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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

RTW: Best Book of July

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. We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments. 

  This week’s topic: 
What was the best book you read in July?
 
Reading-wise, July got off to a great start and finished with a not-so-great ending. I read four books, all of them within the first two weeks. I enjoyed all four of them but none of the really stood out to me, which makes picking one for this post a little difficult. 
I'm going to have to go with... 

 
When I bought this book, it was on sale at a Books a Million. I remembered it from a new release post the year before, when the cover caught my eye. I picked it up and when I finally chose to read it, it wasn't with high expectations. 

I was surprised with engaging writing, unexpected twists, and characters that I fell in love with. I devoured the book in a morning and immediately added the sequel to my to-buy list. I'm glad that I decided to give this book a chance and I'm still in love with that cover.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reading for the Movie

I'm the kind of person where, if a movie is being made out of a young adult book (I don't really do this with adult books, simply because there are so many movies made out of them that I want to see that I don't have the time or the money), then I have to read the book before I see the movie.

Ironically, because of this, there are more movies that I dislike in terms of the book than movies I like. There are some movies that I think complement the book well (Hunger Games, for instance) and some movies that I have problems with but still love (Harry Potter) and some movies that are so different from the book I just barely consider them connected (The Lightning Thief). And then there are the movies I can't stand to watch because it's like they took a wood chipper to the book and then tried to fill it with sawdust.

Why do I do this to myself? Why do I read a book before going to see the movie if I know that it could potentially ruin the movie for me?

Well, there are a few reasons. First of all, there's the simple thing that I prefer books to movies. I love reading. I read the book so I can fall in love with the characters and the story, before I see someone else's version of them. And also because, if I don't fall in love with the story or the characters, then I know I probably shouldn't go see the movie.

I'm currently rereading The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters in preparation to go see the new movie next weekend. It's been so long since I've read the series that I've forgotten a lot of the details, and I want a refresher of how things actually happened. Partly so I can try to figure out how they're going to fix all the mistakes they made in the first movie.

Part of my drive to do this comes from tradition. Not too many years ago I was a stickler for the book when it came to movies. If the details weren't exactly right, I didn't like the movie. Now I accept that movies and books are different ballgames and that not everything can be the same. But I still read and reread the books because I like to see how they compare.

What do you think? Do you read the book before you go see the movie?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Updates: July 29

This is my last Monday Updates post. As of next Monday, I'm going to start up my college tips weekly blog on Mondays, since it's almost the school year. 

Song of the Week: Here's to Us by Halestorm

How's Life?
Well, there are only two days left in July and I'm still trying to figure out where the rest of my summer went. Seriously, it can't almost be August, can it?

How's TV? 
Watched the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Friday. There was a point in the middle where I wanted to just stop because I didn't want the series to end. It was a fantastic finale, definitely one of my favorites. Now I'm trying to decide which on my long list should I watch next.

Silver Linings Playbook is an amazing movie. I already knew Jennifer Lawrence was a fantastic actress but she still managed to surprise me.

Taken 2 isn't nearly as good as the first one, but it's a decent movie overall. 

How's Reading?
Books read: 0
I'm not doing very well reading-wise again. I blame Buffy. I'm currently working my way through a reread of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, followed by a reread of Sea of Monsters in preparation for the movie coming out next week.

How's Writing? 
Total words: 2,738
Best day: 1,153
Been writing off and on this week, still no new WIP but that's okay. I might wait until I'm settled in at school before I start anything new. I don't want to get into a rhythm with revisions or writing and then have to break it if I don't have to.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Flash Fiction Friday: For Want of a Penny (Part 2)

This is the second and final part of a short story that I started posting last week. 

Part 1  

The clock in the living room told me that if I hurried, I could still make it to work on time. Mark was standing in the kitchen, a pair of wine glasses in front of him.

“Thank you for your help,” I said. “I should really be getting to work. My boss will have my ass if I’m late again.”

“One drink?” He offered me one of the wine glasses.

I could be five minutes late, right? I accepted the glass and he filled it with red wine. I took a sip and smiled at the taste on my tongue.

“So, Ms. Amy.” Mark smiled at me and I took another sip to keep from smiling back. “You asked me if I had anyone in my life. What about you?”

“I’m not married if that’s what you’re asking.” I wrapped both hands around the glass to keep my fingers from wandering back to the ring.

“That’s a very beautiful ring.” He came around from the other side of the counter and took my hand, raising it up for a kiss. “Are you sure?”

“It was a gift. From my father.” The lies slipped easily from my tongue without giving me the chance to even think about why they were there.

“Your father had wonderful taste.” He kissed my hand again and then slipped closer, into my personal space. He sat his glass on the counter.

He hesitated for a few seconds and I knew this was my window to put a stop to everything. That I should just thank him for helping me and for the wine and leave. Nothing would have to change, it would just be one chance encounter with another person. A short flicker never to be experienced again.

The window closed. Mark kissed me. He tasted like red wine and something spicy. It started soft and slow but the moment I set my glass down beside his it changed.

The kiss was hard, bruising, and I felt my back pressing against the edge of the counter. He pulled away for a moment, gasping for breath, and my life flashed before my eyes.

My job at Barnes and Noble, the job I’d worked for years to achieve.

My boyfriend, Josh, the real giver of my ring.

Our little apartment two blocks away, where we’d moved so I could be closer to work.

The little house we’d seen last Friday and were in the process of buying.

The ring on my finger—not an engagement ring, but the closest thing that we could come to. Josh wasn’t ready for marriage but the ring came with the expectation that someday we would be.

