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 finished Lucy Christopher’s The Killing Woods and found it dark and strange and very compelling. I didn’t love it like I loved her Stolen, but I was certainly entertained. Next, I read Erin Bowman’s Stolen: A Taken Novella, which I adored. It focuses on Bree, my favorite character from Erin’s dystopian debut Taken, and gives all sorts of awesome insight into her history. Her backstory totally broke my heart and made me love her even more. I also read Elizabeth Scott’s Heartbeat, a lovely, romantic contemporary. I’ll talk about it in more detail in tomorrow’s Bookanista post. Now, I’m reading Veronica Rossi’s Into the Still Blue, the final book in her Under the Never Sky series. *sniffle* I’m so bummed that this trilogy is coming to an end!

  

What I’m Writing: I’m still plugging away at my first revision pass. I’m nearly done, only a few scenes to go, but they’re the scenes that need the most work. Back in October I rushed the ending just to get there and I’m pretty sure I’ll be paying for my hastiness over the next few days while I try to make sense of it all. In brighter news… I kind of love my story. It still needs work and I know my CPs will tear it apart in the most loving of ways, but the bones of it — the characters and the romance and the tragedy of it all — I think it’s working.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Congratulating my husband, who has managed to become published before me. I’m much more proud than bitter. Promise. 😉 If you’re interested in how HBO’s “The Wire” can be applied to the special operations and intelligence communities, or any organization that’s involved in irregular warfare or unconventional warfare, you can can read his article HERE.


I made Danish Puff! This is another of my favorite treats. It’s great for brunch: almond-y and not too sweet, simple, and very pretty. My little family and I devoured these in a day. (Also, thanks to Juliana for calling me out on my failure to include a treat in last week’s WUW. I’m back up to speed today!)


Over the last few days, I’ve watched almost all of first season of Friday Night Lights. I have no idea how I’ve neglected this show for so long, especially considering my fondness for teen dramas (Dawson’s Creek, Beverly Hills, 90210, The Vampire Diaries, etc), but FNL is SO GOOD. Tim Riggins… Swoon.

What’s Inspiring Me Now: See above. The romance and angst and perfectly imperfect characters of Friday Night Lights have me all kinds of inspired. I can’t wait to watch more! In other (amazing!) news, my friend Elodie has taken control of her magic and decided to self-publish her contemporary YA novel ONE TWO THREE (you can mark it To-Read on Goodreads HERE). Congrats, Elodie! I’m so excited for you! As far as writing inspiration, there’s this article from Writers Helping Writers about Writing Extreme Emotion Without Melodrama. There’s such a fine line between the two, and this post has some awesome tips. Definitely check it out. And, finally my girlie, who drew Daphne in our driveway the other day. She’s so artistic and sweet. She inspires me every day. 

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

December Reading Wrap-Up

I’m so glad December is finally over! My family and I have moved across the country and we’re settling in to our new Florida home. I’m looking forward to the day I can say we’re completely unpacked, because then I can start binge reading again. Until then, here’s what I read in December…

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt – Oh, this book is so very lovely. It’s one I might have overlooked if not for a recommendation from Corey Ann Haydu. I’m so glad I took her word regarding its amazingness. Main character June’s evolving relationship with her older sister is one that’s complicated and harsh and real, and it kept me turning pages late into the night. And then there are the descriptions of paintings and the woods and Finn and Toby’s apartment, not to mention June’s uncertain yet heartfelt teenage voice. Such a special book.

Perfect Ruin by Lauren Destefano – This one required significant suspension of disbelief, but once I was able to let go of my plausibility questions, I started to really enjoy it. Perfect Ruin makes use of some tried and true dystopian tropes, but thanks to Lauren DeStefano’s enchanting writing, manages to make them feel fresh and different. And holy cliffhanger! I’m ready for Book 2!

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly (audiobook) – Historical fiction is not my genre of choice, but I adore Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution, and I as soon as I saw an A Northern Light audiobook at my library, I knew it would be perfect for my road trip across the country. A Northern Light is such a rich and beautiful novel. I loved learning about farm life in 1906, and I thought the way the mystery of Grace’s death was woven into Mattie’s story was truly brilliant. There were so many captivating characters in this story, and the way they all laced in and out of Mattie’s (and each other’s) day-to-day life was incredibly clever. Recommend!

