Friday, January 24, 2014

Review: Me Since You by Laura Weiss

Me Since You
by Laura Weiss
MTV Books
Pub Date: Feb 18, 2014

Me Since You is about a girl named Rowan whose father is a police officer. When her father is called to the scene of a tragic crime, this sets in motion a chain of events that change Rowan’s life. While Rowan’s family is dealing with the consequences of that day, Rowan begins a romance with Ely, a boy who also happened to be at the scene of the crime. But then another tragic event occurs which separates Rowan’s life into BEFORE and AFTER.

Let me start off by saying that I found the premise of this novel fascinating. It’s hard to give a review for this one without giving any spoilers, so I apologize in advance for the vagueness. But I’ve never considered what it might be like for a police officer in a situation like this where he is called to stop a crime. Because of this situation, I really enjoyed the first part of the novel where Rowan’s family is dealing with the aftermath of this crime.

Ely. I absolutely adored Ely. He and Rowan’s budding relationship felt very authentic to me. And I really appreciated how Ely had an interesting (but sad) backstory that also directly related to the present story. If that makes any sense. Again, I’m going to be vague here.

Now here’s where I’m not so sure how I feel about the novel. The second tragic event (the one that the book’s blurb says separates Rowan’s life) occurs way later in the novel than I expected. I could see the event coming, but then it took so long to actually happen that I began to get confused as to what the story was even supposed to be about.

Aside from the timing/pacing issue, I personally didn’t enjoy the book as much after the event. I felt like the rest of the novel became a big pile of grief. Now, I think the author did a good job of realistically portraying Rowan’s grief. But for me, it was just too much of a downer. I guess because it seemed like the entire plot of the story just stopped. And Rowan grieved. And that was it. And then the plot just barely picked back up again at the end (thanks to Ely). So while I really enjoyed reading at least the first half of the book, the rest of it disappointed me.

I also feel like I didn’t quite know what I was getting into when I began reading this book. Even the publisher’s summary is sort of vague to avoid spoilers. But I think if I had realized how this book was going to be ahead of time, I would have been prepared for a really sad read, and may not have had the same reaction to the sudden grief spiral.

So that’s all I have for you. Great setup, really strong writing, and then (at least for me) kind of a let down. Give it a try, though. Just be prepared for sadness.

Friday, January 17, 2014


So for the last few weeks, I've felt like I've had a lot going on. Because I have. And what's really exciting is that all of these things are writing related.

I'm a waitress. That's how I'm currently paying my bills. But that's not a career, and I have my shiny new Master's degree (not to mention student loans) telling me that I should be doing more. And it's really frustrating sometimes. I've looked for full time jobs, but the thing is, I'm picky. I don't want to be sitting behind a desk working 9-5 bored out of my mind.

Obviously the dream is to become a full time writer. But the reality is much trickier. I kept telling myself that I'd be sending my novel out to agents soon, and that I'd just wait and see. I know that even if I did get a publishing contract, that would certainly not mean I could quit my job. But it would mean something. It would mean that I'm on the right track.

In the meantime, though, I'm going a bit crazy. I have a lot of friends at work, and I love them. And they're wonderful enough to listen to me babble endlessly about writing stuff and pretend that they care.  But I want to be doing more with my time than waiting tables and coming home to watch TV now that my novel is done. I want to engage more with other writers and book lovers. I do that with my VCFA friends, of course. But I want to do it more!

I didn't consciously make a choice to change things. But suddenly, it feels like all sorts of things are falling into place for me. So here's an update on what I've got going on now:

1. I did finish my novel AND wrote my query letter AND sent it out to five agents. That's a small batch for now, because I think the query letter needs to be revised some more. Once I start hearing back from these agents, I'll do some more work on the letter and send out another batch.

2. I went back to talking about books and writing on my YouTube channel: Read First, Write Second. This is important, not only because it's fun, but because making contacts with other readers and writers could potentially be beneficial down the road if my novel gets published.

3. I'm back to writing in this blog. (Obviously.)

4. I joined NetGalley, a site where publishers provide ARCs to reviewers in order to get publicity for their books. And I've already received 7 books. So that means more reviews on this blog and my YouTube.

