Monday, October 29, 2012

YA Book Club: The Raven Boys

It's time for another meeting of the YA Book Club, hosted by Tracey Neithercott! This month we are discussing The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. 

But Gansey is different. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little. 

 For as long as she can remember, Blue has been told by her psychic family that she will kill her true love. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I talked about my love for this book in my Bookanistas review back when it first came out. It wasn't so much a review as it was a plea for any of you doubters out there to just TRUST MAGGIE STIEFVATER and know that whatever she writes about is going to be awesome, no matter how wacky and out there the plot seems like it might be. 

Even now I'm finding it hard to say something specific about this book. It just grabbed me from the beginning and it didn't let go. It's just...these characters, you guys. They are so REAL. They are so COMPLICATED. I feel like they could walk off the page and into my house and I'm not totally sure I would want to hang out with them, but I'm pretty sure I'd want make out with at least Gansey and Ronan. Maybe Adam, I don't know. Possibly Noah. 

So, this next part is a little spoilerish, so continue at your own risk if you haven't read this book yet. Just warning you.

Ok, so I was concerned when, after reading the plot description here and assuming that Gansey and Blue would sort of fall for each other right away, and then it's actually Adam who is interested in Blue and they're the ones who start dating or whatever. For a little tiny second I was all, "UGH, love triangle. Bahhh." But then I remembered my own advice. TRUST MAGGIE. I know she's not going to give us some trite love triangle. I mean look at these three characters. Look at what happens to them through the course of this book! This is not going to be a lame "who do I choooooose?" I just know it. And then, after (okay, this part is for sure a spoiler, so stop reading, people who haven't read the book...for real) they see the visions of the future, when Blue and Gansey are so desperately in love, my heart is already aching for them, and I am dying to know how they end up there. Especially given how we leave them at the end of this book. HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN? I MUST KNOW!

You guys know me. All this awesome magic and mystery and I'm all please tell me more about the romance, nowwwwww. I'm so predictable. 

I hate that this is going to be a four-book series, only because I need to know how this is all going to play out, and I need to know now. It's obviously going to be a slow-burn, which is awesome but also a total tease for the likes of me. 

Who else read The Raven Boys? What did you think of it? (And be sure to stop by Tracey's blog to visit all the other YA Book Club posts today)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bookanistas: If I Lie

A powerful debut novel about the gray space between truth and perception.
Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town.
Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.
Not only is Cory Jackson a fellow Bookanista, but she also just graduated from the MFA program I started this summer, where I got the chance to hear her read from this book. Oh man...I had all the tears, and I knew I had to get it as soon as it came out. Which I did, but it was in the middle of the busiest period of my life ever, and I just now got around to reading it. And by "just now," I mean the other night when I stayed up until the wee hours to finish it all in one sitting because it was that damn good. 
This book really made me feel every single feeling and every tiny feeling in between that. There was nothing in this book that was clear cut, it was all gray areas, and it gives you so much to think about. I think that was my favorite thing, really. I thought about so many things after I finished this book, mainly would I have gone through what Quinn went through to keep Carey's secret? (My answer is that I wouldn't and couldn't have. And that prompted a lot of pondering of what that says about my character, which is a totally different blog post.) There are so many things to think about with this book because the characters are all flawed, all of them, and they are flawed in such realistic and fascinating ways, making me able to relate with their bad choices, even if they were things I wouldn't have done. 
I loved the writing in this book, too. Absolutely flawless prose that probably makes people think that writing is easy. 
I smiled, frowned, sniffled, and ugly cried my way through this book, and I loved every second of it. I can't recommend this one enough. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sip Swap 2012

So, my friend Kelsey Macke and I were talking, and she had this great idea for a fun gift swap. Since all the writers we know are totally addicted to coffee or tea to fuel our marathon writing sessions, we thought it would be fun to do a little mug exchange, where we send a fun / funny / cute / inspirational mug to another writer and spread around some love. So #SipSwap was born!

Interested in joining in on the fun? Here's all you have to do...

* Fill out the form below with all of your information by Wednesday, November 7th at midnight PST. (We want to make sure everyone who sends a mug gets a mug, so please don't sign up unless you are going to participate FOR SURE.)

* Check your email on Monday, November'll get a note about who you're going to be mugging (heh) with all of their personal information.

* Go shopping! Pick out a fun mug for your swap partner and send it off by Saturday, November 25th.

* When you get your mug in the mail, show it off! Blog about it, tweet it, instagram it, whatever. Then come back for the blog link up on December 5th.

That's it! Easy peasy!

If you're participating, grab one of these cute little graphics to stick on your blog:

And you can follow me (@_JessicaLove) and Kelsey (@KelsNotChels) on twitter to keep up on the #SipSwap latest.


