November 30, 2013

NaNo Day Thirty

You're probably wondering if I made my word count.  Well, on the official site, I did, because that includes every little bit of writing I've done this month (well, besides, blog posts and random little jottings).  As of writing this post, early on November 29, I have not yet achieved my goal on YWP.  I'm close, though!  Only 2000 words to go, so hopefully I can get that all written before the deadline.

To Die, To Sleep is very close to the end, so I think I'm going to have to go back and add a lot in places.  It's much too short to be a YA novel, and it needs to be about double the length it is now.

Now...would y'all like an excerpt of To Die, To Sleep?  Since I'm guessing the answer is yes, here's one of my favorite scenes: 

Violet watched out of the corner of her eye as her father and Grant’s uncle hastened behind the mirrored wall panel.  As Grant entered, she could hear him muttering to himself so she quickly hid on the second stairway that led up to the balcony.  She couldn’t confront him yet; her nerves had taken over.  If she moved into his line-of-sight now, she would surely mess up the whole scheme. 
Grant stood in the center of the lobby and looked around.  He crossed to the grand staircase and began a slow ascent.  Violet ducked back even further.
“‘To be…or not to be…’” Grant said.  “‘That is the question.’  Is it nobler to endure life’s pains, or to fight against them in hopes of overcoming them?  To die…to sleep, nothing more.  But, if by sleep, we could end heartache and other daily anxieties that humans suffer, it would be warmly welcomed.  ‘To die, to sleep/To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub.’”
“He’s positively mad,” Violet murmured, already beginning to mourn the loss of Grant.  She missed his poetry, his laugh, and his grin.  He hadn’t smiled in so long.  She missed running lines with him, and their last minute rituals before a performance, and their good luck charm, a giant stuffed penguin they’d named Guildenstern.  Grant had won Guildenstern at a carnival when they were in middle school, and they’d named him the first time they’d seen Hamlet.
Grant was still talking.  “Those dreams we might have during the sleep of death must make us take pause.  They are what make us tolerate suffering for so long.  Who would bear this world’s torments—the tyrant’s injustice, vanity’s rudeness, the pain of unrequited love, law’s delay, and the insults the innocent suffer—when one could settle everything with a mere blade?”  Grant reached into his pocket and pulled out his dagger.  Violet had to cover a gasp.  She readied herself to rush forward and stop him, but Grant made no motion to injure himself.  “Who would continue to bear such a burden, if not for the dread of something after death?  Death is an unexplored country from where no traveler ever returns.  It makes us hesitant and causes the choice of troubles in this life.  Our intelligence makes us cowards, and determination takes on a sickly complexion.  This process causes endeavors of even the highest importance to lose their momentum.”
Violet decided she could wait no longer.  She tucked the things from Grant into her jacket pocket.  She flipped to a random page in her book—she’d read The Soul’s Dark Forest so many times, it didn’t matter where she started—and began slowly descending the steps.  It was show time.
“Shut up!” Grant muttered to himself. “The fair Violet is here.” 
He met her at the foot of the stairs, and she looked up from her book.  Both attempted cordial smiles.  Both failed miserably.
“How are you today?” Violet managed to ask.
Grant pulled her to him.  She squeaked in surprise but reflexively hugged him back.  She missed his hugs, too.  Vi was the first to let go, though.  She had to be strong.
“Grant, I have things of yours I’ve wanted to return for quite some time,” she said, reaching in her pocket for some letters first. “Would you take them now?”
Grant’s expression froze over.  “No.  I never gave you anything.”
Violet was confused.  “But, you know very well you did.  They were given together with fragrant sentiments, like the flowers I tend in my greenhouse.  But their perfume has faded, so take these presents back instead.”  She was slowly becoming hysterical. “Look, I also have the four bracelets with Shakespeare quotes you gave me for my birthday, and I dried the corsage you gave me for homecoming this year, and here’s the book on horticulture you gave me just because, and the violet charm necklace, and—”
“Is that so?” Grant said callously.  Then he asked, “Are you chaste?”
Violet, practically in tears, was startled.  “Pardon?”
“Are you beautiful?”
“What do you mean by that?” Violet exclaimed.
“Well, if you are both chaste and beautiful, your chastity should protect your beauty,” he intoned. “But beauty can easily corrupt chastity.  Once upon a time this was unthinkable, but now there’s living proof.”
Vi turned away so Grant wouldn’t see her crying.  He was being unnecessarily cruel.  Then he said something that crushed her even more.
“I loved you once.”
She turned back and looked Grant square in the eye, despite her tears.
“You made me believe you did,” she responded.
He shrugged nonchalantly.  “You shouldn’t have.  That wasn’t love.”
“I was certainly deceived,” Violet said, holding her head high.
“You should become a nun.  Otherwise you’ll give birth to sinners,” Grant sneered. “I’m reasonably moral, but I’m guilty of so many things that my mother ought to never have had me.  I’m proud, vengeful, and ambitious.  And like every human, I have more potential for wrongdoing than I can imagine.  What right do scoundrels like me have to life?  We are all wretches.  Don’t believe any of us.  Get yourself to a convent.” 
Grant grabbed Violet suddenly by her arm.  She squeaked and dropped her book.  There was a scuffling sound up the right staircase to the balcony, and Grant looked around, his eyes narrowing.  Violet was confused; she had no idea who could be up there.
“Where’s your father?” he asked.
“At home,” she replied, her voice trembling.
“You should lock him up there so he won’t be the subject of public embarrassment.  I’ll go now,” said Grant, releasing his grip.
Violet crumpled to the ground at the top of the stairs.  She hugged her knees to her chest and stared after him.  When Grant reached the foot of the stairs, he glanced back.  His eyes were wide and unhinged.
“Oh, God, help him!” she whispered.

