Youtube Connection

May 31, 2009

This idea came about because of Persnickety Snark’s Soundtrack Saturday meme. Each week, I will post at least one youtube video that goes with a novel I have read. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to pick just one, you know? 😉 The video could be anything: a blog, a book trailer, a song, etc.

This week’s novel is I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle. In the novel, Denis Cooverman announces his love to Beth Cooper during his valedictorian speech. I chose several interesting graduation speeches. Enjoy!

First off, I have a hilarious graduation speech. A must-see for fans of Chipotle.

Next, I have a video of Daniel Handler’s (Lemony Snicket) graduation speech in 1988.

Last, I have another funny valedictorian speech.


City of Bones – Cassandra Clare

May 29, 2009

Before I begin, I want to say that this is a non-spoiler review, so feel free to read. 🙂

Clary had no idea how much her life would change when she walked into Pandemonium Club with her best friend Simon. At the club, she sees three strange teenagers kill someone. The weirdest part? After they killed the “boy”, the body completely vanishes! Clary learns that the teenages, Jace, Isabelle, and Alec are a part of a group called Shadowhunters. Shadowhunters free the world from demons. Clary soon learns that she and her mother are a part of this mysterious world…

I was overjoyed when I learned that I would receive this book from the Pulse It program back in April. I had been wanting to read the series for some time. Luckily, I was not disappointed. City of Bones was filled with twists and turns, which made me want to keep reading. The characters were also very likable. My favorites were Clary, Jace, and Simon. Almost every character had a hidden past, and reading about it was probably my favorite part of the novel. The past revealed that things were not like they originally seemed. This is kind of random and insignificant to the novel, but another part that I really enjoyed was this quote:

He raised an eyebrow, which made Clary instantly jealous. She’d always wanted to be able to do that.

I have always wanted to be able to raise my eyebrow one at a time too! Seriously, I love watching people do it!

On a more important note, the only thing I did not like about the novel was the pacing. The pacing is very controlled. By controlled, I mean most readers will probably have read the book slightly slower than an average book to understand all the descriptions. It’s almost as if Clare is saying to readers, “I know you want to find out what’s going to happen next, but I’d rather torment you with insignificant(, yet interesting) details. Muahaha!” It is hard for this type of pacing to work well for a fantasy novel, especially for City of Bones.  When I read a fantasy novel, I want a book a fast-paced, action-filled novel. While City of Bones had plenty of action, I would not call it a fast-paced novel.

Still, City of Bones is a great start to series, and now I really want to read the other novels!

Ask an Author – Melissa Wyatt

May 27, 2009

Melissa Wyatt is the author of Funny How Things Change and Raising Griffin. She currently resides in York, Pennsylvania with her husband Andy and two sons, Ned and Will.

1. How did you go about researching for Funny How Things Change?

The idea for the story came during one of our trips to West Virginia for my husband’s semi-annual family reuinion. We’d been going down there since we’d been married, so a lot of the research was already done over those years only I didn’t know it. I just kept thinking “Why would anyone stay here?” (because I didn’t much like it there at first.) And after while, I realized that was a great central question for a novel.

Once I settled in to write, I did a lot of reading on perceptions and misconceptions about Appalachia–because I admit to having my own, even after years of visiting there. I also read a lot of contemporary Appalachian writers. And then I took a horrifying crash course in something I had not known existed: mountaintop removal mining. Where–literally–the top is removed from mountains and dumped into the valleys so that nothing like a mountain remains. It’s a fast and dirty way to get at coal. Remember that the next time you hear the term “clean coal” because it’s not all about how the coal is burned. It’s also about how they get it out of the ground and the irrevocable damage this particular method causes.

And then there was all the snake bite research. At one point in the first draft, (I can’t believe I’m admitting this) Remy was bitten by a snake (mercifully, this was cut before anyone else ever saw it) and I spent a lot of time reading up on the treatment and complications of snake bites. Having a delicate consitution, this meant I would read a paragraph and then have to put my head between my knees to keep from passing out and then read a little more, put head back between knees, etc. And all for nought! It ended up in the cut file.

