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!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My thoughts about Dark YA

Everyone's been talking about that random Wall Street Journal article that asks why these "dark" YA books are on the New York Times Bestseller list? People are asking, is it okay for teens to read about these heavy, serious topics?

Of course, avid YA readers know that YA books have been "dark" for as long as they can remember. That is the beauty of YA. Basically, YA can be anything you want it to yet the book still fits inside the small, vibrant Young Adult community. I think that's really cool and one of the things that attracts me to YA. I can find so much variety on one shelf. I'm lazy.

Meg Cabot wrote an excellent blog about what it was like for her growing up and why she chose to read and write the books that she does. It was very interesting to read about her life and also because she introduced me to the phrase "Trauma Porn." I googled it and the first hit that came up was Meg's blog! This was like an hour after she posted it. So pretty much Google is useless when it comes to that. But Meg told us all we need to know about what Trauma Porn is when she said that Lurlene McDainel is the queen of it.

I remember reading Lurlene McDaniel's book when I was in high school. The One Last Wish novels, one after another, thinking about all of these kids with terminal diseases. How did they ever live their lives? How did they cope? But somehow, they always did, book after book, I saw strength and resilience there that I had never experienced before. The books never got old for me. When there was a new McDaniel book in the library I checked it out immediately.

I have always loved "problem" novels. I would computer search my high school library with a keyword like "teen pregnancy" or "eating disorder" or "abuse" and then go check out all of the books that came up. I even liked non-fiction books about those topics. I think I've read so many non-fiction books about eating disorders, first person accounts and the more academic titles. I was checking out books about repressed memory when people would wake up as adults and realized they'd been sexually abused when they were two. I bet the school librarian was like, what the heck is wrong with this girl?

I don't know what's wrong with me! Nobody has asked me to my face. My parents never censored my reading or asked why I liked to read about such depressing things (However, my mom censored my writing once when she discovered my dirty rap lyrics!) I can't answer the question myself. I'm a generally happy person with a pretty good life. There's not much to complain about. Who knows why people are drawn to the books they are drawn to. And does it really matter? but that's why we read books. It's to provide an escape for whatever reason into whatever kind of world or mood that you choose. It's to put yourself inside of someone else's life for just a little while. Books are amazing, how the paper can do so many different things and mean so much.

The world is opening up more, generation to generation. YA novels are constantly growing and evolving, not only blurring the lines between reality and fiction but also the line between adult fiction and YA. That line between adulthood and childhood is something that teens deal with everyday. Can we try to give them a little more credit? I think they can handle these "dark" books. Obviously, since someone is buying them. What's wrong with that?

Meg's post helped me realize that every type to YA book is important. From all those Simon Pulse RomComs to National Book Award winners like What I Saw and How I Lied. From the darkest, literary YA drama to Twilight! All of these different books speak to a different type of reader but they are all important in someone's life. They should not be discounted and it's certainly nothing to be afraid of.

I believe YA books have a special responsibilty. I'm not sure what that is but for some reason they carry more responsibility than adult books. In some other conversations I've found about what YA lit is people say that one thing YA books share is this sense of hope somewhere in the novel. Maybe that's the responsibility I'm talking about. Maybe that's what the journalist realized at the end of his article (she also spoiled 3 YA books I haven't read yet... thanks).

So continue reading those romantic YA novels or the supernatural ones or the thrillers, the dystopian ones, the funny ones, the sad ones. There are so many to choose from you might just read them all. I'm gonna continue to read and review what feels right to me and I expect to find some surprises along the way, especially from reading the reviews of my fellow bloggers.

The darker books will probably still be my favorite though the term "trauma porn" makes me feel a little dirty about it. I like the connection I have to that type of book. My WIP is definitely dark so it helps keep me in the mood. There are so many different layers to life. No one should try to stay only in one box.

Someday, I think I'll finish a book again. Maybe. I'm currently in the middle of about 10. I really don't do that one-book-at-a-time thing well!

PS- Read the article and discussion about the WSJ article here. Much more articulate than what I can do.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Unraveling Review

Before I get to the review, confession time: I am addicted to taking books out of the library.

Yes, it is bad. And no, this addiction isn't entirely free. See, the problem is that I go to the library almost every single day. And I take out a book every time I go. Usually more than one book. But see I already have all these books out. And I can't POSSIBLY read them all. And then I forget to return them. And then I get fined 25 cents a day. And then I return them and let the money owed on my account pile up to around 10 bucks before I pay it off. And the cycle continues, over and over again.

I have literally had some books for like nine weeks.

I have over 30 library books checked out right now.

I just can't stop. HELP ME!

Phew, good to get that off my chest. Feel free to start organizing the intervention because God knows I need it.

Ironically, Unraveling is a book I own. I need to read those library books!

On to the review.

Unraveling by Michelle Baldini and Lynn Biederman


Amanda Himmelfarb doesn't mean to cause trouble, it just seems to follow her around. Of course, having her overbearing mother constantly in her business doesn't help either. Amanda and her mother, nicknamed "The Captain" are constantly fighting and it's wearing Amanda down. If only Amanda could find the perfect boyfriend, the one person who would understand her and love her like she's yearning to be loved. Amanda thought she found that with last year's summer crush, Paul, but she actually might have a better chance with Rick, who is currently dating the most popular girl in school. There is only one way to be Rick's girlfriend and Amanda is willing to do whatever it takes.

