Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 Reading Challenges

One of my resolutions for next year is to read more, and with the amount of fun reading challenges available out there I'm sure that's not going to be a problem. I've already signed up for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge which is being hosted by the Story Siren, which requires me to read 12 ya or mg books by debut authors (even though I want to read 20).

Here are two more challenges I'm signing up for next year in order to lower the amount of books on my TBR list (if that's even possible):

For this challenge I'm going to be venturous and challenge myself to the Mega size challenge which requires me to read 50+ YA novels. Since I read over 40 books this year I think I'll be able to get myself to 50 (hopefully). I won't list all 50 here, mainly because that's a big list, but since I've got over 200 on my TBR list I'm sure I'll find something to read.

And, the other challenge I'm signing up for is the Aussie YA reading challenge which, since I'm Australian, requires me to read 12 Aussie novels. Believe it or not I've never been a big fan of Aussie novels, mainly because they were mandatory at school and back then I never thought they were interesting, but now, especially after discovering that John Marsden has created a fantastic story, I think I need to discover what other Aussie talent has produced. Here's the story's I'm going to attempt to read:
  1. Burn Bright by Marianne de Pierres
  2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  3. Stolen by Lucy Christopher
  4. Liar by Justine Larbalestier
  5. The Dead of Night by John Marsden
  6. A Killing Frost by John Marsden
  7. Darkness, Be My Friend by John Marsden
  8. The Book of Lies by Mary Horlock
  9. A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson
  10. Embrace by Jessica Shirvington
  11. Hollywood Ending/John Belushi is Dead by Kathy Charles
  12. The Named by Marianne Curley
 It looks like I've got my hands full with all the books I'm planning to read in the coming year.

So, in 2011 are you aiming to read a specific number of books? What books are you eagerly anticipating or aiming to get around to in the coming year?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of 2010 survey

The year is running out and soon 2011 will be here, so I thought it would be fun to participate in an End of 2010 Survey that Jamie over at The Perpetual Page Tuner came up with. This survey is all about our reading experience throughout 2010.

1. Best book of 2010? Out of so many good books I read throughout the year I would have to say
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins were my favourites. Both were beautifully written with unique storylines.

2. Worst book of 2010? I don't realy like using 'worst', but my least favourable was Another Faust by Daniel Nayeri. The characters were too selfish and flat for me to really connect with.

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010? I would have to say The Karma Club by Jessica Brody. I was eagerly awaiting this book because I thought the premise sounded interesting, but I could not connect with the character and the storyline dragged out a bit too much.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010? The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell. I love superheroes and to find a unique story from the eyes of a half-villain, half-hero was interesting.

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010? The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

6. Best series you discovered in 2010? The The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and the The Tomorrow Series by John Marsden.

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010? Suzanne Collins, Rachel Hawkins and Kiersten White.

8. Most hilarious read of 2010? Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010?  It's a toss up between The Hunger Games, Paranormalcy and Hex Hall.

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010? Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. I'd heard so much about the story and couldn't wait until it was released, and I wasn't let down.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010?

12. Most memorable character in 2010? Katniss Everdeen from the The Hunger Games. Such a strong character who will do whatever it takes to survive and keep her younger sister safe. A fantastic heroine.

13. Most beautifully written book in 2010? The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. A book that's able to take a dark and dangerous world and bring such life to it, fantastic writing.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010? Tomorrow, When the War Began (The Tomorrow Series, #1) by John Marsden. I finally got around to reading this book (and that's before the movie came out) because I had to teach it to my year 10 class for my teaching prac. I really had to delve deep in the plot and characters and learnt a lot about this book and why Marsden decided to write it.

15. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read? Tomorrow, When the War Began (The Tomorrow Series, #1) by John Marsden. I remember when my friends were assigned this book to read for English class. Since it was a prescribed text I never even considered reading it, and now I wonder why. Kids with guns trying to escape from a war that's started up in their backyard, how can you go wrong with that?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Xmas to Everyone

Just stopping by to say Merry Christmas and hope everyone has a fantastic holiday.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Xmas Christmas Wishlist

With just under a week till Christmas, and finishing all the Christmas shopping, I have been super busy. Christmas always seems to be a busy time of year, shopping for friends and family, figuring out what to buy for Christmas dinner (especially if you're working most of the day), and cleaning up the house in that last minute rush before the day gets here.

And then there's the last minute reading to get some way overdue books out of the way before my to-be read list grows exponentially with all of next year's releases.

The one thing I've had trouble with this year was thinking of what I would like for Christmas. Yes, my family is scared to buy for me because they have trouble keeping up with me when there's a book I want or movie I need, so they asked me for a list this year. After I did a list, I realised that I could only give it to my sister because I put all the books I wanted on it, so my brother still pestered me about a present.

Here's the list I ended up with:

My brother still said he didn't know what to get me (and I didn't know which one my sister was going to get me), so when we were shopping for the remaining Christmas items, I found a book... which actually wasn't on my list because I didn't think it was getting published until next year and he got it for me (which he told me that I have to forget he got it)... now I've got to wait until Christmas to unwrap it... yes, he wrapped it and placed it under the tree.

So, what is on your wishlist for Christmas? And, do your family and friends have the same problem with buying presents (that they have no idea what you've got/read/want?)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Do You Judge a Book by its Cover?

I'll have to admit I do. I don't know where that old saying "Don't judge a book by its cover" came from, but when it comes to picking what I want to read it is totally wrong.

For me, before I decide to read a book (unless it's from an author I've read and loved, or a novel I've heard positive reviews about) I first have to be captivated by the book cover. If the cover art doesn't draw me in then the chances of me reading the book is pretty much zilch.

What are some things covers should do?

  • Covers should tell something about the genre

  • Covers should hint toward the story
  • Covers should give some visual aspect of the characters or setting
  • Covers should capture the imagination
  • Sometimes simplicity works

But, this can also be a trap to get readers to read the stories. Just because you like the cover doesn't mean you will like the story inside, but that's to do with each personal opinion.

So, do you judge a book by its cover? And, what do you look for in covers, or what books are you looking forward to reading just because it has an interesting cover?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: The Replacement

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Synopsis (From Goodreads): Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Mackie Doyle knows that he's different. He's allergic to iron and blood and can't set foot on consecrated ground. Living in a world that's killing him, he's got to pretend to be just like everyone else. In his world, the people accept that bad things happen like babies dying in their crib. When one girl, Tate, refuses to believe that her sister actually died in her crib, but something else that had replaced her, Mackie is drawn into the underworld known as Mayhem. Here he learns the truth of who he is and what becomes of the ones that are taken and he must decide whether he will help to get Tate back or accept the way things are.

