Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wannabe Writers #5

Wannabe Writers is a meme created by Sarah of Confessions of the Un-published!

One of my goals right now is to move my literary ambitions out of the box and onto the shelf, by which I mean that I no longer want to ignore how much I enjoy writing. I love the idea of this meme, and I'll quote from Sarah's post here:

I often find myself searching the web for information during my struggles as a new writer. So I wanted to start a place where us future young-adult authors can come together to ask those questions, share our stories, and get feedback.

I'm going to be offline for the day, but I will read your lovely comments and get back to y'all on your blogs ASAP Monday. :-)

Where I am in the writing process:  Wrapping up Novel #1. I have about 20 more pages to edit and then some new scenes to add to the ending to make it smoother. I also entered another writing contest this week.

My current problems: When do you say, "That's it"? While feedback for Novel #1 has been positive (from the 1 person that's read it), I'm still wondering if I'm just sinking time and energy into Novel #1. Is it even worth editing? Should I abandon it and focus solely on Novel #2? Is Novel #1 good/unique/long enough to query? How do you know whether or not your novel is good enough to keep spending time on?

Question(s) this week: When it comes to Young Adult, how far is too far? (I'm talking about sex here.) And while we're on the subject...how about cursing?

My stance? Anything beyond a little innocent kissing is too much for my work.
  1. Beyond that point, authors sometimes include certain licentious activities to replace a thought out, developed emotional relationship. Even in those instances when the activities in question are a culmination of a grounded relationship, these scenes often come off feeling cheap, simply a gratuitous ploy to sell a novel.
  2. Writers should be writing books for young adults, and not all young adults jump into bed with their SOs. Too many books on the market treat teenagers as if they have no control over their rampant hormones whatsoever. You know what? Some teenagers say no. A lot more of them struggle to say no. We need to include stories about the teens that succeed as well as those who don't.
  3. I strive to be a good role model in everything I do. Always act--and write--as if someone's watching--and reading. I could not, in good conscience, write about activities that violate my personal beliefs, thereby condoning such activities.
  4. If I would be embarrassed to show my work to my mother, grandmother or teenage cousins, it's inappropriate.
As for swearing, I don't include it in my own works. (See points 3 and 4 above.) If there's a character that seems to be the swearing type, I get around it by textually omitting the words.
For instance, "Shaking a mottled fist, he yelled, 'Get offa my lawn!' Of course, being the crotchety old man that he was, he included a few other choice words as well."
And okay, that's not a great example, but it's the first thing that popped into my head. Sometimes, the omission of swearing causes me to be creative with my dialogue, but since I personally don't swear, I've had a lot of practice coming up with innovative (and clean!) epithets. That said, while sex in a novel automatically earns it at least a 17+ maturity rating, a novel with swearing can still maintain a 13+ rating, depending on the amount and types of words.

Supernatural Saturday: Review of The Vampire Diaries: Dark Reunion

In the fourth and final installment, Elena Gilbert rises from the dead to recreate the powerful vampire trio. Raved "Bookwatch" of "The Vampire Diaries": "Not since "Dark Shadows" has there been such an original series".
[from Goodreads]










Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Teens who love good vampire drama
High point:  The change in POV to Bonnie
Low point: The ending
Reader maturity:  13+

In the final chapter of The Vampire Diaries, we see the mysteries of Fell's Church through the eyes of Bonnie, who struggles to change from her tendency to follow to one of leadership. Bonnie fights to keep the group together and find a way to save Elena.

In Dark Reunion, Bonnie proves to be an interesting and captivating main character, making me wish that we had seen more of her spirit in the previous three books. Unshadowed by Elena, the other characters take on an even more defined shape and form than before. The question remains about Damon's loyalty, and the reader spends the book trying to solve the puzzle along with the group of friends. The final scene is a little unsatisfactory, erasing months' worth of struggle in just a few moments, but overall I was happy with the conclusion to The Vampire Diaries.


Title:  The Vampire Diaries:  Dark Reunion
Author:  L. J. Smith
Genre: Young Adult Horror and Suspense
Year: 1992
Book Source:  Purchased

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Friday 56: Nobody's Prize

Closest Book:  Nobody's Prize

Author:  Esther Friesner
Page 56, sentence 5:  " 'You said you had two weapons bearers, but you never told me you'd robbed Aphrodite's own hearth to find this one. Nephew, I envy you.' "









Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
*Post a link along with your post back to Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Amaranthine Review: The Awakening

In the summer of her 28th year, Edna Pontellier and her children, along with the wives and families of other prospective businessmen, spend the summer in an idyllic coastal community away from their husbands and the sweltering heat of 1890s' New Orleans. Aware of deep yearnings that are unfulfilled by marriage and motherhood, Edna plunges into an illicit liaison that reawakens her long dormant desires, inflames her heart, and eventually blinds her to all else.
 [from Goodreads]
 



Rating: 5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Women of all ages, men who want to understand them, 1900s era feminists
High point: The vivid descriptions and symbolism of emotions and scenery
Low point: None
Reader maturity:  13+
Favorite quotes:  " 'Well, for instance, when I left her today, she put her arms around me and felt my shoulder blades, to see if my wings were strong,' she said."
"The voice of the sea is seductive, never ceasing, whispering, clamoring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander in abysses of solitude."

