Sunday, July 23, 2017

Review Sunday: Post-High School Reality Quest by Meg Eden


Standalone to date

Goodreads Blurb:
"Buffy is playing a game. However, the game is her life, and there are no instructions or cheat codes on how to win.

After graduating high school, a voice called “the text parser” emerges in Buffy’s head, narrating her life as a classic text adventure game. Buffy figures this is just a manifestation of her shy, awkward, nerdy nature—until the voice doesn’t go away, and instead begins to dominate her thoughts, telling her how to life her life. Though Buffy tries to beat the game, crash it, and even restart it, it becomes clear that this game is not something she can simply “shut off” or beat without the text parser’s help.

While the text parser tries to give Buffy advice on how “to win the game,” Buffy decides to pursue her own game-plan: start over, make new friends, and win her long-time crush Tristan’s heart. But even when Buffy gets the guy of her dreams, the game doesn’t stop. In fact, it gets worse than she could’ve ever imagined: her crumbling group of friends fall apart, her roommate turns against her, and Buffy finds herself trying to survive in a game built off her greatest nightmares."


Review:
I received a review copy of this book from the author.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

This is another book I have complicated feelings for.  It's so wonderfully original and unique but as a consequence, it took me a while to get used to the story and the ending left me confuzzled.  Let's get into it, shall we!

1.  The POV.  Normally, I start off with the characters but I think it's really important to begin with the POV because it kind of impacts everything else.  As it says in the blurb, this book is narrated by a game.  You know those games that just write out what's happening and then you select your reaction to events.  They're called text parser games (you can look it up if you still don't know what I'm talking about because honestly I don't know how else to describe it).  So the entire book is a mix of first and second person which I found to be pretty cool, honestly.  I've never read a book in second person before and now I understand why not many books are written that way.  It can be really tricky getting it right and there isn't a whole lot of depth to be found.  However, mixed in with the first person, it was slightly better and was a bit more readable.

2.  The concept.  This is another thing I think I have to address right away.  This review is getting all kinds of turned around!  From the blurb, you'd think this book is all about finding out what's going on in Buffy's head and her learning to live with her quirks and life in general.  While that's generally true throughout the book, there isn't much focus placed on it and the ending completely disregards that idea.  I think there was a bit of a disconnect between what the author wanted it to be about at the beginning and what ended up happening.  It isn't a bad thing at all but because of what happened, there are some inconsistencies and near the middle I was questioning what the point of the book was at all.  To that end, I really liked how the book ended but I wish the author would have more fully developed the whole idea.  In summary, there were two final takeaway's directly contrasting with each other and each didn't receive enough attention: life is a game, and the challenges of mental illness.

3.  The characters.  I really enjoyed this part of the book.  Being in Buffy's head is so fascinating and I loved seeing how she would react to different events.  She has such an interesting and creative mind and always reacted in unexpected ways.  I don't know if I would go so far as to say she's likeable or that I wasn't frustrated with her from time to time, but I was never bored and she kept me on my toes.  The supporting characters are also very well imagined.  Sephora (Buffy's 'friend') is especially interesting and I was intrigued by her attitude towards life.

4.  The romance.  Romance is a significant part of this book and it was very sweet to read.  There is a fair amount of teen drama, though, but there isn't much of a love triangle.  While the romance itself was sweet (and pretty entertaining), I think the author could have played up the tragedy a bit more.  In general, there are some aww moments but there aren't any really heart-wrenching scenes.  There were highs and lows but the lows were pretty downplayed for some reason (perhaps it was a product of the second person POV) and it was kind of weird to read a sad scene and not feel anything at all.

The Final Verdict:
An interesting spin on novel writing with the ever rare second person POV was attempted and is something I would consider a general success.  While the ending and themes of the book are a little obscure and muddy, the characters present a unique spark.
3 stars

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Guest Post: Publishizer's Novel Contest (bringing to light the route of non-traditional publishing)


About a month ago I got an email from a company called Publishizer asking me to post a guest post about a new contest.  Normally, I dismiss many of these emails as guest posts normally aren't my cup of tea (as you've probably noticed by the distinct lack of said posts in my corner of the blogosphere).  However, they're running a contest that I think is rather relevant to most aspiring (and already semi-established) authors.

Publishizer is running a contest until the 31st of July that's part crowdfunding campaign and part novel viability assessment.  Anyone can submit their proposal and during this process, readers can view your proposal and preorder your novel if they so choose.  Based on the number of preorders, a winner will be chosen and will receive $1,000 (US).  If you aren't chosen for the prize, you'll still be queried for major publishers.  I'll let Publishizer take it from here!


