Monday, 30 January 2012

Misc Monday: Updates and Such


Disclaimer: I am seriously lazy and have once again semi-stolen this segment from Jessica at Thoughts At One In The Morning and Jenny at Alternate Readality .

I've decided that instead of spending all my time agonizing over fun misc things to write about (which takes FOREVER because I am pretty boring), I'm going to update you guys on how my week has been/will be.

READING:
- Have started Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels series, book 3). Am completely in love with Curran. Dimitri Belikov who???
- Am halfway through Angelfall by Susan Ee, Am starting Hammered by Kevin Hearn and Muse by Rebecca Lim. When it rains, it really pours and I've gone from having nothing to read (well nothing inspiring anyway) to have too much to read.
- Read a few chapters of Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi but I will reserve judgement until I've read a bit more.

WRITING:
- Super Dooper hot weather in Melbourne Australia, meaning my laptop has gone into overdrive and keeps shutting itself off. So apologies for my lack of presence. Writing has been a bit difficult even though I'm only about 5 chapter off finishing Seeder's Poison.
- My brain is refusing to come up with a good enough ending to Seeder's Poison without it seeming like an anti-climax so I'm combating that by avoiding the whole thing. Very counter productive.
- As usual, I have to many half a$$ed story ideas rolling around in my head with nowhere to go because I am too lazy to start the proper research. It's all my fault really.

TV:
- This season of Gossip Girl is the best ever. No Jenny. No Vanessa and I am so in love with Blair and Dan right now.
- Am afriad to start watching Homeland because of all the hype.
- Stopped watching Ringer for some unknown reason but will start up again once I have some more time.
- In other news, all you writers out there, if you haven't seen The Simpsons, season 23 episode 6, you need to do it! It's about writers and is so on the money. I couldn't stop laughing.

LIFE:
- Have a writer's workshop coming up on Wed. Don't know if I can be bothered going.
- Have two birthdays on the weekend. Don't know if I can be bothered going.
- Have a birthday next weekend. Don't know if I can be bothered going.
Yes Year is clearly working out for me!

~ Lan.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Writer's Corner: Totally Psyched Out


Despite my better judgement, I'm going to throw this one out there and see where it goes. It was Lunar New Year on Monday and as I'm Asian we celebrated with heaps of food and stuff (normally I would go into detail but it's not really the point of this post. Sigh!) So anyway, I opened up my fortune cookie and guess what it said?:

"THE KEY TO HAPPINESS IS TO ADMIRE WITHOUT DESIRE"

I don't know you about you guys but I happen to believe in karma and all that jazz. So it felt like the universe was trying to tell me something. Two days later, I started reading Angelfall by Susan Ee and the whole thing started to make sense. Clearly, I am suffering from a huge huge dose of writer's envy and the universe saw fit to give me a heads up. 
       Do you guys ever read a book and go "Sonofabi@ch. I wish I'd written that?!?" It happens to me all the time. Angelfall is just the latest in a long line of books which are so totally out of control awesome, that they kind of make me take a look at my MS and get so psyched out that I consider not writing anymore.You should have seen me after The Hunger Games. That was a long writing dry spell! I don't begrudge any of these authors their success. I'm just having a huge case of the green eyed monster. (I swear, I'm working on this. Seriously)
      I've been chatting to Cathy from Abnormally Paranormal Reviews and have come up with only one possibly solution and that is to read other books which are hugely popular, but aren't exactly my thing so I might not get to riled up. Any ideas? So far I've got the following as backup pick me up books: 

Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon
Fallen  by Lauren Kate
Evermore  by Alyson Noel
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Any recommendations?
 


Saturday, 21 January 2012

Review: Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

The Story:
Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for magic . . .

One moment magic dominates, and cars stall and guns fail. The next, technology takes over and the defensive spells no longer protect your house from monsters. Here skyscrapers topple under onslaught of magic; werebears and werehyenas prowl through the ruined streets; and the Masters of the Dead, necromancers driven by their thirst of knowledge and wealth, pilot blood-crazed vampires with their minds. In this world lives Kate Daniels. Kate likes her sword a little too much and has a hard time controlling her mouth. The magic in her blood makes her a target, and she spent most of her life hiding in plain sight. But when Kate’s guardian is murdered, she must choose to do nothing and remain safe or to pursue his preternatural killer. Hiding is easy, but the right choice is rarely easy . . .


