Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

The reason I chose this book is because I had the opportunity to sit next to its author at a writing conference a few weeks ago. I had heard good things about the book previously, but I had never gotten around to it. But I figured I had a good reason to now...she was totally nice, sweet, generous, and a gluten-free eater (not that this fact has anything to do with anything, just that we sat next to each other at dinner and I noticed:)...and therefore she deserves my readership.

Good thing too, because I really enjoyed this read. I had been so stuck on Eldest that I forgot what is was like to read a book full throttle and finish in a few days. So here's what I learned:

Fast-paced page turners are definitely more fun to read. At least for me. I loved how she kept mysteries afloat that made me want more and more and more, until it was 2 a.m. and I forced myself to get out the of the ice cold bath water I had been sitting in for 3 hours!

I learned that sexual tension works for me. Not that I didnt already know that about myself...but I am saying that the author's that work that in well get my attention better. That is not to say that this book is overly "sexual" because it's not. In fact, it is pretty tame (Bree Despain is LDS I presume). But, there was just enough to make me plow through until that angsty kiss finally came.

I learned that one little hint at an unsolved mystery can make a reader get very involved in the book. I wont be too specific, but at one point in the book another character says something sinister about someone...but we dont know who he is talking about. I spent the next 2 hours wanting to know who that person was. Was it the love interest, was it the brother, was it the friend, the father, the butler in the library with the candlestick? And let's just say it was a great surprise.

I learned that having a great name is helpful. I wanted to read this book because it had two ascetically enticing names on the front cover: Bree Despain (that is a cool Frenchy sounding name) and The Dark Divine (I know this use of D's in a cool way is some kind of literary tool that I dont even know the name of!).

Overall, I thought it was a great, quick, interesting read. It is definitely paranormal, which is my fave. Though I couldnt figure out what kind of paranormal characters existed in it for a long time, which intrigued me. Plus she definitely put a new twist on the genre.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eldest by Christopher Paolini

I am disappointed. I have been trying to avoid this feeling for weeks now. And I just cant overcome it...and I'm not sure it is all my fault. Here's what I learned from Eldest:

That if you feel the opposite of excitement when you pick up a book, it probably isnt a book for you. Now I know that this book is a good book. Heck, if a million + people have read and loved it, then its safe to say its "good." But tastes are important. I began Eragon with an open mind and many recommendations. And though I didnt love every aspect of it, I got through it and enjoyed it. Yet, Eldest is not doing it for me, and I can barely read a chapter each sitting. And this is one encyclopedia sized book-over 600 pages! It seems like they are on an endless journey, and nothing ever happens. I just don't connect with this book, and that's okay.

I learned that beautiful prose is often times...well, boring. Action is what I crave (and most readers agree). I honestly dont think that if it were not for the author trying to stick to that rule in the first book (Eragon) then there wouldnt even be a second book. This happens with best selling authors. After they sell umpteen million books, they get to do whatever they want. But I think the rules are there for a reason. Getting bogged down in building a beautiful setting with poetic words is hard on the reader. We want conflict, action, swift pacing...we want to get somewhere. I am on page 200-ish (after three weeks of effort) and I feel like I am nowhere. Not good.

I learned that surprises and twists are essential to keeping the reader involved. Two hundred pages in and there hasn't been one thing I haven't expected or seen coming a million miles away. I need something fresh, new tension, and mini-climaxes.

I learned that I want to read something else. I read the first three chapters of a book called Nightshade when I was at a friend's house this weekend. I can't wait to get my hands on this book and read the rest. That book has got a serious hook and I feel like I could read it in one sitting. Call me impatient, unrefined, too critical...but I want to read stuff that grabs me and wont let go. Not stuff that everytime I look at it on my night stand I get a hand cramp because the book weighs 100 pounds!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hush, Hush...cool name, right? Fallen angels, creepy twists, foggy East Coast...all cool, right? So how come the name of the hunky male lead is "Patch!" Not cool. But that's just me.

No, there is a lot more to this New York Time's Best Seller, obviously. I read this book back to back with Fallen, and I have to say that Fallen comes out the winner. But it's close. Hush, Hush is a story about a young girl who meets a strange, yet alluring boy at school who treats her like crap. Sound familiar? Then crazy things start happening to her, and her friends, and her family. Until the big reveal...which we already know because its on the cover art to the book. Patch is strange because he's a fallen angel who has lost his wings.

