Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday Words: New Goals for NaNoWriMo

I sit here writing this half in a state of shock that I actually signed up...again. I mean, just glancing at my calendar, November is already going to be insane. I had these EXACT same thoughts last year, and NaNo almost killed me. I mean, I got to 52,000 words by the end of the month, and finished my first draft of that story in mid-December at around 61,000 words. And I haven't looked at that story since, and I swore I'd never do it again.

So of course, here I am. I fully blame my friend and fellow aspiring writer, Sarah - she's a dangerous influence on me.

For those of you who may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo. The goal laid out by the people who run this free, online event is simple: participants aspire to write the first draft of a novel, at least 50,000 words, between 12:00am November 1 and 11:59pm November 30.

It's crazy sounding to be sure. That's about 2,000 words a day. And it's a first draft, which aren't usually particularly pretty in the first place. Attempting such a feat is madness, but last year I tried it for the first time and I 'won' - but was it really winning if I haven't looked at that story since? The experience was so draining that by the end I wasn't inspired, I was exhausted. Some people do their best, feel their most productive work done by this insane deadline, but it's just not for me. I tried it, but that's just not the way my best work works.

So this year, I'm coming into NaNoWriMo differently. My goal isn't to finish a first draft in 30 days. I know me. I know my writing style. I know that will NEVER happen because if it does, I'll just have 2 manuscripts sitting on my computer hard-drive that I'll never take a second look at instead of one. This 30 days for me will be about carving out time every day to write. To get to know my characters. To build a world and get lost in thoughts and reaffirm my need to write, and it's a good way to show that to others too. So you kids should feel free to let the insanity begin. I'm just along for the ride.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Life Lessons: 52 Reasons to Hate My Father

52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012

How many of us have ever had the thought that if only we had more money, life would be a little bit easier? Best keep that thought to yourself around Lexington Larrabee because while money can buy a hell of a lot of things, simplicity and happiness aren't on the menu. Lexi would know better than anyone - she's the daughter of a self-made multimillionaire who is never around, but at least his credit cards are, and when she turns 18, she finally gets access to her own $25 million trust fund.

But after yet another unfortunate incident that could damage the image her father has worked so hard to build, Lexi gets some nasty news on her birthday instead of the check she's been dreaming of her whole life: no trust fund until she completes 52 different low-paying jobs, one for every week of the year. For the first time in her life, this spoiled heiress will actually have to work, and all of it is happening under the supervision of Luke, the really attractive but totally annoying intern her dad has hired to basically babysit her. As the trailer says, being an heiress is a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.

From the very first time I ever saw the trailer for this book, I knew I HAD to read it! What a fun premise for a contemporary novel! Lexi is the girl everyone loves to hate, and she's not exactly likable. She starts out completely self-centered and out of touch with reality. But as the novel goes on and Lexi takes on different jobs and meets new people, readers get to see a different side to this party princess. You see how all the money in the world can't replace one or both parents, and that having houses all around the world is very different from having a real home. As the 'why' behind Lexi's behavior becomes clear, it doesn't excuse her past behavior, but it makes it much easier to empathize with her and want her to succeed.

Luke is also a great sounding board for Lexi. He is her polar opposite - he's had to work tirelessly for everything in his life, he looks up to her father (whereas she despises the man), and he actually believes that she's capable of doing things when the rest of the world only laughs at her. She may hate him at first, and he wasn't exactly her biggest fan, but I really liked how the relationship took its time unfolding.

The 52 jobs themselves are also like characters, drill sergeants that push Lexi to the absolute brink but they build her into a much stronger version of herself that she probably never imagined could exist. Major props here to Jessica Brody for getting creative with the many awful, disgusting, boring, and very necessary jobs that she puts Lexi through. It made me think back to my own days as a store clerk and cashier when I was in high school - not exactly the most fun, but I still learned a lot there.

All in all, 52 Reasons to Hate My Father is a great Saturday, curl up in bed on a rainy day kind of read. If you like Meg Cabot's style, I have no doubt you'll like Jessica Brody's, too (Meg even blurbed this book on the cover!). The story is fun and doesn't take itself too seriously, and it has a nice arc that's not especially complex. This is the first book by Brody I've read, and I hope to check out her other titles, too.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Jessica Brody's Website
Jessica Brody on Twitter
Jessica Brody on YouTube

Friday, October 26, 2012

Where's Your Bookmark? (15)

In which I talk about Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, the sequel to her chilling novel Anna Dressed in Blood.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Words: Series Catch-Up Challenge

One of the many great things about books and publishing is that there are constantly new ones coming out, begging to be read and loved and discussed. All genres, all sizes, stand alones and series, oh my!