2. How long did it take you to write the novel?

About a year from the time I finally decided to give in to the idea and write the story. The first half took most of that year and then I kind of got hung up on the last half and how to bring it around to where it wanted to go. But when things finally clicked, the last half only took about three weeks. So a lot of that year was more thinking and whining and complaining than writing.

And then, of course, you’re still not done because there were revisions–revising on my own and then with my editor. So altogether from the first idea until the book when to the printer was probably about three years.

3. Did you have anyone in mind when you wrote Remy’s character? How about other characters?

There is one minor character in the book that is a tribute to a real person, and that’s Cousin Helen. The real Helen passed away a few years ago, and I miss how every year at the Wyatt family reunion, she would charmingly try to force me to eat her hummingbird cake, so she had to go into the book.

But Remy just developed on his own. Even though the book reads like a character-driven novel, I think it’s actually more of a setting-driven novel. So when I started it, I was thinking more in terms of setting than character, so I got to know Remy through his relationship to the setting as I wrote.

4. Would you want to live in Dwyer? Why/Why not?

Oo, excellent question. You know, I don’t think I would. I’d love the small town atmosphere, but Dwyer is too isolated for me. The Appalachian Plateau is very beautiful but also very extreme. I need more horizon around me. But given the fact that I *do* still live in the town where I was born, I understand how a place makes an impression on you and how, for some of us, we need to maintain that connection.

5. Why did you choose to write a male protagonist over a female?

I ought to have a deep, process-oriented writerly response to this, but the truth is that I write what I like to read, and somewhere around the time I turned fourteen or so, I wanted to read about boys because they had suddenly become fascinating. They still are, especially since I live with a couple of them, so I think I’m still trying to figure them out in real life and in writing.

6. Is there anything you would like readers to take from the novel after they’ve read it? If so, what?

When I write a book, at first it’s for me, and I’m usually in love with my main character. So when it gets into the hands of readers, I mostly hope they enjoy the trip and like my main character. Beyond that, if I’m saying anything, it’s “Here’s something I’ve been thinking about. Take a look and see what you think.” If the book makes someone think about something they haven’t considered before, that’s great.

7. What novels did you enjoy as a teen?

How much space do we have? I read a TON as a teen, all kinds of stuff. My mother used to buy boxes of books at yard sales and we would root through them and read whatever appealed to us. So I read everything from classics to trashy romance to biographies of movie stars. One of the best books that came out of those boxes was The Princess Bride, still one of my favorite books of all time. I read everything Mary Stewart ever wrote. I was and still am a big L. M. Montgomery fan. I also loved Madeline L’Engle and still carry a torch for Adam Eddington.

But the author that most influenced me and made me want to write YA was a British author named K. M. Peyton, best known in this country for her Flambards novels. My favorite of her novels is The Right Hand Man, a rare Regency YA with a very virgorous, manly point-of-view.

8. Are you working on any upcoming novels?

I am working on my own Regency YA, but it isn’t vigorous and manly at all. It’s very girly and feminine, with some supernatural mystery stuff thrown in.

Thank you for participating! If you would like to find out more about Melissa Wyatt, just visit her website or blog. 🙂

In My Mailbox May 18-23

May 23, 2009

In My Mailbox was created by The Story Siren. =)

The Other Half of Life – Kim Ablon Whitney

A heartbreaking novel based on the true story of a World War II voyage.

In May of 1939, the SS St. Francis sets sail from Germany, carrying German Jews and other refugees away from Hitler’s regime. The passengers believe they are bound for freedom in Cuba and eventually the United States, but not all of them are celebrating. Fifteen-year-old Thomas is anxious about his parents and didn’t want to leave Germany: his father, a Jew, has been imprisoned and his mother, a Christian, is left behind, alone. Fourteen-yearold Priska has her family with her, and she’s determined to enjoy the voyage, looking forward to their new lives.