November 29, 2013

Random Friday: What I'm Thankful For

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Yesterday was Thanksgiving for everyone in America, and I hope y'all had a nice day!  Mine was very quiet.  But now I want to talk about what I'm thankful for.

1. God
He's done so much for me in the past year, and I can't wait to see what He has in store for me in 2014.

2. My parents
They're supportive of my dreams and are helping me achieve them.  Plus, they've homeschooled me, giving me the best education possible, and provided a roof over my head and food.

3. My real life friends
All of you. :) I don't know what I'd do without you.

4. My blogger and Twitter friends.
Particularly Taylor, Mady, Sunny, Shae, July, and anyone else I've forgotten to mention.  I actually just "met" some of you this year, and that has been amazing.  Joining the book blogger community has been one of the best experiences of my life.

5. All the authors and books
There are so many amazing authors out there (Heather Vogel Frederick, Shannon Hale, Ally Carter, Marissa Meyer, Veronica Roth, Lindsey Leavitt, Melanie Dickerson...and that's barely touching on all of them!) and they've created masterpieces.  I can't wait to join your ranks someday.

6. The indie bookseller in my town
I don't know what I'd do if I always had to drive 20-25 minutes to get to Barnes & Noble, where they never recognize me.  You've watched me graduate to the YA section, and you've provided me with ARCs to review here.  So, thank you. :)

7. Taylor Swift
She's such a big part of my life, and she doesn't even realize it.  Her music inspires me, and she's a big role model for me.

November 28, 2013

NaNo Day Twenty-Eight

Word count: 32,381 as of last night
Song of the day: probably "Half a Heart" by One Direction

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers!  It's going to be very quiet at my house - just my parents and me.  I made pumpkin pie croissants yesterday, so we'll eat them for breakfast today.

I'm not really going to talk about National Novel Writing Month today, even though that is something I am VERY thankful for.  Instead, last Friday in writing club, my group finished about 20 minutes early.  We did pass-the-poem (that's where you write one line, then pass it onto the next person who writes one line, and so on until it reaches the original person again).  Our teacher assigned us Thanksgiving as the topic and we decided to make them hashtag poems (you'll see what those are below).  I asked if I could share them with you, and here they are. :)

Poem #1

#thanksgivingakkah #itsthanksgiving #andhanukkah
#foodisawesome #november #pie
#latkes #menorah 
#thankfulnessandstuff #family

Poem #2 (titled #thanksgiving)

#gobble #turkey #thankful
#food #imhungry #givemefood
#foodsgood #freakinturkeytime #ilovefood

Poem #3
#thanksgiving #turkey #food
#macysparade #balloons #football
#pukingupancakes #food
#gross #nomegusta
#food #food #food

Poem #4

#drunkuncle #naptime
#stopaskingmeifihaveaboyfriend #stopaskingwhereimgoingtocollege #grandparentsareannoying
#ihaveadrunkuncle #hisnameisbob #nottrue
#noihavenotgrown #stillnoboyfriend #notbitter

Poem #5 (titled #thanksgiving)

#giantturkey #mountainsofpotatoes #whitecastlestuffing [Long story.]
#swollenbellies #foodcoma
#food #morefood #allthefood
#foodallthewaybaby #mmmhmm #foood

And those are the poems my interesting group came up with.  Any guesses as to which lines are mine?

