Saturday, January 29, 2011

INVINCIBLE SUMMER Review

Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

Noah’s happier than I’ve seen him in months. So I’d be an awful brother to get in the way of that. It’s not like I have some relationship with Melinda. It was just a kiss. Am I going to ruin Noah’s happiness because of a kiss?

Across four sun-kissed, drama-drenched summers at his family’s beach house, Chase is falling in love, falling in lust, and trying to keep his life from falling apart. But some girls are addictive....

Paperback, 336 pages
Expected publication: April 19th 2011 by Simon Pulse




Oh holy crap. Like, really. This is a fantastic book. For anyone. To quote the book itself, I love it love it love it. 

How I got it: I received a digital copy of this on Galley Grab, so I have nothing to share with you people. If I did, trust me, I'd be giving it away in a heartbeat so someone else I can experience this awesomeness. 

Cover: I'm going to admit, I played the "Which end is which?" game the first time I saw it. Once my mind was able to put it together, I haven't had any trouble with it. In fact, when I tried to see it the other way, it took a lot of work to see how I got it wrong again. About halfway through I was questioning the choice of gender being that our narrator is a teenage boy, but by the end of the book, I have a way better understanding and like it. The bikini is a good choice, and the ambiguity of the girl works well. And I simply adore the font choice. Love it love it love it.

Plot: The situations Moskowitz comes up with. Wow. The story is told through four different summers at a beach house that this one family goes to every year, next door to another family that does the same next door. Chase, our narrator, is dealing with being the second eldest, but acting like the first born. He's trying to keep a hold of his family, which seems to be slowly splitting apart, and trying to watch out for his little brother, who's deaf. But at the same time, he's grappling with growing up himself and what that means, and trying to understand his older brother. 
      This is a contemporary novel, so it's not like there is necessarily anything the novel is pushing toward (like a character searching for the Holy Grail, or something), but that doesn't take away from the book at all. I sat down one night to read just a bit, but I couldn't stop myself. Everything flows amazingly well, even when we are missing out on the largest parts of these people's lives. 
     Each summer is its own arch, with a beginning middle and end, but they are all seamlessly connected.  Things happen in this novel, characters do things and there are consequences. That's sometimes my biggest problem with contemporary fiction. I definitely didn't have that problem with this book.

Characters: These characters are fantastic. All of them are so well rounded. Chase is a fantastic narrator: watchful, understanding but not necessarily fully, slightly unsure. I loved looking at the world though his eyes. All of Chase's siblings are each their own person. I especially liked Noah, the older brother who has a tendency to run away and can't be contained, and Claudia, the little firecracker who acts beyond her years. My only critique here would be the parents weren't quite as fleshed out as the children, but there were definitely enough moments with both to make them not cookie-cutter or stereotypical.

Writing: I said it before and I'll say it again - this girl can write. Wow. I would quote - I really would - but my copy tells me that I'm not allowed to, so I can't. But know that I really want to. Moskowitz has a very lyrical style, and every word has its place. There aren't any frivolous words in this book. Because of that, however, there is a lot packed into every sentence and it can get a little heavy if you aren't into that. But I am. She describes things in interesting and new ways that are fresh and exciting. For instance, she actually says a mind is purple. I'm not 100 percent sure what that means, but in the moment, it worked so well. Also, the writing style mirrors the mental state of our narrator, like a gorgeous dance. It's really something to marvel at.

(On a side note, her writing really made me realize that I'm going to have to step up my game if I want to be anywhere near as good. But inspiration and a goal are good things.)

Themes: The themes unravel themselves slowly, so I didn't really get the full extent of them until the end. This is a story of innocence, of losing and protecting it. During the last 50 pages or so, there was a knot in my stomach feeling what these characters were going through. 
     Siblings and families are also a very big theme in this novel. While I have a brother, we aren't close like the siblings are in this book. It was interesting to see how the family interacts with each other, when they get along and when they don't. And also how communication theme works itself into the family dynamic. 
     I will admit that Camus is a huge presence in this novel, and after a little bit it did start to get a little annoying (but I'm like Claudia and philosophy isn't really my thing). However, by the end of the book, I'd come to an understanding with it, enjoyed it even. And anyone that can make me enjoy philosophy is nearly performing miracles.

Overall: Overall, I loved this book. I devoured it. It's been a while since I've read a book in three days (mind you, I work about 10 hours a day and have other commitments, so I don't get to read that much). But it's been quite a while since a book kept me up all night. I give Invincible Summer FIVE STARS because it was utterly fantastic. Really. I think everyone should go and pre-order it right now. I don't re-read books often, and this is definitely amid the top. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Writing determination

First I want to apologize for failing to but up a post the last two days. I'm really trying to make this regular, but it's going to completely depend on work and it's been crazy and I have had all late nights this week, hence the no posting. But that's beside the point right now, isn't it?