The Awakening chronicles Edna Pontellier as she discovers a life beyond being a mother and wife in the late 1800s. She defies tradition and experiments with being an independent woman, to the disapproval of her society friends and family. Symbolism abounds with purpose on every page, and Creole accents and traditions weave into the rich tapestry of the novel. Kate Chopin allows the reader to feel and be with Edna during her discoveries; alongside the main character, the reader aches for freedom and a chance to really live life the way it should be lived. The writing is thick and detailed in its flowing prose but is still a relatively easy read in modern times.

I first discovered The Awakening in high school and fell in love with Kate Chopin's works. Normally, symbolism and other tools used to analyze novels drove me away, but the vivid colors and images in The Awakening feltnatural and enhanced the reading experience. This is a book to savor for its brilliant construction, not one to rush through for a page-turning plot. The descriptions and settings are truly part of the reading experience.

The Awakening presents not only an engaging story and cast of characters but also a glimpse into the Louisiana society of the time. Like many of Kate Chopin's stories, the ending is a surprise. Although initially dissatisfied with the close, I now believe there is no other way it could have ended with such impact and drama.

Title:  The Awakening
Author:  Kate Chopin
Genre:  Women's Fiction, Drama
Year:  1899
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: Hex Hall

When Sophie Mercer turned thirteen, she discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-Gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary.  But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hecate Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward prodigium, a.k.a. witches, fae, and shapeshifters. By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard. Three powerful enemies who look like supermodels; a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock; a creepy, tag-along ghost; and a new roommate, who happens to be the most-hated person and only vampire on campus. Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her friend Jenna is the number one suspect.  Meanwhile, Sophie has a more personal shock to grapple with. Not only is her father the head of the prodigium council, he's the most powerful warlock in the world, and Sophie is his heir. As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all prodigium, especially her. 
 [from Goodreads]

This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

[Check out the giveaway on Rachel Hawkins' blog!]

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review of Airhead

Emerson Watts, 16 and female, loves playing video games, hanging out with her best friend, Christopher, and has made peace with her less-than-supermodel-esque looks. But when she's involved in a mysterious accident, she wakes up to find she's now in the body of...a supermodel. Who was behind this switch? What was the motive? And how can she get Christopher to realize she's still the same person inside?
[from Goodreads]




Rating: 3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Teens and Meg Cabot fans
High point:  Uniqueness of plot
Low point: Missing some of the pizazz that Cabot's other books contain
Reader maturity:  10+

I went into Airhead with low expectations based on reviews that I read. That's a terrible way to start a novel, but I found it used for $1 and thought I'd give it a shot because I love most of Meg Cabot's work. Just a few pages in, I was very pleasantly surprised.

Airhead is a typical Meg Cabot chick lit YA novel, in a similar vein to Avalon High and How to be Popular. The story, about a girl whose brain is transplanted into a supermodel, is unique and fun, if a little scientifically unfathomable. The author does a wonderful job of blending Em's personality with Nikki Howard's quirks and the new life Em inherits in Nikki's body. The character of Em is also well written. Em handles the situation as well as could be expected, with the usual teenage insecurities and the grounded sense of self that Em carries over from her old life.

I was disappointed with the ending until I flipped the page and realized that there's a sequel. Well, thank goodness! I didn't want to be left hanging like that. While Airhead is not groundbreaking or the first of its kind, it is still worth picking up for fun, light reading and an ending that will leave you wanting more.

Title:  Airhead
Author:  Meg Cabot
Genre:  Teen Fiction , Entertainment and Arts
Year:  2008
Book Source:  Purchased

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wannabe Writers #4

Wannabe Writers is a new meme created by Sarah of Confessions of the Un-published!

One of my goals right now is to move my literary ambitions out of the box and onto the shelf, by which I mean that I no longer want to ignore how much I enjoy writing. I love the idea of this meme, and I'll quote from Sarah's post here:

I often find myself searching the web for information during my struggles as a new writer. So I wanted to start a place where us future young-adult authors can come together to ask those questions, share our stories, and get feedback.

I'm going to be offline for the day, but I will read your lovely comments and get back to y'all on your blogs ASAP Monday. :-)

Where I am in the writing process:  This week I entered  my 2nd writing contest; the prize is a critique. I think that's the next step for Novel #1. I burned myself out last week whipping it into shape for the contest so I took a break from both novels after going through about 25 novel pages of feedback from my college critique buddy. I spent all that glorious free time reading! That's research for a writer, right?

My current problems:  I'm having trouble writing a few characters because I usually don't pay attention when I'm in their situation. How do you include ideas, concepts and actions in your novel that you're not personally skilled at?

