Book Review: Origins by Jessica Khoury


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Title: Origin
Author: Jessica Khoury
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Razorbill; First Edition edition (September 4, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595145958
ISBN-13: 978-1595145956
Amazon Review: 4.2/5 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

The jungle hides a girl who cannot die.

 

An electrifying action-romance that’s as thoughtful as it is tragic.

 

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home–and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

 

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin–a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

So, as usual, I’ll talk about the writing first. It wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad either. It was pretty much unnoticeable, which was fine by me. Fantastic writing that sings is admirable and I thoroughly enjoy it, but sometimes I just want to get lost in a story. Khoury allowed me to read the story with interesting prose, but not be distracted by trying to write the next classic. Most YAs will never achieve such a goal, especially a Sci-Fi or Fantasy, so let me enjoy the tale. Khoury did just that.

I really liked this book, though I only gave it a 3. I guess I just didn’t love it. And if you want a 4 or 5 from me I’m going to have to love it. But the story was engaging and there were no love triangles, which will make some readers very happy. It was a little bit predictable in some cases, but that’s okay. There was enough suspense to move you through the book, still guessing about what might happen, even though you suspected what it would be. The characters were believable and Pia’s struggle between wanting to be a scientist and being true to herself was excellent. The idea that she was raised to think analytically and forget emotion, warring with her morality and the inciting love she feels for Eio was beautifully written.

I loved the ideas brought up in the book about morality, science, its purpose, immortality. They plagued me through out the text and I wanted a resolution. It seemed like there were ideas never mentioned on the subject, but Khoury does a nice job of summing things up without getting preachy. The ending was perfect and left me feeling entirely satisfied.

So, like I said, it gets a 3. The writing was good, but not stellar. I was a little annoyed at some of the names because I didn’t know how to pronounce them and had to think about it every time I read them, and it was slightly predictable. Still, entertaining and I look forward to the second book in the series, though Khoury wrapped it up so nicely I can’t imagine what it will be. Of course, I thought the same thing about Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink, and now I’ anxiously awaiting In a Handful of Dust.

My Review: 3/5 stars

Hijacking the Character Blog Hop

93-land-of-the-pirates--vector-cartoon-illustration-1113tm-v1So I saw Infinite Free Time was on the Character Blog Hop, and he invited anyone who wanted to participate to join in by tagging themselves in the comments. Naturally I couldn’t resist talking about my book, so thanks for the invite to invite myself. 🙂 It may not be an actual hijack, but close enough!

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

My character has no name, hence the title I Have No Name. Not to give away too much, but she does develop names through the book (first a nickname, then one she chooses for herself.) It’s part of her character growth that she accepts that though she is no longer the person she used to be, she can still find happiness in the person she has become.

2) When and where is the story set?

The story is set 30-35 years into the future (I don’t set a date) and takes place in two locations. The first is a small Michigan town on the shores of Lake Huron and the second location is a not-so-secret government installation in Virginia known as Mount Weather.

3) What should we know about him/her?

The girl has some serious psychological issues. When the story opens she hasn’t seen another living person in two years. Before that she watched everyone she’s ever known die of the plague. The hallucinations are a problem, but the real issue is allowing anyone to ever get close to her again. She’s so messed up she doesn’t even want to get close to herself and tries to forget her own name.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

All she wants is to be left alone, but as usual, we often want what is worst for us. When the girl discovers she is not the sole survivor of the plague, she is faced with not only allowing herself to feel for others again, but a war between survivors that could destroy the few people she’s finally come to care about.

5) What is the personal goal of the character?

That’s hard. It changes. First, she wants to be left alone. When she does make friends and finds a place in a community, she’s captured by a rival group and just wants to get home alive. But it isn’t that easy. Turns out the rival group isn’t full of “bad guys” as she was led to believe, and now she’s even starting to fall for one of them. Finding a way to keep the people she cares about safe is the most important thing. Matters of the heart come a distant second.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

I Have No Name. I’m considering making the front page of my blog static with my idea for the hook in the hopes that others will critique and help me craft a better one! And I’ve considered posting my first chapter for the fun of it.

7) When can we expect the book to be published? 

No idea. I’m finishing edits and beginning query stage soon. I want to go the traditional route, though I’m not opposed to indie or self pub if it comes to that. We’ll see. I wouldn’t expect anything for a couple of years anyway.

Like Infinite, I’m not tagging anyone. Tag yourself in the comments and jump in!

Book review – Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor


Buy Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Book 1) on Amazon.com
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Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (June 5, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031613399X
ISBN-13: 978-0316133999
Amazon Review: 4.5/5 stars

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

 

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

 

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

 

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

 

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

I borrowed this book from my local library

All right, this is going to be short and sweet. Maybe. I loved this book. I’m giving it a solid 4. It would get a 5, but I don’t actually read a lot of Fantasy, so it’s not entirely my thing, and there was one minor problem I had that I’ll get to later. Still, a 4 from me is high praise.

