Saturday, September 1, 2012

Book Reviews - August 2012

The Last Universe by William Sleator

Found this at a used bookstore.  My copy has half of a round sticker partly torn off in the sky area of the cover.  The sticker looks like a planet and I thought for a couple weeks that it was part of the cover art.  Then I realized it was a sticker and felt silly.

This book is about siblings Susan and Gary, who live in a house that's been in their family for generations.  They begin to explore the garden planted by their crazy uncle Arthur and get more than they bargained for.  The garden sends them on an unexpected and frightening adventure, filled with quantum mechanics, probability clouds, multiple universes and Schrodinger's Cat.

If you like fictional tales that delve into theoretical physics, you'll like this one.

Fever by Lauren DeStefano

This is the second book in The Chemical Garden Trilogy.  I don't really know what that series name means, but I do like these books.

Fever follows the continuing story of Rhine, who was kidnapped and sold into polygamous marriage in Wither.  The misguided work of scientists to infinitely prolong human life has left the younger generations with an awful inheritance: girls die at age 20, boys at age 25.  In order to find a cure, men marry multiple girls, hoping to conceive a child born with immunity.  Wither spoiler alert: Rhine escaped her captivity, but she's fallen into the wrong hands once again in Fever.

Will she be able to find a way to her twin brother, Rowan?  Or will her time run out before she has a chance to see him again?  Recommended.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker

This memoir by a Mormon, female, stand-up comedienne from New York chronicles the challenges facing a religious "big" girl in the Big Apple.  Written in a witty voice that had me laughing out loud, I recommend this book to all finding it hard to fit in.

Elna Baker is FUNNY.

Warnings on: language, sexual situations.

 The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Teen thief Gen is released from prison to steal something for the king.  Set in the Middle-Ages Mediterranean, this adventure pits Gen against royals, soldiers and even gods.

His captors think they've got Gen just where they want him, but the wily thief might be able to turn this sticky situation to his advantage in the end.

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

You might remember Jaycee Dugard's story from the news.  Kidnapped at 11 and held captive for 18 years by a drug-addicted pedophile and his wife, the author was able to survive during her ordeal, learning much about herself and her love for animals and children. This memoir is a harrowing account of the unthinkable.  Written from her adult perspective, it becomes a powerful story of hope.

This book is very detailed and graphic.  Not recommended for sensitive readers.

Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

In February 2007, Black and Larbalestier began a blog debate on which was better: Zombies or Unicorns.  They received so much interest that they decided to put together a book that might answer the question once and for all.  Twelve stories from some of the hottest names in YA fiction weigh in (so to speak) on the argument.

I enjoyed this anthology.  I recommend it to both lovers of zombies and unicorns.  I love both, so I was very pleased.  In the end, there is one clear winner: the readers.

Warnings on: language, violence, sexual situations.

The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn does his best to survive in a world devastated by war and the super-flu in this post-apocalyptic tale.  He and his family have eked out a living as salvagers, but his grandfather's death and father's accident have left him alone.  He comes to Settler's landing, a community that seems to have been untouched by the destruction, almost too good to be true.  And we know that when something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

This book was a pretty quick read.  Fans of dystopia and post-apocalyptic will like it.  I'll definitely pass it along to Cyndal.

Warnings on: violence, end of the world themes.

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

This novel, told entirely in images, follows piano prodigy Glory through family tragedy, young love and mental illness.  Part mystery, part meta-fiction, this book is beautiful and fascinating.  The story unfolds toward an unexpected ending that has you turning back to the beginning the minute you finish it.

The part I'm most excited about is the changing book industry.  I love it when a great idea can succeed outside the box.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Amazing Flash Fiction

So I have been invited to present at a storytelling event on August 30th in Salt Lake City.  The event is called Goodnight Summer and will begin at 7pm.  There will be seven readers of poetry and short fiction and let me tell you, every single piece is GREAT!  (Even mine, they say.)  I will be presenting the first chapter of my novel (which is almost finished.)  If you want to come, let me know on Facebook and I will send you the invite.

But here is the flash fiction I wanted to share!  So at one of our Goodnight Summer rehearsals, Christian read this piece to us to fill a time slot (it will not be presented at the event) and I was amazed.  Do you ever run across pieces like that?  You read it and go, "If only I had written that!"

