Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dragonflight

Anne McCaffrey has been a staple in my family's home for as long as I can remember. In fact, I have a very distinct memory of sitting on the swing outside my family's house and having my mom bring me Dragonflight, saying I should read it. Of course, I tried, because 1) my mom thought it was a good book and that makes it worthy and 2) even back then I never seemed able to get my hands on enough books.

Alas, I think I was a bit too young to appreciate Dragonflight at the time. It has some very complex social interactions, and I think Little Me would have been confused by the Thread that was supposed to be killing everything. Because, even as an adult, I still think it sounds like little space worms.

Here's the story: Lessa is the true ruler of Ruatha, but she's been biding her time in plotting revenge of Thax, who killed her family and gained control of the kingdom. At the same time as events are reaching a head with  Lessa, the dragon rider F'lar is on a search for a new queen of his collection of dragon riders. This means that he needs a strong woman who can bond with the golden dragon, the largest of them all. His search leads him to Ruatha, where he finds Lessa. The long and short of it is, he ends up killing Thax (good riddance, you big bully) and taking Lessa with him to Benden Weir, where his dragon riders are. Lessa now must take lessons in being the Weirwoman, and bond with the dragon Ramoth when she hatches. And in the mean time, the Red Star which brings the evil Thread (if one piece lands it will destroy acres of land) is rising. Benden Weir is short on time, and short on dragons to fight the Thread. It all rests on Lessa's head.

I liked this book, and will read the sequel. Dragonquest. There were points where it was just a bit too dramatic for my taste. Perhaps I wouldn't have thought this if I hadn't listened to it via audiobook, as the narrator had a very deep voice and even laughed when the story said to. It makes one wonder if during the dragon flights he ran around his room flapping his hands.

If you like a mix of sci-fi and fantasy, I would definitely recommend Anne McCaffrey. 

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars
Next on the docket is Across the Universe by Beth Revis.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hitting Your Stride

Now I am a firm non-believer in waiting for the muse to strike you. I believe in going after inspiration with a mallet and beating it into submission. If you waited all day for the muse to strike, you could die of old age before writing a single word.

But sometimes the muse does strike, and when it does you have to go with the flow. A few months back I read a post by Kiersten White, author of Paranormalcy, in which she told how she wrote a book in 9 days. That's right, 9 days. She had been captured by a story and it wasn't going to let her go until she wrote it.

Now I had something similar occur while writing Wind Chaser for NaNoWriMo, but I had an outline prepared and the first of the duology complete. Yesterday I was again struck by inspiration, which I channeled into Balancing Act. The word count for that WIP is now at 27k. Hopefully today will hold the same inspiration.

How wonderful it is to have time to write again. Yesterday I outlined and wrote about 20 pages. Today I at least want to write another 10. If the inspiration does not strike, I have a mallet nearby.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Red Pyramid

Those of you who are familiar with Rick Riordan are also familiar with the mass appeal of his books. I have an aunt with whom I discuss books for hours whenever she visits, and she raved about his Percy Jackson series, which is definitely YA. A few months ago one of my readers suggested The Red Pyramid. I read an online description and thought it sounded okay. A bit like a fantasy twist on a YA version of Dan Brown's novels. But I picked it up when I went on my book binge.

At almost 500 pages it's not a fast read. But still, on my lunch breaks and before going to work I managed to read it. And I will definitely be reading the sequel. The Red Pyramid follows Sadie and Carter Kane (neither older than 15) as they deal with the consequences of their dad blowing up the Rosetta Stone in the British History Museum. Consequences which include the releasing of 5 gods, one of which is bent on the destruction of the world, and others who have attached themselves to human souls. You know, normal kid stuff. As Sadie and Carter rush to try to save their dad, who was imprisoned by the nasty guy mentioned before, they learn about the realities of Egyptian mythology, and how they themselves may be the most important pieces in the puzzle.

Great writing, accessible for all ages. Sadie is spunky and has a discernible British influence in her narration. Carter is timid and a people pleaser who has to find his courage in order to save...well...the world.

Would recommend to anyone who likes historical-fantasy-YA-humor hodgepodges. I know I'm a big fan.

Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Friday, June 22, 2012

Success Stories

Hey! I thought I'd do a normal post to break up the reviews while I'm still working through The Red Pyramid. So far I'm liking it. Today's topic: successful queries. As I am on the cusp of sending out another wave of queries, it got me thinking about the greats. Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King. What did their queries (if applicable) look like? I would love to know.

I follow Query Shark, a blog with the intent of taking a bad query and turning it into a great one. The agent in charge of the blog shows where she would have stopped reading, and why that's the case. It's very informative. But I would love to see a proven successful query. Is there a book out there that is like this? If so, please let me know because I want to purchase a copy.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

Okay, so I know I promised the next book I was going to read (and subsequently review) was The Red Pyramid. And in fact it is sitting next to me right now, just begging to be read. But I just recently acquired The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and it came highly recommended so I read it in a sitting.

The novel follows Hazel Grace, a cancer survivor in the sense that her tumor growth has been stopped, but her lungs will never function properly. She spends her days reading depressing reflective books and poetry, and taking classes at the local community college. She also has to attend Support Group, which she hates, but does to make her mother happy. Enter Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer survivor with 1.4 legs. Long story short, they fall in love over their combined love of the book An Imperial Affliction, and their shared experiences with disease and being treated like one.

As with most books dealing with cancer or terminal illness (*cough* Jodi Piccoult), A Fault in Our Stars has some sad moments. But it also has it's funny moments. My favorite line: Time is a slut. She screws everybody.

Read it. That is all.

Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Tempest Rising

I just remembered today that I had not posted a review about this book. I'll preface this by saying that I love everything to do with the ocean, which is why I picked up this book about Tempest, who has some fishy tendencies. For instance, while out surfing with her friends one day, she begins to get a mermaid tail.

Now there were points of this book that I greatly enjoyed, and the anger Tempest felt at her mother for abandoning her family for the ocean is tangible throughout the novel. Also were the intricacies of the physical changes Tempest goes through as she nears her seventeenth birthday - the day she will have to decide whether to become a mermaid or remain a biped. Her decision was always to stay on land with her father, two brothers, and off-again-on-again boyfriend Mark. Everything gets mucked up as her birthday approaches however, and her life isn't made simpler by the arrival of hot surfer dude Kona who is eerily at home in the ocean. Kind of like Tempest.

I had some problems with this book. For one, it is never exactly explained why Tempest is going to turn mermaid on her seventeenth birthday, or even how the magic of the mermaids exists. Or how Tempest's father even got involved with a mermaid. There are some holes, and they might be explained in the sequel Tempest Unleashed.

Would I recommend this book? Sure. It's a light read and the descriptions make up for some holes and conflicting character traits within Tempest. But I think I'll read reviews before picking up the sequel.

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Morning Gift

I have been a fan of Eva Ibbotson's historical romance novels for a few years now. Mainly because all of the minor characters seem so real, and by the end of the story (usually the epilogue) when you find out what happens to them all, it makes sense and is normally funny.

The Morning Gift is no exception. The novel follows Ruth Berger, Austrian born and 5/8ths Jewish, right as her country is being taken over by Hitler. In order to get safely out of the country, and reach her family and pianist boyfriend Heini, she marries a family friend to get a visa. Quin Somerville is a professor and paleontologist, and ends up teaching his new wife when she is enrolled in his class in England.


I had a great many laughs while reading, and as usual marveled at the amount of research Ibbotson had to do to finish a novel. She has a sweet writing style, and it flavors the romance. Nothing ever sizzles with Ibbotson. It's comfortable and compatible, and only when the characters are willing to accept themselves as themselves do they come together. If you're looking for a raunchy read, pass this book by. But if you are a fan of intricate character webs, information about the people dislocated as a result of fleeing Hitler, and a sweet story about a man and a woman, pick up a copy of The Morning Gift.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Next on the agenda: The Red Pyramid 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Recap

I apologize for falling off the map there for almost a week. I was planning on posting another book review before I left New York, but didn't have time to finish The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson. However, there are still 3 hours left on the plane in which I can get some reading done, so I may have something for you tomorrow or the next day.