Sometimes you come across a book where the writing is so good you want to jot down all the nice little lines you find and share them with your blog readers. That was not this book. There were so many lines I couldn’t write them all down. I couldn’t take the time to analyze why Taylor is a good writer because I was so caught up in the beautiful prose and the amazing story that to dissect writing style would have been blasphemous. I had to just keep reading. Someday I may go back and read more critically, but this is the sort of book that makes me ecstatic I’m a book worm, and makes me want to keep at this writing thing. I was lost in the story, and that’s the way it should be.

I was a little concerned about the angel angle. I’ve read a few “angel books”, and I know there are a few hundred more out there because I pin them to my YA Books board on Pinterest all the time. So I’m a little sick of seeing them. Though I haven’t read them all, I felt like this was a somewhat fresh take on that angle. Now, I’m still a little tired of angels, but I’ll let it slide for this series. Bring them on!

My only problem was that sometimes there was too much to remember, imagine, understand. But that is more me than Taylor’s writing. Like I said, I don’t read a lot of Fantasy, though that may change, so my imagination muscles need to flex in this arena a bit more. The characters were so strange and fantastical it was sometimes difficult to fully realize them in my own mind. That’s on me, not Taylor, because she gave me the tools to work with, but I was just to caught up in the story. When I read it again, I’ll be able to take the time to draw a mental picture more thoroughly.

So basically, if you like Fantasy READ THIS! If you are on the fence about Fantasy, read it anyway, because it’s still grounded in reality. If you don’t like Fantasy, well, read it anyway. This might change your mind. I can’t wait to read the next books in the series, though I may force myself to wait since I have so many others stacked up. Or maybe not. We’ll see! :)-

My Review: 4/5 stars

Book Review – To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han


Buy To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on Amazon.com
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Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Author: Jenny Han
Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (April 15, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1442426705
ISBN-13: 978-1442426702
Amazon Review: 4.4/5 stars

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

The truth is I’m not a big fan of Contemporary. Why would I want to read about the same old stuff that I went through as a teen, or my daughter is going through, or other kids go through. I want epic. I want adventure. I want to be transported to another world. So when I saw this on the New Reads shelf at my library, my hand hesitated ever so slightly before picking it up. Once I read the blurb, I was mildly intrigued, though I would have preferred she had to save the world too. 🙂

Sans world saving, at least give me something to care about, and for the most part Han did that. Lara Jean is a likable and interesting character, though I hated the name. I don’t know why. I like Lara. I like Jean. Put ’em together and I was annoyed. The little sister is precocious and entertaining, which younger kids in books like this usually are, and big sis was a reasonable addition, if not very deep. Dad was barely-there, which I found annoying, but at least he wasn’t a dead-beat or abusive. Mom is dead, which is a big part of the story, but really it wasn’t. The story could have happened mostly the same if Mom had been present. I’m not entirely sure I how I feel about this, since I like it when characters have an “issue”, but the issue isn’t the book. But still, it felt like a not particularly important aspect of the book, though it was made important. I guess the side issue of Mom’s death made everything more complicated and dramatic, but it felt like a device to make everything more complicated and dramatic. Which I find unnecessary.

So even though I felt the missing-mom aspect was a device, I was still invested in the characters. I understood why Margot felt like she had to mother everyone. I felt for Lara Jean in her angst over the boys she crushed on finding out. And I was really hoping Kitty would get that puppy, though there are no dogs allowed in my house.

And of course the writing was pretty good. I’ll share a few of my favorites. These are favorites because they say some pretty typical things in a creative way, which is hard to do:

Kitty answers back lightning fast . . .

***

I feel a pinch in my heart.

***

My scalp tingles with gratitude.

So I’ll get the things I didn’t like out of the way. First, the idea that these two young girls, especially the oldest, takes it upon themselves to become mommy of the family when their own mom passes away was a bit of a stretch for me. Maybe it has something to do with their Korean heritage, and I’ll admit I know next to nothing about Korean-Americans, but I think we have to consider that their exposure to the Korean side of their family was portrayed as minor. If the heritage would dictate that pre-teen girls become the women of the house and do the cooking, cleaning, organizing, shopping and scheduling for the family, okay I guess, but where was the influence? Dad is white American. I can’t see my white American husband expecting my kids to take care of each other so he can work long hours. And they never question or complain about it either. Once again it felt like a vehicle to get us from Point A to Point B. Even Korean-American kids raised in this culture would be a little angsty over having to bake cupcakes for their little sister’s PTA event and make sure she gets places on time and know when her field trips are and pack her lunch every day. That’s dad’s job and I was actually appalled at the portrayal of this family as if all of this is completely normal. If it would have been highlighted that this was different (“Hey, Lara Jean! You sure take on a lot of responsibility I don’t have. Glad my mom’s not dead.”) then maybe I could have bought it, but if you think you’re going to make the average American teen feel guilty because they don’t have this load, well, trust me, I’ve tried it. No luck.

