Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 End of Year Book Survey Part 2

Part  2 of Jamie's end of year survey, about my blogging/bookish life!

1. New favourite blog I discovered in 2014: Most blogs I end up following now are on Tumblr, but Books & Cupcakes and theserpentinelibrary are just a couple of my favourites. I also really like Shae's blog, although I don't read as much of it as I would like to. 

2. Favourite review that I wrote in 2014: All my A to Z challenge reviews were fun! Although the reviews of books I liked were more fun, haha. 

3. Best discussion/non-review post from 2014: Eh... and now you get to see how bad I've been at blogging this year. I can't even remember what I blogged about. But I like the post I did about my struggle with NaNoWriMo

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, virtual events, etc): All my favourite events were virtual. I did about half of Books & Cupcakes book photo challenge on Tumblr, and I also participated in a Marchetta secret santa, so that was fun! Oh, and #mmweek (Melina Marchetta week) on Tumblr was fun as well. 

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2014? All my interactions with fellow book-lovers, book bloggers, bookish people, and authors on Twitter!

6. Most popular post this year on my blog: Since I didn't post a lot, I'm going to say the most popular post on my Tumblr blog, which was a post I made of books in a book bag during the June book photo challenge, which now has around 900 notes. 

7. Post I wish got a little more love: Other than my post about NaNo, the only non-review post I did was A Short List of Endlessly Fascinating Characters which I guess could use some more love. :)

8. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, stores, etc): Not sure... although my local indie bookstore does social media really well, so it's fun to follow them. :) Oh, and YA Interrobang is cool if you've never heard of them - it's a news site about YA books!

9. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals you had for yourself at the beginning of the year? Nope, unfortunately. I had had a goal of reading more diverse or non-Western books but never got around to it. I also never got around to finishing my A to Z challenge, or any other challenge for that matter. Oh well. Next year!

Looking Ahead

1. One book I didn't get to in 2014 but will be my number 1 priority in 2015: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray and To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han. I want to see if all the hype (and that beautiful cover of A Thousand Pieces of You) matches up to what's inside. 

2. Book I am most anticipating for 2015 (non-debut): Winter by Marissa Meyer, the last in The Lunar Chronicles, Shadowscale by Rachel Hartman (sequel to Seraphina) and THE FOURTH RAVEN CYCLE BOOK!!!

3. 2015 debut I'm most anticipating: I don't know! I haven't been following debuts as much this year because I have so many other things on my TBR list, but I'm sure something will come up. 

4. One thing I hope to accomplish in my reading/blogging life in 2015: I'd love to read more diversely, especially books that are set outside the Western hemisphere (recs, anyone?) As for blogging, I think I'm going to start doing some more reviewing because even when I'm busy I still read a lot for some reason. 

Stay tuned for January 1 to see the list of all the books I've read this year!!

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 End of Year Book Survey Part 1

I'm still going to do my review of every book I read like I do every year, but I thought it'd be fun to do this survey that Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner hosts as well!

2014 Reading Stats

Number of books I read: Currently, 109, but the year's not over yet!
Number of rereads: 38!
Genre I read the most from: Contemporary, with 45.

Best in Books

1. Best book I read in 2014: Aside from my rereads, it was probably Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn, and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater is not too far behind. 

2. Book I was excited about and thought I was going to love more but didn't: How to Love by Katie Cotugno. It had quite a bit of hype and I thought it would be a heartwarming YA romance similar to those by Rainbow Rowell or Stephanie Perkins, but alas, it was not and it was kind of odd and I didn't really enjoy it. 

3. Most surprising (in a good way or a bad way) book I read in 2014: I'm never really surprised when books turn out to be bad, but probably Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. THAT ENDING. I cannot get over it. 

4. Book you "pushed" the most people to read (and they did) in 2014: Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, always. But I also got my mom and brother to read The Grisha Trilogy. 

5. Best series you started in 2014? The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. Best Sequel of 2014? The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. Best Series Ender of 2014? Shades of Earth by Beth Revis, finale to her Across the Universe sci-fi series. THAT is how you finish a trilogy, Veronica Roth.

6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2014? Maggie Stiefvater! Thank you, Lisa

7. Best book from a genre you don't typically read/was out of your comfort zone? Definitely Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. I'm not super into thrillers or anything to do with werewolves, but it was so brilliant. An achingly awful subject, but so well crafted. 