I want to share two quotes that I've recently taken to heart:

First: "If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse." Author Unknown

Second: "Serious writers write, inspired or not. Over time they discover that routine is a better friend to them than inspiration." Ralph Keyes

If you're paying attention (and I know all of you are, because you are that brilliant) you'll notice the common denominator here. And I'm going to borrow by friend's words here for a moment. If you want to be a writer, you're going to have to "Suck it up."

Writing requires time and commitment. You can't just say, 'Oh, I'm going to write a novel today," and have anything worth it at the end of the day. For years I have been lacking on my personal writing outside of school and work (mind you, I had journalism/literature/creative writing majors in college and I am now a reporter so I do a ton of non-personal writing all the freaking time). I would participate in NaNoWriMo every year during college and then promptly not work on anything for at least six months where I would piddle around and actually accomplish nothing.

If you want something, you will do it. If you don't you'll find excuses. I'm good at excuses, but I'm done with them. I've been writing almost every day, whether I like it or not. Some days I only get an hour - some days as much as three. I work a lot, so I do have to fit what I'm doing in fiction outside of what I'm doing for work. I have not ever written for my personal use at work, and that's a priority of mine. But it also means I'm not ready to give up on my dreams.

I want them, so I have to make them come true. And that's where the second quote comes in. I can't wait until inspiration strikes, because that's rare these days when I'm writing so much for work every day. It doesn't matter that I'm tired and I've written six articles that day. I have to work on a chapter of my WIP too. That's how it goes. That's how I'm going to make it. That means I might actually get to the point where I can publish something.

Because that's what you have to do first. To be published you have to have something to publish first. It's not the other way around.

So tell me, writers-to-be - when do you write? Do you force yourself through, or do you wait for inspiration to strike? How bad do you want it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Writing SHOULD be fun, but it isn't

At least, not all the time.

Let's be honest people, it can't be good all the time. And it isn't. Writing is hard. Writing is lonely. Writing is like beating your head against a desk repeatedly. And that's what we writers live for. Masochists.

Writing reminds me a lot of running. Mind you, I hate running. I probably hate it so much because I'm horribly out of shape - but that's beside the point. But it is, and I'll demonstrate how. So this is going to be an interesting side-by-side kind of post. Here goes.


  • Yes, I know that running is good for me. 
    • I know that I can't publish without finishing a manuscript.
  • I know I should workout everyday, or at least every week. 
    • I know I should be working on my WIP everyday, or at least every week.
  • I feel good at the beginning of a run.
    • I feel excited about my idea at the start.
  • I soon get winded and tired and my muscles start hurting.
    • I run into plot/character/whatever problems and can't sort it out.
  • I have to continue to push myself, panting heavily, muscles screaming to stop.
    • I have to work myself through my blocks and continue writing when I'm not inspired
  • I push through the pain and get high on sudden endorphins. (Note: Today was the only day this has EVER happened to me.)
    • I finally come to a breakthrough where everything is suddenly piecing together.
  • I finish the run and feel fantastic.
    • I finish and feel completion.
  • Repeat again tomorrow.
    • Begin the editing process.
See some similarities? You see - running is horrible. But so is writing. But we continue to do them, but for different reasons. I push through running because I want to be healthy. I write because I love it, and the good far out-weighs the bad. (For runners, they can say that too. But, like I said, I am no runner.)

They are both difficult. They both take incredible endurance and dedication and patience and drive. And you have to be willing to deal with a little pain. 

Both both writers and runners can agree: There's nothing else in the world like it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

On Reading

Reading is interesting when you think about it. I mean, it's unique to everyone. Don't look at me like that. I know you're thinking that's the dumbest thing you ever heard because everyone reads the same way (except those languages that read from right to left and so-forth). Please, hear me out.

No two people can read the very same. We all read at different speeds, pay attention to different things, and the material we're reading affects us in different ways. It's in that regard that I think how one person reads is as unique as her fingerprints.

I'm a pretty moderate reader. I can read fast if I need to. I can skim through lines like they're nothing. But I don't enjoy that much. And, when I do that, I don't really get much out of what I'm reading. I like to take it at a decent pace. When something excites me in a novel, sure I'll speed up. But that matches my mood at the time. I'm not a slow reader unless it's for school and something I don't understand much about. *cough*World Systems Analysis*cough*

I remember at one point in eighth grade I was lab partners with literally the smartest boy in school. (My own version of TWILIGHT? Not even close, although I did have a crush on him.) He was nearly certifiably a genius. And I remember on the days that we were told to read something in class, he was fast. Crazy fast. He always finished a heck of a long time before anyone else in the class. So, I tried to read as fast as him. Now, part of this was because I wanted to read as fast as he could, and partly I didn't want to look dumb in front of him. That was stupid, though, because when we were finished I would have to ask him to explain the chapter to me.

