The Trouble With My WIP . . .

Girl Asleep On Her Notebook Computer

The euphoria at having written 64k words in 33 days is past. Long past. Now I’m faced with a WIP I’m not sure what to do with. It has problems. Many problems. Maybe outlining them here will make them less daunting. Or more. Who knows, but here goes . . .

Problem #1: This is probably the second biggest problem, so definitely not listing in order, but that’s okay. Free flow thinking, right? So the problem is POV. Actually it’s more like the tense of the POV. I’ve already written the rough draft in the view point of four characters, and I have every intention of it staying that way. But it is written in 1st person present. It seems to be how I like to write these days, and I think worked very well for my last YA novel. Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s right for this one. It’s been done before, but writing multi-POV in 1st person can be difficult, because you need to make each character very distinct. The reader needs to know at all times whose head they are in. It’s only a rough draft, but I’m not sure I’ve achieved that. So I started writing in a close 3rd person past tense. That way the reader is in the character’s head, but only one narrative voice is needed. But I’m still not sure. More on that later . . .

Problem #2: There are some plot motivation holes. I don’t see this as a big deal, because I know why the characters have done what they did, I just need to sell it to the reader. It’s a case of writing fast to meet that psuedo-NaNo goal, and missing important motivations and characterization. It’s just another part of revision and I’ll add it to my list.

Problem #3: Showing and not telling. My writing style tends to be “telly”, which on my last WIP wasn’t all that bad. That character was a matter-of-fact to the point kind of person, and for her in 1st POV to wax elegantly on her surroundings would have been ridiculous. But I do want this novel to have a less stark, concise feel to it. So this doesn’t come naturally to me, but I can do it. I just have to work harder at it. And it kind of ties into Problem #1, as well as the final problem at the bottom of this list.

Problem #4: Since this novel is a YA Science Fiction re-telling of The Last of the Mohicans, I wanted to incorporate some of the Mohican culture and language into the story. There aren’t actually any Native Americans, but rather aliens on another planet that humans have discovered. But I am very worried about native appropriations. Though I allowed the Mohican language to inspire the words of my alien nation in my book, and it was done from a place of respect and in an effort to honor the Mohican Nation, it may not be seen that way. I have contacted the Mohican Nation with no response, but I will try again when my novel is finished. There is a good chance if they are not in agreement with my use of their language, I may have to make some changes.

Problem #5: So this is kind of all the other little problems that every novel faces, and therefore not a real big deal. Filter words, grammar, typos, etc. They are in every rough draft and so not particularly daunting to fix. It just has to be done and will take time.

Problem #6: So this is kind of the big one. I haven’t found my voice. It kind of ties in with the tense of the story and whether I’m inside a character’s head or just hovering over it. And it has a lot to do with my natural style of writing in a more telling fashion than showing. I want this novel to have a lyrical flow, beautiful imagery, and intense emotion. So it’s going to take work. I’m not afraid of that. I love writing, and I love learning and growing as a writer, but it does bring up all those writerly doubts we constantly have hanging over our heads, no matter how many books we write. This sounds like crap. I’m a failure. I’ll never pull this off. You know, that little voice inside your head that encourages you to throw in the towel before you’ve even started.

So I’m fighting that voice, and looking for direction. All the little things will fall into place and iron themselves out with hard work and a lot of time and devotion, but the voice, tense, POV, etc. is where I am struggling. Once I get that figured out, it’s just a matter of applying the effort to the work.

So any thoughts? Do you prefer 1st or 3rd person in a multi-POV novel? Does showing instead of telling come easy to you? Or like me, do you have to fix that tendency on edits? What about voice? Does that come naturally in the rough draft, or is it something you add as you revise? Let me know in the comments!

My WIP Playlist

My WIP PLaylist

I think it’s fairly common for writers to use music in various ways to inspire their writing. Some listen to music while writing, to get those emotional and creative juices flowing. Personally, I can’t do that. In fact my playlist is going right now and it’s making it difficult for me to write this post. Excuse me for a second . . .

