Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix

I have died three times, and three times been reborn, though I am not yet twenty in the old earth years by which it is still the fashion to measure time. This is the story of my three deaths, and my life between. 
My name is Khemri.
Taken from his parents as a child and equipped with biological and technological improvements, Khemri is now an enhanced human being, trained and prepared for the glory of becoming a Prince of the Empire. Not to mention the ultimate glory: should he die, and be deemed worthy, he will be reborn...Which is just as well, because no sooner has Prince Khemri graduated to full Princehood than he learns the terrible truth behind the Empire: there are ten million princes, and all of them want each other dead.

I’ve read a few of Nix’s other books, and wasn’t a huge fan. But the premise of this story seemed so different that I just had to give it a try. And it was an enjoyable read.

This story is set in the future, where humans have developed abilities like telecommunication and such, and then ‘princes’ are enhanced further, plus they are programmed to want certain things, like being emperor—every twenty years, a new emperor is chosen from the current princes. But, with all the competition out there, chances are pretty low. So they try to kill each other off in order to improve their odds.

Khemri learns this the hard way. After growing up in the lap of luxury, this is quite a shock to him. Which I liked. He started out as a spoiled and annoying character, but then grows more interesting as he lives in less than ideal environments. I was worried that the whole ‘prince’ thing would make him think he was better than everyone around him (and he was like that in the beginning), but he grows more human as the story progresses.

The romance was slow and believable, and I liked Raine as a character. I liked how Khemri grew as he got to know her better. He still had his original prince-y goals (and I would have groaned if he’d dropped that all together), but he let his human side drive his motivations a bit more and became less and less selfish.

The world wasn’t as vivid as I wanted, and the pacing felt rushed in places, but overall this was a fun read. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Article on Book Sales

This article talks about the most common mistakes authors make when it comes to book sales. I found it really interesting, so I thought I'd share.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Galen, a Syrena prince, searches land for a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. It’s while Emma is on vacation at the beach that she meets Galen. Although their connection is immediate and powerful, Galen's not fully convinced that Emma's the one he's been looking for. That is, until a deadly encounter with a shark proves that Emma and her Gift may be the only thing that can save his kingdom. He needs her help--no matter what the risk.

I wasn’t sure about this book when I first picked it up. A bunch of mermaid books came out at the same time, and I was having a hard time differentiating them. This book is about Syrena, not mermaids, which seems like a small difference, but it was enough for me. The characters were interesting, and there was some hilarious dialogue.

Emma was okay as a character. She started off as a bit too weak for my taste, but she grows stronger as the story progresses. Galen was fairly interesting, though his quick temper (which seems to be the temper of all Syrena) did make him unlikable a few times. But the chemistry between the two got more interesting as the story progresses, and the dialogue improves with each page.

The plot had a few stumbles along the way, like how Emma deals with the death of her best friend, Chloe. This happens right at the beginning of the book, and her death is so violent and scary, yet Emma doesn’t seem to be as affected as I expected her to be. And Emma’s mother isn’t consistent regarding keeping strict tabs on Emma vs. letting her do whatever with Galen. It doesn’t make sense, for multiple reasons. Also, the plot twists were rather predictable, though this didn’t bother me much for some reason.

I did like the Syrena lore that the author created. All the history of Poseidon and Triton, plus their abilities, were well planned out. And the underwater scenes were vivid and beautifully written. I felt like I was there. The Syrena culture was a bit shocking—women have absolutely no rights, not even about who they get to marry. As a result, Galen tries to order Emma about, which she resists with a strong will of her own. Many reviewers have criticized the story for this, but I was okay with it. Mostly because it’s culture that’s been around for generations, so it’s not going to change overnight. But it does make for some interesting scenes when Emma’s culture clashes with Galen’s. I’m guessing that Emma is going to bring about change in this arena, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Overall, I thought this was a fairly enjoyable book, with a few stumbles that I could overlook. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quotes From Famous Writers

Here's some more great quotes for you. Enjoy!!

