What’s Up Wednesday

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“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…And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I flew through Gayle Forman’s Just One Night, the eNovella follow-up to Just One Day and Just One Year, and it was a complete joy. I am so, so happy she decided to put a cap on Allyson’s and Willem’s story. I also read Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State, which was the exact opposite of joyful. To be honest, I feel sort of terrible recommending it because it is absolutely brutal. But, it is also brilliantly written and completely haunting (I had nightmares) and, I think, a must-read. Now, I’m reading my friend Elodie Nowodazkij’s up-and-coming YA debut, One, Two, Three, and I am loving it.

    

What I’m Writing: I’m still puttering away at my two related projects. I was going strong on my revision for several days, but then a plot element tripped me up and I realized I need to spend some time thinking on it. So, I’ve switched over to the WiP I’m drafting. I’m hovering at about 27K words and I’m still loving the story. It’s a road trip, so every scene is set in a fresh location and has new minor characters to be introduced. There’s also a mystery to unfold, and helping my main characters along as they discover clues is making it feel as though I’m flying through the drafting process. Also, the romance… This couple is my favorite of all the couples I’ve written. ❤

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Tomorrow is my girl’s last day of 1st grade. *sob* I’m struggling with how quickly she’s growing up, so I’ve been spending more time than usual helping at at her school. So fun to see her in her element!

  
Hula hooping at recess, and an end-of-the-year Water Day celebration.


Last week the Scholastic Book Fair was held at my daughter’s school, and then we took a trip to Books-A-Million over the weekend. We’ve amassed a nice little summer reading pile. (Thanks for the excellent recommendations, Temre!) Looking forward to diving into these with my girl! Where should we start?

What’s Inspiring Me Now: My friend Jessica Love, whose debut novel Push Girl (co-authored with Chelsie Hill) released yesterday. I adore this book, and I enthusiastically encourage you to read it. My Bookanista review is HERE. Also, Ready. Set. Write! Have you heard about the summer writing intensive I’m hosting with Alison MillerJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk? We’re setting goals and cheering each other on through a summer of fun and productivity… Join us!

What’s up with you today? 

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What’s Up Wednesday

Autumn WUP

“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…And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Fault Line by Christa Desir and posted my Debut Author Challenge write-up HERE. I also read Lauren Myracle’s Shine, which was gripping, beautifully written, and incredibly unique. I loved it. My girlie and I read Dav Pilkey’s The Adventures of Captain Underpants together. She thought it was extraordinary. I thought it was super silly and very clever. Now, I’m rereading one of my favorite childhood books, Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume. Pretty sure the people at my gym are judging me as I read it on the Stair Master, but I don’t care because it’s just as fab as I remember.

What I’m Writing: I love Scrivener. Like, so much. On Sunday, I took a good hard look at my WiP’s format and current outline, and realized that several scenes needed shifting. What would have taken me hours to copy and paste using Word took all of ten minutes to adjust using Scrivener. The cork board is most definitely my new best friend. As well as revising my outline, I wrote somewhere around 4K words over the last week. I have approximately ten scenes left to write before this first draft is done. Mostly, they’re the story’s climax and conclusion, and their pacing should be fast. Hopefully they’ll come easily and I’ll be writing THE END by Halloween. (Holy hell… That would be amazing!)

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Uh, signing up for #SipSwap, that’s what! Last year I had  a blast participating in the mug exchange dreamed up by Jessica Love and Kelsey Macke, and I can’t wait to do it again this year.


You should definitely join in on the fun. Sign up HERE

   
Over the weekend, we took our annual trip to the pumpkin patch. I have a soft spot for the patch we used to visit in Washington, but our California patch, Hollister’s Swank Farms, is truly awesome. We had tons of fun navigating the corn maze, sling-shotting gourds, and picking pumpkins with our friends. Bonus… We ate yummy Mexican food after. 🙂

What’s Inspiring Me Now: Fantastic writing advice from Richard Price… “The bigger the issue, the smaller you write. Remember that. You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying on the road. You pick the smallest manageable part of the big thing, and you work off the resonance.” Amazing, right? Also, this quote from Chuck Palahniuk…

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

July Reading Wrap-Up

And, my summer of amazing books continues. Here’s what I’ve been reading…

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama – A sophisticated, intricately told tale with something for everyone: A complex plot, multi-dimensional characters, a thrilling, chilling mystery, strong writing, a fresh spin on tried and true paranormal, a bit of history, and romance that will have you swooning. Full review HERE.