Putting the Readers Back in Charge of Publishing

Imagine a YA publishing process without gatekeepers.  One where editors and agents read the manuscripts that readers love, not vice versa.  One where anyone with a knack for writing, a passion to succeed, and a little flair for self-promotion, has a fair shot at being published.

All too frequently, this isn’t the case.  Books often get rejected for reasons beyond authors’ control.  One editor turned down an ultimately successful book by saying, “The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the curiosity level.”  The book in question?  The Diary of Anne Frank.  Furthermore, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, only about 10% of all YA books accepted for publication feature “multi-cultural content.”  Clearly, there are some blind spots that need addressing in the publishing industry.

It’s with this vision in mind that Publishizer is launching its YA book proposal contest called Plot Without a Cause.  Publishizer is a startup seeking to fill a hole in the publishing industry through crowdfunding.  It works like this:

You write the book proposal.  You know the book proposal I’m talking about.  The one you’ve been daydreaming about for years.  The one that just popped into your head last week and you haven’t stopped thinking about since.  The one for the manuscript that’s been dearly loved by you but maybe not so much yet by the publishing industry.  That one.  Then you register (for free!) on Publishizer’s website and post your proposal in the Plot Without a Cause section (again—for free!).

Now this is when you’ll have to start hustling.  Crowdfunding runs on pre-orders, so you had better start promoting that proposal.  Reach out over social media, post on your blog, email your old roommates—whatever it takes to start building buzz.  If you get the most preorders by the time the contest ends, you’ll win $1000 dollars.  And if you don’t have the highest number of preorders, don’t worry—you’ll still be queried to major publishers who fit your proposal.

Previous Publishizer contest participants have gotten interest and landed deals with a variety of traditional publishing companies, including Harvard Square Books, She Writes Press, and Weiser.  Publishizer takes a small commission on pre-orders when you choose a publisher at the end.

Every year, thousands of books are rejected by the publishing world for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the book—they’re too mainstream or not mainstream enough, too similar to books already being published or too different from books already being published.  Or the literary agent just doesn’t stand to make much money on the deal so they pass on a perfectly good book!  Imagine how many brilliant YA manuscripts go unpublished every year thanks to frustrating rejections.  Imagine how many hugely talented authors quietly give up on their dreams, just because the gate to a traditional publishing path isn’t open to them.

With their new YA book proposal contest, Plot Without a Cause, Publishizer is seeking to level the playing field.  Publishing decisions shouldn’t be based solely on a literary agent’s judgement or how many friends you have in the industry. They should be based on quality of writing and how many readers the book attracts.

Great books get overlooked all the time, and this is an opportunity to show acquiring editors that yours is worth paying attention to. Not to mention the readership and funds you could gain in the process. Crowdfunding (or crowd-publishing, in this case) is growing in popularity and brings a personal touch back to book sales—for readers and publishers. Are you in?


So there you have it!  If you're a writer and have an unpublished novel you'd like to submit or you're a reader who'd like to check out the current submissions and perhaps preorder one and support indie authors, you can visit this website:

If you'd like to read more about the company in general, visit this website:


And that's all for today!  I already have a review scheduled for Sunday (look at all this productiveness exuding from my metaphysical nature) and I'll be hopefully publishing another review or a collection of mini reviews during the week next week as well as getting caught up on 50/50 Friday's and actually being a good meme host (I promise I'm a good productive clam!).  Until then, I bid you ado!

Monday, July 10, 2017

ARC Review Monday: Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave


Standalone to date

Goodreads Blurb:
"From Laura Dave—the author of the “addictive” (Us Weekly), “winning” (Publishers Weekly) and critically acclaimed bestseller Eight Hundred Grapes—comes a new novel about the secrets we keep…even from ourselves.

Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.

Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.

And then she gets hacked.

When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.

In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age."


Review:
Thank you to the publisher, Simon Schuster, for providing me with an arc review copy!  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

I first finished this book last night and I was going to write a review immediately after but I just couldn't make up my mind on how I feel about this book.  On one hand, I loved it and couldn't put it down (I read it straight through in 2.5 hours).  On the other hand, the theme and ending slightly irritated me.  So let's get into it, shall we?

1.  The characters.  Generally speaking, I really liked the characters.  They fit the story well and had adequate development.  I do wish there was more on the husband, though.  It just seemed like there wasn't that much live-in background.  There was a lot of told background but it's biased toward Sunny because it's told from her perspective.  I enjoyed how the author decided to make one of the characters more nuanced with their decision to oust Sunny.  I think it was such a great choice and one that I didn't see coming!  It also served to make the book less about finding a villain and more about Sunny's introspection.  I also enjoyed reading Sunny's interactions with her sister, Rain.  Learning about Sunny's past and how it played into her current attitude about life was really interesting.

