Saturday, March 31, 2012

Monthly Recap: March 2012

Books
In March, I read Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble (3 stars), The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (4 stars), Unwind by Neal Shusterman (4 stars), Morpheus Road: The Light by D. J. MacHale (4 stars), and Terrier by Tamora Pierce (4 stars).  Like last month, unfortunately, no 5 star books, but at least nothing was below 3 stars.  My favorite was either The Girl of Fire and Thorns, or The Light. 

Writing Links
This month, I read a wonderfully motivational post on kickstarting your writing this spring.  I found articles on working with multiple POV characters, a helpful overview of where to go with your revision, when not to tell your character's backstory, making a living as a writer, and a list of 20 careers in creative writing.  I posted on writing dialogue and alternatives to Inkpop, and I compiled a list of awesome quotes about writing.

Other Links
This cover was revealed this month.  Me thinks 'tis snazzy.
A way-too-entertaining, highly informative list of 100 cool facts about Lord of the RingsThe Hunger Games, in amusing charts.  An article about how the moon and tides may have affected the Titanic.  A puzzling brain teaser thing that will frustrate you until you get it right (hint: right-clicking may help you solve it).  There's a hilarious post at Hyperbole and a Half (if you've never checked out this blog, you should...but be warned about the occasional questionable language) listing 7 exciting games you can play with a brick.  Okay, it's from a long time ago, but it's still worth posting.  So is the awkward situation survival guide, from the same site.  Owl City's Adam Young posted some interesting thoughts on how different people listen to music.

Annie News/Etc.
I've been accepted to work this summer at Celebrate Me Week, a Christian summer camp for sixth graders going into seventh grade.  It's going to be a lot of fun!  So if you happen to know someone who's currently a fifth grader (they'll be able to go not this summer, but next, 'cause this year is full) in MN, tell them to check it out.  (There, that was my shameless promotion.)  I've also discovered The Afters' new song, which is beyond amazing.
How about you?  What did you read this month?  What interesting links and things did you find? 

PS: I wrote up a list of what not to do in Middle Earth.  I'm not sure if I'll post it.  Should I?

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Light (Morpheus Road #1) by D. J. MacHale

Marshall Seaver is being haunted.

In the first installment of this chillingly compelling trilogy, sixteen-year-old Marshall discovers that something beyond our world is after him. The eerie clues pile up quickly, and when people start dying, it’s clear whatever this is, it’s huge.

Marshall has no idea what’s happening to him, but he’s soon convinced that it has something to do with his best friend Cooper, who’s been missing for over a week. Together with Coop’s sister, Marsh searches for the truth about what happened to his friend, ultimately uncovering something bigger than he could ever have imagined.


First Look: ***** I don’t know why I haven’t picked this up before now. What was I waiting for? I mean, it’s D. J. MacHale, who wrote the amazing-beyond-amazing Pendragon series. I’m now convinced that MacHale is genius in carbon form.*

Setting: ***** Stony Brook! I loved how the story took place in the same town as the Pendragon series started out in. The town itself isn’t anything special, it’s just a smallish town. But I like how MacHale used the same places (school, restaurant, etc.) from Pendragon.

Characters: ***** I liked Marsh because he reminded me of myself, in that he’s very introverted and doesn’t mind it one bit. He’s not really an outcast, but he’s not popular, either. But he wasn’t the cliché loner-friendless-kid, either, which I liked. He seemed very realistic.

I really felt for him. I felt his emotions when he remembered his mom, when he thought of his missing best friends. He went through quite a bit, and he reacted to this in ways that a real person would react.

Plot: ***** I’ve never been a huge fan of straight-up ghost stories (probably because most fail to creep me out as promised), but I liked this one. The storyline had plenty of mystery and suspense, enough to keep me interested all the way through. I liked how this book blended paranormal and reality. There was the whole creepy supernatural ghost thing going on. At the same time, Marsh also had real-life problems, like his missing best friend. I liked how they remained separate at first, but then became intertwined.

Uniqueness: ***** It’s a paranormal story, but it’s unique. It's what I call "real paranormal". It stands out from the pile of YA novels that deal with ghosts and other similar things.

Writing: ***** D. J. MacHale can write. Yes, that’s all I can say.