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (audiobook) – I’ve owned a physical copy of this book forever, and I’m a big fan of Sara Zarr’s Sweethearts, Once Was Lost, and How to Save a Life, yet for some reason I’ve neglected to pick up Story of a Girl. I’m happy to have finally remedied that problem, because this book is exceptional. Main character Deanna is so frank and complicated and relatable, and her relationships with her family and friends are interesting and complex. Sara Zarr herself reads the audiobook, which feels very personal and cool.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (audiobook) – So… My feelings on this one are rather muddled. Overall, I thought it was an engaging and haunting story. The details of the war and Daisy’s plight are gripping, and the writing is some of the most beautiful and evocative I’ve read. That said, I had a hard time coming to terms with a pair of cousins (fourteen- and fifteen-years-old) falling passionately in love. Yikes. Also, this is a very somber and affecting story, and while the audiobook narrator read well, I found her voice too chipper for the tone of the story. She describes scenes of absolute horror with inflection that’s hard to take seriously. So, yes… I’m torn.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young (audiobook) – My friend Erin Bowman recommended this book to me awhile back, and I’m so glad I finally got a chance to read it. Blood Red Road is an action-packed survival story set in a terrifying post-apocalyptic future. Protagonist Saba is sharp and strong and very well characterized, love interest Jack is the best sort of smartass, and Saba’s siblings are both fascinating in their own right. This story never stopped being exciting, and I’m very much looking forward to reading Book 2, Rebel Heart.

Tell me… What’d you read in December?

2013 YA Superlatives Blogfest :: Head of the Class

The Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest (hosted by Jessica LoveTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and me) runs Monday, December 16th through Thursday, December 19th. All of our fantastic participants will highlight favorite books published in 2013 using a variety of fun superlative categories. The Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest is all about promoting the extraordinary young adult books published this year, so if you haven’t already, draft a post and sign up to participate at the end of this post. We can’t wait to see your favorite reads of 2013!

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My Books Pubbed in 2013 Reading List (starred books are 2013 debut novels): Shades of Earth, *The Tragedy Paper, Just One Day, *If You Find Me, *Nobody But Us, *Taken, Through the Ever Night, Eleanor & Park, Requiem, *Pretty Girl-13, *Uses For Boys, This is What Happy Looks Like, Quintana of Charyn, *The S-Word, The 5th Wave, *Nantucket Blue, *The Sea of Tranquility, Golden, *Strands of Bronze and Gold, Where the Stars Still Shine, Dare You To, All I Need, Out of the Easy, *OCD Love Story, The Dream Thieves, *Canary, The Truth About You and Me, Fangirl, *My Life After Now, September Girls, *Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, Dead Silence, Invisibility, Just One Year, *Fault Line, Allegiant, *How to Love, The Beginning of Everything, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, *Unteachable, Dangerous Girls, and *Reclaimed (Covers link to Goodreads pages!)

Today’s Categories for Best in Show…

Favorite Dystopian

   
I couldn’t narrow this category down to one. Both Through the Ever Night and Taken have amazing worldbuilding and beautiful prose. Love them both.

Favorite Science Fiction

The end of this book almost killed me, but… phew! I thought it was a fitting and fantastic conclusion to a trilogy I’ve followed since its release.

Favorite Fantasy

I read this trilogy over the course of a few weeks last spring, and I’m still in awe. I’ve never cared so much for such a huge cast of characters. Brilliant high fantasy.

Favorite Contemporary

   
Because this is actually one story, right? Allyson and Willem really did give me all the feels, not to mention a wicked case of wanderlust.

Favorite Action/Adventure

This one’s sci-fi as well, and it’s intense. Expertly plotted and full of action and twists. I couldn’t put it down!

Favorite Historical Fiction

I adore this gritty but beautiful glimpse into life in a 1950s New Orleans brothel. Protagonist Josie is one of my favorites of the year.

