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Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have) by Sarah Mlynowski

4 out of 5 Stars

"2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe "opportunity" isn't the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: "Lied to Our Parents"). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up "Skipping School" (#3), "Throwing a Crazy Party" (#8), "Buying a Hot Tub" (#4), and, um, "Harboring a Fugitive" (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them." ~ 10 Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn't Have)

I have to say, at first, I thought I was going to hate this book. I was a skeptic. A Debby Downer. I thought it was just another shallow teen book about a couple of irresponsible, selfish girls who couldn't figure out how to properly run a dishwasher and had never been grocery shopping or done their own laundry. BUT, well, I kept on reading, and I kinda-sorta fell in love with the characters. They're funny. And honest. Their shenanigans are unbelievable, and yet...you can almost see them happening to someone you know. The relationships are dramatic and intense, and yeah, it's the kind of book that, though I didn't think I would, I would now have to recommend. Sure, I may not want to go out to lunch with these girls, but I certainly did enjoy reading about them.

Review: Possession by Elana Johnson

5 out of 5 stars.

"Vi knows the Rule: Girls don’t walk with boys, and they never even think  about kissing them. But no one makes Vi want to break the Rules more than Zenn…and since the Thinkers have chosen him as Vi’s future match, how much trouble can one kiss cause? The Thinkers may have brainwashed the rest of the population, but Vi is determined to think for herself.

But the Thinkers are unusually persuasive, and they’re set on convincing Vi to become one of them….starting by brainwashed Zenn. Vi can’t leave Zenn in the Thinkers’ hands, but she’s wary of joining the rebellion, especially since that means teaming up with Jag. Jag is egotistical, charismatic, and dangerous: everything Zenn’s not. Vi can’t quite trust Jag and can’t quite resist him, but she also can’t give up on Zenn." ~Possession

Possession is witty, fun, exciting, suspenseful, kind of adorable, and full of drama. In fact, it reminds me of a mix between the drama and theme of Delirium by Lauren Oliver and the voice and adventure of the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson. (Not-so-coincidentally, those are two of my other favorite YA works.) As soon as I picked it up, I wanted to read through to the end, and not once could I guess what was going to happen next.

The only one issue I had with the book is that I found the action scenes a bit hard to follow. There's just so much going on, and it has to be said in a certain way to keep the scenes flowing and to make you want to read faster, but I found that if I really wanted a complete image of the scene, I had to read through certain spots two or three times to really get it.

Perhaps my favorite aspect of the story though is that it was strong up until the end. The problem I had with the first Hunger Games book, and the reason I didn't read on to the second one, is that the book slowed down at the very end, and I sort of felt like the last 15-20 pages or so were a cop out. (Sorry HG fans.) I didn't get this at all with Possession. In fact, when I finished I couldn't help but be upset that it was over and that there wasn't more for me to read.

<3 Gina Blechman

P.S. If you're not following her already, you should stop by Elana's blog and check her out!


Friday, July 15, 2011

Review: Starting From Scratch by Georgia Beers

5 out of 5 stars

Starting From scratch is an amazing novel about a women who finally starts a relationship the girl of her dreams and the triumphs and occasional pitfalls that comes not only with being in love with a strong woman but with being in love with a strong woman and caring for her young son. It's heartwarming and often hilarious, and is written so effortlessly that you feel like you're in on the fun.

Starting From Scratch is relatively drama-free. There's no "I like person A and person B, but ones good for me and one's bad, and they both happen to be brothers" like in We'll Always Have Summer. There's no   homophobia or crazy family issues like in Tricks or Rage: A Love Story. It's just a sweet, fun romance including the ups and downs, insecurities and idiosyncrasies of everyday life. The characters are honest, believable, and original, and I promise that, by the end, you'll be in love with them all.

Probably the strongest part of this book is that it is interesting and very suspenseful, but also realistic and without all the super, crazy intense issues you often find that the main characters of such stories have. Reading it, I felt like I could have been reading about myself or about anyone really. (At least anyone who's gay.) But though you can expect lots of fun jokes and quirks about lesbians, you'll also find nothing but confidence and stability as far as the characters sexuality is concerned. In fact, one of my favorite characters wasn't even gay, but was the love interests adorable, dog loving, cookie munching son.