Here it is:

Mermaid In A Jar by Sheila Heti

Read and be thoroughly entertained for just a couple minutes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Book Reviews - July 2012

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This book was very unexpected for me.  A beautiful tale of loss and grief.  Literally beautiful, actually, because the book is chock full of gorgeous grayscale images (example on the cover).  I feel that the illustrator, Jim Kay, should have been credited on the front of the book.  His images create a mood for the prose that wouldn't have been there if not for the atmospheric illustrations on nearly every page.

This book follows the story of thirteen-year-old Conor, whose mother is suffering from a debilitating illness.  As if that's not enough to deal with, Conor begins to receive visitations from a monster, but not the monster he expects.  I cried at the end.  Which I didn't expect from the beginning.  Themes of loss, grief, bullying.

Blackbird by Jennifer Lauck

Blackbird is a beautifully heart-breaking memoir, capturing a snapshot of the writer's early childhood.

I loved it.  A lot.

Themes: loss, grief, abuse.

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis

"Here's the description from Amazon: This exceptional graphic novel recounts the spiritual odyssey of philosopher Bertrand Russell. In his agonized search for absolute truth, Russell crosses paths with legendary thinkers.  But his most ambitious goal—to establish unshakable logical foundations of mathematics—continues to loom before him. This story is at the same time a historical novel and an accessible explication of some of the biggest ideas of mathematics and modern philosophy. 
At its heart, Logicomix is a story about the conflict between an ideal rationality and the unchanging, flawed fabric of reality."

I liked it.

The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison

I was privileged to hear Mette Ivie Harrison present at WIFYR.  She compared writing a novel to running a 50 mile race.  Yes, you read that right: FIFTY MILES.  She said that her agent called this book weird, and I have to agree.  This book was weird.

George is a prince bound to marry a princess from a neighboring kingdom, but when he finally meets her, he begins to develop feelings he didn't expect.

Read it and then let me know.  I'd like to hear what you thought.  I quite liked it.

The Plague by Joanne Dahme

Fifteen-year-old Nell was brought into the royal court to act as Princess Joan's double, and what orphan wouldn't want to leave a life of poverty to make new friends and travel the world in luxury? But Nell's experience takes a bad turn when the Black Plague rears its ugly head again during a visit to a neighboring kingdom.

The protagonist in this book seems younger than her fifteen years.  I would recommend this book to a mature eleven or twelve-year-old reader.

Warnings on: plague related yuckiness, violence.

The Worthing Saga by Orson Scott Card

I picked up this copy at a library book sale.  Orson Scott Card for me is awesome... or not.  I always feel one way or the other, really strongly.  Ender's Game is in my top ten favorite books of all time.  I love all four books in the Ender cycle.  Other stories of Card's I'm not so crazy about.  But some of them I LOVE.  I guess that's one thing he can be proud of.  Not that he thinks about me, but every story he writes makes me feel something pretty big.

This sci-fi book follows the story of Jason Worthing for thousands of years.  It's also the origin story of a planet.  I'm interested to hear what other people think.

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher

Isn't this cover gorgeous?  I love this cover.  It's actually the reason I picked up the book.  You all know I'm not crazy about photography covers, but they're kind of the rage right now.  But this one is RAD.

I was raised in Arizona, so a world where water is more precious than oil or gold isn't that much of a stretch for me.  And that's where I think the smartness of this book lies.  The world-building was great and I sent the book home with Cyndal, because I think it will really appeal to her.  She's on a dystopian kick right now.

I felt thirsty as I read this.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

What is Max Brooks' dealio?  I am somehow so impressed with this guy.  First he's an actor and voice-over artist, then he writes with the SNL team, then he writes The Zombie Survival Guide and a follow-up.  Then this.  This book actually scared me.  I started reading it about six months ago and had to take a break.  I picked it up again because it just happened to be sitting on the bed after Tyler used it as a mouse pad.

This book outlines all of the ramifications of a global (zombie) pandemic: social, economic, political, military, ecological, etc.  It was actually quite a fascinating read.  I recommend it, but warnings on: language, violence, gore, general creepiness.