Okay, fine. I’ll elaborate. Starting this, I was a bit afraid that the awesome voice from Pendragon wouldn’t carry through to this series. I soon found out that it wouldn’t be a problem. MacHale is the only author I know of that can write his action scenes in fairly large block paragraphs and still have them work. If most other writers tried this, it’d be boring and hard to read. But somehow, MacHale pulls it off.

Likes: MARK DIMOND!!!! A wild Mark Dimond appears! For those of you who don’t know, Mark was a major character in the Pendragon series. Through all ten books, he was one of my absolute favorites. And he was mentioned in this book. This made me extremely happy. Yay.

Also, here's a did-you-know?: Morpheus is the Greek god of dreams.  I'm curious to see is this comes into play later in the series, or if it was just used for the cool name. 

Not-so-great: "Find the poleaxe, Marshall.  Bring me the poleaxe!"  It seems to me like Marsh has a cell phone and iPod, but no Google.  He keeps being told to get the poleaxe, but he keeps desperately insisting he has no idea what a poleaxe is.  Why don't you look it up, genius?  Or here, let me Google that for you.

Total Score: I really liked this book. It was different from many things I read, which was a good thing. I liked Marsh as a character. The whole book was exciting, mysterious, and creepy. It takes quite a bit in a book to creep me out, but this was definitely getting there. And the ending leaves the story in a place where you just have to know more. Recommended for fans of ghost stories, or other “real paranormal” books (none of these vampires and angels and such). And D. J. MacHale fans, of course.

*It’s entirely possible that no one has ever before been called “genius in carbon form”. It’s like that game where you try to come up with a sentence that’s never been said or written before. Like “Plaid flannel-loving squirrels are not Facebook fans of Darren Criss, nor are they close relatives of Steve Jobs.”

Reviews of other Morpheus Road novels:
The Black (Morpheus Road #2)
The Blood (Morpheus Road #3)
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Tips on Writing Dialogue

Dialogue is one of the most important aspects of a book.  Without good, realistic dialogue, your characters will fall flat.  Your story will fall flat.  Unfortunately, it just so happens that dialogue is also one of the hardest things to write well.  Earlier, I wrote a post on the proper grammar and formatting of dialogue.  Now I'll talk about the other aspects.


When you were younger, you were probably told to use words other than said in your dialogue tags (a tag is "he said", "she asked", etc.).  You were probably told to go all out and use inquired, interjected, shouted, whispered, and a host of other assorted beasties. 


Disregard this.  Why?  I'll show you.

"I heard what you said about me yesterday," Susan said, slamming her lunch tray down onto the table.
"What?  I didn't say anything about you yesterday," Julie said.
"Don't lie to me," Susan snapped.  "I heard it all."
"Yeah?  Go on, then, what did I say?"
"You told everyone I'm in love with John Johnson, which I most certainly am not," Susan said.


This is a terrible example, but I hope it serves my purpose.  When you read that snippet, you knew that Susan and Julie were trading lines back and forth.  You knew this because, in all but one case, I used dialogue tags.  Now go up and look it over again.  Did you notice that I used said three times in the space of five lines?  (Alright, maybe you did.  If you need a better example of this, go and pick up any book, find some dialogue, and read carefully.)

Many times, your brain simply skips over the said.  You registered the name of the speaker, but probably skimmed the said.  In most cases, a simple said or asked is much more effective than something fancier.  If you go overboard, your reader will start to pay more attention to the tag than the words being said, and then you're in trouble.  For example, if you wrote "I think that's a horrible idea," she expostulated. it would sound ridiculous.  Never let your dialogue tags take away from your dialogue.

The trouble is, you can't use said every single time, either.  It would stick out and sound awkward.  The trick is to find a happy medium.  Use said often, but don't let it become the only tag you know how to use.  Writing effective dialogue tags is something that takes practice and lots of trial-and-error (even I'm still working on it!), but you'll get there. 

In many cases, you won't even need a tag at all.  Often, your narration between dialogue will serve that purpose all on its own.  Think of the last conversation you had.  You probably didn't just sit there and talk.  You (or the other person) ate something.  You played with your keys or flipped your phone open and closed.  You walked, ran, smiled, cried, put your hair into a ponytail, drove, etc. 

Characters are the same way.  As a general rule, they'll be doing something while they are talking.  Which means that you'll have to put narration between dialogue.  In these cases, you don't need a dialogue tag at all.  Don't use one.  Consider this:

"And just how do you think we'll accomplish that?" Fred asked, kicking a rock that was in his path.

