Friday, September 30, 2011

Coffin Hop!

Hey all!

As many of you know, my favorite month is coming up tomorrow!

In honor of Halloween month, I'm participating in a Halloween Blog Hop.
Details below. It will run October 24-31.

Also, all of my book reviews for October will be for horror/thriller novels. As an extra special bonus, I am posting a blog every day of Halloween week--my Hallo-week book reviews! I will post twice about the Coffin Hop that week and the other 5 days will feature horror book reviews. Oh yeah, did I mention I love October?

I will let you know about the giveaway as the blog hop approaches! Feel free to check out the website ahead of time, and spread the news!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review Wednesday: How to Save a Life, by Sara Zarr

How to Save a LifeHow to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Okay. I've calmed down from my disappointment at the ending, and I am ready to give my review. First, though--when did they put a girl on the cover? In my ARC copy, the benches are empty!

My review...well, I read Story of a Girl a while back and just fell in swooning love with it, and consequently, its author. But...I was so bummed that this one wasn't as good!

I love the author because she is very simple in her writing style. That's still here in this book. So are the FOR REAL characters. You feel like you know them. They are awesome. They are your friends. They talk like real people, act like real people, are screwed up. They've got issues. I like reading about issues. In this book, one of the issues is something that's on my gag list--child molesting. So that was a little ick for me. It's not very graphic, though, unlike some other YA books that are just too much for me. I put the book aside for a few days once I got some pretty strong hints about that aspect, but I picked it back up and finished most of it in a day. It's a quick read, and the heavy issues are there, but they aren't rammed down your throat in a vomit-inducing kind of way. I like that. Subtle is the name of the game in good YA. YA that is graphic just for the shock factor really makes me mad. It's almost like the authors are just trying to get on a banned-books list, or to shock kids by telling them in graphic detail about stuff that, honestly, kids should not know about. Not in that much detail. ANYWAY, sorry for the rant. The point is, this book sidesteps the graphic while giving you all the impact of the issue.

The next thing I just loved about this book was the relationship between Jill and her father. So wonderful, and real, and OMG--he didn't even molest her! Sometimes I think YA authors want us to think that all fathers are secretly pedophiles. Jill's father is dead, but awesome. However, Mandy's stepfather is...something. Not a pedophile exactly, since she's 17 or 18 when the abuse takes place. And she has mixed feelings about it, so...anyway. Her mom's boyfriend molests her, and she takes it because she never gets attention from her mom or anyone else. Mandy is...psychotic. Like, hilariously crazy. That made it a little more bearable to read, because there was some relief from the squig factor.

I read a few reviews that said they didn't like either of the narrators. I loved Jill. She was so real, so pissed, so flawed. It was harder for me to like Mandy. She was sort of...bland. And the way they suddenly became friends seemed, well, sudden. The guys--I think I have a book-crush on Dylan. I LOVED him. Why didn't HE get a happy ending?

What I didn't like about this book: the ending. Predictable, and kind of lame. Honestly, I'm severely disappointed. Sara Zarr is an author who tackles real subjects with bravery and delicacy. I expect so much more than the ending I got. It was completely unrealistic, and way too happy. I'm all for a happy ending, but not if it doesn't fit the material. That's how this one seemed. Sure, I'd like everything to end up shiny happy in real life. But the point is, it doesn't. Mandy never had to pay for any of her mistakes. Sometimes that happens. But not in the way it happens in this book. I just got to the end and said, "WHATEVER! That would NEVER happen." It was a major letdown.

character: yay! plot: meh. ending: boo.

Recommended for YA readers who like lots of character development and not a lot of action.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 26, 2011


Finding inspiration

One question that readers often ask authors is where they get their inspiration. I think it’s one of the hardest questions to answer, which is why everyone wants to know. The truth is, everyone finds inspiration in something different. Maybe the beauty of nature, or a book that particularly touched something inside and made an engineer want to pick up a pen (or log on to a laptop) and write. Or maybe it’s something completely banal, like a twirling strip of flypaper or the fly that got stuck to it and is still trying to buzz its way free.

I can’t shed any insight on the writing process of bestselling authors, or tell you what inspired Stephen King or Stephanie Meyer. If you want to know that, I’m sure both have written enough explanations that you can find it in a Google search. All I can tell you is what inspires one indie writer. I doubt that even those mega-gazillion-times-over bestselling authors can tell what inspires another writer.

