Friday, August 31, 2012

Week in Short

I'm back at school for the year! It was a pretty surreal experience being back. I'm really excited for my classes this semester, though, and I'm so happy to see my friends again. I'm slowly starting to settle into a routine. I think I forgot how spontaneous college is and just how little "free" time I have. 

Doctor Who series seven premieres TOMORROW! I'M SO EXCITED! I also started watching the BBC America show Copper. Not the best written show I have ever seen but I love it anyway.

Song of the Week: "What a Shame" by Shinedown

Must read:  
YAHighway: All the small things
Nathan Bransford: The publishing process in GIF form

Blood-Red Pencil:
When your character doesn't speak English

Navigating the Slush Pile:
Secondary characters

Writing realistic love relationships
Whose story is this anyway?

Rachelle Gardner:
Not so fast: ideas to rethink

Real Actual Hillary (formally Intern Spills):
Why writing with a book deal is a whole different game 

Writer Beware:
Fake Jared and his Friends: Author Solutions' Misleading PR Strategies

Video of the Week:
This week's video: a Doctor Who parody of "Call Me Maybe." 

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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

New Releases: Every Day, If I Lie, Dangerous Boy

Every Day
by David Levithan
Every day a different body. Every day a different life. Every day in love with the same girl.

Every morning, A wakes in a different person’s body, a different person’s life. There’s never any warning about where it will be or who it will be. A has made peace with that, even established guidelines by which to live: Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

It’s all fine until the morning that A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with—day in, day out, day after day.

If I Lie
by Corrine Jackson
Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

 Dangerous Boy
by Mandy Hubbard
Harper has never been worried about falling in love, something she is skeptical even exists. But everything changes when Logan moves to town, and to Harper's shock, the two tumble into an intense romance. It's everything she never thought she wanted.

Then she meets Logan's twin brother, Caleb, who was expelled from his last school. True, he's a bad boy, but Harper can't shake the feeling that there's something deeply sinister about him--something dangerous. When Logan starts pulling away, Harper is convinced that Caleb's shadowy past is the wedge being driven between them. But by the time she uncovers the truth, it may be too late.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

RTW - Best Book of August

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: 
What was the best book you read in August?
No contest. Hands down. I've been waiting to write this post since I finished it on the 18th. 

I tend to be cautious about books when I'm hearing nothing but good things about them. This was true of Code Name Verity but it had an incredibly awesome premise so I decided to pick it up anyway. One of the best books I have ever read. This book deserves all the praise and more. It's beautiful with fantastic plot twists and lifelike characters. It broke my heart and shattered my soul. I actually brought my copy up to college with me even though I'd already finished it because I couldn't think of leaving it behind. 

If you haven't read it yet, I can't recommend it highly enough.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Once Dead, Twice Shy Review

Once Dead, Twice Shy
by Kim Harrison
Madison Avery #1
Madison's prom was killer—literally. For some reason she's been targeted by a dark reaper—yeah, that kind of reaper—intent on getting rid of her, body and soul. But before the reaper could finish the job, Madison was able to snag his strange, glowing amulet and get away.

Now she's stuck on Earth—dead but not gone. Somehow the amulet gives her the illusion of a body, allowing her to toe the line between life and death. She still doesn't know why the dark reaper is after her, but she's not about to just sit around and let fate take its course.

With a little ingenuity, some light-bending, and the help of a light reaper (one of the good guys! Maybe . . . ), her cute crush, and oh yeah, her guardian angel, Madison's ready to take control of her own destiny once and for all, before it takes control of her.

Well, if she believed in that stuff.
The reading of this book has been three years in the making for me. It was one of those "I want to read it, but I want to read that book more" kind of a thing. The concept was great but I was kind of disappointed. It's a quick read, but not a fast paced one.

WARNING: There will be spoilers in this review. 
The book starts sometime after prom and I found myself wishing that it had started at prom because the flashbacks to those events pulled me out of the story.  

Madison feels younger than she's supposed to be. Part of it is her language. She says things like "puppy presents on the rug" and "big-butt van." Her actions are also really contradictory. One minute she'll be begging Nakita to take her to Kairos and the next she's screaming at her to leave her alone. Then she'll be going on and on about her plans to trade the amulet for her body back but when she finally gets to see Kairos, her first reaction is to run away from him.

