Holiday break

Friday, December 24, 2010


I will be taking a break until the new year to spend time with family and friends, and to work on some new content for the blog. I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and will see you back here on January 3rd!

Movie adaptations

Thursday, December 23, 2010

This past weekend while at the movies I saw a trailer for an upcoming version of Jane Eyre.

It looks amazing, full of love, spooky stuff and excellent period costumes.  It reminds me of one of my favorite movies, which also happens to be an adaptation of a classic.

While my first introduction to the stories of Jane Austen came courtesy of Clueless with Alicia Silverstone (and pre-superstar Paul Rudd), the Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet version of Sense and Sensibility is the movie that sold me on her work.  To this day, I hold a special place in my heart for that book above all of Austen's others.

The movie is beautifully crafted thanks to direction by Ang Lee - the patient yet tense builds in each scene, awkward pauses and loaded subtext expressed throughout.  The rigid etiquette permeates the entire movie so that when we see Marianne careening about in carriages and exploding at Willoughby at the ball, we cringe.  Yet we also ache for her at the patent unfairness of it all, the way she and Elinor are stifled and silenced by their circumstances.  It is a beautiful and powerful film, just like the book.

Inspired by the Jane Eyre trailer, I downloaded a free copy of the book from Project Gutenberg.  I think I may look around for a reading challenge to read more classics.  It occurred to me that I haven't read that many of the traditional classic books, and I would like to.  If I can't find an existing challenge, I may just have to host it myself!

What are some of your favorite movie adaptations of books?  Besides Jane Eyre, there are Harry Potter 7.2 and Breaking Dawn to look forward to (or dread, depending on your opinion) next year.  What book movies are you excited to see in 2011?

Apollo's Angels

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

First things first. I'm still in the process of learning my way around Blogger, so you may see a few things change over the next week or so. I don't think Blogger is as intuitive or streamlined as Wordpress, but already I'm super happy with the ease of adding HTML and widgets. I didn't want to spend the money to self-host my Wordpress site, and if I'm being honest, I was jealous of the GFC following. I felt like I was getting left behind. Now that I've joined the party, I'm feeling relieved.

That said, I'm exhausted after staying up waaaay too late last night trying to figure out how to point my domain to a new DNS host and then route traffic to this blog and not the old one. I think I've got it set now, and I tried to pass a message along to the few subscribers I knew about (and had) to try and ease the transition. I definitely wanted to get the new blog going ASAP so it would be less of a hassle for the fewest number of people. Phew! I think we got there.

Anyway, on to books. Today I was very excited to receive this well reviewed nonfiction work:

This book, written by a former ballerina and historian, discusses the history of ballet from the time of Louis XIV to the present. It also happened to make the New York Times' Ten Best list for 2010. 
I'm a sucker for good nonfiction, and this one has earned such high praise that it is kind of hard to ignore. As a former ballet student, I love that I have a full history of ballet in one book. It covers all of the major techniques (French, Italian, Russian, Danish) and includes an epilogue where the author, Jennifer Homans, declares ballet a dying art. 

If that proves to be true, it will be a major cultural loss. Dance is unique in its expression through movement and form. It creates pictures with the human body, put to some of the most beautiful music ever written. It teaches interpretation of music in a completely kinetic way, something that I am still grateful to have learned. Had I been blessed with more flexibility and joint stability, I would be dancing even today. 

I know this will be the kind of book I pick up from time to time and read a few chapters from before putting it back on the shelf. I need to digest it piece by piece instead of trying to rush my way through. Although it's neither YA nor fiction, I wanted to share my excitement of getting this book in the mail today. I'm a proud mama to this little baby.

New look!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

After careful consideration, I have decided to switch my blog host from Wordpress to Blogger. If you had a subscription through the old site it may not work correctly. I hope you'll sign up on the new platform and continue following. Thanks!

Why I Love YA

Yesterday was the first time I had been to a bookstore in ages.  Considering that most of what I'm reading for this blog these days is YA fiction, that's the section I headed for first. My sister and husband followed my lead, but quickly became embarrassed.  They were uncomfortable being in the young adult section and scurried off to more adult topics.

Granted, neither of them are big fiction readers anyway, but I was surprised that they would feel so self-conscious. What is there to be embarrassed about? Why is it weird to prefer fiction written for young people?

I hate the stigma that comes with reading certain types of literature. If you like fantasy or sci-fi, you're a nerd. If you read mainstream thrillers or mysteries, you're not a "real" reader. If you read literary fiction you're a smartypants. In this case, I think the feeling was that if we were in the young adult section, that must mean we are immature or creepy or stupid for wanting to read material aimed at younger audiences.  Yet both of my family members wouldn't care if they were caught reading Harry Potter in public.

