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Monday, August 22, 2011

Change is Coming...

I watched Soul Surfer yesterday. It's now one of my favorite movies. If you haven't seen it, I would definitely rent it when you can. It's an amazing story.

Now...

On Wednesday, I'm officially leaving for college. Because this is my freshman year, I'm not sure how things are really going to work. Instead of stopping blogging completely, I'm going to cut back.

I'll be posting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Because of their time consuming nature (and the fact that, unlike normal posts, I can't just schedule them when I have an idea for a post), I'm discontinuing Week in Shorts, at least until I get an idea of my workload. Querytracker and YA Highway both do a fantastic job of weekly link round-ups.

I will, however, attempt to continue participating in Road Trip Wednesday. Except for this Wednesday because I will literally be on the road and without computer access all day.

Once I have an idea of my workload, I may up my posting or bring back Week in Shorts depending on how things go.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Week in Short

Song of the Week: Somewhere Only We Know by the Glee cast (Warblers). I'm going through a Glee phase today. I can't seem to listen to anything else.

Must Read:

Too many agents, not enough gin: the truth about multiple offer situations
First draft syndrome symptoms
Link
News:
The Republic School District (which you may remember as the same school district that challenged Speak, Twenty Boy Summer, and Slaughterhouse-Five and banned the latter two) has now had a lawsuit filed against them after failing to protect a middle school girl after she was raped. Laurie Halse Anderson talks about it and provides several awesome links to coverage.

In an apparently long-line of offers to take books to famous names, PA set up a promotion where people could pay for them to show their books to J.K. Rowling and she knows. Here is PA's full response. Talk of the events ranges from Twitter, Galleycat, The Associated Press, and Publishers Weekly.

WriteOnCon:
LinkHere are some of the highlights from WOC. If you missed it, check it out! The blog posts and vlogs are still available and there are transcripts of all of the live chats.
Here are recaps of day 1, day 2, and day 3

Janice Hardy:
Describing your first-person narrator

Pimp My Novel:
Keeping your butt in chair

Querytracker:
Don't sweat the small stuff
War of the genres

Rachelle Gardner:
Poor sales can affect your future

Hope everyone has a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Will Grayson, Will Grayson Review

I was glancing through my post drafts and I realized that I never posted my review of this amazing book.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
by John Green and David Levithan

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

I adore this book. It's been several months since I've read and I'm still raving about it. I devoured it in twenty-four hours. It wouldn't have taken that long but I needed sleep and then I had to go to school. I wanted to read it again within a few hours of finishing and I'm dying to buy it so I can. Especially because there were a few lines that were so profoundly made of awesome that I want to write them down on my "favorite quotes" sheet.

The voice of both Wills was amazing. I think David's will was my favorite, but it was a very, very close vote. I loved them both so much. In addition, no one knows how to make completely and totally awesome and original side characters like these two. When I first saw that will grayson's sections are entirely lower case, I thought it would bother me. But it worked so well that I wasn't bothered at all.

Overall: 10/10 I can't recommend this book enough

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

RTW: Inspirational Places

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:
What is the most inspiring setting you've ever visited in real life?

Most of my books take place in imagined towns or even countries. However, I recently went to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (which we call "the U.P.") and I'm dying to write a story set there. I'm a little biased, but I think it's the most gorgeous place in the world. There's nothing quite like standing on the rocks overlooking Lake Superior and watching the sun go down.

I tried to download pictures from my phone, but my phone apparently doesn't like this laptop. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Gemma Doyle Trilogy Review

***WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS***

After reading the entire trilogy I decided instead of reviewing each book individually like I normally do, I'd just review them all together.

A Great and Terrible Beauty
This was my first Libba Bray book ever and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. This was also my favorite book in the series, which I don't think I can say about any other first book. I did feel like the characters were a little flat. They all had their set personalities and they never really did anything outside of them.

I hated that Gemma thought she could touch the crystals despite her mom's warnings and everything would be fine and dandy. I loved the twist ending that I didn't see coming.

Overall: 10/10 Good book with a great premise and voice

Rebel Angels
This is the book where the characters really started to drive me insane. I hated that Felicity always wanted to go into the realms and have fun without a care to what would happen if something went wrong. I also knew right away Pippa had been corrupted so it drove me insane that it took them all of this book and most of the third to finally get it through their heads.