My Thoughts:
Sex, swearing and carnage galore. We're not in YA territory anymore my friends and I am really happy about it. There's something to be said about books that are written simply and yet are able to completely draw you in. Ilona Andrews probably won't win any awards for the most lyrical writing, but she (or should I say they because it's a wife and husband writing duo?) sure knows how to tell a story.
       Magic Bites is nothing short of a joy to read. It drops you right in on the action and doesn't wait for you to catch your breath and get with the program. Andrews has created a unique world where magic and technology war for supremacy and it seems as if magic is winning. The world building in Magic Bites is multi layered and may be a bit confusing if urban fantasy isn't a genre that you're familiar with. There were a few continuity issues with the plot which some might find a bit jarring, but I was able to look past them.
       Kate Daniels is exactly the kind of tough as nails heroine that I'm into and I thoroughly enjoyed her witty banter in many situations where I could see other heroines shrinking away from. And then there's Curran. *Cue stupid grin* It's so refreshing to read about a building attraction based on something other than physical appearance. Curran is not sweet or soft in any way but he also doesn't underestimate Kate and even better Kate wouldn't stand for it.
      Overall, I really enjoyed Magic Bites and it is the first book in a long time where I can't wait to read the next in the series.

The Rating:
9/10

Friday, 20 January 2012

Dreaming of Books Giveaway Winner!


And the winner is.............

 JAM!!

Thank you to all those who took the time out to participate! I had such a great time hosting this giveaway!

I'll be hosting more exciting giveaways in the near future so watch those tweets and FB updates :)

Thanks again guys.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Writer's Corner: Control Issues


I don't know about the rest of you guys who are writing a novel at the moment, but I am prone to fantastical flights of fancy where I imagine which actors will play the parts in the film adaptations of my books and which tropical island I will retire to when I am filthy stinking rich.
       These all day and night dreams usually end up with me going over and over in my head how awful some of the casting for my fav books which have been made into movies have been. That sort of steam rolls into how restrictive traditional publishing seems and then that starts me contemplating the advantages of self publishing.
       Yes people, as you can see, I have control issues. I'm sure many authors feel the same way about their books. Sometimes I look at book covers and think "There is no way the author had any say in this" and it's that thought more than anything which is pushing me to self publish. I don't think I could relinquish control of my MS enough to let someone else who isn't as passionate as I am come up with something as important as a cover. Unless it's better than I could do myself. There are many other advantages to self publishing that I have recently found out. The more I learn, the better it sounds.
       Of course traditional publishing is still the dream. I can't think of anything I want more than to see my book on a shelf in a book store, but if that doesn't ever happen it's not the end of the world.
       And speaking of novels to movies, if you guys had to choose, who would play the lead parts for characters in your books?  For my Iron Willed series I would have to go for Kristin Kruek as Willow and Ben Barnes as Ryan.




Monday, 16 January 2012

Misc Monday: Publishing, What's All The Fuss?

You guys should probably know by now that aside from being a book blogger, one of my goals is to become a published author one day. I know a lot of you guys have the same dreams too. But guess what I discovered when I went home to my parents place for the weekend? It seems like I already am a published author. Ta da!


It's bound and laminated and everything. So what if I did it when I was ten. Although I can't show you what the story is about because I'm pretty sure it'll be a breach of copyright against the good people at Archie Comics, but you can guess that it's about Archie, Veronica, Betty and Jughead.

It seems that despite the my early achievements, writing wasn't always my first love as this author's bio would attest to:

Is eating even a hobby? Well even if it isn't, I excel at it! Thankfully I've retired the idea of becoming a singer. But if you think being blurbed by Stephanie Meyer is impressive, check this out:



Yep, Lois and Clark. Even Superman thinks I'm awesome. So really guys, I don't know what all the fuss is with publishing. I have been there and done that!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor


The Story:
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? - Goodreads


My Thoughts:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (DSB) is a head scratcher of a book to review. I read it a  month ago and have been sitting on writing this up for a while. I think my hesitation comes down to the 'I wanted to love this so much but I only liked it so how am I going to justify that in a review so I don't look like a moron' factor. Let's start off with some indisputable truths:

- Laini Taylor sure knows how to write. The prose in DSB is absolutely beautiful. It's just one of those books that's a pleasure to read because it feels like every single word is crafted perfectly and nothing is there without a reason. The descriptions almost make the scenes jump out of the book and I almost caught the travel bug from some of the location descriptions.
-DSB is undoubtedly unique in it's premise and also storytelling. I really enjoyed the idea of there being doors that could be opened to different locations all around the world (very much like in Howl's Moving Castle). 