Brenna Yovanoff has managed to create a dark and miserable world that is beautifully written. Right from the start Mackie's voice is clear and strong. I felt sorry for him as he struggled in the human world, knowing that he was dying and fearing that there would never be a cure for him. All the characters have been well-developed and it was great to see such a wide variety, all with their own personalities.

The tone of the novel is what really drew me in. The writing has an eerily poetic feel to it as Yovanoff describes such a gloomy and dark town with an elegance that brings all the scenes alive. This story definitely kept me want to turn the page.

Cover: This is an eerie cover. Even though it's dark and gloomy there is a strong elegance about it with Mackie standing right in the centre of the dark coloured background. I did like the cover that Australia received, but I would still prefer the US cover with the crib and all the dangerous objects hanging above it. Both covers gives a great sense of the tone that the story has.

Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 5/5 stars
Cover: 5/5 stars
Overall: 5/5 stars
Recommend: Kelley Armstrong's Darkest Powers Trilogy

Monday, December 6, 2010

When dialogue is too real

I was watching a movie the other day and it took me a while to realise why the dialogue was a tad bit irritating. Yes, it was natural and believable, but that was the problem. It was too real.

When reading a book or watching a movie I don't care what the characters are planning to have for breakfast or what they did the night before unless it relates directly to the story. I know these are the kind of conversations everyone has, but for a reader/viewer to invest their time in the story there has to be a purpose for every little piece of dialogue or action. We assume that the characters are pondering these in the background, so it isn't necessary to include them in the story.

So, before writing that wonderfully realistic dialogue ask yourself if it will help progress the story.

How do you know whether the conversations in your story is necessary? Do you like dialogue that is overly realistic or just important?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:White St,Dubbo,Australia

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: Perilous

Perilous by Tamara Hart Heiner
Synopsis (From Goodreads): Jaci Rivera has plans for her sophomore year: go to regionals with the track team, make the honor roll, and eat too much pizza with her best friends, Callie and Sara. Her biggest concern is Amanda, the pushy girl who moved in a few months ago.

What she doesn't plan for is catching a robber red-handed, or being kidnapped. The desperate thief drags her and her friends 2,000 miles across the Canadian border. They escape from his lair, only to find that he has spies and agents watching their path home, waiting to intercept them and take them back.

Then Jaci finds something out about her family. Something which irrevocably connects her to their kidnapper, and makes her question their chances of escape.

Debut author Tamara Hart Heiner has created a chilling tale about a group of girls who have to escape their kidnappers and journey across the country to get home, not knowing who they can trust. The characters in the story are all interesting with unique characteristics that makes them different from each other. The two point of view characters, Jaci and Detective Hamilton, are the perfect characters to tell the story. The reader learns little clues from both sides and makes you want to turn the page.

The fast pace and numerous twists and turns add interest to the story and will keep you on the edge of your seat, hoping that the girls will be able to make it home safely. The ending suggests that a sequel is in progress, or I hope so because I want to know what's going to happen next on the girls journey.

Cover: This is a creepy cover which definitely adds to the feel and tension that is in the novel.

Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 5/5 stars
Cover: 4/5 stars
Overall: 4.5/5 stars
Recommend: James Patterson

Monday, November 22, 2010

2011 Debut Author Challenge

Kristi at The Story Siren is hosting the 2011 Debut Author Challenge. I participated in this year's challenge and was surprised to have completed my goal of 12 books at the beginning of October, so I decided I'll take on the challenge again next year. Why wouldn't I? Just like this year, next year has a great number of temptations being released that I'm salivating over.

So, here is my list that I'll be attempting (in no order):
  1. Possession by Elana Johnson
  2. Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roeker
  3. Vesper by Jeff Sampsen
  4. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
  5. Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton
  6. Rival by Sara Bennett-Wealer
  7. A Touch Mortal by Leah Clifford
  8. The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder
  9. Die for Me by Amy Plum
  10. Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris
  11. Populazzi by Elise Allen
  12. The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
  13. Dead Rules by Randy Russell
  14. Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey
  15. My Un-Fairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski
  16. Future Imperfect by K. Ryer Breese
  17. The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal
  18. Entangled by Cat Clarke
  19. Memento Nora by Angie Smibert
  20. Choker by Elizabeth Woods
I know the challenge is for 12 books, but since I accomplished it early this year and there are so, so, so many great sounding books being released, I've decided to challenge myself to 20. It looks like I'll have my hands full trying to read all of them.

So, what books are you looking forward to being released next year?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NanoWrimo Day 20: Why is November always hectic?

Who can blame November for being so busy, what with the release of the latest Harry Potter movie. And yes, I did see it at the Midnight screening (and it was fantastic), the only bad decision we made that night was choosing to go to a midnight screening the day that we were also planning a 15 hour car drive (not that I'm regretting it... the movie was well worth it).

So, after finishing the movie at 2:30 am, my brother and I met up with our parents and started the long journey back to my country home to attend my sister's graduation. It was an interesting drive, but we managed to stay awake the whole time (with little power naps while the other drove) with the help of energy drinks and sugar.
I'm glad November is nearly over, then I'll possibly be able to relax.

P.S. my favourite part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I is a toss up between the Godric's Hollow scene and the torture scene with Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bohem Carter is perfect in this role).
So, have you, or are you planning to, seen this movie? If you have, which is your favourite scenes?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NanoWriMo Report: Just Checking In

It's definitely been hectic around here. Even working 3 days at my new job and trying to write as well as planning to go home for my sister's graduation, I haven't had time to do much else.

So, here's the rundown:
Writing: 42111
Sleep: Probably no more than 5 hours at night (can't wait for November to be over)
Mood: Excited... not at writing or anything. I've got my midnight screening tickets for Harry Potter and that's less than a day away (YAY!)

So, how's everyone else going?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

NanoWriMo: Day 5 - Will somebody kill me

Okay, so it's 5 days in to NanoWriMo and already I'm behind (and it was such a good start). Well, technically it's day 6 because it's 1.30 am on Saturday and I'm sitting in front of the computer stuffing my face with a Macdonalds hamburger. Why, because I've just finished my first day of work in so long and every part of me is sore. Luckily, there's a 24hour Maccas on the way home (with a little detor).

Words written today: 0
Words written yesterday: 500
Boy, I'm just fantastic, aren't I.

So, how is everyone else doing?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nanowrimo: Day 3 - Getting Away From Distractions

So, today I wrote 1845 words, which I'm surprised because I didn't feel in the mood to write during the day, so it all came to me at night.

Why couldn't I write during the day? I'm blaming all the distractions available to me, especially the games on Facebook. So the tip for today is to get away from distractions.

These distractions can come from:
  • The internet
  • Computer
  • Family members wanting attention
  • Prior events that have been planned
  • Housework that you suddenly feel in the mood to do
  • The need to go out and buy coffee (I don't know if that's actually a distraction or a need when writing)
What can you do?
  • Find a quiet place to write
  • Lock yourself in a room with a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the handle
  • Disconnect the internet
  • Tell your family they need to book a time to see you
  • Get someone to do the coffee drive
  • You probably couldn't ignore prior events (but losing your car keys is a good excuse that you can't make it)
So, how are you going so far? And, if you're not writing, what have you been up to?