I love the introduction of the anagrams. Very clever.

I loved the twist that Miss Moore is Circe. I always felt like there was something strange about her, but I couldn't figure out what it was. The only thing about the ending that bothered me was Gemma worrying about having Nell's blood on her hands. Nell told her to "save an arrow for me." She knew it would end like this. Gemma's about as guilty for killing Nell as Snape is guilty of killing Dumbledore. Gemma's guilt made sense, but I would have liked it if she'd just once thought back to Nell's words.

Overall: 9/10

The Sweet Far Thing
This book took me two weeks to read, probably because of the large amount of time I spent yelling at it. If it wasn't a library book, I would have thrown it against the wall at least three times. I kept waiting for the main characters to evolve, but they didn't until the very end. For example, it bothered me when the river boy says "She's no beauty" in reference to Gemma and it bothers her while she's disguised as a boy. If she's supposed to look like a boy, of course she's not going to be a beauty. Despite her annoying qualities, Gemma does have her awesome moments of cleverness. I love when she punches out Tom.

There were only two reasons I made it to the end of this book: 1) I had to know how it ended, and 2) Kartik. I love Kartik. The scene in the Caves of Sighs somehow made the entire book worth reading. I still can't believe the only character I loved becomes the Tree of All Souls. I started sobbing when Gemma goes to visit the tree and she hears her name in the breeze blowing through the leaves.

Overall: 7.5 I honestly don't know what I think about the conclusion.

Series Overall
I enjoyed it and I'm glad that I read it. I'll be looking for more of Libba Bray's work soon. I just wish that her characters hadn't gotten on my nerves this much.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Following Agents on Twitter

In the age of social networking, agents are now more accessible to aspiring writers than ever. A lot of them have Twitter, Facebook, blogs, or other ways of social networking. General advice tells you to get to know the agents you want to query. Personalize your queries to them and target your agent hunt for agents that you think that your book suits the best.

But is it a good idea to follow an agent beyond the typical information search? I don't mean stalking them to their house. I mean, for example, following them on Twitter. Oftentimes writers who follow the agents they're querying find themselves analyzing every harmless tweet the agent makes. An agent mentions an amazing partial that they're reading and you immediately begin to panic, wondering if it's yours and worrying that if it isn't, yours will pale in comparison.

On the other hand, some agents tweet when they've caught up with queries. This is great with both non-responders and responders. With a non-responder, the writer knows that they can cross the agent off their list if they didn't receive a response. On the other side, with a responder the writer knows that their query may have been lost in the interwebs if they didn't receive a response.

What do you guys think? Should querying writers follow agents? Or should they only follow the agents that they don't have a submission out with?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Week in Short

Song of the Week: Searching for a Heart by Luke Olson (this isn't a well-known song, but I heard it on Pandora and immediately fell in love with it. Must. Have. Album.)

Must Read:

The power to choose

News:
Prayers to everyone in London and everywhere else affected by the riots. Stay safe. I hope you're all okay. I'm thinking of you all.

WriteOnCon:
Just a few more days!

Mary Sues:
There's been a lot of discussion about Mary Sues on the blogosphere lately. Zoe Marriot began with her post on what a Mary Sue truly is. Sarah Rees Brennan talked about insecurity in fiction and real life. Holly Black makes the great point that female characters are at the center of the story because they are the protagonist and suggests that the intentions of the writer should be left out. Cora Buhlert discusses Mary Sues in-depth and suggests that it's normal for beginning writers.

BookEnds:
Workshop Wednesday

ktLiterary:
What not to tell an agent in a query

Literary Rambles:
Paint chip storytelling

Querytracker:
Figuring out your strengths and weaknesses

Rachelle Gardner:
What to bring to a conference
Questionable practices by literary agents

YAHighway:
5 tips on writing outside your gender

Hope everyone has a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

RTW: Tick Tock Time to Write

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
What time do you prefer to do your writing?

I write anytime inspiration strikes and I have time and access to a computer. I've never really had a set writing schedule. However, I am typically a night owl. I've been known to not write a single word all day and then stay up until three in the morning because inspiration struck and I couldn't stop writing.

Psychologically, night has always kind of been my "play" time and day has always been my "work" time. Because of that, I write more during the night and revise more during the day. I have a lot of work that needs to get done during the day so when night hits, my brain knows it's time to settle in and have some free time.