And I was less than impressed with that age old trope let’s-pretend-we’re-in-love-so-I-can-make-my-girlfriend/boyfriend-jealous. Yes, I actually have some fake love in my current MS, so it’s a little hypocritical, but this came out of left field for me and I didn’t like it. Okay, so the novel might not have progressed properly if Han didn’t use it, but I would have been more impressed if she found a way to pull it off. Especially when the whole thing starts off because Lara Jean wants to make Josh think she doesn’t like him. Here’s an idea: Tell him you don’t like him. It usually works. Seriously.

Now I’m going to share another few lines from the book I enjoyed, and take you on a tangent. Lara Jean is talking to a gay friend and I love his response:

“I just let people believe what they please. I don’t feel like it’s my responsibility to quantify myself for them. I mean, you get what I’m talking about. As a biracial person, I’m sure people are always asking you what race you are, right?”

I haven’t thought of it that way before, but yes yes yes! Lucas just gets it. “Exactly. It’s like, why do you need to know?”

I hate the term “coming out”, though I have used it. And I use it in my current MS. Still, I don’t like the idea that anyone has to “quantify” themselves. Why can’t we just be people and not be defined by our sexual orientation? I won’t rant too long about that, at least not in this post, but I wanted to share that little bit. Also, in regards to heritage and race, I understand that people might find those questions annoying, but do consider if you are biracial or bicultural, that people’s interest may not be in the realm of trying to categorize you. It might be (in the case of my own interest) an effort to understand where you are coming from culturally, and to admire how amazing we humans are when we embrace and share our own cultural experiences. I will never truly know anyone’s cultural experience but my own, yet I want to know as much as I can about other’s experiences so I can learn and grow from that as well.

Moving on. Not withstanding the previously mentioned flaws, I liked this book. It was a heart warming story about a teen girl who grows in her love for her family and learns a bit about herself and what she wants from the love of a boy as well. It is well-written and kept me turning the pages to find out if Lara Jean would develop her unrequited love for Josh, break her sister’s heart, discover something in Peter beside his pretty-boy image or basically screw everything up. I won’t tell you, of course, but I will say I felt the ending to be unsatisfactory. I guess you could say the important things were wrapped up, so I wasn’t horribly disappointed, but I wanted more. And I’ll just leave it at that.

All in all, it was a cute read that wasn’t too sappy and annoying. I was really afraid I would have to read some novel about every day teen problems that aren’t really problems and end up throwing the book against the wall. I guess if there hadn’t been the missing-mom issue, it would have been that kind of book, so I can take that part back. 🙂 Anyway, if you’re looking for a light entertaining read that isn’t total fluff, I’d highly recommend this.

My review: 3/5 stars (Come on! She didn’t even slay dragons or anything!)

Trials and tribulations of a bookworm . . .

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Finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone last night. Stayed up late to do it. I just couldn’t put it down! Book review coming soon. Couldn’t wait for morning so I could hop over to the library and snag the sequel before we headed to Detroit again. 4 hours in the car = lots of reading time! But when I moved some things on the counter, I found another book! Since it’s from the library, I have to read it first. It’s the bookworm code. You never keep a library book longer than you have to! So I guess I’ll be reading Origins first. Maybe I’ll get to that stack of books I own eventually too!

Book Review – The Here and Now by Ann Brashares


Buy The Here and Now on Amazon.com
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Title: The Here and Now
Author: Ann Brashares
Print Length: 258 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385736800
Publisher: Delacorte Press (April 8, 2014)
Sold by: Random House LLC
Language: English
ASIN: B00ERTDJKS
Amazon Review: 3.6/5 stars

I borrowed this book from my local library

Book blurb as seen on Amazon.com:

An unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future who might be able to save the world . . . if she lets go of the one thing she’s found to hold on to.

Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.

This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.

But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

This book started as a solid 4 stars for me. I loved the premise. The characters were intriguing. And the writing was good. I liked some lines so much, I’m going to share them, though maybe they won’t make sense out of context, but the way the words mix together sang to me, so here goes:

The gap between what we say and what we feel is so big and dark that sometimes I think I’ll fall into it and just keep falling.

***

Already he is the drip, drip of water that carves a canyon right through the middle of me.

***

“If it was okay for me to kiss you,” he whispers, “would you want me to?”

I know I should lie. I should make this easier on both of us. But I’ve begun to tell the truth, and I am drunk on it. “The most of anything,” I whisper into the seat.

***

I am getting the hang of this, spending my questions like a millionaire.

***

Ethan claims he is some kind of supergenius expert at Gin, so when I beat him in our second game, he is so beset by rage and disbelief that he makes us play three more times, and writhes in psychological pain as I beat him every time.