Favorite Comedy

This is a stretch, but I don’t read traditional comedies, and Fangirl actually does have several funny moments. It’s also deep and thoughtful and romantic. Love.

Favorite Mystery

This book kept me guessing until its final pages. It’s raw and twisty and bold, a scary look at foreign legal systems and the ruthlessness of friendship and love.

Favorite Romance

   
I couldn’t pick just one! How to Love and Eleanor & Park are stories of challenged but genuine devotion, and they both gave me all the first love tingles.

Favorite Paranormal

This book is surreal and atmospheric and totally weird, but I dig it. The writing is lovely and the symbolism is fascinating. Plus, look at that cover!

Favorite Family Drama

    
Two heartbreaking but hopeful stories with similar themes of love and devotion and healing. Both protagonists have exceptional fathers, too.

Favorite Genre Bender 

This book is a trip, and I could not put it down. I’m such a Gansey fan… I’d read a story about him grocery shopping if Maggie Stiefvater published it.

Tell us about your favorites, and make sure to link your post with all of the other Class of 2013: YA Superlative Blogfest posts…

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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 finished Carol Rifka Brunt’s Tell the Wolves I’m Home and I thought it was a beautiful story. That said, it’s not a book that would have normally attracted me, so I’m incredibly thankful for Corey Ann Haydu’s recommendation. I loved this novel! Now I’m (slowly) reading Lauren DeStefano’s Perfect Ruin. So far, I’m super impressed with the worldbuilding, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the story plays out.

What I’m Writing: I’ve slacked on my revision over the last week, and I’m so bummed about it. I’ve just been so busy with the holidays and my husband’s upcoming grad school graduation and our impending move. I haven’t had time to sit down and focus on what my manuscript needs. Boo. I keep picturing myself all comfy on the couch in our new Florida home with my story document opened in front of me… Can. Not. Wait. In other news, I finished my blog posts for the Class of 2013: YA Superlatives Blogfest, which begins this Monday! Looking forward to sharing my favorite 2013 books with you, and to reading about the books you’ve fallen for this year!

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What Else I’ve Been Up To: Blah. Need you ask? Organizing, purging, packing. The moving truck comes Friday. We’re loading all weekend. We sign out of our house next Wednesday. I can’t wait to be done with this nonsense.

   
Some girlfriends and I hosted a graduation party for our husbands this weekend. Of course I put myself in charge of desserts. I took a break from packing and instead spent two full mornings baking. I was so happy!


I got the cutest winter mug for #SipSwap a few mornings ago. As soon as I unwrapped it, I fixed myself some tea and ate some M&Ms. Because I am a grown up. Thanks so much to Simon Clark for sending such an adorable mug!

   
My girl is *almost* as graceful as I am. Last week at school she hurt her face on the jungle gym (I still don’t completely understand how), but she’s healing quickly. When I told her to not to pick at the scab on her forehead because it would leave a scar, she got all excited and said, “Really? Like Harry Potter?!” And then I was the proudest mom ever.

What’s Inspiring Me Now: I watched The Descendants over the weekend, and I absolutely loved it. I’d heard it was good from several people and I’ve been intrigued by the trailer since I saw it ages ago (plus there’s the whole Oscars thing), but it’s one of those movies that somehow slipped by me. It’s finally on HBO (yay!) and I couldn’t pass it up. Oh, it was so, so good. Flawed but incredibly likable characters. Poignant, but with moments of perfect humor (Sid! The best!). A gorgeous setting (Hawaii!). And Shailene Woodley — what a talent. She’s going to rock Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars. If you’ve yet to see this one, I highly recommend it. Amazing and inspiring storytelling. Here’s the trailer…

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

YA Book Club :: ALLEGIANT


{YA Book Club is the brainchild of writer/blogger Tracey Neithercott.
For guidelines and additional info, click the image above.}

November’s YA Book Club selection is
Allegiant by Veronica Roth

From Goodreads – The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.  But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love. Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

*Warning :: This post includes thinly veiled spoilers.*

I read Allegiant nearly a month ago, and my opinions are still rather muddled. It’s definitely one of those all the feels books. I liked so much about it…