I can’t even say for sure what inspired me. The first time I wrote a novel, I was motivated by the slowness of my son’s eating. I had to find something to do or go crazy with boredom for the three hour-long table sessions each day. But I’m not sure what inspired me. I started out with a life experience I had, changed it up a little, decided it would actually be the end of the novel, and went back to the beginning to map out how the characters ended up at the end. The next series I wrote was inspired by a discussion with my family. The next was inspired by a friend of mine who said, “What happened to the days when bad guys were bad?”

That’s what’s so great about finding inspiration. It’s everywhere, in everything. There are as many sources of inspiration as there are writers and books and stories combined. And still more waiting to be discovered and to inspire one more shoemaker/bus boy/car salesman to write a novel.

Not to sound too super-cheese, but there is no end to inspiration. It is all around us, and most of all, inside us. So next time something inspires you, sit down and write about it. A phrase, a sentence, a page. From James Patterson to the mailman, all writers start there, at the very beginning, with an inspiration.

(This post originally appeared as part of The Superiors Blog Tour on Benjamin Wallace's blog. To see more of his blog, click here.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Review Wednesday: The Sex Lives of Cannibals

The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial PacificThe Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Maarten Troost

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading this book made me think a lot, so I'm putting it right in the middle, rating-wise. I did like it, at least parts of it. The beginning started off very slow for me--I'm not a fan of the style where the author or narrator outlines his previous work experiences. It was very boring and slow for me at first. I could have done without the background info. I would assume someone who volunteers to go to a remote Pacific island 'at the end of the world' is adventurous. I really didn't need the first part, which seemed irrelevant to the rest of the story.

Once they left the US, things got more interesting. I loved the descriptions of all the stops along the way, and the islands. It was very sad, though, to hear about all the ways westerners had influenced (mostly for the worse) and exploited both the islands and their inhabitants. Not that this book glorifies the 'noble savage' image either, as it gives glimpses into the subjugating and barbaric treatment of women a few times. However, these parts are quickly glossed over by the author's glib commentary.

At first I liked the witty comments, but they got a bit tiring at times. I can see how people would like this style of narrating travelogues so they don't get boring, but it seemed dismissive of the problems faced by the islanders both male and female. Pointing out how overweight they are and how much they love cheetos seemed more like making fun of them than making what could have been a more insightful observation or a chance for meaningful social commmentary. However, the author's witty comments did keep the book from being morose and just plain depressing, which it might have been without all the distracting cleverness. At times, the author seemed too enamored with his own cleverness, which always irritates me.

The book was well-written, and I did enjoy it and sometimes had a hard time putting it down. I think when I read non-fiction, though, I prefer to read something more meaningful than one person's experiences. I learned a lot about the islands of Kiribati, but I would have liked a more serious book and not a travelogue/memoir type book, and I could have done without the condescending tone of a rich kid talking down to an entire nation because they are Third World and don't have AC. I would have liked to learn more, even if it was depressing. Also, the end of the book seemed unnecessary and slow to me, like the beginning. I guess that's because what I really wanted (and liked) from this book was what I learned about the islands, not about the man writing the book. The only purpose it served was to show the author to be hypocritical and to show that his time in the country taught him nothing but to go home, forget all he'd learned about the corruption and infrastructure problems of foreign aid, and get rich off exploiting the very things he'd complained about on the islands.

I'd recommend this book to adults who like travelogues with witty commentary that don't offer solutions to problems but just make fun of them. And to fans of Island of the Sequined Love Nun.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's been a while...

It came to my attention recently that I've been so caught up in my writing, reading, reviewing, promoting, etc, that I haven't written a REAL, personal blog in way too long!

So here it is. Please, try to calm your excitement. ;>

Well, I guess one of the reasons I haven't been posting as much is that I've had so much going on! Wow. Besides 'real life,' where I've had family stuff like, oh, I don't know, weddings, birthdays, transitions, etc, I've had lots going on in the cyber & writerly world. I'm back to querying, although trying not to obsess this time. I'm still promoting The Superiors (I added a few new things at the bottom of the blog tour schedule for convenience sake, although the tour is over). I'm still editing book 5 (I know, I'll get to book 2 soon, I swear!)

