Friday, June 28, 2013

YA Book Giveaways

Hey all! I haven't done a post about giveaways in a while so here it goes. Links are provided! 

Literary Rambles: Can't say enough how much I love this website! Their writing tips are great and their agent spotlights have been so helpful to me. Natalie always responds to my comments and has visited my blog to share the love! Check them out for weekly giveaways to awesome YA and MG books.

YABC: Another great site that gives away YA books. I don't recognize a lot of these current ones their giving away but the covers look gorgeous!

Goodreads: These you have to scroll through to find YA but hello, it's Goodreads. "Nuff said.

Pulseit: I love this site! It should be illegal how many books they let you read for free and how much contests they let you enter!

Well, what are you waiting for?! Go win you some books!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Book Review: Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick

I picked this book up at my library a couple of weeks ago because I wanted to have a vacation read that was a stand alone novel--something I could enjoy temporarily and not get too swept away in while spending time with my family. I ended up barely having time to read while we were away so I didn't start this until I got back. And wow! It was good! Here's my summary:

Jenna Lord's life hasn't been easy. When she was a child, she almost died in a fire. Now as a sixteen-year-old she's almost died for a second time. Jenna tells the story of how she got to this point into a tape recorder for a detective. It goes a little something like this: Ever since Jenna's grandma killed herself and her grandpa was put in a home, her mom has been a drunk, stressing out over her failing business. Her dad is a doctor who's never home and always sleeping around. Her brother shipped off to Iraq just to get away from all the crazy. So it's no wonder Jenna cuts herself to feel better. She's spent some time in an institution and now her dad feels it's time for her to make a fresh start at a new school. That's where Jenna meets Mr. Anderson. He's a great teacher, dedicated track coach, and...a married man. He takes an instant liking to Jenna, wanting to help her and make her feel OK about who she is and her past. But things quickly go further than either of them planned. They fall in love. But then one of the girls at Jenna's school goes missing and when Jenna pieces together things she's seen and heard, she starts to suspect Mr. Anderson isn't all he says he is. What happens when she confronts him has devastating consequences for them both.

**I love reading a good, dark YA story. This was one of those. Bick tackles several important issues like death, molestation, cutting, alcoholism, and adultery in a well-done, sensitive, and realistic way. Jenna was an easy character to relate to and her arc was different from any other I've read in a while. Her growth and healing came in the most unexpected way. I like how the author let us see that no one is perfect and it's often hard to tell who is good and who is bad, who is guilty and who is innocent. Things are never black and white--life is full of gray.

Thanks for stopping by! Comment away... 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book Review: The Chemical Garden Trilogy: Fever, Wither and Sever by Lauren DeStefano

I started reading this series right from the get-go. My library ordered the first book, Wither, not long after it was published and I got my name on the hold list right away. I'm pretty sure I tore through it in like 2 days! And as soon as Fever and Sever came out, I tore through those too! Here's my summary of the three:

16-year-old Rhine and her twin brother Rowan live in a world where orphans are the norm, young girls are sold to polygamous husbands, and poverty and crime are at an all time high. Why? Because years ago scientists tried to create a perfect human race and instead doomed the world with a deadly virus that kills females at the age of 20 and males at the age of 25. When Rhine answers an ad thinking it will bring her and her brother some much needed money, she has no idea she's walking into a trap. Before she knows it, she's been Gathered. She and two other girls are picked by a wealthy doctor's son. They're taken to a beautiful estate where their every need is catered to and the crumbling world around them fades away. Rhine becomes and bride to Linden and a sister-wife to Jenna and Cecily while Linden's first love, Rose slowly fades away from the virus. But nothing is as perfect as it seems in Rhine's new world. Linden's father hoards corpses to study and encourages the girls to get pregnant--all so he can find a cure to the virus. Rhine wants nothing more than to escape her beautiful prison and get back to her twin brother. When she meets a servant, Gabriel, who also dreams of freedom, the two hatch a plan to do just that. The question isn't whether or not they make it but what awaits them in the world when they do.