That description sucks but I don't really want to spoil it. The book is so much more than a girl trying to get a guy. In fact it's not even about that at all.

This is a book I never would have chosen from the cover. I don't know why, but I really don't like the cover. To me it looks like some messed up version of Cinderella book. And completely turns me off. I can't explain why I don't like it so much. I just find it annoying! But this is a case where judging a book by its cover is BAD BAD BAD. This novel is wonderful.

I picked it up because of a review I read somewhere else but I really had no expectations going into it. Once I started reading, I was hooking. This is such an honest and painfully raw story. I felt like the book opened up the world and dumped me into Amanda's brain. At the same time, I knew I was reading the story of many girls, teenagers who actually exist today and who are doing the things that Amanda does and feeling the same way. Beyond that, I was reading the story of a mother who was just as lost as her daughter. Together, the whole family was trapped in a net of emotions and events from the past and just wouldn't let them go. Unraveling, at it's core, is a powerful family novel about learning, strength and forgiveness.

Amanda is such a vibrant, intelligent, at times pathetic, at times wonderful, all-around-not-so-bad-girl-struggling-to-be-good character that it's hard not to root for her even when she's being a complete bonehead. The novel is nicely punctuated by her poems that really get to the heart of the various episodes in Amanda's life. The rest of her family are wonderfully realized on the page-- I especially thought Amanda's relationship with her little sister Melody was well-written and reminded me of my own little sister. I should write her a poem too!

Dear Sister

A poem by Summer

I love you
And I want to talk to you
Please do not contact me only
When you want to ask for money.

There was a lot of humor in this book but also a lot of awkward moments which had me cringing and also moments full of high tension, anger and sadness. The dialogue was sparkling throughout the book. The parts that hit me hardest where the fights between Amanda's mom and dad and then Amanda's reaction afterward. I thought that was well done.

I really admired the pacing of the book. So much happens to Amanda but it is a relatively quick read and just over 220 pages. I never felt like the book was rushing and I was happy to move along at a steady clip. Time moves smoothly and then we're right back in the action. I could tell the book had been picked clean of anything unnecessary and it really showed. Every scene contributed to the story and was a joy to read.

I wondered if at times the book was being too preachy. This love-starved girl looking for love in all the wrong places-- is it too obvious? Are the literature recommendations too much? (Amanda and her BFF, Paige, love to read and some favorites are mentioned.) The reader can easily understand where Amanda's mother is coming from but Amanda cannot. I wondered if the book was trying too hard to get it's point across. My conclusion to my questions is just a simple "no." Part of the joy of reading the book was being able to be inside of Amanda's head but also outside of it and able to see what was really going on. It made her confusion even more heartbreaking and all of her revelations about herself more urgent. I feel like this book existed in so many layers that different readers will interpret it on different levels. That is definitely why they recommend it as a mother-daughter book club selection on the back. I feel like it was meant to be read that way and you can find a lot of talking points from these pages.

I always write these reviews in post-book euphoria, like yay! I actually finished something! This is a book that will stick with me even after the glossy high fades. Highly enjoyable read with a lot to say. I find it to be an important take on mother-daughter relationships, self-esteem and the cycle of physical and emotional abuse. You should check this book out. Highly recommended.

Now I need to call my mom!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Weekly Word Count [7]

It's a beautiful weekend. I'm watching Jonas and I think it's kind of funny. I need to leave.

Yesterday, I devoted myself to writing. I wanted to get farther in the plot than I did because I have this problem where I write too much. It amuses me but at the same time I'm like what am I doing? The whole time I was writing I was thinking, is this really working? How am I going to change this? The timeline is all wrong. Why am I writing this scene? Nobody will ever want to read this! I'm thinking about how I would change the beginning. I'm thinking about how the story is already too long (over 110,000 words, no signs of stopping). And all these other doubts and craziness.

But then I remind myself that my only goal in life is to finish this first draft and that's it (for now). So I'm plugging away. The best part is that it's fun. I've always been able to amuse myself quite easily. It a skill that often comes in handy. And if I can't amuse myself I can always watch the Jonas... show.

Words - 1495
Pages - 3.3

Words - 2590
Pages - 6.4

Words - 738
Pages - 2

6/3: (I don't remember writing all that, haha)
Words - 4166
Pages - 10.4

Words - 2973
Pages - 6.5

Words - 2814
Pages - 7.3

Words - 6647
Pages - 16

That brings my weekly total to 21, 423 words and 51.9 pages. Wow, that's pretty crazy.

Well, I think I should take a break and do the dishes. I also have to get my friend a present for her bridal shower and find an outfit. Oh, and what should I see first, the Hangover? Up? Away We Go? Plus my TBR pile is insane!

I hope you're having a fun weekend!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Out of the Pocket Review

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. Thanks President Obama! I still have to come out to my friends about this YA book stuff. But until then, I have plenty of reading. One reason I enjoy GLBT YA fic so much is because you can find a lot of sensitive, intelligent male protagonists there and I love books about boys. This month we should all make an effort to expand our minds into GLBT fiction because, gay or straight, all the feelings are the same. Plus, why do we even need the subcategory? The hell with it, let's just read good books. We'll work on that. Onto my review.

Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg


The title Out of the Pocket is perfect once you know what a pocket is. I know next to nothing about football because I only watch it when the Steelers are about to win the Superbowl. When the quarterback pocket concept was explained to me I thought, wow, that title is great.