Why did this happen? Because I wasn't being true to myself and what was best for me. Everyone reads at his or her own pace. I stopped trying to catch up to the pace my former roommate and best friend can read at. I can't do that. If I tried, I wouldn't be enjoying what I was reading (although most of the time the things we read together were for class).

The same can be said, I think, for writing. So many people say, "Oh I want to write like ______" or "Oh if only I could come up with characters like _______" or "That's the way I'm going to describe/do/plot/whatever things from now on." I will admit, goals are important. But, first you have to find what works best for you. Take inspiration from lots of places. You can learn from other writers, but make sure that it suits you. If it doesn't, it won't work. You'll be like my failed eighth grade science class. You'll suffer for it.

What do you guys think? What kind of readers are you? Have any of you inspiring authors out there tried to over-extend yourselves in writing?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE Review

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder.
Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.
Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.
Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.
Hardcover, 398 pages 
Published January 11th 2011 by Razorbill

Okay, one word: Wow. This is going to be a really hard review to explain why I love this book. But here goes.

How I got it: I was lucky enough to win a sighed copy of this from Penguin Teen. Disclaimer: This in no way changed my opinion of the book itself.

Cover: Oh you couldn't ask for a better cover. I mean it's reversible for goodness sake! How do you top that? The outer cover (above) is gorgeous. It's colors and the composition are so alluring. And I think it matches the idea of the story well. The inside cover is blue, pretty, and set up like a schematic of the ship. It's calculating, a little boyish, but still very cool. It isn't glossy like the outer one, though. I don't know if this is how I'm supposed to take it, but I think of the outer one as Amy's and the inner, Elder.

Story: The genre of this novel is a little hard to place. It's a little dystopian, a little sci-fi, a little mystery. There isn't a lot to this book in terms of plot, I think. But, it's got a lot going on, and the book doesn't suffer for it. At first, this book was a little slow for me. I mean literally slow - like it was taking me a long time to get through the first half of the story. There was intrigue and things going on and stuff I wanted to know and I liked the characters but I was just reading slow. Then yesterday at lunch I reached the midpoint and it took off. Last night I decided to get to bed early, and couldn't stop reading. I finished at lunch today.
      Now, there are some parts of the plot that I guessed. I knew who was behind the mystery from about 50 pages in and wanted to pound on the book for the characters not getting it. Other things, I kind of got, but not quite. Some things I was shocked by. Even if I knew the "big" thing, the way it turned out was satisfying.

Characters: The characters in AtU were well written. Their voices were distinctive, and I liked the tone and cadence they spoke with. Amy is awoken on a ship and is rightfully depressed about things. She's trying to get used to a life that is alien to her (pun only slightly intended for this book). She was a bit whiny, but it was all understandable and earned, so I wasn't annoyed by it. I just wanted to hug her.
      I love Elder. I love how he questions and doesn't question, gets it and doesn't get it at the same. He's a leader and a follower. He's a walking contradiction, and I loved watching him grow throughout the book. I watched him shuck his childishness and grow strong. And I loved every minute of it.
      There are some great side characters in this novel. Harley is by far my favorite, with his eccentric and innocent, child-like demeanor. He was truly original. But then there was Victoria who I felt was her own person. Eldest was a fascinating character to watch interact and change with Elder. All these characters felt flushed out and real.

Themes: A big theme of this novel is truth and lies, and I think Revis does a fantastic job at interweaving both throughout the story. She paints this seamless picture for you, then crumbles it before your eyes and builds it back up. I won't give too much away here, but I loved how it ended. It's not your typical romantic ending, and I'll leave it at that.

Writing: Revis' writing is really spot on, down to the littlest punctuation. It all has a point, and it works so well in this world. She did a lot of world building, and her descriptions are just enough to not bore (a mistake that sci-fi authors often make) but is entirely new and exciting. She has painted life upon a spaceship in a very real way - not glorified at all. No, this is not Star Trek. I don't think I'd want to live upon a spaceship because of the problems Revis addresses. And since it's set in the future, I love how their language changes (like I said, realistic). I even caught myself thinking "frexing" at some point today.

Overall: It was hard to decide, but I'm giving AtU FIVE STARS. The writing, the world-building, the realistic picture of a possible life in the future. That blew me away. I liked her down-to-earth (har, har) characters, and I loved the ending. A good read.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Can I really be that cool?

I was pleasantly surprised to find yesterday that the lovely Jessie over at The Daily Harrell nominated me and the blog for the Stylish Blogger Award! That really made my day. Like really. 
As part of being nominated, there are some conditions involved:
  1. That you thank and link back to the blog that nominated you. (Done!)
  2. Share seven things about yourself.
  3. Award other recently discovered bloggers
  4. Contact said bloggers and tell them about the award!