***

Down goes the bucket again, into the long-abandoned memory well. I surprise myself with what comes up.

Okay, that’s all. But I loved those lines enough to write them down verbatim in a notebook and type them again for this post. I feel I do enough ranting about “bad” writing, I should give some cred to good writing as well.

On to the book!

The beginning was enticing, doling out morsels for the reader to nibble on while they progressed through the beautiful prose. There were a lot of abstracts and half-truths and opinions meted out to keep you reading to find out the whole picture. And then there was the forbidden love story between Ethan and Preena (loved the name!) Their romance was believable and progressed naturally through years of knowing each other. You wanted them to be together, even while knowing it was impossible, and seeing that it really was impossible. The sexual and emotional tension was palpable.

But then we got into specifics. This is where time travels books usually fail. I really enjoyed this book from start to finish, but my analytical-brain just wasn’t buying it. If you’re going to write a time-travel novel, you better think it through, and most in my opinion don’t. I don’t want to ruin it for you, (I’ll do that in the spoiler at the bottom) but let’s just say if you follow the time line, or even the time circles, or whatever you want to call it, then the things that happen in this novel couldn’t happen. Changing one thing changes another which changes another which means the first thing wouldn’t have happened at all thereby not affecting the other things. See what I mean? And just to be clear, once you time travel, you’re stuck. No going back.

There were a couple of other minor, minor problems. Like the fact the book is set in 2014, and Preena comes from circa 2090, but in the future people don’t understand Christmas and they talk differently. I’m not sure 80 years is enough to change things that much.

And when Preena appears in 2014 for the first time she is naked, but other people brought boxes of belongings. That was never explained, like at all. Seemed like a big hole.

Oh, and I’m getting really tired of random teens with mad hacker-skills. Ethan comes through with some pretty amazing computer hacks to save the day, but I’m just done with teens that have whatever magic skill is needed to complete the task at hand.

And Preena sees Ethan’s obituary in the paper that is brought from the future, but it’s printed the day after he supposedly dies. Pretty sure obits aren’t printed the day after your teenage son is murdered.

And last, but certainly not least, Preena’s “people” came from the future to try to stop the plague that wipes out the world. So a thousand people travel through time, but get so comfortable in their current life they no longer want to save the billions of people who die in the future? Preena’s mom lost two sons and she’s willing to stand by and not work her ass off to save them? That was probably the hardest thing to swallow. There is no comfortable life possible for me that would stop me from trying to save my kids.

Really, I did like this book. I know I talk about the negatives a lot, and just wait for the spoiler at the bottom, but the prose was beautiful, the premise was interesting and the romance was pure and emotional. I liked the characters and rooted for them. Even the “bad guy” you kind of understood where he was coming from. So I would still recommend this book, because not everyone is as picky as me when it comes to plot. If you just want to be swept away by a story, then by all means read it, but if you want things to make sense at the end, well, maybe try something else.

My review: 3/5 stars (I’d have given it a 4 if it weren’t for plot holes)

And now for the spoiler!!!

***SPOILER*** So let’s just walk through this a little bit. If Preena changes the future and they stop or alter the plague that kills billions, then Preena will have no reason to come back in time and then she won’t change the future. Time travel novels always do this and it drives me insane. Why can’t they just mention, “Hey, when we get to the future we have to tell our future selves that we will be forced to give up our lives and time-travel or everyone dies.” Because, if some old woman showed up claiming to be me and told me that I’d jump right in the time travel device, right? But whatever. Say Preena is more gullible and noble than me, so she does. Supposedly when Baltos time-travels, he kills not only Mona so he can protect his family’s oil wealth, but also kills Ethan, who invented time travel. If Ethan dies, he can’t invent time travel, so how does Baltos time travel in order to kill him? Not to mention, if Baltos kills Mona, saves his family’s oil wealth, then he won’t have a reason to time travel either because he only did it to save his family’s business. Oh, and you can’t go back, so forget that. You’re stuck. And you can only travel back to 2010 for some reason, so Baltos hangs around for 4 years until he finally kills Mona? Why? This is where I think time-travel novels trip up. They place too much importance on the changing of time, thereby negating the believability of their premise to begin with. Limit what you change, and the reader will believe it. Alter too many things and you run into a hornets nest of possibilities. ***SPOILER OVER***

What Do YA Readers WANT?!!

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Wouldn’t we authors like to know! Preferably, a good two years before YA readers actually want it, so we can write, edit, publish and market just in time to reach your ever changing moods, er needs. Just kidding. I read as much YA as the average teen, possibly more, so we’re in the same boat. I have wants of my own, and I also want to write a book that will resonate with readers.

Lucky for you, we have a little—just a little—insight into this very question. Recently Teens Can Write Too! ran a blog chain entitled What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? All of the respondents are teens who blog and write beyond their blogs. In fact, quite a few of them have some pretty amazing things to say, so when you’re finished reading this, check out their posts too.

