Monday, July 21, 2014

Guest post: Tokyo Heist and Latitude Zero's Diana Renn Talks Writing Thrillers in Foreign Places...

Hola readers! 
Today I'm really pleased to have author Diana Renn joining the blog to talk a little about her latest release Latitude Zero and how she goes about writing her thrillers 
so often set in foreign places.
 First, a little more info on Latitude Zero:

Latitude Zero
by Diana Renn
July 3, 2014
Viking Juvenile
448 pages

“I have to run,” said Juan Carlos. “You will call? Please? It is very important.”
“Yes. I will call. Definitely. At two.”

That’s what Tessa promises. But by two o’clock, young Ecuadorian cycling superstar Juan Carlos is dead, and Tessa, one of the last people ever to speak to him, is left with nothing but questions. The media deems Juan Carlos’s death a tragic accident at a charity bike ride, but Tessa, a teen television host and an aspiring investigative journalist, knows that something more is going on. While she grapples with her own grief and guilt, she is being stalked by spies with an insidious connection to the dead cycling champion. Tessa’s pursuit of an explanation for Juan Carlos’s untimely death leads her from the quiet New England backwoods to bustling bike shops and ultimately to Ecuador, Juan Carlos’s homeland. As the ride grows bumpy, Tessa no longer knows who is a suspect and who is an ally. The only thing she knows for sure is that she must uncover the truth of why Juan Carlos has died and race to find the real villain—before the trail goes cold.
(Goodreads Summary.)

While I have not yet had the opportunity to read Renn's latest release, I did read and enjoy her debut, Tokyo Heist a couple of years back (you can read my review HERE.) I loved the Japan setting of that YA mystery/thriller.

Take it away, Diana!

On the Run: 
Writing Thrillers in Foreign Locales

Cave Homes in Caapadocia, Turkey
A few years ago, my husband and I were traveling in Turkey. Our travels took us to the region of Cappadoccia, known for its surreal landscape of rocks and mesas and volcanic material sculpted by wind.

We had mapped out a sightseeing route to a national park. Somewhere en route, we took a wrong turn. We drove on, and at last found a smaller entrance to the park. No one was there, but a sign indicated we could park, and warned tourists not to leave any belongings in the car.

As we were locking the rental car, an older, gray-haired, mustachioed man materialized. He looked clean cut, with pressed trousers and a crisp shirt. He had a companion with him, a younger man, unsmiling. Mustache Man said it was Turkish custom to welcome foreign guests with a cup of tea. We declined, politely, because while we knew it was a custom, we’d also heard tourists are occasionally given tea laced with drugs, then robbed.

Besides, there was no obvious place to enjoy tea. We were in an empty parking lot surrounded by empty roads, dust swirling up around us, off the beaten path. Mustache Man led us to a sign on a chain link fence with a map of the park. While his unsmiling companion looked on, he explained many long, circuitous routes we could hike.

Then he told us he was a famous jeweler who had a store in the nearby village of Avanos. He took out a business card, drew us a map, and exhorted us to visit. We finally extracted ourselves with vague promises, and went to the park. Halfway down the path, we turned and looked. Eight young men were leaning against the chain link fence, staring after us.  We hurried along the main path, snapping photos, pretending to enjoy the natural wonders yet always looking over our shoulders. Every cave we saw looked like a great place to stash our dead bodies.

Creeped out, we ran back to the car. All the men were gone. Then we saw handprints all over our rental car, made visible by the dust that had settled all over the car.

We peeled out of the parking lot. We passed some guys who were pulled over to the side of the road comparing guns. Turning on to the main road toward Avanos, we saw a white car behind us. It passed us. The driver waved. It was Mustache Man. He slowed down and let cars pass so that he was right in front of us. There were no turn offs. We had no choice but to follow. The sightseeing plans were out the window now. It was clear from his whole demeanor that we were on his itinerary.

Mustache Man signaled left with his blinker, rolled down his window, and pointed to a black building on the side of the road. My husband signaled as if we would follow. Then, when the white car turned, he floored it and blew past him. Safe!

But not really. The village of Avanos was little more than a rotary that routed us right back to that black building. We passed it again, and to our horror saw Mustache Man standing by the road with two brawny men. The word “thugs” came to mind.

