Thursday, January 31, 2013

WINNER of THE ESSENCE by Kimberly Derting

***And the WINNER is Kayeleen!!! Thank you for entering! I've sent you an email and look forward to hearing from you. Thanks to everyone who entered and please check back for writing tips, publishing news, and more awesome contests!***

I’m giving away a brand new copy of THE ESSENCE by Kimberly Derting!!! Enter through the rafflecopter which follows my review :) 

From At the luminous conclusion of The Pledge, Charlaina defeated the tyrant Sabara and took her place as Queen of Ludania. But Charlie knows that Sabara has not disappeared: The evil queen’s Essence is fused to Charlie’s psyche, ready to arise at the first sign of weakness.

Charlie is not weak, but she’s being pushed to the brink. In addition to suppressing the ever-present influence of Sabara, she’s busy being queen—and battling a growing resistance determined to return Ludania to its discriminatory caste system. Charlie wants to be the same girl Max loves, who Brook trusts, but she’s Your Majesty now, and she feels torn in two.

As Charlie journeys to an annual summit to meet with leaders of nearby Queendoms—an event where her ability to understand all languages will be the utmost asset—she is faced with the ultimate betrayal. And the only person she can turn to for help is the evil soul residing within.

My take: It’s not hard to guess that I loved this follow up to THE PLEDGE by Kimberly Derting. I’d been chomping at the bit to read this sequel since I put The Pledge down, as I am with all of Derting’s books. I can’t help it, she is just such an amazing author. Her characters are so flush and full of life they can’t be ignored! 

The characters that pepper the THE ESSENCE mix together to make a firecracker cast and the fact that Derting switches between point of views enables the reader to fully understand each one. Of course we stay with Charlie throughout most of the novel because she is the main character, but (and this is something completely clever and fresh from Derting) we also get Sabara who is residing within Charlie. The superb villain from The Pledge has not been defeated as much as we’d all hoped and poor Charlie is left to battle the demon within (literally) as well as take on her new role as Queen. The amount of pressure on Charlie--from her Queendom, her friends and family, and the darkness inside--is huge and quite palpable on the pages. I found myself biting my nails and worrying right along with Charlie, wondering how she’ll ever figure the massive amount of problems out, and truly thanking my stars that I’m not a Queen! 

Brooklyn’s character--Charlie’s best friend and the kick ass commander of her troops--has a wonderful amount of growth throughout the sequel. She faces betrayal from all angles--one of her troops, her father, and someone close to her in a sense which I won’t name for spoilers sake. Not only that, but the poor girl has to get on a train for the first time and discover she is terribly motion sick! Having been through a life time with this terrible condition, I sympathized with her even more. :) Mixed in with the betrayal is the threats upon Charlie’s life that she must intercept and protect against and new and confusing emotions when it comes to a love interest she never even thought possible! Even as a secondary character and with only sporadic chapters from her point of view, Derting has given us a whole new set of emotions, struggles, and journeys to take.

The final character I’ll mention is Sabara and I only mention her because Derting has found a way to make this villain--someone I wanted defeated terribly in The Pledge--sympathetic! Yes, she’s made a vial, evil Queen, sympathetic. The way she does this is through Charlie’s struggles with separating herself from Sabara who resides within her. The task becomes more difficult each day and with this struggle Sabara’s past memories come to light. The reader is allowed to see a much different side to her, a completely understandable--if not morally confused--side. The intricate weaving of these two characters and their intense emotions forces the reader to ask the question, “What wouldn’t you do to live with the love of your life forever?” It’s a tough question, one in which you find yourself sympathizing with the villain, and this--coupled with all the other character’s arcs--is what makes the plot of THE ESSENCE so rich and intriguing. 

And speaking of plot...

I have to mention a scene that blew my mind (if you haven’t read this please skip to the next paragraph) 

There is a scene in THE ESSENCE where Charlie must make an appearance at a school where they are now allowing any child to attend. Under the previous Queen’s rule, there was a strict class system, punishable by death if broken. Once Charlie took the throne, she did away with the system, bringing forth a New Equality, where everyone was entitled to a good education and didn’t have to fear reprimand for stepping outside of their ‘class.’ As the new (and scared) students filter in to the school where before only the wealthiest of children could go, Charlie is there to encourage and support the new system. Of course, as the day goes on, terror strikes and the school is subject to bombings and physical attack. This scene was incredibly powerful and reminiscent of the time right after desegregation in our own country--taken to the extreme--and brought forth a certain realness to the severity of separation and class systems can have on a society. This was a fine and heart wrenching example of the harshness that can come from those who cannot and will not accept change...the price of which being innocent children’s blood. 

I haven’t been shy about letting everyone know who my favorite author is and hopefully, from my reviews, my explanations back up my reasoning. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was a child and books like this are why. Books that take you to a place you never knew you wanted to go, books that make your heart break for characters so real they give the pages a pulse, and books so fantastic I couldn’t possibly NOT tell everyone about them. 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Nominated for the Liebster Award

Hey Everyone, 
  I'm honored that Myra from Book Reviews nominated me for the Liebster blog Award! This award is for new bloggers who have less then 200 followers and deserve to gain some more.