Question(s) this week: Is editing as you go a bad thing? The day ends and many times I have less words than when I started. How do I stay focused on the end of my story?

A lot of what I've read recently insists that editing as you go is BAD, BAD, BAD, but, per my usual, I disagree. When I start to write, I back up to the beginning of the section I wrote during my previous session and edit it as I read. Then, when I've finished, I know exactly where I am in the story, and I've cleaned up some of the bits and pieces that were missing before. Sometimes it means a total re-write, and sometimes it doesn't. I find that keeping up with the editing gives me less loose ends to have to tie up, and I can make reference to certain things along the way without them seeming as forced. (Note: I don't go in and tear out entire chapters or throw out an entire plotline until I'm finished with the first draft because then I get too caught up in the details to finish the piece coherently.)

Forcing myself to focus on the end isn't really an issue for me; I'm one of those people who likes everything to be done before going on to something else. I have to finish the story before I can go back and do major continuity edits. Then I have to do a whole round of continuity edits, such as streamlining subplots and strengthening characters, before I can even think about ripping into individual sections. That's just the way my brain works (kinda like eating all my veggies at dinner before I can move on to the good stuff).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Supernatural Saturday: Review of The Vampire Diaries: The Fury

Tormented after losing the beautiful Elena, Stefan becomes determined to end the feud with his brother--no matter the cost. But mocking Stefan and Elena, Damon laughs in the face of doom.
[from Goodreads]










Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Teens who love good vampire drama
High point:  The growth of the characters, especially Bonnie, Meredith and Damon
Low point: The unbelievability of so few people noticing Elena's return
Reader maturity:  13+

In The Fury, Elena Gilbert continues her quest to find the evil haunting Fell's Church. Her whole life has been turned upside down, and she is forced to rely heavily on her friends for help, while still trying to ferret out who in Fell's Church is friend and who is foe.

The Fury rectifies several of the sticking points from the last novel. Elena shows more vulnerability than ever before and matures beyond being a popularity queen to realizing that it's alright for her to rely on her friends for support. Bonnie and Meredith become even more 3-dimensional, displaying deeper aspects of their personalities than ever before. With their increasing humanity, they also become characters more appropriate to their fictional ages, losing much of the unexplained stodginess from the earlier books.

Many times, the 2nd sequel of a book tends to disappoint, but L. J. Smith delivers a novel that is just as enjoyable as the first and much more complicated because the plot has been brewing for months now. The Fury is a must-read addition to The Vampire Diaries.

Title:  The Vampire Diaries:  The Fury
Author:  L. J. Smith
Genre: Young Adult Horror and Suspense
Year: 1991
Book Source:  Purchased

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Friday 56: Nobody's Princess

Closest Book:  Nobody's Princess

Author:  Esther Friesner
Page 56, sentence 5:  " 'Don't say that!' I exclaimed, my face hot. 'They did a good job, better than you're doing now.' "




Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
*Post a link along with your post back to Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Amaranthine Review: Heidi

Heidi is happy living in the mountains with her grandfather. One day, she is taken to the city to live with the frail and sickly Clara. Heidi longs for green fields and sunshine of the Alps. Perhaps the fresh mountain air can make Clara healthy, too.[from Goodreads]

Johanna Spyri's classic story of a young orphan sent to live with her grumpy grandfather in the Swiss Alps is retold in it's entirety in this beautifully bound hardcover edition. Heidi has charmed and intrigued readers since it's original publication in 1880. Much more than a children's story, the narrative is also a lesson on the precarious nature of freedom, a luxury too often taken for granted. Heidi almost loses her liberty as she is ripped away from the tranquility of the mountains to tend to a sick cousin in the city. Happily, all's well that ends well, and the reader is left with only warm, fuzzy thoughts. Spryi's story will never grow wearisome--and this is a very appealing edition. --Naomi Gesinger
[from Goodreads]
 
Rating: 3 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Children
High point: Heidi's cheerful attitude
Low point: Simply written
Reader maturity:  7+
Favorite quotes:  "And so the time passed happily on till evening. Then the wind began to roar louder than ever through the old fir trees; Heidi listened with delight to the sound, and it filled her heart so full of gladness that she skipped and danced round the old trees, as if some unheard of joy had come to her."
"Now she stood still to listen to the deep, mysterious voice of the wind, as it blew down to her from the mountain summits, coming nearer and nearer and gathering strength as it came, till it broke with force against the fir trees, bending and shaking them, and seeming to shout for joy, so that she too, though blown about like a feather, felt she must join in the chorus of exulting sounds."

Heidi is the story of a young girl, sent to live with her grouchy grandfather. Heidi'scharming innocence soon opens his heart, and she befriends, not only him, but Peter the goat-herd. As a companion of the invalid Clara, she learns to read and write, skills which she puts to altruistic use.

When I was younger and first read Heidi, I was captivated by her adventures and continually awed outlook on life. I commiserated with her homesickness during her sojourn in Frankfurt with Clara and rejoiced when she returned to her grandfather and helped Peter surprise the schoolteacher. Heidi allowed my imagination to soar while providing engrossing entertainment.

