Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Book Round-up!

So this year, I was kind of a dismal failure when it came to reading books. I haven't actually gone back and crunched the numbers, but I'm quite certain I fall short of my high water mark from previous years! (Which is, in fact, quite short of what many of you fellow readers can accomplish! Well done, you bibliophiles, you!) My excuse for not setting the high water mark this year?

Pregnancy. 

See, some might view pregnancy as a great opportunity to veg on the couch and read books… these people would be wrong. 

Veg on the couch? Most certainly. 

Read books? Child, please. That takes WAY too much brain power!

I'm pretty sure I spent AT LEAST a solid three months on the couch doing nothing but watch Bones and barfing. As it turns out, Bones probably isn't the best show to watch when you're feeling queazy, on account of all the guts and gore involved with dissecting dead bodies. Go figure. But still, I got hooked. What's a girl to do?

Anyhow… despite the fact that growing a human being made me, well, less than human for seven months, I did manage to scrape up a few favorite books from 2013. So here they are… my top five, in no particular order:

(1) The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden, #2), by Julie Kagawa

Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.










(2) Requiem (Delirium #3), by Lauren Oliver

They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.

But we are still here.

And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancĂ©e of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.

Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.

But we have chosen a different road.

And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.

We are even free to choose the wrong thing.


(3) The Brides of Rollrock Island, by Margo Lanagan

Rollrock island is a lonely rock of gulls and waves, blunt fishermen and their homely wives. Life is hard for the families who must wring a poor living from the stormy seas. But Rollrock is also a place of magic - the scary, salty-real sort of magic that changes lives forever. Down on the windswept beach, where the seals lie in herds, the outcast sea witch Misskaella casts her spells - and brings forth girls from the sea - girls with long, pale limbs and faces of haunting innocence and loveliness - the most enchantingly lovely girls the fishermen of Rollrock have ever seen.

But magic always has its price. A fisherman may have and hold a sea bride, and tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she is. He will be equally ensnared. And in the end the witch will always have her payment.

Margo Lanagan has written an extraordinary tale of desire, despair and transformation. In devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals unforgettable characters capable of unspeakable cruelty - and deep unspoken love. After reading about the Rollrock fishermen and their sea brides, the world will not seem the same.


(4) Dancing in the Dark, Robyn Bavati

North American debut of the Australian award-winning drama. Ditty Cohen is passionate about ballet--she loves how it feels to stand en pointe, to rise and spin across the room. But her Orthodox Jewish parents want Ditty to focus on the teachings of the Torah and to marry at a young age according to their religious tradition. Although her parents forbid her to take dance lessons, Ditty secretly signs up for ballet and becomes entangled in a web of deceit. As one lie leads to another and another, Ditty knows she must stop dancing, but she can't abandon the one thing that gives her freedom. She begins to question her faith and everything her parents have taught her, realizing just how much is at stake as her two worlds collide.








(5) The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.





Aaaaaand, because I'm totally indecisive, and couldn't kick this book out, (despite the fact that it has pretty dresses and handsome princes and even a love triangle--a completely shallow YA novel), I loved this book nonetheless, and award it my Honorable Mention:

The Elite (The Selection #2), Kiera Cass

Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.


All of these books were epic in their own right. They were unique (yes, even the vampire one, you naysayers! Don't be hatin'), they were all well written, and they were all undoubtedly, wonderful stories! If you haven't read them already, you should probably get on down to the library and check 'em out. You won't be sorry!

And what would a top five round up be without a bottom dwelling round up? I don't have FIVE biggest disappointments, (because honestly, thats a depressing list). However, I do have a couple of terrible, awful, no good, very bad standouts that I feel compelled to warn you against. I give you, my two biggest disappointments of the year… 

(1) Reached, by Ally Condie, and
(2) Allegiant, by Veronica Roth

You both should be flogged for starting off with such smashing book ones, then tapering off in book twos, only to nose dive over a cliff in your book threes. May we fellow writers never be guilty of letting our poor readers down in such a dismal fashion! You, Ally Condie and Veronica Roth, were the most disappointing of 2013. May the critics rest your souls. 

Anyway, there you have it, my lovely writers and readers! My 2013 round up! What were your '13 favs? Your '13 nose dives? I'd love to hear them! Especially since I have some lost ground to make up in 2014. Bring it on!

  

Monday, December 16, 2013

Honey, I'm home!

Honestly, I sort of suspect that any of the few people I DID have following my blog, probably thought I died or something, and stopped following me MONTHS ago. I don't blame those people, I really don't. Radio silence for going on seven-ish months? I get it! And I wish I could say I had some awesome excuse for failing my faithful blog followers, but I really don't.