That's right, I'm posting this from over 10,000 feet up. I am over halfway through The Morning Gift, and didn't want to spend the rest of the flight with nothing to read since I know I'll devour it like the rest of Ibbotson's books.

New York was AMAZING. I haven't spent a lot of time on the East Coast, and it was certainly eye opening. As my regular readers are aware, I hope to enter the publishing world, if not as an author, then as an editor or publisher. Which means it is more than likely I'll end up in New York. And even just as a tourist I felt competitive. For a spot on the subway. For a reservation. For anything where it was possible to get ahead.

Of course, that wasn't the point of this trip. My family and I did all the touristy stuff, from the Statue of Liberty to Rockefeller Center to the Empire State Building. I even ate a hot dog from a cart, going against my code of hygiene. Perhaps I'll post pictures later on. Oh, and I saw Jim Parsons in Harvey. I'd swoon right now, but it might alarm the passengers around me.

And, best of all, my imagination is all revved up again. I went to the Met this morning and examined a collection of medieval armor. It was awesome. I will definitely be including some of the stuff I saw in Water and Fire, once I'm done with my new ideas for Balancing Act.

More on that later, though. Happy Sunday!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Paranormalcy

Well, I am now ensconced in my hotel room, rather wet since it was pouring down rain in the Big Apple today. Fortunately, being a Washingtonian, this did not deter me. I got a slice of real NYC pizza, saw Time Square, the theater in which I'll be seeing Wicked soon, and many a hot dog vendor.
Retrieved from Goodreads

But before I could enjoy the muggy skyscraper canyon that is NYC, I had to enjoy the plane ride. Over five hours long, I had plenty of time to read. I read Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. I've been following her blog for a while, but had yet to read her novel. I'm glad I did it that way because I could hear her voice from the first page.

Paranormalcy tells the story of Evie, an employee of the International Paranormal Containment Agency since the age of eight. After she captures a strange paranormal boy named Lend who can wear the face of anyone, she begins to discover secrets about the actual paranormal world. And it's bad. Paranormals are dying at a staggering rate, and somehow it's connected with the wily faeries and Evie herself.

I will definitely be picking up Supernaturally when I get home, mostly because of the voice. It just makes me laugh. Which is awesome. So, don't look at this novel with jaded "OMG not Another Paranormal Romance." Try it. It be funny.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ender's Game

I read this book for a history class when I was in the 8th grade, and it is still brilliant. Possibly even more so, now that I can see how everything was put together. At once Ender's Game manages to be both sci-fi and dystopian. There is a regime in place that puts the world under militaristic rule in order to keep the peace among the countries. The primary characters are Ender, Peter, and Valentine Wiggin, all geniuses in a world on the cusp of inter-stellar war with the buggers.

There are so many praises I could sing for this book - how well the world-building was done, how the author Orson Scott Card obviously did his research, and how real the characters seemed in their interactions. Pride and honor and humanity are all tested in this novel until you don't know whether Ender, the central character, should be used as a tool to save the human race, or if humans are worth saving at all if they are willing to use Ender as a tool.

Orson Scott Card is renowned in the literary world, and if you haven't picked up one of his books, you need to. Ender's Game was a nice way to kick off my Summer Reading Project. For more information, see the new tab at the top of the page. While I'm in New York I'll be diving into Lost Voices and Paranormalcy. This may change of course, depending on the space available in my luggage.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Binge

There is not a wide selection of books to buy on the coast where I will be living this summer. So I went on a spree and got 13 new titles in preparation for my deprivation. Well, I suppose that's not true. I've read Ender's Game before, but it was only for school, and I didn't have my own copy. So over the next few weeks (minus the days I'm in New York) I'll be posting reviews of the following books among the regular programming:

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender's Shadow by Orson Scott Card
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson
Empress of the Seven Hills by Kate Quinn
Tempest Rising by Tracy Deebs
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier
The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Lost Voices by Sarah Porter
A Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson

It's a nice mix of fantasy, romance, sci-fi, paranormal, historical fiction, and dystopian. I cannot begin to describe how happy I am right now!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

DONE

My freshman year of college is complete! My things are packed and awaiting loading into the family car. My roommate is currently vacuuming to her heart's desire. Everything is wiped down and bare, and it's sort of a bittersweet moment. I've had a wonderful time this year. Winter quarter was hard, spring quarter was fun.

