If I Stay: Book vs. Movie

If I Stay image

If I Stay by Gayle Forman, is a teen cello-addict whose whole family gets wiped out by a car crash in the first scene.

*All readers click the X button on this blog *

To be fair, that was my first response too. Despite many people recommending this one to me, I don’t like sad books. Therefore, it took me a while to give this one a chance, especially since it is written from the POV of a girl in a coma (wow, game for a challenge much, Gayle? That’s hardcore). The book is really about the girl (Mia) deciding if she wants to live. I was pumping the pom poms from the start, because she has a super hot boyfriend (Adam, oh Adam…) who sings in a rock band, plays the guitar like a true panty-dropper, and is sweet as holy hell to boot.


The book screams with tension despite the constant switching between the main character’s past and flipping to her (bleak, hospital-bound) present. I wanted to know what would happen next RIGHT NOW in BOTH TIMELINES, which yes, I know that’s physically impossible. Trust me, my fingers were doing some serious gymnastics on those pages, and I think I went a couple of days without blinking. *Sends apology card to my optometrist*

If I Stay cover

In the movie, all that tension was replaced with a lot of Girl Running Frantically Through Hospital shots. It got to the point where I was more interested in the actress’s cardio training regime than the storyline. And yet at the same points in the book, I could feel the author leaving her fingernail marks in my heart, she had it gripped so tightly. I can’t really say it was the acting—Mia’s family was just as quirky and lovable as they were in the book, though in type it translated better. Adam was perfect in both, but again, I felt more deeply for him in the movie. Mia felt deeper and more passionate as a person, a musician, and a family member in the book version. In the book, I had no idea what her decision might be. In the movie, I would have called it from the first scene. I just never had the faith in the directors that I had in the book’s original author.

The death knell was that I watched this movie with my sister-in-law, and the whole time I felt like apologizing for bringing her to such a melodramatic festival of teen hormones. Not the feeling I want to pay $10 to have.

The Verdict:

Obviously, the book. So much the book. I cringe to say it, but I’d actually recommend true fans avoid this film version.

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The Five Best Books Ever Written

First, the name of this post is not a drill. These are not my favorite books, they’re the best ones ever written in the English language. Probably all the other ones, too. Except Italian, because everything you say in Italian sounds post-orgasmic.

1. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is Everywhere pic

This book wraps you in another kind of air, like music, like dance, like the first touch from a boy you’ve had a crush on forever.

I have no idea why Nelson isn’t 50 Shades of Grey famous. She should be signing books and tossing them down from her private plane, while getting footrubs from men with beautiful abdominal muscles and even more beautiful Ph.D’s. This is a debut novel from a seasoned literary agent, and I can only assume she’s been saving up all of her talent to spend on this one, perfect book. It’s worth it, Jandy. Thanks for waiting.

This story is about a teen girl who is falling in love for the first time while coming apart at the seams about the death of her sister. The marks of her grief smudge her entire world: in the poems she leaves on garbage, in the (nearly unforgivable) self-destructive things she does to forget, in the leaves of her plant doppelganger nurtured by her hilarious Uncle Big and her bizarre Gran, and in the kisses she shares with Joe, the owner of the most beautiful eyelashes in the lower 48. I don’t imagine there are many people who could pull off this premise, much less make it excruciating: in its joy, in its pain, in both at once. This book is everything salvageable about the human race.

Best for: people who want to feel, or who like the kind of weird that is also funny. Bonus points for music lovers.

Why it’s weird that I like it: I hate books with sad stuff, and I really hate poetry. The poetry in this book works, though, because the main character has no idea the impact she’s having on the world around her. She just flings her influence about the way she flings her poetry, and in the end, you see all the pieces of her that were gathered up—and cherished—by others when she at first thought they were worthless.

You can see more about it HERE.

You can see my original review HERE.


2. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Sea of Tranquility book cover


Like #1 on the list, this is a crazy outlier by a debut author. It’s a love story about two teens with Real Shitty Lives. To be honest, I didn’t love the voice of the protagonist for the first few chapters. She sounded like a sarcastic, semi-entitled teenager and I wasn’t interested. I might have even put it down if the author wouldn’t have impressed me with a little bait and switch (small spoiler!) when she notes that the character doesn’t talk. What? I didn’t notice for like three chapters that the MC doesn’t TALK? *cue furious page-flipping and my grudging grunt of acknowledgment*

What really sold me on this book was Josh. He barely talks, everyone in school is afraid of him, and he’s the King of Shop Class. I admit, I swoon for a guy in work boots. Josh spends most of his time quietly making furniture in his garage and I could LIVE in the golden glow of that place. When Nastya, the bitter but mute MC, shows up, you would expect that he heals her with his gentleness, and he’s the only one that understands her, right? WRONG. They’re mean as shit to each other, but she’s as addicted to his garage as I am and after a while, they forge an alliance of misfits. She doesn’t talk and he doesn’t want to answer any question because he’s got a past that’s a notch past dramatic and into cringe-worthy territory. It seems that Nastya has the same, but that trope finds new life and tension in this narrative until it’s as impossible to ignore as a car wreck. Almost against my will, I was drawn into caring what happened to her, and I couldn’t look away, even when it became clear that it was impossible for her to heal. Even when she walked away from Josh and broke my heart. And no, I’m not going to spoiler the end for you. It’s brave. It’s honest. Read it.

Best for: Angst lovers.

Why it’s weird that I like it: It’s totally not. I’m a sucker for quiet carpenter guys and haunted characters, though I normally avoid things that are this sooty level of dark.

You can see more about it HERE

You can read my original review HERE

3. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

TFiOS bookcover pic

I’m pained that this one is on here, because it’s so trendy, and because it’s about two cancer kids falling in love in a support group. I didn’t want to like it! I just couldn’t help myself.

Green suckered me in with the laugh-out-loud Night of Broken Trophies and The Literal Heart of Jesus (because really, support groups are for terribly earnest people, aren’t they?). He hooked me with the plot twist (WHAT? THAT WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN, JOHN. WHAT IS YOUR EXPLANATION FOR THIS?). He beguiled me with his sidewalk-gritty metaphors about life and death and meaning, and then he LAID ME OUT with the ending. I sobbed like a child, nearly as often as I marveled at the conclusions he came to.

Green used to be a pastor in a children’s hospital, and he writes more insightfully on the experience of death and fate and meaningful randomness than the rest of us will ever do. Take advantage of all his smartness. Read this book. It’s not a dang cancer book. It’s not a cheap tearjerker (I’m looking at you Lurlene McDaniel). It’s one of the best books you’ll ever read in your life.

Best for: Those interested in the meaning of life and that old favorite, Why Bad Things Happen To Good People.

Why it’s weird that I like it: Cancer books. I don’t read ‘em. I lost my dad to cancer, and seriously, why would I relive that in my leisure time?

You can see more about it HERE

You can see my original review HERE

You can read my comparison between the book and the movie HERE

4. The Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor

Cake and Puppets book cover pic

What the hell, you’re probably saying at this point. What’s with all these tissue-mopping books, Michelle? I thought you liked fun. I thought you liked pranks and witty banter and kissing. I mean, didn’t you actually write a book called Happily Ever After?

So here you go, patient readers, here is the ROFLMAO gemstone that makes up for all those soul-wreckers I just recommended. I laughed out loud three times on the first page, and highlighted so many great phrases that most of the book is grayed out now. I laughed so obnoxiously loudly that my husband started reading over my shoulder, and he’s more interested in toenail clippings than romance novels.

This story is cute, quirkily romantic, and makes your heart swell like the brass section in the soundtrack of an American movie. It is about a diminutive puppet-builder in Prague who is trying to win the love of her life, who happens to be a violinist. That’s right, SHE is trying to win HIS heart. Don’t be so sexist, people. Also, she does this with a scavenger hunt. Great strategy.

This book increases the overall amount of happiness in the universe. You should read it because doing so will make your life better. The end.

