Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Which Dana Reads Romance

I'm sure I won't surprise any of you if I say that I've never read a romance novel before this week. Now, that's not to say that I have anything against romance novels; it's more that they've never caught my eye in the store, nor have they been recommended to me. (Guess my friends don't think I'm romantic. ;) ) That being said, I follow romance author Tawna Fenske's blog. I don't remember how I landed on Tawna's blog, but I am glad that I did. She is funny, smart and all around adorable, so when she recommended some books a while back, I thought I would take her recommendation for one of her favorites Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgans, and do a swan dive into the world of romance. I guess I'm saying all of this to tell you: take my review here with a grain of salt. I've never read romance before, and it really could just not be my thing.

Just One of The Guys- Kristan Higgans

Summary: Chastity (yes, in fact Chastity Virginia) O'Neill returns to her hometown in search of a simpler life, a man and a family. She's struggled in love, partially because she's 5'11" and built like an Amazon, partially because of her four firefighter older brothers and captain father, and partially because she's never gotten over her first love (and honorary O'Neill brother) Trevor. So when she meets Dr. Perfect, Chastity has to decide whether she'll take the safe route, or hedge her bets on true love.

Review: Oh boy....oh boy. I thought this book was all kinds of terrible. Now, this is why I put in my "I don't read romance" disclaimer at the top, because it could be an excellent romance novel (as is evidenced by the Amazon reviews), and I could just not like romance novels, but I thought this book was awful. The plot was so predictable (I knew who Chastity would end up with on page 3 or so). I took a bit of personal offense to Chastity's "woe is me, I'm 30 and I should have had 16 children by now" personality. The sub plots were boring (EMT class and a divorce). The writing was not great. Too many adjectives, adverbs and unnecessary and repetitive explanation.  I kept reading it because I hoped that there might be a serious twist at the end, hoped that it would get better. It didn't.

Now, before I write off the genre as a whole, I've downloaded a couple of other romance novels, one by Higgins and one by another author. We'll see if I like those any better. My guess is that romance is just not my genre, but who knows. Overall, I can't say this book wasn't worth the time and money I spent on it. It was kind of entertaining. If you like romance, you'll have to check it out and let me know what you think. I'd love to know if I'm way off base in my distaste or not.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review Catch Up

Life... as it always seems to be, has been insane the last few weeks. We adopted a new cat (Luna, she's super cute) and had a death in the family (the hubs's grandfather), so it's felt a little crazier than usual. I'm WAY behind in my book reviewing, and even my super short reviews have been taking too long and not getting posted. So, I'm going to do one giant marathon post of the entire back log of books I've read, with what will hopefully be ridiculously short reviews. :) BTW- anything labeled Adult is merely market to that audience, not necessarily "adult" content. I think most of the books here would be great for teens as well; just as I think adults would enjoy a lot of the Young Adult books. :) Here we go!

Anthem- Ayn Rand    Fiction- Adult

 Summary- the classic novella about one man's struggle against an oppressive Utopian regime.

 Review- I thought it was decent. Nothing earth shattering for me, but a quick read.

The Glass Castle-Jeanette Walls      Memoir- Adult

Summary- One woman's memoir of a dysfunctional childhood and her crazy, yet loving parents.

Review- Loved it. Made me feel like my own family is normal. Beautiful writing and a very unique story.

Water for Elephants- Sara Gruen      Historical Fiction- Adult

Summary- Love story set in a circus during the Great Depression

Review- Loved it. I thought the writing was great, and loved the back and forth between present day and past. Seemed well researched and was all around great.

The Trophy Hunter- J.M. Zambrano      Suspense- Adult (actually adult)

Summary- Thriller about a lawyer who gets in way over her head with a case of missing women and children. The culprit is up to far more than she'd imagine.

Review- I'm not a huge fan of thrillers, but this book was written by a friend and I think it's pretty good. Definitely worth a read.

Illyria- Elizabeth Hand      Fiction- Young Adult (technically, reads older)

Summary- Two kissing (literally) cousins are the descendants of a famed actress. They create their own world for their talents and odd relationship.

Review- I have to admit, I'm not sure I 'got' this book. It was beautifully written, but there really wasn't much to the story, and I didn't feel like I understood the message. Meh.

Unwind- Neil Shusterman      Dystopian Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- In the near future, abortion is illegal, but parents are given the choice to have their children "unwound" at age 13. Three unwinds escape their immediate fate and go on the run.

Review- Awesome book. It's a really, really interesting take on abortion and the right to life. Well written and quickly paced. Great read!

The Trylle Trilogy: Switched, Torn & Ascend- Amanda Hocking      Paranormal Romance- YA

Summary- Girl finds out she was switched at birth and is a troll princess. She must learn the rules of her new society and help protect against a rival troll faction.

Review- Pretty good overall. Definitely well paced, the characters are interesting and I liked the love story as well. Good, easy reads.

Shiver- Maggie Stiefvater      Paranormal Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- Girl lives next to woods where there is a strange pack of wolves. When a student is believed killed by them, she tries to save the pack and finds out they aren't ordinary wolves.

Review: Good book. The story line is interesting as are the characters. I like the tension that was built and the initial romance.

Linger- Maggie Stiefvater      Paranormal Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- Follow up to Shiver. Follows Grace and Sam as they try to learn more about his condition and have a normal life.

Review- Again, good book. I liked that the love problem wasn't a love triangle like in every other teen book out there, but a fight against Sam's werewolf problem.

Illusions- Aprilynne Pike      Paranormal Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- The third book in this series. Laurel is still torn between Avalon and the real world. She and David are struggling, there's a weird new girl at school. Tamani's at school with her too, and of course, there are still trolls after her. 

Review- Decent book, though it felt a bit like Harry Potter 5, a placeholder that's setting up action for later, which was a bit of a bummer. I still think the series overall is good, but this one was kind of lame.

Paranormalcy- Kiersten White      Paranormal Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- Evie's always worked for an international organization dedicated to tagging and bagging paranormals to keep the general population safe. But, when a cute boy paranormal shows up at the compound, her world completely changes.

Review- I really liked this book. The voice was great. The concept was interesting. The characters were relate-able, and while there was a love interest, it wasn't the tried and true love triangle. A quick read that kept me guessing.

13 Little Blue Envelopes- Maureen Johnson      Fiction- Young Adult

Summary: After her crazy aunt dies, Ginny receives a package from her with 13 blue envelopes in them. These envelopes lead her on a wild adventure through Europe finding out about her aunt, and herself.

Review: I liked this book. I love the idea of some crazy unplanned adventure. Ginny was great, just the right amount of nervous and adventurous. Great read!

The Last Little Blue Envelope- Maureen Johnson   Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- Ginny finds out there is one last blue envelope, which directs her on an even stranger mission than before.

Review- I like this book as much, if not more than the first. I really loved the strained love triangle (quadrangle?) and the fun last mission. Great book!

