home           about           reviews           author insight           review policy

Friday, January 31, 2014

Vitro Blog Tour and Guest
Post by Jessica Khoury

by Jessica Khoury

Release Date: Jan. 14, 2014
Publisher: Razorbill

When Sophie is summoned by her long-absent mother, a scientist who works in a classified lab, Sophie throws caution to the wind and heads to the South Pacific. She sweet-talks her way onto a tiny supply plane piloted by Jim Julien, who lives on Guam with his alcoholic father. Jim is captivated by Sophie and against his better judgement agrees to take Sophie to the secretive and tropical Skin Island where her mom has been working for so many years.

There Sophie and Jim are met not by her mother but instead by Nicholas, a handsome, brilliant boy who leads them to Lux--a girl who looks exactly like Sophie. Lux is Sophie's genetic twin and was bred using in vitro fertilization. But why? And just what have the scientists created Lux to be capable of?

With lyrical writing and ever-increasing tension, Jessica Khoury draws out the explosive answers in her much-anticipated follow-up to Origin.

About the Author

Jessica Khoury is 23 years old. She has red hair. She was homeschooled. She's an avid soccer player and was a three-time All-American striker. She is of Syrian and Scottish descent. She went to college in the same tiny Georgia town in which she was born and raised. And she's a prodigiously talented writer with a huge following.

Jessica Khoury lives in Toccoa, GA with her husband, Benjamin. 

 Find Jessica online...
                 Website / Blog / Facebook
                 Pinterest / Twitter / Tumblr

Characters Unveiled

Sophie’s journey in Vitro is one of discovery: discovering secrets about her mother, truths about her own past, and ultimately discovering herself. Writing this book was also a story of discovery for me, in many ways. One of the primary things I discovered is that characters, when they have a mind to, can completely surprise you and change everything about your book.

I’d heard of characters who surprised their authors by running off and plotting their own stories, and while I’d had a few minor cases of this in previous projects, I hadn’t really understood it until Vitro. The cast of Origin was like a well-behaved first grade class that lines up when told and sits quietly during class and only runs wild during the allotted recess hour. Vitro’s cast was like the first grade class across the hall that spends the morning in riots, the afternoon in mutiny, and recess in absolute chaos. There were characters running amok all over the place, demanding attention in the wrong chapters, showing up too early or too late for their scenes, and causing general mayhem and mischief. Once I’d managed to wrangle them into some kind of sensible plotline, I discovered the villain of the story wasn’t who I’d thought it would be and that other characters had killed themselves off or left the book entirely.

In the end, everything (and everyone) came together into a coherent whole. Despite the occasional threat I made to strike out an unruly character altogether, I also discovered it was fun, this business of discovering the story instead of dictating it. Characters who run away from you feel alive and vibrant, and for a writer, that’s a truly magical feeling—even when it’s exhausting.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Winger by Andrew Smith

Release Date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-book
Source: Purchased
Pages: 439
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

Winger reminds me of The Duff in that I really appreciated a rather minor aspect of the novel. In The Duff, I enjoyed the abundance of cursing. There’s also a plentiful amount of cursing in Winger, but I was more elated about rugby being a central part of the story. As someone who doesn’t understand the American obsession with football, it’s always good to see its manlier and more interesting cousin get its due.

Also much like The Duff, Winger has characters and interactions that I almost always totally believe. The playful insults, where even the most foul-mouth or egregious things act as strange bonding moments, perfectly capture the the way that dudes bond. The novel also captures the way that one guy can absolutely hate another guy personally, but both can still have a strange respect, and almost admiration for, each other. All of the interactions we actually see in the novel are completely believable. My only issues are with a few we don’t see that also end up being the crux of the novel’s final section.