Now that Rhine and Gabriel have escaped, they try desperately to get to Rowan and start a new life. But instead they end up captured by the leader of a cruel brothel. Madame wants them for herself--to be the stars of her awful carnival and she doesn't plan to let them go. Amid slave children and the haze of drugs slipped to them unknowingly, Rhine and Gabriel lose precious months of their lives performing shows and being trapped by yet another crazy captor. But Rhine won't give up her dream of getting home so easily. With a little help from some kind carnival friends, Rhine manages to get her and Gabriel out. But she isn't as free as she thought. She's sick and the only explanation for why is one that comes to her when she's about to die--it's her father-in-law, Housemaster Vaughn's fault. The next thing she knows, Rhine is back at the estate and in the basement--the place where Vaughn does his corpse studying--the place where those who enter never come back from. And Rhine would know, she's seen it happen.

With Linden and Cecily's help, Rhine manages to get away from Housemaster Vaughn. She still needs to find her brother and now Gabriel too. Linden gets her to his uncle's house and the two finally come to terms with all that has happened to Rhine and who Vaughn really is. But Vaughn isn't ready to give up on his son and daughter's-in-law just yet. When Rhine learns how to get to her brother, who is now an extremist against finding the cure, she jumps at the chance. But in the process she learns just how far Vaughn's web of deceit and betrayal and control spans. There's more to Rhine and Rowan than Rhine ever knew and it all goes back to their geneticist parents and their Chemical Garden project. So does Rhine ever get the life of freedom she wants? Does she find Gabriel? The question of who will survive and who won't  and whether or not a cure can ever be found is all answered in this breathtaking final installment.

**All in all, I really loved these books. Rhine was such an easy character to listen to and get to know. I enjoyed all the sister-wives and Linden and found that every character, no matter how minor, was well drawn and interesting. DeStefano's writing was wonderful and really drew me in and kept me reading. At times I'd find myself re-reading lines and smiling at how profound they were. While some parts dragged out more than others in books two and three, overall the plot was well-done. My only complaint is small--I would've liked to know more about the science of Rhine and Rowan's parent's work and what exactly made the twins so special. But I don't really think that was important to the overall story that DeStefano was trying to tell. She wanted to tell a story of love against all odds and how we can love different people in different ways. She wanted to paint a picture of hope amidst a world falling apart. And she wanted us to question what evil really was--those who played God and caused death? Those who killed in order to cure? Or those who enslaved to get back what they lost?

Thanks for reading! I'll have another review for you soon. Feel free to comment below.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

More vacation

Well, vacation has officially ended! While I'm glad to be home, I'm definitely a little sad it's all over. We had a blast and kept very busy and made a lot of great memories. Back to writing/querying tomorrow! In the meantime, here are a few more pics...

Enjoying some beachside entertainment in the form of kite surfers in Rockport

Trying to keep the seagulls from eating our lunch at the beach in Port Aransas. They're VULTURES!

More beach fun (and a TON of seaweed) in North Padre

Fishing in Aransas Pass

Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi

On the hunt for seashells

That's all! I hope your summer has been fun and family filled so far like mine has been. Now time for me to get some work done! Check back later this week for a book review of SEVER (btw, I am loving it!)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Just wanted to stop in and say hello! 

The family and I started our vacation yesterday and so far it has been a blast! We arrived at our beach house in Rockport in the early afternoon and headed straight to the beach. The girls enjoyed catching hermit crabs and collecting shells but were totally grossed out by the dead jellyfish that had washed ashore! As you can see from the pic below, I was able to get some reading done which was awesome. (: Today we hit up Port Aransas. The girls loved the ferry ride over and we had so much fun playing in the waves and building sand castles (and collecting MORE shells!). 

