Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Ten Books of 2011

It seems like just yesterday I was posting last year's Top Ten Books list...or not.  Actually, sometimes it feels like not so long ago, but other times I can't help but think "Last year?  When was that?"  And it hasn't even been a whole year since the last post like this! 

I have read a lot of good books this year.  Out of 79 books, it was tough to pick only ten, but I managed it.  Somehow. 
But first, I'll start with some stats.

Number of books: 79
Total Pages: 31,037
Average pages per book: 393
Average pages per day: 85
Average length of time to read one book: 4.5 days
Average rating: 3.8 stars

And now to the actual top ten.  I'll start with 10 and count down to one.  Rereads are not included (even though I reread some pretty awesome books this year).  Also, to be more fair and balanced, I only included my favorite book from each series, mainly to keep stuff like  Eon and the Seven Realms from taking over the entire list all by themselves.  Click the titles for full reviews (but know that some of my early reviews aren't very in-depth!).

10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


Okay, I know half of you are really annoyed right now.  The Hunger Games?  It's everywhere! Well, that's what I thought, too. But...I ended up really, really enjoying this.  It's exciting and awesome and gives off that let's-not-let-this-happen-to-our-society dystopian vibe.  And I'm hoping the movie won't be too bad.... We can only hope.

PS: Team Peeta all the way.



9 Sapphique by Catherine Fisher 
In 2010, Incarceron claimed spot number 2 on my Top Ten list.  Fortunately, the sequel followed in its footsteps.  There's just so much to love about this book: possibly the coolest setting I've ever read (a dystopia and a medievalish castle!), awesome characters, and a plot that keeps you guessing.  The best thing about this book, though, is the amount of mind-bending that goes on.  There's so much cool stuff to blow your mind in this book. 







8. The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith
It's been a few months since I read this, but...I still can't figure out what on earth I just read.  In a good way, I mean.  This book is very open ended.  I love how it never specifically states whether the alternate dimension was real, or just a product of Jack's crazy imagination.  I'm leaning toward the latter.  The whole thing is just strange and scary and awesome.  It's very difficult to explain, but it's a very good read. 





7. The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

This book looks at love triangles, says "Ah, who needs those?", and tosses them out the window in favor of a highly complicated love pentagon.  Pentagon.  Okay, so it's not truly a love pentagon, but it's about as close as you'll ever get (I explained this at the bottom of this post.  And romance isn't even the main part of the story.  I love how utterly complex this series is.  Sometimes, from chapter to chapter, I can't even figure out which characters are the "bad guys".  Which I like.  And it ends really dramatically, and leaves me hanging until next fall....  If nothing else, it's shiny and purple. 

6. Plague by Michael Grant

Eight months have passed (in the story) since Gone.  That's a long time.  But thankfully, all my favorite characters are still around (Edilio!).  I loved this series from the very start, and it's done absolutely nothing but get even better and better.  There's a lot more action and suspense crammed into this book than some whole series can manage. 

 
5. I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I actually started out disliking this book.  I really wasn't that into it for about three-fourths of the way...until I read the ending.  This might just have to fight it out with The Scorpio Races for the best ending I've ever read.  The end was so utterly unexpected, and so unique, and so BAM!  And now I love it.






4. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

I wasn't expecting this to be very good.  I don't know why; I just wasn't.  So it turned out to be a very nice surprise.  Sort of a "Happy Birthday Annie, I'm going to be awesome just for you".  Except that it was awesome before I picked it up, and I have no idea why I waited so long to pick this up in the first place.  I really need the next one now.  Why do I have to wait for all these awesome sequels?




3. Eona: The Last Dragoneye by Alison Goodman

It was tough to pick between Eon and Eona for this, but in the end, Eona came out just ahead.  This is one series that I really, really wish had more books to it.  I would've happily read through an entire ten-book Pendragon-size epic.  But with the ending for this book, I don't think there will be any more.  Because it was an awesome ending.






2. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

This was pretty much a dead tie between this book and my number one book.  In the end, the only reason this didn't win is that I had to wait a whole three years for it, when it seems every other writer can get a sequel out in one.  But it was worth the wait.  Definitely.  I liked how it all turned out in the end (okay, for the most part).  Is this where I'm supposed to say I was Team Murtagh all the way through or something?









1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This beat Inheritance only by a hair, but it beat it out nevertheless.  I suppose my love for horses contributed to my love for this book, but still....  It's fabulous.  You should all go read it, right now.  It's packed with emotion and awesomeness and HORSE RACES and HORSES and WATER HORSES and PONIES and...okay.  Seriously.  I recommend this book to everyone.  It's amazing, and the ending is just so gorgeous and heartbreaking and wonderful. 

So...I suppose that's it for this year.  What's your top book of 2011?  Your top ten?
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sabotaged (The Missing #3) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

After helping Chip and Alex survive 15th century London, Jonah and Katherine are summoned to help another missing child, Andrea, face her fate. Andrea is really Virginia Dare, from the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Jonah and Katherine are confident in their ability to help Andrea fix history, but when their journey goes dangerously awry, they realize that they may be in over their head. They've landed in the wrong time period. Andrea doesn't seem that interested in leaving the past. And even worse, it appears that someone has deliberately sabotaged their mission...

First off, I'm very behind on reviews. Even more behind than I was when I this summer when I was on vacation for over a week without internet access other than my iPod. So this will be a short review, for which I apologize in advance. 

For such an action-packed book, Sabotaged somehow managed to remain largely without plot.  Yes, there was an issue throughout the story, but it felt to me like not much was happening.  The characters spent huge amounts of time trying to figure out what was going on, but not until the end did they actually do something. 

And speaking of trying to figure out what was going on...  I got a bit confused in places.  Mostly with the tracers.  I figured it out, but I had to work a little harder for it than I would've liked.  I wish it would've been a little easier to understand without rereading parts.  Or maybe I was just distracted when I read this. 