Bobby Framingham is one of the best high school quarterbacks in California and coming into his senior year he's anxious to show those college scouts just what he's all about. But there's something else that he's not sure if he should share. Bobby knows he's gay and lately it's been eating at him more and more. When Bobby finally decides to come out to his best friend he sets off a chain of events that change his game, his future and maybe even much more than that...

The best word I can use to describe this book is surprising. I was surprised by how much I liked the main character, Bobby. He was at times confident but clueless, talented yet stifled, cool guy in school then terribly awkward. I was surprised at what happens in this book. Awful things happens and then many wonderful things as well. I was surprised at the amount of laughter in this book. It was like Robin Williams showed up and was like, laughter is the best medicine. I was laughing, the characters were laughing. I was surprised at the innocence of the story. Bobby knows he's gay yet he hasn't done anything with a guy or a girl. I really liked that. There are around three kisses described in the story and most of them are disasters. That's as far as the sex goes. Even Bobby's fantasies were PG. Hardly any swearing that I can remember. Most of all, I was surprised by all the good things that happened. In a book with a plot where things could go south for Bobby really quickly there was always a bright side, suggesting that maybe people aren't as bad as we imagine. At first I was thinking, is this too idealistic? Or am I just too critical?

Bobby is an all-around nice guy who is committed to his team, his sport and has a soft spot for the stray puppy misfits of his high school. It was great to see him on the field, struggling and triumphing. Even though Bobby is a very good quarterback he still has to work on his game, which is nice to hear. He's definitely not perfect. One of Bobby's flaws is maybe he's a little too trusting or talks too much. Still, why should he be quiet about who he is? Bobby is an honest guy and I think he just expected others to be just as honest as he is. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Through everything Bobby stays true to himself, which is a powerful thing. He takes the good advice that others give him and really internalizes it and puts it into action. It was great, being in Bobby's head. I could really feel him on the page, all his doubts, fears, frustrations, sadness, joy, victory, powerful emotions. There are many moments in the story where I identified with Bobby's uncertainties about the future and thought, yes, that's exactly what it's like.

I said before that I only really like to read sports books about basketball but I opened my heart to football, especially since this wasn't strictly a sports book. The book has a fair amount of football action. I found most of it easy to follow although I am still unclear what a "tier" is but I think it's the equivalent a basketball play. Oh yeah, that's also why they invented Google. Well, I'm lazy so I just read on. What made the football action easy to read is that it was all connected to what Bobby was thinking and feeling so it wasn't a detached play-by-play of the game. In fact, I don't think any game was described in excruciating detail. I paid close attention to what was included and what wasn't. I was also interested in reading how Konigsberg handled writing about a football team which I imagine has a lot of players. He kept most of the focus on a few seniors, friends and not-so-friends of Bobby, along with everyone's sidekick Rocky, the sophomore kicker. Still, there was a real sense of chaos and bodies in the locker room when the whole team was around even when only a few people were actually talking.

The real focus of this novel was not only coming out but relationships. There was Bobby's relationship with his best friends, with his team, with his coach, with sports reporters, with one reporter in particular and his parents. I thought each of these relationships were skillfully portrayed and I especially enjoyed seeing how close Bobby was to his mom and dad. Bobby and his dad shared some particularly heartwarming and heartbreaking moments. The secondary characters were all well-written and distinctive. I especially enjoyed Carrie because she was totally weird and funny. I felt just as amused by her as Bobby was. Rahim and Austin were great friends in very different ways. Also, the scenes with the sports reporters felt very real to me, probably influenced by Konigsberg's background as a sports reporter. However, I was always wondering why they didn't give Bobby some kind of media training or why they let him talk to the reporters all by himself.

Like I said, I was surprised by all the laughter in the novel. Really, there is a lot of humor in the dialogue and often laughter is used in the story to break up a tense situation. The book is definitely not as dark as it could be which is refreshing because hope is a powerful thing. I enjoyed reading about it.

One of my fave parts: "I closed my eyes and let the water pour over my back, wishing I knew what to say to defuse the tension. I really wasn't interested in ogling my teammates naked, thanks very much. I'd been to a summer retreat with these guys, where everyone acted gross for a week and there were no doors on the toilets. I felt no lust for my teammates. I just wanted to win a damn football game."

No doors on the toilet? That doesn't sound like a retreat, that sounds traumatizing.

There are still many questions about Bobby's future when the book ends. Personally, I would love a sequel to see the long-term impact of Bobby's decision and also to spend some more time with Bobby! Still, I felt very satisfied, especially after Bobby takes his revenge.

As Paula Abdul would say, this book is a TOUCHDOWN! Go check it out. I think you'll be as pleased with it as I am. Highly recommended.

PS- Along with learning what a pocket is, I learned about and there's a baseball player named Sandy Koufax and apparently he's kind of a big deal.

Are you out... about reading YA books?

So they tell me I'm an adult. I graduated from college. I graduated from grad school. I go to work 9-5. I have to pay my own bills (except for my cellphone bill, which my Dad pays for 'cause I'm still on the family plan. Yeah, I got it like that!). That's all the adult activities I can think of that I do. I don't have a husband or kids or anything. I don't really like to cook. I definitely don't like to clean but I guess those things get done occasionally.