While I was patiently—or not so patiently—waiting each day to read a new teen’s perspective on what they’d like to see published, I was also following a thread on Absolute Write entitled What would you like to see more or less of in YA? Between the two I was reading some great ideas about what books should be published in YA.

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Light bulb moment: I should compile the information and write a blog post about it!

Stress. Woman stressed

Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The sheer mass of data was daunting. It’s taken me hours to compile it into any sort of usable format. You can check the data here if you like. But I’ll try to make some kind of intelligent response, since I promised I would, and I always keep my promises!

Part of the problem is that I didn’t really know what I was doing while compiling the data. Now that I’m finished, I might have done it a little differently, but there is no way I’m doing it over again! It’s like having a term paper almost finished two days before it’s due, and realizing you should have taken a different approach. No ‘A’ is worth the work it would take to start over. Sorry, but I have a life. 🙂

And what everyone wants is as diverse as the respondents themselves. I saw everything from wanting fan fiction traditionally published to requesting a book from the POV of a toddler! Funnily enough, I did have the idea to write a novel about babies and toddlers who turn into teens when they fall asleep and wake up in a fantasy adventure. Yeah, I haven’t written that one yet.

But there were some clear winners, and losers, so if you want the nitty-gritty details, check out the data, but I’ll give you an overview of the most common responses in this post.

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22 teens responded to the question: What kinds of published books would you like to see more of? on the TCWT blog chain, while 40 respondents of an unidentified age responded to the question: What would you like to see more or less of in YA? on the Absolute Write Watercooler forums.

 

Dragon

Fantasy received the most votes for a genre with at least 34% of respondents requesting more in some form. I say at least because it was one of those cases where I would have tallied the votes differently in hind sight. I might have missed a few votes asking for a specific aspect of Fantasy without actually requesting Fantasy in and of itself. Anyway, you get the point.

There wasn’t any one type of Fantasy that was a stand-out winner, but many different kinds were mentioned. In fact, I got the impression that readers would like to see more pure, traditional fantasy, not other types of stories posing as Fantasy, i.e. Romance set in a Fantasy world, Dystopian set in a Fantasy world, etc. The one thing they did not want to see was more Fantasy worlds based on Medieval Europe or books based on Western (Greek/Roman) Mythology. Japanese, Chinese, Egyptian and Celtic were mentioned (I know Celtic is Western, but at least it’s something other than Zeus and Poseidon!)

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On a similar note, Science Fiction, which 17% of respondents requested more of, also seemed to center on more pure forms of its original genre. Readers especially seemed to dislike Dystopian disguised as Science Fiction. They want to see robots, cyborgs, cool technology that’s not the bad guy, and fun adventures that explore new worlds and revel in the joy of future technology and uncharted worlds.

Dystopia was a mixed bag with 9 readers wanting more while 5 wanted less or none. One thing was fairly clear though. Readers want something different than the tried-and-true Dystopia we’ve been experiencing over the last few years. Diversity, LGBTQ+, new settings, and most importantly, move away from the cliched tropes. No big, bad, government that’s outlawed something as the end-all of society and the rebel character fighting against it.

Re-tellings as a category received 10 nods, with respondents asking for non-traditional and non-European fairy tales, classics, Shakespeare, mash-ups and even re-tellings of Anne of Green Gables. One interesting note: only 1 of the 10 votes for re-tellings came from the unidentified age group. Clearly, teens are more interested in re-tellings than their older counterparts who read YA books.

Other than specific genres, another winner was seeing more Families in YA. 26% wanted to see healthy family units in some form, whether it’s present parents, quirky families, complex sibling dynamics, big families and any of the aforementioned relationships being the main emotional stake of the story.

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One of the clear losers was Romance. Not so much the genre of Romance, but rather romance in YA books in whatever genre it happens to appear. 26% of readers said they are completely tired of or would like to see less romance in YA books. 18% said they’d like to see fewer or no love triangles and no “insta love” stories. 9 respondents asked for healthy teen love relationships with a wide variety of realistic relationship requests from LGBTQ+ to mutual breakups to relationships that end and the characters actually learn from them.

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While there were many other responses I could talk about, the last one I’m going to discuss is Diversity. This was another category with a broad scope that I wish I had compiled the data differently. For example, 12 respondents requested diversity in all forms, while 16 specifically said they want novels where the diversity is not the issue of the book. I could have tallied all respondents that called for diversity in any form and had a large number of people wanting something more from their YA, but I didn’t do it that way. And since some readers requested multiple kinds of diversity, I couldn’t just add up all the specific requests because the number would have been inflated.

