Monday, February 24, 2014

Guest Post: Sarah Beard on The Healing Power of Creativity

SARAH BEARD is the author of Porcelain Keys, a YA contemporary romance. She has a degree in communications from the University of Utah and splits her time between writing and raising three energetic boys. She is a cancer survivor and a hopeless romantic. She enjoys reading and composing music, and lives with her husband and children in Salt Lake City, Utah. You can follow Sarah on twitter at @authorsarahb, or at facebook.com/authorsarahbeard. Her website is www.sarahbeard.com.




            A few years ago as I was finishing up eight rounds of chemotherapy, a fellow cancer survivor warned me about the fear that would come after my treatments ended. She said it would feel like there were tigers hiding in the trees along my path, waiting to pounce. I soon understood what she was talking about. Believe it or not, having toxic chemicals pumped into your body when you have cancer can have a comforting effect. Because despite all the horrible side effects, those chemicals (if they’re doing their job) are fighting the enemy. So even though I was cancer-free when my treatments ended, I was left feeling vulnerable and fearful. I could feel those tigers stalking me, sometimes even breathing down my neck. I wanted to fight them off; to shove them away and tell them that I was healed, that the cancer was never coming back. But how could I challenge something that I couldn’t even see?
                The only solution was to bring those tigers out of the darkness and into the light. So I took a pencil and paper, and I embodied one of those tigers in a way that I could see it—snarled muzzle, bared teeth, flattened ears and all. It made my fear more tangible. But it also made it less scary because now I could see it. Which meant that I could challenge it. I drew my own face on the same paper, staring down that tiger with an expression that said, “I’m not afraid of you. You can’t hurt me.”
                There was something so therapeutic about this exercise, and I realized much later that it wasn’t the first time in my life that I’d used a creative process to deal with fear, pain, or grief. In high school, as I was going through a very dark time, I channeled my emotions into poetry, music, and art. When I felt pain or sorrow, I would sketch the shape of it on paper. Or play the sound of it on a piano. Or write words to cryptically describe it. And looking back, I can see how my creations carried a portion of my burdens and helped me make sense of the things I struggled with. The music embraced my sorrow so I didn’t have to. Or the paint on the canvas captured my grief so that I could let it go.
                In my book, Porcelain Keys, both of my main characters use forms of creativity to cope with the darkness in their lives. Seventeen-year-old Aria dreams of following in her mother’s footsteps and going to Juilliard to be a classical pianist. But when the story begins, her mother has been gone for five years, and Aria is grieving silently and alone, living in a situation that makes it impossible for her to pursue her dreams. She turns to music for solace and to express the things she can’t safely say with words. Aria’s love interest, Thomas, is also carrying his own secret burdens, which he uses as fodder for beautiful art pieces.
                I believe that through the power of creativity, our struggles can be a great opportunity for growth. We can take the scary or painful things inside of us and transform them into something beautiful, obtaining a measure of healing in the process.


Thanks so much to Sarah for visiting the blog today. Her debut book, Porcelain Keys, is now available!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Read This: Prodigy

Prodigy
by Marie Lu

The Goodreads Summary Says:
Injured and on the run, it has been seven days since June and Day barely escaped Los Angeles and the Republic with their lives. Day is believed dead having lost his own brother to an execution squad who thought they were assassinating him. June is now the Republic's most wanted traitor. Desperate for help, they turn to the Patriots - a vigilante rebel group sworn to bring down the Republic. But can they trust them or have they unwittingly become pawns in the most terrifying of political games?

I Say:
5 stars
Gah! this book. I really, really enjoyed Prodigy. I thought the pacing was great, and there was a nice balance of action and intrigue. I loved the characters, and how distinct the two points of view were. Day and June spend most of the book separated from each other, trying to figure out who to trust and what the best thing to do is. I loved to watch them struggle and reason and play different roles. Not everything in the plot is unique (a lot of elements reminded me of Mockingjay or Ally Condie's Reached), and occasionally it was hard to believe June or Day would be as influential as they are in the story. But those were easy to overlook because I was so invested in the story.

I usually hate a love triangle (and there's no triangle here), but I loved what Lu did with the romance aspect. While June and Day are apart, they each interact with other characters who might technically be better matches for them. I loved (and hated) seeing June and Day each think seriously about if their relationship really was best for themselves and the other person. I like when characters have options. Although, of course, I want June and Day together.

