Book Review: UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

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Title: UnWholly
Author: Neal Shusterman
Series: Unwind Dystology (Book 2)
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (October 15, 2013)
Language: English
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
ISBN-10: 1442423676
ISBN-13: 978-1442423671
Amazon Reviews: 4.7 Stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa—and their high-profile revolt at Happy Jack Harvest Camp—people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding. Ridding society of troublesome teens while simltaneously providing much-needed tissues for transplant might be convenient, but its morality has finally been brought into question. However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.

Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist. A futuristic Frankenstein, Cam struggles with a search for identity and meaning and wonders if a rewound being can have a soul. And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.

So I have to admit something. When I read male YA authors, I can usually tell (John Green excepted). There’s just something about the way they write, and sometimes it feels like they aren’t as in touch with character’s feelings as female authors. Male authors can usually connect with anger and fear, but I often feel a disconnect when dealing with the other emotions. I fully accept this could be me, and not them, but I have found it a recurring theme. I certainly felt this way while reading UnWind, the first in the series. Maybe I’m getting used to Shusterman’s writing style, or maybe this book was different, or maybe I felt more invested in the characters this time around. Whatever the case, I didn’t have the same issue with UnWholly.

I don’t want to give away too much, but we still have the same set of main characters (Connor, Rissa, Lev), as well as a few other minor characters, and we also have one new character, Cam. I’ll try to be coy, but let’s just say Cam sealed the deal for me. I’d have enjoyed this book without him, but his story line had me hooked beyond the rest of the book.

Especially since we get the same plot around Connor that we had in the first book: Connor doesn’t want the responsibility of being a leader, but he is, and he is thwarted by another teen who wants power for himself. It just felt over done. It was Roland and Connor all over again, but slightly different. Starkey is this new antagonist character, and it felt like just another sub-plot. The novel could have been complete without him. I realize Shusterman has plans for him, and maybe I’ll change my mind when I read the next two books in the series, but for this book, he was just in the way of the story I really wanted to read.

Overall, this was a good read. I can’t wait to read the next two in the series as well as the novella. It explores deep subjects like abortion, mortality, morality, and every sub-topic surrounding those. This is a good way for teens to think about the ramifications and intricacies of these topics and I’m excited to see the series is being used in classrooms as educational material around the country. Not everyone is going to agree with the viewpoints, but I actually think Shusterman does a decent job of expressing ideas without getting preachy and allowing readers to form their own thoughts on the subjects.

My Review: 4/5 stars

Even Agents Make Mistakes . . .

Water abstractI nearly had a heart attack yesterday. Okay, so that’s a little melodramatic, but still, you might see why in a second.

Opening up my email in the morning, I spied one down the list that was possibly from an agent. As a way to ignore potential rejections and calm the inevitable hopes for a request, I answered each email in turn, forcing myself to wait before I could get to this potential let down or joy bringer.

As it turned out, it was a joy bringer. Full request! That was my second in four days. I must be doing something right. It was really going to happen for me. If not these two potential agents, then someone else down the line. This interest couldn’t be a fluke. I was on the right track.

I was halfway through a text to Hubby expressing my excitement and optimism when another email popped up in my Inbox. From the same agent. Somehow I knew this couldn’t be good news.

Basically, he was just back from vacation, swamped with emails, and inadvertently sent me a request for a full, when really he was form rejecting me. It was a nice, polite email, but it sucked nonetheless. Uggh!

The funny thing is, when I received my other requests, I sat staring at my Inbox, making sure it wasn’t a mistake. Waiting for that email that said, “Oops! Sorry about that! JK!” But they never came. And I told myself I was being silly and ridiculous thinking that might happen. Umm, yeah, not so silly I guess. 🙂

Anyway, I’m not even angry at the agent, because we really do all make mistakes. Of course, his mistake caused waves of unmitigated happiness, only to crash with devastating pain, but hey, that’s all right. Agents are human too, and this just goes to prove it. So don’t be too angry at an agent for a form rejection or a mistake in correspondence or how long it takes for them to get back to you. They are busy people. Busy real people. And we all have an off day.

Does anyone else have an odd agent story to tell? Mistakes? Miscommunication? Especially if it’s funny and you can laugh about it now!