Monday, November 1, 2010

And Nano's Begun

DAY 1...

So, NanoWriMo's begun and I'm off to an okay start (not as good as I would have liked since I've been up since 5am and trying to write most of the day).

After staring at the computer, trying to figure out that perfect first sentence (and rewriting the first 200 words several times), I finally got started, even though the story isn't trying to stick to any of my plotting that I did the previous month.

I'm actually surprised that I've made it this far today because with the forums and everything, there's plenty to do to "procrastinate" that I'm surprised that I actually got around to any writing.

Well, now I'm off to bed probably when most people will just be getting a start on day 1. I wish everyone good luck as they jump straight into their novels.

So, is everyone set to start Nano (if you're doing it). How are you going to keep yourself away from the forums and other internet distractions long enough to write?

Friday, October 29, 2010

What makes a tradition?

All my life I have watched American movies and shows celebrate Halloween, but Australia has never celebrated it. This year seems to be something different. Every store has Halloween decorations (even selling carving pumpkins... I didn't even know there were such things as carving pumpkins), there's more costumes and they are even putting out candy purely for trick or treating.

I'm all for Halloween (I have secretly been envious that we didn't celebrate it so I could dress up and go trick or treating), but when Halloween night comes around I haven't been raised with the tradition of buying candy to hand out, and I wouldn't have any readily available.

Me, I don't think I have to worry about offending any one who's expecting candy at our place. I'm going to be out all day with either work or meeting up with the Brisbanites for our Nano Kick off Party, followed by a long night of fright at Movie World.

In any case, I wish everyone a Happy Halloween whether you celebrate it or not.

So, here's my question: how hard is it to bring in a new (but popular) tradition, and should everyone be expected to follow that tradition? And, especially for those that do celebrate Halloween, if you didn't grow up celebrating it, would you be obliged to stock up with candy just in case anyone does come knocking?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Allow Me to Geek out for a bit...

Tonight I was lucky enough to score tickets to a sneak preview of the new Tron movie (it was mean of them to show us 25 minutes and leave us dangling until the movie opens 16th December).

For those that don't know, here's the trailers for the original 1982 movie and the movie that's coming out this year (have a look at how much the technology has improved in the 2 decades since the first movie.

So, what's coming out that you're eagerly anticipating?

P.S. I got myself a new job, so now I'm not going to be sitting around procrastinating all day like I have been.

I am officially back

After a long 2 weeks of travelling and studying I can now say I'm back. It was a bit of a shock to the system to go from wearing shorts and t-shirts to rugging up in front of the fire (It's supposed to be Spring), it even snowed.

The bad weather made it interesting for my sister whose first exam had a black out so she could barely see what she was writing, lucky she said it was an easy English exam.

I didn't get as much done as Iwould have liked to with writing. I wrote about 6 chapters of Swayed and came up with probably 3 rough outlines for my Nano novel (ranging from contemporary to thriller... I'm still trying to stop myself from putting paranormal elements into it).

I did manage to finish the whole trilogy of the Hunger Games (via audio book). I know that's cheating, but sitting on a train with lights out it really does help.

Now, I'm back and eager to focus on my writing.

So, what has everyone else been up to?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Never-Ending Scene Blogfest

Brenda Drake is hosting an intriguing blogfest called The Never-Ending Scene Blogfest. The challenge is to post a 500 word scene that ends with a cliff hanger.  So, I've chosen a scene from my WIP, Haven. Here is my entry to the blogfest, hope you enjoy:

* * *

Without waiting for the woman to pay any more attention to me, I push off the wall and charge toward the exit. I knock her to the ground as I bolt outside. A vast wilderness greets me. Aged trees with flaking bark tower over me.

I’m not going to stop to find out where I am. I keep heading in the only direction that makes sense, away from the deranged psychopath with the needle. Rain buckets down, but that’s not going to stop me. Branches claw me as I push through the foliage.

A twig snaps behind me. Whoever was at the door must be up and chasing after me.

A low inhuman growl wafts across the field. There's something else out here. The mud squelches as it approaches. I hate my life.

I force myself to my feet and run. There's only one thought in my head, and that's to get the hell out of here. The creature's roar echoes around me.

I turn my head. My feet catch on a twisted tree root and send me crashing to the muddy earth.

I strain my eyes trying to see whatever's out here stalking me. The rain obscures my vision. Briefly, I catch a glimpse of it between the trees. A warped, misshapen creature caught somewhere between a man and a wolf. Jagged silver quills protrude all over its body like a pincushion. Its glowing yellow eyes are smouldering beacons in the darkness.

It takes half a second for the terror to hit. I bolt.

Its warm breath brushes the back of my neck. I run faster, trying not to slip in the mud. No matter how quick I move, it's right there behind me. It's toying with me. This is how the poor girl in those horror movies must feel.

Every muscle aches. The icy air rushes painfully into my lungs. What's the worst that can happen if I just stop and play dead right here? The creature utters another bowel-shaking roar, but it doesn’t come from behind me.

A building comes into view. Out here in this wilderness I would have expected a small hut, but it looks like a decaying house, and the closer I get, the more buildings come into view. I skid to a stop and dart my gaze around, trying to find the creature.

Everywhere I look, things are ancient and withered. Nature has crept over man’s artifice, strangling some houses with foliage. Others have collapsed under the pressure of disuse.

The disturbing graveyard of a town pales in comparison to the massive stone edifice crouched behind it. A gothic structure built out of dark grey bricks. Vines claw their way up its sides as if trying to drag the towering megalith down into the very earth on which it rests. Tall spires erupt from the rooftop at bizarre angles, seemingly without reason. Even in the growing daylight, the building remains darkly ominous.

A tall fence constructed of the same dark bricks surrounds the massive structure, with iron spikes on top that stretches towards the heavens.

“Welcome to Haven,” a voice whispers in my ear just before I’m hit from behind and darkness takes me over once again.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Logging Off

Well, I'm definitely home (well, where I grew up) and I'm definitely feeling it. It's the middle of spring and I go from wearing shorts and t-shirts to rugging up with jumpers... it's even predicted to snow tomorrow, I'm certainly hoping that's not the case.

It's getting frantic around here because my sister starts the exams which will give her a number based on her whole high school experience. I would love to be able to do everything, but I promised to come home and help her prepare, so I'll have to say that I'll be offline for the next 1 1/2 weeks, and then I'll be back firing (hopefully with so many ideas for Nano).

So, see you all later.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Been a long day...

What does 22 hours of travel on a train/coach and 2 long days have in common? Only 2 hours sleep and a very numb butt.

