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Book Review: “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain

2956Series: Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn, #2
Published: 1884
Page Count: 327
Genre: Classics, Fiction, Literature, Historical Fiction, Young Adult, Adventure
Read Count: Twice
Duration: June 20th-23rd, 2015.
Rated? Four Stars

Of all the contenders for the title of The Great American Novel, none has a better claim than The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Intended at first as a simple story of a boy’s adventures in the Mississippi Valley – a sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – the book grew and matured under Twain’s hand into a work of immeasurable richness and complexity. More than a century after its publication, the critical debate over the symbolic significance of Huck’s and Jim’s voyage is still fresh, and it remains a major work that can be enjoyed at many levels: as an incomparable adventure story and as a classic of American humor.

TLDR?

A fun story with a series of colorful characters and a brutally honest narrative.

The last time I read this book was in high school, sophomore year, as part of the English curriculum. I didn’t remember not liking it so I thought, shoot, I’ll read it again. And what fun it is! I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (though I know enough about it; Mark Twain is so ingrained in our culture), though I certainly will.

Twain, through Huck, paints the most blatantly honest view of people, from his abusive, greedy Pap to the sad, deceased Emmeline Grangerford. He’s a sweet boy, and it’s such fun to go down the Mississippi on his raft with himself and Jim.

Like anything of this era, it’s incredibly important to remember that Huck Finn is a product of his times and while the view of the world has changed, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a notorious banned book, we should not hide literature away in a cupboard because of the world which produced it. I have similar feelings to this novel as I do Gone With the Wind, because of its racist sentiments, but one absolutely cannot let this ruin the book, as when it was written, this would have been even controversially abolitionist. Just food for thought.

To sum up, I just want to add that Tom and Jim’s discourse about the necessities of prisonerhood and the need to keep a pet rattlesnake and so forth had me all but laughing out loud in the middle of my quiet office as I listened to the audiobook. That, and Elijah Wood does a recording through Audible that is absolutely sublime.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Audible.
Available on Kindle, Nook, & iBooks.

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Book Review: “Wolf Speaker” by Tamora Pierce

24094Series: The Immortals, #2
Published: January 1st, 1993
Page Count: 344
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fiction, Magic, Adventure, Teen, High Fantasy
Read Count: Thrice
Duration: June 18th-20th, 2015.
Rated? Three Stars

When humans start cutting down trees and digging holes in peaceful Dunlath Valley, the wolves know that something is wrong. They send a messenger to the only human who will listen — Daine, a fourteen-year-old girl with the unpredictable power of wild magic. Daine and her closest companions heed the wolves’ cry for help. But the challenge they are about to face in the valley is greater than they can possibly imagine…

TLDR?

Fun coming-into-powers story.  The MC is a bit frustrating at times, but is written that way.  Great for Teens & Pre-teens, or those looking for something easy and fluffy.

If someone asks me what my favorite books were when I was younger, why I want to be a writer, why I love fantasy or why I still – as a 25 year old adult working in Finance – have an imagination, all fingers must be pointed at Tamora Pierce. I started reading her books when I was 9 or 10, and they have stayed with me and I am happy to keep up with her writing even now, and I have gone back a re-read her series many times. Pierce is a world builder, and an excellent one at that, and even though Daine is fourteen in this novel, it is easy to fall into her world.

The Immortals was the first series I read by Pierce, and relatively unique in its storytelling as the knights are side stories and her training is one-on-one and more nomadic, unlike the Circle of Magic series. Wolf Speaker is fun because Daine begins to fall into her abilities as a Wild Mage and finds a few fun surprises. As this book is written for children and not angst-ridden teens or scrutinizing adults, the tone is relatively light and her troubles are few as she adapts to the world around her and her abilities. Additionally, Pierce gives the underlying message of the importance of respecting the natural world around us and not succumbing to greed at any cost.

This gets three stars because Daine drives me nuts. She’s very emotional and is written that way purposefully – the characters around her also get exasperated with her. Her abilities are interesting, the little dragon Kitten is interesting, the story is a bit light (as aforementioned – children’s book), her teacher Numair is interesting, but Daine takes a little bit of patience at times, like listening to a self-righteous, whiny pre-teen (appropriately so) and I think perhaps the intentionality of this tied with my reaction just sort of goes to show how adept of a writer Pierce is….

My recollection of the series is that Wolf Speaker was my least favorite of the four and I look forward to Emperor Mage.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Audible.
Available on Kindle, Nook, & iBooks.

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Book Review: “The Other Boleyn Girl” by Philippa Gregory

37470Series: The Tudor Court, #2
Published: 2001
Page Count: 661
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Historical, Romance, Adult, Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, European Literature, British Literature
Read Count: Twice
Duration: June 4th-18th, 2015.
Rated? Five Stars

Two sisters competing for the greatest prize: The love of a king

When Mary Boleyn comes to court as an innocent girl of fourteen, she catches the eye of Henry VIII. Dazzled, Mary falls in love with both her golden prince and her growing role as unofficial queen. However, she soon realises just how much she is a pawn in her family’s ambitious plots as the king’s interest begins to wane and she is forced to step aside for her best friend and rival: her sister, Anne. Then Mary knows that she must defy her family and her king and take fate into her own hands.

A rich and compelling novel of love, sex, ambition, and intrigue, The Other Boleyn Girl introduces a woman of extraordinary determination and desire who lived at the heart of the most exciting and glamourous court in Europe and survived by following her heart.

TLDR?

Wonderfully told, and from the right point-of-view. Complex characters and strong plot without overwhelmingly graphic scenes.  Audio book also recommended.

The fact that this story is told from Mary’s point-of-view, and not from Anne’s, makes all the difference in the world. In the tellings of the Tudorian Court, it is easy to fall into the tangle of sex, intrigue, and sin. Mary is an outlier to that world, and when she is pushed into it, she remains uncorrupted by their games. She does what she does with all the honesty she can muster, with her whole heart. Mary is not blameless – she cuckolded her husband, after all – but in a Gammorah, she comes out rather clean, which is how Gregory’s story manages to retain an intriguing plot line and not fall away into endless scene of sexual endeavors. If the story had been written from Anne’s point-of-view, this would be a much, much different tale.

