Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Recap - The Year of Change

Admittedly, I was not going to do a 2013 recap, but then Amanda Foody did this awesome 2013 Musings post and well...

I also got quite recap envy when I saw A.S. King's post

2013 may have been the Year of Learning for Jessica Spotswood, but for me it felt more like a Year of Change.

Quite a few things happened:

* I changed day jobs and into a position that challenged me, kept me on my toes, and pushed me out of the comfortable shell I'd worked in since I graduated college. Plus, I got to visit Google.

* My dog got older. I know we all get older, but she got older in that noticeable way. In that, let's stay here and hug more way. Also, medication schedule.

* My husband's guitar building career took off. Something that he had only hoped to do as a dream, and made it come true. He is the best inspiration (even though now our house is full of saw dust).

* After countless text messages, IMs, emails, phone calls, video chats, I finally met my amazing CP and best friend, Hay Farris!

* Got to tag along with Jodi Meadows at the Frederick Book Festival.

* There I also got to meet incredible bloggers: Cupcake Jen, Hannah Banana, and Liza!

* Went to a bunch of signings at my local indie, my favorites being: Leila Sales, Sara Zarr, and A.S. King.

* Was told Leslie Knope is my spirit animal.

* Got to interview some ah-may-zing authors on my blog series Writers Like Us. Also, made good use of Channing gifs.

* Drove to Boston to meet with my agent, Lauren MacLeod (but forgot to take a picture with her because her bangs were too awesome).

* Rocked some awesome hair. 

But when it came down to writing:

* I read 61 books (and counting since I have 2 days left!). Here were a few of my favorites.

* Wrote 2 stories (both of which will never see the light of day).
* Majorly revised 1 (like with a wrecking ball).

2014 will be the year:

* I finish my current MS and turn it into my agent.

* Rewrite one of the books I wrote in 2013 and wrecking ball that one too.

* Read way more.

* LIVE way more.

* A bunch of my favorite peoples' books come out: 

For the blog, I have quite a few fun things coming!

* Andrea Somberg, Natalie Lakosil, and Lucy Carson will be featured on Agents Like Us!

* I'm going to reinstate my Currently Reading posts.

* I'm trying to bring back the Top 5 lists too.

And my wish for you in 2014:

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Clan MacLeod becomes Poor Little Dead Girls

Hey! Know what today is!? The official release day for Lizzie Friend's POOR LITTLE DEAD GIRLS! 

So the entire Clan MacLeod celebrated by dying in all these weird and tragic ways (I ODed on hair product, naturally). 
Go check out all of our pictures on Jodi Meadows' blog!

And make sure you check out Lizzie here, follow her on Twitter @LizzieFriend, and buy her book there!

What's Up Wednesday - 12.18.13

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

What up! Wednesday RAH RAH RAH! (this is me cheerleading for Wednesday --> *\O/*)

What I'm Reading
You guys talked me into it. Last week, I was trying to decide what to read before the end of the year and almost unanimously everyone said Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park!

Friday night, I got in bed with the intension of reading "just a few chapters" before I go to bed. That turned into "I devoured half this book and now it's 2 AM). So thanks guys. I blame my sleeplessness on you (and Rainbow).

But very seriously, word crack anyone?

What I'm Writing

I'm writing a lot this week. I've been taking a lot of time to daydream and read and just live and the words keep coming to me. I've been pretty lucky in that I'm balancing everything well (life and work and writing) right now. So I'm not going to jinx it.

I've been listening to Sara Zarr's podcast a lot lately. She interviews writers and they just talk about...writerly things. Things I didn't know anyone else felt or thought about the whole writing/publishing process. Definitely check it out! My favorite interviews are with Stephanie Perkins and A.S. King!

What Else I've Been Up To

My agency sister, Lizzie Friend's POOR LITTLE DEAD GIRLS came out yesterday! Lizzie did Writers Like Us yesterday and the entire Clan MacLeod decided to die to show our support. I ODed on hair product (naturally).

Take a look at all the pics on Jodi Meadows' blog!