I've spent the past 2 days travelling home (which makes it incredibly long day since I've lost an hour due to daylight savings). I promised to help my sister with her HSC preparations (they are a month long extensive examinations for year 12, at the end she will have a number that ranks her for university - out of 100).

It's rather hard to sleep on the train so I haven't had that much sleep, but I did get a lot done (unfortunately not with my writing which I could only stare at). I did read 1/2 a novel and nearly finished Hunger Games - the audio book version... it's best to listen when there's no light source.

Oh well, I'm going to try and get a lot of sleep so that I'm not tired and I can help her with her exam preps and also try and write some more since I've been neglecting it lately.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Getting ready for November

November's right around the corner and it's time to think of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Lucky I've had several story ideas this year that I'm going to be able to utilise, and spend the rest of the month to plot the idea.

For those that don't know, the object of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Why would I do such a thing? It's a great challenge (actually forcing me to write every day) and it also gives me the opportunity to meet up with writers (which is always the best part of it).

Who out there are participating in NaNoWriMo?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

It's all in the twist

It's been said that there are no new stories, just the twist in which the author spins that makes something original. I always love reading something that has an original spin (especially if that spin keeps me guessing to the end), and I love trying to think "outside the box" when it comes to creating my stories, always looking for a way to tell my story in a different and hopefully unique way.

So, I'm tackling my new story "Swayed" like this. I've got two main characters, twins, who get a copy of an unreleased game and as they get to the higher levels of it, the game gives them super powers and the game is brought into reality.

This story is allowing me to try and twist something that is well known (superheroes/villains and super powers) into something that is different. Yeah, I could give all my heroes flight or strength, but I wanted to be different. I do, in fact, have a speedster who is super fast, but the difference with this power is that she builds up  light as she runs so she looks like a shooting star. But, for the rest of the powers I'm trying to find some of the under-used powers.

Jett (my main villain) is a technopath. He can understand how any mechanical object is assembled and works, and can build anything. The only problem is that when he builds he doesn't know what he's building (or what will happen once the device is switched on) until he tests it. His whole subconscious takes over when he starts building and he works more on instinct.

Jace (my hero) can open portals which she can travel through. The limitation is that she can only open portals to as far as she can see. They can also be dangerous if she can't control them and they become like a vacuum.

So, just for fun, what sort of super power would you like to have? And, would you be a hero or villain?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review: The Karma Club

The Karma Club by Jessica Brody
Synopsis (From Goodreads): "Personally, I’m tired of waiting for the universe to get off its butt and start fixing stuff. I don’t want to wait around for Mason to get what’s coming to him. Or Heather Campbell, for that matter . . . I want to be there to see it happen."

Madison Kasparkova always thought she understood how Karma works. It’s that mysterious, powerful force that brings harmony to the universe. You know—do good things and you will be rewarded, do something bad and Karma will make sure you get what’s coming to you. A sort of cosmic balancing act.

But when Mason Brooks, Maddy’s boyfriend of two years, gets caught tongue-wrestling with Miss Perfect Body Heather Campbell, and absolutely nothing happens to either of them—except that they wind up the hot new couple of Colonial High School, it seems like Karma has officially left Maddy in the lurch. That’s why Maddy and her best friends, Angie and Jade, decide to start the Karma Club—a secret, members-only organization whose sole purpose is to clean up the messes that the universe has been leaving behind. Whether they’re modifying Heather Campbell’s acne cream as part of “Operation Butterface,” or righting a few wrongs when it comes to Angie and Jade’s own slimy exes, they know they’re just doing what Karma should have done in the first place. They’re taking care of one another.

Sometimes, though, it isn’t wise to meddle with the universe. Because it turns out, when you mess with Karma, Karma messes back. Now Maddy must find a way to balance her life for good, even as everything around her seems to be toppling to the ground.

Jessica Brody has created a light-hearted story about a group of friends who decide that the universe isn't quick enough to punish those who have wronged them. When Maddy walks in on her soon-to-be-ex boyfriend making out with the most popular girl at school she wants nothing more than to make him feel the same hurt and humiliation that she did, but when the universe takes too long in righting this wrong, she decides to take things into her own hands. She decides to form the Karma Club with her friends and get back at the cheating boyfriends who have hurt them.

What the friends soon learn is that every action has a consequence. Will they be able to handle all the consequences or will the universe be able to balance itself out again?

This was a light-hearted read with interesting characters. At times it felt like a self-help book as it explained the rules of karma and the butterfly effect. But, the actions and consequences that the characters run into made it an interesting read.

Cover:  This cover is definitely cheeky and suits the tone of the story perfectly.

Plot: 3/5 stars
Ending: 3/5 stars
Cover: 4/5 stars
Overall: 3/5 stars
Recommend: Meg Cabot, The Cinderella Society
Debut Author Challenge: #12 of 12 (Yay, I've completed the challenge)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Writing a "likeable" villain

Well, I've been toying around with a superhero/villain story for a while and (after catching up on some episodes of Heroes) I've decided to put all my other projects on hold and go back to writing this story. The challenge with this story is that there's 2 main characters, twins, who get powers. One becomes a hero, the other a villain.

So, here's the dillemma I'm facing: How am I going to write from a villain's perspective and still get the reader to like him?

I love watching sympathetic villains (you know, the ones you wished you could root for even though you know they're evil and will probably never win), but I've never read anything from a villains POV before. There are several stories out there that have kids placed in the villainous role, but still they end up being the hero (probably because everyone else around them are evil and they defeat them).

To be able to write a likeable villain, is the same to write any character:
  1. Readers need to be able to relate to them.
  2. All actions have to have a consequence.
  3. They have to have some morals and ideals - even though they are more twisted than the hero.
  4. They can't be 100% evil (just like heroes can't be 100% good) - that's just not realistic.
  5. They have to have a goal, and reasons behind the goal.
  So, have you ever written from a villains POV? What villains do you like and thought deserved to win?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is originality dead?

Every time I see something different I absolutely love it. I saw Despicable Me yesterday (I absolutely adore animations) and I thought it was rather different than what the majority of movies are about.

Most of the movies being made these days are adaptations, remakes, reimaginings or revolves around the same plot elements that so many stories before had used. Even the majority of novels can be seen doing this, using the same formula of successful stories, just with a new twist (either to the plot or to the characters).

But, I can see this is a good thing, because it allows the story to be easily classified (especially for movies). Two movies that I absolutely loved at the cinema was Kick Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs The World. The problem with these two movies was that they were hard to classify because they were unlike most other stories out at the moment.

