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Sunday, January 23, 2011

What are you reading??

This week has seen a lot of ups and downs for me. I got really excited by the prospect of working on a new WIP (I chose Bettina for those who read my last post), and then I was in QLH for a while. Needless to say, that's been the down part of my week. Hopefully I'll escape with a few shreds of dignity. But, on to more interesting topics - books!!

First up, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I mentioned this book last week, so it's a bit of a repeat, but I finished it up and wanted to give my final opinion. And a little warning here, it's a bit spoilery. I really did love this book, the writing, the voice, the descriptions, and the alternating POV was done so well. I really liked the way that the issue of depression in the POV of the second Will was brought up because that can be such a huge issue with teens, although I wish they had delved into it a little deeper. The character of Tiny was hilarious. At first I thought that a gay football player named Tiny was cliche, but the character was so well developed in the end that it was easy to forgive. He was a hoot! Finally, the ending (and this is the spoilery part) resembled Looking For Alaska a bit too much. It was different, but still had the same general theme of teens pulling off some huge stunt. It didn't bother me in LFA, but when I saw it happening in WG,WG I was kind of thinking, okay is this like a thing with John Green? Anyway, I still really loved it and would place it right behind LFA in my ranking of JG titles.

Second read this week: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. The story is about a boy named Jerry who is first a hero and then a victim when he refuses to sell chocolates at his private catholic school. At first glance, the premise might seem a little flimsy, but it's not at all. There are themes of gang violence, intimidation, misuse of power, standing up against the autocracy, and the existence of evil. It was riveting and even a little sickening at times. The book was published back in the 70's (and by the smell of my library copy you could tell), but that didn't detract from the themes at all. I didn't like the ending, but I do respect the author for having the courage to write an ending like that, especially in a YA novel. Moreover, it was appropriate for me to read it at this time because it gave me some great ideas for my new WIP.

Final read: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. This is a Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story type book with a more modern flavor. It's set in Chicago in a neighborhood where Latino gangs and the richer class live pretty much next door to each other. Perfect Chemistry has a lot of...chemistry. It was hot, and while the other themes in the book, standing up to misunderstanding parents and the difficulties of living in poorer neighborhoods surrounded by gang violence were there, it was really the hot romance between Alex and Brittany that kept me reading. I enjoyed it and I'd particularly recommend it to those who are looking for something multicultural.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What next???? Help me decide!!

Along with finishing a book comes the fun part of figuring out what to write next. I have three or four choices that I've been playing with and I'm having a lot of trouble deciding. I thought I'd throw out these ideas to you and see what my followers think.

1. Write Sam's Wish. I have the sequel to Nikki's Wish mostly outlined, the first 8 or so chapters in my head, and I wrote a brief first chapter. I know that they say not to write the sequel until you actually get a contract for the first one, but this story is the most clear in my mind right now. I know exactly where I want it to go and I know the characters well. Should I get a head start??

2. Bettina (will be renamed) - is set in the 1960's about a boy who believes he's the reincarnation of a famous bootlegger/bank robber from the 1930's. In the course of the book there's a hot romance, some physical abuse and a possible murder. It's pretty much outlined, but the problem is that I'm not sure if I can do justice to the MC, Erik. I want the atmosphere of the book to be dark, sort of like Fight Club, but I don't know if my writing skills are up to that. I'm also still debating where to start the book. Do I start where I have it currently, with Erik being kind of an overly confident, overly popular teen because he knows where he's been previously or do I back it up and make him kind of repressed until he comes to the conclusion that he was this dynamic reincarnated person and then he comes out of his shell so to speak? All of this leads up to him standing up against his father, if that helps. The other problem is that I want to weave a lot of the history of the 1930's into this one and again I'm not sure if I'm up to it having never done any historical writing. Maybe it'll come out sounding silly.

3. Daniel's Song - this would be a stand alone and yet sort of a spin-off to Nikki's Wish. It's about a boy opera singer who wanted so badly to keep his voice that he made a bargain with the devil. Later, Daniel finds out that boys with voices like his were destined to be guardian angels and that's why they were given the voices of angels. The story itself would begin after Daniel's made the bargain - at this point in his life he's a rock star and getting involved in sex and drugs and stuff because he figures what's the dif, he's already going to hell. I think that it needs to be completely re-outlined because I want to include a second MC, a girl who is deaf and has the ability to see people who are marked for hell. Obviously she sees Daniel's marks and tries to help him. And there's romance between the two. A given.

