Follow Friday



Q. Let’s step away from books for a second and get personal. What T-Shirt slogan best describes you?

So many t-shirts so little time! If I have to play by the rules (for once) and choose just one, this is the one that describes me best! When I’m not working or reading, I’m blissfully lost in my writing. Of course, if this were really my t-shirt, I’d spice up that cover with some glitter or some other sort of eye candy!

Writers Do It Literally

So much for playing by the rules. I had to include this one too because I’m not much of a cook and in my house the word ‘cereal’ is synonymous with breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Review: Dead Rules


 
DESCRIPTION

Till death

Jana Webster and Michael Haynes were in love. They were destined to be together forever.
Do

But Jana’s destiny was fatally flawed. And now she’s in Dead School, where Mars Dreamcote lurks in the back of the classroom, with his beguiling blue eyes, mysterious smile, and irresistibly warm touch.

Us

Michael and Jana were incomplete without each other. There was no room for Mars in Jana’s life—or death—story. Jana was sure Michael would rush to her side soon.

Part

But things aren’t going according to Jana’s plan. So Jana decides to do whatever it takes to make her dreams come true—no matter what rules she has to break.

REVIEW
Let me start by saying that Dead Rules had such amazing potential. I read a pre-launch interview with Russell and put this on my TBR list immediately. Between the blurb and the author interview, I was sure this was a book for me. I logged on to Amazon and downloaded it on my Kindle (at my own expense) within days of the release. My expectations? Fresh, witty, imaginative. And it was most of those things, but there were still some things that really irked me.
But let me start with the good stuff. The concept was original and well thought out. Although Dead School was a little confusing initially (by design), it all came together in the first couple of chapters. I loved the idea that it was located right here on planet Earth, but could only really be seen and experienced by the dead. I also liked the idea that the students had to figure things out for themselves and that the rules were cryptic. That’s what real life is like, so why should death be any different? And for the romantic in me, the budding relationship between Jana and Mars was the one thing that really hooked me and kept me reading. I felt more connected to Mars than any other character in the book and wanted to see if he would manage to change his status at Dead School and move from Slider (read: bad boy) to Riser. Of all the characters in the book, I felt Mars had the most depth, was the most likeable, and had the greatest sincere desire to change his circumstances. Ultimately, many of the characters felt flat to me. I honestly didn’t really care what happened to any of them, except for Mars.
Which leads me to my biggest issue with this book: I didn’t really like the protagonist, Jana. She was selfish in the extreme and to be honest, although Russell laid the groundwork for Michael, her boyfriend, to be the only support system in her life, I struggled to believe that she really thought killing him was the right thing to do. I know, I know. There are loves that twisted out there, but I just wasn’t buying it. In addition, she had some very annoying and repetitious sayings that just didn’t feel genuine. Seriously. How many teenage girls skip profanity in favor of phrases like ‘farts, fudge, and popcorn’? Also, I’ve never met a teenage girl (and I know plenty of them) who would introduce themself as ‘Webster, of Webster and Haynes’. Sounds like a law firm, right? I hate to say it, but I couldn’t help but think this was a middle aged males’ perception of teenage girls and it just didn’t resonate with me.
Other things that irked me (spoiler alert): There were apparently very few virgins among the teen population. Believe me, I understand that teens have sex, but the numbers felt extremely skewed. Lastly, when Michael finally showed up at Dead School (after killing his girlfriend – even if it was an accident – and after dying while attempting to kill her again) he was a Riser. I’m no expert, but it seemed like he should have been a Slider and the lame excuse that attempting to shoot Jana and her friends was self-defense didn’t make it any more plausible. The logic here just felt fundamentally flawed.
I know my review of this book is in the minority, but it just didn’t work for me. While it had some good points, I just didn’t connect with the storyline or the characters in the way I had hoped to. For those of you who have it on your TBR list, don’t let my review discourage you. I’ll be interested to see what you think!

Follow My Book Blog Friday



Q. Name 3 authors that you would love to sit down and spend an hour or a meal with just talking about either their books or get advice on writing from?

I would love to meet (in no particular order):

1. Veronica Roth (Divergent) because I’m so impressed by her success at such a young age and because I”m dying to know what happens to Tris in book two, Insurgent. (Yes. I know she wouldn’t really tell me.)

2. Kiersten White (Paranormalcy) because she just seems like a really fun and creative person based not only on her published works but on her blog.

3. Cassandra Clare (The Immortal Instruments) because while I’m a fan of her work and she’s got plenty of them, she’s also got a lot of critics. I’d love to know how she deals with the negativity and how she maintains her focus.