As far as the writing goes, the story is compelling, even for the daunting size of the novel, and the characters are varied just enough that you can love or hate them all respectively, but they are complicated. You cannot really hate Anne, not to the core, when you see her through Mary’s eyes, and Gregory does a marvelous job of building sympathy for event he worst of the characters.

Overall, a good enough read that I’ve now read it twice and enjoyed it equally both times, This second time, I indulged in the audiobook read by Susan Lyons (this is the unabridged one… I cannot abide abridged books. WHY.) and I thought she did a fantastic job of bringing all the characters to life, but Mary in particular. Well done.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Audible.
Available on Kindle, Nook, & iBooks.

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Book Review: “Invisible” by Cecily Paterson

17257584Series: Invisible
Published: February 11th, 2013
Page Count: 270
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fiction
Read Count: Once
Duration: May 29th – June 14th.
Rated? Four Stars

Jazmine Crawford doesn’t make decisions. She doesn’t make choices. She doesn’t make friends. Jazmine Crawford only wants one thing: to be invisible. For Jazmine, it’s a lot easier to take out her hearing aid and drift along pretending that nothing’s wrong than it is to admit that she’s heartbroken. She starts to come out of her shell when she’s forced to be in the school play and even makes friends with bouncy Gabby and chocolate-loving Liam. But can she stand up to the school bully, and is she strong enough to face the truth about what really happened to her dad?

TLDR?

This is a very sweet little book and I’d recommend it to girls in middle school and early high school.

I am definitely older than the target audience for this book, but for what it was, it was nice. Invisible tells the story of a pre-teen deaf girl who has gotten herself tangled with a bully and is given a second chance by a teacher. There’s no love triangle, there’s no overdramatic angst. It’s simply a nice little story about a girl learning about herself and allowing herself to be happy. It’s very sweet. I would recommend it any middle school girl looking to for a nice story without an undue amount of angst.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads.
Available on Kindle, & iBooks.

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Literacy in the Western World

In the United States, we have plenty of problems.  There’s a growing gap between social classes.  There’s an abundance of homelessness.  There’s an epidemic of corporate greed, and yet these are all definitively first world problems.  Most of us, even in the lower class, don’t suffer from dysentery or undernourishment or war.  Our problems are limited to our growth as a nation and while some of them are very big and real (homelessness in the nation’s largest cities is astounding), most of them do not affect our ability to survive.

There is a chain of human needs that starts at the most primal – food, shelter, companionship – and once those needs are fulfilled, we move up to other more metaphysical, emotional and intellectual concerns.  A comfortable nation is the one that is able to send man to the moon, to screen for manic depression, and to create tear-jerking soap operas.  Our primal needs have been met and we can focus of individual betterment.  As a first world nation, this is where the United States stands.

In fact, as a nation of individuals, too many of us have passed the point of passion for self-improvement and fallen into complacency.  This sheep-like reaction to comfort, lured by the promise of panem et circenses, has stalled our culture into a decline.  Like the glory and destruction of Ancient Rome before us, the majority of Americans have ceased growth and betterment.  Film become remakes and reboots of franchises not even twenty years old.  Writing has become forced and haphazard.  One of America’s most beloved past-times, football, is in itself reminiscent of the gladiatorial matches of Rome, as we watch men break through each other for a ball.  In my opinion, a Roman gladiator’s fight for survival, instead of fame and acceptance, was more noble.

This complacency is the reason why we see a detached social dynamic building for future generations.  More of concern to me personally, however, is the fact that this complacency has allowed the United States – a nation which literally has everything it could ever really need – to remain at a below-average literacy rate, with no change for over twenty years.

Media hasn’t helped improved our literacy rates, either,  Intentional misspellings, such as “Double Stuf Oreos” add to encourage a culture that would rather watch a movie than read a book or even a brief news article.  An article in the Huffington Post dated two years ago reminds us that in the United States, there are 32 million adults that don’t know how to read.  Although the article is a little dated, the numbers wouldn’t have changed so dramatically.

The ProLiteracy Foundation is working to try to find a solution about the lack of literacy (American and otherwise) and reverse the effect it has on society.  The website lists the effects of illiteracy on the economy, on the health system and is very much worth a look.

Take some time to volunteer to read to some children – your own, if you have some.  Buy a book for a friend.  Share an article you like.  Promote literacy in a world that is slowly abandoning it.

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The Rise and Fall of the Written Word

I had both the pleasure and disappointment of seeing the movie Tomorrowland last Monday.  I was amazed at the imagination at the beginning, the beauty of this whole remarkable parallel universe, and I chuckled at all of Disney’s cute reference drops (the song from the “Carousel of Progress” and the debut of “It’s A Small World”).  There was that moment of breathlessness, and hope and imagination.  Even into the middle of the film as the main character is being chased out of a Space Age collectibles shop….

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And then, as suddenly as it was beautiful, it was awkward and sideways and badly written.  What?  What happened!?

And then, as I was walking out of the theatre, it hit me.  Wait – I’ve read this type of story before.  It’s between the lines of too many self-published novels, where the editor seems to be cut out of the equation.  Where at the beginning, there are remarkable images and enough to pull the readers on to this beautiful ship with a sky-melting sunset and promises of a whole new world… only to fall off the edge of the earth and have our breath sucked away in the cold mercilessness of space.  We are drawn in by the mystery and intrigue and possibility of the story at the beginning only to have too quick of a climax and a rushed ending.  At the risk of sounding crude, it much resembles a hot date when you get all worked up only to be the victim of a little premature accident, if you know what I mean….

So, still reeling from the wasted potential of Tomorrowland, this is my plea, to writers big and small:  plan out your stories.  Edit them.  Make sure it’s a fulfilling story, and not just a sip of Moxie… delicious at first, but with a horrible aftertaste.

You would have my thanks to remember that writing is art, and an artist should take pride in his and her work.  So make it something beautiful and worth remembering.