<3 Gina Blechman

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

W.I.P. Wednesday: Part 7 aka "In the backs of cars"


            What nobody cared to tell me about having sex in the back seat of a car is that even as my partner is telling me “it’s okay, the windows are tinted,” I can still see the people walking around outside. And it doesn’t matter what Brian says or how he says it to me, I can still see the children on bicycles riding past, the couples jogging, the old folks walking their dogs. I can still see, even from the cramped back seat of his bland, gray Civic, the other cars pulling in, and their drivers mumbling radio song lyrics to themselves as they roll down the windows. It’s mid-July, humid, hot and sticky, unsexy weather, and no matter what he tries to tell me, I can still see the buzz going on outside.
            “Just relax,” he says as though it’s so easy. As though we’ve done it a million times before. “Don’t worry about them.”
             “Don’t worry?” I want to scream it. “There’s a five year old on a tricycle circling the parking lot, and you want me to take off my shirt in front of him, and you’re telling me not to worry.”
            He smiles as though what I’ve said amuses him and rubs his hand down my shoulder. His palms are clammy and his sweat leaves a slime trail on my skin. “Not in front of him, baby,” he says sweetly. As though this is romantic. As though this is every little girl’s dream. “In front of me. Don’t you want to?”
            No.
            He kisses me softly on the lips. Then, again, gently pulling away, looking for the anticipation he wants my body to hold. It doesn’t.
            “Talk to me, Ronnie. What’s going on in your mind?”
            “What’s going on is that I can see them all, Brian. I can see them all, and even though you may not see it, I bet they can see us. And this car is small. And if it starts rocking, and then the police come, and we get arrested for indecent exposure, and—”
            “Exposure of what?”  He unfastens his shorts and slides his jeans and boxers down to his ankles in the type of quick, mindless fashion that only horny, high school and college boys can do. It only offers just another view that I have no desire to see. He pulls his shirt off, catching it on his chin, and throws it on the floor.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Winning 'Em Over": Musicians' Advice on Confidence + Original Song

Melissa Ferrick "Win 'Em Over"
                                                                             
The older I get, the more I realize that you never really "come out" just once. And no, I don't just mean with sexuality, I mean in all areas of ones life. When I was eight, for example, I came out as a huge Star Wars/Harry Potter nerd who adamantly insisted that there was no band in the world better than the Beatles. (Not that this admission is far from the truth, but try telling that to your eight year old friends in an era of Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls.) When I was 13, I came out as a lesbian. (Probably the easiest closet to come out of.) When I was fifteen, I came out as a musician. No, not just in the way I'd been playing guitar or piano for most of my life, but it in the way that I was ready to go out and start playing gigs. Just seven months ago, right after I turned 19, I came out of the writer closet. I finished editing my first manuscript, and started doing lots of research, sending out queries to agents, and, shockingly to me, even getting some really positive replies and one request for a partial manuscript.

But even with all of this progress, all of this honesty, it sometimes feels like every (closet) door I open also opens up for more doubt. Those thoughts of "even though I've done, x, y, and z, and even though everyone has been so encouraging, and even though all my friends say it's brilliant, maybe..." Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. I'm really starting to hate that word...

Enter in my music Tuesdays wisdom: I told you I'd be supporting some of my favorite indie artists on my blog, and one of my favorites is a folk rock goddess by the name of Melissa Ferrick. I love her not only for her unique sound, but for incredibly honest lyrics and intense energy. She's not afraid to put it all out there, which is amazing as a listener, because it's a reminder that so many of the things that we take so harshly or so personally are not necessarily individual to us. Crazily enough, other people have struggles and triumphs too. (I know, right?)

Quite a few years back, Melissa came out with a song called Win 'Em Over. The lyrics to this song in particular have always stuck out to me, because they speak of uncertainty and doubt, but in the end, as the chorus goes,

"you say
I win ‘em over
with my smile.
I win ‘em over
with my charming sense of humor.
I win ‘em over
with just the touch of my hand.
I win ‘em over
when I sing my truth."

Those words, at least for me, have been the answer to getting rid of doubt. Their message, a simple one: be yourself. Show the world who you are, and if you show them the truth of you, you'll win em over every time. Because you, yes you, all of you, are awesome, talented, unique folks who have stories to tell that no one's heard before. Be confident in your voice. Be confident in your dreams.

Over the past seven years that I've been writing music, I've written many songs about overcoming obstacles and having faith in yourself. I feel like once I gained my confidence, I gained both an amazing sense of focus and a new found distance from the many people who had no idea who they were or what they wanted. The easiest way to try to remedy this was  to talk to the world (okay, or maybe just my friends and humble fan base) about it through songs. A few months back, as I was in the middle of both a songwriting and a querying frenzy and trying to study for finals, I felt myself losing it a bit over the pressure. I wrote the song on the right, "Open for Business", about the cynical side of being used for your confidence and your skill, and how it's important not to let yourself become just a "commodity."



