Friday, September 30, 2011

Top Ten Ways to Get Insta-Rejection

Nobody can deny that agents have a tough job.  I mean, just think of all those horrible queries they have to sort through!  *shudders*  Agents, like everyone else, deserve to have a good laugh every so often.  Here are ten ridiculously easy ways to ensure that agents will fall out of their chairs laughing.  Okay, probably not.  But you'll still probably get rejected.
  1. Pitch them a 20k YA novel/250k MG novel/999,999,999 word picture book.* 
  2. Physically knock on the door of the agency in order to pitch your book.**
  3. Describe your book as "like Twilight, but different".
  4. Pitch them an unfinished novel (if you're a first-time author).
  5. Say that your book needs a ton of editing.
  6. Tell them how much your mother/best friend/cousin's dog loved it.
  7. Dare them to reject your query.
  8. Tell them how your book was originally 300,000 words long, so you split it into a trilogy.
  9. Promise that your book will be an instant bestseller.
  10. Pitch them a fantasy/paranormal romance/mystery when their website clearly states that they don't represent those genres.
This is by no means a complete list.  There are infinitely many ways to ensure instant rejection.  I should hope that you see why they'd laugh at you for these, but just in case, I'll explain.
  1. These word counts just aren't acceptable for the given genre.  Do your research to find out how long your book should be.
  2. This isn't professional.  It's just stalkerish.
  3. The Twilight craze is long over.  And how can a book be like something, but not like it at the same time?
  4. If you've never published a book before, you always, always, always need to have it done before you query.  If you haven't even finished the book, the agent can't be sure that you're motivated enough to pull through the entire thing.
  5. Agents don't want rough drafts.  Before you even think about writing a query, edit and revise and bash your brains in until the book is as perfect as possible.  Then start contacting agents.
  6. Face it: agents don't care what your mother thinks.  Your mother loves you, so of course she's going to like it.  She's biased.
  7. They will take you up on the offer immediately.  They don't have time for you.
  8. If your book was originally that long, this tells the agent that you have no control over your plot and you can't keep your descriptions short and sweet.  Plus, you can't just split up one huge book and call it a trilogy.  It would just be one book in three volumes.  I will post more on this later.
  9. There's absolutely no way to guarantee this and the agent doesn't have time for someone that cocky.
  10. To quote The Lightning Thief:  "What do the children say these days?  Do they say 'well, duh'? ...Well, duh, then!" 
There are many other ways to make agents laugh.  These include: calling yourself "the next Tolkien/Stephen King/Jane Austen, sending an online Amazon gift card as a bribe, saying that all published books are worthless, beginning your letter with Dear Sir/Madam, typing your query in French/text talk/Gnomish, pitching a fanfiction, personally insulting the agent, pitching to an agent that left their post five years ago, sending a video query with your email, directing the agent to your blog to read the letter, pitching a masterpiece that only a select few will be able to appreciate, pitching a novel that chronicles the adventures of your Dungeons and Dragons role play group, pitching a novel with Neopets or Pokemon***, listing Inkpop as a writing credit, including a list of actors to play your main characters, and many, many more. 

I hope you've either learned something from this list, or at least smiled a little.  Who knows...maybe I've just saved someone from a cruel, heartless rejection.

*Then again, if you pitched me that, I might be inclined to ask for more just because...well, if you're that insane, maybe your work is actually worth something.
**This is also the quickest way to ensure that the agent will call up other agencies to warn them of you in advance.
*** Actually, if I was an agent, and you actually managed to write a full-length novel involving Pokemon, I'd ask for more.  I'm just sayin'. 
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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today is a Good Day

First, I won my tennis match (doubles, if anyone cares) 8-2, in spite of the wind nearly blowing our rackets out of our hands.  And I have no homework.  And I did well on my Honors Pre-calculus quiz.

But most of all...I'm getting published in Teen Ink magazine!  Okay, it's a haiku, but still.  I can't wait to see the actual magazine.  It's so cool to be published in it, because I've been trying to get this since I was twelve (shh, don't tell!).

There's a link to it right here.

Put in a good rating for me, while you're at it.