8. Most action-packed/unputdownable/thrilling book of the year? That would have to be Charm and Strange again, although The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller was pretty unpredictable and it was nice because somehow I've been reading a lot of predictable books lately. 

9. Book I read in 2014 that I'm likely going to reread next year: Well, I'm pretty much always guaranteed to reread Melina Marchetta, Megan Whalen Turner, The Raven Cycle, Harry Potter, or Okay for Now by Gary D Schmidt. But as for first time reads, I want to read All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill again!

10. Favourite cover of a book I read in 2014?

11. Most memorable character of 2014? Ronan Lynch.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014? Charm and Strange, but also The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Such beautiful prose.

13. Most thought-provoking/life-changing book of 2014? Aside from Charm and Strange, definitely Five Days At Memorial by Sheri Fink, which not only made me think of what it was like for people during Hurricane Katrina, but also made me think about the intricacies of the concept of euthanasia and that whole debate, as well as how intricately complicated court cases are and the relationship between that and what is presented by the media. Such an interesting book.

14. Book I can't believe I waited until 2014 to finally read? Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo! There was so much hype and for some reason I put it off, but thankfully it lived up to it's hype! I think it needs to be the next big YA that everyone is talking about (a la The Hunger Games, Divergent and John Green).

15. Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2014?

"The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. He'd been dead for ten days before they found him, you know. It was one of the biggest manhunts in Vermont history-state troopers, the FBI, even an army helicopter; the college closed, the dye factory in Hampden shut down, people coming from New Hampshire, upstate New York, as far away as Boston.

It is difficult to believe that Henry's modest plan could have worked so well despite these unforeseen events. We hadn't intended to hide the body where it couldn't be found. In fact, we hadn't hidden it at all but had simply left it where it fell in hopes that some luckless passer-by would stumble over it before anyone even noticed it was missing. This was a tale that told itself simply and well: the loose rocks, the body at the bottom of the ravine with a clean break in the neck, and the muddy skidmarks of dug-in heels all the way down; a hiking accident, no more, no less, and it might have been left at that, at quiet tears and a small funeral, had it not been for the snow that fell that night; it covered him without a trace, and ten days later, when the thaw finally came, the state troopers and the FBI and the searchers from the town all saw that they had been walking back and forth over his body until the snow above it was packed down with ice."

That's the first two paragraphs in The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Such good writing. I love that line about the state troopers walking back and forth over top of the body. Shivers.

16. Shortest book I read in 2014? Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C Wrede, a cute MG fantasy. Longest book I read in 2014? Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink. It's like 800 pages (but worth it).

17. Book that shocked me the most: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I did not see that ending coming at all (although looking back, I definitely should have).

18. OTP (one true pair) of the year: Probably Blue and Gansey, doomed as they are. ;)

19. Favourite non-romantic relationship of the year: Fia and Annie from Mind Games by Kiersten White. I'm a sucker for good family relationship dynamics.

20. Favourite book you read in 2014 from an author you've read previously: What Came From the Stars by Gary D Schmidt. Gary D Schmidt knows how to write brilliant, refreshing, and hopeful MG. I think he's definitely my favourite MG author.

21. Best book I read in 2014 based solely on on a recommendation from someone else/peer pressure: The Secret History and The Raven Cycle was recommended indirectly by Lisa, and Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers was recommended indirectly by Shae.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book I read in 2014: I don't know... Levi from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell?

23. Best 2014 debut I read: I didn't read any 2014 debuts, but the best book I read that was published in 2014 was The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutoski!

24. Best worldbuilding/most vivid setting I read this year: The Russian-inspired setting of The Grisha Trilogy was pretty awesome, but I also just read a cute MG fantasy called The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde that felt like getting thrown into a fully formed, magical world.

25. Book that put a smile on my face/was the most fun to read: Probably Forever With You and Home of Our Hearts by Robin Jones Gunn. Warm, fuzzy and fun reads.

26. Book that made me cry or almost cry in 2014: Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. Such a beautifully written, heartbreakingly awful book.

27.  Hidden gem of the year: The Opposite of Tidy by Carrie Mac. A cute story about a girl who lives with a hoarding mother. And it's set in Canada!

28. Book that crushed my soul: Charm and Strange or The Secret History.

29. Most unique book I read in 2014: The Days of the King by Filip Florian. A very articulate cat that writes passages of wisdom with his claws on furniture is very unique.

30. Book that made me the most mad: Either Wildefire by Karsten Knight, Ultraviolet by R.J. Anderson, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, or Blackbird by Chuck Wendig. Blackbird wins for infuriating me the most, though.

