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.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

C.O.R.A Diversity Roll Call #6: YA You Don't Know

It's time for this week's C.O.R.A Diversity Roll Call question! I encourage you to join in, I look forward to doing them every week! I'll address these questions.

Your assignment this week is to inform readers what they are missing. With your help, maybe we can begin dismantling misconceptions and introduce readers to a more diverse pool of writers. Please address one or a few of the following:

1) Provide a list of YA writers of color that you think deserve more exposure.

2) Showcase cover art that does not reveal the race/ethnicity of the characters. Do you think these covers accurately represent the storyline?

It's hard to just find authors of color on the Internet through Google especially if they're not well known for whatever reason. I thought I'd go on a treasure hunt. My library is awesome and it has a pretty big YA section. I spent some time looking through all the YA books in the library for books by and about people of color.

How did I look for the books? I just stared at all the titles. I judged a book by it's cover. I looked at last names. I randomly pulled books off the shelves and checked. I remembered a lot of books just from years of looking at the YA section in the library even if I had never read them before. Sometimes it was blind luck, like just a feeling I had.

This is not a good way to look for a specific kind of book! But it's interesting because there are more books out there than I thought. And these were mostly books that I could judge from their cover, inside blurb or author photo in the back. I imagine there were more in the stacks and also out in the world, in people's homes and other libraries and even more that I didn't know about because there was no hint of ethnicity in the outer characteristics of the book.

So I made a list of books I thought people might not know about. I focused mostly on African American authors with a few others. And I'll talk about some covers as well.

Maid Machinegun by Aaliyah.

Song for Night by Chris Abani (I think this is more adult than YA though)

Photobucket Sofi Mendoza's Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico by Malin Alegria. The cover definitely shows a teen girl looking lost, like the title suggests. I think she could be a variety of ethnicities but the title gives away that she is supposed to be Hispanic. I think the cover goes well with the title, I can't comment on the book.

Maya Running by Anjali Banerjee.

Dominion by Calvin Baker.

The Black Canary by Jane Louise Curry.

Photobucket Afrika by Colleen Craig. The cover deliberately puts the girl in a dark shadow which I think is interesting. At first you might think this girl is black but you can't assume that. The book is called "Afrika" so it leads you in that direction, but reading the product description and the reviews on Amazon, I think the main character is white. I think the cover is ambiguous on purpose so people will pick up the book for a variety of reasons. I wouldn't call it misleading.

Photobucket Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis. No mention or hint about race with this cover. It's all about the most important color-- that mighty mighty green. The only reason I knew this was about a black teen was from browsing the stacks before. I like this cover because it's very appealing and fun and more people will feel invited to pick up the book. I haven't read the book so I don't know how much race plays a role but it sounds like a good read. Also, Christopher Paul Curtis won a Newberry so that says something really good about his writing!

Photobucket Indie Girl by Kavita Daswani. I think this cover is sort of glamorous. I just picked it because it prominently displays the race of the main character on the cover but on the other hand she looks so cool, that's what made me look at this book in the first place. It looks like chick-lit and if readers like that type of story and book and cover and all that goes with it I think this cover will make them pick up the book irregardless of their race or the race of the girl on the cover.

Fresh Off the Boat by Melissa de la Cruz.

Photobucket X-Indian Chronicles: the Book of Mausape by Thomas Yeahpau. Not sure how I feel about this cover. I'm not really a fan of drawings but is it an image that will turn people away just because they don't feel the book is for them or will speak to them? I think it might. But is the cover true to the story? I don't know because I haven't read the book. Just things to think about.

Acting by Sherri Winston.

Hang On in There, Shelley by Kate Saskena.

Photobucket How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life by Kaavya Viswanathan. Oh, is this the Harvard girl that got busted for plagiarism? Haha. Well, I'll still talk about the cover. Seems like when they don't want to make race prominent on the cover the person is in shadow or colored weirdly, like this one. I prefer the "Bucking the Sarge" approach of picking a symbol or something else other than a person to put on the cover. Anyway, this cover seems cheesy enough and the thick hair may be a giveaway.

Chandra's Secrets by Allan Statton.

Imani All Mine by Connie Porter.

The Professor's Daughter by Emily Raboteau. I highly recommend this one if you're into literary short stories. I wouldn't say it's YA but that's where I found it. The stories are about a young lady who is half-white, half-black and they are superbly written.

Photobucket He Forgot to Say Goodbye by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Discovered this book in the library and added it to my mental TBR pile. The last name made me take a look. It's about a Mexican teen and a white teen who become friends through the shared experience of not having a father in their lives. The cover doesn't hint at race in any way but instead suggests a journey and loneliness. I think it's a lovely cover.

Joseph by Sheila P. Moses.

Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim.

Hot Girl by Dream Jordan.

Spellbound by Janet McDonald.