So, my question is, can anything be original or what makes something original? Also, is it dangerous to be too original because the agent/publisher/audience won't know how to react or relate to it?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review: The Cinderella Society

The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy
Synopsis (From Goodreads): When the Prom Queen becomes your fairy godmother…

Sixteen year old outsider, Jess Parker, gets the chance of a lifetime: an invitation to join a secret society of popular girls dedicated to defeating the mean girls of the world. The Cinderella Society guides all new recruits through its top secret ultimate life makeover. It’s all part of preparing them to face down the Wickeds and win. Determined not to let the Cindys down, Jess dives in with a passion. Finally, a chance to belong and show the world what she’s made of.

… be careful what you wish for.

Jess’s transformation wins her the heart of her dream crush and a shot at uber-popularity. Until the Wickeds–led by Jess’s arch enemy–begin targeting innocent girls in their war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers the real force behind her exclusive society. It’s a high stakes battle of good vs. evil, and the Cindys in power need Jess on special assignment. When the mission threatens to destroy her dream life come true, Jess is forced to choose between living a fairy tale and honoring the Sisterhood… and herself.

What’s a girl to do when the glass slipper fits, but she doesn’t want to wear it anymore?

Kay Cassidy has created a story that any girl would love to be a part of. Jess has always been an outsider, even though she's a cheerleader. Her family has always moved around and by the time she has made friends it's time to leave, so she's never really felt like she's fitted in, that's before she gets invited to join a secret society known as the Cinderella Society. Her life soon becomes a fairy tale like Cinderella's (complete with handsome prince). Just like all fairy tales there has to be the Wicked Sisters and she soon finds herself in the middle of a battle between good and evil. When the dream starts to spiral out of control will Jess be able to complete her mission or lose who she really is along the way?

Jess is a strong character with a good heart who will do what's right and stick up for her friends even when she knows there will be consequences. And then there's Lexy who plays the Wicked who's main goal is to make Jess's life a living hell. The one problem I had with the characters were that they seemed too good or too evil, but that can be overlooked because the story revolves around the Cinderella fairy tale and there needs to be good triumphing over evil.

When looking at the secret society as a whole, it can seem a bit over-the-top and farfetched with what they do, but who wouldn't want to be recruited by the Cindy's? Every girl would love to get that makeover which will allow them to feel good in their skin, and also feel included. This book put a good spin on the Cinderella fable and had a good message of girl power. It was a quick and fun read and should be taken as a light-hearted read while curled up in a nice comfy chair.

Cover: A very gorgeous cover, which does a good job at showing what the story's going to be like. It really draws attention to the fairy tale within the pages.

Plot: 4/5 stars
Ending: 4/5 stars
Cover: 4/5 stars
Overall: 4/5 stars
Recommend: Meg Cabot
Debut Author Challenge: #11 of 12

Thursday, September 23, 2010

You can tell a lot from the cover

Like I said yesterday, when I went to the movies I had plenty of time to waste before the movie started, and I couldn't help but noticing the movie posters that were advertising upcoming movies... not thinking about how much I wanted to see them, but what other covers they looked like (and yes, every movie poster really looked identical to numerous others).

Movie posters, the same as book covers, attracts the attention of the viewer/reader, and all these similar looking covers tells the viewer the genre and something about the movie that they might want to see. It was easy to identify what sort of movie they were based around the cover, because they able to relate and capture the attention of the audience from another movie.

It's not just movie posters that use identical features, but book covers do this also. The cover tells the genre, and a lot of books use similar features to identify what the book is about. But, this is a good thing because you know what you're getting yourself in to (and a lot of the cover artists knows how to make them still look original and elegant while still using similar features of others).

Have you ever noticed how much covers/posters look the same? Do you pick up a new book or go to a movie because the cover reminds you of another one you've seen?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Making it realistic

Humans are complicated things. I've read a lot of novels or seen movies where I can't relate to the characters because they're either 2-dimensional, or they're just plain selfish. I know this might sound strange, but if you go and watch groups of people and listen in on snippits of conversation, you will definitely get an idea of how complicated and flawed people are.

Last night I went to the movies with my brother, just to get out of the house. We got to the cinema 30 minutes before the session so we decided to sit just outside the cinema. As another session was coming out, my brother got the brilliant idea of asking whoever would listen what they had just seen, and then it moved on to whether they liked the movie.

By striking up conversations with total strangers, it was interesting seeing the reactions (most were of shock or confusion... some even forgot what movie they had just seen).

As writers, isn't it our jobs to try and understand the psyche's of characters? In one of my acting courses I was told that the best way to get into a characters mind is to observe people, because if you don't know how to react naturally to something it will come out as false and unbelievable.

So, do you do anything special to be able to understand your characters better?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review: Paranormalcy

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Synopsis (From Goodreads): Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie's always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

Kiersten White has created a truly original paranormal story, and no, the vampires aren't sexy. Evie has always thought of herself as normal, well except for working for a paranormal containment agency and having an ex who's a faery and she can see through glamours. From the first line Evie had me hooked. She was just a girly girl who's obssessed with teen soaps and has a very normal teenage attitude (except for her strong desire to go to school). She's definitely a character that anyone can relate with, and all this paranormal activity is happening around her.

The story is interesting and original, and it kept me guessing right up till the end (which is a good sign of an interesting story). And, who can't fall in love with the guys? Lend is very different from all the others out there, he's just a normal teenager who is just adorable, especially when he's giving cheek in the various forms that he can shift into. And then there's Reth, who is just obssessed with Evie.

This story was up at the top of my list to read, and now I know why. It's definitely a page turner that you won't be able to put down. I can't wait for the next one.

Cover: I love the cover, it's very elegant and depicts Evie really well. The pink among the dark scene really shows what she is like. It's fantastic.


Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 5/5 stars
Cover: 5/5 stars
Overall: 5/5 stars
Recommend: Any paranormal romance
Debut Author Challenge: #10 of 12

Friday, September 17, 2010

How do you write?

I know I usually have trouble with figuring out how to start a novel, but my new novel has been incredibly difficult in finding the beginning, so I have decided to write this novel a new way.

There are many ways to write the story and I usually go with my trusty laptop. I had never thought about eliminating the technology and writing by hand, so I decided it was time to do just that and write the story from start to finish with pen and paper and then go back and worry about how much the story sucks (well, I will definitely need to fix it, but at least I'll have a story).

So, how do you write your stories? Do you use technology or prefer the old fashioned way?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What makes something timeless?

Times constantly change, and there's no way to stop it. I've been constatly warned of placing popular culture into my novels because by the time I've finished writing that so-called fad is over, so how old would it be when it finally gets published?

The same can be said about choosing the stories to write. The one big tip out there is, as writers, write what you want rather than what is currently selling, because it might not be that case when you finish the story and need to find an agent/publisher (I'm having that problem with my vampire novel, and I've been working on it before the fad became huge).

So how can a writer choose what audience they write for when things may be different when the story is complete? I've been noticing these differences when I watch older movies and tv shows (70s and 80s). It's definitely obvious that times are definitely different from 20+ years ago.