We sped on. We did not stop driving for an hour, until we were sure we had lost him. We spent the rest of the day sightseeing in an underground cave city, on a guided tour, but the day was shot. I couldn’t get the taste of fear out of my mouth. Then fear gave way to resentment. He hadn’t robbed us of cash, but he’d robbed us of an entire day of sightseeing, and planned experiences.
I’ve never written about that incident in fiction. The mustache-twirling bad guys would be too stereotypical. But it’s that moment of sheer terror and need for speed that I try to tap into when I write my thriller scenes set in foreign locales. I try to bring back my sense of total disorientation (where are we? who are these guys? where will I go for help?). I also try to capture how moments of awe in a foreign setting get undercut by imminent danger.

In my novel Latitude Zero, half of which takes place in Ecuador, I want my characters and my readers to explore another culture, as I was doing in Turkey. But the trick is not letting characters linger in their sightseeing. A character is not going to be marveling too long over a baroque building façade when running for her life. And if she’s perusing a museum and learning about art history, great, but someone had better bust through a window or something, or a clue should turn up, so that the thriller doesn’t turn into a travelogue.

I’m always looking for ways to let the unique features of a setting leak in despite the pressing danger. In Latitude Zero, Tessa Taylor, an American teen volunteers with a bike advocacy organization in Quito as a cover for investigating a murder mystery. Spies are on her tail, trying to prevent her from solving the puzzle, but I found fun opportunities for her to experience a new culture nevertheless. She visits a local crafts market and then puts together a disguise made of Ecuadorian garments. She visits a famous local statue while interrogating a witness. And an Ecuadorian mode of transportation – a party bus called a chiva – becomes a key way to get her from point A to point B.

Researching foreign settings can spark all kinds of ideas for other crimes. (Can someone be run off a narrow road? Clobbered with a pre-Colombian artifact?) I try to mine the territory for terror, too. (What if my character could get locked up in a foreign prison, falsely accused of a crime? Can the police here be trusted?) And there are logical things to research. (What law enforcement agencies step in? How are crime networks organized abroad?)

Maybe Mustache Man in Turkey really was a desperate jeweler, hustling potential clients where he could. Maybe the car thieves were unrelated to his scheme. But at the time, that brief experience of being on the run--felt kind of like being in a thriller. Now my challenge is to make my thrillers feel kind of like real life. And that’s a challenge I don’t want to run from.

Thank you, Diana! 
What a crazy and frightening personal experience you and your husband had in Turkey. 
Maybe I'll stick to my armchair traveling ;) 

And you can check out Latitude Zero which is in stores now! 

I write contemporary YA novels featuring globetrotting teens, international intrigue, and more than a dash of mystery. My first novel, TOKYO HEIST (Viking/Penguin), came out in 2012, my next, LATITUDE ZERO, releases July 3, 2014. I am also the Fiction Editor at YARN (Young Adult Review Network), an award-winning online magazine dedicated to short form writing for teens.

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Marlene's Summer TBR: Changes & Progress!

Hello, readers!

Today, I have an update for you!

Remember my Summer Series TBR post?
How about my list of Beach-y Reads for the summer?
If you're wondering how I'm getting on with all of those, stay right here. :)

Before I reveal what I've read, and what I plan to pick up next, 
I want to talk about CHANGES. Yes, changes to the TBR pile. 
Because, let's face it. I have commitment issues when it comes to this sort of thing, 
and I want to talk about it! A little.

Here is a compilation of ALL the books:

The Series Starters:

The Beach-y Reads:

SO... I said something about changes, right? Basically, I'm putting MOST of these books back into the ol' TBR pile, the general one, where they will be wait listed for who knows how long. Yikes! Okay, it isn't that I believed I could read all of these in one summer. NOPE! I never said that. I only said I wanted options. Some of these options have changed, but I've also dwindled the option list too -- which is good for me. I felt a little overwhelmed by all of these books in one summer; even if I didn't full on commit, it still weighed me down. But to my delight, I did make a little progress. 

The books I've read:

I'm happy I've knocked out 2 books from each list. It does count for something, right? 

Here are the books I plan to read by the end of summer or...

My revised summer TBR list:

Now, I've got a little bit of breathing room, right? Though I've only listed the books I'm confident about reading, I want to add another book to my revised list. I want your input. I NEED your help! I want you to pick 1 SERIES STARTER or 1 BEACH-Y READ from the lists above. What do you think I should read by the end of summer? Please point out my mistake here. Which book should I absolutely NOT PUT OFF FOR ANOTHER SEASON? So, that's your challenge to give to me! Make this good, peeps! I want my summer to end on a high note!