I hope you guys are as excited about this as we are...and I can't wait to go shopping for one of you! We hate to do this, but we have to limit the swap to residents of the continental US only, just to keep costs and convenience uniform.

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Time For 2012 YA Superlatives!

Last year Katy UppermanTracey NeithercottAlison Miller, and I hosted The Class of 2011: YA Superlatives Blogfest, which turned out to be a fun and interactive way to highlight our favorite YA novels, covers, characters, and story elements. We had a fantastic group of bloggers who signed on to participate, and we had a blast hopping from blog to blog to find out how you awarded your 2011 superlatives.
Katy, Tracey, Alison, and I had such a great time promoting awesome 2011 books and getting to know new bloggers through the blogfest, we've decided to do it all over again! This year we'll highlight 2012 books, we'll introduce a few new superlative categories, and we're planning a giveaway as just ONE more reason to join in on the fun.
There will be lots more information about specifics of the The Class of 2012: YA Superlatives Blogfest in the coming weeks (I can tell you that it'll take place toward the end of December), but we wanted to give you a heads up now, so you have plenty of time to beef up your books-published-in-2012 reading list (there's a comprehensive catalog of titles HERE). And we encourage you to revisit our 2011 posts (Katy'sTracey'sAlison's, and mine) to refresh your memory on the superlative categories we included last year.
Just like 2011, the The Class of 2012: YA Superlatives Blogfest will be all about FUN and promoting fantastic novels! Don't worry if your 2012 reading list is on the short side, or if you don't have a book/character/cover/element for each category; we just want you to jump in and participate any way you can!
So, are you planning to participate in The Class of 2012: YA Superlatives Blogfest?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Bookanistas: The Opposite of Hallelujah

 Caro Mitchell considers herself an only child—and she likes it that way. After all, her much older sister, Hannah, left home eight years ago, and Caro barely remembers her. So when Caro’s parents drop the bombshell news that Hannah is returning to live with them, Caro feels as if an interloper is crashing her family. To her, Hannah’s a total stranger, someone who haunts their home with her meek and withdrawn presence, and who refuses to talk about her life and why she went away. Caro can’t understand why her parents cut her sister so much slack, and why they’re not pushing for answers.

Unable to understand Hannah, Caro resorts to telling lies about her mysterious reappearance. But when those lies alienate Caro’s new boyfriend and put her on the outs with her friends and her parents, she seeks solace from an unexpected source. And when she unearths a clue about Hannah’s past—one that could save Hannah from the dark secret that possesses her—Caro begins to see her sister in a whole new light.

I didn't have too many expectations for this book, but I ended up really enjoying it. First of all, I love a good sister story. I don't have a sister, and I don't have any idea what it's like growing up with a sister (or, in Caro's case, growing up without a sister), so I love to read about sister relationships. This one was an awesome one because of the dynamic of Hannah not being around for so long. Added in to this sister dynamic was Caro's complicated relationship with her parents based on her sister's absence and the lies she had told about Hannah. If you are frustrated with YA books that have absent parents, this is one you should check out. The family dynamic here is very real and very messy.

Another cool thing this book does is look at religion and the different roles it plays for different people. Religion is a driving force in the plot, and it's something that Caro struggles with throughout Hannah's return. I know religion is on the mind of a lot of teens, so I always love it when authors include it in their books and handle it in a realistic and thoughtful way.

Caro is a very complicated person. Sometimes she does stuff that I wouldn't do, and sometimes she does stuff that I know the worst part of me would probably do. But she also totally redeems herself sometimes, and I totally loved being in her head. Characters like Caro are my very favorite to read. 

For another Bookanista recommendation, check out Katy Upperman's review of BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE!

Monday, October 15, 2012

What's Up, Monday?

Hi everyone!


It's Monday, so I'm going to do another little recap on what I've been keeping myself busy (oh so busy) with.

Things I've been up to...

For all intents and purposes I finished my draft. So now I'm back to the beginning, revising the crap out of it. I'm hoping to be done with this project by the end of the year. I can easily do it as long as I keep my focus and don't let myself get distracted. Can you help me stay accountable, friends? I get so distracted by shiny things on tumblr. (I sorta wish I had never gone on tumblr. It's fun and all, but it's the biggest mindless time suck ever. Gah.)

I have to say, I am so glad to be out of drafting mode and back in to revision mode. I like taking what's already there and making it better more that making something out of nothing.

Watching Pitch Perfect
I've seen it four times already. I'm completely obsessed. Singing and music and humor and omg it was so up my alley I can't even handle it. And I have developed the worst (and by worst I mean best) crush on Skylar Astin.

