Thursday, March 31, 2011

Moleskins Ahoy!

I was at the art store with my friend Lauren a couple of weeks ago, right after I got back from spring break, and I had some money that my mom had given me for my birthday. (Which was on Friday, woohoo!) They had this whole display of Moleskins set up and most of them were for art, but there was a tiny section of softcovers that had lines in them. They were so overpriced, but I still bought one. I've never had one.

So, here is my confession: I own way too many notebooks. I buy them and I buy them and I buy them, hoping that one day, I will finally finish one (I've only done that once). I like the new, blank pages and the stories waiting to be written down. I like it when they are crisp with writing and when I can feel the pen marks through the pages. But most of all I like opening them up when I've written a few pages and seeing all of the words covering the blank space. Which is why I took the above picture.

I used to do most of my writing longhand, usually under my desk in Geometry class or in English, when I was pretending to take notes and I was actually writing stories. I don't that much anymore, just because my laptop is so accessible, but I still love the feeling of notebooks and I'm still addicted to buying them. In the above picture there's a zombie story, featuring a dead father who believes that the liberals caused the zombie apocalypse.

Oh, and also, for your viewing pleasure, here's a zombie music video that I participated in. I'm at the very end, in the black v-neck, dancing like an idiot.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (2)

For seventeen-year-old Emerson Cole, life is about seeing what isn’t there: swooning Southern Belles; soldiers long forgotten; a haunting jazz trio that vanishes in an instant. Plagued by phantoms since her parents’ death, she just wants the apparitions to stop so she can be normal. She’s tried everything, but the visions keep coming back. 
So when her well-meaning brother brings in a consultant from a secretive organization called the Hourglass, Emerson’s willing to try one last cure. But meeting Michael Weaver may not only change her future, it may change her past. 
Who is this dark, mysterious, sympathetic guy, barely older than Emerson herself, who seems to believe every crazy word she says? Why does an electric charge seem to run through the room whenever he’s around? And why is he so insistent that he needs her help to prevent a death that never should have happened? 
Full of atmosphere, mystery, and romance, Hourglass merges the very best of the paranormal and science-fiction genres in a seductive, remarkable young adult debut.
Doesn't this sound amazing? Someone recommended it to me on Goodreads and I'm absolutely foaming waiting for it to come out! May 24th, you cannot come fast enough! 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review: Opposite of Amber by Gillian Philip

Title: The Opposite of Amber
Author: Gillian Philip
Pub. Date: April 4th, 2011
Page Count: 320 pages
Summary: Ruby and her older sister, Jinn, are on their own, just about making ends meet. Jinn is beautiful, with glittering blonde hair, and makes it her business to look after Ruby. They are horrified by, but try to ignore, the local newspaper stories of prostitutes who are murdered, their bodies eventually discovered underwater. Then the no-good Nathan Baird turns up on the scene – again – and Jinn starts to change and no longer has time to look after Ruby. And it seems to Ruby that Jinn herself needs looking after. Her beautiful glittering hair starts to lose its shine. And then Jinn disappears.

A deeply moving, chilling, and incredibly powerful thriller that celebrates the love two sisters have for each other and mourns the events beyond their control that will conspire to drive them apart.

Review: First of all, don't you just love the cover? My ARC copy didn't have this cover, so when I looked up TOA on Goodreads, I was absolutely in love with the cover. And it totally meshes with some of the prevailing images of the entire book.

Let's start with the things that I loved. Philip's prose was delicious; she can really string words together. And while sometimes it can get a bit dense, when you delve deep inside of it, it's even more rich than you realized at first. One literary device I like a lot of is the use of motif, and the title of the book is one of them. Another thing I really liked about this book was the light that it shed on getting with the 'bad boy'. In a lot of YA books, the romantic interest is a bad boy, but in this, Ruby's older sister is the one who gets with him. And boy, does he ruin her life. Her love for him becomes the only thing that matters to her, to the point where she basically abandons her sister. He was a very seedy character and not in a good way.