There are many things to love about DSB. The dialogue is witty and realistic, the characters are enjoyable and the ideas are brilliant. Karou lives an amazing double life. On one hand she is a blue haired, boho art student living in Prague. On the other, she is a tooth gathering errand girl for Brimstone, the Chimera who brought her up. Karou is beautiful, smart and talented and yet she feels as if there is something missing in her life. I loved the underlying listlessness in which the first part of the story is told and felt as if it was all building up to some cataclysmic juncture. 
        And yet there were a few things which almost spoiled the book for me. After much thought, I've finally deduced the core of my problem: Akiva and more specifically, the turn of the plot once he was introduced.There was so much potential for DSB to be something completely incredible and it disappointed me that Taylor built it all up only to have the book turn into a typical star crossed, insta-love cliche.  Everyone we're supposed to like is just too perfect and the ones we're not supposed to like have no redeeming qualities. I know the idea of having someone powerful and gorgeous fall irrevocably in love with you is intoxicating, but when said person has no loyalty to the people who care about them, it leaves a very bitter aftertaste in my mouth. For this reason, Akiva felt like he had very little depth to him and since he was such a pivotal character, I can't help but feel as if he was only there to be good looking and not much more. 
        It's hard to express some of my other concerns without spoilers so let's just say that the motivations and aspirations of certain Chimera didn't ring true to me due to their intense hatred of the seraphim. Also, I've never been a hater of back stories because I love reading about the events that got the characters to the point of the book, but the substantial amount of back story in DSB felt like way too much even for me.  
        For the most part, I enjoyed DSB and I only hope that the next book in the series will flesh out the characters more and will give me something to relate to.


The Rating:
7/10

Friday, 13 January 2012

Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop


The Dreaming of Books Giveaway Hop is a a book giveaway hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer and Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

Up for grabs is $25 worth of books from The Book Depository. The giveaway is open to all countries where The Book Depository will ship to. 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. Extra entries can be earned by following me on twitter, liking me on Facebook or adding me as a friend on Goodreads. Links to these are on the left hand side of my blog. Please add your various usernames for each social media site where you follow as part of your comments.

The giveaway runs from 13th - 18th of January (As an Aussie blogger, 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 19th January 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.

Good Luck everyone!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Writer's Corner: One Small Voice


As a wannabe writer, one of my biggest challenges is to create characters that are both memorable and have a unique voice. At the moment, I'm finding it hard to disseminate one MC from the other. It's the same for my love interests. I think I just have too rigid an idea of what my perfect MC is and deviating from that formula even slightly makes me feel as if I'm betraying them somehow. Does anyone else have that problem at all? If I keep going the way I do, all my female MC's in every series I write will just be a clone with a different name and setting.
         There are many writers who will say that their MC is not based on themselves at all. These people are lying. Both to their readers and to themselves. Even if a character is the complete opposite in gender and appearance to a writer, the writer's personality, morality and opinion will invariably show through the character's beliefs and actions. I'm not saying that all book characters are a writer's wish fulfillment, I'm just saying that writer's will write what they know, what they believe and what they wish for themselves in some way, shape or form.
         Which is why my heroines tend to be small and on the very sarcastic side. I am also a huge believer in the strong female MC. This means that I am forever writing kick ass females who inadvertently have some kind of super power. Not that you need a super power to get out of trouble, but it helps. This leads me to think that I'm creating my own MC cookie cutter and I really want to break out of that mold. Alas, I don't know how.
        Has anyone ever had this same problem? I keep getting all these ideas for new stories but my MC remains the same. Ideally, I'd love to write a paranormal with a girl who is a bit scatterbrained and not at all got her act together. But at the same time, she can't be stupid. That's not too much to ask is it?