Mark kissed me again and the spicy taste surged. It was too hot, too bruising, and I felt like I could breathe. I pushed him away.

“I’m sorry. I’m going to lose my job if I don't get going. Thank you for…everything.” I wiped my mouth, trying to remove the thoroughly kissed feel from my lips, but it wasn’t possible. My coat caught my glass of red wine as I raced for the door, sending it to the carpet with a crash.

I’d like to say that everything turned out fine in the end, but if that’s true then I guess it isn’t the end yet.

The beginning of the end began with two words—“You’re fired”—and a packed up desk. It continued at home where, after three days of horrible roiling guilt, I told Josh about Mark. He left me that night and I only saw him once, when he came back for the rest of his stuff. I gave up our apartment, moving into something smaller and much less nicer. The house went to a lovely family with a young daughter. I still drive by there sometimes and wonder if that could have been Josh and I’s daughter playing in the front yard.

My job, my boyfriend, my life was lost that day. And all for want of a penny.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

New Releases -- Of Beast and Beauty, OCD Love Story, The Heartbreak Messenger

Of Beast and Beauty
by Stacey Jay 
In the beginning was the darkness, and in the darkness was a girl, and in the girl was a secret...

In the domed city of Yuan, the blind Princess Isra, a Smooth Skin, is raised to be a human sacrifice whose death will ensure her city’s vitality. In the desert outside Yuan, Gem, a mutant beast, fights to save his people, the Monstrous, from starvation. Neither dreams that together, they could return balance to both their worlds.

Isra wants to help the city’s Banished people, second-class citizens despised for possessing Monstrous traits. But after she enlists the aid of her prisoner, Gem, who has been captured while trying to steal Yuan’s enchanted roses, she begins to care for him, and to question everything she has been brought up to believe.

As secrets are revealed and Isra’s sight, which vanished during her childhood, returned, Isra will have to choose between duty to her people and the beast she has come to love. 

OCD Love Story
by Corey Ann Haydu
When Bea meets Beck, she knows instantly that he’s her kind of crazy. Sweet, strong, kinda-messed-up Beck understands her like no one else can. He makes her feel almost normal. He makes her feel like she could fall in love again.

But despite her feelings for Beck, Bea can’t stop thinking about someone else: a guy who is gorgeous and magnetic... and has no idea Bea even exists. But Bea knows a lot about him. She spends a lot of time watching him. She has a journal full of notes. Some might even say she’s obsessed.

Bea tells herself she’s got it all under control. But this isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion. The truth is, she’s breaking down...and she might end up breaking her own heart.

 The Heartbreak Messenger
by Alexander Vance
Twelve-year-old Quentin never asked to be "The Heartbreak Messenger," it just kind of happened - and he's not one to let a golden opportunity pass him by. The valuable communications service he offers is simple: he delivers break-up messages. For a small fee, he will deliver such a message to your soon-to-be ex-girlfriend. If you order the deluxe package, he'll even throw in some flowers and a box of chocolates...well, you don't want to leave a girl completely alone.

At first, Quentin's entrepreneurial brainchild is surprisingly successful. But as he interacts with clients and message recipients, from the teary-eyed football player to the dangerously powerful soccer chick, it doesn't take him long to start wondering whether his business will create negative repercussions in his life, especially for his relationship with his long-time best friend Abigail. Quentin discovers the game of love and the emotions that go with it are as complicated as they come - even for an almost innocent bystander.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

RTW - Summer Escapes

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. We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments. 

Next week’s topic: 
In this month's Bookmobile selection--OVER YOU by Amy Reed--the main character and her best friend try to escape their problems with a summer trip to Nebraska. 
If you could escape somewhere (anywhere!) for the summer, where would it be?

There are a lot of places I'd escape for the summer. I'm seriously considering saving up for a road trip the summer after my senior year of college (which will hopefully also be the summer before grad school). I've never been farther west than Wisconsin and I'd love to see something else. 

Therefore, my first pick is out west. I'd love to spend some time in Colorado, Montana, Utah, maybe California for a week or two. Probably not too far south, but I'd like to see as much as I can. Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon and the Pacific Ocean.

There's always Alaska, because I'd rather see it in the summer than the winter. And a little closer to home, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. If you've never been, the entire area is gorgeous. Lots of forests and mountains and, of course, Lake Superior.

Getting out of the country, I'd love to spend a summer abroad, the UK in particular. See as much of it as I can, starting with London.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Background Noise

Some people work better in complete silence. They have to be alone with their thoughts and their work in order to concentrate. Others do better with some sort of background noise.

For me, it varies on my mood, the work, and the noise. Where I go and what I listen to while I write depends on those factors.

Quiet
This one is really rare for me. I don't work well in a completely silent environment, it's too easy for my brain to wander off. It's most likely when my brain is really loud and I'm working on something that requires a lot of focus, like reading for class.

That's when I find a nice, quiet spot to work. There can't be a lot of distractions, but there does need to be a little natural noise.

Natural bustle
This is why I like to write in coffee shops or semi-public areas. There's a natural buzz of noise that allows me to focus. Plus if I get stuck, there's more to look around at that might spark an idea. One of my new favorite websites for writing is Coffitivity. It provides all the natural noise of a coffee shop without having to actually travel for one.

Music
If I need a little bit more noise, I turn to music. I usually stick to headphones, just one ear bud in if I can't close everything out, but sometimes I use speakers.

