Wednesday 28 December 2011

Crikey! I Need Help Guys

As part of the fun of participating in the 2012 Aussie Author Challenge hosted by Joanne at Booklover Book Reviews, I entered a contest to name the cute little koala mascot. The person whose name gets the most votes wins a book from the Book Depository.
         My entry is the very obvious but I think very apt offering of Steve after the late great Steve Irwin. My husband and I had the pleasure of seeing one of his crocodile shows at Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast of Brisbane back in 2002 and he was as bubbly and outgoing as he was on TV.
        Anyway, that's beside the point really. What I'm getting at is that it would mean a lot to me if you guys would hop over to the Booklover blog and vote for my entry. I would be eternally grateful.

2012 Ebook Challenge

First off, big thanks to Jessica at Thoughts At One In The Morning for bringing this challenge to my attention. The 2012 Ebook Challenge is hosted by Sarah at Workaday Reads. The rules of the challenge are easy. You just have to sign up and choose what level of the challenge you will be participating at. I am going to try for level 2 which involves reading at least 10 ebooks for 2012.
      I feel a little guilty writing this post and participating in this challenge because I am the worlds worst ebook reader. I've been an avid book lover for so long and have always touted that print books are better, but in the last few months there's been a shift in my life. Suddenly ebooks are starting to look better and better.
          There are so many great indie books that are only available as ebooks, the ereader is light and carries hundreds more books than my bookshelves can and let's not forget that I get quite a few review requests for ebooks and I am notoriously bad at keeping up with these reviews. So this is a way for me to do that. I can't wait to start!

Tuesday 27 December 2011

2012 Aussie Author Challenge

The Aussie Author Challenge is hosted by Joanne of Booklover Book Reviews and it's been going on for about 3 years now. I only discovered this challenge halfway through 2011 but I intend to take up the challenge every year from now on. The rules of the challenge are easy and can be found HERE. As an Aussie, my goal is to read and review 12 books by at least 6 different Australian authors.
        I think it's pretty safe to say that I didn't have the slightest clue how many wonderful Australian books there are out there until I stated doing this challenge and it's opened up a whole new world of book discovery. Already I've been keeping my eyes out and have come up with a good list of books to be read. So far I've come up with the following:

1. Muse by Rebecca Lim
2. The Sending by Isobelle Carmody
3. Embrace by Jessica Shirvington
4. Emblaze by Jessica Shirvington
5. Bloodsong by Rhiannon Hart
6. Gamer's Quest by George Ivanoff
7. Blaze of Glory by Michael Pryor
8. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

That's all I can think of so far. I'm sure more will come up once the shortlists for book awards start rolling in but for now that's enough to get me started. Wish me luck guys!

Saturday 17 December 2011

Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

The Story:
Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered. With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever. - From Goodreads

My Thoughts:
This book should get top ratings just for creativity alone. Although some of the ideas are biologically impossible regardless of the alternate history factor, I found that I could easily suspend disbelief because of the sheer genius of the creations. Leaving aside my crazy biology obsession, Leviathan was a great read in so many ways.The story was told in the alternating POV's of Alek and Deryn and whilst normally, I tend to prefer the voice of one character, both MC's voices were distinct and their stories equally enjoyable.
       One of my biggest fears when starting this book and based on the incredible cover was that I wouldn't be able to really understand the technology. This is always a big concern of mine when I read steampunk or sci-fi. Thankfully, the complex world building was conveyed quite well and I was able to enjoy the awesomeness of it all without being jarred back into reality by concepts I couldn't fathom. 
        Leviathan is light on the romance side but there's a hint of it towards the end which speaks of more to come later in the series. My one small issue with the book is that I felt like the author leaned very heavily on the side of the Darwinists and I would have liked for a more balanced portrayal of the opposing technologies.
        Overall, I really enjoyed reading Leviathan and look forward to continuing the series.

The Rating:

Tuesday 13 December 2011

December NaNoWriMo Follow-up.

