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Monday, January 30, 2012

5 Tips for Finding Time to be a Writer in College

My first semester here I didn't touch a WIP after the first two weeks. I was too busy with classes, clubs, student government, friends, a boyfriend, and volunteering. It's hard to find time for writing when you're already struggling to find time to sleep.

This semester I resolved to find time to write, even if it's only a half hour a day. Here are five tips that are helping me find time to write while still experiencing the college life.

1. Write during breakfast/lunch/dinner. Every day I have an hour set aside for lunch. I head to a dining location that most of my friends don't frequent (mostly because it's closer to my classes than theirs) and open my laptop while I eat. Just be careful not to spill anything!

2. Read between classes. If you're like me and have a stack of books that only keeps growing that you need to read but not a lot of time to read them, carry a book with you to all your classes. If you find yourself sitting outside the classroom for fifteen minutes waiting for the professor to show up, you can pull it out and read a little bit. This morning I arrived twenty minutes early for my psychology class and so I read the first couple chapters of Twenty Boy Summer.

Note: Use proper judgment when choosing a book to read. Don't read The Fault in Our Stars or The Book Thief or Deathly Hallows or any other book that is liable to make you tear up if you're not comfortable doing that in public.

3. Don't have time during the day? Set aside a half hour before bed or in the morning for writing. If that's still too much, go for a fifteen or twenty minute period. You can even use writing as a break from studying.

4. Hit the library or another location between classes. I have a two or three hour period between classes every day of the week. Instead of going back to my dorm, I head to Starbucks, get settled, and try to get as much done as I can.

5. Use your weekends wisely. Weekends are prime time for social events, volunteering, and catching up on sleep, but they can also be prime time for writing and reading as well. I don't have any classes on Fridays so when I'm done with my last class on Thursday, I'm done for the day. I take that entire afternoon off and hang out with friends, relax, and write. Sunday is another good day for a free day.

Whether you're in college or not, how do you find time for writing?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Wildefire Review

Wildefire
by Karsten Knight
Ashline Wild is having a rough sophomore year. She's struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve's violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California's redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her.

But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn't go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy her new school -- being capitain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot local park ranger -- she discovers that a group of gods and goddesses has been unknowingly summoned to Blackwood...and she's one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she's got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire within her before she clashes with her sister one more time...

And when warm and cold fronts collide, there's guaranteed to be a storm.

I spent a very long time looking forward to reading this book and honestly I'm not really sure what I think about it. It took me a long time to get through simply because I just didn't feel like reading it. I even stopped for awhile when TFIOS arrived.

A part of it had to do with the dark and -- at times -- slightly disturbing feel to the book. I mean, really, how many people died without anyone feeling any remorse whatsoever? Related to that was the flippant way that Ashline dealt with the horrifying stuff that happens. For example, when Serena almost gets kidnapped and Ashline's comforting her thinking to herself that Serena should be comforting her since she's the one that's more likely to get in trouble when they get back to school. Also after Ashline finally found out who she was and then every time something terrible would happen she would just kind of stand there instead of actually using her powers as a volcano goddess.

I loved Colt a lot but I could not figure out why him -- a college student -- would have any interest in a high school sophomore. I still feel like he has some sort of secret agenda, but it makes a lot more sense now. I almost wasn't going to read the next one but with that ending I'm not sure if I can stay away.

Overall: 7/10 Good book but I felt a little mislead by the jacket copy. It wasn't quite what I expected. It started off slow but I liked it a lot more towards the ending.

Monday, January 23, 2012

New Releases -- The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight; May B; and Never Eighteen

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
by Jennifer E. Smith
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

May B
by Caroline Starr Rose

I've known it since last night:
It's been too long to expect them to return.
Something's happened.


May is helping out on a neighbor's Kansas prairie homestead—just until Christmas, says Pa. She wants to contribute, but it's hard to be separated from her family by 15 long, unfamiliar miles. Then the unthinkable happens: May is abandoned. Trapped in a tiny snow-covered sod house, isolated from family and neighbors, May must prepare for the oncoming winter. While fighting to survive, May's memories of her struggles with reading at school come back to haunt her. But she's determined to find her way home again.

Never Eighteen
by Megan Bostic


Austin Parker is on a journey to bring truth, beauty, and meaning to his life.
Austin Parker is never going to see his eighteenth birthday. At the rate he’s going, he probably won’t even see the end of the year. The doctors say his chances of surviving are slim to none even with treatment, so he’s decided it’s time to let go.
But before he goes, Austin wants to mend the broken fences in his life. So with the help of his best friend, Kaylee, Austin visits every person in his life who touched him in a special way. He journeys to places he’s loved and those he’s never seen. And what starts as a way to say goodbye turns into a personal journey that brings love, acceptance, and meaning to Austin’s life.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars Review

The Fault in Our Stars
by John Green

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

This is one of those books that I waited years for without realizing it. Ever since I read Paper Towns a few years ago, I've hoped that Green would write a book featuring a female character. When I found out that my wish was coming true, I was so excited. Then when I found out it would be signed, I actually screamed. I couldn't stop smiling when I opened the package and the book was in my hands.