Based on the true story of the MS St. Louis, this historical young adult novel imagines two travelers and the lives they may have lived until events, and immigration laws, conspired to change their fates. Kim Ablon Whitney did meticulous research on the voyage of the St. Louis to craft her compelling and moving story about this little-known event in history.

Funny How Things Change – Melissa Wyatt

May 21, 2009

Remy Walker has always lived in Dwyer, a small mountain town in West Virginia. In fact, the mountain that he lives on (Walker Mountain) has his family namesake. Now that Remy and his girlfriend, Lisa, have graduated from high school, Remy has to make the biggest decision of his life: Should he follow Lisa to Pennsylvania where she will attend college, and he will find a job, or should he stay in Dwyer? At first, the answer seems easy, follow Lisa, but then an outsider, Dana, helps him realize that the decision may not be as easy as it sounds.

Funny How Things Change is an intimate look into a young man’s life and the decisions he must make. Remy is one of the most well-developed characters I’ve read about. Wyatt really dug beneath the surface of him, and this helped create a novel with a lot of feeling. Another great thing about Remy is that while overall he is a good person, he is not perfect. Funny How Things Change shows several mistakes that Remy has made, but these mistakes do not detract readers to the character. There’s a specific moment toward the end (that I will not spoil) that could have ended in readers disliking Remy, but because his character was so well-written, readers were able to understand Remy. It takes a gifted writer to that, and Wyatt succeeded.

Another thing I liked about Funny How Things Change was that it’s so different from most YA novels. I mean, how many YA novels have you read that take place in a mountain town? I enjoyed reading about mountain town because it’s similar, yet different to what I know. While I certainly don’t live in a mountain town, my town is relatively small, so I can relate to wanting to move somewhere or wanting to stay. I also enjoyed reading about someone who does not want to go college, yet has a plan for the future. While I’ve always planned to go to college, I believe it’s important to state that it is possible to be successful without college.

P.S. Is it me or is the boy on this cover the same boy on The Guardian cover?

In My Mailbox May 11-16

May 16, 2009

In My Mailbox was created by Kristi of The Story Siren. =)

Initiation – Susan Fine

…I had no idea what could come of packing all those boys into one school building…how the competition would play out in relentless insults, the constant sorting out that went on every day, all day, to determine who was okay and who was worthless.

The halls of St. Stephen’s reek of money, secrets, and desperation. Competition to be top dog at the Manhattan private school is fierce. But Mauricio Londoño—Latino, middle-class, and new to the brutality of prep school life—just wants to survive ninth grade.

Apartments the size of a city block…Vacations in the Hamptons… Being near all this extravagance, intellect, and beauty is a thrill. But navigating their sparkling world is another story. When two warring freshmen use the Web as a weapon, Mauricio gets burned in the online crossfire and learns firsthand how the privileged don’t always play by the rules.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley

In his wickedly brilliant first novel, Debut Dagger Award winner Alan Bradley introduces one of the most singular and engaging heroines in recent fiction: eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison. It is the summer of 1950—and a series of inexplicable events has struck Buckshaw, the decaying English mansion that Flavia’s family calls home. A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.”

Cold Hands, Warm Heart – Jill Wolfson

May 16, 2009

It’s a short review, but a review nonetheless. 😉

Dani’s heart is on the right side of her body, meaning the wrong side. This has caused her life to be filled with many doctor visits. Then, at fifteen, her heart is struggling to keep her alive, so Dani must stay at the hospital. At the hospital, Dani meets Milo, a boy who needs a liver transplant. However, there is one person who can help Dani at the expense of her own life–fourteen year old gymnast Amanda. Amanda’s family must cope with the sadness of losing a family member, while knowing another family is experiencing joy.

First of all, Cold Hands, Warm Heart had an unique story line. I have never read a story about organ transplants, and it was very interesting. I can also tell that Wolfson did her reasearch on organ transplants. She combined so many perspectives and emotions in one novel! The problem is, though, that the novel is only about 250 pages. There were about 5 different point-of-views in the story, so there just was not enough space to fully develop each story causing the novel to lack depth. So basically, what was in the novel was good, but there was too much missing that ultimately could have made the novel great.