Ya Asylum

Saturday, August 30th 2014

Review: Secrets of a Social Outcast, by Francene Carroll

Secrets of a Social OutcastSecrets of a Social Outcast by Francene Carroll
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eBook
Source: ARC from author
Goodreads
Gabrielle Bridges has always found it easy to fit in at school but at the beginning of Year 8 her life changes dramatically. First, the boy she's been crushing on for ages is mean to her, then she's kicked out of her friendship group. To top it off her BFF moves away to Sydney. Just when Gabby thinks things couldn't get any worse, Annakey Lucas, the nastiest bully in her year, decides to turn the whole school against her.How will Gabby survive Yr 8 when her entire life is falling to pieces?
Buy the Book (Book Depository)Buy the Book (Amazon)

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Another note: the following review will most likely contain copious ranting, sarcasm, exasperated GIFs, and other scathing diatribes against this book. You have been warned.

I just… am so, so incredibly disappointed right now. I had such high hopes for Secrets of a Social Outcast, but it did not work out for me. At all. By the middle of the book I was forcing myself to stick it out through the end in hopes that it might improve. No such luck – the ending seemed at best predictable and at worst contrived.

The Lord is Testing Me

Although there were quite a few things that irked me about Secrets of a Social Outcast, I think it really boils down to one major thing: the MC and I never quite clicked. Secrets is written in diary format by Gabrielle Bridges (aka Gabby and/or Wednesday Addams, depending on one’s relationship with her). From the beginning, her voice grated on my nerves. Gabby is whiny, naive, and almost startlingly self-centred. On the first page itself she endears herself to her lovely readers with this wonderful passage on her supposedly non-brain dead state and how she’s being deprived of – AND I QUOTE – the “basic necessities of life”. (Woe is me.)

I wish I could keep this diary on my laptop like a normal person but my parents check my computer all the time in case I get stalked by a paedophile (or more likely to find out if I’m looking at stuff I’m not supposed to). Seriously! Do they really think I’m going to hook up with a total stranger I meet online? I’m not completely brain dead but they obviously don’t agree because I have no privacy whatsoever. I’m not even allowed to have Facebook until I’m 14 and that’s almost a year away. I don’t know how I’m going to survive till then. All my friends and even my 10 year old cousin are on there. It’s so embarrassing being the odd one out. It’s totally my parents’ fault for depriving me of the basic necessities of life. If I end up being a social outcast it will all be their fault.

Well, I’m sorry your feelings are hurt, princess. Indeed, HOW are you going to SURVIVE without the staple of life that is Facebook? Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll all come to your funeral once you die of technology deprivation.

Continuing on with the list of Gabby’s crimes: she’s so hypocritical, it’s almost laughable. Case in point: when Annakey Lucas, a girl at her school who Gabby identifies as “Skanky Annakey”, starts making fun of her behind her back, she has the gall to be offended and even complains to her dear diary about how she doesn’t know what she’s done to deserve this. On page 17:

I can’t believe she’s doing this. I’ve barely even spoken to her and I can’t think of anything I’ve done to make her hate me.

WELL, THEN TRY THINKING HARDER.

Thank goodness, in the second half of the book Gabby becomes slightly more bearable. Unfortunately, the reason for this is that suddenly the whole school starts hating her and she has no friends whatsoever. So why exactly does it take severe bullying for Gabby to start maturing? (Now, isn’t that the million-dollar question.) The thing that made me really sad, however, was that I just could not relate to Gabby at all. Even when reached her lowest point and began self-harming, and no matter how many times she announced that her “life was ending” (and believe me, there were quite a few times), I just couldn’t feel the desolation. There was always a part of my mind wondering why she had to be so melodramatic. On page 35, she complains about her parents:

My whole life is falling to pieces and they think I’m sulking like a spoiled brat!

And I’m just sitting here going… I dunno, sweetheart, you seem pretty bratty to me.

Then, in the span of a week, Gabby goes from cutting herself to totally defiant and set on the decision that no bully is going to affect her own self-perception. And okay, I can understand how an experience like that might want you to turn yourself around, but a week? How can she do a complete 180 that quickly?