One of the downside of books and publishing? See above. So many books, so little time.

It's easy for books you want to read to keep getting pushed to the wayside in favor of something newer, that "to-read" pile growing ever larger. I know it's something I struggle with - I currently have 111 books on Goodreads listed as "to-read"and every once in a while, I actually find myself weeding that, going through "am I actually ever going to read this? Will I ever actually get caught up?" It's sort of sad and a little exhausting, but there are only so many hours in a day.

Series Catch-UpAll of this adds up to why I love a challenge that Brittany over at The Book Addict's Guide is hosting: The Series Catch-Up Challenge. The premise is simple: pick a series (or two or three) that you want to get caught up on, then between November 1 and December 31, do your best to make it happen and post reviews! If you check out her blog, the 'rules' are simple enough and I think this is just the kick in the pants I need to finally get a few of those books on my list read.

My goals for the challenge are small, mainly because I don't want to bite off more than I can chew (and there are more than a few stand-alone novels I also want to read). So I'm going with the following books:

  • Frozen Heat (#4 in the Nikki Heat mystery series, the novel spin-off (sort-of) of the ABC show Castle)
  • The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell, the second book in her Verspertine trilogy. I've had this one on my bookshelf for forever and I know I'd probably finish it in a few days!
  • And thirdly, the Paranormalcy trilogy by Kiersten White. I bought the e-book of the first one for my nook a while back, and if I like it, I hope to read the whole series - they sound really good!
So those are some of the series books that I hope to read and post on before the end of 2012. I hope you check out The Book Addict's blog for more info and great reviews, too. 

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Magic and Mystics: The Raven Boys

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic, 2012

*E-Galley provided by NetGalley - Thank you!*

It must be a truly fantastic place inside Maggie Stiefvater's head. Seriously. Those creative juices must be flowing full speed because that's the only explanation for her complex and completely imaginative stories. Combine those ideas with a richly detailed, ever so slightly twisted writing style, and you have knock out novels and a force to be reckoned with. I first fell in love with Stiefvater's writing earlier this year with The Scorpio Races, and I'm blown away again by The Raven Boys, the first book in a planned 4-book series called The Raven Cycle.

Blue Sargent is a teen in a house full of women who are real psychics and clairvoyants. Nothing about her life has been normal, except maybe for the fact that she has no special abilities of her own. So on St. Mark's Eve when she goes to take the names of the spirits who walk by, spirits of those who are to die in the next year, she's shocked when she can see one of them for the first time: a teenage boy, Gansey. This can only mean one thing: she will either love him, or she will kill him.

In a novel that alternates between Blue's story and Gansey's, a richly detailed world is built. Gansey and his three best friends, Ronan, Noah, and Adam, all attend the local private school and he is obsessed with tracking ley lines and locating a long dead Welsh king. Eventually, their lives intersect and the journey is a magical and frankly, kind of strange, one. And I mean that in the Best possible way. Weird is wonderful, and Maggie does a fantastic job with this from top to bottom.

There's not much I feel I can say about the story itself without fear of spoilers, so I have to be more general. I'll admit that it did take me a bit to get into this story - once the two story lines combined, things started making a lot more sense and the pace picked up, so if you're not grabbed at first, hang in there. Stiefvater does a fantastic job with establishing clear voices for every primary and secondary character (every woman in Blue's household and every one of the Raven Boys in incredibly distinct and interesting with his or her own quirks), and her attention to detail is exquisite. The only time too much detail could be seen as a criticism is at the end, and only because so much is happening at once and the story is setting itself up for book 2. I had to go back and reread it, and once I did, I was good to go!

This novel is a magical combination of contemporary and fantastical elements, and I feel so lucky to have been able to read an advance copy. This is my first experience with a Stiefvater series, and for the most part I would say that it held up to the hype. You can bet I'll keep reading The Raven Cycle in the years to come.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Maggie Stiefvater's Website
Maggie Stiefvater on Twitter

Friday, October 19, 2012

Where's Your Bookmark? (14)

In which I talk about 52 Reasons to Hate My Father by Jessica Brody.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday Words: Character Connections

It will never cease to amaze me how much of an impact fictional people can have on my life. Perhaps it's the result of being a naturally shy person who took to reading at a very young age. I had trouble reaching out to people, scared of rejection, and so my closest companions were the characters in the books I read.

