Sabrina’s Book Corner: Somewhere Over the Fence

Hello, and welcome back to Sabrina’s Book Corner! This week we are going to be discussing My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick.

My Life Next Door tells the story of Samantha Reed. Sam and her mother, a successful politician, live next door to the Garretts. The Garretts are the kind of family that Sam has always wanted. A family that’s loud, messy, affectionate, and full of people, which is drastically different from her own small family. While her sister is away for the summer, it’s just Sam and her mother in their house, which is always open-house clean and hear-a-pin-drop quiet. This is why Sam craves the chaos of life next door.

Sam likes to watch the Garretts from the little balcony outside her bedroom window. Content to watch the chaos of the Garretts’ lives, Sam never considered taking part in the chaos until one of the Garretts catches her watching.

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Sabrina’s Book Corner: Identity Confusion

Hello, and welcome back to Sabrina’s Book Corner! This week we are going to be discussing The Remedy by Suzanne Young.

The Remedy tells the story of Quinlan McKee. Quinlan is a closer, which means she works closely with grief therapists to help families struggling with the death of a loved one. Closers have the responsibility of easing families’ grief by briefly “becoming” their deceased loved one.

Closers are not perfect copies of the deceased loved on, but they wear the deceased’s clothes, change their hair accordingly, and study the deceased person’s personality so they can “become” them and give the families the chance to say goodbye.

Quinlan has been a closer since she was seven years old. Now, at seventeen, she is having difficuly distinguishing between her memories and the memories of those she has portrayed.

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Sabrina’s Book Corner: Night Life

Hello, and welcome back to Sabrina’s Book Corner! This week we are going to be discussing Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen.

Along for the Ride tells the story of Auden West. Ever since Auden’s parents divorced when she was little, she has been an insomniac. It sounds bad, but never sleeping has its advantages, such as extra study time.

When her parents divorced, Auden threw herself into academics and became a mini-adult so that she would not cause her parents any trouble. Auden doesn’t mind that she seems to have missed out on all the joys of childhood, since she has her outstanding academic record and scholarship to college. Now, all Auden has to figure out is what she is going to do with her summer.

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Sabrina’s Book Corner: Colors of the Spectrum

Hello, and welcome back to Sabrina’s Book Corner! This week we are going to be discussing Embrace by Jessica Shirvington.

Embrace tells the story of Violet Eden, who is having a weird start to her birthday. She wakes up from a nightmare with the same injuries she received in the dream, and a tattoo is crawling up her arm. Although her birthday is off to an odd start, Violet decides to act as if nothing strange is happening at all.

Violet meets up with her best friend Steph on the way to school, and they go over their plans for the night. After school, Violet and Steph go dress shopping to find the perfect birthday outfit, and then go meet Violet’s dad and Lincoln, whom Violet has had a crush on since they met. The problem is, Lincoln has never shown any interest in returning similar feelings.

Violet is determined to enjoy her birthday even with all of the weird things going on, but everything changes when Lincoln tells her that he is only half human. Surprise…so is she!

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Sabrina’s Book Corner: Perfect Flowers

Hello, and welcome back to Sabrina’s Book Corner! This week we are going to be discussing The Cellar by Natasha Preston.

The Cellar revolves around the kidnapping of a young woman named Summer. Summer was on her way to hang out with some friends when she was approached by a man who seemed to mistake her for another girl named Lily. The next thing Summer knows, she is locked in the cellar of the man’s house, along with three other girls.

At first, Summer wants to assume that there has been some mistake because her name’s not Lily, but she is forced to face the truth when she finds out the other girls’ names: Rose, Poppy, and Violet. 

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Sabrina’s Book Corner: Find Me

Hello, and welcome back to Sabrina’s Book Corner! This week we are going to be discussing Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano.

Nearly is just trying to get into a good college. She is competing with her best friend, along with another student, for a full-ride science/chemistry scholarship. All three are evenly matched in academic achievement, so the scholarship will be awarded to the student who scores highest in the class.

Nearly follows her own rules: no bad grades, no trouble, and no touching. The rules have always served her well, until there is a murder at Nearly’s school and the killer seems to be calling her out.

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Capperino’s Romantic Inquiries: “The Longest Ride”

One of the biggest brand-name authors in the romance book industry is Nicholas Sparks. He’s a superstar in the medium, with his most well-known hit being The Notebook, and a good majority of his work ending up being produced into mainstream movies. The book I’ll be looking at today, The Longest Ride, is set in North Carolina, and it features a smokin’ hot guy, fiery love, and possible death.