I'm just so excited. Anyway, here are seven things you probably didn't know about me:
  1. I press the unlock button on my keys about 15 times as I'm walking toward my car. Even if I see my lights flashing, I still press it a couple more times. I don't really know why I do this, other than I really want to make sure that my car is unlocked. Generally when it's not, I painfully break nails. Sometimes there's blood. 
  2. I don't like to shower until I get into the shower. Of course, I shower out of necessity, but I always try to put it off if I can. I'm not unclean or anything people. It must just be my procrastinating nature coming out in the form of trying to get out doing anything necessary.
  3. The first boy I had a crush on was a red-head named Stewart. We went to pre-school and day care together. Once when we went camping, some "friends" arranged a mini marriage for us. Apparently they had arranged for someone to ask me if I did first, and then Stewart would say no. I don't actually remember what happened. 
  4. I like making lists. I like crossing things off said lists. This gives me much joy for no reason. I get to do this a lot for work.
  5. I have a notebook fetish. No really - I have a thing for notebooks. It's probably unhealthy that I continually spend money on notebooks that I never end up filling. I used to get really excited for school just so I could use my new notebooks. I'm a nerd like that.
  6. I am freaking competitive. Sarah (who used to be my roommate) can attest to this. If I do something, I want to be the best at it. This has led to some very bad nights playing games with friends, especially when they are as competitive as I am. Sarah's boyfriend (a good friend of mine as well) and I have gotten into some pretty harsh times. Don't ask about the night I wouldn't let him win at Munchkin even though I was going to win too. 
  7. When I'm trying to fall asleep, I twitch. A LOT. I will go back and forth, only moving about an inch total. I'm just weird like that. I pity anyone who has to sleep in the same bed as me.

As for blogs that I love, here we go!
  1. Even though she told me not to, I'm nominating Sarah's blog Squidink because she really does blog about interesting things in the writing world. Her perspective is amazing, and even though I know her, she is constantly surprising me!
  2. I'm definitely nominating Ashelynn's A Gypsy Writer because she is fantastic and is always doing interesting posts. And, she posted how to make homemade tortillas for me. YUM!
  3. Ashely of Ashley's Bookshelf. She's very eclectic and super nice. You should go check her out.
  4. Quincy of Quincy's Art. Her art for only a high schooler is fantastic. And she is one of the coolest high schoolers I know.
  5. If anyone is as cool as Quincy, it's Laurel and her blog  Crayondog. She is a fantastic writer for a high school student, and a pretty talented blogger for so young. 
Okay that's all for today's post guys! Please check out these blogs, if you get the chance. Because they are all amazing. Tomorrow, look forward to a review of SHIVER.

Peace.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop Winner

 Hello everyone! I'm so excited today! I can't believe how much interest there is here now as a result of the contest. But you probably want the winner, huh?

Low and behold, congratulations to Rane! You are the winner of a book from the Book Depository of up to $15 US! Yay!

But here's the catch everyone, I was feeling so overwhelmed by everyone here, and in hopes that you guys will stick around, I'm giving away a second book, this one of $10 US!

So a second round of congratulations are in order to Jennifer (Kalman)!! Congrats.

Both winners have been notified and have 48 hours to get back to me or I'll draw a new winner for the prize.

Also, I'll be participating in the February Hop as well, so keep an eye out guys! I haven't decided 100 percent what I'm giving away then. But I hope you like it! :D

Okay, so also available to you guys are the lists of books that YOU GUYS READ IN 2010! Yes, these are the books that you enjoyed most, so please take a look (if not only for the reason that it took me forever to compile the list). They are separated by genre, alphabetical by vote frequency. By far, the winner of the year was the Hunger Games Trilogy, or one of the books therein (I combined series if there was more than one book nominated).



Young Adult
Hunger Games (Trilogy) by Suzanne Collins (x22)
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (x7)
Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (x7)
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (x5)
Matched by Ally Condie (x5)
The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting (x4)
Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare (x4)
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (x3)
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (x3)
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (x3)
Vampire Academy Series by Richelle Mead (x3)
Beautiful Creatures by by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (x2)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (x2)
The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan (x2)
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger (x2)
Fallen Series by Lauren Kate (x2)
Firelight by Sophie Jordan (x2)
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (x2)
If I Stay by Gayle Forman (x2)
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa (x2)
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard (x2)
The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff  (x2)
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (x2)
Wither by Lauren DeStefano (x2)

Across The Universe by Beth Revis
Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen
The Broken Lake (The Pace Series) by Shelena Shorts
Dark Divine by Bree Despain
Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma
Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Forgive my Fins by Tera Lynn Child
Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols
Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher 
John Belushi is Dead by Kathy Charles
Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbar
Looking for Alaska by John Green
My Soul to Steal by Rachel Vincent
Need by Carrie Jones
Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
Poser by Sue Wyshynski
The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell
Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalup
Sing Me To Sleep by Angela Morrison
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Stillburrow Crush by Linda Kage
Strange Angel series by Lili St. Crow
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson


Middle grade
The Magical Misadventures of Prunella Bogthistle


Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Night Huntress Series by Jeaniene Frost (x3)
Downside Ghost Series by Stacia Kane (x2)
Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels Series) by Ilona Andrews (x2)
Black Magic Sanction (Rachel Morgan/The Hallows Series) by Kim Harrison
Changeless by Gail Carriger
Danann Frost Falls From Grace" by Joanne Valiukas
Demon from the Dark by Kresley Cole
Dreamfever (Fever Series) by Karen Marie Moning
Ecstasy in Darkness by Gena Showalter
Master of None by Sonya Bateman
More Than Blood by Amanda Vyne
Phantom Universe By Laura Kreitzerwhich
Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs
Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris
Toil and Trouble by HP Mallory
Twice Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires Series) by Chloe Neill


Sci-fi/Fantasy
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook (x3)
Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett (x2)
Feed by Mira Grant (x2)
Fire by Kristin Cashore
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
The Key by Pauline Baird Jones
Peter and Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham
The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson 


Historical Fiction
Black Hills by Dan Simmon
Cloud of Sparrows by Takashi Matsuoka
Georgette Heyer (author)
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen



Mystery/Thriller/Crime
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens (x2)
Careless in Red by Elizabeth George
The Girl who Played with Fire by Steig Larsson
Hell's Corner by David Baldacci
The Patrick Bowers Files by Steven James
Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell
Roast Mordem by Cleo Coyle
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman


General Fiction
The Collected Stories of Deborah Eisenberg
The Confession of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom 
Havah: The Story of Eve by Tosca Lee
A Holiday of Love by Judith McNaught, Jude Deveraux and Arnette Lamb 
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Mob Rules by Camerin Hayley
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
Random Harvest by James Hilton
Purple Jesus by Ron Cooper
Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis
Toothpick House by Lee Lynch


Nonfiction
Cowboy & Wills by Monica Holloway
The Lost City of Z by David Grann
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenso and David Oliver Relin

Monday, January 17, 2011

E(vil)-Books and their Readers

Don't forget: My contest ends tonight at 11:59 p.m. (mountain time). I'll be notifying and posting the winner tomorrow morning. Just so you know, I almost tried to end the contest early. You late people, be glad that I figured out my mistake.

Not going to lie - I haven't made up my mind on E-books. Right now, I don't really like them much. At least not right now. I want my book in hand. I want to keep it on my shelf, even if they're overflowing with other books. I want that.

It's not that I don't understand the allure. I get that people love the convenience of having a small reader and dozens if not thousands of books on hand at the touch of a button (and the entering of a credit card number). Yes, I too dream about that. I've entered contests to win them. It would be nice. E-readers are making it possible for writers to more easily self-publish. They are helping bring back out-of-print books into an electronic and available format. They are doing a lot for the publishing industry. It's helping (a very small amount) to cut down on consumption.

Yet, at the same time, I'm still skeptical. E-books have created a virtual black market of piracy that never was here before on a large scale. E-books generally cost less than their paper counterparts, and that's got the publishing world in a knot over how to make money. Also, because of an onslaught of self-published books, there's a lot to sluff through if you're going to find a gem. Plus, I personally just can't give up on losing these precious items in my life in favor of something I can't physically hold and touch.

I work in newspapers, so I know how much the digital era can cost. Newspapers are going out of business and laying off long-time employees because the internet (and the lack of young readership) has killed profitability. I'm worried that E-books could present the same type of problems for the publishing world.

Am I wrong? Am I just being paranoid? Am I fighting the inevitable and am shockingly too old at 23 to see it? I'd like to know. What are your thoughts on E-books? Do you own a reader? If so, will you give up on paper books?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Give a character a life

Hi everyone! Wow, I have a lot of new followers. Welcome all. I know all of you are following me because of the contest, but I hope you guys stick around afterward. The contest winner will be announced Monday. It will depend on work exactly when. So stick with me, guys!

Anyway, on to today's post. It's about characters.

I just got done reading the partial draft of MIDNIGHT SUN that Stephanie Meyer made available after it was leaked onto the web. My rocky relationship with the TWILIGHT series and my opinions on the horrible (even if not vicious in intent) deed of leaking the document aside, I think the premise of the attempt is something to be admired and learned from. For one very good reason.

The Cullen family does things outside of what they do with Bella.

It really is as simple as that. Characters need to have lives outside of interacting with your main characters. And I mean all of them. Even that one guy that delivers a message. Yes, his entire purpose in the draft may be to deliver a message, but you need to make sure that at least you are thinking about him in other ways.

MIDNIGHT SUN does this really well. For instance, we know Edward, from the eyes of Bella, goes through mood swings between talking to her and ignoring her in TWILIGHT. In MIDNIGHT SUN we see why. There are reasons and repercussions to his actions that we don't get to see in the first book that we get to see from his point of view.