 Stay tuned for tomorrow when I post part 2, which focuses on my blogging and bookish life and looking ahead to 2015, and then come back January 1 for my year-end review!





Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Young Writer's Struggle With Writing Contests

Well, hello there. 

I know it has been a while... the last thing I posted was a fairly uninteresting post about note taking, and that was in September. Oops. That's what school does, though. Blogging kind of gets bumped to the bottom of my to do list. Also I'm not quite sure where I want to go with this blogging thing anymore. For now, I think I'll just keep it as a place to discuss writing and reading like I always have, although more and more now Twitter and Tumblr are becoming those places for me. 

I guess the biggest thing for me in the past four months, at least writing-wise, was entering a short story contest, which shouldn't have been a really big thing, but it was for me. 

In the past, I've submitted short stories sporadically to teen writer magazines or teen writer short story contests. (I have since moved up to the "adult" age bracket unfortunately, since the competition is heavier.) I've been published once in a magazine when I was thirteen (and that magazine has since gone under), and when I was fifteen I won third place in a local writing contest, but that's it. Even then, I've only submitted stuff maybe ten or so times. 



A friend of mine took a musical theatre class this summer, and one of the things she learned struck me. In the class they talked about how you should do lots and lots of auditions, no matter if you think you're going to get the part or not. It's just good practice, to do lots of auditions and get a feel for what they are like in order to become more comfortable with them. I thought that was really good advice. It also led me to think of my sorry history of submitting my writing. It's probably the perfectionist in me (actually it definitely is) but I like the idea of only submitting really great stuff that I feel is actually of worthy of winning. That kind of thinking is fine I guess, but it has not led me to take risks and submit stuff or to actually sit down and write more short stories than I otherwise would. 

So, anyway, I decided to change my philosophy about writing contests and made a goal to enter more writing contests this year. I just happened to be in the library one day and saw there was a writing contest coming up. I toyed around with a few ideas, took way too long to actually sit down and write, and wrote a 6000-ish word short story, that in my opinion was mediocre at best. But the fun thing was, even though it wasn't a great story, I had actually written something (and the best way to get better at writing, I've discovered, is writing) and I actually thought a couple of the lines of the story were pretty good. 

Granted, I have not written anything other than that short story (and some essays for school) in 4 months, so the way I think about writing still needs some work, but it's a start.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Peronsal Guide for How to Take Notes

Last week was the first week of my second year of university. My parents and my brother and I just had a discussion a few days ago on how important note taking is and the different ins and outs. I thought I could share how I take notes if maybe you struggle with that or you are just going into university and want some tips.


 
So, here we go, Alyssa's Tips for Taking Notes!:

1. Decide when to take notes

I know that in middle school and early high school years, all of my teachers told us: okay, get out a piece of loose leaf, and write this down, and then they tell you exactly what to write down. In university, that doesn't happen. Nobody tells you when you should write stuff down.
 
That then begs the question, should you even take notes? I would say usually the answer to that is yes. Even if all your notes get provided for you in the form of PDF slides or whatever, I think it helps you stay focused and attentive to what your professor is saying.

2. Know whether or not slides will be provided

Most of my professors use Power Point slides in their classes, and most of them upload them onto some sort of online database (there are a lot of different ones) where you can view or download them.
 
If my professor uploads them before class, I try to print them out and bring them to class. If the prof uploads them after class, I write down the corresponding slide numbers next to notes I'm making in my notebook.
 
If I know the slides are being provided, I don't write down what is on the slide. It's just a waste of time, since you get all that information anyway. I only write down all the extra stuff - things the prof adds or says, or even maybe some things that are pointed out in class discussions (depending on the nature of the class).



3. Determine what to write down
 
 It's a really good skill to know what is important to write down and what is not. I don't write down everything. If you write everything, you're not helping yourself at all.

But how do you figure out what's important? I think you kind of learn as you go, and it is also different depending on the class or professor. Here's some ways I use to determine what is important to write down:

  • If a prof emphasizes something, or says something repeatedly, I write it down.
  • Focus on big things. Key concepts, key terms, and summarizing sentences are good things to write down. A lot of little details can be left out. You don't want to go back to your notes after you've finished the course and say, "Why the heck did I write that down?"
  • Always have at least on example written down, just to help with understanding later.
  • A big thing for me is if the prof says something in a specific way that makes a light bulb of understanding go off in my head, then I make sure to write that down because I know it will help my understanding later.
Of course, sometimes you don't know what to write down, and later on in the course you realize you shouldn't have written something, or you SHOULD have written something, but that's okay. Like I said, you learn as you go, and then you know for next time. (In the meantime, ask a friend).


