RSW Update 9

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at in our writing—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin Funk, and myself. Find the rest of the details HERE.

* How I did on last week’s goal(s).

1. Complete a revision of my contemporary-ish YA, Where Poppies Bloom.

2. Complete the first draft of my contemporary YA, The Road So Far, by the close of RSW… IN PROGRESS. I wrote 5,447 words this week for a total of 63,607 words in the manuscript.

3. Read (on average) one YA/adult novel per week… YES! I read Lisa Schroeder’s The Bridge from Me to You, which was absolutely delightful. Now, I’m reading Mary Kubica’s debut, The Good Girl, and I’m super impressed.

4. Read (on average) one MG novel with my daughter every two weeks… IN PROGRESS! Still working on Rump by Leisl Shurtliff — so cute!

5. Maintain my tan… YES! We went to the beach on Thursday and we were in Orlando all weekend, soaking up the sun at the Magic Kingdom. *happy sigh*

* My goal(s) for this week.

Add at least 6K new words to The Road So Far. Mentally ponder plot hole fixes for Where Poppies Bloom (tricky!).

* A favorite line from my project OR a word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

(FYI: This scene takes place at a wedding…)

The song fades into Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On, which strikes me as both borderline inappropriate and hysterically funny, considering the number of old people milling around. From across the room, Bennett gives me a smarmy smile and a thumbs up. His bride’s swaying to the music, wasted, practically riding his leg. Jesus. What are we doing here?

I’m about to comment on the insanity when Callie makes a move for our table.

I grab her hand. “You’re not gonna dance with me?”

“I thought you hated me,” she says, scrunching her face into a scowl. 

“And I thought you knew better.” I lace my fingers through hers and pull her against me. She winds an arm around my neck, pressing her cheek to mine. I hold her so close we pretty much are getting it on.

* The biggest challenge I faced this week.

I hadn’t anticipated doing much of anything, writing-wise, over the last week because we had tons of family stuff going on. So, I’m patting myself on the back for adding to my WiP at all. 🙂

  
Our little family is complete again! Plus, my girlie started cheerleading!

* Something I love about my WiP. 

I’ve got THE END in my sights! I suck at conclusions, but I’m getting there, and I’m SO excited to wrap this draft up so I can start fixing it. 🙂 Also, did you see the mood board I made for The Road So Far? I posted about it HERE.

I can’t wait to read about how Ready. Set. Write! is going for you. Don’t forget to share the link of your latest post below!

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August Reading Wrap-Up

August: A busy month full of fantastic books. Here’s what I read…
(Book covers link to Goodreads pages!)

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson – I adored this story. It’s dark and magical and gorgeous, a fresh take on Neverland and Peter Pan. Though this is Tiger Lily’s tale, Tinkerbell narrates, which I thought was a brilliant choice on Jody Lynn Anderson’s part. I loved observing Tiger Lily’s relationships with Peter and Tick Tok and Pine Sap through Tink’s filter, and I loved how enamored Tink was with Tiger Lily’s fierceness and devotion. Lots of messy, complicated relationships, lots of swoon, and an ending that was so bittersweet I’m still thinking about it nearly a month later. *content sigh*

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo – Amazing world-building and a totally unique concept, I liked Shadow and Bone even more than I’d anticipated. The Darkling is a complex and fascinating character, Alina grew to be a girl who was likable and strong, and Mal… well, he was just adorable. A big recommend if you’re a fantasy fan, or if you like books that have super high stakes and are full of surprises. I can’t wait to read Siege and Storm!

Where I Belong by Gwendolyn Heasley – Where I Belong is a cute (though slightly predictable) contemporary story about Corrinne, a rich city girl who, thanks to the recession and her laid-off daddy, is forced to leave NYC and move in with her grandparents, who live in a small Texas town. She meets people different from herself and has to reprioritize and decide who she really wants to be. Shenanigans and profound personal growth ensue.