I mean, I DID have a rather gnarly pregnancy. And its true it ended in an emergency c-section. And I had to spend the first 38 days of my daughter's life visiting her in the hospital, on account of she's a cheeky little bugger and decided to come two months early… buuuuuut… as good as those reasons are, alas! None of them had anything to do with why I stopped posting. 

I just had to choose for a little while there: writing or blogging. Time is a precious commodity. You know how it goes. I see you in the back there. Yes, you, nodding your head. We understand each other!

But I'm back now. YAY! (Though I realize that many of you have now checked out, seeings how it is, in fact, the holidays….) But perhaps we can all meet again after the festivities have died down for another year?

Until then, you should probably start thinking of your fav books of 2013. Cause I will be asking shortly, on account of I have a book addiction (its a problem), and I'm sure I missed some good ones whilst holed up on the couch during my pregnancy! Missed you, writers! So glad to be back! 





Saturday, June 22, 2013

Still alive!

Hey Peeps, its me. Julie. 

Remember me? Had a 2013 new years resolution to do a blog post at least once a week? 

[cue light bulbs]

Yeah. As you can see... two months since my last post=EPIC new years resolution failure. There was, though, an... ahem... well... BUMP in the road that has caused me to fall off the bandwagon a wee bit:


I'm smiling and pretty in this picture. But what I really look and feel like is this:


I think that's a zombie preggy person. Or maybe a preggy demon. I'm not really sure. But the point is, she looks pretty miserable in an TELL-ME-ONE-MORE-TIME-I-LOOK-TIRED....I-DARE-YOU, kinda way. Which pretty much sums up my current state of being. Oh, plus some vomiting, which I haven't experienced since being hospitalized in the Gettysburg hospital on my 9th grade American Heritage spring break trip. (True story!) 

Luckily, though, with the first trimester just about in my rear view mirror (does it end at 12, 13 or 14 weeks... can anyone agree??), I'm starting to feel a TINSEY bit better. (And by "tinsey," I mean that I might be able to commit to writing about three words a day on my WIP). With any luck, there will be sunshine and rainbows coming up in the next few months!

Unless, of course, the golden era of the second trimester is a myth. In which case, there will probably be more hiatus-ing of the blog. 

I'm pushing for sunshine and rainbows here... 

If for no other reason than I'm starting to run out of episodes of Bones to watch. 

What have all of you lovlies been up to? Any zombie-deamon-preggy lady advice for a first time preggy lady? New shows to pick up after I run out of Bones? Hope you all are well!!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

That Time I Joined the Circus

So.... I joined NetGalley. 

Not the Circus. 

Although lets be honest... joining the circus would be loads of fun (I dream of being a trapeze artist when I "grow" up... that along with an ice skater and prima ballerina)... but I digress. 

I joined NetGalley. 

Which, I'm not sure why I didn't know about this awesome-ness before, but basically its a place where people (insert: bloggers/librarians/professional reviewers, etc.) can go to get advanced copies of books. All for the small price of a review. Not too shabby says I! 

Any-whoooo... so I joined this fabulous NetGalley. The first book I read and reviewed was the sequel to the Immortal Rules, called the Eternity Cure. Which you all know from the review I posted, I drooled over like Joseph Gordon-Levitt at the Oscars. It was just that good. 

And now I just finished my second book via NetGalley. (I'm really never going to get over how cool it is to have access to all these awesome AR copies!) The book is called That Time I Joined the Circus, by J. J. Howard. 


Lexi Ryan just ran away to join the circus, but not on purpose.

A music-obsessed, slightly snarky New York City girl, Lexi is on her own. After making a huge mistake--and facing a terrible tragedy--Lexi has no choice but to track down her long-absent mother. Rumor has it that Lexi's mom is somewhere in Florida with a traveling circus.

When Lexi arrives at her new, three-ring reality, her mom isn't there . . . but her destiny might be. Surrounded by tigers, elephants, and trapeze artists, Lexi finds some surprising friends and an even more surprising chance at true love. She even lucks into a spot as the circus's fortune teller, reading tarot cards and making predictions.

But then Lexi's ex-best friend from home shows up, and suddenly it's Lexi's own future that's thrown into question.

With humor, wisdom, and a dazzlingly fresh voice, this debut reminds us of the magic of circus tents, city lights, first kisses, and the importance of an excellent playlist.


First of all... can we talk about how STUNNING the cover is? I know what they say... but guys... I seriously can't NOT judge a book by its cover. I really can't. Its compulsive. Especially when its a beauty like that!

Pats on the back all around for the marketing team. I applaud you!

However, beyond its stunning cover, I have to admit that the story itself fell a little short. I guess that's why they have that whole preverbal don't judge by the cover nonsense in the first place, eh? This book practically screams: OPEN ME NOW!!! I'M BEAUTIFUL!!! and it even with all that razzle dazzle, it somehow still let me down. Poop.