The plot was a little muddled. The secrets were dragged on forever in a way that was more confusing than mysterious. I almost quit twice -- once when I was almost two-thirds through and again when I was fifteen pages from the end -- but I was so close that I just really wanted to finish it.

Overall: 6.5/10 I wanted to like it but I couldn't. Probably won't continue on to the next installment.

Monday, August 27, 2012

That First Day of College

In high school, the first day is all about showing off your new clothes, meeting your teachers, reconnecting with friends after the summer, and going through all the formalities of a new school year.

College is kind of like that but also not. You will be meeting your professors -- and maybe showing off your new look -- but it's all about figuring out what your classes will be like this semester. In my high school, the first day was all about going over the rules and maybe the syllabus. In college, we jumped right into learning almost immediately.

While the first day can be nerve-wracking, here are five tips to help you get through it:

#1: Dress to impress
Wear something simple but nice. The most important thing is wearing something that makes you feel confident. If you feel confident, you'll look confident. Don't wander into class on the first day wearing a hoodie and sweatpants. It's okay to walk around the dorms or your apartment like that, but it's important to be more professional in the classroom.

#2: Leave early 
This is especially important if  you aren't sure where your classes are. Don't worry about arriving early; there's nothing wrong with that. I typically give myself a half hour to find my classes for the first week or so. It's better that I arrive twenty minutes early than get lost and be late.

#3: Come to class prepared
Even if you think you'll only end up going over the syllabus, bring anything you think you might need. This might include paper, pencils, pens, your textbook, your laptop, highlighters, everything. It's better to bring it all and not need it, than to leave it in your dorm room and hope that your neighbor will lend you something. 

#4: Plan ahead
Check the times and locations of all your classes in advance. If you have no idea where they are, ask a friend or check the school's website to see if they have a map of campus. Plan ahead and decide when you're going to eat and, if you have large amounts of time between classes, how you're going to spend them. It's easier to keep up with the workload if you settle into a schedule early on in the semester. 

#5: Drop in the library
If you're anything like me, this one isn't going to be a problem. Take a few minutes and find the library. Wander around and just get a feel for where all the different sections are. This will be a big help when you have a paper that you have to research for or even if you just want to read for fun.

Friday, August 24, 2012

No Post Today

I was going to do Week in Short this week, but then Things Happened and moving-back week turned out to be more hectic than I thought it would. I'll be back to my normal posting schedule next week, including Week in Short. In the meantime, have a picture of my adorable kitty.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Releases: Over You, The Sweetest Spell, Defiance

Over You
by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
After the grand explosion of her relationship, seventeen-year-old Max Scott developed what every girl in the history of the world has been waiting for: a way to get over being dumped. Now Max is the go-to guru for heartbroken high-school girls all over NYC. But when her ex unexpectedly shows up in her neighborhood, Max’s carefully controlled world starts to unravel. With her clients’ hearts hanging in the balance, Max will have to do the seemingly impossible: get over him once and for all.

The Sweetest Spell
by Suzanne Selfors
Emmeline Thistle, a dirt-scratcher's daughter, has escaped death twice-first, on the night she was born, and second, on the day her entire village was swept away by flood. Left with nothing and no one, Emmeline discovers her rare and mysterious ability-she can churn milk into chocolate, a delicacy more precious than gold.

Suddenly, the most unwanted girl in Anglund finds herself desired by all. But Emmeline only wants one-Owen Oak, a dairyman's son, whose slow smiles and lingering glances once tempted her to believe she might someday be loved for herself. But others will stop at nothing to use her gift for their own gains-no matter what the cost to Emmeline.

Magic and romance entwine in this fantastical world where true love and chocolate conquer all.

by C.J. Redwine
Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

RTW -- Night's Love List

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: 
 Inspired by Stephanie Perkins' post on Natalie Whipple's blog, what is your novel's "Love List"?

It took me a bit to decide which WIP I wanted to make the list on (I have one in revisions and one I'm writing). This is the one in revisions, In the Night. 