And then the ending! I'm happy I had Champion sitting right on the shelf to pick up. I couldn't imagine having to wait a year after finishing Prodigy.


The Big Three:
Language: one or two swear words
Sex and Stuff: some making out
Violence: shooting and fist fighting and a few deaths, but nothing explicit

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Read This: Elevated

Elevated
by Elana Johnson

The Summary Says:
The last person seventeen-year-old Eleanor Livingston wants to see on the elevator—let alone get stuck with—is her ex-boyfriend Travis, the guy she's been avoiding for five months.

Plagued with the belief that when she speaks the truth, bad things happen, Elly hasn’t told Trav anything. Not why she broke up with him and cut off all contact. Not what happened the day her father returned from his deployment to Afghanistan. And certainly not that she misses him and still thinks about him everyday.

But with nowhere to hide and Travis so close it hurts, Elly’s worried she won’t be able to contain her secrets for long. She’s terrified of finally revealing the truth, because she can’t bear to watch a tragedy befall the boy she still loves.


I Say:
4 stars
This was a really interesting story. I've never read a YA book in verse before, but it reads like all the great epic poems of the past. The tone is more somber than I'd expected from the vibrant cover, but it was really gripping from start to finish.

Elevated is just over 200 pages, but I appreciated how much emotion and suspense are packed into such a small space. The book opens as Elly finds herself stuck in an elevator with Travis, her former best (more than) friend. And through a series of well-placed flashbacks the reader gets glimpses at all the things that brought the two from close friends to not speaking. Elly was an interesting character that I really felt for. She's been through a lot, and takes blame for even more. I loved seeing her growth in the story. Every time I began to doubt where her character was going, Johnson moved the story in a realistic way.

If I had any complaints it's that I would have liked to get more of a feel for Travis. I wasn't as sympathetic toward him as I think I was supposed to be, and definitely not to the level Elly was. Having grown up in Chicago myself there were a couple things here and there that struck me as inaccurate (if Travis' mom is on drugs and having money is a constant issue, he wouldn't have a car. Or live in a building with a doorman). But those things won't stick out to most readers, who are otherwise in for a really quick, intense read.


Just So You Know:
I received a free review copy from the author in exchange for an honest opinion. Elevated is available today! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Author Interview: Kristin Bryant

Today on the blog I'm happy to have debut author Kristin Bryant. Her book, The Others, came out this past September.

Summary from Goodreads:
A dangerous adventure to save a distant world Ryen is just a normal guy trying to do his job. Unfortunately, that job includes trying to save his distant world on the brink of disaster.

Ryen is on a mission to Earth to find the answers to his distant world's most critical questions. While searching the Yucatan Peninsula for a mythic figure-a savior-who would live a perfect life and ultimately die to save their souls, Ryen meets Savannah, a beautiful woman hiding a painful past. On their dangerous adventures together through the untamed jungles of Mexico, he can't help but fall in love with her. As his time runs out, Ryen must decide if he is willing to give up everything he has ever known and loved to stay on Earth with Savannah.

The Masters, a powerful clan of corrupt leaders, are plotting to take back Earth, the sacred planet, from the humans. Ryen and Savannah are thrust into the middle of The Masters' plot.





Find Kristin online:

About The Others:

 How did you get your idea for The Others?

The idea came to me while I was doing laundry. It came so out of nowhere and so clearly, I actually dropped my laundry basket on my feet. It was such a strange idea, I wasn’t sure what to do with it at first. It took me a little bit of time to put pen to paper and start outlining a story around it, especially because I had never thought of writing a book before.

Was it difficult to write from a male POV?

It was actually a lot fun! I let my dad read early versions and he said Ryen (the main character) wasn’t believable because his thoughts weren’t violent enough. So, I had to man up a little. I also paid close attention to the way my husband would answer questions- straight and to the point, no frills, no nonsense. I tried to write Ryen that way. 

About Writing:

What is your writing process like? Any routines that help you write?

Whenever I get stuck, I surf Facebook. There’s something about doing something totally mindless that frees up your brain for creative thought (FB friends, don’t take this as a hint that your posts about what you had for lunch are mindless…)
And when I really get stuck, I grab my phone full of music and hit the running trail. I usually come back with all sorts of ideas. My website has a playlist for my book that goes along with each chapter.