4. Untitled middle grade - this is more just a premise that I started working on about a month ago. It's about three brothers who are cursed by gypsies with the old saying, ''hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil". So the three brothers are respectively deaf, blind, and mute (I'm not sure why I keep coming back to the idea of my characters being handicapped, is it strange?). The eldest brother goes missing in the second chapter and the rest of the book would be about the other two doing everything it takes to find him. It needs to have a lot of action in it - as per my son's request. It's not outlined and I have no idea where the story would take me, but then again, I didn't have Nikki's Wish outlined at all when I started and I think that my writing style is well-suited towards boy middle-grade type books.

So those are my four choices. I would really love to do Sam's Wish, but I know that I shouldn't. My second choice would be Daniel's Song, but the market is flooded with fallen angel books right now, and while Daniel isn't really a fallen angel (he's more of an angel that never was), I'm not sure if it's the right choice either. So, any opinions guys? Your wisdom is much appreciated. :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

LIttle update and what are you reading??

First a short update. Yes, I feel like this weekend is going to be it. I have a list of about 4 little things that I want to fix up in Nikki's Wish and then I'll be done!! I kind of feel like I want to re-read the whole thing one last time, but I think I'll refrain from doing that, give it some time to sit while I clean up the query and synopsis. Then maybe I'll read it through one last time before sending anything out. Yeah, I know I'm kind of anal retentive that way, but I can't help it.

Now on to something a bit more fun! This week I read two and a half books. I'm still finishing up the last one, but I'm going to blurb about it anyway.

First, MT Anderson's Feed. Okay, I admit that I was a little slow on the uptake with this one. All I knew about the book going in was that it was a futuristic story where the internet is wired into people's brains. Cool background for a story, no? So I started reading. Fifty pages in, I was rather annoyed with the main character and his friends, searching for some sort of plot and thinking to myself that although the world building was spectacular, the story itself was sort of... dumb. I read some more. Still little plot, even more ridiculous scenes with characters who I want to thrash by now, and even more spectacular world building. I get to the middle of the book and one scene in particular. Main character and his girlf (yes, it's spelled that way) go out to the country to visit a farm. Woohoo, something is going to happen, I shout to myself. And then I see what kind of farm it is... a tissue farm. For growing tissue. Cow tissue. Big blocks of marbleized steak. Row after row of Fillet Mignon. I kid you not. After resisting the urge to hurl, I almost put the book down. Almost. And then, I got it. Feed is a satire.

Like I said, I was a little slow on the uptake, even afterwards I was thinking to myself that the author could have done so much more with the characters. They were dumb, shallow, and materialistic, even the main character. But now I see the brilliance in it. Really, there was no other way for Anderson to create his futuristic world and make the statement he was making without creating the characters that he did. It just wouldn't have been the same. Obviously I enjoyed the book in the end because it really made me think (and shudder a bit), but I would have liked it much more if I had known what I was getting into. So if you decide to read it, consider yourself warned.

Next I read The DUFF by Kody Keplinger. I've heard about The Duff for over a year now, and I even got to read the first chapter on the SYW boards at AW. This was a few weeks before Kody was agented, and I thought then that the story sounded fantastic. I'd been looking forward to seeing what Kody had done with her characters. And I was impressed.
Goodreads summary: 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 “the Duff,” (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) she throws her Coke in his face.
But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.
Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out 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.

I would have been all over this book in high school. A strong, gutsy girl who tells it like it is, plus some hot HOT scenes between Bianca and Wesley, and finally a message that it's okay to be a DUFF because really everyone is a DUFF at some point. Yeah, I would have loved this book as a teen and I think that's where it's really going to resonate. BUT, I have to say that reading this as a married 36-year old with three kids, it didn't quite hit the mark. I was very puzzled as to why a girl as smart as Bianca would sleep with a man-whore like Wesley. Even though she was using it as an escape, and even though they used protection every time, I was still... ew. I shiver just thinking about it. So I guess in some ways you could say that I had trouble accepting the premise, but then again I'm not a teen and I've never been in a situation like Bianca was so maybe I'm just too distanced from it to judge properly. The ending was a bit predictable, and the writing has room to grow. But again, a great debut from such a young author. I'd recommend it, especially to teens.