I like YA fiction because it tends to place protagonists in situations where they must grow, mature, or evolve in some way. That, to me, is compelling fiction. I have a strong sense of nostalgia for my late teen years - experiencing first loves, learning hard life lessons, discovering my own sense of morality.  So much of how I define myself was learned during that time span, and reliving it or experiencing different paths from new perspectives allows me to reflect on my own journey.

There's nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to our reading choices. The reason YA fiction has a bajillion book blogs written by older readers is because we love it. We are passionate about reading and writing stories for young people. YA stories grip us, tug at our heart strings, and allow us to continue learning about ourselves. They move us and inspire us and sweep us into their worlds.

The stories I read in the YA section of the bookstore are powerful and magical. I'm happy and proud to be seen supporting those authors. My sister and my husband just don't know what they're missing.

What do you like best about the genres you read? Do you ever feel embarrassed about reading them?

Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book: Unearthly
Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: January 4, 2011
Source: NetGalley ARC

Synopsis: (from GoodreadsIn the beginning, there's a boy standing in the trees. . .

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what it is, though, isn't easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place--and out of place, at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make--between honesty and deciet, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

First impressions: Clara is immediately likable.  I loved her from the start.  Her voice is easygoing, unpretentious, funny and believable.  The first few pages really set up the strong relationship with her mother and her insecurities with her purpose, which kept me reading.

Lasting impressions: I was slightly annoyed that the book so obviously leads into a sequel.  I love cliffhangers, but only with established series where I am totally invested in continuing to read.  Here, it feels like a gimmick to get me to buy the next book, which based on this story, I probably won't do.

Negative impressions: Yet another love triangle.  Yet another female protagonist who underestimates her own beauty.  I don't usually mind familiar tropes, but here I felt there wasn't much new being offered.  I also felt there wasn't enough urgency for Clara to discover her purpose.  The summer she spends with Tucker was captivating, but it seemed like a detour from the main story that didn't slide seamlessly into the action.

Overall impressions: I think there's a good book hidden in here somewhere.  Sort of like with comedians who don't quite nail the right joke, I think Hand has good material that didn't quite get executed to its fullest potential.  Clara is such a great MC that I really wanted to love the book, but in the end, I just kind of liked it.  Something about Christian irritated me, and by the time the relationship with Tucker started to develop, I didn't really care about either of them anymore.  I just wanted her to get around to doing something.

I think there were one or two superfluous characters that distracted from the plot more than they added to it.  I didn't feel Wendy or Jeffrey added much to the action or character development.  They may be Chekhov's guns.  Perhaps they add something more to the sequel, due out in 2012.  Personally, I feel that all characters should either advance the MC or advance the story, and if they do neither then why spend time with them?

Overall, the story was interesting and I loved Clara.  Despite a few issues I had with suspending my disbelief when it came to the angel concept, I found the book engaging.  In the end, I think this turned out to be a nice debut and a good book, although with some tighter editing I think it could have been great.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Anachronistic tendencies

Saturday, December 18, 2010

All of this talk about steampunk around here lately got me thinking about my fascination with history.  It's one of my favorite subjects to study and read about.  I'm unable to resist pondering the lives of people in other times.  What was it like to wear their clothes?  Use their bathrooms?  Eat their food?  Clean their houses?  Show me a passage that describes daily life in another time and I will read it voraciously.

I love historical fiction for that reason.  Books like the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon that are so impeccably researched are my kind of thing.  Gabaldon is so great at building up the world around her characters so you feel you are roughing it in 18th century Scotland and America right along side them.

That rich world building laced with history is part of what makes steampunk so appealing to me.  Yet the fantasy lover in me can also get on board with the anachronism of the futuristic gadgetry.  Combining the two sort of creates the perfect existence - the advantages of technology and the formal etiquette of days gone by.

I certainly have my moments when I wish I could be living in another time.  Who is the comedian who joked that nobody ever pictures themselves as a serf or a slave?  It was a really funny bit I remember watching where they talked about how when we think of reincarnation and being in another time it's always as a queen or lord or some other high-ranking society member, despite the odds being against that situation.  Quite funny, and I'm as guilty of it as the next person.

If I could live in any other time, it would be 17th century France.  I have some serious love for the Sun King, Louis XIV.  Seeing Versailles was a high point of my honeymoon. Imagining the palace filled with servants and courtiers, looking through windows as thousands of others had done for centuries...chills.  Nothing makes me swoon more.

What time and place do you fantasize about the most?  What era do you envy?

Follow Friday (1)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hopefully I'm not driving everyone crazy with the memes this week.  Tomorrow I'm posting about life in other times and coming Monday is my review of Unearthly by Cynthia Hand.

For now, it's Follow Friday!  Hosted by the always amazing Parajunkee's View, this is a chance to meet new blogger friends and grow our networks.

This week's question is "What did you study in college, or are currently studying and did it lead to your current 9 to 5 or are you doing something totally different?"