Also, I find it worth mentioning (yes, I am adding things to this post as I think of them) that I got sorted.  With the actual (okay, the Pottermore) sorting hat.  You'll never guess where it put me.

SLYTHERIN!!!!  I'm happy.  Here's proof.


Since today was my last tennis match, I'll be able to post a lot more often.  The last few weeks have been a cycle: wake up at some ungodly hour, school, tennis, homework, sleep.  Eating is somewhere in there, probably.  But now I'll try not to neglect the blog.

So, how about you?  What good things happened to you today?

PS: I think I see a photo blog in the near future.  Stay tuned. *winks*
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Grammar Wars: The Oxford Comma

One of the best ways to spark a heated argument between writers is to bring up the Oxford comma.  For example, some writers might write: "Lions, tigers and bears".  Others will write: "Lions, tigers, and bears".  The difference is that second comma, after tigers.  It's called the Oxford comma.

I always use the Oxford comma.  It just sounds weird, to me, without it.  It drives me nuts when books don't use it. 

That being said, neither way is wrong.  Either one is still correct.  Using the Oxford comma sounds more like actual speaking, while not using it is more traditional.  The Oxford comma is more common in the US, while less people use it in Britain. 

Whatever you decide, stick with it.  If you use the Oxford comma, you must use it in every single list in your book.  Same if you don't use it.  You can't switch back and forth.  You need to remain consistent with your writing.

So, what's your opinon?  Love the comma, or hate it?

Brought to you by your residant Grammar Nazi.
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Friday, September 23, 2011

Blue Noon (Midnighters #3) by Scott Westerfeld

Blue Noon (Midnighters, #3)The darklings will hunt once again.

The secret hour when time freezes arrives every night at midnight in Bixby, Oklahoma. It's a dangerous time, when five teenagers are the only humans awake and dark creatures crawl out of the shadows, but at least the midnight hour is regular and predictable.

Until suddenly, the blue time comes . . . in the middle of the day.

The noise of school stops. Cheerleaders are frozen in midair, teachers brought to a standstill. Everything is the haunted blue color of the midnight hour.

The Midnighters can't understand what's happening, but as they scramble for answers, they discover that the walls between the secret hour and real time are crumbling. Soon the dark creatures will have a chance to feed after centuries of waiting, unless these five teenagers can find a way to stop them.

A desperate race against time, a mind-blowing mystery of paranormal logic, a tale of ancient evil and spine-chilling sacrifice: blue noon is the exhilarating third volume in the Midnighters series by acclaimed author Scott Westerfeld.


 The Secret Hour was pretty good, but nothing special.  Touching Darkness was much, much better.  Following that pattern, I assumed Blue Noon would knock my socks off.  While it didn't quite get to that point, the ending was very...shocking.  In the electric sense.  You'd just have to read it to understand. 

Blue Noon really didn't improve on the second book.  If anything, I liked the second one better, which is rare for me and trilogies.  Jessica and Jonathan just got even more boring, and Melissa was just crabby.  Rex and Dess were, as usual, the only interesting ones in the story.  They had the most personality, the most uniqueness.

Since this was the end of the series, I wanted it to have a big finish.  I wanted it to end with a huge BANG! that would make me wish it hadn't ended.  Sure, the ending was exciting.  Sure, it was somewhat intense.  But I wanted more than that.  I wanted something that would blow me away, would stick with me for days or weeks or months or forever.  It was a decent finish, but not spectacular.  I felt myself struggling to care about the possibility of the world being consumed into the midnight hour.  I just couldn't bring myself to get that emotionally involved.

The thing with Jessica at the end was a real tearjerker, though, if I was that type of reader.  I won't say what happened for fear of spoilers, but still.  Wow. 

Don't get me wrong.  I enjoyed the book.  It was exciting and I love the concept, and thought it was well-executed.  I just didn't get quite the BAM that I wanted from the ending.  I felt a little let down about that, but otherwise it was a decent finish to the series.   

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

You Know You're a Writer When...

You know you're a writer when...

