Category Archives: Challenges

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. It’s incredible. I’m in awe of the brilliant plotting, plus the complex characters the authors created. And, there are some wonderfully steamy moments which, of course, I loved. I also read The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, which is poignant and evocative and cold and lonely, just as beautiful as her Tiger Lily. She’s quickly becoming a favorite author of mine. Now I’m reading All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven and even though I’ve only just started, I’m loving Finch and Violet and their authentic voices.

  

What I’m Writing: Continuing to read through my NaNo manuscript, (which still doesn’t have a conclusion). I’ve left myself tons of notes about things I need to research/revise, and I’ve cleaned up a lot of its messiness. I’ve also got a plan for The End, which (GOAL) I’m going to carefully plot in the coming week. I’m going on a most amazing writing retreat in February (yay, yay, yay!), during which I hope to do the actual writing.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Playing around with Tumblr. I just signed up and though I have no idea what I’m doing, I’ve enjoyed posting (reblogging?) pictures of books and Disney characters and Taylor Kitsch and inspirational images, plus quotes on writing and success. Do you Tumbl? Is that even a word? I’m HERE if you’re interested in linking up!


Spreading the word about Cavalcade of Authors West, a literary conference for Western Washington middle school students. My longtime friend Kari Bradley is one of the organizers and their list of participating authors is aMaZiNg — Kimberly Derting, Peggy Eddleman, Kristin Halbrook, Mindy McGinnis, Richelle Mead, Marissa Meyer, Alyson Noel, Lisa Schroeder, Liesl Shurtliff, and Staia Ward Kehoe, to name a few. You can learn more about COA West on the post I shared last week, or you can visit the official site. If you’re able, I highly encourage you to donate to this fantastic literary event.


And, since one of my 2015 goals was to fix more treats, I present… A plate of super rich, super delicious Rocky Road Fudge. (You’re welcome.)

What Works For Me: Vlogagrams! Author Megan Whitmer had the brilliant idea to initiate a weekly vlogagram challenge on Instagram, and it’s been so much fun! I find vlogging daunting, normally, because I’m shy and I hate the pressure of coming up with a topic and having to speak in an entertaining manner for minutes upon minutes. Vlogagrams are short (fifteen seconds) and Megan is hooking participants up with weekly themes, which makes the process much less intimidating. I’ve loved “meeting” fellow writers and building on the sense of community I’ve already found via IG. If you’re interested, check out the vlogagram hashtag. The videos I’ve done so far are HERE

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. Here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner which, so far, is just as fabulous as their co-written debut, These Broken Stars. I haven’t had tons of time to read lately, but each and every one of my spare moments are being spent with Flynn and Jubilee.

 

What I’m Writing: I’m slowly cleaning up my NaNo project and prepping to write its climax and conclusion, which I *think* I’ve finally figured it out. Additionally, I spent a few days reading and offering feedback on Riley Edgewood‘s super hot, super amazing upcoming contemporary NA. I wish I could give you hints as to all of this story’s awesomeness, but let’s just say, it’s very much a Katy Book, and I loved it.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Trying to get back into a routine now that my husband’s back to work and my daughter’s back to school. Plus…


I participated in the YA Buccaneers‘s #12DaysOfBooks photo challenge and made some new Instagram buddies along the way. Above are two of my favorite photo prompts (with assistance from Daphne): “Bookcase” and “Spine Poetry” (mine reads: if i stay / through the ever night / what’s left of me / cracked up to be / something like normal / forever…). Thanks for hosting, Buccaneers!


My husband, daughter, and I spent a day exploring downtown Pensacola. We walked a ton, hit up a history museum, ate amazing burgers (and drank a spiked Almond Joy milkshake), and watched a professional hockey game.

  
I’ve been playing with minimalism and candy-colored photos on Instagram, which is all sorts of fun. I first learned about the look on the IG feed of blogger extraordinaire Fat Mum Slim (Chantelle), who talks about #CandyMinimal HERE. She was inspired by photographer Matt Crump, whose IG feed is gorgeous. He gives a fantastic candy-colored editing tutorial HERE.

What Works For Me: Writing has been sporadic over the last few weeks, but my girl’s back to school and my husband’s leave is over and I’m trying to buckle down. That means butt in chair and accounta-buddies, plus the knowledge that if my MS-on-sub doesn’t sell, I’ll be far less depressed if I have something shiny and new to present to my agent (don’t ask how I know this). My WiP, which is tragically ending-less, inspires me too. After all the work and heart I’ve put into it, it deserves a conclusion!