And most importantly, I'm writing again. For a while there, I thought I'd gone permanently dry of ideas. Nothing came. Nothing. When ideas did come, they just didn't stick. I couldn't write, so I stopped and promoted for three or four months. Didn't do that much good, but hey, it got my mind off the crushing fear that I'd never write again. And then one day...inspiration. I've written a YA book set in the real world, and most of another. Then, in fit of procrastination, I went back to read some of the dystopian series I started and never finished. Turns out, it's not as hopeless as I thought. I decided to stop worrying about if it was too scandalous to ever be published, and just went ahead and started working on finishing book 3. The first day back on it, I wrote 40 pages. That's pretty much a miracle for me these days. I used to have 50 page days once a week or so, but that was when I was consumed. It gets so it takes over your mind pretty hard-core when you're writing for 8 hours straight. Stopping to eat? Forget it. Just keep my chocolate on my right and I'm fine. It's better to be obsessed with the story than with things outside my control, like agent responses and amazon sales. So that's it. That's what I've been up to, along with reading, listening to, and reviewing books. Now, back to the book I swore I'd finish this week...

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Review Wednesday: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Fever 1793Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a huge fan of Laurie Halse Anderson after reading a couple of her contemporary YA books. I always see this one on the shelves, and I like historical fiction, so it seemed like a good fit. It was a good book. I did like it. was missing that something special that has made me love her other books so much. It's hard for me to review this book without comparing it to her others.

As a historical fiction novel for YA, this had everything you'd expect. It was informative, interesting, sometimes exciting, sometimes sad. It had tragedy, suspense, all that. And I did learn about the yellow fever epidemic that I didn't know much about before this novel. The characters are loveable and well-written, especially the grandfather. I loved the relationship between the girl and her grandfather. I also liked that the women in this book were the real heroes, the tough survivors. I also liked how it showed both the black community's contribution to Philadelphia during the epidemic as well as how white doctors tried to help. And it was nice to read a age-appropriate YA book. I like YA on the scandalous side, but sometimes, it's a bit much. So it was nice to read a non-romance. Lately it seems like all the YA I've read has been romance. The romance in this novel is very understated, which I liked.

Maybe it's hard to put a lot of voice in a historical fiction novel, but for me, that was missing in this book. The wonderful voice full of humor despite tragedy was absent in this book. That's what made me really love the author after reading a few of her other novels. Overall, this was an interesting book, but nothing exceptional. Basically, it was pretty forgettable.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Review Wednesday: Withering Tights by Louise Rennison

Withering TightsWithering Tights by Louise Rennison

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Louise Rennison, and after reading ten of her books (this would be the eleventh) it's hard for me not to compare this book to her others. And if I'm comparing, this one is just...meh. It was okay. I had a few chuckles. It got funnier as I went along, and the parts about the theater and the stage were funny. All the boy stuff was just sort of lame, and I actually think I would have liked the book a lot better if it was just a bunch of girls at a theater for girls... which is what it IS about. Only they spend half their time chasing boys, and those parts were boring, predictable, and annoying.

Every time Tellulah left her house, you knew she was going to run into Cain. And I didnt know why she always got so excited about it, since she didn't say a word to him for half the book. But every mention of his name sent her into dithery fits, even though she'd only seen him kissing some girl and treating her like crap. So why was she so obsessed? I dont get it. Plus, I didn't really see how he was Heathcliff, although he was supposed to be. Maybe it's because I haven't read Wuthering Heights for a while. However, I liked all the references to WH and also the little cheeky references to The Smiths (Girlfriend in a River I know it's Really Serious, lol)... Anyway, I would have liked to see more development in the friendships and less about the dumb boys.

The book is the first in a series, and if you want a book that stands alone, this isn't it. It left a lot of loose fact, most every end was left loose. Plus, the last chapter or two seemed very rushed and forced, like the author got bored because there were no boys in those scenes. Overall, I was disappointed by this book, and as I think the next one will have even more of a love story, I will not be reading it unless I'm very very bored and want something utterly mindless to read.

Recommended to people who like spoof type books, girls in theater, and die-hard Rennison fans.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 5, 2011

Darkiss Reads: The Superiors by Lena Hillbrand

Got a new review on a blog! Super excited! Check it out below.

Darkiss Reads: The Superiors by Lena Hillbrand: Book Description Two hundred years after a stronger, faster, nearly invincible race takes over the earth, the Superiors rule humanity with ...