Spanish mythology
Fairy tales
Fantasy-obsessed boy
Smell of old books
Cliff jumping
Lake Superior
First kisses
New friends
Small city

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Code Name Verity Review

Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.
I heard a lot of things about this book and it was all glowing praise. This tends to make me a little wary of books but when I read the jacket copy I knew I had to have it. It took trips to two different bookstores to track it down but finally I had it in my hands. 
I had absolutely no reason to worry. This book deserves all that praise and then some. I knew it the moment I started and even more so when I turned the final page. 
This book is the perfect combination of life-like characters, beautiful writing, a great plot, and surprising twists. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it while I write this review. This book broke my heart and shattered my soul. I sobbed over it. In both joy and sorrow. The kind of sobbing where you're curled up on your side and your heart is breaking and you can't breathe.

At the time of writing this, I've just finished this book yesterday and already there is a part of me that wants to read it again.

Normally I would post a second part of a review with spoilers, but I'm not going to with this one. I think this is one of those books that shouldn't be spoiled.

Overall: 15/10 I'm giving this book a 15 out of 10. Because I can. And because it deserves it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

What to Do on Your First College Weekend

Moving to college for the first time can be a very exciting and nerve-wracking experience. Chances are you'll arrive days before classes start. This gives you a lot of time to get settled. Here are a few things that you can do in those days before classes start.

This one's very important. Get everything out of the storage containers and organized. If you have a lot of totes and not a lot of space, send the totes home with your parents if at all possible. That way they're not taking up valuable dorm space. You may think that you'll have time to unpack later, but the truth is you really won't. It's better to do it now than to be searching through all your stuff later for something that you need.

Talk to people
Get out and meet everyone. College is a very diverse place and you're bound to find people that share your interests. That's not going to happen, though, if you don't go find them! Leave your door open during the day when you're in your room. It encourages people to stop, knock, and say hello. You are probably going to have the same neighbors all year so it's important to get to know them.

Have fun
There are usually a lot of activities going on that first weekend. This is a great chance for you to try new things and meet people. My first weekend at college I went rock climbing, ice skating, and walking around town with a group of friends, two of which I'd never done before.

Explore campus
Now is a good time to get acclimated to the layout of campus. If there's another dining hall that's across campus from your dorm, walk down there for lunch one day. Just walk around. Find the best route to the buildings where all your classes will be. Even if you don't know the location of your actual classroom, knowing how to get to the building before classes start can be a great stress reliever. 

Go out to eat
If your parents are still around, encourage them to take you out for one last meal before they leave.  You're probably going to be eating college food more often than not over the next year and -- while the food can be great depending on your school -- it gets old really fast. So check out one or two of the local restaurants. You might even find a potential date spot or hangout.

For those of you moving to college this year, do you have any plans for that first weekend? And if you've already been there, do you have any other tips for freshman just moving in?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Week in Short

I hope everyone had a great week this week! Mine was pretty crazy. There's just so much to do and not a lot of time left to do it in. I still can't believe the summer is almost over.  This time next week I'll be back at college. This means my blogging schedule is going to shift a bit. 

Last year, I dropped my posting down to three and stopped doing Week in Short. This year, I'm going to try to stay with five days a week and keep Week in Short. I'll give it a trial period of a couple weeks and see how that goes. I'm also considering doing some kind of college-related post once a week or every other week. (What do you think? Yay? Nay?)

In other news, I saw The Bourne Legacy this week because Jeremy Renner was in it. Now, I thought it was great but I also haven't seen the other Bourne movies (I know, I know) so I don't really have anything to compare it to.

Song of the Week: "This is Gonna Hurt" by Sixx AM

Must read:  
Veronica Roth: Loud, Ugly, Wild, Free

If you missed out on WriteOnCon, you missed out on a great conference! Fortunately all the posts, videos, and chat logs are saved so you can still check them out.

NPR has a list of the Best 100 YA Novels! I was so excited to see some of my favorites (especially the top four) included on the list.

A Fool's Golden Paradise:
Why this query worked #2

Beth Revis: 
When to outline

Between Fact and Fiction: 
Are you tired of me yet?

Blood Red Pencil: 
Integrating writing into a busy schedule: One writer's story
Show visceral reactions first

What to tell agents while querying
An in-person pitching don't

Nathan Bransford: 
No, you shouldn't send your tweets to Facebook

Publishing Crawl:
Correcting problems with pacing

The zen of backstory
Writing when life gives you lemons

Strangest Situation: 
Conquering writer's block I: Know thy enemy

Writer Beware: 
Red flags of writing contests

Five things to do when you're between projects

Video of the Week:
This week's video is the trailer for the new Les Miserables movie coming out this Decemer. I am SO EXCITED!

