Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Two Towers

I definitely enjoyed The Fellowship of the Ring more, but this is a good sequel. It fleshed out some of the minor characters, and there were fewer songs. And Ents are awesome! Huge tree people? Yeah. Awesome.  I started The Return of the King as soon as I finished off this book, and have focused on it more than the other book I was planning on reading - Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. That will be next. Pippin is a very funny hobbit, and I enjoyed the delving into the psychosis of Gollum. Although it was probably something I shouldn't have read over breakfast...

Okay, looking back at this post I can tell I'm tired. It's the busiest week of the year at work, so you'll have to forgive me. I'll have some non-review posts for you soon, probably about my first pass of revisions on Balancing Act.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a good one, and if you are in any way nerdy you should read them.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Legend

Okay, so I also just finished off The Mermaid's Mirror by L. K. Madigan. But I don't have many positive things to say about it, so I've chosen not to review it. Instead, here is a review of a book I enjoyed immensely: Legend by Marie Lu.

It reminded me of a dystopian version of Tamora Pierce's Trickster's Choice.

Legend follows June Iparis, an elite fifteen-year-old in the Republic's army, specializing in...well...everything. She can scale a building, shoot a gun, and track with the best of them. Her first assignment? Tracking the Republic's most wanted criminal, and the killer of her brother, Day. Day is trying to earn money to cure his Plague infested family, who believes him to be dead. June and Day discover the secrets of the Republic, and along the way, each other.

The things I loved about this novel (while numerous) were specific. The entire book was sharp, and mentioned tons of little details from June's perspective. Things she has learned to look for in investigations that are now habit. But the details aren't so numerous that they make the story drag. I feel like there are some fantasy novels that do this, as well as other genres. Legend avoids this. Also, the action. There was no deadline, but the whole thing was tense. I finished it in one day. It would have been one sitting if I hadn't had to work.

Read it!

Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Selection

Okay, I'll admit it: I bought this book because of the dress on the front. It's huge and frilly and so over the top, but I just love the colors. And the story. I was surprised by how much I liked the story. At first I didn't think I would. But I'll get to that later.

The novel by Kiera Cass follows America Singer, a level five, an artisan in the new regime. And she's in love with a six, which would mean marrying beneath her. But stranger things have happened. Now the crown prince is in need of a bride, and as per tradition 35 girls are "randomly" Selected to compete for his hand in marriage. America is Selected, and hates it. But she finds herself drawn to Prince Maxon, as a friend of course. He's too stiff and tight laced for her, and she's already had her heart broken.

Okay, I'm going to start with my downsides first because then my positives will make more sense. I thought at first that there was too much of a parallel between America and Katniss of the Hunger Games. Giving up her family to do something she doesn't want to do in order to get them money in their poorer district... I mean Province. And I couldn't get my mind wrapped around the genre. It seemed like a cross between a dystopian, a period novel, and the Bachelor. It was frustrating.

And then, all of a sudden...I stopped caring. Why? Because I fell in love with America and Maxon. America was a genuinely nice girl, honest and kind, and intelligent . I feel a lot of the time intelligence is sacrificed for kindness in characters, but not in America. And Maxon...well he's certainly my type, and not without his flaws. I finished this book in one day. It has fun dresses and rebel movements and competition for love.

When does the sequel come out?

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Friday, August 24, 2012

Supernaturally

I read Kiersten White's Paranormalcy back in June when I was in New York. I had just finished my freshman year of college, was in the Big Apple for the first time, and seriously exhausted from finals. I enjoyed Paranormalcy because it was cute and quirky and it brought a unique perspective to the paranormal romance scene. I haven't read much paranormal, but I loved the elemental aspects of that novel because I hadn't seen it before.

When I was in Oregon last week I picked up a copy of Supernaturally, the sequel. And I liked it it, truly. There were some seriously funny moments, and the banter was awesome. Kiersten (whose blog I follow religiously because it guarantees me laughs) has a way with dialogue. The story follows Evie after she finds out she's an Empty One, a soul sucker. She's trying to balance a "normal" human life, a boyfriend, and working at the paranormal diner when IPCA comes back into her life asking for her to take on regular assignments. That being said, I was a little disappointed not to see more development in the character of Lend (hot stuff boyfriend). Jack, the human faerie slave was an interesting character, and I was overjoyed when Evie smacked him.