While the story of Heidi is still charming and the titular character just as lovable, something about the story had changed with age. The writing style is too simple, the plot is too plain, and Heidi has become saccharine. The story has become outgrown by its former childhood readers. Regardless, I give this book a "liked it" rating because I adored it as a child, and it was a wonderful book to give to a young reader.

Title:  Heidi,
Author:  Johanna Spyri
Genre:  Children's Fiction and Literature
Year:  1880
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Blogger Buddy Award

Christina over at Reading Extensively passed on the Blogger Buddy Award to me. Aww, thanks!


I'm going to pass the Blogger Buddy Award on to these great bloggers:
If you haven't yet, you should go check out their blogs. They're awesome!

Want to Read Wednesday: Hush, Hush

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along.
With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.
But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.
For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

[from Goodreads]

This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Review of Everlost

Nick and Allie don't survive the car accident...but their souls don't exactly get where they're supposed to get either. Instead, they're caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It's a magical yet dangerous place where bands of lost children run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth.

When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost kids, Nick feels like he he's found a home. But Allie isn't satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the "Criminal Art" of haunting and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost.

In this imaginative novel, Neal Shusterman explores questions of life, death, and what just might lie in between.

[from Goodreads]

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Younger teens
High point:  Uniqueness of plot
Low point: Aimed at younger readers than expected, storyline is fairly simple
Reader maturity:  10+

Everlost is a story about a boy and girl who don't survive a car accident but also don't make it to the great beyond. I had heard great things about the book and couldn't wait to dive in after I bought it. Initially, I was disappointed. The first half of the book is rather simple, both in plot and in character. I guessed at the identity of the Everlost monster and turned out to be right. All the Everlost children were so...childish; only 1 of them ever matured emotionally. The two new kids, Allie and Nick, were much smarter and adult than the other Everlost children.

About halfway through the book though, to my relief, the story picked up. Suddenly, there was action and adventure and a serious crisis, and I was hooked. Allie proved to be more than a sassy little girl and became a clever and willful protagonist. Even Nick redeemed his status as a follower and found a purpose. I don't know if I will be picking up Everwild because these books seemed aimed at younger readers, but I would definitely recommend Everlost to someone in middle school or early high school.

Title:  Everlost
Author:  Neal Shusterman
Genre:  Paranormal
Year:  2006
Book Source:  Purchased

Monday, February 15, 2010

Question: Which Book Would You Pick?

Good afternoon! I need some help from all of you avid readers. I just won a book, any book as long as Amazon carries it, from Adriana over at ~*Loves to Read*~. (You should definitely check out her blog!) What do you recommend?

The top five I'm tossing around are:
  • Incarceron
  • Leviathan
  • Boneshakers
  • The Explosionist and
  • Beautiful Creatures
I don't get brand new books very often so I want to get one that's super amazing! Which one would you pick? Do you have any other current favorites that would rock my reading world? 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wannabe Writers #3

Wannabe Writers is a new meme created by Sarah of Confessions of the Un-published!

One of my goals right now is to move my literary ambitions out of the box and onto the shelf, by which I mean that I no longer want to ignore how much I enjoy writing. I love the idea of this meme, and I'll quote from Sarah's post here:

I often find myself searching the web for information during my struggles as a new writer. So I wanted to start a place where us future young-adult authors can come together to ask those questions, share our stories, and get feedback.

I'm going to be out for the day, but I will read your lovely comments and get back to y'all on your blogs ASAP Monday. :-)

Where I am in the writing process:  I just finished my 2nd round of edits on Novel #1, and I'm about to go back through with someone's critiques in hand. Also, to partially alleviate last week's problem of my main character's likeability (and to make it more YA-ish), I'm going to chop 5 years off of her age, which I think will really help. As for Novel #2, I'm plugging away at it, and it's going really well.

My current problems:  My problem this week is impatience. I want to send out queries now and submit my first page to contests now and don't want to wait to make the manuscript better. I know, though, that in the long run, a well-written, completely edited manuscript will serve me better than a half-revised one if ever I am asked to supply it to an agent. How do you guys keep from jumping the gun?

Question(s) this week: Voice? Also, how do I make my other characters sound different? I write in 1st person and that voice belongs to my main character. But the problem is that all the other characters are starting to sound just like her. Obviously, I try to make each secondary character have a different personality, likes, dislikes, special phrases they often use, etc. But I still feel like I'm writing a story with 20 different me's here. What do I do to separate them?

Wow, are we writing the same novel here? I was just thinking about the effort involved in making my characters sufficiently different. I don't know how good I am at giving them distinct personalities, but what I try to do is this (and it might sound a little crazy):  I talk to them. I have full-on conversations about daily stuff in my life with an imaginary character, and they answer me. I think it works!