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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New releases: Sweetly, Kissing Shakespeare, The Treachery of Beautiful Things

by Jackson Pearce
As a child, Gretchen's twin sister was taken by a witch in the woods. Ever since, Gretchen and her brother, Ansel, have felt the long branches of the witch's forest threatening to make them disappear, too.

Years later, when their stepmother casts Gretchen and Ansel out, they find themselves in sleepy Live Oak, South Carolina. They're invited to stay with Sophia Kelly, a beautiful candy maker who molds sugary magic: coveted treats that create confidence, bravery, and passion.

Life seems idyllic and Gretchen and Ansel gradually forget their haunted past -- until Gretchen meets handsome local outcast Samuel. He tells her the witch isn't gone -- it's lurking in the forest, preying on girls every year after Live Oak's infamous chocolate festival, and looking to make Gretchen its next victim. Gretchen is determined to stop running and start fighting back. Yet the further she investigates the mystery of what the witch is and how it chooses its victims, the more she wonders who the real monster is.

Gretchen is certain of only one thing: a monster is coming, and it will never go away hungry.

Kissing Shakespeare
by Pamela Mingle
Miranda has Shakespeare in her blood: she hopes one day to become a Shakespearean actor like her famous parents. At least, she does until her disastrous performance in her school's staging of The Taming of the Shrew. Humiliated, Miranda skips the opening-night party. All she wants to do is hide.

Fellow cast member, Stephen Langford, has other plans for Miranda. When he steps out of the backstage shadows and asks if she'd like to meet Shakespeare, Miranda thinks he's a total nutcase. But before she can object, Stephen whisks her back to 16th century England—the world Stephen's really from. He wants Miranda to use her acting talents and modern-day charms on the young Will Shakespeare. Without her help, Stephen claims, the world will lost its greatest playwright.

Miranda isn't convinced she's the girl for the job. Why would Shakespeare care about her? And just who is this infuriating time traveler, Stephen Langford? Reluctantly, she agrees to help, knowing that it's her only chance of getting back to the present and her "real" life. What Miranda doesn't bargain for is finding true love . . . with no acting required.

The Treachery of Beautiful Things
by Ruth Frances Long
The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she's lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack's help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some of the most treacherous evils, and she's faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice--and not just her own.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

RTW: Knock it Out of the Park

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: 
In honor of the end of the Olympics, share your favorite sports book!

I'm going to start this post with a confession: Sports books are rare on my shelves. When I first saw the topic, I honestly couldn't think of a single one that didn't involve horses. I've read books with sports in them, but never books where the sports were a central element (excluding books with horse racing). 

Now, I like sports to a point. During hockey season, I'll be walking around listening to the games and wearing my mom's Shanahan or Yzerman jersey. If you stood within five feet of me while I watched the Preakness, you'd probably be deaf now.

When it comes to books, there are some sports books that are on my list. I just haven't gotten to them yet. So I went through my shelves and found...

A Horse Called Wonder by Joanna Campbell. This book is about a young girl who swears she'll never become involved with a horse again after a disease wipes out her family's Thoroughbred breeding operation. Then her parents become the breeding managers at Townsend Acres and Ashleigh falls in love with a sickly filly that no one believes will make it. 

I've read a good portion of this series (though never in order) and this one is by far my favorite. It's a really sweet story that I read countless times throughout my childhood.

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. This book is about the struggle for survival by a young boy and a wild Arabian stallion that shipwreck on the same deserted island. It's a classic and another book that I read countless times when I was a kid. It's hard not to be enchanted by the wild beauty of the Black.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Outside of a Horse Review

The Outside of a Horse
by Ginny Rorby
The stories Hannah Gale’s father told her of breaking wild horses in Nevada one glorious summer when he was just her age have captured her imagination. After her dad is called up to fight in Iraq, she feels most deeply connected to him when she is watching the horses at a nearby stable, and finally gathers her nerve to ask the owner for a job. There, she helps bring a rescued mare back from the brink, takes her first riding lesson, and witnesses the birth of the filly who steals her heart.