                                                   Z for Zachariah by Robert O'Brien
This is a post-apocalyptic that I never read as a kid, which is weird, because it was out there.  It tells the story of Ann Burden, a sixteen-year-old sole survivor in her settlement after nuclear war.  The valley settlement itself has escaped radioactive fallout since it inexplicably lies in some kind of weather pocket.  Eventually a man comes to the settlement and they begin a tense interaction that ends in a chilling climax.  Told from Ann's point of view, the entire tale unfolds in journal entries.  A little dated, but it's to be expected.  I liked it.  Don't look for a nice, neat ending.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Book Reviews for June 2012

So this actually doesn't seem like very many books.  And it isn't.  But keep in mind that I read 280 pages of manuscript for my WIFYR workshop.  Twice.  And made editing notes.  Tyler reminded me I wasn't lazy last month, even tho I only read seven books.

172 Hours On The Moon by Johan Harstad

Part psychological thriller, part sci-fi horror, I could definitely see this book as a movie.  When Nasa's shady mission to return to the moon culminates in a lottery allowing three lucky teens to accompany the astronauts, things begin to go awry.  Danger and death result.

One nice thing about this book was that none of the main teen characters were American.  One was French, one was Japanese and one was Norwegian.  There were some questions posed that were never answered, but all in all, I'm very interested to see who options this film and what they turn it into.

 Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

Carol assigned this for our reading in preparation for WIFYR.  I had read it before, two summers ago when Little Debbie loaned it to me, but I decided to read it again.

Okay, I know the cover is a little enigmatic and girly, and the title seems . . . skewed toward the romance genre, but this book is AMAZING.  The prose is luscious.  I enjoyed every word.

Lips Touch is actually a collection of three novellas in the speculative fiction genre (fantasy, but not high fantasy) about first kisses.  And they're not the sweet, everything's-roses kinds of first kisses.  They're gateways to darkness or awareness or transcendence.  These tales are creepy.  Highly recommended!

The Loser's Guide To Life and Love by A.E. Cannon

This delightful little book, written by a woman I know and admire, Ann Cannon, was probably the biggest surprise I've had this year.  I didn't know what to expect from the cover, but I didn't expect a laugh-out-loud story of new love and strange coincidences.

The summer Ed works a boring job at Reel Life Movies, he meets a mysterious and beautiful girl visiting from out of town and decides to adopt the name on his hand-me-down name tag: Sergio.  Romantic hijinks ensue, with wonderful changes in the POV with other characters, all leading up to a midsummer night's party no one will forget.

I was reading this on my couch and Ginny kept looking at me because I couldn't stop laughing at this book.  No questionable content.  Highly recommended.

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

Here is another book that surprised me.  I didn't really know what to expect, never having read Pete Hautman.  But he was on Carol's list, so I took the leap.  This is YA speculative fic.  I guess we could call it sci-fi, although it wasn't written like modern sci-fi, so it threw me for a bit.  I found this book riveting.  And I loved the prose.

I actually want to give absolutely nothing away about this book.  I would love for you all to read it and let me know what you think.  I have a copy if you want to borrow.

Highly recommended.

Outside In by Maria V. Snyder

This is a companion, sequel and final chapter to Inside Out, which review you can read from last month.

I found this sci-fi dystopian duo very compelling.  I wanted to know why they were in danger, who was threatening them and how they would get out of their predicament.  Trella is a very proactive and resourceful heroine.  I think anyone who enjoys this genre will get a kick out of Inside (the duo's name).

Warnings on: Violence, sexual situations.


Stolen by Lucy Christopher

When Gemma is abducted from the airport during a family vacation, she doesn't know if she'll ever see her family again.  But as she struggles to find a way to escape, she begins to feel empathy toward her captor.

Written as a letter from victim to abductor, this novel in 2nd person perspective won a Printz Honor award.

Warnings on: disturbing situations of captivity (no sexual abuse), may not be suitable for younger or sensitive readers.  But a very interesting study of a kidnapping relationship.

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

So I was privileged to hear Trent Reedy present a keynote speech at WIFYR this year.  He explained his service in Afghanistan, his journey to publishing and what ultimately inspired him to write this book.  I was very moved by his words.

Thirteen year-old Zulaikha has grown up with some very hard things.  Her inability to attend school, her cleft palate, the loss of her mother, her stern stepmother.  But she never stops dreaming of better things.  Through the generous teachings of a friend, Zulaikha finds inspiration in poetry and literature and hope in the meager blessings that come her way.