Here's what I learned:

Names of characters matter. Lord Voldemort sounds sinister. Mr. Darcy sounds elegant. Edward sounds old fashioned. Eragon sounds fantastical. But Patch doesnt sound like a sexy shirtless alluring love interest. It sounds like a cat I had when I was little. (By the way Peeta is stupid too. Really, pita bread-bakers son?) But I digress. Names can be powerful. They can either get in the way and make your reader mad at you and want to put the book down, or they can make you fall in love, get attached, and really impress your reader if your smart.

Not to put seemingly important details into the story that never get explained in the entire rest of the book. A friend of mine told me that when you a read a book the author gives you details that are like little rocks that you put in your backpack on your way up the mountain. If you get to the top of the mountain and you have all these dang rocks that dont mean anything, you are going to be pretty pissed with that author. I felt this way about several rocks I carried through this book. Without spoiling anything...I will give one example out of the first chapter: her dad died sometime recently at the start of the book. I think she said something about it being foul play, or strange or something along those lines. But there is absolutely no explanation...just a vague feeling that something happened to him and somewhere, somehow we are going to find out how and why. But we dont!

Popular themes can be the key to having a successful book. I dont feel strongly about the writing in this book. Neither about the plot. Neither about the sort of unbelievability of it all. But what I do feel strongly about are fallen angels. I loved these parts of the book, like the prologue, that give some history behind the idea of angels. Where they originate, why they are here, why some of them fell. The Bible talks about them as being among us. So why not a YA book where they are really among us? I am convinced that this is what made this book sell like hot cakes. Fallen angels are intriguing. I want to read about them. I will keep reading about them. I will even read the sequel to this book "Crescendo"--because I want to read more about them.

I feel like this is my most cynical post yet. Oh well, they all cant be winners! Even though the NY Times List, and far better critics than myself say it is:).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fallen by Lauren Kate

A lot of people have compared this book to the Twilight series, and I see why: sexy love triangle, paranormal beings, and high school kids with secrets. Some have even said its a better version of Twilight because the actual writing is better. I dont know about that. I do know that I liked it. And I did think the writing was excellent.

But here is a really funny story about it:

I suggested to my friend Heather that she read this book. I told her the the premise of fallen angels is intriguing, the plot is suspenseful, and the ending has a good twist. She went out and bought it immediately. The next week she came to me and started talking about the main characters, and I got confused. She was using names that didn't sound familiar. I thought my memory was a bit foggy until she started mentioning a totally unrecognizable plot line. Long story short, she was reading a completely different novel titled The Fallen! Also about fallen angels.

Here's what I learned:

Make sure to suggest Fallen by Lauren Kate and not the other one since I have no idea about that one!

Beautiful writing goes a long way. Lauren Kate's prose is superb. Her descriptions of places, events, and emotions is at times intoxicating. You feel like your there, like your breathing the muggy southern air, like your pressing your body up against the V of a fallen angel. (Sorry Kenz, that was a little R rated:)

Mixing history in with fiction is creatively stimulating. Its like what Dan Brown did with The DaVinci Code: he took historical theory and placed them in a fictional story that was believable and plausible. This book takes biblical stories and presents them in a modern light. I found her interpretation on what could be with these fallen souls to be fascinating.

Cover art makes a big difference in the feel of the story. I think the picture on the front of the book is lovely and evokes a black and white, epic-feel to the whole thing.

I want to read the second book Torment asap. It just came out and I need to make room for it in my TBR pile. This is a most def read.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

RWA Conference in Park City

This weekend I went to Utah for a writer's conference with my fabulous friend Erin Summerill. It was the slc chapter of Romance Writers of America. Although I didn't totally fit in since there were mostly adult romance writers there (even some Erotica writers...ooh, yea I know:) I had the best time. First of all Park City is gorgeous, and so was our resort hotel. Second of all, I learned so much. Here it is:

I learned that you don't have to be single to mingle! Uhhh, I mean network. My friend Erin invited me to stay in her room with two friends of hers- Julie Donaldson and Jaime Mormann. Wow, do I feel grateful to have met them and become their friend. So my three rommates are well on their way to fame and fortune, and I'm lucky enough to know them and glean some of their talent and wisdom. Julie is the next John Bytheway for Deseret Book and is about to pick up a national market agent because she knows how to work it (even if it takes throwing up in front of said agent to get it done), Jaime is the next Martha Stewart (but a younger more chic version) who is impressive on so many levels, and Erin is the next big breakout YA author because she is hilarious, ridiculously talented, and agents and editors love her. I learned a lot from these girls.