There are a few types of music for me. There's what I call "tune out" music that's easy for me to tune out. For me, this is usually rock music, something that I'll listen to the beat and the melody more than the words. Then there's mood music which I chose specifically for whatever I'm working on, usually a WIP. This varies depending on the project. Finally there's instrumental music, which I listen to when I can't focus enough to stop listening to the words of the songs but I still need the background music. I got in the habit of using this last year when I needed music to study to and it worked pretty well.

What background noise do you need to focus well?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Monday Updates: July 22

How's Life? 
It's that time of year again. The time when I'm counting down the time I have left before I return to school in weeks instead of months. It won't be long and it'll be in days. I'm looking forward to the new semester, but at the same time there's still so much to do before I'm ready to leave.

In other news, another year, another Comic Con that I'm not at. (Someday! *shakes fist*) And J.K. Rowling was outed as the author of The Cuckoo's Calling under the pen name Robert Galbraith. I need to get my hands on that book.

    How's TV? 
    The first trailers  for 12 Years a Slave and The Fifth Estate were released and also a new trailer for Catching Fire. So many amazing movies and so little time.

    Went to see Despicable Me 2 yesterday and really enjoyed it. I tend to be cautious about animated sequels (or, really, any sequels) but it was great, hilarious movie. I also watched Man on a Ledge and it's a brilliant movie. If you like a good action movie that makes you think, check it out.

    I'm tearing through the last few seasons of Buffy. I finished seasons four and five (or, as I'm referring to it, the Season of Tears) and now I'm seven episodes into season six. Once I get started it's really hard to stop. And "Once More, With Feeling" is the mother of all musical episodes. It was AWESOME.
      How's Reading? 
      Books read: 0
      Not well. Reading Sense and Sensibility is going slowly. I would have hit halfway this morning but my Kobo died so now I have to wait for it to charge. Once I get there, I'm going to move back into my book stack again. 

      How's Writing?
      Total: 5,702 words
      Best Day: 2,964
      Still don't have anything concrete with a new WIP or revisions as of yet. Just some short stories and some worldbuilding scenes for what could be a new WIP if I can hammer out a plot.

      Friday, July 19, 2013

      Flash Fiction Friday: For Want of a Penny (Part 1)

      The proverb at the beginning of this is one of my favorites. I was thinking about it and this character popped into my head along with her story. It's a little long for one blog post, so I'm going to post the second half next week.

      “For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a nail.”

      I’ve never quite understood that proverb until now. For me it wasn’t a nail that brought destruction to my life.

      It was a penny in the middle of the sidewalk.

      I was on my way to work when I spotted it. Shiny in a way that only brand new pennies are. Tails up. Bad luck if you believed in that sort of thing. I leaned down and slipped it into my pocket.

      Someone crashed into me from behind. I went flying to the pavement, scraping my hands in the attempt to catch myself.

      “I’m so sorry.” The voice was smooth, rich, unmistakably male. I turned around to take in its owner. He looked like a businessman, banker maybe, clad in a dark suit and pale blue tie. His dark hair looked like it might have been cropped in a military hair cut at one time, but was starting to grow out a bit now.

      He offered me his hand to help me up and I accepted, brushing off my skirt and coat. “You’re bleeding,” he said. I couldn’t feel any pain yet but sure enough my hands were raw and a nasty scrape on my elbow was dripping blood down my arm.

      “I live just around the corner,” he continued even though I still hadn’t said anything. “You can stop by at my place and get cleaned up if you like. It’s the least I can do.”

      “I really have to get to work,” I replied. My boss would kill me if I was late again, though I had to admit the scrapes were really starting to sting.

      “It’ll just take a minute.” His smile was soft and insistent and I found myself nodding in agreement. “I’m Mark, by the way.”

      “Amy.”

      “Where were you off to before I so rudely crashed into you?”

      It was hard to resist the charming note in his voice. I stopped worrying about work as I started to relax. I’d make it on time somehow. “Work. I manage the Barnes & Noble just down the street.”

      “You love books then?” He rested his hand on my waist, guiding me through the people bustling up and down the sidewalk.

      “More than anything.” I played with the penny deep in my pocket to occupy my hand. “Where were you rushing off to?”

      “Work as well. Bank of America.” I was right: a banker. The image of him resting behind a desk, managing money was a bit of a daunting one. “This is me.” He directed me to the right and through the door of a nice looking complex.

      Up two flights of stairs he stopped long enough to unlock the door and directed me inside. It wasn’t the sprawling rich apartment that I expected, but it wasn’t squalid by any means.

      “I don’t live here all the time,” he explained. “It just gives me a place to stay in the city. I actually have a house in the outskirts.”

      “Is there a wife there?” I didn’t know what made me want to ask, but the words were out there between us before I could stop them.

      “No, no.” He chuckled. “Bathroom’s that way.” He pointed down a short hall and I followed it until I found a bathroom complete with a jacuzzi tub. If this was where he didn’t live, then I’d love to see where he did.

      I quashed that thought as soon as it floated up. Mark was exactly what I didn’t need right now. I gave the ring on my finger a couple of twists before opening the medicine cabinet. There was peroxide, ointment, and plenty of bandages and I was fixed up before I know it.

      The clock in the living room told me that if I hurried, I could still make it to work on time. Mark was standing in the kitchen, a pair of wine glasses in front of him.

      Thursday, July 18, 2013

      New Releases: Right of Way, Imperfect Spiral, Contaminated

      Right of Way
      by Lauren Barnholdt 
      Here are Peyton and Jace, meeting on vacation. Click! It’s awesome, it’s easy, it’s romantic. This is the real deal.