Trent Reedy says he wrote this book partly as a tool to help children develop empathy for the people of Afghanistan.  It's a beautiful book, and I highly recommend it.

Trent Reedy said, "Write your book.  Because you don't know who, someday, somewhere, will pick it up and read it.  And it will save their life.  You can't know.  So write it."

Warnings on: a scene of domestic violence, a scene of a Taliban home invasion, and a scene with descriptions of a badly burned character.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Writing update & WIFYR tidbit

Wrote my thousand words again last night. I was racing my laptop to the end of its battery and I won! They weren't amazing words but they're the start of an important plot point. One thing I learned at WIFYR, from both Ann Dee Ellis and Carol: how to inject emotion from your own life into the life of your MC. We wrote exercises with the original incident IRL and then took the emotion we experienced and wrote it into a scene with our MC. It was very interesting and it was fun and a good reminder that our MC doesn't have to experience exactly what we do to go through the same emotional reactions.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WIFYR 2012

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers was amazing this year.  I was privileged to work with Carol Lynch Williams and 14 other talented writers during the five day morning workshop.  In the afternoons, I attended several wonderful break-out sessions and listened to an inspired keynote address by Trent Reedy.  He urged us to write our story.  "You don't know who will read your book.  You can't know whose life it will save.  It will save someone's."


I will write more about it in subsequent posts.

Here's a quick story:

Carol motioned to me.  "I need to talk to you."

It made me feel the same sensation as when Don Seegmiller said, "I need to talk to you."  My first thought being, What did I do wrong?  We walked outside after class and she asked me about my manuscript.  I told her why it wasn't finished yet.  My plans for completing it in August after the kids go back to their dad.  She stopped me just outside the main building and said:

"I'm going to be mean to you now.  Ready?"


"This manuscript should have been done a long time ago.  This book should have been in the pipeline for publication two years ago and you should have finished your second book already.  You need to finish it.  You will get up early before your kids get up and you will write 1,000 words a day until it's done.  You will finish it this summer.  I know it's hard.  I know it's hard to write.  I know it's hard to work on, but you will work on it every day.  What are you going to say when someone (editor/agent) asks to see it?  What are you going to say to them?"

"What should I say to them, Carol?  Tell me what to say."

"You will say, 'It's almost finished,' and you will work every day on it until it is finished."

"Okay, Carol.  I will do that."

Then she hugged me.  That's not mean.  That's someone I admire greatly (writer of 28 published books) saying to me, "I believe in you so much that I am telling you this book you're working on WILL  be published.  It's a given.  All you have to do is finish it."

SO TODAY I WROTE 1,000 WORDS.  And it was easy.  It was so easy.  Here's why.  I turned off my internal editor.  I promised Carol I would write without my backspace or my delete.  I promised I would write an ugly, dirty, stinky draft that's not polished at all.  And I started writing that way today and it was AMAZING.

I will post updates here on my progress and make sure to let you know when I write.  Which will be every day.  Because Carol said so, and I do what my mentors -- like Carol and Will Terry -- tell me.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Reviews - May 2012

The Dark and Hollow Places by Carried Ryan

I just love this series, kicked off by the post-apocalyptic zombie tale The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  Each book in the trilogy has a different protagonist, but they're all linked and their interweaving stories are very satisfying.  This book follows Annah, left to survive on her own in the Dark City.  She's a very compelling character, and I found her story almost impossible to put down.  Ryan's prose is lovely.  My favorite part is the chilling chase through the dead subway system, complete with a zombie horde.

This book is scary.

Warnings on: violence, gore, general scariness.

 The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Lots of werewolves.  Rippling muscles.  Fans of Twilight will enjoy it.

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

Trella lives as a scrub, spending most of her time in the network of ventilation and water tubes criss-crossing Inside, earning her the name: Queen of the Pipes.  She is one of 18,000 other scrubs, stuffed into the overpopulated lower levels of Inside.  Their lives are circumscribed into 10 hour rotating schedules: 20 hours per day, five days per hundred hour week.  Thanks to the passage of time and a political coup in the upper levels, no one remembers what is Outside, but Trella makes it her mission to find out.