Photobucket M+O 4Ever by Tonya Hegamin. Funny, I chose this cover because the kids on the front were dark but vague, that whole shadow thing. One of the reviews on Amazon said this, "It’s too bad the cover art doesn’t more clearly show the girls’ ethnicity; more books with girls of color prominently displayed are needed." I found this in the library and leafed through it because I'm clued into the shadow technique on covers. I think we definitely need more books with girls of color as the main character that are also widely read for everyone. How do we make this happen? We can change our culture or tweak the cover. One is easier than the other, unfortunately.

Photobucket Response by Paul Volponi. Another shadowed covered. This is also in my mental TBR pile. The story is about a black teen who gets beat up in a white neighborhood. Funny, those shadowed figures on the cover may be the teens who beat him up! There is a real ominous feeling from the cover. In fact, the figures on the cover are more like symbols than people so I like that.

So I hope I gave you some ideas for books to read. I think this exercise has further confirmed that I much prefer stuff on covers to people, personally. But I also don't think authors and publishers should have to omit faces of color from book covers just so more people will give it a try. So it's a Catch 22 of sorts. I think we just have to encourage kids and teens to just have a love for reading because when you really love reading then you'll be looking for anything. When you love reading the most important thing is that it's a really good story.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Writing Tip Wednesday #4

What can we learn this week from Elizabeth Lyon's book Manuscript Makeover?

Without reservation, I recommend that you begin your novel with a scene. One reason why is because of the problems inherent with sequel and summary. Sequel means that readers have been deprived of the suspense of the off-stage scene that occurred before the opening of the novel. Now they are held hostage to "listen" to the reaction of the character or characters. It also means that the author will be tempted to narrate too much, to retell the scene that triggered the emotions and quandary, and tell, tell, tell-- everything. More than not, sequel beginnings feature one character alone with his or her thoughts and feelings. I don't recommend that any unpublished novelist begin with one character alone, because the character will inevitably turn inward, which means lots of telling versus action. [...]

Scenes are based on forward-moving action. They operate to get the story launched, to put the characters into situations where they must overcome obstacles and move toward commitment to a life-changing quest. Scenes also contain sounds, smells, temperatures, touch-sensations, and visuals. They create the verisimilitude, the sense of reality that is missing in narrated summaries or thought-based sequels. Scenes are more dynamic than sequels or summaries.

I am always amazed with how good novels begin so close to the action. I think it's pretty bold but it's also the thing to do. The advice not to start with one character alone is interesting but it makes sense. What else can the character do but think? Unless she starts talking to the wall. Although, I think it can work sometimes, depending on the structure of the book. I think the trick is to keep these tips and "rules" in mind but play around with the narrative until you find the most interesting way to really tell the story.

I really need to read that book front to back. I'm working on it!

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

This has nothing to do with the review but I won an ARC of Love You Hate You Miss You from Elizabeth Scott on her blog. I am so excited. I'm gonna read it as soon as I get it! Thank you Elizabeth!


Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

I'm not sure what I was expecting but as soon as I read the first page of Living Dead Girl I knew that I wasn't going to get anything I could imagine. I started reading the book and after the first few chapters I wasn't sure if I'd be able to go on while I was still compulsively turning pages and devouring every word.

Living Dead Girl is Alice's story, but that's not her name. She was kidnapped when she was 10 years old and another girl was born in her place, the Alice that fulfills her kidnapper's every need. When she was 10 her biggest concern was whether or not to share her new lip gloss. Now Alice steals to eat and waits for the moment that Ray will murder her.

The prose is stark, sparse, told from Alice's point-of-view, a dead, hollow narrative that I have never experienced in a novel. I could hear her voice in my head and feel her pain and desperation. The violence in this novel is not graphically described but the imagery is strong enough to make you flinch and squirm anyway.

Most disturbing is the way Alice has evolved during her captivity with Ray. This is no longer a regular girl and how could she be? She is intricately connected to Ray and you see just how well he has molded her in his image and for his pleasure. The real beauty of this story is how self-aware Alice is about how she is yet powerless to stop it and something beyond resigned to her situation-- really the only way to describe it is in Alice's words: "Living dead girl."

The reason this book is so hard to read is because there's no humor, there's no lightness and even as I kept reading and searching I couldn't find anything resembling hope. Yet I recommend this book because the voice is unlike anything I've experienced before and I was utterly captivated by it. I can't imagine writing a book like this. You will definitely be haunted by Alice's story.

Give it a try but be prepared to have a very emotional reaction to what you're reading.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

TBR Tuesday (3)

I have this book in my apartment, ready to go.


Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia

The wrong angle

Trina: "Hey," I say, though I don't really know them. The boyed-up basketball girl barely moves. The others, her girls, step aside. It's okay if they don't speak. I know how it is. They can't all be Trina.

Dominique: Some stupid little flit cuts right in between us and is like, "Hey." Like she don't see I'm here and all the space around me is mines. I slam my fist into my other hand because she's good as jumped.