It's been almost two weeks since NaNoWriMo and I wish I could say that I've been busy finishing off my story and editing and all that writerly goodness. Instead, here's the real deal: I HAVE DONE NOTHING.
      Besides occasionally looking at the November timetable that Jessica from Thoughts At One In The Morning made for use during NaNoWriMo and feeling mildly motivated to send Cathy of Abnormally Paranormal Reviews some chapters to critique, I've been a bit slack. On the other hand, after the crazy month that was November, I think I deserved a break. It's just that said break is now turning into a very long and unproductive vacation and without the looming deadline to keep me on track I fear that my story is heading into oblivion. But it's Christmas! I hear you all saying....yeah I know! Which is why I've decided to set myself some easy goals to make me feel as if I'm being productive and then the rest of the time can be for me going crazy with Christmas decorating and cookie making.
     I've done some simple math (the only kind I am capable of these days despite the Asian genes) and have decided that I'll probably have to write another 40,000 in order to finish the book properly. If I set a goal of 1000 words a day, I should be finished by the end of January 2012. This gives me a lot of leeway for additional writing because I have two weeks off over the Christmas period.
     What about you guys? How are you going with your NaNo projects now that it's all over?

Thursday 8 December 2011

Review: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

The Story:
For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her...until Patch comes along.
With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment, but after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is far more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel. For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

My Thoughts:
I've been sitting here trying to think of a way to review this book. I really wanted to love it, but unfortunately for me, it fell into the category of books that I don't especially love but I didn't totally dislike either. I find these the hardest to review because there isn't anything which distinctly sticks out to make me like or dislike it.I picked up Hush, Hush because I watched Dogma a few weeks ago and it occurred to me that I haven't read many angel themed books in my time. Given the glowing reviews it has received on Goodreads, I figured I couldn't go wrong.
        I've read a lot of reviews which liken Hush, Hush to Twilight and truthfully, I could see where these reviewers are coming from. There's a lot of the same Twilighty stuff going on in Hush, Hush and besides a semi mystery subplot that really isn't developed very much, for me it felt like the exact same book plot wise. There are also a few loose ends that I didn't think were tied up very well, but I'm willing to overlook those because this is a paranormal romance and that's what takes centre stage.
And now on to my favourite topic:
Nora: Too Stupid To Live. I really enjoyed Nora's voice and seemingly normal girl personality.Up until the point where she does the one thing that kills a heroine for me. The "he's dangerous and I know I should stay away from him because he could kill me, but gosh darn it, he's just so hot and for some reason I feel safe around him." <insert a string of expletives here>. There were times when I had to put the book down because some of the things she did just completely baffled me. It's a testament to Fitzpatrick's writing skill that I didn't immediately stop reading. Despite Nora's defects, I don't dislike her the way I do Bella Swan so she falls into the category of clueless heroines who I don't really care for but don't want to be murdered.

Patch: Again I can't decide if he fits into the stalker guy category or if he was the one who saved this book for me. As a character, he at least did what it was he was supposed to do: brood, add sexual tension and be an arrogant jackass. I liked that he stuck to his guns and didn't turn into some lame puppy after his feelings for Nora came to light. Even if I didn't understand where these feelings came from.

Vee: Who needs enemies when you have friends like this? Ones who think nothing of embarrassing you with their awkward outbursts and who insist on believing you're deluded rather than that the guy they like could possibly be a violent sociopath. I'll stick to being a loner thanks. 

Now that I've totally violated my 'I'm going to be professional with my reviews' resolution, I will go ahead and say that the angel mythology was interesting and the writing well done. I liked that Nora had a good relationship with her mum and didn't disregard her because she thought Patch was some kind of omnipotent hot guy. Overall, Hush, Hush was a quick and easy read and I would recommend to those who like a paranormal romance. I'll even go so far as to say that I wouldn't mind reading the sequel.