I loved how this dystopian tale unfolded.  And the fascinating reveal about Outside just added that many more questions.  Which might be answered in sequel!


Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

This middle-grade book details the story of a unique narrator: Melody, an eleven-year old trapped in a body limited by cerebral palsy.  Her brain is completely intact, and very precocious.  Melody has a photographic memory and an indomitable spirit.

I highly recommend this book, especially for children.  It could contribute to the real development of sympathy and charity toward people with disabilities.

No warnings.
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

When her father is diagnosed with multiple schlerosis, Payton Gritas finds it hard to talk about, so her counselor assigns her to find a focus object.  Payton decides to focus on the boy who sits in front of her.  Well, specifically on his head.  As she learns more about Sean Griswold, the boy who's been sitting in front of her for years, she finds a distraction from her problems at home, a new crush and a way to cope.
 That Summer by Sarah Dessen

Here is the description from Amazon: At five-foot-eleven ("and counting"), Haven is "all bony elbows and acute angles, like a jigsaw puzzle piece that can only go in the middle, waiting for the others to fit around it to make it whole." But it is not just a sudden growth spurt that prevents the 15-year-old from fitting into the comfortable grooves of her "old" life; her family is also changing at an alarming rate. 

I liked it.  

This was a debut novel, and as such, it's worth reading.

 Waiting by Carol Lynch Williams

London and Zach were close as siblings.  When Zach dies, the family is torn apart.  London's mother refuses to speak to her and her father has withdrawn in his own way.

This book is lovely, lyrical and heart-breaking.

Highly recommended.

Warnings on: serious themes.

 If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Here's the description from Amazon: In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen ­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make.

This is a beautiful book.  I recommend it.

Warnings on: a scene of disturbing imagery, language.

White Cat by Holly Black

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers—people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, all by the slightest touch of their hands. Since curse work is illegal, they’re all criminals. But not Cassel. He hasn’t got the magic touch, so he’s an outsider—the straight kid in a crooked family—as long as you ignore one small detail: He killed his best friend, Lila. Now he is sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat. He also notices that his brothers are keeping secrets from him. As Cassel begins to suspect he’s part of one huge con game, he must unravel his past and his memories. To find out the truth, Cassel will have to outcon the conmen.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  It had a series of satisfying twists that I found very entertaining.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Carol's Book List

Here is the reading list for Carol's WIFYR advanced novel writing class.  I have starred the ones I've already read:

Any of Carol's latest.  I'm guessing The Chosen One*, Glimpse*, Miles From Ordinary*, Waiting.

Heck Superhero - Martine Leavitt

White Cat - Holly Black

Everything Is Fine* - Ann Dee Ellis

Anything by Pete Hautman

Words in the Dust - Trent Reedy

Anything by Sarah Dessen

A Loser's Guide to Life and Love - A.E. Cannon

The Anatomy of Wings* - Karen Foxlee

The Sky Is Everywhere* - Jandy Nelson

Anything by Tom Wynn Jones

How to Save a Life* - Sarah Zarr

Lips Touch: Three Times* - Laini Taylor

If I Stay - Gayle Forman

I haven't read anything by Sarah Dessen.  I didn't get any recommendations and she has SO many books on the shelves with attractive foot covers, I just wasn't sure what to do.  So I'll have to go get a couple I guess.  I don't have any of the other books.  I will try to find some at the library.

I trust Carol.  The ones on the list I have read were FANTASTIC.  It's like I'm in a college class I can't wait to get the assignments for.  Weird.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Reviews for April 2012

Partials by Dan Wells

This is post-apocalyptic.  It seemed longer than it needed to be, but I was interested in the major conflict between the two groups, so I didn't lose interest.  A couple of twisty things that happened took me by surprise, but the main reveal I saw coming.  I'm not exactly sure why.  Maybe because I like writing things like this, so I'm used to working used to figuring out similar problems.

I think you would like it Kari Larsen.

 The Clockwork Three by Matthew Kirby

This book is totally steampunk.  I mean, it looks steampunk on the cover, and Geary said, "This is really steampunk."  And sometimes things look like they are without really being so, and have a steampunk feel, but this really was.