Leticia: Why would I get involved in Trina's life when I don't know for sure if I saw what I thought I saw? Who is to say I wasn't seeing it from the wrong angle?

Acclaimed author Rita Williams-Garcia intertwines the lives of three very different teens in this fast-paced, gritty narrative about choices and the impact that even the most seemingly insignificant ones can have. Weaving in and out of the girls' perspectives, readers will find themselves not with one intimate portrayal but three.

I first learned about this book from Paula's Diversity Roll Call post and I knew I wanted to read it. Rita Williams-Garcia is an author I admire for her gritty stories yet tender writing. School violence is an important topic that should be explored in YA literature. I like that she's taken us away from the guns and more sensational manifestations of violence and brought it back to more of an everyday level, something that is a reality for many students.

I read an interview with Rita and she said it took about 4 years from start to finish for this book. I'm looking forward to enjoying her hard work. I'm sure the words will seem effortless.

I've been reading a lot of heavy books later. I think next week I'll go for something lighter!

Upcoming reviews:

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
Jumped by Rita Williams-Garcia
Undone by Brooke Taylor
Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Boy Toy by Barry Lyga


I never would have picked up this book if it wasn't for the review on MssJos's blog. So I have to thank her because this novel is awesome.

It's the kind of book I wouldn't pick just by appearance in the library. I think the cover makes the book a little sexier than it is but at the same time I'm like, what's that about? Even the inside blurb is weird and strangely vague. Makes it sound almost like a sports novel and baseball is not my thing. I only like to read sports novels about basketball (How closed minded of me!).

Yes, I've definitely passed on this book for a couple of years and I'm sorry that I did.

In some ways Boy Toy is what you'd expect but mostly it's completely different from what you can imagine. Talk about bringing characters to the brink. Author Barry Lyga is fearless.

I think to give a proper sort of summary you have to get a bit spoilery. Five years ago, Josh Medel's life changed when he was molested by his 7th grade history teacher when he was 12. Now, age 18, a senior in high school, he's been trying to keep it together by maintaining a low profile in his small town, focusing on his sport baseball and on his grades so that he can get into his dream Ivy League school. There are only a few weeks of school left so it seems like everything should be ending but Josh's recovery is just beginning. Rachel, his former best friend, is ready to learn the truth, whether Josh likes it or not and in learning how to trust Rachel and others around him, Josh discovers a truth about himself.

And there's baseball. And best friends. And parents. And secrets.

The book is long. It's 416 pages but it is utterly captivating. Josh's voice just leaps off the page. You are instantly in his head from page one. The book occurs in the present and also in Josh's 12-year-old past. It's amazing how Lyga writes from the point of view of Josh describing himself at 12-years-old with this dual consciousness yet you know both versions of Josh are wrong about many things. The immediacy of Josh on the page was what drew me further into the story. It commanded me to keep turning the page. Sometimes I had to stop and catch my breath, think about what was happening, go over in my mind. I could feel every word in my brain.

I love books like that.

Josh isn't the only excellent character in this novel. Every character is carefully crafted and completely real and complex. For such a long novel there aren't many characters and it really shows with the time devoted to each one so that the reader is really able to get to know them. Even the predator, Josh's teacher Eve, is given time to become real and in the end, well, there's something else there. You could almost feel a little sorry for her.

The best part about this book is that it takes it's time, drawing you in, explaining things, getting to know the characters. Every section is carefully written. The pacing is excellent. The build up is breath-taking. The ending is just what you always feared but at the end it's what you needed. I felt a sense of satisfaction once I finished the book, sadness too, and lots of pride for Josh and everything he was able to achieve.

The sex in this book is never gratuitous or overly graphic. It's disturbing but for other reasons than how it is described. I wouldn't let that deter you from the novel. You'll be so caught up in Josh's story that quickly you'll be moving on to the next thing. The sex is nothing if not-- using that strange literary term-- earned.

Above all, Boy Toy has excellent writing. His dialogue is particularly strong. There's humor wrapped up in all of this, lines that made me laugh out loud. It was a delicate mix that I really appreciated.

Here's a tip! For more than half the book I was reading Josh's best friend Zik's name as Zeke... but it's actually short for Isaac! Get it? The end of Isaac? Haha, I'm dumb.

I could tell you more about this book and what goes on there. I feel like I've barely begun to scratch the surface. But you need to try this out for yourself. It's a challenging read but in an important way. So I hope you give Boy Toy a chance.

My favorite part (page 228-229):

"See, forgiveness doesn't happen all at once. It's not an event-- it's a process. Forgiveness happens while you're asleep, while you're dreaming, while you're in line at the coffee shop, while you're showering, eating, farting, jerking off. It happens in the back of your mind, and then one day you realize that you don't hate the person anymore, that your anger has gone away somewhere. And you understand. You've forgiven them. You don't know how or why. It sneaked up on you. It happened in the small spaces between thoughts and in the seconds between ideas and blinks. That's where forgiveness happens. Because anger and hatred, when left unfed, bleed away like air from a punctured tire, over time and days and years.