4. Do what makes sense for you

I was going to say "be organized" but really, just organize your notes in a way that makes sense to your brain. Notes are not solely to record the information you need to know for exams, but they should help you in your understanding of course material.

I write and organize my notes in a certain way, but that doesn't mean everyone else will be the same. I also have my own system of abbreviation, because as soon as you write the entire word "environment" out you've missed something important the professor said. But really, you just want to be able to look at your notes later on and be able to say, "Okay, this helps, this makes sense." What you don't want to say is "What does this mean?"

What are your own personal tips for note-taking? How do you take notes? Do you use a computer or a pen and paper? (I prefer pen and paper, but sometimes profs talk SO FAST it's helpful to use a computer).

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Filling Up Your TBR List


The final week before school started, my family went to the lake. It's been an annual thing for years now in our family, but the best thing about this particular week this year was it gave me the chance to read more books than I had almost all summer. Some of the books I read made an impression on me, and I wanted to share about them with you, because books are cool, and you should read them.

1. UNTHINKABLE by Nancy Werlin

I read the companion book to this, IMPOSSIBLE, which is about the song of Scarborough Fair, and some curse or something that goes with it. It was such a weird, unique book that left an impression on me so much so that it's one of the few books that I actually still remember reading. UNTHINKABLE isn't as good, but it's still strange and weirdly intriguing. (Also: Twilight has nothing on the relationship in this book, a 400-year-old getting together with a 23-year-old. Aside from that, it was good.)




2. CHARM AND STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn

This book was AMAZING. At first, I grumbled about it because I thought it was a werewolf story (I'm not hugely into werewolf stories). But it is SO MUCH MORE than a werewolf story. The writing is brilliantly done, so beautiful and subtle and gaaah just amazing. Stephanie Kuehn is talented. It's a very, very painful book though, just to warn you. But despite the heavy topic, I love books that can rip those kinds of raw emotions right from your core. I also love books that make me think, and this one definitely did - a lot. I had a book hangover for a week and a half from this one. You should definitely check it out. I think it is a very important book, and it is one hundred percent going on my list of Best Books of 2014.



3. WHAT CAME FROM THE STARS by Gary D. Schmidt

Gary D. Schmidt is in my opinion the model of what a middle grade author should be. He writes MG so well. WHAT CAME FROM THE STARS was no OKAY FOR NOW, but it was still good. The characters are so beautifully average kids, the writing is so eloquent and perfect, and there are always little gems of humour in all of his books. Gary D. Schmidt is definitely one of my favourite authors. I would recommend all of his books to middle school kids everywhere, especially this one.



4. THE WINNER'S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski

I already talked about this on my What's Up Wednesday post, but the Megan Whalen Turner fans and the hype are right: you should read it.

What are some books you read recently that you'd recommend?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

Since I haven't really been around much on the blog, I thought I'd give you an update. What better way to do that than in a What's Up Wednesday post?

What I'm Reading

It's better than the girl-in-dress on the cover leads you to believe, don't worry. The Winner's Curse is a fantasy about a people who where conquered by another people. I'm almost halfway through, and it's really interesting. I love the characterizations of the two main characters, Kestrel and Arin. It was actually recommended to me by a bunch of Megan Whalen Turner fans, and I think they were right to recommend it! Since I was at the lake this past week, I had time to finish a bunch more books, but I think I'll make a separate blog post about those.

What I'm Writing

Nothing at the moment, because a week ago I FINISHED MY DRAFT! It's actually the fourth draft of a book I've been working on since I was in grade 11, which is almost four years ago now. Obviously, I haven't given up on it yet. Now I'm trying decide what I want to work on next. I have one book that I could outline, or another that I could rewrite. Not sure. Oh, and if you're looking for a critique partner at the moment, maybe we could swap MSs. You can contact me at kazuntai101[at]gmail[dot]com or contact me on Twitter @asherlockwrites.

What Inspires Me Right Now

This video directed by Yulin Kuang, inspired by Neil Gaiman's Dark Sonnet, is beautiful.


Also, I was at the lake last week with my family, and on our second last night there, my dad and I went canoeing just before sunset. It was the perfect time for canoeing. The lake was calm, there was barely any wind to struggle against, and there was a breathtaking sunset to behold.

