Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: In Bloom

New Adult (NA) is really big right now. It's been hit or miss for me. I've heard NA called "YA with sex." And since I'm not a huge fan of gratuitious sex in fiction, I haven't really delved into much NA. IN BLOOM is a breath of fresh air. Debut author Katie Delahanty takes the reader on a journey through Hollywood--the good, the bad, and the ugly.

We follow Liv into a new life, with new and fantastic friends. Parker and Blair take her under their wings and pull a full on Pygmalion, turning Liv from a shy Midwesterner to the next It Girl.

From the jacket:

My name is Olivia Bloom and I. Am. Free. 
I left for LA with everything I owned piled into my old Volkswagen and dreams of becoming a costume designer. Little did I know I’d wind up designing for a lingerie company—yeah, not sure how I landed this gig—and taken under the wing of two young Hollywood insiders. The fashion shows and parties were great, but life really got exciting when the seriously hottest lead singer of my favorite band started to fall for me.  
How does someone like me, an ordinary girl from Pittsburgh, wind up in the arms of the world’s sexiest rock star—surrounded by celebrities, fashion, and music—and not be eaten alive? Berkeley is everything I've ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, but the paparazzi, the tabloids, the rumors, it's all getting a bit too crazy. My life has become every girl’s dream come true, if only I don’t blink and lose it all… 

Liv is a great character. Her growth throughout the novel is genuine. There's a little Liv in all of us. We're all pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones, hoping that we'll be discovered professionally, romantically, and as who were are. We don't all have a fairy godmother crew, but I know I have found friends that root for me as hard as Blair and Parker, and family that always has my back.

And then comes Berkeley. Sexy, mysterious, and driven, Berkeley is a fantasy brought to life. Their romance is the kind of fairy tale romance I've been looking for in a novel. I dare you not to get swept away. Team Adventure.

What I loved most about this book was how cleverly it utilized social media. I am a huge fan of Twitter, and Delahanty uses the fast paced reality of it to further the plot and as a fun addition. All her Twitter handles are real. You can follow the characters and interact with them. It's a clever tool and I've really enjoyed chatting with Berkeley (of course, who wouldn't want to chat with Berkeley?!). It also shows off her skill as a writer and grasp on her characters. How many writers can tweet as their characters? It's fantastic.

The novel is also paired with an album from the Remainers. Listening to the songs helped set the tone to the book. It's an excellent pairing for poolside reading. Read this book. It's fun and flirty and everything I was looking for in a breezy, summer read. IN BLOOM is an escape, it's wish fulfillment. And since Liv is gracious, graceful, and all around wonderful, the novel is a pleasure. Her positive energy and outlook make you root for her against all odds.

I can't wait to see how the rest of the series unfolds. It's an easy world to lose yourself in, and hope, that just maybe, you'll be as close to your dreams as Liv is to hers.

Bonus: You can even see the lingerie from the book in real life! (And by see, I obviously mean wear.)

(Full disclosure: I received this book for free. But I also bought a copy to support the author. My opinions are my own.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Writing and Elsewhere Blogs

You know I write for YAvengers, right? Right. It's proof that I'm still writing, just not so much here. I'm frantically trying to finish my novel, Beads of Glass, before the ides of September. If I don't, I can't post pictures of the boys on social media for a month. A whole thirty days without Vincent and Anthony making the world a better place. Yeah, I need to get on that.

I've got a post up today on character darkness. Here's an excerpt:

The secrets we conceal inform our actions. We are what we hide. What we choose to reveal and how we reveal it shapes us. These are the lies we tell ourselves, the things we cover up, the fears we drive into the hollows beneath our hearts. We live, hoping that no one will ever know the truth.
Thanks for reading, friends!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Book Review: Blackout

Books are often written in response to a resounding “What if?” Writers, especially in speculative fiction, imagine changes and tell stories about those possibilities. What if teenagers suddenly had powers that could help the world? What if teenagers suddenly had the power to destroy it? Robison Wells answers this question with his novel BLACKOUT. Wells utilizes a power of his own, he utilizes his characters venturing from the known to the unknown to invoke the same emotions and experiences that unite to form the teenage experience.

Aubrey taps into every high school girl’s psyche. Her ability is invisibility: “she knew it wasn’t as plain as just disappearing. Instead, people simply didn’t notice her.” (18) From the beginning, she invoked the feeling from my own high school years. That is the power of young adult literature. It reminds us of the times when we were that young, that vulnerable, that invincible. The appeal goes beyond the X-Men adjacent powers and the thickness of the plot. I loved this book because it could have been me, had I caught the virus. I could have been Aubrey as she grew in self-confidence and awareness, as she fell in love. Combining oncoming adulthood with the imposition of superpowers was a really fun way to make truth fantastic.

Jack too, encapsulated the teenage experience. His yearning for love and surprise in his own self-discovery felt incredibly real. Laura was that awful, moody teenager that we all know and don’t really love. Pairing this characters like Alec and Dan were harder to identify with because their motives were so unclear. Since there is an upcoming sequel, I won’t consider this lack of depth a failing, but rather a cliffhanger to lead the reader into the next book.

