Books, Road Trip Wednesday

Best Book of September…

Today is Road Trip Wednesday 🙂 RTW is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

This week’s topic: What was the best book you read in September?

This month, I breathed, dreamed, smelled, ate my revisions. But I also read quite a lot of great books…

The wonderful books I read in September…

RULES OF ATTRACTION and CHAIN REACTION by Simone Elkeles were both very enjoyable even though I have to admit the first book in the series is my favorite.

IF I LIE by Corinne Jackson was heart-breaking, and I felt with many of the characters.

TEN by Gretchen McNeil takes on one of my favorite novels of Agatha Christie (and I´ve read a lot of her books when I was a teenager :-)) and she does it very well, building up the tension and creating a creepy setting.

And then there´s BUTTER…this book made me FEEL so much.

Summary by Goodreads: A lonely obese boy everyone calls “Butter” is about to make history. He is going to eat himself to death-live on the Internet-and everyone is invited to watch. When he first makes the announcement online to his classmates, Butter expects pity, insults, and possibly sheer indifference. What he gets are morbid cheerleaders rallying around his deadly plan. Yet as their dark encouragement grows, it begins to feel a lot like popularity. And that feels good. But what happens when Butter reaches his suicide deadline? Can he live with the fallout if he doesn’t go through with his plans?

Disclaimerthere is one scene I COULD NOT read. Could. Not. Simply. Could. Not. It´s the scene which shows how Butter got his nickname. It wasn´t overly visual but it just made me feel so much and it was difficult because I almost had the feeling to be a by-stander when I was reading. It´s difficult

This book does an uncanny job at instilling the way Butter feels, and the way people are cheering for him to go through his plan. I´ve read that some readers have an issue identifying with Butter because why doesn´t he do something to lose weight? I didn´t have that question. For me, it´s clear Butter suffers not only from his body weight but that he has many unresolved issues and that he doesn´t have the tools to deal with them. Getting bigger for him isn´t something he likes, it´s something he does, it´s part of who he´s become. Bulimia is an illness. And Butter is sick.

Butter is so much more though. He´s talented, he has an attitude, he has dreams, he does have some friends, and he longs for many things, including popularity.

You wonder how it can go that far, but at the same time, you know it could. You get to know Butter, his family, the people surrounding him. And you want to tell him: “You´re not alone. Simply look around you.” You want to reach out to his classmates and tell them: “Open your eyes.” But then again, you have the insight of being in Butter’s mind, you know exactly what he’s going through. This book broke my heart as I was reading it.

Scary? Yes.

A book I would recommend? Definitely.

So, tell me what was your favorite book(s) of the month?

Books, reading, Road Trip Wednesday

My Life as a Fictional Character…

Today is Road Trip Wednesday 🙂 RTW is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

Before I get started, don´t forget you can enter my giveaway for a SIGNED copy of MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick (see interview with Huntley and details here)

This week’s topic: : If you could be reincarnated as any fictional character, which would it be?

So, for some reason, the first things that came to my mind were:

  1. All the books I wouldn´t want to be in even though how I loved them very very much. No, really, I don´t see myself listening to “And may the odds be ever in your favor” as I walk into The Hunger Games. Even though, I´d love to meet Katniss and all.
  2. All the boys which should have attended my high school with the specific purpose of sweeping me off my feet (until I met my wonderful hubby of course :P).
  3. Some of said-boys are actually in the first category aka places I´d be afraid to put my feet into or just part of very very sad stories or sad families. Oh Jonah Griggs, how I wish you´d have been in my Sociology or Math class but nope.

So, hmm, what to do? what to do? Yep, I´ll totally be Anna from Anna and the French Kiss.

Paris – Source: me 😀
Tour Eiffel. Picture taken in 2009 😀

Why? Well, there are plenty of reasons but here a few…

  1. She lives in Paris
  2. Etienne St-Clair – do I need to say more?
  3. She has goals and friends and hobbies and dreams. And Etienne. And Paris 😀
  4. Her family has positive sides. Love her little brother.