November 26, 2013

Review: The Captive Maiden


The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson
Grade: B+
Summary: Happily Ever After ...Or Happily Nevermore? Gisela's childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father's death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela learns the duke's son, Valten---the boy she has daydreamed about for years---is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it's only for a taste of a life she'll never have. 

To her surprise, she catches Valten's eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

The Good: I loved that, while there were definitely several familiar characters, several new aspects were thrown in.  We haven't seen jousting at all in any of Melanie's other retellings, and I quite enjoyed learning a little about it.  I also enjoyed how the tale of Cinderella was woven with Ivanhoe, and how all the elements translated into this book (the shoe, the "fairy godmother," and so forth).  It was a great twist on a fairytale that is retold much too often.  And of course I loved that it was a historical setting.  Gisela was a unique heroine.  While Rose, Annabel, and Sophie weren't pushovers, all three were a bit more demure than Gisela so it was fun to see her fight back a bit and be stubborn.

The Bad: With Melanie's past books, love developed over at least a few weeks' time.  With this one, apart from Gisela's crush on Valten, it seemed a bit too insta-love.  I also thought, apart from the one bad guy and his lackeys and Gisela's stepmother and stepsisters, many of the supporting characters were a bit flat and similar.

The Ugly: No foul language.  A bit of violence (jousting, a guy is beat up).  Romance is, for the most part, chaste.  A few things are implied through conversation, but chivalry is very important for the heroes.

The Verdict: If you've read Melanie Dickerson's other fairytale retellings, I'd say this a must-read.  You should definitely check out The Healer's Apprentice and then The Fairest Beauty before reading The Captive Maiden, though, just so some things aren't spoiled.  Overall, this one didn't stand up to my favorite (The Merchant's Daughter), but I still enjoyed it.

November 24, 2013

NaNo Day Twenty-Four

Word count: 29,382 as of yesterday
Song of the day: Christmas music. Don't sue me.

So if y'all remember my RBWL post, one of the things people wanted to see more of was unbroken families with parents that cared about where their kids had disappeared to and why.  I started thinking about absentee parents in my writing and other books in general.  

In Teen Author, the parents are definitely still together and both are involved in my main character's life, especially her mom.  In my Hamlet retelling, however... well, Shakespeare's original is sort of all about messy families.  People are going to die; families are going to fight and be split.  I mean, you know your family has problems when your uncle kills your dad and then marries your mom.  In my other two WIPs, though, I know the parents are all still together, for the most part, and I believe they won't be terribly absent.

I've also compiled a list of young adult books where the parents are still together and aren't very absent from their kids' lives.  Some novels feature more involved parents than others, but it's still good that they're present.  Feel free to comment if you think of any more!

Also Known As by Robin Benway
Christy Miller series by Robin Jones Gunn
The Debutante by Kathryn Williams
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Fifteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton
Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
Matched by Ally Condie
The Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick
Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg
Relic by Heather Terrell
The Selection trilogy by Kiera Cass
Sierra Jensen series by Robin Jones Gunn
Sixteenth Summer by Michelle Dalton
Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

I think it's noteworthy how the majority of those books are contemporary.  It's like a prerequisite of fantasy and dystopian novels that at least one of your parents is dead or at least absent.  I know it often creates character growth, but books with more parents who are together and present in their kids' lives would be great to read.

November 22, 2013

Random Friday: Bucket List

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Bucket lists.  Perhaps you have one or maybe you have a vague idea of what yours is.  I think mine is ever-changing as I accomplish things on it and think of new things to add.  So let's start.

1. Bucket List

Y'all had to expect that one, right?

2. Deck of Dreams

I'd love to tour a lot of castles actually, but Neuschwanstein tops my list because it was the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland.

3. Twitter / Recent images by @TheBucktList

I'd wear one of those masks from my Random Friday post about a month ago.

4. before i die - Polyvore

Why?  Just for fun.

5. Get at least one book published by HarperCollins so Epic Reads will talk about me on Tea Time.

6. Bucket List / Your Bucket List.

7. things to do before I die

8. Meet all my favorite authors. (So far, one down...about eight left, of those who are living.)

9. Experience New Year's Eve in Paris.

Okay, now I really want to hear all about your bucket lists.  Don't have a blog to post it on?  Sound off in the comments!  But if you do have a blog, I'd love for you to post on this topic and then link to it below.

November 21, 2013

A Very Special Interview

About a year ago, 5 Twitter accounts appeared out of the blue. To the average person, they seem quite ordinary. To fans of The Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick, these accounts are very exciting. That's right, Becca Chadwick, Jess Delaney, Emma Hawthorne, Cassidy Sloane, and Megan Wong are all on Twitter. No one knows who is running these accounts-although the girls claim it's them-but that's not what this post is about. I'd prefer to help keep the mystery alive.
But I had the privilege of interviewing Emma, Jess, Becca, Megan, and Cassidy, and, well, I'll just let you see for yourself.

