What’s Up Road Trip Wednesday: Book of the Month for July, 2013 Edition

It’s blog meme mash-up time! I’m combining today’s YA Highway Road Trip Wednesday with Jaime and Erin‘s What’s Up Wednesday meme. Why? Why not! Both are good memes, and I want to do them both. And it so happens that this week’s RTW falls nicely into the first WUW question:

What I’m Reading (AKA: Book of the Month for July, 2013)

This month has been a pretty dismal reading month. Not that the books I read were terrible, but there wasn’t one that really pulled me in and got me talking about it all over Twitter and your blogs (and this one). And usually there’s at least one book that gets a 5-star review and some “gotta-read-this” chatter from me. That said, I read one book that I think is worthy of being crowned Book of the Month, despite its flaws. And that book is…

I AM NUMBER FOUR by Pittacus Lore. Let’s get the controversy over with first. Pittacus Lore is a group pseudonym for James Frey and Jobie Hughes. Yes–that James Frey of A MILLION LITTLE PIECES infamy. I know this would be off-putting for some from the get-go, and I understand that. My take is, this is a work of fiction, and he’s not trying to palm it off as fact. And from what I’ve read, most of the criticism against Mr. Frey was over his lies and deceit, not over the quality of his writing. With that in mind, I decided to give him a break and give the book a chance. And overall, it’s a good book. I couldn’t fault it technically, and especially found the finale engaging and page-turning.

I described what the book is about in last week’s WOW. (However, I messed up the numbers: there are more than nine who escape Lorien. Nine of those that escaped are of a special class of being that will eventually develop powers–Legacies–that can be used to defeat their enemies. Each of the nine has a guardian/mentor. It is the nine that the enemy is targeting, and of these, they have killed three. John Smith is number four.) My interest in it was because it’s about an alien on Earth, like my current project. However, this made me particularly sensitive to issues I’m grappling with. For one thing, it bothered me that the only way you know John is an alien is by his abilities. There’s nothing in his mannerisms, his word choices, or any subtleties of character that would indicate he’s not human. And I just didn’t buy some of the back story explanations. For example, all of Earth’s major geniuses were the offspring of Lorien. Really? And the Lorien people gave us language (despite the fact that English is a hybrid language–Germanic-Latin-Greek-French-etc–so they wouldn’t have just given us “English”). But the characters are, on the whole, good, and the story is fairly strong. Moreover–and this is what makes it a four-star book, and worthy of Book of the Month–I wouldn’t say no to reading the next book in the series.

There’s some profanity, mainly the “s” word, but not too often, so I’d rate it PG-15.

What I’m Writing

Still working on edits to the current project, though with a little more panic in my typing because I’ve realized that WriteOnCon is only a few weeks away, and I want to have something for the query critique and pages critique forums. If you don’t know what WriteOnCon is, visit the website. In short, it’s a two-day writing conference geared toward authors of “children’s literature” (i.e., picture books through YA). It takes place online, so you don’t have to go anywhere, and it’s free, so you don’t have to pay anything. There will be agents and other industry professionals giving talks, and lots of fun events. This’ll be my third year, and I’m looking forward to it. I hope to see you there.

What Inspires Me Right Now

ABBA lyrics. Seriously. If you know anything about the story I’m editing, you’ll understand what I mean.

What Else I’ve Been Up To

Not writing short stories as I’d hoped, but writing some flash fiction for Janet Reid, and the YA Buccaneers–both challenging and worthwhile exercises. Plus the usual work, family, church, and so on.

UPDATE: Oh My G-Dragon (K-Pop reference there–thank you SecondBorn)!! My entry in Janet Reid’s contest was selected as a finalist. I didn’t win, but with so many great entries to choose from, it’s an honor to be considered one of the top six. Janet says she’s running another contest this weekend. I seriously recommend you give it a go; it’s such a lot of fun.

How’s your week been?