Even with these seemingly exciting qualities, the story here is bland. I didn’t feel as though I developed a connection with the characters or really cared about their romance. If this is the first Nicholas Sparks book someone reads, then they might feel differently and actually like this story, but I felt like I was reading any one of his other books. The characters, plot, and even the writing are all similar to his previous work.

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Sabrina’s Book Corner: Tale Older than Time

Hello, and welcome back to Sabrina’s Book Corner! This week we are going to be talking about Old Magic by Marianne Curley.

Kate Warren is the town freak, simply because her grandmother owns a new-age shop and believes in magic. Kate is often ridiculed and called a “witch” at school. But what her classmates don’t know is that Kate actually is a witch — and she’s proud of it.

Kate is surprised when a new kid arrives and shows the signs of being gifted. While Kate is observing the new kid, Jarrod, she notices two things: first, Jarrod doesn’t know he’s magical, and second, Jarrod is cursed. Kate feels a responsibility to help Jarrod, but when she tells Jarrod about his magic, he thinks she is either really weird or in need of help. Jarrod avoids Kate, ignoring her if they are in the same place, but when Jarrod’s little brother gets seriously hurt, Jarrod starts to believe Kate.

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Sabrina’s Book Corner: Twisted

Hello readers, and welcome back to Sabrina’s Book Corner. This week we are going to be discussing Spelled by Betsy Schow.

Spelled, like so many recent books, is a new twist on an old tale. Everyone knows the story of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, but the Dorothy found in Spelled has never known Kansas. Schow takes the well-known story and twists it into something we’ve never seen before. This concept is very popular in the YA genre at the moment, and Schow weaves her magic (pun intended) extremely well in her retelling of The Wizard of Oz.

Dorthea (or Dot to her friends) has everything she wants out of life — except for the ability to leave home. Sure, being the Emerald Princess has its perks, including extravagant ball gowns made by Glenda, but along with the royal title comes the royal curse. The curse states that one day a girl from the Emerald line will turn evil and leave Emerald to burn. Dot might not be the cursed Emerald, but she’ll never leave the castle just to be on the safe side. However, this is a problem for Dot, because all she wants is freedom.

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Writing Advice: Character & Scenes

As I have said many times before on this blog, characters are the most important part of your novel, short story, or script. Characters will draw readers in and make them care about what’s going on in the story. Characters who are written well act as a connection point for readers. By caring about what happens to the fictional people you have created, your readers will care what happens in your story and want to keep reading. This means that creating believable characters and realistic scenarios for them to operate within is essential.

One of the best ways to make readers care about your characters is to show rather than tell. If you spend pages upon pages explaining a conflict between two characters or a romance that’s supposedly blossoming between two characters, it won’t have as much of an impact as you showing the conflict or romance between the characters.

In a recent LitReactor post entitled 6 Tips for Troubleshooting the Novel, columnist Susan DeFreitas talks about boiling down those important components into scenes. Susan says, “I’ve seen far too many novels in which a conflict between two characters is supposed to be a thing, but the novel never really shows these two conflicting….[this] could be most easily accomplished…in the course of this magic thing called a scene. Backstory too dense for narrative exposition? Contain it in a series of scenes. Need a relationship to be important? Establish it in a scene. Got a theme, running joke, memory, whatever, that’s supposed to be an important part of the story? Stop telling me about it. Put it in a scene.”

I absolutely love this advice and I think it’s something we could all stand to learn from. Too often, we get caught up in the overarching themes and plot lines of our stories, forgetting the smaller scenes that can all contribute to those larger elements. Plot lines and themes can be difficult to manage, and an easy way to break them up and make sure we’re covering all the story bases that we want to cover is to concentrate on scenes.

Basically, you should have your characters experience something rather than just telling your readers about it, or having one character explain something to another. If you’re writing the next super cool and amazing sci-fi thriller novel, you want to have some super cool and amazing scenes in there to make the story pop.

Suppose your story has a super scary Space Council at the center of it. You may really love the idea of this Space Council and spend a lot of time thinking about it, but never actually show it in your story. You may explain the “big, scary, imposing Space Council,” thinking that those words are enough to convey how important the Space Council is. But you could do a much better job of it by showing a meeting between the main character and the Space Council, or something horribly scary the Space Council has done. Rather than relying on those descriptive words, rely on your scenes that will illustrate what you want to get across to readers.

Happy Writing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan