Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Design Awards

I've received a few more awards recently, and, as per my usual fashion, I'm late in putting them up. BUT...better late than never, right?

First off, Adriana at ~*Loves to Read*~ sent me the Stylish Blogger Award and the Beautiful Blogger Award.

Stylish Blogger Award








Beautiful Blogger Award
   












Then I received the One Lovely Blog Award from Whitney at She Is Too Fond of Books.


One Lovely Blog Award
  












And most recently, Bella at Obsessed! passed on the Sugar Doll Award.

Sugar Doll Award












Because I'm incredibly behind on reading/reviews and these awards are similar to some others I recently passed onward, I'm not going to bestow these on anyone specific this time. Please know, though, that I love your blogs and read them every day. :-)

Thanks so much, Adriana, Whitney and Bella!

Want to Read Wednesday: Nomansland

Sometime in the future, a lonely, windswept island is populated
solely by women. Among these women is a group of teenaged
Trackers—expert equestrians and archers—whose job is to
protect their shores from the enemy. The enemy, they’ve been
told, is men. When these girls come upon a partially buried
home from the distant past, they are fascinated by the strange
objects—high-heeled shoes, teen magazines, make-up—found
there. What are they to make of these mysterious things? And
what does it mean for their strict society where friendship is
forbidden and rules must be obeyed—at all costs? 

[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, March 30, 2010

Review of The Iron King

Meghan Chase has never fit in at her small-town high school, and now, on the eve of her 16th birthday, she discovers why. When her half brother is kidnapped, Meghan is drawn into a fantastical world she never imagined--the world of Faery, where anything you see may try to eat you, and Meghan is the daughter of the summer faery king. Now she will journey into the depths of Faery to face an unknown enemy . . . and beg the help of a winter prince who might as soon kill her as let her touch his icy heart. The Iron King is the first book in the Iron Fey series.
[from Goodreads]
 
Rating: 4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Lovers of faery lore, faery newbies
High point:  Integration of faery myths
Low point:  Meghan's choice of love interest
Reader maturity: 13+

The Iron King romped delightfully through the world of faery. Though more of an admirer of vampires and werewolves, the faery folk in The Iron King did not disappoint. Meghan Chase's adventures as she seeks out her stolen brother compel the reader and stretch the imagination.

Unlike the lore promoted by greeting card companies, the mythological creatures of The Iron King are harsh and selfish. A simple "thank you" is dangerous both in and out of the Seelie Court. Viewing age-old folk tales and a little bit of Shakespeare in a new way through the eyes of Ms. Kagawa was a fascinating experience. I ran with Meghan through the woods and struggled as she did regarding her loyalties.

Meghan's character may seem a little naive, but it's a refreshing change from the more world-wise characters that abound. It takes her a while to "get it" in the book, and it works well with her personality. The build-up of the relationships between the characters was skillfully done, especially between Puck and Ash, and I was almost to the end before I predicted the outcome.

The one thing that disappointed me was Meghan's choice of love interest, but that's purely personal and has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or plot. Both of the male leads were attractive and unique, one the prankster and one intriguingly closed off. I just wish she had ended up with the one she didn't pick...

Title:  The Iron King
Author:  Julie Kagawa
Genre:  2010
Year:  Teen Fiction, Fantasy
Book Source:  Won from Flipping Pages for All Ages

Monday, March 29, 2010

Getting to Know: Zee

I found this on QueryTracker and thought I'd showcase some of the characters from Novel #1 in an attempt to make sure they're different enough from one another. Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the characters, per their requests.
  1. How old are you?  18
  2. If the house burned down, what one thing would you want to take with you?  My memento box.
  3. Describe your hands.  Small, pale, knobby. Powerful.
  4. Describe your nightstand, dresser, or bathroom counter. What’s on top of it? In it?  Nightstand:  current reading pile, alarm clock, glass of water.
  5. What is your favorite food?  Cheesecake.
  6. Describe your economic/political status.  Poor. Refugee (more like witness protection).
  7. Where do you have a scar or birthmark? Describe circumstances surrounding your scars. No scars, no birthmarks. The healers took care of the former. I also never took my family's markings.
  8. What is the last book you read? What did you think of it?  Pride and Prejudice. It's my go-to for when I'm feeling sad. It cheered me up, and I'm hopelessly in love with Mr. Darcy.
  9. Do you have an embarrassing habit?  Running away. Anytime there's conflict, I'm out the door.
  10. Give one vivid memory of a parent or parental figure. My father screaming at me when I was 7 for not evacuating the mansion quickly enough. And then there was the instance of my mom drugging me, but that's a little fuzzy...
  11. What is a dream (in sleep) you often have?  I dream about my ancestors and what started the feud between my family and Dee's.
  12. Do you have a lifelong dream or aspiration?  To end the war. I used to want to fight, but now I just want it all to be over.
  13. How do you go to sleep, and how do you wake up? (i.e. position in bed, etc.)  Curled into a ball, facing the door so that if anyone walks in, I can zap them. I wake up in the exact same position, as trained.
  14. What is the last thing you wrote?  A business letter for my job as a receptionist.
  15. What grosses you out?  Sewage.
  16. Who is the person you like the least? Why?  Jay, because he betrayed my family and me.
  17. Tell me about the last time you cried.  I was in the orchard, mad at myself for being in love with Jay and rejecting him anyway. I just knew he hated me.
  18. What is something you feel guilty about?  Trusting Jay for so long, being so naive.
  19. Describe what you do when you look in a mirror. Look away as soon as possible. I hate my eyes and my hair.
  20. Describe yourself sitting in your favorite spot. I sit with my back against an old tree, looking out over the valley with lazily half-opened eyes. The nearby town seems very small and far away. I can just barely make out the people moving around in it, going about their lives without ever noticing me watching them.
  21. Tell me about a very treasured item. My memento box has my graduation gift from my best friend, Chi, and my great-some-odd grandmother's necklace. It used to have Jay's madstone, but I smashed it.
  22. Do you have a nervous tic or habit? I grit my teeth a lot.
  23. Tell me about your siblings…if you have them. No siblings, but I am really close to my cousin, Bee. He protected me when no one else would.
  24. What is your favorite sound? Silence.
  25. What is your favorite smell?  Fresh-baked cookies.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Wannabe Writers #9

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:  Novel #1 received some editing, including a new opening (or maybe that was last week...), and I wrote a new query letter. It's still not right, but I'm letting it soak, trying to get past the in-over-my-head feeling I have regarding this query letter. I hope they're not all this hard. I also started a short story about a tragic ancestral event (not to be overly dramatic or anything...). Novel #2 is about 5000 words longer on top of all that, so in all, it was a great writing week.