Onto the things I didn't like - this book seemed to drag, a lot. I thought it could've been more tightly-plotted because it was really hard for me to try to read it, knowing that most of the things I was going to read about were very pretty but didn't add much to the story. The timeline became confusing as well; it jumped around a lot and sometimes I'd think we were still in the past, but we were back in the present. I wish I'd enjoyed this book more, if only because Philip is such an awesome writer, but it didn't seem much like a 'thriller' to me at all until about the last 50 or so pages. Even then, there didn't seem to be much urgency, and by that time, I was just reading to get to the end and didn't really care what happened.

Overall, I was not crazy about The Opposite of Amber. The prose was gorgeous but the plot dragged. I think this just wasn't my kind of book - I've seen some really good reviews for it! It's coming out soon, so go pick it up yourself!

Overall: 2.5/5 stars

Monday, March 28, 2011

Opposite of Amber Character Interview: Jinn

Ruby and her older sister Jinn live together on their own, just about making ends meet. Jinn is beautiful, with glittering blonde hair, and makes it her business to look after Ruby. They are horrified by, but try to ignore, the local newspaper stories of prostitutes who are murdered, their bodies eventually discovered underwater. Then the no-good Nathan Baird turns up on the scene - again - and Jinn starts to change. First Nathan moves in with Jinn and Ruby, making Ruby feel an outsider, and then Jinn and Nathan move out, leaving Ruby alone. Jinn no longer has time to look after Ruby. And it seems to Ruby that Jinn herself needs looking after. Her beautiful glittering hair starts to lose its shine. And then Jinn disappears. A deeply moving, chilling, and incredibly powerful thriller that celebrates the love two sisters have for each other and mourns the events beyond their control that will conspire to drive them apart.

  1. Did you ever resent your mother for leaving you to take care of Ruby?
It was kind of hard to resent Lara for anything, mostly because she was such a flake. I mean, she couldn’t be relied on for anything, really, so we soon learned not to try. Don’t get me wrong – I did love Lara a lot. But I think I always knew I was better at looking after Ruby than she was. Better at looking after myself, too. I suppose in some ways I like being in charge, being responsible. There are times when I think Lara was pretty selfish and stupid to get herself run over like that... well, OK. Yes, sometimes I do resent her. But I try not to.

  1. It is definitely natural to be attracted to a bad boy - and Nathan is pretty much the quintessential bad boy. Did that every stop you from wanting to be with him?
No. This sounds awful, but it never did. You’re right, bad boys are such a temptation. He was always just so different to everyone else, and I know it wasn’t usually in a good way, but he always seemed so lively and funny and... charming. When Nathan talks to you, it’s like you’re the only person in the universe.  When he ignores you, the whole world seems off-kilter. Well, maybe I’m only describing my reactions there – but I know it isn’t just me. You ask me, Ruby kind of fancied him too. Nobody hates anybody as much as she hated Nathan without there being a spark of attraction, too.
  1. It seems like everyone in OoA (aside from Ruby, of course) goes by a nickname, the most prominent one being you. How did you go about choosing that as a nickname?
I didn’t really choose it – or only partly.  It was what Ruby used to call me when she was tiny and couldn’t get her tongue round ‘Jacintha’. I think she’s forgotten that, but since I always liked it much better than my real name, I decided to use it all the time.

  1. How did you feel about the conflict between Alex Jerrold and Ruby? How much did she tell you?
She didn’t tell me much... but then she never tells anyone much, does she? I admit, I didn’t realise just how fond she was of him. But neither did she: that’s my theory. Looking back, I think they’d have made a good couple. I guess it’s too late for that, though. Maybe if Ruby had been able to say what she was thinking, it would all have gone differently.

  1. Did you ever see yourself being in the situation that you were by the second half of the book?
God, no. Never. I don’t think anyone does. I’d like to say I regretted it, but that would mean I regretted Nathan. And I don’t. Not for a minute.