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

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“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends <a Continue reading

Debut Author Challenge :: CANARY

Today’s 2013 Debut Author Challenge review is Canary by Rachele Alpine

From GoodreadsStaying quiet will destroy her, but speaking up will destroy everyone. Kate Franklin’s life changes for the better when her dad lands a job at Beacon Prep, an elite private school with one of the best basketball teams in the state. She begins to date a player on the team and quickly gets caught up in a world of idolatry and entitlement, learning that there are perks to being an athlete. But those perks also come with a price. Another player takes his power too far and Kate is assaulted at a party. Although she knows she should speak out, her dad’s vehemently against it and so, like a canary sent into a mine to test toxicity levels and protect miners, Kate alone breathes the poisonous secrets to protect her dad and the team. The world that Kate was once welcomed into is now her worst enemy, and she must decide whether to stay silent or expose the corruption, destroying her father’s career and bringing down a town’s heroes. Canary is told in a mix of prose and verse, and has earned tons of fantastic author endorsements and complimentary reviews.

Such a beautiful cover, right? I like the story beneath it too. Canary is an issue book that deals with a lot of issues: death of a parent (Kate’s mom), athlete elitism (something I don’t see addressed often in YA), academic integrity at an upper-class private school, sexual assault, and anxiety over a military family member’s well-being (a topic that strikes particularly close to home for me).

Kate’s a great narrator. She’s a “normal girl” (for lack of a better term), and I had no trouble relating to her as a high schooler who’s trying to find her niche at a new school and in a new life. My favorite part of Canary are the blog posts — penned by Kate, and mostly in verse — sprinkled throughout the narrative. Kate’s online words are confessions, thoughtful and profound, and sometimes cheeky and clever. Check out a bit of this obviously sardonic “post,” about proper care and handling of a Beacon basketball player boyfriend…

“Maintain a happy attitude, even if you feel sad. Smile and laugh often. Let him know life is perfect for you when he’s around. Agree to what he wants to do, be where he wants to be, watch what he wants to watch, and become interested in the things that interest him. Remember constantly how lucky you are to have acquired a Beacon basketball player boyfriend.”

Another aspect of Canary I appreciate is Kate’s connection with her big brother, Brett. The push-and-pull of their authentic sibling relationship is incredibly well done, and I love the protective role he plays in Kate’s life, especially when it comes to her boyfriend Jack (who I’m still a little torn about). Brett is mature, and he’s often the voice of reason Kate herself sometimes lacks. He’s my favorite of all Canary‘s characters.

I recommend Canary for fans of serious, issue-based contemporary YA, books like Daisy Whitney’s Mockingbirds, and Chelsea Pitcher’s The S-Word

Learn more about the Debut Author Challenge HERE.

Also, hop on over to YA Confidential to check out today’s From the Vault post. We want to know what you’d like to see more of in YA.

What’s the last debut novel you read? 

DAC :: STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
(Reviewed for the Debut Author Challenge)

From GoodreadsWhen seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi. Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her over-generous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world. Glowing strands of romance, mystery, and suspense are woven into this breathtaking debut—a thrilling retelling of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale.

First, I love this book’s cover. I think it’s gorgeous, and it totally draws me in. Its muted color palette and elegant font very much convey the tone of the story. It’s the reason I purchased a copy even though historical fiction (which Stands of Bronze and Gold is, sort of) is not normally my thing. Book Cover = Win

Strands of Bronze and Gold is a hard book to review. It is exactly what it claims to be: a fairy tale retelling set against a historical backdrop, and it does almost everything right. Its characters are engaging. Its prose is lovely, and boasts some of the most delectable food descriptions I’ve read. And its plot, while a bit slow in the beginning, moves along at reasonable pace and includes some interesting twists and turns. All in all, Strands of Bronze and Gold is very well done.

But… I’m not sure it’s the book for me. It’s just not the type of tale that moves me. And that’s what I’m looking for when I read — a story that gives me an emotional walloping, rips my heart out and makes me feel, and then, just when I think I can’t stand another moment of anguish, slowly restores my sense of hopefulness. I found myself wanting more from Strands of Bronze and Gold, particularly in the way of the Underground Railroad thread, and in the hinted-at romance with Mr. Stone. I thought these elements were the most compelling of the story, and I would’ve loved to have seen them expanded on.

For me, knowing that Strands of Bronze and Gold is a Bluebeard retelling stole a bit of its magic. Early on, I had a basic idea of what was going on with Monsieur Bernard de Cressac and his previous wives. And while I liked Sophie and wanted her to solve the story’s mystery and escape Wyndriven Abbey, I pretty much knew she would, somehow. That kept me from becoming truly invested in her plight. But, as I mentioned, there are a few surprises in the story and they, along with Jane Nickerson’s enchanting prose, kept me reading through to the end.

Strands of Bronze and Gold is everything it’s supposed to be — though it’s simply not the right story for me. That said, if you enjoy historical fiction and fairy tale retellings, I suspect you’ll love this one, and I hope you’ll check it out.

Have you read Strands of Bronze and Gold? Thoughts?
Do you have a favorite fairy tale retelling?

(Learn more about the Debut Author Challenge HERE.)