What Inspires Me Right Now

I'm starting to think out some New Years resolutions. Admittedly, I really don't stick to anything once about February hits, but this year I really want to try:

  • To finish this book. Really finish it. Get it to that place where I'm okay sending it to people and getting their feedback and then ultimately sending it to my agent.
  • To try to balance out my life and my writing a little more. With me, it's all or nothing. I write and everything around me suffers: my home, my fitness, my relationships. I'm a girl obsessed with the story in my head. I'm getting better at finding the balance. Of actually taking a night off and writing when the inspiration hits.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Writers Like Us - Lizzie Friend

Lizzie Friend, agency sister and writer of twisted secret societies and DC boarding schools is here to share her Writers Like Us answers!

Lizzie's answers are below in bold.

Lizzie on Writing
  • I've written 1 book, and 1 has seen the light of day. Beginner’s luck? 
  • My favorite thing to write is dialogue. This is probably a little strange to admit, but I’ve always had a weird thing about daydreaming entire conversations in my head. Writing dialogue has always felt like a really fun, much-less-embarrassing extension of that.
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with motivation. Writing is just like anything else, no matter how much I enjoy it, I also really enjoy vegging out on my couch. It’s so easy to put it off for yet another day, and once you get out of the habit, it’s really hard to get back on a consistent schedule. I wrote most of Poor Little Dead Girls during my commute when I was living in Chicago, and it was such an easy way to make sure I wrote a little bit every day.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is “tell your characters and their wiggling/raising/narrowing eyebrows to calm down”. Also, “Did you steal that plot point from a Lifetime Movie or a Mexican soap opera?” (Answer, usually both).
  • The book I wished I wrote is Gone Girl, or Where’d You Go Bernadette. Only wish I was half as talented as those funny, creepy ladies.

Lizzie on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt like a kid on American Idol circa 2005 right before Simon Cowell started talking. “Please Mr. Cowell, won’t you validate my existence?” 
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was including a (gasp) prologue in my sample pages.
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while writing is “This book is totally going to make me famous,” *finishes bottle of wine*
  • When I got "The Call," my first thought was ”This book is totally going to make me famous,” *finishes second bottle of wine*

Lizzie on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be an analyst, which is what I do now. I’m about six bestsellers, a major surprise inheritance and some serious black magic away from this being a full-time gig. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of snakes, though that one is no secret.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I unironically enjoy trashy reality-show marathons. Also, not so secret.

Want more Writers Like Us? Check out the entire series, including interviews with A.S. King, Sara Zarr, Jennifer E. Smith, Kristin Halbrook, Tara Lynn Childs, Robin Benway, Katie McGarry, Trish Doller, and many, many more.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

For your TBR pile - Heartbeat

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott

Published: January 28th

Thanks Harlequin Teen and NetGalley for the eARC. In exchange, I've written this unbiased review.

From GoodReadsEmma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with. But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.
Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

Rating: ALL THE STARS. All of them.

Review: Not only do I love sad books, I thrive on them in this weird, creative way (because, really, the reason I read is to FEEL something shake me down at my core). Not only was this an incredibly heartfelt book, but Elizabeth Scott writes grief in this really raw, honest way. Not just in how she describes it, but in how her characters live in it and around it and wade their way through it.

There were so many things I loved about this book: the conflict between Emma and her stepfather Dan over the decision to keep Emma's dead mother's body alive until her brother is born. It's not just about their conflicting views, but their conflicting relationships with Emma's mother--and ultimately, their relationship with each other at stake. It was such a unique way to present a blended family. What do you do when that one person who glued everyone together falls through?

Also, the common ground Emma could find with bad boy Caleb. It's so interesting to me as a reader to see how ultimately tragedy and grief is present in all of our lives. Sometimes we just bury it deeper than people know.

Oh! And also, there's this scene where Emma gets drunk and it's basically the greatest scene ever written, not because it was hilariously honest, but because I'm pretty sure that's been teen me a time or two.

I'm not putting together an annual Favorite Books of 2013 list this year, but this is one of them (even though, technically, Heartbeat isn't out until January 2014).

Recommended For: everyone and anyone. In fact, if you don't read this one, I might threaten to hurt you (or just come over to your house and read it out loud to you).

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - 12.11.13

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

What a snowy, slushy way to kick off Wednesday!

What I'm Reading

This week, I'm reading Elizabeth Scott's HEART BEAT. I'm about 50% in and it is so heart wrenching. I love sad books.

This year, I've read 55 books (my GoodReads Reading Challenge goal was 50), and I was starting to eye up my stack to figure out what I'm going to round the year out with. So I thought I'd ask you!

I have:
Corey Ann Haydu's OCD Love Story
Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park (also, Fangirl)
Simone Elkeles' Wild Cards
Marissa Meyer's Cinder
and A.S. King's Please Ignore Vera Dietz

Any suggestions?

What I'm Writing

I have this weird superstition. I don't like to talk about my writing much. Especially when I really start to like what I'm writing. I feel like this is the only time the writing is ever going to be just "mine." Because the minute I start telling someone my half-baked idea (with that moony, in-love-with-my-story look in my eye), something is said to suck the wind out of my sails. And then I feel incredibly stupid for even wanting to write something so dumb (but about two seconds ago I thought was awesome).

So, it's going well. I don't want to talk about it right now. <3

What Else I've Been Up To

Last week, A.S. King participated in my Writers Like Us blog series! She is so awesome. One of the best bits from her interview was the same advice she gave to me a few weeks ago when I met her on book tour. 

Consider this fact: It took me 12 years and 8 novels to get an agent. But I also felt that if I was getting rejected, then I was working. I still think this way. 

She's amazing. Just so amazing.

What Inspires Me Right Now

A writing lesson Shannon, my guitar builder husband, taught me this week. He basically takes a block of wood and shapes it into this, a working, functional guitar (that is even sometimes played on stages). All these guitar guys are clambering for him to come out with new stuff and to sell it so they can play it! But Shannon takes his time. If it takes months, it takes months. The guitar in the video took almost a year for him to build.

"People will wait for good art," he told me. It gets to the point where he spends so much time crafting his builds, he hates to let them go. When he came back from this show, the first thing he said to me was, "I miss that guitar. I want it back."

So I'm learning to take my time with my writing and enjoy the actual writing without thinking of what will happen once I'm done. (Also, not talking about it so it can stay mine for as long as possible.)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Writers Like Us - Jenny Kaczorowski

I am so excited to help Jenny Kaczorowski kick off her blog tour for her book, THE ART OF FALLING. Not only is Jenny one of the nicest writers I know, but her premise sounds fantastic. Militant vegan girl with purple hair falls for the football captain? I love these types of contemps! It comes out December 19th from Bloomsbury Spark so be sure to pick this one up.

So without further adieu,...

Jenny on Writing
  • I've written 5 books, and 2 have seen the light of day. The first two are such a mess they have no hope. None. The third I queried before setting aside until such a time as paranormal is desirable again. The fourth has been in edits for two years and the fifth is THE ART OF FALLING.
  • My favorite type of scene to write is almost kissing. I love romantic tension!
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with brevity. My degree is in journalism, so I spent my entire college career learning to be as concise as possible. It’s a hard habit to break and I almost never hit my word count goals until well into edits.
  • A typical comment from my critique partner is MOAR KISSING! That brevity thing again – my CPs always want more details and more kissing.
  • The book I wished I wrote is A Wind in the Door. The romance – in all it’s quiet, understated glory - still makes my heart still.

Jenny on Getting Published
  • If my editor really knew how crazy I was, she would find out just how much we’re alike ;) The fabulous thing about Meredith is that she gets my particular brand of crazy and fully supports it.
  • When I was querying, I felt vulnerable. I queried my first serious book for a long time – longer than I should have. Every time I posted for crit, entered a contest or sent a query, I felt like I was sending out bits of my soul. When I finished FALLING, I went much slower and never really queried beyond pitch contests. I was very lucky that Meredith, my editor, saw my pitch and fell for FALLING so fast. Querying is terrifying!
  • The biggest mistake I ever made querying was including the wrong personalization. I got the agent’s name right, but mentioned an article about another agent. I was so embarrassed I didn’t even email again to explain it was a copy/paste error. I got a form rejection half an hour after sending.
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while querying is waking up at 6 am for a query feedback contest - on my birthday. I just couldn’t miss the opportunity!
  • When I got "The Email," my first thought was it was another rejection! Meredith sent me an email and I opened it without reading the heading. I was halfway through the first paragraph before I realized what it was!

Jenny on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a photographer. I majored in photojournalism and planned to work for National Geographic when I grew up, but life is never what we plan, right? I still love photography and dabble in portrait and product work.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of fish. Seriously terrified. I have nightmares about them and can’t fall back asleep. If I’m in a room with a fish tank, I keep one eye on it the whole time. Guppies, goldfish, minnows. They freak. Me. Out. But I’m totally okay with sharks.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I sing. I have no natural rhythm (I throw large groups of people off beat if I clap) and no musical ability whatsoever.