  • The stark-but-arresting prose. Veronica Roth writes emotion beautifully. I felt Tris’s and Four’s affection, worry, sadness, anger, and passion completely.
  • Tris’s strength. She doesn’t back down when she believes in something, and it’s been fascinating to watch her grow and come into her own as this trilogy progressed.
  • Four (because I will not call him Tobias) and everything he stands for. He’s clearly damaged, but he’s just so inherently good. Tris’s love for him makes total and complete sense.
  • The world beyond the wall. I was desperately curious about what the gang would find, and I was not disappointed.
  • The backstory concerning Tris’s mom and her introduction to life Chicago. I found her history riveting, and I  liked that Tris continued to feel a connection to her.
  • The idea of genetic purity, and the weight it held for different characters in the story. Compelling stuff.
  • Veronica Roth’s fearless storytelling. She writes ruthlessly, with more concern for the integrity of the narrative than the rath it might invoke in some fans. So admirable.
  • Speaking of which… The ultra-shocking death of a Very Important Character did not enrage me. I would have personally preferred a HEA, but I thought the conclusion felt bleakly appropriate.

While I enjoyed Allegiant, I had a couple of issues with it…

  • There were a few instances in the story where the pacing felt off. There were stretches when not much happened at all, then bursts of action that were awesome, but also sort of dizzying.
  • I did not like the dual POV as much as I thought I would. For me, Tris’s voice blended with Four’s, and there were scenes where I became confused as to whose head I was in.
  • Again, this is purely personal, but I preferred knowing Four only through Tris’s adoring eyes. In the first two books he had his flaws, but he was portrayed as powerful and solid and indestructible — nearly fearless. In Allegiant, there were times when he seemed a little… whiney? Not that guys can’t have feelings of doubt and inadequacy, but Four never felt like that guy before. Is it awful that I want him to be purely badass?
  • As far as conflict, did anyone else feel like there was one antagonist too many? Marcus, Evelyn, Nita, Caleb, David, the various serums, the Big Bad Government… Sometimes I wasn’t sure who the true villain was. I suppose that speaks to the complexity of the plot, but at times I found it all a bit overwhelming.

I’ve been so invested in Tris and Four and their supporting cast for the last few years, and the end of their story truly did a number on me. Overall, I thought Allegiant was a courageous and fitting conclusion to a fantastic trilogy.

What did you think of this month’s YA Book Club selection?
(Book Clubbers: Don’t forget to drop by Tracey’s blog to add your link!)

October Reading Wrap-Up

October = Longest Month Ever
(As always, covers link to Goodreads pages.)

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke – My favorite element of this 2013 debut is its atmospheric setting. The town of Echo and The Citizen, the house protagonist Violet and her brother live in, are seriously creepy. I enjoyed this unique and twisty mystery, and the story’s romantic subplot kept me guessing. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a great novel to pick up if you’re having trouble leaving Halloween behind.

Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting – Another creepy book! I’ve loved The Body Finder novels since I read the first a few years ago, and this latest installment is no exception. Kimberly Derting writes fantastically sinister murder mysteries and love interest Jay is adorable. With the exception of The Body Finder, the first book in this series, Dead Silence is my favorite. I love how empowered and headstrong main character Violet has grown to be, and I’m becoming more and more intrigued with Rafe and his backstory. Definite recommend!

Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan – This novel requires major suspension of disbelief (spellseekers and cursecasters!), but for the first half, I was totally invested in Stephen and Elizabeth’s plight. The second half of the story, however, took a hard left into urban fantasy territory, which just isn’t my genre of choice. That said, I suspect that if you like books about magic, evil, and curses set in a big city, you’ll like Invisibility. Who else has read it? Thoughts?

Just One Year by Gayle Forman – There are so many things to love about Just One Year. Willem is everything I adore in a male character:  damaged, sensitive, passionate, searching, adventurous — perfectly imperfect. And the story’s varying cultures as described in Gayle Forman’s beautiful, evocative prose become supporting characters that gave me an epic case of wanderlust. A 2013 favorite. My full Bookanista recommendation is HERE.