I've tried to set aside a specific time for writing, but it hasn't really worked out. I'm probably going to try again once I'm at college because I don't know how easy it'll be to find time to write when there's so much else to do.

My absolute favorite time to write is oddly specific: after dinner during a thunderstorm. I'm not sure what I find so inspirational about thunderstorms but I hate watching the truly fantastic ones we've had the past few weeks go by knowing I can't write.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Buying Tally Analysis: 2011

Yesterday I posted a list of the books I've bought or borrowed from the library recently and why I picked those books. Today I wanted to talk about the results. I also wanted to compare this year's results from last year's.

2010 tally results

My results from August 2, 2010:
23% Word of mouth
15% Liked author
15% Book in a series
15% Cover/book trailer
8% Similar to another author
8% Referenced elsewhere
8% Similar to a WiP
8% Back summary only

My results from this year:
35% Book in a series
20% Liked author (10% read author before, 5% heard good things about author, 5% author's internet presence)
20% Word of mouth
10% Already read and wanted to own
5% Being made into movie
5% Summary

I'm not surprised that my purchase of books in a series went up 20%. A lot of the books from series I'm reading came out in the last couple months. There are also more series on the market and more that I'm reading.

Liking the author and word of mouth both increased from last year. I'm not really surprised by either of the increases. The more books I read, the more authors I find that I enjoy reading and I want to find more of their work. Also, as I become more active in social networking and become friends with more and more writers/readers, I'm getting more recommendations. It can be hard to keep up at times.

I'm surprised that summary went down three percent. A few years ago, these stats would look very different. Summary probably would've been closer to seventy-five percent with maybe five going to word of mouth and the last twenty going to books in series. This is probably related to the fact that most of my new release posts are coming from my Goodreads instead of my typical searches of Amazon's and Borders' new release lists.

I predict that if I do this next year, books in a series will go down (I'm avoiding series as much as possible for the exact reason that I don't want to have to constantly be buying the next book) and liking the author will increase.

What do you think? Is there anything that surprises you about your recent buying habits? What's your biggest factor when choosing a book?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Buying Tally Results: 2011

About a year ago, I decided to do a little experiment to see why I buy the books that I do. Over the course of a few trips to the bookstore, I came home and wrote down the reasons why I bought those particular books over all the others. I thought it would be fun to do this again, to see if my habits have changed.

2010 tally results

Note: This also includes books I checked out of the library.

Already Read, Wanted to Own
Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Bought because it was the only book in the series that I still didn't own.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak -- I actually read this some time ago, but I bought it recently because I loved it so much.

Book in Series

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares. Bought because it's the last book in the series and I have to know how everything ends now.

Demon's Covenant
by Sarah Rees Brennan. Bought because it's the second book in the series and the first one was amazing.

Rebel Angels
by Libba Bray. From library because it's the second book in a trilogy.

The Sweet, Far Thing
by Libba Bray. From library because it's the third book in a trilogy.

Forever by Maggie Steifvater -- Final book in the series. As scared as I am to read it, I couldn't not buy it.

Original Sin
by Lisa Desrochers -- Second book in the series and I needed it ASAP. Not to mention that awesome cover.

Ascendant by Diana Peterfreund -- Second book in the series. I couldn't wait any longer.

Author
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan. From library because it was the only Levithan book they had and I wanted to read something by him because of Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

White Cat by Holly Black -- I'm not actually sure how I heard about this book first. It was either author or summary that caught my eye. I've never read anything about Holly Black, but I've heard great things about her.

Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz -- I love Hannah, I love Break, the summary sounded good.

Wildfire
by Karsten Knight -- I found out about this book through the YARebels of which Karsten is a part of. The summary sounded awesome so I had to buy it.

Word of Mouth
The Last Unicorn by Peter Beagle. From library because I heard amazing things about it from a fellow writer.

Eighth Grade Bites
by Heather Brewer. From library because I've heard good things about the series and it looked like a short, fun read.

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. I haven't heard one bad thing about this book and the summary sounds great.

Hex Hall
by Rachel Hawkins -- I've been wanting to read this for so long because of all the wonderful things I've heard about it.

Being Made Into Movie
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. From library because I heard about the movie and I have a habit of reading the book before seeing the movie.