53 thoughts on “What’s Up Road Trip Wednesday: Book of the Month for July, 2013 Edition

    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Kendra! I’ll have to check out the movie, see how different it is from the book. I’m always a bit nervous about seeing movies based on books I’ve read. We had a RTW discussion about this a while ago, and I think it’s true to say that you tend to be attached to the form in which you first encountered the story. Those that saw the movie adaptation of a novel first didn’t like the novel as much, and vice versa. I admit, I’m a little leery about seeing the DIVERGENT movie when it comes out. I know Veronica Roth’s gung-ho over it, but I enjoyed the book so much, I don’t want to be disappointed. We’ll see… πŸ™‚

      Reply
  1. Susan Francino

    Congrats on being a finalist in Janet Reid’s contest! That is great!! And I, too, have been meaning to try I am Number Four–at first only because, let’s face it, Pittacus Lore has the most awesome author name EVER. Or one of them, at least.

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Susan! I may be a bit dense, but one of the things I didn’t get was the fact that Pittacus Lore is the author, but the book is from Number Four’s first-person present-tense perspective. Pittacus is mentioned in the book, so I don’t understand. However, I’m not considering this a criticism since it’s possible either a) I missed something in the book, or b) all will become clear as the series progresses. It is a good author name, though. πŸ™‚

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      1. Susan Francino

        Haha! Having not read it yet, I am now rather confused myself… I’m not sure why, but this reminds me of when I bought Jasper Fforde’s FIRST AMONG SEQUELS assuming it was the first book in this Thursday Next series. -_-

        Reply
  2. Alison Miller

    Congrats on finishing in the top six in Janet Reid’s contest! That’s awesome!

    And I enjoyed I AM NUMBER FOUR, but not enough where I felt pressed to read the others. My daughter liked them though.

    Oh – writeoncon! I’m excited for it too! And I’m cheering you on to get those revisions tackled!

    Have a great week!

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Alison! I know at least one person (it might have been you) mentioned last week that they didn’t enjoy it enough to want to read the rest, and I was conscious of that as I read. As I closed the book, I thought about it, and compared my experience with that of THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER. And I decided that even if someone bought me a copy of the next in the TMD series, I wouldn’t read it; yet I probably would read the next in the Lorien series. I’m not saying it’s top of my TBR, and I’m craving it like CRESS (ooo–a new catchphrase… at least until CRESS comes out next year), but I’d read it.

      Reply
  3. Tonja Drecker

    Yay for being a finalist in Janet Reid’s contest! That’s worth a happy dance or two πŸ™‚

    Gosh, I wish Writeoncon wasn’t just around the corner. Every year, I want to have an MS ready for it, and every, year, the timing is a little off. Guess, I’ll just have to float around like always.

    Good luck on those flash fiction peices!

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Tonja! Even though my first draft will be barely through the editing process, and barely ready for beta reading, I’m still going to submit a query and pages for review at WriteOnCon. My primary purpose is not to get an agent (at this stage), but to get feedback, to see if my characters are connecting, and get pointers on those all-important opening pages. If an agent expresses an interest, I’ll just say “thanks, but it really needs beta review first–can I get back with you?” I’ve heard stories of things like this happening, and agents are usually okay with that. They understand the format of WriteOnCon, and are willing to wait.

      Reply
  4. Melanie

    I enjoyed I Am Number Four (and I actually had no idea who Pittacus Lore actually was) but I found the sequel less enjoyable. It’s been awhile since I read it, but what I do remember is it’s in 2 POVs and I found that the voice didn’t change at all. Despite that, I’m currently reading book 3- The Rise of Nine. I’ve been putting off reading it but yesterday it was there at the library and I decided, what the hey. The storyline keeps me interested for sure.

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      I wondered what Pittacus would do with the new character added toward the end of I AM NUMBER FOUR. I figured she would be prominent, so I presume she’s the other voice? As you saw, one of my criticisms of the book is that the voice isn’t at all alien. Even someone who’s been in a foreign country for ten years will retain some trace of their country of origin–especially if they’re being cared for by an older person from that same country of origin. I just found the whole reasoning behind why people from Lorien look and sound just like people from Earth to be way too convenient–bordering on lazy. So am I surprised to learn POV 2 sounds like POV 1? Not really. πŸ™‚ Will that stop me reading book 2? Probably not. Like you, the storyline has me interested.