Curly Girl: The Handbook- Lorraine Massey  Non Fiction- all ages

Summary- All about caring for and styling curly hair, with lots of interviews and personal anecdotes thrown in

Review- Well, I'm revealing my cards here a bit aren't I? I do have naturally curly hair, and for years denied that and straightened it daily. I'm finally ready to embrace my curly self, and this book has been a vital help in that quest. I only recently started their regime, so I can't tell you is it's 100% effective, but, thus far, I'm pleased with my results. I think it's a must read for anyone with curly hair.

On Writing- Stephen King     Non-fiction- Adult

Summary- A witty short autobiography and King's thoughts and advice for writers

Review- I loved this book. King's life story was interesting and humbling without being too full of itself. His writing advice was clear, to the point and very interesting. I felt like I was sitting at coffee with him throughout the book, just chatting with a friend. A must read for any aspiring writer, and an interesting read for everyone else.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Reader, Reader

The internet is a definite time suck. I keep up with a lot of blogs, or at least try to, and I use Google Reader to do it. It takes a decent amount of time to get through all of the posts each day, and they're an easy distraction when the writing gets hard. :)

I've had a reader feed for years, and yesterday, decided it was time for some housekeeping. I go through my list of feeds occasionally and unsubscribe to blogs that I find myself just skipping most days. This time it made me think a little bit about how much the blogs I subscribe to have changed over the years and how they have reflected what is important in my life at the time. Four years ago my reader was full of wedding and bridal blogs as I planned my wedding. After that, lots of design and knitting blogs. Recently it's been full of celebrity gossip and writing and a large dose of cute animals. I was talking with my critique partner, Cari, this week about eliminating stress from my life and not taking taking on things that aren't my problem. So, I decided to cull the blogs I follow. I was spending a lot of time being distracted by things that don't really matter to my life. I wanted to eliminate as many useless distractions as possible, and make sure that I might be able to eek out a bit more time for writing. I am a bit bummed that I might miss out on some interesting things, but, hopefully I'll survive. 

Not that I've cleared some space from my reader feed, I'm looking to fill it (at least a little bit) with some more useful blogs. I want more writing and reading blogs, and especially ones that may provide some inspiration. So, dear readers, any suggestions? Any blogs out there that you refuse to miss? I'd love to hear about them in the comments. Shameless self promotion is totally cool too. :) If we don't support each other who will?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Matched- Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie

Again, my librarian gave this book to me. She is normally a wonderful source for all things good and new in Young Adult fiction. She hadn't read this one, but it had been recommended by several students. Now, as those of you who are regular readers of this blog know (what like 5 of you? ;)), I read a lot of YA fiction. I try to keep on on new books so I always have something to recommend when my students whine at me that there's nothing good to read. That being said, I guess I can see why kids would like this book, but I really didn't feel it.

Cassia lives in a utopian world where the society is in charge of everything. You get specially prepackaged meals designed to maintain your ideal health and body weight. You only have two sets of clothes, very utilitarian, and at the age of 17 you are matched with your ideal mate in terms of genetics, personality, preferences, everything. After a few years of dating, you can chose to marry that person, or stay single for the rest of your life. The book opens with Cassia being matched with her best friend from childhood, Xander. Great right? She thinks so, until she goes to open Xander's info the next morning and sees a brief flash of another boy she knows, Ky. Now there are lots of questions and she's doesn't trust the answers she's being given.

Here's the rub. I get why teens would like this book. Kids of this age are always wanting to push against the status quo, test their limits and see where they can break or bend rules. So, of course they're going to feel for Cassia's plight against the oppressive regime. Me? I couldn't get into it. The world sounded sort of awesome. Prepackage meals specially designed for me? A job picked especially for my preferences and strengths? A mate who is perfect for me in every way? Sounds fine. Now, maybe I feel this way because I was reading this book at a particularly tumultuous time when everything around me was up in the air, but I just couldn't garner any sympathy for Cassia. She felt unnecessarily whiny and I just wasn't having it. Granted, we do start to see the dark side of all of this perfection, but I feel like it comes too late in the novel for me to care.

So, overall, I didn't like it. That bums me out because Condie used to be an high school English teacher and I felt like I should lend a fellow teacher some support, but I just didn't like it. Teenagers may well love it, especially the angst-y teens if your life, but I wouldn't recommend it for adults.

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Which I do Terrible Things...

Hey ya'll, first terrible think I have done is not updating this blog for a month. Oy, sorry about that! The last month of school got to be super crazy. Probably the most insane end of year I've had in eight years of teaching. It was generally nutso. So, that coupled with my little sister's graduation from high school, and the hubs buying a car, made for a particularly busy May. But, trust me, you weren't the only ones getting ignored. :)

At any rate, I'm officially on summer vacation now and thoroughly excited. It already feels like I won't be able to fit it all in, but I'm sure going to try.

So, without further ado, the second terrible thing that I've done, recently that is. I was mean to one of my characters. I know, after all that build up it sounds a little lame, but dang ya'll it was super hard. My first novel was much more autobiographical, so things that went bad in it, had actually gone bad at some point, so it wasn't hard to deal with. This new book though... it is super hard to be mean to my characters. I know that it makes for a better novel; heck just look at Harry Potter. What doesn't go wrong for that poor kid? So what did I do to my poor character? It wasn't even really that bad. She doesn't stand up for herself and a guy starts a terrible rumor about it. See? Not that bad. Now I feel super lame for even thinking it was hard, but honestly it was. Which brings up an interesting point.

When I write I always think that I want this perfect world where everything is sunshine and kittens eating ice cream. Cute right? But that's not what I read, and that's certainly not what other people read, so why am I compelled to write it? Do I get some kind of God-complex where I feel if I'm going to create a world it had better be nice? I'm not entirely sure, but serious conflict is always hard for me.

Does anyone else have this problem? Or are you all meaner than I am? :) How to you create conflict in your writing?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Shine, Coconut Moon- Neesha Meminger

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

This is another book that really deserves a longer review, but it's going to have be a super short one for now.

Sam has never known much about her heritage because her mom cut off all family ties. Shortly after 9/11, a man wearing a turban shows up at her doorstep and introduces himself as her uncle. He wanted to reconnect with family after the tragedy of 9/11 and rapidly introduces her to both her heritage and the sad intolerance of people.

Like Meminger's other novel, Jazz in Love, I really loved this book. She deftly captures both Sam's voice, and her struggle to find her place in the world. I think that any teenage could relate to Sam's struggles to accept her family and mesh her present with her past. It also dealt quite well with the racism that immediately followed 9/11. Meminger's plots and characters are engaging and believable. I can't wait for her next novel!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

When to Stop Planning and Start Writing

Sorry for the bit of bloggy silence guys. The school year is winding down (only 2 weeks left!!!) and things are a little crazy. I have tons of testing and data stuff to do before the end of the year. It's been nuts, so posting may be slightly sporadic for the next couple of weeks, but I'll do my best!

