Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Funny How Things Change Review


I've really fallen off the wagon here. Ouch. Well, I'm back now and I certainly missed my blog! I have about four books in the queue with my TBR pile still mounting and that silly novel... oh my. Luckily, this book is easy to gush about.

Funny How Things Change

by Melissa Wyatt


I saw Melissa Wyatt making the blog rounds doing many interviews about her new book and I knew I had to check it out. When I finally saw it at my local library I was so excited.

Remy isn't a dumb guy nor is he unambitious. He just knows that college is not the right path for him and mostly everyone in his life understands that. However, his girlfriend Lisa is right for him and she's moving away from the small town of Dwyer, West Virginia to attend college in Pennsylvania. Dwyer has always been Remy's home but when Lisa asks him to move with her one more time he finds himself saying yes. Now Remy has to figure out how to tell his dad and his old life goodbye while he and Lisa face the realities of living on their own in another state. Along the way he meets Dana, a college student who is doing a summer project in Dwyer and as they help each other navigate new territory Remy realizes that he might have to make some very difficult decisions.

Funny How Things Change is a slim book compared to most YA novels nowadays, just under 200 pages, but it is a rich, deep, concentrated read. The story lingered in my mind long after I closed the book for the final time. The prose throughout the novel is simple but rich with imagery and feeling. The reader really gets a complete view of Dwyer. Not only do we see the mountains and the dirt roads that exist there but we also get to know the history of the town and the people and most important we get to discover Dwyer's place in the world. I was impressed by how this town became a character just like Remy, Lisa and Dana.

Remy's personal emotional journal was well-crafted. I liked how the outside events and people in his life served as the catalyst for his self-growth but he did not come to any conclusions or decisions solely because of other people. Remy is a character that you can instantly love. He is not perfect but his self-awareness and his struggle make him someone you can really root for. Remy, as a character, is richly layered and completes a series of changes throughout the novel that make his final decision something personal that the reader can really accept from him. Third-person is not a common narrative in YA novels but this POV really complements the novel and there is no unnecessary distance between Remy and the reader. One of the problems with third person is that sometimes the reader comes to conclusions about the character before the character gets there. With this novel I felt connected with Remy the whole time. The reader will definitely take his journey right along with him, every step of the way. The secondary characters were also enjoyable, interesting and carefully nuanced. I loved the dialogue, a source of much of the humor in the novel as well as many important explanations.

The setting is portrayed masterfully throughout the novel. The mountains, the roads, the buildings and the people that comprise Dwyer as always present but not in an overshadowing way. Wyatt has a gift for description that is simple yet hearty enough for the reader to imagine everything that is happening in the scene. From the auto shop to Remy's trailer to Lisa's house to the creek running on Walker Mountain and the water tower that Dana paints so carefully I felt completely at ease with the setting even though Dwyer is unlike any place I've ever lived before. The setting breathes life into the story and is very important to Remy's life. I was very impressed by how everything was written.

Even though the book is relatively short it is a novel you read slowly so you can linger with the language and really see and hear everything in your head. There is a lot to digest but I enjoyed every moment of it. This is a sophisticated novel, one that might create a love story in your own life starring you and this book. Highly recommended. Go ahead and pick this one up today.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dirty Liar Review

I saw this book in someone's Hardcover vs. Paperback post and somehow I knew I was meant to read it.

When I see Push books I know that they will be an edgy and raw read. I also think about how I lost some Push contest I entered when I was a senior in high school. Haha. Still bitter.

Dirty Liar by Brian James


Dirty Liar is the story of Benji, better known as Dogboy, and he prefers that name. Benji is a guy he doesn't really want to know. Dogboy is a cloak he can hide behind, just like his nondescript jeans and long hair. He leads a fairly normal life with a couple of buds he gets high with after school, a long-distance girlfriend and a new step-family to get used to. Nobody knows why Benji chose to leave his mother and his former life. If Benji has anything to do it nobody is ever going to know all of the dark secrets he keeps hidden inside of him.