The rest of the time I'm listening to the Cheetah Girls (like right now) reading, writing, doing whatever amuses me at that moment. I tell my friends, yeah I love High School Musical 3. So what? I saw it in the theater twice, I own it. SUE ME! I watch Degrassi and I like JoBros' "Burning Up." I watch reruns of The Famous Jett Jackson on Disney XD. If you ask me what that one show is on Nickelodeon I can probably tell you.

But there's one thing I haven't come out about.

Yes, I read YA.

See my friends, for the most part, they like to read. They bring in these important looking big books into work and tell us all about them. A lot of the time it's non-fiction about important topics like feminism or the things that happen to dead bodies. Or maybe they are into the classics! Brave New World can always use another read. How about the collected works of Edgar Allen Poe? Most of the time it's just good ol' literary adult fiction, a 300 page masterpiece sitting on the library hold shelf just waiting to be devoured in full view of everyone.

Me, I check my library card in secret, only at home. My books say "teen" on the front. I keep them in my bag.

What am I so ashamed of?

I never tell anyone what I'm reading, unless it's one of the times where I am reading something "literary" and I can spout off, oh this book of short stories, it's quite wonderful, it shows the dichotomy of our natural selves in this unnatural, cold-hearted world!

Something like that.

But most of the time I just shrug mysteriously and give my standard answer. "Nothing."

I'm almost always reading something! I just don't know how to explain it to them. These aren't just books about teens. They are books about life! They speak to me! They are fun and heartbreaking and honest and sad and hilarious and freaky and imaginative and crazy and, dammit, just darn good reading. Not only that, these books are RESEARCH! Don't you want to know my secret dream?

No, I have never said that.

I don't know what it is. Maybe there are just some aspects of my immaturity that I want to keep to myself. Also, I'm scared that they just won't understand. Sure, it's cool to read Harry Potter and Twilight but that's where the buck stops. Why is that? Who made those rules? Not this adult.

I should just come clean. I tried to once, in the car, while I was reading After the Moment. My three friends and I were stuck in traffic and I had just finished the book. Everyone was bored so they humored me by listening to my rough synopsis of the book. Then--

"That sounds STUPID!"

Strike number one.

Well, I'm not out yet. Next time I'll have to plan a little better. I'll pick the perfect, deep, wonderfully written, sneaky YA book and I'll say, do I have an awesome book for you.

I'll show them.

I'm coming out about my adoration for YA books... eventually.

If you're out about your love for YA how did you do it?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Vast Fields of Ordinary Review

I saw this book in a lot of In My Mailbox posts so I thought I'd check it out.

The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd


Dade Hamilton is just passing the time until he starts college in his boring Iowa town. Everyone is always the same and nobody knows that Dade is gay. Or at least they don't know for sure. Dade has been sleeping with his classmate Pablo for a couple of years but Pablo is too busy with his girlfriend to give Dade any extra time. While Dade copes with his loneliness he meets a small-time drug dealer named Alex and suddenly, his summer veers onto a very different course.

Quiet, lyrical, thoughtful, honest and sometimes surprising-- those are the words I'd use to describe this book. I feel like we really see the evolution of Dade over the summer and what's funny is that Dade sees it too and even he is impressed with himself. When the book starts Dade is (to steal a quote from Xander on Buffy) "a font of nothing" or rather the kind of guy who keeps to himself and blends into the background. He tries to hang around Pablo but he can't really stand Pablo's jock buddies anyway. Dade spends a lot of time hanging around the house, listening to his music, thinking.

It's the little things that make up Dade's journey. He hangs out with his parents and watches them fall apart. He goes to work and sidesteps the fury and uncertainty of twins Jessica and Fessica. He befriends a new girl on the street who is also gay and becomes ones of his biggest confidants. He travels with Alex who takes him to places he never meant to go. These moments and decisions and discoveries drive the plot so that we really get inside Dade's head and see all these outside influences and experiences that help shape him into the young man he's learning himself to be. There's no heart stopping action or anything like that but it's the words that will keep you reading.

What I loved most about this book is the world that Burd created. Yes, it's contemporary, it's the US, it's Iowa but there was also a rich setting that helped propel the story. Burd created all these nifty bands and song titles that create a silent soundtrack for the story. There was also the kidnapping case of Jenny Moore, a local girl who disappears. Her story inundated the news and by association she also flooded the lives of Dade and his friends. I really like these kind of background details in any novel, weaving in all these different elements to tell one story. I thought it made the book very sophisticated and creative.

The language in the book is very authentic, not only with the dialogue, but the narration too. I really liked how Dade could be so innocent at times and just full of feeling. Burd was able to capture the feelings that anyone has for a first love whether straight or gay. Sometimes I just had to wince while reading because Dade's feelings were so raw and real. The dialogue is also wonderful and the main source for humor in the book. I especially liked reading how Alex talked with his friends and Lucy, Dade's lesbian friend, always tossed off a hilarious sarcastic zinger. Also, those mean girls said some really mean things.

This book is more than a coming out story. In fact, that part is a small section of the story. This is more of a general coming-of-age novel, classic teen finding himself in the world. For a sophisticated, amusing and pleasant read, I would recommend this one.

In fact, I think reading this book was worth it only because it contains the phrase "douche cougar." I don't know why but after I read that I laughed and I'm still laughing. I can't wait until I have the opportunity to use it.