The pacing in the novel is faster than an adult novel. It had a great deal of action and intrigue as the mysteries surrounding the terrorist attacks and the virus unfolded. While there were brief moments of reprieve, the novel moved along with new information, new betrayals, and new action without missing a beat. It maintained tension in scenes of micro-tension, while carrying the novel as a whole. Each chapter had a breathtaking moment. And unlike some thrillers, it didn’t leave the reader winded.

Wells juggled multiple viewpoints. He revealed who the terrorists were from the beginning, which was served to amp up the tension as they befriended the other protagonists and plotted their next strike. He laces the novels with snippets from “SusieMusie” which he doesn’t explain until the end. This worked really well. The inevitable parts of the story—the main characters making their love connection, the terrorists betrayal—weren’t annoyingly obvious because there were other questions that drove the story.

This story had a huge impact on me. This wasn’t because of the story itself, but because the way it made me look at my own novel. I’ve been waffling between whether Beads of Glass is young adult, new adult, or just plain adult. It seems obvious now, but for the last six months or so since I started writing it, I’ve felt like I straddled a line. BLACKOUT made me fully aware that I’m writing young adult. BLACKOUT is about characters discovering who they are Vesper’s story, at its core, is the story of a girl finding out the pedestals she held her father on were formed on falsehood and that she’s not who she thinks she is. I’m writing (or trying to) with a similar pace and movement, while trying to reveal certain things slowly while waiting for the bigger reveal at the end.  The thing is, I love YA. I read it for breakfast. But for some reason I felt like I wanted to be different in my novel. I don’t need to. Young adult novels are fantastic, and while they may not juggle the intense philosophical themes as some adult novels, they still have the power to draw in a reader and make them feel.

BLACKOUT worked because it helped me discover greater truths about myself. That’s the goal of any writer, I believe, to give the reader an experience that changes them in some small way. Robison Wells did this for me, with great powers, pace, and characters.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup

It is the season for summer storms--thunder and lightning and big heavy raindrops. It takes the edge off of the heat, and it's perfect weather for soup. We have a plethora of fresh veggies from the garden right now, and since our fridge is already full of zucchini soup we decided to try something new: Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup.

Here's what you'll need:

A mess of tomatoes, we used about a dozen big ones
3 bell peppers (roasted)
2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
2 potatoes
1 Zuchinni
2 onion (one roasted, one in the pot)
1 whole garlic 
Fresh basil, paprika, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. 

  • Scoop the insides of the tomatoes into a bowl and place the rest of the tomato onto a baking sheet. Make sure the baking sheet has raised edges because there's a lot of juice. 
tomatoes for days

  • Peel garlic and chop two cloves. Put the remaining cloves on the baking sheet to roast. 
  • Chop onions, placing half in the pot and half on the sheet. 
  • Drizzle your roasting veggies with olive oil and salt and pepper and roast at 400 for about 40 minutes.
  • While they're roasting, cut up the rest of the veggies sauté. Add tomato insides and simmer low on the pot. This is in lieu of any sort of broth. Better to make your own, fresh. Add two cups of water. 

  • Add your now roasted veggies to the mix. Salt and pepper to taste. We also put in about five sprigs of fresh basil, because the world is a better place with it. 
  • After simmering for about twenty minutes, blend. We used the Vitamix and then strained for seeds. Had there been any, we would have re-blended them and added them back into the soup. But it strained clean. Next time I'll skip that step. and move right to serving.
  • Eat, enjoy, and feel good about your life.

how do people live without one of these babies
I don't mean to toot my own horn, but this soup came out amazing. Easy and delicious, it's a great way to use up summer veggies! It also made a ton. A share-ton. Soup for everyone! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: If I Stay

The first time I heard of IF I STAY by Gayle Forman I was sitting in a dark movie theater waiting for THE FAULT IN OUR STARS to start. I'm a firm believer in supporting authors and so I try and see as many book movies as I can, with the caveat that I read the book first. The preview to IF I STAY drew me in, and it was in my Amazon cart before the preview was even finished.

I finished this book in two hours. I couldn't put it down. This book was bittersweet. Mia watches her family and her broken body taken away after a terrible accident. Then there's a choice: to live, or to let go. The book is a series of flashbacks piecing together Mia, the daughter, the sister, the girlfriend, the best friend. Each scene is written with power and beauty, leaving the reader to revel in loss and love and wonderful and awful things.

I'm usually not a fan of flashback books, but Forman does it exquisitely. She layers the scenes so that you fall deeply in love with the characters, making everything harder and sweeter. By releasing bits and pieces at a time, she creates a modular story that increases in depth with each page. The pacing is perfect, the characters are painfully real. They are flawed and easy to love. The relationship between Adam and Mia is genuine, two music nerds on different sides of the industry approaching change.

There's also a balance. This is a heart heavy subject, but there are moments of joy and humor. It's really well done. Mia's parents are really fun. It makes the loss of them even worse.

What I love about the writing, is the details. "Pieces of my father's brain on the asphalt. But his pipe is in his left breast pocket." Even in terrible tragedy, the focus is the pipe. The pipe represents so much of her father's character: his punk rock soul and push against society. Even in death, that's what stands out. It's lovely, it's all so lovely.

If you're looking for gut wrenching contemporary YA, I highly recommend this novel. I'm really looking forward to seeing if the movie captures all the feels. This book is all about feels.