I guess the answer is, well for me, to write what I want to write and worry about the audience part when it comes to selling the story. But, I suppose not using obscure pop culture references would also help.

So, what  makes a story timeless? How do you handle writing for the generation gap? Or, isn't it a problem for you when you write?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review: Girl Saves Boy

Girl Saves Boy by Steph Bowe
Synopsis (From Goodreads): The first time we met, Jewel Valentine saved my life.

Isn’t it enough having your very own terminal disease, without your mother dying? Or your father dating your Art teacher?

No wonder Sacha Thomas ends up in the lake that Saturday evening…

But the real question is: how does he end up in love with Jewel Valentine?

With the help of quirky teenage prodigies Little Al and True Grisham, Sacha and Jewel have a crazy adventure, with a little lobster emancipation along the way.

But Sacha’s running out of time, and Jewel has secrets of her own.

Girl Saves Boy is a hugely talented debut novel, funny and sad, silly and wise. It’s a story of life, death, love… and garden gnomes.

Stephe Bowe has created a perceptive look into modern families. All families have problems, and it's not just from the kids either. This beautiful debut shows that sometimes parents can screw up even more than their children. Jewel didn't know that returning home after 10 years would mean anything, but after finding a boy drowning in the lake and rescuing him she finds herself getting close to someone for the first time. Sacha didn't really want to be saved, but glad he was, especially when he starts developing a friendship with Jewel. He has a problem though, how is he going to tell her he has cancer? As a relationship starts developing, both Jewel and Sacha have to try and leave the past behind them and learn to trust each other in order to move forward.

Stephe Bowe has created realistic characters that both have their own problems. Sacha is running from the death of his mother and out of time from the cancer that has returned. Jewel is trying to forget her brother's death and the father who abandoned her, and is now living with a mother that she barely knows and hasn't really seen for the past 10 years. This novel gave a real look into family life where no one is perfect and sometimes the problems that each member has is difficult to put aside to come together and support each other.

I've been wanting to read this since Steph announced it was getting published (especially down here in Australia first), and I'm glad I did. The writing was cheeky in some parts as well as heart-wrenching in others. And, for the first time (mainly because I do read a lot of US novels) it was great to see some familiar settings that I'm so used to (especially Bunnings, the description of the house and hardware warehouse was perfect, exactly how I feel every time I step foot into the concrete floored tin building).

Cover: This cover is elegant and definitely catches the attention. I love the water droplets that run along the cover, it's beautifully set out.

At the moment Girl Saves Boy is available in Australia, but don't worry US, it will be available Summer 2011.

Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 4/5 stars
Cover: 5/5 stars
Overall: 5/5 stars
Recommend: Jody Piccoult
Debut Author Challenge: #9 of 12

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How much culture is too much?

Okay, I hate to say it, but most of the books I read are American... there's just not that many Australian books that I'm interested in (most of the time when I think of Australian literacy I think of the boring school books we were forced to read).

I'm actually reading one at the moment, very well written and interesting (Steph Bowe's Girl Saves Boy) and I'm finding it very refreshing seeing the familiar landmarks and sayings (like, I'll just drop by Bunnings in the morning). Being Autralian, I'm very aware of what Bunnings is, and sometimes I even shop there if my parents need some timbre or paint.

But, how much culture can you put into a novel before it becomes confusing to the foreign audience? I'm often getting called on some of my sayings and Australian words that are unfamiliar to some of the audience who reads my stories, like doona

(hey, when I first started writing I wasn't aware that doona was known as a duvet in some places).

Sometimes it can be confusing, with different countries using different words to mean different things. I used to change things to make more sense (when I was starting out), but now I know that all the words that are different are a part of the Australian culture (and since my books are set here) I can't get rid of what's familiar with me.

So, how do you handle cross-cultural language differences?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Doing research

Well, as I've been speaking about, I've just recently started writing (well, trying to plot or make sense of) a new story. It's not funny how many times the idea has changed. The one thing that hasn't changed, and won't, is my MC. Michaela (or Micki) is spunky and adventurous, but the one flaw she has is that she can never resist a dare, and she can be talked into anything.

She likes one sport, and this is something that I don't know much about... parkour. What is parkour? It's free running. Most action movies has it when there's a chase and they climb up walls, jump fences and are just awesome. Apart from seeing it in movies, I really have no idea what's involved in it, but I do know that there are actually classes where I can learn it (which I believe will make writing about the movements easier).

I have always wanted to learn how to do that, even though I probably will suck at it. If it makes my writing more beleivable, isn't that what really counts, though. So, I'll probably take the chance and go ahead to see what is really involved with this sport (or end up hurting myself in the process, oh well it's for my story).

What kind of research do you do before you start writing? Do you write just what you know, or do you go out and find something new and have that new experience to know what to write?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Review: Tomorrow When the War Began

Tomorrow when the War Began (Tomorrow series #1) by John Marsden
Synopsis (From Goodreads): When Ellie and her friends return from a camping trip in the Australian bush, they find things hideously wrong--their families are gone. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in their town has been taken prisoner. As the reality of the situation hits them, they must make a decision--run and hide, give themselves up and be with their families, or fight back.

Ellie and her friends want to get away from the weekend. It's the weekend of the Show and to get away Ellie organises a group of her friends and her to head up the mountain and down to a place in the absolute middle of nowhere called Hell. One night they hear a series of jets fly overhead but pay no attention because they think they are just coming back from the celebrations at the showgrounds. When they return to their little country town they discover that it has been invaded and the town has been rounded up and is being kept at the showground. Ellie and her friends soon discovers that they have to make one of the hardest decisions anyone ever has to make; to run or fight.

I had never thought about reading Marssden's book before I had to teach it as part of my practical experience, because to me it had always been a school assigned book (and aren't the books we read in English always boring). I'm so glad I picked it up. Marsden has created a unique outlook on the world, especially in Australia. He has taken the big 'What if' and placed it into a small town, into an ordinary life. What if you returned home and found that someone had invaded and taken your parents, friends and community prisoner? This was all too believable (maybe because I'm from Australia and I also come from a country town) and that's what made this book a fantastic read.

The characters that Marsden creates are believable and realistic. They are normal teenagers who are thrust into this extrodinary and horrific situation. Ellie, as the main character, grows through her experiences and it's fantastic to see that all the actions and motivations that are being done by both the invading forces and the group of teens have dire consequences. Ellie had never had to think about fighting for survival and she tries to figure out the answer to one big question, 'is it okay to take someone else's life to remain living?'

Another good thing with this series (and possibly the biggest mystery) is the identity of the invaders are kept anonymous. In an interview Marsden even stated that he didn't want the novel to revolve around the invaders so he chose not to point the finger and no one culture is blamed.