There's a dialogue tag there.  But is it really needed?  No, it isn't.  Here's the same line, without the tag:

"And just how do you think we'll accomplish that?"  Fred kicked a rock that was in his path.

I took out the Fred asked, because we already know that Fred asked it.  Hence the question mark.  There's no reason for the tag, since I've got a line of narration in there anyway.  This way, I eliminate an unneeded word and make it easier to read.

Yet another thing to consider while writing dialogue is that people have their own ways of speaking.  If you listen closely to people, you'll notice they have words they favor.  Some people use cliches like "It was raining cats and dogs".  Some people use "well" or "so" quite often.  A person that grew up in a household that spoke both Spanish and English will probably throw in a few Spanish words into their English, whether they realize it or not. 

Take telling someone to open a door, for example:
Bob the businessman: "Open the door."
Grandma Agnes who bakes everyone cookies all the time: "Would you please be a doll and open the door?"
Bruce the school bully that you're stuck with for a group project: "Open the door, punk."  (except that I've never heard someone use "punk" in real life like that.  But oh well.)
The shy, non-confrontational person: Doesn't even ask you, just opens the door themselves.
The ex-boyfriend that you never want to speak to again, but you're trapped in the same room: Won't ask you either, just sends meaningful glances between you and the door in the hope that you'll get the message.

Each person has their own way of saying things.  As a general rule (with some exceptions), you should not be able to take a snatch of dialogue from one character and give it to another, without having to make some changes first.  Even your characters will have different speaking patterns, so no two should be alike. 

The last thing I want to point out is how often writers use "hissed" as a dialogue tag.  This makes no sense.  Unless there is an S somewhere in that word or phrase, it is impossible to hiss it.  Try hissing the sentence How are you today?  It just doesn't work.

I think I covered everything.  Again, here is a post on the proper grammar and formatting of dialogue.  If you have any questions or comments, don't hesitate to let me know!  If you want to know more, here is another excellent article about dialogue.
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Friday, March 23, 2012

Unwind (Unwind #1) by Neal Shusterman

Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

First Look: ***** I’ve had this recommended to me by multiple people. The cover is very creepy, and the premise as well. It looked interesting, though, so I had to try it. Mainly, I just wanted to see how the premise was carried out.

 
Setting: *****
It was interesting enough. I didn’t particularly fall in love with it, but I appreciated that it was well thought-out. I liked how the author actually gave us a history for this world, and a reason for it to be a dystopia. So many dystopian books just hand us a messed-up world, without any explanation for how it got that way. So it was interesting to know how it came to be, not just how it is. (By the way, a message for dystopia writers: Explanation and backstory for your world is not merely a nice option. It is a MUST.)

Characters: *****
My favorite part about the characters was that they were very relatable. Also, they seemed very realistic. These things both added a whole new level of creepy to the story. Lev, Risa, and Connor all seemed like real people, who could be anyone from school. Lev was really the interesting one, because he’d been raised in such an odd, twisted way. Risa’s story was just sad, and I really felt for Connor.

I also liked Emby. And CyFi, though he kinda creeped me out at the same time.


Plot: *****
Lots of action. Yay for action! The plot really kept me wanting to read it, to find out what was going to happen next and if Risa, Connor, and Lev would manage to survive. And at the end, it left me wanting the next book, so I can know what happens next!

Uniqueness: ***** This book stands out from today’s crowd of dystopian YA. And I don’t think any author will be brave enough to try to copy it, either.

Writing: *****
At times, the writing threw me off. It was in third person, but present tense, a somewhat unusual combination (in my experience, at least). Most of the time it worked just fine, but once and awhile it would jar me out of the story. It probably would’ve worked better in past tense. Other than that, though, there were no typos or anything. Not that I can remember, at least.

Likes: After reading this, I can’t figure out whether the author is pro-life or pro-choice. I’m considering this a good thing because, though I definitely stand on one side of that line, nobody likes to read a preachy book. The author managed to stay on the line between, never saying he’s in favor of one or the other, just saying “See? This could happen. Don’t let it.” No matter what your opinion is, this book will leave you with quite a bit to think about.

Not-so-great:
The whole idea of unwinding just made me cringe. As the author intended, I suppose.

This is neither a like nor a dislike, but I feel it’s worth mentioning. There was one scene, towards the end, that was just….wow. Not really a good wow, but a that-was-shocking wow. It was creepy. Very, very creepy. Not pleasant to read. Anyone who’s read this book knows what I’m talking about. Not for the faint of heart, people.