And if you're curious...

Here are the books I'm currently reading:

These are also a part of the challenge!

**I'm having trouble with My Life Next Door. Someone convince me to push through.** 

I'll be back at the end of August/beginning of September with news 
on how successful/disastrous this revised challenge turned out to be. Wish me luck!

So, how is your summer reading shaping up?
Did you challenge yourself with a summer TBR pile of your own?
Are you sticking to your list or making adjustments?
Don't forget to weigh in on what you think I should add to my list!

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally Blog Tour & GIVEAWAY Stops Here:)

If you guys follow this blog or know anything about me and my reading tastes then it should come as NO surprise that I signed up to be part of the Breathe, Annie, Breathe Blog Tour. I loooove Miranda Kennneally's Hundred Oak Series, read them all, she's one of my favorite contemporary YA writers and a definite "go-to" author--I'll read whatever she puts out there. So, I hope you enjoy my review and stick around to enter the giveaway afterwards:) 

Breathe, Annie, Breathe
by Miranda Kenneally
July 15, 2014
Sourcebooks Fire
306 pages
Source: A copy was provided for blog tour purposes. 
Thanks, Xpresso Book Tours and Sourcebooks Fire:)


Annie hates running. No matter how far she jogs, she can’t escape the guilt that if she hadn’t broken up with Kyle, he might still be alive. So to honor his memory, she starts preparing for the marathon he intended to race.

But the training is even more grueling than Annie could have imagined. Despite her coaching, she’s at war with her body, her mind—and her heart. With every mile that athletic Jeremiah cheers her on, she grows more conflicted. She wants to run into his arms…and sprint in the opposite direction. For Annie, opening up to love again may be even more of a challenge than crossing the finish line.

"Breathe, Annie, Breathe is an emotional, heartfelt, and beautiful story about finding yourself after loss and learning to love. It gave me so many feels. Her best book yet." — Jennifer Armentrout, New York Times bestselling author of Wait for You. 
(Goodreads Summary.)

* Breathe, Annie, Breathe is the 5th book in the Hundred Oaks Series. You don't have to read any of the previous books in the series before starting Breathe, Annie, Breathe, but there are many returning characters and I personally think you will get much more out of it if you do:)*

Opening Line

As a kid I had the worst mile time ever. 

My Take On It

For all the girls looking for a new beginning.

See that line up there? That's Miranda's dedication at the beginning of Breathe, Annie, Breathe. Miranda has some of the best book dedications. In Catching Jordan she dedicated the book "to all the bad ass chicks out there." In Stealing Parker it was "to all the girls struggling to find their place."  In my favorite book of her Hundred Oaks series, Things I Can't Forget,  she dedicates the book "to all her readers", and "hopes they find their own truth." And those dedications are part of what I love about all of Miranda's books. The positive messages that are infused with moments of awesome girl power

What else do I love about this author and her writing? Hmmm...let me count the ways...I love the relatable, authentic characters. I love her heroines, each of whom is bad ass in her own way. I love her hot male leads, even when they do bonehead things or piss me off.  I especially love her secondaries who help to complement the main characters but often steal the scene themselves. I love the authentic dialogue. I love the amazing SWOON factor each book possesses and the sex positive themes that are always included. I love how readable her books all are,  and how accessible--whether you are a young adult, the target audience, or a not so young adult like me and many of my reader/blogger friends--Miranda's books can be enjoyed by a wide spectrum of ages because each speak to universal themes like self discovery and identity; discovering first love and sexuality;  and issues of faith and grief.  So it doesn't matter if you just starting out in life or are somewhere in the middle like me--these are things that we can all relate to in some fashion.  

So, knowing all of these things I felt very confident that I would love Breathe, Annie, Breathe just as I love all the companion books in the Hundred Oaks series. And I did. A lot. I knew going in that this book would fall into the same camp as my two favorite Kenneally books: Stealing Parker (read my review) and Things I Can't Forget (my review) in that they are a little bit more serious and issue driven. Don't get me wrong: I LOVE Catching Jordan and Racing Savannah--but it was Parker and Kate's crisis of faith alongside their explorations of their sexuality and friend/mama drama that sucked me in and put them on my all-time favorite reads list. I knew from Breathe, Annie, Breathe's synopsis that our heroine would be dealing with some heavy grief and loss. I didn't know how much guilt played a role in the book or what a wonderful testament to love and forgiveness it would be turn out to be. 