It follows the circuitous journeys of three middle-grade/YA protagonists: Guiseppe, the busker, Frederick, the clock-maker's apprentice and Hannah, a girl from the tenements working to support her family.

The web of plot for each character grows more and more complex, then unravels in just the right way to make for a satisfying and happy ending.  I recommend this as a read-aloud family book.  Just the right amount of excitement, intrigue and heart.  It's a bit long, but worth it.  And it's steampunk!

 Compound by S.A. Bodeen

This book follows a teen male main character through the end of the world into the safe underground compound built by his father to house his family until radiation has passed.  But things aren't what they seem.

The father is a very interesting character.  And the family's dilemma is unthinkable.  This psychological thriller would make a great movie.

Warnings on: mature themes.
The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

What the Carrie Ryan?

This is the sequel to The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which I didn't like but think it was only because I'd just read Jane Eyre.  Just for your information, you should never read anything after Jane Eyre.  Just give recreational reading a break for a couple of weeks and allow your brain to reset to a more normal level of prose.  Cuz Charlotte Bronte is just too awesome.

(EDIT: I went back and read The Forest of Hands and Teeth, and Jane Eyre WAS the problem. I am actually quite a big fan of Ryan's. She does brilliant short fiction too. Brilliant.)

Ryan's prose is perfect.  Efficient, but beautiful.  Did I mention this is a zombie book.  It's a really creepy one too.  And well-written.  A well-written zombie book.  Post-apocalyptic, zombie, literary-style, YA romance?  What the heck.  Kudos, Carrie Ryan.  Kudos to you.  I had nightmares.

Warnings on: zombie stuff.

There Is No Long Distance Now by Naomi Shihab Nye

A series of short short stories, There Is No Long Distance Now is a gorgeous look into human interactions with young adults as the main characters.  I was spell-bound from the first paragraph.

Brilliant, brilliant prose.

And it's no wonder, because Shihab Nye is a poet.

I will be purchasing my own copy.
How To Save A Life by Sarah Zarr

Jill is a senior who should be thinking about the future, instead she's stuck in the past, still grieving over the unexpected death of her father ten months before.  Her mother decides to adopt a baby and brings the birth-mother, an unwed teen named Mandy, to live at their house until the delivery.  Mandy has her own emotional baggage to deal with.  Jill doesn't want to have anything to do with the adoption.  The dynamic between the three women is fascinating to watch.

The narrative is told from two perspectives: Jill and Mandy, who switch off every chapter.  This is the first time Zarr has done this and her adroit handling of the split narrative is admirable.  Each character has her own unique voice, both compelling.

This beautiful tale of loss and life really touched me.  I sat and marveled over more than one sentence, but here's an example: "Her face is a sheet of ice."  I know, right?  Sarah Zarr, congratulations on another triumph.  I really care about these characters.

Highly recommended.  Warnings on: mature themes, including sexual abuse.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

I find describing this book a difficult task.  I enjoyed it very much. Actually, on a portion of the book toward the end, I experienced a visceral reaction to what I was reading.  I was overcome by anxiety and serious stomach-ache when I began to find out what had been happening with a certain character.  I loved that.  It's just that, this book is hard to put a finger on.  It's contemporary YA lit. It's literary . . . it's really beautiful actually.  But in a completely unexpected way.  John Corey Whaley did very interesting things with the prose.  The POV kept changing.  It would flip from first person present, to second person (I know!), and third person.  Flashbacks told in the past tense.  It reminded me of Fight Club that way (also a debut novel) which you all know I thoroughly enjoy.  He weaves in an odd subplot that ends up having a huge impact on the main character's story.  Zombies are prevalent, but it's not a zombie book.  And the bird on the cover might lead you to think that it's about birds.  There are birds, but they're more of a metaphor.  There are angels too.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around it.  I can tell you this though:  I literally sobbed at the end.

Warnings on: language, sexual situations, SUSPENSE.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gearing Up for WIFYR 2012

So I'm going to be in Carol Lynch Williams' writing workshop at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers this summer.  Things are already gearing up, as we are commanded to write a page of fiction every day, compose a pitch for our novel and do other assignments.  I am very excited and a little nervous.  At least I know what to expect, and there will be many familiar faces there.  I will post my WIFYR journey here.  Feel free to follow along.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Hi all,

So, exciting things this morning. I got published twice!