My current problems:  Ummm...query letters? Openings? Oh, yes, why is my novel not YA? The protagonist is 18, and she's dealing with insecurities and questions and has lots of who-am-I moments? Is that adult or YA? I've read a lot of YA novels where the protag is an older teen. I thought maybe my first 10 pages make the character seem older so maybe only the first few chapters aren't obviously YA.

My question of the week then:  What makes YA...YA?

Question(s) this week: Writing Romance? How to develop a relationship out of thin air and make it believable? (And not just lust)

I have trouble with this too. To get by the problem right now, I'm having the relationships develop pretty slowly. The characters are teens so there's a lot of flirting and a few cheesy lines (from the guy) and some mild insecurities and is-this-the-right-guy-for-me-right-now type things (from the girl). That's the kind of thing I remember from high school.

In Novel #1, the character Jay was supposed to be the MC's, Zee's, love interest, but then he revealed himself to be a jerk (to Zee and *I* at the same time; boy, was I surprised!) and someone else showed up. I didn't think Cee (the 2nd guy) would be very good at it, but he stepped up to the plate, wooing Zee very calmly and quietly. It was all very strange, since it wasn't what I intended, but I think it works for them.

So I guess...make it feel real. Don't rush it if the characters aren't ready. If they are, sometimes attraction just happens, both in books and in real life.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Supernatural Saturday: Review of The Golden Compass

"As for what experimental theology was, Lyra had no more idea than the urchins. She had formed the notion that it was concerned with magic, with the movements of the stars and planets, with tiny particles of matter, but that was guesswork, really. Probably the stars had dæmons just as humans did, and experimental theology involved talking to them."

Not that Lyra spends much time worrying about it; what she likes best is "clambering over the College roofs with Roger the kitchen boy who was her particular friend, to spit plum stones on the heads of passing Scholars or to hoot like owls outside a window where a tutorial was going on, or racing through the narrow streets, or stealing apples from the market, or waging war." But Lyra's carefree existence changes forever when she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, first prevent an assassination attempt against her uncle, the powerful Lord Asriel, and then overhear a secret discussion about a mysterious entity known as Dust. Soon she and Pan are swept up in a dangerous game involving disappearing children, a beautiful woman with a golden monkey dæmon, a trip to the far north, and a set of allies ranging from "gyptians" to witches to an armor-clad polar bear.

[Excerpted from Goodreads]
 
Rating: 3 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Harry Potter fans, LOTR fans, anyone who wants a fantasy tale in diet form
High point: The world
Low point: Lyra
Reader maturity: 13+

Initially, I was apprehensive about reading The Golden Compass. There was a big hubbub when the movie came out, similar to the ones about Harry Potter and pretty much every other paranormal/magical series out there. I found the first two books in the His Dark Materials series for 50 cents each and decided to try them for myself.

The Golden Compass is a different type of book for me. I would almost say it's more in the fantasy genre than what I usually read, but since I don't read fantasy, I'm not really sure. Philip Pullman creates a new world, similar to our own but with enough quirks to keep it interesting. Everyone has a daemon, or familiar, that acts as a sort of external soul, visibly showing the emotions of the owner. The conflict in the story comes from a group of people separating children from their daemons and the search for Dust. The reason for these acts is not explained in The Golden Compass. I hope the back story is more developed in The Subtle Knife.

Overall, The Golden Compass was enjoyable and mostly average. The descriptions are thorough but not weighty. I wasn't particularly fond of the main character, Lyra. She is willful and came across as selfish and conceited, though she also had her moments of compassion and understanding. At times she seemed too old to be behaving like such a child, and at other times I thought perhaps she was only a child; I never did figure out her age. I hope to see her character grow in the sequels because she has great potential as a likable heroine. The supporting cast was fantastic; I enjoyed them much more than Lyra. The gyptians and the polar bear, Iorek Byrnison, were great additions.

The Golden Compass isn't one of my favorites since it's more inclined toward an epic or fantasy, but I enjoyed my read-through and am looking forward to The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass.

Title:  The Golden Compass
Author:  Philip Pullman
Genre:  Fantasy Fiction
Year:  1995
Book Source:  Purchased

Friday, March 26, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Crazy for Books so that readers and bloggers can get to know each other a little better.
In Jennifer's words:
This is a weekly event where book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read.  It's a great way to network with other bloggers and make new friends!  Every day I seem to find another book blog that I start following. In the spirit of the Friday Follow, I thought it would be cool to do a Book Blogger Hop to give us all bookies a chance to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on!  It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!
So head over to the Blog Hop and have some fun!

The Friday 56: The Secret Circle: The Captive Part II and The Power

Closest Book:  The Secret Circle:  The Captive Part II and The Power

Author:  L. J. Smith
Page 56, sentence 5:  "Saying Diana's name helped. He stood for a moment, then escorted her back, Herne bringing a wayward nymph home to the Circle. Cassie went over to Laurel for safety; Nick was nowhere in sight. Well, she didn't blame him."






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, March 25, 2010

Amaranthine Review: The Giver

In the "ideal" world into which Jonas was born, everybody has sensibly agreed that well-matched married couples will raise exactly two offspring, one boy and one girl. These children's adolescent sexual impulses will be stifled with specially prescribed drugs; at age 12 they will receive an appropriate career assignment, sensibly chosen by the community's Elders.
This is a world in which the old live in group homes and are "released"--to great celebration--at the proper time; the few infants who do not develop according to schedule are also "released," but with no fanfare.

Lowry's development of this civilization is so deft that her readers, like the community's citizens, will be easily seduced by the chimera of this ordered, pain-free society. Until the time that Jonas begins training for his job assignment--the rigorous and prestigious position of Receiver of Memory--he, too, is a complacent model citizen. But as his near-mystical training progresses, and he is weighed down and enriched with society's collective memories of a world as stimulating as it was flawed, Jonas grows increasingly aware of the hypocrisy that rules his world.