And I will say, it was well worth the wait. I expected pure brilliance and that is what I got.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blackout

YAHighway has cancelled Road Trip Wednesday this week in protest of SOPA and PIPA and in agreement, I will not be making a regular post today.

Piracy is a problem but this is not the answer.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Son of Neptune Review

The Son of Neptune
by Rick Riordan
Percy is confused. When he awoke from his long sleep, he didn't know much more than his name. His brain fuzz is lingering, even after the wolf Lupa told him he is a demigod and trained him to fight with the pen/sword in his pocket. Somehow Percy manages to make it to a campt for half-bloods, despite the fact that he has to keep killing monsters along the way. But the camp doesn't ring any bells with him. The only thing he can recall from his past is another name: Annabeth.

Hazel is supposed to be dead. When she lived before, she didn't do a very good job of it. Sure, she was an obedient daughter, even when her mother as possessed by greed. But that was the problem -- when the Voice took over her mother and commanded Hazel to use her "gift" for an evil purpose, Hazel couldn't say no. Now, because of her mistake, the future of the world is at risk. Hazel wishes she could ride away from it all on the stallion that appears in her dreams.

Frank is a klutz. His grandmother says he is descended from heroes and can be anything he wants to be, but he doesn't see it. He doesn't even know who his father is. He keeps hoping Apollo will claim him, because the only thing he is good at is archery -- although not good enough to win camp war games. His bulky physique makes him feel like an ox, especially in front of Hazel, his closest friend at camp. he trusts her completely -- enough to share the secret he holds close to his heart.
I love Riordan, but this was not one of my favorites. This is the second book in the Heroes of Olympus trilogy and it read like it. The beginning blew my mind but after that the book just started to drag on and on.

One thing that I hate about Riordan novels -- this one in particular -- is the way the characters think about their own backstory and how it affects them and usually how terrible it is...but it takes them forever to explain what happened. Subtlety is not a strong suit for this book.

Overall: 9/10 This one was just average for Riordan.

***SPOILER ALERT***

The fact that Hazel's brother is Nico absolutely blew my mind. I feel so bad for him with Bianca going for another life so now he can't even visit her. I feel bad for Hazel but I wish she wouldn't blame herself all the time for raising the giant. It wasn't her fault she was forced into doing it and she didn't know what it was she was raising.

I'm still really confused by Frank. I love the whole thing with the firewood and I think I know what part he's going to play in the prophecy, but I don't understand his ancestry. They're always talking about how he's going to bring his family full-circle. Does that mean he has to go to China?

Percy was amazing in this one. I love having him back. It broke my heart when all he could remember was Annabeth's name. His plans to beat Phineas and the giant...risky, dangerous, and completely brilliant.

I still prefer the Hunters, but I loved the Amazons, especially their plan for world domination through Amazon.com. I hated Hylla when she first comes into the story but when she was giving Hazel the plan I really started to love her and I have a whole new respect for her beating Otrera twice even though she couldn't die. I. Love. Arion. I wish he was my horse.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

RTW: Pen Names

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:
If you couldn't use your own name, what would your pseudonym or penname be?

This is a really tough one for me. I've thought about the possibility of having a pen name, but one of the things I most look forward to if I'm ever published is holding a book with my name on the cover in my hands.

I've thought about shortening my last name to Kirk (except then it would be a constant reminder of Captain Kirk). I've thought about taking my mother's maiden name. I don't know what I would choose if I had to change my whole name. Maybe something like Blaire Stevens since my current WIP has two male main characters. Or Rachael Grace so I can at least keep my first name.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Scorpio Races Review

The Scorpio Races
by Maggie Stiefvater
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn't given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition -- the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.
I was so excited when I finally managed to get my hands on this book. The concept sounded original and intriguing, and of course I want to get my hands on anything that has horses. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed.

True to her style in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, the story is told from both Puck and Sean's points of view. While I enjoyed being in both of their heads, at the beginning of the story I was far more interested in Sean. I actually started to wonder if I would enjoy the story more if it was only about Sean when I first started. It was almost anti-climactic when Puck decided to ride Dove instead of an actual capall uisce.

Some of the character's motivations didn't sit right with me especially Gabe's. I'm still not entirely clear on his motives for leaving. I understand that he wanted to get away from the island, but I don't understand why he would -- as the largest earner in the family -- just up and leave his sister and brother with a house that they couldn't afford between the three of them. It would have made sense to me if Gabe wanted to get a higher paying job and send money back to them, but that isn't even mentioned until the end of the book and Gabe isn't the one that mentions it. Towards the beginning of the book when he first announced that he was leaving, it felt more like a ploy for Puck to be forced into entering the race so that he would stay.