      Unless it isn’t. Because when you’re in love, you don’t just stop calling one day. And you don’t keep secrets. Or lie. And when your life starts falling apart, you’re supposed to have the other person to lean on.

      Here are Peyton and Jace again, broken up but thrown together on a road trip. One of them is lying about the destination. One of them is pretending not to be leaving something behind. And neither of them is prepared for what’s coming on the road ahead…

       Imperfect Spiral
      by Debbie Levy
      Danielle Snyder's summer job as a babysitter takes a tragic turn when Humphrey, the five-year-old boy she's watching, runs in front of oncoming traffic to chase down his football. Immediately Danielle is caught up in the machinery of tragedy: police investigations, neighborhood squabbling, and, when the driver of the car that struck Humphrey turns out to be an undocumented alien, outsiders use the accident to further a politically charged immigration debate. Wanting only to mourn Humphrey, the sweet kid she had a surprisingly strong friendship with, Danielle tries to avoid the world around her. Through a new relationship with Justin, a boy she meets at the park, she begins to work through her grief, but as details of the accident emerge, much is not as it seems. It's time for Danielle to face reality, but when the truth brings so much pain, can she find a way to do right by Humphrey's memory and forgive herself for his death?

       Contaminated
      by Em Garner
      After the Contamination—an epidemic caused by the super-trendy diet drink ThinPro that turned ordinary citizens into violent, uncontrollable creatures—the government rounded up the "Connies" to protect the remaining population. Now, two years later, the rehabilitated are being allowed home, complete with shock collars that will either control, or kill, them.

      Velvet Ellis has struggled to care for her ten-year-old sister since her parents were taken in the round up. When she finds her mother in one of the "Kennels," Velvet resolves to do whatever it takes to put her family back together. But the danger isn’t over. It’s beginning all over again…

      Tuesday, July 16, 2013

      Chapter-by-Chapter Beta Reading

      Beta reading a manuscript a few chapters at a time is a little different than reading an entire manuscript at once. It can take longer, for instance, because of the wait for the next set of chapters. Also there will be a more severe focus on each set, rather than on the MS as a whole. Here are some tips for beta readers and writers that want to take the chapter-by-chapter route when it comes to beta reading.

      Beta reader
      1. Keep a document of all of your comments. When I email my comments to the writer, I copy-paste them into a document along with the chapter numbers that those comments refer to. It helps me to keep track of what I've said and see if there are any reoccurring problems.  

      2. Consider keeping a second list of private notes that you wait until after you've finished the MS to send. Some problems won't become evident until you can look at the MS as a whole, such as character development or the overall plot arc. Also take note of any questions that you have and whether they're answered later in the book.

      3. Use the slow reading to your advantage. Reading a few chapters at a time can really make it obvious when the pace slows down in a story and there isn't a lot happening, or when the pace speeds up and there's too much happening.

      Writer
      1. Try to send the next set of chapters in a timely manner. If days (or weeks) go by in between, your reader could forget the details of what's going on in the story.

      2. If you get a lot of the same comments, consider asking for a little time to revise the next set of chapters before you send them. This is especially true of spelling and grammar mistakes that your reader has already corrected. If you get to those mistakes first, then your reader can focus on other things.

      3. Remember that your beta reader is only evaluating what they've read so far. If they ask a question that's answered later, either keep that in mind when reading their critique or consider moving up the answer in the story.

      Monday, July 15, 2013

      Monday Updates: July 15

      Well we're officially halfway through July already. I don't even know where the days are going at this point. I still have so much to do before I go back to uni and not very much time to do it.


      How's Life? 
      Went to the eye doctor to get my eyes checked. She told me they're healthy but I'm nearsighted (which I knew) and need glasses (knew that too). They arrived early so I'm already wearing them. It's the first time since about ninth grade I've been able to see properly.

      My favorite Red Wings player refused all offered contracts and left my team. I'm already more than a little worried about how this is going to play out next season.

      How's TV? 
      I took the last week to catch up on movies and TV. I watched Argo (very good movie and I've already added it to my list to buy on DVD), Chasing Mavericks (the kind of movie that makes you sit down and evaluate your entire view of life and the world), 13 Going on 30 (so sweet and funny, I love Mark Ruffalo), Made of Honor (adorable romance, I'm kind of disappointed in myself that I haven't watched this movie before), Star Struck (now one of my favorite Disney channel movies), Jump In (another good Disney channel movie), First Daughter (seen it before but I really wanted to see Marc Blucas again), and The Labyrinth (weird movie but I love Jareth). 

      I also watched the first episode of To the Ends of the Earth, the BBC minseries with Benedict Cumberbatch. It's one of his first roles and I love him in it. In Buffy news, I'm up to season four. The new season of my only summer show--Covert Affairs--starts tomorrow.

      Cote de Pablo is leaving NCIS. I wish I didn't know because now I'm seriously dreading season eleven. Ziva is my favorite character and I was so hoping she was getting close to a relationship with Tony.

      How's Reading?
      Week 1: 1
      Week 2: 3 
      I finished Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz. It took me a bit to get into but once I did I was hooked. I also participated in the Once Upon a Readathon this week, which helped to kickstart my reading again. For the readathon, I read Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen (good 1929 historical), Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton (really enjoyed this one), and Slam by Nick Hornby (a contemporary that felt real). I'm a quarter of the way through Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen and would like to make a sizeable dent in it before I start anything else.

