Sunday, November 30, 2014

REVIEW: Alienated by Melissa Landers

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Released: February 4, 2014
352 pages
Source: mine (I got it at the Buckeye Book Fair-- I met the author!)

Description: Two years ago, the aliens made contact. Now Cara Sweeney is going to be sharing a bathroom with one of them.

Handpicked to host the first-ever L'eihr exchange student, Cara thinks her future is set. Not only does she get a free ride to her dream college, she'll have inside information about the mysterious L'eihrs that every journalist would kill for. Cara's blog following is about to skyrocket.

Still, Cara isn't sure what to think when she meets Aelyx. Humans and L'eihrs have nearly identical DNA, but cold, infuriatingly brilliant Aelyx couldn't seem more alien. She's certain about one thing though: no human boy is this good-looking.

But when Cara's classmates get swept up by anti-L'eihr paranoia, Midtown High School suddenly isn't safe anymore. Threatening notes appear in Cara's locker, and a police officer has to escort her and Aelyx to class.

Cara finds support in the last person she expected. She realizes that Aelyx isn't just her only friend; she's fallen hard for him. But Aelyx has been hiding the truth about the purpose of his exchange, and its potentially deadly consequences. Soon Cara will be in for the fight of her life-not just for herself and the boy she loves, but for the future of her planet.

My Review: Oh. My. Glaciers. This book was amazing. I got it a few weeks ago at the Buckeye Book Fair when I met the author. (check it out!) she was great, and I had heard wonderful things about the book. I've heard wonderful things about the sequel too, and now I almost wish I hadn't read it yet, because the wait for the sequel is going to be intolerable!
This book is fantastic. It asks you to take one leap-- that aliens called the L'eihr have contacted Earth-- and everything else is completely real and believable. There is no unforeshadowed shark-jumping, no insta-love, no cardboard cutout characters. This is one of the best ya books from a new author I've read in quite a while. 
Major flaw-- this book is devastatingly entrancing. I sat down to start reading it and got up at 2 am, a little disoriented and a lot blown away. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

REVIEW: A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry

Publisher: Laurel Leaf
Released: December 1, 1983
Source: mine

Description: Meg isn't thrilled when she gets stuck sharing a bedroom with her older sister Molly. The two of them couldn't be more different, and it's hard for Meg to hide her resentment of Molly's beauty and easy popularity. But now that the family has moved to a small house in the country, Meg has a lot to accept.

Just as the sisters begin to adjust to their new home, Meg feels that Molly is starting up again by being a real nuisance. But Molly's constant grouchiness, changing appearance, and other complaints are not just part of a new mood. And the day Molly is rushed to the hospital, Meg has to accept that there is something terribly wrong with her sister. That's the day Meg's world changes forever. Is it too late for Meg to show what she really feels?

My Review: I loved Lois Lowry's writing when I was a kid, and I have been slowly adding her books to my collection. I found this one about a week and a half go, and I just got to it.
It's a quick read (I finished it in a few hours) so it's perfect for taking a breather while you're trying to get through another book. As a kid, of course it was sad, but now that I'm in my twenties, it was worse. I saw the signs long before the main character did, and it made the whole thing sadder for me. 
Of course, there are still happy points in the book, and it is dealt with less heavily than other books that deal with cancer. 
There are few scenes of despair, though it can at times be felt through the characters.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Sequels I Can't Wait to Get

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly post created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I didn't do this last week. Nobody's perfect. I got a little overwhelmed with classes and I went a little insane with nanowrimo. (On the plus side, I am about three days ahead on my wordcount!)

So today's Top Ten Tuesday is "Sequels I Can't Wait to Get." There are so many sequels I want, but I will do my best to pare down the list. 

1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, sequel to The Hunger Games
     Yes, they've been out for ever, but I haven't gotten around to buying the sequels yet.

2. Archenemy by Frank Beddor, third book in The Looking Glass Wars
    When I bought the first two, they were the only ones. It's time to catch up.

3. Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray, sequel to The Diviners
    It isn't out yet, but I seriously cannot wait.

4. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare, sequel to City of Bones
    I didn't buy them in order... whoops.

5. Sabotaged by Margaret Peterson Haddix, third book in The Missing series
    I was hoping that I wouldn't have to buy the new covers because I don't like them, but I'm going to have to suck it up.

6. The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, third book in the Harry Potter series
    The books came out when I was a kid, and my sister's birthday is in June, so she got them for her birthday, and I just borrowed hers. I'm working on getting my own set now before she moves out. (Or I do.)

7. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, sequel to The Shining
    I'm not letting myself read it until I buy it. It's hard, guys. It's hard.

8. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, sequel to Cinder
    I have the first one in paperback, so I have to buy the rest in paperback. I haven't seen it yet.

9. Extras by Scott Westerfeld, fourth book in the Uglies series
    I got this one as a gift when it came out, but I lost it when I moved. (Cue tears)

10. The Death Cure by James Dashner, third book in The Maze Runner series
      I have the first two, and I can't not finish the set.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Archery Target!!!

See, I told you I would be posting! There will be actual book-related posts coming up. For now, enjoy this picture of my cat, Oliver, checking out the crossbow bolts buried in my new target! (He respected range safety and didn't approach until I had put the mini crossbow down.)


Firstly, I am sorry for the devastating lack of posts lately. That will change. I have a whole lot coming up-- just you wait and see.

Right now, I am into the second week of Nanowrimo and the fourth week of my college classes (online, weird schedule), so I am ridiculously busy. I am, however, still working on several books, which will be reviewed soonish, and I also have some btm reviews planned.

If any of you are Ohioans, yes, I did attend the Buckeye Book Fair (with BookNut and M of M&Em Read) and I really am going to put up a post about it. It's part of the whole "ridiculously busy" thing.

I was also in Detroit Saturday night without my laptop, so there's that. Anyway, posts are happening, probably today and then continuing, so bear with me.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Adventures! Making an Archery Target Out of Junk

Today's post is part of a new feature theme where I will be sharing my everyday adventures with you. I really DO have other interests.

Anyway, I am the proud owner of both a recurve bow and a mini crossbow. This is awesome, except that the foam target I have for my bow does not work for my mini crossbow. I tried it, and the bolts went all the way into the target. My dad had to pull them out with needlenose pliers.

SO, since I don't want to do that every time I use it, I am making a new target!


  • 1 rubbermaid container, red
  • 1 small roll of old extra carpet, grey
  • all the extra cardboard I could find in the house
  • a Sharpie

Step One: Assemble Materials

Step Two: Cut Up Old Carpet and Place Inside Rubbermaid Container

Step Three: Fill Extra Space with Cardboard

Step Four: Cut Target Hole in Lid

Step Five: Replace Lid

Step Six: Shoot At It

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Want to Reread

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly post created by The Broke and the Bookish.

WHOOPS, I totally forgot about this because of Nanowrimo. On the plus side, I'm ahead of word count by about a day and a half, woot! 
So this is a Throwback Thursday, I guess. 

Today's post is books that I want to reread. This is a little tricky, because I want to reread almost every book I've ever read. 

1. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

2. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

3. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

4. Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier

5. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

6. The Looking Glass Wars  by Frank Beddor

7. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

8. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

9. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Monday, November 3, 2014

Guest Post! D.J. Donaldson, author of Louisiana Fever


D.J. (Don) Donaldson is a retired medical school professor.  Born and raised in Ohio, he obtained a Ph.D. in human anatomy at Tulane, then spent his entire academic career at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.  In addition to being the author of several dozen scientific articles on wound healing, he has written seven forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers.

What inspired you to start writing, and when?

Oddly, the thought that I wanted to become a novelist just popped into my head one day shortly after my fiftieth birthday.  Part of this sudden desire was a bit of boredom with my real job.  I was an anatomy professor at the U. of Tennessee and had accomplished all my major professional goals: course director, funded NIH grant, teaching awards, and many published papers on wound healing.  So I guess I needed a new challenge. And boy did I pick a tough one.

I wondered, how does a novice like me learn to write fiction? Taking a few writing courses is an obvious answer. But I had the vague feeling that there were a lot of unpublished writers teaching those courses and I worried that all I’d learn was how to fail.  I’m not saying this was the best way, but I decided to just teach myself.  I bought ten bestselling novels and tried to figure out what made each of them work. What tricks were the authors using to hold my attention?  What made these books so popular?  In a sense then, maybe I didn’t teach myself.  Maybe Steven King, Robin Cook, Pat Conroy, Michael Palmer, Larry McMurtry, and James Michener did.  In any event, eight years later, I sold my first book.  So, it took me about as long to become a published novelist as it did to train for medical research and teaching.

What is your preferred genre?