Hannah believes the worst is over, when her dad returns from war, but soon she realizes her family’s fight is only just beginning. When his nightmares rock the household, it is to the horses she turns to for comfort. But it is not until she discovers the true gift a relationship with horses can give, does she think they may be the way to help her father heal. She becomes convinced that horses can teach her dad the same lessons of survival and hope they’ve taught her, but only if she can get him to give them a chance. 

NOTE: This book deals with some issues in the horse industry that I am extremely passionate about.

I really wanted to love this book. It had a touching story, good characters, a great voice, and -- best of all -- horses! But I just couldn't. 

It got way too much into awareness with all the talk of the cruelty of horse racing, abuse, neglect, slaughter, and PMU horses. A lot of the plot points that dealt with those felt like they were included simply for awareness purposes, not because they had any relevance with the actual plot. I also wasn't a big fan of the way that Parelli training methods are pitched as the only thing that works.

It worked well having it set in 2006, Barbaro's Derby year, but it also felt weird. I remembered everything that happened. I remember watching him win the Kentucky Derby, the feeling of my heart pounding as he pulled up in the Preakness, the way that I followed his progress, how just before his death I watched a video of him grazing as they hand-walked him. I remember exactly where I was when I found out he died. Going through all that again in the book was strange for me because I knew exactly what would happen.

One part that really got under my skin was Jack's death. I had to stop reading twice, not because I was crying, but because I couldn't believe what I was reading. The first time was when Dillon suggests that they just shoot Jack and feed him to the pigs. It seemed a radical change of heart for someone who was so vehemently opposed to slaughter earlier in the book. The second time was when the vet wanted to inject him with traquilizer first and Hannah thinks that it's because she "wanted more money."

The ending of the book was very touching and that, more than anything, is what really made me want to love this book.

Overall: 6/10. A good story but the author intrusion made it hard for me to enjoy it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Buying Tally: 2012

Two years ago, I kept a list of all the books I bought and what about them initially caught my attention. Then I analyzed my list to see what were the biggest factors in my buying decisions. I think it'll be fun to make this an annual thing so that I can see how things change over the years (or how they stay the same).

2010 results
2011 results

First a summary of my results and then I'll get into how it all broke down. In parentheses are last year's results for comparison.

Book in a series: 30% (35%)
Classic: 3%
Premise: 23% (5%)
Author: 20% (20%)
Unusual story: 3%
Word of mouth: 17% (20%)
Being made into movie: 3% (5%)
Cover: 7%

I was kind of surprised by just how much premise went up this year. Last year I put a lot of stock in other factors so that really shows how I'm going back to whether or not a story's idea catches my attention. Another thing that surprised me was just how large a portion of the books I bought were the next installment in a series. I knew that I read a lot of series but I wasn't expecting it to be that much. Here's the break-down:

Book in a Series
  1. Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead. It's the third book in the Vampire Academy series.
  2. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini. Conclusion to the Inheritance Cycle. I waited an extremely long three years for this book. I wasn't waiting any longer than I absolutely had to.
  3. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. Second book in the Infernal Devices trilogy.
  4. The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. Second book in the Heroes of Olympus series.
  5. Insurgent by Veronica Roth. Second book in the Divergent trilogy.
  6. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare. Fifth book in the Mortal Instruments series.
  7. The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson. Second book in the Jenna Fox Chronicles.
  8. Red Glove by Holly Black. Sequel to White Cat. 
  9. Blood Promise by Richelle Mead. Fourth book in the Vampire Academy series

  1. Forever by Judy Blume. It's one of those "must read" books for teenagers that I somehow missed out on. That, combined with the controversy around it, made it a must read for me.