I learned that agents and editors are awesome, and I want one. They come from NY and CA and they want to help, they want debut authors, they want great ideas and good writing. I got to fetch a Diet Coke for super agent Laurie McLean, and she gave me her card with a note on the back to send her my first three chapters. She is probably the nicest agent I've ever met and I really hope that me, Erin, Julie and Jamie get her to rep us all one day:!

I learned that the authors who are successful are dedicated, hard working, tough as nails, and have been so for years and years. I also learned that they are mostly really humble approachable people (mostly anyway).

I learned I need to go to more conferences just like this one. It was fantastic. Thanks Erin!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood

Okay, I did this one totally backwards. I went to see the movie before I even knew it was based on a novel. And although Zack Effron, with his baby blue eyes and his incredible V with his shirt off (if you dont know what this is...I'm not telling you), was major eye candy...it wasn't exactly my favorite. I did cry so hard that I had to use my shirt to wipe my emberassing elephant tears away, but in the end I was like, "Ehhh, whatever."

However, the book was a completely different experience for me. And here's what I liked:

I learned that attention to detail in the setting, and choosing a setting that is mysterious and interesting, are very important. Although some books do good despite awful surroundings (Mockinjay I'm talking about you and your underground cubicles and overground desolation), this book flourishes because of its setting. The whole story takes place in a sleepy, yet fascinatingly historical, little fishing town in Massachusetts. A real city, that the author moved to for a while just to research btw. Most of the story takes place in a cemetary overlooking the tempermental sea. It is spooky, enthralling, and for lack of a better adjective: Halloweeny. By that I mean, kind of dark, but light enough to capture the imagination of the holiday. It is not scary by any means, it is just haunted. And I loved spending a week or so there as I read. October would be a great time to read this book, come to think of it, as I always pictured it to be autumn in the forests Charlie and his brother haunt.

I learned that when authors try to explain the supernatural world around us in a new creative way, it is captivating. Ben Sherwood is a smart guy, a former producer of ABC News and impressive journalist, and he captured me with his point of view on death. We all wonder where our loved ones go when they die, right? Some of us think we have a pretty good idea. Well, his take on it was thought provoking for me, and opened up a new way of thinking about the afterworld.

I learned that self-sacrifice is a powerful way to create memorable characters. Charlie, the protagonist, is utterly willing to sacrifice himself for the ones he loves...and that makes me love him. It didnt hurt that when I read the book I was picturing little ol' Zach and his killer V (that makes me sound like cougar doesn't it?...oh well), but I was always pulling for Charlie. But seriously Charlie is a good dude, a good brother, and a good love interest. Warning: there is one love scene that got rather steamy, but it was short and didn't really bother me.

But the conflict was good, the pacing ayite, and the writing excellent. I really enjoyed this book, and I hope you do too.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eragon

What is it with me and finishing books in the wee hours of the morning? I don't think that is particularly good for my health! So yeah, I finished Eragon at 12:30 am last night/this morning...and I enjoyed it immensely.

I have to admit this was reading slightly out of my normal tastes. I am normally not a huge science fiction kind of gal, even though I loved the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings stuff, but Eragon was a great read. Dragons, elves, dwarfs, sorcerers and all. It is a really good YA book in the sense that the characters are young and innocent, i.e. not prone to adult content. But like most YA books, Hunger Games especially, the issues and themes are definitely mature: war, racism, politics, love, honor, and courage.

What I learned about this book is the importance of world building. I have read books with better prose, better pacing, better conflict, but one of the things that really keeps the reader attached this book is the feeling of being lost in Eragon's world. A world of magic, adventure, and danger, set in a completely made up land and time. I loved the feeling of being transported away from my crazy life to a place where exciting things happen in greater frequency. Although, I do think more unexpected twists could have been involved in this book.

I learned that it is important to develop characters that we can fall in love with. Characters for whom I feel sympathy, and who I want to succeed. The relationship between Eragon and his dragon is so deep and dynamic. Something so different than I have ever had...maybe I need a pet. But could I ever talk to that pet? No. This dragon is pretty cool.

One thing I thought was interesting about this author is that he was a teenager when he wrote the book and he self-published it with the help of his family. He went on an extensive tour promoting the book and getting it into the hands of some important people. Eventually, after all his hard work, it paid off when a friend of his sent it to an editor at a major publishing house. Millions of dollars later...it's a Best Seller. Cool story, eh?