Not to mention – what a coincidence that all the bullies are caught in the act, in the same week. (I can’t be the only one who sees something very, very wrong there.)

Fast-forward to when Gabby’s tentatively building up her social status once more. You’d think that she might have learned something from the whole bullying episode and mellowed out a little bit, right?

No such luck. She calls good ol’ Skanky Annakey a “worthless slut” TO HER FACE, quoting Annakey’s own father – which, I gotta say, is a pretty low blow. Later she goes onto announce that Annakey deserved it and she wouldn’t have done anything different given the chance. So who exactly is the bully here…?

Some more choice gems, from page 55:

Even Annakey didn’t say anything to me or Brooke today. She was much quieter than she usually is, probably because she’s scared of getting into trouble again. I wish she’d just do something and be expelled once and for all. We all know it’s going to happen eventually and that she’ll end up a complete no-hoper just like her parents.

And from pages 65-66, Gabby’s reaction to Annakey’s genuine apology for the bullying:

I know the only reason she apologised is because everyone hates her. She’s seen me hanging out with Lochie [popular boy] and some of the cool kids so she thinks if she becomes friends with me then that will be a way for her to get back in with her old friends … I got really angry and said, “I know it’s only because you have no friends and you’re just trying to use me. You can take your apology and shove it. There’s nothing you can say to make up for what you did to me and I’m glad you’re finally getting what you deserve.”

Anyway. I think you get the general gist: girl is mean, ignorant, and immature. Girl gets bullied. Girl is now mean, ignorant, slightly more mature, and about a hundred times preachier.  My eyes are hurting from the amount of times I rolled them reading this book. Perhaps if so much of Secrets wasn’t spent in Gabby’s head I might have found it slightly more tolerable, but that isn’t the case. Had it not been for my policy of not DNFing ARCs, I most certainly wouldn’t have struggled through it all.

Take my advice: skip over this one. You’ll thank yourself for it.

topaz2

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Thursday, August 28th 2014

Moving to Montreal + Grad School + Signing With An Agent

Heeeey all! 

It’s the reclusive Kim here. I know, I know. I’ve been horrible about updating lately, but this summer has been a lot of rushing around for me.

As some of you might know, I’m moving to Montreal (should be in Canada when this post goes live!). As you read this post, I’m probably on the road from Kansas City to Montreal. I’ll be starting my classes at McGill next week. I’m pursuing a Masters in Information Studies (which is essentially a librarian science degree). I’d love to become a Youth Service Librarian in the future, with a focus on YA and MG fiction :)

I plan to have a lot more regular posts, probably around two per week. And the lovely Topaz is going to keep posting too, like the awesome girl she is. But it will probably be a week before I can do that. I gotta get situated in my new apartment.

(Don’t worry, I’m bringing more books with me than clothes to Montreal.)

On top of that, I have some even more exciting news. I’ve mentioned from time to time that I also write YA fiction. On Tuesday, I signed with Carrie Pestritto of Prospect Agency. So I’m officially an agented writer (yayyy). You can read more about here at my How I Got My Agent post if you want.

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Wednesday, August 27th 2014

Book Blitz: IN THE REARVIEW by Maria Ann Green

Check out Maria Ann Green’s In the Rearview promo event hosted by Itching for Books. Continue for an excerpt and enter the giveaway:



22877564
Release date: August 19th 2014
Publisher: Astraea Press
Purchase: Amazon | B&N

Synopsis via Goodreads:

When Meagan’s secret is found out, and she realizes there is no way to outrun her habit of cutting, she tries to work through it, and her depression, before she cuts too deep, making a mistake that can never be undone.
 
Meagan’s problems aren’t like every other adolescent’s no matter how much she wishes they could be. Hers are worse. They’ve pulled her down into the depths of a depression that is anything but normal. She begins her pattern of self-harm as her depression threatens to drown her. She starts with one cut that leads to the next, and the next. After starting, it’s apparent that there’s no stopping, and Meagan spirals into a dark and cruel world she doesn’t understand. Meagan cuts to feel better, but that comfort doesn’t last long enough, and soon life is worse than it ever was before.
 