Now I am curious, if you could be into a book, which one would it be?

Giveaway, Happy Friday, writing

Happy Friday – Interview and Giveaway (MY LIFE NEXT DOOR)


Today is a SPECIAL HAPPY FRIDAY…I have a little something which pretty made me smile all week and which I cannot wait to share with all of you. Are you ready? 😀 

Do you remember when I gushed about the book MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick? Huntley was kind enough to answer a question I had on Twitter. I had read several of her interviews but I still had a lot of questions on how she came to this book, and the characters and her writing process…and…and…So I decided to send her an email and to ask her if she would be willing to do an interview here on my little blog. She said YES! AND…when I mentioned I was going to have a giveaway and would have loved for it to be a signed book but knowing since I lived in Germany and all it could be complicated: she said she WOULD do it! So, ladies and gentleman, you can WIN a signed copy of MY LIFE NEXT DOOR (and I´m throwing another non-signed copy so there will be TWO winners)! I´ll tell you how after the interview (oh and it´s open internationally)

INTERVIEW WITH HUNTLEY FITZPATRICK (or where I grin every time I read this :-))

MY LIFE NEXT DOOR was published on June 14th, 2012. It´s a story about first loves but also friendship, family and finding yourself.

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts.  All the time.”The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them…until one summer evening Jase Garrett climbs her trellis and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love and stumble through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first romance, Jase’s family makes Samantha one of their own—even as she keeps him a secret from her disapproving mother and critical best friend. Then the unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself? (From Huntley´s website)

Meet the author 😀 HUNTLEY FITZPATRICK: I was lucky enough to be born to parents who read every kind of written material with interest and enthusiasm, and let me do the same. From the start I searched for books that let me fall in love…with the story and with the boy. For most of my childhood I divided my devotion between Almanzo Wilder from The Little House books, C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian and Tom in Louisa May Alcott’s An Old Fashioned Girl. (more on Huntley´s website)

1. What is the first word that comes to your mind when thinking about the story of MY LIFE NEXT DOOR? Contrast

2. Jase, Jase, Jase…where did you find the inspiration for such a great guy? Thank you! Jase is actually a character who has been in my head for a long time.  I recently reread a story I wrote when I was fourteen and the hero was a good-natured boy who was close to his family, loved animals and was good with his hands (the last is something that has always appealed to me).  Like Samantha, I was never a fan of boys who were into lots of drama and I really wanted to write a book where the nice guy gets the girl, rather than losing out to the emo rebel bad boy.  The two manuscripts I’d completed before this both had challenging heroes, and I have to say it was a pleasure doing Jase after them.

3. What is one of your favourite sentences in the book? The first one that comes to mind is Jase’s response when he sees Samantha in her silly waitress uniform (short shirt, sailor top and little red scarf).  Embarrassed by his raised eyebrows, she hurries to tell him her boss designed the uniform. Jase says, “He must have a rich fantasy life.”  The understated humor of that is very Jase.

4. You mentioned in an earlier interview that like Sam, you enjoyed watching people. Did you ever see something funny? (or someone resembling Jase)? A few years ago, my father and I were sitting on a park bench in Boston Common on a beautiful spring day. A boy and a girl came walking along—she had long blond hair and was wearing a white dress and they were holding hands. Something about the way they looked—like real friends in addition to boyfriend and girlfriend, got to me and when I sat down to write the book, I remembered them.

5. You have a cast full of wonderfully fledged characters, which one was the easiest to write and which one was the hardest? Tim and Jase were the easiest. They just seemed to come to me. I struggled with Nan the most. I wanted to make it clear why they were friends, and also why that friendship was in trouble. I also worked really really hard not to make Grace and Clay into Disney villains, to give each of them some humanizing factors. I hope that worked!