Well, I graduated college with a BFA in Theatre Arts.  I most definitely am not doing anything with that in my current job.  In fact, ever since I graduated, I've been working in the legal field, even though I don't want to be a lawyer.  Go figure.  I'm currently in grad school finishing my MS in Public Service Management.  I'm hoping to find a job in grant writing or something similar where I can use my writing and research skills.

I realize Wordpress complicates things because it doesn't allow the GFC widget.  I would love it if my visitors would follow me on Twitter and add me to their RSS feeds instead! There are several RSS links through Feedburner on my sidebar.  And I love comments!

Check out this week's featured blogger, Rabid Reads.  She's got a great blog about urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and a fun new look designed by Parajunkee.  And don't forget to check out the other Follow Friday participants!

Weekly Geeks (1): Guilty Pleasures

Weekly Geeks hosts blog entries around a common theme that differs every week.  This week's theme is guilty pleasures.  Specifically:

  • The Books that you Love but are Embarrassed to be Seen Reading
  • Tell us WHY you love them
  • And (just for fun) tell us your favorite guilty snack that goes perfectly with all that guilty reading

My biggest embarrassment comes from books with giant cats on or in them.  Actually, it doesn't even have to be cats.  Any animal will do.

For instance, I love the Mrs. Murphy mysteries by Rita Mae Brown.  I also happen to love her fox hunting series.  Both have pictures of animals on the covers and illustrations inside.  Nothing makes me feel like a bigger dork than reading on the train to work and having the ten people in my immediate vicinity staring at pictures of cutesy cats and dogs and horses all over the pages I'm reading.

Inevitably, those are the times that I'm sitting next to someone reading a very dog-eared and worn copy of something highbrow.

I do love them, though.  I love my kitty and horsey mysteries.  They're like brain candy. They require little focus and take hardly any time to finish. They have familiar characters that I don't have to spend time getting to know.  It's like coming home.

As for snacks, by far my guiltiest pleasure is an order of Texas Cheese Fries from Outback Steakhouse.  They have about a million calories but are so cheesysaltybaconyyumyum that I have a hard time resisting their siren song.

Dammit.  Now I'm hungry.

Steampunk and Shakespeare

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I admit that until recently, if you had asked me what "steampunk" was I probably couldn't have answered you.  After a teeny bit of online exposure and research...well, I'm still not entirely certain.  I know that it usually takes place in Victorian London and involves futuristic technology and gadgetry.  That's where my knowledge pool runs dry.

According to Wikipedia, steampunk is "a sub-genre of science fiction, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, art, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history."

It's a fascinating genre that seems to be (dare I say it?) gathering steam. My curiosity reached a tipping point when I saw a trending topic on Twitter for #steampunkshakespeare.  Quoi? I thought to myself.  I clicked this link and discovered that some steampunk writers are putting together a little submission request/contest for Shakespearean plays or sonnets that have been reworked as steampunk tales.

The idea is to create thoughtful new interpretations of Shakespeare's universal stories through the steampunk genre.  It is not intended to be a mash-up or just Shakespeare with some airships thrown in.  The rules are basically:

1) Write 10,000 words or less on a scene, act, aspect of the story, or sonnet that turns Shakespeare into steampunk;
2) Make it recognizable and true to the original source material;
3) Use Shakespearean language if possible;
4) Keep violence and sexual situations within Shakespearean limits; and
5) Make the steampunk more than just "window dressing."

The deadlines for submissions is May 30th.  Considering my deep love for Shakespeare, I'm thinking about taking a stab at this project, even if it doesn't end in a submission.  It could be a fun exercise.

The glorious thing about Shakespeare is that his plays are so universal.  They can be transported in time or place and still tell a story that touches the heart.  His words still resonate with us today, and I'm always humbled by that fact.  In college, I was blessed to play a number of Shakespearean roles.  Some of the productions were more traditional, but some were experimental, like the gender-reversed Hamlet or the 1920s set A Comedy of Errors. You can play around with Shakespeare so much and yet still tell a powerful story, which is why this project is so great.

To rectify my steampunk knowledge deficiency, I'm declaring entry in another reading challenge.  Bookish Ardour is hosting a "Get Steampunked!" challenge, and to start I'm going to declare my participation at Geared/Level 1 and read 5 steampunk books next year.  That number may increase.  I already have a list of books I'd like to read, which I'll include below.  Click the button to get more info on the challenge, and a number of others that BA is hosting.

Get Steampunked!

My reading list (so far):

1. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
2. Soulless by Gail Carriger
3. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
4. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
5. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

What do you think of steampunk novels?  Any other suggestions for books I should be reading in addition to or instead of those on my list?

In My Mailbox (1)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My first meme!  I'm so excited!  In My Mailbox is devoted to sharing the new books we've received/borrowed/bought this week.  For more information on this weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren, click here.  This is the last IMM of 2010, so I'm lucky to get in under the wire.  You can visit other blogs that are participating in this week's IMM here.