How you do find balance between your writing and all your other life responsibilities? 

I realized very early that no one is going to pay you to get good at something. If you want to accomplish something like writing a book, you have to pretend it is a job- the worst paying job ever. You have to set time apart for it. So, from 9:00 pm until midnight through the writing process, I treated it like a job. And it still counts as the best/worst job I’ve ever had. 

Any advice for aspiring authors?

Anyone can say they want to write a book. Few people do it. Why? Because…
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
- Thomas A. Edison
Work hard. Work often. Don’t give up.

Check out more of my interview with Kristin after the jump.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Swoony Books

You guys, today's Top Ten Tuesday is possibly my favorite topic ever: Top Ten Books to Make You Swoon. Come play along!

In no particular order:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - it's a contentious sort of swoon, but still swoony

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - so many cute little things

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - basically every part with Levi was swoony

The Crown of Embers & The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson - Hector! Enough said.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - the beach!

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater - I know, this is not a kissing book. But, that drive up in the mountains!

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer - somehow it manages to be mysterious and swoony

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson - the banter!

 
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater - somehow killer horses manages to bring out the swoon in Sean Kendrick.
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - Joe goes from zero to swoon pretty quickly.


Extra: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi - Perry and Aria are so great together

Friday, February 7, 2014

Porcelain Keys by Sarah Beard












I'm happy to be part of the blog tour for Porcelain Keys by debut author Sarah Beard.
Sarah will also stop by the blog on the 24th with a guest post!



About Porcelain Keys:

Aria's life is full of secrets--secrets about her mother's death, her father's cruelty, and her dream to go to Juilliard. When Aria meets Thomas, he draws out her secrets, captures her heart, and gives her the courage to defy her father. But when tragedy strikes and Thomas disappears, Aria is left alone to transform her broken heart's melody into something beautiful. Porcelain Keys is a captivating love story that will resonate long after the last page is turned.













Reviews:

"Emotionally rich, elegant description, beloved characters--Sarah Beard delivers a fresh, new novel that will go on my list of classics."
 --Stephanie Fowers, author of With a Kiss.  

"Aria is a heroine worth rooting for, and the plot is an emotional melody that weaves a spell so potent, it can only be broken by reaching the end. And even then, I couldn’t stop thinking about Aria and her story."
--Heather Frost, author of The Seers Trilogy 

"Emotionally gripping, this beautifully crafted young adult romance will pull at readers’ heartstrings from tragic beginning to happy ending. A must-read for fans of contemporary romance, both young and seasoned. "
--Julie Ford, author of Replacing Gentry

"Porcelain Keys is a fresh, heart-wrenching take on boy-meets-girl. Using fantastic and musical imagery to tell the poignant love story of Aria and Thomas, the author leads the reader to a swelling crescendo as if we're part of the song—and what a beautiful song it is."
--Cindy C. Bennett, author or Geek Girl and Rapunzel Untangled

"A lyrical love story that will leave your heart singing. Porcelain Keys is a masterpiece with emotional depth, young love, and family angst. Beard takes us on a journey of self-discovery, second chances, and ultimately, sweet resolution."
 --Heather Ostler, author of The Siren's Secret

Buy Links:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The January Recap!

In January I read:

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith
Like The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, the cute romance takes a backseat to some family drama. I don't think Smith's books are for me.

Roomies by Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando
Loved this alternating POV of two girls getting ready to go to college.

Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano
DeStefano has such a pretty writing style, but I would have appreciated a more defined conflict in this series opener.

Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald
This was a cute story about a girl who has to get past her fixation on a friend who will never be "more than friends" I loved her adventures trying different things and learning to be her own person.

Defy by Sara B Larson
This high fantasy debut had a lot of world building issues and wasn't for me, but had a really strong ending.

Plain Kate by Erin Bow
This was a middle grade fantasy that one of my book clubs read. I really felt for the characters, and I loved the talking cat.

Favorites for the month were Roomies, Getting Over Garrett Delaney, and Plain Kate.


I was also able to go to the Sara Zarr signing at the Provo Library and I'll be writing about that soon.

And I officially joined a writing group! Some local bloggers and I are going to give this writing business a go and I'm excited. And also slightly afraid that I will be critiqued as hard as I critique! Good thing our writing group has the #2 & #3 toughest reviewers in Utah County....