Forgiveness is stealth.

At least, that's what I hope."

Highly recommended! Now in paperback!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Sunday Weekly Word Count [3]

This weekend I tried to clean up my apartment but I'm so good at distracting myself it's no good. Oh well! Only I live here. Well me and some spiders and other bugs I kill occasionally. Ew.

So I'm in the middle of reading two books. I really need to read faster so I can post more reviews! I read a couple graphic novels I want to comment on, I just haven't done it yet.

This week I surpassed 60,00o words in my first draft. So yay but also, when is it gonna end? Can I get to the fame and fortune part yet? haha.

It was a good reading day and writing day. I also twisted my hair for a long time in a while. I really don't like my hair lately. Ever since I used some Miss Jessie's shampoo and conditioner (once!) it's been going downhill. I used some locking gel with the twisting and that seemed to work well.

Now it's almost another work day. But hey, I can't hate on work too much. At least I have a job. For now...

5/3 and 5/4- FAILURE. I was out of town and didn't write. I suck. Where is my discipline!

5/5- Words: 2178
Pages: 6

5/6- Words: 842
Pages: 2

5/7- Words: 480
Pages: 1

5/8- Words: 526
Pages: 1.2

5/9- Words: 2141
Pages: ~ 6

That brings my weekly word total to 6167 words and 16.2 pages. Not bad for missing two days.


It was Saturday so Somerset was crowded with middle schoolers carrying designer bags and soccer moms wearing sweatshirts that said Hottie across the bottom. It took two seconds for me to remember the exact reasons I never went to the mall.

“I just need some shirts,” I said, heading toward Macy’s with Caitlin on my heels. “We don’t have to be here forever.”

“But Loren, you said I could get something too!” Caitlin said. “I have to look.”

I couldn’t get to the men’s section fast enough. They had some shirts and ties boxed up together so you didn’t have to match anything. I grabbed a couple of those, one with a blue shirt and another with a plain white shirt. Red didn’t look that good on me but it was one of the school colors so I got a red shirt, a red tie and a black and red checkered tie along with a couple of black shirts That had to be enough. I couldn’t wear something different for every away game. Principal Johnson liked to say it often on morning announcements—“School is not a fashion show.” He probably hoped that each time he said it somehow it would come true. But school remained a fashion show.

I want to go to the mall. It's been so long!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Flashback Friday! [2]

TGIF. It hasn't been a long week but it was long enough. Let's kick the weekend off with a blast from the past.

Flashback Friday featuring Both Sides Now by Ruth Pennebaker



Witnessing her mother's battle with breast cancer, a teenage daughter finds her own strength.

Liza's mother has just completed an exhausting, but promising, treatment for breast cancer and her future looks bright. Liza takes the same approach to her junior year of high school--work hard, think positively, and keep everything under control. When tests reveal that a riskier, more painful treatment is needed, it seems Liza's mother has given up. But she hasn't. Her mother's courage shows Liza that life isn't about control, it's about living.

Drawing on the author's own experiences with breast cancer, this unforgettable novel reveals that positive thinking is not always the answer to tragedy, but that facing pain can bring great strength.

Why You Should Read It:

This book has always stuck in my mind. I've read it at least twice. I love Liza's voice. Everything is just leaping from the page. The characters are real and compelling. Family is very important in this novel and I think Liza's family is crafted well. The mother-daughter relationship is strong and it's unusual, beautifully punctuated by the inner-thoughts of Liza's mother which are scattered through out the novel.

Although the plot builds around the heavy topic of breast cancer the book is a solid, enjoyable experience. Liza has her own steady build of experiences as her family life is changing all around her. It's crazy how much life moves forward even though terrible things are happening all around you. That's one aspect of the book I like the most. I still think about this book because the experiences and situations and people in are so real. The writing is excellent. The details are delicate and well-crafted.

For a rich, poignant read you should check out this book.


(I just took this from Amazon)

It's foggy and misty this morning, but I can see the finish line the minute I turn the last corner. It's about a block away. Lots of people are standing around it, clapping and yelling. There are pink balloons everywhere, and they bob up and down in the wind.

When I cross the line, a woman in a white sweatshirt and aviator glasses gives me a big pink button that says I Raced for the Cure! I pin it on my T-shirt while I'm still jogging up and down. I look around, but I don't see Mom anywhere.

So I turn back and jog along the sidewalk, watching all the people who are still finishing the race. At first, they're all runners like me--young kids, college students, middle-aged guys with babies on their backs. But the farther back I go, the slower people are moving. After I've gone four or five blocks, you couldn't even call it a race. It's like a party that's walking very slowly. There are mostly women in long, wavy lines with their friends. They're talking and laughing and pushing strollers.

Mom and her friends are almost at the end of the crowd. She's with three women from her support group. They're all wearing pink T-shirts and visors that say I'm a breast cancer survivor!