      How's Writing?
      Week 1 Total: 15,416 words
      Best Day: 10,088
      After a slow week of steady writing but just barely hitting my target word count each day, I sat down on Sunday and pounded out the entire ending for my WIP. The first draft is complete!

      Week 2 Total: 4,027 words
      Best Day: 2,284
      Not much writing going on this week because of all the reading and movie watching. I'm trying to do a little catching up while I think about where to go from here. I'm playing with revision ideas for a couple different works at the moment.

      Friday, July 12, 2013

      Flash Fiction: Dark Nights and Bright Lights

      “It was a dark and stormy night…”

      “You can’t start a story like that!” Nate interrupts. “That’s cliché. Not to mention a little repetitive. Obviously it’s dark if it’s night.” He’s my little brother. Only fourteen but he still thinks he’s a genius. I’d never tell him but he’s smarter than the majority of the people I know in college.

      “That’s not true,” my sister, Haley, says. “It could be a full moon. I know you don’t turn into a werewolf so you have to have seen at least one.” She’s only six and she’s got the sarcasm down pat. She’s going to be a hellcat when she’s in high school.

      “How do you know I’m not a werewolf?” Nate growls at her, teeth bared. His blond hair is shaggy enough to make him look like a wolf.

      “Shut up! I’m trying to tell a story here,” I bark at them.

      They quiet down. The four of us—Haley, Nate, his friend Ben, and I—are gathered around the fire outside of our camper. Mom’s already inside, trying to sleep off a headache. Dad took the car and drove out to town. We’re in one of those real campgrounds, the kind where you have to walk for about five to ten minutes just to see another site, let alone another person. The trees rustle around us.

      It’s my turn to tell a story, or it would be if everyone could shut up long enough for me to actually tell one. They’re quiet now, Haley huddled close to Nate with Ben not so much roasting marshmallows as setting them on fire.

      “It was a night much like this one. Quiet, calm, the clouds blocking out the stars and the moon. Two boys were camping with their parents and, in the middle of the night, they decided to hike down to the lake.”

      I pause, to make sure no one needs to make some kind of comment. They’re silent, eyes fixed on me.

      “As they walked, the older brother thought he saw someone spying at them from the shadows among the trees. He didn’t want to scare his little brother so he didn’t say anything. The deeper they went into the forest, the more he felt like someone was following them.”

      I wait again. Ben sits his roasting stick aside and curls up in his chair. Their muscles tremble with anticipation.

      “Behind them they heard a noise.”

      “What noise?” Haley asks.

      “Hush, and I’ll demonstrate. Behind them they heard a noise.” I make a low moaning noise deep in my throat, ghostly and rattling. “They looked but they didn’t see anything around. ‘It’s just the trees,’ the older brother said and they kept going.

      “When they reached a lake, they saw a pair of bright white lights glowing on the opposite bank. The younger brother stepped down to the water for some stones to skip and…”

      Dad chooses that moment to drive his truck back up to the campsite. Haley screeches and presses her face into Nate’s chest.

      “Sorry,” Dad says as he climbs out of the truck. “Don’t let me interrupt.” He’s laden with plastic bags and carries them straight over to the camper, snapping the door shut behind him.

      Haley peeks out of Nate’s hoodie and says, “Keep going, please.”

      I smile and oblige them. “Where was I? They saw the lights on the other side of the lake and one of them went to get skipping stones. He skipped one right across the pond and squealed with victory. ‘Did you see that?’ he asked his brother. When he didn’t receive a reply, he turned around. His brother was gone.”

      Haley gasps and asks, “Where did he go?” Nate shushes her.

      “He shouted for his brother with no answer. ‘Very funny,’ he said. ‘Hello? This isn’t funny anymore. Where are you?’ Still no answer. He turned back to the pond and realized that the lights were creeping closer and closer. They seemed to bounce across the surface of the water and as they reached him, they blazed bright red.

      “That’s when he saw his brother, screaming and engulfed in the red light to his left. He screamed. The light washed over him burning and so bright it blinded him, knocking him to his knees. And then everything went black.”

      Haley pushes her face back into Nate’s hoodie.

      “When the two boys didn’t return to their campsite, their parents looked and looked for them. Search parties were sent out. They all returned empty handed. The only thing they ever found was a little pile of perfect skipping stones, the older brother’s scarf, and tiny traces of ash.”

      I lean back in my chair. Haley looks up at me and rewards me with a tiny grin. Ben shivers and tries to push deeper into his chair. Nate claps and the sound echoes through the woods.

      “All right,” I say. “Who’s next?”

      Thursday, July 11, 2013

      Once Upon a Readathon Wrap Up

      Thanks to Lori at Pure Imagination, Angela and Loretta at Reading Angels, and Candace at Candace's Book Blog for hosting this amazing readathon!

      Goals
      Day 1
      Day 2
      Day 3


      I haven't had the best luck reading-wise lately. I set a goal for 100 books this year and I only just hit 20 so I'm obviously way behind. I was also hoping to make a good dent in my summer reading stack so I can buy more books without feeling guilty I can sort out which books I want to take back to uni with me in a few weeks.

      For the readathon, I decided to go with three books. A book a day, I could do that.

      Day one I read Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen. It was a bit of a haul because it's a longer book and was one better absorbed slowly. The next day I devoured Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton. I was starting to get burned out but there was only one day to go.

      I almost made it. I'm not actually finished with Slam by Nick Hornby yet. It's not a light-hearted book and it's taking a bit more time. Plus I ended up at my grandpa's house all yesterday afternoon and didn't think to take the book with me.