Best for: Everyone. If you don’t like this book, you are probably not a person. You’re probably a golem created from powdered cubicle walls, wheat germ, and puppies’ tears.

Why I like it: I admit to a soft spot for this one because the main character might as well be me. She’s tiny, fierce, and just as likely to kill a rapist with an axe as she is to swoon helplessly over the romance of a perfectly presented snowball.

You can see more about it HERE

You can see my original review HERE


5. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Name of the Wind pic


Remember when you were a kid and you’d get swept up in a story? You’d be half-daydreaming, wriggling your bare toes in the grass as you pictured the action while the hero fought his way through adventure after adventure… That’s the Name of the Wind. But instead of the shiny legend of the hero, this book is the true story behind the rumor, with all the gritty details and mistakes; the funny moments where the hero screwed up and then pretended like he totally meant to do that. It’s a little Harry Potter, but more down to earth. A little Lord of the Rings, but with better pacing. It’s a heck of a tale, all suspense and romance and heroism all wrapped up in stunningly clean, beautiful language.

I’ve said for years that this book had the best first page I’ve ever read, and once when hiking in the desert, I ran into two other people who agreed with me. The three of us ended up reciting the entire prologue from memory in turns: me, a Swedish rabbit researcher, and an Alaskan fisherman. When you can write a page so good that three people can all recall it nearly word for word, years later? Well, now that’s a page.

Best for: Anyone who likes a good story, or good writing.

Why it’s weird that I like it: I don’t care for fantasy. I just couldn’t resist the writing in this one, and then the story sucked me in.

You can see more about it HERE

You can see my original review HERE


And in a happy little postscript, as just recently ALL of these books have been optioned for movies or TV (congrats Jandy Nelson!) or have already been made into movies (see my earlier post on The Fault In Our Stars movie). *happy sigh* I’m so happy with Hollywood right now.

So there you have it, the five best books of all time. If you think we might have similar taste, come find me HERE on Goodreads! I’d love to have more people’s reviews to follow on that site.

Runner Up List: Anything by Maggie Stiefvater. Because she writes about man-eating horses and faerie assassins and is totally going to slaughter John Green at street racing this year.

Shatter Me, by Tahereh Mafi– All other language walks, while hers pirouettes. I haven’t seen prose this creative since Charles Dickens.

Maybe Someday, by Colleen Hoover. I admit it, I admit it, the deaf musician and the fact that this book has a soundtrack left me with a bit of a literary crush.


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The Fault In Our Stars: Book vs Movie?

In case you’ve missed this cultural phenomenon entirely, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green is a book where two kids meet and fall in love in a cancer survivor support group. Trust me, I know. Just keep reading.

Fault_in_our_stars movie pic

Ahhhh! *gnashes teeth* This is a terribly hard one for me. The Fault in Our Stars has held firm (for years) to one of the hotly contested spots in my Top Five Favorite Books list.* And deservedly so. It’s tears-in-your-eyes funny, soggy-pile-of-tissues sad, and stare-in-jealousy-at-John-Green wise. This coming from a girl who refuses to read cancer books, and avoids sad books at all costs.

Of course that means I expected the movie to be terrible. Even if it wasn’t terrible, I certainly wouldn’t notice, because I would be busy snootily insisting that the book was Better, Prettier, Smarter, Bigger Busted and generally preferable in every way. I was well on the way to being vindicated when I heard about the casting. Ansel Elgort and Shailene Woodley? What? Weren’t they brother and sister in that Divergent movie? Ick! How are they supposed to be cancer kids in love? Especially since Elgort was about as interesting as a chunk of manure-clumped mud in Divergent. Don’t take my word for it. Let’s have a look at the evidence.

First Shailene Woodley in Divergent. A little vulnerable, but patently a badass:

Shailene in Divergent pic

And now, Ansel Elgort, her screen brother in Divergent.

Ansel Elgort in Divergent pic

I believe the word you’re looking for here is “Meh.”

So with that kind of chemistry to look forward to, you can see why I was hesitant to get excited. However, I didn’t give the proper amount of credit to the actors involved.