The character development really hasn't improved since Sent.  I liked the characters, for the most part, in Found, but they started to fall flat in Sent.  Hopefully the next book will change my opinions of the characters. 

 I really didn't dislike this book as much as it seems from this review.  Thankfully, the time-traveling stuff is still staying exciting and fresh and cool.  Because I like time travel.  I'll still probably pick up the next one, just because I want to know what happens.  Hopefully it improves on this one. 


PS: I also apologize in advance for any technical weirdness that might happen with this blog.  I'm working from a brand-new laptop(!), so I'm still getting used to some things.

Reviews of other The Missing novels:
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas, and Some Longfellow

Merry Christmas, everyone!  You probably have better things to do today than read blogs (even mine!).  But since you're here, I thought I'd share some awesome Christmas music with you.  (I've always wanted to be able to sing Silent Night and Night of Silence at the same time.  Unfortunately, that isn't possible, so here are some other songs.)


Let's face it...the only reason I put this on here is because of the chime solo.  I love those huge chimes.  I have no idea why. 


Yes, there is a second Josh Groban song here.  As a friend of mine would say, "Live with it!"  Haha. 


The original poem that this song was based off is below.  Isn't it gorgeous?
      
Christmas Bells

   I heard the bells on Christmas Day
    Their old, familiar carols play,
        And wild and sweet
        The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
 
    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
        Had rolled along
        The unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
 
    Till ringing, singing on its way,
    The world revolved from night to day,
        A voice, a chime,
        A chant sublime
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
 
    Then from each black, accursed mouth
    The cannon thundered in the South,
        And with the sound
        The carols drowned
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
 
    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The households born
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
 
    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
        "For hate is strong,
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"
 
    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
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Friday, December 23, 2011

The Day After Tomorrow

Merry Christmas Eve Eve, everybody. 

Since everyone's looking forward to the day after tomorrow, here's a song that seems to fit the mood. 


It fits, no? 

By the way, the next few days will be short on actual writing posts and reviews and such.  'Cause it's Christmas. :)

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Magician (Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel #2) by Michael Scott

After fleeing Ojai, Nicholas, Sophie, Josh, and Scatty emerge in Paris, the City of Lights. Home for Nicholas Flamel. Only this homecoming is anything but sweet. Perenell is still locked up back in Alcatraz and Paris is teeming with enemies. Nicollo Machiavelli, immortal author and celebrated art collector, is working for Dee. He’s after them, and time is running out for Nicholas and Perenell. For every day spent without the Book of Abraham the Mage, they age one year—their magic becoming weaker and their bodies more frail. For Flamel, the Prophesy is becoming more and more clear.

It’s time for Sophie to learn the second elemental magic: Fire Magic. And there’s only one man who can teach it to her: Flamel’s old student, the Comte de Saint-Germain—alchemist, magician, and rock star. Josh and Sophie Newman are the world’s only hope—if they don’t turn on each other first.


I've been waiting to review this because I still can't decide what to think of this book.  I kept putting off the review, but if I don't do it now, I'll never get it done.  So here goes. 

I'll start with what I didn't like.  The character development still has issues.  During the first book, I thought Sophie strayed dangerously close to Mary Sue Territory.  In this book, she crossed the line.  I just couldn't bring myself to care about her.  She believed everything anyone told  her, for the majority of the book.  She just wasn't interesting to me, as characters go.  Nicholas and Scathach just got annoying after awhile.  Perenelle seems interesting, but we didn't get to see much of her. 

The villains actually improved.  Throughout the first book, Dee was your stereotypical Muahaha bad guy.  Enter Niccolo Machiavelli.  If the cool name wasn't enough, he's a villain who's actually interesting, actually villainous.  If he is even a villain...because now, I'm not sure. 

*Spoiler in this paragraph only*  I don't believe for a minute that Scathach is dead.  How bad is that?  I read so much fantasy that I tend not to care when a major character dies, because in more cases than not they simply end up coming back anyway.  Either they return from the dead, or they were never dead to start with.  Sadly, now I tend to prefer it when characters actually stay dead.  It adds more emotion and finality to the story. 

I really enjoy the mythological aspects of this series.  I love how all the mythology is used, not just Greek or Norse or whatever.  I'm just waiting for Loki to pop up, because I'm fairly sure he will.  I like the magic, too, and I'm curious to learn more about it. 

I was actually really happy with Josh, as a character.  I have to admit it, but he did the exact same thing I would've done in that situation.  He seems so much more interesting than his sister.  (What can I say?  Maybe since Murtagh is my favorite character ever, I enjoy reading about characters who follow in his footsteps...)

All in all, I liked this book.  My problem was that it just wasn't as good as it had the potential to be.  It definitely wasn't as good as the first one.  The characters just weren't as compelling as I'd like them to be.  The whole book just didn't pull me in like it should have.  And it didn't use the Oxford Comma, which bothers me. I'll probably pick up the next one if I see it, but for now, three stars it is.   It's more of a solid 3.5, but since it was a bit disappointing I'll round down. 

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Monday, December 19, 2011

The Shiny New Idea (And How to Hide it Under a Bushel Basket)

Writers have an addiction to shiny things.  Specifically, the Shiny New Idea.  If you're anything like me, the Shiny New Idea process goes a little bit like this:

 

Some of us get Shiny New Ideas a lot.  We're just walking down the street, minding our own business, then--BAM!  As Gru put it, "Light bulb!" 

But, more often than not, this Shiny New Idea appears to us while we have another work in progress going.  And all we want to do is stop and work on this SNI.  It's so much cooler and better than your current WIP.  We should drop everything to work on it, right?

No.

This is the literary equivalent of cheating on your spouse for a one-night stand.  You've worked so hard on your WIP.  Why should you stop now, just because something that looks shiny right now came along?  It's not fair to your current characters. 