While learning to quit cutting Meagan faces life-altering obstacles and grows up in the process. IN THE REARVIEW is a story of pain, loss, confusion, and hope told through Meagan’s poems, journal entries, and a splash of narrative.




Maria Ann Green

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maria Green currently lives in Minnesota, despite its bitter winters, with her husband. She graduated with a degree in Psychology and a minor in English. When she isn’t writing, Maria loves to read with a cup of strong coffee or a glass of sweet wine, craft, and spend time with her family. This is her first published novel. 

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

 
 
 


EXCERPT
===============
 

 

 Meagan stared down at her desk. Her focus moved beyond the assignment in front of her without actually seeing what she was looking toward. There were lines, spaces of white, and blobs of writing, but nothing seemed important enough to consider closely.  Truthfully she didn’t care. 


 She didn’t feel the need to focus. 
 Her gaze slowly moved up to the front of the classroom, and again she fixated on a point past what was before her. She did not concentrate on the teacher. There was a face, a moving mouth, but she didn’t connect it with the sounds struggling slowly, like sticky sludge past her ears. She didn’t hear the instructions being uttered; each word fell on deaf ears as she mindlessly doodled. 

 

 Twisting her hair around her finger, she thought about how nice it would be to be at home, in bed, with the curtains closed instead of in this loud and hyper school. It seemed her classmates had recently started caring too much about what was going on around them. There was too much drama, too much noise, too much concern jumping all around her. It was all so taxing. 


 It was such a bother. 
 Meagan, in contrast, was usually in a world of her own. Her head felt fuzzy most of the time, and unless she used a lot of energy, most conversations sounded muffled, like there was cotton in her ears. She didn’t feel the need to engage anymore. Her desire to try so hard just to do what had once come easily had dwindled to nothing. At first she’d tried, but not now. Not anymore. It had become too difficult to care. 
 And that was her biggest problem. Meagan didn’t care much about any of these changes. She was fine walking through school without any effort. Her feet felt a little heavier as each day passed, and her head felt a little more under pressure of a crushing fog that numbed her, but she pushed through it all. She didn’t mind neglecting what used to bring her excitement. In fact, it was just easier not to give a crap. 
 Everything was distinctly lackluster these days.


 
 
 
 
 
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Tuesday, August 26th 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Want to Read But Don’t Own Yet

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Check out their lovely blog right here!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is: Top Ten Books I Want to Read But Don’t Own Yet. The list of books that fall into this category grows every single day, so of COURSE I had to do the meme this week! (Alas, the list of books that falls into the category of those that are sitting on my shelf and that I beat myself up every day for still not having read is, if possible, even longer… but that’s a TTT for another day. ;))

1. Angelfallby Susan Ee. Ok, I’ll admit it: the first thing that caught my eye was the cover of this book because DAMN, that thing is freaking beautiful. *drools* But also, I’m kind of a sucker for angely/demony stories and unfortunately, I haven’t read one in waaaaaay too long. :( One of my friends was raving about this series and now I’m sososo excited to read it (and to have that cover proudly displayed on my shelf!).

2. Hoodby Stephen R. Lawhead. Another thing I’m a total sucker for: fairytale retellings. Granted, Robin Hood isn’t really a fairytale, per se, but the premise of this is so incredibly cool that I really want to get my hands on it. :D (Also, what is it with all these beautiful covers?! I just really want to collect them all. THEY SHALL BE MINE ONE DAY.)

4. The Shatter Me series, by Tahereh Mafi. I actually have read Shatter Me and Unravel Me and fell head over heels in love with them, but then the last two books were checked out of the library for like two months so I kind of forgot about this series. Fast forward another couple of weeks and the international version of Ignite Me comes out, so of course my local bookstore decides to do a massive sale of all of the Shatter Me books… except for Shatter Me itself, apparently?????

What the Hell?!