Fifteen Minute Ficlet: Sing Sweet (Winnifred leBrenne, “The Sin Series”)

Her mother ran her fingers over the ivory keys with the skill and grace expected of any lady. As she watched the way her mother’s fingers glided, Winnifred took a deep, unseemly breath, and just like that, the music stopped. The lid to the piano closed, hiding the keys beneath a cover of polished mahogany.

Her mother sighed one of her exaggerated sighs that could only mean the depth of disappointment her precious daughter brought to her. Winnifred leBrenne didn’t need telepathy to tell that she would never be good enough for her high-strung mother. She stood, and looked down at her young daughter, her eyes like stone.

You will never be good enough.

The thought would have once made Winnie cringe, but it was a common mantra now. The Lady leBrenne looked her daughter up and down the way a butcher might eye a cow he was about to slaughter. She was tall, as tall as her tycoon husband, with slender tanned legs and perfectly soft golden hair that fell in little ringlets just past her shoulders. She had grey eyes, like a maelstrom, and her personality was just as unpredictable. Her fingers were long and thing, and with them now she picked up the silver diapason and tapped it gently. A clear, crisp note rang through the warm springtime air, and her mother closed her eyes.

“Do you hear that note, Peach?” her mother always called her ‘peach,’ or ‘berry,’ or some other fruit with a sweet flavor. “It is the sound of perfection. It is the beautiful call of the sirens on the waters. You must never stray too high above or too low beneath this note, or else you will sound like a gull. Do you understand?”

Even at the age of twelve, Winnifred’s mother spoke to her as though she were an ignorant infant. Music was the only skill her mother insisted upon teaching her personally, and as a result, it was her most miserable subject. Her father said she sang like a pretty little meadowlark, but she knew her mother despised him for his gentility. She will never learn if she is babied, her mother often thought. She also knew that her mother thought she could marry her daughter off to some well-placed Duke, or perhaps the Prince of Kyrix himself. She loathed the idea of being placed in such a way that she was her mother’s pawn.

Often, she sang poorly just to vex her mother.

“We will try it again,” her mother said, sitting back down at the grand piano and placing the forked diapason beside her.

It is useless. She could not charm a codfish.

Winnifred bit her tongue, swallowing a quip that certainly would get her ears boxed. She hated that punishment more than all the others, for it made her ears ring for days and that sound, added to her endless headache from the chatter in the grand mansion around her, led to fits of dizziness and nausea. Her mother thought her weak as a flower for the time she would spend bedridden with illness, but if she could only shut the voices off, she would have been a perfectly happy young lady.

“Tea time, mistresses,” one of the maids called into them. She bore a polished silver tray with a hand-painted porcelain teapot, two cups and saucers, and two buttery scones that made Winnifred’s mouth water.

“Just set it over there,” her mother gestured with a flick of her wrist. She never bothered to learn the names of their servants. To Winnifred, she added, “We will not break for tea until you sing properly.”

The ultimatum understood, Winnifred filled her lungs and when the piano began to sing, so did she.

Book Review: “Yes Please” by Amy Poehler

1Series: None
Published: October 28th, 2014
Page Count: 329
Genre: Non-Fiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Humor, Comedy
Read Count: Once
Duration: January 18th-27nd.
Rated? Three Stars

In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, “Yes Please”, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, “Yes Please” is a book is full of words to live by.

TLDR?

It’s just okay.  I wouldn’t’ve enjoyed it at all if not for the audiobook.

The thing about memoirs is that they are either really inspiring, or else they are just sort of meh.  Even in her prologue, Poehler makes it clear she was totally not into this whole “writing a book” thing.  And that’s great.  The honesty is great.  In fact, I thought the book started off really well.  I was chuckling at parts and found it fascinating to hear about her starts in improv, and overall her brutal honest about things.  However, I didn’t like the disjointed style where it went from this short story to a poem to four long chapters about Parks and Recreation.

She tries very hard to appeal to all sorts of fans, despite her repeated insistence that she doesn’t like meeting new people or, particularly, fans.  She spends a little time on her history, a little time on her kids, a little time on SNL, a little time on opinions, and a little time on Parks and Rec.  Many of the stories feel unfinished and by the time I was nearing the end of the book, I was bored.  I daresay it would have grown bored much more quickly if not for the quirky recording of the audiobook to keep me listening.

As an actress and comedian, Poehler puts a lot of herself into the recording and that certainly added to the experience.  She had several guest stars, even if only for a line or two, and even brought on her parents.  All that was fun and interesting.

In reading other reviews of this book, it comes up that she does often complain about writing a book, and that she seems stuck up about the whole thing.  My view on this is that it is simply amazing the standards to which we hold our celebrities.  I found her to be very genuine and even a bit uncomfortable about the ordeal, and actually thought her honesty about the whole process was admirably, and not at all off-putting.

I love the cover.  I feel as though that is the least important observation, so that goes last, but the cover is very eye-catching and fun.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Audible.
Available on Kindle, Nook, & iBooks.

Why I Read YA Fiction: An Overview

My favorite conversation topic is and has always been literature.  In high school, it was our love for the written word that may have been the only thread in common betwixt my group of friends.  I am now 25, and a few months ago I found myself in conversation with one of these old friends, and the topic of our book-of-the-moment inevitably arose.  When I know a person well enough, I am completely shameless in my literary loves, and in the course of this conversation, my friend said something along the lines of “now that I’m an adult, I try not to read YA.”

This flabbergasted me.  My immediate response was to shower her with the last five years’ worth of phenomenal YA fantasy releases, many of which are dystopian and are coming to the big screen, if they haven’t already.  Her statement, however, is not uncommon.  The unspoken expectation of “coming of age” is to separate ourselves from the things which defined our childhood.  YA – young adult – literature like the Harry Potter series and Percy Jackson may have dotted our childhoods, but is it appropriate for adults?

The latest newspapers say yes, it is.

Over the last year, a vicious war has been going on across the internet regarding the appropriateness of adults reading fiction geared for young adults (although how young must an adult actually be to qualify for that title?)  In a New York Times article, columnist Meg Wolitzer reminisces about her experiences reading a critiquing YA books with a group of adult friends by saying. “Not only do I feel an intense connection with my earlier, often more vulnerable and intensely curious self, I also feel that I’ve been given access to a pure form of the complications involved with being young, now filtered through the compassion, perceptions (and barnacles) of my older self,” while on a more serious note adding “there’s just far too much variety in Y.A. to define it or dismiss it”.