Want more Writers Like Us? Check out the entire series, including interviews with A.S. King, Sara Zarr, Jennifer E. Smith, Kristin Halbrook, Tara Lynn Childs, Robin Benway, Katie McGarry, Trish Doller, and many, many more.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Writers Like Us - A.S. King

A.S. King is here! A.S. King is here! A.S. King is heeeeeeeere!

I recently read REALITY BOY, which is at the top of my list of my "Read This ASAP or I Will Threaten to Hurt You" List. You may have heard of some of A.S. King's other books: ASK THE PASSENGERS, PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ, and EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS, among others.

Very seriously, A.S. King is one of my favorite contemporary YA authors right now, and after meeting her at a recent signing, I can vouch that she is one of the most supportive, knowledgable authors out there.

Her Writers Like Us answers are below in bold.

A.S. KING on Writing

  • I've written 20 books/collections, and 8 have (or will have) seen the light of day.
  • My favorite type of scene to write is on the edge of its own seat, usually present tense, and completely by accident. 
  • No matter how long I've been writing, I still have issues with endings and it takes me a while to get them right.

A.S. KING on Getting Published
  • When I was querying, I felt all the normal feelings: despair, doubt, fear, frustration. Consider this fact: It took me 12 years and 8 novels to get an agent. But I also felt that if I was getting rejected, then I was working. I still think this way. 
  • The craziest thought I've ever had while being published is that I actually understood any part of the publishing business. There is nothing to understand. It is crazy and everyone entering it should read Joseph Heller's Catch-22 to prep themselves.

A.S. KING on Life Outside Writing
  • If I weren't a writer, I'd probably be a psychologist or an abstract painter. 
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of dying.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I wear a scientist's lab coat all day long.

Monday, November 25, 2013

For Your TBR Pile - Reality Boy

Reality Boy by A.S. King

Published: October 22nd

Thanks Little Brown and NetGalley for the eARC. In exchange, I've written this unbiased review.

From GoodReads
Gerald Faust knows exactly when he started feeling angry: the day his mother invited a reality television crew into his five-year-old life. Twelve years later, he’s still haunted by his rage-filled youth—which the entire world got to watch from every imaginable angle—and his anger issues have resulted in violent outbursts, zero friends, and clueless adults dumping him in the special education room at school.
Nothing is ever going to change. No one cares that he’s tried to learn to control himself, and the girl he likes has no idea who he really is. Everyone’s just waiting for him to snap…and he’s starting to feel dangerously close to doing just that.

Overall Review: I was really glad this was my first AS King book. It was a book I didn't mean to read all in one sitting, but I was hooked from the very first line.

Rating: 5 stars.

Writing: I absolutely love, not the way A.S. King writes, but how she tells a story. She has the fearless type of writing style that reads natural and effortlessly. After I read Reality Boy, I had the amazing opportunity to go see her speak at my local indie, Children's Book World in Haverford. A.S. was funny and personal, and I loved hearing speak about how instead of writing books for teens telling them what to do, she writes stories that stand up for them and takes their side.

Characters: I see a lot of reviews about how the characters in Reality Boy depict how famous or infamous children who have been taken advantage of through exploitative reality TV might feel. I don't see how Gerald is unlike any other high school junior who has been raised to believe he or she is stuck being who they currently are. Although I haven't read any of A.S. King's other books (which, will now be remedied because I have three sitting on my TBR shelf now), it's clear she writes for the underdog, with characters that are easy to relate to.

Recommended For: everyone and anyone.

Friday, November 22, 2013

For Your TBR Pile - The Naturals

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Published: November 5th

Thanks Disney Hyperion and NetGalley for the eARC. In exchange, I've written this unbiased review.

From GoodReadsSeventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

Rating: 4 stars.

Writing: I absolutely loved this premise. A group of hand-picked teenage prodigies who help the FBI solve cold cases? Absolutely. The best part was how as Cassie was taught to think like a killer by thinking through the suspects' motives using only the word "you." For instance, you do this because you think/feel/want that. Jennifer Lynn Barnes did a great job twisting and turning the plot, you'll have no idea who did it until the very end.