Clicking on the book covers will take you to to pre-order these titles.

I'm particularly excited this week because the three books I have to report are my first ARCs from  My first commissioned reviews!

First up is Unearthly by Cynthia Hand.  Here's the synopsis from

Clara Gardner has recently learned that she's part angel. Having angel blood run through her veins not only makes her smarter, stronger, and faster than humans (a word, she realizes, that no longer applies to her), but it means she has a purpose, something she was put on this earth to do. Figuring out what that is, though, isn't easy.

Her visions of a raging forest fire and an alluring stranger lead her to a new school in a new town. When she meets Christian, who turns out to be the boy of her dreams (literally), everything seems to fall into place—and out of place at the same time. Because there's another guy, Tucker, who appeals to Clara's less angelic side.

As Clara tries to find her way in a world she no longer understands, she encounters unseen dangers and choices she never thought she'd have to make—between honesty and deceit, love and duty, good and evil. When the fire from her vision finally ignites, will Clara be ready to face her destiny?

Unearthly is a moving tale of love and fate, and the struggle between following the rules and following your heart.

It sounds like a great paranormal romance love triangle read.  Definitely my kind of thing!  This book is being released January 4, 2011, so it is first on my list to be reviewed.

Second is Delirium by Lauren Oliver.  Here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that once love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holoway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

A world without love?  Sounds pretty awful to me, which is why this book seems so fascinating.  This title is being released on February 1, 2011.

Last, but not least, I also received a copy of Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton. Here's the synopsis from

First there are nightmares.

Every night Ellie is haunted by terrifying dreams of monstrous creatures that are hunting her, killing her.

Then come the memories.

When Ellie meets Will, she feels on the verge of remembering something just beyond her grasp. His attention is intense and romantic, and Ellie feels like her soul has known him for centuries. On her seventeenth birthday, on a dark street at midnight, Will awakens Ellie's power, and she knows that she can fight the creatures that stalk her in the grim darkness. Only Will holds the key to Ellie's memories, whole lifetimes of them, and when she looks at him, she can no longer pretend anything was just a dream.

Now she must hunt.

Ellie has power that no one can match, and her role is to hunt and kill the reapers that prey on human souls. But in order to survive the dangerous and ancient battle of the angels and the Fallen, she must also hunt for the secrets of her past lives and truths that may be too frightening to remember.

I have to admit, I love strong female characters that are capable of hunting and fighting for themselves.  This book seems really intriguing and exciting and I can't wait to read it. This title releases on February 15, 2011.

Happy reading!

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date: November 30, 2010
Source: Purchased

Synopsis: (from GoodreadsCassia 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.

First impressions: I liked that the book started right away with the Matching ceremony.  It wasted no time getting us involved in what was happening and aware of how this important day factored into Cassia's life.  It was refreshing to have this happy teenager looking forward to the ceremony and it told us right away that she was content with life in the Society.

Lasting impressions: The climax of the book contains a scene so heartwrenching and beautiful that I keep running through it in my head over and over.  The world that Condie builds throughout this book is detailed enough that I can still picture the scenes in my head and relish them, but not so overly detailed that it detracted from the story.

Negative impressions: I had very few issues with this book.  I thought it took a bit long to establish the relationship between Ky and Cassia, and then I felt Condie had to rush through some of the later scenes when I would have enjoyed watching them spend more time together.  I also felt some of the revelations at the end were not necessary and that the idea of the glitch would have held up just fine.  I also must say that I'm nervous that this is a trilogy, because I felt this book had an ending that is perfectly satisfying.

Overall impressions: My goodness, I loved this book.  From the first few scenes, Condie paints a well-developed picture of Cassia, and I fell in love with her from the start.  She is a good girl who does as she is told, and believes in the ideals that the Society has instilled in her.  The Society may seem unthreatening at first, but I believe Condie uses this tool to mirror how Cassia views the Society.  She is fearful and/or apprehensive of them, and may suspect bad things happen to those who cross them, but it is not until she truly breaks the rules that she sees real consequences, and I thought the level of fear was well paced to match Cassia's journey.

I also instantly loved Xander, and it is truly a testament to Condie's writing abilities that she was able to convince me that Xander was Cassia's true match, only to have me later rooting for the other man.  As I was reading I kept thinking "There's no way I'm going to ever be Team Ky."  Sure enough, by the end of the book, I believed in their love.

I was so caught up in Cassia's story that I kept reading long after I should have been asleep, just so I could see her journey through to the end.  I felt my heart pounding when she ran, I felt my breath catch in my throat when she stretched her nose to the sky, and when she had to blink away tears, I had to put the book down and sob.  I connected with Cassia as deeply as I did with Katniss Everdeen, and thought this story was honest, well-crafted, and utterly gorgeous.  I will definitely be purchasing a hard copy in addition to the Kindle version I purchased to read for this review.  You should be running to the stores.