Wolitzer’s article is a reactionary response to an article written earlier in 2014 by Slate writer Ruth Graham who vehemently criticizes adults who burrow in YA stories, scolding them blatantly in saying “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.”  A personal interjection here, reminding my readers that Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy features arenas wherein children and teenagers brutally murder one another in a novel intended for 14-year-olds.  Graham’s concerns lie in the way YA fiction is replacing what she considers to be higher literary fiction, urging others in saying: “Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this.”

I reject that.  Why is it that endings need to be messy or characters need to be tragically flawed?  What is wrong with falling into fiction with the hopes of escapism?  Would modern adult readers criticize Tolkien for allowing the One Ring to be destroyed because it ties ends up too neatly, and real life does not have such a happily ever after?  I read Cervantes several years ago, and while I can appreciate the literary significance of his work, I found the writing positively unstomachable.  I revel in the flawed true love story throughout Dante’s Divine Comedy, but is the nobility of the man trying to rectify himself by following his love through Hell to Peter’s pearled gates too much of a noble trait to be considered “adult”?  There are reasons why Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has transcended time, but Hugo’s Les Miserables is better known for the opera than the original work.  The innovation and imagination in the world of happy curiosities is the type that allows a person of any age to escape a stressful, merciless lifestyle, if only for a little while.

Critics like Graham brush aside adults who read YA as those looking for escapism instead of depth.  With a good writer, these two things can be easily combined.  The world of YA is easily shadowed with heartwrenching stories like those written by John Green (The Fault in Our Stars was the book which brought this argument to light from the shadowy confines of the world wide web) and the just-kill-me-now sort of which I describe Meyer’s Twilight.  I understand the frustration of shallow characters and too-good-to-be-true relationships, and I reject them as much as the next adult reader, but this does not mean that an entire genre ought to be shrugged off.  I become equally infuriated with the vivid sexual encounters that seem centric to any adult fantasy novel.

I believe at the end of the day, a good book is simply a good book, despite its intended audience.  Some read to enrich their minds, others for entertainment.  The most important thing is that we do read.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I read YA fiction.

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Where Do Stories Come From?

Close by, my Matthew had recently discovered – and devoured – the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini, and is presently listening to an interview with Paolini.  One of the first questions, as there always is, was asked: “Where do your ideas come from?”

Where indeed?

There are some books I read and find them clearly to be branches from the inspiration of other novels, and other still come from asking the question: “What if?”  The ancient Greeks invoked the muses, a practice that continues today as those with writer’s block complain that their muse is silent.

A friend of mine and I used to joke (okay, talk seriously) that for the two of us, we never meant to have a story.  Rather, we have the idea of a character in our head, and the character builds and grows stronger until they have a voice of their own, and with that voice, a story to tell.  Each character has an individual story, but as more of them grow, their stories intertwine, and for me, that is the novel.  My best example of this is Fate – the story has gone through dozens of transformations (it was originally titled The Circle of Magic) and most the characters have faded (Sean and Jessica alone were strong enough to endure), but they still scream in my soul until the words began to fall into place and I knew – I know – when something is off, and I’m writing something wrong.  And I write and write it again until everything falls together properly.

And then I go back and write it once more for consistency.

That is my method.  It’s a chaotic method, without plot webs or intentional lessons.  But my stories come as much from dreams as culture and history.  Others set out with a specific lesson in mind.  Others just write and write and write until their fingers fall off (non-literally).

I am constantly fascinated by authors – even those I don’t care for – sharing their origin stories.

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Book Review: Mind Games

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Series: Mind Games (Book One)

Published: December 3rd, 2013

Page Count: 237

Genre: Young Adult, Teen Romance, Fantasy, Thriller, Mystery

Read Count: Once

Duration: July 3rd – July 11th

Rated? Four Stars

Darkness falls …Despair abounds …Evil reigns …Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have just saved the rebel state from destruction by the mighty forces of King Galbatorix, cruel ruler of the Empire. Now Eragon must travel to Ellesmera, land of the elves, for further training in magic and swordsmanship, the vital skills of the Dragon Rider. 

It is the journey of a lifetime, filled with awe-inspiring new places and people, each day a fresh adventure. But chaos and betrayal plague him at every turn, and Eragon isn’t sure whom he can trust. Meanwhile, his cousin Roran must fight a new battle back home in Carvahall – one that puts Eragon in even graver danger. Will the king’s dark hand strangle all resistance? Eragon may not escape with even his life.

TLDR?

Fia is her best character yet.  Will be reading the sequel.  Happy to support Kiersten White!

Now, I have read five of Kiersten White’s books, and I feel as through my attachment to them varies. She has fantastic concepts, and always uses a new twist on her stories that I have no doubt whatsoever appeal to younger readers. I liked her Paranormalcy triolgy and was a little disappointed in The Chaos of the Stars.

Mind Games was right in the middle. Yes, the two sisters felt similar. Yes, the bouncing around in first person between two characters in both past and present was annoying. But the story? The story was really good. Enough secrets were unearthed that I wasn’t frustrated with plot progression, and enough remained buried that I certainly intend to read the next book.

White writes with an edge I really like. She is witty and opinionated and believes in strong, original female characters that have every right to fall in love, but don’t lose themselves in it, and I think that distinction is very important and certainly separates her from most of the YA Teen Romance writers. I really like her.

I also liked Fia. I think it’s her best character, from what I’ve read of her so far.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble.
Available on Kindle & Nook.

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Book Review: Eldest

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Series: The Inheritance Cycle (Book Two)

Published: March 23rd, 2007

Page Count: 668

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Action, Magic, Dragons

Read Count: Three Times

Duration: June 15th – July 8th

Rated? Two Stars

Darkness falls …Despair abounds …Evil reigns …Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, have just saved the rebel state from destruction by the mighty forces of King Galbatorix, cruel ruler of the Empire. Now Eragon must travel to Ellesmera, land of the elves, for further training in magic and swordsmanship, the vital skills of the Dragon Rider. 