Since Mama got a bit lobster-like today, we're going to head into Corpus Christi tomorrow and check out the battleship and see some sights. Hope you're enjoying your summer as much as I am. I'll try to check back in with more pics as the week progresses.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Update and Changes

Summer is officially here in my house! School wrapped up on Wednesday, we went to a high school graduation that night, got haircuts on Thursday, went to the pool on Friday, are going to a graduation party today, and are leaving for our beach vacation on Monday. As you can see, we are BUSY! I thought I'd give a little update on what's going on for me (writing wise) and let you know about some upcoming changes on my blog.

First off, I'm still in the query stage of the whole "I want my book published" process. It's been a very exciting time for me to research agents and send out query letters. Hitting the 'send' button on an email has never been more nervewracking or thrilling and I find myself actually enjoying it! Like most querying writers, I obsessively check my email for responses. I've gotten a handful of very polite form rejections from various literary agents and a few weeks ago I got my first request to see my full manuscript!! I was so happy when I read that email--I don't think I stopped smiling the entire day! The agent that requested is amazing and I'd be lucky to have her represent me. If it doesn't work out though, that's alright. This business is very subjective and I still have so much growing and learning to do as a writer. Most authors don't even sell their first novels (aka "trunk" novels). I may end up being one of those people and again, that's alright. I want to be the best writer I can be and if that means that my first novel is my "training" novel, then I can live with that. 

As for blog changes, they're not too big. I usually try to post about 4 times a week. With a busy summer already underway I plan to cut back just a bit. My posts will probably be very sporadic and some weeks I may be able to do more than others. I really want to focus on my kids and of course, my writing. I started a new manuscript recently but I hit that wonderful roadblock that happens to a lot of writers at right about 10,000 words. I'm hoping to push through and get the first draft finished before the kiddos go back to school in late August. I have a few other ideas that are running around in my head that I may try to flesh out as well. So check back often, wish me luck and have a wonderful summer!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

This was a book that for whatever reason I kept checking out at my library and turning back in unread. I knew it would be a good book and my sister confirmed this when she read it but I hadn't been in the mood for a fantasy in a while and I had been so busy writing and querying and running my family that I just never got around to reading it. Well, that all changed the other day. I checked it out and immediately started reading. And of course, like my sister, EVERYONE on Twitter and even, I thought it was AMAZING! Here's my summary:

Alina is a war orphan in her country. Her and her best friend Mal are raised at the Duke's estate and sent out into the army when they are of age. The army fights border countries and with the help of the Grisha (those born with a magical talent) try to cross Unsea, or shadow fold, that lies in the middle of the country and separates them from their True Sea and other west provinces. The shadow fold is just what it sounds like, a dark stretch of land filled with monsters where most anyone who crosses dies. Alina and her unit are crossing the fold one day when they are attacked by those monsters. In a desperate attempt to save Mal, Alina does something incredible--she displays a highly sought after and world changing magical talent. She can summon the sun. Immediately she is whisked away to the king's palace and sent to train like other Grisha. The Darkling, the leader of the Grisha, believes Alina is the people's savior. He wants her to help him destroy the shadow fold. All Alina wants is to be back with Mal and have her normal life back. She may not have had much in the way of money or family or friends but at least she knew who she was. This girl they've turned her into isn't someone she recognizes and for the life of her, Alina can't seem to summon the sun without provocation. But as much as she misses Mal and her old life, she wants to make a difference more. And when the Darkling starts taking a special interest in her Alina finds his charms hard to resist. But when a secret ally lets Alina in on the Darkling's true intentions, Alina has no choice but to escape. She finds Mal and together the two search for a way to make Alina more powerful than the Darkling. Powerful enough that she will never be anyone's slave or weapon. But will they manage this or will the Darkling find them first? Will Alina be able to save her people or will she help to slaughter them? And will she be with Mal or will she lose him forever?

**When I think of high fantasy books that I love (see my favorites list to the right) it's hard to imagine anything can compare to those books. I wasn't expecting to like Shadow and Bone as much as I did but it blew me away. I got swept up in Alina's Russian-like world of magic and war and political power. I loved Alina's character and everything she struggled with, most especially her feelings for her best friend Mal. But I was really surprised to find myself kind of liking the Darkling and her relationship with him too. Who doesn't like the bad boy with immense power that looks at you like you're everything he wants? The ending left me wanting more but not in a cliffhanger sort of way. I can't wait to read the next book in the GRISHA trilogy, Siege and Storm. It just came out and it has been getting awesome reviews!

Thanks for reading. Feel free to comment below!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Writing Tips: Present Tense vs. Past Tense

Writing is a craft--one that I am new to. I'm constantly learning new things as I read and research. Something that came to my attention recently is the emerging trend of present tense in YA books. I read an interview with the brilliant author Beth Revis where they asked her why she wrote her Across the Universe trilogy in present tense. She said she didn't even realize she had until about 50 pages into her manuscript when she accidentally typed in "said" instead of "say." Revis didn't even like present tense stories but when she discovered she was writing her WIP in just this way she decided to just go with it. She felt it was how her story needed to be told and how her characters wanted her to tell it.

This got me to thinking about my own manuscript, I am Caraway. For the first time it occurred to me that I too had written a present tense story. Like Revis, I didn't set out intending to write it that way--it was an unconscience choice. Cara, my main character, took my hand and pulled me back in time. I saw her life as she lived it and related her story in just that way.

Naturally, I started doing some more research on the topic of tenses. What I found is that there is a big line of division on how people feel about past tense vs. present tense. Those who hate present tense argue that it's a trend spurred by The Hunger Games and more common (and better suited for) dystopian novels and the occasional paranormal or fantasy. They argue that present tense is unnecessary and the story can be told just as good or better in the past tense. They say present tense is obvious and distracting and the tense of a story should never be either of those things. While I'm still undecided on how I feel about which tense is better, I do agree with the last part of that statement. When a book is good and the writing is done well you should never notice the tense. The POV, yes, but never the tense. 

Then there are those that love present tense. They feel that it adds a sense of immediacy to the story and allows the reader to experience everything through the main character's eyes. They feel like they are right there living the action and can get to know the main characters better in this tense than they would with past tense. I even saw a comment on how present tense has the power to completely make or break a story. When done right, it's great. When done wrong, it can ruin a book. No other tense has that power.

Ok so here's where I panicked. What if my novel was ruined by present tense? What if Cara's story could've been told better in past tense? What if no one wants to represent me or publish my book because they think I got the tense wrong or just don't like present tense? I sat for a while and considered doing a major overhaul to my manuscript and telling Cara's story in past tense. Ultimately, I decided to leave it be. This was how Cara's story unfolded in my head. This was how it came out and this was how it needed to stay. I can't imagine telling it any other way and I'm not sure I even could without completely messing it up. I poured my heart and soul into this novel and I'm happy with the end result. Would I re-do it if an agent or editor asked me to? Probably. That's the nature of the business and I'm by no means an expert. If someone who knows better says Cara's story would be stronger told in past tense, I would definitely give it a try. I want to share my novel with the world and let everyone get to know and love my characters as I do. But more importantly, I want to keep improving as a writer. And I'll do whatever it takes to achieve that.

We all have our strengths and weaknesses in everything we do in life. Authors are no different. I've only ever written the one novel so I can't say exactly where all my strengths lie but I do know one of them is in first person present. When I get an idea for a story the characters get into my head and drag me to my computer and give me little say over what's going to happen. It happened that way with I am Caraway and it's happening again with my current WIP. My characters decide what to do, where to go, what to say, and how to say it. I never know all the details (which I kind of like). But that's just me. Other writers get an idea for a story and have to sit down and outline and decide on tense and POV, plot and sub-plot and everything else. We all work differently. Hopefully though, the end result is the same thing--a good story with good writing. That's all any of us want to do. Tell you a great story in the best way possible.

Here are a few articles I came across in my research. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading! See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Review: The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate

I first picked up this book after I finished Lauren Kate's first book in her FALLEN series, Fallen. I liked her writing style and wanted to check out what else she had available. I saw The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove, read the synopsis which said it was a new take on Macbeth (!), and said, Ok, sure! Here's my summary:

Natalie Hargrove is the most popular girl in school. She and her boyfriend (the cutest, most popular guy of course) are running for prom King and Queen of the senior class. In Natalie's town, it's a HUGE honor to win this coveted title. But while Natalie might be pretty and popular, she isn't necessarily well-liked. Her ex-boyfriend is among those who would love to see Natalie fall--and he starts to do whatever he can to make that happen. But Natalie will let no one get in her way. She convinces her boyfriend to help her pull a prank on her ex. Things don't go exactly as planned, though. With her life and lies and boyfriend completely out of control, Natalie would give anything to just make everything right again. What happens in the end to accomplish this will shock everyone--including Natalie.

**This book was such a fun read! I kept thinking it would be great as a Lifetime movie and totally wanted to shoot an email to the network to suggest it! Natalie was not at all a likeable main character and that was the first of many reasons why I enjoyed her story. She was that girl in high school that everyone hates (but pretends to like) and fears not being friends with. We all want to see these girls get what they deserve and while what Natalie does to her ex has the potential to destroy her, she manages to scrape by without too much of a fall and almost makes you want to root for her! I definitely questioned what I felt for her while reading! The main reason I liked this book though was it's surprise ending--I didn't see it coming at all! If you're looking for a quick and easy read that will make you remember all the highs and lows of high school, this book is for you! 

Thanks for hanging out! Let me know what you think!!

Monday, June 3, 2013

New Book Releases

It's Monday!! There were a lot of new releases this week so I narrowed it down to the ones with the most buzz and promise. Goodreads links follow. Here we go:

The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Tides by Betsy Cornwell

Tidal (WATERSONG #3) by Amanda Hocking

Seige and Storm (THE GRISHA #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Phoenix (BLACK CITY #2) by Elizabeth Richards

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle

The Impossibility of Tomorrow (INCARNATION #2) by Avery Williams

Faking It (LOSING IT #2) by Cora Cormack

Elegy (HEREAFTER #3) by Tara Hudson

Crushed (PRETTY LITTLE LIARS #13) by Sara Shepard

Whew! That was a lot! Thanks for stopping by. Comment away...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Book Review: Liar by Justine Larbalestier

A few days ago I posted my "list" of favorite books. Over the next few days I'm going to try to review some of the books on that list that I haven't already reviewed to give you a little bit of an idea of what they are about and why I liked them. Liar was on the honorable mention section of my list. Here's a summary:

Micah is a liar. She lies about everything. And as the narrator of this story, she admits this to us right up front. She tells us how she's lied to everyone in her life from parents, to friends, teachers, random strangers. Most of her lies are harmless, meant for good fun and some laughs. Some of her lies have gotten her into big trouble and branded her the very thing she is. So when Micah's boyfriend is found dead under brutal circumstances and Micah is the last person to have been with him, no one believes her when she says that she wasn't the one who did it. She sets off to tell us, the reader, some very difficult truths. For the first time ever she's ready to finally be honest. But can a chronic liar ever really be truthful?

**I completely loved this book but for reasons so different than why I love other books on my list. For one, I loved having a dishonest narrator. It wasn't until I was about halfway through though the book though that I really got this. Like any other avid reader, I trusted who was telling me the story. Micah seemed so genuine and relatable that I chucked out everything she'd told me about her--the most important of which was that SHE LIES!! Even though she'd clearly tell you "this is the truth," I found myself never knowing if what I had just been told was actually THE TRUTH. The story telling style in Liar was great with plenty of flashbacks that were relevant to each current section of the story. Larbalestier takes you on a whirlwind mystery of who-dunnit and truth vs. lie that will leave you frustrated but in a head-shaking, smiling kind of way. I have never been more surprised by a story before which is why Liar made the honorable mention section of my list of favorite books.

Thanks for reading! See you back here soon.