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves – What I knew of On the Island‘s concept (Anna, thirty-year-old teacher, and T.J, sixteen-year-old cancer survivor, engage in a romantic relationship on a deserted island) worried me at first. But never fear — Anna and T.J. spend a long time on the island (years) and there’s a lot of maturing and growing and bonding that takes place before they ever consider each other anything more than survival buddies. Hard to believe, perhaps, but their eventual romance (which is legal and tasteful and pretty darn hot) is totally believeable. I was genuinely rooting for Anna and T.J. until the very last pages of their story. On the Island reminded me a bit of The Blue Lagoon, and the writing is excellent — sparse but emotional. Recommend!

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway – This one came with marvelous recommendations from some of my most trusted bookish friends. Everyone who loved it claimed it was super funny but, as a rule, I steer clear of “funny” books. I usually don’t end up finding them all that funny. But Audrey, Wait! is actually incredibly funny, and in a natural, subtle, awesome way. Plus, it’s got one of the best contemporary YA voices I’ve read. I totally want to be friends with Audrey, Victoria, James, and Jonah — they’re the coolest! My Bookanista Rec is HERE.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – An enviably clever, amusing, and sensitive adult novel. I adored Lincoln, and I thought the dynamic between Jennifer and Beth was fantastically done, even though their relationship unfolds in nothing but a series of email conversations. This book only furthered my Rainbow Rowell fangirl status, and I can’t wait for her next release, Fangirl. I spoke more about Attachments and its stellar dialogue in this post.

Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson – We’re discussing this one for YA Book Club Tuesday, September 3rd, so I’m going to hold off on sharing my thoughts until then. For now, all I’ll say is… wow.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater – This second book in The Raven Cycle cemented my love for this unique series and its characters. Gansey’s determination and loyalty make me smile, Ronan’s drifter’s soul breaks my heart, and Blue’s spunk and pluckiness are delightful. The intricate dynamic between characters (especially Gansey/Blue/Adam) awes me. I love, too, Maggie Stiefvater’s prose. It’s unmatchable in its loveliness, and made this story a true experience — I never thought I’d care about a dead Welsh king or illegal street racing. Also, there’s a scene toward the end of the novel that takes place at night, overlooking Henrietta, and it is glorious… You’ll know it when you read it. 🙂

Tell me… What’s the best book you read in August?

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: Last week I finished Tiger Lily, and I absolutely adored it. Such a beautiful, bittersweet story. In fact, I’m sort of sad that it was a library book. I might just have to buy a copy for my collection. Yesterday I finished Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (my fiftieth book of 2013!). It’s awesome. The worldbuilding is stellar and totally unique, and The Darkling… what a fascinating character. A big recommend if you’re a fantasy fan, or if you like books that have super high stakes and are full of surprises. 

What I’m Writing: My WiP and I have mostly made up. She’s still challenging me at every turn, but that’s what makes writing fun, isn’t it? I’m one scene from finishing my read-through of the first half of the story, which is a pretty great feeling. I’m glad I decided to read and reassess and make adjustments as necessary, even though I’m still very much drafting. I rediscovered bits of the story that are lovely and well-written, and I reconnected with my characters. It’s been a motivating experience, and I feel  good about drafting the second half of the story. Here’s a tiny excerpt…

Sometimes Jenna thought of her parents, their expectations and the church’s. Sometimes she thought of Dylan, whether her best friend would ever find the escape she was searching for. Often, she thought of singing. How much she missed it and how, after years of projecting clearly and resonantly from deep within her soul, her song had gone mute in the space of a night.

But mostly, Jenna thought of Tyler. Tyler, who made her feel beautiful and melodic and lucky. Tyler, who, after Saturday night, might very well have written her off. 

My goal for the coming week is to add 3000 new words to my WiP. 

ready set write button

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I spent most of last week planning and hosting my girlie’s sixth birthday bash (even as I type those words, I can’t believe I have a six-year-old). The music-themed party was a big success, and we had a fantastic time celebrating with lots of wonderful friends. Here are a few pictures… 

 
I made that purple guitar out of poster board for a “Pin the Pick on the Guitar” game. My mom made the birthday girl’s super-cute party dress. 

