April 29, 2013

And the Winner Is...

From the 1977 movie adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau

Valerie Cole!

Please send me a quick email with your mailing address and I'll get the book, the nail polish, and the journal shipped off to you promptly.

Thank you to everyone who entered. And thank you for following!

April 24, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

{Feel free to grab the button if you want.}
I don't know about you, but I'm finding it harder and harder to come up with blogging topics. And all too often, it takes me far more time than I actually have available to write a thoughtful post or even a very interesting one. I'm blaming this on the brainpower that's going into the R+R I've been working on. Anyway, my sister and I were talking, and we thought it might be nice to have a blog hop that would allow us to touch base on a weekly basis with our blog friends. We pooled our ideas and came up with this:


It's similar in some respects to the Currently... post, but it's been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You're invited to join us if you're looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what's been going on with you. Next Wednesday I'll probably include some kind of link widget for you to use if you're interested.


What I'm Reading

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

No, this isn't some Civil War era bodice ripper, despite how it sounds. It's the sequel to Blood Red Road. (Though, if bodice rippers are your thing, I know for a fact that there are a handful by the same title on Goodreads.) So far I'm struggling to really get into this one, but I fully anticipate reaching a point where it's tough to put down. That's what I'm hoping, anyway.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

I'm already well aware of what this story is about since I've seen at least two versions of the movie based on this book. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm really not going to like it, but who know? Maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised. (Hahahaha...right.) Stranger things have happened, I suppose.
What I'm Writing
I'm currently ripping Watch of Night, my YA light sci fi to shreds. Based on the feedback I received from an agent who requested a full, I've been reworking aspects of the plot, deepening my characters, and working to ensure that the romance doesn't take centre stage. It's been challenging, but I can honestly say that I like where this story is heading now so much more than the version I queried this agent with. She was totally right about everything and it made me see my story and its potential in an entirely different way. For the time being, I've put my YA contemporary on the back burner, but I think it's worth it.

What Else I've Been Up To
For some time now, I've been fascinated with the mandolin. I listen to bands like Mumford & Sons, The Lumineers, and Imagine Dragons, all of which feature the mandolin in some of their songs. So I was pleasantly surprised when my husband came home with a mandolin for me! It has the same string lineup as my violin (GDAE), but that's pretty much where the similarities end. I've never played this kind of stringed instrument, so it should be interesting. Hubby did some research on my mandolin, and it's mostly made of mahogany. I couldn't resist giggling at that little tidbit for HG reasons.

What Inspires Me Right Now
• (*whispers*) The fact that spring might finally be here after seven months of snow
•  the feedback Awesome Agent gave me—both the encouragement and the criticism
•  it's weird, but at the end of the day, seeing all of the tasks I'm crossing off in my day timer
•  watching many of my blog friends find success in their writing and in their lives in general

So what have you been up to lately?

P. S. Don't forget to enter my Madman's Daughter Giveaway. {It comes with nail polish and a journal too!}

April 23, 2013

A Review + A Giveaway

I'm falling horribly far behind on my Debut Author Challenge goals, but it's still early in the year, so there's no need to panic just yet. Today, I give you Megan Shepherd's debut The Madman's Daughter, which puts a YA spin on H. G. Wells' classic novel The Island of Doctor Moreau. Let's just pause for a moment to admire this gorgeous cover...

...And we're back. I've never read the book on which this story is based, so I can't speak to how faithful of a retelling it is, but I can tell you that I enjoyed Megan Shepherd's adaptation. {Here's the link to the synopsis on Goodreads.}

The setting in particular really leapt off the page for me in The Madman's Daughter. The bulk of the story takes place on a remote island (hence the title of the original work), mostly overgrown and hiding horrific creatures that really shouldn't exist. Megan Shepherd is a master at conveying the dark and creepy aspects of this island. I found that this story read very much like a classic in many respects, especially where descriptions of setting were concerned, which is nothing short of fantastic.

