Monday, 28 November 2011

Misc Monday: Post Planning


Those of you who read my blog regularly may have noticed the utterly random schmozzle that I call blog posts. Whilst gluing together words to make sentences with some meaning, I started to wonder how so many of you manage to write such fun, succinct, informative and unabashedly honest posts and reviews.
     Normally, I'll come home from work and after counting off the days until the weekend I'll remember that I should try and stick to my blogging promise of at least one post every 2 days. What follows is a frantic dash to try and write a readable post in between watching various cartoons and unmissable TV.
     I've read a great many reviews during my long stalker hours and I really hope that the bloggers who write such reviews have spent a long, long time on them. If not, I think I need to reevaluate my commitment to this blogging business.
    As with everything I do, my intentions are always good. I fully intend to read books objectively and write super professional and unbiased reviews. Somehow, in between the reading and the review, my emotions get involved and what comes out is usually a list of all the things that irked me about a book. There are so many bloggers who can dislike a book and yet convey their dislike in a logical and a unemotional way. This doesn't seem to be my forte.
     After many hours of dissecting the reasons behind my apparent lack of professionalism, I've come up with these explanations:

1. I am not a professional critic: Nor do I intend or claim to be. I read books and write how I feel about them. Once upon a time, I analyzed books as part of a subject at school and it ruined many classic books for me forever. Until someone decides to pay me a full time salary to read and write book reviews, I maintain that I can be as unprofessional as I like.

2. I like reading negative reviews: Good reviews are fantastic, but let's face it, negative reviews make us laugh. I find that I learn so much more from a negative review than I do from a positive one, simply because when people don't like something, they tend to be much more passionate and colourful in the choice of language and depiction. Super professional reviews don't have the same pizazz for me.

3. Time is of the essence: I like to procrastinate. It's taken me almost two hours to get this far in the blog post because I've been looking at FB, Goodreads, NaNoWriMo and doing various other things to waste time. Before I discovered the dot point review system, it would takes me ages to finish a book review because I was so busy trying to write a Pulitzer prize winning essay. This is not effective time management.


4. We don't need no education: There have been times in these last few months when I've felt as if reading and blogging have been part time jobs on top of the full time one I already have. This is a big no no for me. I don't ever want reading to be a chore like school was for me, so if I have to give up professionalism for fun, then so be it.

5. Supply and demand:  Sometimes, I see all the review books and requests that other bloggers get and feel a bit envious. These times, I wonder if I too could be reaping the ARC rewards if I put a little more effort into my reviews and posts...then I look at my TBR pile.

How about you guys? Do you ever struggle to write professional sounding reviews? Do you put off writing reviews because you don't think you can say what you want to without sounding like you're ripping into a book? Please tell me I'm not the only one!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

M.I.A

Hey guys,

You may have noticed my lack of blogger presence these last few weeks. Wish I could say it's all due to exciting things happening in real life, but mostly, I've been sick a lot and getting behind on all sorts of things (NaNoWriMo, work, chores, reading etc).
        I'm playing major catch up a the moment but I hope to be back on track soon. Thanks for bearing with me. Hope you all had a great thanksgiving. Or as we Australians call it, just another Thursday (Can you tell I have holiday envy?). At least Christmas is just around the corner.

Lan

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Writer's Corner: Description Disasters


Most of my regular readers will have caught on by now that I'm currently in the throes of NaNoWriMo. See THIS POST for a snippet of what I'm writing. I've been using the placeholder technique that I learned from BJ at Dark Side of the Covers like mad, but one thing that still stops me in my tracks is character description.
      Apparently, I suck the big one at describing how people look without making it sound like one big list of vital statistics. Hair, eyes, build, sense of humor/lack thereof. In that order. Every time. It's like I can't go on to write anything else until I've gotten those few details out of the way. They're not even done in any creative way. They're just handed to the reader, as simply as possible and then I can move on.
       Now I'm not the most analytical reader but even I know this kind of listy character description is jarring to read. There are certain book I've read which do the description thing so well. They liken someones features to something in nature, the colour of their hair or eyes to the seasons. All I can come up with is green eyes looking like a forest something or rather and even that has me gagging.
        Sometimes, I'll look at some pics of actors I think will be great to be cast as one of my characters, but even then it's not that helpful. Besides, Ben Barnes can only play so many characters at once.
        So this week, I want to know how you guys come up with the various ways to describe your characters? For you avid readers out there, are there certain ways you like/dislike your characters described? Do you like for a characters vital stats to be given to you right away or for their physical attributes to be slowly divulged? Until I get some insight, it's back to 'black hair framed his sharply angled face where forest green eyes sat staring at me.' Puke.

Oh and for you guys doing NaNoWriMo this year. You've got to check out this post by Ashley at Book Labyrinth. It's got all the info regarding a YA Novel Writing Comp where you can win the opportunity to submit your work to a top NY literary agent plus heaps more! I'm going to enter for sure!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Novel, Interrupted


As an unpublished writer, I firmly believe that there will come a time when you happen across a novel which sounds so much like yours, the plot of Single White Female will flash before your eyes and you start going into panic mode. (Okay, so I just made this theory up because it's a great lead in for this post but let's not get bogged down in the specifics, I am having a freak out after all!)
        This very thing happened to me a few days ago. I was blog stalking and going through my dashboard looking for posts that looked interesting and then I came across This Book. It's called Genesis by John G. Hartness and it's so much like Iron Willed that I'm starting to have a conniption.  Sure the style and voice are different and the setting is across the globe but at the end of the day, 'a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,' right?? (You know things are bad when I start quoting Shakespeare).
        I know what you guys are thinking, no two novels will ever be the same because no two writers write the same way. But let's face it. As a writer, when you're squirreling away all those little words, you know you're secretly thinking that the story you're writing is 100% unique. So it comes as a shock when you find out that there are other people who have watched X-men, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and various anime who will most likely be thinking the same thing as you.
         So my question is: Have any of you guys ever found a book so closely matched with your own that you wonder if the other author has secretly found out about your idea and just written a story faster than you?  Have you ever given up on an idea because it seems as if the market is saturated with books like your own? Do you ever feel like you are running out of time to write because you want to be the first one with a great idea? Come on people. Freak out with me!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

November Giveaway Hop Winner!

Thank you to all those who took the time out to participate! I had such a great time hosting this giveaway! And now without further ado, the lucky winner is:


Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:
216 
Timestamp: 2011-11-13 02:38:46 UTC

For those of you who can't be bothered counting the entries, the winner is Brenda Demko! Congratulations Brenda.

Thanks again everyone!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Writer's Corner: Let's Not Talk About Sex!

A few weeks ago, while at work, I suddenly came up with a new book idea that I've since been tossing around in my head. It's going to be an adult paranormal, which I have to admit isn't a genre that I'm overly familiar with. But I was thinking that it can't be all that different right? Just take my MC and add five to ten  years to her age. After all, if I'm going to start reading adult books, I should try to write adult books as well shouldn't I? Then I remembered that pesky sex thing.
        Whilst I haven't read a huge number of adult paranormals, the ones I have read can get a bit hot and heavy. In fact, when the heroine isn't kicking ass, she tends to be doing something else with it. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a bit of bedroom action in my books. Sometimes it gets a bit annoying when there is so much tension in a young adult book and no follow through.  
        It's just that I am not good at writing great romances and as an extension of that, I am not good at writing sexually charged scenes.  Granted I haven't really tried, but even  the tiny bit of romance in my young adult novel had me cringing a little. Like when you're watching a movie with your parents and there happens to be a sex scene. I don't know about anyone else, but this whole situation makes me feel terribly awkward.
        Have you guys tried writing any sexy scenes in your books? If so do you have any tips?
     

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

NaNoWriMo Update and Excerpt


By the time this post is published, I'll probably be well into the ninth day of NaNoWriMo. To say that it's challenging would be the understatement of the year. My fingers hurt from typing eleven hours a day (my job involves a lot of typing), my brain hurts from thinking for at least five of those eleven hours, my back hurts from bad typing posture and to top it all off I am NOT making word count (due to busy social life. Ha!). Besides these gripes, I'm having a great time. It's such fun to write and also to be able to connect and share the experience with other writers. I'm yet to pluck up the courage to go to a write-in close to my place but am hoping to do so in the near future.