And, because I saw Melissa Ferrick this weekend with this fantastic artist right here--"Bravedancing" by Rachael Sage



(P.S. As I was finishing writing this post, the one agent I mentioned above, the one who had asked for a partial of my last manuscript? Yeah...she e-mailed and rejected me.*The powers that be have a quirky sense of humor, right?* But no matter. I'm gonna rock their socks off and win 'em over with the badass lesbian fiction manuscript I'm working on now. :-) )

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why Writers Should Be More Spiteful

So this week's theme is the writing process, and, to go with that theme, I've decided that us writers need to be meaner. Judgier. More spiteful.

As most people probably know by now, New York legalized gay marriage a week a couple of weeks ago. This got me to thinking, if my current manuscript's main character, a middle-aged, lesbian woman, had grown up in a time and place where gay marriage was legal, she might not be facing some of the issues she is now. Then, I thought about my last manuscript, a dystopian novel, and how many of the issues it poses may not be relevant anymore if we lived in a kinder, more respectful, more educated world. Which is when I discovered, as writers, we just can't afford for people to be happy. What would we write about? How many genres would become obsolete if everything was hunky-dory? How many would change?

Therefore, in order to protect the writing process we know, we need to be heartless. To instigate problems. To create issues so that we can continue having something to write about. This is mission hate everyone. To go out and be spiteful. Go out and be mean. Go out and be horrible crabby, people. And go out and do it in the name of writing!

(And if you don't know I'm kidding, you deserve having someone stick their tongue out at you. :-P )

<3 Gina Blechman

P.S. For a chance to enter the giveaway for Triangles by Ellen Hopkins (ARC) go here.

Friday, July 8, 2011

1st Giveaway! Triangles by Ellen Hopkins (ARC)!

Are you ready?

                                                 Are you?

                    Are you sure?

                                                                   Really

Really
                                      Really
                                                Sure?

Well, you should be, because all of you lovely following folks have the chance to win the fabulous, super awesome, spiffilicious ARC of Triangles by Ellen Hopkins!

Wait...what is it you say? You're not a follower yet?! Well, what are you waiting for? Follow for your chance to win! Wooohooo!

Entering the giveaway is easy. As you probably know by now, (and if you don't, you can find out by reading my review), Triangles is about three women finding themselves through the chaos of their middle-aged lives through the relationships they form or the hobbies they undertake.

So in the spirit of learning, I would like you all to:
1) be a follower
2) leave a comment the most important thing you've learned about yourself through either writing or reading or some other artsy medium
This will give you 1 raffle ticket

For additional tickets:
3) tweet about the giveaway (+2)
4) blog about the giveaway or leave a link on your blog (+2)
5) leave a facebook status about the giveaway (+2)

 Giveaway ends Wednesday, July 13th at 11:59pm! Good luck!

<3 Gina Blechman

(P.S. Unfortunately, this giveaway is only open to folks in the US. Sorry!)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

W.I.P. Wednesday: Part 6 a.k.a. "Shakespeare is a Pussy"

I turn back to the blanket and raise my eyebrows over the top of the book. “Shall I compare thee, to a Summer’s day?” I ask.
Leighlah chuckles and rolls over to face me. “I’d rather not thanks.”
“Though art more lovely and more temperate.”
“Doubtful.”
“Rough winds do not shake the darling buds of May.”
 “You should see my hair in the morning.”
“And Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.”
“This is true, but, my god, woman, give that book to me.”
“Sometime too hot...Hey, that’s not nice!”
Leighlah grabs the book out of my hands and flips through with far more direction than I'd like. My world freezes--stomach tumbling over and over--as her agile fingers find the right page.
“If there’s one thing Momma told me, it’s never to settle for none a that convoluted bull crap,” she strongly advises. 
“What are you talking about? It’s Shakespeare.”
“And William Shakespeare, at least when it comes to his little sonnets, was a big ol’ marshmallow, awright?”
“I take offense to that.”
“Why? Haven’t none a yer little high schoolers figured it out by now. I mean, really now. Us southern gals need some heat in our lives. Here--" she makes a show of adjusting the appropriate pages for her viewing--"try this"


My oh my, whatever will happen next. ;-)

<3 Gina Blechman

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Virginity in Books & Music + Original Song

Sex sells. It sells movies. It sells books. It sells CDs. Sometimes, unfortunately, it even sells people. And as our culture gets more and more obsessed with youth, the stories of the young and the lustful are pretty much everywhere: in both living and undead form. As this occurs, many are getting, in my opinion, creepishly okay with    our teenage pop icons sloring it up for the cameras. And as sexy-time increases, the age that kids lose their virginity decreases. Soooo....how is our media dealing with this.

