot believe how fast this week went by. I managed to pick up a new show addiction: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Why did I wait so long to start watching this show?? I'm only on episode seven of season one (revisions got in the way), but I'm already in love with it. Especially Angel.

    Song of the Week: Play On -- Carrie Underwood

    Must Read:How to dig out of the Pit of Despair


    Adventures in Agentland:
    Everything you wanted to know about conferences and Natalie's NY trip

    BookEnds:
    Meeting an agent at a conference

    GLA:
    Advantages of keeping your day job

    Nathan Bransford:
    Five openings to avoid

    Queryshark:
    #205 -- commercial fiction

    Querytracker:
    Signing with the wrong agent

    Tea & Biscuits:
    What's in a name?

    Everyone have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Pottermore Unveiled!

    After many days of speculation and waiting, J.K. Rowling has officially announced Pottermore! The Pottermore site itself is finally open as well! The site doesn't actually open until October, but Rowling says there will be a chance for a lucky few to enter the site early.

    I don't know about you guys, but I know I'll be there on the 31st of July and, if I'm not lucky that day, definitely in October.

    I know there was a part of me that was seriously hoping for a new book (even though I had a feeling that wasn't going to be the news), but I'm excited about the Pottermore game too. What do you guys think?

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    RTW -- 5 Things to Save

    Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

    This Week's Topic:
    The house is on fire and you've only got time to grab five things. What are they?

    I am operating under the assumption that my mom and all of my cats are out of the house.

    The first thing I would take is my Grandma's nativity scene. My grandma sculpted it out of clay and painted it by hand when I was young. A relative thought I should have it and gave it to me as a graduation present.

    My Stacy Westfall poster. A couple years ago, Stacy Westfall was at an event here in Michigan and I managed to talk my grandpa into driving three hours one-way to see her. While I was there, I got a poster of her famous bareback and bridleless performance. She wrote "Chase your dreams!" and signed it. For those of you who don't know who she is, she's an amazing horse trainer and reining competitor. She was the first woman to compete and win the Road to the Horse.

    Lady's western bridle. A few years ago, I had a gray Quarter Horse mare named Lady. We only had her for about a year when she colicked and had to be euthanized. I still have her beautiful, western show bridle in my closet.

    My Bible. It was gift by my godparents for my first communion. It's been with me almost for as long as I can remember. It's actually laying on my bed right next to me at the moment. And if my house burned down, I imagine I would need it.

    Spock. He is my grandpa's laptop that I'm using until I go away to college. There's no way I could leave him behind.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Pets in Fiction

    I noticed recently while reading a book and hanging out with my cat that there aren't a lot of pets in fiction. In fact, I'm having trouble naming one book that includes a pet not central to the main plot (example: books like Black Stallion, Pony Pals, and other books where a key point to the plot is that the MCs have horses).

    I mean I can understand it in a fantasy where the main character goes tearing off on a six-month journey to find the Golden Teapot because then the poor little animal would be left starving at home. But what about in a nice contemporary when no one goes off on a long, harrowing journey?

    Pets are great. How a person treats animals says a lot about them. The person that throws a gym bag full of kittens out the window of a moving car obviously doesn't care that animals are living creatures too. The person that hears the mewing while jogging by and stops to investigate and then takes the kittens home is loving and nurturing.

    Why do you think there aren't more pets in novels? Do you have a novel that includes animals?

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Horse Dreams Review

    Horse Dreams
    by Dandi Daley Mackall
    Tyndall House Publishers, Inc
    ARC Review
    Release date: September 1, 2011
    Fourth-grader Ellie James has a great imagination. She spends a lot of time daydreaming of owning a black stallion show horse and winning trophies in the horse show. But when the answer to all her dreams and prayers gallops into her life, will Ellie be able to recognize it?

    Overall, this was a cute book and I think younger readers will really enjoy it. It's a fast-paced adventure that I think any horse-loving girl can relate to. I mean, what little girl bitten by the horse bug doesn't dream about owning their own beautiful horse?

    I loved the horsey comparisons that she used for description. For instance, in the beginning scene when she compares her teacher to a racehorse. That definitely added a distinct feel to the voice.