Since then I still haven’t been able to find Shatter Me and it is driving me absolutely INSANE. One of these days I will, though, and then I’m binge-reading the entire series. I cry inside every single time I see those three lonely books on my shelf without the one that started them all off. :P

5. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Childrenby Ransom Riggs. I’m having such an internal dilemma with this one because only the first two books in the series are out and I have a policy of only reading series when all the books are published if I can help it. But I’ve heard great things about these books and now I’m dying to at least get my hands on the first one since I LOVE his writing style. (Actually, I first discovered him through the Shatter Me series and I’m not even going to pretend that he and Tahereh aren’t SO FREAKING CUTE TOGETHER ASDKFJA;LSKJLJSDF.)

6. Anna and the French Kissby Stephanie Perkins. There has been so much hype for this book and the premise is ADORABLE (plus: Paris oh my goodness there are no words for how much I love Paris), so I would love to give it a try! Of course, I do need the boxed set of all three books in the series because who doesn’t love boxed sets? So I’m waiting until I can find that at a decent price to read these books, but I’m very very excited for it!

7. A Company of Swansby Eva Ibbotson. Eva Ibbotson was a huge staple author for me as a kid – she’s written so many awesome MG books, but I never realised she wrote YA until now. I have no doubt that this one will be as great as all of her others, and since it features Swan Lake (which is, by the way, only the best opera that has ever been and will ever be written), romance, a headstrong narrator, and the mysticism of the Amazon, how could I ever resist? :D

8. An Abundance of Katherinesby John Green. Looking for Alaska left me crying openly in a coffee shop. TFiOS left me clutching a pillow and sobbing into it for an hour straight (not even exaggerating here). See a pattern? ;) John Green’s books do tend to have the whole why-am-I-even-alive-the-world-is-a-terrible-place kind of effect on me… so of course, it’s logical that I should want to buy ALLLLLL THE BOOKS! I love the premise of An Abundance of Katherines, so that’s next on my list for John Green! Hopefully this one won’t leave me like the other ones did, although at this point I’m not holding out much hope. :P

A Lot of Feelings

9. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sightby Jennifer E. Smith. I came upon this one when I was trolling the internet for awesome book titles, hoping to find inspiration for my then-WIP (since I’m terrible at naming anything). I’ve read quite a few great reviews on it, plus the premise is asdfghjkl; adorable, so I would love to give it a try. Plus, I’ve always wanted to read a book that was set during a very short period of time, and this one is only 24 hours long, so that’ll be one more thing to check off my bucket list! ;)

10. Love, Stargirlby Jerry Spinelli. I believe I’ve made it quite clear how absolutely amazing Stargirl was (namely: if you haven’t read it, GO READ IT RIGHT NOW OR ELSE YOUR LIFE WILL NEVER BE COMPLETE). I can’t even believe I’ve put off reading Love, Stargirl for so long, but I kind of really really want my own copy to go along with Stargirl on my bookshelf. I’m just sentimental like that. :P It is pretty old so I don’t think I’ll be finding it in any physical bookstores, but it’ll most certainly be in my next Book Depository order!

What books are you dying to read that you don’t own yet?

topaz

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Thursday, August 21st 2014

Discussion: Do You Reread Books?

Here’s a confession: I enjoy rereading books.

I enjoy it for a lot of reasons. I love immersing myself in my favourite stories over and over and over again. Sometimes I just want a quick and easy read, something that isn’t going to terribly tax my brain. It’s handy when there’s a film coming out and I want to brush up on the details just so I can nitpick at the cinema (“why is her shirt red in that scene? IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE PURPLE POLKA-DOTTED!”). It helps me pick out little details I never would have noticed the first time around. Sometimes, I reread books just because I feel like it.

And here’s another confession: some of my absolute favourite books in the universe to reread aren’t even the best ones.

Take the Twilight sagafor example.

Excuse Me?

Yes indeed – as shocking as it may sound, and as taboo as these books are in the world of YA, I truly enjoyed them. Although there are, of course, problems in the characters and plot, the Twilight books are some of my favourites when I’m not really in the mood for anything particularly intellectually stimulating. Curling up with them feels like talking with an old friend – it’s easy and familiar and perfect when I’m feeling down or when I’m exhausted and don’t want the hassle of having to read a brand-new book.

Then, of course, there are the usual culprits, the fluffy, happy, fun books I reread over and over again. Fangirl is the number one book that comes to mind when I think of this, mostly because I can open it up to any page at all, read it, and walk away with a smile on my face. (ANY PAGE. I SWEAR.)

