Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday #2 WE ALL LOOKED UP

For my second WoW post, I'm going with a book I randomly stumbled across on Goodreads. For some reason, I can't stop thinking about it!

Waiting on Wednesday is a cool feature over at Breaking the Spine where we drool over forthcoming books that we can't wait to read.

Here is mine:

Goodreads synopsis:
Four high school seniors put their hopes, hearts, and humanity on the line as an asteroid hurtles toward Earth in this contemporary novel.

They always say that high school is the best time of your life.

Peter, the star basketball player at his school, is worried “they” might actually be right. Meanwhile Eliza can’t wait to escape Seattle—and her reputation—and perfect-on-paper Anita wonders if admission to Princeton is worth the price of abandoning her real dreams. Andy, for his part, doesn’t understand all the fuss about college and career—the future can wait.

Or can it? Because it turns out the future is hurtling through space with the potential to wipe out life on Earth. As these four seniors—along with the rest of the planet—wait to see what damage an asteroid will cause, they must abandon all thoughts of the future and decide how they’re going to spend what remains of the present.

It reminds me a bit of The Day the World Ended, which I reviewed last year. And what a bold choice for a cover, with the title and author's name sooo tiny. I'm waiting somewhat impatiently for this little gem.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: The Same Sky (Out Today!)

The Same SkyThe Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So who likes a good cry with their fiction?

This girl does. If you do, too, then grab this book and don't put it down. You won't want to, anyway. It is incredibly gripping, beautiful and horrifying at once. It's a story of a girl and a woman. A girl in Honduras whose mother left her to go to America (Carla). And the story of an affluent American woman who wants a baby (Alice). At first, I wasn't sure where the two storylines would intersect, but later on, it becomes clear. For much of the novel, I kept thinking how apt the title was. How can these two lives exist under the same sky?

A girl whose grandmother dies and she's left to raise her brother (at 10 years old) by herself in an increasingly dangerous, poverty-stricken area, where gangs roam and she is forced to pick through garbage for food and things to trade for food. Where her friends turn to prostitution to live, where her six-year-old brother becomes a drug addict and when her mother sends her a pretty dress for her birthday, all she can think is, I can't eat this.
And under that same sky lives a woman who aches for a baby of her own, but even as you feel her ache, you can't help but think how incredibly ungrateful and naive she is (and most Americans are, myself included) to think her life is rough. She has a semi-famous husband, a restaurant, a loving family, friends, neighbors who invite her over for margaritas and throw her parties. It makes you feel sick and helpless to see this woman so carelessly taking life for granted while never even imagining the depth of deprivation and suffering a child is going through when she sets off for America, riding 'The Beast' to get to her mother.

Now, a few years ago, I read Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother, a non-fiction look at immigrants trying to reunite with their families in America. So a lot of this wasn't exactly new. But Carla's struggles will rip your heart out. I cried at almost every chapter about her. And I have to say, they were the parts I really connected with, the ones that kept me up half the night reading. It would be a bit of a shock to re-enter Alice's privileged world the next chapter. But that was a good shock, and also kept the book from being just too damn depressing to read. They give breaks from the relentless horror or Carla's chapters.

I want to add about twenty adjectives to describe this book here, but none will do it justice. Read it. You won't be able to stop, and it will stay with you afterwards. I haven't read a book that made me really love reading in a while. It was about time I found one. I'm glad it was this one. The voice, the characters, the gritty, dirty awfulness of it were real. I wanted to save Junior so much it made me hurt. All I could think about was my own son, and how much I wanted to go and hold him and bury my nose in his hair and thank God for all my blessings. Be prepared to have your heart ripped out.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: The Same Sky

I'm a little late to join the "Waiting on Wednesday" Party, but I'm crashing it anyway! Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature on Breaking the Spine blog where readers highlight books they are anxious to read.

My first WoW will feature The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward, which is coming out NEXT TUESDAY! Whoop Whoop!

Goodreads description: In this heartrending and poignant novel, award-winning author Amanda Eyre Ward tells the story of Alice Conroe, a forty year old Texas barbecue owner who has the perfect life, except she and her husband long for a child. Unable to conceive, she’s trying desperately to adopt but her destiny is quickly altered by a young woman she’s never met.

Fearless thirteen-year-old Carla Trujilio is being raised by her grandmother in Honduras along with her four year old twin brothers. Her mother is sending money home from Texas where she’s trying to make a better life for her family, but she only has enough to bring one son to her. When Carla’s grandmother dies, Carla decides to take her fate into her own hands and embarks on a dangerous journey across the border with Junior, the twin left behind.

Two powerful journeys intersecting at a pivotal moment in time: Alice and Carla’s lives will be forever and profoundly changed. Heartbreaking, emotional, and arresting, this novel is about finding the courage to trail blaze your own path in life with faith, hope and love, no matter the struggle or the tragedy.

What are you waiting on?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Year in the Life of a Writer (Writer Wednesday)

Last week I posted about a manuscript I worked on in 2014. This week, I thought I'd give an update on what I did in 2014 (for all my fans, haha). I know you're all dying to know. But since I didn't write for several years, and I started back up at the beginning of 2014, I figured I'd post about a year in a writer's life. Mine, in particular.