Rating: 5/5 stars

This review is linked on Blog with Bite.  Want to see more reviews of Matched?  Click below.

Me and these writing fingers of mine

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jessica of The Simple Pleasure of Reading asked, nay, challenged me to talk about my writing and what I'm working on now.  And since part of my tag line is that I am a challenge accepter, I must accept said challenge.

(BTW, I love that I got to accept a challenge from a commenter.  What else you got?)

Let's first start with why I write.  I skimmed the first few chapters of this book and one of the things that caught my eye was the idea that reading is considered necessary for the masses while writing gets elevated as a fine art for the privileged few.  What an interesting contrast!  If you think about it, it does kind of exist that way.  We like to think that reading and writing are both signs of literacy, but writing does get the prestige where the two are concerned.  If you read well, you may read faster or gain more content than the average reader.  If you write well, you can make a good living and receive tons of accolades.

This concept was not lost on me as a child.  My mother worked at a university press for nearly her entire career, and both my sister and I spent years working there while in college.  Books were a given in our family.  They were squeezed onto bookshelves, lined up under desks, stuffed into boxes, or simply waiting to be read on a coffee table.  Reading was something you did with your free time.  It was omnipresent in our lives.

My mother also happens to possess an MFA in Poetry from an Ivy League institution.  She devours words almost as quickly as she can write them.  And today she's writing her own novels and querying and doing all of the things I want to be doing.

Reading and writing are in my blood.  But that still doesn't answer why I choose to write.

The first creative writing I can remember doing was a project in elementary school where we had to write a book.  Mine was about a ballerina.  Since I was also a dancer, it made sense, and I didn't write again for some time because I was so busy at 8,453 dance classes a week.  But I still remember vividly how proud I was to see that book in all of its laminated construction paper glory and know that those words were mine.

When I was in junior high, I began to write poetry.  Really terrible, angsty, dark teenaged poetry.  Truly awful stuff.  Still, it was a nice outlet for my emotions at the time and it taught me the power of using words to communicate what I was feeling.  Many of the things I scribbled in those notebooks I could never have spoken aloud, but getting them on the page was a way of acknowledging those feelings and giving them a voice.

I took a creative writing class in high school that I adored.  It was during summer school, and we got to sit outside among the trees and write to our heart's content.  I really enjoyed fiction writing, and just writing in general.  Between the poetry and the class, writing became a part of me, and it's something I kept coming back to.

In college I was a theater major, and spent most of my time there.  Writing became an outlet for me to manage my stress.  I started writing daily at an online diary community.  I wrote about my life, my struggles, and also the occasional fiction piece.  I still write there today.

When I moved out of state and got a big girl job, I nearly left writing entirely.  I couldn't figure out who I wanted to be, or what I wanted to do.  I knew I liked to write, but all of the things I tried to do that involved writing never fit.

I saw an ad on the L platform one day for StoryStudio Chicago.  I signed up for a Beginning Fiction class with a friend of mine in 2008 and fell in love with the place.  Shortly afterwards I was admitted to graduate school and didn't have the time to take another class there until this past fall, when I signed up for a class dedicated to writing for children and young adults.  It's where most of my work leans, and the class only proved to me that this was a perfect fit.  Writing is, and always has been, my passion.

I'm currently working on a novel completed for NaNoWriMo that is a fantasy involving a 16 year old girl and her magical cougar with which she shares a special bond.  I also got a lightning bolt of an idea this weekend and want to start working on a middle grade novel about two kids, a theater, and time travel.

What I know when it comes to me and writing is simply this: I love it.  It makes me happy.  I get to flex my creative muscles that I spent years honing in dance and theater, and tell amazing stories that hopefully mean something to someone.  I write so that some teenager can someday pick up a book, get taken away from their daily life, and experience something that touches their soul.  I write so that all of this love for words and life and experiences can be communicated eventually, whether through a published book or simply for my friends and family as I go.

For me, writing is an art, an elevated form of communication that transcends everything.  Writing challenges me and lifts up my soul and moves me to tears.  I couldn't exist without it.

So who am I?  Well, I'm a writer.  What about you?

Shifters and ebooks and paranormal OH MY!

Friday, December 10, 2010

I was trying really hard to finish Matched by Ally Condie last night for review today, but alas, I'm still working at it.  I am loving that book so hard right now.  I came home from work, crawled under the covers with my Kindle and tried to keep my eyes free from tears while getting swept up in the blossoming love between Ky and Cassia.  My heart just aches when I read this book.  If this book was a puppy, you'd have to take it from my stroking fingers before I went all Lennie on it.

So since I don't yet have a new review, I'm going to announce my participation in four more reading challenges for next year.  I'm already doing The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge and YA Bliss's YA Historical Fiction Challenge.  But I need MORE!

First up is Parajunkee's View and her 2011 Shifter Challenge.