"Liza!" Mom's waving at me. I jog over next to her and slow down to walk with her and her friends.

"You remember my older daughter, Liza?" Mom asks the other women. She pushes her hair back when she talks, the way she always has. Mom has a very pretty face, with deep blue eyes and soft skin and short, dark brown hair. Even though she doesn't like to exercise that much, she looks happy today. "Liza's a runner--when she's not doing lots of other things. She's the real achiever in the family."

The other women and I smile at one another and nod. I've met all of them before. There's Barbara, who's short and peppy and probably the most cheerful-looking person I've ever met in my life. She almost always has lipstick on her teeth from smiling so much. Then there's Jeannette, who's taller and more serious, and Libby, who has pale skin and big brown eyes.

The three of them have very short hair, like Mom's. That's because they all had breast cancer and went through chemotherapy a few months ago.

When Mom and the other women talk about chemotherapy, they call it "chemo," for short. I think it helps to give something a nickname like that, so it doesn't sound as scary. Besides, chemo isn't as bad as most people think. It kills the cancer cells in your body and saves your life. That's what you have to keep telling yourself.

"You think we'll win the race, Liza?" Barbara asks. She winks at me, and Mom and all her friends start laughing. Right now, the five of us are walking so slowly that it's going to take a year to finish. They might have taken the finish line down and gone home by the time we get there.

About ten minutes later, we turn the final corner. The finish line is still there, with all the pink balloons flapping around. By now, it's gotten hotter, and the fog and mist have disappeared. The sun is shining, bright and golden and beautiful, and you can see the soft green hills in the distance. That's a good sign. I always look for good signs, and I almost always find them, too. It's amazing.

People are yelling when we cross the line. I think it's because we're practically the last people to finish the race. Mom and her friends hug each other, and they all hug me.

Around us, all I can see is a small crowd of women wearing pink. They move together and apart and together again, and their faces look hot and red from the sun. They're laughing and crying at the same time, in a way that's hard for me to explain. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before.

I hug Mom again. She's laughing and crying, like the rest of the women. For a few seconds, I don't know what to say.

What should I say? The day's beautiful and we've finished the race and I feel so happy to be alive--like something wonderful's going to happen any minute now. Something wonderful's going to happen, bursting out of nowhere, the way the sun just came out. Everything is going to be all right. It's such a strong feeling, like a surge of something very powerful, that I know it must be true. I wish I could explain it better. I wish I could make Mom and her friends understand. I wish I could make everybody in the world understand.

"Let's go, babe," Mom says. She stretches her arms up, over her head, and grins at me. "I need to get to the closest shower. It's an emergency."

I drive us home. I got my learner's permit last summer, and I'm starting driver's ed classes this week, so I need to practice driving as much as I can. The trouble is, I don't have very good depth perception. That's why I have this bad habit of running over curbs. Dad says I shouldn't worry about it, though. It's a bad habit to focus on mistakes, because that's negative. As long as I act like I have confidence in my driving, I'll start to feel it, he says.

Other Books By This Author:

Ruth Pennebaker also wrote Don't Think Twice and Conditions of Love. Both of these novels are excellent. I love her entire body of work. For years I would pray to see something new every time I went to the library. I'm still waiting for her next book! So, Ruth, if you see this, please publish another YA book!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Diversity Roll Call #5 and other thoughts

It's time to answer this week's Diversity Roll Call question! Head over to Worducopia to participate. This time we're going to look at the book Gone by Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson. I'll use that book to answer these questions.

1. Are the nonwhite characters too good to be true? (or do they have depth that goes beyond their race, faults and all?)

The non-white characters in Gone are Mil, Risa and Darnell. Mil is an older black gentleman who makes ice cream and Risa and Darnell are his grandkids. I'll focus on them. Perhaps Risa and Mil are a little too good to be true. Mil is a strong paternal figure in the story and even though he has sort of a dark past he has pulled himself together and he's sort of the center of the neighborhood. It seems like people are drawn to him. I don't know if that's too good to be true but it's definitely good.

Risa is also very good. She very understanding and kind to her brother. She's the first girl to give Zach, the main character Connor's awkward best friend, a chance. She's pretty, nice, smart and even willing to share someone else's earwax. Now, Risa is a secondary character so the reader doesn't get to know too much about her but from what I can glean she's close to perfect as presented.

Darnell was an annoying little boy. There's nothing perfect about that.

2. How and why does the author define race? (Does it need to be defined? Is their race crucial to the plot?)

I don't think race is crucial to the plot. It presents itself as a small conflict when Zach worries about being with Risa because she's black and he's white but that quickly passes when it comes up. One of the reasons I picked this book is because I think the author is fond of black secondary characters. I don't think it necessarily needs to be defined. I also don't feel like Risa and Mil and Darnell were black just for arbitrary "diversity" reasons. Like I said, I think she just likes that kind of dynamic between her characters, the black and white interactions that can occur. It could have also been a way to illustrate the kind of neighborhood that Connor lives in.