Also, we get to see into the minds of other characters that we wouldn't have known. Angela, a potentially very minor character who doesn't do much, has a role, albeit little, from Edward's point of view. Events are put into place that we had no idea of in TWILIGHT.

So this is a challenge that I'm not only going to give to potential writers out there, but to myself as well. Make sure characters have a life. They have to have dreams and goals. They also have to have worries and fears. Even if they only show up for a tiny part, and readers may never know anything about them, I think it will be beneficial to know these things when writing them.

So, what do you guys think? Have you ever read MIDNIGHT SUN? Are you going to try it? Please let me know in the comments.

Happy reading and writing.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop

Hello all my lovelies (and all the new peoples that I hope are visiting today)! I hope everyone is having a fantastic Friday. I know I, myself, am looking forward to the weekend and hopefully a lot of writing and reading. And catching up on sleep. That sounds good too.

But you guys are probably here for another reason. So I guess it's time for my first contest! Yay! *does a little dance* I'm a little excited. I've only been around for 14 days now, so a contest is just what I need to perk myself up. And give away a little goodness for you all as well. This is part of the fantastic blog hop hosted by Martha's Bookshelf and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer! Thanks, ladies! Let's get started.

PLEASE READ ALL OF THE RULES SO YOU DON'T MISS ANYTHING!!!

Okay here's the deal: The blog hop will only be open for a limited time, Jan. 14-17. All you have to do is leave a comment. That's all. 

What's at stake, you ask? How about ANY BOOK YOU WANT! There is a $15 limit, but it will be delivered through the Book Depository, meaning it's open internationally as long as they deliver to your country!

So for entering:
  • Contest only open to followers of the blog.
  • Leave a comment telling me how your following (like your GFC handle) and tell me the best book you read in 2010.
  • Include how best to contact you.
  • Extra entry if you follow me on Twitter (@brennabraaten - link on the right of the screen). Make sure to leave your twitter handle please.
Winner will be chosen by Random.org on Jan. so I wish you all good luck! Below is the list for the next blog. Happy hopping!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snowboarding Basics

Just so everyone knows, I had to take a snowboarding lesson for work last Saturday. It was exciting and nice because they footed the bill. (I get my cheapness from my Dad, actually.) But really - I learned a lot, even if I couldn't move the next day. Yes, I really couldn't move because I was so sore. Oddly enough it was my arms, shoulders and back that were most sore - but I'm getting away from my actual point, here. Yes, I do have a point!

Being taught how to snowboard reminded me of writing in a very peculiar way. I kept wanting to look at what others were doing and do it too. But I was missing something. My instructor kept telling me to focus on the little things. Knees bent, lift toes, watch your arms. . . All these little things were affecting me and thus the reason that I kept falling flat on my face. Or butt. I did both a lot. I even had this massive fall that I literally went tumbling over my board a couple of times before standing on my head in one of those cartoon-like moments. Before you hyperventilate, I wasn't hurt. Much.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with anything. Well, learning to snowboard is exactly like learning how to write. We keep looking at all these fantastic writers and want to do what they do, but we have to remember to first start with the basics. You can't expect to get up on the mountain and rule it on your first time - just the same way you can't expect to knock out a publishable work on first try.

You have to remember those basics of honing your craft. And yes, you are going to crash and burn, i.e. someone's going to hate it. And that's okay. You just have to be strong enough to pick yourself back up and work on it again. Bend your knees (adjust your characters), lift your toes (believable and workable dialog), and watch your arms (show don't tell). 

You're going to have to remember these little things in order for things to work out. Eventually, just like master snowboarders and writers, it will become second nature. But when they fall down - and sometimes they do too - they think back to the basics too.


Okay, and just for fun, the Ski Area I went to was only three miles away from Yellowstone Park, meaning there was lots of fun wildlife. These are a couple of pictures I took of the wildlife on the side of the road on my way home. Enjoy!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE Awesomeness!

Hello everyone! I'm so sorry I've fallen slightly behind on posting. I've been really busy with work over the weekend. Oh well! I'm here and ready to share with you some amazing goodness!



Today (1/11/11) marks the release date of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE by Beth Revis! Last week I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of the book, and I'm seriously waiting by the mailbox for it to arrive. Good thing I have plenty of other things to read, right? :D

Anyway, thanks to the lovely people publishing ATU, I have some exciting stuff to share with all of you! 

First is an exclusive video with Beth Revis, where she explains the different levels of the ship Godspeed! Check it out here:

Next, you guys really need to check out the sweet trailer for ATU. If you haven't seen it before, here it is for you:


Okay, next you really need to check out the new site, http://www.acrosstheuniversebook.com, because it it super awesome! Before the launch of the book, the site wasn't actually at full serve, but now it most definitely is! Explore the different levels of the ship and find out lots of cool new stuff about ATU and the Godspeed! I loved all the new information that I gleaned from just a few minutes on the site. It really is fantastic.