Anyway, I've mentioned before how I'm working on my latest novel. I've been doing tons of plotting, planning and story boarding. With my first novel I just sat down and wrote. It went really well until I was about 2/3 of the way through the book. Then, I got stuck. I had no idea how to get from where I was to the ending that I envisioned. I faltered and eventually set the whole manuscript aside. With this book I was determined to be different. I've read tons about plotting, structure, character development. I've got a notebook full of ideas, plot lines and my story board (as seen at the right). I was bent on having every single scene for my novel plotted out before I wrote the first sentence.

This went well as I plugged along through the first act. I had all of my scenes laid out, scene cards done. I had character sketches and setting sketches and I was ready to rock and roll with my second act. And....I hit a huge block. I had no idea what my characters were going to do next. I sat at Borders with Cari, my lovely critique partner, for a week doing generally nothing.  I stared at my sticky notes and flipped idly through my notebook, and made a big production of drinking my coffee. I whined at Cari, and bless her soul, she finally shut me up and told me to just start writing.

I did, and finished my first chapter today. It's not pretty, but it's on paper and a first draft is done. I'm still feeling a little daunted by the second act, but I'm getting there and I at least feel like I'm making some progress.

So my question is this, how do you write? Or do make any decision. My husband is currently over-thinking what car he's going to buy. :) Do you just start writing? Plot is all out? Some combination of both? How do you decide when you have planned enough and just jump in?

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Iron Fey- Julie Kagawa

The Iron Fey Trilogy (and a half) by Julie Kagawa

So, rather than attempt to review each of these books individually, I'm just going to give you my opinion of the whole series. Not that each of these books isn't worthy of it's own review, each is, I just know that if I try to make it harder for me to keep up this blog, it will never stay current. So, four books, one review.

Since I can't really tell you about the plots of all of the books without giving away spoilers for the earlier books, I'll just give an overall concept for the series. Megan Chase is half faery; her father is Oberon (yes, that Oberon) Summer King. Her little brother has been stolen and taken to faery, and Megan must go to save him. Meanwhile, the Iron Fey are taking over faery and slowly killing both Summer and Winter's lands.

I really liked this series. I loved the way that Kagawa wove known stories of faeries into this new tale. I loved all the Midsummer Night's Dream references, including Puck as Megan's best friend. (Probably because I love Midsummer Night's Dream so much) I thought the love triangle was believable, even though I was irritated that it was YET AGAIN a fantasy love triangle. I felt like Megan was an actor in her own story and definitely not passive. I also loved how Kagawa incorporated modern day into the world of faeries. It was an interesting take on a very old idea and I think it worked quite well.

These were definitely quick reads. I don't know that you would necessarily need to read Winter's Passage. It bridges the gap between the first and second book and follows Megan on a short journey. It was quite nice, and I liked the novella, but much of it was covered again at the beginning of the second book. If you like YA Fantasy or faeries at all, they are fun books to read!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Unsuspecting Mage- Brian Pratt

The Unsupecting Mage by Brian Pratt

I think I will in fact be able to keep this review very, very short. This book is terrible. Don't read it.

Wow. Now, I feel bad saying that. I'm sure that someday I will be reading reviews of my own book (hopefully) and I'll come across someone that doesn't like my own writing and you know what, I'll probably be devastated. I hope, however, that I'll be able to take whatever criticism they offer and move on. Regardless, I just don't have really anything nice to say about this book.

To be fair, I don't think that I am the demographic that this book is geared towards. I'm not a nerdy high school boy, or a man who once was a nerdy high school boy. A short summary is this: James, a high school student looking for a job, replies to an ad in the paper about someone wanting to learn magic. At the office he enters a door and is deposited into some Middle English-type world, where he learns to use his magic, puts all of his Dungeons and Dragons time to good use and gets in a lot of fights. This book read like one long D&D script, and I've never played D&D, or any other game like that. the writing was drab and terrible. The book itself is a case against self publishing- the editing is awful and there were countless typos and errors. Granted, the book is free, but I still don't think it was worth the time. A friend of mine recommended it to me, with the caveat that there were typos and such, but he thought the plot was great. I did not. People who love playing World of Warcraft and other such fantasy role-playing games might like it because that's how it read. Very episodic, lots of magic, finding trinkets and fights, no real plot or character arc.

Now, if that sort of thing appeals to you, then by all means check it out. It's free for Kindle, so you're not going to waste anything other than your time, but it really was not my cup of tea, or bourbon, or really anything.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Even More- Rules for Writing

It seems that everyone has some opinion on writing, actual writers or not. Any time I tell people that I'm an author, which I tend not to do, they have some sort of opinion on what I should be writing and when I should be writing and how I should be writing. Every one's a critic. However, I do rather like reading actual author's rules of writing. Taking advice from someone who has been there before is far easier than taking advice from someone who will never even try to go down that road.

So, without further ado, here are Elmore Leonard's Rules for Writing, shamelessly lifted from Melody Godfred over at Write in Color. I found her website with StumbleUpon, which is super fun, but such a time suck. Just FYI... you've been warned. Also, if you, like me, had no idea who Elmore Leonard is, here's a short bio of him and his works. My own opinions on each of these rules follows in italics. What, you thought I'd let everyone else have an opinion and keep mine to myself? Ha.

1 Never open a book with weather. This seems reasonable, and seems to follow with the understood rule to never open a book with your character waking up. You've got to grab the reader and immediately give her someone she cares about. I do think that an excellent example of this is Graceling, where we are thrust immediately into the action with the main character.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. Mmm.... maybe. I waver on this rule quite a bit. Some prologues I think are fantastic, especially if they give me a good hint at how the book is going to end, but other times they are annoying. I think prologues must be treated very delicately, because a bad one can definitely stink up the whole novel.

3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. OH man... yes, yes, yes. This totally drives me nuts and smacks of a middle school child with their first thesaurus. I hate when writers use all kinds of ridiculous dialogue tags. It's just bad writing. SHOW that your character is angry, or grumbly, or gaspy, whatever, don't tell me.

4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” We're always told that adverbs are the death of writing. I think it probably true, but definitely something I have a hard time with. My writing isn't strong enough without adverbs, so I know that is something I personally have to work on. (Disclosure: I just had to bite back using like 5 adverbs in that last comment... ugh, really need to work on it!)

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. This also reminds me of middle schoolers. I can't tell you how many, "This Summer I Rode a Roller Coaster!!!!!!" stories I've had to read in my career, all dripping with exclamation points. No, just no.

6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. Heee... this reminds me of a conversation the lovely Cari (my writing partner) and I were having the other day about character motivation. It seems, if you have to use "suddenly" and the likes, then there hasn't been sufficient motivation set up for the character. If something is "suddenly" happening to the character, then just show it!

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Hmmm... this makes me think of Their Eyes Were Watching God, which is riddled with dialect, but it works. I've heard dialect described like salt. A little can really accentuate a plot and characters but too much and no one can stomach it.