THE OPPOSITE OF AMBER comes out on April 4th, 2011.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Title: Warm Bodies
Author: Isaac Marion
Pub. Date: April 26th, 2011
Page Count: 239 pages
Summary: "R" is an existentially tormented zombie shuffling through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, or the plague of the Dead—he isn't sure which. He remembers nothing from before, and although he has a deep inner life full of wonder and longing, his ability to connect with the outside world is limited to a few grunted syllables. After experiencing a young man’s memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice to rescue the boy’s girlfriend, beginning a tense, awkward, and strangely sweet relationship that will transform R, his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.

Review: Alright, let me start this review off by saying: I LOVE ZOMBIES, Y'ALL.

I don't know what it is about them. The idea of a zombie apocalypse has always intrigued me and although I'm sure I'd feel differently if it actually happened, zombies are just awesome. Especially the zombies in WARM BODIES. I love the title, by the way--totally works for the novel. It's not often that I find books like that.

Anyways, from the start, I loved R. He was always a little different from his fellow zombies--a little more aware, his mind always churning. And Marion's prose is absolutely beautiful, which made me love R even more. Here's a little excerpt:
I watch them disappear into the pale daylight at the end of the hall. Deep inside me, in some dark and cobwebbed chamber, I feel something twitch.
It's just kind of incredible how well-handled R's ascent back to humanity is. Zombies in this novel can talk, if only a few syllables at a time; they play at life by getting 'married' and having weird zombie sex that isn't really sex. They have 'kids', who are children who have been stunted in their zombie state, and they watch over them. Another awesome key to this world--when zombies eat brains, it's kind of like a drug to them. They relive the memories in someone's head and are them for a fraction of a second. Which is what happens when R eats Perry's brain and basically sets off a spark that transforms all the zombies forever.

(SPOILERS AHEAD, MATEYS!) I think the most awesome thing about this book is that it is not only a work of fiction, but it has a big fat metaphor wrapped around the narrative. Big fat metaphors and me usually do not mix, because I like my fiction to be all fiction-y, and when I first finished WARM BODIES, I was a tiny bit disappointed. There wasn't some simple explanation, or even a big scientific explanation, of why all the zombies transformed. It was basically the power of love. Yuck, I thought, when I was done. Really? That's all I get?

But the more I stewed in it, the more it made sense. I'll let you figure out the message of the metaphor for yourself, when you buy this awesome book, but FOR REAL. YOU MUST BUY IT. I COMMAND YOU.

Overall: I love zombies. That is all.

Overall: 4.3/5 stars

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Title: Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Publication Date: May 1st, 2010
Page Count: 326 pages
Summary: Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. 

When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.

Review: Although I never got to see this cover in-person (I bought this on my Nook!), I've heard it is absolutely beautiful, mostly from Maggie Stiefvater's review. (It's weird, the past two books I've read, she's reviewed them!)

Anyway, this book is absolutely amazing. The world-building is awesome as well as super realistic--sometimes in scary ways. The life that Nailer and his group of friends lead are not glamorous to say the least and they're lucky if they have enough food to eat, let alone any luxury. Nailer's life is even worse, if only because of his SCARY abusive father. (Let me tell you, that man scared the crap out of me. Whenever he came into a scene, I was literally afraid.) But then, Nailer finds Nita, who he deems Lucky Girl, and it seems like his life will be turned around, for the better, if only he could get her back to her parents. He'll be what everyone calls a Lucky Strike, after a man who owns a salvaging company that basically bought his own freedom.

I'm always a fan of sci-fi that creates its own slang. I thought it was done especially well in Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series and it was done well in Ship Breaker also. It just makes the society, which was already pretty realistic, even more so.

The characters themselves are as amazing as the story. Nailer wanted to be bad-ass and show no mercy, kind of like his father (but not quite as addicted to drugs), but that just wasn't in his personality. At one point, he has a chance to kill Nita and steal all of her jewels, which are worth more than anything he's ever seen before, but he decides not to, and that defines his character throughout the rest of the book. At the end, there is a final showdown with his father, who is pretty much the antagonist of the book, and it does not disappoint. Nailer's friends were equally well-developed--I especially like the half-man (I forget his name!), who helps he and Nita out near the middle of the book. I hope his character comes back!

Overall, this is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It was brutal, but I think it could also appeal to younger YA readers, especially boys, because there is tons of action and not too much romance (although the amount of it was definitely satisfying). I would definitely recommend it!