Motivational Monday!

So I had this brilliant and not-so-original idea to create Motivational Monday posts designed to promote positive thinking on a day we can all use it. Turns out, I’m not the only one who has ever thought of this. And that doesn’t exactly surprise me. Be that as it may, it is my intention to flood you reader with motivational memes, music videos and quotes to kick-start your week of writing. Okay, maybe it’s more for myself. Form rejections and utter email silence can make an author wonder what they are devoting so many hours to. Hopefully, it will benefit us all. And by “flood” I really mean 2 or 3 or however many I can muster the time to create! Happy Motivational Monday!

In Defense of Katherine Hale??!

Inside Explosion

I feel a sickness in the pit of my stomach as I tap away at the keys. Before you throw me on a Goodreads blacklist, boycott my as yet unpublished book, or unfollow my blog, please read through this post. And keep an open mind. Something I’m afraid very few people have been doing on the internet these days.


But neither do I support Cold Ware-era Red-scare blacklisting going on right now by book bloggers and Goodreads.

I’ll be honest, this is the second time I’ve written this post. And about the fifth time in my head. I had it scheduled to run on Wednesday, but wasn’t happy with it, so made some changes. After careful thought, I decided not to delve too far into this topic, mainly because it’s mostly been done. I have a few thoughts I’ll share and a few blog posts I’ll link to, but beyond that, I’m going to attempt to wash my hands (and my mind) of this whole affair.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you can catch up by reading this article. And check your Twitter and Tumblr feed, and Facebook and blogs everywhere. Because it’s being discussed on every media outlet I use.

For another take, check out this post on the Confessions of a Book Geek blog. The author has clearly done far more investigation into this issue than I (read the comments as well), but I also fear has a bit of a bias being a book blogger herself.

To understand Katherine Hale and what is obviously some kind of obsessive/compulsive disorder, take a look at her article in The Guardian from July.

I’ll be honest, I first read Katherine Hale’s catfish article like a car accident on the side of the road. You can’t look away, but you know it’s going to end badly. There was a part of me that was glad she called out this blogger, but at the same time, I felt it was completely unnecessary. She could have let it go and moved on, but had to create an issue out of it.

But while I believe Hale was wrong, I don’t think she deserves to be crucified for it. And neither do authors who have come to her defense. There is currently a Goodreads blacklist which I will not link to, that calls for a boycott of Hale and all authors who support her. To me, this is the pot calling the kettle black. Hale is vilified for attempting to unmask a blogger and essentially silence her negative criticizing voice, so in turn book bloggers are attempting to silence the voice of Hale and anyone who supports her. Two wrongs don’t make a right. We learned that in grammar school people.

I say, voice your opinion on your blog, Twitter, FB, whatever, if you feel so inclined. Don’t buy or read books by authors if you feel that strongly about it, but really, you’ll never agree with everything an author says or does. Why pick this? You might be against abortion, but are reading books by people who support it, but you don’t know. Banning, boycotting and shunning people because they voice a belief is trying to silence their voice. We don’t want to silence voices in this country. At least I don’t. I’d love to hear all opinions, critically internalize and process, then I go on with my life in the manner I see fit. If Hale committed a crime, then follow that line. If you feel she committed a crime, but legally did not, then try to get legislation changed. Voices are good. That’s how this country moves forward.

And as for what Hale should have done, well take a look at this article on Pub(lishing) Crawl for how to handle criticism.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this situation isn’t black and white. It’s so grey it looks like an Abnegation meeting. What we really need is for everyone to calm down instead of this internet fiasco of polarizing sides and people trying to strong-arm their opinion into the right. Really, everyone is right. Authors should have the right to defend their books, in a business-like and appropriate manner. Book reviewers have the right to their opinions, but they should put it forth in a business-like and appropriate manner. Book reviewers have the right to their privacy, and if they choose anonymity, so be it. But personally, I have never posted a review that I couldn’t and wouldn’t defend to someone’s face. Maybe that’s the key: write your review as if the writer is sitting across from you and reading every word, and they’re someone you know.