 
Lots of stars and guitars and bright colors. Taylor Swift provided the soundtrack. 

 
I’ve said this about a thousand times in the last few days, but I still can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that six years have passed between the days these two pictures were taken. I am *way* too young to have a six-year-old. 😉 


And, since I’m blathering about the too-quick passage of time, let’s all pause to appreciate the first day of 1st grade, which is TODAY! Lots of extra writing time in store for this mama!

What’s Inspiring Me Now: This post on the Plot Dot Test by agent Natalie Lakosil, because I love a good visual representation, and this one goes a long way in solving pacing problems. And this link, inviting us to “do nothing” for two full minutes. It’s way harder to relax and zone out than I thought it would be, and probably far more important than any of us realize. Try it! Also, this quote…

What’s up with you today?

June Reading Wrap-Up

I’m a visitor on Mackenzi Lee‘s blog today, talking about the four books that changed my life. You should totally check it out! 

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I read A LOT of books in June! Here are the highlights…
{Click on book covers for each novel’s Goodreads page.}

Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland – Nantucket Blue turned out to be just what I was expecting: beachy and romantic, a fresh take on mature contemporary YA. I adore its lovely, washed-out cover, and the fact that Jenny Han blurbed it, well… that says a lot.Pick up Nantucket Blue if you’re looking for a sweet, summer read with just the right amount of depth. My full Bookanista review is HERE.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker – A beautifully written adult novel with a unique (and scary) premise. The Age of Miracles is a melancholy sort of book, but eleven-year-old protagonist Julia is easy to relate to, and her friendship with a sweet loner boy from her school keeps the novel from getting bogged down in sorrow. A definite recommend for fans of literary fiction with a light science fiction slant.

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay – This novel is beautiful, beautiful, BEAUTIFUL. I finished it several weeks ago, yet I’m still thinking about its characters and, of course, their romance. A new addition to my Favorite Books of 2013 list. Find the acrostic poem review I wrote HERE.

Golden by Jessi Kirby – Jessi Kirby has become one of my go-to contemporary authors, a member of the same trusted group as Sara Zarr, Sarah Dessen, Gayle Forman, Sarah Ockler, and Stephanie Perkins. Golden is such a lovely story, part mystery, part romance, part road trip. Main character Parker is a joy to spend time with, and my imagination had no trouble bringing this story’s mountainous setting to life. A definite recommend for fans of contemporary YA.

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson – A novel full of gorgeous prose, though the story itself was not so much my cup of tea. I do think people who enjoy historical fiction will like it; the descriptions of life in the 1850s are fascinating. Find my DAC review HERE.

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (September 24th) – I’ve got a Bookanista review planned for this remarkable novel, but for now I’ll just say: I LOVE THIS STORY. So, so much. I cannot wait for its September release because if you like contemporary young adult romance, this novel is for you. You will adore main character Callie, and you will fall head-over-heels for Greek charmer Alex. Another for my Favorite Books of 2013 list.

The Girl Guide: Finding Your Place in a Mixed Up World by Christine Fonseca – I will definitely have a copy of The Girl Guide: Finding Your Place in a Mixed Up World on hand to give my daughter when she’s in middle school. This book is all kinds of fun, and it educates girls without coming across as preachy or stiff. It reads like a conversation with a friend, not the self-help manual you might expect. My full Bookanista review is HERE.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender – Two adult novels in one month? What is my life coming to?! 😉 This one was bizarre, but I didn’t dislike it. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake‘s characters are complex and well-drawn, and the writing is gorgeous (though, I didn’t understand the author’s stylistic choice to forgo all quotation marks… why?). My issue with this story was in its conclusion. I wanted more explanation, or maybe a different explanation. I don’t know… I’m kind of torn. Have you read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake? What did you think?