I’ve never reread some of my favourite books in the universe (More Than This, lookin’ at you!), if only because the memories connected to the first read were too precious to let go of. Others I’ve reread multiple times, even if I didn’t particularly enjoy them (The Hunger Games falls into that category) – I’m actually not entirely sure why, what hidden factor determines their rereadability, but I follow my instinct on those!

I think in the bookish world, people are really split in half on this topic: some love to reread books, while some never do it. So what about you? Do you reread? Why (or why not)? Let’s have a discussion!

Do you reread books?

topaz

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Tuesday, August 19th 2014

Review + Giveaway: IN THE REARVIEW by Maria Ann Green

IN THE REARVIEWIN THE REARVIEW by Maria Ann Green
Genres: Contemporary
Published by Astraea Press on August 19th, 2014
Format: eBook
Source: ARC from author, Bought

Please Note: I received this book for free from ARC from author, Bought in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads
When Meagan’s secret is found out, and she realizes there is no way to outrun her habit of cutting, she tries to work through it, and her depression, before she cuts too deep, making a mistake that can never be undone.

Meagan's problems aren't like every other adolescent's no matter how much she wishes they could be. Hers are worse. They've pulled her down into the depths of a depression that is anything but normal. She begins her pattern of self-harm as her depression threatens to drown her. She starts with one cut that leads to the next, and the next. After starting, it's apparent that there's no stopping, and Meagan spirals into a dark and cruel world she doesn't understand. Meagan cuts to feel better, but that comfort doesn't last long enough, and soon life is worse than it ever was before.

While learning to quit cutting Meagan faces life-altering obstacles and grows up in the process. IN THE REARVIEW is a story of pain, loss, confusion, and hope told through Meagan’s poems, journal entries, and a splash of narrative.
Verdict?: This is a book worth buying!
Buy the Book (Book Depository)Buy the Book (Amazon)

REVIEW

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book to review by Maria Ann, and am so thankful!

I absolutely loved this book, it was so creative and interestingly written. There is journal entries and third person POV mixed in throughout the story. Usually, third person POV seems so stiff and hard to connect with the characters — but Maria Ann Green has a talent for third person POV. It had voice and it was easy to connect to Meagan and her journey. 

Meagan struggles with doubt and depression, and finds her only source for relief through cutting. It was interesting to get into the mind of a character that thought this was a good idea — even though she kinda already knew it wasn’t. The journey from deciding to cut, to cutting, to deciding not to cut was a painful one for Meagan, and the reader. She’s a nice girl, who has flaws and brilliance both. I wouldn’t say she made a mistake, this book isn’t about judging the habit, but about trying to break free of it for Meagan.

Poor Meagan, when she finally does, her high school experience continues to have ups and downs. This is one of those interesting books that flows from MG, when Meagan is in middle school, to NA — when she is in college. Due to this, a lot of moments and sometime a whole year will be skimmed over. I kinda wish I could have known more about what happened then, but since the book is spanning such a large period of time I understand why the author wouldn’t stop for these moments if nothing important to her journey was really happening. I kinda would’ve liked to see more of her relationships as well, because it’s not until the last one that we really get to see what it’s like for Meagan. Otherwise, it is in the journal entries that they are skimmed over. Again, though, since this isn’t a romance book I understand that aspect.

Overall, I give this book my seal of approval. If you are looking for a dark issue book, this debut is for you. 

OOOOOH! By the way: THERE IS POETRY! I love poetry, but I can’t write it worth anything. I loved that aspect about the book. Meagan’s journal entries were broken up by her poetry, and you learn so much about what she is feeling and what she has gone through/is going through with her poems. Some are short, some are long, but all are beautiful. There are so many gem lines and poems, I started to keep a list for my favorite quotes:

BEAUTIFUL QUOTES:

BlurbThing2

GIVEAWAY PACKAGE:

The How:

Anyone who buys my book, IN THE REARVIEW, in any e-version the first week it’s out, August 19th – 26th, and sends me an email verification (screen shot your purchase confirmation, forward the confirmation email, take a picture of your computer screen – honestly whatever works) will be entered into the drawing to win a pretty cool set of prizes. Send the emails to: magauthorgiveaway@gmail.com

The Who:

There will be THREE winers.