Shine by Lauren Myracle – I found this novel to be gripping, beautifully written, and incredibly unique. Main character Cat felt so real and relatable, and the many supporting characters were well-developed and layered. Despite solving the story’s big mystery fairly early on, I still loved this book. It was the first I’ve read by Lauren Myracle, and I can’t wait to get my hands on more of her work.

Fault Line by Christa Desir – This isn’t the sort of book that sweeps you off your feet with romance and exoticism, nor is it the sort of book you’ll fall traditionally head-over-heels in love with — in fact, a good deal of this story is downright painful. But it is an affecting read and, I think, an incredibly important novel. It’s going to start conversations about rape, victim blaming, and the “right” way to cope, and it’s remarkably relevant. My full DAC review is HERE.

Just as Long as We’re Together by Judy Blume – My very favorite childhood book. Fun fact: I read my paperback so many times I split its spine — literally, right in half. Recently, I spotted a copy in a used bookstore and had to have it. I spent a few days joyfully rereading (and adding tons of giddy status updates to my Goodreads profile HERE). Grown up Katy found this story to be just as moving and fantastic as Preteen Katy did. Five stars for Judy Blume!

Allegiant by Veronica Roth – This book crushed me with feels. I’ve been so invested in Tris and Four and their supporting cast for the last few years, and the end of their story truly did a number on me. That conclusion… It hurt my heart. I had a few minor issues with parts Allegiant (I’ll save them for YA Book Club) but overall, I thought it was a courageous and fitting conclusion to a fantastic trilogy.

How to Love by Katie Cotugno – I can already say with certainty that this debut novel will be among my top-five favorite books of 2013. Guys… It is perfection. If you’re into books about romance and heartache and family, books with stellar voice and steamy kisses and emotion so thick it  drips off the page, you will adore How to Love. I’m going to rave about it in greater detail in a Bookanista rec next week, but for now I’ll just say: Buy this book. You won’t regret it!

So… What’s the best book you read in October? 

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 finished Judy Blume’s Just as Long as We’re Together and loved it just as much as I did when I was a kid. Even though it was published way back in 1987, it’s still perfectly relevant. Recommend! I also read Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, a book that pretty much crushed me with feels. That ending… It hurt my heart, but I thought it was courageous, a fitting conclusion to a fantastic trilogy. Now I’m reading Katie Cotugno’s How To Love and oh my gosh… I love it SO MUCH. It’s such a Katy Book. Along with a spectacularly intense romance, there’s the bonus of an incredibly sweet and real mother-daughter relationship. I’m adoring everything about this one!

What I’m Writing: Guys. I am almost done with the first draft of my WiP. I’m two-and-a-half scenes from THE END (85K words… jeez!), and I’m beyond excited. I’m going to finish this thing tomorrow (Halloween!), and then I’m going to eat buckets of candy to celebrate. A little excerpt…

He pulled her close because he couldn’t stand a breath of space between them—not tonight, not when he needed her like this. He hid his face in hollow where her neck met her shoulder, where the scent of vanilla was so hypnotic he could hardly think straight. “I’m happy when I’m with you,” he said softly. 

It was the absolute truth, as well as the biggest lie he’d ever told. Nobody in the world grounded him like Dylan—thrilled him like Dylan—but that didn’t mean her presence wasn’t comparable to excavating his heart with a rusty spoon. 

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Shopping for something to wear to the wedding we’re going to this weekend. It’s in Yosemite, which I’m excited about, but I haven’t been able to find the perfect dress yet. Wish me luck!


On Saturday I ran a 10K in Big Sur with some great friends. We all have girls in first grade, so it’s fun to trade stories about our daughters’ sassy moments. 🙂 The run was awesome, beautiful scenery and not too crowded, but most of it was through a campground and the campfire smoke was not exactly conducive to clean breathing. Still, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.


I made Chewy Nutella Brownies, my very favorite brownie recipe. These babies include an entire jar of Nutella, four eggs, dark chocolate cocoa powder, mini chocolate chips, and espresso. They’re rich in the very best way. I firmly believe that homemade brownies are worth the extra time and effort. These are proof!