Better Luck Next Time

Well, it was bound to happen eventually. I knew everything couldn’t be sunshine and bunnies forever. After all, I do live in the real world, not some deliciously amazing paranormal otherworld. (I should be so lucky!)
I had a little setback this week that was (truth be told) heartbreaking. I may L-O-V-E to read, but I’ve never had an eye for art. So when I fell for the portfolio of a certain photographer, I fell hard. Head over heels hard. We were this close *holds fingers just a smidge apart* to agreeing on terms for an image to be used on my cover. It would have been divine. Beautiful. Artistic. Moving. I felt connected to the image. In my head it was a done deal.
Alas, certain photographer flaked on me at the last minute and now it’s back to square one. I’m disappointed, but I guess those are the chances you take when you’re brokering a deal via an international web connection. C’est la vie.
When it’s all said and done, I’ll find something new that’s just as dark and lovely because I won’t settle for anything less. Oh, and I’ll still be a fan of certain photographer– a fan with different cover art.

Follow Friday

Q. What do I do when I am not reading?
For me reading is a the big escape so when I’m not reading I’m usually working. And trust me, it’s not nearly as fun as it sounds! 😉 However, I do find my fair share of time to read, so I’m not complaining. I also have another guilty pleasure which is writing. Ask my husband…. I spend most of my waking hours in front of a computer! The only way he can tell if I’m working or writing is by which PC I’m plugged into!

Mademoiselle Français: éditeur extraordinaire

Not too long ago I wrote a blog bemoaning the challenges of find a good (and reasonably priced) copy editor. Several of you came through and messaged me with recommendations for which I am extremely grateful. As a result, I’m happy to say that I not only found a wonderful editor to take on my project, I actually have a finished project! I can’t say enough about the extraordinary Ms. French and would recommend her services to anyone in the market for editing services.
I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous at first. Editors aren’t cheap and testimonials are a dime a dozen. I scoured the web for hours looking for reputable and reasonable services, and the more I saw the more concerned I became about getting a good value for my money. I’m a firm believer that you get what you pay for and if something seems too good to be true, well, you get the idea.
Still, I didn’t want to shell out thousands of dollars because:
1) I don’t have that kind of money for editing services
2) I was concerned that I might be overpaying for the quality of work.
Ultimately, I ended up selecting an editor that came to me through a personal referral and I couldn’t be happier with the results! Ms. French was extremely professional and invested a considerable amount of time explaining both her background and her process to me so that I’d be comfortable with the arrangement before proceeding. She also delivered the project on time and on budget which was almost as important to me as getting quality work.
I’m really excited about the results and can’t wait to share with everyone! I’ve still got one step to go before I can officially call myself a published author: cover art.
Wish me luck!

To Read or Not to Read?

City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4)
It’s a little cliché, but we’ve all faced this question at least once before, right? Here’s my dilemma. I recently finished City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare. I enjoyed the first 3 books in the series, despite the fact that Clare’s books have been the subject of a ton of controversy. I know, I know — Clare has been accused of everything from ripping off concepts from other authors to extending the Mortal Instruments in an attempt to further line her pocket.  Now, I don’t want to say I don’t care about either of these things, because personal integrity is important, especially when readers are paying good money to read your work. As readers, we deserve an author’s best effort. But, there’s still that one little niggling voice in my head that wants to move forward with the series.
City of Fallen Angels, book #4, has received some glowing reviews and some, well, downright hateful ones. All things being subjective, I can’t decide if I should shell out the money to read the fourth book. On one hand, reviews of disappointed fans that felt the series took a turn for the snore-worthy (and many of whom felt cheated by a thin/disorganized plot) carry a lot of sway with me.
Why read a book if it’s going to take a series I enjoy and wreck that warm, fuzzy view? City of Glass ended in a good place and the story felt complete to me. Do I dare continue to City of Fallen Angels and risk hating it like oh so many other fans?
On the other hand, knowing what I know, I still feel like I need to see it through to the end. Despite the terrible reviews and the likely chance of disappointment, I want to see where the story goes.  Call me a glutton for punishment, but I have this need to just know.
So I ask, to read or not to read the City of Fallen Angels?

Review: Enclave

DESCRIPTION

WELCOME TO THE APOCALYPSE

In Deuce’s world, people earn the right to a name only if they survive their first fifteen years. By that point, each unnamed ‘brat’ has trained into one of three groups-Breeders, Builders, or Hunters, identifiable by the number of scars they bear on their arms. Deuce has wanted to be a Huntress for as long as she can remember.

As a Huntress, her purpose is clear–to brave the dangerous tunnels outside the enclave and bring back meat to feed the group while evading ferocious monsters known as Freaks. She’s worked toward this goal her whole life, and nothing’s going to stop her, not even a beautiful, brooding Hunter named Fade. When the mysterious boy becomes her partner, Deuce’s troubles are just beginning.

