Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Writer or eavesdropper?

Okay, I have a guilty confession to make. Sometimes I go to a coffee shop and sit down just to hear other people's conversations. Yeah, I know, that makes me an eavesdropper, but I love listening to real conversations and seeing how people speak (and perhaps pick up some interesting tidbits that could later be used to fuel my ideas).

But, isn't this one way to help create realistic dialogue? If you don't listen to people and watch how they act, how does the writer know they are creating realistic characters? That's my argument and I'm sticking with it.

Don't tell me I'm the only one who does this. Who else loves to catch bits of conversation? Who out there catches sight of someone (whether it's what they say, what they wear or how they look) and thinks that they could use that quirk in their stories? 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: Pretty Crooked


Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

Synopsis (From Goodreads):   Willa’s secret plan seems all too simple: take from the rich kids at Valley Prep and give to the poor ones.

Yet Willa’s turn as Robin Hood at her ultra-exclusive high school is anything but. Bilking her “friends”-known to everyone as the Glitterati-without them suspecting a thing, is far from easy. Learning how to pick pockets and break into lockers is as difficult as she’d thought it’d be. Delivering care packages to the scholarship girls, who are ostracized just for being from the “wrong” side of town, is way more fun than she’d expected. 

 The complication Willa didn’t expect, though, is Aidan Murphy, Valley Prep’s most notorious (and gorgeous) ace-degenerate. His mere existence is distracting Willa from what matters most to her-evening the social playing field between the have and have-nots. There’s no time for crushes and flirting with boys, especially conceited and obnoxious trust-funders like Aidan. 

 But when the cops start investigating the string of burglaries at Valley Prep and the Glitterati begin to seek revenge, could he wind up being the person that Willa trusts most?

Elisa Ludwig has created a hilarious modern day Robin Hood in her debut novel, Pretty Crooked. Willa never wanted to move, but when her artist mother sells her art for a lot of money, a move is exactly what they do. Now Will finds herself at an exclusive prep school and instantly welcomed into the Glitterati, the popular group. Not wanting to complain about her new friends, she tries to ignore that these girls could be behind a mean gossip blog, the Buzz who aims to make fun of the scholarship students. In order to put everyone on an even playing field (that is give the scholarship girls some money and new clothes), Willa comes up with the plan to become a modern day Robin Hood, which isn't as easy as she thought as she sets out to learn how to break-in and pick pockets. Will she be able to get away with this plan while still evading the cops who are getting closer to busting her?

On the surface, this would seem like the average mean-girls-get-what-they-deserve type book, but there are so many layers to this book, including strange parental behaviour and another mystery surrounding hottie Aidan (which I won't say anything about as it will spoil some of the mystery). Willa is a sincere character who just wants everyone at Valley Prep to be treated the same, and that may include stealing and giving new clothes and money to the poor scholarship girls who are constantly being bullied because they don't have money. Who wouldn't want that?

Elisa Ludwig does a fantastic job of immersing the reader into the glamorous world of Valley Prep, which helped to get the reader to know all about the characters before Willa's big plan begins.

Pretty Crooked definitely was a great build-up for the next book, but I felt there were too many subplots and mysteries happening in the background that didn't get cleared up by the end of the story, and this is one thing that let the story down. The novel is a fun, light read, and a must for anyone who loves the Robin Hood (stealing from the rich to give to the poor) storyline.

Source: ebook
2012 Debut Author Challenge: #9 of 12
2012 YA Reading Challenge: #52 of 50
2012 Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge: #1 of 11

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Would you be able to survive the apocalypse?

That was a question that I had to ask myself on Friday after a freak snow blizzard (yeah, it's not supposed to happen since we're in the middle of Spring here) trapped me in my small town. This is what I woke up to, which had school cancelled (yay!!!), but it also meant no power and all roads leading in and out of town were closed, and eventually I lost cell phone signal.

That's no that bad is it? With no stores open and unprepared (luckily I had boiled the kettle before the power blackout so I could make a cup of coffee), I could do nothing but stay in bed and hope the power of my iPad lasted (surprisingly it lasted a long time) before I turned around to a paperback book.

As lunch ticked around, I began wondering what there was to eat. I had plenty of microwave meals and frozen food (no good without power), I also had tins of sardines (which my brother thought was good enough to eat). Luckily after seven hours of isolation, the streets opened back up and power came back, as well as phone signal. Seven hours was all it took to question whether I could actually survive without power, phones or cars. I don't think I'd survive long if a real apocalypse did happen :(

So, I'm asking you, do you think you'd be able to survive if an apocalypse did occur?

