My Reviews

All That Was May 2013: Great Reads

May 2013 Reads:

What a month of fantastic books! I managed to polish off 10 great titles - in a fun PicMonkey collage, here they all are:

Collage details from top to bottom, right to left: EXISTENCE by Abbi Glines, PREDESTINED by Abbi Glines, LEIF by Abbi Glines, ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake, my absolute favorite read for the month of May: THE BOOK OF BROKEN HEARTS by Sarah Ockler, JUST FOR NOW by Abbi Glines, FALLEN TOO FAR by Abbi Glines, TWISTED PERFECTION by Abbi Glines, NEVER TOO FAR by Abbi Glines, and TAKEN by Erin Bowman.

What great books did you read in May? June is shaping up to hold some fantastic titles, but I'd love to add more to my list, so please share!

The Craziness of April 2013

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say I can't believe today is the last day of April. Where has 2013 gone? And why is it, that as we get older, the years seem to just fly by? 

Make it slow down, I tell you! Because I have waaaaaaaay too much to do!

And because April was a pretty productive month for me, this has turned into a monster of a post, so bare with me!

READING: I managed to read ten books this month - one of which was an absolutely amazing MS for one of my CP's, the ever love-r-ly, Sara Biren. WAITING FOR THE SUN was one of the most beautiful stories I've had the opportunity of reading in a very long time. Honestly. I laughed and I definitely cried - which isn't something easy for me to admit - and the last time I felt this way was when I read some of my all time favorite YA Contemp reads ala Sarah Ockler and Jandy Nelson. Yes, I loved it that much.

And I can't wait to watch all the success that's about to unfold for Sara, because this is the one.

I also managed to read all three of Miranda Kenneally's books: CATCHING JORDAN, STEALING PARKER, and THINGS I CAN'T FORGET. And out of all of them, CATCHING JORDAN was my favorite. I love the sports theme that resonates in all of her books - LOVE - but particularly gravitated towards Jordan's story and her role as the QB for her high school football team. The other two books in the series were just okay for me, but that's only because they were written with a heavy influence of religion - which just isn't my thing. While I still enjoyed them, they didn't compare to CATCHING JORDAN.

I also polished off three of Abbi Glines books while running on the treadmill this month: BREATHE, BECAUSE OF LOW, and WHILE IT LASTS. And I'm currently on the 4th in this series, JUST FOR NOW. Abbi is one of my favorite authors because she writes boy so well. And I have to admit, there have been many a time I have to look around while I'm at the gym, wondering if perhaps anyone has ANY idea the scene I just read! Seriously, they're so steamy, I almost fell off the treadmill the other day. It wasn't pretty. But man was it worth it. I <3 me some Jax Stone and Cage York!

I also read ALTERED by Jennifer Rush - which I really enjoyed. Can you say Jason Bourne for teens? And SHUT OUT by Kody Keplinger - I've had this one since it came out, and had originally put it down after only a few pages. But thanks to my recent Sports Theme kick, I managed to crank this one out. And I thought it was good - maybe not as great as D.U.F.F. but still worth the read. And lastly, I read THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS by J.J. Howard. And this one folks - aside from reading Sara's MS - was my favorite for the month of April! It wasn't at all what I was expecting and I loved every page. I enjoyed her references to music at the beginning of each chapter and I really invested and felt for her MC, Lexi. Plus, it knocks one off my DAC list, too! If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it. Great read.

WRITING: During the 30 days of April I also managed to dive back into writing. It's been awhile - really, not since my massive rewrite last June with Mr. Agent Man - since I've wrote like this. I'm talking all day writing fests and staying up sometimes until 4am! But hey, when I unexpectedly got laid off from my job - after 6 years - in March (have I mentioned how tough this year has been?), it seems I've had some time on my hands to finally write. And to write when my muse is actually interested vs. only the spare hour I used to have, after working 12-hour days.

My YA Contemp WiP - WHERE THE WATER FALLS - is one I started back in 2011, and is quite the departure from what I'm so used to writing. However, after only 4 chapters, I had put it aside to focus on THE LUCKY FEW and to work with Mr. Agent Man. But like so many of us, the characters in that story kept jumping up from their seats shouting, "Pick me! Pick me!" and I knew I had to give it another go. And just in the past eight days, I've cranked out over 40k words. 

I think it also has something to do with the fact I FINALLY switched over to Scrivener. I know, I know, late to the party and all - and really, I bought it early last year, but just couldn't adjust. Word has been good to me and she'll always be my first love, but wow, Scrivener. She's a-mazing!!!! Plus, it helps when friends mention other friends, who have done these short - but incredibly helpful - video tutorials. Yes, I'm talking about Katy Upperman recommending everyone to head on over to Erin Bowman's site to watch her Scrivener videos - because they are awesome and oh, so helpful!

So yes, I am writing again. And I'm loving it.