Okay, that’s better. The music gets in the way of my words and I just can’t think straight, even when it’s simply instrumental. I feel like something is pressing down on my brain and all my thoughts escape me. But when I’m thinking about writing, that’s a different story. Driving long distances, going for a long walk, taking a bath, or even just sitting in my recliner and “vegging out”, having appropriate music to evoke the thoughts and emotions I want to create in my novel is very inspiring. it’s like watching a movie in your head, the one you’re creating, and adding the soundtrack.

So I thought I’d share a portion of my current WIP playlist for my The Last of the Mohicans re-telling. I have 71 songs on this list, so I won’t inflict all of them on you, but enough for you to hopefully experience what I want my book to feel like when it’s done. Most of these are relating to specific scenes or characters, though there’s a whole list that just puts me in the right mood to develop my story. So, here goes:

This one is how I want this new world to feel to the reader:

Sorry about the talk over at first, (try to skip the first 30-40 seconds if you can) but this song inspires me for Uncas and Kora:

Okay, so this video is a little bit creepy, but then so is my character, Magua. This song is for his obsession with Kora:

This video has nothing to do with my novel, but the song feels like Magua, so here it is:

This is for the final fight scene when my characters are escaping for their lives. If you’re familiar with the 1992 movie The Last of the Mohicans, you’ll see that many of the soundtrack songs line up with my own book. They just worked so great in combination with some of these other songs:

This one’s for Kael and Hawkeye:

This could be for a lot of scenes with Magua, but especially when he finally catches up to Kora, Kael and Alyss in the cave:

This is for a scene I haven’t written yet. I didn’t think about on the first draft, but I think I’ll add. Kora and Uncas listen to the people of the dome try to forget their impending dome through music:

This one is for Uncas and the others searching for Kora and her siblings. Doesn’t match the video, because the story was changed for the movie, but the song works:

And last but not least, Kora chooses her own path:

So what about you? Do you use music as inspiration? Do you listen when you’re writing, or just when you’re thinking about the story? And do you create a specific playlist, or just whatever comes on? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska

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Book blurb as seen on Goodreads:

Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

This is kind of like what I said when I critiqued Gone Girl: I’m a little late to the party. But nonetheless, I’ll have a go at it.

John Green creates characters who are not very realistic, but they are believable, and I suppose that’s all that matters. You’d have to search pretty hard in middle America to find teens who can quote obscure literature, but they’re out there. Most boys don’t have the ability to internally evaluate why their girlfriends are raging bitches and yet continue to see them, but Green’s character does. And you buy it. And that self-destructive teen you knew growing up probably doesn’t remind you that much of Alaska, but that’s because most of us never got to know them. I bet if I went back in time I could find some Alaskas walking the halls of my high school, and I might even like them, if I gave them a chance.

I think that’s what I love the most about Green’s books. The characters. People I may never meet in real life, but they seem as real to me as the neighbors down the street. I can see what they look like, feel how they feel and understand their motivations. Even when they do things that are stupid, Green makes it make sense. At least in the context of the character.

A fellow AWer recently called John Green’s books “pity porn”. I got a chuckle out of that. Because they kind of are. It doesn’t change that I absolutely adore the two I’ve read, but it does put it in perspective. There’s a reason I’ve only read two, and spread them out over a number of years. There’s only so much sadness I can take in one novel.

These stories are moving and profound, and they have the ability to put us into the lives of people we might never have really understood. TFIOS helps us to see people with terminal illness as people, not just a sad story. Looking for Alaska gave us a glimpse into the life of a troubled teen with questionable moral values, but we still felt sad at her tragedy. I think these novels give us another way to look at the world and life and people in it, without our context. Or maybe it’s in our context. Too often these people on the peripherals of our lives can be marginalized and compartmentalized so that they are no longer human beings. Green forces us to see them as human, giving us the context to care for them not as pity cases, or incidents to shake our heads in disapproval, but to mourn their loss and cry over their bad decisions.