The What:

If you win there are a few things you will be getting. 

First, you will receive a gifted copy of my next published book in any e-version that you prefer.
Second, because there is poetry in this book, I will write you poem that is specifically for you. The winner can feel free to provide personal information or likes to make the poem more specialized, but that is not required by any means.
Third, I will name a character after each winner in my next book. I cannot guarantee that the character will live, or be a good guy, but the winners will get to be a character in a manuscript of mine.
Fourth, and finally, each winner will get a mention, by name, in my next acknowledgments page. Fans are so essential. I really do appreciate everyone who is willing to spend their hard earned money on me and my little book, so this one is the most important piece to me for my giveaway.

*Giveaway package: Don’t forget that the giveaway package entries can be sent through August 26th.

 About the Author:

Maria Green currently lives in Minnesota, despite its bitter winters, with her husband. She graduated with a degree in Psychology and a minor in English. When she isn’t writing, Maria loves to read with a cup of strong coffee or a glass of sweet wine, craft, and spend time with her family. This is her first published novel.
Vist her WEBSITE, BLOG, TWITTER, FACEBOOK, and add her on GOODREADS, add her book on GOODREADS.
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Monday, August 18th 2014

Release Day: SHAMELESS! A Brilliant NA Debut

 

Kim: HEY EVERYONE! So here’s the thing about NAs: I don’t generally like them. They are all so much of the same thing, over and over again. Innocent girl goes to college meets boy (either professor or bad boy — or both), stops being innocent, sexual awakening, nothing but romance contemporary YA with sex. That’s pretty much what a lot of it is. And that’s cool, if that’s what you like. To each their own. I don’t like that.

I like darker fiction. I like stuff with more than just romance as a plot. And that’s why I loved SHAMELESS. It’s a gritty, edgy contemporary set in somewhere interesting and rare: Montreal [okay, maybe the small fact that I will be moving to Montreal next week has some to do with that too ;)]. I love flawed characters, and everyone is flawed but likable and strong and I loved them. 

Bottom Line: Even if NA isn’t your thing, trust me: SHAMELESS is worth reading.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

22447460Publication Date: August 18th 2014Synopsis via Goodreads:
~New Adult Contemporary Romance — recommended for mature readers~
 
Girls like me don’t get happy endings.
 
I know what I am. At worst a cliché, at best a cautionary tale. I put an international border between me and my past, only to wind up working in a low-end titty bar. Even my excuse is as lame as it gets: I’m paying for college, getting my art degree from Montreal’s most prestigious school. Although some days it becomes confusing: am I just a student who moonlights as a stripper, or a stripper who masquerades as a student?
 
But the inevitable happens and my two lives collide. And now there’s one other person who knows both the quiet, antisocial Hannah and the sensual, shameless Alicia. One person who keeps my secret.
 
He’s beautiful, he’s sophisticated. He comes from the other side of life, the one where I’m not wanted or accepted. But he calls me la petite Américaine, and his hot, hot hands on my skin promise me things I long ago gave up on.
 
The problem? He teaches my Classic Photography class.
 
This is a standalone novel, no series, no cliffhanger.
 
 
Nina Lemay

About the Author

Nina Lemay is a YA writer by day and author of sinfully twisted New Adult…well, also by day. She loves all things dark and edgy and never tires of tormenting her characters. While Nina is a fan of all things scary, Gothic, and fantastic, she doesn’t shy away from a gritty contemporary romance when the muse strikes. She lives in Montreal, a city that never fails to inspire, with her partner and her dog.

ninalemay.com | twitter.com/NinaLemay

 
 
 
Guest Post
================
 
Thank you so much for helping me launch SHAMELESS into the world. Being a writer, especially an indie debut author, is often lonely and occasionally scary. All the support I’ve had with SHAMELESS just blew me away. You guys are amazing!
SHAMELESS is set in Montreal. Why Montreal, you ask? Montreal was the perfect setting for many reasons.
 