6. Did you listen to a particular song while writing this book? Or what song would like to hear in the soundtrack if MY LIFE NEXT DOOR were to become a movie?  Seaside by the Kooks. And the Beatles Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da completely reminds me of the Garretts.  I listen to that song in the car a lot with my kids and they always sing along, so it reminds me of happy, messy but lovely family life.

7. Have you thought about writing a companion book like maybe about Andy or about Tim (I have a big soft spot for Tim and Alice and really enjoyed Andy’s first attempts at dating. Plus I would love to continue getting glimpses about Sam and Jase)? I’ve not only thought about it, I’ve done it. I did about ¾ of a book about Tim and Alice right after MLND, but that wasn’t the one that was picked up by my publisher, so I put it to the side (for now). I do hope eventually to return to it, though. Both Tim and Alice are a lot of fun to write. And I’d love to do a book where Andy finds someone.  I’d even like to do one on Nan where she figures herself out.

8. The querying process can be daunting while exciting. How was it for you? Did you send a lot of queries out? How long did it take you to snag your agent? I did send a lot of queries, and got some encouraging answers but I actually got my agent by button-holing a colleague of hers at a writer’s conference. We’d worked together when I was an editor, and I mentioned that I was writing now. She very kindly told me to send her my manuscripts, and encouraged me to keep going, even though the first two were not quite what she was looking for. MY LIFE NEXT DOOR was the third one and she passed it on to her co-agent, Christina Hogrebe, who liked it and signed me up. In short, I got really lucky.

9. What is an advice you would give to aspiring authors? Read, read, read. I am a huge believer that reading good writing sinks into your brain and helps you write better. There are some great books out there on how to write—notably Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD and Donald Maass THE FIRE IN FICTION, but what has helped me most to be a writer is being a livelong, passionate reader. I also believe in keeping a journal, and always carrying around a notebook to jot down ideas.

10. Can you tell us about your next project? It’s tentatively entitled WHAT I THOUGHT WAS TRUE, and will come out next year. It’s set in the same area as MY LIFE NEXT DOOR, but with a very different cast of characters. It centers around Gwen Castle, a working class girl who has grown up on a privileged island, and Cass Somers, the boy who is her Worst Mistake Ever and inescapable crush, whom she thinks she can spend the summer forgetting, until she learns that he is going to be the “yard boy” onthe island this year—and has no intention of being forgotten.

GIVEAWAY OF ONE SIGNED COPY OF MY LIFE NEXT DOOR 

(and I´m adding a non-signed copy to the mix sent via the Book Depository)

How to enter? Since this is all about the book, you don´t even have to be a follower of this blog to enter (just make sure I have a way to contact you to let you know if you win). It would be great if you win that you share the love by writing a review but it´s up to you…

Tell me in the comments if you:

+2 Tweeted about the interview and giveaway (with the link)

+4 Blogged about it (with the link)

+2 Follow Huntley on Twitter or on Facebook

You automatically have one entry if you comment on this post 😀 The contest is open internationally and will end on August 3rd, 12pm (EST).

THANK YOU AGAIN SO MUCH HUNTLEY!!!!

Blogging, Books, reading

Looking for Alaska – Book review

 I believe there is hope for us all, even amid the suffering-and maybe even inside the suffering. And that’s why I write fiction, probably. It’s my attempt to keep that fragile strand of radical hope, to build a fire in the darkness.

(John Green from his interview with Penguin Group)

LOOKING FOR ALASKA is the type of books which made me feel, think and laugh. Some of the characters reminded me of JELLICOE ROAD because of the way they were developed: fully layered, fully there in the story and fully jumping out of the pages.

Summary from Goodreads: Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

As I´ve mentioned before, I am not used to read from a guy´s perspective. Sometimes, I even wonder  before getting into a book with this type of POV if I will really enjoy it. Being in Miles´ (aka Pudge) head didn´t feel forced in any ways, shape or form. I had high expectations for this book which can translate in me waiting with my fluttering heart to be amazed, on the look for the sentences, for the special moments. This usually means that I enjoy the story but I can get too busy trying to find its greatness to really enjoy it. Does it make sense?