...you point out typos in books.
...you get out your pen and correct said typos.
...you can work Microsoft Word better than anyone you know.
...you know what POV and MC stand for.
...napkins, envelopes, and basically anything made of paper is fair game to write on.
...everything from a highlighter to a paintbrush is fair game to write with.
...you've written on your phone and texted it to yourself.
...you know the word count of your favorite books.
...you ask too many 'what-if' questions because you know they might lead to story ideas.
...you edit your friends' school essays for fun.
...the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" makes you scoff.
...buying notebooks gets you a little too excited.
...you can quote yourself.
...you've accidentally referred to your MC as if they were a real person.
...you know what NaNoWriMo is.
...you speak in third person.
...you're proud of the stereotype that writers are crazy.
...where normal people see an old box, they think nothing of it.  When you see that box, you think along the lines of "Wow, that would be a really great place to hide an ancient sword that actually has magical powers..."
...you plan out dialogue in your head (sometimes complete with facial expressions).
...you laughed when everyone got excited about the 18,000 words of new content on Pottermore, because you know how tiny that actually is.
...you enjoy English class.
...words like "therefore" are part of your everyday vocabulary.
...you have threatened to write someone in their book and kill them.
...you love the smell of paper fresh off the copier.  And it feels warm, too...
...you get hand cramps from writing.
....your Google search history includes things like "how to pick a lock", "how long will someone stay unconscious if knocked on the head", etc. 
...you start a blog as a more productive way to procrastinate.
...you ignore important bodily functions such as eating in order to write.
...you have the entire movie based on your book planned out--from actors to a credits song.
...you text in paragraphs, with perfect grammar.
...you just read this entire post, nodding the entire time.


I do...pretty much all of these.  Of course, all the non-writers are staring at me right now, thinking I'm nuts.  But I hope at least the writers could enjoy this.
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Friday, September 16, 2011

Mister Monday (The Keys to the Kingdom #1) by Garth Nix

Mister Monday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #1)Arthur Penhaligon is not supposed to be a hero. He is, in fact, supposed to die an early death. But then his life is saved by a key shaped like the minute hand of a clock.

Arthur is safe--but his world is not. Along with the key comes a plague brought by bizarre creatures from another realm. A stranger named Mister Monday, his avenging messengers with bloodstained wings, and an army of dog-faced Fetchers will stop at nothing to get the key back--even if it means destroying Arthur and everything around him.

Desperate, Arthur ventures into a mysterious house--a house that only he can see. It is in this house that Arthur must unravel the secrets of the key--and discover his true fate. 

 First Look: ***** This looked so cool.  I loved the concept, and the cover was cool and slightly creepy at the same time. Just goes to show you that you can't judge a book by its cover. Argh.

Setting: ***** 
It didn't make any sense. I was so confused. Yes, it was all explained in logical terms, but still. It just felt so out-there. I couldn't believe a word of it. Not for one minute. I had trouble imagining it, because it just felt so incredibly random. It felt just thrown-together. The characters would run into a setting-related obstacle, and then--BOOM! Hey, guess what? There's actually an insert-something-way-too-convenient that we can use to get out of this dangerous situation! Yay! Not okay, people.

Characters: ***** 
I couldn't like Arthur, either.  The book begins with him whining about how he has to move to a new school, and so on.  And then he nearly dies from a slow jog. I started out hating him, and didn't stop. To me, he came off as whiny and incompetent. He was slow to figure things out. He was selfish and ordered people around, when he wasn't cowering in sheer terror. He didn't seem realistic at all. I got no sense of personality from him whatsoever.

The other characters weren't any better.  I'm sorry, but I couldn't take the Will seriously as a...frog.  Suzy just seemed super-hyper and jumpy one minute, and ancient the next. Mister Monday wasn't scary at all. Or sloth-ish, for that matter. I didn't like any character except for Leaf, but she was only in the book for a chapter or so.

Plot: *****
This frustrates me so muchThis plot had so much potential, but in the end it just didn't work.  Like the setting, it didn't make much sense and felt almost random. It didn't flow like it should. It was fast, yes, but I got bored anyway. Because I didn't care one bit. I didn't care that the characters were facing certain death. I didn't care that a plague was killing everyone, because I was never given a reason to care. It's not good when certain death and fast-paced action is simply boring.

Uniqueness: *****
I have to give it points in this area.  Personification of the days of the week?  Brilliant!*  Throw in the Seven Deadly Sins while we're at it? Twice as brilliant! Unfortunately, it didn't follow through.