 
 

What Else I've Been Up To

I finished my summer job a week ago, spent my last week of summer at the lake, and now tomorrow is my first day of classes. I actually transferred universities this year, so I'm starting a new school again. It's not that bad, and it's actually nice because now I only have a 20 minute bike ride to school instead of an hour bus ride. I'm also excited because my classes seem interesting enough, and different than the general stuff I took last year, which was mostly stuff I'd already taken in high school like English and history. Other than that, I am doing nothing unrelated to reading and writing. :)

If you want to get more regular updates from me, you can follow me on Twitter @asherlockwrites.

What about you? What have you been up to?


Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Young Writer's Struggle With NaNoWriMo

It begins with a thing called NaNoWriMo, a which is the funky short form for National Novel Writing Month, a huge event that happens in November where a bunch of crazy people prepare to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.

At first, I shrugged it off, and I felt satisfied when I read blog posts that slammed NaNo. I would gobble up every blog post where someone justified their reasons for not doing NaNo, or said it wasn't for them. Basically, I just agreed with all the people who didn't do NaNo. NaNo wasn't my thing; I wouldn't do it; I could write without going crazy doing 50k in a month.

But really, I was just giving myself excuse upon excuse, because NaNo scared me. 50k in a month? No way. I can't do that. Too much commitment. Finally, I admitted to myself that I just didn't want to commit myself to writing that much.

However, I've come to the realization that I can no longer just write when I feel like it, or when it's fun for me. If I'm going to write, I have to make an effort, or I'll end up never writing at all. 

In November 2012, I did my own version of NaNo - 30,000 words in a month. I did it! It was all right. And making a commitment to write a certain number of words in a limited amount of time seemed a little less scary.



Then In June 2014, Elle contacted me and asked if I wanted to be a member of her cabin for Camp NaNoWriMo. I had one of my goals for the summer as finishing my rewrite of my current WiP, but I was still hesitant. Could I do it? Maybe. It was a big commitment. What the heck, I thought, and said yes.

I'm so glad I said yes! Camp NaNoWriMo is different because you can make your own goal. I made my goal 30,000 words and I did it! I won. Now my WiP is up to 40,000 words and I only have maybe 30,000 words left until the end. The best thing about doing Camp NaNo for me was having the support of my cabin mates. You could go on to the message boards and see if anyone was around, discuss word count, and sprint if you wanted. It was great having that accountability, and the feeling that other people were counting on me to reach my goal. 

Sprinting was also a new thing for me. It's basically where you pick a time - say 15 minutes - and do nothing but write as many words as possible. When you're sprinting with other people, it adds a competitiveness, so you want to ignore all your other websites and other distractions.

Now I'm committed to finishing my WiP, and maybe I'll even be around in November to do a 50k. (Even if still terrifies me). Thanks to Elle and the rest of my cabin mates for encouraging me!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk, to help connect writers on this writing journey.



WHAT I'M READING

My brother just read all of the Game of Thrones books, and I like reading books my brother has read because it's fun to discuss them with him because it's a way to get him to talk to me. SO right now I'm reading Game of Thrones. I'm only on like page 100 of the first book, and I'm fairly confused but it's interesting enough so far. I'll hold out any real thoughts until I finish, though.

WHAT I'M WRITING

I am actually writing right now! I haven't really done a lot of writing this year. I was just really frustrated that I wasn't getting anywhere, and how terrible all of my ideas for fixing my draft were. But I pushed all that aside and just told myself the only thing to do to get better was to write, so that is what I'm doing. I only have about 4,000 words of my newest draft but I think that's okay, and I've been working on it every day for the past few days, so that's a start.

WHAT INSPIRES ME RIGHT NOW

I just finished rereading The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, and it was amaaazing. I can't wait to read them again and find even more hidden treasures. MWT is a genius, and her amazing writing is definitely inspiring to me. Stories in general are inspiring.

WHAT ELSE I'VE BEEN UP TO

Working. What else is new? But tomorrow is my last day at my retail job, so I'm looking forward to that!

What about you? What's up?