P.S. On the weekend I purchased a battery operated light and a gas cooker (maybe that will help next time I'm stranded) :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Review: Poltergeeks

Poltergeeks by Sean Cummings

Synopsis (From Goodreads):   15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn't all it's cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it's pretty obvious to Julie there's a supernatural connection. 

In fact, there's a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie's high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it's a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won't just lose her mother's soul, she'll lose her mother's life

Julie Richardson is just like a normal girl, well except for the fact that she's a witch. Actually a witch-in-training. Her mother is teaching her how to harness her magic and help exorcise spirits/poltergeists from the mortal realm. When Julie and her best friend, Marcus encounters a poltergeist attacking an elderly neighbour,  and a large-scale paranormal attack on her high school, Julie knows that something malice is out to get her and her mother. After her mother falls victim to a spell called Endless Nights, Julie must learn the truth about who she is and learn to harness her full powers if she hopes to stand a chance against  defeating this evil and saving her mother's life.

Ever since the cover and blurb was revealed I knew I wanted to read Poltergeeks and I wasn't disappointed. Sean Cummings has created an interesting and original world of witches and ghosts and together with the snarky and humorous attitude of Julie, Poltergeeks is a page-turning read that will capture and hook the reader's attention from the first page.

Julie is just like an average teenager. She fights with her mother, she struggles with determining her feelings towards her best friend, and she makes mistakes (a lot of them). She is eager to prove to her mother, and herself, that she can handle things without anyone's helps. This doesn't always lead to the best result, and often gets Marcus into trouble with her. Julie isn't the only well-rounded character. This novel is full of a cast that reader's can root for and sometimes despise.

The story starts at a sprinting pace and doesn't slow down as Julie is attacked over and over again by supernatural forces, which will have the reader wanting to continue turning the page to find out what's going to happen next (trust me, lost sleep just to see how it ended). It is a fun and quick read with a few twists and turns thrown in to keep Julie on her feet. I would definitely recommend Poltergeeks to anyone who loves YA paranormal, but also anyone who loves sassy characters and strong, butt-kicking females. I can't wait to read the sequel and see where Julie's adventures lead her next.

Source: ebook
2012 Debut Author Challenge: #8 of 12
2012 YA Reading Challenge: #21 of 50

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Nanowrimo

It's that time of year again, where writers everywhere are preparing to write a crazy 50,000 words in one month. For those that don't know, November is the month of caffeine, chocolate and sleepless nights as writers push to make it past the finish line.

With there being less than a month until the hectic mayhem starts, I'm busy trying to plot my idea. October is usually the month that most of the plotters spend getting all the details of their novels worked out (while I know several who have absolutely no idea what to write up to 11:59pm on the 31st October and have still powered through the 50,000 words). So, this month is going to be exceptionally busy for me.

Okay, I'm being a bit ambitious this year. I've had this story idea brewing for a few months, but I wasn't going to start writing it until I go to Japan on holiday in January. So, what does my holiday to Japan have to do with it? Well, it's actually because the story is based in Japan and I've been researching like mad all the elements of Japanese culture (such as home life and schools) that no holiday can tell me.

It would probably be the best idea to wait, but I've been to Japan before so I know the rough locations where I'm setting the novel, and my character really, really, really wants to be written. So, here's an introduction to my Nano novel titled Shinigami Eyes (it's a YA supernatural mystery):

After an incident at a school dance almost got her date killed 16-year-old Rin is sent to live with her grandparents in Japan. Being the new girl is hard, but also being told by crazed Otaku (someone obsessed with anime/manga) Matthew that she is a character in a manga called Shinigami Eyes that he recons can tell the future is something that she can't handle. 

 She tries to ignore Matthew's attempts to persuade her that she is indeed a character until the manga shows her standing over a dead body. Now Rin, with Matthew's help, has to discover the identity of this person and why she would want to kill them, before the manga becomes a reality.

Apart from finishing my research, my planning is going to involve creating a wide cast of characters, plotting my mystery elements and even figuring out 'who did it' and 'murder victim'... even though my brother suggests to just write it and as he says "see who wants to jump under the knife". I'm excited to start planning for this because there's going to be manga, witches and murder... what else could anyone need?