Writing: *****
So. Much. Telling.  Wow.  I'm serious.  There was soooo much telling in this book, and hardly any showing.  I could hardly picture what was going on throughout the entire thing.  The dialogue felt awkward and realistic.  It moved way too fast.  There's a whole list of things, both major and small, that I could list here, but let's just sum it up: I did not like the writing at all.  It just felt disconnected and TOLD me what was going on instead of letting me experience the story for myself.

Likes:
Um...

Not-so-great:
This book took me over a week and a half to read. Folks, a week and a half. My average time to read a book hovers around 3-4 days. Not good.

And...there were some rather atheist remarks in this book.  Atheist remarks along the lines of "Life after death?  Pshaw!  We just turn back into nothingness and never go to Heaven 'cause there's no heavenly being to go to!" This does not do anything to help me like this book.

Total Score:
I feel like I'm not being fair to this book.  And maybe I'm not.  I don't know.  Maybe I just didn't like it because school started last week, and cut all my reading time down so it took me forever to finish.  Maybe I was in a bad mood whenever I read this.  But, still, it didn't work.  The writing just told me everything that happened. The characters weren't the least bit likable or realistic. The plot had so much promise, but it just fell flat in the end. Just goes to show that you can't judge a book by its cover. Not recommended at all.

*I can't exclaim "Brilliant!" without using a British accent.  Keep that in mind as you read this to yourself.
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Monday, September 12, 2011

I Hate Your Book! (Tips for Dealing With Criticism)

We've all heard it before: "I just didn't like your book."  No matter who says it, or how they say it, it just doesn't feel good.  It makes us feel inferior, and like all our hard work was for nothing. 

If you're lucky, this negative comment came with some constructive criticism.  You should always welcome constructive criticism, as it can only help you improve your book.  Even if you feel a bit hurt, you should be glad someone took the time to tell you how to make your book better.  They cared enough to offer suggestions, so you need to thank them and consider them. 

Be careful with those suggestions, though.  First, you need to consider where the suggestions came from.  Are they from a trusted editor (or Inkpop user)?  Does this person actually know about writing, craft, and how to write a good story, or are they just making stuff up?  If they know what they're talking about, great.  Use their advice, but don't follow it blindly.  After all, you know your story better than they do.  For example, they might suggest you focus more on the romance aspect of your historical fiction novel.  But, while the romance is part of your book, you don't feel that it needs to be the most important part.  This is fine; everyone will have a different opinion of your book, and you can't please everyone.  Use your own judgement, in the end.

We all know that "It just didn't work for me" or "I'm sure many people could enjoy this, but not me" or "It could be good, if you change this and this and *basically the whole thing*" are just a nicer-sounding way of saying "I didn't like this book at all."  It would be stupid of me to tell you to not take these things personal, because we're writers.  We do take it very personally, but we have to learn to not let it get us down.

I look at it this way: I wrote my book so it could be enjoyed.  If someone doesn't like it, then they are the ones who suffered, not me.  It's their problem, not mine.  This way of thinking seems to work well for me, though I'm not saying you should ignore constructive criticism, because you shouldn't.  It just helps me be able to take the criticism and use it in stride, without letting it crush my self-esteem. 

I can promise you one thing.  There will be someone who hates your book.  I can guarantee it.  There will always be someone who can't connect with the characters, who finds the plot dull and flat, who thinks the prose is ugly.  And they will make these facts known. 

You have to take these negative reviews in perspective.  After all, how many positive reviews have you gotten?  Read carefully: the good outweighs the bad, doesn't it?  Which means that your book is more than that nasty reviewer makes of it.  You are more than that, and so is your writing.  Focus on the positive, not the negative. 

God forbid you ever get an overly nasty, rude, inappropriate, harsh review that simply bashes your book mercilessly.  This isn't an acceptable way of reviewing books, but it does happen.  And you know what?  These reviews mean nothing to you.  No intelligent reviewer would act that way.  Simply toss these reviews out the window and forget about them, because they honestly aren't worth your time.