The first thing you'll notice about this book is the unusual structure. Instead of quotation marks for dialogue James uses dashes and italics. He also has a tendency to connect sentences through ellipses. I'm not sure what the point of this is. In fact, it's probably one of the reason that I haven't really read one of his books before even though I've probably picked up all of them to look at while I was the library. But don't let that turn you off. It's a simple thing to get used to. Everything reads just like the usual structure for a novel. The only large drawback to this style is that it makes reading the narrative very slow. When you see a lot of sentences..connected like slows down the words in your can be slightly frustrating..but at the same time it really gives you a sense of Benji's state of mind.

The actual writing is poetic, raw and riveting. I felt so connected to Benji, so much so that I had to look away sometimes. Benji is a smart guy and I really enjoyed reading about his theories about people and behavior and why things are the way they are in his life. To me, his pain and bad feelings never felt forced or melodramatic or contrived. You get glimpses into Benji's life with his mother, a life of neglect from his mother and abuse from his mother's boyfriend Roy. These glimpses don't tell the full story but they allow you to fully understand the dept of Benji's suffering.

Benji's depression isn't easy to read. The novel doesn't have a lot of action so you spend a lot of time in Benji's head as he writes in his journal, lays in his bed, gets high or just fights against all the demons pushing in on him. However, the writing is so vibrant that it makes up for the lack of physicality on the page. What really brings this novel together is the undercurrent of hope that runs throughout and then comes rushing at you in the end. Benji has a girlfriend back where his mom lives who loves him and then there's a new girl in his life at his new school. The moments where Benji is fresh and flush from all these new feelings are times when I wanted to stand up and cheer for him. The ending brings this all together and I didn't find it rushed. The climax was well-plotted. Benji faces a lot of fear and confusion as does the rest of his family. They don't handle this perfectly but in the end it is clear that everything is coming together so that everyone can move forward. I really enjoyed reading that.

This is a dark, gritty but beautifully controlled and written book. I recommend it if you're looking for a different kind of book about an outcast who thinks he's given everyone permission to write him off but he actually hasn't. This is one book that takes a teenager's depression as seriously as they do. A very inspiring read for me, personally. I'm glad that I chose this one. Check it out!

I'm not quite sure why they chose Dirty Liar for the title though. I mean, I can see it but to me, it's a stretch.

Also, Dirty Liar is a companion novel to Perfect World. It's probably better to read Perfect World first, actually. I'll have to check that book out of the library soon.

Okay, now I have to write 1500 words in an hour. I joined the DFTBAuthors Writing Challenge and committed to 1500 words a day for a week. D'oh!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Weekly Word Count [10]

Ten weeks of this. Oh boy.

This week has been a total fail. Last week, I was riding high off my word count. I was like, yeah, I can ALWAYS do this? I love writing. I'm writing all the time. Blah blah blah. I just put my fingers to the keys every day and it's so great and fun and awesome. I'm gonna finish my draft. I love my WIP. It gives me so much excitement! Is there anything better than being a pretend writer!?

Then life stepped in. These personal things that happened to me. And Michael Jackson's dead. What the EFF?

I didn't write for two days straight!

And after that I was just muddling along, every word a struggle.

And I was like, this whole thing is stupid. It's going nowhere. I'll never finish and I don't want to. I hate every single word that's in the word document that takes 13342345 hours to load and I don't even have a printer so I can't print it out and WHAT WAS I THINKING all these days and weeks and months working on it, just a waste of time, really. A big waste of time. A terrible DELUSION.

I spent a few days feeling sorry for myself for a variety of reasons.

But then I told myself that I needed to get over it and move on with my life. Plus, I really do believe in my story and one day, it might actually be good. You never know. And it certainly will never turn into the shiny manuscript I want it to be if I don't FINISH it.

So I got back to writing and reading and following my Google Reader, all these things that make me happy. I watched Michael Jackson videos on VH1 Classic. I had the background of Friday Night Lights to guide me through. And a couple of times I muted the TV, I turned off the music and I was wholly in the moment of my story because I really had to feel it there.

I managed to salvage the week somewhat. And I really pushed the story through the hump it has stalled on and I might actually be sliding toward the finish now. Yaaaaay!

Words: 2163
Pages: ~6

6/22- Nothing

6/23- Nothing

Words: 535
Pages: 1.5

Words: 783
Pages: 1.8

Words: 2776
Pages: ~6

Words: 5419
Pages: 11.5

Which brings my weekly total to 11676 words and 26.8 pages. Not too bad.