The rules of the award:
So here's how this works. 

1. Tell 11 things about yourself;
2. Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you;
3. Post 11 questions for those you're going to nominate to get to know them better;
4. Nominate 11 bloggers who have less then 200 followers and who you think deserve more;
5. Let the 11 nominees know they are nominated on their blogs.

11 things about me:

1. I'm 25 years old
2. I've been married to my best friend for 4 years and couldn't be happier
3. We're expecting our first child--due date June 23rd 2013 :)
4. We have an English Bulldog Puppy named Whiskey that makes us laugh everyday
5. I have a Bachelor's degree in English-Creative Writing-from Old Dominion University
6. I've written two novels--my second one, JUDGES, is represented by the fabulous Brittany Howard of the Corvisiero Literary Agency 
7. I read as many books as I can get my hands on in the genre I write in 
8. My favorite authors include: Kimberly Derting, Cassandra Clare, Rachel Vincent, and a ton of others--I can't possibly narrow them all down
9. I love playing Texas Hold'em poker 
10. I'm addicted to chocolate 
11. I've dreamt of being an author since I was in the 2nd grade and wrote my first story entitled "A Crop of Aliens for Alexandra" (still waiting for a call from Random House for that one lol) 

11 questions from Myra:
1. When did you start blogging & why? 

     I started blogging a couple of years ago just to get into the habit of writing everyday. Then it eventually progressed into a book review blog and finally it has transformed into a blog where I discuss my journey to publication, give aspiring writers advice from what I've learned about the publishing world, and give the occasional book recommendation when I read one I just can't keep quiet about. 

2. What's your favorite book ever? 

     Oh this is a hard question! I'm going to have to narrow that down to author which is Kimberly Derting. She wrote The Body Finder series and The Pledge series and I love her style and her ability to create such authentic and sympathetic characters. I've re-read her books the most and each time I learn something new about the craft of writing for young adults. 

3. Do you study or work & what kind of study/work do you do?

     I'm currently on submission for my first novel, JUDGES. In the meantime I'm working on the sequel to that and another idea I've had for a while. As for studying, I read as many Young Adult books as I can because I'm a firm believer that the more you read in your genre, the better writer you become. 

4. Do you have any brothers or sisters?

     I have one older sister who is also an amazing writer and marketer. 

5. How may books do you estimate you own?

    Well over 200 and it grows monthly. 

6. Do you always buy books or do you go to the library or borrow from a friend?

    I usually buy them because I want to support authors and if I really like the book I buy another one and host a giveaway on my blog in order to further support the author. Though I have used the library when I've been really strapped for cash and need a fix. 

7. Where's your favorite place to read?

    My bed. 

8. What book are you reading right now & why did you choose this one?

    I just finished The Essence by Kimberly Derting and I chose it because it's the sequel I've been dying to read since I finished The Pledge. 

9. Do you prefer series or stand alone books?

    I really love series because I easily fall in love with characters and like to take a long journey with them throughout several books. 

10. Favorite hobby besides reading?

     Writing, Texas Hold'em poker, and Golf.

11. Favorite book to movie adaptation?

    This is also a tough one because there are several I love. The Shawshank Redemption is probably my favorite because it was such a wonderful film. 

11 Questions for the nominees:
1. Why did you start blogging?
2. What is your favorite book?
3. What is your favorite movie to book adaptation?
4. Do you have any character crushes? Who?
5. What is your line of work?
6. If you could visit any world from a novel which would it be?
7. Who is your favorite author?
8. Do you prefer hard copy books or digital?
9. Favorite hobby besides reading?
10. How long does it take you to finish a novel?
11. What are you currently reading? 
The 11 nominees:

Kimberly Chase
Maxy from Bookalishous
Donalad Capone 
Deirdre Riodran Hall 
Deidra Nielson 
I have lived a thousand lives 
Jessica from I read to relax
Ink in the Book
Brandy Shockley
And that is all because the rest of my bloggers are all over 200 followers! Wait to go :) 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Team Lee's #PitchWars Picks!

Pitchwars has started! And to give my picks a little extra exposure I'm posting their entries here! 

My top choice (which btw was in no way easy to pick--seriously there are some fantastic writers out there) was Mindy Ruiz. Her pitch hooked me from the get go and the follow up pages made it impossible not to pick her. 