Anyway, over and over again I heard YA readers saying they wanted to read more about people of color, characters of all sexual orientations, people with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses, neuro-diversity and ethnic people living their culture in contemporary and futuristic settings. The one overriding theme to all of this was the diversity needed to be a part of a character’s life, and the readers want to see how it affects their lives, but it can’t be the point of the book. They want to see people of color in fantasy, a teen detective with Chron’s disease, a wheel chair bound action hero, and romance between characters of all sexual orientations. Those examples are made up based on some of the comments I read, but they’re pretty spot on from the types of diverse ideas they want to see written. They want to see a cross-section of America, and in some cases the world, that isn’t white, Christian and straight.

So, how do we use this information? Well, first of all it would be great to see agents and publishers take a look because my agent research has indicated that agents are looking for Contemporary right now. Yet that had extremely low response numbers from this completely unscientific poll. Unfortunately I don’t have any agents or publishers that follow my blog, so chances are slim for that. 😉

I guess, if you see your book in these results, then congratulations! Get working and get it published! If you see some inspiration in any or several of the requests made by these responses, then once again, get busy! You’ve got some writing to do! But, if you see your book in some of the requests for NO MORE!, well, don’t despair. Even these YA readers couldn’t all agree on what they wanted, so there are readers out there for all kinds of novels. Just keep writing what you love. It’s all any of us can do!

Movie Review – Warm Bodies


Buy Warm Bodies the DVD on Amazon.com

Actors: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco, Analeigh Tipton
Directors: Jonathan Levine
Writers: Jonathan Levine
Producers: Bruna Papandrea, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
Language: English
Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Studio: Summit Inc/Lionsgate
Run Time: 98 minutes

I’ve been wanting to see WARM BODIES for awhile, for a couple of reasons. Which, when I explain, will seem a little strange. You see, I have an irrational fear of zombies. Vampires, werewolves, demons, I can handle all supernatural beings, but for some reason zombies scare the crap out of me. Maybe it’s because I can actually for see a circumstance where zombies exist. It’s not so far fetched to imagine a disease that makes people’s bodies start to decay (leprosy) and they become rabid trying to bite other people (rabies). I don’t honestly think we could have the undead or walking dead thing, but messed up humans with a horribly contagious disease? Yes, I can see it. So I don’t usually watch zombie movies. Even the funny ones.

Having said that, when I heard about this movie I was intrigued. Years ago I posted on a forum in Absolute Write an idea for a YA book where a zombie and a human fall in love. Since I am deathly afraid of zombies, I knew I would never write it, so I put the idea out there for anyone who wanted to use it. Now, I’m not saying that Isaac Marion used my idea. I mean, what are the chances he saw that and his desire to create a story blossomed around an innocuous post I left years ago? I’d say there’s a greater chance that two people in this world of billions had a similar idea. Either way, it’s pretty cool to say, “I thought of that!” and then see the results of someone’s imagination. His, not mine. I take no credit. I’m just explaining my interest in this story.

So anyway, I was a bit apprehensive, it being zombies and all, but I took the dive. My husband was with me, so I could hide my eyes or squeeze his hand if I needed to. For the most part it was fine. I was only minorly grossed-out a few times and it wasn’t too awfully scary. There were a few scenes that made me jump, fear for the characters and overall be in a state of suspense. Just the right amount of suspense in fact. So basically anyone should be able to handle this movie if I can.

As to the story, I loved it. Especially the fact that since zombies don’t really talk, we hear a narration from the MC’s POV, even though he doesn’t say much in character. He still thinks, he still feels, a little, and we see that through the narration of the boy he probably once was. We get him being a horrible zombie, eating people’s brains, which is repulsive, but hey, he’s a zombie. What do you expect? And we get to see how he feels about it all. The director did a great job of showing the zombies as pretty awful human-eaters, and as sympathetic characters who didn’t ask to be zombies in the first place.

There’s an interesting twist as to why the zombie’s eat brains and also what the zombies become after they’ve been zombified long enough. Let’s just say that’s even scarier than the zombies. And I love the concept of what changes things from the zombies-eat-humans status quo. I won’t reveal anything in case you hate spoilers, which I do, but it’s another great twist on the traditional zombie tale.

The characters in this story were all amazing. Likable, yet flawed, they make mistakes, act selfish, are afraid and do things we know will have bad results, but that’s what makes good characters. You root for Julie even when she’s being a bit of a bitch. You hope R beats this zombie thing even while you’re terrified he’s going to turn on Julie. And R’s best friend? Not only was he cast perfectly in Rob Corrdry, but his character was sympathetic and likable, even when he’s asking R to eat Julie. Well, asking in Zombie grunts and nudges.

Overall I found this to be a great love story. Unconventional? Yes. A little gross at times? Absolutely. But to be honest I’m so sick of been-there-done-that fall in love at first sight with “the one” love stories that I’m open to anything else. This movie was funny, sarcastic (which I love), a little scary, a bit gross and had enough action and suspense to keep me on the edge of my seat (figuratively, not really). I’d watch it again, which is a big compliment for me, and I can’t wait to read the book. It’s actually a big no-no for me to see a movie before I read the book, but I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. So I guess I’ll just add it to my huge TBR pile and call it a day.