                                                                                                                                          Source: besttshirtparty.blogspot.ca via Elodie on Pinterest

With LOOKING FOR ALASKA, I had a bit of this modus operandi where I was in the story without being in, until I let myself just read…

I started to think about what one may go through when one is looking for The Great Perhaps or the questions we ask ourselves when faced with tragedy. The beauty of the book was that I didn´t feel forced or pushed one way or another. I appreciated this. John Green mentions in an interview with The School Library Journal: “It’s a funny book, but it’s also a book about the universality of suffering and grief and forgiveness and whether or not there’s a reason for radical hope”. 

The universality of emotions. So important. So true. No matter where people come from. Those were conversations I remember having in High school with my friends and it resonated.

And then there are the characters. As I mentioned, when reading, I was quickly falling in love with them: their quirks, their interaction, their passions, their humor…

My favorite one has to be The Colonel. John Green gives us the privilege to get to know a gentleman in the making. The Colonel doesn´t have it easy, he´s difficult, bossy and moody but he´s there for his friends (at least tries to be), he shows so much respect for his mother…He´s also funny. Alaska is interesting. So full of life. Bigger than life. Tortured. Unsure. Sure. Full of contradictions. They´re all growing up as the story goes…

Some of my favorite quotes:

  • (…) but if I hadn’t imagined it, I would never have gotten to the Creek at all (p. 54)
  • Now I understood why the Colonel was short – he couldn’t afford to be any taller (p. 91)
  • I’ll say “Thanks”. Man, she helped fill out my application to this place. And she let me come here, and that’s no easy thing when you come from where we do, to let your son go away to school (p. 116)
  • After so much kissing that it almost started to get boring (p. 123)
  • I could not go alone, and going with anyone other than the Colonel would amount to alone (p. 148)
  • It always shocked me when I realised that I wasn’t the only person in the world who thought and felt such strange and awful things (p. 213)

So tell me, what book are you anxiously waiting to read?

Books, personal

Monday smiles…

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend. Hubby and I spent in France with my family and it was GREAT 😀 I have so many happy news that I want to share with you that I have to make a list 😀

  1. Friday started off quite well. I noticed my name on Friday the Thirteeners (a small group of YA writers debuting in 2013). The lovely Erin Bowman picked my Truth or Dare question: Who is your secret crush from YA lit? You should definitely check out her answer. She even did a Vlog! Oh and if you want to know more about Erin, you can visit her blog or  follow her on Twitter! Not only did Erin answer my question, but I also won a $13 gift card for amazon. Since Erin mentioned COLD KISS and since this book has been on my TBR for awhile, I decided it was the perfect occasion to get it 😀 Yay!
  2. The weekend was really lovely: my parents took us back to the restaurant we had the sort-of rehersal dinner before our wedding in August. The food was yummy and on top of this, it brought back a lot of wonderful memories. We strolled the park of one of Napoleon´s castle afterwards, spent time with my grandmother, sisters, brother-in-law, niece and nephew.  Oh and we played tennis with my dad. Fun all around! On Sunday, we also enjoyed a family lunch and afternoon.                                                                        My mom makes the most beautiful tables doesn´t she? Today, after a delicious brunch prepared by my mom and saying goodbye, we headed back to Germany. I may be turning 31 this year but leaving France is always a tad difficult :D…On our way back we stopped at Hooters, because well, we love wings!
  3. Awards: Thank you Lora for the Versatile Blogger Award and Thank you Word (en)Counters for the Liebster Blog Award! Blushing!
  4. I may have developed a new addiction: INSTAGRAM has been made available to Android phones and I´m loving it 😀
  5. I finished reading THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE this weekend and wow, this book…this story…is brutally honest and poetic. Loved it! I just started ACROSS THE UNIVERSE and I´m already pulled in the story after a few pages…quite happy about it! And next on my list is JELLICOE ROAD…:D I mean, after hearing Erin talk about it and reading Katy´s take on one of the main characters, I have to read it!
  6. Honeymoon, honeymoon, honeymoon…We are full into preparation mode and I am so so excited that we just booked the Isaiah Jones Homestead Bed and Breakfastin Sandwich, MA where we stayed a night in 2007. We are ready to meet old memories there and to make new ones…Plus it will be after we drive more than 4000 miles around the US so I think we´ll be ready to settle in and really relax for a few days. After Cape Cod, we´ll be off to NYC and watching this:

How was your weekend?

Happy Friday, reading, writing

King´s On Writing makes me all kind of happy…

Thanks to Sara and her Blog-O-Rama book club idea, I finally came around to read ON WRITING and when I say “read”, I mean that my book is full of pink post-its so that I can make sure I can come back to all the spots where I nodded or smiled or wanted to throw my fist up the air and yell “YES! That´s EXACTLY it!”

Reading this book at night also triggered that type of conversation on Twitter with Jaime and Colin

If you haven´t read this book yet and you are a writer, you really should pick it up. Even if you´re not a writer, the first part where King explains his own path to becoming a writer is a perfect example of voice (heck the entire book is a superb example of voice). You could get lost in his childhood with him!

So yep, I have a lot to share on Mister King´s take on the Art of writing 😀 Actually, I already wrote a post on his view on vocabulary and language: The Beauty of Words or the Pulchritude of Morphemes?

Today, I will focus on two of the wonderful questions Sarah kindly shared as pointers for discussion. I might do follow-up posts on this book (have you noticed the amount of pink post-its? :D)

1. King’s wife Tabitha is his “Ideal Reader,” the one-person audience he has in mind when writing a first draft. When you write, do you envision a particular Ideal Reader? Who is that person and why?

As you may have guessed from yesterday´s post, my wonderful hubby is not really the Ideal Reader per se (he doesn´t read a lot and especially not fiction).  He is the Ideal Husband for my writing self. He puts up with my crap but also tells me when to stop with my crap, you know the magic balance of support and reality check :D. While I read different takes on a certain chapter or even sentence, his answer usually is: “Sounds good”, followed when he sees my frown by “come on, you know I don´t read that much!”. However, since he is very supportive, he will “listen” to my book and point out possible discrepancies in plot which I know he´s going to be amazing for and I´ll be able to discuss the motivations of my characters. While we may not agree, it will be a great exercise!

Honestly, while writing I didn´t have much of a reader in mind. I wanted to tell a story to anybody who would want to hear it. Now, in my revising process, I try to think of me as a reader: what doesn´t work at all when I dive into a book? I also see some of the wonderful teenagers I know and I think on what they tell me about books they´ve read and then I think about one of my great friends who has been kind enough at the very beginning to write me regularly to say “Where is the next chapter, Elodie? Don´t leave me hanging!”.

2. King’s self-imposed “production schedule” is 2,000 words a day and he suggests that all writers set a daily writing goal. What kind of discipline, if any, do you impose upon your own writing efforts? Do you always write at the same time of day? If so, when and why? Do you try to maintain a steady pace? Does adherence to a strict routine help your writing efforts?

King speaks about the muse several times in the book and I have to say I agree with him when he says “Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you´re going to be every day from nine ´til noon or seven ´til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later, he´ll start showing up, chomping his cigar and making his magic.”

So, my muse doesn´t have a cigar (I stopped smoking around 3 months ago and it would be mean of my muse to come with something hanging from its mouth) but she/he knows where to find me from 7am to 7.30am and from 5.45pm to 6.20pm everyday (sometimes during the evening, it might be later depending what time I leave work).

I established this schedule over the past months. The muse finds me in this seating place. Yes, it´s usually crowded and no it´s not silent but I close the door on all noises, put my ipod on without really listening to the music and type away or revise away.