    Ellie's mom was a little confusing sometimes with her random sayings, but that was part of her character and it added to her personality. I've never met a character like her and I enjoyed that. I really liked Ashley. Usually the girls with the expensive hunters are stuck-up brats that don't even ride their own horses except for show. She was a nice break from that stereotype.

    I did have a lot of trouble suspending disbelief through the first half. For example, the fact that the cat farm didn't realize their new arrival was a horse and didn't bother to inform the volunteer that would be taking care of the horse that it was, in fact, a horse.

    Another thing for me was the fact that out of all those people around the horse, including animal control and several people that owned horses, only Ellie was the one who was able to catch her. I have trouble believing that out of all those people Ellie was the only one who realized that chasing a scared horse around and attempting to hit it with a stun gun was a bad idea. I don't understand why animal control didn't get out a tranquilizer gun or, if they didn't have one, call out a vet.

    I did really enjoy the concept of God working in mysterious ways. She spent all that time praying for a black stallion and got a paint mare instead. It took her awhile to recognize it, but I liked it when she did.

    Overall: 6/10. Really sweet story and it took me back to the days when I used to curl up with Pony Pals and dream about owning a black Friesian.

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Week in Short

    Song of the Week: If Heaven Wasn't So Far Away by Justin Moore

    Must Read:
    When it's okay to quit
    Choosing the wrong agent
    Sex vs relationships in YA -- This is a definite must-read for any YA reader or writer

    News:
    Biggest news of the week came from J.K. Rowling when her street view search led to Pottermore. The website links to a Youtube page counting down the days until J.K. Rowling's announcement. What does it all mean? Your guess is as good as mine! Could the long hoped for confirmation of more books be in the near future? Only five days to go until we find out!

    The sequel to Veronica Roth's Divergent has a title! And I LOVE it!

    Brittany over at Hills and Corkscrews is running a blogfest specifically for teen writers this summer. The deadline for signing up is June 22 and the blogfest runs from July 1st to the 9th.

    Adventures in Space:
    After the Call: interview with Katy Upperman

    BookEnds:
    Email etiquette
    Query Workshop Wednesday

    Kt Literary:
    Comparing yourself to others

    Querytracker:
    Your protagonist's strengths
    Questions to ask when you get "The Call"

    Rachelle Gardner:
    The gift of insecurity

    Everyone have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    New Releases -- Ashes, Ashes; Forgotten; Possession



    Ashes, Ashes
    by Jo Treggiari
    Epidemics, floods, droughts--for sixteen-year-old Lucy, the end of the world came and went, taking 99% of the population with it. As the weather continues to rage out of control, and Sweepers clean the streets of plague victims, Lucy survives alone in the wilds of Central Park. But when she's rescued from a pack of hunting dogs by a mysterious boy named Aidan, she reluctantly realizes she can't continue on her own. She joins his band of survivors, yet, a new danger awaits her: the Sweepers are looking for her. There's something special about Lucy, and they will stop at nothing to have her.
    Forgotten
    by Cat Patrick
    Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that's left is a note telling her about a day she can't remember. The whole scenario doesn't exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can't seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can't make sense of, she realizes it's time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future.
    Possession
    by Elana Johnson
    Vi knows the Rule: Girls don't walk with boys, and they never even think about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn...and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi's future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

    But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they're set on convincing Vi to become one of them...starting by brainwashing Zenn. Vi can't leave Zenn in the Thinkers' hands, but she's wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous--everything Zenn's not. Vi can't quite trust Jag and can't quite resist him, but she also can't give up on Zenn.

    This is a game of control or be controlled. And Vi has no choice but to play.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    RTW -- Off-the-Cuff Blurb

    Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

    This Week's Topic:

    You're re-reading one of your favs when someone asks the dreaded question: "What's that book about?" Give us your best off-the-cuff blurb of any book, any genre, and have your readers try to guess the title in the comments!

    One girl goes on the run after taking revenge on the bandits that killed her mother and destroyed their farm. Along the way she meets a handsome and powerful mage who takes her under his wing. With him, she travels all the way to the courts of royalty where she discovers that she has more magic than she ever dreamed.

    This is one of my favorite books of all time. What is it?