It is the journey of a lifetime, filled with awe-inspiring new places and people, each day a fresh adventure. But chaos and betrayal plague him at every turn, and Eragon isn’t sure whom he can trust. Meanwhile, his cousin Roran must fight a new battle back home in Carvahall – one that puts Eragon in even graver danger. Will the king’s dark hand strangle all resistance? Eragon may not escape with even his life.

TLDR?

If you’re going to bother, read the book, don’t listen to the audiobook.  Be prepared to learn the history of Alagaesia in interview-form between Eragon and his new mentor.

Oh, dragons. My most recent reading of this book is so diminished by the vocal artist used in the audiobook version. His voice rendition of Saphira made me laugh the first time I heard it, but the more I hear it, the more I want to throw things. I hear all the endless questions asked by the main character – and they are worse in Eldest than any of the other books, I dare claim – and the only respite is when the perspective changes to his cousin, Roran, whom I find far less frustrating.

The addition of characters such as Nasuada and the use of Angela the Herbalist make this book more interesting than the first, but there is so much emphasis in information revealed through dialogue that I can’t stand it.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble.
Available on Kindle & Nook.

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Book Review: Matched

 

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Series: Matched (Book One)

Published: November 30th, 2010

Page Count: 369

Genre: Young Adult, Teen Romance, Romance, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic

Read Count: Once

Duration: June 27th – July 9th

Rated? Two Stars

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

TLDR?

Blech.  Stupid ending making me curious about the next book.

See, the problem with Matched is that it has such a fabulous cover. The plot felt recycled and the world was The Giver meets The Hunger Games meets a thousand other dystopias I’ve read, with the uniqueness being almost only in the pills the characters carry, and even that had an edge of The Matrix.

I didn’t like the book. I didn’t like the love triangle. And furthermore, I’m frustrated because at the very end… about 30 pages left… I started to care a little about what happened. Because even though Cassia and Ky and Xander were such frustrating characters, I kind of actually cared about what happened to her parents. And just a little, I wanted to see what the world was like outside of her world.

So yes, I think I will read the next book, but maybe not the third. Unless it starts to feel less cliche.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble.
Available on Kindle & Nook.

Wicked

Book Review: Wicked – The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Wicked

 

Series: The Wicked Years (Book One)

Published: December 5, 200

Page Count: 406

Genre: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Adult, Witches, Magic

Read Count: Once

Duration: June 27th – July 3rd

Rated? Five Stars

When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch-nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked? And what is the true nature of evil?

Gregory Maguire creates a fantasy world so rich and vivid that we will never look at Oz the same way again. Wicked is about a land where animals talk and strive to be treated like first-class citizens, Munchkinlanders seek the comfort of middle-class stability, and the Tin Man becomes a victim of domestic violence. And then there is the little green-skinned girl named Elphaba, who will grow up to become the infamous Wicked Witch of the West, a smart, prickly, and misunderstood creature who challenges all our preconceived notions about the nature of good and evil.

TLDR?

Definitely not what I expected, but I couldn’t put it down.

I wasn’t sure what to think of this book. It has been on my to-read list for years, and I’ve for whatever reason effectively avoided it in all that time. I saw the musical in Boston in 2006 and I think first it’s imperative to understand that this book is not the musical. The only real following similarities are the setting – Oz – and the character names. The story plays out completely differently.

That said, I could not put it down.

The story follows Elphaba from before birth to the moment of her death. The life shown is uncensored and completely different than one may have expected. It is rough, sexual, and ruthless. And somehow, it is just right.

The main criticism I would have is that the ending seemed rushed, as though her insanity set in far too quickly, and in that, I would say I felt left unsatisfied.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble.
Available on Kindle & Nook.

Hammers in the Wind

Book Review: Hammers in the Wind

 

Hammers in the Wind

Series: Northern Crusade (Book One)

Published: April 2013

Page Count: 268

Genre: Fantasy, Epic

Read Count: Once

Duration: June 3rd – June 27th

Rated? Four Stars

Exiled millennia ago, the dark gods have tirelessly sought to return and bend the world of Malweir to their will. Their agents roam the world in search of weak willed men, knowing that only through corruption and chaos can their masters return. It begins in the northern kingdom of Delranan the night King Badron’s castle is attacked and his only son murdered and his daughter kidnapped. Angered, he leads his kingdom to war against the neighboring Rogscroft. 

A small band of heroes is assembled to find the princess and return her safely but all is not as it seems. Badron falls under the sway of the Dae’shan, immortal agents of the dark gods, and unwittingly begins the final campaign that will reduce Malweir to willing servants of evil.

The hour of the dark gods return is now at hand.

TLDR?

Quests! Kings! Pirates! Princesses!  And an expert storyteller – what more could a girl ask for?

It makes me sad to think that if this had not been free on Kindle, I would never have read it.

Hammers in the Wind is truly woven by an expert storyteller.  There were no grammatical or spelling errors throughout, and all the characters were round and interesting.  There were a few cases when some of the characters seemed a little similar, but they were so far away from each other, there was no mixing them up.

Lets talk about plot.  I go crazy for a good Arthurian legend, a la knights and white steeds and princesses that need rescuing.  These old plot devices never fail, and never grow tiring for me.  Freed uses them.  But he doesn’t stop there.

Not a fan of princess-rescuing?  Don’t worry… we’ve got murders and wars and wizards and demons!  Anyone who finds a fantasy epic delicious will certainly love this book!  And it is so refreshing to read something without teen romance cheesy goop.

The only reason, and I do mean only, is a hesitant fear about the complexity of the plot.  I’m all for a good George R.R. Martin saga, but every time something on one plot line seems to inch forward, it seems as though there is another twist! And another!  The entire novel is a adrenaline fueled chase of treachery and secrets… and at some point, strands are going to fall and become forgotten, or the whole thing is bound to come to a halt.

Perhaps I am wrong.  I hope so!  But I truly loved this novel and would recommend it to those who enjoy tales of the like of Martin, Tolkien, Donaldson, and legends.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads.
Available on Kindle.