My first book was a mystery.  As a beginning writer, that seemed like the best genre for me because mysteries have a classic structure that guides the behavior and direction of the main characters. In a very general way that structure provides those characters with goals and motivation: Goal: find the killer.  Motivation:  It’s their job. The genre also provides a structure for conflict:  The killer doesn’t want to be found, so he will try to thwart the investigation.  I had no idea that my first book would lead to six more with the same characters.
After six series mysteries I took a break to try my hand at writing stand-alone thrillers.  (Stand-alones have a different cast of characters in each book.)  Someone once asked me what the difference is between a mystery and a thriller. There can be a lot of overlap in the two, but generally thrillers put the main character in danger throughout the book. In mysteries, the danger often arises only when the protagonist begins to close in on the killer.
I have to say I like series and stand alones equally well.  If you look at my list of published novels (seven forensic mysteries and five medical thrillers), it’s obvious that I’ve drawn on my academic background to write both kinds of books. They say to “write what you know”, and I have.  Except that for every book, It’s taken about six months of intensive research to learn a lot of necessary material, both scientific and otherwise, that I didn’t know when I started the book. That research has been a lot of fun.  For one book, I spent a week in Madison Wisconsin, visiting dairy farms... even had a milk cow poop on my shoes. (Okay, I didn’t like that part much.)

What was the hardest part of writing LOUISIANA FEVER? 
Did you learn anything from writing that book and what was it? 

My intention in each book is to reveal more about my two main characters, Andy Broussard and Kit Franklyn by putting them in situations that cause them to change and grow. And the more books I write about them, the harder it is to develop these little character arcs. LOUISIANA FEVER was number four in the series, so my two protagonists were already fairly well fledged out when I began work on the book. At that time, I had no idea what would face them in the new story, or how they would react. But as pieces of the project took shape, opportunities appeared, as they always seem to do. In fact, those arcs for Andy and Kit turned out to be more significant than I ever expected. Strange as it sounds, in each book my characters teach me something new about themselves.
Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants?

I do a lot of planning and thinking before I start writing.  In my mysteries I always know who the killer is and why he did it.  Knowing who he/she is establishes a lot of the story and tells me who some of the other characters should be.  If I didn’t know who did it when I started writing, it would be impossible to scatter the appropriate red herrings and real clues throughout the book. Even my medical thrillers all have a surprise reveal at the end. Those revelations have to be carefully set up.  Having done all that planning, I then have to be sure I don’t make it all too obvious. Many of my readers who write Amazon reviews say they were surprised at the end. Occasionally though, a reader will think the story was too predictable. I’m never sure exactly how to take that.  If they mean all the loose ends were tied up and everybody got what they deserved, fair enough.  Because that’s exactly my intent. Our real lives are full of unresolved conflict and irritation, including hearing about killers and rapists who get off on technicalities. I think people read to escape that world.  I want my readers to smile with satisfaction at the end of my books.    

Are any of your characters based on real-life friends or acquaintances?

I’m sure my characters contain parts of many people I know.  At first I was worried that they might recognize themselves and not like what they read.  But I soon discovered that no one sees themselves as others see them, so any similarity goes completely unnoticed even when it’s there.

Tell us your latest news? 

I’ve always wanted my books to be available on audio.  I’m excited to tell you that my entire New Orleans forensic mystery series is now in production with Audible books. I haven’t yet heard any of it, so I’m really looking forward to listening to what they’ve done.  The narrator is Brian Troxell, who has narrated about 75 other books for Audible. I’ve listened to some of those and I think he’s going to do a great job. When he asked me for some hints about how to portray Broussard, the greatly overweight New Orleans medical examiner, I told him to think of the character actor, Wilfred Brimley.  From the moment I wrote the first words about Broussard I pictured him being played in film by Brimley.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don’t write for wealth or fame because most writers in the world, even those who have sold books to major publishers, can’t claim either of those status symbols.  There’s an old quote that says, “You can get rich in this country by being a writer, but you can’t make a living.”  Write because you love it.  If you don’t love doing it then you can be crushed by the difficulties inherent in the pursuit.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Day One of Nanowrimo!!!!!!

Wow, I am trying so hard not to freak out. It is the first day of only 30 to write 50,000 words of a novel and... I'm writing this post instead. It will be a challenge with work and classes, but I'm going to do my best to keep posting to this blog, as well.

Also, stay tuned because I'm heading to the Buckeye Book Fair today, so I'll have news about that and pictures tomorrow!

If any of you are doing Nanowrimo, you'll understand and forgive me for this post being so short!

Good luck!!!