As much as I had to admit it, the internal monologue in Winger is a frighteningly accurate  portrait of a 14-year-old boy. Constant thoughts of sex? Check. Being pretty sure you, and only you, are the only loser at school? Check. Inability not to think that every vaguely attractive female is a 5-out-of-5 Habaneros on the At Least Ryan Dean West Created Better Names Scale? I’m sad to admit it, but yes.

I have zero complaints about the novel’s first three parts. The style and voice are perfect. The characters are all likable, even when they’re jerks, and the interactions are believable. The pacing is brisk: there are zero wasted pages. The plot is always moving and I was always chuckling. The first three chapters are just fun. If the novel reached its climax at the school dance and ended up being a funny story about realizing that being a jerk doesn’t mean you’re growing up or that you’re standing up for yourself, I would have had zero complaints.

I’m still not even sure that I have complaints; I just don’t know how I feel about the final section. In terms of style and execution, I thought the section was fantastic. There are back-to-back three-sentence chapters that perfectly capture West’s reaction and making the reader feel just as surprised and heartbroken as West. Some of the passages are exceedingly well done. One that’s stuck in my brain is the bluntness of the following, which captures how arbitrary the whole thing is: “They got drunk. They were mad. They beat him until he stopped being Joey.” Even the chapter headings change from numerics to topics.

While I’m not going to disparage how the plot shift was handled stylistically, I still don’t know how I feel about the final section. The whole shift in tone and subject material felt like it came from out of left field, even though, looking back, some of the seeds were there. Maybe that was the point: the suddenness with which things can change.

Ryan Dean thinks his lit teacher is stupid for thinking everything boils down to sex. Winger thinks everything boils down to this one thing that people can’t see past when they look at you. I don’t think it’s as simple as either of them makes it out to be. What happened to Joey was about sex, but also about Casey not being able to give up the one thing everyone saw when they looked at him.

I can see the reason for the inclusion of the final section. It allows the author to show both a positive and negative end to the same essential story. While I’m still not totally sure it needed to be included, it did little to affect my overall fondness for the novel. At worst, it gave me something to keep pondering after its final page, much like An Abundance of Katherines and The Duff, which it has no question joined among the favorite novels I’ve read for Wastepaper Prose.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

DNF Review: Legend by Marie Lu

Release Date: Nov. 29, 2011
Publisher: Putnam Publishing Group
Age Group: Young Adult
Format: E-book
Source: Purchased
Pages: 234
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets. 

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

Happy New Year, Wastepaper Prose faithful. I hope your holidays were wonderful and you’re getting back in the swing of regular life. My New Year’s Resolution is to not drop off the face of the blogging earth for four (five?) months this year. With the teary-eyed reunion out of the way, let’s move on to Legend.

This novel marks the first time I’ve started a book for Wastepaper Prose that I just could not finish. While the novel isn’t without its merits, it has a few glaring issues that cause it to commit the cardinal sin: I never once cared about the characters or what happened to them.

All of the novel’s problems boil down to its flagrant violation of the “Show, Don’t Tell” rule.  The problem with Day is that we are told that this washout is the most effective and badass freedom fighter/terrorist around. We’re told about these daring, impossible raids that’s he’s completed, often with just a sentence devoted to them. Then, when we finally see him in action, he is almost killed due to an awful, impulsive plan (though even calling it a “plan” seems generous) that I can’t for a second believe was dreamt up by the same guy we’ve heard about for the previous 40 pages.

The exploits we’re told about require intricate planning, patience, and and understanding of risk versus reward. All we see is a panicked kid whose only savings grace is a bunch of soldiers who make Stormtroopers look like deadeyes. He’s also doing all of this, apparently, for his family, who I think actually had lines in one scene in the half of the book I read. But we’re told they’re really good people and Day cares, so apparently we’re expected to, also.

June’s issues are just as problematic. We meet her for the first time after she’s done something reckless. Again, we’re told about her boredom, reckless streak, and genius (another infuriating choice: wading through three paragraphs about the various Trial scores when just saying June is the only one to get a perfect score would suffice). While meeting June during her building climbing incident would have been exciting, we just see her get scolded for it, which is not. However, the real problem with June is her relationship with her brother.