Here is her entry for ENCHANTED HEART: 

Name: Mindy Ruiz
Mentor: Molly Elizabeth Lee
Title: Enchanted Heart
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Word Count: 96,000

Pitch: One step inside Las Vegas and seventeen year-old Cassandra rekindles an ancient power struggle between the ruling families: The Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs and Spades.  Her true identity is masked in riddles nobody in Vegas can afford for her to solve, and the boy she shouldn’t trust has enchanted her heart. 
Chapter 1
New Year’s Resolution #1: Kill Malory!  Not quickly, either. The use of a calorie counter and a corn dog should be involved in her murder.
A Malibu coast line, four hours of desert for inspiration and that was all I’d come up with for my set of New Year’s resolutions.  I was either pathetic or still pissed. 
“Don’t worry about it, Cassie,” Malory’s voice played back in my mind, all distorted like she’d been drinking too much giggle juice.  “I’ve totally got your ride to Vegas covered.”
If conning my ex-boyfriend, Justin, to take me to Las Vegas was my best friend’s idea of “covering my ride,” I think I should have opted for the spend-New-Year’s-Eve-alone strategy.     
A whoosh of desert air wacked the ends of my ponytail against my cheeks.  Even the rebellious strands couldn’t obscure the contemptuous grin of Crystal Shoemaker, A.K.A the new girlfriend.  
“You’re so lucky Malory bribed us with Club ASHA opening night tickets.” Crystal shook out her hair in the wind.
My eighteenth New Year’s Eve wasn’t starting off any better than my first.  
Warm, promise filled lights flooded the car from Casino Center Boulevard, but the cold icy fingers of doubt wrapped around my heart as mom’s warning about Las Vegas echoed in my ears:  “There’s a reason it’s called Sin City, Cassandra.” Her eyes would go cold and dead serious.  “Promise me you’ll never go there.” 
I always promised, but that was before Malory moved here.

ENCHANTED HEART'S Entry is #18 on the YA Misfits blog and can be viewed along with the rest of the pitches here
And my first alternate and second alternate picks were Rebecca Yarros' YA fantasy AEOLIAN and Maggie Young's YA Paranormal DIARY OF A GHOST
Both have captivating pitches, excellent writing, and truly unique concepts. Their entries can be found by clicking on their book titles :) 

GO TEAM LEE!! :)  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 Recap--What I learned

       2012 was a great year for me! Not only did my husband and I get stationed closer to our home state, we also got pregnant with our first child. The latter is a more recent development and we couldn’t be happier. 

As for my life as a writer in 2012 I can honestly say I learned more in the last year than I did throughout four years of college. This could possibly be because with as passionate as I am about writing, I’m constantly looking to improve my craft, my knowledge of the business, and expand my contacts in the writing community. So, of course I try harder than I did, say, in dumb math class in college :) 

First I completed my second novel Judges and after several drafts and edits from trusted family members, I hit the blogosphere to find fresh blood--I mean critique partners. I’d never had a critique partner before, but had critiqued plenty of other people’s work throughout college, so I knew the process. I was nervous at first because you never know what you’re going to get when you exchange work with someone. I’ve had bad luck in the past where the writer wasn’t ready to get constructive criticism and showed it by emailing me 20 times a day for a week (not exaggerating) to tell me how little I knew about writing. So, it was a big step to go out and search for that perfect critique partner, but I got a stroke of luck after reading about a sort of Critique Partner Dating Service that was happening over on Miss Snarks blog. After a few emails and chapter test runs, I found the one! We wrote in the same genre, had the same critiquing styles, and were completely open to any and all comments, both having developed a thick skin throughout our years of writing. She helped bring Judges to a whole new level, as I helped her with her awesome MS. 

I would recommend this route to all writers who have a MS that is beyond the first draft stages. The great thing about finding a critique partner and helping with each other’s work is how much you learn! I’ve found so many little details that I mark in other’s work all the time and still make that mistake in my own work! By finding it in other’s, I’ve learned to correct it now in my own writing. Just as when I pose questions in the comments of another’s MS, I find myself asking the same ones as I go through my own personal edits. The things you learn while critiquing other’s work is invaluable and really endless. I’m constantly learning a new trick, or word, or style that I can add to my writing arsenal, and I wouldn’t be able to do that without the critiques I’ve done over the past year. I guess it is along the same lines with the rule about reading in your genre as much as possible--I’m a firm believer of this too--and feel that both critiquing in your genre and reading in it only opens up your scope that much more. 

I’ve also got to participate in an awesome contest called PitchWars! And have met some amazing people and read and critiqued some really incredible work. Also, if you’re going to take my advice and find a critique partner, a really awesome new site has opened up where you can do just that. It’s called CPseek and you can read about it on the amazing Brenda Drake's blog here.  
Another awesome thing I learned in 2012 was what it feels like to finally gain representation from an agent. I’m still reeling from that experience! Brittany Howard has taught me so much about editing, constructing, and the process of the publishing world. I’m extremely lucky to have a mentor like her and through her I met my awesome agency sisters! We cheer each other on and help each other when handling rejection and it is such a blessing to have that kind of support team! We went on submission a few months ago and are anxiously waiting responses from editors at publishing houses. (Another thing learned--this business is all about timing and that timing isn’t in the fast lane) ;) 

2012 was a wonderful year and I hope it was for you as well. Whatever stage of writing you are in as this new year starts off--whether first sentence, first draft, or umpteenth draft--I wish you many bursts of creativity, clarity when it comes to editing, and luck when it comes to finding that perfect critique partner!