This challenge involves reading 20 books next year that have a shifter (any type) as a main character.  Since I love Patricia Briggs and have yet to read any of Maggie Stiefvater's books, I figure this is a good fit for me next year.  I'm really excited about it.

Next up are two ebook challenges.  The first is The Unread Reader's Show Me the Free Reading Challenge.

You know the free books that Amazon offers for Kindle?  Well, I do.  It's pretty hard for me to resist free books, and when they're so easy to acquire electronically, I always find myself downloading anything that looks even remotely
interesting.  I'm going to participate in the Coupon Clipper level, and read 12 next year.  **snark alert**  Since these books aren't always of the highest quality, I cannot guarantee that I don't mock just a teensy tiny bit.

Since almost every book I read is an ebook anyway, I also decided to sign up for The Ladybug Reads' E-Book Challenge.

**Update 01/11** The Ladybug Reads has expanded the number of categories! Instead of reading just 20 ebooks, I will definitely be participating at the Fanatical level, and will read 75 ebooks next year. This will be more of a challenge for me.

Finally, I'm tackling For the Love of YA's Paranormal YA Reading Challenge.

For this challenge, I'll be reading 12 YA paranormal books next year.  Combined with the Shifter challenge and the fact that I already plan on reading some paranormal, it seems like a no-brainer.

I'm still on the lookout for a good YA dystopian challenge, so if anyone knows of any, throw a link my way.  If you're looking for more challenges, Parajunkee has a list started on her Book Blogging 101 post regarding challenges that's a good resource.

What challenges are you doing next year?

Busting the Newbie Blues Event

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Small Review is hosting this great event designed to introduce new YA book bloggers and hear from experienced bloggers for their perspective so we can all learn from each other. Since I am most definitely a new blogger, I figured this would be a great way to connect with some new people and introduce myself a bit more.  I also have updated my About Me page so you can get to know me better.

You can access the event here and check out the linked posts to meet more bloggers. Below are my responses to the newbie questionnaire.

When did you start your blog?

Um.  December 3rd.  Of this year.  I'm reeeeally new.

Why did you start your blog?

I wanted a way to network with other writers and discover more YA fiction titles.  I wanted to plug in to the community.  I'm working on a novel that I started during NaNoWriMo, and have taken writing classes at the fabulous StoryStudio Chicago.  Through the writers I met there, I discovered a lot of them have blogs and use them to get important industry news, connect with authors, perfect their query letters and so on.  I wanted to be a part of all of that.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

Figuring out the lingo, etiquette, stuff like that.  I'm always worried I'll accidentally commit some horrific faux pas and get myself kicked out of the cool kids' club.  I'm still getting my sea legs, so there are bound to be missteps, but there are tons of helpful websites and blog posts around.  Parajunkee's View has a great Book Blogging 101 series that has been a terrific resource for me.

What do you find most discouraging about being a new blogger?

The feeling that I don't have anything new to bring to the table.  But Elana Johnson said it best: there is only one me, and that's the new perspective I'm bringing.

What do you find most encouraging?

People have already been very supportive and social. They comment back or introduce themselves in forums.  Everyone seems really nice and noncompetitive, which is a relief.  It makes me feel like this was a good choice.

What do you like best about the blogs you read? Have you tried to replicate this in your blog?

I love the humor.  I love the honesty.  I'm definitely making an effort to bring out those elements more in my posts.  Not because everyone else is doing it so I should too, but because it's who I am.  It's just another reminder that I needs to keep it realz.

And I'm not gonna lie.  I love the giveaways, contests and challenges.  They're fun and motivating and get us all interacting and supporting each other.  I definitely want to host some of these in the future when I'm more established.  In the meantime I'll just keep stalking the rest of you.

What do you dislike about blogs you’ve read? Do you try to avoid this?

Since I'm still at the very beginning, I tend to make note of design elements that don't work for me as a blog reader so I can avoid incorporating those types of things.  I like seeing all of the different color schemes and buttons (how do you make those, by the way?) and layouts, then asking myself why I prefer one over the other.

Any advice for other new bloggers?

Don't be afraid to jump right in.  People will welcome you with open arms.  And never be afraid to ask questions. (Like, seriously, how do I make a button?)

Anything else you’d like to share about your experience?

This experience is opening me up to the book industry in a big way.  It's really eye opening to see how agents, editors, authors, aspiring authors, and reviewers all interact and come together to talk about everything related to books.  We're all after the same thing - to make excellent literature that people enjoy.

It's really fun and exciting to me to be exposed to authors still waiting for their books to be published.  It's great to get to know some of these people before I have the honor to read their writing, which is why I jumped immediately on Badass Bookie's Debutante Event and The Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge.

Is there anything you’d like to tell us about your blog?

I would love to hear suggestions, tips, bits of wisdom, anything, from my more experienced blogger brethren.  I want to make this a place where people like to return.  I'll be posting daily until my sanity reminds me that I have a life and I need to peel my fingers off of the keyboard, so feel free to stop by and say hi.