Book Rec: THE TRAGEDY PAPER

My first 2013 debut: The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
(Reviewed for the Debut Author Challenge and The Bookanistas)

The Tragedy PaperFrom Goodreads: Tim Macbeth is a seventeen-year-old albino and a recent transfer to the prestigious Irving School, where the motto is “Enter here to be and find a friend.” A friend is the last thing Tim expects or wants—he just hopes to get through his senior year unnoticed. Yet, despite his efforts to blend into the background, he finds himself falling for the quintessential “It” girl, Vanessa Sheller, girlfriend of Irving’s most popular boy. To Tim’s surprise, Vanessa is into him, too, but she can kiss her social status goodbye if anyone ever finds out. Tim and Vanessa begin a clandestine romance, but looming over them is the Tragedy Paper, Irving’s version of a senior year thesis, assigned by the school’s least forgiving teacher. Jumping between viewpoints of the love-struck Tim and Duncan, a current senior about to uncover the truth of Tim and Vanessa, The Tragedy Paper is a compelling tale of forbidden love and the lengths people will go to keep their secrets.

The Tragedy Paper was not on my original list of 2013 debuts, but over the last month I’ve come across too many glowing reviews to pass it up. I mean really… A story about a clandestine romance set at a New England boarding school pretty much screams Katy Book!

The Tragedy Paper‘s format reminds me of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. It’s recent graduate Tim’s story (his tragedy, really) relayed through a collection of CDs gifted to current senior Duncan (who is peripherally and mysteriously linked to the aforementioned tragedy). The Tragedy Paper‘s structure portrays the boys’ parallel plot lines in a way that makes them feel equally important, especially considering that as their stories unfold, Tim and Duncan are both pondering what, exactly, makes a tragedy, as well as working toward completing their all-important tragedy papers.

If The Tragedy Paper‘s format hints at Thirteen Reasons Why, its tone is reminiscent of A Separate Peace by John Knowles. There’s the boarding school setting of course, and then there’s the dynamic between students of different social standings, the one-tiny-moment-can-change-everything theme, and the constant defining and redefining of the word tragedy. All of these things in combination made me think often of Gene and Phineas and how their fatal flaws compared to those of Tim and Duncan.

I think The Tragedy Paper‘s greatest strength lies in its earnestness. It’s a quiet sort of book and the characters who populate its pages are wholesome kids mostly trying to do the right thing. But, they have weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and those weaknesses and vulnerabilities are what kept me turning pages. I felt for Tim who, at his core, is a good guy with some serious self-esteem issues. I felt for Vanessa, whose seemingly effortless existence isn’t entirely so. And I felt for Duncan, who endeared me with his dorkiness, not to mention the guilt he carries for his part in the tragedy that changed all of the characters’ lives irreparably.

If there was anything I wanted more of from The Tragedy Paper, it was the “forbidden love” element mentioned in the story’s summary. (Of course, I’m a romance girl and I always want more swoon-worthy moments. ♥) While I got a definite sense of Tim’s pining for Vanessa, I wanted more scenes with those same feelings reciprocated by her. I often wondered if she was leading Tim on because she enjoyed his attention, though she sought him out enough to convince me that she felt true affection for him. More than once I just wanted to shake Vanessa and make her face up to her feelings even though they were difficult and complicated.

The Tragedy Paper was an incredibly satisfying read. It was also an intense read. I’ve found myself thinking about it and its messages since I finished a few days ago. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of contemporary YA, and to readers who appreciate clean, straightforward prose and characters who experience profound growth over the course of a story.

Check out these recommendations from my fellow Bookanistas:

Debra Driza wonders at WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

Jessica Love thinks THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY is terrific.

Stasia Ward Kehoe delves into OUT OF THE EASY.

And learn more about the Debut Author Challenge HERE.

Hello, February!

Oy. January was a weird, weird month. I am not at all sad to say farewell. But before I do, let’s chat about two big things I accomplished during the first thirty-one days of 2013:

First, I kicked Jan Plan‘s ass. Thank you, Christa Desir for sharing your motivational idea with me and the rest of the blogosphere. Finish one thing in January, you said, and I did! I received revision notes from my agent at the tail end of December, mulled them over, tackled them, sent my manuscript off for a beta read, and had the new and improved version back in said agent’s hands before the month was out. Win. The best part? My agent was pleased! For now, we’re calling that manuscript DONE.

Second, I ran 161 miles. That’s an average of just over five miles per day over thirty-one days. If I maintain that average all year, I’ll have run nearly 2,000 miles by 2014. I kind of want to do it! But, my poor joints are already achy. I feel like the rusty, creaky Tin Man before he’s oiled. We’ll see… 2,000 miles is definitely a worthy goal to strive for, but I’m not sure if my old bones can hang. Wish me luck?

Happy Friday, and happy February!

What was your biggest January accomplishment?