Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What's Up Wednesday - January 28, 2015

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
I finished Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford last week. My review went up on Friday. I felt that it fell short of its potential. But now I'm reading Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. I have to admit that I was a little sad when I read the summary and found out it focuses on Scarlet rather than Cinder but I'm quickly falling in love.

What I'm Writing: 
Nothing at the moment. I haven't started querying either. I'm swamped with work. It's not likely to get any better until next week so I think I'm going to forego the writing goal.

What Works for Me: 
Musical motivation. I've listened to Fall Out Boy's new album an almost embarrassing number of times since it was released, but I regret nothing. Sometimes music gets me pumped up (like Fall Out Boy) and sometimes it helps me to settle down and focus (like my all instrumental playlist on Pandora).

What Else I've Been Up to: 
Trying to get settled into a routine. The first few weeks of a semester are always the toughest scheduling wise because there's classes and work and lab time and somewhere in there sleep has to happen. Mine is starting to fall into place but I haven't quite gotten there yet. My Starbucks intake is also a little out of hand at the moment.

If anyone's out east, stay safe and warm. Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, January 26, 2015

What's New This Week - January 26

I'm Glad I Did
by Cynthia Weil
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and songwriting legend Cynthia Weil's extraordinary YA debut opens the secretive doors of the Brill Building-the hit factory that changed history. Part Mad Men, part Grace of my Heart, part murder mystery, I'm Glad I Did is a coming-of-age story at an unforgettable cultural tipping point: the summer of 1963.

JJ Greene, a gifted 16-year-old songwriter, defies her lawyer parents by secretly applying for a job in the famed Brill Building-the epicenter of songwriting for a new genre called rock-n-roll. But their warnings about the evils of the music industry prove far darker than she imagined when she finds herself at the heart of a cover-up that involves hidden identity, theft, and possibly murder.

Cut Me Free
by J.R. Johansson
Seventeen-year-old Charlotte barely escaped from her abusive parents. Her little brother, Sam, wasn't as lucky. Now she's trying to begin the new life she always dreamed of for them, but never thought she'd have to experience alone. She's hired a techie-genius with a knack for forgery to remove the last ties to her old life. But while she can erase her former identity, she can’t rid herself of the memories. And her troubled history won’t let her ignore the little girl she sees one day in the park. The girl with the bruises and burn marks.

That’s when Charlotte begins to receive the messages. Threatening notes left in her apartment--without a trace of entry. And they’re addressed to Piper, her old name. As the messages grow in frequency, she doesn’t just need to uncover who is leaving them; she needs to stop whoever it is before anyone else she loves ends up dead.

Love, Lucy
by April Lindner
While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Boy on the Bridge Review

The Boy on the Bridge
by Natalie Standiford
Laura Reid goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad as Cold War paranoia is peaking in 1982. She meets a young Russian artist named Alexei and soon, with Alexei as her guide, Laura immerses herself in the real Russia--a crazy world of wild parties, black-market books and music, and smuggled letters to dissidents. She must keep the relationship secret; associating with Americans is dangerous for Alexei, and if caught, Laura could be sent home and Alexei put under surveillance or worse. At the same time, she's been warned that Soviets often latch onto Americans in hopes of marrying them and thus escaping to the United States. But she knows Alexei loves her. Right?

As June approaches--when Laura must return to the United States--Alexei asks Laura to marry him. She's only nineteen and doesn't think she's ready to settle down. But what if Alexei is the love of her life? How can she leave him behind? If she has a chance to change his life, to rescue him from misery, shouldn't she take it?

I was really excited about this book. Historical set in Russia? Falling in love while on study abroad? Bring it on.  

Overall, it wasn't what I hoped. The Russian setting was fascinating and beautifully used, making for an original concept. The characters are solid. Alexei and Laura's relationship is lovely. There's a range of American and Russian minor characters, some of them more developed than others. The voice falls flat and it just didn't grab me. There are points at which i felt like I was being told a story, and it pulled me out of it. The ending is more bitter than sweet. While it's relatively expected, it works well.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What's Up Wednesday - January 21, 2015

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
Still Boy on the Bridge. I'm a little less than halfway. I ordered a bunch of new books from B&N and they shipped today, though, so I'm going to have to finish it before they get here. 

What I'm Writing: 
Nothing at the moment. Working on getting Weredragon's synopsis down to a more acceptable length. My writing goal for the week is to get ten queries out there again.

What Works for Me: 
Sometimes it's not giving myself rewards. I've talked before about how I like to give myself a little break after I complete a task on my to do list. Sometimes that break is an episode of a TV show. Recently, though, I've had to quit doing that because I find myself spending more time watching Stargate or How I Met Your Mother than actually working. For now I just work through my to do list and then I get to have fun. 