That being said, my favorite character by far was Sean. He was the most rounded in the story and I loved his motivations and his personality. I loved the way he trained and loved the horses like they were his own, even though they weren't.

I thought the race would be a much larger part of the story. I almost skipped to the last page to see if there was going to be a sequel with the race because the build-up was so drawn out. I expected something like Hidalgo so it was kind of a let-down when it was only a two-and-a-half mile race that took up a tiny portion of the book. With the long build-up to the race, the part during the race and afterward felt rushed. I wish there'd been a little less build-up and a little more of what happened after the race. I want to know what happens to Corr and Sean and Puck and Finn and Gabe.

That being said, the actual ending broke my heart, but I absolutely loved it.

Overall: 7/10 Loved the concept and the ending, but some of the characters were a little flat and the build-up to the race was very drawn-out

Friday, January 6, 2012

Week in Short

The first week of 2012 is almost over! I hope all of you have had a better start to the year than I have. I got all caught up on Burn Notice finally. All five seasons in three weeks. The season five finale killed me. I haven't been nearly this depressed over a show since Doctor Who's Doomsday. In better news, Once Upon a Time starts again on Sunday!

Song of the Week: I Don't Want This Night to End by Luke Bryan
Link
Blood-Red Pencil:
Using characters and scenes to trim the fat from your story: part one

Janice Hardy:
Making backstory work for you

Queryshark:
Link#217 - YA query

Querytracker:
Show and tell

Wordplay:
12 writing resolutions for 12 months

YAHighway:
On responding graciously

Have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Most Anticipated Releases of 2012

There are a lot of great books coming out this year. Here are some of the ones I'm most looking forward to...

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare - December
I am dying for this one. I just read Clockwork Prince a few weeks ago and I'm already anxious to get my hands on the finale. It's going to be a big one, I can feel it.

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak - September
It's about a boy.
His name is Clay.
He's building a bridge.
And he wants that bridge to be something truly great and miraculous.
It's Markus Zusak! His books (The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger) are the kind that change my life. I can't wait to read another.

Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz - April

It's a year after 9/11. Sniper shootings throughout the D.C. area have everyone on edge, trying to make sense of the random acts of violence. Meanwhile, Craig and Lio are just trying to make sense of their lives.

Craig's crushing on quiet, distant Lio, and preoccupied with what it meant when Lio kissed him...and if he'll do it again...and if kissing Lio will help him finally get over his ex-boyfriend, Cody.

Lio feels most alive when he's with Craig. He forgets about his broken family, his dead brother, and the messed up world. But being with Craig means being vulnerable, and Lio will have to decide whether love is worth the risk.

I've been looking forward to this one for quite awhile.

In Too Deep by Amanda Grace - February
I never meant for anyone to get hurt. All I wanted to do that night was make a play for Carter Davis. His heartless rejection was mortifying, but people got the wrong idea when they saw me leaving his bedroom, crying. That’s how rumors of rape started.

Now girls at school are pouring out their sympathy to me. Guys too. But not everyone’s on my side. The school has become a war zone and the threats are getting scary. What began as poetic justice has morphed into something bigger-forcing me to make a terrible choice
.



The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - January
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

This is one of those books that I've been waiting on since before I knew it was being written. I mean, I've been hoping John would write a female character since I read Paper Towns. And it's SIGNED.

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare - May
While I have to admit that City of Fallen Angels was probably my least favorite Clare book, I'm still excited to get my hands on this one. Especially after that cover was unveiled today. It's GORGEOUS.










Insurgent by Veronica Roth - May
One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

I almost screamed when I looked up the dates for finals week this semester and the release date of this book because they're both the same week. I'm having it sent to my house so I won't be tempted but you can bet that the first night I'm home, if you need me I'll be barricaded in my room with this book.

What books are you most excited about this year?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resolutions: 2011 and 2012

I'm going to continue my tradition of looking back on my New Year's resolutions from last year and setting my new ones.

One year ago, I resolved to...
For 2011, I resolve to have no regrets. I will do everything that I've always wanted to do and I won't let fear get in my way. I will live every day so at the end of the year I don't look back and wish I'd done this or wonder what might've been.

This has been my mantra all year and it's doing well. I've gone rock climbing (on a wall and for real). I went ice skating. I went cliff jumping. I graduated from high school and choose to attend the college that turned out to be the one of my dreams. I won't say that I don't have any regrets from the year, but I'm glad for the things that I tried despite my fears.

Now my resolutions for 2012.

1. Continue to strive to live without regrets

2. Revise Cardinal Three

3. Get a 4.0 this winter semester

4. Start riding again (this was a resolution from 2010 that didn't come true, but I'm hoping will this summer)

5. Read 50 books