I will definitely be reading Endlessly... as soon as it comes out in paperback because I've bought waaaay too many books lately.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Up Next: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

In Which I Scream

I am proud to announce that as of mid-morning yesterday, the first draft of Balancing Act is complete! The Shiny New Idea came to me in April, and here I am five months later with a copy sitting in my files. Complete at 62,000 words, I have so much wiggle room to work with.

The problem with Griffin's Song was that I overwrote. I didn't feel like I could add anything to it while editing because I needed to cut so much out. And there is already so much I want to add to Balancing Act. I'm letting myself be happy for a few days though, before ripping my novel a new one. It's still sinking in that here I am, a sophomore in college, and I have written three books.

None of them are published, mind you, but I'm a lot closer than I used to be. I have grown as a writer, and as a reader. I now even have glasses as a badge of my dedication to the written word. I sacrificed sleep, and time with family and friends to make these books come to fruition. They drove me crazy, and I actually became a little depressed while writing Balancing Act because I fit myself too much into Callie's character.

All that work, sweat, and days spent living in an invisible land. And the only thing I could think of all day long was: what do I write next?

That's my life, folks.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Throne of Fire

It's been two months since I read The Red Pyramid and after reading the sequel I'm beating myself up over not getting it sooner. To be blunt, Rick Riordan is a damn good writer. It takes some serious skill to make me care about an ugly dwarf in a Hawaiian t-shirt and a speedo.

The Throne of Fire starts up a few months after The Red Pyramid ends. Sadie and Carter Kane are recording the events of the days leading up to the March equinox, the day when the giant god of Chaos breaks from his prison and swallows the sun. Not light material, but I laughed a lot while reading. I connect so much with Sadie, who feels guilty about wanting time to be a normal girl when the world might end, and confusion about why everything awful seems to happen to her. Which, seriously, it does. Carter really comes into his own in the sequel, taking up the title of leader quite well. There's a host of new characters in addition to the old favorites.

I loved the style, I loved the powerful ending that almost made me feel as if I'd received a copy of the tape recording and could help save the Earth from Apophis (evil snake god of Chaos). I loved the snarky quips by Sadie, and the Captain Obvious-ness of Carter. I laughed, I almost cried, and the action never ever stops.

Read it. Now. Seriously.

Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cover Art

A little over a week ago I read this post and watched the corresponding video. Like any other author out there I've dreamed of holding a copy of my book and ooohing and awwwing over the cover. I've even pictured what I'd like it to be.

And like any person out there, I've looked at book covers and thought "what in the world could this possibly say about the content?"

After watching the video, I understand it a lot more. And it's actually changed how I look at covers. Take the following cover, for instance:

If you read my last post, you know the summary of this story. It involved college and a cute boy and a horse farm and New York City. Now, the girl on this cover is cute, as is the little bit of the boy we see. But what does this say about the story? A week ago I would have said "nothing that I can see." But now, here's my speculation.

The main character is a writer, and she spends a lot of time in the book overanalyzing her relationship with Hunter, and what specific actions and words would portray. Did I mention she's a writer? This is soooo what we do. Comes with the territory. Therefore, Erin spends a lot of time in her head. And I think a close-up of the main character looking a little tired and not quite at peace says a lot about Love Story.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Love Story

This is the first novel I've read this summer that is a traditional contemporary romance. It follows Erin, a broke aspiring Creative Writing major in New York city. She was originally the heiress to a multi-million dollar horse farm in Kentucky, but when she told her grandma she intended to pursue a career as a writer she was cut off.

Erin channels her frustrated attraction for Hunter, a stable boy with whom she's had a strained relationship over the years, into a short story for a class. The day it's read aloud happens to be the day Hunter joins the class. They take their revenge on each other through writing stories for the class, each with some meaning for the other person.

As a writer, I found this story interesting. I completely connected with how Erin felt she could only see criticism and would forget all the praise she'd gotten on a story. I do the exact same thing. We writers can be fragile people. And I found some techniques Hunter used in his stories very intriguing, and might try to incorporate them into some of my classwork.

