Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: Imaginary Grils by Nova Ren Suma

Imaginary Girls
Nova Ren Suma
YA Contemporary/Magical Realism
Published: 2011

image: Goodreads
It's been a month or two since I read this book, and it's still sticking with me. It has mixed reviews on Goodreads; readers really love it or did not care for it at all.  Imaginary Girls captivated me from the start. It's haunting, strange, and not at all what I expected, in a good way.

Chloe and her older sister Ruby have a complicated relationship. Ruby essentially raised Chloe given their mother's unreliable behavior, and Chloe idolizes Ruby, who seems to glide through life like nothing can stop her. But when a girl drowns in the town's resevoir, Chloe is sent away to live with her dad.

Two years later, Ruby has convinced Chloe to return, and they're back to the way things were. A summer of late night drives for cheesecake and doing whatever they want. But Ruby is more protective of Chloe than ever, passionately so. At night, Ruby stares at the reservoir from a perch on the roof, always watchful. Then Chloe encounters a girl at a party--the girl who drowned. It can't be possible, and yet it is. She is living, but not quite normal. Ruby is protective of her too, meaning the only person Chloe has ever trusted has secrets that even Chloe can't know.

The relationship between the two sisters goes deep. They are fiercely devoted to one another to a codependent level. Chloe's doubts are interwoved with her love for Ruby and her inability to see wrong in her sister. The writing here is excellent, a little more on the literary side than commercial fiction. I don't know if this truly Paranormal, maybe Magical Realism as there are no "abilities" explained, only mystical elements clouded in mystery.

One of the coolest things I found out after reading the book is that the town is based on a real life place in the Catskills that is now covered over with water, an entire town razed, people relocated elsewhere to build this water reservoir. Here is a link to the history as provided by reviewer Wendy Darling on Goodreads (check out her reviews, they are awesome).

I listened to Imaginary Girls as an audiobook, which I would recommend.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Miss Snark's Baker's Dozen 2013 Agent Auction

image: Miss Snark blog
Attention writers! It's that time of year again for the Miss Snark blog's mega contest! The prize is page requests from literary agents, up to full manuscript requests!

This is the contest that led me to working with my agent. It yields results!

Click here for all the details.

The Basics


Starting NEXT WEEK (last week of Oct. - first week of Nov.) submission windows open depending on the genre you write. The contest is open to un-agented writers who have a full, complete manuscript ready to go. The number of accepted entries is capped so you need to watch the time and submit as soon as the window opens. Have it ready to, your finger on the trigger (mouse). Then, it's out of your hands!

The submission is a one line pitch of your story and the first 250 words. Not every entry will make it onto the blog for agent bidding. The Authoress reads the entries to narrow down about 75 finalists across all the categories, with the help of a published author friend. Yes, it is subjective. They are looking for stand out entries. Like any contest, this isn't the only way to have your work seen by an agent (you can always query any agent open to submissions).


$10 via Pay Pal. The Authoress blogger organizes all this herself to help new writers break into the business. I also think this cuts down on some "why not?" entries that might not be ready since it requires some monetary investment.

Winning Entries:

The chosen entries will post to the blog and each will be available for critique from a pre-selected genre-specific editor and author, in addition to the blog community itself (AKA: You). The comments can be tough, and again subjective.

The Auction:

Early December is when the agents bid on pages (you know, like an auction). An agent who bids 25 pages means you send them your first 25 pages. If an agent outbids them up to a full, that agent gets first preference of being sent your work. The best part is, any agent who bids on your work, you can still send pages to and they are already familiar with your pitch because of the contest.

Have any of you entered similar contests, or this contest? Will this be your chance this year? Good luck to everyone! Let me know if you have any questions, or go directly to the link above.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review: Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Second Chance Summer
Morgan Matson
YA Contemporary
Published: May 2013

image: Goodreads
I love a good summer book (and am planning to draft one for NaNoWriMo 2013!). This book was just what I expected. Second Chance Summer fits in with the Sarah Dessen, Jessi Kirby, Jenny Han lexicon of Young Adult contemporaries, girls navigating life and their damaged families.

When Taylor's dad is diagnosed with terminal cancer with only a few months to live, her parents decide she and her siblings' busy, over-scheduled lives will stop in order to spend the summer together at their old cottage in the Pocanos.

It's been five years since Taylor's family spent the summer at their cottage, where Taylor left abruptly, causing a fracture with her best friend and with Henry, her first boyfriend. Neither are stoked to see Taylor return, but living in a small community means she bound to keep running into them both. As the summer progresses, friendships are mended, and new relationships formed, but all while her father's health deteriorates, and her family tries to cope.

This is a sweet book that doesn't shy away from the more difficult aspects of grief and terminal illness. Overall, it is hopeful and full of moments that show the characters evolving. Great summer (or early fall) read!

Friday, October 11, 2013

National Novel Writing Month 2013!

It's creeping closer... NaNoWriMo! The worldwide initiative to motivate us toward writing a 50,000 word draft during the month of November. It's free to sign up, and the prize for finishing is having created a draft of a book. I hear people say, "I have an idea for a book!" So, where is the book? As the wise and funny author Maureen Johnson once said: There is no idea for Book. There is only Book.

