Jennifer Pickrell

YA Writer


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Fresh Air Friday – SummySeries edition

It’s that time of year again, when I hide inside from the heat* and read a bunch of books**! There are no rules to SummySeries other than:

READ

I’ll try to update a few times with reviews and such, but I also plan to dive back into a WIP and clean up the mess that still exists nearly six months after moving***, so I may be missing in action until September.

*Or rain, as would be the case this week

**I’m doing an experiment where I start at the top of my TBR-list and either read the book or delete it (with some pauses whenever an out-of-sequence book catches my attention). Obviously I can’t find every book in the library, so I’ll have to skip some for the time being, but I’m curious how long I can maintain this.

***I’m reading about the KomMari method and my husband is afraid I’ll get rid of everything we own. I’ve been known to over-purge in the past because I like when things have a place and a purpose. Usually I do a massive clean before a move, but the second I heard we were approved for a mortgage, I started putting things in boxes because I was ready to get the hell out of our mold-infested apartment. Add our stuff to everything the previous homeowner left and I have a ton to sort through.

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July 2016 SummySeries Reading Wrap-up

The formatting is screwy in this post, but ah well…

Read on!

SUNRISE OVER FALLUJAH by Walter Dean Myers

From Goodreads: A powerful…novel about the heroics and horror of war…Operation Iraqi Freedom, that’s the code name. But the young men and women in the military’s Civil Affairs Battalion have a simpler name for it: WAR.

This is a sort-of sequel to FALLEN ANGELS, which took place during the Vietnam War and was from the perspective of Richie. In SUNRISE, Richie’s nephew, Robin aka Birdy, has joined the military.

There were a few editing issues (example: Birdy references Jonsey on one page and then a few pages later, they are introducing themselves, as if for the first time), but nothing so large as to overshadow the story.

Myers did a tremendous job with the ambiguity of the situation – Birdy’s confusion over what the “right” thing is, plus the frustration and fear over constantly changing rules of engagement.

He also showed, as Birdy wrote in a letter to his uncle: “that the guys who fought in Nam wouldn’t even recognize today’s army.” (pg 1)

Key word back then being GUYS.

I didn’t connect as much as I did to FALLEN ANGELS, probably because my dad was in Vietnam so it felt more personal, but it definitely made me think.

20160705_213735

GHOST BOY by Martin Pistorius

From Goodreads: In January 1988 Martin Pistorius, aged twelve, fell inexplicably sick…within eighteen months he was mute and wheelchair-bound. Martin’s parents were told an unknown degenerative disease left him with the mind of a baby and less than two years to live.

This is a memoir, about how Pistorius regained awareness and found his voice through the use of speech devices. It’s part hopeful and part horrifying and was an interesting and insightful read.

My one complaint, as with the above book, is the editing. It felt a bit uneven without any real references to time and some of the sections near the end were a bit rambling and written like it was an entirely different book.

Still, it’s worth the read, but be prepared for tough subject matter.

20160713_100941SUMMER SISTERS by Judy Blume

“Adult” Judy Blume book that follows friends Vix and Caitlin from their first summer together on Martha’s Vineyard in 1977 through their adulthoods and separate paths.

This was a very “beachy” read for me although, sadly, I did not read it while on a beach. It dealt with some serious issues, but always from a distance, as if I was a neighbor, peeking in on the dysfunctional household next door. I liked the format a lot, focusing mostly on Vix, but gaining insight into other characters’ mindsets, and it was cool to grow up with the girls and see how they turned out, but I really disliked Caitlin. I’m not sure if I was supposed to like her or not, though.

All in all, a bittersweet read that successfully captured the aches and pains of being young, but made me extremely glad to be a grown up without someone like Caitlin in my life.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE BANYAN by Vaddey Ratner

Adult fiction, based on the author’s own childhood experiences in the 1970s when the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia.

I’m only halfway through this book because real-life has slowed my reading time, but so far it’s heartbreaking and beautifully written. OMG, the writing, seriously, it’s gorgeous. There are times I feel swept away by the mythical legends the main character’s father tells and then I’m yanked back to the horrible reality of the atrocities that are happening.