Yeah, when I'm not watching the movie I'm looking at that gif.

Work is really tough this year, guys. I'm having a hard time in the classroom, and I come home exhausted every single day. It makes it hard to write, it makes it hard to blog, it makes it hard to be a functioning human being. I'm looking at it as a day-by-day sort of thing right now, and, well, let's just say that this song has been my anthem:

Hanging out with some writing peeps
This past weekend I headed down to my friend Dana's house for her annual Scribbler's Fork dinner. I couldn't make last year's, so I was so excited to finally be able to take part in the fun! There was food and wine and lots of awesome writer friends, so we talked about books and writing until late into the night.

The only picture I have has no flash, but luckily you can see my hair from space. 

Yeah...I probably shouldn't have even bothered posting that. 

Dana is such an awesome friend, and I feel so lucky to have her in my life. It's really the best to be able to spend time with like-minded people...and it really charged my batteries for my revision. 

How are you all doing? I hope that all of you are being productive and kicking ass with your goals. Have a great week, friends!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bookanistas: Time Between Us

ANNA GREENE, suburban Chicago, 1995: loyal friend, music lover, and cross-country runner with dreams of traveling the world 

BENNETT COOPER, San Francisco, 2012: devoted brother, habitual concertgoer, skater… and time traveler 

Worlds apart, the two were never supposed to meet. But a minor lapse in judgement leads Bennett into Anna’s life, and the two embark on a journey full of romance and daring adventures, even though they both know that they might be dooming themselves to heartbreak. After all, at any moment Bennett could get knocked right back to when he belongs. 

 When a horrible accident throws everything they believe into question, Anna and Bennett face an impossible choice that could tear them apart. Against a ticking clock, they are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time. 

 Fresh, exciting, and deeply romantic, Time Between Us is a stunning and spellbinding debut from an extraordinary new voice in YA fiction.

I have been excited about this book since I read the first three chapters as printouts from a Word doc back in December 2010, and I have talked about it several times here on the blog...I can't believe it is finally out in the world!

You guys...I loved this book so hard. I read it all the way back in May, but it never left me. I thought about it and talked about it for so long afterward, and I can't wait to run out and buy a copy of my very own to read over and over. It really is everything Jess would love in a book all wrapped up into one beautifully written package.

Heavy on the romance - check
Time travel - check
Actual travel - check
The 90s / 90s music - check
Hot boy who loves music and goes to concerts and skateboards and has floppy hair - check
Awesome female friendship - check

I mean, really, it's a little ridiculous how many of my absolute favorite things showed up in this book.

My favorite, really, is a complicated relationship, and living in two different times is about as complicated as you can get. But I loved falling for Anna and Bennett and rooting for this impossible love of theirs to work out somehow.

If you're a romance lover like I am, this is seriously the book for you. This is an awesome debut by Tamara Ireland Stone, and I can't wait to see what else she has up her sleeve.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are up to today...

Katy Upperman is loving LIVE THROUGH THIS

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Last week, my friend Katy Upperman tagged me in this The Next Big Thing post, where people are answering questions about what they're working on.

You guys. I so wanted to do this, but I am SO PARANOID about talking about what I'm working on. Not because I think someone is going to steal it or anything...more like I'm worried you guys are going to judge me? I don't know. I'm SO freaking weird about this stuff. (I won't even tell my students the title of my other book. Why? No idea.) So I'm going to tell you a little about my WIP, but not really. I'm leaving out the hooky stuff because I'm a paranoid weirdo who thinks you're all going to laugh at me or something.

What is the working title of your book?
I'm terrible with titles, but I actually like the title for this one...IN REAL LIFE. 

Where did the idea come from?

I got the idea first from a reality TV show the husband was randomly watching. I wasn't even in the room when it was on, but something about it piqued my interest and I ended up so obsessed with the relationship between the people on this episode of the show. I couldn't stop thinking about them and what happened after the cameras turned off, so I decided to write my own version.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA contemporary romance. 

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Jessica Lu from Awkward would be absolutely perfect for Hannah.

Best friend Nick, I had been thinking about Rowly Dennis from Jane By Design.

But then I saw pictures of Andrew Garfield and he's spot on, too

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Er. Girl falls in love with her long-distance best friend and drives across a state line to surprise him and let him know. Plus complications and drama, obvs.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have an awesome agent, so hopefully she will love it. :-)

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I'm finishing the first draft this week (cross your fingers). It took me 8 months for this draft, but I didn't write straight through the entire time. 

May we see an intro?

I’ve watched many a high school party movie in my day, so I know how spring break as a senior is supposed to go.  A wild and crazy co-ed trip, maybe to Mexico or a similar magical land where pesky things like American laws don’t apply. Dancing, drinking, hooking up, and who knows what other manner of bad behavior and questionable decision making. 

