June 28, 2013

Book Review: Golden

(First off, if I could feature about five books per Cover Love, this one would've made it last week.  I feel it really embraces the nature of the book.  It's even more beautiful in person so this is a book you need to buy or check out from the library.)

Golden by Jessi Kirby
Grade: B
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.

Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

The Good: Overall, I found the characters to be very strong, well-developed, and unique. Their personalities shone through.  The plot is very cool.  I loved how everything started with the journals, and how Julianna and Shane's story was a true mystery.  There was one point I was all like, "Oh my gosh, I wonder if ______ is _______!" And I was right.  I'm not the best detective, but Jessi Kirby didn't make it too hard to put the pieces together.  Which isn't a bad thing.  When there's a mystery involved, you have to give your readers little tidbits to keep them reading and wanting more. 
I also liked how poetry was involved, how each chapter started with a little line from something.

The Bad: Shane was one of the underdeveloped characters.  I know we didn't actually meet him, but still.  He seemed too stereotypical, the most popular boy at school who loves his girlfriend but seems to care more about his team and his family's wishes.  Yes, friends and family are important and shouldn't be ignored when you're in a relationship.  But your significant other doesn't deserve to be treated like Julianna was towards the end.  I also think there was a bit missing with Julianna's journal entries.  They started awfully late in the year (or maybe I overlooked where Parker skipped ahead to read?), and everything happened a bit too quickly for her.  Finally, I wasn't a big fan of the romance in Parker's life.  It felt off to me, and while I usually root for the main character and her romantic interest, I couldn't this time.

The Ugly: The main thing that comes to mind is the language.  The s-word was used at least five times I could recall, and then the f-bomb was dropped twice within the same paragraph (I'm fairly certain that was the only time, though.)  Romance is high school level.  Nothing too inappropriate.

I liked Golden.  The good outweighs the bad, but it doesn't outweigh the ugly.  I'm definitely going to have to take into consideration if I'll buy this book or not.

Also, just a couple notes.

1. Wow, 30,000 pageviews!  Thanks to everyone who has stopped by my blog.  I really appreciate it, and I hope you'll keep visiting. :)
2. As you might notice, new blog layout!  This is so y'all can see my TBR list (on the lefthand side). I'll try to update it as often as I can, but that list will just keep growing (there's even some books I didn't list), and I devour books, so it'll take some time to remove them.

I think that's everything!  Have a nice day, everyone. :)

June 25, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I've Read So Far in 2013

Well, here we are again at another Tuesday.  This one is particularly rainy and stormy, so I'm hoping to get lots of writing done today.  But since it's Tuesday, that means it's another Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

Perfect Scoundrels (Heist Society, #3)

1. Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter
The best book I've read in 2013 thus far.  Ally Carter's books never ceases to delight me.  And did y'all hear that she just sold a new three-book deal?  It's called Embassy Row!

2. The Selection by Kiera Cass
I have trouble finding dystopian novels that I enjoy because they're starting to become a bit overdone.  Most are also very sci-fi, which I'm not a fan of.  But The Selection was different, thank goodness.  Although set in the future, Illea (the trilogy's world) didn't seem too different from the modern United States.  The story felt almost contemporary.

3. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Dystopian and sci-fi that I enjoyed.  Pretty shocking.  I think the fairytale elements helped, not to mention strong characters that I connected to, especially in Cinder's sequel...

4. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
As I've said before, I think I actually liked Scarlet better than Cinder.  Questions were answered while still leaving plenty of mystery.  I found myself relating to and enjoying Scarlet as a character more than I liked Cinder.  Scarlet has this fire about her that just makes her come alive.

5. The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson
Melanie Dickerson is one of my favorite authors when it comes to fairytale retellings.  I loved The Healer's Apprentice and The Merchant's Daughter when I read them last year, and The Fairest Beauty was great, too.  I'm really looking forward to her Cinderella-with-a-bit-of-Ivanhoe book this fall.