8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters Well, this one I may have to disagree with, or at least, partially disagree with. I love having a clear picture in my head of the characters and the setting. I like it when the author gives me most of that picture. It's not that I don't have an imagination and can't come up with something myself, but if the author has someone in mind, I want to have that same person in mind. That being said, I don't want a long monologue of description because that is rarely entertaining. Also, get the description out of the way up front, in the first few chapters at least. I hate when I've formed a picture of a character, only to find out halfway through the book some key detail that is not how I originally pictured it. It's so jarring. I never went to see the movie version of the book Eragon by Christopher Paolini because when the movie came our, Eragon was blond and the whole time I'd been reading the book I thought he was a brunette. Small detail? Yes, but it bothered the heck out of me.

9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things Again, I have mixed feelings. I love beautiful sweeping descriptions, but I think these are probably better suited to lovely works of literary fiction where the plot takes a backseat to the characters and their changes. I do like description though and being able to get a clear sense of the place.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip Now this one really made me think. What parts of novels do I skip? I honestly couldn't come up with a lot. I know that when I'm getting close to the end of a book or close to what appears to be the climax that I'll skip dialogue or descriptions that seem unimportant because I want to find out what happens, but that is usually because the writer has gotten me so excited about the plot that I just can't stand to wait any longer than necessary. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

How to Turn a Book into a Vase

So, some of you may have guessed based on the title of this blog, regardless of the lack of knitting content, that I'm a bit of a crafty person. I've always loved making things. In my old age, I've tended to focus on knitting just so I have a focus, but I love to paint, draw, make ornaments and decorations and I'm planning on learning to use my new spinning wheel and sewing machine this summer. At any rate, because of my inherent craftiness I thought I would share this amazing video on how to turn an old book into a vase. I don't necessarily advocate tearing up books, but I'm sure I could find some random ones at the thrift store to sacrifice. I think these are super cute and I would love to have a little collection of them filled with pretty faux daisies in my classroom. Maybe I'll take a break from knitting for a bit to churn out a few. :)

The how-to video below is via Green Upgrader, which I just stumbled upon, but it looks like a super fun website. Anyway... enjoy! And please share pics if you decide to make some vases for yourself. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Born Confused- Tanjua Desai Hidier

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

A super short review for a super long book. Born Confused is sort of the epic quest of one Jersey-born Indian girl who doesn't quite fit in to either her American or Indian culture. Dimple had never been that interested in her Indian roots, until her beautiful blonde friend Gwynn starts to take over her culture, including the boy Dimple's parents have set her up with. Over the course of 500 very long pages, Dimple finds herself, her culture, love and friendship.

I had a bit of a hard time with this book. I loved the main character, Dimple. I liked her family and the plot, but the book felt too long. To be honest, I'm not sure what I would cut, because it all felt relatively important when I was reading it, but it was a struggle to finish because it just dragged. I liked the friction between Dimple and her Indian heritage and Gwynn. I think that the book is quite relatable for any girl who doesn't feel like she fits in, but the prose lumbered.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sleep Toward Heaven- Amanda Eyre Ward

Sleep Toward Heaven by Amanda Eyre Ward

Another super short review. My lovely librarian also recommended this book to me. This is Ward's debut novel, and she really started her career well.

The book follows three women who, while all connected, don't know each other at all. Karen is on death row for murder. Franny is a doctor, who after losing a child cancer patient whom she cared about deeply, ends up in Gatestown, Texas as the doctor at the prison where Karen is held. And finally, Celia, whose husband was murdered by Karen. The story tells each woman's struggles as she works her way through the difficulties in her own life. And though each of their lives are drastically different, they feel eerily familiar.

I really loved this book. My first novel was a work of literary fiction, and despite how much Young Adult fiction I've been reading lately, I do really love a good work of literary fiction. Ward captures each woman's voice and personality perfectly. The way their stories interweave was really lovely and I felt satisfied at the end. My own personal mantra is that if your story doesn't have a strong plot pushing it forward, it must have strong characters and they must change drastically so that the reader is compelled to keep reading. Ward did a great job of creating characters that I not only loved, but rooted for and wanted redemption for each of them.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A bit of Knitting

I know that I said I wouldn't be posting knitting on this blog any more, but I feel compelled to share this project with you as it took me quite a while to finish. One of my very best friends, Jenny, had a baby about 6 weeks ago. This is the blanket I made for her. The pattern is Interweave Knits Yggdrasil Afghan. (ravelry link). Yarn is Knit Picks Comfy Sport in Marlin. I made the medium size, but didn't measure it before I gave it away. I think it was about 60" square-ish. I love the look of this blanket, but it was a bit fiddly to knit, especially grafting the braided borders. There are plenty of mistakes, which I won't point out, but suffice to say, it's definitely hand made. I hope that little James loves it for years to come. :)

The whole thing. The color is a little more saturated than that.

a close up of the center tree secion, knit from the center out

close up of the third border, the braid and leaves

close up of the first border, the braid. Love how this looks, but the corners and grafting were a huge pain
I've cast on for the next baby blanket. I'll not disclose details here in case the momma reads this, but I hope that it will be as beautiful as this one. :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jazz in Love- Neesha Meminger

Jazz in Love by Neesha Meminger

I went on a bit of an Indian book jag, which turned out to be really enjoyable. I try to read books from a wide variety of cultures, but don't always succeed. I really liked how this book blended some traditional aspects of the Indian culture with modern American life.

Short summary- Jazz is a Indian high school student who has always been smart and all around wonderful. However, her mother freaks when she hears about Jazz hugging a male friend and decides that she needs to be pushed into arranged dating immediately. The arranged dating doesn't go as planned and Jazz is falling in love with a completely unarranged and unsuitable boy instead. Additionally, she's on a quest to fix her aunt's love life and find the auntie's long lost love.

I really liked this book. It was sweet, light and funny. I thought that Meminger really captured how teenagers feel when they're in those first relationships (at least as I remember it, we'll not talk about how long ago that was). The story progressed well and Meminger also introduced us to the culture in a way that didn't feel like a school lesson. It was very natural and all around wonderful. I think it's a great romance book for teen girls, especially since it has a strong heroine who does her own work rather than being saved by everyone else (cough, Twilight, cough). So, if you want some cute and fun chick lit, check it out.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Marcelo in the Real World- Francisco X. Stork

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

This is unfortunately going to be one of my short reviews. I say unfortunately because this book really deserves a lot more of my time. I actually finished it forever ago, and just never got around to reviewing it.

Short summary- Marcelo has autism and has been attending a special school for years. His father, a big-shot lawyer, wants him to learn to deal in the real world and gets him a job in the mail room at his law firm for the summer before his senior year. At this job Marcelo meets a lovely girl, a nasty boy and finds out some secrets that he wishes he didn't know. (really short and crappy summary, I know)

I would say, don't worry about my summary, just go read the book. It is so beautifully written and I thought that Marcelo's voice was perfect. Stork really captured the autism (at least in my relatively limited experiences with autistic kids and adults), without letting it be distracting. The story is a little bit mystery, a little bit love story and a lot of growing up. I think that teens and adults alike will really love it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wee Bit of Me- and an update

Hey ya'll, sorry it's been a while again. I was in NYC for a vacation and as much as I love to travel, I hate the whole getting there and back part. I hate packing and getting the house ready to leave and then all the catching up when you get home. At any rate... I'm back and while I don't have a legit blogpost, I'll try to satisfy you guys with a Wee Bit Wednesday, which I haven't done in a while.

