Thursday, September 23, 2010

Speak Loudly

For those of you who use twitter, or are pretty religious blog readers, you're probably aware of the recent controversy regarding Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK, as well as Sarah Ockler's TWENTY BOY SUMMER and Vonnegut's SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE. Professor Wesley Scroggins is trying to get these books banned in the town of Republic, Missouri. He's so far claimed that SPEAK is "pornographic and immoral." But honestly, I'm more worried what it says about him that he finds a book that deals with rape to be pornographic.

Though I have yet to read SPEAK, it is in my TBR pile (and I promise to write a review once I actually get to it). But for those of you not familiar with the story, here's a summary from Amazon:

In a stunning first novel, Anderson uses keen observations and vivid imagery to pull readers into the head of an isolated teenager. Divided into the four marking periods of an academic year, the novel, narrated by Melinda Sordino, begins on her first day as a high school freshman. No one will sit with Melinda on the bus. After school, students call her names and harass her; her best friends from junior high scatter to different cliques and abandon her. Yet Anderson infuses the narrative with a wit that sustains the heroine through her pain and holds readers' empathy. A girl at a school pep rally offers an explanation of the heroine's pariah status when she confronts Melinda about calling the police on a summer party, resulting in several arrests. But readers so not learn why Melinda made the call until much later: a popular senior raped her that night and, because of her trauma, she barely speaks at all. Only through her work in art class, and with the support of a compassionate teacher there, does she begin to reach out to others and eventually find her voice. Through the first-person narration, the author makes Melinda's pain palpable: "I stand in the center aisle of the auditorium, a wounded zebra in a National Geographic special." Though the symbolism is sometimes heavy-handed, it is effective. The ending, in which the attacker comes after her once more, is the only part of the plot that feels forced. But the book's overall gritty realism and Melinda's hard-won metamorphosis will leave readers touched and inspired.

Other books that come to mind when we're talking about the gritty realism teens face are Lucy Christopher's STOLEN (one of my all-time favorite books), and Elizabeth Scott's LIVING DEAD GIRL (which I actually wrote a review of). Stockholm Syndrome, kidnapping, child abuse, etc. are all things that are common in our society, but are rarely written about. I fully support those authors who take the time to bring up these topics and try to get kids talking. For all you know, the girl sitting next to you in class may be a rape victim who finds comfort in a book like SPEAK. The fact that authors are writing about things teenagers encounter and suffer is important. Bad things happen to people all the time, and we're not helping them by sweeping it under the rug.

I speak from experience.

For those of you who are not aware, I spent two months last year living in Galway, Ireland. It was for a study abroad program, and I was supposed to have spent four months there. However, after being sexually assaulted outside a bar, I found myself too afraid to remain in the city. I'd lost all of my confidence, and I didn't feel safe. I still remember how terrified I was that night. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried for over an hour, then managed to get in contact with my best friend back in the US. And while she helped to calm me down, I don't think I ever got over it. No, I wasn't raped, but I could have been if the guy hadn't been so drunk. But he left marks that didn't fade for a few days. Sometimes I'll look down at my arms and still see the bruises.

A year later, I've regained a lot of my confidence. I haven't lost faith in people, but I'm certainly more careful. I still prefer to stay away from bars when going out, and I make sure to take my guys with me when I do. I'm vigilant in making sure my girl friends are all safe. 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, and I'm trying to make sure none of my friends have to go through what I did. It was the most terrifying few minutes of my life, and I can recall them now with perfect accuracy. Things like that don't fade. They stay with you, but I'm trying to use those feelings as motivation, rather than a hindrance.

But for those women and men we can't save, it's important that books like SPEAK be available. I've found comfort in the strength some of these characters have. It reminds me that I'm not alone.

And that is why I Speak Loudly.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

SILENCE Soundtrack

I've always made a soundtrack for each story I begin, even if I never finish it. Since SILENCE has been completely outlined, and is nearing 10,000 words, I think it's safe to say I'll actually get to use this soundtrack for a while :-p Thought I'd share it, for my fellow music whores.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


As you may have noticed, the blog's undergone a major overhaul. New background (how literary)! New sidebar (fancy)! New pages (look up)!