You can't just stop working on your WIP every time a SNI comes along.  You'll never finish anything, which will lead to you feeling discouraged, which isn't good.  All you'll end up with is a large pile of unfinished manuscripts that'll never go anywhere and never see the light of day again. 

If a SNI happens to come along, great.  Having lots of ideas is never a bad thing.  Start a special notebook or computer file to write them down.  Hide them under a bushel basket (Yes, a bushel basket.  Yep.) and don't let them come out.  Leave them alone.

Did you catch that?  Leave them alone. 

But, Annie, if I don't start writing this amazing SNI right now, I'll forget all the wonderfulness and I'll have missed my million-dollar publishing contract opportunity and bla bla bla.

No.  Don't do it.  Fight the irresistible urge, my friends.  Resist the urge to write it. So what if you forget it?  If you can't remember it, it was never a good idea to start with.  If you're afraid you'll forget it, then it's not worth the trouble of even thinking about.  

Go back to your WIP.  Finish it.  Revise it.  Make it wonderful.  Then start going through your notebook of all the SNIs you've accumulated while working on it.  You'll notice that some of those ideas that seemed so awesome at the time are actually quite boring and unworkable.  And then you'll be glad you didn't stop to work on them.  You'll have saved yourself many long hours of typing away at a manuscript that'll end up in the trash anyway. 

And that other idea, the one that you thought of five months ago and wrote down in that notebook, the one that still looks amazing, the one you can't stop thinking about?  This is the book you will write.  This is the SNI that stuck with you.  This is an idea with promise, because it still looks shiny, even now.  Write it. 

To make a long blog post short, don't start a whole new book just because of a Shiny New Idea you had last night.  Never, ever, ever.  Save it for later, because, chances are, it wasn't really a good idea to start with. 
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Friday, December 16, 2011

The Death Cure (The Maze Runner #3) by James Dashner

The time for lies is over. 

Thomas knows that Wicked can't be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they've collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It's up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test.

What Wicked doesn't know is that something's happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can't believe a word of what Wicked says.

The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.
Will anyone survive the Death Cure?


It had been awhile since I read The Scorch Trials, so at first I was afraid I'd have trouble remembering some things.  So I quickly read the Wikipedia summary (I love Wikipedia.  It's amazing.  Ahem.), and figured I was good to go.  

Or not.  I remembered the Gladers like Newt* and Minho just fine, but Brenda...I totally forgot she existed.  Not good.  And for me, it's really unusual to forget things like that.  I can probably tell you the names of all the major characters from every book I've read this year, and much of last year.  But for some reason, not this series. 

Which brings me to my next point.  Character development.  I loved the characters of the Gladers.  Newt and Minho and Frypan and all of them.  But our main character, Thomas...  I still have no idea what kind of personality he has.  I don't know who he is.  I can't bring myself to like him.  You'd think after all these books I'd be at least a little attached to him, but I just didn't care what happened to him.  Yeah, I cared about everyone else.  Just not really him.  I didn't understand why he was so important anyways. 

Other than the major character issues, though, I really enjoyed this book.  Though it was a tad predictable is places (WICKED is good, yeah.  And Lady Gaga will win the next presidential election.), the plot was still interesting and exciting, though it lacked my favorite element of The Maze Runner: the maze itself.

You see, I tend to really enjoy stories about a group of teens trapped in an enclosed space.  Like the Gone series, specifically, or Trapped, or something along those lines.  Lord of the Flies-esque stories**.  For some reason, these stories fascinate me.  Which is part of the reason why The Maze Runner was so appealing to me.  I liked the second two much less, and I think this is the reason. 

But I sound like I didn't like this book, which isn't true.  I liked it.  It was full of action and suspense.  And lies and manipulaton!!!!!  I love it when I can't for the life of me figure out who is working for who and who's the real bad guy.  I love trying to figure it all out, and I love being proved wrong. 

I also liked this book's creep factor.  Like the whole "We need your brain" thing.  If that doesn't get you all weirded out, I don't know what will.  And the thing with Newt, which I won't tell for fear of spoilers, but...wow.  Horrible but awesome, Dashner.  Well done.

If you enjoyed the first two, then you'll enjoy this one!  It's definitely not as good as The Maze Runner, but it's better than The Scorch Trials.  Recommended for sci-fi and dystopian fans!



*NEEEEEEWWTTT!  *shakes fist at sky* 
**For the record, right now, I'm not sure if I like Lord of the Flies or not.  Yes, it's a classic.  Yes, it's horribly disturbing.  Yes, I read it for school.  But...  At first, I didn't like it.  I was creeped out, grossed out, and just plain ready to be done with this freaky book (and I never wanted to watch Madagascar again).  But the more I think about this book, the more I...keep thinking about it.  And the best kind of book is the kind that makes you think about it....and think about it...and think about it.  The more I think about it, the more I seem to appreciate it.  So I don't know how I feel about it anymore. 

Reviews of other Maze Runner novels:
The Scorch Trials (The Maze Runner #2)
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus #2) by Rick Riordan

The Son of Neptune  (Heroes of Olympus, #2)Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa tol him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a camp for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn't ring and bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn't do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother was possessed by greed. But that was the problem - when the Voice took over he mother and commanded Hazel to use her "gift" for and evil purpose, Hazel couldn't say no. Now because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wished she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn't see it. He doesn't even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery - although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially infront of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. He trusts her completely - enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.

Beginning at the "other" camp for half-bloods and extending as far as the land beyond the gods, this breathtaking second installment of the Heroes of Olympus series introduces new demigods, revives fearsome monsters, and features other remarkable creatures, all destined to play a part in the Prophesy of Seven.


 At the end of The Last Olympian, Percy himself was not on my list of thing's I'd miss.  The Son of Neptune proved me wrong.