As far as I'm concerned, books are the closest a mere mortal like me will ever come to being a Time Lord like in Doctor Who. The Doctor told Amy Pond in their very first episode together, "So, all of time and space. Everything that every happened or ever will. Where do you want to start?" The same could be said when you walk into a book store or library - imagination is endless, and any book could take you anywhere. And characters are like companions as we get to see it all through their eyes, always there when we need them.

But eventually, every character's arc comes to an end. While they will always be in the pages or on the screen for when we need them, their story stops. A few weeks ago, I watched as my two favorite Doctor Who companions - Amy Pond and Rory Williams - appeared in their final episode with my favorite Doctor. I started watching the show when these three started on it, then went back and caught up on previous seasons. I was introduced to the Whovian universe through their eyes. But now these two actors are moving on to other things, so their characters have said goodbye. And I ache over it. I feel as if I've lost two friends. It's hardly the first time I've felt this way. When the final Harry Potter book came out and I finished reading it less than 24 hours later, it was like there was a void. At least in these cases, I was mostly okay with how things were wrapped up both times, but that element of sadness is still there.

And then I feel silly. I mean, these are Characters. In Fiction. As in, not real. Made up. Imaginary. John Green makes the point in The Fault in Our Stars: "We are speaking of a novel, dear child, not some historical enterprise...They're fictions...Nothing happens to them... But to be perfectly frank, this childish idea that the author of a novel has some special insight into the characters in the's ridiculous. That novel was composed of scratches on a page, dear. The characters inhabiting it have no life outside of those scratches. What happened to them? They all ceased to exist the moment the novel ended."

It makes sense. The rational part of me knows this. But the emotional, not so much (which is quite something considering the emotional attachment I felt to Green's characters in that book). We as people build emotional connections where and when we can, and crazy as it may be, I miss them and mourn the end of a book or a series or a story arc. Because to me, Albus Dumbledore, another amazing fictitious man, put it best: "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?" Of course these people never really walked the earth or traveled the universe in a TARDIS. But that doesn't mean the story doesn't matter or that it had any less of an effect or my feelings any less real.

So here's to the characters who have that amazing power to make us suspend the rules of reality, who make us feel and despite the fact they are fiction, still manage to be the best friends. And a huge thanks to the writers who share them with the world (and the actors who bring them to life). I can't speak for others, but I know I appreciate it. They all gave and give this shy girl a bit of hope.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reinventing a Classic: For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Balzar & Bray, 2012

I was 19 years old the first time I ever read Persuasion by Jane Austen, and this novel is a perfect example of the right book at the right time. While I love Pride & Prejudice, the story of Anne Elliot, a quiet girl who suffers silently because she tried to do the right thing and it resulted in her sacrificing her heart was one that I felt an instant connection to. This girl and I were kindred spirits, and it's a book that means a lot to me.

So when I heard there was a retelling coming out last spring, I was skeptical. However, I had no need to worry - it became very obvious to me early in For Darkness Shows the Stars that Peterfreund loves Persuasion just as much as I do.

Elliot North is a second daughter of a proud, horrible Baron, making her a Luddite, the upper class which rules ever since a genetic experiment gone wrong led to the Reduction. Luddite's reject technology and "playing God" and are to care for the lower classes who suffered. But for Elliot, the lines between right and wrong became severely blurred after her mother died and the boy she loved from a lower class, Kai, ran away. He wanted her to come with, but she chose to stay behind and care for the people who counted on her. Now, four years later, hard financial times have pushed Elliot to renting one of her family's estates to the Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders which includes the man who now goes by Captain Malakai Wentforth. She still loves him, he seems to detest her, and again circumstances arise forcing her to choose once again between what she was raised to believe or to put her trust in the only boy she's ever loved, even if she's lost him forever.

This book just does so many things right in my opinion. Elliot is a strong girl who struggles with her choices - everything about her world has become shades of gray. She cares deeply about the people on her family's estate, and they generally care very much for her as well, knowing that she's doing everything she can to keep them safe from her father. The writing is rich enough to give vision of this world, yet never burdensome in its attention to detail. I loved the sci-fi twist on how the class system is not just a matter of titles, but also genetics and science. Without giving away any spoilers, I'll simply say that I was so completely satisfied with this adaptation. While I would have liked a bit more towards for the end from Elliot and how she was able to overcome her stance on one particular but very important issue, I still loved this book and it is a beautiful homage to Austen's original.