I think the most useful thing for you guys will be the 'writerly resources' page, where I've begun to list useful people to follow on twitter, blogs you should check out, and articles I've found really useful. I'll constantly be adding to it, so keep checking back!

Also, I've added a page for book reviews. Right now it looks pretty empty, but I have a few reviews I need to import from my other journal, and have plenty of books I'd like to write reviews for. So that will grow exponentially as well.

If you have any ideas for things you'd like to see on the blog, leave a comment! I'm open to suggestions!

Book Recommendation: Hush, Hush

HUSH, HUSH by Becca Fitzpatrick
Published October 13th, 2009 by Simon & Schuster
391 pages

From Goodreads:
For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her...until Patch comes along. 

With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment, but after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is far more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel. 
For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.


Though I actually read HUSH, HUSH back in November of 2009, I thought now might be a good time to post a proper review since the sequel, CRESCENDO, is coming out October 19th. And I definitely plan to pick up a copy as soon as I can. From what I've heard, the series is supposed to be a trilogy, so at least I'll get the satisfaction of two more books before I have to find something to fill the void.

I have to be honest, the thing that drew me to this book was the cover. It's absolutely gorgeous, and every time I passed it in Barnes & Noble, I kept thinking how pretty it would look on my book shelf. I know they say not to judge a book by its cover, but I do anyway (I used to be an art history major; it's in my nature to judge covers). I won't lie when I say I was wary of picking up this book, because the summary on the jacket made it sound like a TWILIGHT rip-off, and I really wasn't in the mood for a cliche YA romance about something supernatural. But the first few pages seemed all right, so I could only hope that Becca Fitzpatrick knew what she was talking about.

Luckily, she did, and I wasn't disappointed. Truthfully, I enjoyed the book a lot. This is evidenced by the fact that I stayed up until 5am to finish it, since I was utterly unable to put it down. The book is fast-paced, interesting, and while not entirely new in terms of ideas (angels and demons are on the rise in YA, and I've seen a lot come through the slush pile), was different enough to keep me reading. The characters were likable, whether they were bad guys or good, and I really enjoyed the converging storylines at the end. There was mystery, which was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. Usually the mystery element in a YA novel is pretty easy to guess, but I was left completely clueless until the true antagonist was revealed at the end of the novel (and when the answer was given away, I did a major *facepalm*). It's a rare thing to be surprised by a book anymore, and maybe I was rendered slightly stupid by the fact it was so late when I got to the end, but it was a nice change to think that an author had done something not entirely predictable. I really appreciated the originality in that.

The writing, too, was solid. Sure, there were a few cheese-tastic lines, but I found myself laughing along with the characters at times, and certainly smiled at others. The characterization was spot-on, and while some of the things were rather cliche (location of the final show-down, anyone?), I didn't have any trouble believing their motivations.

Like I said, overall, I really enjoyed the book. Definitely recommended, and definitely (much) better than TWILIGHT. If you liked TWILIGHT, I'd say give this a shot, and if you've been enjoying the whole upsurge of vampire/werewolf/supernatural stuff, you'll be happy you bought this. Despite any qualms I may have had, I'm proud to have HUSH, HUSH on my bookshelf.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I have never been a proponent of outlining. I've always written things on the fly, and figured I'd work out any problems as they popped up in the manuscript. I didn't care that I didn't have a plan. I was a reckless writer, and that worked for me. I found that the more I planned for a story, the less excited I was when I eventually sat down to write it. So, instead, I would get just a glimmer of an idea, plop down at my computer, and type up as much as I could.

And that method worked.

For a while.

These days, I'm slowly starting to rethink the way I write. Maybe it was writing a thesis that instigated the change, or talking to other writers who always outlined first. Maybe I just realized that my old way of doing things was no longer working for me. Whatever the reason, something changed.