By the time I was finished with the original Percy Jackson series, I was getting tired of Percy.  I thought he was annoying and whiny.  No, it was Annabeth and Grover and the others that I'd miss.  Well, this book has shown me differently.  Surprisingly enough, I was glad to read about Percy again.  Hmm.  Maybe it was the third person.  I don't know. 

I've noticed that sometimes, Rick Riordan just can't help but have fun with certain things.  Like whole "I'm standing on a pile of schist" thing.*  My favorite, though, is the Amazons.  Amazons are taking over the world through Amazon.com.  I always knew something was up with that website...haha.   Anyway...

Another thing I've noted about both this series and the Percy Jackson series is that these teenagers spend a huge amount of the books traveling around with one another, staying together as a close group.  And they never get on each other's nerves.  What?  Let's face it: any group of any kind of people traveling in close quarters will inevitably start to annoy each other.  Why doesn't this happen in Riordan's books?

I'm not entirely sure what to say about this book (other than the fact that I love, love, love the cover!).  I really missed Leo, Jason, and Piper, and I felt they made a more interesting trio than Percy, Frank, and Hazel.  I enjoyed the book as a whole, but it definitely wasn't better than The Lost Hero.  Fans of the series will enjoy it (and some more so than I), but I liked the first one a lot more.   I'm really hoping that the next book is Annabeth-centered.  *crosses fingers* 


*My eighth grade geoscience class did not miss this, either.  I've heard more schist jokes than is fair for one lifetime.  And Uranus ones, too.  *tries to shut out memories of obnoxious, bad jokes* 

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

I'm Going to Let Woodstock Vlog Today

Some of my longtime followers might remember that my family lost our canary, Zazu, in March.  Well, yesterday we finally got another bird.  His name is Woodstock.  And yes, he is named after the bird you're thinking of. 
Isn't he adorable?
  Within 24 hours of coming home, he starting singing.  I'm going to let him take it from here.  :)  Be sure to turn the sound up. 
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Friday, December 9, 2011

The All-Knowing Narrator

There are two main types of third-person narration.  One is called limited third-person, which, chances are, is what you think of when you think of third-person.  It's what I use in most of my writing. 

In limited third-person, the narrator isn't all-knowing.  The reader gets to know the thoughts of only one POV character at a time.  Their attention is directed at only what that one character sees, hears, smells, etc.  They only know how other characters are feeling and reaction by listening to their dialogue and guessing by their expressions.  To sum it up, if the POV character wouldn't see/hear/know it, then the reader doesn't, either. 

But then, there's something else, called omniscient third-person.  In this style of narration, the narrator knows all.  The reader gets to hear everyone's thoughts, see through everyone's eyes.  In a sense, this narrator is like God* and knows every single thing that's going on.  This is sometimes referred to as "head-hopping", because the reader is hopping back and forth inside people's heads as the narration progresses. 

Omniscient third-person is trickier to do well, though.  I personally don't care to read it, because to me it just feels all over the place.  To do it, you've got to have a good balance.  Some books focus mainly on one character, and throw in another's thoughts every so often.  This is disorienting for the reader, and you shouldn't do it.  If this is the case, you need to switch POVs completely.

NOTE: Omniscient third-person and having separate, multiple third-person POV characters is not the same thing.

So, here's the thing.  If you can't use omniscient third-person well, don't use it at all.  

*Except that God's amazing at omniscient writing.  In fact, he can pull off omniscient first-person, just because he's...well, God. 
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Inheritance (Inheritance #4) by Christopher Paolini

Inheritance (Inheritance, #4)It began with Eragon....

It ends with Inheritance.


Not so very long ago, Eragon—Shadeslayer, Dragon Rider—was nothing more than a poor farm boy, and his dragon, Saphira, only a blue stone in the forest. Now the fate of an entire civilization rests on their shoulders.

Long months of training and battle have brought victories and hope, but they have also brought heartbreaking loss. And still, the real battle lies ahead: they must confront Galbatorix. When they do, they will have to be strong enough to defeat him. And if they cannot, no one can. There will be no second chances.

The Rider and his dragon have come further than anyone dared to hope. But can they topple the evil king and restore justice to Alagaësia? And if so, at what cost?

This is the much-anticipated, astonishing conclusion to the worldwide bestselling Inheritance cycle.



 I have waited a long time for this.  A very, very, very long time.  Longer than I've ever waited for a book before in my life.  And I'm the one who stalked the library website every day for a month to try and get my hands on a copy of Plague.

With any wait for a book, I begin to form theories.  Lots of them.  Usually, if I really care, and have to wait a few weeks for something, I pretty much have the book all planned out in my head before it even gets into my hands.  So in my head, I knew how I wanted this book to go.

Did it end how I expected?  No.  And that is a good thing.  If I wasn't surprised by anything, then it wouldn't have even been worth reading.  No, this was nearly 900 pages of me having reactions likes this: "WHAT?  NOOOOO!!!  WAIT...YESSSSS!!!", "Muahahaha, you totally deserved that one!", "Paolini, don't kill that character, I like him!  Don't kill that one either, or that one, or...just don't pull a Mockingjay*, alright?"  And most of all, "MURTAAAAAAAGH!!!!!"  Because I have been a loyal Murtagh fan from the very first time we met him.

My Goodreads status updates, just 'cause they amuse me.
Page 0: "YEEES! I GOT IT! IT'S SO LARGE AND WONDERFUL AND GREEN! <OK <--- That's Orik. With an interesting hat."

Page 80: "What is it with Eragon and babies?"

Page 220: "Thardsvergûndnzmal is my new favorite word."

Page 450: "It's about time we got to meet ol' Galby. And I have to admit, he's got some good points. I think I'll go bang my head against a wall now."

Page 560: "Muahaha! I totally knew what was in the Vault of Souls! And I am rather fond of the name Eragon Shadeslayer, Vanquisher of Snails."