1

Book Review: Delirium

1

 

Series: Delirium (Book One)

Published: February 2012

Page Count: 441

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Post Apocalyptic, Teen Romance

Read Count: Once

Duration: June 20th – June 27th

Rated? Four Stars

Ninety-five days, and then I’ll be safe. I wonder whether the procedure will hurt. I want to get it over with. It’s hard to be patient. It’s hard not to be afraid while I’m still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn’t touched me yet. Still, I worry. They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness. The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.

TLDR?

A different dystopia.  Interesting.  And the story is just beginning.

This is a much different take on dystopia than that to which I am accustomed.  It is about a person more than a government, and the point of view leaves you floating instead of fighting, crying instead of cursing.  The main character, Lena, is just as confused and excited as any teen falling in love for the first time, but there are no googly eyes and despite the fact that love is the basis of the book, her love story doesn’t want to make you vomit.

Oliver does something that I find refreshing – she focuses on different kinds of love.  We fall too quickly in the assumption of romantic love, but there is the love between friends and the love in families as well, and they are all equally important.  All of it is considered a disease.

At the end of the book, the story is only just beginning.  I don’t love Lena, although I liked her “one true love,” but the idea and possibilities are enough to keep me reading more.

Color me intrigued.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble.
Available on Kindle & Nook.

1

Book Review: Divergent

 

1

Series: Divergent (Book One)

Published: April 2011

Page Count: 487

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Post Apocalyptic

Read Count: Once

Duration: May 31st – June 12th

Rated? Five Stars

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is–she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are–and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

TLDR?

Love, love, love.

I saw the movie first, so I cheated.  I just want to get that out of the way.

loved this book.  I only come across one or two books a year that I love.  They have to be fabulously written, immersing, surprising, visual, and perfect.  To me, Divergent is.

I don’t want to compare it to the movie here, so I’ll just tell you what I know.

The main character, Beatrice, is strong, resolute, and brave.  She’s well-rounded and different.  I am so tired of the stereotypical heroine, I could tear my hair out.  I loved Tris.  I rarely even like the protagonist, so this is a big deal.

Minor characters?  They were great.  Different and infuriating all at once.  The love interest both is and isn’t tall, dark, and handsome.  There are no love triangles.  10 points to Gryffindor.

The world is richly detailed, but leaves plenty for the imagination to fill in.  It follows the traditional feel of a post apocalyptic world, but there’s more to it, as though it’s just a bubble.  It feels familiar, and leaves you wanting to know more.

The plot – it’s pretty original, although it follows typical dystopian lines.  It won’t be very surprising, but it is engrossing.

I am left wanting more.

Needless to say, I’ll be reading Insurgent.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble.
Available on Kindle & Nook.

2Green

50k and Nowhere Near

When I finished my writing on Monday evening, I was exactly at 50,000 words. For the NaNo-ers out there, you understand the significance of 50k.  This is a weird thing for me, because all but one of my “novels” have been written under the banner of NaNoWriMo.  I typically exceed 50k anyway, but that’s the typical goal.  I have some books that are on my shelf that are not far beyond 50k.  I look at them and see thin but otherwise completed books. In Green, I have only just begun.

1

Book Review: The Fallen Star

1

Series: Fallen Star (Book One)

Published: April 2011

Page Count: 449

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Teen Romance

Read Count: Once

Duration: May 28th – June 3rd

Rated? Three Stars

 

For eighteen year-old Gemma, life has never been normal. Up until recently, she has been incapable of feeling emotion. And when she’s around Alex, the gorgeous new guy at school, she can feel electricity that makes her skin buzz. Not to mention the monsters that haunt her nightmares have crossed over into real-life. But with Alex seeming to hate her and secrets popping up everywhere, Gemma’s life is turning into a chaotic mess. Things that shouldn’t be real suddenly seem to exist. And as her world falls apart, figuring out the secrets of her past becomes a matter of life and death.

TLDR?

I wanted to hate it, but I didn’t.  But I didn’t like it.  I just kept reading it.

This book was difficult for me. There was a lot of dialogue – too much, for my tastes – and you could see the ending coming from a mile away. That’s something I don’t like in my books. I am investing significantly more time into them than I am into a movie – I want surprises! Sorensen didn’t even try to surprise you. She all but told you the twist three or four times before making it happen.

Also, the co-conspirators, the sub characters… hated them! This is odd for me because usually I find the minor characters make the book. Not this time.

On to the good – I liked Gemma. Being typically against the protagonist, this was off for me… I liked her. I wanted not to, but I failed. Maybe because when I was her age I was listening to emo bands and yes, I was even driving a Mitsubishi Mirage! So I felt like I could relate. Also, she felt real. Not too deep, not too idealized, and despite what some other people have said, I didn’t find her whiny. She does mope a bit after a supporting character, Alex (I don’t like him; did I mention?), but it’s hard to find a YA book these days without a love triangle.

Oh, and for those of you who love them, be forewarned – about halfway through, I was certain there was going to be a love triangle, and then delightfully, there was not. I was pleased. You may not be.

The plot. It was different. Not entirely original, but different, and different is refreshing. Sorensen gets points for that.

Overall, I couldn’t decide to rate it low for all its frustrating aspects (and even a few glaring errors), or high because despite my greatest efforts, I was hooked. So I’ve rated it comfortably in the middle. I got it for free off Amazon and to be honest, I don’t think that I’m going to pick up the sequel, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble.
Available on Kindle & Nook.

1

No Nano?

I’ve decided this year that instead of doing NaNoWriMo, I’m going to write through the year.  I’ve wanted to reunite with the characters from Fate, since they are my loves, and this year, that is exactly what I am going to do.

Since I’ve started at my new job, I’ve been working with the character again, and writing my way through the sequel, called Green.  After the shenanigans in Fate,  this story brings back all the same characters and adds a few more, and with fewer concerns about being hunted because of their magic, but of course that means there are still a million other concerns in the dysfunctional world.  Are there too many?  Maybe.