Now I just I have to get through the rest of the series. Thanks by the way to my new bff/brother's girlfriend/most awesome host of a beachhouse Michelle...for recommending this book to me. And letting me borrow it from you, even though you know its dangerous having anything that tears/rips/falls into bath tubs around my children. And yes, that does apply here, Shelbie ripped the front cover off this paperback yesterday morning! Sorreeee. I owe you.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Mockingjay

So I finished Mockingjay, the last installment of the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, at 1:00 am this morning...and I am devastated! Dont worry, I'm not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it yet. I won't do that here, just say what I learned from the books.

I am devastated for many reasons, the foremost reason being that I enjoyed reading the three books so much that I can't believe the experience is over. Suzanne is a masterful writer, and has taught me many things:

I learned that a present tense narrative is effective at keeping the reader involved in the moment.

I learned that the way she approached violence and war was profound. I felt like I was opened up to a reality I had never even considered. There are countries and communitites around the world, this very minute, who are suject to tyranny, starvation, and a literal fight for survival. I am grateful for the land of freedom in which I live, despite its flaws. But am even more acutely aware of how quickly that all could change.

I learned about love and loss, courage and loyalty, and that it is oftentimes the smallest among us who can teach and lead the way. Go Katniss. She surely changed her world. She changed my world. When I sit down to eat an In and Out Burger, a huge bowl of peaches, or a piece of chocolate cake...I am reminded how blessed I am.

Finally, I learned that unexpected twists are a good thing. Suzanne Collins is amazing at throwing huge curve balls that continually made me put the book down and either laught out loud, cheer like a lunatic (husband already thinks I'm crazy, so nothing new there), or hold my head in my hands about to bawl like a baby.

Everyone needs to read these books. They are fantastic (despite the controversy over the ending)...but even that should make you want to read them:)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

False Start/Operation New Dawn

So several months ago, I started a blog for who-knows-why. I didn't know where I wanted to go with it, only that I felt some pressure to have one. After months of it nagging me, asking, "Jessie, why don't you love me anymore?" I have decided to formulate a plan. Kinda like the one we have in Iraq right now. Pull out the combat troops and leave the peacekeepers, right? So my new strategy is to make this like a book journal. I have been straight up devouring books lately. And I rarely get to talk about them. Like in the past few months I have read the following:
1-Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood
2-Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
3-Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
4-Spells by Aprilynne Pike
5-Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
6-Fallen by Kate Lauren
7-Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
8-The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
9-The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephanie Meyer
10-Taken By Storm by Angela Morrison
11-Just One Wish by Janette Rallison
12-Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

So, yeah, I am not part of a book club, my husband only reads the sports page, and my children prefer The Silly Slimy Smelly Hairy Book by Babette Cole. Though, like I mentioned in my last post, I do have my 13 year old steppy Kenzie-but she isn't here nearly enough. So, from now on, I am going to share some of my favorite things about these books. Despite the fact that I didn't love them all equally, I think there is always something positive to take from each. I am no critic, I am just an avid reader, wanting entertainment, excitement (not otherwise found in my mundane life), and learning experiences. So off we go!

Monday, August 16, 2010

J'adore Books!


My step-daughter Kenzie and I have one super-awesome thing in common: our love of Young Adult Books. We have the best time going to book stores, talking about stories we love, exchanging new novels, and even sharing our writing with each other. Although she is only thirteen, and I am thirty-one (hey, our ages have the same numbers, just reversed...creepy:)...we seem to live in the same fantasy worlds sometimes. She just left tonight to go back to Northern California and I wont see her again for a few months, but I cant wait to get her copy of Percy Jackson Book 2: Sea of Monsters that she bought today. I'm sad because she stole back her Harry Potter Book 1, even though she never brought me back my copy of Spells by Aprilynne Pike, or Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Not fair Kenz! But I still love your guts...and your books:). BTW, I still have your Charlie St. Cloud book that I have almost finished. And guess what? I adore it!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