1) Books: As a pretty avid reader of YA I've noticed a few major themes as far as "the first time" is concerned
    a) It's super-duper, comically awkward and, in the end, the pair ends up either giving up, being mortified, or laying in each other's arms saying "well, I guess we're just not ready for this."
    b) Their's some super slutty character (he/she is usually hiding from something, btw) who screws anything with a pulse and a nice car until he/she meets the person of his/her dreams or comes to some other epiphany and realizes it was all a mistake and "really, I only ever wanted to be loved."
                    *It is also possible that this person never learns and comes to some horrible end...Sorry.
    c) All goes well, except then one party doesn't call the other or turns out to be a horrible person and the other person involved has to learn how to get over it
    d) Everything's wonderful and the pair live happily ever after

2) Music: If you look at popular music (because going into all genres would take too long) there's two main themes.
      a) Sex, sex, lots of bitches and hos having sex, bringing sexy back, or droppin it like it's hot...aka virginity does not exist. STD's...don't exist. There is only one thing that exists: Sex
      b) OR the Taylor Swift version...I gave everything for you. You were a jerk to me. I'm never going to fall for someone like you again .... at least not until I have to write more songs for my next album.

3) Television: Take mediums 1 and 2 and mix them together.

Sometimes, in all of this, it seems hard to find something accurate. When I was writing my dystopian, it was easier to bring up, because the character's didn't know anything about anything from the outside world, so giving them honest dialog about a lot of their feelings was more feasible without making it sound preachy. Still, you always want to guide readers towards learning without them feeling like they're reading a fable or being preached to, which is always tricky. There's so many books that remind teens that being sexual is normal, which it is, and so many top 40 songs that act like having a new suitor every night is no big deal, but there's so many other feelings before and after that are so much more than just the sex itself. It's so much deeper than that. You know that. I know that. And yet, a surprising amount of folks haven't figured that out yet.

Actually, I'd venture to say, that adult novels do a better job with that. When an MC finds the person she's been looking for, despite previous relationships and sexual encounters, and then learns to deal with that, whether things work out or turn sour. Every relationship has it's own "first time" after all, a chance to turn your world upside-down and make it all seem new.

That's another thing, I think there's too much pressure about sex and virginity for young people. School's, despite talks on safe sex, preach mostly abstinence. Media either makes kids feel like losers for not having it or like miscreants for wanting it so early. Or, as mentioned in 1a, gives the message of "You want it, but it's just going to end up a mess, so don't worry silly, just hold out." I mean, kids aren't really more sexual now than they ever were, it's just that there's more of a spotlight on it now. The idea of virginity was originally created by men as a way to control women anyway. It's synonymous with purity and being clean. And don't those things have to do with more than just sex?

<3 Gina Blechman

New song titled "Virginity." Ironically created just in time for this weeks sex & writing theme, not the other way around. (And yes, I'm nearly 20 and still have a Harry Potter blanket hanging on my wall.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Triangles by Ellen Hopkins (ARC) : Review

3 out of 5 stars

Summary: Triangles is a story of three middle-aged women told through poetry. "Holly, filled with regret for being a stay-at-home mom, sheds sixty pounds and loses herself in the world of extramarital sex. Andrea, a single mom and avowed celibate, watches her friend Holly’s meltdown with a mixture of concern and contempt. So what if Andrea picks up Holly’s castaway husband? Then there’s Marissa. She has more than her fair share of challenges—a gay teenage son, a terminally ill daughter, and a husband who buries himself in his work rather than face the facts."

Depending on whose story you're reading, Triangles is funny, heartbreaking, super steamy, and heart warming. The women are strong, despite their hardships, and their questions are honest: "Is this all I have to show for my life as I'm now halfway through it?" "Is it okay to cheat on my husband if we've lost the passion in our marriage?" I don't know why, but for some reason I wasn't expecting quite so much, uh, how do I put it, SEX, in this book, but yeah...there's a lot of sex. Kinky sex. Extramarital sex. Group sex. Vanilla sex.  Most definitely a break from Hopkins's YA novels.

The couple problems I had with the book are that 1) in between each of the switches in point of view, there is a poem from an ambiguous point of view. At first, I thought this was schnazzy, but then it only served to jam the flow of the story. Any suspence before that point dissipated for me. It just didn't make sense.