  1. Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. The summary really got me on this one. I'm not the biggest fan of Wolves of Mercy Falls, but I like her writing. 
  2. Love Story by Jennifer Echolls. A steamy story about a girl and a boy in the same writing class writing romance stories back and forth at each other? Hand it over. 
  3. Once Dead, Twice Shy by Kim Harrison. Was on my list for a couple of years before I finally picked it up. The premise is what first caught my attention all that time ago. 
  4. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga. With an awesome premise like that I could never say no.
  5. Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly. The premise of this one has me so excited!
  6. The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver. The premise of this one really made me want it 
  7. The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher. I love dystopians and the premise of this one made it impossible to walk away.
  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It's John Green. Do I really need any more explanation than that?
  2. Cryer's Cross by Lisa McMann. I loved the Wake trilogy so when I found out about this one, it piqued my interest despite my usual avoidance of anything in the realm of horror. 
  3. Every You, Every Me by David Levithan. He is one of those authors whose books I will buy no matter what they're about.
  4. Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz. It's Hannah, the premise is fantastic, and everything I've heard about it is glowing.
Unusual Story
  1. Heat Wave by Richard Castle. I am obsessed with the TV show Castle. When I found out that there were real versions of the books from the show, I knew I needed to get my hands on them.
Word of Mouth
  1. Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. Everything that I heard about this book before I bought it was glowing praise. 
  2. Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. The craze surrounding these books really attracted my interest and I wanted to read the book before starting the TV show.
  3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. I haven't heard a bad thing about this book. I'm also really attracted to historicals at the moment and I've always had a special fascination with WWII.
  4. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. I've heard conflicting things about this book, but the good things caught my attention
  5. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. I've heard amazing things about this book
Being Made into a Movie
  1. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. Bought because I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie.
  1. Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton. Another one that's been on my list for a really long time. The cover is what first caught my attention, but the price (three dollars) is what made me buy it. 
  2. Crash Into Me by Albert Borris. I've been waiting forever for this book. The cover is what first caught my attention but the premise sealed the deal.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Things Have Changed

I've been writing seriously for almost four years now and I started thinking about how much I've changed since I started especially regarding my reading habits.

1. Word of mouth is king
I used to buy whatever book sounded good to me in the bookstore at the time. Word of mouth had some influence, but not very much. I might pick up a book if I was hearing a ton about it and was curious to see what the fuss was about. Even though my friends were also readers, we didn't really talk about books all that much.

Now, however, that I'm connected to hundreds of readers and writers, word of mouth has a huge effect on what I read. Good things can cause me to add a book to my TBR list or raise it higher on the stack. Bad things can cause me to lower a book on my to-buy list or even remove it completely. Of course, there are situations where I won't love a book that's getting rave reviews or times when I will love a book that I'm hearing less-than-favorable things about. I've learned through experience how to factor word of mouth into my decisions, who has tastes similar to mine, and exactly how much stock I should put in reviews if a book interests me otherwise.

2. Don't excuse a book for bad writing because it has a great story
This change has caused me to lose a lot of love for books that I used to adore (and appreciate some books even more that I loved before I was a writer). Now that I know how to look at writing and pick out things that are good and things that are bad, I do it a lot with published books. I can turn my inner editor down, but never completely off. I'd say this is both a good and a bad change. It's good because I have a whole new appreciation for great writers, but bad because I can't just enjoy a book for its story anymore.

3. No longer have to read every book in a series 
There was a time when, if I started a series, I had to finish it. It didn't matter how long it took me, I would finish that series. That habit is still around to a point, but I no longer find it impossible to drop a series if it's dragging on forever or if I'm just not interested in going on to the sequels. It also gives me a lot more restraint with waiting for sequels.

This is good because with the recent glut of trilogies there are times when I have to wait months after a sequel's release because I can't afford to buy the next one. I have a multiple second books on my shelves that I haven't read yet, even though the third book is already out (The Demon's Covenant being one of them and it's gotten so bad that I've decided to wait until I buy Surrender and just read the entire trilogy together). This is bad because I know that I have restraint so I'm not as selective about the trilogies that I read as I probably should be.

4. No longer force myself to finish a book that I don't like reading 
It used to be that if I didn't like a book and it was taking me forever to read it, I would push through anyway because I wanted to see how it ended. I'm incapable of just skipping to the end to see what happens. That's one reading habit that hasn't changed over my years as a writer. I still have trouble giving up on a book that's just not working for me, but it's not impossible. I recently created a "did not finish" shelf on Goodreads to encourage myself to say "It's okay, I don't have to finish this book."

5. Know within a few pages if a book is going to be for me 
I've learned, just by reading the first few pages and getting a feel for the writing and the voice, how to tell if I'm going to like a book or not. Now, it's based on the writing and the voice. There have been books that caught me immediately but then lost me as they progressed, either because of the characters or the plot.  But how I feel about the opening is often a great indicator.