      Still, I seem to have started a whole new reading kick so maybe I can make progress on my summer stack after all.

      New Releases: The Distance Between Us; Truly, Madly, Deadly; and Anomaly

      The Distance Between Us
      by Kasie West
      Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.

      So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she's beginning to enjoy his company.

      She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.
       Truly, Madly, Deadly
      by Hannah Jayne
      Sawyer Dodd has it all. She's a star track athlete, choir soloist, and A-student. And her boyfriend is the handsome all-star Kevin Anderson. But behind the medals, prom pictures, and perfect smiles, Sawyer finds herself trapped in a controlling, abusive relationship with Kevin. When he dies in a drunk-driving accident, Sawyer is secretly relieved. She's free. Until she opens her locker and finds a mysterious letter signed by "an admirer" and printed with two simple words: "You're welcome."
      Anomaly
      by Krista McGee
      Thalli has fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds left to live. The toxic gas that will complete her annihilation is invading her bloodstream. But she is not afraid.

      Thalli is different than others in The State. She feels things. She asks questions. And in the State, this is not tolerated. The Ten scientists who survived the nuclear war that destroyed the world above believe that emotion was at the core of what went wrong—and they have genetically removed it from the citizens they have since created. Thalli has kept her malformation secret from those who have monitored her for most of her life, but when she receives an ancient piece of music to record as her community’s assigned musician, she can no longer keep her emotions secreted away.

      Seen as a threat to the harmony of her Pod, Thalli is taken to the Scientists for immediate annihilation. But before that can happen, Berk—her former Pod mate who is being groomed as a Scientist—steps in and persuades the Scientists to keep Thalli alive as a test subject.

      The more time she spends in the Scientist’s Pod, the clearer it becomes that things are not as simple as she was programmed to believe. She hears stories of a Designer—stories that fill her mind with more questions: Who can she trust? What is this emotion called love? And what if she isn’t just an anomaly, but part of a greater design?

      Wednesday, July 10, 2013

      Once Upon a Readathon: Day 3

      This amazing readathon is hosted by Lori at Pure Imagination, Angela and Loretta at Reading Angels, and Candace at Candace's Book Blog. This is the master post for Day 3, the last day. I'll update it throughout the day with progress, official challenges, pictures, and more.

      TALLY: 
      So far: 2
      Today: 0

      CHALLENGES:
      Dizneeee's World of Books asks what is my...
      ...favorite genre? 
      I'm going to go with Young Adult fantasy because it's had a special place in my heart for most of my life. It's a hard choice because I love so many genres for different reasons.

      ...favorite book within that genre? 
      I can't not say Harry Potter. Like a lot of people who grew up in the '90s I consider it my childhood. I devoured the series, I watched the movies, I grew up with the characters. It's not something that I can easily forget. I'll also add City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (my favorite by her) and Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins.

      ...favorite character from the same genre? 
      Daine in the Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce. She's another character that was a huge part of my childhood. I've read that quartet more times than any other book or series (and that includes Harry Potter). Her bravery and love of animals was inspiring to me.

      UPDATES:
      9:57am.
      I'm already getting a little burned out. It's been a while since I've read books at this fast a pace and I'm having trouble sustaining it. My third book is Slam by Nick Hornby and I'm starting to think I should have chosen something a little faster paced for the last day. I'm at about 12% with it. I bow to those of you who are participating in this readathon after completing another one!

      1:17pm. 
      It's storming here. I actually like thunderstorms but I'd find it a lot more enjoyable if it hadn't stormed practically every day for the past two weeks. I'm a quarter of the way through Slam and taking a bit of a break to complete challenges.

      RTW: Halfway Check-In

      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. We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

      This Week's Topic:  
      Quarterly Check-In: We did one back in March, so now that we're just past the halfway point of the year, how are you doing on your goals?
        
      I can't believe it's July already. And I can't believe it's ten days into July! Where is my year going? It seems like just yesterday I was celebrating New Year's with my family. 

      Anyway, reading-wise I'm way behind with my goal of 100 books. I just hit 20 books read so far this year yesterday. I have to read about 13 books a month in order to make it and once I'm back in school, there's no way that's going to happen. My goal to read ten classics this year is going a little better. I've read two so far (Turn of the Screw and A Study in Scarlet) and I'm progressing slowly with Sense and Sensibility. 

      Writing-wise I'm doing a lot better with my goals. I just finished the first draft of my WIP on Sunday and now I'm taking some time to relax and catch up on reading before I decide where to go from here. There are some major revisions ahead and I'm already starting to brainstorm. 

      Tuesday, July 9, 2013

      Once Upon a Readathon: Day 2

      This amazing readathon is hosted by Lori at Pure Imagination, Angela and Loretta at Reading Angels, and Candace at Candace's Book Blog. This is the master post for Day 2. I'll update it throughout the day with progress, official challenges, pictures, and more.

      TALLY: 
      Books finished day 1: 1
      Books finished today: 1

      CHALLENGES:
      From IB Book Blogging...
      Make your dream guy using characteristics, personalities, looks, and anything else you can think of from your favorite book boyfriends. 
      This is a tough one for me. I'm kind of stuck on Sebastian right now (in Darkness Becomes Her). I also have a lot of fictional boys that I love. So, here goes. He would have Will (Infernal Devices)'s looks. Simon (Mortal Instruments)'s nerdiness. George (Lioness quartet)'s sense of humor. Oliver (Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight)'s accent. Four (Divergent)'s strength. Jem (Infernal Devices)'s ability to play the violin. Albert (War Horse)'s love of horses. Neville's bravery. And Harry's loyalty.

