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!