ETA- Geesh, what am I saying? It was written for teens of course I would recommend it to teens. There are so many middle age people reading YA now that sometimes I forget who the original audience is. BAAAADDD Angie, BAD!

Last up; Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I'm only halfway through this book, but I got it yesterday so having read half of it one day, you can guess that I'm pretty much enthralled.

The Goodreads summary: One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

The book is written by two authors alternating each chapter and this method works very well. I could tell right off which was written by JG, and I have to say that I liked his chapters better, but now at about the middle of the book, as the two Will Grayson's are coming together, I'm noticing how much more sympathy I have for DL's Will. It's got me addicted, so much so that I'd like to bail out of work right now to finish it. So, yeah, go get Will Grayson, Will Grayson. You won't be disappointed.

As a little side note - WG, WG is the first e-book that I got from my library. I'm just mentioning this because I had looked around online and realized that even though I don't live in Hennepin County (Mpls), I could still get access to the Hennepin County Library because I have a card from another MN public library. This shouldn't be too surprising given inter-library loans and all, but I just wanted to point out to everyone that maybe you have the same set up in your area. You might want to particularly check it out if you live in a small community - maybe your state's capitol or a bigger city in your state has e-loaning that you could get access to. 

As always I'm interested in what you've been reading too! Leave a note. And next week I promise to be a better blogger, visit more sites and actually post some more! I should be done editing so I'll have more time (of course there's all that agent research to do). Blah! :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

What I've been reading...

Don't know why I decided to do this post on a Friday but I think that I'm going to try making it into a weekly thing. No full fledged reviews (as per my last post), just mini-thoughts on what I read that week.

First up for this week: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is the first middle grade book of LHA that I've read. I have to tell you that I was impressed, not too surprising though because LHA is so consistent with her storytelling. Chains is about a young slave girl living during the American Revolution and what she tries to do (selling secrets back and forth between the redcoats and the patriots) to earn her freedom. It was a riveting story, full of hypocrisy, hardships and tough decisions. There were moments where I just cried thinking about the injustice of it all, and the description was so realistic. You can really tell she did her research. I mean would you have thought to include eel pie in your historical? LHA really hit it the nail this time and I highly recommend it to all. In terms of young people reading it, I think that my fourth grader would have trouble with some of the vocabulary and there's one scene of abuse that I think would be harder for younger kids to handle. For older kids though (maybe 5th or 6th grade), it would be perfect.

Second up: Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta, which counts as my first read in the YA Aussie Challenge. OMG, if you love fantasy then you should have read this already! I can easily say that this is the first book in a long time that grabbed me so much that I want to re-read it just a few days later. That hasn't happened to me in over a year (and I read a lot of good books last year folks)!  A little summary: After the 'five days of the unspeakable', when the King and Queen and their children are slaughtered, an imposter king takes the throne of Lumatere. A curse is put on the country, trapping those inside and forcing thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps. Ten years later, Finnikin, a boyhood friend of Prince Balthazar encounters the young novice, Evanjalin, a girl plagued by dark dreams, who holds the key to their return to the Land of light. Finnikin of the Rock, like most fantasies, has a prophecy, a young man who is destined for rulership, and a lot of swordplay. But what sets Finnikin apart is the strong female roles. Yes, yes, Arwen and Katsa are strong females, but not like Evanjalin. I can't say more without giving away major plot elements, but trust me, if you like strong female roles, read this book. You won't be disappointed. Oh! And the ending. I have to say it was one of the sweetest scenes I've seen in a long time. You thought Edward had the proposal thing down. Ha! Loved it!

I'll be spending the weekend re-reading my manuscript so I'll probably only get to one book next week. I just started it - Feed by MT Anderson. And then I have a few others coming up that I just ordered, including The Duff! Can't wait for that. So what have you been reading this week? Share!



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