So, here is the set up: Annie recently lost her first love Kyle-- the boy she started dating her freshman year of high school--the boy she thought she would one day marry. To honor him she has decided to to run the Music City Marathon-- a race Kyle was training for when he died. It doesn't matter that Annie is not a runner and has never taken on a goal like this. It doesn't matter that she is dipping into her savings/college fund to pay for the expensive running shoes she's wearing out every couple of months or the expensive marathon training lessons. The only thing that matters is that Annie does this one last thing for Kyle. So, from the start we the reader admire Annie. How could we not? In fact I'd go so far as to say Annie is the most likable and admirable of all of Miranda's heroines.  And listen, I'm no runner and I can't even fathom running a marathon--but I was still SHOCKED by the toll that the training took on Annie's body-- it was reading these parts of the book  that turned me from a mere Annie admirer to a bonafide FAN of this girl and what she was trying to accomplish. You know I always hear about these people who have "run a marathon" as part of their 'bucket list' but I never really related (I told you, I'm no runner) but after reading Breathe, Annie, Breathe, I kinda get it--the appeal that is. It really is an incredible achievement and it really does take an enormous amount of discipline and hard work physically--but I think more so mentally--to prepare for and accomplish this goal. People who run marathon's are freaking tough, you guys. And if you have ever doubted that than just read this book and see what Annie goes through. 

The marathon is the backbone of the book--the book is told in increments of time--all counting down to the race. But as the story unfolds, this book, at least in my opinion, is about so much more than Annie's desire to do this last thing for Kyle. It becomes so much more than a story about grief and loss. It becomes a story about hope and forgiveness. It becomes a story about Annie discovering who she is and who she wants to be. 

It's also a love story-- a story about learning to move forward even when there is part of you that can't imagine doing so. It's about learning to trust your heart with someone new--and how scary that can be--and like the book's dedication implies--it's a story about new beginnings. Our swoony male lead is Jeremiah Brown, younger brother to Things I Can't Forget's Matt Brown, who is back in this book as Annie's trainer. All of us Miranda Kenneally fangirls love when she brings back our old favorites from past books--in Breathe, Annie Breathe we see Matt and Kate, Savannah and Jack, Kelsey, Vanessa and Rory and even Jordan and Sam Henry. Matt as a secondary gets the most screen time and it was awesome to read more about him--he's still just as perfect as ever. 

But what about Jeremiah?? Yeah, like all of Miranda's book boys he's a keeper too. He's a different breed than his older brother Matt--and the attraction between Annie and Jere starts out very differently too. (This is just a personal note to Miranda in case she reads this review: GIRL. That early running scene with Jere and Annie--YOU KNOW THE ONE. Good Lord. HOT.)

What's great about Jere and Annie is that there is this rather explosive, intense attraction right from the start but then they both take a step back (wisely if not frustratingly so!) and decide to slow down. They become friends--and it made their romance all the better in the end. Suffice to say, I am a fan of this couple and I love how they balanced each other and brought the best out in each other. 

I also liked that even though he's gone by the time this book begins, readers do get a chance to get to know Kyle through Annie's flashbacks and memories. It helps us understand what's going on in her head, why she's doing what's she's doing and why she's feeling what she's feeling. I love when a writer can take a character who isn't physically present in the book but flesh him out so thoroughly that it feels as if he is. 

There are some side plots as well, Annie's strained relationship with her mom and her former best friend Kelsey are two. I also loved that this is the first of Miranda's books since Things I Can't Forget that takes place post high school--and it's the first that features a college setting. I love college settings--some of my best memories are from this period of my life--I hope Miranda decides to explore this part of a young adult's life even more in future books. 

To sum it all up: another win for Miranda Kenneally. Her amazing, relatable authentic characters are back, the swoon (this one is steamy, you guys!) is back, as are the fantastic themes of self discovery, identity and self forgiveness. Miranda continues to do what she does best--write highly entertaining and thought-provoking contemporary young adult books-- I for one hope she never stops.