Sometimes I'll get several different characters in on this imaginary conversation to make sure that they all have distinct personalities and kind of bounce the conversation from one of them to another to see how they react in my head. I also find myself imitating the characters as I write them, shaking my head for a peppy girl in one novel and giving some attitude to my laptop for another to get me in the right mindset.

Now that you all think I'm nuts...let's move on to voice. Ugh, voice. I got so sick of hearing about this in my English classes in high school. This is another one of those things that I don't know that I'm good at anymore (though I think I am), but I can share what I do to try and give my novels my voice. Basically, I write like I talk. Okay, I'm a southerner, so I do try to keep the "y'all"s and "fixin' to"s and "well, I'll be!"s out of it, but if I have a strange way of explaining something or rationalizing something in my head, it ends up in the novel. I'm an engineer and we have a weird way of thinking about things anyway--it's somewhat more analytical--and so instead of just describing colors and textures, I try to delve into construction and practicality, the things I would consider if describing something to a friend.

I hope this gives all you other aspiring writers some ideas, and I can't wait to see what y'all have to say about this week's question. I'll be around at your posts as soon as I get the chance!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Supernatural Saturday: Review of The Vampire Diaries: The Struggle

In this second volume in the popular series, Damon is determined to make pretty Elena Gilbert his queen of darkness. He would even kill his own brother to possess her. But Stefan, desperate for the power to destroy Damon, succumbs to his unquenchable thirst for human blood.
[from Goodreads]








Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Teens who love good vampire drama
High point:  The depth of the characters, especially of Stefan and Elena
Low point: Almost everyone acts older than they really are
Reader maturity:  13+

The same likes and dislikes appear in The Struggle as they did in The Awakening although The Vampire Diaries really begins to find its groove.
The instroduction of Alaric Saltzman gives the novel a new dimension of mystery, and the characters of Bonnie, Matt and Meredith are expanded upon, giving them new depth and interest. Damon proves to be either more sinister or more sympathetic than he appeared in The Awakening, depending on the reader's point of view, which allows each re-read of the novel to reveal something new about him.
While still focusing on the terror invading Falls Church, The Struggle smoothly introduces new conflict that intertwines with the original problems to create a more than satisfactory sequel.

Title:  The Vampire Diaries:  The Struggle
Author:  L. J. Smith
Genre: Young Adult Horror and Suspense
Year: 1991
Book Source:  Purchased

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Friday 56: The Sweet Far Thing

Closest Book:  The Sweet Far Thing

Author:  Libba Bray
Page 56, sentence 5:  " 'You're dead,' I gasp. 'I killed you.' Her eyes snap open. 'You're wrong, Gemma. I live.' "





Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
*Post a link along with your post back to Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Amaranthine Review: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

"They say Aslan is on the move. Perhaps he has already landed," whispered the Beaver. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delightful strain of music had just floated by. And Lucy got that feeling when you realize it's the beginning of summer. So, deep in the bewitched land of Narnia, the adventure begins."

They opened a door and entered a world—--Narnia--—the land beyond the wardrobe, the secret country known only to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. Lucy is the first to stumble through the back of the enormous wardrobe in the professor's mysterious old country house, discovering the magic world beyond. At first, no one believes her. But soon Edmund, Peter and Susan, too, discover the magic and meet Aslan, the Great Lion, for themselves. And in the blink of an eye, they are changed forever.
 [from Goodreads]
 
Rating: 5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Children of all ages who love adventure and magic and the thought of doing what they never thought possible
High point: The well-developed characters and their thoughts and relationships
Low point: Edmund
Reader maturity:  7+
Favorite quotes:  " 'Safe?' said Mr. Beaver...'Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. but he's good. He's the King, I tell you.'"  
"When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is a classic childhood tale filled with magic and extraordinary happenings. An allegory of good evil, like many other C. S. Lewis novels, it teaches about honesty and loyalty, while never sounding preachy or losing the reader's interest.

Lucy Pevensie, the youngest of four children sent out of London to escape the WWII bombs, discovers a magical world in a wardrobe. She meets strange woodland creatures and, after convincing her siblings to join her, fights to free Narnia from its wicked queen. Lucy is mature for her age, but not so much that she seems more adult than child; she retains her innocence and a childlike acceptance of each changing situation. She is filled with love and forgiveness and a healthy sense of youthful indignance when wronged.

The eldest two Pevensie children are Peter and Susan. Peter is a courageous and protective older brother with a special bond towards Lucy. Susan is a bit stodgy for her age but learns to believe. Edmund is what I consider the low point of this novel, not because the character is poorly devised, but because he is supposed to be weak and cowed, I find him annoying, as I am likely supposed to. 

The book is supremely well written. Though simple enough for younger readers, it is still an enjoyable read for older ones as well, even those who did not fall in love with it or the rest of the series as children. The tale is well told, and the descriptions enliven the story, drawing the reader in with detail and then allowing the imagination to run wild. I have read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe time and time again, and intend to continue doing so in the future.