1) So why did you suddenly decide to join Twitter?
Megan: I think it was mostly my idea. I wanted another platform to talk about fashion and promote my blog (which I admit to abandoning a lot), and I talked the others into it.
Becca: Well, more like she talked Emma, Jess, and Cassidy into it. I'd been wanting to join Twitter for awhile.

2) Some of you are more active than others.
Emma: It depends on how much people interact with us. People talk to Megan and I the most, I think.
Jess: I'm crazy busy at Colonial, so I don't have a lot of time. I try when I can, though.

3) What interests are revealed through Twitter that we didn't see in the books?
B: We all love Once Upon a Time.
M: Definitely. Oh, and Becs and I like One Direction and Glee.
E: I follow a lot of authors and book-related accounts that aren't mentioned in the books.
J: People have been surprised to learn Emma and I are Taylor Swift fans. Last fall, Emma dropped by on Red's release day to bring me the album, since she knew I was too busy to leave campus.
Cassidy: I'm the most predictable, I guess. I follow my favorite sports teams and Cammi Granato and Wayne Gretzky.

4) Okay, so I have to ask. Last we saw y'all, the romantic relationships were changing. Who's single and who's in a relationship?
J: I'm still with Darcy. He's a sophomore at Dartmouth now.
M: Simon and I are most definitely still together.
B: I'm single.
E: I'm still dating Stewart.
C: Really? You want to know about my love life?
M: She's sort of with Tristan.
C: Shut up.

5) All right, moving on! Y'all are seniors and applying to colleges. Any chance you'll all end up at the same school?
J: It's highly unlikely.
B: We're all applying to different places, although Megs and I are both considering Kent State in Ohio.
M: I'll probably end up at FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology] or Columbia College, though. (Words in brackets mine.)

6) So what do y'all want to major in?
M: I've been considering fashion design for a long time, but then I found out about fashion merchandising in my college search, so I might major in that.
J: I'm still a bit undecided. Most of the schools I've applied to, though, offer equine studies. Savannah and I have talked about opening a stable together.
C: My main goal is some place I can play hockey, preferably Division I. Then I want to major in physical education or athletic training.
E: Writing, definitely.
B: Well, I really took to heart what my grandmother said when we were in the Twin Cities, and I'm really interested in architecture and interior design.

7) Those all sound awesome. What's something significant that happened since the end of your sophomore year?
E: I'm going to have another book published! This one is middle grade fiction, so I'm slowly moving up in age level, haha.
M: I spent the summer of 2012 in Paris with Gigi, Edouard, and Sophie. It was an amazing experience.
B: One of my friends on the cheerleading squad made a movie for her senior project last year. I got to be one of the leads.
J: I rode for Colonial in a big show and took second in dressage and show jumping and fourth in cross country.
C: Chicks With Sticks has expanded! I had so many girls wanting to join that I had to look for a second coach. But it means twice as many classes can be taught.

8) Anything random you want to add?
C: Becca and I are practically BFFs now.
B: No, seriously, we're really good friends! Who would ever have thought that would happen?
E: None of us hate Becca anymore.
C: At least consistently.
B: Hey!
J: She's kidding!

9) More MDBC books: would you girls want those?
E: Of course!
M: I would love for everyone to see what's happened to us over the last two years.
E: Yeah, it would've been nice if Heather [Vogel Frederick] could've closed out the series with our senior year. But I understand that can't always happen. (Words in brackets mine.)
J: Oh, but Heather is an amazing author. She told our stories fabulously and honestly.
M: Yeah, thank goodness it wasn't us writing the books. We would've been...what's it called when a character is perfect?
E: A Mary Sue. Yeah, we would've been Mary Sues. So thank goodness we didn't tell our stories! With Heather, you get all our flaws and our stupidity.
B: Well, I wouldn't exactly call it stupidity.
E: Seriously, how do you keep forgetting sixth and seventh grade?
B: Shouldn't you be over that by now?
M: Oh, c'mon, girls!

And on that happy note, I'd like to thank the MDBC girls for this interview. It was so much fun and so good to hear what's been going on with their lives!  If you'd like to follow them on Twitter, their usernames are...