Right around that time, I get the urge to write. It´s really an urge, a desire, a need to put those words on my computer or to revise the story already at hand…And here I again agree with Mister King´s words:

I feel that buzz of happiness, that sense of having found the right words and put them in a line…. That makes me happy, because it’s what I was made to do….Writing did not save my life… but it has continued to do what it always has done: it makes my life a brighter and more pleasant place.”

Happy Friday and Happy writing or reading to all!

I cannot wait to go and read everybody´s take on this. If you have read On Writing, you can still join the fun! And otherwise, as always, I´m curious: who is YOUR Ideal Reader? (or your Ideal Writer :D)

Observations, personal

A Young Engineer’s (not so serious) Review of The Hunger Games Movie…

Disclaimer: I have been talking to my husband aka The Chemical Engineer quite a lot about The Hunger Games, I also showed him this particular post from YA Confidential which he found hilarious. And then I thought it’d be interesting to have him write a guest post sharing his (not so serious) views on the movie as somebody who hasn’t read the books, doesn’t really read fiction and sometimes gives me a hard time cos’ I read too many books a month 😀 Looking forward to your comments (yes, Chemical Engineer, I am leaving you the floor, stop figeting!)

A Young Engineer’s (not so serious) Review of The Hunger Games Movie…

Just so I can still keep my manhood intact let me mention that my wife got (forced) me to go and watch the movie with her.

First things first: I don’t want to (and can’t) compare the movie with the book. I haven’t read the book. My wife read a few chapters to me while I was falling asleep, trying to get me interested in reading it. It didn’t work despite the fact that it worked for one of her blog friends; I don’t read fictional books, I wait until the good ones come out as a movie. This strategy has worked out well for me. I tried to remember when the last time was that I read a book and watched the movie based on the same book. It seems to be about 11 years ago in high school. I am not sure it counts though, the book was Othello and the Movie was O (a modern interpretation). But since novels and movies serve the same purpose, entertainment, but do it through a very different way, I find it pointless to compare the two. I do have to mention one thing about comparing the two:

When there is a shower scene described in the book (on the train to the Capitol):  How dare do you leave that out of the movie?  I get the whole PG-13 rating, etc., but how can you do such a thing as a movie director! Shame on you Mr. Gary Ross!!!

In general the movie was quite entertaining and for the most part kept my attention. Obviously having cool guys like Woody Harrelson and Lenny Kravitz helps with that.

              

The story in itself is pretty good. Showing the young adults as regular teenagers with fears and joys and then having them fight until death is quite compelling. Even though the underlying story of individuals who can change the world by starting a revolution unintentionally is probably older than literature itself. As long as the packaging is right, who am I to weigh heavily on an old literature cliché – After all I am just an engineer.

Speaking of packaging, here are two things that I didn’t get about the movie:

  1. So they all live in a very advanced society with scanners that analyze your blood right away, with dresses that burn like fire but still safe and with hovering space ships… Why in the world would you travel by train for almost an entire day instead of taking a space ship? I get that district 12 is not as developed as the Capitol, but this still wouldn’t explain why a space ship couldn’t fly in and just pick them up!
  2. Staying with the thought of a dystopian society that is technologically progressed. Why in the world would you still be mining coal? Do they have a little coal burner inside those space ships? So they developed all of this technology and still are bound to use coal. Really? Just think about this for a second. They spend all of this energy developing new technology that probably consumes even more energy and the only solution that they could find to fulfill their energy demand was coal? I understand that it was important for the story that the residents of District 12 had to be manual laborers, but couldn’t they have been robot-mechanics or some kind of electrical circuit makers (like the ones working on making our smart phones). 

I know you probably think it is not important for the whole story, but I think a writer or director (again I can’t compare the books) should take the time and think through such details in order to make it more coherent (at least for me).

It helps if a writer is married to engineer that can double check the story 😀