Title:  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Author:  C. S. Lewis
Genre:  Fantasy, Children's Fiction and Literature
Year:  1950
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: Shadowland

At the start of this breathtaking novel, Damen and Ever travel to Summerland in search of an antidote to reverse a powerful poison. But instead of the cure they seek, they find something far more sinister: the truth about their existence and the fate lying in wait of an immortal’s soul.

Now, with Damen fighting to save them from the Shadowland, Ever turns to magick, hoping to break Damen’s curse. Along the way Ever encounters the mysterious Jude, finding herself drawn to him in a way that will test her love for Damen like never before . . .

[from Goodreads]

This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Review of Heavenly

I met someone who changed everything. Matthias. My autistic sister's guardian angel. Honest. Inspiring. Funny. Hot. And immortal. That was the problem. What could I do? I did what any other girl would do-I fell in love with him. 

Zoë's sister darts in front of cars. Her brother's a pothead. Her parents are so overwhelmed; they don't see Zoë lost in her broken life. Zoë escapes the only way she knows how: partying. Matthias, a guardian sent from Heaven, watches over Zoë's autistic sister. After Zoë is convinced he's legit, angel and lost girl come together in a love that changes destiny. But Heaven on Earth can't last forever.
[from Goodreads]

Rating: 5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Anyone dealing with real life
High point:  Writing style and the ending
Low point: Parts of the ending unfolded strangely
Reader maturity:  13+

This book was fantastic! I tend to be a critical reviewer, rarely giving a 5 of 5 rating to anything but classics, but this book earned all 5 stars.

Zoe is a fairly mature teenage girl trying to deal with all the events in her life, trying to reconcile her beliefs with why bad things happen to her family. After meeting her autistic younger sister's guardian angel, she realizes some things about life--good things. She is a typical teenage girl in that she is overwhelmed by the pressures around her, and without a strong support system, she turns to alcohol and other negative outlets for relief. Hers is definitely a flawed character, but as the novel progresses, she shows an inner strength that both the reader and Zoe wonder if she has.

The entire family seems incredibly real. The neglectful parents are still loving and caring; they are just so caught up in the care of their youngest child that they backburner the two oldest. Zoe's brother, Luke, is coping with the same problems in an even more destructive way, but Zoe learns how to reach out, both to him and to her younger sister, Abria. There is school-related drama as well, which Zoe also must face. She does so with reluctance and the uncertainty frequently attached to adolescence.

The writing style is engaging, a mix of movement, emotions and deep introspective thought. Matthias, Abria's guardian, is an enviable love interest. He is perfect as an immortal, but his humanity shows through his compassion and his revelations of his past life, removing him from the pedestal Zoe unconsciously attempts to put him on. The author gives a vivid picture of Zoe's feelings and reasoning, as well as the tension that the family feels as a result of Abria's diagnosis. Abria's autism is treated with dignity, painting a realistic picture of her actions with gentle humor thrown in as a coping mechanism.

I could hardly put this book down, except to carve out time to sleep and eat. Even for an avid reader, I finished this in record time. The end of each chapter had me wanting more--What happens? What will Zoe do? I hope that she does this instead! And the ending! At first, I thought it was too much, but after thinking on it for a while, I realized that the ending is just perfect, tying up the novel none too tidily, but with the same grace and energy with which it was written.

Title:  Heavenly
Author:  Jennifer Laurens
Genre:  Paranormal Romance
Year:  2009
Book Source:  Received from author

Monday, February 8, 2010

Incarceron Trailer

Check out the trailer for Incarceron by Catherine Fisher!

Wannabe Writers #2

Wannabe Writers is a new meme created by Sarah of Confessions of the Un-published!

One of my goals right now is to move my literary ambitions out of the box and onto the shelf, by which I mean that I no longer want to ignore how much I enjoy writing. I love the idea of this meme, and I'll quote from Sarah's post here:

I often find myself searching the web for information during my struggles as a new writer. So I wanted to start a place where us future young-adult authors can come together to ask those questions, share our stories, and get feedback.

I'm supposed to come up with my own question, but I didn't read the instructions before I dove in last week and instead wrote a reply to Sarah's question. I thought I'd do that again this week and include a question/problem or two of my own as well. (Is that an acceptable modification of someone else's meme? If it's not, please let me know. I want to be a polite blogger!)

Where I am in the writing process: Wow, this last week has been crazy. First, I completely abandoned Novel #1 because I absolutely hated it and then gradually decided that maybe it wasn't awful so I sent it off to a college friend for critique. She promised to be harsh (my words, not hers) but came back with some positive feedback and general editorial suggestions. In the meantime, I've been plugging away at Novel #2, which I am much happier with (right now), and editing Novel #1 in my I'm-out-of-new-ideas time.

My current problems: There's a section in Novel #1 with which I am particularly unhappy. I picked a much too complicated character for my first endeavor and am finding it difficult to write a character with low self-esteem without making the reader dislike her or, more importantly, making me dislike her.

Question(s) this week: Finishing this thing? How do you tie up all those loose ends and write the perfect ending? I've never struggled this much in my writing. Usually it just flows out. Any suggestions?