To show that I haven't been slacking off, here is a short summary and excerpt from the first chapter of Seeder's Poison:

Summary:

Aurora (Rory) Gray knows only one truth: There are no good Seeders. Six years ago the Seeders killed Rory's mother. Now they are withholding seeds and supplies from Region 4, because one starving farm boy couldn't help but take fruit from an abundant harvest. The Seeder's Rules are simple. Nine citizens from the offending region must make the journey to the Citadel where they will be rewarded with enough seed and food to last the coming year. Whether they make it there alive is another matter.
       Chosen for the Wanderer half that she has been shunned for her entire life, Rory must make the journey through uninhabitable terrain, unimaginable terrors and unspeakable truths to pay back a debt that has been plaguing her for longer than she cares to admit. Staying alive is hard enough but trying to keep her companions alive too, especially when she would sooner shoot some of them full of poisoned arrows, is unbearable.
        But Rory knows what she must do. She's trained for this moment for years. For the Citadel may mean certain death, but it also means viable seeds. Enough to undo the poison the Seeders have planted in all the forest between the regions. Enough to cut the web of dependency the Seeders have so carefully woven. Enough to start the revolution her mother died fighting for. 

Excerpt:

I grasp my step brother’s arms tightly and attempt to extract him from the clutches of the Seeder Cleansing Squad. They come for him in the middle of the night, just as they did for my mother. Shrouded in forest green cloaks, hooded and exuding despair, they clutch at him, their movements slow but purposeful. A silver fog hangs in the air surrounding them, its damp density cloying at my throat. There are four Seeders, each one at least seven foot tall and built like a brick silo. Mangled claws sit where their hands should be and a tug either way causes serrated nails to tear at Mikey’s flesh. Within seconds, blood runs slick between where our limbs meet and the Seeders pry him away. Only then does my gaze lift to their faces, half obscured in their hoods, and I’m struck dumb by the abomination of them. A mishmash of skin and cartilage, of various tones, stretched and clumsily grafted over red raw muscles. 
            In their arms, Mikey’s eyes become wide and he screams my name again and again. Confusion engulfs me because I know I should be running for him. But there is no fight in me. Below the ample folds of the now blood stained azure gown that I wear, my legs refuse to cooperate. Instead, I cover my ears from the onslaught of his desperation, but even then I can’t escape his tortured pleas of ‘Rory, help me! Rory, don’t let them take me please!’  The sound become tremulous, a quivering vibration that tears through me and suddenly it’s not my name that I hear but a jarring wail that could disturb the hibernation of a winter worn bear. Even half asleep I recognise the warning. How could I not when my chest constricts so tightly upon hearing it?

There you go guys, I'm not as slack as I thought!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

November Giveaway Hop!

***THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNER WILL BE CHOSEN AND ANNOUNCED SHORTLY*******  

 The November Giveaway Hop is a book giveaway hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Tristi Pinkston. 

I figured that since I've recently finished my first ever reading challenge (2011 Aussie Author Challenge ), I should participate in a giveaway hop to celebrate!

Up for grabs is $25 worth of books from The Book Depository. The giveaway is open to all countries. Click HERE to find out if they delivery to where you are.

To enter, simply follow this blog and leave a comment with your GFC name and best email contact.

The giveaway runs from 8-11th of November (I apologise for the time differences upfront but I will try and be as accurate as I can!) and I will be drawing the winner on 12th November using Random.org. The winner will have 48 hours to respond with their postal address and the book or books they'd like. 

To check out the rules and the other blogs which are participating in this hop, click HERE

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Review: Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody


The Story (from goodreads):
For Elspeth Gordie freedom is-like so much else after the Great White-a memory. It was a time known as the Age of Chaos. In a final explosive flash everything was destroyed. The few who survived banded together and formed a Council for protection. But people like Elspeth-mysteriously born with powerful mental abilities-are feared by the Council and hunted down like animals...to be destroyed. Her only hope for survival to is keep her power hidden. But is secrecy enough against the terrible power of the Council