I've also got a ton of books that need reviewing and some writing updates, so those will come soon. The next few book reviews are going to be short because I just need to get them out there. Many of the books are ones that I'm sort of ambivalent about, and I think that's why it's taken me so long to write the reviews. But, some are great books and I just haven't set aside the time to blog. So... anyway... that's what's coming up! Now, on to more of things you probably never cared to learn about me. :)

{one} what is one food that, as an adult you love, but as a child you said you’d never touch?

 Blue Cheese. My mom always used to eat it and I thought it was disgusting, but I love it now!

{two} did you go to college? if yes, what was your major?
Yep. Undergraduate majors were English Literature and Secondary Education. Masters is in Literacy Education.

{three} what’s the most wild animal you’ve seen in real life (not counting the zoo)?
Um... elk? Wild boar? I haven't really seen that many wild animals in real life!

{four} have you ever been to a fortune teller?
Not a fortune teller, but a psychic... which was interesting.

{five} can you juggle?
Not any more. I used to be able to juggle; a coworker one summer in high school taught me.

{six} hardwood floors or carpet?
I have carpet now, but would like hardwood floors. I have mixed feelings about both.

{seven} is it called “soda” or “pop”?

{eight} what was your first car?

A blue 1976 Jeep Wagoneer. Her name was Bessie and my parents bought her for $100. She was one of the crappiest cars ever! Here's a picture for reference (not my actual car). I really hated that car.

{nine} what is the most decadent dessert you’ve ever eaten?

Uh... there is this cake from Whole Foods... chocolate explosion or something. It's pretty delicious.  I also had an amazing goat cheese cheesecake from the Dessert Truck in NYC.

{ten} how often do you rearrange your furniture?

Rarely. Our place is pretty small, so there aren't really a lot of options for where things can go.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Rules of Writing

So Eric, over at Pimp My Novel, had a post a couple of days ago about Kurt Vonnegut's Eight Rules of Writing. He got it from somewhere else, so if you're really concerned with accurate citation, you can follow all the links back. Eric runs an awesome blog though, so even if you don't care about proper citation, go check his post out. :)

These 8 rules really got me thinking and I wanted to share both the rules and my thoughts on them. I realize that I'm no "professional" when it comes to writing. While I have published a couple of random magazine articles, I'm not JK Rowling. Still... I read a awful lot, and I have some opinions on these. Plus, it's my blog and therefore I get to do what I want. :) Vonnegut's rules are bold, and my thoughts on each follow. Enjoy....

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

Now this I completely agree with, expecially since I'm the kind of person that almost always finishes a book that I start. I think I've only stopped reading a book, like, once, maybe. I always push through to the end, but with some books that leaves me feeling disappointed. I think that all art, be it a book, painting, or song, should do something for the person experiencing it. It should leave them feeling as if the time spent on that piece of art was not wasted; that they are maybe better for it. This concept, to me, also ties into the whole indie-publishing 99cent novel thing. Granted, many of the 99cent books may not be good, but I haven't yet felt like my money was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
Definitely agree with this one, though I sometimes have a hard time with it in my own writing. We HAVE to care about at least one of the characters. I recently finished reading Matched by Ally Condie, which has gotten a lot of buzz. A full review will come, someday, but I had a hard time with the main character. I couldn't sympatize with her. I didn't care whether she succeeded or not becuase she just felt whiney. Contrast that to one of the best characters of all time to root for- Harry Potter. We all wanted Harry to succeed, not just for his own personal gain, but for the fate of the whole world.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
Another item that I really struggle with, though I did just figure out what my main character wants in my current WIP. :) I think the bigger trick here is making these desires known to the reader and making the reader want the character to get what she wants. Sort of a combination of 2 and 3. If a character wants a glass of water, but I hate her so much that I want her to dehydrate, I'm not sure that will really work for an entire novel.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
Now this one is powerful, especially if you've read any of Vonnegut's own writing. I'm not sure that I agree with this one though. One of my favorite authors is John Steinbeck who has many sentences that do neither of these two things. Rules sometimes, were made to be broken. I love good description of setting and such, though it can be overdone and is terrible if done poorly.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.
Amen to this one. Maybe it's because I just finished The Roar and I felt like I could have easily cut the first 2/3 of that novel. I think that this can be difficult. I know that I have a TON of backstory in my current WIP, but you really do just have to leave it out. Don't drag your reader through 20 years of a character's life before she gets to do something awesome.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading charcters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
Also hard for me. I want to be a little Pollyanna-ish in my writing, but honestly, that's not life, and it shouldn't be writing either. Crappy things have to happen to your characters to make them change, grow, and take action. My main character's father dies in the opening pages of my current novel. Is is epically sucky? Yes. does it spur her into action? Yes, definitely.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
Ha... I love this one, partically because of how it's phrased, but also the actual message. Don't write to please everyone. Don't write about vampires/werewolves/angels/whatever just because it's hot right now. Don't write planning to make a billion dollars on marketing and movies and stupid dolls of your characters. Write thinking of that one person for whom your book will change her life. If her elebenty plus friends love it as well and you get movies and candy and dolls, then great, but write for that one person first.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Well.... maybe. I read and loved Graceling which give us nothing to start with and is all kinds of mystery for quite a while. I also love books that give me everything. I actually really like prequels, where I know where the book has to get to by the end and am excited to see how the author takes me there. But, I know that this may not work for all people. I'm also the person who likes to read the last two lines of a book before I start it, and doesn't mind watching an entire football game even when I already know who won. I think for me, this rule works, but I would imagine that most of the population likes a little bit more mystery in their books.

So, those are my thoughts on the rules of writing according to Kurt Vonnegut. I'd love to hear your take on the rules. Any you particularly love or hate? Does writing need rules at all or should we just do whatever we want as the creators of our worlds? What are other writing rules that you subscribe to?

(These are from the above link, which in turn borrows them from Vonnegut's Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spells- Aprilynne Pike

Spells by Aprilynne Pike

Spells is the second book in Pike's trilogy. If you'd like to read my review of Wings, which is the first book, check it out HERE. If you haven't read Wings and aren't interested in spoilers, then stop here!Actual review is after the jump.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Character with a Zillion Names

I've been trying to get back in the writing saddle this week, working on plotting and flushing out beats and scenes for the book. My first novel I pantsed. For those non-writer out there, that means I just started writing with an idea and little else, not that I embarrassed my book by displaying it's awesome My Little Pony underoos. :) At any rate, I just started writing with my first novel and it ended rather disastrously. I hummed along quite well until about two-thirds of the was through the book and then I fell apart. I knew where I wanted it to end, but I just couldn't get there. So, for my second book, I've decided to do some serious plotting. I been using Save the Cat (which is awesome) and The Writer's Journey (also awesome) to help me pace the story and make sure that I have all of the proper beats in it.