Overall: 4.5/5 stars

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sam's Ramblings

Sorry for the silence lately! I haven't been reading much, mostly from lack of time, so I haven't had a lot to review. I did manage to buy a couple of books, only one of which being YA, that I recently finished, and another ARC that was sent to me to review, so look for those soon!

I've actually been trying to get through the epic that is A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. I LOVE long books, but it takes me a while to get through them, even if I'm really into the story (which I am, in this case! If you haven't started this series, please do so!). I've also been writing a lot - I'm working on a revamp of The Unlikelihood of Nostalgia without the whole amnesia bit, so it's a completely different story, tentatively titled THE ESSENCE OF FLIGHT. Still involves running and Zack Morris being a complete dick (although, somehow I still love him), but Zoey is not an amnesiac. Whenever I tried to write up a sample query for TUON, everyone jumped on me for using the soap-opera trope in it and it bothered me that FORGET YOU, an amazing book by Jennifer Echols, had a protag with the same name and a problem similar to my own protagonist. Hence the revamp. I'm about 3k in so far and while it's a little bleak, I like having something new to work on.

The last couple of months I've sent out a few queries for TSTB and I've received some interest, which I'm happy about. I'm really looking for CPs, so if anyone wants to partner up with me, I'd love it! I like any kind of YA, but I'm pretty partial to contemporary, so just shoot me an email if you're interested.

Those are about all the updates I have for now! How's everyone else been doing lately?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Review: Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler

Title: Playing Hurt
Author: Holly Schindler
Page Count: 308 pages
Summary: Star basketball player Chelsea "Nitro" Keyes had a full ride to college—and everyone's admiration back home. Then she took a horrible fall during senior year. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.

That summer, Chelsea's dad hires Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player and "boot camp" trainer, to work with her at a northern Minnesota lake resort. As they grow close, Chelsea finds that Clint's haunted by his own tragedy. Will their romance end up hurting them all over again—or finally heal their heartbreak?

Review: I really wanted to like this book. I really did.

But I didn't. That's not to say I disliked it.

To start, there's something about Schindler's writing style that gets kind of bulky to me. I found that some sentences and paragraphs were so overloaded that I had to go over them a couple of times to figure out their meaning. And it got really cheesy at some points, kind of like an adult romance novel that features Fabio on the cover would, as if the chemistry between the main characters was really forced and had to resort to cliches to make it sound real.

I thought Chelsea was absolutely selfish, though. I mean, I understood her motives and why she didn't break it off with her boyfriend, but from the standpoint of someone who's been broken-hearted in that kind of situation, it just seemed really immature. I think I couldn't get into her character as much because of that - I didn't agree with what she did.

That being said, I did enjoy Schlinder's writing style when it wasn't terrible bogged down with details and I really did like the idea of the setting; it sounded absolutely beautiful. And, as an athlete who was sidelined because of an injury, I know how crappy it feels when the thing that you love is suddenly taken away from you.

Overall, I'm not sure I'd recommend this one. I didn't enjoy it very much and it seemed like a chore to get through. Some of the writing was very good, but other than that, everything else seemed forced. Also, the cover? I'm not a fan.

Overall: 2.5/5 stars

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Review: A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell

Title: A Map of the Known World
Author: Lisa Ann Sandell
Publish Date: April 2009
Page Count: 272 pages
Summary: Cora Bradley dreams of escape. Ever since her reckless older brother, Nate, died in a car crash, Cora has felt suffocated by her small town and high school. She seeks solace in drawing beautiful maps, envisioning herself in exotic locales. When Cora begins to fall for Damian, the handsome, brooding boy who was in the car with Nate the night he died, she uncovers her brother's secret artistic life and realizes she had more in common with him than she ever imagined. With stunning lyricism, Sandell weaves a tale of one girl's journey through the redemptive powers of art, friendship, and love.

Review: I think the only reason I picked this book up was because I loved the cover. I thought the title was AWESOME and I thought that it would have a lot to do with maps, kind of like North of Beautiful, which tied them in really well. And while I wouldn't say I was disappointed, I wasn't exactly satisfied.