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  5. Stephanie Scott

    Good comments on the I Am Four books. I only saw the movie–and had no idea it was a book first (though I’d come to find out the film was in production prior to the book release, they were released only months apart which is kind of an oddity; more of a package deal book+movie rather than say, Hunger Games, movie after books are a blockbuster success).

    Anyway, I think you just proved why reading in genre is so helpful; you can see what one story might lack and how you can improve your own writing because of it. LIke you, I can forgive a lot of writing weaknesses if the story is compelling.

    I’m also on board for Write On Con! Looking forward to it.

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thank you, Stephanie! That is very odd–a book and movie coming out around the same time. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that before. In this case, I would expect the movie to be very close to the book, closer than we’ve seen with HARRY POTTER, or THE HUNGER GAMES.

      You’re right that reading books whose genre intersects with what I’m writing makes me a much more critical reader, and writer.

      Cool! Another blog friend to look out for in the forums. πŸ˜€

      Reply
  6. kate scott

    I haven’t really been pulled towards I Am Number Four yet, I’m sort of sick of dystopian. But maybe I should give it a try. Also congrats on becoming a finalist in Janet Reid’s contest.

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Kate! I wouldn’t call I AM NUMBER FOUR dystopian–at least this first book isn’t dystopian. It’s more a Contemporary YA with aliens. Not really sci-fi–or at least no more sci-fi than my WIP about a teenage alien in Victorian London. πŸ™‚ You might want to try it.

      Reply
  7. Jaime Morrow

    Congrats on ranking as a finalist in the flash fiction contest! I’ve never attempted flash fiction and I doubt I ever will. I’ve always kind of felt like if I’m writing, I’m going to put that time and those words toward one of my WIPs. I get why people do it, but it’s not really for me. I’ve read some of your flash fiction, though, and it’s pretty great!

    You’re making me reconsider the side-eye I’ve been giving the Pittacus Lore books. I did enjoy I AM NUMBER FOUR, so I might have to stop being a dork about the James Frey thing and just read the next one already. Interesting points you raise about the whole English language thing. No doubt! English is such a hybrid of other languages. That seems like something that should have been thought through a little better. Hmm…

    Have a great week, Colin! πŸ™‚

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Jaime! One of the things I like about the challenge of FF, is that it forces you to really think about word choice. Especially with Janet’s challenges, where you can only use up to 100 words, and 5 of those are words she’s given you. My original version was about 160 words long, so I had to find 60 words that were extraneous, or find other ways to say the same thing in fewer words. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t affected the way I approach my novel writing and editing.

      And I don’t fault you at all for your initial reaction to Pittacus Lore. If James Fray’s name had been on the cover, I don’t know that I’d have given it a second thought. It was only after I had the book in my hands and I looked up the author that I found out who it really is, and then I had to make a choice. I’m glad I read it, though I wouldn’t take my appreciation for his writing skill as an endorsement of him as a person. πŸ™‚

      Reply
    1. cds Post author

      I’d read about that, too. As I said to Jaime (above), I make a separation between the man and his work. I can like what someone does without liking the person. I love Claude Debussy’s music, but the man was a reprobate, drunken womanizer. His lifestyle sucked, but he wrote some of the most beautiful piano music. If I cleared my shelves of books by people whose ethics are less than commendable, I’d lose a lot of books.

      One could ask, given my theological presuppositions, why would I read books by people who so clearly hate the faith I profess (which Frey does), and whose values are so diametrically opposed to my own? I would counter that, in fact, it’s my theological presuppositions that help me make the distinction between the gift, and the frail, flawed vessels within which the gift is often carried.

      That’s my perspective, anyway. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your thoughts and that article, Emma.

      Reply
      1. E.Maree

        Ah, fair play. πŸ™‚ I will separate the artist and the work in most cases, but there are a few exceptions where they cross an ethical line. Frey and Orson Scott Card are the only ones, off the top of my head.

        Reply
  8. Patrice

    Congrats on being a finalist, that’s amazing in and of itself. Good luck getting ready by WriteOnCon, I’m super pumped myself. I don’t think I’ll have anything ready this year but it’ll still be nice to go around and comments (however…we shall see).