Did you notice changes in your reading habits when you started writing seriously?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

New Releases: Throne of Glass, Wake, and Innocent Darkness

Throne of Glass
by Sarah J. Maas
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

by Amanda Hocking
Gemma seems to have it all—she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door. He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back. Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever. She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove. They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different.

Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price. And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves—or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.

 Innocent Darkness
by Suzanne Lazear
Sixteen-year-old Noli Braddock's hoyden ways land her in an abusive reform school far from home. On mid-summer's eve she wishes to be anyplace but that dreadful school. A mysterious man from the Realm of Faerie rescues her and brings her to the Otherworld, only to reveal that she must be sacrificed, otherwise, the entire Otherworld civilization will perish.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Favorite Children's Stories Today

When I was a kid, I loved to read. I devoured books in a matter of hours and searched for more. When I hit my horse phase, my reading habits developed an obvious preference for books that involved horses. Some of my favorites included The Boxcar Children series (I read the first one more times than I can count), the Pony Pals series, the Thoroughbreds series, Black Beauty, and the Black Stallion series (though, for some reason, I was a bigger fan of Flame's books than the Black's.)

Now, many years later, I've started hunting out those books I used to love to relive the magic. Unfortunately, in some cases, the magic is now gone.

Harry Potter
I'm going to do a complete review of the series once I reread the whole thing again. The later books I'm still fully in love with, but I'm starting to see the flaws in the earlier ones.

Tamora Pierce
She got me through middle school, then high school, and now she's getting me through college. I'm still just in love with her books as I was when I picked them up for the first time. I reread Realms of the Gods over exam week to give me a relaxing escape and, even though I was reading it for about the twentieth time, I still enjoyed every minute of it.

The Boxcar Children
The simplicity of these threw me off at first, but as I got farther into the story, I began to enjoy it more. They're just such sweet and simple stories. I'm thinking that, unlike Tammy, I may have outgrown these long ago and maybe I should pass them on to my niece for when she's old enough to read them.  

I'm really enjoying re-reading these after all those years. Books were my biggest connection to horses when I was a kid and these were some of my favorites. I never actually read the whole series as a kid and I only own a few of them, so I'm thinking about buying the entire series so that I can read the whole thing in order.

This series was written created by one author and then continued by several others. It really shows in the later books. The horse racing -- for the most part -- is really well-done, but I have trouble believing in some of the plot leaps.

Have you reread any of your childhood favorites recently? How did you feel about them? 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

War Horse Review

War Horse
by Michael Morpurgo
In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey's courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer's son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again?

I read this book while I was in the middle of season two of Downton Abbey and on a major WW1 kick. The end result was a lot of tears over the course of my watching/reading. I picked up this book some time ago intending to read it and then see the movie. I still haven't seen the movie but I want to even more now.

This book ripped out my heart, cut it in half, put it back together, stomped on it until it shattered, and then tried to pick up the pieces again. There wasn't a single moment when I wasn't crying or close to it. I actually cried with joy at one point. I don't think that's ever happened to me before. I cried over characters that I barely knew like they were my best friends. The characterization from Joey to the smallest secondary character was fantastic.

The writing was great, but the dialogue was a little cumbersome in spots. It's fairly repetitive in a way that's almost a little too natural.

Overall: Great book! I definitely don't recommend reading it in public, though.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Books Read in One Sitting

This post was inspired by a post a couple weeks ago at Publishing Crawl. It got me thinking about books that I devoured all in one sitting. There are some books that are better absorbed slowly. They're not necessarily not as good; they're just quieter.

The books I'm going to talk about today are not like those books. They're books that grabbed me by the throat and didn't let go until I turned the final page. Books that wouldn't let me sleep, wouldn't let me work, wouldn't let me think about anything else.

When you ask me about books that I've read in one sitting, the first thing I always think of is Deathly Hallows. I started it at noon the day of the release (the soonest I could get my mom to drive me to Borders to pick up my pre-order). The only times I paused were when I was sobbing too hard to see the words. Twelve hours later, at midnight, the words "All was well" broke over me and I closed the most anticipated book of my life.