The internet has made us too callous to the feelings of others and the use of basic decorum in our conversations. Why is it, we as a society have become so polarized, so quick to judge, and so vehement in our stance of perceived right? Have we lost the ability to see both sides of an issue and grant each person their dues? Where are the moderates in all of this? And every other situation? I’m guessing, like me, they’re afraid to speak out, because the backlash can be too much to bear.

And one final side note. Hale asks if she’s being “catfished” in her article. Several people on Twitter have commented that she doesn’t know what catfishing is. To that I say, you’re wrong. Sort of.

Definition of “catfish” from Urban Dictionary:

A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

Further investigation showed that the term “catfish” is used for any person creating a false internet persona. While this is usually used for romantic endeavors, it is not restricted to that.

Every person posting, tweeting or talking about this issue has their own agenda and bias (me included), and everyone’s thoughts should be taken with a grain of salt when forming your own. But one thing is abundantly clear: Don’t stalk a book reviewer. You will regret it!

Newbie Post #9: Your Novel Is Not Ready to be Seen by Anyone!

Your Novel Is Not ready

So you finished that novel! All 129,000 words are shining and screaming for attention: Read me! Read me! Read me! But they’re not screaming at you. Oh no, they have much juicier prey to sink their many, many, many teeth into. So you hit up your husband, or your mom, or your sister, or that college friend who was an English major. But let me stop you right there . . .

First, there’s a good chance your novel isn’t ready to be seen by anyone. Believe it or not, you have some editing to do. Read through that monster, and take your time. Check for typos, delete unnecessary sentences, replace and/or delete filter words. You may need to cut scenes that aren’t advancing the plot or combine characters because you have too many, or any number of other tweaks and fixes to make that novel shine. And you’ll get far more out of your readers if you’ve ironed out some major kinks before you toss it in their lap like a basket of rocks.

And keep in mind, friends and relatives are not the best readers of your work. If you need a confidence boost, and don’t mind burdening your loved ones with that task, then go ahead. But don’t expect real constructive criticism. Even if they’re a reader. I have found not one of my family/friend readers have given me very useful feedback. Well, excepting that one doctor who helped with my medical scenes. And my Hubby who always asks important questions about the story. Otherwise, they serve to help me believe it isn’t total rubbish. That’s about it. (Even if it was total rubbish!)

My advice to you would be to read as many books on writing as you can find, Google articles and blog posts on revision and editing, check out my post on filter words—coming soon—and while you’re at it, my Pinterest board The Business of Writing is a plethora of articles and posts related to writing. There’s no shortage of info to help you be a better writer, so use it. It can’t hurt, and it will most likely help in a big way.

Newbie Post #10: Filters Are For Coffee, Not For Writing!

Newbie Post #1: My Humble Beginnings . . .
Newbie Post #2: Dreams Awakening . . .
Newbie Post #3: Yeah, About That Hobby Thing . . .
Newbie Post #4: Sally Green’s Acknowledgments and Why They Mean Something to Me
Newbie Post #5: Let it go! Let it go! Turn away and slam the door!
Newbie Post #6: Sometimes you Win; Sometimes you LEARN!
Newbie Post #7: Beta Readers and Why They Rock! . . . Most of the Time . . .
Newbie Post #8: Writing Prompts Are One-Night Stands!

The Query Process: Its Own Brand of Crazy!

Reject Key Means Decline Or DenyAs if the grueling process of writing an entire novel isn’t enough, now you have to find an agent to represent your book for its best chance of publication!

I know I jokingly said in an earlier post something to the effect of, “How much time can querying agents take?”, but that was a little tongue-in-cheek. I actually knew researching agents, crafting personal letters and compiling submission material to meet guidelines would be time consuming, I just didn’t realize how much.

And that’s not even considering the mental and emotional strife I’m dealing with. *Refresh email* *Refresh email* *Refresh email* *Partial request!* (Writer’s high) *Form Rejection* (Writer’s low) I think that’s why I find myself emotionally distancing myself from my novel right now. A rejection sends me into a flurry of, “What did I do wrong? What can I fix?” The emotional distance of finding the right business partner for the business document I have written is far less mentally taxing than waiting to see if a brilliant lit agent I admire will give my literary baby a nod of acceptance.