All that being said, the ending was a nice twist on the traditional teen romance, but I felt like I connected more with the present-day Erin and Hunter than with past Erin and Hunter. (Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of developed back stories, as both Griffin's Song/Wind Chaser/Balancing Act reflect. Especially the latter.) I understood their conflicted relationship in college, but not so much all the emotional turmoil of their past.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Next up: The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

Saturday, August 18, 2012

City of Glass

Yesterday I was very frustrated with people. Not because they were doing anything particular, but because they kept coming into the store when I was 50 pages away from finishing City of Glass. I was a little disappointed with the beginning of this book, for it seemed a bit slower than the others. But it picked right up once I got into the meat of it.

City of Glass follows Clary, Jace, Alec, Isabelle, and Simon as they travel to the Shadowhunter country of Idris, specifically the capitol of Alicante. They are trying dually to stop the evil Valentine from finding the last Mortal Instrument which would make him ridiculously powerful, as well as trying to find a cure for the self-imposed coma Clary's mother is in.

What I enjoyed about this book was there were large revelations. City of Ashes lacked these. As always the writing of Clare's world is beautiful and I could picture it all. But I thought the revelations were treated more calmly than was realistic. But then again, that may be because I like my characters to scream and throw things!

Up next: Love Story by Jennifer Echols. It has a creative writing major and a horse farm, both very dear to my heart.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Friday, August 17, 2012

Editing During Drafting

I am not one of those people who can write an entire draft without changing it along the way. In the case of Wind Chaser I did because I wrote it for NaNoWriMo, but for Griffin's Song and all the other WIPs I have, I can't just let them stay the way they were while drafting.

And here's how I edit:

I do multiple things. For one, if I'm blocked, I'll go back and read what I've already written and tweak little things like dates, and small mistakes of continuity I wasn't aware would be important. It really helps if I read out loud. Most times this will serve as an effective way to knock out a block because I'm actively putting myself into my characters' lives.

I research. Balancing Act required reading about complex gymnastics moves as well as ankle surgery. I've undergone physical therapy, so that part was a cinch. But I also had to look into dinner cruises in Oregon and the medical requirements for different branches of the military. Unsure where I'm going to put that so far, but I know it'll come up.

I make a list. As I've stated in previous posts, I adore lists. I have a day planner for university for my homework and chores, and I have a much longer list that I use on weekends when I have projects, homework, social engagements, and chores. The love applies to writing as well. I create a "Things to Fix" document and on it put all the things I want to improve with my draft. That way it's off my mind. Normally this means the big things like character arcs or back stories, or even a huge change in plot.

So there you have it. Still think I'm not OCD?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Good Exhaustion

I pinky promise to have a book review for ya'll soon! But I spent the past couple days in Oregon with my best friend, getting clothes for the new school year, swimming in 85 degree weather, and TALKING ABOUT BOOKS!

For being as bookish as I am, I do not have many friends who enjoy reading to the extent I do. And of those people, none of them love writing. Except for one. But she's gone most of the year at university (not mine, unfortunately) so we don't see each other as often as I'd like. But over the past two days we spent hours talking about our WIPs and books. We also spent a ton of time in the Young Adult section of Powells. I may have gotten some more books...but they were used and there's no sales tax in Oregon!

Anyways, on to the topic of today's post. The Good Exhaustion. Like being sore after a long day of horseback riding and mucking stalls. Or working out at the gym. Or walking around town. Or, more applicable to us writers, the end of a day you've done substantial work on your novel.

Who hasn't felt the emotional drain of channeling an entire cast of characters' emotions through your brain? It's exhausting! When I had a good day with Balancing Act I had to get up and sit outside in the real world for a while because my head was stuck in Callie's world.

It's Good Exhaustion. It's knowing you've done all you can for the day and can now lay down and read in peace. Or sleep. Most likely sleep.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Reasons Why I'm Split on E-Readers

I think there are a lot of great things about Kindles, Nooks, and E-Readers in general. You can bring a ton of books on vacation without taking up a whole other suitcase. E-books are often cheaper than new release hardbacks. It's progress.