My Review: 4.5/5 stars


Buy Warm Bodies: A Novel on Amazon.com

Note: I looked for the post I made online to prove I wasn’t just making that up, but I couldn’t find it. My archived posts didn’t go back far enough. 🙂

Book Review – Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau with bonus e-prequel The Testing Guide


Buy Independent Study: The Testing, Book 2 on Amazon.com
Add on Goodreads

Age Range: 12 and up
Grade Level: 7 and up
Series: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (January 7, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0547959206
ISBN-13: 978-0547959207
Amazon Review: 4.4/5 stars

I Purchased this book at a Barnes & Noble.

Book blurb as seen on Amazon:

In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. In Independent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.

If you read my review of THE TESTING, then you already know what I think of Charbonneau’s writing. She improved her ability to show-don’t-tell in INDEPENDENT STUDY, but added several more irritations to my list, but I’ll only talk about two. First, she would describe a decimated area:

To the southwest, I see grass, shriveled trees, and grayish soil. An area yet to be revitalized.

That in itself, not so bad. I’m sure you’re thinking, “What’s her problem?” But Charbonneau did this numerous times. She does an excellent job of painting a picture, then TELLS the reader it is an unrevitalized area. She’s not trusting the reader to understand what she is saying.

Next, there are pages of description, world building, and back story for things that don’t really matter. For example, she takes almost two pages to explain why there are chicken coops at the University. Two pages. Like it even matters. And that wasn’t the only time, but I won’t list them all. The point is she succumbed to the second-novel-syndrome of writing whatever you feel like because it’s going to get published anyway. J.K. Rowling can get away with this. Christopher Paolini can get away with this. Charbonneau can not.

Okay, I’m done. Now I’ll just talk about the story.

We find Cia at the University, not remembering what happened, but she has discovered the transit communicator and its recordings. Confused and upset, she doesn’t know whether to believe what it tells her, or believe the smiling faces of her University professors. Charbonneau delivers a similar amount of suspense as Cia navigates tests designed to find out if she’ll make a good leader in the United Commonwealth. Lucky for her she never has to fail at anything. I get that she’s intelligent, resourceful and all around amazing, but really, she never fails. Not once that I can remember. I think I would have liked to see her struggle a little more.

Tomas, her love interest, is still present and the reader is left wondering if Tomas had anything to do with Zandri’s death in the previous novel, and whether he took the pills designed to prevent his memory loss. Both plot threads are resolved with very little drama. The only drama is waiting for the reveal. It was fine, and Cia reacted accordingly, but I thought that could have been given more of a plot twist.

We see a little more of Will in this novel, but not much. Since we already know about his character from THE TESTING (though his memory has been erased) he doesn’t show too much in this book. He’ll probably get more playing time in the final book, but I was disappointed to see this left out.

Zeen makes an appearance, which promises some great interaction for the next book, but it was pretty much just a bridge to the finale. Once again, could have used more of him.

We are introduced to a few more interesting characters, which I’m sure is set up for Cia’s team to defeat the Testing in book 3. We also lose a character we’ve come to know and care about, but I won’t say who.

Overall, I’d say this book was mostly set up for book 3. There is some excitement and it was interesting, but since I’m personally having difficulty getting past the lax writing, the adventure didn’t carry it for me this time. Besides, you can only read so much about testing teens before it gets a little old hat. I will probably end up buying the third book when it comes out, but that has more to do with my obsessive need to have a matched set of books on my shelf. And my need to see the story finished. Even if I’m not that interested anymore. I’m hoping it will be like some trilogies where the second book isn’t so great, but the final book ends up being decent.

My review: 2/5 stars

THE TESTING GUIDE:

Not much to say here. It was only about a chapter long. And about Cia’s brother, Zeen, which was kind of cool. If it cost anything, I’d say don’t bother, but if you enjoy these books and you want a little insight into Zeen’s character, go ahead and make the download. I won’t even bother giving it stars. There just wasn’t enough to judge.


Buy The Testing on Amazon.com


Download The Testing Guide on Amazon.com

Coming June 17th, 2014 . . .

Buy Graduation Day (The Testing) on Amazon.com

Writing Process Blog Hop: Hey, they let me on the bus!

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Last week I was tagged in the Writing Process Blog Hop by Sarah J. Carlson, a fellow YA author, and an American living in Singapore! (I might be a little jealous right now.) I would have responded to the invite immediately, but I had a Ninja Training Birthday Party to plan for a six-year-old!

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Now that it’s over, I can concentrate on how honored I am to be included. Blog hops are fun, and so far I’ve enjoyed reading about everyone’s writing process. Besides, it might make me feel a teeny, weeny bit validated. Like I get to sit at the big girl author’s table. Okay, enough fangirling. On to the good stuff.