The Rating:

Wednesday 7 December 2011

The Classics Reading Challenge 2012

The Classics Reading Challenge is a reading challenge being hosted by Jessica at Thoughts At One In The Morning. The rules are simple:

1. This challenge starts January 1st 2012 and ends December 31st 2012.
2. All books read for this challenge can be counted toward all other reading challenges.
3. All books chosen for this challenge must be books you have NEVER read or NEVER finished that were written prior to 1980.
4. Choose a level or number of books you would like to read.
5. Create a sign up post for your blog including the Classics Reading Challenge picture above and the books you would like to read (you can change your mind at any time).

I've always struggled to read the classic classics (Shakespeare, Dostoevsky,Dickens) but I figure some of the modern classics should be too hard. Still, I know this will be a difficult challenge for me so I'm going to give myself a break and will participate at level 2. This means I need to read 4-6 books. At the moment these are my picks:

1. Anne of Green Gables
2. Catcher in the Rye
3.Great Expectations
4. Sense and Sensibility
5. A Little Princess
6. ?

This is one of only two challenges I'll be doing this year so I'm going to make it count! Am a bit excited about 2012 now...

Monday 5 December 2011

Team Nice Guys

This post is a direct result of my ever growing DNF pile and also from last week's Follow Friday topic on pet peeves. Amongst the many pet peeves that popped up, I think the one that resonated with me the most is the stalkerish hot guy who is fast becoming a staple in YA books. I'm not sure if said guy is just a sure fire way to sell books or it's an alarming trend towards a mainstream acceptance of such behavior. Either way, it scares me.
       Let's start out by defining this stalker hot guy archetype. Stalker guys' general qualities are:

-really really ridiculously good looking (I'm talking Derek Zoolander style);
-spends a lot of time watching the heroine sleep and thinks nothing of breaking into her house to do so;
-feels that it's perfectly fine to control all aspects of the heroine's life because he knows what's best;
-is not above forcing the heroine to do things against her will, even if she protests;
-is disdainful and rude to the heroine's friends and family but is forgiven because he's  misunderstood (plus he's hot!);
-may literally be out to kill the heroine until suddenly falling in love with her for reasons unfathomable;

I have to point out that there's a difference between stalker guy and the more palatable jaded bad boy types, or even in some instances, the anti-hero guys. The latter are guys who don't necessarily play by the rules, but their hearts are in the right places and they have some measure of respect for the heroine to let her make choices for herself. Let me also add that books with stalker guys in them tend to have heroines who are too stupid to live and this adds to the proliferation of the lie that stalker hot guys are attractive and should be nurtured instead of tasered.
      Maybe I'm just reading way too much into it (I've been known to do this a lot!) but I visited almost all of the bloggers that linked up to the FF post last week because I was so interested in the subject and you know what? Many bloggers said their pet peeve was the stalker guy and yet, their blogs were littered with 4 and 5 star reviews for books with stalker guy as the male hero. I just don't get it.
       Either way, it makes me really appreciate books that don't use stalker hot guy as a selling point. Top marks for Lend from Paranormacy, Daniel and Jason from Telesa, Ryan from Raw Blue and all the boys from Jellicoe Road. In fact, if I sat down and wrote a list, I bet I could come up with so many more names of boys who deserve to be read about. These are the kinds of boys that I want to get to know. Stalker guys need not apply. Unlike your silly heroines, I don't think you're too hot to dismiss.

Saturday 3 December 2011

NaNoWriMo Fallout!

This post is a very belated companion post to the one by Jessica at Thoughts At One In The Morning. I hope you don't mind my highjacking the post a bit Jessica :) I'm a bit brain dead at the moment.
         The good new is that I did it! November was going to be an insane month anyway regardless of NaNoWriMo. I had two weddings that I was heavily involved in, work was (and still is) complete bedlam and to top everything off, I was sick for a big chunk of the month. Still, I forced myself to find the time to write. Sometimes I'd spend whole weekends in front of the computer at the expense of friends, family and household chores. Take away was as familiar sight and I missed out on a lot of good TV. But the result is that I pushed past the 50,000 word limit and won at approximately 11:24pm on November 30th!! Woohoo!!
         NaNo has officially been over for three days and the effect is quite noticeable. I don't wake up with an impending sense of urgency or the uncontrollable urge to disregard all else but my writing. In a way it's a bit of a relief. In another way, it's really killed my momentum. So anyway, here comes the discussion on all the things I've learned:

The Good:
Without the motivation of NaNo I wouldn't have even started my novel. I keep mentioning this point because I know it's true. Usually, I suffer from a complete case of being overwhelmed by an idea to the point where I know what I want the ending to be but have no desire to go on the journey. NaNoWriMo essentially solved this problem for me. The constant pressure to keep writing ensured that I pushed past the proverbial glass wall and once the writing started it usually flowed well. The other amazing thing about NaNoWriMo is the feeling that though I was sitting cramped in my study all by myself, all over the world, other writers were doing the exact same thing and that was really comforting.

The Not So Good:
I think the pressure of making word count made me a little sick. On top of the constant cold I already had. Mostly this is due to my poor planning. I spent a great deal of time being excited about NaNoWriMo and much less time planning what I was going to write or preparing a proper plot. On the physical side of writing, sometimes I couldn't sleep because all I could think about was my story and sometimes my back really hurt from hunching over so much.

Other Observations:
-At one point, when I was 10,000 words behind with only two days to go, I considered giving up. My brain had accepted that it wasn't going to happen. My husband said it was a good effort with everything that had happened and I thought so too. Yet I continued to sit in front of the computer regardless and wrote and wrote and wrote. Lesson learned: obsessiveness pays off sometimes.
-My spelling and grammar are atrocious. Seriously. To the point where I will no longer call myself a writer. I'm a story teller masquerading behind an established and accepted means of telling said stories. Thank goodness for spell check and Google.
-No matter what I do, I cannot write a proper love triangle. Even if the characters want to go that way I just can't write two distinctive male leads. Am now contemplating a very early death for one of these guys.
-And finally, unlike other hobbies I've enjoyed only to find I hated when I tried to turn them into a business, I love telling stories. Despite the sleepless nights, the sickness, the physical discomfort. I love it.

The Verdict:
It was a wild ride. Would I do it again? For sure. Now that I'm a veteran, I know what the score is and will be much better prepared. Next year I'm going to be crazy and see if I can write an entire novel (some 80,000 words usually) in one month. I'm going to be good and start planning for it very early on indeed.

To all my fellow NaNos, whether you did or didn't win, it's been an awesome experience and I'm grateful for all your support. To all my blogger friends, thanks for putting up with my sporadic posts and comments. I feel somehow wiser all of a sudden.

Friday 2 December 2011

Follow Friday (15) - Pet Peeve Paradise

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkie and Alison. It's a really fun way to get to know other bloggers and pick up a few new followers on the way.

This weeks question is: What is your biggest pet peeve when it comes to books? Maybe you don't like love triangles or thin plots? Tell us about it.

This is my first FF back in a while and I'm so glad this is the question this week. It feels like I haven't been able to finish a book in a month because they all seem to be cut from the same annoying cloth. Anyway, enough rambling and on with the pet peeves. I have so many but here are my top ones:

1. Star crossed lovers. I know it's a classic, but it's just so overdone.I'd love to read a book where two people fall in love and it's okay for that to happen.

2. Weak, selfish, stupid heroines. This category includes such things as: the heroine not knowing she has feelings for someone despite all the clear signs, the heroine believing her love interest to be infallible despite them not being old enough to even drink legally and disregarding their friends/family and the worst one, the heroine not having zero backbone and just letting things happen to her. 

3. Heroes who are allowed to be creepy/stalkerish/controlling and somehow still get the girl. This just doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever. If it's not okay to stalk someone in real life, it's not okay just because you are supposed to be some kind of overprotective vampire/werewolf/angel.

Wow, I didn't even realise how many pet peeves I have until I started to write. This is a great question and I'd love to hear what you guys think! Have a great weekend all.