Total Score: I enjoyed this book. The characters were very realistic, which went a long way towards how well I liked it. The dystopian setting was also realistic. This book definitely makes you think. It’s not a book to take lightly—not that you should take any book lightly, but this one especially sets you thinking. It asks big questions, and doesn’t necessarily answer them for the reader. Recommended for just about anyone who thinks they can handle the difficult premise.


PS: That lovely scene I was talking about?  There's a (sort of) reenaction in this video right here.  Because, well, nothin' like a lovely unwinding to make your day better.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1) by Rae Carson





         
Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.


But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.
First Look: ***** I’ve wanted to get my hands on a copy of this since it came out. It looked like it had an exciting premise. And not many YA high fantasy novels are being published lately, so I’m always happy to check out new releases in this genre.

Setting: ***** I really enjoyed this setting. It was so richly imagined. Rae Carson has some excellent worldbuilding going on here. She found just the right balance between detail and infodumping. She gave us unique and cool tidbits about the universe she created, but not so much that it got boring and annoying. 

The setting caught me by surprise, in a good way. I was expecting a standard European-ish fantasy setting. Don’t get me wrong, I like these kinds of worlds, if done well enough. But the more Mexican-ish twist was very unique and well-done. It could have very easily fallen flat on its face, but luckily it worked and made for an awesome setting.

Characters: ***** Overall, I thought the characters were well-developed. Our main character, Elisa, was an interesting protagonist. The fact that she was overweight was a bit overdone (do we really need a reminder of this every other page?), but other than that I liked her. She was likable, but flawed enough to make a realistic character.

I liked the supporting characters, too. Especially Humberto. As love interests go, he was definitely one of the few that actually deserve the girl’s love. Alejandro was not exactly all that likable, but he definitely seemed like a real person. Even if every time I read his name, all I could think was “Don’t call my name, don’t call my name…Alejandro”.


Plot:
***** Yay for unique high fantasy plots! Again, I like my high fantasy a tad on the archetypal side (I mean, I love Eragon. That should say it all.), but I also appreciate something fresh and new. This was definitely one of those cases. The plot was exciting. It moved along at nice pace, never getting too slow or boring. 

I liked the number of twists and turns in this book. A few of them I saw coming. *spoiler ahead--highlight to read*Especially with Alejandro. I’m sorry, but there was just no way he was going to survive the entire book.*end of spoiler* Other than that, though, it threw a good few things at me that I wasn’t expecting. Which I like.

Uniqueness: ***** It was fresh and unique. Yay.

Writing:
***** Argh, it’s been longer than I’d like since I actually finished this book. My reviews have been slow in coming as of late, due to teachers dumping piles of homework on my head and not giving me a chance to rest. I don’t recall anything major that bothered me about the writing, which is good. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but there were no typos and it did a good job telling the story.

Likes:
I definitely wasn’t expecting the Christian aspect of this. If you aren’t a Christian, you’ll still enjoy this book, but the Christian-ness is there. I appreciated it.

Not-so-great:
Nothing that’s worth mentioning here.

Total Score: I very much enjoyed this book. It was fresh and unique, with an exciting premise that was as good as it promised to be. The characters were interesting, and likable. The setting, in my opinion, was the best part of the book. It was rich and just as exciting as the plot itself. Recommended for fantasy fans, especially fans of unique worlds, like Eon: Dragoneye Reborn (and if you haven’t read Eon yet, you need to, right now! It’s amazing. Ahem.).

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Alternatives to Inkpop

Many, if not all, of you were Inkies.  Well, you still are an Inkie.  Just because Inkpop.com itself no longer exists doesn't mean you aren't an Inkie. 

But since Inkpop is gone, you might be looking for some new writing sites to turn to.  You've probably heard of these, but I'm going to highlight the pros and cons of each, to help you decide which, if any, are right for you.

(Skip to the bottom for my rant.)

Wattpad
Pros: Seemingly active forums. Copy-and-paste disabled.  Lots of projects to read.  Many Inkies are over there.  There is a mobile app.

Cons:  I've seen very little in the way of in-depth reviews.  No publication opportunities.

Figment 
Pros: Active forums.  Lots of projects.  Many, many users.  Many Inkies can be found.  There are writing contests and opportunities to win prizes.