One thing I noticed is that Christopher Paolini's writing has improved hugely since Eragon.  Now it sounds so much more mature, with less unintentionally funny phrases (because there are several in Eragon).  It's actually pretty cool to read the series through and watch the writing get better and better the farther you get. 

Some people aren't satisfied at all with the ending.  Well, I am.  I thought it fit perfectly.  It was incredibly sad, but also incredibly satisfying.  My favorite kind of ending.  And after the book ended, I didn't know what to do.  IT'S OVER!!!  Now what? 

I'll miss the characters.  A lot.  I'll miss this world and the exciting plots and pretty much everything about it.  Of course, I'll be rereading it, but there's still something special about the first time.  I will never get a chance to read this book for the first time again.  Which makes me a bit sad, because I love the story so much.  I love the whole series.   

*BEGIN SPOILER SECTION.  IF YOU DON'T WANT SPOILERS, SCROLL DOWN UNTIL YOU SEE "END OF SPOILERS".*  Please, if you don't want to know, avert your eyes while scrolling! 


Murtagh loves Nasuada. That, my friends, is adorable. And unexpected. And wonderful. It's too bad he never actually got to go anywhere with it, since he left so abruptly. And while we're on the topic of Murtagh...he redeemed himself. YAY. I was going to be very, very angry if he stayed evil the entire time. Though I was expecting him to kill a few more main characters before the book was over. I actually thought we'd finish the story without a major character (I'm not counting Arya's mother as major), but no. I actually thought either Saphira or Nasuada would die, but they didn't. Which is totally fine with me.

Even though I totally guessed what was in the Vault of Souls, I loved that part anyways. We needed a little hope at that point.... And I really like the giant snails. They are awesome.

I'll admit it...I wasn't sure who the green dragon's Rider was going to be. I actually wanted it to be that girl Angela told the fortune of in Brisingr, but that didn't happen.  She actually showed up in this book, but her story was never explained...hmm.  I hoped it would be her,  but I figured it would end up being Roran, which I wouldn't have been happy with.  For a while I thought it was going to be Nasuada.  But no, it's Arya!  Which didn't surprise me all that much, but still made me happen.  Saphira and Fírnen were adorable together.

And on that note, I'll say this: I knew all the while that Eragon was going to leave forever, but somehow it still caught me off guard. It's awful and wonderful at the same time. So now Eragon and Arya never get to be together, which took some bravery on Paolini's part. Apparently he got a lot of pressure from his publishers to make a happy ending for them, but he stayed true to the story. *applauds*

Galbatorix's death was awesome. Really. I hoped that he wouldn't turn nice suddenly or something like that, which he didn't. But he wasn't just stabbed either...he basically exploded. Another yay! It's too bad Shruikan had to die, though...


*SPOILERS OVER!!!!!*


This book was a fantastic conclusion to the series. It was exciting, unpredictable, heartbreaking, wonderful, epic, fantastic, well-written, ginormous, fantabulous, thrilling, awesome, adjective-worthy book. I loved it. It was everything I had hoped it would be. Yay for Paolini. Yay for green dragons. Yay for Murtagh and Thorn (always!). Yay for Angela and Nasuada and everyone else. Yay for Inheritance!


If you liked Eragon and the rest of the series, you'll inhale this. I'm not sure if it's better than Eragon, but it's certainly up there. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. This book might just have to fight it out with The Scorpio Races for my Top Book of 2011 spot. We'll see what happens there.... Although if they did actually fight, this book would win, because it's such a huge green brick and about four times the size of The Scorpio Races.

Five (hundred) stars for this awesome green book!


*Not that I didn't love Mockingjay, because I did. But the killfest was a little...overkill. Horrid analogy, there. Haha.

Reviews of other Inheritance novels:
Eragon (Inheritance #1)
Eldest (Inheritance #2)
Brisingr (Inheritance #3) 
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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Personality Tests

I'll admit it: I love personality tests.  No, not the "What Disney princess are you?" type of thing.  Those never work, anyways.  I always end up choosing the answers that will give me either Jasmine or Mulan, so it ends up more like a "What Disney princess is your favorite?"  And that's just pointless.  Or like the Sorting Hat quizzes, which just put the good people in Gryffindor, the smart ones in Ravenclaw, the evil ones in Slytherin, and everyone else in Hufflepuff. 

No, I'm talking real personality tests.  In-depth ones.  The ones that actually give you some insight into your personal character.  The ones where you read the description, nodding all the while, thinking "Okay, who's been stalking me?" 

Like the Meyer-Briggs test.  I love that one.  It's so detailed and in-depth.  It's so simple, yet so complex.  Basically, it has 16 possible types that it could sort you into.  At the end of the test you get a four letter code that will look something like ISTJ or ENFP or something like that.  I'm an INTJ. 

You can take the test here.  It shouldn't take more than a few minutes.  In the next few paragraphs I explain what the letters mean.  If your own personal type doesn't interest you one bit, look down a ways and I'll show you how this can help you in your writing. 

The first letter is either I or E.  I is for introverted, meaning that you are energized by your time alone.  The E is for extroverted, meaning you are energized by time with other people.

The second letter is N or S.  N stands for intuitive, meaning you go with your gut instinct and look at the big picture.  S is for sensing, meaning you stick to facts and focus on specific details.

The third letter is either F or T.  The F is for feeling, which means that emotions control much of how your run your life.  T is for thinking, meaning you base your decisions largely on logic and reason.

Finally, the fourth letter is either J or P.  The P is for perception, which means you are a go-with-the-flow sort of person.  The J is for judging, not because Js are judgemental, but because they like to plan things out in advance and stick to a routine. 

So, Annie, how can this help with my writing?  Well, it's fairly easy.  Instead of taking this test for yourself, put yourself in your character's shoes for a few minutes.  Take the test as if they were taking the test, and see what results come up.  It'll give you some fantastic insight into your character, stuff you may not have known even existed!  I use it all the time on my characters, and I actually keep a Word document where I list the types of each one.  It really comes in handy, and it's a lot quicker than character forms (though I love those too). 