Thank you to Small Review for hosting this!  If you want to see how other book bloggers responded to their questionnaires, or want to participate yourself, check out the event page and join in the fun.

Review: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book: Incarceron
Author: Catherine Fisher
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers
Release date:January 26, 2010
Source: Purchased

First impressions: This book grabbed me from the first sentence.  The opening scene is full of delicious tension.  I loved the detail of the setting and action, which drew me in immediately.  Great start.

Lasting impressions: What will stay with me is the ominous threat of the prison Incarceron.  The darkness of the book really gets under your skin.  I think the rough conditions of Incarceron will haunt me, which I believe is the point.  This is not a book I will soon forget.

Negative impressions: I thought the middle was a bit slow.  The beginning grabs with such force that it is tough to maintain that pace.  I also could intuit where the story was going, so wanted to get to that place faster.  Once I got to the last third of the book, however, it really took off and I ate it up like candy.

Overall impressions: A great read with tons of imagination and freshness.  I was intrigued by the world, and though at times I wasn't sure I was following all of the action or grasping the intricacies of the complicated beast that is Incarceron, the overall experience of the story was engaging.  The book is well conceived and well executed, and I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy and dystopian fiction.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Hunger Games excitement! (with video!)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A few years ago I happened to watch the MTV Video Music Awards (don't judge) and saw Panic! At The Disco being introduced by Fall Out Boy.  Pete Wentz mentioned that when he heard Panic!'s song "I Write Sins Not Tragedies" he wished he had written it.  When Panic! later collected a moon man trophy, they expressed how honored they were to hear that from another band they considered highly talented.  It was a great moment that stuck with me.

When I first read Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games, I understood what Pete Wentz was talking about.  I loved everything about the book - the world, the themes, the characters, the plot.  It all worked.  It all resonated with me in such an honest, forceful way.  I wanted to live and breathe that story, and all I could think about was "I wish I had written that."

In no way is my compliment to the esteemed Suzanne Collins on the same level as having (the then uber-popular) Fall Out Boy publicly admire a new artist.  But I think we all have those moments when a piece of art connects to a very personal part of ourselves in such a way that we feel we could have created that piece.  And then we wish that we had.  That's what The Hunger Games was for me.

Needless to say, I am so excited for the movie version to arrive.  A friend linked to this fan video on her Facebook page, and I have to admit that I cried a few tears.  It's a great piece, and I can't wait to see how the feature turns out.

Great giveaway happening!

Monday, December 6, 2010

If you're not already aware, Badass Bookie is hosting an incredible giveaway this month dedicated to twelve different 2011 debut authors.  Each author has a two day spread with interviews and a giveaway related to their book.  You simply must check it out.  So many goodies to be had!

Click the button to find out more info and to enter the contests.

Queen of snark

I realize I am late to this party, but over the weekend my sister pointed me toward Reasoning with Vampires and I have to admit that I freaking LOVE it.  If you have not had the pleasure of reading, it is a merciless critique of Stephenie Meyer's prose in the Twilight series.

I'm not typically a fan of being mean.  I am always quick to defend the subjects of ill-deserved criticism.  I am not one to make snap judgments.  If you're going to have an opinion, you had better know what you're talking about.

There are times, however, when I am a fan of the snark.  Mostly when it is really, really funny.  And I have to admit that I find Reasoning with Vampires really, really funny.

Is it also mean? Well, yes. As writers, we are all sensitive about our mad grammar skillz. I am quite certain that Stephenie Meyer is fully aware that people openly mock her writing abilities, and though she may not have ever visited the RwV blog, the very fact that it exists is surely a bit of a knife to the heart.  I get that.  It sucks.

However, I typically give myself a pass for laughing at the misfortunes of others when I feel those misfortunes are balanced against gobs of money and success.  Isn't that why we laugh at celebrities when they make very public faux pas or dress inappropriately or say something so ridiculously stupid that we are actually questioning how they put one foot in front of the other?  We laugh because we feel we have the right to do so, since they have that fat bank account to pad their bruised egos.

I reviewed a book on Goodreads not too long ago, and I was fairly snarky and judgmental in my review.  I stand by the fact that the book was not that good, had some major structural issues, and lacked resolution, but the work was also the product of a self-published author who probably did not have access to an army of agents and editors to help her whip the admittedly promising premise into shape.  Still, I felt kind of bad for tearing it apart.  Why?  Because I realized this particular author wasn't asking for the level of scrutiny that comes with published work.

I feel that self-published authors have a different standard against which their work is judged, precisely because they don't have the agents and editors helping them along the way.  This person wrote a book, put it out there, and hoped to sell some copies.  I stumbled upon it in the Kindle bookstore, and didn't even realize it was self-published until a few chapters in (when I began to question the writing quality).  I don't think that author deserves the same scrutiny we use with authors like Meyer or Dan Brown.