With a storyline that hints at Christian allegory and an eerie futuristic setting, this intriguing novel calls to mind John Christopher's Tripods trilogy and Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Match Girl. Lowry is once again in top form--raising many questions while answering few, and unwinding a tale fit for the most adventurous readers.

[from Goodreads]
 
Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Middle grade readers
High point: The roundabout way Ms. Lowry explains Jonas' world
Low point: Best for MG readers
Reader maturity:  10+
Favorite quotes:  "The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It's the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared."
"...'Still,' he said slowly, almost to himself, 'I did like the light they made. And the warmth.' "

The Giver was required reading for my 8th grade pre-AP English class. I missed the subtleties of it the first time through, not picking up on the major cost of abandoning memory. After my oversight was pointed out to me, I reread the book, paying special attention to descriptions and the feelings that Jonas experiences. The 2nd read-through was wonderful. The book clicked. I was amazed at the world Lois Lowry created using such simple imagery and allusions.

In The Giver, we are introduced to Jonas and his family. They live in a utopia, where people marry because they are good matches, children are borne through specially selected women only and no one feels pain or suffering. All feelings are stifled, and only one person carries the memories of the townspeople.

This book speaks of the evils of extremist ways of thought. Pain and suffering are necessary for happiness and joy to be true feelings. Forgetting the ways of our forefathers leads to a questionable ethical system. Is the sacrifice of one or two worth the so-called good of the many? What if the good of the many really isn't so good?

The writing is simple, created for pre-teen and young teen readers, but the message is strong. Ms. Lowry created a world similar to our own and then showed it through the eyes of Jonas, encouraging the reader to draw their own conclusions about the right and wrong of the actions that take place, just as Jonas does. This prevents the novel from being preachy or moralizing. Jonas' journey is long, but in the end, we find that the human spirit triumphs when given the chance.

Title:  The Giver
Author:  Lois Lowry
Genre:  Teen Ficion, Science Fiction
Year:  1993
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Want to Read Wednesday: The Dead-Tossed Waves

Gabry lives a quiet life. As safe a life as is possible in a town trapped between a forest and the ocean, in a world teeming with the dead, who constantly hunger for those still living. She’s content on her side of the Barrier, happy to let her friends dream of the Dark City up the coast while she watches from the top of her lighthouse. But there are threats the Barrier cannot hold back. Threats like the secrets Gabry’s mother thought she left behind when she escaped from the Sisterhood and the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Like the cult of religious zealots who worship the dead. Like the stranger from the forest who seems to know Gabry. And suddenly, everything is changing. One reckless moment, and half of Gabry’s generation is dead, the other half imprisoned. Now Gabry only knows one thing: she must face the forest of her mother’s past in order to save herself and the one she loves.
[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, March 23, 2010

Review of 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]
 
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Dystopian fans, readers who enjoy immersing themselves in another world
High point: The writing
Low point: The ending
Reader maturity: 13+

Before I begin, please note the rating, 4.5 out of 5. The Forest of Hands and Teeth was a really, really good book. I didn't like it.

Let me explain. The writing was phenomenal. I thought I wasn't into the book until I realized that I couldn't get Mary's plight out of my head, and then I found myself so drawn into her pain and trials that I hurt inside, physically, for several hours after reading. It grabbed me and wouldn't let go. Carrie Ryan did an amazing job of making the Return and the Unconsecrated startlingly real, skillfully pulling the reader in for the ride. And the ending? It's a great literary ending, poignantly bringing the story to a close. And I hate it!

[SPOILER] I much prefer happy endings! I don't like hopeful endings! I want everything to be neatly tied together at the end. [END SPOILER]

The characters experience true growth during the novel, including all the ups and downs that go along with the natural maturing process. The background of the novel, including the Forest of Hands and Teeth and the Sisterhood, were appropriately eerie. The author did a great job of hinting at descriptions, allowing a creative imagination to devise an appropriately creepy setting. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is both character and action driven, and both are perfectly balanced. With every choice Mary makes, the reader feels just as confused or trapped as she does. The relationships between the characters are complex and unwieldy, easily thrown off-kilter by the rapidly changing situations.

From a review standpoint, the ending was brilliant and perfect, but the reader in me didn't like it much. I didn't like this book. I didn't like the ending; I didn't like the pain, but...I will definitely be reading it again. I highly recommend it. It's outstanding. I'm pre-ordering the sequel, and you should definitely pick it up.

Title:  The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author:  Carrie Ryan
Genre:  Teen Fiction, Horror & Suspense
Year:  2009
Book Source:  Purchased

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wannabe Writers #8

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:  I've been working steadily on Novel #2 and wrote about 5000 words this week. Just this afternoon, I received my query + 1st 10 pages critique for Novel #1 from Weronika Janczuk (who is *awesome*; you should go check out her blog and follow her on Twitter!) from something she ran a few weeks ago. She completely ripped apart my query letter (thank you!), which is great because it was awful, and had some positive things to say about my 10 pages, along with some suggestions that I intend to implement.

My current problems:  How do you know how much to tell in the first chapter? One of Weronika's comments was that she didn't understand what was going on in a few places where I tried to allude to events that the reader discovers later. To fix it, I'm not sure if I need to give the reader all of the info up front (surely not...) or if I need to let the reader know that they're not supposed to know what's going on yet. 

So...what would you do? How do you include mysteries about a person's past without completely confusing the reader with regard to what you're doing? 

Question(s) this week: Dual narratives? Has anyone ever attempted to write a book where you have two Main Characters--switching voice with each alternating chapter? Likes/Dislikes on that? I just read Perfect Chemistry and loved how the author wrote like that. Any other good books out there like that? I think this is becoming more and more popular in YA.

Dual narratives = pretty cool.

I have never attempted this. Both of my novels are 1st person. I would love to do this someday, but it hasn't been right for the stories I'm telling. Also, I'm not sure I'm skilled enough to handle being inside the heads of two imaginary people yet.

Likes/dislikes:  I like dual narratives. It's interesting to get to see a situation through the eyes of two different people, and if they're having communication issues, it can add a comedic element.

I can't think of any YA novels like this off the top of my head...These aren't strictly dual narratives, but The Boy Next Door and Boy Meets Girl by Meg Cabot both advance the story through emails and notes from different characters so you get a lot of different perspectives.