In the first scene, I ate all my words (and my husband ate most of my popcorn, because I was too enthralled to mount a proper defense). Ansel Elgort WAS Gus. He was charismatic, and flippant, and just way too damn charming for his own good. Then, the ballbusting Woodley dialed it back to an out-of-breath but still sarcastic teenager without an extra eyelash flutter of effort. Just LOOK at them together:

The Fault in Our Stars pic

So cute, right? This is the only example I’ve ever seen in a movie where romantic chemistry wasn’t a fact of nature, it was actually an artifact of Good Acting. Not the easiest thing to pull off.

So the love story was a total win onscreen. And another point for the movie: the Holland scenes were better. They were kind of long and weird in the book. I mean, come on, did Holland sponsor the making of this novel or something? Oh, what’s that you say? There was a fellowship involved, so kind of a little bit yes they did…Hmm, that makes lots of sense. Green’s amazing metaphors about life and death were clearer in the shorter form of a film, though they seemed even more wise when contained in the silent offering of typed words.

The movie did lose a point for me in its sense of humor. It was good, but the same jokes in the book were oddly not as funny on the silver screen. And my favorite scene in the book (The Night of the Broken Trophies! *All TFiOS fans stop to “Awwww” for a second*) was just not as good in the visual medium. Overall though, these were small details and I thought the movie stayed very true to the page. But then AGHHHH! The ending!

The ending left me shaking my fist and whispering furiously to my husband, because OF COURSE THEY BUTCHERED THE END! That’s what movies do, right? Somewhere at a conference table in Hollywood there are a ton of movie producers, doing the evil tappy fingers, drinking champagne, and dreaming up mediocre movie endings. I assure you, their hands impugned this (otherwise great) movie. Until the ending, it followed the book! It had fantastic acting! It gave us the horrific visuals of the truly sick! And then SLAPINTHEFACE they get to the ending speech, and it sucks. I went home and read the original ending—twice—and swore. And emailed my friends. Thus…

The Verdict…

Book. All the way. The movie was a great translation, way better than expected, but you should pause it three minutes from the end and go read the one in the book. It’s only fair.


Up next on Book vs Movie: The Hunger Games. Just kidding, I love all the Hunger Games movies. So there’s no point in doing a cage match there, unless you really really want one. Feel free to vote in the comments. Actually, I think I’ll do “If I Stay” by Gayle Forman, because it was a sneak-attack SOFREAKINGGOOD kind of book. But first, I think I will take a break to do a different kind of post…a SECRET kind of post.

*If you want to know WHAT those top five favorite books of mine are, stay tuned. I might be giving out a hint or two soon.

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Insurgent: Book vs. Movie

Oooh… *rubs hands together* We might draw some blood on this one, because both book and movie were enjoyable, and both had significant drawbacks.

For newbies, Insurgent is the second installment of the Divergent Trilogy, an action-filled dystopian trilogy that’s inspired a lot of love (and a lot of outraged shrieking) from its fans. It’s a post-apocalyptic world where the survivors are separated by values: honesty, bravery, etc. etc. Personally I thought “Ability to grow a potato” should have featured more prominently, alongside “Willingness to mate in a world without Clearasil” but hey! No one asked me.

Insurgent pic

On the page, Insurgent suffers from a near-terminal case of Mopey Girl Doing Nothing. It’s a disease that runs rampant in the genre, much like pink eye through a daycare. It afflicted the later books of Hunger Games in a similar fashion, but I’m happy to report like HG, the Insurgent movie producers left all that moping time in shreds on the cutting room floor.

I almost didn’t see Insurgent at all, because the preview was such a CGI extravaganza, and I’m not interested in watching two hours of green screen nonsense. Fortunately, that wasn’t what I got. The film version was a nearly mathematically perfect balance of romance, action and plot. The fight scenes were taut and enjoyable, and I only rarely rolled my eyes in that “This is a simulation, so why should I care?” kind of way.

In the book, there was a bit more emotional depth to the war and the stakes attached to it. In the movie, there was too much focus on opening this random magic box by passing what seemed like insanely easy simulations to show if Tris displayed the required qualities of Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, and…that other one. The nicey-nice hippie farm people one (not surprisingly, the hardest test for Tris. Apparently she needs a little more fair trade green tea before she can blend with the locals).

The Verdict:

Movie. I liked both, I loved neither, but the movie kept my attention longer.

Up Next on Book vs. Movie: The Fault in Our Stars (Ahh, I loved this book so much! I’m unworthy, I’m unworthy!)


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Paper Towns: Book or Movie?

I love movies. Just not…the movies they have been making. For about the last ten looong years. Which means I was squealingly excited when they started making all my favorite books into movies. The latest of those, a whip-smart John Green classic, is Paper Towns.

Paper Towns pic

Paper Towns is about this crazy chick who does lots of cool stuff, and the nerdy guy who loves her, and then learns a lesson about how harmful it is to oversimplify someone into a fantasy image.

The book was a triumph of charisma and nerdiness, leaving me giggling and flipping pages for the next clue. The movie, as it turns out, is a fantastic translation of everything that made the movie great. The book starts out with HELLO! Crazy Ninja girl coming in through a window! Who is this chick? In the film, Cara Delevingne manages to hang on to every bit of that charisma and mystery, while Nat Wolff perfectly captures Q’s slump-shouldered sweetness. John Green’s funniest lines translate better to film in this than in the otherwise beautiful “The Fault In Our Stars” film. This movie, like most of Green’s books, makes us nostalgic for being normal teenagers again—if teenagers were two notches smarter and one notch wittier than we ever were.

My favorite character in the whole movie was Ben, a painfully average looking chap who spends most of his time making up imaginary girlfriends from summer camp, his visit to his aunt’s house, the last time he went to the grocery store…pretty much every time he’s out of his friends’ sight for long enough to qualify for A Plausible Encounter with a Fantasy Girl. The actor has a gut-busting talent for looking like your cousin Melvin while deadpanning the word “honeybunnies.”

My one complaint was that the pacing was a touch off. In the book you get to really sink into the adventures of the roadtrip and the Night O’ Pranks. In the movie, they come off a little abbreviated.

The Verdict

The book wins, but in a photo finish. Overall, this was an absolute pleasure, one that makes me look forward to the upcoming cinematic version of “Looking For Alaska.”

Next up for my Book to Movie reviews: Insurgent (2nd installment in the Divergent Trilogy).


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Fiction Writing, Psychotherapy & Patrick Rothfuss

This is a post on one of the most simple and complex facets of writing fiction, one that was brought to mind by my recent re-reading of The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. What do therapy and a bearded world-saving supernerd have in common, you might ask? (I doubt Rothfuss would take offense to being called this, but just in case, the beard is well-documented, as is his amazing WorldBuilders charity, and we’ll just let his Neil Gaimon infatuation speak for itself, shall we?)

P Rothfuss

Back on track. We’re talking about good fiction here. So, once upon a time, before I was a tortoise chaser or a fanfic freak or a budding author, I was training to be a therapist. I was in the realm of bespectacled head-nodders and tissue-handers for years, and of all the talking they did, they only had a single real thing to teach about doing therapy. It was this: You can’t tell a patient what’s wrong with them, you have to let them figure it out for themselves. It also really helps if you don’t greet their epiphany by shouting, purple-faced, “I FREAKING TOLD YOU SO!”

It was a hard lesson for blunt-spoken, bulldozering Younger Me to learn. I would sit there with clients, nodding in my best sympathetic fashion, jaws clamped shut against the words, “JUST LEAVE HIM! HE’S A SNIVELING, ABUSIVE TOE-WART OF A MAN WITH NO REDEEMING QUALITIES!” as I tried to gently lead them toward this realization on their own.

It will come as perhaps no surprise to the readers of this blog that I ended up as a biologist and a novelist instead.