So anyway... long story to get to a shorter point, in the process of planning a scene on Monday, a new character popped up. This totally stopped me in my tracks, because while I could picture her and knew exactly what her personality was going to be... I don't have a name for her and it's driving me nuts! NUTS!

Being a teacher, I've had a really hard time finding names for my characters. I've taught so many kids over the years, that lots of names have connotations with them... sometimes good, sometimes bad. And to add to that complication, I always get all wrapped up in the meaning on the name. Envisioning high school English students years from now analyzing my choices and writing papers about how fitting my names are. Ugh. So I'm just stuck... I have my main characters' names: Katy and Tom, though now it makes me think of Katy Holmes and Tom Cruise... so that may not work out. :P But this third character... no idea what she's going to be named.

So... I'm turning to you my lovely readers. Any suggestions? For my writer friends out there, how do you come up with your names? I'm floundering a bit here... I get so lost in baby name websites. And if it helps- girl in question is poor, shy, very kind, smart, loyal, and plain but pretty... at least that's what I've gotten of her so far.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Roar- Emma Clayton

The Roar by Emma Clayton

My absolutely lovely school librarian (people whom I believe have a special place in heaven) always has new books to share with me.  The Roar was one such book. I usually try my darndest to read an awful lot, not just because I like reading, but also for my writing and to be able to recommend books to my students. So, since my librarian hadn't read this one, I told her that I'd read it and get back to her. My report.... not so good.

In a super simple version of the plot, so as not to give away what little spoilers there are: Mika and his twin Ellie live in a dystopian near future. Due to an animal plague, the entire population of the planet has been moved behind The Wall that rings the top of the globe. Ouside the wall, the Earth is decimated from all of the chemicles that had to be used to kill all the animal and vegetative life and irradicate the plague. Inside the wall, society is highly stratified- literally. The richest live at the tops of the cities in the Golden Towers, while the poor live underneath those towers in The Shadows. The story opens with Ellie trying to escape from bad guy Mal (yes, bad = mal... thank you Clayton).She has been thought dead by her family for over a year, and is trying to get back to them. She dosen't succeed. Meanwhile, Mika and his parents live in the bad part of the city and while his parents have already grieved Ellie's death, Mika is sure that she is still alive. We go back and forth between the Mal/Ellie perspective and Mika's perspective throughout the book. Mika and his fellow classmates are all enrolled in the Fit for Life program, meant to get them healthy and bolster their measly "fab food" which is really just processed mold. Then everyone competes in a video game. The top players keep moving up in the ranks, blah, blah, blah. I'll not spoil what actually happens to the winners, or Ellie and Mika as that's really the ONLY thing that kept me reading this book.

Ugh... so, in a lot of ways, I hated not liking this book. I really, really wanted to like it. It has a male narrator, which is great for my students- mostly boys. The writing is at a pretty easy reading level, so again, great for my students, but I just can't like it, and really can't recommend it to anyone. It was sort of terrible. The pacing of the book dragged on and on. Nothing was ever really explained. I had so many questions that it stopped moving me forward on the quest for answers and just started irritating me. I feel like this was an awful lot of set up that could and should have been cut. The premise is interesting, and I think it could have been really good had the book started about halfway through. I also really didn't like, or believe, this mystic twin connection that Ellie and Mika share. It was lame. Now, granted, I'm not a twin, so I don't know what it's like. For all I know that's how being a twin really is, but I didn't buy it. The point of view was terribly done and jumped around far too much. The characters were pretty flat, especially the supporting cast. And the ending... on the ending. I was so unbelievably disappointed. It just ended. The action started, questions were being answered, I was maybe going to get excited about what was going on in this book... and then, a page later, it ends. Just ends. Terrible. And there wasn't even enough of a hook or cliffhanger for me to feel excited about a potential sequel.

So, overall, I wouldn't recommend wasting your time on this one folks. It breaks my heart to say it, especially being a writer and thinking about someone hating a book I write so much, but still. Not Good. Now... to be fair, Clayton lives and is presumably from England, so maybe... maybe this is just some British thing that I'm really not understanding... like British humor???? I don't know... but I just didn't like it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Contest Winner!

Thank you all for your kind wishes on my fabulous anniversary! I'll cut right to the chase!

Random Number generator says..... Number 20! Which, after creating a spreadsheet of all comment entries, and then followers means that Miss Sarah is my winner! Yay! Sarah, I've emailed you, so please let me know which gift card you'd like!

As for everyone else, thanks for entering! I hope that maybe I can have another contest sometime soon. That was fun! And I apologize for the stupid format of the number generator picture... my computer is not currently cooperating. :(

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Tail of Emily Windsnap- Liz Kessler

The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler

      I'll preface this review by saying that I don't often read middle-grade fiction, so I'm not sure that I can be an entirely fair judge of this novel. I picked the book up for some ideas on the "daughter of two worlds" plot line for my own novel. Sadly, I found myself comparing this book to the plethora of YA books that I read on a much more regular basis, and upon comparison, I was rather disappointed.

Kessler's book opens with a girl, Emily, who lives with her mother on a houseboat. Emily is worried because she doesn't know how to swim (her mother has never allowed her to take lessons) and their is an impending swimming unit in gym at school. As an aside, I could totally relate to this fear. The intermediate school that I went to as a kid (grades 3-8) was also the recreation center in town and we had a large swimming pool. Every year in gym we had to do a swimming unit. I hated it. Not because I don't know how to swim, but because I totally hate water in my face. There you go... random fact about me of the day. :)

At any rate, Emily ventures into the pool only to find that her legs begin to fuse together. She plays it off as a cramp, but refuses to swim at school again. As the story plods along, Emily meets a real-life mermaid and finds out that she is part mermaid herself. She only develops a fin when she's in water, and it fades when she's on land. Her new mer-friend takes her to mermaid school and Emily learns that her mother was in love with a merman who is now in mer-jail.

Bored yet? Yeah, so was I. Honestly, I might have found this book cute if I were about eight, but I'm not and it really didn't translate well to an older audience. I thought the plot was trite and irritating. I really hated all the stupid mermaid slang, and it was all around cheesy. In theory, the concept behind the novel could have worked well, but it just never gelled. There are about a bazillion sequels and the book got good reviews on Amazon, so apparently someone likes it, but just not me. Maybe I'm too far removed from my tween days, though, I do love reading Teen and Young Adult books, so I can't be that much of an old fogey yet.

I wouldn't recommend the book for the general audience of my blog, but if you have a young female reader, you might pick her up a used copy. :)

ALSO! Today is the last day to enter my blogiversary contest! Go enter now! 