I haven't really had this problem so far. Actually, in Novel #1, I figured out the conclusion about a quarter of the way through the book and basically just had to connect the beginning and end. As for Novel #2, I'm not to the end yet (not even close!), but I have bits and pieces of the end floating around in my head, waiting to be mixed and matched and then tied in with the rest of the story.

Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe that's my solution. Figure out how you want to tie everything up and write the ending in your head before you finish the novel so that you can direct the action towards a specific conclusion. It may not work for everyone, but that's how I create.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Supernatural Saturday: Review of The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening

Elena Gilbert is a pretty, popular teen who was orphaned when her parents were killed in an accident. Despite the tragedy, her life has always been normal and wholesome. Until the beginning of the school year, when two new vampire brothers show up to shake the peaceful universe at Robert E. Lee High. [from Goodreads]








Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Teens who love good vampire drama
High point:  The depth of the characters, especially of Stefan and Elena
Low point: Almost everyone acts older than they really are
Reader maturity:  13+

In The Awakening, we are introduced to Elena Gilbert, a teenager who lives with her aunt and younger sister. Due to the recent death of her parents, she is fairly mature for someone of her age. When a stranger comes to Falls Church, Elena, as the popular golden girl, is determined to catch him. The mysterious stranger, foretold by a friend's vision, brings a brother and arrives at an unstable time in Falls Church.

Elena seems like she could be a real person; she has her flaws, such as pride and vanity, but she tries to be a nice person, believing that popularity should be gained through friends, not enemies, though she is not averse to using her followers if the need arises. The "love at first sight" she experiences with Stefan seems plausible somehow, even though Elena is only 17 and they hardly know each other. When Damon arrives on the scene, the resulting triangle is obvious but well-constructed.

Elena's best friends, Bonnie and Meredith, are somewhat more two-dimensional. although interesting in their own ways. Unlike Elena, they both act older than their years with no explanation. They also tend to follow Elena's directions without question like amiable sheep.

L. J. Smith modifies the vampire myth somewhat by allowing Stefan and Damon to endure sunlight as long as they wear special rings, but other than that, the rules apply. They must be invited in and require regular feedings. While Stefan is a likable love interest, he is still truly a vampire, in all the ferocity that entails.

I first read these books in middle school and sought them out after they were republished. Anyone who is interested in a good vampire tale with all the trappings of the original myths, should try these out.

Title:  The Vampire Diaries:  The Awakening
Author:  L. J. Smith
Genre: Young Adult Horror and Suspense
Year: 1991
Book Source:  Purchased

Friday, February 5, 2010

Forget-Her-Nots Trailer

Amy Brecount White made a trailer for the upcoming book Forget-Her-Nots, available in March. Enjoy!

The Friday 56: Rebel Angels

Closest Book:  Rebel Angels
Author:  Libba Bray
Page 56, sentence 5:  " 'Let us begin our tale where it should begin--in a house at the edge of a very dark forest.' The lights are lowered. A hush falls over the crowd. There is no sound but the incessant tapping of cold rain against the martyred windows."




Rules:
* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
*Post a link along with your post back to Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Amaranthine Review: Peter Pan

The boy who refuses to grow up teaches Wendy and her younger brothers how to fly. Then it's off to magical Neverneverland for adventures with mermaids, Indians, and wicked Captain Hook and his pirate crew in this illustrated, easy-reading adaptation of the classic fantasy.
 [from Goodreads]
 





Rating: 3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: The young at heart, the imaginative, anyone who never wants to grow up
High point:  The conflict and characters
Low point:  Best for younger readers
Reader maturity:  7+
Favorite quotes:  "All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust."
"Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning."

Peter Pan is a classic novel about childhood and not wanting to grow up, a desire that comes to most children at one time or another. The main character, Peter Pan, entices the Darling children to come with him to Neverland so that the eldest child, Wendy, may be a mother to the Lost Boys, a gang of parentless youngsters.

Peter Pan is filled with the rebellious ideas and imaginative tangents of childhood. Along with a desire never to grow up, the children in the novel also fight pirates and befriend mermaids and pow-wow with the Neverland natives. As if the action were not enough, jealous fairy Tinkerbell tries to stir up trouble, lending some drama to the story.

This is a classic book of childhood, full of hopes and dreams and tales of adventure, and loved by many a child. The writing is simple enough for young readers, but the story appeals to the child in people of all ages. Peter Pan bridges the awkward gap between childhood innocence and adult concerns while entertaining generations.