I enjoyed Juliet as a character even while I found that I couldn't always relate to her. I'm squeamish, so her fascination with her father's experiments was difficult to understand, though this was something that deeply disturbed her as well. This back and forth struggle was actually one of the most interesting aspects of Juliet's character and conflicts in the novel, in my opinion. Also compelling were Montgomery, Edward, Balthazar, and Alice for very different reasons. Dr. Moreau, however, was utterly frightening and shudder worthy from the moment he first appeared on the page, as I'm sure he was meant to be.

As I was mostly unfamiliar with the original work, this story kept me guessing (for the most part) right until the end. I didn't see certain things coming, so when they were revealed I was plenty surprised. Obviously, I can't share what those things were without spoiling the story, so you'll just have to take my word for it. The second book in this series is inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and I'm very curious to see where Juliet's story goes next.

From the richly imagined setting and the horrific creatures that populate it to the ethics surrounding scientific discovery and experimentation, The Madman's Daughter is certainly evocative and well worth the read.

A word of warning: There are some descriptions of vivisection in this story that gave me pause. I'm very sensitive to anything involving cruelty to animals, so I feel that I would be remiss if I didn't mention it. That being said, I don't think this is something that should keep you from reading this book, especially since vivisection is never presented in a favourable light. It's clear that the author is calling it out for what it is → truly horrifying, unnecessarily cruel, and all kinds of awful.


I purchased an additional copy of this book to give away for Rock the Drop, but due to the content I mentioned, I felt like I couldn't in good conscience drop it without some kind of disclaimer. Since I'm able to do that here on my blog, I figured I could hold a giveaway with my extra copy. Yay, giveaway! But I also thought it would be cool to sweeten the pot a little with some completely non-creepy Madman's Daughter inspired goodies. Here's what I'm giving away to one lucky someone:

•  A hardcover copy of The Madman's Daughter
•  A bottle of China Glaze "Go Crazy Red" nail polish (hardy har)

•  An exotic bird journal with both a world travel and naturalist kind of flair to it
(both aspects feel appropriate given Juliet's journey by ship halfway around
the world and the tampering with nature that goes on in the name of science)

Lined journal with elastic closure (8.25 x 5.75 inches)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

April 19, 2013

The Drop Was Rocked

As many of you know, yesterday was Teen Lit Day and I think it's safe to say that there was some serious rocking of the drop. If you've never participated in this annual event, you're missing out. It's so much fun!

Last year I dropped three books, but this year I decided to up the ante and drop ten books in total. I purchased four of these in the last month (specifically for this event), but the rest all came from my own shelves. As it turns out, I love sharing books just as much as I love reading them. I enlisted Hubby's help and, as you can see, he was a great sport.

Here's what Todd and I dropped:

{Clockwise from top left}

1.  The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater - dropped on a table at the local college down the street
2.  Cinder by Marissa Meyer - dropped by a fireplace in the middle of a mall food court
3.  Beautiful Creatures & Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl - dropped at Second Cup Coffee Co.
4.  Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers - dropped on a bus bench at the downtown bus depot
5.  This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers - dropped on a city bus—Route #3—with the bus driver's permission
6.  If I Stay by Gayle Forman - dropped at Starbucks while we waited for Earl Grey tea lattes
7.  Defiance by C. J. Redwine - dropped in another mall food court on the other side of town
8.  Ruby Red & Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier - dropped handed to nurses in the Paediatrics Unit of the local hospital
9.  Rocking the Drop in an art nouveau style Hermione geek tee, because it seemed only fitting. (Hermione would approve.)

Of all the drops today, the one at the Paediatric Unit was definitely my favourite. The nurses were surprised but happy about the idea. It's nice to think that these books might brighten some patient's day (or even several). I was careful to leave books that didn't feature overly heavy subject matter. I figured this is probably the last thing they want to read about right now. I wish I knew whether they had some kind of book cart or library, because I wouldn't mind making this a regular practice.

All in all, it was a great day, and I can't wait to take part again next year!

Did you Rock the Drop? If so, what books did you drop and where?
(I'd love to hear your #rockthedrop stories!)