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

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.)

April Reading Wrap-Up

I read some fantastic books last month. Here are the best of the best (click on cover images for each book’s Goodreads profile):

Impossible by Nancy Werlin – I  have difficulties expressing how much I enjoyed Impossible, but truly, this book is fantastic. It’s a surreal sort of fairytale with a contemporary setting and wonderful, likeable characters. It’s such a romantic book, and there’s a curse that becomes a mystery to be unraveled. If you read Impossible solely to meet sweet and supportive love interest Zach, you will not be disappointed. My full review is HERE.

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller – Another military novel I was hesitant to pick up. So glad I did, though, because my love for Something Like Normal runs deep. Protagonist Travis is everything I look for in a fictional romantic interest. Tough, sarcastic, damaged, a little bit irreverent, but loyal and sensitive when it really counts. He’s a close second to Jonah Griggs on my Awesome YA Boy list. And Harper, Travis’s longtime crush, is adorable. I loved how she refused to take crap from him. Something Like Normal is one of my new favorite contemporaries… Recommend!

Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt – This book is an in-depth, unflinching look at what it’s like to live in protagonist Anna’s shoes. Throughout most of the story, she’s is just trying to survive. Yes, she makes some crappy choices. Yes, she sleeps with a lot of boys, and yes, several of them are one night stands. Yes, there were several occasions when I thought, Oh, Anna, don’t do that! But Anna has some  legitimate reasons for behaving the way she does. While I may not have been able to relate to her experiences,  I was certainly rooting for her to find happiness. My full review is HERE.


This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith – All kinds of adorable! A feel-good book that is unique in its genuine, unmanufactured conflict. Happy‘s romantic leads  are likable and show each other absolute respect — I totally understood their connection and it was easy to buy into their feelings for one another. I particularly loved the email messages sprinkled throughout the story, especially the ones at the beginning that gave us a glimpse into the earliest days of Graham and Ellie’s relationship. This story made me want to take a summertime trip to Maine with a swoonworthy movie star! 😉

Love and other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo –  A quiet novel that builds its characters and their relationships slowly. It’s the sort of book you don’t realize you’re falling for until you’re nearly done. In other words, Love is my favorite kind of story: slow-burn, full of longing and wit, populated by vibrant, dynamic characters, and with authentic voice that leaps off the page. Perfect for fans of contemporary YA, and especially those who remember those first feelings of unrequited love, appreciate nuance and authenticity, and enjoy an Aussie setting. My full review is HERE.

The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting – I’m a fan of The Body Finder series and have been since I  read the first novel a few years ago — the premise is unique and very cool. I’ve heard Kimberly Derting speak at several events and she is delightful: smart, funny, and real. I’m not at all surprised that The Last Echo was a pageturner, but I am surprised at how fresh these stories continue to be. I’m not at all tired of reading about Violet’s “gift,” I love the creepy mystery element of each novel’s plot, and I continue to be captivated by Vi’s (steamy!) relationship with Jay. I’m very much looking forward to picking up the fourth book in this series, Dead Silence, which released last month.

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire – My mom showed up at my house a few weeks ago with a copy of this novel. After she read it, she insisted I read it too. Her review was hot-and-cold and she wanted to know what I thought. My honest opinion: Travis is possessive and needy, and Abby is wishy-washy. The plot is rather implausible and occasionally slow. The conclusion of the story included some major eye-roll moments. And I definitely would not want my daughter to read Beautiful Disaster and think the relationships it portrays are in any way healthy. All that being said… Trav and Abby had amazing (albiet dysfunctional) chemistry. I was utterly entertained by all the angst in this novel. I flew through it in a weekend and I don’t regret a single second I spent reading. A sure sign of an enthralling story, right?