PS- Today, I learned that Bobby Caldwell is white. I'm so surprised! haha. "What You Won't Do For Love" is the jam! I just assumed... all these years of hearing him on my parents' old soul radio stations and now the ones I listen to on my own... he got me! Just like KC and Sunshine Band!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Intensely Alice Review

I am literally in the middle of five different books. I need to calm down. I did manage to finish one though. So many books are pending.

Intensely Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor


It's the summer before Alice's senior year in high school and she plans on hanging out with her friends and working at the Melody Inn like she usually does. Summer starts off with an exciting trip to Chicago for her cousin's wedding and a visit with her boyfriend Patrick at the University of Chicago. The rest of the summer proves to be fun and challenging time as well as unexpectedly difficult.

Hard book to summarize in a paragraph because these Alice books are more of a portrait of things that happen to Alice instead of an over-arching plot that shoots you straight to the finish line. Usually, Naylor tackles some big issue and frames it in the context of Alice and her friends' different reactions to it. This is a series that you follow from beginning to end because you feel some connection to Alice, her introspective nature and her ordinary life.

Alice is our narrator, most likely on the periphery of all of the major things that happen and not too sure about herself or what she believes in. She's not the smartest, not the most talented, not the most athletic, not the prettiest or wittiest. She's an average, every girl kind of character. What I like most about Alice is that she's willing to listen and consider every opinion. She's pretty much nice to everyone. She's accepting but not too naive. I like that she hasn't grown up too fast and her friends are pretty stable too.

This book depicts a pretty quiet summer for the most part. The first big decision Alice faces is whether or not to have sex with her boyfriend while she's visiting him. I enjoyed the honest, carefully depicted struggle as Alice tries to decide through thought and circumstance what she wants to happen between her and Patrick. What happens between them is probably the best outcome which is usually how the Alice books operate. Naylor doesn't shy away from realistic depictions of sex, both thinking about sex and the actual physical acts. I feel that she writes about sex skillfully and appropriately for teens. In fact, sex was not as big of an issue in this book as it has been in the past, though there was one kind of graphic scene.

The big issue in this book is religion. Alice doesn't really know where she stands on the topic but she carefully listens to each side of the argument. It's a good thing Alice likes journalism so much because she's a really good observer. The book is driven by dialogue and relationships more than anything else. It was fun to see Alice getting along with her girlfriends and branching out with talking to other people, such as an intimate conversation with her stepmother.

If you're a follower of the Alice series, this will be the same Alice that you've always known. Each book she grows a little older and matures a little further but inside she's still the same all-around good girl that we look forward to. The writing, as usual, is heartfelt and realistic. If you haven't tried the Alice series yet I suggest you start from the beginning. Middle school Alice is good at any age and it goes from there.

I even own the Alice movie. I also recommend that. It's pretty funny. I love Lucas Grabeel and Alyson Stoner and Luke Perry so that helped!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Weekly Word Count [6] and In My Mailbox [1]

I don't usually do In My Mailbox because I don't really get anything in my mailbox but I bought some things this week and I thought I'd share.

In My Mailbox is sponsored by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea @ Pop Culture Junkie.

This week I bought:

Shortie Like Mine by Ni-Ni Simone: I bought this for the Summer Book Drive at Color Online. You should check it out and consider making a donation. They have a lot of good books on that list. I feel very fortunate to have a great library collection at my disposal so I'm happy to help somebody else out.

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler: Seems like it's out early! When I saw it, I was like I'm going to get this. I've heard so many good things about it and Sarah Ockler seems really cool. I subscribe to her blog and I enjoy it. I sat out in the park and read the first two chapters very slowly. The writing is so wonderful. I just felt like savoring it. I feel like I already love it!

Intensely Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor: I don't hear too much about this one on the blogs but I'm a fan of the Alice books. I've read them all and I look forward to the newest one every year. Some are better than others but I bet that this latest book is going to be most intense one yet.

Now for my word count. This week was a really good week even though I missed a day. I passed 200 pages, the most I've ever written of one single thing. Also I finally feel like I'm doing the things I want to do, if that makes any sense. I'm on the right track and I had a lot of fun writing this week.

Words- 1625
Page-: 4

5/25: missed it! I was at an amusement park.

Words- 1176
Pages- 3

Pages- 3

Words- 4034
Pages- 9.5

Words- 690
Pages- 2

Words- 5087
Pages- 11.3

That brings my weekly total to 13831 words and 32.8 pages! That's a lot. That is the reason my apartment is a mess.

If you're a (wannabe) writer you should join me! Just drop me a line and we can bother each other about our writing. Also, Karen is sponsoring a Summer Writing Challenge at her blog. Come and join her there and committ to writing 500 words a day for the summer. That's about a page.

Well, the MTV Movies Awards are on and I find them fairly amusing. I need to do some writing, do some reading and twist my hair so I'd better get started!

Excerpt from this week:

I couldn’t speak. His hand on top of my hand. The ref blew the whistle for the jump. Marshall tipped the ball in my direction but it rolled off the top of the top of my fingers and some Seahaven player snatched it up. We were behind them by half-a-step so they got the two-points.

Coach Ashton yelled at us to get back on defense. I couldn’t make my hands stop shaking. I wiped them on my shorts and clapped them together. Nothing was working. Seahaven was strong coming out of the halftime, working hard. They had a burst of energy and I was feeling tired. Number 13 pushed me away long enough to get a pass and then he made a far shot from the outside.

“Loren!” Coach Ashton barked. “Stay on your man!”