I have felt changed after both of the John Green novels I have read. We talk about needing diversity in books, and I think Green is being diverse. Maybe not in the color of skin or religion or the things we usually think of as diversity, but we live in a world where diversity is rampant; in our personalities, our dreams, our experience. Every time I read a novel that opens me up to the experience of another person, I feel enriched. Which is what I feel diversity, in all its forms, can do for us.

My Review: 4 stars

Book Review: Entangled by Amy Rose Capetta

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Title: Entangled
Series: Entangled Series , #1
Author: Amy Rose Capetta
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 11/4/2014
Pages: 336
Age range: 14 years
ISBN-13: 9780544336247

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

Alone was the note Cade knew best. It was the root of all her chords.

Seventeen-year-old Cade is a fierce survivor, solo in the universe with her cherry-red guitar. Or so she thought. Her world shakes apart when a hologram named Mr. Niven tells her she was created in a lab in the year 3112, then entangled at a subatomic level with a boy named Xan.
Cade’s quest to locate Xan joins her with an array of outlaws—her first friends—on a galaxy-spanning adventure. And once Cade discovers the wild joy of real connection, there’s no turning back.

I purchased this book for my Kindle on Amazon.

This one will be short. I don’t have a lot to say about Entangled. It was a good, entertaining read that was pretty quick and had me moderately invested the whole time. I enjoyed the author’s use of musical terms to help explain how Cade was thinking and feeling, and even though she was one of those hard luck cases that hates you first before you can hate her, I actually kind of enjoyed it. It wasn’t over done and seemed realistic based on her background. The theme of the story, connecting to other people, became a gradual idea and you saw Cade grow through all of it. She needed her connection to Xan, but she wanted her connection to other people she had gotten to know.

And the writing kept me in the story most of the time. I never stopped and thought, “Oh, she should have shown there, instead of told,” or “The dialogue is clunky.” Everything flowed together nicely. There were a couple of times her prose style made me do a double read so I could figure out what she was talking about, but other than that I enjoyed it.

This book would be an entertaining read for fans of Science Fiction with it’s interesting take on the universe. The villains were properly scary and the big reveal wasn’t something I saw coming. The ending was interesting and a little heartbreaking, though I knew there had to be something that would keep her from a happily-ever-after. It just didn’t feel like a HEA book. I’ll definitely be reading the sequel.

My Review: 3/5 stars


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And on a side note, I’m looking for recent YA Science Fiction novels to read. I want to get a good handle on the genre before I start writing. Any suggestions?

Book Review: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


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Title: The Book Thief
Author: Markus Zusak
Hardcover: 560 pages
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First edition (March 14, 2006)
Language: English
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
ISBN-10: 0375831002
ISBN-13: 978-0375831003
Amazon Review: 4.6 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

The extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller that is now a major motion picture, Markus Zusak’s unforgettable story is about the ability of books to feed the soul.

It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement.

In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak, author of I Am the Messenger, has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.

There are very few books in this world that I consider a must-read for all people. Taste, reading abilities, time, all factor in to make some books just not suitable for some readers, while others will offer them what they are looking for. But The Book Thief is one such book. I am so in awe of the story, and how Zusak tells it, that I’m not even sure I should be reviewing. And my thoughts are so scattered and raw that I’m not even sure what I’m going to say.

Everyone knows stories of Nazi Germany, of concentration camps and swastikas, of death and denial. It’s not a subject I care to read, to be honest. Not because I want to deny it or bury my head in the sand, but more because I know and understand what happened during WWII and I don’t choose to revel in its misery. But Zusak draws a picture I have never really seen before, and now that I see it, I can’t look away from its beauty and its horror.

