Thursday, August 30, 2012

Happy Launch Day to Finn Flanagan and the Fledglings, the first book in The HALO Series by Kip Taylor! I am thrilled to be reviewing it today. Kip is my critique partner, and she has given me so much support this past year. She is truly an awesome person, and I am honored to call her my friend. I am so excited to see Finn finally sitting on my bookshelf.

The summary:
When fifteen-year-old Finn Flanagan is murdered by a mugger, it may be the end of his life, but it's just the beginning of his existence. Finn arrives at HALO school, joining six other teens as fledgling angels-in-training. Reunited with his best friend and falling for a beautiful former model, Finn can get used to the perks at HALO. But not all of the fledglings are ready to give up life on earth. When one fledgling tries to go back, he's captured by a demon. To unite the group and fulfill their destiny, Finn must lead the remaining fledglings to demon territory before their training is complete.  If they fail, it's not only their futures, but all of humanity that's at stake.

The review:
Finn Flanagan has fantastic, immersive world-building, a wide cast of lovable characters, and a fresh, present voice that I loved from the moment I read the first chapter. Even with all the angel stories in YA, Kip brings a unique twist to the trope in the middle grades / lower-YA category.

I connected with the Finn immediately, but I also really enjoyed the group dynamic. Nash, the reluctant fledgling, was another favorite. Taylor balances the large cast well, and leaves the reader hungry to find out more about them in the following books.

I would recommend The HALO Series to fans of Harry Potter and the Percy Jackson series.

5 out of 5 stars!

Check out learn more about the awesome Kip Taylor and the series.
Finn Flanagan and the Fledglings is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and for Kindle.

Friday, August 24, 2012

You've spent months writing a novel. You've revised it, cherished it, dreamed about it, hated it, formatted it, and fallen in love all over again. You're ready to send it out to your first readers. And it's like cutting out a little piece of your soul, knowing it will come back chopped to little bits. Like Andy in Pretty in Pink, you know you'll have to sew it back together again using bits of old and new versions, until you have something shiny and beautiful and unique.

But what do you do when your betas and critique partners disagree?

My current manuscript has been through many revisions. I felt that it was close to being really, truly done. Recently, though, I won several critiques through contests. Each comment has been different, but some have been specifically the opposite advice. In an earlier draft, I had this line. I really liked it. It felt like it summed up what the book was about in the first page, without being too obvious. One of my first readers took the time to say, "I love this line!" Another one said cut it. I decided to leave it in, and it has survived through a few revisions. In my sit down with an editor at the SCBWI conference, she said cut it. Two more contest critiques came in last night, and guess what? They both took the time to compliment that line. (Though they both had plenty of other suggestions for things to ax!)

And that was just one line. I've had the exact same thing happen with entire scenes. This month I've learned how subjective personal taste can be. Ultimately, I just have to go with my gut about what advice I want to take. I also have to keep my head up and stay confident (or at least pretend to be) that this story is on the verge of being that shiny, beautiful, unique thing, and that it will one day find a home.

Music for today: Bandages by Hot Hot Heat

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Happy Book Birthday to Counting Backwards by Laura Lascarso! I was lucky enough to read Counting Backwards this weekend through a Southern Book Bloggers ARC tour.

The summary, adapted from Ms. Lascarso's site:

When sixteen-year-old Taylor Truwell is caught with a stolen car and lands in court for resisting arrest, her father convinces the judge to issue an alternative punishment: treatment in a juvenile psychiatric correctional facility. At Sunny Meadows, Taylor has to fight hard just to cling to her sanity as she battles her parents, her therapist, and a group of nasty fellow patients. But even as Taylor struggles to hold on to her stubborn former self, she finds herself relenting as she lets in two unlikely friends–Margo, a former child star and arsonist, and AJ, a mysterious boy who doesn’t speak.

Sunny Meadows goes against everything Taylor stands for. But is it the only place that can save her?

The review:
When I returned from the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles, I had two SBB ARCs waiting for me. I read Ten by Gretchen McNeil first, because it had a great hook and an intriguing cover. (I'll review it next week.) Counting Backwards had a more quiet, beautiful cover, but once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down. I am so glad that I finished in time to review it on its release day.

I absolutely loved this book. The pacing moves surprisingly fast for a reflective story, and the raw, honest voice gives familiar themes a fresh spin. Taylor's journey focuses on learning to love herself, which thankfully overshadows the thread of a romantic relationship with AJ. This is such an important story for young women to read.

The difference between a good book and a great book for me is an emotional truth that makes me feel something. Counting Backwards is a great book. Of all the wonderful books I've read in YA over the past few years, this is the first one that I would say unquestionably deserves to be in the race for a Printz or a Newbery Award. I would recommend it to any teen or adult reader.

5 out of 5 stars.

Music for today: Easy Way Out by Gotye