Summary
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler -- I originally found this book soon after it's release while looking for books to feature on a new release post. Recently, I was reminded of it through great things readers were saying and also because it's being banned from a school library. That tipped the scales for me.

Tomorrow I'm going to analyze my results.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Week in Short

Song of the Week: Bad Day by Daniel Powter

College is three weeks away and I'm overwhelmed with how much stuff I have to get done before I go. I NEED MORE HOURS IN THE DAY. The bright spot of my week: I got into Pottermore! After three days of sleeping through the clues and the alarm that was supposed to wake me up for them, I finally managed to catch one.

I also spent an extraordinarily large amount of time watching vlogbrothers videos starting with the very first Brotherhood 2.0 ones back in 2007.
It's like traveling back in time.

Must Read:

Zoe provides a new perspective on the term "Mary-Sue"
Kody's post on sexual politics, women's rights, and becoming an adult
Rejection insights -- Tweets by Angela James, executive editor of Carina Press, covering snippets from a rejection report she was working on collected by Juliana Haygert

News:
The YARebels are auditioning vloggers

WriteOnCon:
Live forum events and how they work
Ninja agents!
More faculty announcements

BookEnds:
Perception vs reality
Workshop Wednesday -- cozy query

Janet Reid:
Imitation is the highest form of flattery?

Janice Hardy:
Staying organized during revisions

Mandy Hubbard:
"Message boards are not your living room" -- the dangers of venting online

Rachelle Gardner:
Explains high-concept

Queryshark:
#207

Querytracker:
Pre-revision: before you break out the red pen

Veronica Roth:
Book to movie process + ComicCon

Hope everyone has a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Balancing Act of Life: 7 Time Management Tips

Two things have happened in the last couple weeks: I turned eighteen and my mom started working second shift. In less than a week, I went from being a teenager to an adult and I've learned a few things about time management.

1. Switch when something's not working.
If you're stuck on a scene or a revision point, do a load of dishes, take the dog for a walk, or do some cleaning. I find this helps to loosen up my mind and help me get past blocks.

2. Allocate time to certain tasks.
For example, during the day is my "work" time. This is the time I use to do stuff around the house, work on revisions, beta-read, and do other things on my to-do list. Night is my relax time. This is the time I just hang out, watch Netflix, read for pleasure, write, and sometimes do things that I didn't finish during the day.

3. Use rewards
Give yourself a reward for each task you complete. This can be a TV show you have recorded, a movie that you want to watch, or some time to relax. My reward at the moment is for every task on my to-do list I complete or every five pages I edit, I can watch one vlogbrothers video.

4. Prioritize
There will be days when you can't get everything done. There will be days when something comes up and you won't be able to do everything you thought. This where prioritizing comes in. You have to be able to decide what has to be done and what can be put off for another day.

5. Learn to multi-task.
Yesterday I watched episodes of Star Trek while I did the dishes. If you like audiobooks, you can listen to them while you do housework or take the dog for a walk. Read while you're waiting at the doctor's office.

6. Make unpleasant tasks more enjoyable.
Watching Star Trek while I did the dishes made it more fun. Play music and dance around the house while you do housework.

7. Keep a to do list and stick to it.
I have two of them. One has the list of things that I must do today and the other one has things that I need to do, but can be put off for another day. If there's something you're really looking forward to such as an episode of your favorite show on DVR or that great new movie that just arrived from Netflix, don't let yourself have it until everything on your list is done. (I've been withholding the season finale of Covert Affairs since Tuesday).

New Releases -- The Near Witch; Epic Fail; Chain Reaction

The Near Witch
by Victoria Schwab

The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.
These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.
But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.
The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.
As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.
Epic Fail
by Claire LaZebnik

At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:
As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.
As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.
When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long.
Chain Reaction
by Simone Elkeles
Luis Fuentes is a good boy who doesn't live with the angst that his big brothers, Alex and Carlos, have always lived with. Luis is smart, funny, and has big dreams of becoming an astronaut. But when he falls for the wrong girl, Luis enters a dark world he's never known, and just when he thinks he's got life all figured out, learns some disturbing news about his family that destroys his positive outlook on life. Will that Fuentes bad boy streak come out with a vengeance and lure Luis to live on the edge like his new girlfriend and his own father?[After reading Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction I am so excited for this one!]