I’ve been meaning to read The Book Thief since I heard the movie was coming out. Sad that I wasn’t aware of such a literary gem until they wanted to make a motion picture of it, but there it is. Though a book snob myself, I’ve decided not to look down on people who rush to read a book before the movie comes out, when many “literary types” read that book “ages ago”. I frequent the library and am active online in many reading and writing circles, and still I hadn’t heard of it. Even still, I didn’t rush to read it because there were so many other things to read and get done. It wasn’t until I read agent after agent suggesting The Book Thief as a must-read for any writer who wanted to improve their craft that I decided it must be done.

For the record, I think The Book Thief is a must-read for anyone who lives and breathes in this world, not just writers. Learning from Zusak’s skill is just a secondary motivation, though it was at first my only motivation. I quickly saw what those agents were talking about, but was so lost in the gritty, glorious beauty of the words, that all the rest was unimportant. Where I usually devour a book to reach the story’s conclusion like a ravenous animal that hasn’t been fed, this truly was a book to be savored. Some passages I read more than once, not only to try to understand (because there were a few I just didn’t get) but also to enjoy them again and again. Some words string a bead necklace, but Zusak’s made pearls.

As usual I forgot to write down particular sentences that sang to me, and it would be impossible to find them now with out re-reading the whole thing. There were so many jewels of thought and lovely imagery that every sentence, every paragraph, felt like brush strokes against a canvas, creating what can not often be done with mere words alone. These dry brittle things we plop on paper and spill from our lips. How is it they are art from some and stones of ignorance from others?

There was one passage that was so evocative, so beautiful but so heart rending, that I had to read it aloud. My husband and my teen son listened willingly, and as the words poured forth from my lips, they seemed feeble in the light of day. Not the words, but my power to convey their depth. I felt inadequate to the task of sharing what was so moving to me with my husband and son. But Zusak transcends my abilities, and they were moved nonetheless. In case you’re wondering, Death’s Diary: The Parisians are the two pages I read aloud. There were many others as profound, but somehow those were the best for me. And here they are:

Summer came.
For the book thief, everything was going nicely.
For me, the sky was the color of Jews.

When their bodies had finished scouring for gaps in the door, their souls rose up. When their fingernails had scratched at the wood and in some cases were nailed into it by the sheer force of desperation, their spirits came toward me, into my arms, and we climbed out of those shower facilities, onto the roof and up, into eternity’s certain breadth.

I’ll never forget the first day in Auschwitz, the first time in Mauthausen. At the second place, as time wore on, I also picked them up from the bottom of the great cliff, when their escapes fell awfully awry. There were broken bodies and dead, sweet hearts. Still, it was better than the gas. Some of them I caught when they were only halfway down. Saved you, I’d think, holding their souls in midair as the rest of their being—their physical shells—plummeted to the earth. All of them were light, like the case of empty walnuts. Smoky sky in those places. The smell like a stove, but cold.

I shiver when I remember—as I try to de-realize it.
I blow warm into my hands, to heat them up.
But it’s hard to keep them warm when the souls still shiver.
God.
I always say that name when I think of it.
God.
Twice, I speak it.

I say his name in a futile attempt to understand. “But it’s not your job to understand.” That’s me who answers. God never says anything. You think you’re the only one he never answers? “Your job is to . . .” And I stop listening to me, because to put it bluntly, I tire me. When I start thinking like that, I become so exhausted, and I don’t have the luxury of indulging fatigue. I’m compelled to continue on, because although it’s not true for every person on earth, it’s true for the vast majority—that death waits for no man—and if he does, he doesn’t usually wait very long.

On June 23, 1942, there was a group of French Jews in a German prison on Polish soil. The first person I took was close to the door, his mind racing, then reduced to pacing, then slowing down, slowing down . . .

Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born. I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks. I listened to their last, gasping cries. Their vanishing words. I watched their love visions and freed them from their fear.

I took them all away, and if ever there was a time I needed distraction, this was it. In complete desolation, I looked at the world above. I watched the sky as it turned from silver to gray to the color of rain. Even the clouds were trying to get away.