The novel kept me reading from start to end (which wasn't an easy feat since I had to answer questions about each chapter so I could teach it to my year 10s). I would definately reccommed this book, but don't feel threatened or confused by the use of Australian slang and culture (hey, I even had to look up some meanings because it comes from dialogue we don't use anymore), because this book is a great read.

Cover: There are several covers available for the series (and now there's a movie there's even a movie cover), but most of them revolves around the ferris wheel and showground with the planes circling around. These are interesting because the fair is often a symbol of freedom and excitement, but the looming presence of the jets adds a more dangerous element which captures the attention.

Movie: I couldn't resist from commenting on the movie, mainly because I had to see it opening day and I've just gotten back from seeing it. This was probably the first adaptation that I've seen that has kept so close to the  storyline. The characters were portrayed well by the young cast, and the emotions came across and kept the suspense (even though I knew what was going to happen). It was definitely a worthwhile adaptation as well as a fantastic Aussiie flick. Actually, the only difference I really noticed was that the invading forces could speak English when they didn't in the book (but my brother quickly pointed out that it would be impossible for them to speak their own language, unless they were speaking Klingon, because that would point the finger to one particular culture... even the soldiers looked multinational so they did a great job of not suggesting any one country as the invaders. It's definately worthy to see.

Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 5/5 stars
Cover: 5/5 stars
Overall: 5/5 stars
Recommend: Any good action/adventure novels

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When ideas run amuck

I always find when I start a new story idea that the idea changes several times before I come to the one that will make up the story (which means that I'm constantly rewriting the first chapter). My new idea hasn't been any different. I wrote the first chapter, thought it was so-so, so I rewrote that... better.

Then, my mind just kept working and I've had several more ideas (lucky I haven't had time to write the chapter), but now I'm sure I've landed on the final idea that I'll be sticking with.

First idea: a girl gets accepted to a high school that is actually a reality television show.

Final idea: a girl gets into trouble with the law (actually her friend committed the crime), and she gets the ultimatum of going to juvie and having a record of the crime, or going to a behaviour management school that is actually a tv show and one of the most popular soap operas (a reality show that no one knows is actually reality... and no one knows that a bunch of delinquents are the main stars).

So, does anyone else have this problem? How many times do you rewrite the first chapter before you're happy with the direction it's going?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Looking for Inspiration

Wow, I never knew writing a story that doesn't involved mythical creatures, magic or evil demons could be so hard... I've been trying to find inspiration so yesterday I took a trip down to the local video store and picked up a handful of teen movies... don't know whether they're doing the trick, but it's definitely a way to procrastinate.

I find that movies are a great source of inspiration when I seriously require it. They also let my mind relax after it's been working to hard, that's a great way to free up your mind so new ideas can come.

So, what do you do when you need inspiration?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ghosts of the Past...

About 1 year ago I did not see the point of social networking, I had never even thought about starting up a facebook page. I mainly did to keep contact with people from my old job when I left it, and then it became a place to meet new writers from all over the world.

I have recently been contacted by people I have not seen or spoken with for over 10 years (wow, I was surprised they still remembered me). And then, yesterday I was tagged in a photo, it was my class picture from year 6... wow, that was a long time ago.

The internet is such an interesting place where pictures from over 15 years can crop up without any notice.

I guess the same can be said about things that are written and uploaded to the net. Even if they get deleted, they still remain as a ghost... that could come back to haunt you. I'm very careful about what I place on the internet, I know that it's not just me who's going to see it. But, it's also very hard to monitor photos or other information that include me that others upload.

How do you decide what information to post online. Are you a part of an online social network?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: Vampire Rising (Alex Van Helsing #1)

Vampire Rising (Alex Van Helsing) by Jason Henderson
Synopsis (From Goodreads): A descendant of legendary vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing, fourteen-year-old Alex is stuck at boarding school near Lake Geneva, Switzerland, when he finds himself drawn into a web of paranormal intrigue. It turns out that Lake Geneva is also home to a secret school for vampires called the Scholomance—and now to a dangerous vampire clan lord known only as Icemaker, who’s using the Scholomance for his own dangerous endgame. With the help of his friends and of special agent Sangster, it’s up to Alex to fulfill his family destiny and stop Icemaker’s frightening plans once and for all.

Alex Van Helsing is a showstopping hero set to leap off the page—stake, naturally, in hand. Drawing from centuries of actual vampire lore and literature (and with a nod to zombies, too!), Jason Henderson delivers a breathlessly paced thriller that will captivate vampire fans as well as readers who loved Alex Rider.

Jason Henderson has created a unique twist on a legendary character. Alex Van Helsing is a descendant of the legendary Van Helsing, but doesn't know it. All that he knows is that his dad sent him to boarding school because of a fight. Now, he's sharing a room with the resident twin bullies who would rather make his life a living hell. After a series of attacks occur just outside of the school and he chases one of the attackers (something that resembles a vampire), Alex stumbles upon a secret organisation which his father was apparently a member of. He gets drawn into the centre of the action when a dangerous vampire shows up with frightening plans. It's up to Alex along with his friends and Special Agent Sangster to stop these plans and save the world... as long as Alex's father doesn't find out.

Henderson has breathed life into unique characters that jump off the page and Alex has a genuine and interesting voice. There is plenty of action in the pages that will keep you turning to the next, with lots of twists and turns as the story progresses. Some of the action was a bit unrealistic, like how Alex is able to kill a vampire so easily without even training for it, but that can easily be forgiven because it is just a fun story and it really draws the reader in amongst the action

Cover: The cover is interesting. It offers a hint of mystery and introduces the reader to the main character.

Plot: 4/5 stars
Ending: 4/5 stars
Cover: 4/5 stars
Overall: 4/5 stars
Recommend: Alex Rider novels
Debut Author Challenge: #8 of 12

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Genre do you Read or Write?

Well, I feel like a time for a change. I usually stick with paranormal. Actually, I love anything paranormal. But, I've had a strong impulse to write something contemporary (along with an idea). I have read other contemporary stories, but I always find myself moving back over to the paranormal side.

So, what sort of stories do you read or write?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wonders of a Nice Car Ride

I love driving. In the car is probably where I get the most ideas and I can think them through without many distractions. Well, yesterday I spent all day in the car. I drove for 13 hours to get home and help my sister prepare for her exams... big exams.

On the trip I was able to plot out an entire story, and this was an idea I didn't have beforehand. The only problem is, I really couldn't make the necessary notes (or I would be stopping every five minutes) so I'm hoping I can remember everything I had planned.

So, when do you find ideas come to you the most?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Review: The Chosen One

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Synopsis (From Goodreads): Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated polygamous community without questioning her father’s three wives and her twenty brothers and sisters. Or at least without questioning them much—if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her 60-year-old uncle—who already has six wives—Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family.