You must write the book.

So, write the book!

This was my revelation a few years ago, which thankfully came to me just in time for National Novel Writing Month, which a friend told me about. So I did it. I finished. The draft was a hot mess that I spent many months revising, and eventually shelved, but I DID IT. It showed me I could write a novel.

Here's the thing. It really does help to plan a little. Sitting down to start page 1 with no plan is risky. It's fun at first:

But a point comes along where either the story gets weird (wacky plot twists) or your plot doesn't have enough juice to make it to 50k.

It is. But! The best part of signing up for the challenge is the online support. The NaNo website is pretty detailed with lots of articles, motivating posts, and tips for a successful experience. The forums are active right now, hop over and poke around, maybe get a few questions answered.

Depending on your region, you might also have in-person events scheduled by generous writers in your area. My suburban Chicago are has a very active group that plans pre-planning workshops, a potluck this month, and write-ins at area coffee houses in November. I have not met up with the group in previous years, but would like to this year.

Not that the support guarantees success. Only YOU can sit down and hash it out every day. It's not easy, but that's why so many people have ideas for books. The idea is not a book until you write it.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? Why or why not? Are you a planner or do you write by the seat of your pants?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

I'm back for What's Up Wednesday after a terrific summer of posts with the Ready. Set. Write! tie in.

What I'm Reading 

I just finished Eleanor and Park, at first not thinking it would live up to the hype. But of course, totally loved it (even if Eleanor drove me crazy half the time). It seemed like a book that shouldn't work, about two awkward teens who don't like each other, but it was wonderful to see them each open up the way they did. Just really well crafted and different than a lot of what I've read.

I read Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave, two of Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor romances, and a few other books I have reviews ready to post. And then, Burn by Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, which was pretty good until the end when some sort of paranormal-ish stuff started going on ... and then the book ended. So I guess this is a series (lol).

What I'm Writing

Thanks again to Ready. Set. Write! I finished a draft this summer. I'm going through a first revision, it's up to 60k words which is just where I want it. I'd love to make it through the second draft this month and send out to a few readers, then start a new project for NaNoWriMo!


Free I read YA bag!
I attended Anderson's Books YA Lit Conference, an event mostly aimed at librarians and educators, but open to anyone. I love being in the same room with so many passionate reading advocates. I met one of my favorite authors, Gayle Forman, and snagged Just One Year, which released this week. I'm midway through it, loving seeing the other side of the story from Just One Day, one of my favorite reads from this year. Met Christa Desir, another author whom we briefly shared an agency. Her debut Fault Line, an important book exploring the repercussions of sexual assault, and releases next week (add to your Goodreads list!).

One of the keynote speakers was Steven Chbosky, the author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the director of the movie.
Steven Chbosky with Becky Anderson 9.30.13
What Else I've Been Up To

Took a vacation to Portland, attended their Comic Con, got sugar shock from Voodoo Donuts, met up with a few friends at a micro brewery. Then we visited the Oregon coast for a few days where I ate some the best food of my life at Castaways Tini Tiki Hut. I just loved waking up a block from the ocean. Sitting on the sand watching the sun set, walking out on the beach in the morning. LOVE.

Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach, OR. photo: Stephanie Scott

What's up with your Wednesday? Make sure to visit the other blogs linked on Jamie Morrow's blog.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave
Rick Yancey
YA: Sci-fi
Published: May 2013

Image: Goodreads
I wrote off this book for awhile, confusing the author with someone else (for some reason I thought this was a mainstream author like James Patterson writing his first YA book, but Yancey has won several awards for children's lit prior to this book). A reviewer on Goodreads whose opinion I trust gave it 5 stars and called it a Must Read. That and the Goodreads group I belong to is reading this for their book club this month.

The 5th Wave is a fast-paced sci-fi thriller where a lot of people die and only the bravest survive. Seriously, a LOT of people die in this book, and it's pretty grim. I would say it's Hunger Games level violence, so keep that in mind if you are looking for a lighthearted read.

The alien apocalypse has arrived. At first no one really knew what to do, and 17-year-old Cassie's father was optimistic the visitors might have peaceful intentions. But the aliens strike, causing catastrophic events that wipe the segments of the population out with each wave. Soon, Cassie, her father, and young brother Sammy are living in a refugee camp with other survivors, and within time, the government comes to bring them to shelter. Only, they only want Sammy. Something is definitely up, and when more survivors are killed, Cassie questions who she can trust.

The story is told from several other POVs, a shadowy hunter, and Ben, a boy Cassie went to school with before the invasion whom she had a massive crush on (wrote about him in her diary and everything). I don't want to say too much further since all these characters' lives intertwine based on how the plot progresses.

I liked that this book focused more on survival and family rather than a love story, though there is a little bit of that thrown in too. Cassie is a cool, relatable character. The voice in this book is extremely engaging, which really adds to the page-turning here. This reminded me of a mix of War of the Worlds and survival aspects of The Walking Dead from a YA angle.