The author doesn't use any food analogies to describe any of the black characters just describes Risa's skin as brown and also the narrator states the fact that they're black.

3. Is the cover art true to the story? (Perkins cites as an example the cover of Cynthia Kadohata’s novel Weedflower, in which the Japanese American main character is wearing a kimono, even though she's never described as wearing one in the text).

In this case the cover art is about the main character Connor who is white so it's true to the story. He's got a good tan though.

4. Who solves the problems in the story? (Would "Dances With Wolves" have been as popular with theater-goers without the white hero?)

The problem is solved through a group effort but Mil definitely helps. He challenges Connor to take a good look at himself and cites his past problems which are similar to Connor's. He offers his tough love and wisdom which may or may not be seen as stereotypical.

5. How is beauty defined?

The story is told from Connor's point-of-view and he's really into his teacher so he appreciates her blue eyes and long hair and snug fitting jeans and things like that. Zach's hair is really curly and people make fun of him and at one point Zach is wondering if it is like an afro. Zach's hair is not very beautiful. However, near the end of the book Risa gets him hooked up with a good haircut. Risa is described a few times and while Zach thinks she's fine Connor doesn't seem to have any opinion. But his mind is occupied. Beauty is also defined by the way you feel on the inside. Connor is jealous that Zach and Risa seem so happy. So it's a variety of things.

So this challenge got me thinking.

I'm always interested in authors who write main characters outside of their own race. I came across this article on Google. Here's an excerpt:

Brockmann, who gained a following for her series based on a team of Navy SEALS, made her hardcover debut with Gone Too Far (Ballantine Books, July 2003), a romantic thriller featuring Alyssa Locke, a biracial female FBI agent as the heroine, and Sam, a white SEAL team member, as the hero. Any tension between these two is purely sexual.

For Brockmann, Alyssa's biracial background was part of an attempt to bring more diversity to the lives of romance readers, who are typically middle aged, white females living in the Midwest. Alyssa, according to Brockmann's description, is a done of the light-skinned actress Vanessa Williams. "Traditionally, the romance industry is filled with stories about really, really, really white people," Brockmann says. "I get charged up by differences, and I try to bring that to my books." Brockmann tries to give her characters substance by reading African American writers.

It is all about sales not idealism, says Diggs [a literary agent]. "These writers see that African American characters are very popular right now, so they say 'Let me get my share of the market.' As a business decision, it makes perfect sense. There's nothing altruistic about it."

I don't know how popular African American characters are really but I do agree that when someone just makes a character biracial or black in order to "color up" the novel it seems disingenuous to me even if they have the best of intentions. I think that's what Mitali is asking us to think about when we read or do our own writing. Maybe in this case it would be good for Brockmann to leave the character's race up in the air and let the reader fill in the blanks with his or her own mind.

I feel torn because I do like physical description, I like knowing the race of characters in books and it's not something I would want to leave out of my own writing. I don't mind reading books with only white characters or black characters or Asians or whatever. The type of person in a book doesn't make me pick up a book. Now it might make me take a second look, it might make me weigh my options and say you know, I want to read more novels about minorities so I'm gonna pick this one over this one but it's not the only deciding factor. But it is annoying when people think diversity comes only with skin color and that's what they want to create.

My friend and I were talking about how we chose our colleges and she told me about visiting John Hopkins, her dream school. She went down there and while it was rich with racial diversity and all of that she said that she was turned off because even though everyone looked different on the inside they seemed all the same. They were all uber-competitive and conservative, blah blah blah, at least that was her impression. So she decided to go somewhere else because she was looking for more a diversity in experience and attitudes and backgrounds. I think that's what's missing when token characters are just thrown into a text in order to be politically correct or all inclusive. In a way, anything you write should be all-inclusive because you don't know where it's going to end up. All writing can and should speak to anyone who gives it a try if it's good enough, even if you write it geared more towards a specific audience.

What about black authors writing white main characters? Is that still considered African American fiction? Does it have the same kind of "crossover" success that a white author can have for writing about a black character? I came across this blog post and I thought the discussion was very interesting. I have not heard of Millenia Black or her book but that doesn't mean anything because I probably hear about very little if it's not advertised in the middle of American Idol (by the way I can't wait for Glee! Hee! Two more weeks!). Well the Amazon page doesn't tell me much about the controversy or the race of the characters inside except that all the books recommended with her book are from African American writers. Positive reviews... I'm glad the book finally got into the world despite the trouble.

I'm not sure the answers to these questions because I don't have much experience with it all. And then we have to expand this conversation beyond black and white to all of our other wonderful neighbors like Anoop who is of Indian descent, grew up in a white neighborhood (I imagine this) and wants to sing black music! Oh things like that make me smile. I was looking at author Jenny Han's website and her books APPEAR to have white main characters although she looks not to be white. Of course, you can't judge someone on looks and I haven't read her books but I'm just saying, it's definitely out there.