In a word - epic.
In other words - completely different from my normal life.

What other books would you compare this story to?

Um. I love Jennifer Echols and Stephanie Perkins and their books totally inspire me. I don't know if you could compare this to them at this point because they are awesome and this is still a pretty messy draft. 

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The reality show I mentioned. Some awesome songs. Some things that happened to me in high school. My favorite place in the country. 

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Kissing. Friendship. Fake IDs. Music. Awesome Asian girls. Spring Break. Guys in bands. You know...the Jess usual. ;-)

Ok, so most of you have done this already, so I'm not going to tag anyone. But if you haven't, be sure to play along! I love reading about what you all are working on. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bookanistas: Stealing Parker

After her mom's scandal rocks their conservative small town, 17-year-old Parker Shelton goes overboard trying to prove that she won't turn out like her mother: a lesbian. The all-star third-baseman quits the softball team, drops 20 pounds and starts making out with guys--a lot. But hitting on the hot new assistant baseball coach might be taking it a step too far...especially when he starts flirting back.

I enjoyed Miranda Kenneally's first book Catching Jordan quite a bit, so I was really excited about this companion novel. The main characters here are different, but it takes place at the same school as Catching Jordan and Jordan and Henry and some of the other football players do show up, which is always fun. 

This book was just as fun and sexy as Catching Jordan, but I think I liked it a little bit more. I related to Parker more than Jordan, so I connected with this book on a different level. Parker was a very real character to me and even though she made a lot of mistakes she really did learn from them and feel bad about them. I liked that about her. And just like in Catching Jordan, there was an awesome supporting cast of guys including Drew, Parker's skinny-jeans-wearing best friend and Corndog, her rival for school valedictorian. You just have to love a guy named Corndog. 

I think the most surprising thing about this book was the role religion played to the story. Parker's struggles with God and her church are central to her internal conflict here, and I thought it was very realistic and something that many teens can relate to. If she has always been a good Christian, why are these things happening to her? And why are the members of her church treating her differently? Parker has a lot on her mind when it comes to her religion, and I really liked the way it was handled here. 

This book dealt with a little bit of everything: forbidden relationships, what friendship is all about, lust vs. love, religion and faith, sexuality, reputations, and perceptions. It made me laugh a lot and it made me think, and I just had a really good time reading this.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy October! Congratulations To My Friends!

I've come to the point in my writing career where friends I've made along my journey have gotten book deals and now their books are coming out into the world. This isn't the same as meeting and befriending already published authors. No, these are people I met who were on the same path as me. Working hard, struggling, hoping, and now their books are going out there in the world for the first time.

I'm so happy for these people I know!

Macy Beckett
Macy Beckett is the pseudonym of my friend Melissa Landers, who writes adult contemporary romance as Macy and YA as Melissa. Her debut romance Sultry With A Twist officially releases TOMORROW! Melissa is a constant source of support and encouragement for me. I want to be jealous  of all of the success she's had so far, but I just can't be because she is such an amazing writer and supportive friend. I already shared how you can get Sultry with A Twist in ebook right now, or you can pick it up when it goes on sale tomorrow.

Then she has two more Sultry books AND her YA sci-fi series from Disney Hyperion that starts with Alientated coming out in Feb 2014. Melissa has tons going on, and I couldn't be more thrilled for her.

Tamara Ireland Stone
I met Tamara at the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop back in December 2010. She was in one of my crit groups and I immediately fell in love with her time travel romance story. At the time she had just recently signed with her agent and when I found out later that her book sold I was thrilled for her. Even better, when I read an ARC the rest of the book was just as good as the few chapters I had read in our group. Time Between Us is out next week, October 9th, and I can't wait for everyone to get to know Anna and Bennett and read Tamara's lovely writing. I'm the biggest cheerleader for Tamara and this book, I even helped her launch the book's website, because I totally fell in love with it and because Tamara is such a great person.

Shannon Messenger
I was a reader of Shannon's blog, but I met her in person at a local book signing and I have seen her at pretty much every local event since. Shannon always goes out of her way to introduce me to people and make sure that I know everyone and I'm included, which I appreciate more than I can say. She always shared the ups and downs of her road to publication, and I was thrilled when I heard that her debut MG novel Keeper of the Lost Cities sold and her YA book Let The Sky Fall sold, too! For Shannon, when it rains it pours! I'm so glad to know Shannon, and I know she is going to be ridiculously successful at this whole author thing.

October is an awesome month for my writing friends, and I can't wait for their books to be out there in the world so everyone can read them and love them. And I can't wait for more of my writing friends to have awesome successes like these! YAY for celebrating!