Plot is, after all, my greatest struggle.  That, and focus.  I’ve been writing mostly in the morning, before work, and after work.  I want to get in the habit of 2k/day, just like NaNoWriMo, because I feel like that’s a good rhythm for me.  I’m a highly distracted person.  Even today, I’ve only done about 500 words… but I’ve done a million other things to avoid the other 1500!

The scene I’m working on today features Jessica – my love – and Daniel, who is for better or worse her companion.  They’ve recently stumbled upon a village completely wiped away by the plague, and Daniel is especially frustrated after an unsuccessful transformation and an exhausting toll on h is energy through the use of multiple magics.  He’s exhausted and hungry and would give his left leg for a break… something that will never happen.  Right now, they’re both on horseback on the road back to the ruins… a destination which is unsettling to Jessica, who sees it as wasteful that they are on the road away from the devastation.

The scene itself is conversation, all from Jessica’s POV, which means there needs to be a lot of action in the wind, and a lot of thinking and reminiscence.

As a side thought, I desperately need a writing group.

1

Frosted with Originality: How a Good Story is Like a Good Cupcake

Nobody likes stale cupcakes.

My favorite time to eat baked goods is right out of the oven.  In fact, it takes a bit of willpower for me to keep myself from trying to frost it as soon as I pop them out of the oven (and sometimes I do anyway).  Nothing tastes quite the same as homemade and freshly baked.  There’s the anticipation – sneaking tastes of the batter, the sweet smell of the kitchen as they cook.  The thrill as the timer beeps.  The tease of the cupcakes cooling on the counter.  It all leads up to a big, delicious treat at the end.

1I think of this because this week, New York City joined the growing list of cities to install a Cupcake Vending Machine.  Already appearing in other cities – including Dallas, Atlanta, and Beverly Hills – these little machines are more or less an unattended store where you can pick up a cute boxed cupcake without the hassle of making it yourself.  In America, Convenience is our middle name: anything we can make easier or get more of for less money, we are all about it.  We are – and understand, I say this as a lifelong citizen and am equally guilty – a lazy, lazy culture.

For me, there will never be any joy in buying a vended cupcake, despite the promises of freshness and quality.  I want my cupcakes to have half-melted frosting because I couldn’t resist the temptation.

I feel the same way about my writing.

It’s far to simple to take the “easy” road.  We all learn in school that a good story has to follow a template or pattern.  The traditional fairytale is the best example of this:  girl meets boy, they fall in love, something terrible happens to girl, boy rescues girl, they kiss, happily ever after.  That doesn’t leave a lot of room for originality; or, at least, most people don’t seek originality.  The reasons why these templates exist is because they work.

Why bake cupcakes when you can get them from a vending machine?

My answer: because homemade cupcakes are delicious.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Both are messy projects.  Flour gets spilled all over the counter.  Post-it notes attack the walls.  You put in too much milk and now you have to start over.  Your character has no depth and you have to rewrite everything.  It’s not easy to do.  If it was, everyone would be doing it the long way.  But there is something to knowing that you slaved over something that makes the quality better.  Baking a homemade batch of cupcakes teaches you the importance of quantities, following instructions, patience – it makes you a better cook.  Writing a book carefully, with attention to detail and intricate plotlines makes it a better experience for you and the reader, and you become a stronger writer through the process.

But, what if I like processed cupcakes just fine?

A secret?  I do too.  And that fairytale template?  My favorite.

But can we honestly say that the quality is the same?  What would the Lord of the Rings series be like if Tolkien had followed a traditional Arthurian fantasy template?  What would To Kill A Mockingbird be without challenging the genre’s boundaries?

And, believe me, you’ve never truly known how delicious a cupcake can be until you’ve tried them homemade.

1

Writing

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

It is an undeniable fact that breaking into the entertainment business is a tough road.  When most people talk about the “Biz” they are talking about show business – think film, television, and stage performing.  In reality, entertainment is so much more than that.  After all, outside of acting, there is comedy, music, and writing.  Yes, I said it – writing.

I don’t understand why some people get pretentious about writing being referred to as a form of entertainment.  We write to tell stories – true and fictional – and we may consider it to be “an art form of the highest caliber” but actors usually feel the same was about their craft.  Try telling Mr. DiCaprio that what he does is frivolous in the face of your melodramatic memoir and see what he says.

I digress.

The point is, most of the country’s population glamorizes the Biz and don’tchaknow, we’d all rather be “telling stories” and “playing around in front of a camera” than ringing up burgers at McDonalds and sweeping floors at the elementary school across town.  Putting aside the fact that the Biz isn’t all fun and games, it’s incredibly difficult to break into.

You need, at the barest observational level, three main things:

  1. Talent.
  2. Ambition.
  3. Connections.

If you are missing any one of these three elements, it ain’t gonna happen. Bada bing, bada boom, you’re done.  If you’re like me and are void two or more, then you’re up sh** creek without a paddle.  You might self-publish or make it a while in community theatre, but schweetheart, at the end of the day you’re still a waitress/dental assistant/accountant.

One of the first pieces of advice you will get from a literally agent, editor, publisher, and your mom will be that if you want to be a writer, don’t quit your day job.

But I won’t have any time to write!

Poppycock.  You make time for the things you love.  If you view writing with all the dread and time-consumption of your day job, it may not be a great fit for you.  Yes, it is hard work.  Besides finding time for writing and querying, you need to connect with a lit group, do your research, and maybe even take a few English, Writing, and Literature courses at your community college.  Once you’ve done all that, you’ve got to edit, proofread, edit and proofread for the people in your lit group, make dinner, and go back to work in the morning.  Writing, like any craft, requires a commitment.  But it does not require going broke.

So listen to all those professionals and also you mom – write hard, write passionately, and get enough sleep so you can go to work in the morning.  The life of a writing isn’t glamorous, but it’s a worthwhile one.

And hey, when you get your first 6-digit royalty check… quitting the day job and retiring to the Hamptons for a peaceful life of writing and beach-walking may be just the ticket.