You can't let any review, whether it is constructive or not, get you down.  You are a strong writer; you can learn from your mistakes, and pull yourself up again.  You just have to take each review in stride.  Learn from your mistakes, but let yourself take praise when it comes.  
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Saturday, September 10, 2011

ABC Saturday: M is for Music






Of course.  Honestly, what did you expect?  Remember the "I is for iPod post"?  Where Annie said that without music, she'd die?  Yep, it's the truth.

Annie plays the piano.  She also plays the flute, and the piccolo.  She plays in band, and piano in Jazz band.

For a school project last year, Annie had to interview several people about their music tastes.  Ever since then, she's wanted to interview herself.  Now I, Annie's wonderful little third-person narrator, will make that happen.
 
What is your favorite genre of music, and why do you like it?
I'm not quite sure what my favorite genre is.  Most of my favorite music is listed as rock, though in reality it's more of a cross between pop and rock.  So I guess I like alternative.  I like it because it can be so varied and the songs don't all sound alike like some genres I could mention.
Who is your favorite music artist, and why?
Hmm.  I guess I'd have to say, right now, that OneRepublic is my favorite.    I love their sound, and I love how their songs aren't all about love--they are also about life.  
What is your favorite song?
Right now, the most played song on my iPod is Onerepublic's "Say (All I Need)".
What does that song mean to you?
I love its message.  It speaks about materialism, and how you don't need things in order to be happy.   
Is there a song that you particularly dislike?  Why is that?
I can't stand "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry (or anything by her, for that matter).  One, I don't like her voice.  Two, I hate the song's lyrics and message.  "Let's go all the way tonight...no regrets..."  No regrets?  Really?  How 'bout when you're pregnant and your boyfriend dumps you?
How do you prefer to listen to music? (record, CD, radio, iPod, etc.)  Do you think it makes a difference? 
I prefer my iPod, simply because it has all my favorite songs.  Without commercials.  It does make a bit of difference, because when you listen to the radio you're exposed to different songs other than your own favorites.

How do you feel your life might be different without music?
I wouldn't be alive at all.
If you could pick any song as your theme song, what would it be?
David Archuleta's song "Works For Me" describes me pretty well.  "You say I don't know what I want/But it worked out just fine/You said it never could be done/But it worked out just fine/If it works for me, then it works for me..."
Is there a particular song/s with lyrics that you try to live by?
I think The Afters pretty much sum it up in their song "Love Lead Me On":  "Love lead me on/Where no one else has gone/Faith keep me strong/Love lead me on..."
Has listening to a certain song ever made you feel strong emotions (sad, angry, etc.)? 
"Teenage Dream" always makes me mad, of course.  Other than that, Britt Nicole's "When She Cries" (about a girl who cuts) is sad, yet hopeful.  And "My Immortal" by Evanescence is just beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time.
Do you think that the type of music a person listens to makes a statement about themselves? 
Absolutely.  I think that, without realizing it, most people like to listen to songs that speak personally to them, and that is reflected in each song they choose.
Do you think the type of music a person listens to can have a negative influence on them?  Positive? 
Yes.  If a person listens to songs that promote alcohol abuse, sex, or something, it's going to sink in whether they realize it or not.  Over time they'll get so used to these things in the song and they won't seem so bad in real life.
Do you prefer songs where you can “connect” with the lyrics, or does it not make a difference?
I do prefer when I have some way to connect with the song.  And yes, I count a song relating to my book as "connecting to the lyrics".
Do you prefer to listen to singers that are the same gender as yourself?  Why or why not?
I used to listen to more female singers, but now more of my favorites are males.  I don't care either way; each gender has good voices and bad ones.
What song/s do you listen to if you want to cheer up?
"Get Back Up" by TobyMac.  The lyrics are uplifting, and the song itself is upbeat and cheery.



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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Grammar Wars: Working With Microsoft Word


Microsoft word can be difficult to work with, sometimes.  You'll think it's on your side, and then it'll turn around and mess you up at every opportunity.  But if you learn to work with it, writing your novel will be that much easier.

Spellcheck is there for a reason.  Use it.  If something has a red line underneath it, then you need to fix it.  If your character's name isn't recognized as a word, right-click and add to dictionary.  Like this:

If you add your made-up words to the dictionary, then it'll correct you if you happen to spell them wrong.  And it fixes those annoying little lines. 