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore – I never thought I’d say this, but I loved Bitterblue even more than Graceling. This book… It wrecked me in every way possible. It romanced me, it made me laugh, it made me angry, it broke my heart and, at times, it absolutely horrified me. I can’t say enough about this novel. In my humble opinion, it was just about as perfect as a story can get. A definite favorite. Full review HERE.

The Doll People by The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick – Quickly paced and charming, decidedly contemporary but with a delightfully timeless feel, and illustrations that are gorgeous and perfectly match the enchantingly magical quality of the story. Full review HERE.

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone – I’m a romance girl, so if I can fall for a couple, I usually end up a fan of the book. I thought Anna was a fantastic MC, and I found Bennett to be adorable. Their relationship developed believably (considering the absolute inconceivability of their situation), so I was rooting for them. I do wish Bennett’s love for music and the mystery of the “missing person” had been further developed, but I truly loved the ending of this book. Check out my interview with author Tamara Ireland Stone HERE.

*The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – This book was so unique in format (letters to an unnamed “friend”) and voice, it was nearly impossible to put down. The existing and emerging relationships felt genuine, and the characters leapt off the page, especially main character, Charlie, and his crush, Sam (played by Emma Watson in the upcoming movie!). If you haven’t read Wallflower, it’s a definite recommend!

*Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card –  I checked the audio version of this one out from the library and took it with me on a twelve-hour road trip. It wasn’t exactly a Katy Book (no romance, no butterflies, no kisses, TONS of battles and action sequences), but I can certainly understand why it’s become a classic. The writing is fantastic, the world-building exceptional, the depth of main character Ender and his plight astounding, and the ending… It’s one of those oh-em-gee! endings I love. Also, the audio version concluded with a long talk by Orson Scott Card about the history of Ender’s Game, the beginning of his writing career, and his thoughts on the writing process. It was fascinating.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick – I heard about this book when my friend Elodie raved about it, and it’s very much a Katy Book. It’s an upper YA “romantic drama,” which is what I write and what I prefer to read. BUT… I think the romantic drama is also one of the toughest genres to pull off well. Huntley Fitzpatrick does so beautifully. Sam and Jase are freaking adorable, and they share tons of sweet moments and steamy kisses. Plus, Jase’s huge family is awesome, and enviable characterized. Another recommend!

And, last but not least, July’s Book of the Month: *The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksFrom GoodreadsFrankie Landau-Banks at age 14: Debate Club. Her father’s “bunny rabbit.” A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school. Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15: A knockout figure. A sharp tongue. A chip on her shoulder. And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston. Frankie Laundau-Banks. No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer. Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society. Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places. Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them. When she knows Matthew’s lying to her. And when there are so many, many pranks to be done. Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16: Possibly a criminal mastermind. This is the story of how she got that way.

I have to admit… When I read secret society and pranks in the jacket summary, my interest wasn’t exactly piqued.  But, I love books set in boarding schools (hello, Jellicoe Road) and Frankie came highly recommended by many of my trusted YA friends, including Erin BowmanCaroline RichmondCopil YanezGhenet Myrthil, and Sarah Enni.  Turns out they were all spot on in their gushing. Frankie was so perfectly fun and bizarre, I couldn’t stop turning pages.

Frankie has a pitch-perfect YA voice (even though the story is told in third-person). Protagonist Frankie Landau-Banks is brilliant, dry, and witty, and she’s not afraid to take charge and go after what she wants. That said, she can be sort of thick and she makes plenty of mistakes over the course of her story. But, that’s what makes her so endearing. The best part of this book was how it ended. I won’t give anything away, of course, but I will say that when I read the final page, I felt like every character had experienced the consequences he or she deserved, and that the conclusion was handled realistically, but with the same intelligence and charm the rest of the book possessed.

If you’ve yet to read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, I highly recommend you check it out!

Don’t forget to head over to YA Highway to check out other July favorites. 🙂

Tell me: What’s the best book you’ve read so far this summer?