It always annoys me in TV shows where they only have two black characters in the main cast and they date each other. This happens all the time! Why do they have to date each other? Why can't they date other people and sort of expand the whole circle of friends and characters. It's just so closed in, makes me claustrophobic. An exception to this is the new 90210. Dixon is dating Silver and for a couple of episodes they made it seem like he was going to jump ship to date the black girl they had on there to facilitate his blackness identity crisis but it turned out the black girl is gay. And then she disappeared. I wanted Dixon to be with her. Silver is annoying.

I think this post deserves some TRUE COLORS!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Writing Tip Wednesday #3

Looking over all my WIPs I know I have a problem. I love writing dialogue but I have to work on making everyone sound different! Most of my characters (so far) are similar in age and background but it's still important. I love to start a sentence with "well" for some reason. Do I do say that? Well, I don't think so!

Another problem I have is I walk around with my headphones on too much. But people talking on the bus annoy me! And listening to Cross My Heart by LFO is so much better. Okay, I'll try to be a better student of the world.

As for the writing tip, let's look at what Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon has to say about improving dialogue.

Because dialogue is action, it also fulfills the maxim, "Show, don't tell." It is a showcase for characterization and captures personality and character voice like nothing else. Sharpen your dialogue, taking extra pains to delete unnecessary and extra verbiage. Make it lean and expressive at the same time.
I guess I have to really think about my characterization and what I want to bring out in the dialogue because that's just another way of getting to know the characters. I also think what I can work on is vary the sentence variety of different characters, like length and the way they put words together and the words they choose to use. I need to read the dialogue out loud to make sure that it doesn't sound awkward or stilted or just blaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

Funny dialogue is the best!

Things to think about. Slow ride! Take it easy!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

TBR Tuesday (2)

Have you had a Coldstone Cupcake? Well you should have one, it's good.

This week on To Be Read Tuesday I'm featuring...

Photobucket Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead

The year is 1985. Benji Cooper is one of the only black students at an elite prep school in Manhattan. He spends his falls and winters going to roller-disco bar mitzvahs, playing too much Dungeons and Dragons, and trying to catch glimpses of nudity on late-night cable TV. After a tragic mishap on his first day of high school—when Benji reveals his deep enthusiasm for the horror movie magazine Fangoria—his social doom is sealed for the next four years.

But every summer, Benji escapes to the Hamptons, to Sag Harbor, where a small community of African American professionals have built a world of their own. Because their parents come out only on weekends, he and his friends are left to their own devices for three glorious months. And although he’s just as confused about this all-black refuge as he is about the white world he negotiates the rest of the year, he thinks that maybe this summer things will be different. If all goes according to plan, that is.

There will be trials and tribulations, of course. There will be complicated new handshakes to fumble through, and state-of-the-art profanity to master. He will be tested by contests big and small, by his misshapen haircut (which seems to have a will of its own), by the New Coke Tragedy of ’85, and by his secret Lite FM addiction. But maybe, with a little luck, things will turn out differently this summer.

In this deeply affectionate and fiercely funny coming-of-age novel, Whitehead—using the perpetual mortification of teenage existence and the desperate quest for reinvention—lithely probes the elusive nature of identity, both personal and communal.

This seems like one of those novels where there isn't a ton of plot jumping off. It's a book to enjoy, really relish the language and the normalcy of things while realizing some truths that you know from your own life. I like a good book like that. I also like that it's about "black boys in beach houses." Hey, black people can swim! And they tan, just so you know.

I just found out about this book today from the blog White Readers Meet Black Authors and I went to check it out from the library and I'm hold #14 of 14. So it's a popular read.

Apparently the author is a big deal. He has a bunch of awesome awards. I should probably check out his other books too. I'll just throw them on the pile. I've got so much on the back burner!

In 1985 I was one year old. But I can appreciate the 80s. So much good music came out of that especially towards the end, like New Jack Swing. Why do you think I listen to Throwback Jamz on Music Choice all the time and watch VH1 Soul? I love that type of music maybe most of all. So I'm looking forward to this book.

Well, I've got to get back on track with writing, watch American Idol and get a book read so I can post a review on here!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sunday Weekly Word Count [2]

Of course, it's Monday now, practically Tuesday so this is coming to you late, not that anyone cares.

I hit a major test with my page-a-day commitment because I took a mini-vacation. I had my computer. Did I write a page? No! Bet you didn't see that coming. Now I'm two days out of the habit and it had been going so well. I'll have to get back on track tomorrow.

4/26: Words: 785
Pages: 2

4/27- Words: 671
Pages: 1.5

4/28- Words: 593
Pages: 1.5

4/29- Words: 1285
Pages: 3.5

4/30- Words: 1321
Pages: 3

5/1- Words: 1427
Pages: 4

So the total words for this week are 6082 and total pages are 15.5. Not as good as last week! It's coming along, I guess. I actually listened to Change is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke but covered by Seal for an hour, like literally, today at the airport and listening to it gave me like images in my mind about my story and helped me decide what I'm going to do in the future. It was great. I love that song, I love Seal's version.