Saturday, May 10, 2014

3 Things My Favourite Authors Taught Me

THINGS have been happening. So many things. Here's some:

  • I half finished my A to Z Book Review Challenge, although I only ended up doing half the challenge. Yes, I suck, but I like to think that I'll still read the rest of the books on that list... eventually. And I've made a kind of goal to myself to do more book reviews of books I like here, even though I suck at reviewing.
  • The best part of the A to Z Book Review challenge was reading The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, and then I read The Dream Thieves, reread both of them immediately, and then I read The Scorpio Races as well. Maggie Stiefvater has quickly shot up to being one of my favourite authors.
  • I turned twenty! May 3 was my twentieth birthday, so now I have said goodbye to teenagerdom forever. I really should get rid of the "teenager" part of my blog header now, I guess. (Also now I can no longer claim to be a teen consultant for YA authors, ha.) I have mixed feelings about this getting old thing.
  • For my birthday, I got the remaining books in the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner (Queen of Attolia, King of Attolia, and A Conspiracy of Kings). I've read through all of them and am falling in love with all of them all over again. I'm on A Conspiracy of Kings now, which is fun because I don't remember anything that happened in the fourth book.
  • I also quit my part time retail job, and am starting to work at a daycare for the summer in June, which I'm really excited about.
So part of the reason I failed at the A to Z Book Review Challenge is because I got distracted by my favourite books. I reread Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta and then of course that meant I had to reread The Piper's Son, and I definitely couldn't miss Jellicoe Road. Now I'm rereading the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. I LOVE rereading, especially when the authors are such clever, intelligent writers. You discover so many things you missed the first time. There was one thing in particular in Jellicoe Road that I realized and it blew me away (and that was like, my fifth reread).

While I'm in the midst of wallowing in MWT's awesomeness, I thought I'd share just a few things my favourite authors have taught me about writing (my favourite authors currently being Melina Marchetta, Megan Whalen Turner and Maggie Stiefvater).

Source (and cover concept art)


1. CHARACTERS. The biggest thing I've learned is that characters need backstories. They need fully fleshed out backgrounds and lives of their own, even if only glimpses of that appear in the book. This makes every character important and intriguing, like Jimmy in Saving Francesca.

2. You as a writer must be willing to push your characters to the limit. You can't hesitate from putting them in the worst possible situations. MWT taught me this lesson so much. She puts her characters through so much, and her books turn out better for it. Looking at my own book draft, I realize how lame I am at pushing my characters to the very edge.

3. There is a lot that can go on behind the scenes, but there is also a lot that can just be said outright by the author and it still works. This works really well in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys when describing her characters. It's perfectly all right to just describe an aspect of a character in a line, and it doesn't diminish their complexity or intrigue at all.

One of my life goals at the moment is basically just to get people to read Melina Marchetta, Megan Whalen Turner, and Maggie Stiefvater.

So go do that. ;)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

S is for Small Damages by Beth Kephart

This was another book about an American in a different country - this time, in Spain. Kenzie got pregnant, and her mother ships her off to a friend's in Spain to avoid further embarrassment and to keep Kenzie's pregnancy and baby a secret.



The writing is beautiful in this book, and that's definitely it's strength. The setting was lovely, and the book made me feel cozy and warm. Sometimes it felt kind of stifling being in Kenzie's head all the time, but it made sense because of her situation and her location - way out in the no man's land of Spain.

I loved the beautiful simplicity of the story and the relationships. I loved Kenzie's relationship with her hostess, Estela, and despite all their bickering how you can read so much love and respect between them behind that. I especially loved how the book was written as Kenzie addressing her baby. It speaks a lot about how she feels about all of this. Plus it's super sweet.

It was definitely a slower book, and not earth shattering anyway, but that was okay. Actually, the cover of the book definitely accurately portrays the contents.

If you love beautiful writing about warm settings, and a small cast of characters, then this is the book for you.

You can check it out here on Goodreads and the author's website here.

Also... this is the end of all of the reviews that I did for the A to Z challenge, and also it's supposed to end in April (oops). For now I am going to stop, but perhaps I will fill in the rest of the letters at a later point in time. In a few days I'll have a wrap up post and then I think I need to chat about some other things that have gone on in the online book world in the past month or so! Later. :)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

R is for The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

(I'm finishing up my A to Z Book Reviews - I only have R and S written and then I'm done... and I know it's not April anymore...oops.)

How many times have I seen Maggie Stiefvater books recommended? Well, a lot, to the point where it is not even an option anymore NOT to read a book of hers. However, I could never quite bring myself to read her books on werewolves unfortunately since I'm not huge into paranormal. But a Melina Marchetta fan recommended The Raven Cycle, so of course I had to read it. :)

The Raven Boys is basically about this girl, Blue, who is the daughter of a for-real psychic. She lives in a house with a bunch of relatives, all of whom are also psychic. In fact, she's the only one in her family NOT psychic, however she is an amplifier for her family's psychic abilities.