What Am I Working On?
Currently I am in the midst of what I hope are last revisions for my YA Post-apocalyptic novel I HAVE NO NAME. No, I don’t mean the novel isn’t named yet. It really is called I HAVE NO NAME.

If everyone you know is dead, do you still exist? For one sixteen-year-old plague survivor the answer is no. She’s broken, alone. Hiding from the pain of the past, she tries to forget everything, even her name.

Yeah, I’m still working on hooks and queries and synopsis, but right now I really need to concentrate on this novel. (No, Blog! Stop calling my name. I have work to do!) NO NAME has gone through at least twenty or more rounds of editing and I’m currently cutting a few characters, cutting a few scenes, combining two characters into one while giving him a new personality and adding him to the existing love triangle. Whew! It’s a lot of work, but I think will be satisfying in the end. I know, everyone is sick of love triangles, but this has a purpose, really. And adding this combo-character to the mix makes it more of a love quadrilateral, I think.

Besides the novel, which should be my primary focus right now, I’m also trying to get this blog off the ground. So far, I’m pleased with the results.

How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?
I have no idea! I read a lot of YA books and some in the Post-apocalyptic/Survival genre, but I never set out to be different. I just had a story to tell and I told it. The one thing I might do differently than some novelists is I don’t try to make you like my characters. They are who they are and their story must come out. I don’t change what they say or do because I think it will offend or attract anyone. This is what they as the people I imagine would do. No apologies. In fact, my husband at one point in reading the book said, “I don’t really like her (my MC) right now.” And one of my betas said something similar: “I don’t know if I like your MC.” My husband was referring specifically to something she was doing and later said he got over it. My beta never really said more than that. But as far as I’m concerned I’m doing something right. My MC doesn’t always need to be likable. But she does need to be real and believable. If I achieve that, I’m happy.

Why Do I Write What I Write?
Because I’m a storyteller. I always have been. My imagination runs wild and I’m always thinking, “What if?” As to specifically the novel I’m writing now, it’s because I had a dream. When I woke the next morning, I couldn’t get the story out of my head.

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It played over and over, morphing and developing into something different. The characters became alive with personalities and back stories and lives that needed to be lived. I was working on something different at that point and spent almost two years mentally developing the idea and keeping notes in a notebook. The girl’s story was almost completely realized before I ever wrote a word. It was just something that couldn’t stay inside me.

How Does Your Writing Process Work?
As I hinted in the previous para, I’ll get an idea and let it stew for awhile. Maybe I’ll do research passively or keep a notebook if the idea has its hooks in me, jotting down scenes that should happen, motivations, back story, personalities, whatever comes to mind. When I’m actually ready to write I usually have the whole thing laid out in my head. For my first novel I outlined, but this one I didn’t need to. It was there, like a movie I’d watch so many times I knew every line by heart. But even though the story was already told, that doesn’t mean I’m not open to change. The book is written organically, scenes and characters changing as they see fit. Sometimes I’ll be typing away and the scene and characters flow into what they should be, despite what I might have imagined earlier. Or a character’s motivation or personality trait will come shining through, where I had never even thought about it before. Very rarely do I have to rack my brains for what will happen or why it happens or what a character is like. These things just pour from my fingers into the keyboard and out onto the empty whiteness of my screen.

I liked what C.S. Boyack said on his blog stop about re-reading your last chapter before you get started for the day. When I’m writing (as in not editing or revising) I often find this helpful to get back into the flow of things. It allows me to fully immerse myself back into the world I’ve created, back into the head of my character and move forward. I can always tell when I was writing just to get something on paper and when I’m really and truly into my story. But those days when I can’t mentally be there 100% are fine too. That’s what editing and revising are for. If I can get it down, get through it, and come back later to make it better, it’s just part of the job. Besides, sometimes this is a red flag for something that needs to be cut or whittled down. If I’m bored writing it, my readers are going to through the book against the wall!

Once I’ve finished a rough draft, I’ll edit and revise a couple of times before I let a few trusted friends and family have a read. More revisions, and then I’ll seek out beta readers. More revision. That’s where I am now. Having revised so many times, and received opinions and advice from quite a few people (writers and non-writers) I’m ready to move forward, just as soon as I get a last bit of tweaking done. Knowing myself, a manuscript will never be good enough in my eyes to submit, so at some point you have to say enough is enough. I’m not making this better, just different. That’s when you need to decide what your next move is.

Passing the torch:
E.J. McGrorey at 90,000 Words is a mother, a wife, a digital communications specialist and aspiring author in Sydney Australia. Oh, and on top of it all she’s also studying for a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney. So, you, know, a total under-achiever!
Paige Randall is a DC based writer of Contemporary Romance and has recently finished her first novel Circling.
Jodie Llewellyn like my first tag is another Aussie. Australia has some great bloggers and Jodie is an aspiring YA author like myself.

Check them out soon to see their posts on the Writing Process Blog Hop!