      UPDATES:
      9:56am. 
      I started reading Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton around ten last night after I finished my first book. I'm about 13% through it so far and absolutely hooked.

      10:55am. 
      About 27%. It's time for me to go out and take the dog for a walk. If I could walk down the street reading the book, I would. I got so caught up in it that I forgot where I was until I pulled myself away.

      1:16pm.
      Is there anything better than tea and a great book?  

      3:51pm. 
      Finished my second book of the readathon! I'm going to take a little time to cool down because right now I'm dying for the sequel and I don't have the sequel. Then I'll go check out my stack for my next choice.

      9:48pm. 
      I took a few hours off to relax, write a little bit, walk the dog, and go to the grocery store. After I was surprised to find that both of my other books for the readathon were first books in a series, I decided to find a book that is stand-alone for my third choice. Of the six books in my stack, three of them are the first in the series and the fourth is the second book in a series. Technically the fifth is the final book in a series. So my choice is Slam by Nick Hornby.

      Monday, July 8, 2013

      Once Upon a Readathon: Day 1

      This amazing readathon is hosted by Lori at Pure Imagination, Angela and Loretta at Reading Angels, and Candace at Candace's Book Blog. This is the master post for Day 1 which started at midnight last night. I'll update it throughout the day with progress, official challenges, and more.

      TALLY: 
      Books finished: 1

      CHALLENGES: 
      Cover2CoverBlog would like to know...
      1. Which book you are most excited to read in the coming year? It can be already released or coming soon.
      I'm most looking forward to Allegiant by Veronica Roth. It's the last book in the trilogy and I'm dying to get my hands on it. A very close second would be The House of Hades by Rick Riordan, the fourth book in his Heroes of Olympus series.

      2. Which book would you re-read if you had the time and weren't so busy reading ALL of the other good thing?
      I actually have two stacks of books in my room--one of books that I haven't read yet and another of books that I want to read again. I'm dying to read Tamora Pierce's Immortals quartet again. I own the first and the fourth in the series, but not the second and third. I just ordered them this morning so soon! I'd also really like to read the entire Harry Potter series again. I haven't done that since before Deathly Hallows came out.

      3. If you could meet any fictional character who would it be and why?
      This is always a horribly hard question for me because there are so many characters I love and it's impossible to choose just one. My automatic answer is the Doctor, because traveling in time and space. My book answer for this is either Hermione (because I literally grew up with her) and Daine (because of her strength and love of animals).

      UPDATES:
      9:27am. 
      I started reading Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen just after midnight. I'm only a few chapters in and I'm going to have to take a break to get things done around the house. If I take extra time away from reading today, I'll have more time over the next couple of days to devote to my books.

      12:02pm. 
      I took a long break to take care of some things and then I settled down on the floor and read while my guinea pig pair got some exercise. The chestnut brown one on the left is Ozzie (short for Oswin, after Clara Oswin Oswald on Doctor Who) and the black and brown one on the right is Ziva (after Ziva David on NCIS).

      Ozzie got curious and decided to see what I was doing. Unfortunately he also wanted to know if my book was something he could eat. I think he approves.
      I'm going to read while lunch is cooking and then while I eat I'll check out the challenges and see how everyone else is doing.

      4:12pm. 
      I've been alternating between reading and doing dishes for the past few hours. I've successfully finished all the dishes now, though, which means my chores for the day are done and most of the evening is free for reading. I'm currently 37% through with BYT.

      10:17pm. 
      Just finished Bright Young Things! I'm pining for the sequel, but unfortunately I don't have it so that's going to have to wait. It's a great historical novel, set in 1929. A little slow to start but well worth it. Next up is Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton.  

      Once Upon a Readathon: Goals

      This amazing readathon is hosted by Lori at Pure Imagination, Angela and Loretta at Reading Angels, and Candace at Candace's Book Blog.

      Goals:
      I'm going to be more realistic with my goals this year. I've been only reading three or four books a month so far this year, so I'm going to shoot for three books this week. 


      This is my stack of summer books. I'm not sure yet which ones I'm going to go for. About half of them are rereads so those will probably wait for after the Readathon.

      My options are (not including possible rereads): 
      The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
      Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
      The Demon Trapper's Daughter by Jana Oliver
      Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers
      Slam by Nick Hornby
      Sphinx's Princess by Esther M. Friesner
      Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund
      Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton

      Friday, July 5, 2013

      Flash Fiction Friday: Kisses and Fireworks

      When I first wrote down the idea for my current WIP, this scene was part of that idea. It doesn't work now, because this scene takes place during the Fourth of July and my WIP takes place during the school year. When I decided that I wanted this week's piece to have something to do with the Fourth, I chose to write it separately.


      We sit side-by-side on the edge of the lake. It’s dark, the only light provided by the stars, a few bonfires dotting here and there, and the headlights of late cars pulling into the parking lot behind us. I’m resting on a towel in the sand, water lapping at my feet. Chris is just above me.

      There’s a sharp feeling of anticipation in the air. Except for one couple shouting about something—what exactly, I’m too far away to hear—it’s quiet.

      The first firework blasts into the air with a squeal and everyone turns their attention to the other side of the lake.

      A second firework follows.

      They burst into a shower of blue and gold sparks that crackle and fizzle off. Everyone goes “Ooh" and “Ahh” which is something I’ve never quite understood. We all know that the fireworks are beautiful. That’s why we’re here. Is it something that needs to be said out loud?