And… We carved pumpkins! Hard to tell, but that’s my attempt at Wonder Woman back there. She was a challenge, but my daughter requested her. Of course I fully support her love of superheroes and girl power.

What’s Inspiring Me Now: My upcoming revisions! My To-Do list is a mile long, and I can’t wait to dive in. While I find first-drafting excruciating challenging, I love to revise. Mostly because when it’s finally time to do so, I know my characters well and I’ve figured out lots of cool ways to add depth and texture to the story. Also, it’s so satisfying to fill plot holes! I’d much rather polish something that already exists than try to spin a story out of nowhere (and I call myself a writer…). Anyhow, my friend/CP Alison Miller and I decided to set some revision goals for the next month (or two?) and root each other on during the process (mostly because we REALLY want to read each other’s stories!). From time to time, we’ll blog about our progress and encourage each other, and anyone else who wants to join us. How about it? Are you up for NaNoReviseMo?


Also, this cutie pie inspires me every day. She’s so full of smiles and joy. Love her.

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.

{Please make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, other participants can visit your blog and check out what you’ve been up to. In that same spirit, I urge you to visit as many new blogs as you can every Wednesday. The most awesome aspect of What’s Up Wednesday and Ready. Set. Write is that they include a built-in support system. Let’s make sure we’re rooting each other on and offering as much encouragement as we can. Who knows… You might make an awesome new writing buddy, or a find a fantastic beta reader, or hook up with an amazing critique partner!}

First, and perhaps most importantly, today’s the day Alison MillerElodie NowodazkijErin Funk, Jaime Morrow, and I get to announce the winner of our Ready. Set. Write! giveaway. 

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Congratulations… RAVEN MOORE!

You’ve won an amazing Writer’s Care Package! Be on the lookout for writerly gifts from Alison, Elodie, Erin, Jaime, and I, and keep up the amazing progress you’ve made on your WiP this summer. We’re so happy for you!

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

What I’m Reading: I finished The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, which was harrowing and complex and pretty darn captivating. I also read All I Need by Susane Colasanti, a novel that surfaced just as I was longing for a light, beachy romance — and that’s exactly what I got. Such a cute story! Yesterday I finished Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, a book that came highly recommended by Jessica Spotswood. I loved this one. Main character Josie’s life is brutal, but she experiences moments of such sincere beauty. And the setting (1950 New Orleans) is absolutely fascinating. I urge you to pick it up if you’re looking for a novel that’s historical and gritty and affecting. Now, I’m diving into OCD Love Story by debut author Corey Ann Haydu. Can’t wait to see what’s behind its awesome cover!

What I’m Writing: Before I tell you about my WiP, I have to recommend the following article: 25 Things to Know About Your Story’s Stakes by Chuck Wendig. I came across it at the ideal time, and it’s helping me evaluate my WiP with a fresh perspective. Basically, I need to torture my characters even more. Awesome!

This week I passed my 3K goal with a total of 3,404 words. I reached my story’s midpoint(ish) and did some  honest assessing of what I have so far. I decided to make a few changes to some backstory and motivation stuff, so this week I’m focusing on fixing the first half of the story to match the direction the second half will eventually take. So, yes, I’m revising while I’m drafting, but that works for me. Just as I can’t relax when my house is cluttered, I can’t continue to write when I know there are parts of the story that are incorrect or fragmented. So… This week’s goal: Finish revising the front half of my WiP.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Um… Just getting crazy-pumped about GOING TO SEE KENNY CHESNEY TOMORROW NIGHT. Guys. I’m a pretty chill person, normally, but I am positively giddy about this concert. With a group of friends, we’ve rented a party bus to take us to the venue, a ride which will be plenty of fun on its own. But then… I’ve seen Kenny twice before and he puts on an amazing show. I can’t wait to be reunited with him and his tight jeans. 😉

  
I’ve been spending lots of time with my little lovely, who turns six in tens days and starts first grade in just two weeks. She was recently promoted to Level 3 at swim lessons, and has discovered a love for costume jewelry, as evident in the above right photograph. Love her.