Carol Lynch Williams has created an emotional journey as we follow one girl who must make a hard decision between her freedom or her family. Kyra is only 13, but she's seen more than what most people see in their lifetimes. She's witnessed beatings of babies, young girls being married off to old men, and woman being murdered for reasons she does not know. Kyra had never thought anything of it, it was what she had grown up to know and except, but when she's chosen to marry not only a man 50 years older than her, but also her uncle, she starts to see the world differently.

Kyra's story is full of emotion and the reader comes to understand the world she lives in, this is a story that was hard to put down from beginning to end as she tries to make the decision whether to escape or give up her freedom for her family. Williams has painted a vivid picture of what this polygamist society is like, and the way Kyra feels is easy to imagine, especially when she keeps thinking she's sinning for reading and hiding books in her tree, or when she wants to be with another boy which she knows is not allowed.

Kyra's journey is wonderful and it was great to see her strength grows as she comes to truly understand the horrors of her society, and understand that if she stays she will never be safe.

Cover: The cover is beautiful. It shows a sort of isolation, which paints th scene so well. The only thing that didn't fit with the cover was the clothing that the character on it is wearing. No girl in the society would wear something like that.

Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 5/5 stars
Cover: 4/5 stars
Overall: 5/5 stars
recommend:  For those that love emotion packed stories

Friday, August 6, 2010

Your take on Originality

Well, yesterday I gave the question of whether you write for the audience or yourself... today is along similar lines. It's already been established (I hope) that to be a writer you've got to read and write as much as possible. That being said, how can you make sure what you write is your own idea, or even original?

I've been working on Haven for way too long, and every now and again a novel with similar elements crop up (like one called 'Haven' which is being released next year... Now I know I've got to change the title). I guess that everything's been done and nothing's original anymore, but how come people are still devouring novel after novel? I believe it's the spin they put on the familiar.

Here's a quick (and just totally made up) formula for creating an intriguing story:
  1. Start with the familiar - the audience has to be able to relate, and having something that they know will help hook them.
  2. Add a spin - something that's never been done, even if the character just has a quirk that will make them stand out from every other character out there.
  3. Populate the world - more of the familiar, make the characters stand out and break from stereotypes (I hate stereotypical characters, but love the quirky ones)
  4. Make them suffer - hey, this is where the interest lies (I often think my characters are going to mutiny against me because of the amount of pain I put them through)... it's all worth it
  5. Enjoy what you write... you can't write a good story if you don't like it.
I believe that originality lies in the spin, the one thing that differentiates the story/novel from all the others on the same topic. But, that just makes the story even better reading something from an angle that I had never thought about before.

Do you think there's anything original these days?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Writing for an Audience

I've been doing several university classes that are mainly based on personal opinion (politics of the education system and such), and there have been a lot of complaints about the marking of assignments not being the fairest. I've also been called a 'sell out' because I'm giving the marker exactly what he wants to hear... just because I'm getting top marks for it.

But, this got me thinking, when writing are writers aware of what their audiecne wants? I can say that when I write, I write for myself... but, I also induldge in a lot of YA's so I know exactly what's out there and what's interesting, so I guess I know what the audience wants.

How about you? Do you write what for an audience or do you hope there'll be an audience for when you finish?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Practice makes perfect...

While doing a uni assignment (something that has nothing to do with writing, but more with funding of schools), I stumbled upon a reading that said something like, just as musicians can't perfect their instruments without practice, neither can the artist and the brush, but when it comes to writing a lot of people believe that they can just put pen to paper and create a story.

Yes, anyone can create a story, but it's the ones who take the time to practice and continually write whenever they get the chance who's the one's to perfect their own craft. I had never thought of writing in the same way as being a musician (I play guitar, and when I'm practicing that my fingers are almost raw from the strings, writing doesn't feel like that), but I do spend time to work on my stories.

What are some ways to practice writing?
  1. Reading as much as possible (how can you write if you don't read? Yes, I have heard people say they don't read).
  2. Write as much as you can, whether it's a short story, novel or even a daily entry in a journal... everything helps.
  3. Participate in critique groups... not only do you get valuable criticism on what you can do to improve that story, but reading and critiquing other's works is good practice at developing your eyes at spotting slight mistakes.
  4. Take a writing course... this is where you can learn different skills and strengthen your weaknesses.
I gather the pen (or computer) to the writer is like the guitar to the musician, and only practice will help to perfct the craft.

So, what do you do to practice your craft?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Keeping Secrets

One of my biggest pet peeves when reading novels is when the narrator doesn't reveal everything they know, espcially if it's written in first person. Don't get me wrong, I love twists and having to guess endings, but when a crucial piece of information is withheld from the reader, then that's one of the main things that makes it hard to continue reading.

I have read several where the character turns out to be something else (one wasn't even human), but they were portrayed as ignorant for half the story. So, how should one choose what to divulge? I like to create detailed character sheets about my character and decide what the reader needs to know. If the lifestyle of the character is important, then that character should at least mention it... it's not a twist if the reader comes to not trust the character.

So, how do you choose what information to reveal in your story? What is your biggest annoyance with novels? What makes you stop reading?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Review: Read My Lips

Read My Lips by Teri Brown

Synopsis (From Goodreads): Serena just wants to fly under the radar at her new school. But Serena is deaf, and she can read lips really well-even across the busy cafeteria. So when the popular girls discover her talent, there's no turning back.

From skater chick to cookie-cutter prep, Serena's identity has done a 180...almost. She still wants to date Miller, the school rebel, and she's not ready to trade her hoodies for pink tees just yet. But she is rising through the ranks in the school's most exclusive clique.

With each new secret she uncovers, Serena feels pressure to find out more. Reading lips has always been her greatest talent, but now Serena just feels like a gigantic snoop...

Teri Brown has created an emotional joyride through the eyes of Serena. No good can come of being a new students, especially a deaf new student. Serena's gift has always been lip reading, so when the popular girls learn of this talent they persuade her to use her gift to spy for them. Serena has never fit in and now she's offered the chance to be a part of the popular group and join an exclusive secret society, how can she say no?

I wanted to read this novel to see how the author dealt with telling the story through the eyes of a deaf girl, and she handled it fantastically. Serena isn't 100% deaf. She has hearing aids that help her hear, but it's not perfect. I was able to immediately relate with Serena. Who hasn't wanted to fit in before? And, having such a disability probably isn't the easiest thing in high school. This novel is full of choices gone wrong and peer pressure, which totally reminded me of high school. Even though it's hard to understand why she would give personal information about others to these popular girls, her motivations are believable.

It has a simple plot that's not too complicated and an expected ending, but it did keep me reading to find out how deep the secrets would get.

Plot: 4/5 stars
Ending: 4/5 stars
Cover: 4/5 stars
Overall: 4/5 stars
Recommend: The Clique
Debut Author Challenge: #7 of 12
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