Side note: Growing up, my older brother was one of those kids that read history books for fun. I’d leaf through them sometimes and I still remember an  image detailing the number of deaths Pol Pot (Khmer Rouge leader) was responsible for: 1.5 million. As a child, I couldn’t comprehend this number. As an adult, I still can’t.

Books like this are so, so important. We shouldn’t ever forget and we should learn from history. Just forty years ago, a megalomaniac and the group that blindly followed him attempted to “take back” their country, separating people by their religious and ethnic backgrounds, forbidding minorities to speak their own languages, and trying to make everyone the same.

One and a half million people died.

That’s terrifying. 


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June 2016 SummySeries Reading Wrap-up

Covers from Goodreads, click on the titles for more info.

SUMMER OF LOST AND FOUND by Rebecca Behrens

MG novel that follows protagonist, Nell, as she searches for clues about the lost colony of Roanoke.

Summer Lost and FoundI loved all the details, both about the past and the present. It seriously felt like I was exploring North Carolina with Nell because Rebecca created such a vivid picture of the small community. And the descriptions of the humidity? SPOT ON. I’m in Virginia, I know that soupy misery.

When a book makes history fun, that’s a big thumbs up.

 

JUST LISTEN by Sarah Dessen

YA contemporary about a girl dealing with family drama and being dropped by her best friend.

This one is up there with THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER for me. Annabel was relatable and her family life was realistic. Is there anyone who writes about sisterly bonds better than Sarah Dessen??? Plus Owen. Infuriating music snob, Owen. Somehow I liked him anyway, so kudos to the author.

THE LAST STAR by Rick Yancey

The final book in the YA sci-fi 5TH WAVE trilogy.

I hate to ever say this, but: I didn’t like this book

There were multiple POVs, mostly in first person, and the similarity of voices made the whole story confusing and disjointed. Plus the purple prose, especially during a couple of cringe-worthy Cassie passages.

And I know this is a plot driven book, but the characters just kinda fell flat. Even the ending felt anti-climactic and it shouldn’t have because this is, in theory, an exciting book.

Great potential, but it just didn’t deliver for me.

THE RAVEN KING by Maggie Stiefvater

The fourth and final book in the RAVEN CYCLE. Fantasy? Paranormal? I have no idea how to classify this unique series.

I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – I love being immersed in the world of these books. The magic, the nature…the Ronan.

Ronan, ferocious and loyal and fragile. (p. 263)

YES.

But, really, I adored all the main characters, even Adam, who had to grow on me.

This book was a satisfying conclusion to a magical series.

I’ll never look at trees the same way again.

Under a Painted Sky coverUNDER A PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee

YA historical fiction, set in 1849, about a Chinese girl and a runaway slave who disguise themselves as boys to escape pursuing lawmen.

This book pulled me in completely. I picked it up one evening, thinking I’d read a few chapters before bed, and before I knew it, I was halfway through and had to make myself put it down so I could sleep.

Then I read it during breakfast the next morning and finished it at lunch because I HAD to know how Sammy and Andy’s journey turned out.

Now I’m sad because the book has ended, but I’ll try to console myself with Lee’s next book, OUTRUN THE MOON, which I need to read ASAP. And she has another book coming out in December!

*fangirls*

LOVE STORY by Jennifer Echols

Girl writes about dream guy for her college creative writing assignment, he joins the class, writes his own steamy stories about her.

I thought this would be a sexy, swoony read, but 95% of the book was misunderstandings that could have been solved by simple conversations and I didn’t get my swoon 😦

Out of Darkness coverOUT OF DARKNESS by Ashley Hope Pérez

From Goodreads, which sums it up beautifully: Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.

This book…

How do I even put my thoughts into words? Beautifully written, painful, real.

Naomi and her twin brother and sister. Their relationship was love. I wanted to put them, and Wash and his family, into a protective bubble and keep them safe forever.