Monday, 9 January 2012

Misc Monday: Multitasking Madness






As I write this post, I'm also checking out books on Smashwords, emailing people, reading a book and doing up a shopping list. Oh and did I forget seriously blog stalking? To an untrained observer, this might all seem very impressive. Until they take a closer look at my output to productivity ratio. Which is very much on the low side.
        I am convinced that whoever came up with the idea of multitasking has a lot of time on their hands to get all caught up in the different tasks. Me, I have scant little time and what is supposed to be a time saving device has turned into a bit of a time guzzler instead.
        Take blog stalking for example. Any normal person would open a few pages and read a post and leave a comment right? That's too easy for me. I open all the unread blogs on my blog roll, then all the ones I find interesting on my dashboard. From there, I troll through all of them, reading, not necessarily commenting unless I know exactly what I want to say. If there's an interesting link that someone has posted, I'll click on that as well. Before I know it, there are about twenty tabs opens on my screen and I'm having trouble remember something I read ten minutes earlier. It just so happens that an alert on my phone might go off with a text message or I need to put a book on my goodreads to be read pile. And then I'll get an email which I need to respond to right away.
       I feel the same way about my TBR and also the books I have agreed to read for review. Right now I'm "reading" about six books and have another few waiting to be picked up from the library. I've taken on so many, on the assumption that I will be able to do it all. The fact of the matter is: I can't. As BJ suggested in THIS POST deadlines and taking on too much usually leads to situations of high stress. High stress leads to sickness (at least that's what I've noticed for myself). So I've decided to dispense with the multitasking farce and stick to The Hare and the Tortoise philosophy: slow and steady wins the race.
       So guys, I guess what I'm saying is that I'm going to stop trying to be more than I can be.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Review: The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong


The Story:
After years of frequent moves following her mother’s death, Chloe Saunders’s life is finally settling down. She is attending art school, pursuing her dreams of becoming a director, making friends, meeting boys. Her biggest concern is that she’s not developing as fast as her friends are. But when puberty does hit, it brings more than hormone surges. Chloe starts seeing ghosts–everywhere, demanding her attention. After she suffers a breakdown, her devoted aunt Lauren gets her into a highly recommended group home.

At first, Lyle House seems a pretty okay place, except for Chloe’s small problem of fearing she might be facing a lifetime of mental illness. But as she gradually gets to know the other kids at the home–charming Simon and his ominous, unsmiling brother Derek, obnoxious Tori, and Rae, who has a “thing” for fire–Chloe begins to realize that there is something that binds them all together, and it isn’t your usual “problem kid” behaviour. And together they discover that Lyle House is not your usual group home either…

My Thoughts:
I'm not sure if it's something in the water, but I seem to be stumbling across quite a few books that I feel start off really strongly and then for some reason just descend into the mediocre arena. I finished this book out of sheer determination (and writing procrastination) because by the time I got halfway, I felt the plot had started to drag and couldn't get excited about it again.
           The strongest feeling I got out of this book would definitely be disappointment. I decided to read The Summoning despite the ghostly premise because the first few chapters were interesting and Chloe's voice was quite likeable. By the time she is placed in the group home, what I thought was going to be a novel about cool super powers turned into what I felt could have been a prequel book. 
          There's a part of me that acknowledges that the way Chloe acted in this book is probably the most accurate representation of how a teenager would rationalise their powers if this really did happen in real life. The super action/plot twist fan in me became very apathetic to the whole story after it took almost half of the book for Chloe to come to terms with her ability to see and communicate to ghosts.
          Once again, my biggest let down in this one was the characters. I didn't feel that they were distinct in any way so I found it difficult to separate the two female sidekicks. The only person with any real personality was Tori, the obligatory mean girl. 
          I'm glad I read this book to find out what all the hype was about, but it didn't hold my attention enough for me to feel compelled to read the rest of the series. 

The Rating:
6/10

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Writer's Corner: Should Writers Review?