Cons: Copy-and-paste not disabled (but the disabling is in the works, apparently).  No publication opportunities.  Again, I've seen very few Inkpop-quality reviews.  The forums are incredibly full of angst, and have more trolls than I ever saw on Inkpop.  No mobile app or site.

Teen Ink
Pros: Lots of projects to read.  Focus on short stories, short nonfiction, and poetry.  Publication opportunities.  Visual art also accepted.

Cons: Seemingly inactive forums.  Not as much focus on novel-length work (though this could also be a pro, depending on what you're into).  No in-depth reviews.  Copy-and-paste not disabled.

Literati Sedition
Pros: In-depth reviews.  Constructive criticism galore.  They refer to themselves as "literary bootcamp".

Cons: Users are required to critique.  Application required.  No publication opportunities. 

The cons are not reasons to avoid the site.  They are not necessarily bad things.  They are just a way to compare writing sites to help you find a match. 

If you didn't know already, there is a Facebook group for Inkies.  It's right here.

What do you think?  Are you getting involved in other writing sites?  Anything else that we should look into?

(The following is a much-belated rant.  You have been warned.  And yes, I forgot all about the pictures until now, so this post has been edited as of 3/26.)

I loved Inkpop.  I really did.  I gained so much from it.  I learned so many new things about writing. I gained so much support. I had a place to talk to other

writers.

Remember this?  Ah, the good old green days of Inkpop.  Note the Top Five....




HarperCollins took that away. As one much-quoted Inkie, Nata (of the blog Cherry Tree Notes), said: "HC, you have hosted the future of writing on Inkpop. The NYT best-sellers and the next Tolkiens and J.K. Rowlings, and you have let them down."

Now, it's one thing for HC to sell Inkpop to Figment. They're a business, too, and they need to make money. I completely respect that. 

But the way they handled it was simply and utterly lovely. (Sarcasm is so hard to get through on a blog post....) Seriously. One Inkie somehow came across an article that said that Inkpop had been sold. A thread was posted. 

Cue massive panic. 
Only then does HC decide to come out and tell us what's going on. They say "You've got until March 1." Which gave us about three days, at that point. 

A month's warning, and the whole ordeal would've been so much better for everyone involved. Even a week. But no, they gave us three days. 

My question is this: If that Inkie hadn't found that article, would HC have told us at all? I don't think I want to know the answer. 

It's not like we couldn't see it coming. The Inkpop editor hadn't been online in days. People weren't getting their Top Five reviews. Weekly challenges had been completely abandoned. But still. I can't get over the fact that they only told us once we had figured it out on our own. 

I suppose the Carrier of the Mark-author incident didn't help. We won't even go there. 

This quote, said by someone from HC, didn't help, either: “Initially we thought, writers are great readers, so we’ll help people with their writing and benefit from that community. But we’re really a business focused on readers, and there are many more readers out there than there are writers.”

Um, excuse me? Writers write the books that all those readers read. Without writers, where would HC be? Where would any publishing company be? I understand what this person was trying to say, but it doesn't sit well with me. Besides, I don't know a single writer who isn't also a dedicated reader.

Moral of the story: if you're going to shut down a website, give people warning. And don't underestimate the power of an angry writing community. Especially when HC wants us to move to Figment. That fact alone, I do believe, caused many, many Inkies to not even consider Figment and go to Wattpad instead.

Because Inkpop was more than a website. It was a community. It was a way of life. 

Once an Inkie, always an Inkie. 

I tried to go out with a bang.  Also, notice the spectacular profile picture.
Although I would love to see a comparison of the number of HC books purchased by Inkies before the shutdown and compare it to the number purchased after the shutdown.

The first part of this post was also seen over at The Writer's Help Society.
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dreaming Anastasia (Dreaming Anastasia #1) by Joy Preble

What really happened to Anastasia Romanov?

Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn't. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead.

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn't know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams....


First Look: ***** I wanted to read this as soon as I saw the words Anastasia Romanov glaring at me from the tagline.  I watched the movie Anastasia many, many times as a child.  This has led to something close to a fascination, for me.  I read the Royal Diaries book about her more times than I care to count.  It's strangely disappointing to know that she didn't actually survive, because thinking she died is just so much more boring.  And yes, I was disappointed to realize that even if she had survived, she'd be dead by now anyway.  *sigh*

Setting: ***** It was okay.  I never really got much detail about the setting.  I couldn't really immerse myself in it.  Not much attention was payed to it at all.  Then again, most of it happened in Chicago, but still.  It would've been much, much cooler if it had been set in Russia, during the Romanov time period. 