Characters: Each of the Naturals were diverse, not only in their "natural skills," but their attitudes, backgrounds, and hang ups. There was a nice romantic tension between Cassie and her two male colleagues Michael and Dean (although I thought Dean was the much more interesting of the two). Never fear, I'm-over-romance-in-YA readers, the romance was tertiary in this story. But I really loved the other girls in this book: analytical Sloane and professional liar and shit-stirrer Lia. I loved the scenes where the team worked together to think through how they would solve cases. I wish there was more of that in this book.

Recommended For: A lot of people are comparing this to The Mentalist, but I'd say fans of Dexter and Law and Order SVU would like it too!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - 11.20.13

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

Oh, Wednesday. I'm so happy to see you.

What I'm Reading

Last week I was reading agency sister, Lizzie Friend's YA debut, POOR LITTLE DEAD GIRLS. This week, I get to read my other agency sister's debut, THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

Sashi is seriously talented and can write some damn good boy POV. Her voice is amazing. I hate to compare her to anyone, because I think her writing is so unique and fresh, but if you like A.S. King, I think you are going to really like Sashi.

What I'm Writing

I hit that point. Maybe because I've been working so much on this book for so long, but I hate it. I hate my book.

I'm fully aware this is a completely natural way to feel during the writing process, so I'm combating it by taking a lot of step backs and breaks, and working on the scenes I think are still fun. I'm hoping to be back in love soon.

But, yeah. This book. Ugh.

What Else I've Been Up To

Agents Like Us is back this week! I'm so excited to host Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency.

I love that Hannah is looking for more fantasy in the slush and loves Katy Perry. These interviews are so much fun to read. I tried to ask the type of questions that would give more hints into the agents' personalities and expectations--all the things I wanted to know when I was querying. I hope they help other writers out.

I have to email out another batch of interview requests to agents soon, so if anyone has any recommendations or can hook me up with their agent, let me know!

What Inspires Me Right Now

Selfies. Yeah. I admit it. I've been a selfie queen lately. I can't help it. Sometimes you walk past a mirror and you're like, "You know what? My hair looks AWESOME." You have to selfie it. Make a record. If awesome hair happens in the woods and no one is there to see it, did it really happen?

YES! If you selfie.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I'm inspired by my own ability to document awesome hair (pending flattering angle and filter that makes my hair look really shiny).

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Agents Like Us - Hannah Bowman

Agents Like Us asks agents all their deep, dark agenting secrets. This week, Hannah Bowman of the Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency is here!

She's actively looking for commercial fiction, especially science fiction and fantasy, young adult fiction, women's fiction, cozy mysteries, and romance. You can find her agent profile here, her Tumblr there, and tweeting under @HannahNPBowman.

Hannah's answers are below in bold. Let us know what makes her like you in the comments!

Hannah on Agenting

  • When writers query me, I really wish they would answer in their query: what is the thing about your book that you think is the coolest? I want to know why you loved this book enough to write it.
  • My favorite part about being an agent is signing new clients! I love discovering incredibly talented writers.
  • Rules and trends aside, what I really look for in a story is an eye-catching premise, great writing that grabs me and immerses me in the story, an unusual voice, and a plot that keeps getting better as it goes on.
  • Whenever I make a book deal, I, well, first of all, I never celebrate until the deal is settled! Getting an offer means it's time for me to focus on getting the author the best possible deal. But once the deal is finalized, I always buy a bottle of champagne to celebrate. 
  • I really wish I saw more adult historical fantasy, excellent adult science fiction, and YA high fantasy in the slush.

Hannah on Clients

  • My ideal client would be a brilliantly talented writer who is also open to always learning more and revising to make their projects better.
  • What I love most about my current clientele is that every single one of them writes so well that I rush to open any new material they send me, because I can't wait to see what new awesomeness they've given me to read.
  • What I want most for any client is a long career writing books they love and finding the right audience for those books.