I guess I should tell you why...

Well first of all there was a lot of that "telling" instead of "showing" bit... (which--for the record--I'm starting to really hate myself over. I mean, seriously, before I started writing, I didn't realize the difference between telling and showing. Or... if I did... I didn't know there was a name for it. Now I can't NOT notice it, even if I try! Gah!!) But yeah. The telling. There was a lot of it. 

And by a lot I mean like A LOT a lot. 

And I just can't handle that anymore. 

Beyond that, though, there was this super duper weird love SQUARE going on. Cause as if love triangles weren't enough, now writers gotta start throwing in the fourth wheel. Oh joy.

Eli.... Nick... Jamie... all of them are Alpha-male-ing it over this one Lexi girl. Or is it Xandra? Or Alexandra? Or Allie? I forget...

WOMAN! STOP CHANGING YOUR FREAKIN' NAME ALREADY!!

Anyway, ALL of them are trying to get with this emotionally unbalanced Lexi, which I find sort of hard to believe in the first place, because she's like the Bella Swan of the circus: completely unremarkable. 

And then, to top it off, the guy she finally DOES end up with is kind of like... "Eh.... [shrugs]...meh." The character was completely underdeveloped. As were practically ALL of the characters in the book. Her best friend back home... her best friend at the circus... her best girlfriend back home (not to be confused with the boyfriend, who is actually the best friend)... all of these characters are watery and easily forgettable. 

I probably would have forgotten about LexiXandraAlexandraAllie too, if it weren't for the fact that she was the main character. 

And while I love the idea of telling the story in a circus setting [three cheers for Water for Elephants!!!], the setting wasn't enough to carry the bulk of a lack luster story and forgettable characters. 

Save your pennies and your time. Give this book a pass. 

Sorry, J.J.! Better luck next time...




Friday, March 15, 2013

The Happiness Advantage

So, the other day, when I was all "wo-is-me-ing," feelin' pretty blue, cause I haven't been able to nab an agent yet, Hubbs tells me I need to read a book. 

"Book? What book? I like books!" Says I!

Then Hubbs tells me the book is called The Happiness Advantage.

I'm pretty sure my face went from looking like a kid on Christmas morning, to Little Cindy Loo Whooo's when she found out the Grinch stole her Christmas tree. 

Great. Nonfiction. Whoop dee do. 

But Hubbs insisted, so I complied. 

YOU GUYS. This book is amazing! I'm not saying I'm all converted to non fiction, or that Hubbs is suddenly back in my good graces as far as book recommends go (seriously, he gave one too many hard core fantasy novels for me to trust his judgment anymore). But at least on this one, he was right. 

Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy. If we can just find that great job, win that next promotion, lose those five pounds, happiness will follow. But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn’t just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe. 
            

I used to sell pest control door to door... you know... when I was in college and desperate for money. At this job, I was bombarded with the whole Positive Mental Attitude whooo-raw. I  won't lie. I basically wanted to sock my team lead in the face everyday. His false coo-coo happy-ness routine was like another bag of Snickers the day after Halloween: Just. Too. Much. And I did NOT buy the sentiment that telling myself I was going to sell 10 accounts that day, would make it happen. 

But ya know what? After reading this book? I might actually be a believer... 

Some of my favorite studies: 

--75 Year old men AGING BACKWARDS
--Loosing weight just by being told that what you do burns calories 
--Severe poison ivy symptoms (from contact with a NON poison ivy plant), just by being told it was poison ivy

There was also a study that the author called "Give your Doctor a Lollipop," in which doctors who were given a lollipop before diagnosing a patient, gave the correct diagnosis TWICE as fast and more accurately than those who were not given a treat. And here's the kicker, they didn't even get to eat the lollipop! They just received one. Oh no... that's not all...

Research showed that 4 year olds do better when asked to just THINK about something happy before starting a task. And high schoolers who thought of the happiest day of their lives before taking standardized tests, scored consistently higher than their fellow students. 

Also, there was a study done with Asian women and math. A group of Asian women were given two math tests of equal difficulty. Before the first test, the officiators told the women to think of themselves as women, who traditionally score lower in math than men. The women didn't do very well. On the second test, they officiators told the same women to think of themselves as Asian, an ethnicity who traditionally does very well at math. 

What do ya know?

On the second test, those Asian women rocked it!

Now obviously getting published is not solely up to me. No matter how happy I am, I cannot simply smile Skittles and rainbows at an agent to get her to sign me. However, with these hard core positivity studies out there, think of the ways we writers CAN influence our work through positive thinking...