With the grammar checker, there are some things it'll help you with.  Some things, though, will just get annoying.  You'll want to change your settings to help out with this.*  Right click any word or phrase with a green line; click "grammar"; when the box pops up, click "options".  Under "writing style", make sure you've selected "check grammar and style".  Click "settings".  For "punctuation required with quotes", make sure you've selected "inside".  Make sure every box is checked, except for "contractions".  If you don't have this unchecked, it'll get mad at you every time you say "don't" instead of "do not".  And that's just annoying.  If you are writing in first-person, you'll also want to uncheck the box that says "use of first person".


As you write, pay attention to the green lines (especially to the "passive voice" one).  Right click; click "about this sentence".  It'll explain what the problem is, with examples to help you fix your own sentence.  If you get one that says "fragment", use your own judgement.  You can probably ignore it, since fragments are acceptable in fiction (if used deliberately and with a solid purpose, of course).  Ignore most of its suggestions regarding dialogue formatting; often, it'll suggest the wrong thing.  This is one thing that MS Word is clueless about; you'll just have to learn it yourself.  Use your own, human judgement.  When in doubt, find a human editor.  Ignore pretty much every grammar mistake it finds in your characters' dialogue, unless you have a character who always used spotless grammar.  Again, use your judgement here.  You are smarter than MS Word. 

Finding your word count is easy in Word.  In older versions, click "tools", then "word count".  It'll be helpful to click "show toolbar", so it's easier to access your word count.  In newer versions, the current word count should be at the bottom of your screen.  If you highlight a certain part of your text, it'll tell you the word count of just that selection, like this: "500/10,000". 

If you have a word that constantly mixes up your fingers while typing, you can set Word to correct this automatically.  For example, I almost always type "caslte" when I meant to type "castle".  To fix these issues, click "tools", then "control Autocorrect options" (newer versions: "review", "spelling and grammar", then "autocorrect".  Simply type your common error in the left box, and what it should be in the right. 

Page numbers are always helpful.  To add them, click "insert", then "page numbers".  Select your settings, then you're good to go.  Also, after you finish a chapter, don't keep pressing enter until you get to a fresh page.  This will screw you up big time if you add or delete anything later.  Instead, click "instert", then "break", then "page break".  It's much easier. 

If you document is stored on your computer, anyone who uses that machine will be able to open and edit the document.  If you aren't comfortable with this, you can password-protect the document.  Under "tools", click "options".  One of the tabs should say "security".  Open it, and type a password where it says "password to open".  Click "OK". (Newer versions: "file", "info", "permissions," "encrypt with password".) Save your project, then close it.  Now, when you open it back up again, a box should pop up, asking for a password.  This probably won't withstand even the most amateur hacker, but you should be fine.

Once and awhile, you might run into a problem where you type something, but when you go back to add a word, it deletes what you previously wrote as you type.  All this means is that you hit the "insert" key by accident.  To fix it, press "insert" (should be on the top right of your keyboard).

Word has many different settings.  Mess around with them until you find something that works for you.  Always remember to save your project before making any setting changes.  And save even if you aren't making any changes.

I'm sorry, but I can't help anyone who used a Mac, since I avoid them whenever possible.
  
*Only change your settings if you're using your computer.  Don't play with somebody else's settings.  They won't appreciate that.  Don't add things to somebody else's dictionaries, either. 

Brought to you by your resident Grammar Nazi.
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker #1) by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker (Ship Breaker, #1)
In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota—and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life. . . .

In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast-paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.

First Look: ***** Wasn't quite sure what I would get when I picked this up.  I went from hating the cover to loving it to hating it...but we ended at liking it. I'm really glad I picked this up, although I wouldn't want that last name*.

Setting:
***** How often do I actually get to say this about a setting: I. LOVED. IT!!!!  And seriously, I did.  It was truly fantastic.  It took those mediocre dystopian The Giver ripoffs and ate them for breakfast.  There was nothing non-unique about it. It was fresh, and new, and incredibly messed-up, as a good dystopia should be.