Supernatural Saturday: Review of Shadow Kiss

Is Rose's fate to kill the person she loves most? It's springtime at St. Vladimir's Academy, and Rose Hathaway is this close to graduation. Since Mason's death, Rose hasn't been feeling quite right. She has dark flashbacks in the middle of practice, can't concentrate in class, and has terrifying dreams about Lissa. But Rose has an even bigger secret . . . .She's in love with Dimitri. And this time, it's way more than a crush.

Then Strigoi target the academy in the deadliest attack in Moroi history, and Dimitri is taken. Rose must protect Lissa at all costs, but keeping her best friend safe could mean losing Dimitri forever.
[from Goodreads]

Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience: Teens who love good vampire drama
High point: The empathy the reader feels for Rose
Low point: Needless mature content
Reader maturity:  17+

I can't believe it, but Richelle Mead's writing just keeps getting better and better. In Shadow Kiss, Rose's odd quirks from the last book are smoothed out; this time, everyone thinks she's crazy. Rose's belief that she is not, in fact, crazy fails to impress her superiors, and she can't figure out what's going on in her dreams. The reader is as frustrated and confused as Rose.

I still don't care for Lissa's character; she seems self-centered, especially in light of the sacrifices Rose has made and will have to make to protect Lissa. Once again, Rose remains steadfastly loyal for the respectable reasons of truly caring about Lissa and believing that protecting her is her duty as a dhampir.

One of my favorite characters from Frostbite shows up again, to my amusement, providing a romantic foil and just generally getting in everyone's way, but he proves to be capable and skilled, merely hiding his talents as a respite from them.

The character growth here is wonderful, both within the individuals and as couples. They fight, they stay angry and then they learn from it and move on. Rose grows up a lot during Shadow Kiss, still maintaining her hard-core attitude but learning to harness that energy for the sake of herself and Lissa.

The last few chapters of Shadow Kiss are purely suspense and action, excitement growing with every page as Rose battles for her life and those of her loved ones. As for the end? After finishing, I immediately hopped onto the internet to make sure that there's a book 4.

Title:  Shadow Kiss
Author:  Richelle Mead
Genre: Young Adult Horror and Suspense
Year: 2008
Book Source:  Purchased

Friday, March 19, 2010

Author Appreciation Week

Thank you, Ray Bradbury, for opening my eyes to the world where science fiction meets good literature.

Thank you, Michael Crichton, for guiding me into the realm of grown-up books with a healthy dose of science and imagination.

Thank you, Kate Chopin, for showing me flawed, yet strong, female characters.

Thank you, Meg Cabot, for helping me through those awkward teenage years and then those awkward college years and now these awkward twenties...

And thank you, Stephen King, for stealing away so many hours of sleep.

The Friday 56: The Secret Circle: The Initiation and The Captive Part I

Closest Book:  The Secret Circle:  The Initiation and The Captive Part I

Author:  L. J. Smith
Page 56, sentence 5:  "That's your grandmother, she told herself fiercely. Your only living relative besides your mother. It's not her fault she's old and ugly."








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, March 18, 2010

Amaranthine Review: A Wrinkle in Time

Everyone in town thinks Meg is volatile and dull-witted and that her younger brother Charles Wallace is dumb. People are also saying that their father has run off and left their brilliant scientist mother. Spurred on by these rumors, Meg and Charles Wallace, along with their new friend Calvin, embark on a perilous quest through space to find their father. In doing so they must travel behind the shadow of an evil power that is darkening the cosmos, one planet at a time.

Young people who have trouble finding their place in the world will connect with the "misfit" characters in this provocative story. This is no superhero tale, nor is it science fiction, although it shares elements of both. The travelers must rely on their individual and collective strengths, delving deep into their characters to find answers.


A classic since 1962, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time is sophisticated in concept yet warm in tone, with mystery and love coursing through its pages. Meg's shattering yet ultimately freeing discovery that her father is not omnipotent provides a satisfying coming-of-age element. Readers will feel a sense of power as they travel with these three children, challenging concepts of time, space, and the power of good over evil. 


[from Goodreads]

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 boxes
Target Audience:  Kids who don't fit in, sci-fi fans
High point: Meg and Charles Wallace
Low point: Some of the fantasy/sci-fi parts are a little confusing
Reader maturity:  10+
Favorite quotes:  "...A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points..."
"But you see, Meg, just because we don't understand doesn't mean that the explanation doesn't exist."

A Wrinkle in Time is amazing. It was probably my first foray into science fiction, and I absolutely loved it!

Meg has a hard time fitting in at school. She's smart, which makes her different, and different usually isn't rewarded in grade school. Her younger brother is a genius (even though everyone thinks he's dumb), and her father's been missing for a while. Oh, and her brother found some witches that he wants her to meet.

This story is so much fun! Some weird and amazing stuff happens to Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin on their journey, but the new worlds and experiences are like dreamscapes, gorgeous and inviting. There's a world where everyone acts in time to the rhythm of It, and the descriptions make it so real, it's like being there firsthand. So many strange characters come into play in the molding of the three children, encouraging them to make their own choices and grow into the adults they need to be, while still being there to catch them if they fall.

Meg is a typical young teenager with an atypical younger brother, and they have the neatest relationship, very loving and accepting. Meg's problems differ from most in that she's dealing with tesseracts and fantasy worlds, but most readers can relate to being the misfit for one reason or another. Calvin is a great addition; he's strong and capable but he's got his own baggage to sort out.

A Wrinkle in Time is a great introduction to the Time Quartet and probably the lightest as far as the emotional journey and science fiction elements are concerned. I highly recommend this to young readers and anyone who's never picked it up before.

Title:  A Wrinkle in Time
Author:  Madeleine L'Engle
Genre:  Children's Fiction and Literature
Year:  1962
Book Source:  Purchased

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Agglomerate of Awards

Wow. I've received quite a few awards recently and forgotten to pass them on! I'm going to try to get caught up on that today. (This post is long; that'll sure teach me to procrastinate!)


To get down to it, Maria at The Serpentine Library bestowed upon me the Prolific Blogger Award, the Happy 101 Award and the Kewl Blog award (does it have a more official name? Anyone?). Thanks, Maria!

Prolific Blogger Award

A Prolific Blogger is one who is intellectually productive... keeping up an active blog that is filled with enjoyable content.