Hey guys. So I've been stalking again (big surprise). This time it's the blogs and websites of my fellow writers and self publishers. A theme that keeps coming up is whether or not writers should review books. It's something that I've been mulling over for a while and one which I change my mind about all the time.
       I can understand why a lot of writers would abstain from putting their opinions on other books out there. Writing is a deeply personal thing and unless you do it yourself, it's hard to describe what it would feel like to put your heart and soul into creating a story, only to have someone tear it down. But I don't need to describe it to a lot of you guys who follow me. Many of you have blogs of your own and know how you get a spring in your step when you get a complimentary comment. Imagine then what it would feel like if you got a comment which totally trashes your review.
       There's also a feeling of solidarity amongst writers. If I know anything about writing (and I admit I know scant little as I'm a novice) it's that the best source of advice and also support is from other writers.
        Then there's that anxiety of offending someone in the book industry and have it come back later and bite you in the behind. See THIS POST from Becca Fitzpatrick's blog for an example. (FYI I don't necessarily agree with what she says). Essentially, publishing is a small world and you never know who you may offend. It makes it difficult to be honest with your opinion on a book because in the back of your mind, you're trying to juggle writing an honest review whilst treading lightly on the feelings of a writer who may possibly help your career one day.
       This is all well and good, but what oh what do I do with all these plot holes and character flaws that I see is books which gets my blood boiling and makes me want to jump into the book and kick some a$$? When I finish reading a book that I loathe, my immediate reaction is to go online to see if there are others who disliked it as much as I did. Thanks to book blogs, Amazon and Goodreads, there's usually no shortage of fuel for my fire. I think this is where I make my mistakes. Where I lose sight of being objective and begin to sink into the realm of 'this book sucks therefore the writer must be some blethering idiot and I am going to enjoy sinking my fangs into their book.' It's a condition that I am going to call critic-lust. That moment when something goes off in my head and I forget about the difficult writing journey and only concentrate on the unpalatable outcome. I have selective amnesia and the hours I spend agonising over plot points and character arcs, something every writer does, goes out the window. And as much as I hate to admit it, I enjoy having a good rant. It's liberating. Being a writer means putting your work out there and if you haven't developed a thick skin or learned to take criticism, you're going to have a hard slog ahead of you.
        However. There's always a however! I think there are ways for writers to review books without succumbing to critic-lust. I may be a writer but I am also a reader. And I want to share my opinions with my fellow reader friends. I don't want to alienate anyone but I want to be able to be honest without fear or hesitation. So published writers...I'm sorry if what I say isn't what you want to hear. I will review your books as honestly and objectively as I can if you won't hold it against me. There are many things I will forgive in a book but I don't want to look up to whiny, stupid women or stalker guys and vapid friends. As much as I don't like the thought of pulling the rug from under myself later on, I detest the idea of having to stifle myself to keep it from happening. Feel free not to blurb me, I understand. I almost didn't read The Hunger Games because Stephanie Meyer recommended it. Go figure.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Misc Monday: 2012: The Yes Year


I don't think I'd be pushing the truth when I say that in general, we book bloggers are the quiet types. Speaking about myself specifically, I would go even further to say that I've got one foot in the hermit zone. I would much rather stay home and read/watch TV/stalk people on the internet, than go out and interact with real people. Sometimes, when it's a special occasion, I'll even feel a little resentful that something is taking me away from my life of quiet contemplation.
       I'm not 100% sure exactly how this happened either. It's not as if I was a social butterfly once upon a time, but I had a few close friends and a wider social group. Now they're lucky to see me on their birthdays. On top of this, I find myself judging people/situations well before I've even been asked to go somewhere. So far, I haven't been very fussed with the decline in my social life, but I've been beginning to think that it's hindering my writing.
        You see, the couple of times that I've come up with great story ideas, it's always been while I've been out with friends or at work. Very rarely do I have great inspiration sitting at home. This leads me to think that I could be missing out on situations that could resolve some much agonized over plot holes I've been trying to fill. Plus, I tend to think I'm closing a lot of doors on opportunities.
        For example, I have somehow developed a strange aversion to garage sales. I think it's another symptom of my OCD. So when I had no choice but to go to one whilst my younger sister and her husband were driving me home one day, I wasn't impressed. That is until I came across a stash of near mint YA books for the price of $1 each. I walked out of there with 10 books for $10! Then at a recent work Christmas party, which I did not want to go to because I just couldn't be bothered, I told a colleague I was writing a YA novel and she said that she actually knows a publisher!
       So the moral of the story is, as much as I would love to continue being a half hermit, I think it's better for me to get out there once in a while and embrace the real world and all it has to offer. So 2012 will be my official year of saying Yes to opportunities and invitations I would have tried to get out of earlier. Who knows, maybe I'll meet my potential agent on the train to the library one day :)

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