Becca Chadwick: @BeccaLChadwick
Jess Delaney: @JessGoatGirl
Emma Hawthorne: @EmsJHawthorne
Cassidy Sloane: @CassidySloane
Megan Wong: @Megan_Rose_Wong

November 18, 2013

Review: The Naturals


The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Grade: A-
Summary: Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it’s not a skill that she’s ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they’ve begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie.

What Cassie doesn’t realize is that there’s more at risk than a few unsolved homicides— especially when she’s sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own.

Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie’s head—and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie’s gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm’s length.

Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

The Good: Shortly after I heard about this book, I started to hear that it was paranormal, which worried me.  I don't read anything in that genre.  But then Jennifer herself cleared up these rumors.  The five teens are all gifted like normal people.  Their gifts are just much more extreme.  As Jennifer put it, I believe, they're basically one in ten million.  I loved how we learned about profiling and how murder cases works.  Everything with the serial killer was very real and creepy (in sort of a good way...).  As I was reading, I kept thinking of what Ally Carter said at the book signing: "It's either that [write], or become a psychopath." (Words in brackets mine.) Thankfully, gore and murder creep me out a little too much, so there's no danger of me becoming a psychopathic serial killer.
Back on topic...I liked the little glimpses we got of Cassie's Italian family.  They were wonderful, loving, and well-meaning.
What drove me crazy - in a good way - was that I didn't figure out until it was revealed who the killer was and what his/her connection was to Cassie.  That's the mark of a good author.  Of course, all the signs were there when I look back, but I didn't know enough to recognize them!  I was very distrustful of all the characters, even Cassie herself, because I felt like they all might have potential to be the killer.

The Bad: Love triangle!  Thank heavens it wasn't too major and actually, I didn't pay that much attention to it.  I was too focused on everything else. (Speaking of the love triangle, there was a moment I loved at the end.  Not spoiling it, though.)
It was also too short!  Gosh, when that's pretty much all the bad I can say about a book, you know I liked it.

The Ugly: Well, I mean, there's a serial killer. And some of the scenes from his/her POV can get a do I put this...disturbing.  There was a bit of language, but nothing too terrible.

The Verdict: So if you have anxiety issues like I sort of do, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.  Or read it in broad daylight when people are home.  I'm doing okay at not going to that place of "Oh my gosh, what if someone is stalking me and wants to kill me," but only because I read the book with lights on and when my mom was home. (And maybe it's harder to picture it all since I only read it and didn't see it on a TV screen.)  It was good, though.  Strongly written and really interesting.

November 17, 2013

NaNo Day Seventeen

Word count: 25,014 as of yesterday
Song of the day: "On Our Way"~The Royal Concept

I haven't written as much as I would have liked to so far this weekend.  I was exhausted after co-op on Friday, and on Saturday, I had a composition assignment that had to come first (plus I just didn't feel like writing).

Do you ever have days like that where you can't shove real life aside to write?  I hate that I have so many school obligations that get in the way of what I really love to do.  For example, this week, I have that composition assignment that was due yesterday (rest assured, I turned it in on time), another composition assignment due on the 25th (it's a big paper), three geometry lessons that are really making me cranky, family and consumer science assignments, journaling for writing club, and the usual writing club assignment.  Thankfully, for that last one, it's a free write so I'm going to choose something I've already written (likely a scene from To Die, To Sleep) and present it to my group for critiques.  I'm also fortunate that I'm three weeks ahead in foundations for living and civics.  That's two less subjects I have to worry about.

So how do y'all fit writing into your lives, especially for those who go to public schools and have many extracurriculars?

November 14, 2013

NaNo Day Fourteen

Word count: 23,301 words as of last night at 10:35 PM
Song of the day: "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables

Tomorrow is the halfway point! With my book, I'm past the halfway point, and with all my writing projects (as you can see to the right), I am more than halfway there.

I've been neglecting my other two main WIPs this month to focus on To Die, To Sleep (and schoolwork).  One is going to be completely reworked because I felt it wasn't unique enough.  The other...well, I'm thinking of reworking it, too.  It's just going nowhere and I'm not seeing much character growth.

So how are the rest of your WIPs going this month?  Have they been shoved aside?  Are you including any work on them in your NaNo word count?  Anything else you want to add?

Also: I am cancelling Random Fridays for this week because I have too much going on between NaNo, school, and work.  Don't worry!  I plan to have it next week and on the 29th still. ;)

November 12, 2013

Review: Not a Drop to Drink

So today, I have a guest review for y'all!  I got an ARC from Read Between the Lynes and decided it wasn't really my thing (although I'd heard a lot about it in the blogger world), so I gave it to Hannah and asked if she'd review it.  Here's what she had to say...


Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
Grade: B-
This book was an ARC provided by Read Between the Lynes in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

The Good: This was one of the better post apocalyptic books that I’ve read.  I had a hard time putting it down. I actually read it all in one night.  It had some quite humorous parts, too.  The storyline, while not 100% original, was intriguing.  The characters are lively and colorful and easy to connect with. 

The Bad: I’ve read other books with the same main idea (a water shortage), but as I’ve said it wasn’t that big of a deal for me.  The romance wasn’t too bad, only kissing, except it was a little predictable who-would-fall-for-who wise.  It was gory, but if you’ve read The Hunger Games than you should have no problem with this book. 

The Ugly: There was a fair amount of swearing.  Let’s just say if this was a movie it would be rated R for language.  Also, although they didn’t actually say it outright, sex and rape was strongly alluded to.  Actually, since her mother never gave Lynn (the main character) “the talk,” she was amusingly in the dark and it was hilarious. 

The Verdict: It's a good read, as long as you don't mind the gore and swearing and the other stuff.  It's probably more of a mature read.

Okay, so have any of you read this book?  What did you think?

November 10, 2013

NaNo Day Ten

Word count: 18,7888 words as of yesterday.
Song of the day: Christmas music.  Don't look at me like that. I'm working on my Christmas playlist!

What's up NaNoers?  Just five more days until we're halfway through the month!  I hope you're steadily chasing your goal and have reached or almost reached the halfway mark.  I'm sure you've reached the point where you start to bog down (I reached that point early; likely since I started early).  You can't give in, though.  You have to keep writing.  Remember, even 100 words is good.

Since I mentioned Christmas earlier, let's talk about that.  Do y'all make wishlists?  How much of your wishlist are books?  I'd say about half mine is. :)

November 8, 2013

Random Friday: Dream Vacations

If you want to participate in Random Fridays, just do the following:
  • Include the above image in your post.
  • Blog about this week's topic.
  • Add the link to your Random Friday at the bottom of this post.
I think I'll be doing Random Friday a little differently this week.  The assignment is all about dream vacations, but I want to focus on just one of mine.  Y'all can do this however you please: multiple dream trips, one giant trip that includes everything on your bucket list, just one trip like me...whatever floats your boat.

So I was planning to do a trip to France for this post.  But then I got to thinking... my ultimate fantasy vacation would be to visit places in all my favorite books.

First stop on our fictional tour... Concord, Massachusetts from The Mother-Daughter Book Club series!
I'd visit Walden Pond and Orchard House, walk down Main Street, go in the library, and stop at Kimball Farm for ice cream. (Kimball Farm is a real place, guys!)

File:Orchard House from Little Women.jpeg

Orchard House, everyone!

Next stop, Washington D.C.!  Why am I choosing D.C.?  Well, since Roseville, Virginia (Gallagher Girls) is fictional, I figured the next best thing would be a stop to the International Spy Museum, and then over to Langley, Virginia for a visit to the CIA Museum.

File:Spy museum sign.jpg

All right, where to next?  How about...the Midwest, where we'll make a couple of stops?  First up, we'll head to Mankato and Minneapolis, Minnesota, home of the Betsy-Tacy series.  The childhood homes of the author, Maud Hart Lovelace, and her childhood best friend, Bick Kenney, were transformed into the childhood homes of Betsy and Tacy and are open for tours.

Maud Hart Lovelace

While we're there, we have to stop at the Bow Street apartment building from Betsy and Joe and the University of Minnesota (the "U") in Minneapolis, and the Carnegie library, Lincoln Park, and the site of the Opera House in Mankato.

Now we'll head down to Chicago, Illinois where we have to go to Evanston and Northwestern University for Time Between Us and Time After Time and then make stops at Chicago icons for Divergent.

A large, highly-polished, mirrored bean-shaped sculpture seen from the east, reflecting the skyscrapers to the north along East Randolph Street (The Heritage, Smurfit-Stone Building, Two Prudential Plaza, One Prudential Plaza, and Aon Center.  
  Hancock tower 2006.jpg

The "Bean" (Cloud Gate), Navy Pier, and the John Hancock Center, all of which are mentioned in various books in the Divergent trilogy.  One of my favorite parts about Divergent is that I recognize all the little references to the places in Chicago, such as the El and O'Hare International Airport and the Ferris wheel on Navy Pier.