And now for the giveaway:)

Miranda is graciously giving away 2 Barnes & Noble gift cards valued at $50 each
3 signed copies of Breathe, Annie, Breathe

This giveaway ends on July 29, 2014
US/ Canada Entries only, please

Fill out the rafflecopter and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And don't forget to check out the other tour stops along the way!

July 14th

July 15th

July 16th

July 17th

July 18th

July 19th

Growing up in Tennessee, Miranda Kenneally dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes, and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband.

Find Miranda herewebsite / goodreads / twitter facebook

Order Breathe, Annie, Breathe here:  Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo /itunes

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Fault in Our Movie Theater Etiquette

Just to clarify, this isn’t a review of the novel or of the film; and this isn’t a comparison piece either. What we have here is a horror story of sorts – or perhaps, just a bitter story.

By now, you’ve read The Fault in Our Stars, have seen the film adaptation or have valiantly survived one or the other. I am a victor of both. Surviving the movie would prove to be one of the greatest tests of the summer – but not for the reasons you might expect. My unforgettable TFiOS movie experience starts out like this...

In late June, on a scorching hot and sticky afternoon, my sisters and I arrived at our local movie theater feeling victorious. Victorious: because we arrived just in time for the matinee showing of TFiOS. This is a movie we’ve been eager to see since its trailer released, and we wouldn’t go another day without seeing it. The show started at 12:25pm, and we arrived with 10 minutes to spare. Not a minute was wasted. We made our way to the concession stand; where we got our fill of buttery popcorn and cold fountain drinks. We hurried to our designated “house” and found comfortable seating at the far end of the middle row. Moments later, the theater was abuzz. People across all age groups were making their way inside, and we breathed a sigh of relief for getting in when we did. We watched as the theater quickly packed itself in. Shortly after, the place grew dark; the screen flickered to life, illuminating previews of upcoming dramas and romantic comedies and soon, the movie we were all here to see. Little did we know, this seating arrangement would turn out to be the worst decision we could make on this very day.

Midway through the film, the sound of uncontrollable, shoulder-shaking sobs could be heard somewhere nearby. Then the reality sank in: the person sitting directly behind me was responsible for THOSE sobs! I turned to my youngest sister and mouthed, “what the fuck?” Because I just knew, I just knew, it would only get worse.

For all the effort this lady put into quieting her distress, it brought even more attention to her cries. At one point, she was gasping for air, choking on her tears. No matter how hard I fought to concentrate on what was in front me, my thoughts always went back to the person sitting behind me. I wondered about her history and whether or not illness or disease took someone special. I wondered if she knew someone who survived or died. I wondered because I have a story too. We all do. But the thing is, I can’t make a connection between the story I know and the one of Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters. My uncle wasn’t a Hazel or an Augustus. My uncle was better. He was my favorite, loved, and real.

While I can separate personal pain from that of fiction, I recognize not everyone can do the same. But you don’t have to separate the two to be courteous. Overly sensitive humans, you have to ask yourselves, “can I handle a heavy issue movie, in PUBLIC?” Because if you can’t, then get THE HELL OUT. I don’t mean to come off as insensitive or cruel, but this lady robbed me. She robbed my sisters. She robbed everyone within hearing range – which seemed to be the entire theater. She robbed us from experiencing the emotional parts of the movie, as they were meant to be experienced: quietly, intimately, and undisturbed.

I had to restrain myself. I really, really wanted to tell this lady to put a cork in it. Though, I was positively fuming by this point. It was so near the end! I mean, how could someone not have the decency or self-control to be QUIET AT THE MOVIES! I would’ve used an unpleasant choice of words had I opened my mouth to tell her. So, instead, I decided to show this person what COURTESY means by remaining silent. It was a noble gesture, if not torturous.

But this lady was rude, and she knew. She knew! She raced down the stairs and beat the murmuring crowd on her way out – after the movie was long finished. All the while, I thought to myself, why couldn’t she race outta here during the movie?! Crying babies are carried away by their parents, are they not? It’s an unspoken rule, but it exits. It’s called movie theater etiquette! No one goes to a movie, hoping to listen to whispers, someone take a phone call, or hysterically cry. So, why couldn’t this grown-up remove herself when things got too rough?