Characters: *****
Anne had a really, really cool name.  Seriously.  The coolest name that exists.  It just so happens that certain writers of this blog are also named Anne....  Anyway, I was a bit annoyed with the fact that she shared my name.  I wouldn't have had a problem if I had liked her more, but I really didn't like her all that much.  She just seemed passive and bratty and stereotypical. 

The supporting characters were more interesting.  I was on the line with Ethan, we'll give him a break because his name is Etanovich.  How cool is that?  I love that name.  Ahem.  He had some interesting backstory, too, as did some of the other characters.  The story should've centered around them, instead of Anne.

And Anne's best friend--I can't even remember her name anymore--bothered me to no end.  She was incredibly annoying and unrealistic. 

Plot: ***** 
It definitely took the plot awhile to actually get going.  And once it did, there were some exciting spots, but I just didn't really feel the intensity level that could have been there.  It had all the right ingredients to be awesome, but it just didn't do it for me.  More time was spent researching and talking things over than actually trying to fix some of these problems.

Again, I think the whole story should've focused more on the backstory.  Like the Romanovs, especially the Tsar's illegitimate son and the young Etanovich.  That wouldn't been much cooler. 

Uniqueness: *****
The Anastasia thing was unique.  For a few chapters it seriously looked like it was going to be very similar to Twilight (I know, right?  In a novel about the Romanovs, too.  *headdesk*).  Luckily, it didn't go in that direction. 

Writing: *****   There was nothing huge that bothered me.  No big, reoccurring problems.  Just some awkward phrasings here and there, with a typo or two, if I remember correctly.  Nothing much else to say about it. 

Likes: Anastasia!!!!  Ahem.  Yep.  And Etanovich is just way too much fun to say.

Not-so-great:
The font of Anastasia's letters.  I had a lot of trouble reading it.  Yeah, it looked like someone actually wrote it, but it wasn't necessary.  It made my eyes hurt.

I kept wanting Dmitri to show up.  Yes, this Dmitiri:
But he didn't.  I don't think I should be surprised, but I'm definitely disappointed.  Which really makes no sense, but....whatever.  (By the way, I like his hat.  Why don't people wear ridiculously tall hats anymore?)

Total Score:
This was an okay read.  It presented some interesting ideas, with an exciting premise.  Unfortunately, the intensity level just wasn't there.  The characters really weren't likable enough to make this a memorable read.  If you're like me and the Romanovs tend to interest you for some odd reason, go ahead and try it.  If not, I'd pass on this one.
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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Quotes for Writers

The post title says it all.  Here are some of my favorite quotes on writing:

“If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf.”
― Lemony Snicket

“So what? All writers are lunatics!”
― Cornelia Funke

“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
― Toni Morrison

“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
― Stephen King

“Someone needs to tell those tales...There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words.”
― Erin Morgenstern

“The trouble with quotes on the internet is that it’s difficult to discern whether or not they are genuine.”
― Abraham Lincoln

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
― J.K. Rowling

“Don't loaf and invite inspiration; light out after it with a club.”
― Jack London

“Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way.”
― Steve Martin

“we write every day, we fight every day, we think and scheme and dream a little dream every day. manuscripts pile up in the kitchen sink, run-on sentences dangle around our necks. we plant purple prose in our gardens and snip the adverbs only to thread them in our hair. we write with no guarantees, no certainties, no promises of what might come and we do it anyway. this is who we are.”
― Tahereh Mafi  (No caps because that's how Tahereh Mafi blogs.  And yet her blog is still awesome, because she neglects capitalization with style.)

“Some writers enjoy writing, I am told. Not me. I enjoy having written.”
― George R.R. Martin

I want to blow this up really big and put it on my ceiling,
above my bed.
“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”
― Madeleine L'Engle

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
― Mark Twain

“You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.”
― Saul Bellow

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”
― Robert Frost

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”
― Stephen King

"A writer writes not because they like to write, but because writing is something that is ingrained in every fiber of their being."
― Me (from this blog post)

“Read, read, read. Read everything -- trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You'll absorb it.
Then write. If it's good, you'll find out. If it's not, throw it out of the window.”
― William Faulkner