6. Belles by Jen Calonita
I've probably said this before, but I enjoyed the Belles series much more than Jen's Hollywood Secrets.  Several of the characters stood stronger, there were new and interesting twists around each corner, and while there were definitely mean girl problems, said mean girl grew herself.

7. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Y'all probably think I'm crazy for including this.  I read Hamlet through my Shakespeare class, and part of the reason I enjoyed it so much was my teacher.  She's a Shakespeare geek and got us all really excited about the plot, the characters, the mystery, everything! (Of course, nothing tops 5-minute Hamlet, but that's not a book, so...)

8. Save the Date by Jenny B. Jones
I'm not even sure how I found this book.  A Twitter friend might've suggested it to me, I think.  But I loved the storyline and how everything played out.

9. The Elite by Kiera Cass
There were definitely aspects of The Elite that I liked more than The Selection.  There's a moment between Maxon and America towards the end that just gives my Team Maxon heart hope.  I enjoyed learning more about Illea's history.  But as many people have said, America gets a bit wishy-washy, and that did bother me to an extent.

10. The Princess by Lori Wick
I believe I first heard about this book from Blue Sky Bookshelf.  It was in one of her Top Ten Tuesday posts actually, I think!  I read the iBooks preview of it, checked the book out from the library, and fell in love.  It's a great Christian romance novel.

Now I'm off to write for a bit!  Happy Tuesday, everyone. :)

June 22, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions

As a writer, I get asked a lot of questions.  I'm going to answer them all in one convenient place for those nosy family members and friends.

Am I in your book?
Maybe.  If the book is ever published and you're in it, you're likely to recognize yourself.

Could you not kill my character?
Yeah, of course! Your character's chance of dying just went up 50%.

Can I do something awesome/be the main character/be a fairy? (*cough*Hannah*cough*)
I have predetermined ideas and ideas that later come to me.  It's unlikely that I'll ever use unsolicited suggestions.

What's your book about?
It's about this thing that happens...the main character is pretty awesome...I can't really tell you more because I've discovered that often ruins my ability to write the book.  And I also worry about plagiarism a lot.

You should write a dystopian/paranormal novel!  They're so popular these days and so poorly written that it wouldn't be hard for you to get published.
Ouch.  That hurts just a little.  I write in whatever genre I get an idea in.  But all of my books are first and foremost young adult fiction because I know teens (after all, I am one).

I think that covers most of them.  I get "Am I in your book?" a lot.  And unsolicited suggestions for what their character should do, if I disclose that there is a character based off of them.

June 20, 2013

Cover Love #1

So this is my first Cover Love!  It's hosted by Bookshelvers Anonymous.

Ready for the first book I've chosen?

The Mark of Athena (The Heroes of Olympus, #3)

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Annabeth is terrified. Just when she's about to be reunited with Percy—after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera—it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can’t blame the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon masthead, Leo's fantastical creation doesn't appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace.

And that's only one of her worries. In her pocket Annabeth carries a gift from her mother that came with an unnerving demand: Follow the Mark of Athena. Avenge me. Annabeth already feels weighed down by the prophecy that will send seven demigods on a quest to find—and close—the Doors of Death. What more does Athena want from her?

Annabeth's biggest fear, though, is that Percy might have changed. What if he's now attached to Roman ways? Does he still need his old friends? As the daughter of the goddess of war and wisdom, Annabeth knows she was born to be a leader, but never again does she want to be without Seaweed Brain by her side.

Narrated by four different demigods, The Mark of Athena is an unforgettable journey across land and sea to Rome, where important discoveries, surprising sacrifices, and unspeakable horrors await. Climb aboard the Argo II, if you dare...

So what do I love about this book's cover?  
I love how the colors flow together.  An image on a computer really can't do them justice.  You have to hold an actual copy just to really see the colors.
The owl's eyes are spooky and intriguing.
And I love how the lightening and waves meet, representing Jason and Percy's powers.
It's just all around a beautiful cover.

June 18, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My TBR List

So, starting off this list, my current problem is that I have already demolished most of my summer reading list.  I started it in May and I've finished everything on it that I can get from the library.  So I'm going to have to hunt for some more books to add to this list!