What Else I'm Up to: 
I start both of my tutoring jobs this week--statistics within the psychology department--and I'm actually pretty excited about it. Hopefully it all goes well this semester.

Have a great week!

Monday, January 19, 2015

What's New This Week - January 19

Killing Time in Crystal City
by Chris Lynch
Crystal City called for him, and Kevin answered. And why wouldn’t he? His relationship with his father is broken—as is his arm. With barely anyone to miss him or care if he’s gone, it seemed like the perfect time for Kevin to run away to his estranged uncle and create an entirely new identity. New name. New attitude. New friends. Maybe even a new girl.

From the first moment of adventure, Kevin’s life takes a turn for the exciting. Making friends seems easy with his new persona, especially when a group of homeless beach bums instantly includes him in their crew. But do they like the real Kevin, or the guy he’s pretending to be? And will this new lifestyle help Kevin escape from the misery of his former life—or will it drag him right back into the reasons he left home?

 All Fall Down
by Ally Carter
Embassy Row #1
Grace can best be described as a daredevil, an Army brat, and a rebel. She is also the only granddaughter of perhaps the most powerful ambassador in the world and Grace has spent every summer of her childhood running across the roofs of Embassy Row.

Now, at age sixteen, she's come back to stay - in order to solve the mystery of her mother's death. In the process, she uncovers an international conspiracy of unsettling proportions, and must choose her friends and watch her foes carefully if she and the world are to be saved.

The Way We Bared Our Souls
by Willa Strayhorn
Five teenagers sit around a bonfire in the middle of the New Mexico desert. They don’t know it yet, but they are about to make the biggest sacrifice of their lives.

Lo has a family history of MS, and is starting to come down with all the symptoms.
Thomas, a former child soldier from Liberia, is plagued by traumatic memories of his war-torn past.
Kaya would do anything to feel physical pain, but a rare condition called CIP keeps her numb.
Ellen can’t remember who she was before she started doing drugs.
Kit lost his girlfriend in a car accident and now he just can’t shake his newfound fear of death.

When they trade totems as a symbol of shedding and adopting one another’s sorrows, they think it’s only an exercise.

But in the morning, they wake to find their burdens gone…and replaced with someone else’s.

As the reality of the ritual unfolds, this unlikely group of five embarks on a week of beautiful, terrifying experiences that all culminate in one perfect truth: In the end, your soul is stronger than your burdens.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What's Up Wednesday - January 14, 2015

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
Currently Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford. I must admit that it's not holding me as well as I hoped.

What I'm Writing: 
Going to start working on submission materials for Weredragon tomorrow. I already have a synopsis and query, I just need to make sure they're the best they can be. 

What Works for Me: 
Giving myself time off when I need it. For instance, Mondays I have class from 11 to 8:20 with only a few hours of break in between. My goal is to lower my target word count to a more manageable number or possibly eliminate it completely. The rest of the week is not nearly as hectic yet so there will be plenty of time for a proper writing session.

What Else I'm Up To: 
Classes. I'm actually really excited about mine this semester. It's going to be quite a bit of work but also a lot of fun. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

What's New This Week - January 12

The Boy Next Door
by Katie Van Ark
Maddy Spier has been in love with the boy next door forever. As his figure skating partner she spends time in his arms every day. But she’s also seen his arms around other girls—lots of other girls.

Gabe can't imagine skating with anyone but Maddy, and together they have a real chance at winning some serious gold medals. So, he’s determined to keep thinking of her like a sister. After all, he’s never had a romantic relationship that lasted for more than two weeks.

But when their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy’s been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?

 Vivian Apple at the End of the World
by Katie Coyle
Vivian Apple #1
Seventeen-year-old Vivian Apple never believed in the evangelical Church of America, unlike her recently devout parents. But when Vivian returns home the night after the supposed "Rapture," all that’s left of her parents are two holes in the roof. Suddenly, she doesn't know who or what to believe. With her best friend Harp and a mysterious ally, Peter, Vivian embarks on a desperate cross-country roadtrip through a paranoid and panic-stricken America to find answers. Because at the end of the world, Vivan Apple isn't looking for a savior. She's looking for the truth.

The Darkest Part of the Forest 
by Holly Black
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Cinder Review

by Marissa Meyer
Lunar Chronicles #1
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I know, I know. Very late to the party on this one. With this book, though, it's definitely better late than never. This book caught me and refused to let go. About halfway in, I told myself that I could read a few chapters before I got back to work. Ended up finishing the rest of the book in one sitting. 