And if nothing else, by taking the test, you might learn interesting facts about yourself.  Like that you have the same personality type as Gandalf or somebody.  (And I actually do.  Haha.) 

What type are you?  Your characters?  What do you think of this amazing, awesome, wonderful, fantabulous test?  (Can you see I like it a little?)
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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance Chronicles #1) by Margaret Weis andTracy Hickman

Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance: Chronicles, #1)Lifelong friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales of strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chance encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman, who bears a magical crystal staff, draws the companions deeper into the shadows, forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world.

No one expected them to be heroes.

Least of all, them.


 First Look: ***** I wasn't sure what I would think about this one.  It didn't look amazing, but I knew there are about a million of these books, so I figured it was worth a shot.  I'm still trying to figure out how I can be disappointed after reading this when I had no expectations. 

Setting: ***** 
Yes, there was a rather nice map and all, but I really didn't care about the setting.  I wasn't given a reason to care, so I didn't.  I didn't find anything special about this word at all--just your too-typical fantasyland.  It almost seemed to be borrowing from Lord of the Rings, but...more on that later.  A lot more on that later, as a matter of fact. 

And besides, the characters never even went to the one place that sounded interesting, that I wanted them to go.  Frankly, the whole world should've been smaller so they'd spend less time traveling. 

Characters: *****  
I had no particular reason to care about the characters, either.  They were developed alright, but they were soooooo stereotypical.  For example, the moody guy that's been shunned from society (Tanis).  The dour, old, rock-like dwarf (Flint).  The powerful warrior who isn't the brightest bulb on the tree (Caramon).  The sly wizard (Raistlin, though he has the coolest name).  The beautiful woman that can do no wrong (Goldmoon).  I felt like I'd read about all of these characters before, but with different names.

That being said, Raistlin was the interesting one.  I actually started to care about him near the end, but I was disappointed because I never got to learn his full story.  I really enjoyed reading about Tasslehoff's character, and he did make for some interesting comic relief. 

Plot: *****  
Meh.  There was a war about to start, but since I didn't really care about the characters, I had trouble caring about the war itself.  My main problem was that the characters spent way too much time traveling. As in, that was seventy-five percent of the book, or at least, that's what it felt like. We could've done with less than half the traveling, and more excitement and intrigue. But no.

Some elements were interesting, but the author(s?) didn't take them as far as they could have.  For example, the staff.  This awesome staff-thing is introduced, but after a while everybody just seemed to forget it existed, even though half the kingdom was looking for it. 

Uniqueness: *****
It borrowed a lot from Lord of the Rings.  A lot. Alot.*   And that's coming from someone who likes their high fantasy a tad on the archetypal side. 

Writing: *****
The main thing that bothered me was all the telling.  There was a huge amount of telling, and to be honest, it took away from the story.  I kept getting distracted by it.  I also got distracted by some odd phrases here and there, where I had to read them twice to make sure I understood.

And the print was so small on the page!  It fried my brain and made me feel like I was reading at half the speed that I usually read.  And I found a pretty severe typo. 

Likes:
Tas. 

Not-so-great:
I have no idea what the title has to do with the story.

Total Score:
This wasn't a great read for me.  It wasn't awful, but it wasn't spectacular, either.  The characters did nothing to make me care about them, and they all felt like they were on loan from the Lord of the Rings cast.  The action wasn't all that exciting.  The whole thing didn't feel very original at all.  I might try a few more, if I'm really bored, but otherwise, I'd pass on this one. 


*Click that link.  Now.  

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Myths About Writers

Whenever you mention the fact that you're a writer, a million stereotypes are bound to come into people's heads.  Some of these are true, and some are myths.  Here are some common myths about writers, disproved.
  • Writers are addicted to coffee.  No, not necessarily.  Writers are addicted to whatever will keep them going long enough to finish that next chapter.  Sometimes it's coffee, sometimes it's something else.  Hopefully not drugs. 
  • Writers are antisocial.  It's not that we don't enjoy your company.  We simply come off this way sometimes.  The average human would be bored to tears sitting in front of a keyboard, typing all day.  They don't see this as a "normal" pastime.  Writers, on the other hand, love every day where they can do nothing but put words on the screen.  Social activities can get forgotten in the process. 
  • Writers listen to my conversations at Starbucks.  No, not just your conversations.  We listen to the everyone else's conversations, too.  Not you exclusively.  Sorry.
  • Writers talk to themselves.  We talk to our characters.  We talk directly to our story.  We talk to the computer screen, to the blank notebook.  Why talk to ourselves when we have so many other available options to talk to?
  • If you say something bad about a writer's work, they will hate you.  No, they'll just write a character remarkably like you into their books.  Said character will die. 
  • Writers have no friends.  Writers actually have more friends than the average person.  We have our normal, real-life friends, and then we have our characters.  That's more than the average human can say. 
  • Writers admire J. K. Rowling like she's something more than human.  Well, some of us might.  But some of us don't.  Personally, I very much enjoy her books, but there are many better things out there to read. 
  • Writers suffer from insanity. Actually, we enjoy every second of it.
And there you have it.  It's like Mythbusters, but less awesome.  And with less explosives.
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Friday, November 25, 2011

Love Triangles

One thing I keep seeing over and over again in young adult fiction is the love triangle.  The dreaded, the abominable, the ubiquitous...love triangle. 

A love triangle happens when one girl is in love with two guys at once, and can't decide between them (it could happen the opposite way, too, with one guy and two girls, but it's much less common).  Both guys are in love with the girl, leaving the girl with a predicament.  The girl also loves both the guys.  Which should she choose?  Oh the horror.

Okay, technically, it wouldn't be a love triangle unless both the guys were in love with each other, too.  But we won't go there. 