Though I'd tried to outline stories before (we're talking back in middle school and high school), I'd never get further than chapter three. I'd come up with a sufficient beginning; I'd let the rest of the chips fall where they may. So, during college, I gave up trying to outline altogether. I said "fuck it," and just wrote whatever came to mind. And that produced a few manuscripts, though I don't think I'd ever hand them over to an agent. They're drawer manuscripts, as my thesis advisor called them; they were practice runs, not a book I'd want to see on a shelf (Okay, maybe DON'T MAKE A SCENE. But only if I edited the crap out of it.). And I was okay with that.

Then last semester happened. Thesis semester. And while I'd written a good chunk of THE AGE OF NEVER GROWING OLD during NaNoWriMo, I had a third to write, and then a whole lot of revisions ahead of me. So I tried something new: I outlined the story after I'd finished it. Which may sound weird, but hear me out. Outlining after the fact turned out to be really helpful. I was able to see where I'd placed all of the rising actions, where things fell flat, where I could use some more character development, etc. And everything was already written, so I had material to work with when I began editing. So for that project, outlining after I'd finished turned out to be a great idea. And it was the first time I'd successfully outlined anything from beginning to end.

Since finishing my thesis, I haven't been able to stick to any one project. I have writing OCD (I swear this should be a legitimate, diagnosable, disease). I tried to outline a few of my projects before I began writing, but that failed. I then tried to outline as I wrote, and that failed, too. No surprises there. I was getting frustrated. I had one book book being queried, four finished books twiddling their thumbs on my hard drive, and a million ideas floating through my head. I wrote nearly 25k on one project, but as of today, haven't worked on it in nearly two months.

So what's a girl to do?

Last night I needed a break from an endless pile of homework, and decided to look over something I'd written last weekend - the first chapter of a book entitled SILENCE. I'd meant for it to be a WWII young adult romance, but after thinking it over, decided it could work just as well as a futuristic dystopian. So I turned to Microsoft Word, opened a new document, and began typing. And you know what I typed up? Half of an outline. The entire first half of the book is in outline form right now, and the best part is that I like it. It makes sense. And I have a general sense of what I want to happen in part two, so you know what? I'm going to outline that as well. Probably this weekend.

And you know what I'm going to do after I finish outlining? I'm going to write. Because it's the only way to keep my mind off the queries I have floating around in cyberspace. If TANGO doesn't get picked up by an agent, I'd like to have something else to send out, especially considering the fact I had a few agents ask to see other work. So! Time to get to it!

How do you guys outline?

Sunday, September 12, 2010


As both a reader and a writer, I tend to pay close attention to the genres and topics that are currently trending in publishing. It's important to know your competition if you're a writer, and I'm a firm believer that the more you read, the better writer you become. You don't want to be ignorant and begin querying your manuscript, only to find that it's exactly the same thing as HARRY POTTER or TWILIGHT or THE HUNGER GAMES. You have to have something different and unique to offer, which is really where keeping an eye on the market comes in handy.

Only, the problem with that is that books just now coming out were bought by publishers somewhere between one and two years ago. TWILIGHT was still in its prime, and so hopeful writers began writing books about vampires. Or maybe they already had, but began querying their project at a bad time for vampire stories.

So what do you do when your manuscript is a match for a current trend? You check to see how different it is. What makes your book different from a current NYT bestseller? If you can't really find a reason, you may want to try your hand at something else for a while. Because if your book is basically a retelling of TWILIGHT, the chances of it being picked up are pretty slim. Agents and editors need projects that haven't been seen yet. And if you're going to do vampires or werewolves, it needs to be something so freaking new and exciting that there's no way it could be compared to anything currently on the market. Vampires, especially, are too saturated at the moment. People are looking for something fresh, and as a writer, it's up to you to make sure they get it.