Wonderful characters and excellent dialogue. I really love Cinder and her relationships with Iko and Peony. Also Prince Kai. I didn't expect to like the switches in perspective, but they actually provided a well-done picture of events and I found myself looking forward to one in particular besides Cinder.
The world-building was excellent and I love that this book was set somewhere other than America. It's extremely refreshing. The play on Cinderella was also well done, but helped to lend a certain predictability. Speaking of which (without spoiling anything), I guessed the big twist about 50 pages in. I was still intrigued waiting for the characters to figure things out, but it was also kind of disappointing. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What's Up Wednesday - January 7, 2015

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch. First Wednesday of the new year! It's been over a month since I've participated and I can't believe I let the time slip by like that.

What I'm Reading: 
I finished Cinder by Marissa Meyer a few days ago. I'm very late to the party on that one, but it's a fantastic book and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the next installment. Full review will be up on Friday. Next up is The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford.

What I'm Writing: 
Getting Weredragon ready to get back out there with queries. I gave it a skim and decided that I'm not quite ready to give up on it yet. My goal is to get my synopses and query agent-ready so that by this time next week I can start querying.

What Works for Me: 
Being busy. Quite honestly, I was hoping to get a lot done over my winter break. I figured that without school I'd have tons of free time to get all the things done. But with the holidays and so many people to see, I didn't have as much free time as I expected. I'm actually looking forward to the new semester starting, because having to balance class and work and homework really helps me to prioritize and work out a schedule to get everything done.

What Else I'm Up To:
Like I said, the new semester is starting up soon, next week actually. This will be my last as I'm graduating in May. I'm really excited about going back, though it is a bit bittersweet that this is for the last time.

Have a great week, everyone!

Monday, January 5, 2015

What's New This Week - January 5

I used to do weekly posts featuring new releases in young adult and middle grade and I've decided that it's time to bring that back. I've gotten out of touch with what's coming out and there are so many fantastic books. 

Gone Too Far
by Natalie Richards

Send me a name. Make someone pay.
Piper Woods can't wait to graduate. To leave high school-and all the annoying cliques-behind. But when she finds a mysterious notebook filled with the sins of her fellow students, Piper's suddenly drowning in their secrets.
And she's not the only one watching...
An anonymous text invites Piper to choose: the cheater, the bully, the shoplifter. The popular kids with their dirty little secrets. And with one text, Piper can make them pay.
But the truth can be dangerous...

There Will Be Lies
by Nick Lake
In four hours, Shelby Jane Cooper will be struck by a car.

Shortly after, she and her mother will leave the hospital and set out on a winding journey toward the Grand Canyon.

All Shelby knows is that they’re running from dangers only her mother understands. And the further they travel, the more Shelby questions everything about her past—and her current reality. Forced to take advantage of the kindness of unsuspecting travelers, Shelby grapples with what’s real, what isn’t, and who she can trust . . . if anybody.

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go
by Laura Rose Wagner
Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go follows the vivid story of two teenage cousins, raised as sisters, who survive the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. After losing the woman who raised them in the tragedy, Magdalie and Nadine must fend for themselves in the aftermath of the quake. The girls are inseparable, making the best of their new circumstances in a refugee camp with an affectionate, lively camaraderie, until Nadine, whose father lives in Miami, sends for her but not Magdalie. As she leaves, Nadine makes a promise she cannot keep: to bring Magdalie to Miami, too. Resourceful Magdalie focuses her efforts on a reunion with Nadine until she realizes her life is in Haiti, and that she must embrace its possibilities for love, friendship, and a future.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Resolutions

Happy New Year, everyone! Seriously, where did the time go? It's January 1st again which means it's time to make resolutions. I try to keep mine realistic, so that I might actually have a chance at keeping them. I thought about throwing some kind of exercise- or health-related goal on here, but those are always the first to go.

My resolutions:

Figure out where my writing is going.
I wanted to have some kind of goal here, like "revise this novel" or "complete two first drafts" but the truth is this has to be figured out first. My goal is to set up a game plan and stick to it.

Read 75 books.
I've been terrible at keeping up with my reading goals over the past few years and this year I'm determined to change that. About six books a month sounds do-able.

Move out.
I'm graduating college in a few months and my goal is to be moved into my own place by the end of the year.

Blog at least three days a week. 
Blogging has definitely fallen to the wayside recently and I'd like to start again.  

Do five things I've never done before. 
This is always my favorite thing on my resolution list. Pretty self-explanatory.

What are your resolutions for 2015?