First… well, I’ve never read a New Adult novel set in Montreal. Actually, I haven’t read that many novels set in Montreal at all. It’s always a big city in the US, New York or LA or Chicago, and when the story needs a touch of exoticism, New Orleans. So I said to myself, how is Montreal worse than New Orleans? At least here we actually speak French, you know?

 

Montreal is a Canadian city, kind of on the small side (give or take 2 million people) and yes, it speaks French. French is the only official language of the province of Quebec, but in the heart of Montreal you can usually get by in English too. Montreal is known for a kind of libertine attitude and what we call joie de vivre—you gotta, when it’s freezing nine months of the year. I took this picture in the middle of April, after I woke up to a surprise snowstorm (surprise!).
Good music (Montreal is home to the giant outdoor Jazz Festival and several others throughout the summer), good food (and I don’t just mean poutine) and good nightlife is what it’s known for. It also has a sort of European feel to it. This is from when I lived on the Plateau, aka the French-speaking hipster neighborhood par excellence:

 

Coffee shop on the Plateau:


In the downtown core, the area is more English and more touristy. And I didn’t exaggerate: there really are strip clubs all along Ste-Catherine, the main shopping street of downtown Montreal. Here’s one right above a teen clothing store!

 

Quebec City, where Hannah and Emmanuel go for the long weekend, is one of the oldest settlements in North America and the provincial capital. About three hours by car to the north of Montreal, Ville de Quebec has the look and feel of a majestic European city.
I went to university with many people who moved across the continent to go to school here, and I always admired (and was kind of envious of) the courage it takes. So when I wrote Hannah, a girl who’s desperate to escape her high school years no matter the cost, I thought, what better place to run away to than Montreal?

 

 

 

 
 

 

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Thursday, August 14th 2014

On Love, Ukeleles, and Strong Female Characters

“We need strong female characters!”

Ever heard that one before?

I’m betting you have, especially lately with the feminism debate that’s been circling the internet. The recent release of the Divergent film – which I haven’t seen or read, but which does feature one of these “strong female characters” – has answered the call, along with some old favourites that are being brought back around to counter the argument. You know the ones: Katniss, from The Hunger Games. Juliette, from Shatter Me. Tauriel, from The Hobbit (just the film, though – she’s not in the book).

And while I have absolutely nothing against these characters - actually, I think they are wonderful and such great examples of courage, and justice, and standing up for what you know is right – today I wanted to talk about somebody else, someone who I have not seen yet in the Great Internet Literary War (which, of course, I did not just make up ;)).

This girl is brave, eccentric, and totally awesome, and she doesn’t get talked about nearly enough. It’s Stargirl, from Jerry Spinelli’s book of the same name.

Stargirl isn’t the first person who comes to mind when somebody utters the words “strong female character” – she doesn’t really have any special skills, as far as I know she’s never held a weapon in her life, she enjoys playing the ukelele and has a pet rat (not really prime warrior material!), and at the end of Stargirl, she vanishes – or, as some might see it, runs away from Leo and the bullying she faces in Mica (highlight the previous text for MAJOR book spoilers, those of you who have read it!).

And yet, Stargirl’s quiet strength and the way she manages to constantly, without fail find the best in every single person – even those who don’t deserve her kindness – places her high, high up on my list of awesome protagonists. It would have been so incredibly easy to turn her into one of those sickeningly perfect characters – and, on first glance, that’s what she might seem like – but she most certainly has her weaknesses. Paradoxically, her biggest flaw is also her biggest strength: Stargirl loves with everything she has. She gives away all of herself with no thought to what she’ll get back. And I think that’s so difficult. I think it’s so hard to not hold back anything, to forget all of your previous wounds and all the times you’ve been hurt before. The fact that Stargirl is able to do this with such ease makes her rare and lovely, and most certainly one of my favourite bookish girls. Why do I love her so much?