2) Using poetry, though interesting to read, prevented me from getting too up close and personal with the characters. Hopkins has created these great characters with these interesting stories, and still I feel like I'm just at the very tip of the iceberg as far as meeting them is concerned.

3) Sometimes the poems changed style too much in the middle of one character's point of view, and I wasn't able to hear the character's voice in it.

All in all though, the book was good. Ellen Hopkins has a way with poetry and with changing up the shapes and styles of her poems. There were lots of little "hidden messages" and poems within poems, which I thought was pretty cool.

So....

Triangles hits shelves on
                     October 18, 2011
                                               OR
                                                 I will be announcing my giveaway
                                                    this friday where you can WIN the
                                                        Arc for yourself! :-)


Stay tuned for instructions on how the giveaway will work! You will need to be a follower of my blog though, so follow me gosh darn it!

<3 Gina Blechman

                                                 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Giveaways, Music Videos, and Weekly Themes aka The Grand Re-Opening!


Hey y'all!

Okay, so I'm super-duper excited to tell you about all of the fun changes that will be going on on my blog starting this upcoming week!

1) And on the seventh day, Gina said, "Let there be giveaways!"
I'm going to have at least four giveaways in the next couple of months. Right now I have an ARC (advanced reading copy) of Triangles by Ellen Hopkins and a $15 Itunes gift card that I'm ready to give away sometime in the Very near future. I'm also expecting definitely two and possibly three more ARCs for some other super awesome books coming in the near future that I'll be giving away. So, stay tuned and I'll let you know how that's all going down.

2) Themes: I've decided that, in order to prevent me from having to scramble ideas together at the last minute, I'll be planning my blogs at the start of every week and basing them on a theme. The theme for this upcoming week, for example, will be sex: sex and sex scenes in YA vs sex and sex scenes in adult novels, how to make the perfect sex symbol, and turn-ons and believable sexy-time (keeping in mind that sexy-time doesn't have to be sex, but could be anything from a touch to a kiss to a way of speaking to intercourse). And, of course, there will still be the book reviews and the W.I.P. Wednesdays.

3) And for one of my favorite new installments, *drum roll, please*, MUSIC! Get excited! (I'm excited!) What y'all may not know is that I live a double life. Though I'm a writer, I have been a musician and singer/songwriter for equally as long. My passion for music--playing it, writing it, listening to it, and going to concerts to see it--is a huge part of who I am, and I've decided to, once a week, bring all that love here for you. Once a week, I will have a music related topic--song writing, cd reviews, commentary on the music scene, music as it relates to books and books that relate to music--and I am also starting my own youtube channel to which I will add one music video a week. A new music video will be inserted at the bottom of my weekly music posts. (Nifty, huh?) I would also, maybe, like to invite some other new, upcoming artists or closet musicians to take part in this awesomeness, but we'll see how that goes...

<3 Gina Blechman

Friday, July 1, 2011

Review: A Turn in the Road by Debbie Macomber

2.5 out of 5 stars

A Turn in the Road is a contemporary romance novel where a middle-aged divorcee, her daughter, and her ex-mother-in-law go on a cross-country road trip to get to the mother-in-law's 50th high school reunion. The main character, Bethanne, finds herself conflicted between falling for a man she meets on the road and going back with her cheating ex-husband who has been trying to win her back. Bethanne's mother-in-law, who has been a widow for a while now, spends the trip thinking about rekindling with an old flame, and Bethanne's daughter spends hers trying to figure out what love is now that her boyfriend has gone abroad with his best friend and another girl.

A Turn in the Road is cute. It's sweet. But it's just too...old fashioned. The characters' stories/failed and hopeful romances intertwine better than an episode of Full House, and the woman all seem more than a bit old-fashioned and generally without a backbone.

I found the dialog to be very unnatural. The characters say what they need to in order to progress the story and give the reader an idea of the back story, not what actually makes sense.  Plus, the characters just seemed fake to me. For example, the three woman--worldly woman, business-owning, strong women--go into a nearly empty diner and are scared that the motorcyclists who just came in (who are minding their own business) are going to rape and murder them. Now, I could understand them being a bit unsettled, but when I see men in leather jackets my first thought is usually not "oh my gosh, they're going to kill me." Then, Macomber builds off this to stir Bethanne's interest in the one, seemingly okay biker. It just didn't seem quite right.

Also, the ending was drawn out way too long, even when we all knew what was going to happen.

So, all in all, 2.5 out of  5 stars. It wasn't terrible, it just wasn't terribly good either.

<3 Gina Blechman