However annoying it was to learn, the lesson remained in my head. If you truly want someone to know something, you can’t tell it to them. To be a good author, or a good therapist, you have to nibble around the edges of truth. You have to add in a parable about a bird, a tinker, and a pair of magic boots. You have to talk about beards, and abusive husbands, and Kleenex.

Now, it’s taken me 345 words to explain it, but Rothfuss did it in only 26. Because he’s better than me. Allow me to share his 26, quoted from The Wise Man’s Fear:

“If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he’ll look for his own answers.”

So I ask you, what do YOU need to learn? And what do you have to say?

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My New Project- Sex Addiction & Frustratingly Flawed Characters

Hello, dear friends! I’ve been painfully amiss in updating this website, busy as I’ve been with a couple seasons chasing tortoises in the desert, getting an agent (a completely amazing agent! Still so excited!), and writing my trilogy, Sex, Love and Rock and Roll.

Last you heard from me, I was writing a little story about a girl with sexual dysfunction falling in love with a nude model. I talk all about Jera and Jacob here. The thing about Jera is that she’s a drummer in a band, and the thing about me is that I can’t write a simple secondary character to save my life. So *surprised face* my stand-alone turned into a trilogy when the rest of her band members came to shouty, three-dimensional life and started demanding stories of their own, slick with sex and thumping with music.

Now I’m on the third book in the series, struggling through trying to explain the journey of a lead singer, Jax, who turns himself inside out to please everyone around him, but is crippled by his addictions. First to drugs and drinking, and later, to sex. He’s a billboard-worthy hearththrob who can’t stop organizing his kitchen cabinets for maximum efficiency, who just wants everyone around him to be happy and get along. But life is rarely so kind. He falls for another chart-topping musician, the chain-and-snake draped superstar, Ava. She too, wishes she were as perfect as the airbrushed images of herself in magazines, and she and Jax bond over the darker parts of themselves that they can’t share with their screaming fans. Let’s pause a moment for some sexy pictures of Jax and Ava.

Ava Jax

The story is a great challenge for me, in writing two people so very different from myself, and over and over again as I write, I find myself scared that no one will like my characters. Will people just think Jax is a heartless slut with his only brain operating below the belt? Or will they see what he’s really like:

Jax and Maya

Will they think Ava is a self-centered diva?

Ava on stage

Or will they see the side of her that Jax does, without me having to write it in bold letters and too-pointed dialogue?

Ava vulnerable

Real people rarely unspool all their true selves at first meeting, and I want my books to be the same. I want to be able to SHOW my characters without forcing them to reveal all the cards in their hand at Chapter 1. But how to be sure that my readers are seeing what I’m seeing? How to be sure that I’m doing my best to turn so many strangers’ perceptions in the right direction?

This story is going to be a tough one for me, but I’m keeping my (well-chewed) nails on the keyboard, hoping I can do justice to these flawed, so very vulnerable characters that live in my head. I’d love to hear from other writers as I continue through this process, though. How DO you balance subtlety with clarity? How to make someone sympathetic, even when they’re not always kind?

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Your New Favorite Book- for free!

Yesterday, I posted about the new Kindle Scout program (speed recap: vote to get books published, get that book for free, bad-freaking-ass all around!). Today, I’m going to talk about my new favorite book on that program. It is called “Order Up” by Katie Golding and you have 28 more days to check it out on Kindle Scout and vote for it, because if you don’t, it doesn’t get published and you will miss out on all the steamy, crack-you-up-laughing, heart-warming goodness of this book.

Order up

You can see the official summary on Amazon, but today I want to talk about why I fell in love with this book. First, it’s about real people, not fake-ass book people. You know who I’m talking about: the billionaire who JUST SO HAPPENS to be gorgeous and great in bed, despite the fact that being unselfish isn’t exactly one of the things that tends to propel people toward that level of financial success. Or the girl who is a famous fashion designer who has two beautiful and totally sweet men in love with her at once and has to decide which of them she wants to run away to Paris with. Wouldn’t it be nice, folks?