    Tuesday, June 14, 2011

    Almost Perfect Review

    Almost Perfect
    by Brian Katcher

    Eighteen-year-old Logan Witherspoon has just discovered that his girlfriend of three years cheated on him. But things start to look up when a new student enrolls in his small-town high school. Tall, unconventionally pretty, and a bit awkward, Sage Hendricks appeals to Logan at a time when he trusts no one. And as Logan learns more about Sage, he realizes that she needs a friend as much as he does, if not more. One day, he acts on his growing attraction and kisses her. Moments later, he wishes he hadn't. Sage discloses a secret: biologically, she's a boy. Enraged, frightened, and feeling betrayed, Logan lashes at at Sage. Once his anger has cooled, however, his regrets lead him to attempt to rekindle their friendship. Impressed that Logan is even trying to understand, Sage agrees to give him a second chance. But Logan has no idea how rocky the road back to friendship will be, or how many unexpected, exciting, and painful places he and Sage will visit along the way.

    This is one of those books that sticks with you long after you finish reading it. I finished it quite awhile ago and I still can't stop thinking about it.

    The voice was perfectly realistic and I really enjoyed it. The characters were very well done. I wanted to punch Logan in the face on a regular basis, but that's the way his character was. Sage was by far my favorite character. I empathized with her so much. Her sister was very round and well done as well.

    Overall: 6.5/10

    ***SPOILERS***

    I have to admit, I did not enjoy the ending. I hate that Sage makes the decision to go back to being a boy and then picks up leaves town with her family. I hate that you never find out what happened to her. I hate that she resigned herself to pretending that she's a boy when she's worked so hard and given up so much to become a woman. After everything that she went through it just doesn't seem right to me.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    Divergent Review

    Divergent
    by Veronica Roth
    In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

    During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

    I would not suggest starting this book if you have things to do that require you to be productive. I would've finished it in one sitting if it wasn't for the fact that I had to go to school the next morning. I had a dream about this book. I can't remember that ever happening before, unless I had a dream about Harry Potter that I don't recall off the top of my head. I actually dragged on reading it for a bit because I didn't want it to be over so fast. I also afraid that there was going to be a big cliffhanger before the next book.

    Before the Choosing Ceremony, I was wondering which faction Tris would choose. She didn't really seem to fit perfectly into any of them. I was actually surprised by her choice, but when she got there I realized it was exactly the right faction for her.

    I love Four and his relationship with Tris. It's a very nice break from the typical "knight in shining armor/damsel in distress" couples. I just really, really love Four. And then there's Eric. I don't think I've ever hated a character so much. Not because he's a badly written character, exactly the opposite. He's evil. Also Jeanine. And Marcus.

    Overall: 10/10 I can't wait for the next installment so I can find out what's happening to Tris and Four next. Also, I think I'd be in Erudite if I had to choose.

    ****SPOILER WARNING****

    Just a couple spoilery things I wanted to talk about. First, I feel like I should have seen it coming that Four is Tobias, but I was surprised. I liked it.

    And there was one thing that bothered me in the whole story. I had trouble suspending disbelief that Tris was able to run around doing all that stuff after she got shot, lost a lot of blood, and almost drowned.

    Wednesday, June 1, 2011

    RTW -- Strange Google Searches

    Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

    This Week's Topic:
    What is the strangest/weirdest thing you've ever researched?

    This was a long one for me. I was almost surprised when I realized how many strange things I've researched over the years. I couldn't narrow it down to just one so here are some of the strangest things I've ever researched.
    • What would happen during a drug bust of a teen party
    • Damage caused by falling out a two-story window
    • French curse words
    • French nursery rhymes
    • Agoraphobia
    • Post-traumatic stress disorder
    • How a girl can help a cast horse by herself
    • How long someone could be in a coma without significant damage
    • Whether or not smoking weed stains the walls
    • Whether a brand or tattoo would last longer
    • What would happen if the entire royal family died (of a make-believe nation)
    • Possibility of buying an island
    • What would happen if someone ate several poisonous insects
    • Pranks on a deserted island
    • Gasoline or gunpowder when lighting an entire building on fire
    • Can you still use matches after they've been soaked in seawater