Sometimes I imagined how everything looked above those clouds, knowing without question that the sun was blond, and the endless atmosphere was a giant blue eye.

They were French, they were Jews, and they were you.

5 stars

Book Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi


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Title: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Series: Under the Never Sky Trilogy (Book 1)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (January 3, 2012)
Language: English
Age Range; 14-17 years
ISBN-10: 006207203X
ISBN-13: 978-0062072030
Amazon Review: 4.4 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

Fighting to survive in a ravaged world, a Dweller and a Savage form an unlikely alliance in New York Times bestselling author Veronica Rossi’s “unforgettable dystopian masterpiece” (Examiner.com).

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive. A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption.

It took awhile to draw me into this book. To start with, Rossi begins with 7 named characters within the first couple of pages. I wasn’t sure who I should care about. And since it is Science Fiction, there’s world building too, so all-in-all, I was slightly overwhelmed. Which is to say I was underwhelmed. I like to be drawn into a character’s life with subtlety and hints, and to be emotionally invested in whether this person lives or dies or get’s what they want. I just didn’t feel that with Aria right away.

And then there was the fact that we were plopped right into the sort-of action from the start. Which normally isn’t a bad thing, and in fact is becoming more and more common in YA novels, because let’s face, who wants to read 3 chapters about a person going through their day-to-day life so we can get to know them? So what am I asking for here? Well, a balance I guess. I need to be invested in a character before I care about them and I need to be cognizant of their world before I can move through it. That’s hard to do in Science Fiction, and Fantasy too. So yes, a balance, which Rossi did okay, but it could have been a little better.

So move forward in the book, and eventually I did care what happened to Aria. Perry I was connected to very quickly, but that may have been because he was more real and his life situations were more immediate than Aria’s. It’s easier to connect with the emotional and physical struggle of someone who has to fight for his life everyday, than some spoiled kid who lives in a virtual reality world. It’s not until Aria is thrust into the “real world” that I began to connect with her more.

The premise was fairly interesting, though I wanted to know more about the Aether and what happened to the world to make it that way, but I’m guessing that will come in the later books. I thought the world building was well done and the developing relationship between Aria and Perry played out nicely. At first, you never thought there was any way these two people could form a bond, but Rossi did a great job of connecting the dots, humanizing both characters and drawing them closer. There was enough sexual tension to push the story forward and written in an appropriate manner for the target audience. The action was non-stop and they were rarely out of danger, which keeps you turning pages to find out what happens next.

The ending was reasonably satisfying, while still setting up for the sequel with unanswered questions and plot to develop. So basically a good read. It won’t change the world or anything, but it was enjoyable entertainment. I’m kind of running out of things to say, because though I enjoyed this book and I’ll read the sequels, it was just for fun, I guess. I don’t remembered being awed by the writing, but I wasn’t annoyed by it either, so that’s good. The story didn’t inspire me or anything, but it was entertaining. I guess basically, if the premise sounds interesting, you won’t be disappointed. But if not, well, you’re not missing anything.

My Review: 3.5/5 stars


Buy Through the Ever Night (Under the Never Sky Trilogy) on Amazon
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Buy Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky Trilogy) on Amazon
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Buy Roar and Liv (Under the Never Sky) on Amazon.com
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Buy Brooke: An Under the Never Sky Story on Amazon.com
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Book Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater


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Title: The Dream Thieves
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle (Book 2)
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Reprint edition (September 30, 2014)
Age range: 14 years
Language: English
ISBN-10: 054542495X
ISBN-13: 978-0545424950
Age range: 14 years
Amazon Review: 4.5 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

If you could steal things from dreams, what would you take?

Ronan Lynch has secrets. Some he keeps from others. Some he keeps from himself.

One secret: Ronan can bring things out of his dreams.

And sometimes he’s not the only one who wants those things.