And this is amazing! The site, http://www.io9.com, should now have the first 111 pages of ATU posted on it! If you haven't gotten your copy yet (or while you're waiting for it to be delivered like me), go check it out!

Alright, and if that wasn't enough amazingness, you should really check out these fantastic links that have to do with the book:

Okay that's all for me folks! I hope you enjoyed this and don't forget to pick up a copy of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE today!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

One great contest and another to come:

Okay everyone, this is kind of a "here's what's coming" post.

Next week I'm participating in the Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop where I'm offering up a shiny new book from the Book Depository anywhere they'll send it to. That means, you can have any book your heart desires, as long as it's only $15 - I'm not made of money people! I'll post the details of this on the day of, since it will be open for a specific time. Yay! Look forward to it all.

In other matters, because I know you want something you can do now, Bookolicio.us is holding a FANTASTIC giveaway for its second year blogging anniversary. You need to check this out! Here is the link for the details: link    http://bklc.us/2y

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lost in the Plot Forest

I'm lost in the woods.

I was traveling on a good sturdy path, and it was going alright. Until I hit a giant hole. One where you can't see the other side. But there, off to the side through the trees, I see a new path, a shinier path. I leave the path I was on and make for the new path.

But while on my way, I lose sight of that path and now I am without any. I've lost my way.

Let me explain. I've been trying to get back to my WIP, THE STAR RUBY for a while now, but after letting a friend read the utter trite I have now, I knew that my manuscript had problems. It had holes. Major ones. So I left the plot that I was on and tried for another. But now I'm stuck somewhere in the middle, unable to make a decision. Do I continue on for that new path? Or should I wait and try to find a way around the hole in the first one?

The thing about writing is that we don't have roadmaps. There isn't anything we can stare at and try to decipher where we are and where we should go from here. Other people get to do that; not the people that forge off into the great wide yonder, plotting our own courses and making things up. That's the world we chose to be in.

But there's also something exciting there. Sometimes I picture myself as an explorer, finding new things and partaking in an exciting journey. I get to look at this tree and think: Does it have enough conflict? What's it's back story? What part will it play?

Still, the decisions are hard. Right now I'm battling whether to send off my character to war or not, or if the war should be secret, or if I should bomb the village. No one can tell me what to do. No one is here. I'm alone in the woods, and I'll have to pick my path and take it. And maybe I'll chose the wrong direction and have to backtrack and pick a different direction.

But that's all part of the journey. Sometimes the wrongest of turns end up as the greatest of stories, right?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

In My Mailbox 1

Hello everyone! Bear with me here. This is the first vlog I've ever done, but I'm hoping it's not terrible. Feed back welcomed?

Anyway - these are the books that I just received from Amazon (which I ordered). I'm so excited to read them! Enjoy the little film!


Monday, January 3, 2011

SISTERS RED Review

 Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
Sisters Red (Sisters Red, #1)Hardcover: 324 pages
Published June 7, 2010 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN  0316068683

Blurb from Goodreads: Scarlet March lives to hunt the Fenris--the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts ferociously alongside her. But even as more girls' bodies pile up in the city and the Fenris seem to be gaining power, Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves. She finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an ax and Scarlett's only friend--but does loving him mean betraying her sister and all that they've worked for?


How I got it: I received SISTERS RED as a Christmas gift from my brother, which is awesome. Especially since we aren't really that close and it was a book that I really wanted. (He may have had help from my mother on that one.) Anyway, I've been paying attention to Jackson Pearce for a while now, and she's not only ridiculously funny, but she seems genuinely nice as well. Needless to say, I couldn't wait to start reading.

Cover: SISTERS RED has one of the most interesting and unique covers I've seen. It's absolutely gorgeous in real life, where the black part is glossy and the red matte. The cover art is fantastic. Since the book is about sisters Scarlett and Rosie, the two faces on the front, so alike with their hair flowing into the other's, but also separated in their lives by the events that unfold. And, the first time that I looked at this cover, I was so enamored with the two girls, I almost missed the wolf, which is obviously the Fenris the sisters hunt. It really is an amazing cover; probably one of the reasons that it was up for an award for the cover art. (I wish I could remember where, because I would link it here. If anyone knows, please leave a comment and I'll edit this post.)

Story: This is not your typical fairy tale. These girls are kick-butt and the wolves that Pearce imagined are true monsters. She has taken the typical tale and twisted it into a darker version that could be an undiscovered side of our own world. I loved the unfolding of the story. At first, there wasn't exactly a set goal - it was kind of a general goal of hunting. Soon, however, the goal came out and the search was on. It's an original twist on a fairly basic story.