There's my amazing Paint skill coming through, right there. 
There's a problem with this, though...have you ever seen a love triangle in real life?  No.  At least, I haven't.  Let's face it: love triangles just don't happen that much in real life.  So why should every YA book have one?

This brings me to my next point.  Nearly every single YA book these days has a love triangle of some sort.  Why?  Readers want plot.  We don't want to sit there and read about some girl whining because she can't decide who to love.  If she loves two guys at once, it can't even be true love, anyways.  It's just some extra friendliness and a little lust.

Love triangles are also highly predictable.  Have you ever seen the girl end up with the nice, normal guy?  No.  She always ends up with the supernatural guy.  If you're going to write a paranormal romance, someone should shake it up and write a story where the girl doesn't go for the supernatural guy.

I'll be honest.  I have formed a deep hatred for love triangles.  And for good reason: the vast majority of them are anything but well-executed.  But, to be fair, I have read some books that pulled off a fantastic love triangle.

Like Eona: The Last Dragoneye, for example.  That's the most convoluted love triangle you'll ever see, my friends.    Or The Hunger Games Trilogy.

Or the Seven Realms series.  That one is amazing, but...you could argue that it's actually a love pentagon.  Yeah.  (I tried to make a diagram showing this, but failed epically.)  Han is (or was) in love with Raisa, who loves him back.  Raisa also loved Amon, and Amon did love her back, until he got engaged to someone else.  Then there's Reid, who seems to have a thing for Raisa.  Love pentagon.

So, amigos...I beg of you...don't write a love triangle, unless you've got a really interesting twist to it, or you can do it like Alison Goodman.  And please don't write a love triangle for the sake of a love triangle.  That's the last thing the world needs.

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope you have a great day and eat lots of turkey and stuffing and pie. 

And now go away.  Quit reading blogs.  Yes, even this one.  Go do something else, because it's Thanksgiving.  Go spend time with someone you're thankful for.

But while I'm here, I might as well say this: I'm thankful for all of you.  YOU.  Every one of my 39 amazing followers.  And any ghost followers.  You rock.  Now go away.


(And yes, this is a scheduled post.  Of course.)


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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio RacesSome race to win. 
Others race to survive.

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

First Look: ***** When I first heard about this, my initial reaction went something like this: "NO WAY!  An actual, recent YA books about horses?  Okay, somebody's out to make fun of me, because this can't be real." 

Folks, I have to stop this review to tell you a story.  When I was a kid (read: younger than I am now.  Elementary school), I devoured horse books like they some kind of chocolate that multiplied faster the quicker I ate it.  I loved them.  And then I read all the horse books in my school library (and now, I'm not kidding about that.  They had a little sticker on the side with a picture of a horse.  I read them all...).  Then, I got older.  There weren't any new horse books coming out that would take me more than half an hour to read.  So I sighed sadly, and went on a huge fantasy binge, still hoping for those horse books in the back of my mind.  Until...now. 

Setting: *****   The setting honestly made me confused.  I couldn't tell if it was a dystopia or not at first.  I couldn't figure out where on Earth we were.  It didn't really explain much.  Throughout the book, though, I managed to figure out that it's a rather historical--probably--setting.  In Europe somewhere, maybe England or something. 

Even though I had to work so hard to figure it out, I still ended up liking it.  I loved how Stiefvater managed to get across the atmosphere of the place.  Atmosphere is something I shall definitely blog about in the future, because it's so important, but you almost never hear about it.  Anyways, I liked the detail of the setting, how it seemed so real.  I also love how the water horses were incorporated into it. 

Characters: *****  Awesome. Amazing. Wonderful.  Realistically....realistic.  I'll stop adjective-dumping right now.  It's not often when you get to read about characters like these.  I really grew to love them as real people throughout the story.  Puck was so headstrong and emotional and...awesome.  I could really relate to Sean's relationships with his horses.

The supporting cast was fantastic, as well.  Finn was such a realistic brother.  George Holly made me laugh.  I hated Mutt.  And so on.  Sometimes, a good, memorable supporting cast is even tougher to pull off than the main characters.  Even the horses made awesome characters.   

Plot:
***** At one point in the story, I desperately wanted Puck to win the race.  I also desperately wanted Sean to win.  Maggie Stiefvater is an absolute genius for doing this to me.  The plot was so utterly, fantastically believable.  I wanted to simply tear through it to find out what was going to happen. 

What Stiefvater really did well with the plot, though, was the tension.  It was constant, from the first page to the last.  It never, ever let up.  It turned the book into a big vacuum, just sucking you in.  And also, it's definitely worth noting that there was no insta-love.  No love triangles, either.  This is a huge breath of fresh air in today's YA literature.


And the ending.... Oh, the ending. It was beautiful and heartbreaking and perfect.  I didn't cry, but I was as close as I ever get.  Which, for me, is the equivalent of sobbing my eyes out.  It's been a long time since I've read something so wonderful and sad at the same time. 

Uniqueness: ***** One hundred thousand million percent unique. This is almost a shame, because I'm desperately in need of more books like this.

Writing: ***** Wow. I can't decide if I want to hug Stiefvater for writing this much awesomeness, or go cry in a corner because my book isn't up to this level. Her writing was FAN-TAS-TIC. I'm not sure how to describe it, but I just got the feeling that the writing was so incredibly honest. It made the story seem real, and her voice and the characters' voices really shined through. Writers should read this book, as a lesson, to try and figure out how on earth she does it.

Likes: I have to pause my review to tell you another story. I finished this book in the car. After I was done, I sat in a daze and stared out the window. Just then we happened to pass a horse farm. In the middle of a huge pasture, there was a lone foal walking through the snow. And it was so incredibly beautiful, especially after finishing this book, that I might've cried, had I been that type of person. That's what kind of effect this book had on me. Little bit of postivie Mockingjay Syndrome here? I think so.