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thank you, Patrice. If you read the other entries, and the other finalists, you’ll see why it’s such a big deal for me. There’s some amazing talent displayed there, and I’m humbled to even be in same comment stream! πŸ™‚

      I’m looking forward to getting my writing ripped to shreds in WOC. πŸ˜€ Seriously, though, I’m looking for critique, and past experience tells me I’ll get it. I hope you join in the fun!

      Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Cole! I’m fairly certain I’ll submit to WOC no matter what. If it gets down to the wire, I’ll stop editing to polish the first five pages and work on my query.

      Are you planning to join in the WOC fun? I hope so. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  9. laboyden

    WriteOnCon is coming up so quickly, I was hoping to be finished by then, but there is no way it will be query ready by then. Good luck with yours. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Leslie. I know my work won’t be query-ready, but it’ll be critique-ready, which is what matters to me right now. And WOC is a great place to get page and query critiques. Like I said to Tonja (above), I think agents realize that pages/queries submitted to WOC are not necessarily their polished best, and understand if a request for pages or a full receive a “Can you wait until I’ve finished my edits?” kind of response. So… go on! Join the fun! πŸ˜€

      Reply
  10. Kaitlin Bartlett

    Good luck with your writing goals for the week! I’m excited for WriteOnCon, too. I’m hoping I’ll be near my laptop for enough of it…it always falls right around the time I move back to school!

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Kaitlin! I know what you mean. I’ll have work, so I’ll have to try to fit it in around my work schedule… or take time off… or something. I look forward to seeing you in the WOC forums! Be sure to watch out for my query/pages and critique them. πŸ˜€

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  11. Alexa

    Congratulations on being in the final six! That is brilliant!

    ABBA is always inspiring πŸ™‚

    Have a great writing week

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Alexa! It really does make my day. Like I said, not simply because Janet’s a respected literary agent, but also because of the company I’m in. Very humbling. πŸ™‚

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  12. Kris F. Oliver

    Congrats on being a finalist! That’s wonderful! And because the excerpt you posted a while back was so much fun, now I have to scour the bloggosphere to find your flash fiction entries. I did one for YA Buccaneers too and it was so much fun!

    And oh boy, don’t get me started on Abba. I have a coworker that listens to Dancing Queen on repeat Every Freaking Day. Over and over and over. And no matter how politely I ask, he won’t turn it down. So now someone says Abba and I get a little green around the gills and have to lie down. πŸ™‚

    And I can’t believe WriteOnCon is right around the corner. It seems like the last one just happened. Must get butt in gear. (big time)

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thank you so much, Kris! I have posted most of my fiction under the “Writing” tab, though I haven’t collected up the entries I’ve done for Janet’s contests anywhere. I should do that sometime, if only for my own curiosity. πŸ™‚

      I can’t say I’m as much as an ABBA fanatic as my MC, but I do enjoy their music–especially once you get beyond Dancing Queen. Suggest to your co-worker that he invest in the rest of the “ABBA Gold” CD. πŸ˜‰

      I look forward to seeing you around the forums at WOC, Kris! Keep an eye out for me and my teenage alien. πŸ˜€

      Reply
  13. prerna pickett

    I have yet to read I Am Number Four. I watched the movie and thought it was alright…wondering if the book is better. And I can’t wait for Write On Con, it’ll be my first time taking part!

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Ooo–first time WOC-er! I had such a great time the first time, Prerna. Really milk it for all you can. Go to as many presentations and chats, and make use of the critique forums. Most of the time people will be both blunt, honest, and encouraging. And if you get a critique from a Ninja Agent–that’s so exciting!! πŸ˜€ I look forward to seeing you there.

      Reply
  14. Erin L. Funk

    I was only so-so on I AM NUMBER FOUR. It’s been quite a while since I read it, so I don’t remember the exact reasons, but I’m wondering now if some of my issues with it were the same as yours. The movie didn’t quite live up to the hype either. I do remember liking the dog though!

    I’ve considered doing WriteOncon this year, but I’m just not sure I have the time. August is shaping up to be a full month already. We’ll see what happens, I guess. It sounds like a good experience at any rate.

    Congrats on making it as a finalist in the contest! That’s awesome!

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Erin!