Book purchased from

Check out all of my other reviews HERE.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Well, I've managed to sporadically post for the last three years. THREE YEARS! Craziness. I decided to celebrate my belated (Feb 23rd officially) blogiversary with a give away. :) Since I don't have tons of sponsors (or any)... and I'm a teacher, the prize will be modest. :) If you win, you'll have a choice of $25 gift card to either (my favorite place for books- only because I have a Kindle, not because I'm anti-indie or anything) or (my favorite place for yarn and needles- even though this isn't really a knitting blog anymore) or to (just because I lurve Leigh's jewelry).

You have a wide variety of ways to enter-

1 entry for commenting on this post
1 entry for being a follower- hopefully public as I don't know how to see people who don't follow publicly
1 entry for blogging about my little giveaway, and leaving a comment with a link
1 entry for following me on Twitter and leaving a comment with your Twitter handle
1 entry for Tweeting about my giveaway (I think the "proper" term is Twittering, but I think that sounds dumb) and leaving a comment.

So... there you are. :) Since I don't have terribly many followers, you have a pretty good chance of winning!

I'll close entries... well, when I close entries. I'm not entirely sure. I'll be out of commission Monday and Tuesday and you all have seen my track record for blogging on the weekends... so Wednesday? Sure... I'll close entries Wednesday March 2nd at midnight MST. I'll try to announce a winner on Thursday... but again, don't hold your breath. :) Entries are closed! Thanks for participating!

Have a great weekend ya'll!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bernard Pivot Blogfest

Nicole Ducleroir is hosting a Bernard Pivot Blogfest today. Well, technically yesterday, but I'm always a day late and a dollar short aren't I?  If you are interested in participating, please visit her blog to sign up. There are over 100 people participating.

We're having fun with Pivot's ten questions, made famous in the United States by James Lipton of Inside the Actor's Studio. Blogfest participants have filled out the questionnaire and pasted it with their answers on their blogs today. We are then hopping from blog to blog to read everyone's answers and learn something interesting about our blog friends. Hopeully we'll meet some new people as well. Should be fun. I thought it would be an interesting departure from Wee Bit of Me. I've always fantasized about being on Inside the Actor's Studio... which is rather odd, since I've never wanted to be an actor. Maybe Lipton can host and On the Writer's Desk instead. :) At any rate... more than you've ever wanted to know about me below.
1.What is your favorite word? caddywhompus You can't help but smile when you say it. :)

2.What is your least favorite word? a tie between moist and girth Eww... they just feel gross in my head thinking them. Ew.

3.What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Oh man... kindness, potential, possibility, humor

4.What turns you off? People who are rude or mean.

5.What is your favorite curse word? Fuck

6.What sound or noise do you love? Andrea Bochelli singing

7.What sound or noise do you hate? metal underwater

8.What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? besides writer, which I'm already attempting? Wedding Planner

9.What profession would you not like to do? anything with the stock market

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? Well done.
All might be a good thing that I've no desire to be an actor. :)
At any rate, sorry I haven't been around, life has been the definition of insane. Welcome to my new followers! Yay! I will try my darndest to get something more posted next week, or maybe even this weekend. I'm heading to Crested Butte with my church's youth group and I plan on sitting my rumpus (another favorite word) by the fire and writing, reading and knitting... though hopefully not panicing. :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wings- Aprilynne Pike

Wings by Aprilynne Pike

I've been on a major YA kick. Mostly YA Fantasy, since that's what I'm currently writing, but lots of YA in general. Anyway, I know that someone recommended this book to me, but now I don't remember who. Again...person who recommends good books, thanks. This was a great one.

Wings opens with Lauren navigating her first day of high school after being homeschooled for years. We immediately get the sense that something is a little off about her, but can't quite place it. When she later discovers a growing bump on her back, we quickly find out what exactly is strange about her. After finding out who she really is, Lauren is forced into a conflict of the ages, trolls vs faeries, and must fight to protect her loves, both new and old. Sorry, I know that's sort of a lame, short summary, but I really don't want to give too much away because really, you should just go read it. :)

Overall, I liked this book. That sounds maybe more hesitant that I actually am about the novel. It was good. Good enough that I immediately purchased and read the second book the trilogy, Spells (review to come) and pre-ordered the third book. I liked the love triangle, which all YA fiction seems to have these days. I liked that while Lauren clearly liked her boys, she has a spine and is her own actor in the novel. She isn't constantly being saved (cough, Bella, cough) and really takes charge in a lot of situations. Her relationships are pretty healthy too... no strange pedophilia or necrophilia or anything. I really liked Pike's updated take on faeries. I've never been a huge faery person myself, but this was a cool version of their lore. It was different, but still felt familiar, something that I strive toward in my own writing. The writing was crisp and the plot moved along pretty well. I have to admit, it was a touch slow at the beginning, but I'm also glad that the mystery wasn't revealed immediately. Good stakes, characters you care about and a beautiful world, all make for a compelling novel. I would venture to say that just about anyone who likes Fantasy or YA, or YA Fantasy, would like this novel. I think it would also be good for the younger, middle grade, set because it's pretty darn tame, and little girls always love faeries.

So, check it out... and check out the rest of my reviews here for more reading suggestions. I'll be back later in the week with some writing thoughts and my Spells review.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Just When I'm on a Roll...

I always think that I'll be one of those awesome bloggers who writes cool, interesting, informative, useful things everyday. I have grand aspirations to be that person, but alas, I am not. I've been dealing with some sucky health stuff for the last couple of weeks, and blogging hasn't really be on the top of my to do list. I have, however, read a ton, so I have a lot of books to blogs about, and have a bunch of writing stuff to talk about too. So... next week, hopefully, I'll be back in the saddle. Have a great weekend ya'll. :)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wee Bit of Me

Every week when I do this, it feels a little self-indulgent... like there are so many people out there just clamoring to find out what my favorite condiment is. Alas... it will be good fodder for when I am actually famous and people really do care. :)

And so... Wee Bit of Me for the week:

{one} name one thing you worry about running out of.

Uh... I really don't know. I always have too much food in the house, but I've been known to run out of plenty of things.

{two} what is your favorite pizza topping?

Everything. Except pineapple, much to my husband's dismay.

{three} what is your favorite harrison ford movie?

Any of the Indiana Jones movies, although the last one is really pushing its luck.

{four} apple juice or orange juice?

Orange... low acid orange with no pulp to be very specific.

{five} what’s your favorite thing to do on a sunday afternoon?

Watch football, nap or knit.

{six} what is the wallpaper on your cellphone of?

A beach scene

{seven} do you have a favorite tv commercial?

I love the Allstate Mayhem commercials, and the Old Spice commercials.

{eight} what is the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?

Huh... I eat a fair amount of strange things because my mother always forced me to try everything. I guess the weirdest by common standards would be frog legs, escargot, and foie gras... all delicious I might add.

{nine} what is one piece of clothing you can’t live without?

Jeans. I live in jeans.

{ten} if you were a character from “lost”, who would you be?