On the other side of the story is a group of four boys, Gansey, Noah, Adam and Ronan who go to a school for rich boys and thus invoke hatred from everyone in their small community for being rich. They are involved with this crazy scheme that their group ringleader, Gansey, is obsessed with that involves waking up a long dead or sleeping king and getting a favour from him.

Of course, the boys and Blue's lives get intertwined and things get interesting from there.

As I said, I'm not huge into the paranormal and I'm not really one for psychic stuff. It makes it a lot harder for me to get into the story. However, for The Raven Boys I did my best to push that aside and let the story prove itself to me. It did.

The plot didn't really pick up until the last handful of chapters, but that was completely okay because the majority of the book was spent on the characters. If you've followed me anywhere online, you know that if there are good characters in a book, it is very easy for me to fall in love. I loved the characters in this book. Blue, Gansey, Noah, Adam and Ronan were each complex and unique characters. They were almost real people more than characters, actually.

I also loved the development of the relationships between the characters. I love how Blue slowly gets to know "her raven boys", and at the same time I got to know the boys (and Blue) as well. The third person POV switching definitely helped with that. So effective. I love alternative POVs, especially when the POVs are on either side of the story.

So the characters were definitely the best part, and that makes the book pretty good in my eyes. However, I did end up being immersed into the psychic magic stuff by the end. I loved how I kind of got swept up with Gansey's obsession just like the rest of the boys and Blue were. I'm really curious to see where this all goes, and I'm definitely looking forward to spending more time with these awesome characters.

(Also I read the sequel, The Dream Thieves, and it was amazing! I hate that the third book doesn't come out until October.)

Check out The Raven Boys on Goodreads and Amazon.
Check out Maggie Stiefvater at her website and on Twitter.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Q is for Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

Do you really have to read this review? If you follow me anywhere, whether it be here, Twitter or Tumblr, you know exactly who my favourite author is.

But there is a reason Melina Marchetta is my favourite author, and that is because she is AWESOME.


Quintana of Charyn was PERFECT. I loved it. I could not stop thinking about it for days after I read it (always a good sign).

My favourite thing about Melina Marchetta is how good she is at creating characters. There are so many awesome characters in the Lumatere Chronicles, but they are complete and complex and they all have their own story and relationships and wants and needs. You become a part of all of these character's stories, and you root for all of them. A fellow Marchetta fan on Tumblr said once that "there are no minor characters in Marchetta" and that is so true. She is SO brilliant at giving an entire life to each of her characters, which in turn makes them all significant (and also makes you fall in love with all of them). Aside from plot and such, I just wanted to read Quintana of Charyn to stay a part of these character's lives for a little bit.

MM also knows her fantasy. The world of Skuldenore that she's created for the Lumatere Chronicles is so complex and intricate, I had no idea where the plot was going the entire time. But I wasn't really paying attention because I just wanted to spend time with the characters if I'm honest.

Also, Quintana. She's one of the most fascinating characters ever. She really deserves all of the hate she gets and how everyone thinks she's crazy, but MM still redeems her and makes you empathize with her and understand the hurt she comes from.

And the ending? So perfect. Absolutely perfect. *Happy sigh*.

PLEASE read the Lumatere Chronicles if you love fantasy and awesome characters. The first book is Finnikin of the Rock, then Froi of the Exiles, then Quintana of Charyn. (Click the links to find them on Goodreads!)

You can find Melina Marchetta at her website here or on Twitter.

(P.S. Yes I realize I've now skipped K, L and P... I kind of ran out of steam, but I have a few more reviews to post before I'm done!)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

O is for OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

OCD Love Story is about a girl, Bea, coming to terms with her OCD diagnosis, along with a boy she meets, Beck. This is much more about Bea and her relationship with her OCD than her relationship with Beck, though, which I appreciated.



I love books like this, that are not only an interesting story but give me a deeper understanding of something I don't really know much about. I definitely learned a lot about OCD reading about Bea and being inside her head for the duration of the book.

I also thought it was written really well; for example I thought the way Bea's panic attacks were written were done so realistically, I could feel the panic myself (and I most definitely related). Sometimes I feel like writers go for the easiest cliché description (actually I found this was the case a lot of the time in Nobody But Us), but the writing in this book did not do that. The writing and story always flowed smoothly.