Because she wasn’t a grown-up. She was a teenager. I guess that means she has the right to be selfish. She’s young and naïve, so she doesn’t know any better, right? Wrong. Rude people exist in all shapes, sizes, and AGES. This girl just happened to be a selfish teen. And I can’t forgive her. Why? Because if I concentrate hard enough, I can make out the sound of her ugly cry. And never in my life did I think I would memorize the sound of an ugly cry that wasn’t my own. After this experience, I’ll be avoiding tearjerkers, of all kinds, at the theater. I don’t think I can risk putting myself in a similar situation again.

All there's left to say is this: I can’t wait to purchase The Fault in Our Stars, and watch it all over again for the first time. At least I know the experience will be better – with just me in it. I've grown to be okay with that.

So, how was your TFiOS movie experience? 
Have any crazy movie theater stories you'd like to share?
Let's talk about it!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by
The Broke and the Bookish

This Week’s Topic:

Bookish Confessions

Here is a list of things you didn't know about me.
Don't judge too harshly.

1.)    I’m a slow reader. On average, I think I read about 40 pages within an hour. If I challenge myself to reading sprints, I can go faster, but I enjoy the plodding pace I usually take. When I’m reading a good book, I don’t like to rush the experience. I want to breathe in every word.

2.)   The product of #1 means I take even longer to finish a book. I believe the average amount of time it takes for me to see the end of a book is in the neighborhood of 4 days, with distractions in between. Still, it takes even longer if I’m working, too tired from the working, or in a slump. Huh. #1 might not be as fantastic as I envisioned.

3.)   Hold on to something. If you’re OCD about keeping your books in pristine condition, this next one will send your head spinning. I tend to underline important lines or passages using pencil in my books, and sometimes, I’ll squeeze in a little room for my thoughts in the margins. It’s something I picked up from my homegirl, Rory Gilmore!

This habit is only exclusive to textbooks and paperbacks though. So, keep your head on, please!

4.)  If #3 made you uneasy, this will make up for it. If you’re wondering about my hardcovers… they get special treatment! I use post-it sticky flags to highlight noteworthy lines/passages. You know, I just can’t bring myself to write in them. It would feel like a crime to do so. I know for some, writing in ANY book is a crime, but I have my habits and my preferences, and I’m sticking to them. I love all my books equally, even if I demonstrate it differently. 

     And in case you were wondering, there’s never any spine breaking!

5.)   About bookmarks. I’ll use anything as a bookmark: receipts, post-it sticky notes, my index finger. You name it! Basically, whatever is in reach!  

6.)   I used to write detailed notes in a notebook, as I did my reading. I just couldn’t cram a lot into the books I wrote in, and the ones that didn’t get the same treatment, even less so. Then I found this slowed my momentum. I’m a slow reader as it is, and when I’m in the middle of a great read, I just can’t bother with the extra effort it takes to pause and do the other thing. So, instead, I’ve opted to do my note taking after I’ve finished a book. Once I know how the story ends, I let everything pour out of me (usually in a Microsoft Word document, by bullet points). I like this approach a lot, and I find it helpful during review writing.

7.)   Review writing is another thing that takes me forever and a day to get done. Okay, not really. But I do need about two days to get my reviews “just right.” Not 48 hours. Just two days, with distractions in between. First day for writing. Second day for editing. But I’m almost never satisfied with what I’ve written anyway, so I wonder why I even bother in the first place? 

      Answer: Because I enjoy writing, and I want to improve my skillz! And I don’t care if I’m meticulous or too crazy about it! BAM!

8.)   Sometimes I wish I could make my blog posts look sleek and beautiful! I’m talking about graphics, of course! How do you bloggers do it? Is there a crash course I can take somewhere? Because I don’t think I can do this self-taught non-sense you’re about to tell me! Why can't I be a creative genius on the interwebz??? *cries*

9.)   Every time I walk into my local library, whether it’s to return a book or pay a fine, I have to walk out with something new to read. Even if I know the books will never be read, it gives me comfort to walk out loaded with OPTIONS! I limit myself to 3-5 books on every trip, so I’m NOT completely unrestrained. Hey, the library lets me take 7 at a time. So, I am limiting myself, even if I’m not doing myself any favors. But haven’t you heard? The ever-growing TBR pile is ever-growing! I’m just not quitting while I'm ahead!

10.)  My collection of (physical) modern YA books is relatively small, 72 books to be exact. And do you want to know what the crazy part is? I still haven’t read even half of what I own. It’s shameful, but you know, I blame the library books!