Listening to my favorite song before I start writing.... Telling myself that writing is the best part of my day... Repeating in my head that writing a great story is easy....

None of these things are hard to do... and yet, as research shows, it will drastically improve my performance. I may not be able to get an agent to sign me just by being happy. But can I improve my actual work through positivity? 

Given the ease of putting these theories to the test, I think I'm willing to give it a shot! Woot, woot!



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Alec Greven on ELLEN

Holla, wanna be authors! This kid just totally schooled us...


A publishing contract with Harper Collins AND a spot on the Ellen show. Kid, ya done good!

Read: The Eternity Cure

Soooo... since my VERY LAST POST was about The Eternity Cure, I feel a tad bit obsessive that this one is ALSO going to be about said book of awesome, The Eternity Cure

Sorry guys. I promised a review. 

Can I help it if the book was so addicting I couldn't put it down?

No seriously, I really couldn't. Hubbs and I actually had a fight on Sunday about who got to commandeer the iPad for the morning. He needed it for a meeting. I needed it for my fix.

Meeting schmeeting, said I! OBVIOUSLY, I won. 

Now I'm not entirely sure how reviews are supposed to operate when the book has been yet to be released to the public. I've perused Goodreads, and no one seems to be giving any reviews of substance, yet. So I'm assuming spoilers are frowned upon. Which means at some point, I'll probably have to update this review to reflect certain opinions on certain events that most certainly should remain untold at the moment. Suffice it to say, though, this book was AWESOME SAUCE!


Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.

Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.





New and old, there were lots of things to love...  

I loved Jackal. Even though I simultaneously wanted to strangle and kiss him every other page. I love snarky wit... seriously. Does it get better than wit? Its hard not to love a vamp who has it in spades! 

I loved Zeke (always!), who seems to have grown a pair since the last book. Which, lets be honest, is awesome. His new bad boy I'm-not-afriad-of-you-anymore vibe? Its hot. 

I loved Kanin. He's got the stoic mentor role down pact. And I loved seeing the "dark side" of vamps through his torture (cue Darth Vader music). Not that I condone torture or anything, of course. But it did bring more depth to his character, which I appreciated. 

And yes, I even loved Phsyco Vamp. Because he's probably ONE OF THE CREEPIEST VILLAINS EVER!!!! Holy. Crap. I'm scared of him and he's totally fiction! Sarren is the stuff of nightmares. For. Real. And I loved him for it. 

The only thing I didn't like was the cover. Don't get me wrong, turquoise? It ranks up there on the favorite color list, only second to red in my book. But still. I loved the first cover. It was awesome-ly creepy with the blood tears and all... Alas! I shall morn you, awesome first book cover design!

The Eternity Cure was very bit the kind of stupendous follow up you CRAVE in a sequel! Put this one on your calendar peeps, April 23, 2013, you won't wanna miss it!

The only draw back to an advanced copy? The wait time between book 2 and 3 just got THAT much longer... *sigh*....



Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Eternity Cure: sequel to Book of Awesome

What? Oh... why yes! That IS an advanced copy of Julie Kagawa's The Eternity Cure on my iPad...


Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet the oh-so-stellar, Laurie McLean, at the San Francisco Writer's Conference. Laurie is the ROCK STAR agent for Miss Julie Kagawa, who wrote the Iron Fey series, as well as (my favorite), her new vampire dystopian series, Blood of Eden. Blood of Eden made a smashing debut last year with the Immortal Rules, and, seriously guys? If you haven't read it yet... PUT IT ON THE TOP OF YOUR TO-READ LIST!!!! RIGHT! NOW!

Its amazing. 

Before I'd read the Immortal Rules, I thought I was done with vampires. Stoker, Rice, Meyer... I'd pretty much read 'em all, and I wasn't really interested in yet ANOTHER vampire book. 

Oh. How. Wrong. I. Was. 


I was completely sucked (hardy har!) into this world that Julie Kagawa created. Its basically a vampire dystopian. If any of you have read I Am Legend (not the movie, which is different than the book), or The Strand, it has a similar vibe, in which vampires are the next step in evolution and humans are raised like cattle. I could NOT put it down!! 

Anyway, after I gushed to Laurie about HOW MUCH I FREAKIN' LOVED THE IMMORTAL RULES, she told me she'd try to get me an advanced copy of the sequel. Like, no big deal, right?

This was me: 


[Closed captioning: EEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeek!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

There also may have been some serious finger crossing going on. And a bit of freaking out. And probably some embarrassing exclamations of joy. Just a few.

Anyway, now that I've got my handy dandy advanced reader copy of The Eternity Cure, I plan on settling in for a long day of uninterrupted reading! Are you totes jealous yet?