Title:  Peter Pan
Author:  J. M. Barrie
Genre:  Children's Fiction and Literature, Fantasy
Year:  1911
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

In Mary's world there are simple truths. The Sisterhood always knows best. The Guardians will protect and serve. The Unconsecrated will never relent. And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth. But, slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future—between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?
[from Goodreads]

This meme is hosted by Boy with Books. I'll be spotlighting books I want to read, whether they've been out for 10 years or won't be released for another 10 months.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Review of 7th Son: Descent

As America reels from the bizarre presidential assassination committed by a child, seven men are abducted from their normal lives and delivered to a secret government facility. Each man has his own career, his own specialty. All are identical in appearance. The seven strangers were grown -- unwitting human clones -- as part of a project called 7th Son.
The government now wants something from these "John Michael Smiths." They share the flesh and implanted memories of the psychopath responsible for the president's murder. The killer has bigger plans, and only these seven have the unique qualifications to track and stop him.
But when their progenitor makes the battle personal, it becomes clear he knows the seven better than they know themselves...
[from the author's website]

Rating:  3.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Sci-fi geeks, mystery solvers
High point:  Peeling away the layers of the cloning program
Low point:  Following 7 different clones was confusing for the first few chapters
Reader maturity:  13+

Seven strangers, part of a super black-op government program, come together to solve a complex and puzzling crime after the assassination of the President and a taunt from the likely culprit to his clones. Secrets of the seven and how they came to be are revealed piece by piece as each member of the Beta group fights against time...and John Alpha.

This is not a typical book for me; I prefer fluffier science fiction when I delve into it at all, but this book blew me away. It reminded me a lot of Michael Crichton's work--well researched and written, very intellectual but disguised as entertainment. The science is explained bit-by-bit, leaving the reader intriguingly as confused as the seven clones and just as interested in figuring out the puzzles presented by the madman. Descent was a nice blend of science fiction and a murder mystery, just enough of both with a seamless transition between the two.

One thing I wish had been given is a meatier explanation of Alpha's craziness. I understand why he became a killer, and yet I really don't. Some of the good things about the book are the distinct personalities of each clone towards the beginning of the novel and then the slow demonstration of the similarities between the clones. At first, I had trouble keeping up with which clone was which, but the author reinforced the dominant traits often enough that I caught on. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries and conspiracies.

Title:  7th Son:  Descent
Author:  J. C. Hutchins
Genre:  High Tech and Hard Science Fiction
Year:  2009
Book Source:  Won a copy from tor.com

Monday, February 1, 2010

Wannabe Writers

Wannabe Writers is a new meme created by Sarah of Confessions of the Un-published!

One of my goals right now is to move my literary ambitions out of the box and onto the shelf, by which I mean that I no longer want to ignore how much I enjoy writing. I love the idea of this meme, and I'll quote from Sarah's post here:
I often find myself searching the web for information during my struggles as a new writer. So I wanted to start a place where us future young-adult authors can come together to ask those questions, share our stories, and get feedback.

I'm supposed to come up with my own question, but I didn't read that part until after I'd written my reply to Sarah's so it stays for this week. Given the stage of my novel, I have the same questions because I'm impatient to be finished editing.

Where I am in the writing process: I've been writing since August of 2009 (or maybe October?). I wrote a lot when I was younger, but I strongly disliked it and threw it all out. My mom encouraged me to pick it up again as a creative outlet last August (or October), and after telling her that I was a terrible writer and hated everything I wrote, I promptly went home and started a story that I actually thought was pretty good. I'm in my 2nd round of edits, smoothing out the flow of the manuscript. I've also started a 2nd novel, which I am much more pleased with, but I'd like to finish up Novel #1 and try to get it submitted before I work too much more on Novel #2.

My current problems: Finding a publisher. Where do I begin? Do I need an agent? What's a query? I'm a scientist, not a lit major, and we certainly never covered this in college. How much editing do I do before I submit it? Do I leave it raw, to be tweaked by a much-more-knowledgeable-than-I editor, or do I risk butchering it from its freshest form? Do I need to find a critique group?

Question(s) this week: Staying motivated? I've really been having a hard time staying focused lately. The end of my book is near but I keep finding myself struggling to just sit down and type. Any advice on ways to stay focused? What do you do to keep yourself going?

To stay motivated, I started Novel #2. I had come to a dead-end on Novel #1 and had fresh, new ideas bursting out of me for a completely different setting and plot. Once I set the beginnings on paper, my brain was empty enough for me to be ready to hop back into Novel #1, in which I soon finished the plot and where I've eagerly been ever since, adding to it, adjusting sentences and staying up far too late because the creative juices are flowing.

To stay focused:  Don't snack!! You'll get the keyboard crumby. Make sure to have a beverage (because nothing is worse to my productivity than thirst) but don't eat. Don't let your hands leave the keyboard. Also, don't do your thinking at the computer. Create your ideas while doing something else like driving, showering, house-cleaning, anything that frees your mind. THEN sit down and start typing, but don't worry if what flows from your fingers isn't what you had initially imagined. I'd bet that it's better.

If I get really tired of writing and can't keep going, I read a book. Deliberately taking my mind off of things clears my head and makes me want to start fresh and finish up my own novel. To prevent writing fatigue, after every major addition or revision, I take a few days to a week off of Novel #1 to clear my head and step away from the writing process. Writing is addictive, and after being away from it, I can't wait to dive back in.