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.”
― Isaac Asimov

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
― Charles Baudelaire

“Write the kind of story you would like to read. People will give you all sorts of advice about writing, but if you are not writing something you like, no one else will like it either.”
― Meg Cabot

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”
― John Steinbeck

“If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don't write, because our culture has no use for it.”
― Anaïs Nin

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“I want to gather up all the ink cartridges in the universe, because somewhere, mixed in with all that ink, is the next great American novel. And I’d love nothing more than to drink it.”
― Jarod Kintz

"One does not simply write a novel.  It is folly."
Creative Writing Cat

“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
― Markus Zusak

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
― Thomas Mann

And my all-time favorite:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
― Stephen King

You can learn quite a bit from quotes.  There are many, many more out there, if you just search "quotes on writing".  And no, I'm not an advertiser for Stephen King.  I've never read a book by him.  I just think he has good quotes on writing. 

And yes, I had to throw in the Lincoln one.

What are your favorite quotes on writing?

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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

Gwyna is just a girl who is forced to run when her village is attacked and burns to the ground. To her horror, she is discovered in the wood. But it is Myrddin the bard who has found her, a traveler and spinner of tales. He agrees to protect Gwyna if she will agree to be bound in service to him. Gwyna is frightened but intrigued-and says yes-for this Myrddin serves the young, rough, and powerful Arthur. In the course of their travels, Myrddin transforms Gwyna into the mysterious Lady of the Lake, a boy warrior, and a spy. It is part of a plot to transform Arthur from the leader of a ragtag war band into King Arthur, the greatest hero of all time.

If Gwyna and Myrrdin's trickery is discovered, what will become of Gwyna? Worse, what will become of Arthur? Only the endless battling, the mighty belief of men, and the sheer cunning of one remarkable girl will tell.


NOTE: This review will be shorter than usual.  As much as I'd like to go in-depth, I'm backed up on reviews.  Hopefully after this one, I can get my reviewing back to normal.

First Look: ***** I've been walking past this in the library for years.  I've picked it up a few times, read the inside jacket, then put it back.  Finally, I just decided to pick it up and see what it's all about.

Setting: ***** Usually, I'm a big fan of medieval historical settings.  But this one just felt...okay, to me.  It wasn't anything that stood out from the crowd.  I didn't get a really good feel of the time or place.  It just wasn't that impressive, not something I could really immerse myself in.

Characters: *****
Again, this aspect of the book was just okay.  I didn't really feel for the main character, Gwyna, but I didn't dislike her, either.  She would've made for a much better protagonsit if she actually made things happen.  Of course, the plot didn't really lend itself to making things happen, but I'll talk about that in the next section.  The supporting characters weren't memorable at all. 

Plot:
***** There isn't much plot to speak of.  Nothing really happened in this book.  Yes, the characters went places and did things, but it didn't really mean anything to me.  None of it really connected.  It just seemed like a string of incidents, which is definitely not the same thing as a plot.

Uniqueness: ****
It is a bit different from your standard Arthurian fiction, but it's not a huge standout, either.

Writing: *****
I couldn't connect through the writing to the story.  It felt a bit disconnected, like the voice was off from the main character's personality, or something.  Other than that it was decent, with no major awkardness or anything.

Likes: I did like the twists on the usual stories, like the part with the Lady of the Lake.

Not-so-great:
Nothing not already mentioned above.

Total Score:
For me, this book is just a big "meh".  It was incredibly in-the-middle.  The characters were okay, but not fabulous.  The plot dragged a bit, and nothing really seemed to happen.  This is honestly one of the most solid three-star reviews I've ever done.  There were things I liked, things I didn't.  If it looks interesting, I'd recommend picking it up, but if it doesn't jump out at you right away then I wouldn't bother.


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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Monthly Recap: February 2012

I've decided to start doing an end-of-month update at the end of each month.  In these updates, I'll post various links I've discovered, helpful writing articles, random amusing things, news, books read, the current price of tea in China, etc.  If they seem to go over well and I find things to write in them, then I'll continue them.  If not, then, well, I won't. 

Books
In February, I read The Shifter by Janice Hardy (3 stars), Legend by Marie Lu (4 stars), Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (4 stars), Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (4 stars), and Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve (3 stars).  No five star books this month, but luckily no books under 3 stars, either!  Out of all of them, my favorite was Legend, with Airborn a very close second.