I might as well have been there the entire time, because I certainly felt like I was.  I could feel the ancient ship closing in around me.  I could hear the city killer (ginormous hurricane that would make Irene run and hide) ripping across the beach. I could smell all the...stuff that didn't smell good (this isn't Bath & Body Works, people). It was very well-described, though I wouldn't want to live there.

Characters: 
***** Yay.  I get to give another five-star rating.  The characters were amazingly awesome.  Nailer made a fantastic protagonist.  I was rooting for him right from the very first page, and I didn't stop.  At least, not until the last page when the book ended. Then I was sad, because I wouldn't get to read about him until the sequel comes out. He was so incredibly realistic. He had a perfect balance of good qualities and flaws, which made me like him even more.


The other characters were awesome, too!  I thought Nita was also very real, and so were Pima, Sadna, and all the others. I even liked Tool. I hated Nailer's dad, of course. He got what he deserved.

Plot: *****
It started out a bit on the slow side, but it picked up really fast after that.  I loved all of Nailer's conflict around what to do about Nita. It wasn't too fast, yet it was exciting. I didn't want to put the book down. I also liked where it ended; it wrapped some things up, but left you wanting the sequel anyways.

Uniqueness: ***** 
This was fresh and new. It didn't copy anyone or anything, and it left The Giver alone, which most dystopians have problems doing.

Writing: *****  
I really enjoyed the writingThe author had a great way of telling things, and it was almost poetic, in a weird way that clashed with the book but still worked.  He did a fantastic job with capturing Nailer's voice.  He used quite a few fragments, but they actually worked, so I liked them.  Awesome writing.

That being said, I did find a minor typo on page 285.

Likes:
Um...the whole thing?

Not-so-great:
I feel like a series with cool titles like Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities should have a better series title than just Ship Breaker.

Total Score:
I really, really liked this.  I feel like there's an echo in here, but really: it was fresh, and new, and exciting.  It was different than other dystopians, and had amazing characters and a really compelling plot.  And great writing.  The setting was creepy, and fantastically real.  I could definitely see this happening to our world.  I need to get my hands on the sequel, The Drowned Cities!  Highly recommended.

*And I thought Paolini was fun to say.
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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nightspell (Mistwood #2) by Leah Cypess

Nightspell (Mistwood, #2)
Here be ghosts, the maps said, and that was all. 

In this haunted kingdom, ghosts linger—not just in the deepest forests or the darkest caverns, but alongside the living, as part of a twisted palace court that revels all night and sleeps through the daylight hours. 

Darri's sister was trapped in this place of fear and shadows as a child. And now Darri has a chance to save her sister . . . if she agrees to a betrothal with the prince of the dead. But nothing is simple in this eerie kingdom—not her sister, who has changed beyond recognition; not her plan, which will be thrown off track almost at once; and not the undead prince, who seems more alive than anyone else. 

In a court seething with the desire for vengeance, Darri holds the key to the balance between life and death. Can her warrior heart withstand the most wrenching choice of all?

Since Mistwood was so much like Graceling, I expected this to be very similar.  After reading the entire book, I still have no idea what Nightspell has to do with Mistwood, but at least it was much more original.

I loved the setting.  It was so well-described, and just plain cool.  And creepy.  I loved the idea that ghosts of murder victims remain at court until they avenge themselves.  That part of the book was done very, very well, and I'd be interested in reading more books set in this world. 

Apart from the cool setting, though, this didn't improve on what I felt were Mistwood's weaknesses.  The characters were maybe a tiny bit more well-developed, but not by much.  I was struggling to care about them all the way through.  I don't know what it was about them, but I just had a hard time connecting. 

The court intrigue was okay, but it got very predictable in places.  Again, I wasn't given a reason to care about any of it.  Usually I love all the who-gets-to-be-heir and so on, but this just didn't stand out in my mind.  I wanted it to be more intense and unexpected.

Overall, Nightspell was an okay read.  I really liked the setting, but the rest of it fell a bit flat.  If you liked Mistwood, then go ahead and try this.   Even if you haven't read Mistwood, try it if it looks interesting to you, because they aren't related, but otherwise I'd pass.  Not horrible, but not great either.  I enjoyed it, but definitely not as much as I could have, given the awesome premise.

 

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