Check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to today:

Jessica Love covets the cover of THE LOST PLANET by Rachel Searles
Tracey Neithercott is pepped about PIVOT POINT by Kasie West 
Shari Arnold marvels at THE REECE MALCOM LIST by Amy Spaulding
Nikki Katz delves into SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY by Susan Dennard

What’s the best book you read in April? 

Bookanista Rec :: IMPOSSIBLE

Today’s Bookanista recommendation is
Nancy’s Werlin‘s modern day fairytale, Impossible

From GoodreadsLucy is seventeen when she discovers that she is the latest recipient of a generations-old family curse that requires her to complete three seemingly impossible tasks or risk falling into madness and passing the curse on to the next generation. Unlike her ancestors, though, Lucy has family, friends, and other modern resources to help her out. But will it be enough to conquer this age-old evil? A beautifully wrought modern fairy tale from master storyteller and award-winning author Nancy Werlin. Inspired by the classic folk ballad “Scarborough Fair,” this is a wonderfully riveting and haunting novel of suspense, romance, and fantasy.

 One day about two years ago, the super nice girl who works in the new/used bookstore I frequented back when I lived in Washington raved about Impossible so enthusiastically, I ending up buying a copy of the book due to a weird sense of obligation — I guess because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. Since then, Impossible has been been sitting on my bookshelf, untouched. The summary’s mention of the folk ballad combined with Goodreads whispers of elves and evil faeries and other such nonsense did not appeal to me much at all — until the other day, that is. I found myself feeling a bit of contemporary YA fatigue (shocking, I know) and picked up Impossible on a whim. A few nights later, I had the following conversation with my husband…

“Dude,” I said, slipping my bookmark into the center pages of Impossible. “I am having, like, a physical reaction to this book.”

Hubby pulled his attention from the TV to blast me with a dubious look. “Uh… What does that mean, exactly?”

“Well, my heart, for example. It’s all aflutter. And my stomach… It’s full of dreadful nerves. I feel so anxious and excited and afraid for these characters. This book is so good!”

“Oh, yeah? What’s it about?”

“Well… You’re probably going to think it sounds absurd when I explain it.”

“Try me.”

“Okay…” I searched for the right words, words that would communicate the awesomeness of Impossible. “There’s this girl,” I began, “Her name is Lucy, and she is so likable and relatable. Sadly, she is raped and ends up pregnant and finds out that her family is cursed by an Elfin Knight. Over the last several hundred years, every woman in her family — including Lucy’s mother — has ended up pregnant at eighteen, had a baby girl, and then gone crazy. Like, literally. Of course Lucy is freaked out, but she has these great, supportive foster parents and this amazing guy, Zach. Together, they figure out that they might be able to break the curse and defeat the evil Elfin Knight if Lucy can complete three seemingly impossible tasks named in this folk ballad that her nutty, bag lady mom sings all the time. Lucy is supposed to make this seamless shirt and sow this seaside land, all before the baby is born.”

Hubby stared at me with one judgmental eyebrow raised. “Okay, you’re right. That does sound absurd.”

“No! Maybe I’m not doing the story justice. It’s such a lovely, romantic book, and the curse, it’s this mystery that has to be unraveled. And Zach! He’s just so sweet and supportive and adorable. And then there’s the writing. It’s amazing. Seriously… why didn’t I read this book sooner?!”

“Don’t know,” Hubby said, turning his attention back to the TV. “Hey, look… Duck Dynasty is on.”

So, I might have difficulties expressing how much I enjoyed Impossible, but truly, this book is fantastic. It’s a surreal sort of fairytale with a contemporary setting and wonderful, likeable characters. If you read Impossible solely to meet Zach, you will not be disappointed. Recommend!

Don’t forget to check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up to:

Tracy Banghart  is tantalized by TOUCHED by Corrine Jackson

Corrine Jackson is wowed by WAIT FOR YOU

Stasia Ward Kehoe delves into THE RITHMATIST by Brandon Sanderson

 Have you read Impossible? Thoughts? Do you have a favorite modern fairytale?