1. First Date by Krista McGee
Not sure where I first heard about this book, but I've definitely had an interest in books reminiscent of The Bachelor and the book of Esther lately.  I would've already read this, but my library system doesn't seem to have it.

2. Starring Me by Krista McGee
From the summary, this is kind of like a sequel to First Date with characters from the first book appearing.  Either way, it has a cool premise and both books seem to have a Christian basis.

3. I'm No Angel by Kylie Bisutti
Yay for memoirs!  This book is a memoir by a former Victoria's Secret Angel who left the modeling world because she realized it didn't agree with her Christian beliefs.  I'll be honest-I usually hate non-fiction.  But this one sounds like it'll be really good.

4. Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
A couple bloggers I follow have mentioned this book, and my interest has been peaked.  It's actually in the stack of library books on my bedroom floor right now, so I'll be reading it in the next few days.

5. United We Spy by Ally Carter
Yeah, I know.  This isn't coming out until September.  But I'm super excited for the last Gallagher Girls book and it deserves a spot on my TBR list.

6. Camp Boyfriend by J.K. Rock
Sunny Duvall over at Blue Sky Bookshelf has this on her Top Ten Tuesday list for today, and I looked it up on Goodreads.  It sounds pretty interesting, so when it comes out, I might give it a try. :)

7. Divergent by Veronica Roth
Y'all have no idea how many times I've tried to read Divergent.  According to my library record, I've checked it out five times in the last nine months.  It'll sit in my stack of library books until it's due, and then I'll return it.  My BFFE really likes it, and it's set in Chicago, so I really want to read it and like it.  Maybe this summer...

8. Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink and Confederates Don't Wear Couture by Stephanie Kate Strohm
Just a book and its sequel that caught my eye. :)

9. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
This, like United We Spy, isn't coming out until September, but hey, I read voraciously all year long.  Plus, since I'm a fangirl of multiple series (and Taylor Swift), I think I might be able to relate...

10. Cool Beans by Erynn Mangum
Yay for Christian young adult fiction!  I'm a bit leery of Christian YA, just because, sometimes, it's only categorized as such because the characters are Christian, not because it teaches good faith lessons.  So we'll see with this book, but I think it'll be a good read anyways.

Okay, phew I compiled a list of ten books.  It took me about 40 minutes, but I did it!

June 10, 2013

My Writing Projects

So I think it's time again for another round-up of all my writing projects: active and dormant.

The Homeschooling Reality
6 Hours, 13 Minutes
La Malediction (French for The Curse)
The Twenty-Four (a working title)

I don't have a lot I'm planning to work on soon.  They're either completely shelved at the moment or active.  But there are a few...
Forever Mortal
Secrets Long Kept

And as you all know, Teen Author is completed.  I'm having a few friends read it and critique it and I hope to start querying agents some time this fall.

Also, I took the ACT on Saturday, and I think it went well.  English and reading were pretty easy.  Math wasn't too hard (which has me worried because whenever you feel you did well on a math test, you often do poorly), and science was really hard.  I'm praying I get a good score, and we'll know in 3-8 weeks. :P

June 7, 2013

Book Review: The Selection

The Selection (The Selection, #1)

The Selection by Kiera Cass
Grade: B+
Summary: For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

The Good: Let me start off by saying I adore the cover.  The dress is gorgeous, and the mirrors make this stunning.  America is a fun character.  I like how her relationship with Maxon developed, how she started off as just wanting to be his friend and help him choose the perfect girl.  Maxon was awesome, too.  He was willing to keep America around to help her family, but I also think he was falling for her all along, too.  I enjoy the mystery of Marlee having a secret (I have my theories as to what it might be), and Kriss actually became an enjoyable character.  I enjoyed trying to piece together where each province is and where the capital is (I think the capital is modern-day Los Angeles).  The book felt so contemporary, unlike most dystopian novels.  Also, the way Kiera Cass started the book was great.  She jumped right into the story and did a bit of explaining as she went along, although some things are still a mystery.  It's very much a habit to start with explaining your story's environment, and it's a hard habit to break, so I applaud Kiera for this.