*sigh*

Its a hard knock life, ya know? 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

San Francisco Writers Conference: Wisdom Noted

Wow. Its Thursday. And I STILL have not posted a SFWC update... I may or may not be a bit of a slacker. I blame the fact that my brain was fried and needed time to recoup. 

SERIOUSLY YOU GUYS, I LIE NOT!!! 

Talk about awesome-writer-advice-brain-overload... $@#*!! 

But now that I've been fed, watered and properly rested, I feel its time to make another virtual appearance. Here are a few things I learned this weekend at the writer's conference of awesome:


R.L. Stien? For being the writer of a notoriously goosebump-y scary series, he was surprisingly, well, UN scary! In fact, he originally wanted to write comedy. Who knew?


Mount Doom is in San Francisco... don't believe me? Try hiking up this every morning:


Forgive me if its unclear, but that's like a freakin' FOURTY FIVE DEGREE ANGLE! I suddenly have strong feelings of empathy for Frodo. 
Cable cars are a beautiful, beautiful invention. 


It IS possible to write 3-4 books PER YEAR (You go, Anne Perry! You adorable little British woman, you!) Pretty sure she's up to like 80 books now... and I feel I shall never live up to her awesome-ness.

Anne is the one with the crazy smile... Haha! I heart this pic!
Laurie McLean, Julie Kagawa's agent, is a FREAKIN' ROCK STAR (and I'm not just saying that because she promised a possible advanced copy of the Eternity Cure...hehe!) She really is awesome. 


Writers make the best friends (Holla LAURA, PERRY, and ASHLEY!!.. Missed you, LAUREN and TERRY!)


Three two-stall bathrooms are inadequate for a conference boasting 500-ish strong. Ew.


Laura Perkins, from the Andrea Brown agency, is also a ROCK STAR! I have big plans to do an entire post on her session "Crafting A Can't-Put-Me-Down First Chapter for a YA Novel." It was sublimely superb! Thank you, Lara!



And last but far from least... Reaffirmed: I LOVE BEING A WRITER!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Slump Breakout

In high school, I was a band nerd. 

[cue gasps of shock and awe]

Unlike the cheer and jock crowd, who I'm pretty sure had chests of gold handed to them (pirate booty style), us poor nerds had to salve to raise money for band tour every year. One of our more notorious and highly-anticipated fundraisers was called the "Rock-a-Thon." 

I kid you not. People would actually pledge money (REAL money!) for us to rock in a rocking chair for 24 hours. Straight. (The things desperate kids will do for money, I know...) 

I bring this up because my "2013 Books Read" numbers are currently quite low. Pretty sure I haven't even broken into double digits yet. Its sad. In an attempt to inflate my numbers, I was thinking of starting Julie's First Annual "Book-a-Thon." 

I mean, if people are willing to pay me to rock in a chair for 24 hours, certainly they'll pay me money to read books, right? 

...[insert pensive expression here]...

I think its worth a shot. 

Anyone willing to pledge money, please see the collection tin at the end of this post.

Okay, okay... so although the numbers are low, I admit, I have read a FEW books recently. One worth mentioning, is by author, Aurora Smith, who asked me to read and review her debut novel, My Stupid Girl

All seventeen-year-old David really wants is to fly under life's radar. In a typical cold winter day in Montana he does something extraordinary: rescues smart, funny, gorgeous good-girl Lucy Peterson from drowning in a freezing lake. As their friendship grows, David realizes that risking his life was the easy part. His friendship with a girl who is different from him in every imaginable way forces David to challenge himself and those around him. He must face the abuse of his past and the uncertainty of his future as he struggles to keep Lucy by his side.

When Aurora sent me this book, she described it as "adorkable." [Eeek! Love!] So of course, I was EXPECTING the totally rock-awesome witty dialogue and descriptions that ACTUALLY made me giggle out loud... (which totally doesn't happen very often, peeps. I'm a stone cold reader... grrr!) It was awesome!

What I was NOT expecting was the way in which Aurora was able to seamlessly tie in some seriously serious topics of discussion with all the lighthearted humor and whit! I've read YA books with some pretty heavy topics.... Wintergirls, by Laurie Hals Anderson and Drowning Instinct, by Ilsa J. Bick (both fabulous--ESPECIALLY Drowning Instinct, just in case you were wondering!). However, I can't say that I've read a good "adorkable," funny kinda novel that ties in such serious-ness with the humor. Most attempts end up coming across as insincere. 

Not so with My Stupid Girl!

Aurora balanced the humor and serious perfectly! I absolutely adored David's pack of miscreant friends (especially Isaiah)! At the same time, I found myself in serious contemplation about the kinds of trials and life changes David had to go through. Some of the topics explored included: adoption, death, forgiveness, teen pregnancy, and religion. I especially liked how, through the book, the characters started out judging each each other as one way based on their outward appearance. And how eventually, they realized the importance of seeing past the public mask to the person within. It reminded me of how very wrong we can be when we judge a book by the cover, so to speak!