5. I recently finished The F-It List by Julie Halpern and was really impressed with the way she handled the sexual content. So I e-mailed her asking for an interview, and she agreed! Look for that coming soon. But it's majorly exciting, because I realized I could ask other authors for interviews. It doesn't hurt to ask. And hopefully stuff like this, and the ARC reviews, will bring more readers to this blog.

6. I started freelance editing! Right now I'm working on one client's book, and I'm doing a 20 page sample for another. This is exciting for lots of reasons. First, I genuinely enjoy editing. And second, it's a way to actually make some money using my degree.

7. I plan to make business cards eventually to advertise my editing services.

8. I want to buy my own domain name and build my personal website. This is going to take some time, because I need to research things, and I'll need to hire someone to build the site for me. Because I am beyond tech-challenged. But I want to be able to promote myself, and all of the various things I do, in one place.

9. And finally, this is an idea that was only introduced to me yesterday so I'm still mulling it over, but I'm considering self-publishing some short stories on Amazon. I'm going to look into this. If I do it, I'll use a pseudonym to keep this separate from anything I eventually publish traditionally. I don't expect to make much money off of it, but you never know. I have stories written anyway, and it's very hard to find journals and lit mags that are looking for YA short stories.

I feel like I should have a tenth one just for the sake of tidy list-making. But I think that's all. So I thought I'd share, if anyone cares. I'm really excited. (In case I haven't mentioned that.) I feel like I'm working towards things now. And it's a good feeling. It's something I can remind myself of when I'm at the diner and am struck with the overwhelming urge to punch a customer in the face.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Review: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

And We Stay
by Jenny Hubbard
Random House Children's
Pub Date: Jan 28, 2014

I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

And We Stay is about a girl named Emily who is sent away to a boarding school in Amherst, MA after her boyfriend kills himself right in front of her. Over the course of the story, through Emily's poetry and flashbacks, we learn her secret and the details of why this boy did what he did. At school, Emily makes two friends and also starts to feel a connection to the late poet Emily Dickinson, and we get to see how both of these things help her to heal.

So first, let me say that I love the premise of this novel. Even though I prefer realistic novels, I love how Emily starts to sense the presence of Emily Dickinson. Just this tiny element of the supernatural makes the story interesting. Second, I love the boarding school setting. I'm always drawn to stories that take place at a boarding school. (Looking for Alaska and Winger are a couple great ones.) Also, I've been to Amherst many times and it's a really cute town. I actually would have liked to see more scenes take place off campus.

All right, let's talk about the characters. I really liked a secondary character, K.T., who is Emily's roommate. I think she was memorable because she surprised me. When Emily first meets K.T., I expected her to be annoying, superficial, and maybe even mean. Basically, an over-used side character in YA. I see this so many times where the protagonist is forced to deal with a character like this, not necessarily the antagonist, who seems to be there only to make the protagonist look cooler. But anyway, my first impression of K.T. was wrong, and she develops into, not only an interesting character, but a real friend to Emily.

I was also really drawn to Emily. She was dealing with a whole lot when she arrived at this school, and I appreciated the way she handled herself. I found myself rooting for her.

One other thing that I really, really appreciated about this story was the handling of certain difficult subject matter. I'm not going to discuss it here, because I want to keep this review spoiler free, but I do go into more detail in my review over on my YouTube channel. So I'll put the link to that video down below if you'd like to check it out.

Now here's where I felt a little disappointed with the book.

Like I said, I really liked the premise of the story, especially the connection with Emily Dickinson. But I actually would have liked to see that connection and maybe even the supernatural elements taken a bit further.

My biggest question about this novel, though, has to do with the plot as a whole. First, I want to say that I enjoyed reading this book the entire way through. I really did. BUT once I got a little more than halfway through, I started to feel like the book was either moving too fast, or there wasn't enough book left to finish the story. If that makes any sense at all. By the time I finished, I felt like I had only read the first 50 pages of a novel, rather than the entire thing. Everything that happened in the story only felt like a first act. I guess because I liked the book, I wanted more of it. At the end of the story, we see that Emily is well on her way to healing, but I felt like not enough happened to provoke that character development. Even the climatic scene seemed like it could have occurred in the novel's first 20 pages, and then the story could have continued from there. This is hard to explain, because I've never experienced this feeling after reading a novel before.

Bottom line, though, I really did enjoy reading this novel.

If you'd like to hear me talk more about this book, you can check out my video here: Read First, Write Second