1. Every winner of the Prolific Blogger Award has to pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers. Spread some love!
2. Each Prolific Blogger must link to the blog from which he/she has received the award.
3. Every Prolific Blogger must link back to this post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.
4. Every Prolific Blogger must visit this post and add his/her name in the Mr. Linky, so that we all can get to know the other winners. (Click here for the Mr. Linky page.)

I'm passing it on to:

Happy 101

 













Kewl Blog














Madeleine over at Wordbird passed on the Honest Scrap Award to me a while back. If you're an aspiring writer, you should definitely check out her blog.

Honest Scrap

The instructions for this award are to "Share ten honest things about yourself and pass this lovely gift on to ten other Honest, Upstanding and ‘Scraptastic’ bloggers."

10 Honest Things About Me
  1. I don't like chocolate. Weird, right?
  2. I am too opinionated for my own good. I try not to give everyone my opinion, but if you ask, it's likely that I have an opinion on the subject.
  3. I have an affinity for saying inane things. Life is so much funnier when you say the first thing that pops into your head (as long as your politeness filter is on!).
  4. I wonder if the blue *I* see is the same blue other people see. This one puzzles me to this day. What if the blue I see for the sky is really the color of your grass? This could completely explain how some people have no color coordination. I'm on to something here; I'm tellin' ya...
  5. I really hate germs and slugs, but I am not a germaphobe. I don't use hand sanitizer (unless I bum it off of someone else under extreme circumstances), and I never use antibacterial soap. That just breeds superbugs, which disgust me more than regular, old, everyday germs.
  6. I enjoy naming inanimate objects. Seriously, I name everything. My laptop? Check. Netbook? Check. MP3 player? Check. Car? Check.
  7. I will not eat food that looks like the animal from which it came. For example, I don't eat ribs because you can kind of stack the ribs just so, and they look like a pig. I'll take my food mechanically processed, thank you very much.
  8. I'm a little bit OCD and a perfectionist. Some things have to be just right, or I can't concentrate. I'm definitely not a tidy person though! I follow the "creative chaos" creed.
  9. I dislike heights, but non-jerky roller coaster riding is the highlight of my summer.
  10. I'm incredibly internet-shy and thus slack off on giving out awards, commenting and otherwise being a social blogger. I'm working on it, though. :-)
I'm passing it on to:

AND most recently, Wendy over at Wendy's Minding Spot thought of me for the One Lovely Blog Award.
 
One Lovely Blog Award

RULES:

1. Post on your blog that you received the award.
2. Choose 15 other newly discovered bloggers that you love, and award them with this.
3. Send them a message/comment to let them know.


I'm passing it on to:

    Want to Read Wednesday: Everwild

    There was the rumor of a beautiful sky witch, who soared across the heavens in a great silver balloon. And there were whispers of a terrible ogre made entirely of chocolate, who lured unsuspecting souls with that rich promising smell, only to cast them down a bottomless pit from which there was no return.

    Everlost, the limbo land of dead children, is at war. Nick the "Chocolate Ogre" wants to help the children of Everlost reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Mary Hightower, self-proclaimed queen of lost children and dangerous fanatic, is determined to keep Everlost's children trapped within its limbo for all eternity. Traveling in the memory of the Hindenburg, Mary is spreading her propaganda and attracting Afterlights to her cause at a frightening speed.

    Meanwhile, Allie the Outcast travels home to seek out her parents, along with Mikey, who was once the terrifying monster the McGill. Allie is tempted by the seductive thrill of skinjacking the living, until she learns a shocking secret: Those who skinjack are not actually dead. 


    Critically acclaimed author Neal Shusterman writes a book about life, death, and how the choices we make define ourselves in this luminous sequel to Everlost, which Orson Scott Card called "marvelously inventive...and magically beautiful."
    [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, March 16, 2010

    Goodreads!

    I just wanted to let you know that I'm on Goodreads. (I've been there for a while, but I kept forgetting to link it here.) I would love to see what y'all are reading so, please, feel free to friend me!

    On the blog, I've added some pages under the header. All of my reviews have their own non-widget space now, and I've started a recommendations section, which will be added to as I remember books that I love.

    Have a great evening/morning/afternoon wherever you are!

    [UPDATE] I added a way to subscribe by email using FeedBurner. I've never utilized this before so if it's buggy, please let me know, and I'll do my best to get things straightened out. It's currently located under the Google Followers widget on the left sidebar.

    Also, if RSS or Atom feeds would be useful for you, let me know;  I can add those too if anyone wants them.
    ~E

    Review of Stupid Cupid

    Felicity's no ordinary teen matchmaker...she's a cupid!
    Felicity Walker believes in true love. That's why she applies for a gig at the matchmaking company Cupid's Hollow. But when Felicity gets the job, she learns that she isn't just a matchmaker...she's a cupid! (There's more than one of them, you know.)
    Armed with a hot pink, tricked-out PDA infused with the latest in cupid magic (love arrows shot through email), Felicity works to meet her quota of successful matches. But when she bends the rules of cupidity by matching her best friend Maya with three different boys at once, disaster strikes. Felicity needs to come up with a plan to set it all right, pronto, before she gets fired...and before Maya ends up with her heart split in three.
    [from Goodreads]

    Rating: 2 out of 5 boxes
    Target Audience:  Women who need a beach read
    High point: The premise
    Low point: Felicity
    Reader maturity:  13+

    In Stupid Cupid, the main character, Felicity, gets a job as a cupid at a matchmaking agency. She's given a tricked out phone and told to make x amount of matches per week while following a few simple rules. At first, Felicity seemed like she could handle that--seems easy enough. Well, right off the bat, the main character slips up big time and then spends the rest of the novel trying to keep her boss from finding out about the mistake she made. And then the one after that. AND the one after that. While I fully sympathize with characters that make mistakes (after all, there has to be conflict), after they keep making poor decisions, I start to get fed up, and that happened here pretty quickly. I spent the entire time wishing Felicity would just grow up already.

    The writing is just...okay; it's a little hasty--not quite sloppy, but it could use some tightening up and smoothing out. In addtion, the story pops from scene to scene, dragging the reader along, which I found unpleasant. This novel feels like it could have used slightly more TLC from an editor--it's not unsalvageable, but it's not finished either. Stupid Cupid also tries to sound hip and just ends up feeling juvenile to me, but then, I prefer YA writing that could pass as adult fiction if the characters were older and more mature.