The Bad: However, the beginning felt just a wee bit stereotypical-America not wanting to send in the application, her mother being all excited over it, her dad wanting her to do it but yet not... There's a love triangle, and that can always be a bit annoying.  I know exactly who I want America to choose, and I've heard she gets a bit wishy-washy in The Elite, so it'll be interesting to see if I like The Elite as much as I like The Selection.

The Ugly: The romance got a little too passionate at times for me.  I don't remember any foul language that crossed the border between PG and PG-13.  There isn't much bad language, period, that I remember.

Overall, I definitely recommend The Selection.  It's a good read and one of its few problems was that it was too short!!!  Honestly, I think Kiera could write all three books (The Selection, The Elite, and The One) as one 700-page book and I would love it even more.

June 4, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday~Books that Feature Travel in Some Way

This is going to be my first Top Ten Tuesday, and I'm really excited.  The books have to feature travel, so here we go...

1. Until Tomorrow by Robin Jones Gunn
I love the travel around Europe, and Christy Miller is easily my favorite Robin Jones Gunn character.  I liked how her character continued to develop, and the moments between Christy and Todd were so sweet.

2. On the Runway series by Melanie Carlson
One of the best things about being on their TV show is that Paige and Erin get to travel around the world.  In the six books, they went to New York, France, London, the Bahamas, and Italy.

3. A Dog's Life: the Autobiography of a Stray by Ann M. Martin
It's literally the story of a dog's life.  Squirrel, as a stray, journeys all over.

4. 39 Clues series by various authors
What drew me to the 39 Clues series was the history without getting a history lesson and the travel.  They go all over the world.  Paris, Vienna, Russia, Korea, Jamaica, ALL OVER.

5. Betsy in Spite of Herself by Maud Hart Lovelace
Betsy goes to Milwaukee, and that visit to Tib's family plays prominently in the novel's plotline.  Plus, there's a moment reminiscent of one of the past Betsy-Tacy books.

6. The Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick
I'm a huge MDBC fan, and in every single book, at least one girl goes some place cool.  And in book 5, Home for the Holidays, they're spread out across the country for Christmas.

7. The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone
Well, it doesn't feature traditional travel... Jack and Ruthie shrink down to pint-size and travel through air ducts, miniature rooms, and into the past.

8. The Fairest Beauty by Melanie Dickerson
One of the big plot points is the journey from the evil stepmother's castle to the dwarves' cottage to the prince's castle.  The first part is filled with danger, the second journey is filled with awkward tension.

9. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Here's another version of nontraditional travel.  A wardrobe, horn, and magic are used, for goodness' sake.

10. Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
One of the coolest parts about the heists is that Kat and her crew are taken all over the world.  Oftentimes the culture of these other places is just a backdrop, a setting.  But they're still traveling (mostly on private jets, thanks to W.W. Hale the Fifth).

Hopefully I didn't do too poorly for my first Top Ten Tuesday!

June 3, 2013

3 Awesome Author's Websites

When I become a published author, I'd love to have a website that has my bio, FAQs, my blog, info about my book(s), and information/advice for aspiring writers.  That's why I visit three author sites fairly often-for the writing advice.

When I first visited Shannon Hale's site, I was ecstatic to find her writing advice.  No author website I'd visited before had something like this.  I've provided a direct link to her specific section on writing, but feel free to explore everything else, too.

Last fall, I officially explored Ally's site and found that lovely webpage linked to above.  It was during NaNoWriMo, I think, and I spent several hours one evening reading everything she had to say.  It's all very useful information, so please check it out if you're a writer!

Usually, every time I read something from a new author, I go check out their website.  So I checked out Marissa's on Tuesday afternoon and quite enjoyed myself.  I saw she had some good writing advice (I think it was in her blog posts, so you'll have to skim to find the posts you're looking for).

I hope this is helpful for any fellow aspiring authors. :)