Thursday, August 29, 2013

Book Review: The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

If you read my last book review you'll know that I LOVED the first book in this trilogy. Once again the cover and title didn't disappoint and when I started reading, I couldn't stop! Here's my summary:

Mara wakes up once again in the hospital. Unlike the first time this happened though, she remembers how she got there. Mara had gone to the police station to give a statement when she saw her ex-boyfriend--the one who is supposed to be dead--the one she's been seeing ever since she woke up in the last hospital. He touched her. He spoke to her. Apparently, Mara freaked out. That's how she ended up back in the psych ward. Mara does everything she can to tell her mom and brother and doctor she isn't crazy and isn't lying but no one believes her. Convinced they will lock her up for good, she decides to play their game and act normal and go along with what they are saying. It works. Mara is released. But she isn't giving up. She knows now that Jude is alive and stalking her and trying to make everyone believe she is guilty of his crimes as well as crazy. Mara's boyfriend Noah is the only one who believes her. Together the two search even harder from answers while Mara attends an outpatient program/school to get better. In the meantime, her and Noah discover that Mara's dead grandmother, who everyone also believed was crazy, and Noah's dead mother, actually knew each other. What's more is that Mara is starting to have memories that could only belong to her grandmother. Things get even more tense when Jude kidnaps Mara and displays some powers of his own. The next time Mara wakes up, she can't convince anyone she's sane. They send her to a last resort inpatient facility. Thankfully Noah manages to get in too. It's there she and Noah discover that Mara's doctor and the head of the facility isn't all she seems. When Jude shows up for one final attempt at revenge, Mara does the only thing she can think of that might finally get him out of their lives forever. Except this time the consequences are more than she imagined. 

Whew! This was one roller coaster of an emotional book ride! Mara's journey was emotional and relatable once again. She dealt with many of the same teenage problems other kids her age deal with as well as the added problem of overwhelming emotional issues. I tore through this book loving the mounting threat of Jude and enjoying the sweet romance that continued to develop between Noah and Mara. I liked the little clues that were dropped along the way that kept me wondering what was going on with these two kids as well as many of the other kids Mara had met. Why were they different? Was Mara's grandmother like them? How is Jude still alive? The question of Mara's mental stability and reliability as a narrator was always on the forefront of my mind. Was she crazy and just had me fooled for two books? The answer at the end of Evolultion was a nice set up for book three and a shocking revelation that left more questions than answers. What's more is that where Mara is left and the consequences of what she did left me with my mouth open and my eyes wide with shock. Book three, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, releases in June 2014.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment below!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Working on something new, still working on something old...

I started out this summer with a couple of goals--keep querying I AM CARAWAY and finish the new YA manuscript I had started. I've managed to keep the first and I've sort of been able to keep the second. Let me explain: 

My something new:

Back in May I was in the early stages of sending out queries and sample pages of I AM CARAWAY. I had gotten a handful of rejections and a couple of requests for more material. One of the best pieces of advice for any writer is to always be working on something new. It helps the submission process to be more bearable, it gives you more writing experience, and it builds your library of material. And if what you're querying to agents (or what you're submitting to editors) isn't having any luck, then it gives you another option. I had been toying with several ideas for a while but none of them had inspired me to open up a new word doc and start writing. Then finally one day I got an idea that did. I jumped on it. It was a contemporary YA which is what all the agents seem to want--what pretty much all agents represent and prefer, as opposed to sci-fi/fantasy. I fleshed out about 10,000 words within a few days. Then I hit a block, or more aptly for me, a loss of inspiration. It had happened before with two other manuscripts. I knew where I wanted the story to go but I lost my steam to write it. Like most writers, I became agitated and restless during that time. I spent a lot of hours reading and catching up on TV shows and wondering why I was in a funk. It wasn't until I got a new idea for another contemporary YA that I started to feel good again. I opened up a new doc and got to work. This one would have a literary hook (think Jay Asher's THIRTEEN REASONS WHY or THIRTEEN LITTLE BLUE ENVELOPES...odd that they both have the number 13...) Around the same time I noticed a hashtag among some of the writers I follow. It was #WIPMarathon, or work in progress marathon. I didn't really know how it worked but it looked like those participating were doing "sprints"--taking chunks of time and writing non-stop and seeing how many words they could get in. Participating made them accountable to people and following others tweeting the hashtag gave them encouragement. Since summer had been so crazy here and I knew I might not always be around during those "sprints," I decided to set myself a reasonable word count goal for each day. My own version of #WIPMarathon. It was 1K a day. Everyday I find at least a couple of hours (usually once the kiddos are in bed) to get in my thousand words. So far I have succeeded. Yay me! Since most contemporary YA novels are around 40-70 thousand words, at 1K a day I can realistically have this WIP done in 2 months. Today I reached the halfway mark. I'm super excited about this one. My first 250 words are strong (for those of you who don't know that's a big deal for contests) and so are my first 5 and 10 pages (what you typically send to agents as sample pages). I just hope the literary hook and premise are interesting and my writing is strong.