    On the plus side...I finished it. It wasn't graphic. While there was needless swearing and a couple of awkward allusions, overall, it wasn't age-inappropriate, and the premise could have been entertaining if the main character's mistakes were more sincere. Stupid Cupid just wasn't my kind of book, but if you're looking for something light and frothy to spend an afternoon with, it might be the right one.

    Title:  Stupid Cupid
    Author:  Rhonda Stapleton
    Genre:  Young Adult Fiction
    Year:  2009
    Book Source:  Won from The Book Cellar

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Wannabe Writers #7

    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:  I'm working diligently on Novel #2 and have added about 7000 words this week while writing for about 1 to 1.5 hours a day. My writing goal is 1 hour a day, but this week there were so many words and ideas, I just couldn't stop typing! 

    My current problems: Nothing's really on my mind this week. Novel #1 is [temporarily] shelved, and the only thing with Novel #2 is that I'm 20000+ words in, and I'm worried that it will be too short, a problem that will remedy itself with time and typing, I'm sure.

    Question(s) this week: How to get going in the beginning? Suggestions on ways to start a story?

    When I start writing, I usually have one scene in mind. Then I think about what I've written and start asking myself "why?" What's the motivation? Why is the MC alone? What happened to her family/friends? Why is there a cat in her apartment if she doesn't want one? Why doesn't she want it? Why can't she get rid of it? Why is her neighbor so arrogant? What happened to make them dislike each other so much?

    I answer these questions mentally, then write the next scene and start the process over again. I find that by asking why, my mind goes crazy coming up with new ideas and concepts.

    If that doesn't work, I gave this advice to someone a few weeks ago. If you're stuck, pull out a piece of paper and just start writing words on it. Verbs, nouns, adjectives, whatever pops into your head--write it down. When the page is full, take a few minutes to look over what you wrote and see if any of it seems like it could make a neat scene. It might be the next chapter or one later on in the book, or it might simply spur your creativity.

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Supernatural Saturday: Review of Frostbite

    Rose loves Dimitri, Dimitri might love Tasha, and Mason would die to be with Rose... It's winter break at St. Vladimir's, but Rose is feeling anything but festive. A massive Strigoi attack has put the school on high alert, and now the Academy's crawling with Guardians--including Rose's hard-hitting mother, Janine Hathaway. And if hand-to-hand combat with her mom wasn't bad enough, Rose's tutor Dimitri has his eye on someone else, her friend Mason's got a huge crush on her, and Rose keeps getting stuck in Lissa's head while she's making out with her boyfriend, Christian! The Strigoi are closing in, and the Academy's not taking any risks....This year, St. Vlad's annual holiday ski trip is mandatory.
    But the glittering winter landscape and the posh Idaho resort only create the illusion of safety. When three friends run away in an offensive move against the deadly Strigoi, Rose must join forces with Christian to rescue them. But heroism rarely comes without a price...
    [from Goodreads]

    Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
    Target Audience: Teens who love good vampire drama
    High point:  The complex relationship between Dimitri and Rose
    Low point: Needless mature content
    Reader maturity:  17+

    Frostbite was every bit as good as Vampire Academy--if not more so--and furthers the story of Rose, Lissa, Dimitri and Christian.

    Like Vampire Academy, Ms. Mead updates the vampire myth without straying from it entirely, merely updating it to personalize it. The Strigoi--the evil vampires--play a bigger role in Frostbite, threatening the school. Upset over her forbidden crush, Rose is dealing with Mason's crush on her.

    I praised the development of Rose in Vampire Academy and still think she's a great main character, but some things she did in Frostbite don't ring true to their maturity we saw toward the end of the first installment. Her reactions and decisions are more abrupt and foolhardy than what she had grown into in Vampire Academy, but her questions regarding the right thing to do and her loyalty to Lissa are as solid as ever. A new character is introduced in Frostbite; he's a great addition to the cast, amusing and mysterious at the same time. He had me guessing until the end.

    The conflict in Frostbite is much more dangerous than in Vampire Academy. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen and who was going to make it out alive. After the story closed, I was relieved to have Volume 3 near at hand.

    Title:  Frostbite
    Author:  Richelle Mead
    Genre: Young Adult Horror and Suspense
    Year: 2008
    Book Source:  Purchased

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Book Blogger Hop - Let's Party!


    It's that time of the week again!  With the hugely successful first week, Book Blogger Hop will be a weekly feature at Crazy-for-Books!  So, get those party shoes on and let's start the Hop!

    Missed out last week?  Here's what the Hop is all about!

    Every day I seem to find another book blog that I start following. In the spirit of the Friday Follow, I thought it would be cool to do a Book Blog Hop to give us all bookies a chance to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed!

    So, if you'd like to participate, just repost this on your blog, sign MckLinky at Crazy-for-Books, and check out other blogs at Crazy-for-Books! Let's connect and make new book bloggy friends!! So, if you consider yourself a book blogger, come join the fun!

    Pretty please - Your blog should have content related to books, including, but not limited to book reviews.

    The Friday 56: The Vampire Diaries: The Fury and Dark Reunion

    Closest Book:  The Vampire Diaries:  The Fury and Dark Reunion

    Author:  L. J. Smith
    Page 56, sentence 5:  " 'Thank you,' Bonnie said, wiping her streaming eyes. She tilted her head back to look at the ceiling, either to regain her poise or to get inspiration."







    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, March 11, 2010

    Amaranthine Review: Eight Cousins

    Rose Campbell, tired and ill, has come to live at "The Aunt Hill" after the death of her beloved father. Six aunts fussing and fretting over her are bad enough, but what is a quiet 13-year-old girl to do with seven boisterous boy cousins?
    [from Goodreads]
     









    Rating: 4 out of 5 boxes
    Target Audience:  Preteen and teenage girls, especially those with lots of brothers
    High point:  The distinct and inviting characters
    Low point:  Rose's uncle is unrealistically wonderful
    Reader maturity:  8+
    Favorite quotes:  "...The words 'we are sisters' went straight to her heart and nestled there."
    "[She was] kept there in the sort of embrace a man gives to the dearest creature the world holds for him."