Ronan is one of the raven boys – a group of friends, practically brothers, searching for a dead king named Glendower, who they think is hidden somewhere in the hills by their elite private school, Aglionby Academy. The path to Glendower has long lived as an undercurrent beneath town. But now, like Ronan’s secrets, it is beginning to rise to the surface – changing everything in its wake.

I love Stiefvater. I’ve adored everything of hers I’ve read so far. Okay, so that only amounts to three books, but they were three good books. I am simply swept away by her imagery and prose and the deep wells that her characters swim in full of dark secrets, longings and desires.

But after reading The Dream Thieves I am beginning to understand why some readers do not appreciate her style. There were points in the book when I was seriously confused. Did I miss something? Was there a clue or a reference I’d overlooked? Or had I simply forgotten details from The Raven Boys which I read some time ago. It’s highly possible I had forgotten information from the The Raven Boys, but more likely this is just Stiefvater’s style. I remember feeling the same way reading Book 1. Stiefvater states information like the reader already knows it, leaving out all the back story. While it may be slightly frustrating at times, mostly I find it intriguing. She is a master at creating characters who have lived long before they hit the page and they are fully fleshed people with stories you don’t get to hear every detail. She always leaves me wanting more, which is far better than wishing the book had been shorter!

In this novel, we get a much closer look at Ronan. To be honest, I’m not a bad boy kind of girl. I’m not usually attracted to that kind of character. And I detest the character who is perpetually angry and striking out at the world. But Stiefvater managed to entice this grumpy, recalcitrant boy into a character even I wanted to know better. The story line in this book is far more about Ronan than the other characters this time, though they each get a fair portion of play. And I especially enjoyed the scenes with Noah and Blue. They were adorable, poignant and bittersweet.

But Ronan is the focus and we see why he has become this angry bomb always threatening to go off. Plus the story line woven around his character is gripping and mesmerizing and you can’t take your eyes off the potential train wreck, hoping it won’t derail, but wondering how fantastic the fall out would be if it does. And Stiefvater doesn’t disappoint. This was as spectacular as the first book.

We also see a great deal of Adam’s predicament with his sacrifice to Cabeswater, Blue’s troubles with love, knowing she will kill her true love if she kisses him and knowing Gansey will die before the year is out, but I didn’t feel we saw much of Gansey. Since the first had a great deal of him, I guess it’s okay that he was a little absent in this novel, but I hope to see more in the next book.

I don’t like to give away too much, as you can see from my vague review, but I loved this book. It was as magical and entertaining as the first, and I can’t wait to read the third!

My Review: 4/5 stars

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

Book Review: In the After by Demitria Lunetta


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Title: In the After
Author: Demitria Lunetta
Series: In the After
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: HarperTeen; First Edition edition (June 25, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062105450
ISBN-13: 978-0062105455
Age range: 13 – 17 Years

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

Amy Harris’s life changed forever when They took over. Her parents—vanished. The government—obsolete. Societal structure—nonexistent. No one knows where They came from, but these vicious creatures have been rapidly devouring mankind since They appeared. With fierce survivor instincts, Amy manages to stay alive—and even rescues “Baby,” a toddler who was left behind. After years of hiding, they are miraculously rescued and taken to New Hope. On the surface, it appears to be a safe haven for survivors. But there are dark and twisted secrets lurking beneath that could have Amy and Baby paying with not only their freedom . . . but also their lives.

This will be quick because once again I didn’t take notes and I read this in July, so I can’t remember much of what I would have said. In retrospect, maybe that’s a good idea, because I’ll just be commenting on the things that really stuck with me.

I really enjoyed this book. Post-apocalyptic stories have attracted me over the last few years (understandably so since my own YA novel is post-apocalyptic.) In fact, I loved pretty much everything about this book. The characters were interesting and believable. The plot was enticing and mostly full of great twists and turns. And the action was amazing! I was clutching my paperback with dread on several occasions. The only real drawback for me was the big surprise reveal towards the end and the portrayal of New Hope, but I’ll get to that later.