You're Special

What Stargirl exemplifies is something I believe that today’s girls have to take to heart - you don’t have to be Katniss or Tris or Juliette or Tauriel. You don’t have to lead every single battle or throw punches left and right or kill everybody that stands in the path to success. Being strong isn’t about filling in traditional male roles – and Stargirl never tried to do that. For her, it was always about embracing who she was, and not succumbing to who the world wanted her to be. That’s a message girls need to know: you can play the ukelele. You can believe in enchanted places. You can fall hopelessly, madly in love and not sacrifice everything for that love. You can fall out of love, too. You can do all of these things and more, and it doesn’t make you “weak”. Although there is most certainly a merit in being a master archer who’s never missed a mark, we can’t forget that strength can also be at the opposite end of the spectrum.

So amongst all the cries for strong female characters, let’s not forget that sometimes, they can be hiding in the unlikeliest of places – the girls who aren’t afraid to just be girls. Stargirl is beautiful, and unique, and she is a gem that we can’t lose – not now, not ever.

Who are your favourite unlikely strong female characters?

topaz2

posted by kim
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Wednesday, August 13th 2014

COVER REVEAL: IN THE REARVIEW

InTheRearview-MariaAnnGreen

GUYS!!!! I need you to know this: I LOVE MARIA ANN GREEN! She’s the nicest person ever. I’ve also read this book and LOVE this book. It’s very interesting!

Title: In the Rearview
Author: Maria Ann Green
Genre: YA Contemporary
Release date: August 19th (ADD IT ON GOODREADS!!!)

When Meagan’s secret is found out, and she realizes there is no way to outrun her habit of cutting, she tries to work through it, and her depression, before she cuts too deep, making a mistake that can never be undone.

Meagan’s problems aren’t like every other adolescent’s no matter how much she wishes they could be. Hers are worse. They’ve pulled her down into the depths of a depression that is anything but normal. She begins her pattern of self-harm as her depression threatens to drown her. She starts with one cut that leads to the next, and the next. After starting, it’s apparent that there’s no stopping, and Meagan spirals into a dark and cruel world she doesn’t understand. Meagan cuts to feel better, but that comfort doesn’t last long enough, and soon life is worse than it ever was before.

While learning to quit cutting Meagan faces life-altering obstacles and grows up in the process. IN THE REARVIEW is a story of pain, loss, confusion, and hope told through Meagan’s poems, journal entries, and a splash of narrative.

Photo-4ABOUT MARIA ANN GREEN: Maria Green currently lives in Minnesota, despite its bitter winters, with her husband. She graduated with a degree in Psychology and a minor in English. When she isn’t writing, Maria loves to read with a cup of strong coffee or a glass of sweet wine, craft, and spend time with her family. This is her first published novel.

HER WEBSITE / BLOG / TWITTER / GOODREADS

 

posted by kim
Posted in: Book Talk
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2 Comments

Monday, August 11th 2014

Discussion: Do You Listen to Audiobooks?

It seems that lately, there’s been an ever-growing market in the literary world even besides eBooks and, of course, the traditional physical books. It’s happening with indie titles and bestsellers alike – they’re being converted to audiobooks. Everywhere I look, bloggers and bookworms are jumping onto the audiobook train and raving about the virtues of this new form of reading.

But I, for one, am a little leery of audiobooks. I’ve tried them out a couple of times in the past, and I must say I haven’t had a particularly spectacular experience with them – rather, the ones that I’ve listened to had flat, boring narrators and left me constantly checking to see how much of the book was left so I could move onto something more interesting. It was a real disappointment for me, since it would have been lovely to have something to do while exercising or on the bus to and from school, and I’m never opposed to squeezing in a little bookish love during the more mundane parts of my day!

It could just be because I crave excitement in my books, and with traditional reading I can weave the stories into life and hear the characters’ voices in my head. But with audiobooks, it seems that someone else is doing all the work for me - it takes away the experience that I so love about reading. When I listen to books I’ve read and adored, I’m almost shocked by the way the narrator does character voices – sort of like movie adaptations where the actors are not at all what I pictured while reading. It’s a bit of an unpleasant feeling!

So what do you guys think? Am I just choosing the wrong audiobooks or narrators to listen to? Any recommendations for better ones? Do you enjoy audiobooks, or do you prefer to stick with traditional reading?

Let me know – I’d love to have a discussion.

topaz

posted by kim
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