Back on offense, I missed my pick and Randall didn’t have anywhere to pass the ball so he put up an impossible shot that rebounded right into Seahaven’s hands.

“Come on, Michaels!” Randall said as we ran back to play D. The mistakes kept mounting. I slapped number 13’s wrist during his three point shot, a stupid shooting foul that resulted in a free throw on top of the three pointer he made. I tripped over my own feet and left number 13 open for another three. At our basket, I lost the ball on a dribble and dropped a couple of passes. My turnovers were mounting up as inside I was slowly dying and the only thing I wanted was to be far away from here.

When I saw Silvers jogging over to me I knew it was over.

“You’re out,” he said. I pointed at number 13 and ran over to the farthest chair on our bench. I sat down and pulled a towel over my head so that no one would talk to me. I didn’t want anyone to talk to me ever again.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Box Out by John Coy

I decided it's Boy Week on my blog! All my reviews this week have been about boys. I really like reading YA books with male protagonists because I find them really interesting and my WIP has a male protag. So I need some perspective. Especially from male authors because they are closer to the source than I am. I like boys!

Box Out by John Coy


Liam Bergstorm knows he hit the big time when he gets moved up to the varsity basketball team. As a sophomore he is awed by this opportunity and willing to work hard in order to increase his playing time. He quickly finds that there is more to being on the team than playing ball well. Coach Kloss expects the team to pray in the locker room and go to fellowship meetings before school. At first, Liam tries to shrug it off but the more he learns about what's going on the more he questions whether or not Coach Kloss is right.

This book didn't immediately grab me. After the first couple of chapters I considered putting it down but something made me keep going and I'm glad I did. The story is important. I did enjoy seeing Liam evolve from Bergie on varsity into his own version of Liam Bergstrom. John Coy tackles a variety of important issues. There's the separation of church and state, teen challenging adult authority, racial issues, what it means to be a real team, small town politics, change vs. the way it's always been and basically the challenge of finding out who you really are. I appreciated all of that. I definitely liked the book more when I started getting into these issues. The plot pulled me forward, especially the second half of the book which was a lot more fun and engaging than the second half.

I didn't connect with Liam as a main character. For the whole novel I felt fairly disconnected from him. Maybe it had to do with the third-person narrative but I've read plenty of books written in the third-person that kept me intimately connected with the narrator. It was hard to get into Liam's head especially in the beginning. I felt like I was looking down on his life instead of being caught up and intimately involved in everything.

This is a book about a basketball team and while it may be classified as something other than a sports novel it does revolve around sports. I didn't think the basketball action scenes were the best I've read, but I do like how the atmosphere of the basketball game was always aptly described. The team dynamics were well portrayed in game and practice scenes and that's very important to the story.

I did like the other characters in the novel, especially the girls on the girls' basketball team. They had a lot of spunk and their vibrancy for life really brought some energy to the novel and the narration. That's one reason why the book picks up in the second half when Liam is working with the girls. Liam deals with a realistic situation concerning his long-distance girlfriend which I really enjoyed. Liam's parents were realistic and distinctive. I liked how they simultaneously confused him and encouraged him.

The emotional intensity in this book could have been higher. That is my main reservation. But overall, it's a finely crafted novel with a lot to say and it's a quick read. Out of all the boy books I've read this book I feel like this one will appeal to boys the most. If you're in the mood for a book like this definitely give it a try.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

David Inside Out review

Check out my new layout! Isn't it pretty? Kelsey at Just Blinded Book Reviews made it. I am so happy. Thanks Kelsey!

David Inside Out
by Lee Bantle


David Dahlgreen leads a pretty good life. He runs on the cross-country team, he does okay in school and there's even a girl in his life who likes him a lot. The only problem is that he has a crush on one of his cross country teammates, Sean. And the crazy thing is that Sean might like him back.

I absolutely adored this book. Once I started reading it, there was no stopping me. I squirmed all through my eight hours on the job waiting for the chance to pick it up again. From the first chapter I was hooked. The thing that kept me reading was David's voice in the book. He just sounded like this genuine, nice, confused, horny, sweet guy. It was very real. There was David jumping off the page and I just wanted to know more and more about him.

The book is fairly short so the plot moves along at a fast pace that I enjoyed. Sometimes I felt like the story was a series of vignettes of David's life because these cute, quirky things would happen to him that seemed like an aside to the main plot. I enjoyed that because David's story could get pretty dark. I was happy that Bantle was able to inject some happiness and fun into David's life despite all of the hurtful things that happened to him.

At the heart of this coming out story is a love story and it really rings true. What really drew me to David is how passionate he is about everything. His feelings were so familiar and it would be familiar to anyone who's ever had a first big crush whether they are straight or gay. I felt really connected to David as he struggled his way through everything and really began to accept the person he really wanted to be.

All of the characters featured in the story were distinctive and they all served a purpose. It was interesting that David's sort-of best friend Eddie is also gay. That really tied the book up in the end and makes the last page especially poignant. I really liked David's sort-of girlfriend Kick because she was cute and sassy but she definitely wasn't perfect and I liked how she handled David's situation. Sean, the perfect crush, is not the perfect boyfriend and I really identified with how his struggle was different from David's. The dialogue is really funny, one of my favorite parts of the novel. There is a lot of it so it really helps to move the story along.