I'm going to miss my little dorm room with it's heavy furniture and green carpeting. But I have so much to look forward to this summer. I'm going to New York soon, and then I'm working with my family on the coast for the rest of the summer. Oh, and I'm going to see Jeff Foxworthy at a fair. And I'm planning on finishing the draft of Balancing Act, now that I have time to write again. And sometime in there I'll blog and hang out with friends.

It's been a wonderful year, and I'm sad it's over. But there's always next year!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Love Interest

In order for the love interest in a novel to be effective, you as the writer must be able to make the audience fall in love as well. If the reader cannot understand why the MC is doing crazy things in order to be with the guy/girl/paranormal creature, then the story will suffer.

But what makes an effective love interest? There are many traits that are often paired off that seem to be accepted as attractive, and they are as follows: (note: this note is limited to the writer's reading, and does not include all hunky traits imaginable)

Guys:

Shy, awkward, and lovable. Often compared to a teddy bear. This can be accompanied by glasses, although some readers think this can be cliche. To add mystery, has inner strength from a hard past.
*swoon*

Tall, buff, often with very piercing eyes, and charismatic. Often compared to Hulk (just kidding). Can also be accompanied by glasses to indicate vulnerability. Can be the popular guy, but many times does not wish to be that person.

Wiry, either tall or short, often with grey eyes, and stand-offish. This means he already has an aura of mystery that accompanies him, making the reader want to know more. Generally is stronger than appears. Painful past that is pushed away and must be accepted for him to truly become the person he can be. A strange scar makes it even better

Girls:

Shy, awkward, and lovable. Often compared to a teddy bear. This can be accompanied by glasses, although some readers think this can be cliche. To add mystery, has inner strength from a hard past. (look familiar?)

Charismatic, popular, and traditionally pretty. Often has many friends but only a few close ones. Generally needs to change something from within in order to be accepted as a viable love interest.

Plain, but noticeable. Has image issues that trace back to a bad childhood/school experience/love experience. Generally intelligent and trying to ignore the advances of the male.

I certainly have more experience dissecting male love interests, but there you have it. If you know of any other Love Interest Types, feel free to add them in the comments section!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ego Boost

Yesterday was my first final. It was for African History, and the professor is one that I met in Fall Quarter for my Atlantic Slavery class. After I turned in my blue book and massaged my hand so I could move it again, I said goodbye to the teacher. She asked if she could see me outside for a minute. Of course, I agreed, feeling a little apprehensive.

I had no reason to be. She said that it had been a real pleasure teaching me this year, and that she mentioned me to a History guidance counselor. She even told him that I would be a great candidate for the major. I was flying high for the rest of the day. A recommendation from a teacher as important as she is will be a real feather in my cap when it comes to applying for the major.

Now I just need to survive my Oceanography final and my freshman year will be over!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Talking to Non-Writers

When you're a writer, it's hard to explain your passion to someone else. All through school you hear people complain about the books they have to read for class, the papers they have to write, and how useless it all is. I always felt kind of sheepish whenever this happened, because I never had problems writing papers. Sure, I didn't like some of the books I had to read (that's right, I'm talking about you, Moby Dick!) but I always got through them. And some of the books I absolutely loved! Examples: The Great Gatsby, Catch-22, House of the Scorpion.

Now that I'm taking with classes with English majors, it's much the same. I have met only one or two other people who are interested in writing novels, not short stories or poetry. And I've met no one whose dream it is to go into publishing.

I still talk about my dreams with my friends. They ask me how my current project is going, and if I've had any bites on my previous  ones. But I can tell when they get bored with my explaining the query process, for their eyes start to glaze over and they nod at everything I say. I find myself having to backtrack to explain terms that my Book World understands. Which makes me feel like a know-it-all when in truth I still have so much to learn.

How do you deal with talking to non-writers?