But no, Order Up is about a pizza delivery guy who is a few years out of high school. Thanks to credit card debt, he’s stuck in a roommate situation where he has to listen through the wall to just how much his brother & brother’s girlfriend like each other (oh, the joy!). He’s in a job that pays for shit and makes him smell like Eu de Pepperoni and Grease but honestly, he has no idea what he OUGHT to be doing with his life. Of course, it helps that the author tells me she pictures Wesley as looking like this:

Wesley 3

Yeah, trust me. I know. So that doesn’t hurt. Ooh, let’s take one more peek.

Wes 2Yeah, that’s lovely. Wesley’s so freaking lovable. He’s utterly himself and he’s a little lost, okay, but he’s sweet, too, and hilarious in his interactions with his gay best friend and his big brother. Then he meets Reagan, who is just a barrel full of energy and fun and this is the point at which you get TOTALLY lost in their flirtation banter. It gives you that sentimental flutter of, “Oooh look at this new hot person and oh wow they kind of like me!” even while you’re wishing you were as witty as the characters themselves. Here’s a peek at the author’s vision of the terribly endearing Reagan:


Reagan’s a Character with a capital C and she and Wesley start out as friends. Yeah, flirty friends but also REAL friends, the kind you rarely see in books between people of the opposite sex. In books it is all sexual tension sexual tension CONFLICTCONFLICTCONFLICT. But here, we get to see them support each other when they’re grouchy or sad or just got hosed by somebody else in their life. We get to see them get to know the weird details of each other’s lives: why Wesley loves his car so much, what dance routine is crippling all the members of Reagan’s troop. They actually freaking KNOW each other, and that’s what makes this book so addicting to me. It’s not all love at first sight or We Are Fated To Be Together Forevah. Instead it is: yup that person is pretty cute and hey, that thing they said was actually pretty funny and then wait, somebody is asking how I am doing and really meaning it for once? *pauses* And then they’re doing something totally adorable (with ducks) to cheer me up? Where did this person even COME from and how did I ever live without them?

It’s the kind of love story you rarely get to see unfold on the page. And then, of course, the conflict. I won’t spoiler anything, but I will say that I feel like this book GETS me, because nothing about it is contrived. The characters go through the stuff that we have ALL been through. The author doesn’t find any neat loopholes that the rest of us somehow missed and I love her for that. And when Wesley finally figures out his dreams, they don’t neatly align with the woman that he loves OR her goals, and the best part? His dream isn’t all, “I want to be a fireman/billionaire/save African puppies.” It is purely Wesley and purely not what you’d expect from fiction, and it is *redacted for spoilery reasons* Their journey isn’t easy, but just like my own journey, I wouldn’t give up the experience for anything.

Wes and Reagan

So why is this a book that’s perfect for Kindle Scout? Because it’s a book for The Rest of Us. You know who you are: the guilty pleasure romance reader who hasn’t gotten as much of a boost from your past 10 reads as you would have liked. The one who adores a good love story and swoons for beautiful writing but dammit why is all the beautiful writing locked up in literary fiction with grand (read: unsatisfying and sad) endings? And why are all the love stories so…trite?

Order Up is the book you’ve been looking for. I know, because it’s the book I didn’t even know I wanted until I found it. And right now, if you hop on over to Kindle Scout and press the “Nominate Me” button, you can get a free copy and share the link and your review with all your friends and help share this incredible story with the rest of the world.

So quit stalling to look at all the pretty pictures and head to Amazon to vote for Order Up!

UPDATE *** Order Up was selected for publication by Amazon Kindle Scout! You can buy your copy here.

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Get free books, support new authors!

I don’t know how I missed Amazon’s greatest idea ever. As a huge fan of the Kindle Worlds program, this is a BIG statement from me. But somehow, I completely missed the introduction of Amazon’s newest reader-powered publishing program. I can’t believe that, not only have I passed on the chance to get to CHOOSE what awesome undiscovered books I’d like to see published, I’ve missed the chance to get FREE BOOKS!

*takes a moment to be disappointed in self*

So, here’s how the program works:


Browse new, never-before-published books.