    The first time I read Eight Cousins I was probably about 7 or 8, and I missed the underlying tone of the story. I didn't understand much of it at all. When I reread it a few years later, I loved it.

    Rose is an orphaned young girl, taken in by her uncle after spending time with each of her many elderly aunts. Her uncle turns her world upside down, encouraging her to be her best--not as a female but as a person. She mothers to her 7 boisterous male cousins, settling arguments and teaching lessons and playing nurse. Under her uncle's care, she blossoms, leading to the sequel, Rose in Bloom.

    Eight Cousins is typical Louisa May Alcott, with a rowdy and unique cast of characters, each one with their own quirks. Rose's personality is a mix of the four sisters in Little Women; she's caring, smart, occasionally girl and fairly practical. The reader gets to watch as Rose learns to be her own person, not the coddled baby that she was before meeting her new guardian.

    The antics of the 7 male cousins are highly amusing. They spend most of their time vying for Rose's attention, sometimes at the expense of another cousin. Rose is constantly trying to straighten them out and smooth over feelings and still make her aunts feel loved. Familial relations lead the conflict and the humor in the story--between the cousins, between Rose and the cousins, between Rose and the aunts, between the aunts and the uncle and sometimes all of them at once.

    Eight Cousins is a great read for all ages. It doesn't receive the recognition of some of Louisa May Alcott's other works, but it is just as wonderfully written and entertaining.

    Title:  Eight Cousins
    Author:  Louisa May Alcott
    Genre:  Children's Fiction and Literature
    Year:  1875
    Book Source:  Purchased

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Want to Read Wednesday: Beautiful Creatures

    There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
    We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
    At least, that's what I thought.
    Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.
    There was a curse.
    There was a girl.
    And in the end, there was a grave.

    Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

    Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

    In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

    [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, March 9, 2010

    Review of The Dark Divine

    Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared--the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in his own blood--but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held.

    The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel's shocking artistic abilities, his way of getting her to look at the world from new angles, and the strange, hungry glint in his eyes.

    The closer Grace gets to Daniel, the more she jeopardizes her life, as her actions stir resentment in Jude and drive him to embrace the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind the boy's dark secret...and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it--her soul.

    [from Goodreads]

    Rating: 5 out of 5 boxes
    Target Audience: Fans of the paranormal and those who need a vampire break
    High point:  The plot and the characters
    Low point: Too much foreshadowing
    Reader maturity:  13+

    I started The Dark Divine with more than a little apprehension. Everything I had read about the book said it was amazing, and it couldn't live up to the hype...could it? YES. It was fabulous.

    Grace Divine, the preacher's daughter, manages to be a likeable good girl, avoiding the saccharine and cloying trap that so many straight-laced characters fall into, and she was also refreshingly normal, carrying her family baggage but not letting it weigh her down. Her reactions and questions are legitimate, and she handles the emerging chaos in her life in a reasonable manner.

    And Daniel? He was the perfect prodigal son--flawed and torn but ready for redemption. During his heroic moments, he saves Grace without becoming untouchable. The relationship between Grace and Daniel was a refreshing change from the swooning heroine and her pedestal-bound savior. Grace has enough spunk and fire to stand up for herself and her beliefs, even as she tries to understand what those are. Jude was another brilliantly-developed character, another goody-goody who managed to still be likeable because of his sincerity, even as he makes his own life-changing decisions. The rest of the supporting cast was also really well developed, each character having their own traits and quirks but never overpowering the story, only contributing to it in small ways.

    Some of the paranormal explanations fell strangely but were smoothed out satisfactorily just a chapter or two later. The only issue that I had while reading was the overabundance of foreshadowing and flashback teasers. There were so many and they went on so far into the novel, they distracted from the unfolding of the plot. Other than that, The Dark Divine was everything I had read about and more. I highly recommend it. Bree Despain created a heartfelt, passionate novel with an amazing array of depth and intrigue while still keeping the story pleasantly clean and suitable for younger YA readers.

    Side note:  I usually leave the cover commentary to others, but I have to say, the cover is beautiful. I love the tie-in to the abundance of purple in the novel.

    Title:  The Dark Divine
    Author:  Bree Despain
    Genre:  Teen Fiction Horror & Suspense
    Year:  2009
    Book Source:  Won from Amy Brecount White

    Saturday, March 6, 2010

    Wannabe Writers #6

    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:  Continuing to wrap up Novel #1, I wrote a new query letter, and I'm waiting on some feedback before I finish up the final storyline edits. I'm also experimenting with a new opening scene to better reflect the content of the novel. Novel #2 is progressing nicely, and last week, I ripped out about 5000 "tell" words and then added about 5000 "show" words to replace them.

    My current problems:  I'm still struggling with this question:  When do I say "this is it?" (If one agent says something about my novel, is that problem insurmountable? Do I keep working on it for the experience or do I just say, "okay, that's it" and dive headfirst into Novel #2?) Last week, one of the commenters, Swimmer, said this:
    The answer to your problem is well... you don't. I keep going on my novels because I love them and I love the characters I create and their unique inner and outer problems. I don't know if I will ever publish my book. I will try but I love it being mine. That is why I keep writing it because I feel I owe it to my little world but I honestly have no idea if its a good book or not.
    And that little tidbit totally made my day. Thanks, Swimmer! That's some of the best writing advice I've ever heard.

    I'm not writing to become published; I'm writing because I love it, because it's my creative escape. I would love to be published, but stressing about when to shelve a novel takes the fun out of it. I'm really wrestling with that this week--to remember that I'm writing for me and that anything else is just icing on the cake.

    Question(s) this week: How to write characters of a different race (gender or sexual orientation--or even culture)? Has it worked for you?

    How to write characters of a different race...My advice would be to immerse yourself in the culture (or at the very least, watch lots of movies and read as many books about it as you can), but I really don't know, having never encountered this before.

    I can't help but think of the advice Anne received (from Gilbert, I think) in the Anne of Green Gables series when she's striving to be a writer. Write what you know. I write about characters I'm familiar with. They're not exactly like me or anyone else, of course. I've pulled bits and pieces of my personality and included them in the characters; they're exaggerated composites of the people I've known and seen.

    Right now as a writer, I'm not skilled enough to use someone else's way of life and make it personal enough to craft a decent story or character out of it. Maybe someday.