We get a generous two scenes of them interacting, but seeing her brother smile once and being told about that time he fed her an orange doesn’t make me care about him, believe he’s a great brother, or even buy into their relationship. Then I’m asked to care and feel June’s pain when he dies. If I didn’t believe in their relationship, how am I supposed to believe in or care about her grief?

While I wasn’t emotionally invested in the book, parts of the plot showed promise. I finally had enough when the two leads started, predictably, worrying about whether or not to kiss, but despite some cliche plot points, there seemed to be a few interesting mysteries developing. The additions of new plot points or mysteries were paced well and the few action scenes I read were rather exciting.

The book feels like it should be a sequel. There’s a lot of backstory and world building that should have been done prior to the first scene. A prequel would’ve let the world, the characters, and their relationships unfold believably. I’d be invested. The few scenes of the novel where I didn’t feel like I was just wading through paragraph after paragraph of exposition were well done. I believe the author could have told the story well if it had been set up properly. Instead of being shown a believable world, I was just told how things are and expected to care. Unfortunately, I didn’t.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Rome by Jay Crownover

Release Date: Jan. 7, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Age Group: New Adult
(Mature content warning)
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Pages: 384
Buy: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound
Description: Goodreads
Sometimes the wrong choice can be just right . . .

Fun and fearless, Cora Lewis knows how to keep her tattooed "bad boy" friends at the Marked in line. But beneath all that flash and sass is a broken heart. Cora won't let herself get burned again. She's waiting to fall in love with the perfect man—a baggage-free, drama-free guy ready for commitment. Then she meets Rome Archer.

Rome Archer is as far from perfect as a man can be. He's stubborn, rigid, and bossy. And he's returned from his final tour of duty more than a little broken. Rome's used to filling many roles: big brother, doting son, supersoldier—but none of those fit anymore. Now he's just a man trying to figure out what to do with the rest of his life while keeping the dark demons of war and loss at bay. He would have been glad to suffer through it alone, until Cora comes sweeping into his life and becomes a blinding flash of color in a sea of gray. Perfect may not be in the cards, but perfectly imperfect could just last forever . . .
This novel captures the essence of passionate, elbowy, "I can't stand you, but I need you so badly" relationships in a way that will make every girl wonder why the right guy has to be perfect. It built me up, broke me down, touched my soul, and melted my heart.

I like to think I'm not a swoony reviewer, but Rome Archer is my kind of guy. Brooding, dark and mysterious has never been my type. However, the good guy who's misunderstood is right up my alley. I think it's because I've had so many military men in my life, but despite the brash, slightly cocky, don't-give-a-damn appearance, the ones that are hard to connect with at first are the ones that never let you go.

The interplay between characters, specifically Rome and Cora, is what really made me latch on to this novel. Complicated as their relationships are, Crownover's direct dialogue and subtle inferences make them easy to navigate.

Cora and Rome come into each others' lives at the right moment and say all the wrong things. Cora's agonizing over everyone else's happiness. Rome has just arrived home from the Army and desperate to find a place in his old life. The attraction between them is like gravity, simply too strong to resist.

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm a New Adult convert thanks to Crownover. I can't say I've read that much within the genre to date, and I'll be the first to admit I've agreed with the crowd that labeled it "older YA with sex". This novel has convinced me to give more New Adult novels a shot because the story was about more than the rampant sexcapades of people too messed up to do anything other than bang away their problems.

Is there sex? Oh yeah. But is it dirty for the sake of being raunchy? No.

That's one of the things I adored most about this novel. It isn't some sexed up semblance of a young person's life. There are personal stories and insights that let you into the lives of characters you're supposed to care about as a reader. At it's core, it shows that people can care when you least expect it, surprise you when you need a new perspective, and save you when you aren't sure you're worth saving.