First off, the characters - they were very well-developed and definitely believable, especially Cora's new friend Helena. I was not satisfied by how her relationship with her best friend Rachel panned out and I thought her romance with Damian was a little too easy. At the end, everything was wrapped up a little too tightly, leaving no room for questions, which I like at the end of novels, even if there is a happy ending. I think Cora was a little young for my tastes - just starting high school - and so I didn't relate to her as much.

The narration was bogged down by over-description, which made me skim a little too much for my liking. While some people may think that Sandell's prose is lyrical, I have to disagree. I don't think that it added much to the narration to describe feeling to nth degree. In fact, I think it made the prose weaker, since it relied on - sometimes cliched - descriptions.

Also, Nate. (This may be a little spoiler-y.) I thought it was kind of a HUGE coincidence that both he and Cora were into art. He even had his own studio with Damian in an old barn? It was just easy. And he thought he was so messed up because he loved art and hated school, but he never even told anyone he liked art; he just assumed that he and Damian were screwed up because of it. I could see if both of them did lots of drugs or something, but they didn't. They just skipped school and made art and were kind of assholes, but they're teenage boys. That is not strange at all.

Overall, I thought this book was okay. I wasn't blown away by it or anything, but I didn't love it or anything. I guess I'll just say I had no strong feelings about it.

Overall: 3/5 stars

Friday, March 4, 2011

Playing Hurt Book Trailer + A GIVEAWAY

Recently, I had the pleasure of receiving an ARC of Holly Schindler's newest book, Playing Hurt! Playing Hurt is a contemporary YA romance about a former basketball player sidelined by an injury who goes on vacation to northern Minnesota. Even though she has a boyfriend who has been there for her throughout the mental anguish of having to give up basketball, she finds herself drawn to her "boot camp" trainer there, Clint. What proceeds is wildly romantic and gave me shivers! It takes a lot for a book to do that.

Anyway, I am offering a giveaway to one lucky person of a copy of this ARC! Please enter by leaving your name and email in the comments below - the giveaway will end March 14th, so be sure to get your entries in by then!

Without further ado, here is the book trailer for Playing Hurt, as well as a little blurb that Holly wrote about book trailers! Enjoy!


Trailers, I think, are a tricky ground for a writer to tread on.  It’s different for a movie or a TV show: those trailers are just spliced together from existing footage.  A montage of some of the best points, meant to entice a potential audience.  When I go to the movie or tune in to the TV show, I’ll see those scenes or snippets…But a book trailer can involve hiring actors specifically for the trailer, or including illustrations that are not featured within the book.

I think that writers can almost do themselves a disservice with ultra-slick trailers…They always run the danger of creating something that actually overshadows the book.

My own favorite official book trailer is for Laurie Halse Anderson’s WINTERGIRLS—it incorporates a section of cover art, and the same three words, “must. not. eat.” flashing faster and faster.  That trailer tells readers that the book is about anorexia, and by giving us a section of that cover, it allows readers to instantly recognize—and hopefully gravitate to—that icy turquoise cover in a bookstore.  Great advertisement.  And in no way does it threaten to overshadow Anderson’s writing (which would be pretty tough, as incredible as her work is).

I really did want to do something visual leading up to the release of PLAYING HURT…Especially since I’ve recently become really intrigued by vlogging.  It’s incredible, as an author, to be able to let readers into my world as well as into my work. 

I knew that I wanted to put together something that would allow readers to “see” or interact with my books in a visual way…And I definitely didn’t want to overshadow my work…So…

What I came up with is a kind of extended trailer / virtual tour of Southwest Missouri—which is the setting for A BLUE SO DARK and much of PLAYING HURT.          

My trailer is in no way super-slick or flashy…But I really like that, too.  I’m the kind of gal who prefers antique instruments, handwritten notes…I love to see a creator’s “hand” in their projects.  In that respect, my trailer has my signature on it…

EDIT: Sorry, I forgot to mention before that the giveaway is ONLY in the US/Canada - sorry, you international folks!