      The fireworks continue. Red. Blue. White. Green. Some let off a blast that makes me want to cover my ears. Some a sharp whistling. Some a noise like a sizzle. They all take my breath away.

      Chris reaches over and puts his hand on top of mine. Slides down so the water surrounds the bottoms of his shoes.

      “Are you okay?” he asks, the fireworks reflecting in his eyes.

      I nod and turn my attention back to the display. It’s almost time for the grand finale, I can feel it. People are starting to get restless, some of them going so far as to start packing up their things and heading for the car.

      Silence.

      No one speaks. I don’t even breathe.

      They set off all the fireworks they have left and I watch them burst into the sky and explode. Different colors and kinds and shapes, all of them beautiful.

      I look over at Chris and he looks at me. The fireworks shake my heart in my chest. He leans closer and I know that I shouldn’t let him.

      But I do.

      He presses his lips against mine. I let him do that too. The kiss is a lot like the fireworks—a flash of white-hot beauty that’s over in the blink of an eye and leaves only darkness and a shadow of smoke behind.

      The fireworks stop and in the silence, I can think. Guilt burns like hot coals against my skin and I rip myself out from under his grip.

      “I’m sorry,” Chris says, reaching for me.

      His touch is the last thing I want. I need to run, faster and harder than I’ve ever run before, until I hit the next county, the next state, the next world. I don’t answer before I walk to my car, feeling like I’m in a dream.

      Wednesday, July 3, 2013

      RTW: Favorite YA LGBT Book

      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. We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments. 


      Next week’s topic: 
      In honor of National Pride Month, what's your favorite YA LGBT book?

      I'm going to pick a couple favorites. I can't choose just one, because I want both books on the list for different reasons.

      First up:
       Boy Meets Boy
      by David Levithan

      I read it a few years ago in high school and loved it. I've had it on my list of books to buy ever since, I just haven't sat down and ordered it yet. It's a very sweet and beautifully written story. 

      Next: 
      Every Day
       by David Levithan

      I wanted to include this book because the sexuality and gender identity is more fluid. The main character who goes only by 'A' wakes up in a new body every day (male, female, gay, straight, basically anyone who's the same age). The writing is gorgeous and fast-paced, the concept well-executed. One of my favorite books.

      Tuesday, July 2, 2013

      Why I Like Rereading Books

      I have friends that generally only read books once. They love to read, they just don't really see the point of reading a book once you already know what happens. I'm not like there. There are books on my shelves that I've read a double-digit number of times. I fully expect that someday I'll read 100 reads on some of them (wouldn't be surprised if Wild Magic and Realms of the Gods by Tamora Pierce are already there). 

      Books can mean different things in different periods of our lives. I'm going to use Paper Towns by John Green as an example for this one. I first read it a few years ago in high school and, without spoiling it for those who haven't read it, I cried through the ending. I couldn't understand why I was crying but I knew that it hurt. Fast forward to last week, when I read it again. I didn't cry this time, because the ending meant something different to me this time around.

      (This paragraph may imply spoilers, I'm not really sure.) The first time that scene made me think of loss. The idea of meeting someone who you love and makes a huge impact on your life and then the loss of them leaving you. The second time made me think that maybe it's more about letting them make that impact on your life and that not everyone you love is meant to stay.


      Another reason I love rereads is because I notice more detail and foreshadowing the next time around. The Harry Potter series is the best example for this. When I was waiting for the next book to come out, I would go back and reread the others because I was determined that the clues had to be there. It was true again after I'd finished the series, because I realized how many clues really were there the whole time (like, for instance, the locket that makes an appearance in Order of the Phoenix or the diary in Chamber of Secrets).

      Finally, some books I just like to go back to for a comfort reading. Tamora Pierce's books are especially special to me. I like to read the Immortals quartet during finals week because they're quick reads that I've gone through more times than I can count, but always manage to pull me in again anyway.

      Do you reread books, or is one time enough? 

      Monday, July 1, 2013

      Monday Updates: July 1

      The year is officially halfway over. Where is the time going?? I'm not sure if I'm in shock or denial regarding how fast 2013 (and this summer) are passing.

      Song of the week: Skeletons by Eli Young Band 

      How's Life?
      It was a week of ups and downs. It's been storming almost non-stop for most of the week.

      How's TV?
      I didn't have a lot of time for TV this week, but I'm up to the season three finale of Buffy. I also watched Miracle which is an extremely inspiring and beautiful movie. If you've never seen it, it's the story of coach Herb Brooks leading a team of college hockey players to victory against the seemingly unbeatable Russian team during the 1980 Winter Olympics. I also watched You're So Cupid which is an extremely cheesy movie but in an adorable kind of way.

      How's Reading?
      Books read: 1
      I finished my reread of Paper Towns by John Green and it didn't lose anything in the second reading. It's still a gorgeously written book. This puts me at 17 books so far and, at this rate, I'll only make 34 books this year. To hit goal, I have to read 14 books a month. I'm planning to participate in the Once Upon a Readathon in a couple weeks, so hopefully that will let me cut down the distance a little.

      How's Writing?
      Total words: 10,694
      Best day: 2,992
      It was a great week, writing-wise. Unfortunately not all of those words were written on my WIP, but that's okay. I've already hit my word count goal of 60k! I'm estimating about another 5k to 10k to go before "The End." Usually the ending is the easiest part for me but I'm struggling a bit with this one.