If you are a Jane Austen fan who embraces adaptations as well as the originals, then For Darkness Shows the Stars is a must read.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Diana Peterfreund's Website

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday Words: Fall Rush

Fall is a particularly busy time of year for me and a lot of other people I know, though I feel like I'm saying that at practically any time of year. Maybe it just feels busier because it's a classic case of wishing I were doing other things instead of All The Things. Work is busy, there are tons of reading initiatives going on this month from Banned Books Week to Teen Read Week, and I have a great stack of books in my room that I can't wait to read, but there won't be time until I get through this weekend.

October is also a beautiful month as the world around me bursts into vibrant oranges and reds, and being inside feels positively criminal. I want to curl up with an afghan, a hot drink, a flannel shirt, and read a great story! Or better yet, write one!

SinceNovember is National Novel Writing Month for a lot of people, October might as well be National Novel Writing Prep Month. Outlines are being made, character names thought up, settings and random questions being researched all in the name of getting ready to pump out 50,000 words over the course of 30 days. Now I did NaNoWriMo for the first time last year and I was a winner. My 61,000 word manuscript consumed me, and in a lot of ways practically killed me. I stuck it in the metaphorical drawer once December came around and haven't looked at it again since. So this year, my November will instead be Get Back Into The Habit Of Doing Creative Writing Every Day Since I've Been Slacking Lately And Life Got A Little Bit Nuts There Month.

Oh, and much more reading. That too. And hopefully more Where's Your Bookmark? episodes will be coming your way as well.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Corsets & Clockwork: Part 2

I'm currently making my way through Corsets & Clockwork: 13 Steampunk Romances (Running Press, 2011). I'm new to all of the authors featured in this collection as well as the world of steampunk, so this has been an interesting read so far.

Story: Deadwood
Author: Michael Scott
Summary: Martha is traveling by airship west to California and meets the mysterious JW during the flight. When the ship makes an unexpected stop in Deadwood, South Dakota, the pair both believe that it's hardly the pleasant pit stop the crew claims it is.
Thoughts: Yeehaw! Scott has steampunk mashing up with a classic American western in this short story, and it was a really fun one! There's a lot of great action and banter in this story, and the conclusion was neatly done, being both tied up as well as open enough for future adventures between Martha and JW. This story makes me want to check out Scott's other works.

Story: Code of Blood
Author: Dru Pagliassotti
Summary: Chiara sneaks out of the house for the Festival of the Ascension and a night of fun, but her world and all of Venice is turned upside down when Napoleon's troops show up. Only a secret and mysterious organization known as the Guild and the apprentice Pietro can help her save her home and her grandfather, the doge of Venice.
Thoughts: This was an interesting story, and I was especially excited since I've actually been to Venice, but for whatever reason it just didn't grab me. This was definitely more on the fantasy side of things, and the characters just fell a bit flat in my opinion.

Story: The Clockwork Corset
Author: Adrienne Kress
Summary: When her childhood best friend, the boy she loves, is summoned to battlefront in the ongoing war, Imogen disguises herself as a boy and runs away to join the army, determined to keep him safe.
Thoughts: This story was cute, if a bit on the predictable side. Imogen was raised as a tomboy, and it's a good thing too because it gives her just the skills she needs to be able to pass as a boy in the army and participate in a mission to save her beloved Rafe. I liked this story well enough, and was more than fine with the fact that it was a short story because if this had been a novel, I would have been disappointed.

So that's it from me this time around. Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

1 Year Blogoversary & Giveaway!

On October 2, 2011 I had a brilliant idea. Why not start a blog to talk about the books I'm reading and share my opinions on book related things? I had absolutely no idea what exactly I was getting in to, but it's been fun nonetheless!

Over the last year, I have published 127 posts (including this one). I have met amazing other bloggers and writers. I have hosted a giveaway. I have entered the world of YouTube, become slightly addicted to Twitter, and fell in love with the incredible power of story telling and its ability to unite people in imagined as well as literal communities all over again.

My blog is a small one by anyone's standards, but I'm still proud of it, and a blogoversary is more than a good cause for celebration in my humble opinion. That's why YOU, dear readers, have the chance to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Maggie Stiefvater's latest novel, The Raven Boys, the first book in her planned Raven Cycle quartet. The usual rules apply (must be at least 13 years old and live in the US, etc. - see my blog policies for the whole list) - just fill out the Rafflecopter form below and check out your opportunities to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you all for your support, may the odds be ever in your favor, and, as always, happy reading!