My something old:

As for I AM CARAWAY, I am getting close to a point where I am going to stop querying and call this one my "trunk" novel. Most writer's first novels are just this. Everyday I learn something new about writing. I often go back and try to apply what I've learned to CARAWAY but I will admit at times it's daunting. I love that story and I really hope to one day see it in print but I'm starting to think that day might not come as soon as I'd like. The market for historical YAs is tough and my added element of faeries as the fantasy aspect and medieval England as the historical one makes CARAWAY especially hard to find a market for. It's longer than the average YA novel and takes time to get into and that's not good for a debut author. Debut authors need to grab quickly and keep it short. I have a few more agents I plan to query and once I hear back, if none of them are interested, this novel will be put away. The good thing about all of this is that I can officially say I have my training wheels off. I know how to query and pitch, I know which agents might be a good fit for me and which won't, and I am a better writer now than I was before. It may not have been the ideal outcome I had when I started but I can't complain. My biggest fear after finishing CARAWAY and not being able to see through those other two WIPs was that I would only ever be able to write one book. I don't think that's true anymore. I know I will finish this new one. And I also feel much more like a writer now. I mean how else would you explain my funk without my creative outlet? (:

Well, that's about all. Check back next week for my review of the second book in the MARA DYER trilogy. I loved it and can't wait to tell you why!

Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear what you have to say so please, comment below!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

Let me start by saying that what first drew me to this book was the title and cover. Gorgeous, right? I read the inside flap and thought, 'Ok, cool. I'll give it a try.' There are only two books I have ever read that completely surprised me with where they went. Liar by Justine Larbalestier is one and this is the other. I was expecting one thing and got blown away with the twist at the end! (probably because I thought it was a contemporary YA and not paranormal) Here's my summary:

Mara Dyer wakes up in the hospital with no memory of how she got there. She's told right away that she was in an accident with her boyfriend, best friend, and boyfriend's sister and they are all dead. Miraculously, Mara survived. Mara's parents decide to move the family out of state so Mara can have a fresh start. It's at her new school that Mara meets Noah. The two have an immediate connection. Mara and Noah start trying to piece together just what happened to Mara in an effort to help Mara get her memories back. But when Mara starts hallucinating her dead boyfriend, the boundary between what's real and not, what's true and not, and if she is crazy or not, begins to blur. Can she figure out everything she needs to about the accident before she completely loses it? Is there more to Mara than meets the eye?

**This is one of my favorite books. I should probably go and add it right now to my "List" because of how much I love it. I have always been fascinated with the brain and why we do and don't remember some things (another reason I decided to read this was to find out why she didn't remember). Mara waking up and learning that all these people she loved are dead and then having to move to another state is heart-wrenching and beautifully written. In fact, this whole book is beautifully written. The characters are well-developed and unique. Mara's voice and relationship with her brother and especially Noah is fun and different. I was completely not expecting the twist that was taken at the end. If you haven't already, you MUST pick up this book and its sequel, THE EVOLUTION OF MARA DYER. I just finished it and I can't wait to post all about it for you! Now, if only it were next summer already so I could get my hands on the last book, THE RETRIBUTION OF MARA DYER...

Let me know what you think! Comment below.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

New Book Releases

These are the new releases for the week of August 4-10. I don't know about you but I think this list looks great! There are several on it that I'm excited about. Goodreads links are provided.

Infinityglass: An Hourglass novel by Myra McEntire

Book 3 

YA science-fiction (time travel)

Gated by Amy Christine Parker

YA contemporary thriller w/dystopian elements

Elegy (Watersong Novel) by Amanda Hocking

Book 4

YA fantasy

The Uprising: The Forsaken Trilogy by Lisa M. Stasse

Book 2

YA dystopia

A Tale of Two Centuries (My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century #2) by Rachel Harris

Book 2

YA Science-Fiction (time travel)

Lots of great choices, huh? Which one are you looking forward to?