1

The Literary Alphabet

This is stolen right out of My So-Called Chaos, but it seemed like an appropriate addition to this usually dormant blog.
A: Author you’ve read the most books by:  Tamora Pierce.  All of her series, save one or two.  Multiple times.
B: Best Sequel Ever: I positively loved Prisoner of Azkaban, by JK Rowling.
C: Currently Reading: Mastiff, by Tamora Pierce.
D: Drink of Choice While Reading:   Hot tea.  Period.
E: E-Reader or Physical Book?  I tried a Nook and couldn’t get hooked.  Physical book, please!
F: Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Dated in High School:  Oh goose.  Let me see.  I believe the question is less “who I would have dated” and more “who would have dated me,” but without ado, I believe I’ll have to cast my vote on Will Parry, of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.
G: Glad You Gave This Book a Chance: Blue Bloods, by Melissa de la Cruz.  I didn’t mean to love them, but I did.
H: Hidden Gem Book: Time Cat, by Lloyd Alexander.  I grew up on this book, and most people don’t even know it exists.
I: Important Moment in Your Reading Life:  Forever.  I have a very vivid, heart-warming memory of sitting in the forest behind my house on the stone wall the bordered the property reading Sandy’s Book by Tamora Pierce; and equally fond memories of re-reading Prisoner of Azkaban under my covers at night.
J: Just Finished: Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton.
K: Kinds of Books You Wont Read:  Non-fiction, in-your-face.  That’s non-historical religion, self-help, politcal, blech.
L: Longest Book You’ve Ever Read: I can’t be sure, but I bet it was something by George R.R. Martin.
M: Major Book Hangover Because Of:  I can’t think of any book that broke me.  Excited me, yes, but nothing negative.
N: Number of Book Cases You Own:  Presently, three.  I’ve had five, in the past, but got a couple taller/wider ones and consolidated.
O: One book you have read multiple times:  Just one? Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (all six books) by Douglas Adams (and Eoin Colfer).  Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton.  Harry Potter by JK Rowling.  Attack of the Clones by RA Salvatore.  Trickster’s ChoiceTrickster’s Queen by Tamora Pierce.  I could keep going.
P: Preferred place to read:  I used to have a big grey cushy chair, and THAT was the place… since I no longer have that… the bathtub.
Q: Quote That Inspires You/Gives You Feels From a Book You’ve Read:  I couldn’t pick one.
R: Reading Regret:  Dune by Frank Herbert.  It was required summer reading in high school, but… blech.
S: Series You Started But Still Need to Finish (All Books Are Out):  Sookie Stackhouse by Charlaine Harris.  A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett. Plus a handful of trilogies and the like.
T: Three of your Favorite Books: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green.  Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling.  Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton.  The latter two seem to come up a lot….
U: Unapologetic Fangirl For:  Tamora Pierce.  I don’t care if her key audience is young adults.  Her books are exactly the universe I wish I was born into.
V: Very Excited for This Release More Than Others:  I’m not jumping up and down for any new books at the moment since I have 150+ on my “To Read” list!!!
W: Worst Bookish Habits:  Destroying books in my purse accidentally because I like having a book with me at all times and my purse is a book-death-trap.
X: X Marks the Spot, Start at the Top of Your Shelf and Pick the 27th Book: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  Just read that this month, actually, and it was FABULOUS.
Y: Your Latest Book Purchase: Blue is for Nightmares by Laurie Faria Stolarz.  Next on the “To Read” list!
Z: Zzzz-Snatcher Book-(The last book that kept you up way too late): I haven’t been up late reading since I moved in with Matthew, so the last was probably the 3am read of Catching Fire back in 2009-ish.
Eden Experiment Cover v4

That’s a Wrap.

For me, there is never a point where the story is over.  Whenever I think I am writing the next chapter, I always know what is going to happen next.  In the case of my latest NaNoNovel, The Eden Experiment, every time I reached my intended stopping point, it felt like I hadn’t told enough of the story.  They power shut down because of the riots on the outside.  Did I give enough “footage” of the destruction?  They got back to the Garden.  I finally ended the story with their promise that they would live out the five year plan, as they were supposed to anyway, before venturing out into the world again.

This wasn’t the finishing point, either, but for my purposes, it had to be.  The problem is, to me, all these characters have lives and futures.  They do not cease to exist after the five days of the story.  This protagonist – Opal Finch – has a relatively bright future.  She is going to marry her partner Erik in an unconventional, barefooted ceremony, and have two little boys.  She is going to finish raising her little sister Rhian, who is going to grow up and become one of the leaders of the new world in her late adulthood.  Her boys will explore what is left of America and discover food and other civilizations that outlasted their own and have not fallen into a state of chaos.  Even when Opal is gone, her story goes on.  But it would take a lifetime to tell her story… and of course, Opal is not my only character filled with life.

However, it is important that I step away from this incredible future and focus on the present.  What is happening now to Opal and where is the ending of this chapter of her life?  For me, I always choose an ending when things may not be perfect, but everyone is on good terms, and there is a sliver of hope.  It’s not happily every after, but perhaps it could be.  The problem with this approach, however, is that I always feel pressured to write a sequel.

.

How do you end a story that seems to go on forever?  Do your characters take on a life of their own?  Let me know in the comments below!

Eden Experiment Cover v4

50K & Still Running

This is the fastest I’ve every ambled my way to 50,000 words in NaNoWriMo, and that includes last year where I stumbled over about 10k words in a day as Sparky excitedly discovered the delights of a traditional greasy diner.

This is one of the hardest parts of NaNo for me… when the word count stops being the central focus and my new goal becomes “oh crap, where is my ending and how do I hog-tie it before Thanksgiving?”.  This is where, like in Strange, I see that I need to hurry things along and my descriptors fall off the face of the Earth.

My goal?  Not this year.

I have discovered in a moment of pure delight that I am capable of writing 1050 words in 20 minutes when properly focused and motivated.  That tells me there is no reason for me to stumble my way to the end like a zombie, grabbing for a few half-baked ideas to make sure my “once upon a time” gets tied to a “happily ever after”.  I am a prolific writer when properly motivated, and I think that maybe, just maybe, I can give Opal Finch a little bit of dignity.

So, here it goes, blogosphere.  50k and counting.  We’re going to make sure this one ends with a bang.