You can read my creative nonfiction piece Acts of Kindness at The Anthem Exposition. It's a work dedicated to all those who have helped me along my path of healing.


You can read my post-apocalyptic sci-fi tale of survival and loss "Eric" at Wily Writers. You can find my Wily Writers profile here. Scroll down on the "Eric" page and you'll find a link to an audio performance of the story! This is for you Will Terry.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Book Reviews for March 2012

Dust Lands: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

This is a post-apocalyptic tale with a young adult woman named Saba as the main character.  She's an archer, she engages in battle with other young adults, she has a little sister she risks her own life to keep safe.  Oh wait, sounds like I'm talking about The Hunger Games.  But I'm not.  Katniss and Saba have a lot in common, they're both strong, female, young, surviving in a post-apocalyptic/dystopian landscape.  But the books are very different.  I Blood Red Road a lot.  Saba's voice is great.  I recommend it, especially to people who enjoyed The Hunger Games.  But don't expect it to be the same.  In my opinion, it's much more intense.  I don't want to give anything at all away.  There's romance.  Blergh.  But read it and come talk to me.  I am curious to know what you think.  This means you Kari Larsen.  I'll read the sequel.

Also, Ridley Scott optioned the rights to a Dust Lands film already.

Prose complaint: The are no quotation marks.  Yes, just like Cormac McCarthy.  Some people find this pretentious.  I just find it difficult.  After a while, you get the rhythm, but I think I'd rather not have to work so hard.

Cover complaint: she's walking without alternating her arms and legs.  The only people who walk like that are aliens on Galaxy Quest.

Warnings on: violence.

 Across the Universe by Beth Revis

This is sci-fi.  There's planetary colonization, cryogenic freezing, continuous consideration and analysis of the ship's systems.  There's also a lot of sociopolitical discussion.  And a murder mystery.  You wouldn't think these things would mix as well as they do, but as it says in the book cover, "compulsively readable."  And it really is.  I read 200 pages to Tyler as we drove down to Arizona.  He has dyslexia, so he has difficulty reading aloud.  Instead of taking a break from the book so he could have a break from driving, he drove the whole way so I could read the book out loud.

There is an interesting problem in the book that I'm not sure how Revis is going to handle.  But I am looking forward to seeing her solution.

Warnings on: sexual situations, violence, assault.  Sensitive readers beware.

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

YA graphic novel.  This is a ghost story.  Obviously.  It's sweet and clever and creeeepy.  I heard it was creepy.  But it wasn't creepy for a long time and then it WAS.

Lovely little artwork, accessible main character and a mystery to be solved.  Isn't the cover RAD?

Warnings on: language.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Book Reviews for Feb 2012

The Wolving Time by Patrick Jennings

Paranormal drama set in the late 1500s. Highly recommended.

Warnings on: violence, disturbing imagery.

Variant by Robison Wells

Dystopian thriller with a twisty ending. I liked it.  I would tell more, but I really don't want to give anything at all away.  Read it and tell me what you think.  There's a sequel, but it's only a series of two.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for that, Mr. Wells.

Also, Robison Wells is very nice. I met him in a corner at LTUE, after recognizing him from the photo on the back of his book (see those photos come in handy!) and we talked about his twisty ending. I told him I bought the ARC of Variant at a library book sale for a dollar. He was impressed.  Or grumpy.  Maybe both.  I would be grumpy.  And impressed.  Us writers love getting great books at a good price.  Alisha got an ARC of Cinder at that book sale and I was jealous.

I look forward to the sequel, called Feedback.  I will probably buy the regular copy at regular price.  Unless I find an ARC at a book sale.  You never know.  I want to see Variant as a movie.  I can definitely see it as a movie.  Even a mini-series!

Warnings on: Violence.

Drought by Pam Bachorz

Very strange pseudo-period romance. But it's sort of in the future. But it's not. But it is. Did I mention strange? I had some problems with it, but a lot of them stemmed from the ARC, which I'm sure were corrected in the final printing.

I think it's a series. We'll see where she takes it.

Warnings on: Violence.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Acts of Courage

Check out my new article, Acts of Courage, in The Anthem Exposition.

It tells the tale of my return to school... well, the short version anyway.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 4, 2012