“Yeah, it’s more than bending your legs. It’s your self-confidence. But you also have to work on your technique.” Sasha took the ball back from me. She held it in front of her in a shooting position. “Keep your elbows in,” she said. “And flatten your hand more. You want to make it a platform so it spins off your fingertips.”

She was so pretty, holding the ball like that. We were both breathing in white bursts but I really wasn’t thinking about the cold.

“You try.” Sasha tossed the ball back to me. “Spread your legs out shoulder width.”

I slid my feet out a little bit. “Like this?”

Sasha nodded. She came up behind me when I lifted the ball into shooting position. She pressed my elbows closer to my body. I couldn’t really feel her hands through my varsity jacket but I imagined I could.

“That’s a better shooting position,” Sasha said. “And flip your wrist. All of you boys suck at follow through. Keep your wrist flipped after the shot.” Sasha demonstrated for me a few times. I watched her squat and spring up like she was actually shooting. Her wrist hung in the air. It was all imaginary but I saw the ball falling through the net over and over again.

“Follow through. And then follow your shot of course. But you know what works for me?” Sasha widened her knowing brown eyes. “You have to visualize it. You have to see your ball going through the net. It’s part of believing it, Loren. You have to believe it.”

Friday, May 1, 2009

Welcome to Flashback Friday! (1)

I'm new to this blogging world and the things that has struck me most about everyone is how kind and articulate everyone seems to be. Especially since some of these bloggers are so young! Yet they are so committed and their blogs are pretty and full of features and excellent reviews. I'm very jealous.

But it also got me thinking. Most of the time we YA bloggers focus on new releases or books that have been out in the past two years or so. What about back in the day YA books? I've been reading YA since I was supposed to. I can't remember when I started. I've read a lot of great books and I thought it would be cool to recommend these older ones.

So on Fridays I will feature an older YA book I think you should check out of the library or get a used book store or something. I'll make the cut off date for publication the year I graduated from high school-- 2002.

Flashback Friday featuring A Door Near Here by Heather Quarles.



Without even noticing, 15-year-old Katherine has become the head of her household. She hasn't had time to notice. Her single mother, an out-of-work alcoholic, has been in bed for weeks, leaving Katherine and her three younger siblings to band together and fend for themselves. But it has gotten harder and harder to maintain any sort of stability. There's no time for housework, food and money are running out, and the kids' teachers are starting to get suspicious. Worst of all, Katherine's youngest sister, Alisa, seems to be losing her grip on reality; she is obsessed with finding a door to the imaginary land of Narnia. And the longer they all struggle to maintain their pretense of normality, the more they have to fear--and to lose.

Why You Should Read It:

This is a gorgeous, compelling read that sucks you in from the first chapter. Katherine is a fierce main character with a conversational yet commanding voice that keeps you turning the pages. Not only is she smart and strong-willed but she can be sullen and full of anxiety but most of all she really loves her siblings. You really get into her head.

The writing gives me such visceral reactions. I gasp, I laugh, I want to cry. That's a sign of really good writing. As Katherine's life slips further and further out of control I find myself compulsively reading just to see what happens next. It's a really quick read but it's very satisfying. It's rich with plot and feelings.

While Katherine is the main character it's Alisa who really steals the show. She's an adorable little girl and you can feel her longing and belief in Narnia just leap off of the page. She's so smart yet such a little kid. When you read about her you know why Katherine would go through such lengths just to keep her safe.

Check it out!


(from pg. 65 hardcover edition)

But Mr. Dodgson wasn't moving. He wasn't packing up his things or anything. He was just looking at me.

I took a step sideways toward the door, checking my watch again as a hint, in case he'd forgotten about the school bus. Okay, come on, let me out. I took another step sideways as sort of a question mark.

"It must have been an awfully traumatic day for you," said Mr. Dodgson.

I stepped back, confused. "A... well, sort of, but..."

"Your sister told me you'd also badly cut your thumb. She mentioned stitches."

Oh. Shit. I'd forgotten Tracy had Mr. Dodgson for New Testament. That blabbermouth idiot. She must have told him something different on Monday.

"It must have been a terrible time in the emergency room, with potential laryngitis and a severed thumb as well. Was your mother with you, too?"

Shit shit shit shit...

"Or was she in another part of the hospital, having her tonsils operated on?" he concluded dryly.

I felt my mouth open slightly as I fumbled for an answer, but I couldn't think of anything to say. My mind felt like a stalled car. Finally I just shut my mouth and let my backpack slide down my arm to the ground. It hit the floor with a defeated clunk.

Other Books By This Author:

As far as I can tell Heather Quarles hasn't written anything else. Which I think is a HUGE tragedy! She should definitely publish something else. And if there is something out there I want my hands on it! Heather, if you're reading this, let's have another book!