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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