My Psychic Inspiration

One day in early Spring last year, my husband, kids, mom, and best friend were walking down the boardwalk of Seaport Village in San Diego, when my mom disappeared for a moment. I looked around to find her sitting down at a table talking to a lady with an enormous floppy hat. I didnt need the "Palm Readings" sign behind her to know what was up-she was wearing a flowing psychadelic dress, an obscene amount of trinkety jewelry, and sitting under a huge umbrella, which cast a soft blue light over her table.
Her name was Iris, I would come to find out later.
I walked over to my mom and whispered in her ear as casually as I could, "Mom, what in the world are you doing? We dont talk to psychics...you are the one who taught me that!"
She brushed me off. As I was walking away I overheard the psychic ask my mom, "Is that your daughter? If so, she's pregnant."
I flipped around like a fish caught with a hook.
"Excuse me?" I asked.
"You. Are. Pregnant," she restated matter of factly. "And it's a girl."
I stared at her for a few moments too shocked to respond, but she was already back to reading my mom's tarot cards.
I knew she was a total fraud at that moment...it was impossible that I would be pregnant. Wasn't it?
I went back to my husband and told her what she said, and we stood from a distance laughing at my mom getting taken in by this poser psychic, who was making a killer living off of dopes like us.
A month later I was pregnant! Four months later I found it was a girl.
When I was six months pregnant, I decided to go back and confront this psychic. I made the treck down to San Diego to stay with my best friend again, and together we went to Seaport Village hoping to find her. And there she was...in the same exact spot. Under that same mystical umbrella and wearing that enormous floppy hat, with the backdrop of the blue San Diego Harbor.
This time she told me that my baby girl was a psychic, and she was going to inspire me to write a book. My jaw dropped because a few weeks earlier I had a dream where my deceased grandma came to me in a dream and told me to write a book.
I wrote the first draft of the book in about 3 months. I frantically finished it the week before my sweet, loyal, and beautiful Shelbie Belle was born. (She also told me to name her something that had meaning...and that is what her name means:)
There you have it! That is why I wrote my first novel and that is my psychic inspiration.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Day in the Life...

This blog post is inspired by Allison Condy's recent post this week highlighting how crazy her day can be with three small children.
5:00 am- get up to feed baby
6:00 am- still feeding baby, she pretended like she was done and ready to go back to sleep but tricked me-she knows I'm a sucker for that.
7:45 am- child #2 gets up soaking wet (combination of milk he slept in and pee that travels up his shirt since he sleeps in the weirdest prayer position)...bath time.
8:00 am- child #3 wakes up since she hears child #2 screaming like a banshee in the bath (happy little banshee)
8:30 am- breakfast/food all over the floor time
9:00 am-feed baby again, child #2 comes in and presents his diaper to me that he currently loves to take off and pee on the floor (what is it with pee and this child?)
Its a good thing my next door neighbor is a carpet cleaner.
11:00 am- mom comes over to help with the kids while I finish a Complaint (yea, at least I get to sue someone today:).
1:00 pm- sister comes over to babysit so I can go to the Courthouse and officially sue some pants off.
4:00 pm- go grocery shopping and bank, come home to find the neighbor kids running around in the rain then sloshing in and out of the house (thank you husband) again I am grateful the neighbor is a carpet cleaner.
5-7:00 pm- make dinner, clean up the disaster I call my house, feed baby, kids, husband.
7-9:50 pm- hallelujah, hallelujah, hallay looya! One night a week I get all to myself to go write. I usually go to Barnes & Noble and find a cushy chair in their quiet little nook area. Its a little piece of heaven on earth.
9:52-10:00 pm- run into Target and buy badly needed diapers and whatever else I can grab in 8 minutes before they kick me out. Strangely I was able to find over $200 worth of things I needed in that time!
10:15 pm- get home and husband is asleep on couch with baby, and child #1 is still awake enjoying a bowl of cereal.
11:00 pm- in bed finally, checking my favorite blogs before I pass out and do it all again in 5 hours.

My Harry Potter Closet

In my house I have a little room under the stairs, it even has a little door perfect for my kids. The problem is two-fold: One-my children cant seem to understand how to keep their little room neat and tidy (strange I know!:) and so if not cleaned out monthly the toys have a tendency to stack up to the ceiling; Two-my little boy likes to play hide and go seek with his food in there and forget to seek it later. The smell has still yet to come out after two rounds of carpet cleaning.

Monday, January 18, 2010

First Blog Ever!

So I have sort of become a closet blog reader lately. I always said I hating "blogging" because it seemed more like "bragging!" But I have been reading the blogs of some very entertaining people lately and I figured it was time to come out of the closet (blogging closet, just to be abundantly clear):)

I deliberated for way too long for a title of my blog, and so I just wanted to take a moment to explain it. I have always been a bit of a drama queen. I caused my parents a good deal of heart ache in my youth. To be perfectly honest, I was a nightmare...and deserved to be slapped (though I never was to their credit). Although, my mom did once throw a cassette tape at my head and got me pretty good. It was my own fault- I was taunting her because she couldn't catch me! But I digress...all I mean to say is that I was impetuous, wild, and very disobedient at times. Instead of calling me any of those things, my dad was always positive enough to describe me as "spirited." I always appreciated that!