Stiefvater knows her stuff, when it comes to horses. Not only did she accurately describe riding and tacking up, but she also understands the bond between horse and rider. It's something so many people overlook, and it makes the story impact the reader so much more.

Not-so-great: This review does not begin to give this book justice.

Total Score: I'm in love with this book. It's amazing. Incredible. The characters were so honest and real, and the writing style was simply gorgeous. And it's so different from other books on the market, too. I finished this book a few days ago, but yet I can't stop thinking about it. It's emotional and heartbreaking and beautiful. I'd say that words cannot describe this book, but...they can, and do. The entire book does. You just have to read it to find out. A must-read.

PS: If you haven't seen the trailer, you definitely should. It's lovely. 
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why I Stopped Following Your Blog

Though the majority of my posts are centered around books and writing, today I'm going to stray from my beaten path.  I've decided that, in addition to writing posts, it might be fun (and helpful to you) to dabble in the world of blogging tips.  Now, I'm not that successful, as bloggers go, but I have managed to pick up a few tricks of the trade. 

I don't stop following blogs often, but it does happen.  Here are all reasons why someone might stop following your blog:
  • You can't spell.  Bloggers are human, and they can't be expected to spell everything right.  Or to have no grammar mistakes, for that matter.  Everyone makes mistakes.  I'll admit to it, too.  My blog posts aren't always perfect.  But you need to at least make an effort to get rid of these mistakes.  Use spellcheck.  Read the post over at least once before publishing.  You might think your blog readers won't notice if you don't proofread, but guess what: we do.
  • Your blog takes forever to load.  I'm not a patient person, especially not when it comes to the internet.  If I want to see a site, I want to see it now.  I don't have time to wait for it to come up.  All those fancy, flashy counters and widgets and buttons on your sidebar might be cool, but they're not worth it if it takes five minutes for your homepage to come up. 
  • You never post.  You posted, say, a few times in July.  Then one or twice in September, and nothing since.  If I'm going to follow your blog, I want a steady stream of blog posts coming in.  Not this sporadic "Oh, I'll post whenever I feel inspired/like it/bored/whatever".  You don't have to post every day; once a week is fine, even.  I just don't want to wait months for your next post.
  • You post too much.  The opposite of the last bullet point.  You posted, say, once this morning.  Another around lunchtime, once this evening, and once again right before you went to bed.  Alright, so maybe you found something really worthwhile to share with us, but still.  I don't want you clogging up my dashboard.  It's annoying.
  • Your blog blasts music at me against my will.  This is probably the number one reason I'll stop following you (or not follow you in the first place).  I absolutely despise it when I pull up your blog and music starts playing.  I don't care what new, awesome songs you discovered this week.  It's annoying beyond belief, and it makes me jump every time.  If you want to put a music player on your blog, fine.  But please, please make it so you have to click play in order for the music to start. 
  • Your blog has nothing to offer me.  All your posts are about what you did over the weekend, a rant about your hatred for the Twilight Saga, your complaints about your WIP.  Frankly, I don't care.  I want to read posts that inform me, entertain me, engage me.  Since I follow mostly writerly blogs, I want to read articles on writing.  I don't need to know if your dog just barked at your neighbor.  Or that you just had a ham sandwich that was the best thing since sliced bread.* 
  • You only post weekly IMM-type things.  IMM, in case you didn't know, stands for In My Mailbox.  It's a weekly thing book bloggers like to post, showcasing the books they acquired during the past week.  Again, I don't care.  I did about two IMM posts, and then I stopped, because I realized that, let's face it...nobody cares what books showed up on my doorstep (unless I'm wrong, here, in which case, let me know and I'll gladly restart the IMM).  An IMM once a week is fine, whatever, even though I'll rarely read it, if ever.  But don't let these sort of posts be your only posts.  It's annoying and shows that you have no creativity as a blogger.
  • It's not professional.  Your layout looks like a kindergartner put it together.  Your sidebar sticks out and covers the blog posts.  Stuff like that.  You don't need to be really fancy with your layout.  It doesn't need to look like Steve Jobs designed it or something.  At least put a little effort into it, though. 
  • Your blog has no point.  One day you post a book review.  The next you post a persuasive essay on why we should recycle.  The next, a biography of Alexander the Great, some photos of your goldfish, a how-to article on making sushi.  I can't figure out what on earth your blog is actually about.  Maybe some people are actually interested in each one of those things.  That's great, but most people probably aren't.  Now, I'm not saying that your blog has to stick to one thing and one thing only.  I don't do that.  I'd get bored.  But please, at least find a general subject area to post in.
  • All you do is complain and apologize.  You tell us you're sorry for not posting more often.  You tell us you're sorry for the lack of quality posts this past week.  You complain about how nobody follows your blog and nobody comments and nobody cares.  I don't need to read your whining.  If you keep complaining like that, of course nobody is going to follow your blog!
  • U cant tell the dffrnce btween txting + blgging.  I can't even stand it when people text like that, let alone blog.  If you're going to blog, you need to be literate enough to use vowels and whole words. 
  • I can't read your font. 
    Your font looks like this. It’s pretty, but it’s impossible to read. It hurts my eyes, which are bad enough without your crazy cursive.
    I don't want to have to squint in order to see your words.
Now, this is not an all-inclusive list. But it's a very good idea of what NOT to do on your blog. If you do one of these, will I stop following your blog? Probably not (unless it's the music one...). But if you do a couple of them, you'll get on my nerves and then I'll stop following. And nobody wants to log onto Blogger and find out that they have 24 followers, when they had 25 yesterday.

*I've noticed that teenage boys have this thing for posting what they just ate on Facebook.  "Just ate three bags of cheetos XD" or "Dude, those onion rings were the bomb!".  I'm making fun of teenage boys?  No, of course not...well, yeah, of course. :)

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