The reason I feel bad about that review and not about Reasoning with Vampires is that Meyer and her editors should know better.  I applaud Meyer's ability to write a story that connected with so many readers, but her wild success is tainted by the fact that she struggles to put together a good sentence most of the time.  I take offense when I see success come to those who may not be very deserving of it.  This is not limited to the world of writing, either.  I feel the same way every time Chris Klein attempts to act and every time Ke$ha sings.

So I embrace my snarkiness.  I acknowledge that my biased opinion is that it is okay to be mean to the wealthy and successful in show business, if you do it in a way that is also funny.  But I also acknowledge that to be a good reviewer, you have to be balanced.  I can't allow personal feelings to compromise my analysis of a book.  It's not fair to authors, or their potential readers.

I can, however, laugh at Reasoning with Vampires. And something tells me Stephenie Meyer will be just fine. She's laughed her way to the bank already.

It's about to get crazy

Saturday, December 4, 2010

December is supposed to be a fun month.  It's when (in my family) we get Hannukah and Christmas.  I have the entire month free from grad school (thank you, quarter system!).  Throw in extra days off work for the holidays and a general slow down of life in general as the year wraps up, and you have a recipe for relaxation.

Except in my case.  Instead, I'm antsy for the new year.  I'm ready for newness and fresh experiences and the promise of excitement.  I want to get this show on the road and have it be January already.

I'm really excited about getting this blog rolling and getting some reviews up.  I'm currently reading Incarceron by Catherine Fisher and loving it.  I also just purchased Matched by Ally Condie and read the first few chapters.  I can't wait to devour the rest of it.

The NaNoWriMo high has convinced me to really push myself next year.  I am capable of the loftiest of goals, if I set my mind to it.  One of the best ways to improve as a writer is to keep reading, and I really want to increase the number of YA books I read.  Now that I have found some good resources to scope out the new books, I have no more excuses.

I am going to set a personal goal to read 100 books next year.  As part of that goal, I am going to participate in a couple of book blogging challenges.  The first is The Story Siren's 2011 Debut Author Challenge, where I will be reading at least 12 YA books by debut authors in YA literature.  The second is YA Bliss's YA Historical Fiction Challenge, where I will be reading 15 YA historical fiction novels.  I love historical fiction, so why not go all out and do Level 3?  As December unfolds I will start posting lists of the books I am anxious to get my little greedy paws on, and as I finish I will be posting reviews.

In the meantime, I am going to be working on the 3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month aka PostNaNoPlotPerfection run by the fabulous Plot Whisperer.  I love that her formula involves me not reading my novel, but instead focusing on where it needs to be.  This way the crushing depression and humiliation inherent in reading through the manuscript can be saved for January, when my mood will be balanced by the thrill of all these new challenges.

NaNoWriMo withdrawal

Friday, December 3, 2010

I love a good challenge.  There is nothing that gets my blood pumping faster than trying to accomplish a seemingly insurmountable task.  Or just a plain difficult task.  Or even a fairly simple task.  In fact, if I'm being completely honest, I just love that feeling of self-satisfaction of setting my mind to do something, and then doing it.

This year was the first year I had ever participated in NaNoWriMo, and it did not start off so well.  By Thanksgiving, I had barely dented my word count, and I was starting to get quite down on myself for not being able to finish.  It seemed hopeless.  I wanted to quit.  I decided that before I could throw in the towel, however, I had better give it my all.  I spent nearly the entirety of Thanksgiving weekend locked in my bedroom, chained to my computer, forcing myself to continue typing.  And eventually, miraculously, I got to 50,000 words.

I won!  I could barely believe it.  My wrists hurt, my back creaked, and my eyes felt like sandpaper, but I did it.  I was so excited I wanted to announce it to the world, as if I had just birthed a child.  Nothing could match the sensation of achieving what had seemed so impossible just a few days before.

Now that the long, hard-fought battle is over, I find myself feeling a little morose and empty.  The excitement has worn down, most people have already heard the news, and now I'm stuck with this beast of a novel that may or may not pan out to anything.  The manuscript and I are locked in an awkward silence at the moment, each of us unwilling to reach across the divide and try to move forward.  We liked things back when they were exciting and rushed and new.  Now, we're shuffling our feet and clearing our throats and wondering if we were just caught up in the moment or if we truly have something special.

I'm feeling that loss of the challenge, as well.  Do I take up NaNoFiMo?  I could write an alternate ending.  Or perhaps Plot Whisperer's International Plot Writing Month? Or how about Story Siren's 2011 Debut Author Challenge?  I keep searching for new things to keep me busy.  Maybe I should just keep challenging myself until I am all challenged out.

There are lots of good things coming up just in time for the new year.  I will update here with the new challenges I accept!  Until then, I'll continue my standoff with the novel.
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