Down below, deviation from the rules is punished swiftly and harshly, and Fade doesn’t like following orders. At first she thinks he’s crazy, but as death stalks their sanctuary, and it becomes clear the elders don’t always know best, Deuce wonders if Fade might be telling the truth. Her partner confuses her; she’s never known a boy like him before, as prone to touching her gently as using his knives with feral grace.

As Deuce’s perception shifts, so does the balance in the constant battle for survival. The mindless Freaks, once considered a threat only due to their sheer numbers, show signs of cunning and strategy… but the elders refuse to heed any warnings. Despite imminent disaster, the enclave puts their faith in strictures and sacrifice instead. No matter how she tries, Deuce cannot stem the dark tide that carries her far from the only world she’s ever known.

REVIEW
Talk about a diamond in the rough. I never would have picked up this book if another blogger hadn’t recommended it. Why? Mostly, I think, because the cover didn’t really catch my eye and the title didn’t mean much to me either. Truth be told, without reading the book jacket, it put me in mind of the sci-fi/fantasy books my husband reads. I was sooo wrong. This book was amazing! I don’t give 5 stars often, but Aguirre definitely got my blood pumping. I didn’t have high expectations going in, and maybe that’s one reason I rated it so highly. There’s nothing worse than having a book built up in your mind so much before reading it that it’s impossible for said book to live up to your expectations.
Either way, I couldn’t put this book down. I downloaded it on my kindle the morning I was leaving Mexico and when I didn’t stop reading until it was done. (My family probably thought I was being anti-social in the extreme!) I read on the bench out front the resort, in the shuttle to the airport, on the plane, in baggage claim… You get the idea. The only place I didn’t read was in Customs because they frown on the use of electronic devices.
This was my first read by Aguirre and it won’t be my last. The word building was amazing, there was plenty of action, and I could easily relate to the heroine, Deuce. I was literally sucked into Deuce’s world from page one. I found myself wanting her to challenge the status quo and question the Elders despite the obvious conclusion that she would be exiled for independent thought. I felt her pain when she truly saw the corruption on which her society was built and felt the sting of betrayal when even her closest friends turned against her. I was even hopeful as she and Fade stepped above ground and went Topside in search of a land free of Freaks.
Deuce was a strong character and, despite the compassionate streak she kept hidden within the Enclave, it was clear how deeply her Huntress training had affected her. Forced to question everything she’d ever been taught, I found myself anxious to see her grow a person. I knew who she was, but I wanted to see who she’d become. Life underground was a little two dimensional and it felt like (as with any adolescent), Deuce had a lot more living to do before she’d be whole. Although she’d been raised to live by the sword and had little formal education, she was a thoughtful character who proved that she could shift her initial perceptions and change.
Now, to be fair, there were some things I didn’t exactly like, although I understood them. (Spoiler alert!) It drove me crazy that Deuce didn’t really understand Fade’s attraction to her or the thinly veiled meaning in his words at times. Yes, I understand that she came from a world where breeding was simply a means of species proliferation and she didn’t have any experience with emotional ties and loving relationships. But it still drove me crazy in the ‘How-oblivious-can-you-be-?-You-two-need-to-get-together-already-!’ kind of way. (Apparently I’m a romantic at heart.)
Also, I really hated that Stalker (former gang leader / probable rapist) was folded into their little band of survivors. While I understood Deuce’s reluctance to leave him behind and the practicality of having another skilled fighter to face the Freaks, it still burned. I tried to remind myself that, like Deuce, he only knew one way to survive in the world and that he needed to be shown a different way, but it didn’t really help.
I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this book half as much if I weren’t so emotionally invested in the characters and the outcome, so I guess that even though they drove me a little crazy, I can’t wait for book two of the Razorland series, Outpost, which is projected for release in Fall 2012.

Follow Friday

Q. ACK! Your favorite book/movie character (example Hermione Granger played by the Emma chick) just walked into the room! Who is it and what would be your first reaction? You get extra points if you include visual stimulation.

As usual, I’m probably overcomplicating FF, but all of the characters I feel most passionately about right now haven’t moved onto the big screen… yet! And maybe that’s a good thing so that they can live on in my mind exactly how I picture them. Because let’s face it, Hollywood has a way of failing to deliver the goods sometimes.

Now, for my real answer. I’m going to stretch a little and say that I’d love to meet Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games (soon to be played by Jennifer Lawrence). Although I’m not sure that Lawrence is an exact match to the amazing Katniss I’ve created in my mind and although I’m not sure she’ll be able to convey Katniss’s depth or toughness, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. My first reaction? To give the girl a hug because let’s face it, if anyone needs one, she does!