Probably my favorite part was how Amy, the MC, lived alone for two years. Her only companion was Baby, a toddler she saved from the wreckage of humanity. Everything about the first 146 pages was fantastic. Amy and Baby don’t talk, because talking draws the creatures. They have suppressed their deep, deep emotional issues because survival means you have to be tough. They’ve learned to survive and that means hard choices. Amy even reveals how she considered leaving Baby to fend for herself because she was afraid a noisy toddler would endanger her own life. People think that way. They aren’t always noble and good, and they don’t always make the right choices.

To be honest, I found that part interesting, because my own MC goes through a similar circumstance. She’s alone for two years, but she has imaginary friends to talk to. And when she finally comes in contact with other survivors, she doesn’t make choices that are good for others. She thinks of herself and her own survival first. So yeah, I was thrilled to read this accurate portrayal of humanity, because it bears some resemblance to mine.

In the After is split into three parts (another similarity to mine: not sure how I feel about that), and after the first part, each chapter begins with a portion of Amy’s life in the future, like four months or so. Then we switch to present (or maybe it’s the other way around), but we get glimpses of two different times in Amy’s life and they both help to explain each other. I don’t know that it was necessary to do this, but it was still interesting.

My only beef was with the New Hope dystopian society. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because women are expected to give birth every three years starting at the age of 17. Maybe because the kids are raised in dormitories. Maybe it’s because I’m a little tired of the perfect-society engineering in YA novels. I just don’t think that’s how things would be. And criticizing stuff like this is so hypocritical on my part, since my own YA post-apocalyptic has a totalitarian society. But I think the difference is two-fold. First, they aren’t my ideas, and we always like our own ideas best. 🙂 And second, perfect-societies need a perfect-society maker, which is generally some nut job who decrees that all women should give birth to one child every three years, or that love is a sickness and you need brain surgery, or being divergent is dangerous. I’m just a little tired of that. I think books like the Hunger Games have it more correct. Totalitarian societies don’t care about the intricacies of your life. Be a schlum for all they care, just as long as it doesn’t effect them. Tow the party line and all is good.

The other part that was just so-so was the big surprise dramatic reveal near the end. For me it fell a little flat. It concerns where the human-eating creatures that have destroyed humanity come from. I mean, I saw it coming a little, but it was just a little non-creative in my opinion. Especially after the author set it up to be something else. I’ll explain further in the spoiler at the bottom, but it was a ho-hum plot point to me.

Otherwise, good book. Decent writing. Loved the suspense and some of the realism in characters and life after an apocalypse. Can’t wait to read the sequel!

My review: 3.5/5 stars

***SPOILER*** Here’s where I go in detail about “the big reveal”. So the author sets it up to be aliens-invade-earth-and-eat-every-form-of-meat-in-sight. The creatures are mindless killing machines that devour anything that moves. Which of course, raised the question “How could a mindless killing machine have the mental capacity to build a spaceship, fly to earth and destroy humanity?” But I thought, maybe first wave kind of thing. As the book progressed, I had a feeling the big wigs of New Hope were going to turn out to have caused the problem. I was right, but I thought maybe the creatures were organic life-forms created in a lab experiment. Half-right. The disease was created in a lab, unintentionally, people infected and turn into creatures, and then they escaped. Once they bite somebody, they infect them, creating more mindless killing machines. So basically, the “z-word”. There’s enough zombie books, zombie movies, zombie video games, that I’m pretty much over the “z-word”. Give me something a little more creative. And here’s another issue with the story, but really all zombie stories in general. You only turn into a zombie (or creature in this book) if you are bitten and you get away! Otherwise, zombies or creatures or whatever flesh eater is going to eat you! So why are there always so many zombies, and in this case, creatures, running around? Wouldn’t most of them get eaten? Sorry just a little zombie-issue I have. And if I see one more child/baby zombie I’m going to scream! Logically, if a zombie bites a baby or small child, said child is not going to be strong enough to run away or fight them off. Zombie will eat the child! There will be no zombie children. Or at least not very many. *whew* Sorry. Had to get that off my chest. So that’s my rant. Wasn’t thrilled with the idea that people became mindless killers because they’re infected. A zombie by any other name is still pretty rank and foul . . . ***SPOLIER OVER***