Other characters (no names, as to not spoil anything) made me want to vomit, to scrub my skin off.

The cover is perfection.

The story is haunting.

It’s important.

Read this book.


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SummySeries 2016!

It’s going to be about 90 degrees in my corner of Virginia today + this weekend marks the unofficial start of summer, which means:

SUMMYSERIES TIME!!!

For those of you who don’t know, SummySeries is a thing I do every summer where I read a bunch of books to avoid going outside into the miserable humidity. It began in 2010 when I hid inside with Harry Potter. In 2011, it was Anne Shirley. Other years, I caught up on half-read series or picked up whatever caught my eye in the library.

Summer Lost and FoundThis year I’m aiming for a little bit of everything and I’ve started SummySeries off in awesome fashion with SUMMER OF LOST AND FOUND by Rebecca Behrens. I am loving this MG mystery so far.

Next up is probably JUST LISTEN by Sarah Dessen. Last summer I had a random side goal to read all her books and I kinda fell off that, so this summer I’m continuing my quest in a more realistic manner by reading only one or two instead of ALL RIGHT NOW.

I plan on writing monthly wrap-ups with mini reviews. In the meantime, let’s get this SummySeries started!


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Writing fun, reading bingo and even more books from the 1980s!

Firstly:

I’m coming to you from my new laptop!!! I finally retired my five and a half year old Walmart special. It was a good run but I was tired of a battery that only kept a 20 minute charge and a keyboard that curled up on one side.

Secondly:

I entered Nestpitch with JULES and got several requests from agents! I’ve sent off my pages and now it’s back to the query trenches.

I took part in the YA Buccaneers 2015 Writing Bootcamp, which was a blast, although I should have made a goal more concrete than “write” because I slacked off all over the place.

Next up is Ready.Set.WRITE! and I’m making specific goals which I’ll post on Monday, June 8.

RSW6

I’m also having fun with YA Buc’s Reading Bingo

YAB Reading Bingo 2015

And it’s once again SummySeries (my totally made up word for when I spend the hot, humid months catching up on reading). I’m currently in the middle of THAT SUMMER by Sarah Dessen which I’ve read before but…

CONFESSION: I’ve only read two Sarah Dessen books. For shame, since I call myself a YA contemp lover. So I’m starting with her first book and going until I get to her most recent. #RandomSummerGoals

Speaking of random, I found another one of the Sweet Dreams teen romance books at a yard sale in Maryland (FYI, this is not the state where I live). I may have shrieked and danced around while my husband rolled his eyes at me.

(cover and description from Goodreads)

Crossed Signals cover

A teenage romance, this book is about Amy Tyler’s friendship with her best friend Laura and how this was affected by Amy’s growing relationship with Ben Richardson, Laura’s ex-boyfriend.

The hair! That sweater!

And finally:

I met writer friend Rebecca Behrens when she was in the DC area for a book event and she was super sweet. She’s the first online friend I’ve met and now I want to meet all of you 🙂 Tell you what, if I win Mega Millions tonight, let’s have a giant writing meet-up – I’m paying!

Note: I’m having some issues with formatting so my text size isn’t uniform through this post. Oh well…new laptop can’t fix all the issues of The Internetz.


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What’s Up Wednesday

RobotWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk that allows us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up.

WHAT I’M READING

Soon to be a lot because my library is having their Adult Summer Reading program again. And, more importantly, it’s almost SummySeries* time! 

I’m working on my “must read” list and there are so, so many books on it that I may be reading non-stop until the end of 2014. I can live with that.

WHAT I’M WRITING

Working on a MASSIVE rewrite of an old book. This one is named EMMA. Maybe one day she and JULES can be BFFS.

Speaking of JULES, I never told you all the actual, real title and I probably should since I’m querying:

THE STAINED GLASS SUN AND MOON

And here’s a brief description:

Sixteen-year-old Jules struggles to find a good balance between her boyfriend, friends, family, and softball, but the harder she fights to hold on, the more she realizes that maybe she can’t have it all.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW

Last week I watched my brother’s high school perform Shrek and there was a really great moment at the end, when the cast was taking their bows and singing/dancing along to “I’m a Believer.”