April 12, 2013

A Chapter A Day

Do you remember sometime ago when I challenged myself to read a bunch of classics I'd been meaning to tackle for a while? There's a Conquering the Classics tab at the top of my blog with an (overly) ambitious classics TBR list. I thought it would be neat/gimmicky to make an A to Z compilation of classics, which meant I ended up selecting certain books that, to be perfectly honest, I couldn't give two rips about just because they fit a particular letter. In fact, there are a few I couldn't give even a single rip about. And then there are the ones that didn't make it to the list simply because that letter was already taken. 

In retrospect, it was kind of a silly idea. Tackling the classics, however, was not.

Over the past month or so, I've been challenging myself to read a chapter a day minimum from a classic novel. Jess Silverstein did this last summer with Great Expectations (which I still have yet to finish :/), and it was pretty manageable; one chapter is not all that difficult to get through even on days where I'm extra busy. Sometimes I end up reading more because I've gotten into the story or just because I figure I might as well keep on going. I usually have another book on the go that isn't a classic and, I'm not going to lie, that book is at times the incentive I need to get through my mandatory classic chapter. Don't get me wrong, I happen to love a number of classics, so it's not like I consider this a giant snoozefest. There are just some titles that I feel like I should read, but don't really see myself fangirling over. (Case in point: Wuthering Heights.) And that's okay. At the rate I'm going, there's no reason why I can't finish a classic a month, which is really kind of awesome.

So now that I've more or less canned the A to Z approach, I plan on rethinking the list sometime soon and filling it with classic titles that have caught my attention at some point or another. I'll work through them at my chapter a day pace and who the heck knows (or cares) when I'll completely conquer the list. In the original challenge I made some lofty promise that I would read each book right to the end even if I hated it. Bleh. Not happening. Life is too short to force myself to read something worse than tedious. This isn't college and my grade doesn't depend on slogging through a book that makes me weep from boredom. I'm not sure if I'll review many of them either. I feel as though I have little to add to the plethora of insightful reviews already out there on these titles. Anyway, I'm actually kind of excited about this re-imagined challenge!

Feel free to join me if you wish. Compile your own list and start Conquering the Classics one chapter at a time just like me.☺

April 9, 2013

The Mockingbirds and Sexual Assault Awareness

As many of you probably know, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I've been wanting to review Daisy Whitney's The Mockingbirds since I finished reading it in March, so this seems like the appropriate time. Also, with the recent Steubenville sentencing this past month, it is something that has never been far from my mind.

From Goodreads:
Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.

Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way—the Themis Way. So when Alex is date raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds—a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of their fellow peers.

In this honest, page-turning account of a teen girl's struggle to stand up for herself, debut author Daisy Whitney reminds readers that if you love something or someone—especially yourself—you fight for it.

As the description explains, Alex is raped by another student during an evening hanging out with friends. For a time, she recollects little of what happened, but one thing she does know—he took her virginity against her will. Alex struggles with this not knowing and with trying to figure out if what transpired that night was rape. Thankfully, she has people close to her who make it abundantly clear: it was rape. I felt Whitney created a very real portrayal of someone trying to cope in the aftermath of such a horrific act—the denial, the fear, the shame, the feelings of powerlessness. She also surrounded Alex with a great group of friends and advocates which, sadly, is not something that all victims of sexual assault are fortunate enough to have.

I've rewritten this paragraph a number of times, because I really don't want to say the wrong thing. I'm not going to lie, I didn't find the rapist's sentence to be enough, and at times the proceedings felt a bit like a mock trial. And I couldn't help wishing this was brought before the authorities, whether those at Themis Academy or those of the legal variety. It was proposed, but Alex quashed the idea and it really didn't come up again. Since Themis' administration was hell-bent on maintaining a certain reputation, Alex and the Mockingbirds felt this was something they would just sweep under the carpet. (Unfortunately, turning a blind eye happens all the time in reality. Case in point: Penn State.) So I guess my frustration is more with a system that time and time again fails victims of sexual assault, to the extent that these students resorted to taking matters into their own hands. While I wasn't 100% satisfied with the rapist's sentence I suppose this is reflective of real life. Just look at the Steubenville verdict and its insufficiency when you consider what that young girl lost. I do think it's important to point out that this trial was Alex's choice and that's a pretty crucial thing to give back to her when choice is what was taken from her in the first place.