      I might have to watch the movie, see what I think. Like I said somewhere else, I’m a little leery about it, though, since I’ve read the book and I most of the time, when I’ve read the book first, the movie doesn’t live up to it. We’ll see…

      Awww, go on–do WriteOnCon! It’s two days out of 31, and you’ll virtually meet agents, rub digital shoulders with writers, and get critiques of your work by people who care. Lots of good times. Seriously, though, agents treat WOC like any other conference, in that if they are closed to queries, or only accept references, they’ll read your query if you mention you met them at WriteOnCon. It’ll be fun… πŸ™‚

      Reply
  15. Jennifer Pickrell

    Ah, thanks for mentioning I AM NUMBER FOUR – I was making a list earlier today of books my husband might enjoy and I’m going to add that one. He likes “manly” stuff, none of my “girl” fluff πŸ™‚

    As for other alien on earth books, I enjoyed THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH when I read it years ago. The MC had several subtle differences from humans, if I remember correctly.

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Is that the same MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH as the David Bowie movie? If so, I presume the movie was based on the book. You’re the first person I’ve met that read the book. That might be an interesting read–thanks, Jennifer.

      Reply
      1. Jennifer Pickrell

        Yep, the same book the movie was based on – I think I picked it up at a used book sale because it had the cool 70s cover and big letters letting me know it was now a major motion pic starring David Bowie. I was sold πŸ™‚

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  16. Rachael

    Congratulations on being selected as a finalist and good luck with your current project! I’m so excited for WriteOnCon again this year.

    It’s been a few years now since I read IANF (I bought it when it first came out, before I knew anything about James Frey or the controversy), but I remember being very unimpressed. It wasn’t long after I read it that the controversy came to light and so it’s hard for me to remember my reasons based solely on the book. I do remember that I never really connected with the main character.

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Rachael! Another WOC participant–cool! I’ll look out for you. πŸ™‚

      I completely understand what you’re saying about John (the MC in IANF). If they had given him some little alien personality ticks, or something a bit quirky, he might have been a bit more engaging. As it is, yes, there is a certain woodenness to him. Definitely a book that works on the basis of the story, not so much on the characters.

      Reply
  17. Katy Upperman

    Best of luck with your WiP edits, Collin. I’m totally rooting for you, and I hope you’re able to have your work ready for WriteOnCon. Yay for free workshopping/critiquing!

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      The more I think about it, the more excited I am. Last year, I was still working on my first draft, so I really had nothing. But I still enjoyed visiting the forums, reading queries and pages, and offering suggestions. And then there were the talks and chatrooms which were cool. The year before, I had a query and pages, and I got some really good feedback. Nothing came of that particular project, but it was still wonderful to read comments both critical and encouraging.

      I may only have my first round of edits done by August 13, but I’m going for it. Call it a pre-beta-reader trial run. Who knows, I might find beta readers among my critiquers! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  18. Rebecca B

    Congrats on being a finalist! That’s really great. And I’m glad you found a book to pull you out of a reading slump. I’d been in one myself, and I found that switching categories for a few books was exactly what I needed. Have a great rest of your week, with writing and everything else!

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thank you, Rebecca! It would have been wonderful to read a 5-star book, but it was nice to read something at last to which I could give more than 3 stars, and pick up some tips along the way.

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  19. Julie Dao

    Colin, congrats on being selected as a finalist for Janet Reid’s contest! That’s an amazing accomplishment. Are you going to do the next one as well? And I too am working on beefing up my query and first pages for WriteOnCon. Hopefully I can muster the courage to post something at the forums again! (getting sweaty palms just thinking about it!)

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Julie! The next one? You bet… unless she wants us to draw pictures or do math. There again, the only Janet Reid Writing Contest I’ve won was for a poem, and poetry really isn’t my thing–so perhaps stepping outside my comfort zone would be good? πŸ™‚

      Excellent!! I look forward to seeing your query and pages in the forums. I’m sure they’ll be wonderful. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  20. Tif Johnson

    Yeah for being a finalist for Janet Reid’s contest! Good for you! I’ll be seeing you on the WriteOnCon forums. Definitely a deadline for me to have a decent query for others to critique. I loved the conference last year.

    Reply
    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Tif! πŸ™‚ And yeah! Another friend to look out for in the WOC forums!! πŸ˜€ See you there…

      Reply

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