Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Review: PUSHING SEND


I received a copy of PUSHING SEND by Jacqueline Ross and Ally Derby from NetGalley in exchange for a review.

This book was not what I expected from the description and cover. That being said, it was a gritty story with solid character arcs and unexpected twists. However, the pacing to me felt slightly off. Perhaps it is the teacher in me but I felt like if I had charted it out like we used to do in middle school, the curve between inciting incident, climax, and denouement would have been a little wonky. I also felt like the voice was a little telling at times, instead of showing. There were points at which I wanted to know what a character's facial expression or their beat movements were.

That being said, I cried over this book and its characters. At some points it is so visceral and painful that it becomes difficult to read. This book isn't perfect but it is different and intriguing. It is borderline contemporary dystopian. By that I mean that everything that could go wrong, does go wrong, the characters are put through the wringer, and then beaten to a pulp afterwards. It struck me as very gritty and harsh for a contemporary.  It is not a happy book. But it might be a good one.  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I always found that part completely unnecessary...

"I want you to promise me that despite the disparity between childhood and adulthood, you are going to make time for at least one memorable adventure in the coming months! You need it to shake off that miserable feeling of struggle and survival that has haunted you all winter. You must cross your heart and hope to die that you will, but you don't have to stick a needle in your eye. I always found that part totally unnecessary."

That's from a letter from one of my oldest friends sent me in May. I'd just reluctantly taken my summer job, was on the midst of a shitstorm of musical and school district drama, and desperately needed to feel like I wasn't getting old without ever having been young. My friend's words were just what I needed to hear then, although I'd forgotten them until I reread her letter today.

My immediate reaction to rereading them was that I'd failed to live up to that promise. However, upon further reflection, I did okay this summer. Not necessarily the adventures I originally hoped for but adventures nonetheless.

I took my family to NYC in June to see my favorite ballerina retire. We stayed up all night in the city, saw the sunrise on the Brooklyn Bridge, and I met a tumblr friend in real life. If that isn't adventure I don't know what is.

I also have been tiny everyday adventures, like working on an internship that means seeing my ex everyday, driving across three states to do hipster outdoor yoga with my best friend, taking a two year old to a park in a strapless dress, reading everything I can get my hands on,  making freelance plans, doing cartwheels in the road in the rain, and meeting my amazing CP Alex.

Maybe those don't sound like adventures to you, but they're what sustained me this summer. These things are what kept me sane, kept me pushing forward instead of looking back (most of the time).

What have been your adventures (big or small) this summer?

xoxox
L.S. Mooney

Thursday, August 20, 2015

FINDING CENTER Blog Tour Stop


Finding Center by Katherine Locke
New Adult, Contemporary Romance
District Ballet Company #2
Expected Publication: August 17th, 2015



Zed and ballet are my two greatest loves.

But a tragic accident ripped them from Aly's life six years ago and it took all her strength to get them back. She’s had a long road to recovery and has returned, dancing full-time for The District Ballet Company and carrying Zed’s child. But Aly is slipping. Each day becomes a fight to keep her career from crumbling under the weight of younger talent, the scrutiny of the public eye, and the limitations of her ever-changing body. A fight she fears she’s losing.

I’m scared Aly is broken to her core.

Zed recognizes signs, but he doesn’t know how to fix her. The accident left him with his own demons, and while he wants nothing more than to take care of Aly, it’s getting harder the further she spirals. When Aly’s life is threatened and Zed’s injuries prevent him from saving her, he’s never felt so useless, so afraid he is no longer capable of being the man Aly and their child needs.

With new life comes new hope. And with their fractured lives already hanging by a thread, Aly and Zed must discover if they have what it takes—both together and apart—to rebuild and carry on.


Purchase:

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Review

This book brings together too of my favorite things, ballet and love. I thoroughly enjoyed SECOND POSITION and was super excited to get more ballet and Aly and Zed. I love getting to see them already/still together and working on things. They aren't automatically happily ever after because they're both flawed, real people. The "after the fairytale" side of this book was a huge plus for me. Locke manages to give us excitement, emotional conflict, and a love story after the courting and initial falling in love we saw in SECOND POSITION. 
Aside from Aly and Zed's personal relationship, we saw a lot more ballet world drama in this book and I LOVED IT. As a dancer, choreographer, and teacher myself, I so deeply admire the research Locke has done to get ballet right, which she for the overwhelming most part does. I found myself nitpicking a few tiny details based on MY personal experiences with ballet, pointe shoes, and pregnant ballerinas but in that way we do anything that is so close to ourselves that it's hard to remember that it isn't actually ours. I don't say that as a criticism to Locke but as praise. Her depiction of ballet is incredibly accurate. Whether I use antibiotic cream on my blisters or prefer to drain and dry them is a personal preference that I argue over with my dance friends and I wanted to argue about it with Aly.  Also, Madison is PERFECT. I've known dancers like that, I've know theatre professionals like that. I've shared roles with people like that. The Madisons of the world are a strikingly accurate stock character.
I loved the story here and I really loved the storybook element SPOILERS