Writing: I loved the light way Pearce uses language. I never felt bogged down by the word choice, or felt like she was using words that her characters wouldn't. The story is written in first person, switching between the two sisters. Both use similar language - as I'm sure most people that close when growing up would - but their voices are distinct enough that I could probably tell who was talking without being told. Pearce uses a good mix of description versus dialog, and her action scenes were amazing. Generally I get lost and have trouble picturing exactly what's going on when I read fight scenes, but Pearce's command of describing left me with a clear idea of what was happening.

Characters: I love the characters that Pearce created. Each is different from the other in very good ways. Scarlett (and I absolutely love the double entendre of her name) is driven and scarred and you can't help but sympathize with her. Rosie is the adorable little sister who wants to be treated like her own person, but can't help falling in behind her whip-cracking older sister. Silas was my favorite character because of his little quarks. For instance, even in the throngs of despair, he makes a joke. You can't help but fall for someone like that, and it's easy to see how Rosie and Silas develop their relationship.

Themes: I loved the dynamic of the sisters. Each looked at the same problem in their relationship in a different way, and you could see how both thought they were right, and how both could be wrong at the same time. I don't have a sister, and my brother and I aren't that close, so it was such an amazing thing to watch and be a part of. One thing that bothered me while I was reading is how obsessive Rosie is about Silas before the two come together, but afterward I think back to crushes and think it rings true. So I'm not sure how to read into that.

Overall: I'm giving SISTERS RED four stars. There is a lot going on that is fantastic with this book - I'm sure most everyone can find something to enjoy about the story. There were only a couple of small things keeping this review from being a five. Has anyone else read it?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

MATCHED review

MATCHED by Ally Condie

Matched (Matched #1)From Goodreads: Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.



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


I was lucky enough to win a copy of MATCHED by Ally Condie. I didn't know that much about it when I started it other than it is a dystopian novel with a love triangle. So, being that it was the book I've won, I thought I'd start out my reviews with it.


Cover (because we all judge): I am a big fan of simplistic covers, especially when they have symbolism. The white and silver gradient really help to make the green of the bubble and the dress stand out. The girl is trapped in a bubble wearing her green dress, just like Cassia is in the novel. The dress correlates to the dress she wears in the Match Banquet, and the bubble is symbolic of the Society's hold on the citizens.

Story: MATCHED begins on the night of Cassia's Match Banquet and being Matched her friend Xander and then almost immediately seeing another boy's face, Ky. For quite a bit after that, I lost where the plot was going and it got a little dry to read. Soon, however, the plot starts to build, layer upon layer, until you're so engrossed you won't want to stop reading. Minus that small portion where the story isn't really leading toward anything, it's a great plot and love story.

Characters: One thing that really impressed me was the way Condie handled the characters. I am a pretty emotional person, and when I have opinions, they are quite strong. Generally when there are love triangles, I pick one side and am vehemently against the other. In MATCHED, that didn't happen. I started liking one of the two, and slowly fell in love with the other too. While Cassia is a bit passive sometimes, Condie's characters are vivid and likable. She'll leave you truly wondering which team to be on (or so it was for me).

Writing: Condie has a very nice, simple way of writing that I enjoyed reading. There was just enough description versus dialog and she has a really nice way of showing and not telling. I love the mixture of Cassia telling the story, and her thoughts in the moment. Condie has a way of crafting her writing so that you don't even notice it - the mark of a truly great artist.


Overall: Despite the rough area where I wasn't sure there was plot, I'm giving MATCHED four stars. It was a great read that I wouldn't mind reading again (and I'm already sending my copy to a friend to read.) If you get a chance, give it a shot. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

An introduction to the blog

Hello all! Although at the time I'm writing this, I have only one follower. That doesn't matter. I'm going to forge ahead anyway.

This blog is part of (idea stolen from my former roommate, Sarah) a New Year's Resolution to immerse myself in the world of writing. (For more information on me, check out the bio post on me.)

This blog is an attempt to keep myself, and by extension all of you) up to date on my thoughts/opinions/experiences with the world of writing. I don't really focus all on recent books, but also good movies (cinematography, screen plays, soundtracks, etc.), television, (mainly writing), plays (if I ever get to a spot where this becomes applicable), and even a classic or two every now and then (when the feeling strikes me to read a classic).

On this blog, I'm committing to share with you reviews, let you know the projects I'm working on, solicit thoughts on those projects, and even post a contest or two when I get to it. I'll definitely try to keep you guys up-to-date on contests that I know are going on elsewhere.

I am committing to blog at least every other day, as long as nothing major comes up at work. I want to review something at least once a week - no matter the medium.

Since I'm new right now and don't have any contacts with the publishing world as of yet, I do not have access to ARCs, advance copies or swag. Hopefully when I gain a presence online (*crosses fingers*) I will. Until then, giveaways and reviews will all be of things that are already out. Sorry!

If there is anything you guys are looking for, please let me know! I'm more than happy to try to cater to what you need.