My Thoughts:
This is another re-read for me. The sixth book in the series has just come out and it's been so long since the last one was released that I'm going to read them all again and refresh my memory. This is way off topic but I remember when my older sister bought this book home from the library, I took one look at the cover (a different one to the pic. Was much uglier) and title and pretty much wrote this one off. Then I got bored and decided to give it a try and now here I am 15 years later still waiting anxiously for the next installment to be released. 
        Obernewtyn is essentially a post apolocyptic fantasy about the world struggling back from the brink of a nuclear holocaust. I have to admit that reading back over the story, there are some inconsistencies that I never picked up when I first read it, but to me personally they didn't really matter. This series is still amongst my favourite. Here comes another listy review:

Things I Liked:
- There's not much in the way of physical action in this book but Carmody has managed to instill sense of suspense and impending doom. Others have called this book slow but I found it a nice change from the usual YA formula of boarding school, mean girls, hot guy.
- Elspeth. She's not your usual impulsive teenager. She's guarded and aloof and very detached. I think it's a good portrayal of a loner which she def is. It's so good to see a character who accurately shows the symptoms of their upbringing instead of the loner who just happens to really be a social butterfly.
- The world building is incredible and the plot is very well thought out.
- The animals. I'm not at all a cat person, but this book features the only cat that I like besides Garfield. 
- All the different mental abilities. I am a sucker for this kind of power.

Things I didn't like:
- One of my pet peeves is when an author feels like they need to emphasize a certain accent by trying to write the accent into the speech. Why oh why? There's a fair bit of this in Obernewtyn but thankfully the characters that the accents are attached to are quite loveable so I decided to let it go.
- This first book in the series is very much a she's good and he's bad scenario. There aren't any characters that I would consider in that grey anti-hero area. If you're evil, you're really evil. 


The Rating:
10/10

Review: Madigan Mine by Kirstyn McDermott


The Story:
When Alex Bishop meets Madigan Sargood again after twelve years apart, everything changes. His childhood sweetheart is beautiful and impulsive, but there is something wrong with her. Something dangerous. Then she commits suicide. Now Alex can't get Madigan out of his head. Is it all in his mind, or is she communicating with him. To save himself and those he loves, Alex must uncover the sinister reason why Madigan took her own life - and why she won't lie still in her grave.

My Thoughts:
If there's one lesson to be learned from my Aussie Author Challenge, it's that there are many books out there which aggravate me to boiling point, but I will finish reading them if the writing is compelling enough. This is the posterbook for stories in that category. Once again, due to NaNoWriMo, this is going to be a listy review.

Things I liked:
- The writing is amazing. Almost lyrical and very descriptive.
- The plot is unpredictable. Even though the blurb says there's paranormal stuff happening, it just didn't feel like a PN book for the first 1/3 so I really wasn't expecting it to get so dark. 
- No storybook endings.  This is a like and dislike of mine. I can't decide exactly where this one goes.
- There aren't any cliched characters and everyone is quite distinct.

Things I didn't like:
- No Characters I actually liked: Huge problem with the titular character. Am forever off the name Madigan. Sorry to all the Madigan's out there. I just have OCD word association. I think she was meant to be portrayed as attractive and enigmatic enough to incite obsession but I just felt she was a manipulative, spoiled, rich cow. The narrator Alex didn't do much for me either. If he were a love interest, I would resign him to the weak, whingey, pathetic man category. Not a good formula.
-The ending to this didn't feel like it resolved anything. I don't think there's going to be a sequel so I would have liked to see a more concrete ending (although, I suppose in life there are no smooth endings).

All in all, despite the things I didn't like about this book, the writing and the plot twists kept me interested enough and I was still thinking about this one after I was finished reading which is a good sign.

The Rating:
8/10



* I read this book as part of my 2011 Aussie Authors Challenge

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Review: My Big Birkett: The Sweet. Terrible, Glorious Year I Truly, Completely Lost It by Lisa Shanahan


The Story:
Gemma Stone is convinced that it's always unseemly to chuck a birkett and that it's actually insane to chuck one in front of a complete stranger. But that was before she fell in love with a boy who barely knows she exists, before she auditioned for the school play, before she met the family of freaks her sister Debbie is marrying into, before the unpredictable Raven De Head took an interest in her, and before she realised that at the right time and for the right reason, a birkett could be a beautiful thing. 