But.

You don't have to charge a paper-back.
A paperback can't crash.
If I lose a paperback I'm out one book and probably ten dollars instead of tons of books and loooots more money.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

How to Be A College Writer

In a little over a month I shall be back to university. Summer has gone very quickly, and I know I shall miss it soon enough. But I also find myself missing the dorms and classes, and my campus in general. With the coming of my sophomore year of college will also come more writing.

Last year I wrote one novel for NaNoWriMo, and then began another entitled Balancing Act which is nearing completion. It is a struggle to write in college, especially when you're an English and History major, because there always seems to be something else you should be doing. Like reading a book for research, or trying to write a poem using a certain method. But if you want to be a serious college writer, here are my suggestions:

  1. Weekends are your friends: I know you'll probably want to go out and about on the weekends. After all, it's your first time living away from your parents and it's exciting. And I wholeheartedly reccommend getting to know your campus and the surrounding towns. But you should also spend at least a few hours each weekend (or even every other weekend if you're very busy) writing. Whether it's outlining, or actual story-making, this will lift you out of your study-centric life for a while.
  2. Summers are your best friends: Whether you have a job or vacation, or are just laying around the house, summers are the best times for busy college students to work on their books. I've been to New York this summer, and for the past couple months I've been working a full time job. But since work stays, well, at work, I have time to write once my shift ends. Vacations are great vats of inspiration to get you out of a rut, and summers provide ample time to sit down and write.
  3. Have a deadline: This is a personal preference of mine, but if you are a college student I'm pretty sure you're double majoring in Not Enough Sleep and Procrastination. You know what I'm talking about, don't pretend you don't. A deadline makes a paper a lot more likely to get done, especially when you're close to the due date. So here's my advice: Set yourself a hard and fast deadline for how many pages/words/books you're going to write. If it helps, split it up by quarter or semester so you have multiple deadlines throughout the year. My deadlines include: Finish my summer reading project before fall quarter starts, write two books a year (one for NaNoWriMo and one other), be ready to send out massive amounts of queries by winter quarter.
  4. Don't say "I'll do it tomorrow": I know I just essentially said that deadlines are linked with procrastination, but if at all possible, avoid procrastination. The thing about being a college writer is, you don't *have* to write. You've got quite enough on your plate at the moment between trying to juggle classes, homework, and a social life, and possibly a job. It is easy for writing to fall to the wayside. But if you are serious about being a college writer, don't say "I'll do it tomorrow." You won't. Trust me. Doing it today will make you a whole lot happier tomorrow.
I hope my advice helps. If you have any questions, or further advice, feel free to put them in the comments.

Friday, August 10, 2012

City of Ashes

Last week I read the first book in the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. For those of you who read the review, you know that I absolutely loved it. I felt much the same way about City of Ashes. It takes place a few weeks after City of Bones, and concerns how the Clave is trying to stop Valentine, the evil Shadowhunter, after he steals the Soul-Sword. This sword can be used to summons thousands, possibly infinite numbers of demons to wreak havoc and general mayhem. Clary's newly discovered brother, Jace, is suspected of being in league with Valentine, and the Clave won't listen to his protestations.

This book moves a bit slower than City of Bones, although it takes place over the space of about a week, maybe two (it's not really clear, unless you count the times the characters wake up, not including when they pass out, which is surprisingly often). Maybe it's because the reader already understands the world, or maybe it's because there aren't any huge revelations in this book. There sure were a ton in the first one! But I still enjoyed it immensly.

Moving on to City of Glass now.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Uncommon

I went back to my childhood home for a few days, and for the first time in months slept in "my own bed." I was lazing one morning, drinking coffee in bed, and my eyes drifted to my bookcase. And it hit me that not many children probably had a bookcase like mine. It has 7 shelves, and goes almost to the ceiling. I got it when I was in the fourth grade. Even back then I think it was full up. Now It's completely full and double stacked.

Books were a large part of my childhood, and are obviously still important to me now. But it hit me how odd it must have been for my friends to come over and see that the dominant piece of furniture in my room was a bookcase.