Wow I really need to do my laundry. And I've finished a couple of books so reviews on the way!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Weekly Word Count [9]

What a week! I need to post more reviews. I never thought I was a slow reader before. Now I do. It's just because I get easily distracted. It takes concentration to finish a book. I have to read outside. When I'm home and there's the TV and the computer... it's over. Sad but true. I love to read though. Outside.

Speaking of TV, I got my Netflix Roku this week. It is sweet. I definitely love it. There's so choices on instant view and I want to watch them all but my computer sucks at steaming videos (I think it's the memory) and plus I want to be on the computer while I'm watching TV. You can't do that if you're watching TV on the computer. So the Roku was a good investment for me. Now I need to scale down my cable (even though it'll be hard). I don't need all those channels I really don't. What's cool about Netflix Instant View is that it has all the showtime shows and HBO shows and something called Starz Play. It's like you have Starz! See, you don't have to pay for it anymore (not that I ever did). So, I mean, I recommend the Roku if you think you're gonna use it a lot like me. Watching TV is not lame!

So through my wonderful Roku I rediscovered the show Friday Night Lights. I am now addicted! I don't know why I didn't catch on the first time around. I remember watching the pilot and I was kind of bored so I never returned. I love it now. FNL is my constant companion. I'm on episode 18 of 22 in Season 1 and then Season 2 is on instant view. I'll have the Season 3 DVDs waiting in the wings. I cannot WAIT to see what happens. DON'T TELL ME! I love Coach Taylor and Matt Saracen and Smash. Those are my favorite characters. Matt and Julie are so cute. I looked Matt up on IMDB. I can't believe the actor that plays Matt was born in 82. It makes him kissing on Julie kinda creepy (she was born in like 89) but I guess that's showbiz! On the show they are the same age, at least.

FNL assisted me this week as I wrote and wrote. I don't think I'm gonna get my draft done by the end of the month, heh. You're probably like, what's taking you so long?! I don't know! I've been at this for almost three months now, pretty much daily, working on the saaaaaaaaaaaaaaame draft. It's just got a life of it's own. A long life. I look forward to cutting it down to size but I have to finish! I feel like I made some real headway this week though. The most exciting part is that I only have one more basketball game to write. I don't even wanna know how many I've written. Talk about duplicate scenes... this draft is full of them. With the basketball games I could never quite figure out when I wanted my MC to have his breakout game so he kept having one and then having a bad game and then a good game and then a bad game. There's only so many ways you can write about basketball!

Another thing I've found. I'm very fond of paragraphs.

I think they make everything




You know who I think is a dramatic writer? Caroline B. Cooney. I just love her style. That's kind of random.

Let's see how I did.

Words - 3145
Pages - 7.6

Words - 3069
Pages - 7.4

Words - 920
Pages - 2.4

Words - 3311
Pages - 7.7

Words - 2112
Pages - 5

6/19: (I would like to say that I wrote this after 38 ounces of margaritas consumed during Happy Hour. Hey, Hemingway did it! Everything makes sense. Well, for the most part. Then I passed out at midnight.)
Words - 1246
Pages - 3

6/20: (Epic writing session that lasted from 11pm to 5:50am. I took a break at around 2am and danced around to the same two songs over and over again for like 45 minutes. I'm weird.)
Words - 7225
Pages - 16.3

That brings my weekly total to 21028 words and 49.4 pages. Well then.

I've noticed I'm most productive after 11pm and maybe even more so after 2am. I've always been a night owl. But that doesn't really work when you have to go to work at 9am. Sad!

Time for dinner. I also managed to clean up my apartment some this weekend too and finish a book. I feel very productive!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Artichoke's Heart Review

It's so strange and exciting when I see books that I've only seen on blogs in person at the bookstore. It's kind of like seeing a celebrity up close and personal! Anyone else feel that way? I'm strange. But today at B&N I was like, there's Along For the Ride! Wait, there's How to Buy a Love for Reading! Oh hey, LA Candy.

It was like we were long lost friends.

Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee


Rosemary Goode knows she's overweight but everyone else insists on telling her. Her mom buys a treadmill for Christmas. Her aunt always has a disparaging remark. The popular girls at school tease her and that's been going on since middle school when she wore a green puffy jacket to school and they dubbed her "Artichoke." Rosemary finds comfort in the junk food she has stashed in her room. The new year brings new challenges for Rosemary and as she commits herself to losing the weight Rosemary finds her life changing in more ways than one.

Rosemary was a character that I could really root for. She was obviously smart and talented, yet insecure. Even through her insecurity she had some fresh and funny moments when she would use her wit to fight back at those who were trying to bring her down. I appreciated this. Rosemary wasn't simply an apologetic fat girl. She had a spark and ultimately, that's what helps her begin her journey to lose weight.

What really worked for this book was the southern setting and the realization of all the people and places that made up Rosie's world. I could really feel Tennessee shining through the pages. I loved how I got to read about the change in seasons. The weather provided a backdrop that helped illustrate Rosie's emotions. The dialect in the dialogue was never fake or forced. Everyone sounded different yet still retained that southern accent. I really admired that. Personalities were highlighted by the dialogue. It helped keep the novel moving and also provided a lot of humor.

What didn't work so well for this book was that there was a lot happening at once. That is true in life but I wasn't sure I liked how it all came together. The one plot element I could have done without is the fact that Rosie enters a research study to see how short-term counseling affects weight-loss. I just wasn't impressed by that arc, especially since it seemed to get lost in the middle of the book. Other more significant things happens which are very intriguing and could have made a book in themselves. The most important part is that the characters stayed consistent, there weren't a lot of them and they were engaging. The characters will keep you reading even if the plot seems to be a bit busy.

Also, the tense in this story was weird. About halfway through I had to go back and see if it switched from present to past tense. Actually, there's both, making the book read like it's told from some very recent future. To me it was written as if the current chapter happened to the narrator last week or two hours ago. I found it jarring in some places and some places everything matched up and read smoothly so I could let that go.

This is a quiet, unassuming book with a bright brown and pink candy cover that attracted me to it immediately. I believe Rosemary is a character you should read about. She can really speak to you about growing up, body images, mother-daughter relationships and first love. There are a lot of good elements to this book and most of all I did enjoy reading it and it's a quick read that's not entirely fluffy but it's also never becomes totally depressing. It was a wonderful in-between book for me to enjoy when I needed a break from the really dark stuff. So add it to your To-Be-Read pile and give it a try. Save it for a cozy rainy day when you want to curl up with a good book you can lose yourself in for a couple of hours with no worries.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Spoiler Alert! rant

I wish I had finished The Hunger Games when I checked it out of the library way back when. That was before I was involved with the book blogging community and I knew how popular it was. I just picked it up randomly and I was like, hmmm, this is good. But then life got in the way and I couldn't renew it cause someone else requested it so I just let it go and I haven't gone back since. Now the book has been spoiled for me several times. Ah, well, I guess anything out for over a year is fair game, right?

It's not as bad as when Harry Potter 7 came out. I spent all day dutifully reading it, away from the Internet, outside in the fresh summer air and then inside a coffee shop. But it was all day without email, without my message boards, without AIM, without facebook... and it was getting to be too much. I started having withdrawals. I couldn't concentrate on Harry Potter, my eyes were twitching and my fingers were itching to scroll and type. I just wanted a taste of the online world. So I went into some random chatroom on, it was like for the Jonas Brothers, and I just wanted to be in there for a moment and then, before I could click out, a message flashed before my eyes.



Seriously? The Jonas Brothers chatroom?

You really can't trust the Internet.

I hate spoilers. I can't read book reviews like Kirkus or School Library Journal before I read the book because those reviews tell the whole plot. I skim blogger reviews of books I already know I want to read to avoid spoilers. I even hate looking at the Library of Congress one sentence summary on the inside of the book because I swear that sentence starts in the middle of the plot!

Nowadays, with information on hyper-drive, you just have to stay far FAR away from the Internet if you want to stay spoiler-free. I feel sorry for people who live on the West Coast. They have to live in a cave for hours if they don't want to be spoiled when something important happens on live TV, like the American Idol finale. West Coasters, how do you deal?

Spoilers are everywhere. Sure, people are excited about the end of a book or movie or TV show but there's also something special about being FIRST and telling everyone about it, like you were the first one there. You know, like people who just comment "first!" on popular gossip blogs and you're like, you idiot, why don't you pretend to acknowledge that Jon and Kate are falling apart right before our very eyes. You have wasted my eye energy with your nonsense. Nowadays, being the first person with a hot piece of information on the Internet is like running the 100 meters in the Olympics. You have to be Usain Bolt or pretty much everyone is going to arrive at around the same time.

It's tricky navigating around spoilers in book reviews. See, the plot is important part of enjoying or not enjoying a book. Of course, it's not the only thing, but for me it's a big thing. So how much do you put in and what do you leave out? I don't like to read a plot-heavy review but then again, when I have read those reviews it has helped me to discover books that I would have dismissed based on covers or awkward blurbs. My favorite part of blogging is discovering these books from other readers. So yeah, sometimes you need to be spoiled.

In the end, I guess it boils down to the fact that most of the time it's the journey, not the destination that is the most interesting and poignant. Yeah, okay, Katniss and Peeta win but you know what? I don't know how that happens. I don't know the kind of struggles they face and the emotions they feel. Snape does die but at that point I didn't know the circumstances and when I finally did get to that part, it was still really really good.

Spoilers don't have to ruin a book. In fact, sometimes they can help. They can spur you on, reading faster. Where is that part? Is it here or is it there? They can get you more excited. They can keep you turning the page with anticipation or even with twinges of regret.

So I'll try not to be so upset when I do encounter them.

But I'm still going to try to avoid them. And if I do get spoiled, I'll still be a little annoyed.

I could never live on the West Coast.

PS- Sorry if you just got SPOILED!

PPS- Borders, are YA books considered kids' books? Cause you sent me a coupon and I wanna use it on Along for the Ride. haha

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Weekly Word Count [8] plus my own rambling

Today it was a gorgeous day and I spent it outside. I went to Pride Fest and then the Arts Festival. Sometimes I get jealous of those drag queens. Why do they look so much better than me?! The Arts Festival was fun too. I'm always jealous of artists. I just love the fact that they can create such beautiful and striking things. I wish I could draw or paint or sculpt or take great photos or create videos or make music. I think fashion designers are incredible, especially on shows like Project Runway where they just take an idea from their head and make it from scratch in like, a day. How is that possible? I can't imagine it!

Writing is my only creative outlet. It's not as glamorous as seeing an artist standing in front of an easel and watching them make the world come alive right in front of you. It's not as cool as jamming out to a song on steel drums that sounds like every instrument ever created. In fact, too much time spent in front of the computer and people start to think you're a friendless loser. Oh well, such is life.

I've been watching the Every Degrassi Episode EVER marathon on and off all weekend. I just adore that show, especially the older episodes. Now this is a real teen show. I love how all the actors are the same age as their characters and it took a long time for the show to start glamming them up. It's refreshing, this almost real kids and their totally over-the-top problems. I love how episodes just end and the issue is never brought up again. Come to your own conclusions. Canada knows how to do kids shows. Canadian kids shows are the best. Remember Ready or Not? Remember Flash Forward? Yeah, then you know what I'm talking about.

This week I joined a new challenge called The 1st Annual Complete Your First Draft contest. The challenge is to write 25,000 new words this month to complete your first draft! This is perfect for me because I plan to complete my draft by the end of the month. I really, really wanna be done with it. It is out of control. The amount of words... just crazy. But I still have quite a few things that need to happen. Yeah, I've got it mapped out, I'm just plodding along. It's how I live my life. When it comes to me, these things take time.

Check out the prizes for that contest. They are pretty cool. You should join! I know we've only got 15 days left but that's plenty of time. Right?!

This week wasn't as good as last week. I was a little more unfocused and I'm sort of dragging my feet through the plot trying to get where I want to go. What's that you say, word file? No, you don't control me, I control you!


Words - 3795
Pages - 9.5

Words - 579
Pages - 2

Words - 1946
Pages - 4.4

Words - 2020
Pages - 4.8

Words - 1349
Pages- 3.3

Words - 2238
Pages- 6.4

Words - 3128
Pages - 7.5

That brings my weekly total to 15055 words and 37.9 pages. Good times.

Time for dinner. Time for writing. Time for reading. I really need to post a new review and I'm planning on doing that tonight!