 The other day I padded my cookie repertoire with a tasty new recipe: Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies. They turned out sweet and hearty (thanks to the addition of oats), with a cranberry tang — perfect for summer. Even my husband, who claims not to like white chocolate, managed to choke a few down.

What’s Inspiring Me Now: Amazing news from my friend Jessica Love: She has a book coming out with St. Martin’s Press! She’s co-writing a YA novel based on the life of Chelsie Hill, one of the featured cast members on the Sundance Channel’s reality series Push Girls. This story… It’s SO inspiring, guys. I can’t wait for you to all read it! Don’t forget to drop by Jessica’s blog to congratulate her!

 
Also, I’m inspired every time I snack on yummy European treats and wear my awesome new Ready. Set. Write! t-shirt, both courtesy of Elodie Nowodazkij, who is one of the most awesome and encouraging people I know.
Thank you again, Elodie! ♡

Tell me… What’s up with you this week?

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.

{Please make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, other participants can visit your blog and check out what you’ve been up to. In that same spirit, I urge you to visit as many new blogs as you can every Wednesday. The most awesome aspect of What’s Up Wednesday and Ready. Set. Write is that they include a built-in support system. Let’s make sure we’re rooting each other on and offering as much encouragement as we can. Who knows… You might make an awesome new writing buddy, or a find a fantastic beta reader, or hook up with an amazing critique partner!}

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

What I’m Reading: I recently read In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell. It was… weird. Very literary and very dark. If you like adult fiction that steps way outside the box, you might want to check it out. Now I’m reading The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, a futuristic dystopian/thriller. It’s action-packed and pretty fantastic so far.

What I’m Writing: Still plugging away at my WiP. I made a Love List for it and, despite all its 1st draft flaws, I do really and truly love this story. I wrote 5,913 words this week (my goal was 3,000) and I’m up to 32,592 total. Considering that I started Ready. Set. Write! with about 9,000 words, my forward progress makes me really happy. This baby is starting to feel like a story that’s finishable! A favorite bit written last week:

He’d just shredded a hole into his already precarious acquaintanceship with Dylan, a hole that could very well be beyond mending, yet here he was, instantaneously and inappropriately enamored with her sexy black underthings. But really… Who could blame him? It’d been months since he’d seen a bra.

My goal for the coming week is 3,000 words, which should be doable. I’m finding that writing at least 500 words a day is becoming a routine, one I definitely want to keep up as the summer begins to wind down.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I’m honored to have been chosen to help judge the August Pitch+250 Contest held by one of my favorite blogs, Adventures in YA and Children’s Publishing. Submissions will be accepted starting Wednesday, July 31st at 6:00pm EST, and will close August 3rd at 11:00pm EST, or when 50 submissions are received, whichever comes first. If you’ve got a complete and polished manuscript, consider submitting a pitch (not a query) and the first 250 words of your story. All the details of the contest are HERE.

 Also, over the weekend, we visited the The Old Mission in San Jaun Bautista. The Catholic church’s construction began in the early 1800s, ending in 18 12. The building and grounds are ornate and beautiful. We also explored San Jaun Bautista, which is a charming little town with some cool antique shops and a fabulous Mexican restaurant, Jardine de San Juan, that we totally pigged out at.

 
And, finally, I’ve been doing the mom thing, carting my girlie from activity to activity, supervising playdates, giving pedis, and reading countless stories. School starts August 7th in these parts, so I’m already beginning to mourn the end of summer. It’s flown by so quickly!

What’s Inspiring Me Now: My WiP’s new setting, based on a mash-up of a few small agricultural towns near us. I’m calling my tourism “research.”


What’s up with you today? 

(If you’re a Ready. Set. Write! participant, don’t forget to enter our fantastic giveaway. Alison MillerElodie NowodazkijErin FunkJaime Morrow, and I will be sending an awesome Writer’s Care Package to one lucky winner. The giveaway closes in one week. Find the Rafflecoptor and more details HERE.)