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

RTW: The Five Senses

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic:
The Five Senses. How you use them in your writing, how you are inspired by them, pictorial essays, that character with smelly socks, books that have used them well, the ones that are currently missing from your work, etc.

This is a really hard topic for me because description is definitely my writing weakness. I've been actively concentrating on making sure I get the right amount of description and it uses all of the five senses.

I think the most commonly used senses are sight, sound, and smell. Sight is definitely the most common because it's the easiest to use in description. The two most under-used are taste and touch. Those last two are definitely the ones missing the most from my work.

In Where There's Smoke, I tend to lean more towards the smell side of the five senses because the story takes place on a ranch. And the first thing I think of when I think "horse barn" are the mixture of scents of horses, hay, and leather. Here are some examples of the five senses appearing in my story:

Sight of the dirt road leading from the ranch into town

Sounds of trees rustling and crickets chirping in the dark

Smell of smoke

Taste of a kiss

The feel of a horse's coat

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sisterhood Everlasting Review

Sisterhood Everlasting
by Ann Brashares
Now Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting.

Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn't take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can't seem to shed her old restlessness.

Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever -- but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.

***WARNING: There will be spoilers throughout the review***

When I found out that Ann Brashares was returning to the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants in an installment taking place ten years after the last one, I was ecstatic. I've always wondered what happened between Lena and Kostos after the final book and I finally got my answer.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about the book as a whole. I was both disappointed, satisfied, and torn to pieces. I probably spent about eighty percent of this book in tears. It took me about ten minutes after turning the final page to stop crying. And those weren't tears of joy. I described the feeling as "like my heart's been ripped out. Stomped on. And then run over by a truck."

I had a lot of trouble getting into this installment and I didn't enjoy the characters as much as I used to. Bridget and Carmen stood on my nerves a lot. I still can't believe what Bridget did to Eric running away like that. I'm glad Carmen broke off her engagement with Jones. I don't know if I would have been able to stand it if they got married.

Lena was my favorite character. She's always been the one that I've been able to relate to the most and I've always rooted for her and Kostos. While I'm not sure how I feel about Kostos having other girlfriends when he promised her "Someday," I'm glad they got together in the end.

As for Tibby...Oh, God. Tibby. She drowns in the Caldera before the other three arrive in Greece. At first it's believed to be an accident, then a suicide, and then it's revealed that she had Huntington's disease and it had taken her sooner than she'd thought. Her death destroyed me. I kept hoping and praying that the girl who drowned would turn out to be someone, anyone, else. It was quite awhile before I finally accepted that Tibby was gone. My heart ached for Brian. I started crying again when Bridget meets Tibby's daughter, Bailey. I loved Bailey.

Overall: 8.5 It was a good book and I'm glad I read it, but...I don't know. I don't feel like I've had total closure yet.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why I Love Real Bookstores

I said goodbye to my Borders this weekend. I'll admit I almost cried when I got home. I've shopped at Borders for as long as I can remember. I just can't believe this was the last time I'll walk through those doors. We had to wait awhile for our ride to come back from CVS where he'd gone while we were shopping so while my mom waited for him outside I actually went back in the store and just walked around the YA section for awhile.

Goodbye, Borders.

Today, I want to talk about why I love brick and mortar bookstores so much.

First of all, there's the smell. That beautiful, crisp smell of books. If they could bottle that smell, I would spray it around my room like crazy. I love to just walk into a bookstore and take a deep breath.

(Stop looking at me like I'm crazy.)

Another thing I love to do in bookstores is walk around the shelves and run my fingers along the spines. I love the feeling of the smooth book spines under my fingers as I take in the different titles.

There are actual people there who are willing to help you find a book and would be glad to give recommendations, if you need them. I also love watching the people buying books and looking to see what they have.

The immediate gratitude. If I buy a book in a real bookstore, I don't have to wait several days/weeks for it to arrive. It's there in my hands right away. I can go straight home and open it up right away if I want to. I don't even have to wait that long if I don't want to.

And finally, that feeling of finding a book that wasn't on your list but you just had to have it. That happens to me a lot. Oftentimes I go into a bookstore with a complete list of books to look for in my phone and when I walk out, half the books in my arms aren't on that list.

What do you love about real (brick and mortar) bookstores?