The best part of the book is that David is such a boy. One of the aspects of being a boy is that he thinks about sex a lot. I think all of the sex in the book is tastefully done and it's sort of exciting because David is so excited about it. It's not graphic but it does gear this book towards older teens. It's an essential part of the story but it doesn't overtake the story at all.

This is a well-written, honest, funny, touching novel that's more than a coming-out story. It's a great book for anyone who has ever felt unsure about who they were and had the courage to really take a good look in the mirror and try to figure it out. There's a lot of emotion packed into this book and I dare you to read it and not feel something good. Check this book out today! Highly recommended.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

After the Moment review

After the Moment by Garret Freymann-Weyr


Leigh Hunter leads a quietly charmed life. He's smart, athletic and popular almost without trying. His girlfriend is one of the hottest girls in school. His mother pretty much stays out of his way but they still have a good relationship. His father is a complicated man that helps Leigh examine the type of man he wants to be. The major challenge in Leigh's life is figuring out what colleges he will be applying to next year. Then Leigh has a tough decision to make and the direction of his life is forever changed when he falls in love with Maia Moreland.

This is a rather lovely book about a smart, sensitive guy who is growing up right on the page. It took me a couple of chapters to get used to the book. The writing is very layered and sophisticated. I felt like the tone of the novel is more geared toward an "adult" book rather than YA just because the strong third person narrative is slightly removed from Leigh's 17-year-old life. However, the writing really carries the book. I was impressed with how self-aware Leigh was, how we were able to get into his head and see the kind of guy he was. Yes, he is a very good guy and he knows that but he's not perfect and he also knows that. He's sometimes selfish or brash or moody. The whole time Leigh recognizes these different aspects of his personality and he asks himself why is he this way, why can't he say what he's truly thinking, why do words fail him, how is he going to control his own destiny? The struggles of growing up, both mentally and physically, are right there on the pages and we as the reader are so connected to him that I felt myself struggling right along beside him and asking myself the same questions. It's truly a compelling read.

I was reading something today where an author said he would like to see more YA books written at a high-school level. I wasn't quite sure what he meant but thinking about After the Moment, I think that he may be talking writing level. I have to say I agree with him because I enjoy the challenge I get from the writing while still being able to enjoy a novel in my favorite genre of books. I read this book slowly but at the same time it was so satisfying that I could not put it down. I think it's important for readers to be introduced to this type of writing in YA literature.

Leigh's story begins in the months after 9/11 and he's lives in New York. It's interesting to have this kind of backdrop for the story and I really enjoyed the subplot of how the war impacts (and doesn't impact) Leigh's life. Although the time period is pretty well established there isn't any pop culture references to 2002 really, unless they are fairly vague. I enjoyed how firmly entrenched I was in Leigh's world. It really helped me understood how everything unfolded for him.

The adults in the story were referenced by name just as the teenagers were but it was still easy to tell all of the characters apart. I enjoyed the dialogue that was realistic, almost contrary to the narrative with how simple and young it was for Leigh and all of his friends. The plot unfurled in an unhurried way but it wasn't slow because there was always so much going on in Leigh's head, even if there wasn't much going on in terms of action. The story is told mostly through flashback as Leigh sees his former girlfriend Maia again at a party. The events that do happen are shocking and heartbreaking and everything in the book builds to this so you really care about everyone involved. Even though it was easy to care about these characters, it was not always easy to understand them because Leigh didn't understand them and all we had was his perspective. Still, that made the book more interesting.

If you pick up this book and you find yourself turned off in the beginning or you're not immediately grabbed I advise you to stick with it. This book is definitely worth the read just to get inside the man of one young man who might represent the challenges that other guys like him and it's important to see this kind of perspective. You might be surprised.

My main gripe with the book is that Leigh's name was spelled Leigh instead of Lee. Leigh is more girly than Lee but at the same time I can see why she chose that spelling.

Check this book out!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sunday Weekly Word Count [5]

I'm on vacation! But I still managed to keep up with my writing and I'm so happy. I wish my friends would hurry up and get ready. In fact, they are sitting around me doing nothing. It's so hard to motivate them. At least it gives me a chance to write this post.

Words - 1742
Pages - 5

Words - 1737
Pages - 4.3

Words - 748
Pages - 2.1

Words - 707
Pages - 1.6

Words - 551
Pages - 2.1

Words - 560
Pages - 2.3

Words - 1155
Pages - 3

That brings my total word count to 7200 words and 15.4 pages. I was feeling really frustrated this week like, can I really go through with this? Is this worth doing and finishing? It's so long! I need to move the plot along faster. But then I decided to stick through it. I'm gonna finish this first draft, even if it kills me. And then I will start something else.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Such a Pretty Girl Review

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Weiss


Meredith's father is a equal opportunity molester. He'll sexually abuse little boys, girls and even his own daughter. Three years ago, Meredith sat up in court and told her story in order to put her father away in prison. Now, her father is being released and despite all of the court restrictions and legal documents, Meredith's father is coming home.

This was a surprisingly fast read although it is a dark and scary book. The book only covers a few days but you get the full sense of the terrifying things that happened to Meredith before and after her father's arrest. Meredith sees her father as a monster and there is no evidence to the contrary. There is no telling how many kids he has harmed. The community shuns him and Meredith by association, even though she is just as much of a victim. Perhaps the scariest character in this novel is Meredith's mother. She's obsessed with keeping her husband, Meredith's father, happy and willing to turn a blind eye to whatever he is doing to Meredith. Even after the trial, she refuses to believe the truth that her husband is a sex offender and leaves Meredith alone with him just so the abuse can start all over again.