Oh, and I totally want David to design a tattoo for me. Cause he's just that awesome. 

One thing I did not like, though,  ***SPOILER ALERT*** was that David almost seemed TOO understanding at the end. Miss Lil' Sweet Cheeks Lucy Pants comes to him with a doozey of a mistake that she made, and instead of having a bit o' heart ache over the matter, David (almost) immediately jumps back with ITSOKAYISTILLTOTALLYLOVEYOUSOMUCH!!! 

Which, considering the issue in question, seemed a bit quick to me. In my experience, boys usually stew over things a little longer than a half hour.

I also thought that some of the witty descriptions went on a little long. For the most part the dialogue and running whit inside David's head were nothing but hilarious! But in the first chapter especially, I thought some of the stuff was "one joke too much," and it dragged down the action a bit. 

Okay, and it was probably just me (and quite possibly cause I didn't bother actually reading the summary of the book BEFORE hand)... but I didn't know if David was a girl or guy for the whole first chapter! Haha ( : Perhaps I missed the "Hi, my name is David, and I'M A BOY" part, but just in case you miss it too? David is, in fact, a boy!


Overall, this was definitely a fun read! I would easily recommend this book for anyone looking for something quick and enjoyable! Its got "thinker" and "humor" all rolled up into one nice, neat package! You can find Aurora's blog HERE, on Facebook HERE, and can buy the oh-so-fabulous read on Amazon, HERE. Choose your virtual weapon, readers, and ENJOY!

Thanks, Aurora! Can't wait for your next David n' Lucy masterpiece ( :

P.s. Does she not look like the coolest person EVER? The socks. The tat. The necklace. I kind of want to be her friend. Just sayin'. 


Monday, February 4, 2013

Dialogue Overrated

Thought this was "adorkable".... can YOU tell a story without dialogue?

Disney can ( :



Friday, February 1, 2013

eBook Revolution

Peeps, I'm headed to another Writer's Conference! 

[Woot, woot! Three cheers!]

Its the San Francisco Writers Conference in--wait for it--San Francisco, CA.

I know, crazy, right? Naming the conference after the city? I thought it was weird too. Heehee.

ANY-way... Whilst stalking the agents I shall be meeting my doom with during the Agent Speed Dating session, I ran across THIS article, that one of the agents posted on her twitter page. To save you the long boring and--might I add--somewhat unnecessary introduction of the article, I will summarize the underlying sentiment: 

Writers, bloggers, readers and the publishing industry are focusing on the wrong part of the "eBook revolution."


Instead of being threatened by the introduction of the eBook, and its implications on the way we CURRENTLY do things, we should instead focus on the limitless possibilities of the FUTURE. What can the eBook do for us? His words:

"The novel has helped foster publishing’s success since it was invented by Cervantes over 400 years ago, and yet readers—more than a decade into the arrival of ebooks—are experiencing stories on a screen in much the same way they do on the page. In fact, Apple recently filed a patent for an “animated graphical user interface,” which is basically digital page-turning. Where we could be innovating, we’re just creating another skeuomorph.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The screen was supposed to be limitless, a portal to another dimension. A magical mirror in which truly anything could appear: words, pictures, movies, sound. And yet novels have merely traded one container for another, with stories trapped inside. Because of this, the future has so far proved to be an illusion, if not a setback."
The author then introduces his own interactive novel, wherein the reader has the freedom to choose the book order, the contents, narrator and the ability to mix n' match everything like an iTunes playlist. He also included book websites, fake email addresses for the characters, photos, and music. 

The switch to this new, interactive style of storytelling, the author claims, is inevitable. 

"Stories began before the invention of the book: as oral tales, recited poetry, knots in a rope or even just sound and rhythm. And stories will continue to evolve. But we can’t let the fact that these are new iterations of something we hold dear deter us from embracing them."

Honestly? The guy kinda sounded like he had a chip on his shoulder about this. Just sayin'. 

Besides that, though, the dude DID make some solid points. 

Don't get me wrong, die hearts! I am, and will forever be, a traditionalists when it comes to reading. NOTHING is as good as feeling the rough grain of the page beneath my fingers... smelling that ink-and-paper smell waft up with the turn of a page... or hearing the crack of a brand-new-book spine. I love real books.

Always have. Always will. 

But still. 

I was fascinated by this writer's point of view. And I have to admit, I'd never even considered eBooks in this fashion. This new, interactive, weirdly WEIRD way of approaching a book. It kinda reminds me of a high-tech, futuristic pop up book for e-readers. Heehee. 