My Thoughts:
I picked up this book because of a review I read over on Jenny's blog. I'm so glad Jenny is an avid reader of Australian fiction because I wouldn't have known about this book otherwise. And let me tell you that would be a shame indeed. I finished reading it in one sitting, forsaking both blogging and writing because I was so engrossed in Gemma's over the top family and her friendship with Raven. 
        I've been goodreads stalking again and there are lots of comments about how Gemma's family is very unrealistic. While my family isn't like Gemma's at all, I have to say as an Aussie, I've met a few over the top families like Gemma's in my time. Hands down, Gemma's dad is the funniest guy ever. 

This is going to be a lists review because I'm super busy this weekend so here goes:

Things I Like:
- Characters: I have so many favourite characters in this book it'll take too long to mention. As a character driven reader, this book could do no wrong for me.
- Premise: There's actually a real slang word that Aussie's use to describe someone whose throwing a massive hissy fit and it's called going "berko." I love how the author has adapted that concept into this hilarious book.
- Setting: The description and backdrop to this book is very authentic.

Things I Didn't Like:
- The ending felt a little out of place from the lightness of the rest of the story. I don't want to give away any spoilers but I really wasn't expecting it at all.

  
The Rating:
9/10

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Why I Prefer To Blog Rather Than Write

In the lead up to NaNoWriMo I tried (unsuccessfully) force myself to sit down and write an outline for the book I am going to speed write. Instead, I was jumping on the good ol' blog and starting but not really finishing a whole heap of new blog posts.
      Part of the reason I do this is because I want to procrastinate. I also get sudden bursts of good post ideas and need to write them down quickly and while I'm at the computer I may as well start the post. I kept telling myself that in a way I was preparing for NaNo month by planning some post ahead of time. In reality though, I just seem to prefer blogging to actually writing at the moment.
     Upon quiet reflection, I've come up with one main theory why. I like the social aspect of blogging. I like reading other blogs and being able to comment and have people leave comments on my blog. I like sharing ideas with others and learning what their ideas are. I love finding people who love a book or an idea as much as I do. Writing doesn't give me that same sense of community. It's just me sitting at a desk typing away at an almost blank screen. Occasionally my dog will walk into the room and then when she sees how boring I'm being she'll leave again. Thank goodness for email and critiquing partners. Otherwise I think I might lose the plot (literally!)
      What about you guys? Are there ever times when you would rather jump on the blog and now goodreads rather than write? I haven't felt the urge to bring life to a story in a few months and that really scares me.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Review: The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta


The Story:
Melina Marchetta's brilliant, heart-wrenching new novel takes up the story of the group of friends from her best-selling, much-loved book Saving Francesca - only this time it's five years later and Thomas Mackee is the one who needs saving.

Thomas Mackee wants oblivion. Wants to forget parents who leave and friends he used to care about and a string of one-night stands, and favourite uncles being blown to smithereens on their way to work on the other side of the world.

But when his flatmates turn him out of the house, Tom moves in with his single, pregnant aunt, Georgie. And starts working at the Union pub with his former friends. And winds up living with his grieving father again. And remembers how he abandoned Tara Finke two years ago, after his uncle's death.

And in a year when everything's broken, Tom realises that his family and friends need him to help put the pieces back together as much as he needs them.


My Thoughts:
 I won't go on about this book too much because I think I'm in danger of being predisposed to anything written by Melina Marchetta. The Piper's Son is set in the same world as Marchetta's Saving Francesca novel. In fact, Francesca (Frankie) is one of the smaller players in this book as well. As with many of Marchetta's books, the reader is pretty much dropped into the middle of an action scene and from there you're given snippets of information that you must piece together as the events unfold. I'm sure there are those who find this style confusing, but I don't have a problem with it. Besides, the writing is so good I don't really mind what's happening.
      This book is majorly character based which is why I have so much love for it. Tom isn't a guy who is easy to like. He's selfish, self absorbed and really mean at times. Even though I know he was hurting, I wanted to slap him for some of the things he said to Frankie and I kept screaming for her to knock him out. As the story progresses you see Tom transition from a massive jerk into the person he would have become a long time ago if it hadn't been for the death of some of his family. 
      I don't know how to describe it better than to say that this book is like a big family reunion where everyone has huge issues and problems but they love each other so much that you just know everything is going to be alright.

The Rating:
10/10 

* I read this book as part of my 2011 Aussie Authors Challenge

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