March Reading Wrap-Up

Big thanks to my ongoing mental rut and the well-greased elliptical at my fitness center for all the reading motivation and time. I experienced some pretty fantastic books in March… 

When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle – This book came highly recommended by several friends and I ended up liking it quite a bit. The spin on Romeo and Juliet is unique, and main character Rose was likable. I thought her friendship with Charlie and Olivia was this story’s greatest strength. I loved the unwavering loyalty between the girls. Rob (Romeo), on the other hand, was a total douche. I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that the emerging relationship between Rose and “the other guy” was far more romantic.

Beautiful Bastard by Christina Lauren – If you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you know this isn’t exactly my usual kind of book. But I have to say… I liked it better than I though I would. I was prepared for smut and cheesiness — both were present — but there was also some genuine emotion and a semblance of plot. The stakes weren’t terribly high, but Chloe was a smart, sassy woman with a backbone, and Bennett was reasonably complicated and eventually likable. I appreciated that Chloe didn’t let her cocky boss walk all over her, and Bennett’s arc was enough to leave me satisfied (jeez… no innuendo intended). While I probably won’t read more books of this type, I have to say: I didn’t hate it.

The List by Siobhan Vivian – I was hesitant to pick up this book thanks to the mention of eight (!) narrators in the summary. The mere idea of it seemed really… crowded. But, I’m SO glad I gave The List a chance. This novel was excellent: compelling and relevant and surprising. It was easy to keep track of the eight girls whose names appear on the list because their voices and their stories are all incredibly unique. Similar to the movie Mean Girls and Courtney Summers’s  Some Girls Are, I feel like The List should required reading for all girls about to enter high school. Its message is profound without ever trying too hard. My full review is HERE (at YA Confidential).

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – I loved this book more than I can eloquently express. I actually considered not reviewing it because it’s so hard to put into words how deeply Eleanor and Park’s story impacted me — I absolutely adore these two. Eleanor & Park is just too incredible not to recommend, so I featured it in a raving, fangirl-ish Bookanista post. You can read it HERE.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan – I don’t read tons of books classified as paranormal, and I don’t often read books that people describe as “funny,” but Unspoken got so much love during the 2012 Superlatives Blogfest (thank you for the constant mentions, Tracey and Jess!), I just couldn’t resist. Unspoken is funny, but not in a silly, slapstick sort of way. Rather, protagonist Kami is quick and witty, and her motley crew is always up to some sort of craziness in the name of journalistic truth. My favorite part of this story (by far) is the very complicated bond between Kami and Jared, and, to be honest, the last few pages of the book kind of shattered my heart. Cannot wait to read the next in this series, Untold.

Requiem by Lauren Oliver – I liked Delirium a lot, and Pandemonium was one of my favorite books of 2012. Requiem, while very, very good, left me wanting more. Lauren Oliver’s writing was predictably gorgeous, and Lena continued to be a protagonist I could relate to and root for, but the road the romance took in this final installment was not what I was hoping for (totally my personal preference, so if you’re on Team Other Guy, you’re probably hating me right now). Also, the final chapters left me slightly underwhelmed. I wanted more — more emotion, more explanation, more wow. I don’t know… Am I crazy?

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson – This one is not just a military book, nor is it just a cheating book.  There’s so much to Quinn’s story: weighty family issues, bullying, genuine (though rather untraditional) friendships, and incomprehensibly difficult choices.The dynamic between Quinn, Carey, and their good friend Blake was incredibly compelling, and Jackson’s writing is lovely, nuanced and authentic and without fluff. A definite recommend. You can find my full Bookanista review HERE.

Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley – Lots to like about this novel: the slowly unraveling mystery behind Angie’s disappearance and “the man” who held her prisoner for years, the complex science behind “fragmented” personalities, the ups and downs of recovering from unimaginable trauma, and the complicated preexisting relationships Angie is thrown back into after emerging from captivity. That said, Angie’s lack of emotion (while understandable when factoring in her “alters”) made her occasionally difficult to connect with. Recommended to those who enjoy stories of the psychological sort. My full review is HERE.

Tell me: What’s the very best book you read in March?