Then there was Gone by Lisa McMann. I curled up on my bed with it and said "I'll just start reading" and a few hours later it spit me back out blinking and disoriented. Mockingjay was devoured in an obsessive reading of about six hours the afternoon of its release. Continuing the trend of series books was Insurgent. It arrived in the mail and when the truck pulled into our driveway, I ran through the house yelling "IT'S HERE!" I started reading immediately and was finished by nightfall. The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan was devoured in a similar fashion.

There was Guyaholic by Carolyn Mackler. I've read it twice and in one sitting both times. I didn't plan to read it in one sitting the first time, it just kind of happened. It has such a great voice that I couldn't stop. Then there is Wild Magic and Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce, the first and last books in her Immortals series respectively. I've read both of them more times than I can count and probably half of those readings were in one sitting.

Another unplanned one-sitting read was Every You, Every Me by David Levithan. I started reading it in the morning after I woke up and couldn't stop. I was going somewhere that afternoon and I read all the way up until the last second because there was no way I was leaving unless I finished that book. 

What are some books that you've read in one sitting? 

Friday, August 3, 2012


I've been hearing about Scrivener for a long time. If you've never heard of it, it's an awesome drafting and editing program for writers. Originally it was only available for Macs but the makers recently came out with a version for Windows. I tried to use the beta but had to stop when it started deleting large blocks of my text.

Now over a year later, I decided to give it a second chance and downloaded the free trial. I have never wanted a Mac more in my life. The free trial is almost up and I'm intending to buy the full version soon. Here are some things about the program based on my use of the free trial.

Scrivener is fantastic for revisions. I love the ability to divide my document into scenes, give them all note cards, and switch between them. I also love the ability to seamlessly move scenes from one part of a document to another without having use copy/paste. Because I do several rounds of edits (usually one for plot, one for character revisions, one for grammar stuff, etc), I loved the ability to "stamp" note cards for each chapter with what stage of revisions they were in.

I'm not sure about using it for writing, though. I'm a major pantser and I think Scrivener is designed more for writers who enjoy drafting with a lot of structure. I haven't had a WIP stick yet, though, so I haven't really tried it. I might use it for first drafts just because of the ability to have all of my research in a file right there for me to see. Which brings me to another thing I love about Scrivener: the ability to see two documents on the same screen easily. I can have my MS on one side, and research or another scene or my revision notes on the other.

The only thing that bothers me about it is the inability to have two documents on the same screen in full-screen mode. I like to use full-screen to block out distractions, but if I want to be referencing something else at the same time, I can't do that. Another issue I have with full-screen mode is how jerky it is. Clicking on the screen causes it to move so where you clicked is at the center. Selecting large chunks of text is almost impossible because of how much it moves around.

There are a lot of features in the Mac version that haven't been released for the Windows version yet and it's difficult to know exactly which features have been left out unless you're trying to use them. I can't change the full-screen background. I can only use in-line comments instead of the much more convenient "inspector comments" that are available in the Mac version.

I think it's worth having, but I can't wait until the Windows version is closer to catching up with the Mac version.

Do you use Scrivener? What do you think about it?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

New Releases: Something Strange and Deadly, Cold Fury, and Pushing the Limits

Something Strange and Deadly 
by Susan Dennard
The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

 Cold Fury
by T.M. Goeglein
Sara Jane Rispoli is a normal sixteen-year-old coping with school and a budding romance--until her parents and brother are kidnapped and she discovers her family is deeply embedded in the Chicago Outfit (aka the mob).

Now on the run from a masked assassin, rogue cops and her turncoat uncle, Sara Jane is chased and attacked at every turn, fighting back with cold fury as she searches for her family. It's a quest that takes her through concealed doors and forgotten speakeasies--a city hiding in plain sight. Though armed with a .45 and 96K in cash, an old tattered notebook might be her best defense--hidden in its pages the secret to "ultimate power." It's why she's being pursued, why her family was taken, and could be the key to saving all of their lives.

 Pushing the Limits
by Katie McGarry
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

RTW - Best Book of July

I'm on vacation right now so this post was scheduled ahead of time. I'll check everyone's answers as soon as I get home!

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:
What was the best book you read in July? 
I read ten books this month (though a lot of those were re-reads or beta reads) so this was kind of a tough decision. The best book I read in July was...

...White Cat by Holly Black. Original and fantastic concept, great characters, and a clever voice. I loved everything about this book and I can't wait until I get my hands on the next installment!