Hannah on Life

  • If I weren't an agent, I'd probably be in grad school. I was sure I was going to be a professor of something, but circumstances transpired otherwise.
  • My favorite (non-client) book is The Lord of the Rings (it's the classic choice). But I'm also incredibly fond of anything by Katherine Kurtz or Lois McMaster Bujold, and Robert Heinlein's THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS.
  • Secretly, I'm terrified of snakes. This is not really a secret.
  • My secret boyfriend is Chris Hemsworth. Especially as Thor -- it's the hair and the beard.
  • I have a total girlcrush on Katy Perry. I have never met a song of hers I didn't like.
  • Sometimes, when no one is around, I read fancy recipes I will never actually get around to making. I do this especially when I'm hungry and my dinner plans are boring.
  • My favorite drink is an Irish whiskey called Writers' Tears. This is the truth; it's exceptionally good whiskey.

Monday, November 18, 2013

For your TBR Pile - Roomies

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Published: December 24th

Thanks Little Brown and NetGalley for the eARC. In exchange, I've written this unbiased review.

From GoodReadsIt's time to meet your new roomie.
When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

Overall Review: The end of this book made me cry. In public. In a hair salon. Enough said?

Rating: 5 stars.

Writing: Sara Zarr has to pretty much murder a puppy and spit on small children to write a story that I won't automatically give 5 stars. She and Tara Altebrando crafted an amazing story together. Because this was written as an author collaboration, the entire time I read, I wanted to know how Sara and Tara wrote this book.

Like, did they each pick a character (I'm going to guess Sara wrote Lauren's POV and Tara wrote EB's) and only shared the email correspondence with each other, while writing the meat of the story separately? For instance, did Tara (aka EB) send Sara (aka Lauren) an email, which Sara would take and craft Lauren's reaction and story leading up to the replying email at the end of the chapter, which would be the only piece Tara saw in return?

I really hope that made sense. If not, just skip to...

Characters: I really wished I had a book like this as I was a nervous high school senior anticipating what the next year would bring. As much as the characters wanted to leave home, they both were very aware of what they were leaving behind (the good and the bad). Packing up and leaving isn't always as simple as we pretend it should be, especially when you are replacing the family you always knew for a new roomie at college. Both characters reflected quite a bit on this anticipation and the way Zarr and Altebrando wrote it felt fresh in a very crowded "going to college" YA market.

Recommended For: Sara Zarr fans will not be disappointed! Every once in a while I love reading a book that breaks the classic contemp YA format and mold. ROOMIES made me think, not only as a reader but a storyteller.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What's Up Wednesday - 11.6.12

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what's up.

You can participate by going to Jaime's blog here. Or Erin's blog there.

I went MIA for a while, but I am back! Hello, hello. Hope all the What's Up Wednesdayers are doing well.

What I'm Reading

Agency sister, Lizzie Friend, sent me an ARC of her YA debut, POOR LITTLE DEAD GIRLS. It comes out with Merit Press this December and I have been DYING* to read it.

It's so good, and very seriously, I have no idea why the CW isn't knocking down Lizzie's door. This book is so full of drama and suspense. Plus, she got excellent reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, so I am thrilled beyond belief for her!

*But not really DYING.

On Saturday, I hit my GoodReads Reading Challenge Goal. I set it kinda low at 50 books since I was writing so much this year. A book a week is pretty manageable. Confession: last year I wasn't going to make goal in time, so I scaled it back by five books. >__<

What I'm Writing

I'm still writing. I can't remember what draft this is, but it might be draft 3 or 4.

I've gotten to the point with this story where it's all I think about and all I want to do. This is my favorite part of writing, because the characters are starting to pick up mannerisms and favorite songs and superstitions and quirks.

I really Zooey Deschanel gify love this story.

What Else I've Been Up To

I've just been writing a lot, but something super exciting happened to my husband recently. Shannon builds guitars. I don't know if I've ever shared that on my blog, but he does. Our basement is full of power tools and wood and lots and lots of sawdust.

So he built this guitar for his friend Josh Travis who plays in Glass Cloud. When the band was in Philly a few weeks ago, Shannon took Josh the guitar and then he opened the show at the Trocadero with it! And we got video!!*

*Warning: Glass Cloud plays some angry metal music so if you don't like that, turn your speakers down!

What Inspires Me Right Now

You. Writers. All of you. 

I really love November because everyone is writing. Even if you aren't doing NaNo or you are or you're doing a weird hybrid so you can finish your book (like me), we're all writing. And I love going on Twitter and seeing word counts and people looking for sprinting partners. It reminds me that we're all in this weird, solitary writing thing together.

Add me, btw!
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