That's all for now!
What are some of your bookish confessions?
Do we share any of the ones I listed?
Talk to me! :)

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Book Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill

All Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill
September 3, 2013
360 pages
Source: purchased


What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside. 

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it... at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

Important note: This review was very difficult to write. While it remains spoiler-free, keep in mind, I've left out important details about the plot and characterization to spare you.

My Take On It

Cristin Terrill’s debut is an exhilarating ride, but make no mistake, it serves to provoke feeling and thinking, just as much as it serves to entertain. All Our Yesterdays is a story of ambition gone wrong. It is a story involving the collapse of democracy, but more than this, it is a story about sacrifice and the resolve to change the past in order to save the future. It’s a story about the complications of time travel, and the focus isn’t necessarily on how the world is affected by it, but rather, how a select few, the ones involved in the chaos, react to it. It is a tale of love, loss, friendship, and the test of morality.

Terrill excels at characters. Told from dual narratives, alternating between the past and present, protagonists Em and Marina couldn’t be any more different. At present, Em goes back in time to prevent the destruction of the future, to prevent the time machine from being created, but her main goal is to save Marina from the emotional damage caused by The One Responsible. Four years ago, a tragedy in Marina’s best friend’s life, changes the direction of the future and will ultimately, alter the past – unless Em can be there to stop it. Worlds collide in this fast-paced sci-fi thriller, and only one girl, one outcome, can win.

No one ever said saving the world would be easy, much less attainable on your own. Em has help from her boyfriend and former cellmate, Finn. Finn has charisma while Em is the no non-sense type. Em thinks with her brain, and after the torment of the last four years, being held prisoner for reasons beyond her control, you wouldn’t blame her if you could. But the brilliant thing about Em, is that she has a heart too, though she’d rather you not know it. Saving the world means getting her hands dirty, and in some cases, dipped in blood. Can Em ignore her sense of mortality for the greater good? Or will she have to find another way, to save the innocent girl, Marina? Lucky for her, Em has Finn to help her through her darkest hour. Finn, who is optimistic and makes a dire situation feel less ominous, is the perfect love interest for Em. Finn’s wit and gentle nature lift Em when circumstances are bleak. They’re supportive of one another, and I swear, their romance is worth swooning over – especially because they started out by hating each other. Their relationship develops so earnestly; it’s touching and tragic all at once, and yet, you root for their love just as much as you root for their near impossible and suicidal mission.

On the other side, we have Marina, a teenager discovering love for the first time. She’s rich, selfish, and a little naïve, but she lives to protect the guy of her dreams. She’s fallen for her neighbor and childhood best friend, James. A prodigy of science, James isn’t looking at Marina the way she looks at him. Instead, he’s looking to change the world. After an unfortunate event changes his attitude about life and death, James looks to science for salvation. But he can’t begin his life’s work without keeping Marina close by. His vision to perfect the future by changing the past raises questions about mortality and ethics, but there’s a lot more to James than I’m letting on. Terrill’s characters are complex, and the relationships between them even more so; but I wouldn’t dare rob you the experience of getting to know them. Be prepared to become emotionally invested – in both the good, the bad, and the gray.

Alongside the phenomenal character development, the plot is written with great finesse. There’s urgency in the way it is written; it’ll get your heart pumping and feet kicking. You’ll turn page after page without wanting to stop until you reach the very end. What makes this story even more noteworthy is the way the science is written. The time travel is accessible, but at the same time, it isn’t overly simple. There are paradoxes and loop holes, and the only way to appreciate this novel is to experience it yourself.

Needless to say, the plot, the characters, and the pacing are written with great care, and the THOUGHTFUL and EXPLOSIVE ending adds to the brilliance of this novel. The only complaint I have, if small, comes from the world-building. I would’ve loved to see descriptions of the current state of the world in place of the telling, but this is easily fixable. If Terrill remains true to the strengths of this novel and enriches the world with detail and definition, there’s absolutely no way the sequel and series conclusion will disappoint. As a thoroughly impressive debut, I expect Cristin Terrill’s writing career will have a bright and lasting future. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here!

Connect with author Cristin Terrill: website / goodreads / twitter / facebook

Read more reviews of All Our Yesterdays:
Ivy Book Bindings
Late Nights with Good Books
My Friends Are Fiction

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