In a conceptual form, it sounds interesting. And I have a certain amount of fascination that comes with the idea. But then I really think about experiencing a book that way and go: 

Eww. Gross. 

Where is the imagination in this new book universe? The ability to create, shape and develop your own personal world as a reader? Because that's what good books do, right? Give you just enough of a boost to push your imagination into its own interpretation of the world? Books challenge creativity and inspire the mind. If all that imagining is done for you, doesn't it kinda take away part of the thrill and excitement? 

I mean, lets be honest... how many of you were disapointed when you finally saw someone ELSE's onscreen interpretation of Twilight. Or Harry Potter. Or the Hunger Games... [insert any book-made-into-movie]... 

You get my point. 

Then again, maybe I'm just one of those ol' timers in denial about a world that is rapidly changing, with or without me. Maybe this author is right. Does my hesitation to embrace this new kind of reading is really have any merit?

Your thoughts, peeps!! I wanna hear 'em!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hi, my name is Julie...

... and I'm a Pinterest addict. 

It didn't used to be this way. Once upon a time... a long time ago... I was just your average, everyday Facebook addict, perusing the comings and goings of my ump-teen-million friends on my Home page. There were no pins ruling my life. No midnight scrolls through the popular page. No inspirational quotes to make me wanna lose weight. No pictures of delicious foods that made me want to say "SCREW IT!" to the scale. 

And the words "Did you see what I pinned?" Definitely did not exist in my vocab. 

I blame Chan. 

Yes. You know who you are, Chan. 

You and your "I fall asleep pinning" and "I'm a virtual hoarder" and "Check out what I have on X, Y, Z boards" has officially rubbed off on me, making Pinterest a permanent fixture in my once "virtual hoarding free" life. It might even replace Facebook for the number one Time Waster spot. I just don't know yet. 

The worst part is, I can't even decide whether to stab you in your sleep for it, or put you on a pedestal and worship your goddess-like wisdom. 

The jury is still out. 

*sigh*

On the bright side, dear writers, due to said newly found Pinterest addiction, I discovered this gem:


And let me just say that Princes have been a HIGHLY underrated aspect of Disney stories. Wouldn't you agree? I mean, what gives?! We hear all about these damsels in distress princesses... everything down to the rules broken, woodland animals sung to, and shoes lost... but when it comes to their hunky counterparts? The men folk totes get the shaft!

Completely unfair, if I do say so myself. 

I count myself lucky to specialize in the Young Adult. Which, as you know, prides itself on equal opportunity. Spreading the love and word count equally (and, perhaps, sometimes skewed unintentionally in favor of) our mocho, good-lookin', totally delicious pieces of man-candy.

Three cheers for that! 

And pats on the back all around for fellow YA writers, who are with me in our appreciation for our rough n' tough, sometimes-damaged, misunderstood, at times awkward, but always irresistibly attractive male characters. 

You. Go. 


Friday, January 18, 2013

Perspective

So I've been thinking a lot about perspective recently. 

This is probably because earlier this week, one of my younger friends was devastated by a boy. You've been there, right? That moment when your dreamy, whimsical high school heart throb ends up--literally--crushing your soul? 

Oh yeah... I SOOOOO have.

I'm afraid that maybe I didn't react as sensitive to said soul crushing as I ought to have. And I got to thinking that it was probably because my perspective has matured like ninety nine point nine hundred thousand (yes, I'm aware I'm making up numbers) times since I was her age. 

I'd had multiple boyfriends when I was young. 

Settled down with a high school sweet heart. 

Had my heart CRUSHED by said high school sweet heart. 

Become a man eater in college. 

And was finally snagged by the Prince Charming of prince charmmings. A guy so perfect for me that I would never have been able to pick him out, if I'd been given a whole catalogue of prince charming characteristics to choose from!

I've been to the soul crushing place. Survived. And come out realizing that in retrospect? That heart wrenching moment when the man at the center of your high school world decides he doesn't want you... just doesn't even matter. 

But that's perspective for you. 

Its like writing. 

A couple months ago, an agent showed interest in reading part of my manuscript, then flattened my ego with a meat pounder me when she said she didn't like certain aspects of it that needed to be changed. Things I did NOT want to change. I had a discussion with her about these things, and when we were through, decided to just say "Pooooo on you, agent!" and move onto the next query.

But her comments stuck with me.

They were painful. And I didn't like hearing them. And I even rejected their potential worth. But eventually? I made the changes.

PEOPLE! My book is SO MUCH BETTER!

I just finished revising and rereading the whole book with said agent's suggestions, and the work has improved. Its more intense. It grabs the reader. It grounds them more thoroughly in the story. And those little elements that I thought were such a big deal when she first suggested the ax?