Writing Links
I blogged about commonly mutilated words, and I compared your novel to clingwrap.   Janice Hardy had an interesting post about making your readers care.  There's a good post at Seeing Creative about odd phrasing (and it's something you might do more than you realize).  I found posts on plotting in layers, a post on voice in writing, and more. 

Other Links
I blogged about the actual probability of love at first sight, and posted about the cover reveals for The Crimson Crown and The Last Guardian (and at the bottom of this post I briefly discussed how SMeyer is apparently anti-human) There's an adorable video (with kittens AND books) at the ever-awesome Reasoning With Vampires.  I found a hilarious awful teen paranormal romance generator.  It's incredibly awesome.  You should really check it out.

The Inkpocalypse
Inkpop is gone.  Forever.  HarperCollins sold it to Figment.  And they were utterly lovely about the way they handled the whole thing.  (And that was sarcasm.)  I am not happy at all.  Expect a full-blown rant in the near future.  Read the original article, and a much better one for the full story.

Blog News
We have 52 followers!  Way to go, people!  You are awesome!  Ahem.  Anyway...  Popular posts in February were my review of The Death Cure, a post comparing your novel to clingwrap, the post about the probability of love at first sight, my mini-reviews of Monsters of Men, Legend, and Shifter, and Dear Secular Music.


While I'm at it, I've been tagged by the lovely Sareh from Birds of a Writer.  Because I've been tagged, my quest (yep, quest) is to answer these questions.  While I'm not going to tag anyone because I'm really not close enough with five other bloggers to tag them (what can I say?  I'm an introvert...), I'm going to post the rules anyway.  And if you want to do this, consider yourself tagged!
  1. What is your favorite book/author and why? I can't really pin down any specific favorite book.  I have many favorites.  But for the sake of picking something, I almost always say Eragon by Christopher Paolini.   Despite the hatred it tends to receive on a regular basis (largely from the Star Wars fandom), I love it. 
  2. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?  Antarctica.  No lie.  I really want to see all the ice.  I've seen pictures, and it can be really pretty in places.
  3. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Or a little of both?  Introvert!  I can't even comprehend being an extrovert.  And I'm very content with my introvertedness.
  4. What was/is your favorite class in high school?  It tends to change, but right now I have to go with...band!
  5. If you could have any animal (real or imaginable) what would it be?  Real?  A horse.  Imaginary?  DRAGON!
  6. Who inspires you to be the best person you can be? No one specific, really.  Just people in general that do good things, the things that rekindle that spark of hope for humanity.  That's what's inspiring. 
  7. Has there ever been one person/thing/event that's changed your life for the good or bad? (If you don't want to explain it, you don't have to.)  Again, there's really nothing specific.  I think everything that's ever happened to me has changed me somehow, for better or worse.
  8. Would you like to be a famous musician/artist/reporter/talk show host/etc? (Don't say writer if you are a writer.)  Other than writer, I always thought it would be fun to be a musician.  If I could sing, that is....
  9. What was the scariest thing you've ever done?  Um...I went down a black-diamond ski run named Lift Face yesterday?  But that actually wasn't scary.  I can think of one scary thing right now, but unfortunately...I'm not going to share it here.  Sorry. :) 
  10. What is your best memory?  I have lots of them, but what springs to mind right away are all the fun times with my family in our little pop-up camper.
  11. What is your quest? (and where is that from?)  My quest?  To get published.  To graduate high school?  I'm not sure what's meant by "quest" here, but here are a few things I want to do before I die: watch a foal being born, go to Antarctica, eat chili when it's chilly in Chile, learn a language other than English or Spanish, buy a castle (I might as well dream big), swim with dolphins, etc. 
And the rules are...
1. You post the rules!
2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
3. Tag five (it's a neat number!) people and link to them.
4. Let them know youve tagged them.
(and my own "rule") 5. If you do this, post a comment and link to the post!

My eleven questions for whoever wants to participate:
1. White cupcakes with chocolate frosting or chocolate cupcakes with white frosting?
2. Least favorite book?  Why?
3. What's your definition of reality?
4. If you could be published by any publishing company of your choice, who would it be?
5. Author you'd most like to meet?
6. A book cover that you'd blow up to wall-size and put in your room?
7. Creepiest smiley? ( :), :(, etc.)
8. Ebooks or regular books?
9. Hardcover or paperback?
10. Curling or bobsledding?
11. Why? (I'm going to leave this open-ended.  Answer however you wish. Muahaha.)
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