I went to a discount book store a couple days ago and got nine new books. A smattering of paranormal, history, classics, one on economic theory, and one on Scottish Magick. I must have a problem, since I still have over a dozen books to read this summer.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Fellowship of the Ring

Continuing my quest into geekdom, I tackled The Fellowship of the Ring over the last week and thoroughly enjoyed it. Most of my friends love comic books, Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, you name it. I am proud to be both a nerd and a geek. And what nerd hasn't read The Lord of the Rings trilogy?

I liked this book a bit more than the Hobbit. I know some people haven't enjoyed the first chapter because it's more whimsical, but that's why I enjoy it so much. Seeing how Bilbo set his affairs in order in the Shire was funny and appropriate. And it lightened the mood so it could darken it. I won't bother detailing the plot here - I expect most of my readers already know it.

There were parts I, as a writer, would have cut, but I have no quibble with Tolkien. Mary and Pippin provide banter that I greatly enjoyed, Aragorn was satisfyingly mysterious, and the Mines of Moria were more than creepy for my liking. And I can say without doubt that I will still enjoy the movie even after reading the book, which can't be said about everything.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Next up, I shall begin The Two Towers, as I work through The Scorch Trials by James Dashner.

A Walk to Remember

I picked up this book when Borders went out of business. It was probably 4 dollars. So I don't regret buying it. Plus one of my best friends is always pushing for me to read a Nicholas Sparks novel. But to be honest, at the end of this novel I only felt neutral.

The plot of this novel can be summed up in one sentence: Landon discovers he loves the very religious and super sweet girl Jamie, and dates her as her health deteriorates.

Ninety pages in to this 234 page book, I felt like there was very little character development. I knew as much about Landon and Jamie as I learned in the first couple chapters. Now I'm not saying this is a bad book, I'm just saying I was a little disappointed after all I've heard about Nicholas Sparks. I loved Jamie, and enjoyed seeing all the care she gave to orphans and everyone in general. There were some moments I laughed.

This was a quick read, and I'd suggest it if you're looking for something light and moderately stimulating.

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

Friday, August 3, 2012

City of Bones

Finally I have a review for ya'll! I've been working through The Fellowship of the Ring as well as Sense and Sensibility, but yesterday I picked up City of Bones by Cassandra Clare on a whim and I just finished it now on my lunch break.

An overview: Clary Fray has never felt like she belongs anywhere, and she has shockingly few memories of her childhood. After an odd encounter at a New York nightclub with some teenagers only she can see, things in Clary's life begin to change. Fast. Her mother mysteriously disappears, and Clary is sucked into the world of the Shadow Hunters, who slay demons and the odd werewolf or vampire. Jace the Hunter and Simon her "mundane" human friend are her constant companions on the journey to discover who or what took Clary's mother, and why. These adventures lead them through Warlock apartments, many churches, an abandoned hotel, as well as an abandoned asylum for smallpox patients! And finding out these secrets may save the entire Shadow Hunter population, or destroy it.

My comments: I absolutely loved this book. Kinda why I read it in two days, when it's almost 500 pages. The world is beautifully crafted, and incorporates paranormal information (werewolves heal quickly, kelpies eat certain food, elves actually are small and bite) that seemed natural. The dialogue is snappy and the plot had my heart racing a few times. I was disappointed when I finally had to go to bed, and this book was the first thing I grabbed when I woke up (after my glasses). I was surprised to find out there were 5 books in The Mortal Instruments series, but I'm ready and willing to find out where this story goes.

Read it.

Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Almost There

Yesterday I had every intention of spending the day at home and writing, for I am tantalizingly close to finishing the first draft of Balancing Act. There is perhaps 20k to go, and I have all of it outlined. Instead I ended up writing for a while, then going horseback riding. This was not very productive for my WIP, but it certainly was fun.

I wish!
It's odd to think that I've almost finished writing my third book. After I finish the first draft I plan on setting it aside for a little while, spending more time with my family, and returning to querying Griffin's Song. I'll admit I stopped for a while there because I could never get the right tone to my query. But with the first draft nearing completion, I feel more secure in spending hours fiddling with 250 words for agents.

That's all I have for you today. I exhausted myself yesterday with horseback riding and a long walk on the beach. Now off to work!