I'm ready to head overseas!  For Just One Day, I thought the best place to visit would be Stratford-upon-Avon, since a large part of the plot revolves around Shakespeare.  So, not only would I visit Shakespeare's birthplace and his wife's family cottage, but I would totally have to take in a show at The Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

File:Royal Shakespeare Theatre 2011.jpg

Now it's just a hop, skip, and a jump across the English Channel as we head into mainland Europe.  On my leg of the trip, we have to make a stop in Amsterdam, in honor of Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters (The Fault In Our Stars).  This stop will include a visit to the Anne Frank House, of course.

And last, but certainly not least, I'm heading to China, which Terra, Jacob, and their mothers visit in North of Beautiful.

But guess what?  This literary tour isn't ending just yet.  Head over to Dreams and Dragons, where Sarah is continuing the trip in collaboration with me.  I can't wait to see her choices!  And I can't wait to see everyone else's posts, too. :)

November 7, 2013

NaNo Day Seven

Word count: 18,060 as of yesterday at 11 PM
Song of the day: not really sure; I listened a lot to my writing playlist on Spotify yesterday

Let's talk about character inspiration.  Most people, when they start writing, have a general idea of what their characters look like, or at least their protagonist's appearance.  When I started writing Teen Author last year, I really had no idea except for the fact that my protagonist is based vaguely off of me so I wanted her appearance to be similar.  I don't have a concrete idea of what any of the Teen Author characters look like, just little visuals like hair color and eye color.  For my Hamlet retelling, however, I have a very good idea.

I planned their appearances weeks ago.  Last week, I decided to use my Pinterest account and create an inspiration board.  It's been very fun taking my ideas for the characters and finding a picture of what they could look like as inspiration.  For example, here's my Hamlet:

Grant, a.k.a. Hamlet.

Blond, blue-eyed, sort of Scandinavian.  And then there's look in his eyes that, to me, conveys that he's on the edge of becoming crazy.  This guy is a little older than I pictured, but overall he fits. (Plus, he vaguely looks like the guy I chose to be King Hamlet, so that's a plus!)

When I was trying to decide what Polonius would look like, I had a tough time finding a photo of him.  I wanted him to have gray hair, and his eyes needed to be blue like my Ophelia's.  But Pinterest has too many pictures of guys in their 30s with gray hair, and Polonius is at least in his 50s.  There was one guy that kind of worked (fun fact: it's Robby Benson, voice of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast) but my worry was that he's too handsome to be Polonius.  Well, he looks enough like my Ophelia that I decided he would work.  But all of that is definitely something that has to be kept in mind.

One of the best parts of my retelling is that it's set in the United States (where specifically, I'm not sure yet).  This means my cast of characters can be ethnically diverse instead of just the typical Scandinavian looks.  My Laertes and his mom/Ophelia's stepmom are Asian.  My Fortinbras looks African, Middle Eastern, or maybe biracial.

Franklin North, Jr., a.k.a. Fortinbras.

If you want to know what Ophelia looks like...well, I'm sorry but I'm not revealing that information. ;)

November 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Sequels I Can't Wait For

So in this post "sequels" won't just refer to the second book, just so y'all know.  But let's get started.

1. Cress by Marissa Meyer
Now that I've read Allegiant, Cress is the next book I've super psyched for.  It honestly can't come soon enough.

2. The Captive Maiden by Melanie Dickerson
Since the release date got pushed back from October 22 to November 19, this is an even harder wait!

3. Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau
I haven't even read The Testing yet and I'm so excited for this book.  Crazy, right?

4. Going Rogue by Robin Benway
Also Known As was pretty great, and I'm excited for the sequel.  Plus, isn't its cover so pretty?  I really want Maggie's shoes and tights. (I'm weird. I know.)

5. Wicked Little Secrets by Kara Taylor
I read Prep School Confidential and was very intrigued.  I'm sure this sequel will be just as great.

6. The One by Kiera Cass
I've talked about how I'm looking forward to this before, so I don't think I need to elaborate anymore. 

Now for sequels that are already out, but I haven't read.

7. Just One Year by Gayle Forman
Not a huge fan of the cover, but I cannot wait for the library to get this in!  I devoured Just One Day and while I wish we got to see what happens after the last scene of JOD, I'm interested in the concept for JOY. (I also kind of like how its acronym spells joy...)

8. Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter
I haven't even read The Goddess Test yet, haha.  I'm waiting for it and this one, too, to come in at my library.

Only eight books!  A lot of the books I'm looking forward to reading are actually stand-alones, surprisingly enough!

November 4, 2013

NaNo Day Four

Word count: 12,457 as of yesterday at 11:13 PM
Song of the day: "Story of My Life"~One Direction (So addictive!)