2.  The plot.  The plot is true to the blurb it really was a fascinating story (exhibit A: I couldn't put the book down).  I do wish there was a little more on what Sunny's life was like before the hack (again, we get a lot of discussion flashback but not too many true flashback scenes).  The first two chapters also seemed to go on forever with Sunny's internal comments on what she should have done.  It's totally fine to open a book with that kind of talk but after 3 pages it gets kind of old.  The ending was also kind of unsatisfactory for me.  The villain was first presented as a cookie cutter, flat character.  Then, at the end, suddenly they become wake-up call/savior which I really wasn't buying.  It was a lightswitch sort of change and it felt very orchestrated.  I do want to say that I approve of the choice of villain, I just don't agree at all with their methods.  It was all just a little drastic and fantastical even if it did end the way it should have.  The middle, though, really shined.  I think once the author got warmed up, there was no stopping her.  The development of Sunny's character through her struggles to find herself again is so well-written.

3.  The romance (or should I say lack-there-of).  This is perhaps my favorite part of this own reading experience.  The author chose not to clicheify the story and add in a new romance after the fall-out of the hacker.  There was plenty of opportunity but it wasn't really acted upon.  I truly dislike it when authors add in unnecessary romance because they think it's necessary and I'm so glad Ms. Dave didn't fall into that trap.

4.  The theme.  This was a little weird for me.  Since I'm on the very front end of the Gen X generation, I've grown up as technology has and I haven't lived a day without it.  The whole theme is centered around having an authentic life and whether it's possible to display it on social media without starting to curate your image.  The message at the end of the book (as you can probably guess) is that it isn't possible which I would argue to the contrary.  You simply have to recognize the difference between your work life and personal life and determine what you're willing to talk about and display on social media because you start sliding down a slippery slope.  Yes, we do live in an inauthentic age but I'm of the opinion that being inauthentic is a choice not a product of social media itself.  In any case, I did enjoy the discussion but I don't necessarily agree with the conclusion.

The Final Verdict:
This is a novel that raises good discussion points (even if I don't personally agree with the conclusions drawn) and has good middle development.  The edges of the book are a bit shaky but in the grand scheme of things, a truly enjoyable read.
4 stars


Meet the Author:
Laura Dave is the author of the critically acclaimed novels The First Husband, The Divorce Party and London Is The Best City In America. Her novels have been published in fifteen countries, and three of her novels, including Eight Hundred Grapes, have been optioned as major motion pictures. She resides in Santa Monica, California.

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Monday, July 3, 2017

An Update: I Am Rising From the Dead


Yes!  I was, for all intents and purposes, 6 feet under.  The past month has been the definition of unremitting.  Let me tell you all about it and my plans to get back on track.

The month of June started off wonderfully.  I moved without a hitch and I was getting prepared to take care of my parent's house and pets while they traveled for two and a half weeks.  I thought I was being so smart and industrious until they left and I had the work of three people to do.  I was working full time, taking care of my mom's garden, mowing my dad's lawn, cleaning the house, and taking care of my two cats.  Suffice to say that I fell a little behind in the blogging department.  I didn't read a single word that wasn't a road sign for those two and a half weeks.

Now, when they came back, my workload eased up considerably.  However, in that time, I somehow dug myself into a blogging and reading slump and I honestly couldn't bring myself to write or read at all for another week.

Then, when I finally got myself jump-started with a reread of an old favorite (Fire by Kristin Cashore is wonderful btw), I went on a trip to a music festival with my family and we camped while we were there and didn't have internet for a good week.  So there was reading, but no writing.

But now I'm back!  Most importantly, I've missed three 50/50 Friday's (Carrie, if you read this, I'm sending a thousand apologies and pies to you for disappearing) which I'll be publishing retroactively (they'll show up under the day they should have been published).  I've also missed my May wrap-up which is slightly okay because I was planning on doing a first-half-of-the-year wrap up anyway which is only a week and half late right now so that'll be coming asap.

Also, to all the author to whom I promised reviews in the month of May (and Olivia who manages the review chain I'm a part of and of which I've missed a review), I'll get to them as soon as I can!  I've never really had a true blogging or reading slump so it'll take me just a little bit to get back into everything.

Now, onto my mountain of an inbox and the 50/50 Friday's!
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