It certainly seems like there is no hope, no help for Meredith, trapped in this life with her father, only 15, there's no real for her to get out. Also trapped is Meredith's boyfriend, Andy, who is paralyzed from the waist down and also an alcoholic. He lives in a dark condo near Meredith where his mother prays for his recovery night and day. Meredith has Andy as a source of support but it is not a permanent solution.

The thing that will keep you reading this story where everything that happens to Meredith is so frustrating and wrong and unthinkable is Meredith's strength. She is fully aware during the story and you get a real sense of all of her conflicting thoughts and feelings. Somehow she is able to navigate through all the horrors in her life and then pushes the story along.

The flashbacks are scattered throughout the story and very useful to seeing how this all started for Meredith and to help explain how her past has shaped her state of mind in the present. One unusual aspect about the flashbacks was that they were written in present tense, just like the rest of the story, but set off in italics it really works and adds to the sense of urgency of the whole novel.

The characters and unflinchingly real. There are no heroes on white horses coming to share Meredith. The adults surrounding her have their own flaws, including inaction. Meredith keeps her own with all of them. Some of the banter is quite sophisticated. Then again, Meredith is a girl who is much older than her years.

This is an important book because it does not sugarcoat or gloss over anything that happens to Meredith. Her situation may seem extreme or unrealistic but it's something that happens way more often than it should. Such a Pretty Girl highlights these horrible circumstances but also gives us hope. If you want to experience a deeply felt novel, I suggest you read this one.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sunday Weekly Word Count [4]

Wow, my fourth Weekly Word Count post. That means I've been up to this page-a-day thing for a while. I've never been such a disciplined writer before when there wasn't a grade attached. And even then I just wrote my stories a couple of days before they were due. I'm such a procrastinator.

What is it about weekends? What do I do? I'm always so unproductive. Ugh. I can't even tell you how long I've been meaning to clean my apartment. It's still not done! I need to find somewhere to keep all my new books.

I'm going away for Memorial Day weekend and it will be a true test to my writing commitment. I'm going to bring my computer so we'll see.

Anyway this week:

Word: 2269
Pages: 5

Words: 1985
Pages: 5.2

Words: 1145
Pages: 4

Words: 540
Pages: 2

Words: 415
Pages: 1.5

Words: 853
Pages: 2.5

Words: 3155
Pages: 8

That brings this weeks total to 10362 words and 28.2 pages.

The 8 pages I wrote on Saturday? That was me siting in a chair for hours writing one scene. And that, my friends, is the reason this novel will never be finished. lol

Still reading. Reviews up soon!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Flashback Friday [3]

It's time for Flashback Friday! On Fridays, I feature YA books published before 2002 (I think... I haven't checked). You should try it!

This week I'm featuring When Jeff Comes Home by Catherine Atkins.



Two years ago, Jeff Hart was kidnapped at knifepoint. Now his kidnapper is releasing him to return home. But when Jeff finds his family, he feels shell-shocked and unable to tell anyone what happened. He can't believe that anyone-not even his family or friends-will understand what he went through. Jeff isn't the same person he was before, and he never will be again.

Why You Should Read It:

Honestly, this is one of my fave YA books of all time! It's a book I go back to over and over again and I should probably just buy it already. I've read it at least four times, maybe more and it never gets old. It just impresses me how writers can dig down and write so authoritatively and honestly about such dark topics. I think that's a much scarier book than one about a vampire or a werewolf.

I adore Jeff and his voice in the book. His pain, his confusion, his loneliness, it's all very real. When he acts creepy with his little brother and then hates himself afterward is just an example of the inner struggle that Jeff is going through. Everything is different now that he's back home and everyone has so many expectations. On one hand you want to throttle Jeff for not giving up his kidnapper right away, just like everyone else but at the same time, as the reader, you're right there in his head and this messed up logic that he has going on is the only thing that rings true to him.

I love the relationships in this book. The central relationship is between Jeff and his father. During the two years Jeff has been gone his father has done everything in his power to find him-- including looking through kiddie porno mags for Jeff's picture. Just thinking about that makes me sick. Jeff's dad wants to help Jeff so badly but he also doesn't know what to do and Jeff is not in a position to tell him. The struggle and the love between them is so real. That's one of the best parts of the book. Also, Jeff had a best friend when he was taken, Vin, who tries to reenter his life once he comes back. Vin is very patient and caring towards Jeff, which I loved reading about. But Vin is not perfect and there comes a breaking point. I thought the friendship was very well portrayed and made the story feel more rounded and not so closed in with just Jeff and his family.

All of the uncomfortable moments, the sadness, the horrors of what happened to Jeff and the anger are all building up to the emotional payoff that happens during the last two/three pages of the book. I read the book just for the ending. It always makes me cry. Books don't make me cry that often. For me, it's quite cathartic. I recommend the book based on the ending alone.

It's not a perfect book. Reading it again as I've matured I would change a few things about the writing but not much. No matter what it's always a very emotional, very carefully crafted book with a strong voice and so much passion.

So you should definitely check it out!


I don't have the book on me right now! So... just read it.

Other Works By This Author:

Catherine Atkins also wrote Alt Ed which I read and I enjoyed but not as much as this book. Other than that, I don't know. So if you know Catherine kindly tell her to publish another book and get back on her blog! I'll be waiting.