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Book Review: Splintered by A.G. Howard


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Title: Splintered
Author: A.G. Howard
Series: Splintered
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; First Edition, First Printing edition (January 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1419704281
ISBN-13: 978-1419704284
Amazon Review: 4.4/5 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

I bought this book from Barnes and Noble

I was entranced with this book from the start. Not a big fan of Alice in Wonderland, or at least the Disney version, so I was intrigued to read a darker, grittier take on the classic tale. The cover itself is enough to pique my interest, even if it wasn’t an Alice-story. I adore that cover. Attractive girl, but a face with character. Pretty hair but not perfect. Bugs and vines and butterflies haphazardly scattered around. I was dying to read this book!

And at first, Howard didn’t disappoint. Thankfully, the writing was exceptional. Maybe a 4/5 I’d say. Good enough that I took notice, but it also allowed me to melt into the story and not focus on whether I would have written it this way or that. The curse of becoming a writer makes reading others like a daily Beta read. The characters, the story, the plot, the setting pulled me in and I couldn’t wait to find out more. But then I hit a few snags. They pulled me out of the story just a little bit, and I’ll get those out of the way so I can get back to how I liked this book.

First, Taelor. Do we need another spoiled, self-centered bitch who gets the gorgeous good guy even though she’s horrible. I don’t care what kind of sob-story she tells Jeb about her dad, he’s supposed to be Alyssa’s best friend, and he hooks up with the girl who has tormented and bullied her since they were kids? No way. That would be the end of any teen friendship right there. And I think Alyssa’s life was miserable enough without the added Taelor effect that we didn’t need it. They could have skipped Taelor, (maybe kept the bullying), Alyssa stealing Tae’s money, Jeb finding out, the resultant nothing over the situation, and any “guilt” Alyssa felt about connecting with a “taken” guy and just focused on the idea that two best friends were reluctant to ruin their friendship by risking a romantic entanglement. Too much drama.

And then there’s the love triangle. I don’t mind love triangles. I have one in my novel, but something about this bothered me. To start with, Jeb and Taelor bothered me. But add in Alyssa’s mooning over him for years but supposedly Jeb doesn’t notice, and throw in a sexy, evil bad boy in Morpheus and things just got out of hand. I felt there should have been one guy. Either she’s fighting an attraction to her best friend from the real world, or she’s fighting her attraction to a dark, sinister guy she can’t trust. Not both. I would have been happy either way.

Okay, so I can’t remember anything else. I read this on vacation weeks ago. I’m pretty sure there was something else, but oh well. On to better things. Other than the aforementioned issues, I really liked this book. It was magical and entrancing. Seeing the age-old story through a darker lens was like a delightful little guilty pleasure. It was so much better than the sugar-sweet Disney version and much more like the Tim Burton imaginings. And clever. Howard has a beautiful imagination that runs wild and free, spinning into strange territory and taking what were once loved and sterile characters and turning them into something completely different, for better or worse. I’m definitely anxious to read the next book, and the cover is equally as enticing, but my library doesn’t have it and I can’t buy it. I purchased Splintered in paperback, so Unhinged has to be in paperback. That’s just how I roll. But it hasn’t been released in that format yet. *sigh*

My Review: I actually did a calculation this time, instead of a number I thought would fit. I gave it a 4 for writing, a 5 for imagination and a 3 for plot. That comes out to an average of 4/5 stars!


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Buy The Moth in the Mirror (Splintered) on Amazon.com


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