keep reading

that has very Center Stage-esque characteristics for me. By that I mean that the ending of Center Stage is fabulous and amazing and more than a little unrealistic. Performing in a Rubies at 17 weeks is hard for me to accept, objectively. As is Zed's return to dance with her on little more than a whim. And Jonathan being like the chillest human being, let alone director, on the planet. I know both are possible and both work in the context of the story but I think of my director and the pregnant ballerinas I've known and just how much they were showing at 17 weeks and how unlikely that would ever be. The pregnant ballerinas I know played parts like Bathilde in Giselle and Siegfried's mother in Swan Lake. They weren't dancing high caliber roles in the skimpy Rubies costume. My director was understanding but would never have let them put on a tutu in a lead role in that condition. Again, my experiences but also what I've observed since I started following professional dancers 15 years ago.  It's not impossible - they are plenty of class pictures of pregnant ballerinas readily available on the internet - and honestly it did not ruin the story for me AT ALL.;It was perfect within the context of the story just as Cooper's motorcycle and Jodi sticking to Jonathan and Juliette before telling Cooper he's sucky boyfriend material but still getting to be his principal is exactly the ending you need to that movie.  I also really loved Aly's last conversation with Madison. What happens to Madison on stage is super common for a young starlet and I loved Aly's reaction. I've been on both sides of that conversation and Locke got it soooo right. But willing suspension of disbelief and all that, Rubies and Aly's triumphant return to ballet - totally believable by the way -are exactly how this book should end and I'm excited to recommend it to all of you.

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About the Author


Katherine Locke lives and writes in a very small town outside of Philadelphia, where she’s ruled by her feline overlords and her addiction to chai lattes. She writes about that which she cannot do: ballet, time travel, and magic. When she’s not writing, she’s probably tweeting. She not-so-secretly believes most stories are fairy tales in disguise. She can be found online at katherinelockebooks.com and on Twitter: @bibliogato.

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Giveaway

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Magical Realism & Adult vs YA

I am a sucker for magical realism. I love the idea that there is a little magic all around us. That sometimes you can't explain everything and instead of being a bad thing, it just be the best thing ever. Knowing that, it is probably not surprising that I have read two great examples of magical realism in the last week: Sarah Addison Allen's FIRST FROST and Leslye Walton's THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER. Both lovely, lyrical, and lasting stories, one is YA while the other is adult by category.



*Disclaimer: I'm going to try to keep this about magical realism and not about my issues with the way we categorize books by age/audience/arbitrary silliness. Don't hate me if I can't.

Sarah Addison Allen, I should note, is probably my favorite author after J.K. Rowling.  Her stories are brimming with real, flawed, and resilient characters that weave their way into your heart and don't want to move. Ever. FIRST FROST, her latest novel and a sequel to her first GARDEN SPELLS, this autumn story left me emotionally raw and craving October like a drug. Shelved with the adult books at my library, this book does have several key adult characters but one of the main characters - arguably the one with the pivotal central role - is a 15 year old named Bay who knows where everything belongs, including her heart. Her story arc left my chest aching and my face smiling. It was a fabulous story that told on its own would have easily been show cased on a YA shelf. However, because Bay's story is told within the larger one of a strange October in a stranger town with the strangest family, it's an adult book. This particularly bums me out because I think Bay's story is one a lot of teenagers could stand to read.

Okay, I'm tangenting about my category issue.

Back to my other example, Leslye Walton's THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER. This book made me think of THE HOUSE OF IMPOSSIBLE LOVES by Cristina Lopez Barrio with its whimsical house setting and the unhappy, unusual women in the family. This book, like Allen's FIRST FROST told not just the story of Ava Lavender herself but of her whole family, both past and present, that was struggling with their otherness, their broken hearts, and their difficulty in communicating with each other and with those around them. This book was as much about Ava's family as it was about her. Ava's arc, though darker than Bay's was equally lasting. I'm still still mulling over both of them.

Okay, I give up. Writing this only highlights how similar these books are and they're literal shelves apart. The main distinction is that AVA is written in a well-informed first person while FIRST FROST is a mostly omniscient third person. Besides that, I cannot draw hard lines between the YA and Adult categories (not that narration is a line either but it is a difference at least). They both mention/depict sex - more graphically so in AVA surprisingly enough. They both talk about family and friendship and growing up even after you're out of your teens. All solid story elements. Especially in light of the recent discussions of whether YA is for or about teenagers, I wonder how our system of categories is harming our community of readers.   I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say. Maybe that I'm confused. That I know adults who don't read YA (*rolls eyes*) but love Sarah Addison Allen and I think they're hypocrites? Maybe. That I wonder how many teenagers would really benefit from reading about Bay but won't venture out of the YA room? Maybe. That I don't know how what the answer is and it makes me frustrated? Absolutely.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Critique partners and donuts

Three summers ago (what?!) I reached out to Alex Yuschik after a guest post on The Great Noveling Adventure and we swapped some chapters and the rest, as they say, is history.
Her book is fabulous and I've loved watching it grow and change. And she is equally fabulous herself. She's supportive and honest and quirky and gives comments that make me laugh and think about how to make my work better at the same time.
This past weekend, we were in the same city. Also in this city is a fabulous donut shop. A meet up simply had to happen.
And it was amazing. We ate donuts, we talked about books. We talked about life. We talked about our anthropomorphized cars. We even wrote a tiny bit. All was awesome.
Meeting Alex in the flesh was fantastic and I hope we manage to meet up again soon. Until then, pictures or it didn't happen, right?

bitty words #14

"Well, that answers that question," I murmured against his shoulder. Our bodies were still tangled together. the sheets knotted ...