As an intern (I was lucky enough to be able to do it remotely while I'm back in Wisconsin), I'm getting to see the stories that might be on shelves in two years. And I have to tell you, I'm incredibly excited by what I've seen! While EPE sees its fair share of TWILIGHT knock-offs, I've also seen plenty of YA paranormals that had something new to offer. I've begun to see new trends developing, ones that I find infinitely more exciting than vampires. I'll be honest, I was on the vampire bandwagon for a while, and snatched up a good deal of them, but I burnt myself out. The more I read, the more I found that they were all, essentially, the same story. So to find that writers are starting to explore other things is really exciting to me! Here are just a few of the trends I've begun to see in the slush pile:

1. Reincarnation. While this isn't my favorite trend, I've had a few really good ones pass through my hands. I think writers need to be careful with this, just as much as with the vampire thing, because obviously your character is in the same boat as someone else's who has been reincarnated. Make sure your story is unique and imaginative, and you should be fine. All you want it to have in common with other books about reincarnation is just that: your character's been reincarnated. And that's where the similarities should end.

2. Angels and demons. Maybe HUSH, HUSH brought this on, but I'm enjoying this one. Some of the fallen angel stories can be a bit odd, but I grew up Catholic, so I can appreciate the story behind it all. And I really liked HUSH, HUSH, so I'm open to reading more on this.

3. Greek/Roman gods/goddesses who live in the modern world. I've seen a surprising amount of this. They're either trying to right some terrible wrong from way back when, or they're around just because they can't die. I've read one or two really great manuscripts that fall under this category, so I'm not complaining!

4. In women's fiction, I've noticed a lot of stories have a male MC who works for the FBI and is undercover. I didn't mind the first few, but lately I've begun to wonder why people don't try something else. I understand a man undercover can be a great catalyst for some kind of argument/betrayal, etc., but why couldn't the guy be in witness protection? Or just some lonely chef trying to remake his image? The FBI man is getting to be a bit cliche. Granted, that's just my opinion.

What trends are you particularly fond of these days?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Wish I Could Draw

While taking a break from an entirely-too-long Italian take-home exam, I stumbled across the cover of an upcoming MG book and fell in in love.

I think the artist in charge of this one did an incredible job. It makes me wish I were an artist.

Unfortunately, a two-year-old could draw better than me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Upcoming Releases

It has been a long ass time since I last updated, and I am sincerely sorry for the delay! With the end of summer came the end of my time in DC, along with three moves in the span of four days. So! Now that I'm back in Wisconsin (...) and school has started (...), life is slowly returning to normal. And because the new school year (my fifth, and my last, year of college) has started, I thought I'd do a post detailing some upcoming book releases I'm pretty excited about.

THE DUFF by Kody Keplinger
September 7th, 2010
From Goodreads:
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone

My Thoughts:
There's been a lot of hype over this book, and all of it seems overwhelmingly positive. I know a few people who've read ARCs and loved it, so I'm excited to snag a copy for myself! Plus, a book about the (D)esignated (U)gly (F)at (F)riend sounds like it'll be awesome.


TORMENT by Lauren Kate
September 28th, 2010
From Goodreads:
How many lives do you need to live before you find someone worth dying for? In the aftermath of what happened at Sword & Cross, Luce has been hidden away by her cursed angelic boyfriend, Daniel, in a new school filled with Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans. Daniel promises she will be safe here, protected from those who would kill her. At the school Luce discovers what the Shadows that have followed her all her life mean - and how to manipulate them to see into her other lives. Yet the more Luce learns about herself, the more she realizes that the past is her only key to unlocking her future...and that Daniel hasn't told her everything. What if his version of the past isn't actually the way things happened...what if Luce was really meant to be with someone else?

My Thoughts:
While I found the first book fairly predictable, it had its redeeming qualities. I really enjoyed the setting, and the main character was incredibly likable. To be honest, I haven't read the last chapter of the first book, FALLEN, but I'm sure I'll get to it before this one comes out. Plus, come on. The cover is gorgeous.


CRESCENDO by Becca Fitzpatrick
October 19th, 2010
From Goodreads:
Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

My Thoughts:
I read the first book in the series, HUSH, HUSH, back in November, right when I returned from Ireland. I had nothing to do for months, so I got back into reading YA. I picked the first book up based on the cover, which I still think is gorgeous, and found that I actually really enjoyed the story. I'm excited to see if the second book is as good as the first.