I really appreciated how clearly Whitney laid out what does and does not constitute consent:
"Sexual assault is sexual contact (not just intercourse) where one of the the parties has not given or cannot give active verbal consent, i.e., uttered a clear "yes" to the action. If a person does not say "no," that does not mean he or she said "yes." Silence does not equal consent. Silence could mean fear, confusion, inebriation. The only thing that means yes is a yes. A lack of yes is a no." (p. 268)
I will definitely be using this when I talk with my (as yet, non-existent) kids one day. All in all, I think The Mockingbirds is an important read. Whitney's examination of consent, sexual assault, and the struggles of those forced to cope in its aftermath is both thought-provoking and honest.

In light of everything that happened in Steubenville and even in this stunning case out of Ottawa, our nation's capital, it is imperative that this discussion continues to happen. When I hear about these kinds of cases, I start to lose faith in humanity, but then I see something like this video below, and it's restored even just a little bit:

Other books that deal with sexual assault*:
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Canary by Rachele Alpine (due out August 1, 2013)
Rape Girl by Alina Klein
Fault Line by Christa Desir (due out November 12, 2013)
What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton

I'm sure there are others, so feel free to mention them in your comments.

* N.B. I haven't yet read these books, but I thought I would compile a list nonetheless.

April 5, 2013

It's My Life

{Crap. Now I have Bon Jovi in my head.}

I've been stewing about something since this past Sunday, which you'll recall was Easter, trying to formulate my thoughts into something coherent. Because I'm nothing if not a stewer, a mull-it-overer, a stresser. I'm like Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail, never having the perfect comeback when she needs it, then chewing on this for days when it's no longer useful. Anyway, back to Easter... If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen these:

Here's the recipe if you're interested: Lemon Mascarpone Cupcakes

We were invited to Easter dinner with family and I was in charge of dessert. I wanted to make something that felt spring-ish, so I baked lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I was pretty proud of how they turned out—despite the fact that they are just cupcakes—so I posted a photo of them on Instagram and Facebook (my FB friends don't follow my Instagram account). When I mentioned that I'd posted this photo at dinner, I was met with:

"You need to get a life."

Um, okay? It seems like a perfectly harmless thing to say, a joke and nothing more. And let's face it, Instagram users do kind of post a lot of pictures of what they're eating. But. This is not the first time I've been the recipient of this kind of comment, this same sentiment, this idea that I should be putting my time to better use. And it's also not just about Instagram or Facebook, it's about spending my time writing, blogging, cultivating friendships with people I've never met 'in real life'. A good number of people in my real life don't get that. It's as though I've told them I'm pen pals with some creeper behind bars.

While a bit annoyed by the comment, it also got me to thinking about why I started blogging, tweeting, tumbling, Instagramming, whatever in the first place: to make connections with like-minded* people. See, the unfortunate fact is that I don't know anybody in real life who shares my interest in reading and writing YA (except my sister, and I count myself pretty darn lucky to have her). The thing about these people, these connections I've made, is that we all like to share what we create, what we love, what inspires us. It doesn't matter if it's something huge like posting a snippet from our WIPs for the first time, doing a Next Big Thing post, or yes, even sharing a photo of some (really tasty) cupcakes. We imagine, we create, we share. That's how we roll. And that's what I love so much about this community. Nobody here tells me I need to get a life.

The truth is, I do have a life. It may not always thrill me to bits or have me bouncing out of bed in the morning raring to go and take on the day, but it's my life and nobody gets to tell me that it's not good enough. I guess that's my perfect comeback.

* By 'like-minded' I mean 'share similar interests and aspirations'.

April 3, 2013

Morrow, Jaime Morrow

Guess what? I'm one of the new Operatives over at YA Confidential, an awesome group blog about all things young adult!

You should definitely check it out if you haven't already. There are monthly book giveaways, reviews, discussions of teen issues, roundtable talks, first page critiques...and so much more. Go HERE for detailed information about YA Confidential's new blogging schedule. Also, we just happen to be doing a pretty BIG giveaway at the moment. There are free books and critiques going to ten lucky people, and it's open internationally. So come check us out! (We promise we won't bite.) ☺