So, who's participating in Nano? If you are, have you thought about what you're writing? And are you a pantser or plotter?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: Department 19

Department 19 by Will Hill


Synopsis (From Goodreads):  Jamie Carpenter's life will never be the same. His father is dead, his mother is missing, and he was just rescued by an enormous man named Frankenstein. Jamie is brought to Department 19, where he is pulled into a secret organization responsible for policing the supernatural, founded more than a century ago by Abraham Van Helsing and the other survivors of Dracula. Aided by Frankenstein's monster, a beautiful vampire girl with her own agenda, and the members of the agency, Jamie must attempt to save his mother from a terrifyingly powerful vampire. 

Department 19 takes us through history, across Europe, and beyond - from the cobbled streets of Victorian London to prohibition-era New York, from the icy wastes of Arctic Russia to the treacherous mountains of Transylvania. Part modern thriller, part classic horror, it's packed with mystery, mayhem, and a level of suspense that makes a Darren Shan novel look like a romantic comedy.

Jamie Carpenter always thought vampires were stuff of stories, that was until his mother goes missing and he's attacked by something waiting for him at home. After being saved by a man named Frankenstein, Jamie is brought to Department 19, a place that's not meant to exist (well, at least no one knows exists). Department 19 is a secret government organisation that is responsible for policing the supernatural and keeping the world of vampires and monsters a secret from the outside world. Aided by Frankenstein and a vampire girl who may or may not be dangerous, but definitely has her own agenda for helping them, they must attempt to save Jamie's mother and defeat a powerful and ancient vampire.

I had heard good things about Department 19 before I picked up the book, and I was not let down. Will Hill has created an intriguing under-world using the legendary vampire Dracula and the hunter Van Helsing as a starting point for his world. He has brought the terrifyingly dangerous vampire back into the modern generation which is good to see.

Jamie Carpenter is an interesting character. He knows nothing about this world or what his father did. He has been led to believe that his father was an international terrorist instead of a vampire hunter when he died. This little detail with his father helped to create a tough and well-rounded character. Together with a cast of oddities from Frankenstein's monster to a beautiful vampire who seems to want to help Jamie but everyone says can't trust her, to the ancient vampire set on seeing all the Carpenter family dead, this makes it a thrilling page turner from beginning to end.

The use of the two time lines, the modern with Jamie and the past with Van Helsing, helps to give the reader a deeper insight into the world, while still foreshadowing for events that are yet to come. I recommend this to anyone who loves vampires (especially the rip-people's-throats-out, savage kind). I look forward to seeing where Jamie's adventures goes next with the sequel.

Source: audio book
2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge: #6 of 11-20
2012 YA Reading Challenge: #20 of 50

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Procrastination Buster

I have to admit it. I'm an expert at procrastination, especially when it comes to avoiding work. I don't know what I do, but I can sit in front of the computer (promising that I'll start writing) and before I know it several hours have passed.

Yeah, I know, with the amount of time I sit in front of the computer I could have a dozen novels written right now, but alas, my need to procrastinate is still there.

So, how can one person aim to defeat that enemy of every writer, or every person with a computer? You could do something drastic like disconnecting the internet (gah) or getting someone to lock you in a small room with nothing but a notepad and pen and not letting you out until you finish that first draft you've been meaning to complete. Okay, so that's a little too drastic. What about following these tips and bust that procrastination:

  1. Prioritise your time: Know what you want to complete and what 'needs' to be completed. Some things may have more priority and so must be completed before anything else. 
  2. Set a goal: Yeah, procrastination comes when you don't know what you're working towards. Having a goal is one way to tell yourself that you must complete so many words before you can have a break.
  3. Reward yourself: Everyone loves to get rewarded, it makes completing something so much more... rewarding. Give yourself something for completing goals, even if it's ten minutes on Twitter (well, you need to announce to everyone that you completed that goal).
  4. Positive motivation: Surround yourself with positive people. Having people who can support you and congratulate you for completing goals will help power you on until you have all your goals completed.
  5. Don't be unrealistic: Don't say you're going to write the whole first draft in one sitting (even though i could possibly be done if you don't need sleep, food or any other relief), your goals need to be realistic or you'll get bored and boredom is definitely one road back to procrastination.
And here's a fantastic little video of Lisa Simpson writing a novel, and I promise you watching this isn't procrastination :D

video

So, how do you beat procrastination? Do you have any other tips?
 
Blog Design by Imagination Designs all images from the Her Lullaby kit by Irene Alexeeva