Every book has 30 days to earn your nomination. Authors are submitting new books all the time so check back often.

Nominate your favorites.

When you discover a book that you think is great, nominate it and the book will be added to Your Nominations panel. Keep up to three books nominated at a time, and update your nominations whenever you want.



When a book’s 30-day campaign ends while in Your Nominations panel, your nomination is tallied and removed from your panel – freeing up that nomination for another book. You will receive an email to let you know whether your book has been selected for publication.


Enjoy free books.

As a thank you from us and the authors you support, you will receive an early, free copy of all the Kindle Scout books you nominated that are published. Continue to champion the books and authors you helped bring to life by leaving reviews and sharing with friends.


As a big fanfiction writer (and reader!) I’ve been growing more aware of the disconnect between what people WANT to read, and what is being published. For example: when readers like the book, they want it to be longer, but publishers limit word count scrupulously. Also, publishers tend to highlight plot and conflict, but readers care more about emotion and character, and (as readers have told me) many of us would like to see more moments in romance novels where the characters get to be together and be happy and interact with one another, instead of spending 95% of the novel tragically held apart by…*insert Conflict A*

So I’m hugely excited for the opportunity to get to tell the publisher (in this case, Amazon) what I WANT to read! Plus, my squishy little heart loves the idea of supporting the underdog: some great author who doesn’t have the connections to squeeze into the traditional publishing world. Readers get the books they want (and a copy for free!) and authors get a chance at publication AND promotional support without giving up 85% of the proceeds from their book. So much winning here!

To get started nominating books, click here. To increase the chances of the books you nominate getting published (remember, free book), share the link with everyone you know. This doesn’t cost you a thing, except a few minutes of your time. Unless of course you spend hours perusing all the books nominated…like I have been. Come on, it’s like a book lottery!

Of course, as it happens I already have a favorite amongst the books entered in the program. Check out  my next post for the info on Order Up by one of my favorite authors, Katie Golding.

Order up

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So you want to be a better writer? Be evil.

What did I just say? Am I really advocating being evil to become a better writer? Is this about that whole sell your soul thing, because I thought we’d gotten past that…

dr evil

Nope. This is about an evil, yet magical object. I don’t blog about writing much, because I love to talk about writing. Once I started, everyone knows I wouldn’t stop and then the avalanche of unasked for opinions would likely crash the internet. Then YouTube videos of cute animals would become universally unavailable, and the world would sell out of Prozac in roughly 23 minutes.

But at the risk of accidentally killing all the digitized puppies chasing ducklings, I’m going to blog about writing today. So what is the evil, yet magical object? It is a list, actually. I usually entitle my list, “Things that worry me about my book that I don’t want to admit or deal with.” OR “You’re *&%$ing kidding me.”

I’ve written (hold on, gotta take off my shoes for this one) 13 1/2 books. Only on the last one did I finally grow the cojones to make a list like the one described above and holy WOW did it help. And double holy WOW was it a lot of work (my critique partner is still lying limply on the floor, sweating into the carpet). But it made my book a billion times better. One at a time, I pulled out the things that I was secretly hoping none of my beta readers would notice, I wept to my husband about how unfixable they were, and then I figured out how to fix them.

Once I was done with the whole new, heavily Frankensteined draft, I emailed it to my beta readers. Again. Usually I include a list of questions designed to tease out their reactions to things I suspect are weak points in my manuscript, but this time? I didn’t have a single question. Every last thing in my manuscript that I knew was an issue had been fixed to the absolute best of my ability.

What an incredible feeling.

Honestly, should you ever send your writing out into the world any other way? *looks guiltily at nine published books for which I did NOT do this* Let’s not answer that, hmm? Let’s focus on the positive. And the future. And look, over there, a squirrel!

Seriously, though, can you guys all do this to your writing? Depends, how much tequila do you have at home right now? If you’d like to try, or you’d like some help brainstorming the problems you have no idea how to fix, comment on this blog or email me! I’d love to help and if I don’t know the answer either, well, at least we can drink some of your tequila.



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