QUERYING: I'm also still querying for TLF. This is my third book / attempt at hitting the slush pile, and it's true when they say that after each try, it keeps getting better. I think my first book - which shall remain nameless - maybe received 2 full requests and perhaps 1 partial. My second attempt was better, bringing in a handful of requests. And TLF? Well, it's been great and I've managed to gain the interest of 15 agents, which has been awesome. Yes, I've received a few declines, but quite a few of them still have it, so I'll take it!

RUNNING: And finally, a recap on my running stats for the month. I mentioned in my last post that I set a personal goal of running the equivalent of one marathon a week. And as of last Friday, I finished my 4th one!

Total mileage for April: 115 miles.

And I can't believe it, but I think I actually ran more than I drove my car! Plus, I've signed up for 3 5k races: The Color Run in Portland on 9/7 (Seattle is already sold out), The Foam Fest on 8/3 (this looks like a blast, I mean slip n' slides? Come. ON.), and Run For Your Lives on 8/24 - a 5k with obstacles, where volunteers dressed up like zombies AKA The Walking Dead (one of my FAVORITE shows!) actually chase you. I think there's a solid chance I may relieve myself of all bodily fluids on that one, seriously. 

MAY: Well, tomorrow starts a new month. It also happens to be my birthday, and I'm looking forward to seeing my progress in all things reading, writing, and querying - not to mention how many more miles I'll clock on my shoes!

So how crazy was April for you? And what are you looking forward to in May?

My Review: FALL FOR ANYTHING by Courtney Summers

Fall for AnythingFall for Anything by Courtney Summers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:

From the author of Cracked Up to Be and Some Girls Are comes a gripping story about one girl’s search for clues into the mysterious death of her father. 

When Eddie Reeves’s father commits suicide her life is consumed by the nagging question of whyWhy when he was a legendary photographer and a brilliant teacher? Why when he seemed to find inspiration in everything he saw? And, most important, why when he had a daughter who loved him more than anyone else in the world? When she meets Culler Evans, a former student of her father’s and a photographer himself, an instant and dangerous attraction begins. Culler seems to know more about her father than she does and could possibly hold the key to the mystery surrounding his death. But Eddie’s vulnerability has weakened her and Culler Evans is getting too close. Her need for the truth keeps her hanging on...but are some questions better left unanswered?

My Review:

FALL FOR ANYTHING delivers the same raw and honest writing style we're used to seeing from Courtney Summers, as she yet again tackles an intense subject that many authors tend to shy away from.

This time, our MC Eddie, has just lost her father to suicide. Her mom has succumbed to a deep bout of depression, and her mom's best friend, Beth - who Eddie can't stand - has moved in to help.

Then there's Eddie's own best friend, a boy named Milo, who's in love with another girl. And she might just be taking him away from her.

One of my favorite writing nuances of Summers', is that most all of her MC's are plagued with some tiny quirk. In CRACKED UP TO BE (probably my favorite of her novels), the MC Parker Fadley suffers from anxiety-ridden finger snapping, which was incredibly well written and such an important flaw to her character. And this time in FALL FOR ANYTHING, Eddie believes her hands are dying - and throughout the novel, constantly complains about how she can't feel her fingers, or how cold her hands are...even though she admits later on, that she knows it's all in her head.

As Eddie struggles to understand why her father would kill himself, she questions everything - including her potential role in pushing him over the edge. So much to deal with at the age of seventeen, yet nothing is held back throughout the pages.

I love reading powerful and emotional writing like this and I'm not surprised that yet again, Courtney Summers has nailed it. I highly recommend all of her books - as you can tell, I am a huge fan. And I definitely can't wait to get my hands on her upcoming release, ALL THE RAGE, when it debuts early next year.

View all my reviews

Today Is For Regine: Giveaway Winner!

A quick note to announce the winner of my giveaway of a hardback copy of Regine's Book: A Teen Girl's Last Words, along with a few other goodies!

And the winner is:

The ever-lovely Jaime Morrow!

Jaime, send me your mailing info. via, and I'll make sure Zest Books gets your prize pack mailed out!

Thanks so much to everyone that stopped by, entered, and left comments! This really was such an important cause and I'm so glad you all could be a part of it!

And thanks again to Zest Books for not only the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour, but for also supporting Regine's story!

Today Is For Regine

I'm honored to have yet again been asked by Zest Books, to participate in one of their amazing book blog tours. This time, for their newest release: Regine's Book: A Teen Girl's Last Words. 

So first and foremost, a big thank you to Zest Books, for allowing me to be a part of something so wonderful. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, and I'm so grateful to have had the chance to work on this project, with all of the other wonderful bloggers. 

Zest Books Summary:

Regine Stokke began her blog after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia in 2008. Her goal was to paint a realistic picture of what it’s like battling a life-threatening illness - and to share her experience with the world. 

Regine’s Book: A Teen Girl’s Last Words, new from Zest Books, is Regine’s personal story as it was written on her blog, and features her own photography and artwork, as well as comments from blog readers and entries from those who loved her most. The book deals with every facet of living with cancer, from the good days to the bad and everything in between.

“The fear of no longer existing never goes away,” Regine confesses only a few months before her death. “I’m afraid to leave the world and I don’t want to do it. I think about my family, and about my friends. I have to fight for them. I can’t leave them behind with that sorrow. I have to try everything I can, despite how bleak everything looks.”

Read an excerpt from Regine’s Book in HuffPost Teen - or read a teen’s review of Regine’s Book from YA Think, Burbank Public Library’s Teen Blog.

Zest Books has graciously made a donation to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training in Regine’s honor, upon publication of Regine’s Book. In addition to joining our blog action, we urge you to consider supporting these incredible organizations in any way you can:

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
Be the Match: National Bone Marrow Donor Program
DKMS: Register to become a bone marrow donor
Gift of Life: Bone Marrow Foundation

****And my personal favorite: Stand Up 2 Cancer, where 100% of your donation goes straight to saving lives right now! Please join my team: StandUp4Ohana - Ohana meaning Family in Hawaiian - and help the fight for anyone in your Ohana, that has been affected by this horrible disease. 

So today, I'm blogging for Regine - and for every single individual out there, touched by cancer. Please also check out my good friend and fellow YA writer, Sara Biren: Crow River Writer, who blogged yesterday for Regine - I'm so grateful Sara decided to do this book tour with me and share her own personal journey.

And don't forget all of the other bloggers who participated, by clicking on the "I'm Blogging For Regine" image to the left.

My Review:

This was an incredibly tough read for me - not only because it was authentic and raw, but also because of how close to home it hit. But I expected that, even before I started in on the first page.

So, so, many of us have been touched by cancer - too many of us in fact. And reading a personal journey through the eyes of a seventeen-year-old, only solidified my belief that we must continue to search for a cure to end this devastating illness.

In Regine's Book, she told it like it was. She never once glossed over the gruesome details of what cancer really does not only to the human body, but also to the soul. She struggled to understand why friends began to drift away - realizing they actually believed they could "catch" cancer from her - and how unfair it was to not be able to plan for her future, when everyone else around her was. Every page of this book made me wonder, how much more can this amazing individual possibly endure? And how does one - at such a young age - face their own mortality? 

No one should have to deal with the horrendous effects of this disease and I wish I could find a cure, myself. This is why I'll keep donating to the cause. Because someone brilliant, out there, will find a cure some day - and if I can contribute to that in any way, I'll do whatever I can.

Which is why I'll be handing this book over to my sister, Claudine, who's an oncology nurse at Seattle Children's Hospital. She has more strength and courage than I believe I ever could, to do what she does - and I'm glad for amazing individuals like her, who contribute everything to helping those affected by cancer.

Additional Thoughts:

As some of you already know, my mom was diagnosed with late stage hepatocellular carcinoma - that's a fancy way of saying liver cancer - in June of 2006. I was on a business trip to Miami when she called to tell me. And my life forever changed 3,000 miles away from home, and over the duration of a five minute phone call. 

The prognoses wasn't good. 4-6 months was what they were giving her - and that was if she underwent a series of invasive treatments and surgeries. But my Mom had other plans. And with a healthy dose of mind over matter - she steered clear of all Western medicine and treatments. She didn't touch an ounce of chemo, nor did she ever undergo a single moment of radiation. And she showed her doctors - not to mention everyone else around her - who was in charge.

Eventually the disease took it's toll on my Mom's body, but it never took her spirit.

I lost my Mom on May 4th, 2010. Three days after my 34th birthday and one month after she'd turned 70. But 4 years after she was originally diagnosed...even when they said it wouldn't be possible. Which to me means, anything is possible.

I don't have too many photographs of my mom and I from when I was little, but because of the overwhelming response to my Dear Teen Me post and video - and how much I enjoyed putting it together - what pictures I do have, turned into this amazing montage. All images are in chronological order (or close to) and are from my Mom's time as a model, some with my Dad, and many with all of us kids in various stages of our lives.

Here's to you, Mom. 

Me ka Aloha. A hui hou kakou.

A Giveaway:

In honor of Regine, her courageous journey, my Mom, and everyone else out there affected by cancer, I'm giving away one fabulous Zest Books prize pack, which contains: A hardback copy of Regine's Book: A Teen Girl's Last Words, a bookmark, and a Zest Books literacy poster (see the attached image over there for details!) for the winner.

To enter, please fill out the below Rafflecopter form and adhere to all giveaway rules:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much for stopping by. Don't forget to enter the giveaway - this amazing book needs to be read by all and passed along! And if possible, please donate if you can - every single penny helps! 

Dear Teen Me: Giveaway Winner!

Just a quick follow up to announce the winner of the DEAR TEEN ME prize pack!

And the lucky winner is:

Becky Mahoney!!!

Congratulations, Becky (Becky and I have already exchanged info via email - thanks, Becky!) - and thanks so much to everyone who stopped by and entered the contest...and more importantly, contributed to this amazing project!!!