And it’s only week two. I’ve only dipped my toe in to the proverbial shark-infested waters. I’m not calling you literary agents sharks by any means. It’s just that to a writer seeking approval, it can feel like our egos are chum floating in the mixed waters of self-confidence and abject misery. *sigh*

Well, off to research more agents, try to find someone you think you can connect with through nothing but interviews and webpages, and write another sparkling query that will hopefully garner the right attention. This is far harder than actually writing the book, but I would like to say “Thank you!” to all the agents who have taken the time to read my letters. It can be just as hard for an agent to find that diamond in the slush pile, as it is for we writers to find the perfect partner for a literary career.

What kind of querying experience have you had? Do you use a rejection spike for rejection letters? What helps you to keep going, even after multiple rejections? And how many rejections before you say you’ve had enough and move onto another project?

Why a blog post is like a kid’s soccer game . . .

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I recently attended a cold, windy soccer game for Minion #3. With 5 kids, I’ve seen a lot of soccer, and I’ll be seeing a lot more! At this particularly unpleasant evening I had a, er shall we call it . . . an altercation with another parent.

I was pushing a double stroller back and forth behind the rows of parents, keeping one ear to the twins’s demands for “Bottle!” or “Nack!” or “Toy!” (They do speak in complete sentences, but not when they’re whiny, cold and miserable) and one eye on the game. As I passed the row of parents for the opposing team (keep in mind we are all from the same town, same schools, same everything!) I heard a father who is known as a complainer make a comment about the ref’s calls. I’d like to point out these kids are 6 and 7, just for clarity’s sake. His comment was mild, but wrong, and since I’m the wife of the regional soccer commissioner, I took it upon myself to issue a gentle reminder aimed at all the parents as I passed. “It’s just U8 soccer. Thy’re just kids having fun.”

I honestly meant it as a gentle reminder. There was no malice involved. And I wasn’t even singling him out. I didn’t say his name. My tone was not aggressive. And we’ve known each other for years. Apparently, this was unacceptable.

He marched after me demanding to speak and informed me he “didn’t appreciate me calling him out like that.” The discussion ensued, which included me pointing out that the refs are volunteers, they aren’t perfect, it’s U8 soccer, they’re just having fun, and he was wrong anyway because the ref called it right, he just didn’t know the rules, but it was wasted breath. He just wanted to argue, interrupted everything I said and brought up other issues that had no bearing on the discussion in the first place. But the biggest problem was, he was upset I dared to challenge his assessment of the game. And this is where a soccer game is like a blog post.

If you want to internally vilify a referee, call them every name in the book, complain about their calls, convince yourself they are being paid by the other team (I actually had a parent claim this about a volunteer ref at a recreational soccer game for 12 and 13 year-olds) then be my guest. If it’s in your brain you can think whatever you want. The minute you blog, Facebook post, Tweet or speak about your opinions (soccer or otherwise), you have allowed the world around you to respond. So don’t be pissed when someone disagrees with you!

I think it’s important when you respond to an opinion to be as respectful and calm as you can be, otherwise you’re just perpetuating an argument. In fact, if someone’s opinion has you so worked up you’re spitting teeth, it might just be better to hold your tongue. If their opinion is so far out there that you’re that upset, nothing you say can bring them back to the realm of reality. It can be hard, but sometimes it’s better. I could have let that incident go without making my comment, but I wasn’t angry, and I didn’t realize how angry this other person would get. But that was his issue, not mine, and I never apologized for my comment, because he was the one who took it wrong. Plenty of other parents smiled and waved and indicated they agreed with me.

Anyway, just keep that in mind when you post. If you don’t want people to respond, then keep it to yourself. That’s what a blog is for: to generate discussion and share ideas. It’s not about you being right, or getting the last word. And if that’s what you’re aiming for you might want to reconsider why you’re blogging. And the same goes for commenting. Opinions are like . . . well, you know, everyone has one, so don’t expect everyone’s to match yours.

Do you like receiving comments on your blog posts? What if they don’t agree with you? And do you comment on the blogs of others? Why or why not? What’s your biggest pet peeve when bloggers respond to your comments on their posts?