November 2nd, 2010
From Goodreads:
Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way--the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds--a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone--especially yourself--you fight for it.

My Thoughts: I really like contemporary YA, especially the more edgy/gritty stuff. So this one seems right up my alley.


THE WATER WARS by Cameron Stracher
January 1st, 2011
From Goodreads:
Vera and her brother Will live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him-pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group, and greedy corporations. Timely and eerily familiar, acclaimed author Cameron Stracher makes a stunning YA debut that's impossible to forget.

My Thoughts: I religiously followed the voting for the book's cover, and am really impressed with the final selection. Plus it's another dystopian, so I'm a goner.


XVI by Julia Karr
January 6th, 2011
From Goodreads:
In the year 2150, being a girl isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when your sixteenth (read sex-teenth) birthday is fast approaching. That in itself would be enough to make anyone more than a little nuts, what with the tattoo and all – but Nina Oberon’s life has taken a definite turn for the worse. Her mother is brutally stabbed and left for dead. Before dying, she entrusts a secret book to Nina, telling her to deliver it to Nina's father. But, first Nina has to find him; since for fifteen years he's been officially dead. Complications arise when she rescues Sal, a mysterious, and ultra hot guy. He seems to like Nina, but also seems to know more about her father than he’s letting on. Then there’s that murderous ex-government agent who’s stalking her, and just happens to be her little sister’s dad.

My Thoughts: I love futuristic dystopians. End of story.


March 22nd, 2011
From Goodreads:
There are many things that Annah would like to forget: the look on her sister’s face when she and Elias left her behind in the Forest of Hands and Teeth, her first glimpse of the horde as they found their way to the Dark City, the sear of the barbed wire that would scar her for life. But most of all, Annah would like to forget the morning Elias left her for the Recruiters.

Annah’s world stopped that day and she’s been waiting for him to come home ever since. Without him, her life doesn’t feel much different from that of the dead that roam the wasted city around her. Then she meets Catcher and everything feels alive again.

Except, Catcher has his own secrets -- dark, terrifying truths that link him to a past Annah’s longed to forget, and to a future too deadly to consider. And now it’s up to Annah -- can she continue to live in a world drenched in the blood of the living? Or is death the only escape from the Return’s destruction?

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed the first book in this series, THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH. I have yet to pick up the second book, THE DEAD-TOSSED WAVES, but I definitely plan to do so before this third installment comes out. Also, another incredible cover. And Carrie Ryan is an incredible writer.


RIPPLE by fellow LTWF contributor, Mandy Hubbard
July 21st, 2011
From Goodreads:
Eighteen year old Lexi Wentworth is cursed. For as long as she can remember, she’s spent every night swimming. If she doesn’t, she’ll regret it—simply walking will be agony, as if she’s stepping on shattered glass. Her body craves the water, demands the water, until she can’t say no.

But it's not the swimming that troubles Lexi. It’s the singing that goes with it.When she turned sixteen, her siren song killed the only boy she's ever loved. Now, she avoids the popular shores of the Pacific in favor of a long forgotten lake up in the mountains, where she can swim and sing in peace, far from the population of her oceanside home.

Until, that is, Cole Mills discovers her lake. He’s new to Lincoln City High, and he doesn’t know about Lexi’s reputation as an ice queen—a reputation she’s carefully cultivated to keep everyone around her safe. He pushes her, talks to her, forces her to dream of what life could be like if she weren’t a siren.

Lexi can’t stop herself from warming to him, from falling for him. Soon, he’s demanding answers, following her to the lake, unknowingly risking his life. How can she keep him safe when the one thing she wants most--to hold him close-- will endanger his life?

My Thoughts: I've been hearing about it for so long that I get jittery whenever Mandy mentions it now. I think the idea behind it is fantastic, and I'm really excited to read something that isn't about angels or vampires or gods/goddesses.


What books are YOU looking forward to?