It wasn't something that particular stood out to me, but Bea was also a different character. She wasn't a hugely popular snob, or intensely shy. Her character was definitely a contrast from the two types of girl characters that I generally see in YA.

My only complaint is a small one, and that is the fact that while Bea has a father, he is never actually present. In fact, he doesn't ever say a word. He's just a name. If this was an attempt to go against the one parent theme in YA, it was pretty pathetic and not worth anything at all.

But other than that, I really enjoyed reading about Bea, and learning more about OCD. I would not recommend it if you're looking for a love story, since that was a minimal part, but otherwise, definitely put it on your TBR list!

Check out the book on Goodreads here and the author's website here.  

Saturday, April 26, 2014

N is for Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook

Quick summary: Nobody But Us is about two kids, 18-year-old Will and 15-year-old Zoe, who are in a relationship with each other. Will was in a foster home and now that he's 18 he's free from the state or however it works in the US, and Zoe's home situation is less than stellar so they run away to Vegas together.

The main thought I'm left with after reading this book is: what the heck?


I still have no idea where this book was trying to go. Most of the scenes in the book were just Will and Zoe love scenes, which are fine I guess, but when you have so many of them, it gets a little exhausting.

The other aspect was Will and Zoe running away. I was never really sure what the author was trying to say - is this a good thing?

And the ending was... what? And it wasn't a good "what", like the ending of Ender's Game, more like a... this makes absolutely no sense, what is this book even about? It just didn't make any sense to me.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts, if you've read it. You can check it out on Goodreads here. (Also this is a Goodreads review that said some of my thoughts much more eloquently than I did.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

M is for MIND GAMES by Kiersten White

So far I've managed to do A through J of my A to Z challenge, but I kind of only completed half of the letters because I kind of burnt out after being in the midst of exams and reading so many books in a row. So I didn't read any K or L books, so we're onto M today with MIND GAMES by Kiersten White.

If I was to describe this book in one word, that one word would be "INTENSE". I think my heart is still pounding from reading this.



MIND GAMES is about two sisters, Annie and Fia, whose parents both die in a car crash. As a result they're left to fend for themselves, although since Annie is blind, Fia feels it's up to her to do everything it takes to protect her sister. That also means they end up trapped in a school for people with psychic abilities, which includes Annie. Fia has other abilities that are useful Keane, the man who runs the school.

That's basically the strength of the story - Fia's fierce love and need to protect her sister. I loved that that was at the centre of the book. I can definitely relate. I loved the complexity of the characters, Annie, Fia, and also James, Fia's love interest, I guess? I could never really figure him out, probably because neither can Fia. I loved it.

MIND GAMES definitely kept me hooked the entire way through, and I'm definitely putting the sequel on my TBR list.

Find it on Goodreads here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

J is for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Two things.

One, I listened to this on audiobook which is a very different experience from reading a book (like I tend to fall asleep a lot more often). (Also, since the narrator was British I kept thinking that Jane was addressing the book to Rita, and I was wondering who the heck Rita was, until I read some quotes on tumblr and realized she was just saying "Reader" with a British accent.)

Two, I feel like reviewing a classic novel that's already loved by millions is also an entirely different experience.



I actually wanted to read Jane Eyre because of my new obsession with the Autobiography of Jane Eyre, a web series based on the book (made by Canadians!).

I have to say, these slow romantic books that are mostly dialogue and slower writing are not my cup of tea. I have a really hard time paying attention. Especially since the main plot points happened through long back and forth dialogue, and the parts in between were huge chunks of telling by Jane the Narrator. I just don't like that kind of writing.

I did like Jane, though, I thought she was fun and clever and a strong young lady who definitely stood up for herself. (Go, Jane!) I thought Rochester was weird and didn't really like him (it didn't help that the audiobook narrator's voice for Rochester had a snobby sneer at the end of every sentence), and St John (Sinjin? The audiobook narrator kept saying Sinjin) was also weird. I don't really know how Jane likes either of these guys. The entire story was kind of weird, actually.

I did very much love the happy ending, though, of course.

(Just kidding. Rochester dies.)

All in all, I much prefer the web series, where I actually like Rochester and you get to see more of all of the other characters. You can watch that here, if you so please.

Also check out the book, not that the book needs any more support.

(Also, does Charlotte Bronte have a hard time coming up with names or something? There are like 5 Johns and 3 Marys in this book.)

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