I actually never watched Lost... so, from my best Google search and an online quiz... I am apparently Jack. Don't know if that's good or bad, but he looks sort of cute, so I'll take it. :)

Well then... that's enough narcissism for me for one day. Until next time. :)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wee Bit of Me for the New Year!

Well, Leigh is back over at myleighashley with Wee Bit of Me, so without further ado... more information that you could probaby not care less about. :)

{one} have you ever been on tv?

Yes, more times than I care to mention actually. When I was a kid, I was on PBS a couple of times, doing these little spots they did about local attractions. I think mine was on the Tabors or something. I really don't remember. And Lord in Heaven, if someone finds that on YouTube... oy.
I was actually on TV a fair amount in college because I was in the marching band and basketball band at CU. So, I often ended up with a camera stuffed in my face being asked to cheer. My favorite was when the camera man was below me at a basketball game and my well-endowed rump got splashed across ESPN for all to see. Yay... or not. :)

{two} what was the best movie you saw last year?

I really liked Inception. The writing was excellent; the effects were cool and I thought the cinematography was fantastic.

{three} do you sleep with your sheets tucked in or out?

They start tucked in at the bottom, but rarely stay that way.

{four} do you cut coupons?

No... that's entirely too much effort.

{five} do you ever count your steps when you walk?

Not usually when I walk, but almost always when I go down stairs.

{six} what sauce do you dip your chicken nuggets in?

I don't really eat chicken nuggets as they are, by definition, covered in gluten, but when I did I loved Honey Mustard.

{seven} do you have any magazine subscriptions?

Oprah and The New Yorker

{eight} when was the last time you wrote a letter on paper?

Um... this morning. I always hand write thank you notes, and try to send letters to people on a semi-regular basis. Everyone likes getting something in the mail that's not a bill. :)

{nine} what’s your favorite fruit pie?

Probably blueberry or cherry, thouse I really like berry pies too. Honestly... it realyl doesn't matter. I love pie.

{ten} black olives or green olives?

Black, unless the green ones are stuffed with something awesome.

If there are questions that you would like to contribute to Wee Bit of Me, let me know in the comments!

Graceling- Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

I can't remember who recommended this book to me now, but I really wish I could because I need to thank them profusely. Graceling is an excellent YA adventure/fantasy with a strong female protagonist, something of a rarity anymore.

There is not a whole lot that I can say about the plot without giving it away, but Katsa (it's always Kat, or Katniss, or Katsa isn't it? Makes me rethink my character being Katy) has a Grace. In Cashore's world, someone who is graced has two different colored eyes, and a remarkable ability at something: cooking, politics, singing, etc. Katsa's grace is killing. Interesting for sure.
When the book opens we are dropped immediately into the action without any explanation. I alternated between being thoroughly annoyed at this (What is going on!?!?) and totally loving it (just one more page/chapter). Ultimately, I think it really worked. The world is not so far off the charts that the reader can't easily follow along, and all is revealed in good time. It definitley makes the first part of the novel a page turner; I couldn't set it down.

In very short, Katsa goes on a bunch of adventures, meets a cute guy (Po) who is also graced, and has to fight to save herself and what she believes in. There is obviously much more to the book than that, but you should just go read it. :)

I think Cashore created some very interesting and believable characters. The plot was smooth and well paced, for the most part. There were a couple of spots that lagged. I liked the good guys and hated the bad guys. The idea of a grace is unique and really cool and I enjoyed all of the different graces that she came up with. I was a little bummed with the ending, mostly because I wanted more, which I thought was coming in her second book Fire, but that is apparently a prequel, not a sequel. I'm still waiting on that sequel Ms. Cashore, if you are ever trolling the web and read this. I really want to know what happens after Graceling ends.

My favorite part of this book though was the fact that Katsa is a strong, independent woman. In this age of simpering, whiny, weak heroines (cough, cough, Bella, cough), I appreciated that Katsa was her own woman and took charge of situations. She still had a love interest, which was also really well written, but her life didn't revolve around a man. She is just fine on her own, a welcome change.

So, I'd say go buy it, or check it out from your library, or download a sample to your Kindle, whatever, but read it. I think it's a must read for anyone writing YA and I'd strongly recommend it as a fun read to everyone else.

Check out my other reviews here!

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Year, New Year

Well... I have survived the holidays, albeit only barely. Sorry for the blog silence, but the insanity that is family, food and festivities took presidence. I had a wonderful Christmas, and hope that you all had a great Christmas/other holiday/winter Saturday. :) The new year always makes me think about new beginnings, and while I've stopped making resolutions, mostly because I can never keep them, I do like to think about what the new year holds for me, and the rest of the world.

A lot of these thoughts have been centered around writing. This spring my work schedule allows me to spend every other afternoon at Borders with my writing buddy and one of my favorite people of all time, Cari.We met a few years ago in a critique group and have supported each other in our writing since. Our new writing ritual has been great for me. I've been working hard on building character sketches and trying to flush out the motivations for my characters in the new YA fantasy novel I'm working on.

Cari and I have also spent a decent amount of time talking about the future of publishing, especially surrounding self-publishing on the Kindle and other ereaders, and the fate of the big traditional publishers. She had a great post on her blog today about her sadness over leaving behind the printed world in favor of her newly purchased Kindle.

I resisted the idea of an ereader for a long time. Citing that I liked the feel of the book in my hands, the smell of it, the way it looked on my shelf. No more than 6 months ago was I singing the song of the dead tree. That completely changed when I got my Kindle. I ended up buying it on craigslist for a bit of a discount, thinking that I wouldn't like it and would have to sell it shortly. Wrong. I love that stupid little thing like I love my cat, my shoes and my purses.... in other words, a friggin' lot. I don't' miss the feel of a book, or the smell, or all of the books on my shelf. I love the convenience. I love having books with me all the time, being able to download new books instantly. Heck, I even like working out now because it's another 45 minutes I can read without guilt.

So yes, I like my Kindle. I think it's the future of publishing. I know that JA Konrath has been extolling the virtues of indie publishing for a while, but I'm drinking the Kool-Aide with him now, especially after Borders' disasterous few days in the stock market. I think that epublishing will be great for authors. People, myself included, are a lot more willing to take risks on new authors and books outside of their normal interests when those books are only a few dollars. A perfect example: I haven't read and of Steig Larson's books- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and so forth. I know they've all received amazing reviews. I've even heard first hand from people whose tastes I trust that they are great books, but I hadn't read them yet. Why? The price. I didn't want to spend $15-20 on something I wasn't sure about. But, while scrolling through Amazon's recommendations for me yesterday, I came across those books, available for Kindle for $5. I downloaded them immediately. $20 is hard to risk, $5, not hard at all. I waste more money on coffee and tea.

I hope that I'm right about the future of publishing. Right now, I think I'd really prefer  self-publishing rather than taking on the uncertainty of a major publishing house contract, but we shall see what the future holds.

How about all of you? Do you have an ereader? Want one? How do you feel about the apparent downfall of major publishing houses and the rise of the indie author?


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