January 2014--Wrote a manuscript for the first time in over 2 years. Possibly burst into tears when I finished. This will be Book 1 in a series I started in 2011.
February 2014--edited manuscript
March 2014--beta submissions & edits
April 2014--agent submissions, wrote another manuscript (This will be Book 8).
May--Revisions to both MS I wrote this year.
June--Resubmissions to interested agents, painted our house, tended garden.
July--A lot of work on house and garden, failed attempt at spin-off novel abandoned at 15k words, started a cooking blog.
August--garden work, cooking blog, revisions based on agent suggestions, retitle manuscript
September--Queries, cooking blog, wrote another manuscript (Book 6).
October--Critique group revisions & edits to book 6. Outlined for & began writing Book 7. Cooking blog.
November--Participated in NanoWrimo for the first time, completed Book 7 in my series. Scrapped most of Book 5 (written in 2011), outlined for new version. Quit cooking blog.
December--Beta reading for other authors, revisions based on beta suggestions for my own book, query letters written for 2 books, edits on Superiors Book 4.

So those were my writerly pursuits this past year. I hope in 2015 I can get as much done and then some! Big plans to write 3 manuscripts and edit 3 more.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Year in the Life of a Book (Writer Wednesday)

So I thought for New Year's I'd give a recap of what happened in my writing life this year, as well as what happens to one book. Since I started this book last January, it makes perfect sense to focus on this one. It's a contemporary YA which I will release under a pen-name, and since I don't know if it will be self published, I'm not going to give a name (since if picked up by a traditional publisher, they'll probably change the name.

Without further ado, this is how Untitled Manuscript fared last year.

January 2014--First draft written & titled
February 2014--My usual 3 rounds of edits
March 2014--Beta Reader search begins. Found 10 willing readers.
April 2014--Edits made based on beta feedback, back cover text written.
May 2014--Had planned to self-publish, but was encouraged by beta reader/authors to query agents. Never had any luck before, but wrote up a query & sent it to 10 agents whose names I remembered from querying about 5 years ago. Got a request right away. Wha??? Queried 10 more agents.
June 2014--Got a "revise & resubmit" request from my #1 choice agent, who had requested the full manuscript. Edits made based on agent suggestions, resubmit to agent & submissions to other interested agents.
July 2014--Query 20 more agents, retitle manuscript, failed spin-off novel attempt.
August 2014--Further revisions made based interested agents' suggestions.
September 2014--Rejection from my #1 agent. Round 3 of queries. Nudges to unresponsive agents.
October 2014--Research agents. Retitle book yet again. Submissions to interested agents.
November 2014--Last round of queries. Had set my limit at 100 agents, and got 10% request rate. Which is actually really good, believe it or not.
December 2014--Set aside, waiting to hear back from 4 agents who have the full manuscript. Then it's back to my original plan....

All this time, I was not sitting around waiting, though. I moved, started up a little garden, and even found time to write. For a more complete picture of a writer's life, see next week's post.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Book Review: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & ClayThe Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars
This book was a very strange read for me. It was written in a way that sounded so true that I had to look up "The Escapist" to see if it was a real comic book (since I've never read a comic book in my life and know nothing about them). It was a good, engrossing story, though a bit slow in parts. It wasn't one of those books that I just HAD to read, or that I felt compelled to keep reading, or that I couldn't put down. But it was enjoyable enough that I never considered abandoning it in favor or something flashier.

I enjoyed all the adventures of both Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, but I did find the book wasn't exactly an equal portrayal of both men. Joe was without a doubt the main character, with only small glimpses of Sammy now and then. That's a shame, too, because I found Sam the more compelling character, despite the scarce page time and lack of adventures. Joe got to have all the excitement and adventure, and yet, it was Sammy, who had never left New York in his life, that I wanted to read about. At times, I grew frustrated with Joe and wished the author would give us a glimpse into what Sammy was doing while Joe was getting into all kinds of trouble for hours of page time at a stretch.

The novel was well-written, with a straight-forward narrative sprinkled with little word-gems that made me stop to savor them for a few seconds before going on. The author has a masterful grasp on the language and twisted it in delightful, unexpected ways.

A recommended read for adults age 16+. Language, sex, and violence peppers the novel, but not in a disturbing way.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

YA Wednesday: Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (Joey Pigza, #1)Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a strange combination of hilarious, serious, and deeply disturbing. I've had a few people recommend it to me, and I knew it was about a kid with ADHD, but that's about all I knew about it. It started out really funny, and my son loved it.

As it went on, I started to wonder if it was a bit much for a third grader. My son didn't really 'get' some of the disturbing scenes--he didn't understand why I said it was a sad book. But then, he said he thought the grandma was a good grandma and that having a timeout in a refrigerator would be 'cool.' Everything was presented in such a light, matter-of-fact way that it made the abuses this kid suffered even more horrifying. And I think it makes them sort of easy for a kid to overlook or not take seriously.

The characters in this book were loveable and hateable and very relate-able. I loved Joey, although I'm not going to lie and say I'd want Joey for a son or a student. But he's completely loveable, and nuts, and so freaking sad. He'd been through so much, and it was so believable that it broke my heart. I absolutely adored his teacher and his mom, too. She'd made mistakes, and in a way, the abuses he suffered were partially her fault for leaving him, although she didn't know what he was living with while she was gone. But his mom was also doing the right thing, and she was so good with Joey, exactly what he needed. It was hard not to love her, despite her shortcomings in the past, because she was so real and she'd tried so hard to turn her life around and be there for her son. And not just that, but she was doing a pretty amazing job at it. Better than I'd do with that kid, no matter how loveable, that's for sure.

Content: 10+ for some physical and emotional abuse and themes.

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