Let's talk about symbolism.  Authors can use anything from characters' personalities to word choices to the tiniest plot device to convey symbolism.  A character's name is one of the easiest ways to do this.  My Ophelia is named Violet LaFleur.  I've always been fascinated by the scene where Ophelia goes crazy and hands out flowers to Laertes, Claudius, and Gertrude.  There is so much symbolism in her choices.  For example, she gives Gertrude rue and reserves some for herself, as well.  Rue typically stands for regret/repentance and infidelity.  Obviously, the repentance and infidelity are for Gertrude, while the regret is for Ophelia herself.  But it's little things like a name where you can do so much.  

If you're just writing a basic contemporary, names might not mean too much.  But in fantasies, deep-thinkers, and sci-fi, they can mean a whole lot.  Katniss is named after an important plant.  America Singer (The Selection) was so named because her mother knew she was going to be a fighter (although, her last name is a bit cheesy).  Miri from Princess Academy is named after a flower that has a symbolic meaning.  And that's just skimming the surface of symbolism in characters' names. Can y'all think of any to add?

Shakespeare in general is full of symbolism and parallels.  It's exciting and fun to rediscover these as I work my way through perhaps his greatest play.

November 3, 2013

Allegiant: A Rant/Review

Back on October 29th, before I'd even read Allegiant, I tweeted about the book, saying, "I haven't even read Allegiant and I'm already sick of hearing that it was a let-down.  Maybe people's expectations shouldn't be too high.  I know I am going to enjoy Allegiant because Veronica Roth has proven herself.  She is a strong character creator and a strong world-builder.  As for the spoilers I've heard, I think it was a very gutsy move on Roth's part.  I hope I'm brave enough to do that someday and not worry about reader response.  A writer has no obligation to the readers to create the stories they want [to hear].  A writer creates his/her own stories.  If you want something different out of a book, write your own or write fanfiction." (Words in brackets added for clarity in this post.)

I'm fine with someone not liking a book.  There are certainly several I dislike!  But do I complain that the author didn't give me what I want?  I'm pretty sure I don't.  Because it is not the author's responsibility to make every reader happy.  As a writer myself, I get what it's like to have a story (multiple ones, in fact) inside your head.  You write down what you feel.  You rarely think, "I wonder if a reader will like this?"  At least not until the revision stages.  I mean, I  hope readers will like my novels.  But I don't ever think I owe them something.  
Correction: I owe them a well-written book.  I owe them clarity, well-formed characters, and a strong setting.  But I do not owe readers the ending they expect, or the preservation of their favorite characters, or everything tied up with a pretty little bow.

Now, with all that said, let my review of Allegiant commence. I will try to keep it as spoiler-free as possible.  However, if you haven't read Divergent or Insurgent, you may want to skip my review (I don't spoil anything too major from either one, though).


Allegiant by Veronica Roth
Grade: A-
Summary: What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

The Good: I can't even properly describe my feelings for Allegiant.  I'm writing this shortly after I finished the book, so I'm still deeply in its world.  Veronica Roth made me smile.  She made me angry (at characters, not her).  And she made me cry.  And I don't cry easily with books.  But the words she used for that giant spoiler were brilliant.  They were simple but carried so much feeling.
The characters resonate with me.  They are so flawed and human yet so admirable.  Tris's choices and growth astounded me.  I loved seeing inside Tobias's head with his POV.  I enjoyed what we got from Caleb, and Christina, and Uriah, and Cara.  They're all the same, yet still interesting.  I also liked how I couldn't decide the loyalties of some of the new characters.  It wasn't a constant back-and-forth, just enough mystery to make me wonder.
I do like how everything was resolved.  Sure, it's not that happily ever after that some (naive) readers wished for.  Happily ever afters, while nice, are not always reality.  There were things for the characters to look forward to in their future, so it's not like it's all desolate.  And the zip-lining at the end... I cried a bit during that, too.

The Bad: There are a lot of new characters introduced, and it was a bit hard to keep them all straight.  Also, Amar...was he mentioned in a previous book and I'm just completely forgetting him?  The way he was introduced made me feel like the reader should be familiar with him.  Finally, the cliffhanger at the end of Insurgent was beautiful.  I think it had an interesting wrap-up here.  I would've liked a few more questions in that area answered, but it didn't hinder my enjoyment too much.

The Ugly: A bit more language than I remember from the past books.  Nothing I couldn't handle, though.  Romance is at the same level as Divergent and Insurgent, although there is one scene with certain implications but nothing too graphic.  Roth doesn't get too descriptive with violence.

The Verdict: Allegiant was amazing.  Read it.  The end.  
Scratch that.  Only read Allegiant once you've read Divergent and Insurgent.  Otherwise you will be terribly lost.