    I'm really interested in seeing how others respond to this question because I don't have much experience with this topic and would love to hear others' suggestions.

    Supernatural Saturday: Review of Vampire Academy

    St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger...
    Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.
    [from Goodreads]

    Rating:  4 out of 5 boxes
    Target Audience: Teens who love good vampire drama
    High point:  The complexity of Rose and Lissa's world
    Low point: Needless mature content
    Reader maturity:  17+

    The first few pages of Vampire Academy didn't impress me, but once the story moved along to the actual vampire academy...wow. I was hooked. I'm not a huge vampire novel fan because they tend to veer towards the campy or stretch just how much I can accept as "realistic" paranormal fiction, but Vampire Academy doesn't even stop to trifle with those issues. It hits all the high points of vampire mythology, mixes in a few new quirks to make the story unique and then plunges right into the meaty part of the story.

    The vampire academy seems like a really cool place to go to school, if you're a Moroi or dhampir, that is. Rose is an amusing and realistic main character. I'm not sure I'd really want to be friends with her--she's volatile--but I'd definitely want her gunning for me in a fight. Her best friend, Lissa, came across as pretty wimpy to me, letting Rose handle everything, but Rose's acceptance of this is sufficiently and believably explained as part of her training. Rose handles everything with a "that's the way it is" attitude. Normally, this would seem like a sketchy plot hole, but in Vampire Academy it's not. It's a core aspect of Rose's personality.

    Then there's Dimitri. Let's just say, he kicks every other vampire love interest out of the park. He's a terrific mentor and exercises a great amount of self-control, although the mistakes he makes seem a little out of character...but then, he's always younger than I imagine him. All of the secondary characters are good additions too, with none of them seeming extraneous or flat.

    Vampire Academy was a set-up book, but until you read the sequels, you won't realize it. Its storyline pales in comparison to the later books, but it's a fine piece of work in its own right. I bought a Vampire Academy boxed set and was really glad not to be left hanging after book one.

    Title:  Vampire Academy
    Author:  Richelle Mead
    Genre: Young Adult Horror and Suspense
    Year: 2007
    Book Source:  Purchased

    Friday, March 5, 2010

    The Friday 56: The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening and The Struggle

    Closest Book:  The Vampire Diaries:  The Awakening and The Struggle

    Author:  L. J. Smith
    Page 56, sentence 5:  " 'But--but--Oh, all right. Ow!' 'Now you, Elena.' Meredith pricked Elena's thumb efficiently, and then squeezed it to get a drop of blood."









    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, March 4, 2010

    Amaranthine Review: Mary Poppins

    The wind brings two English children a new nanny who slides up the bannister and introduces them to some delightful people and experiences.
    [from Goodreads]

    For all her offended sniffs and humphs, Mary Poppins is likely the most exciting nanny England--and the world--has ever seen. Young Jane and Michael Banks have no idea what's in store for them when Mary Poppins blows in on the east wind one autumn evening. Soon, though, the children are having tea on the ceiling, flying around the world in a minute (visiting polar bears and hyacinth macaws on the way), and secretly watching as their unusual nanny pastes gold paper stars to the sky. Mary's stern and haughty exterior belies the delightful nonsense she harbors; her charges, as well as her literary fans, respect and adore her.
    Grownups who have forgotten Mary Poppins's true charms will be tickled pink to rediscover this uniquely unsentimental fantasy. Younger readers will walk into Mary's world without batting an eye. Certainly a falling star landing on a cow's horn will make her dance ceaselessly. Why wouldn't one be able to enter into a chalk picture? The only disappointing aspect of this classic is that it doesn't go on forever! (Ages 9 to 12) --Emilie Coulter
     [from Goodreads]
     
    Rating: 4 out of 5 boxes
    Target Audience:  Children of all ages, fans of grumpy nannies
    High point:  Mary Poppins herself, of course
    Low point:  Mr. and Mrs. Banks
    Reader maturity:  5+
    Favorite quotes:  "Then the shape, tossed and bent under the wind, lifted the latch of the gate, and they could see that it belonged to a woman, who was holding her hat on with one hand and carrying a bag in the other. As they watched, Jane and Michael saw a curious thing happen. As soon as the shape was inside the gate the wind seemed to catch her up into the air and fling her at the house. It was as though it had flung her first at the gate, waited for her to open it, and then had lifted and thrown her, bag and all, at the front door. The watching children heard a terrific bang, and as she landed the whole house shook."
    "What I want to know is this: Are the stars gold paper or is the gold paper stars?"

    Mary Poppins first visits the Banks children in P. L. Travers' novel about the formidable pillar of the nursery and the adventures she has with the Jane and Michael and the twins. Her character is harsh and crabby, yet it is evident that she cares for the children. They blossom under her strict care and learn more than they ever could have imagined just by accompanying Mary Poppins on the simplest of errands. Chalk picture lands, gingerbread stars and tea parties on the ceiling are all in a day's work for the magical nanny.

    I collected almost all of the Mary Poppins novels as a child but loved this one, the first in the series, best. The literary Mary Poppins is a far cry from the Hollywood version and even more interesting when given a chance; the farfetched stories in the books are more numerous and mind-boggling than those of the movie. The other characters in the stories are charming as well--the policemen, the chimney sweep, even the other servants. They all create an almost fairy tale world within London, capturing the imaginations of children for decades.

    Title:  Mary Poppins
    Author:  P. L. Travers
    Genre:  Children's Fiction and Literature
    Year:  1934
    Book Source:  Purchased

    Wednesday, March 3, 2010

    Want to Read Wednesday: Fallen

    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.

    Let's kick off with a beautiful cover.

    There's something achingly familiar about Daniel Grigori.

    Mysterious and aloof, he captures Luce Price's attention from the moment she sees him on her first day at the Sword & Cross boarding school in sultry Savannah, Georgia. He's the one bright spot in a place where cell phones are forbidden, the other students are all screw-ups, and security cameras watch every move.

    Even though Daniel wants nothing to do with Luce--and goes out of his way to make that very clear--she can't let it go. Drawn to him like a moth to a flame, she has to find out what Daniel is so desperate to keep secret . . . even if it kills her.

    Dangerously exciting and darkly romantic, Fallen is a page turning thriller and the ultimate love story. 

    [from Goodreads]