Not even important.

I'm sure when we all get to the other side of success, we'll realize that concept on an even grander scale. That all those late nights of revising, moments of utter and complete writer's block, not to mention the soul-sucking, heart-wrenching agent rejections and criticisms that seemed like SUCH A BIG DEAL AT THE TIME.... were not only "not that big of a deal," but that they ended up DEFINING who we are as writers. 
Perspective... brought to you by your daily
dose of bumper sticker wisdom.

Those moments world-altering hurt, embarrassment, and pain? They define you. Shape your future. Teach lessons. And make you--and your writing--into the final finished, beautiful product.

So persevere, fellow writers! And keep it all in perspective.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Never too old....

... for a little dress up! 


Friends, I may be a twenty six year old, oh-so-mature law school graduate... but lemme tell you, dressing up STILL hasn't gotten old! And lest be honest... I rock the petticoat. Luckily, I have friends who are still young souls too...



We caused mayhem and general tomfoolery by going to a STEAMPUNK SYMPOSIUM on Saturday!! The symposium of nerd-ham was housed on the Queen Mary, which is docked in Long Beach, CA. Supposedly the Queen Mary is quite haunted... (Oooooo!).... but aside from a few very creepily done costumes, we saw no ghosts. I am, however, quite determined to--at some point--rent a room there for the night. Bring on the haunting! 

We were FAR from the strangest people at said symposium, and had a blast channeling our inner nerds. We were also the talk of the kitchen when we ransacked the Cheesecake Factory afterwards. 

It. Was. AWESOME!

Who needs Halloween to dress up, anyway?

In other news, I found THIS blog post by Rachelle Gardner, to be a gem. You can read the article below, or follow the link to her post. She's got many a gem on her site! Happy reading, my wonderful writer-ites!


Back when I was in my 20′s, I went through a phase in which I was extremely unhappy with my looks. My hair, my face, my weight, my clothes — nothing was right. I was buying more expensive makeup, going on fad diets, and spending too much money on clothes in the attempt to feel better about myself.

One day I had an “aha” moment when I realized I was feeding myself a steady diet of fashion magazines like Glamour, and entertainment magazines like People, that featured an endless array of “beautiful people” who would always be prettier, skinnier, and more fashionable than I (and who, in fact, didn’t really exist except as a product of endless Photoshopping). Deciding to give up my magazine addiction, I noticed a substantial improvement in my self-image over the next several months. The difference was striking and left a powerful impression on me, and I’ve been hyper-aware of insidious, unrealistic influences in my life ever since, avoiding them when possible.

I learned an important lesson: We can identify the things that are causing us to be less than contented, and eliminate them. I’ve used this lesson to make other changes, such as:

→ After joining Costco, I realized we were buying more and more junk we didn’t need. Simply shopping in that store gave us the discontent of not having the junk that was such a good price! I stopped going to Costco ten years ago, have never missed it, and have probably saved thousands of dollars.
→ I used to be highly involved in the parent-teacher organization at my kids’ school. But it was always a combative environment, and while the goal was ostensibly to improve the educational experience of the children, nothing was ever accomplished and everyone was always unhappy. I quit my involvement (finding ways to help the school without attending those meetings) and as a result, my satisfaction with the school increased.

There’s a reason I’m giving you these examples. I think we all can stand to ask ourselves if there are ways we can increase our day-to-day satisfaction by paying attention to things that feed our discontent, and eliminating them.

For writers, my observation and completely unscientific conclusion is this:

The #1 cause of writer discontent is talking to other writers.

Ironic! Talking to other writers is also the most helpful way to get support, encouragement, and knowledge about the industry. Nevertheless, a large percentage of the problems writers have are from either,

(1) comparing themselves with other writers, or
(2) getting inaccurate information from other writers, or
(3) hanging out in writer loops or chatrooms where discontented writers are venting their woes.

If you’re unhappy with something in your writing life, ask yourself: Am I comparing my sales to those of other writers? Am I comparing my experience with another writer’s experience? (Remember, everyone’s path is unique.) Am I upset about something another writer told me, without having any objective verification of its truth? Am I paying too much attention to the complaints of unhappy authors?
It’s crucial to avoid comparison, and set your own yardstick for success. Your path is not going to look like anyone else’s.

Are you wasting valuable time and energy ranting about the unfairness of the industry, or the difficulties of getting published, when you could focus elsewhere—on writing for instance—and be happier? Are you worrying about things you can’t control instead of focusing on things within your sphere of influence?

While author loops can be terrific forums for high-minded discussion, too often they devolve into complaints and “piling on,” where everyone feeds everyone else’s dissatisfaction.

Musica