*Gap Books

Bookanista Recommendation: THE DOLL PEOPLE

Today’s Bookanista Recommendation: The Doll People by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, illustrated by Brian Selznick

The Doll People

From Goodreads: A family of porcelain dolls that has lived in the same house for 100 years is taken aback when a new family of plastic dolls arrives and doesn’t follow the Doll Code of Honor.

And from AmazonAnnabelle Doll is eight years old-she has been for more than a hundred years. Not a lot has happened to her, cooped up in the dollhouse, with the same doll family, day after day, year after year. . . until one day the Funcrafts move in.

Today I’m shaking things up and featuring a super-cute chapter book. While young adult fiction has my heart, I read lots of picture books and chapter books with my girlie, and as a former fifth grade teacher, I’ve read countless middle grade novels. The Doll People is exceptional among books of any reading level.

I’ll admit, I initially picked The Doll People up because of the first-billed author: Ann M. Martin of The Baby-Sitters Club fame. I grew up reading and loving the BSC (Claudia was my favorite, naturally), but I had no idea that Ms. Martin continues to enjoy a prolific publishing career apart from her most popular (and probably mostly ghost-written) series.

I read The Doll People aloud to my daughter (who’s nearly five) and we both adored it. The story is quickly paced and charming, decidedly contemporary but with a delightfully timeless feel. A mystery involving Annabelle Doll’s Auntie Sarah carries the plot, and there are plenty of cleverly woven lessons about physical and “cultural” differences (these are dolls), following rules, true friendship, and finding the courage to explore new and sometimes scary avenues. The Doll People‘s illustrations (black and gray drawings by Brian Selznick, Caldecott-winning illustrator and author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret) are gorgeous and perfectly match the enchantingly magical quality of the story.

My girlie and I have already started the second book in this series, The Meanest Doll in the World!

Tell me: Have you read The Baby-Sitters Club books? Who was YOUR favorite sitter? 

Friday Fun – Is time travel the new black? And, Pay It Forward!

So much to share today! Let’s dive right in, shall we?


First, an interesting trend I’ve noticed of late: Of the eight novels I’ve read since September 1st, FOUR have included an element of time travel. This is a peculiar coincidence because before September 1st, I can’t tell you the last book I picked up that had anything to do with time travel. Also, if you had asked me two months ago if I like stories that utilize time travel as a plot device, I would have said, “Eh.” I certainly don’t seek time travel novels out, but I have enjoyed the ones I’ve read lately (actually, two of the four have been added to my All-Time Favorites list. Huh…).

What do you think of novels that include time travel? Have you noticed them trending the way I have? Any favorite time travel books to recommend? 

Speaking of time, it’s been way too long since I’ve posted a Friday Five, and today Paper Hangover, a fantastic group blog offering writing tips, book reviews, weekly blog topics, and teen interviews, has selected a topic I just can’t pass up:

It’s so difficult to choose just five! My childhood was FULL of books (thank you, Mom and Dad :)), and I’ve been an avid reader since the moment I realized that letters strung together on paper could transport me to new and exciting places. The five books listed below stick out in my mind for different reasons–charm, illustrations, descriptions, humor, characters, adventure, timelessness–and between the ages, oh,  five and twelve, I read each one repeatedly. (All blurbs are from Goodreads.)

1. Corduroy by Don Freeman – Don Freeman’s classic character, Corduroy, is even more popular today then he was when he first came on the scene over thirty years ago. These favorite titles are ready for another generation of children to love.

2. King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub by Audrey Wood – In this raucous tale, the Knight, the Duke, the Queen–and eventually the whole court–all try to lure King Bidgood from his cozy bathtub, but he won’t get out! Will anyone be able to solve this problem?

3. The entire Baby-Sitters Club Series by Ann M. Martin (and a long parade of ghostwriters, I assume) – Follows the adventures of Kristy and the other members of the Baby-Sitters Club as they deal with crank calls, uncontrollable two-year-olds, wild pets, and parents who do not always tell the truth.

4. The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen – Since it was first published in 1987, the story of thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson’s survival following a plane crash has become a modern classic. Stranded in the desolate wilderness, Brian uses his instincts and his hatchet to stay alive for fifty-four harrowing days.

5. Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume – Stephanie, 12, is into “hunks” even though she’s never met one herself. But when she starts seventh grade and finds out that she and her best friend, Rachel, aren’t in any of the same classes except gym, Stephanie has more to worry about than boys. A new girl, Alison, moves in; she’s a welcome new friend, but her presence alters the relationship between Steph and Rachel. For the first time, Rachel has secrets from Steph. But worse, Stephanie accidentally learns that her father isn’t in California on business, but that her parents have separated, and that her father has a girlfriend. She even suspects her mother of having a “fling.” The relationships within the story among the three friends, and between Steph and her parents, are complicated, and Blume handles this aspect realistically and with great ease. The story is lively and captures the nutty, poignant world of young teenagers.

Next: Today Alex Cavenaugh and Matt of the QQQE are hosting the Pay It Forward Blogfest! The idea is to introduce your readers to three bloggers you find awesome.

Here’s how it works: In my post, I’ll list, describe, and link to three blogs I enjoy reading, then you can hop around and check out their awesome for yourself. How fun is this idea?! Just so you know, it was incredibly difficult to narrow my list to ONLY three blogs, but in the end I went with three  that, when updated, I feel extra  excited to read.  

1. Alison Miller’s Left Brained by Day; Write Brained–All the Time – Alison is adorable! Her posts (on writing, books, motherhood, and life) are witty, thoughtful, and fun. Her taste in books is quite similar to mine, which makes her reviews over-the-top  aMaZiNg! 

2. Erin Bowman – Another blogger with fabulous taste in YA books! Erin’s blog is full of style and insight. She consistently shares her experiences with reading and writing, and advice on the publishing process (her debut, The Laicos Project, will be released Winter, 2013… can’t wait!). 

3. Tracey Neithercott of Words on Paper – I could include Tracey based on her conception of The Fall Book Club alone, but, she has even more brilliance to share with the blogosphere. Her posts are  a sassy combination of smart, sharp, and, clever, and she always takes Road Trip Wednesdays in an enviably unique direction. 

And a special mention to agent Vickie Motter of Navigating the Slush Pile, because–hello!–she’s fantastic. Her Wednesday Reads feature is one of my favorites, and she’s posting helpful information on writing, querying, and publishing. 

Please do stop by the Pay it Forward Blogfest to check out the many posts, and maybe even participate yourself!

And, since we’re (sort of) on the subject, a time-travel-inspired “Would you rather…?”

If it were safe and feasible and you were given the choice, would you rather travel back in time to the past, or forward to visit the future?

Tragic pick-up line, or totally awesome science geek opener?

RTW: The Elevator Pitch

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where the ladies at YA Highway post a weekly writing- or reading-related question for participants to respond to on their own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This Week’s Topic: You’re re-reading one of your favs when someone asks the dreaded question: “What’s that book about?” Give us your best off-the-cuff blurb of any book, any genre, and have your readers try to guess the title in the comments!

Gotta love YA Highway’s example: Well, this high school chick gets her first period in the gym showers and totally freaks. Her classmates pretend to like her, then humiliate her at the prom by dumping pig blood on her head, so she kills them all by using her telekinetic powers and burning down the school… I know, I know! It’s Stephen King’s Carrie, right? 🙂

Unfortunately, pitching in a clear, concise manner isn’t one of my strengths, but this challenge is too much fun to pass up. Here’s my off-the-cuff blurb for a classic favorite:

Four optimistic siblings are forced to survive the streets of an idyllic small town after the death of their parents, while eluding the heartless grandfather they’ve never met. The children take up residence in an abandoned railroad car, and while the eldest brother works odd jobs for a kindly doctor, the others decorate their new home with treasures from the local dump. When one of the children falls ill and her siblings call on the doctor for help, he realizes they’re the grandchildren of his wealthy, benevolent friend and must determine how to best reunite the family.

So… any guesses? And don’t forget to visit YA Highway to check out the rest of the posts.

Also, before I forget… have you entered to win a brand new copy of Jessi Kirby‘s amazing debut Moonglass? I’m giving one away right HERE! The contest is super easy, open internationally, and ends this Friday, June  17th. Trust me: You want to read this book!