For anyone that has ever been in a play, you know what I’m talking about.

For those who haven’t: basically, you are so in the zone during the performance, so busy concentrating on cues and costumes changes, etc., that the reality doesn’t hit until you’re taking bows and the crowd is cheering.

Then it’s like HOLY CRAP, WE JUST DID THAT AND WE ARE THE MOST AWESOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE EVER LIVED!

Especially on opening night (when I went) and closing night. Opening night has a little extra energy because of nerves, and closing because it’s the last time that particular cast will be together. That’s when everyone hugs and freaks out because they can’t believe it’s over, and OMG THIS WAS THE MOST AMAZING EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE, but on some level everyone is relieved because you’ve spent so much time together over the past few months that you’re sick of each other’s faces.

But even those negative feelings are sorta awesome because you all worked your butts off and it was completely worth it. And when the next play rolls around, all you remember is the fun and you’re ready to do it all over again.

WHAT ELSE I’VE BEEN UP TO

Sweating. Holy summer, Batman! There were a few days last week when it was 90 degrees. And I don’t care if it’s humid heat or dry heat (for the record, Virginia has humidity. Plenty of it), when the temp is that high, it’s just flat out hot. End of story.

*SummySeries is only a real thing to me. It started in June 2010 when I decided it was about time I finally picked up Harry Potter. Since then I’ve used the summer as an excuse to stay indoors, huddled by the A/C, while I catch up on series I’ve slacked on or missed entirely. I’m super excited about my next few months of binge reading.


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What’s Up Wednesday

Whats Up WedWhat’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk that allows us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up.

WHAT I’M READING

It’s SummySeries, time to catch up on book series, although this year I’m not sure yet which ones I’m going to read because I’m too excited/distracted – for the first time ever, my library is having an Adult Summer Reading Program!!!

Which means I plan to read some Big People Books* in the next few months!

*Years ago, I worked with a girl who was going to community college and she’d always jokingly refer to 4-year universities as “Big People School” or “Big People College.”

WHAT I’M WRITING

Ready. Set. Write! ready set write button

A summer writing intensive hosted by the two lovely ladies responsible for What’s Up Wednesday, plus Alison Miller, Katy Upperman, and Elodie Nowodazkij

Here are my goals:

Finish the alt ending I’ve been working on for my WIP that’s off at beta camp + get some work done on my new WIP.

WHAT ELSE I’VE BEEN UP TO

Still waiting on my car. It’s universally accepted that it’s broken, yet no one can figure out exactly why. If I only had to drive a mile or so at a time, I’d be in business, but seeing as it stops working after short distances…

Blah.

On a positive note, I am lucky enough to have a Saturday Farmer’s Market just a few blocks away, so I’m going to browse this weekend.

Also, the weather has been fantastic this week – I like avoiding the hellish inferno that is summer for as long as possible.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW

ENDURANCE – Look, I’ve found my word for the year! (five months late)

I’ve never had great physical endurance, even as a kid. I could sprint like a champ, but when faced with a long race or a running game (like soccer), I was the one constantly calling, “time out!” so I could collapse on the ground.

Hmm…maybe my car lacks endurance and that’s the major issue?

Anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of athletic conditioning type workouts lately, hoping to improve since I want to shave my mile time. The fastest I’ve ever run a mile is nine minutes and that makes me sad because I was nine when I did it and I’ve never been able to top my kid self. Hopefully I can later this summer when I get back on the treadmill.

So there’s that, but there’s also everyday endurance, the kind that gets you through the little annoyances of life, like a broken car or a laptop that won’t start (thankfully it finally did) or a sinkful of dirty dishes which I swear I just washed five minutes ago.

Like Rocky Balboa would say: Ain’t nobody gonna hit as hard as life.

But I like getting up each morning and kicking it back 🙂