Only a mediocre writer is always at his best.
- William Somerset Maugham

I have rewritten- often several times- every word I have ever written.  My pencils outlast their erasures.
- Vladimir Nabokov

Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination.
- Louise Brooks

When you sell a man a book, you don't sell him 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life.
- Christopher Morley

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
- Ring Lardner

Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.
- Don Marquis

If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad.
- Lord Byron

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.
- Samuel Johnson

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.
- Mark Twain

The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.
- Mary Heaton Vorse

We don't write what we know.  We write what we wonder about.
- Richard Peck

Good things, when short, are twice as good.
- Baltasar Gracian

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mind Games by Kiersten White

Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.
Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

I wasn’t sure about this book when I first picked it up. I didn’t really care for the way the Paranormalcy trilogy ended, so I had iffy thoughts about whether I was a fan of White after all. But the premise of Mind Games seemed so different that I decided to give it a try.

The beginning was difficult to get into because we get bits of stuff that happened in the past, and it kind of felt like struggling through a puzzle with missing pieces. I like having questions that require answers as I continue to read, but this was a bit much.

There were several shifts from past to present that were clunky at first, but then I got used to them, which made the transitions easier. I liked getting the glimpses of past Annie and past Fia and how they ended up where they did. But that’s a plot device I really like—if you don’t like constant shifting back and forth with little to no warning, this might drive you crazy. :)

Speaking of crazy, Fia is a crazy person. Which makes perfect sense considering what she’s been through. Spending half a lifetime being manipulated, abused, coerced, and bullied will do that to you. I found her to be a very interesting character, even through her incredible anger and vitriol. I understood them, because those are the things she uses to protect herself. It’s the only thing she has. It’s easy to see how her self-destructive path seems like her only option because she’s so trapped. Annie wasn’t so interesting. She seemed a little too helpless, and a little too clueless. I did like her in the end, though, but it was hard to read about her for an entire book.

Many people have said that they didn’t buy the relationship between Fia and Annie (that they would do anything for each other), but I thought it worked. I think the problem is that we see them now, where that bond is being constantly tested, and we see very little of how it was before. But I can see them being very close, especially since their parents were killed, and I actually thought their relationship was realistic. Kind of a love-hate thing: blaming each other, blaming themselves, feeling manipulated into doing something they don’t want for the sake of the other, the guilt that follows, etc. Those are huge and would put strain on the strongest possible bond between people. I actually think that because they don’t have unwavering faith in each other, that’s what makes it so realistic. Many people think that beliefs never change, but that rarely happens in real life.

The romance was so-so, but I think it was mostly set-up for the next book. Which is fine with me. I was glad White didn’t take things too far with either love interest. And I liked how the story ended, because the story had an actual ending. There are still questions and clearly another book will be written, but the conflict ended with satisfaction. It was quite predictable, but satisfying enough for me to overlook that flaw. :)

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I think most teens will, too. It releases next week, so go pick yourself up a copy. :)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Technology For Writing

Technically, all you need in order to write is pen and paper. Some people still hold to that, but if you want to get your work out to publishers, then you need technology. You *could* make due with a typewriter, but then editing will be a nightmare. And we all know how necessary editing is to the writing process, right? :)

With technology comes the added risk of losing your work to a random glitch or malfunction, which means we need backups to ensure we don’t lose anything. I already did a post on backing up your work, so I won’t dwell on this. Instead, I’m going to focus on the good things technology can give us.

There are some pretty cool programs out there. Two, in particular, I use regularly when I’m writing. The first is called Evernote. It’s been around for quite some time so you may have heard of it. I use it as a place to collect all my notes and research for a story I’m writing. I keep character profiles, plot brainstorms, revision notes, research and references, story summaries, you name it. I keep it all in there.

These are items I used to keep in a notebook...or, at least, try to. Sometimes my notes would end up in multiple places, or I’d have to carry it all with me when I went someplace quiet to write. But with Evernote, it’s all there, all the time. And, my account isn’t local to my computer—it utilizes the cloud, so I can access all the info in my account from anywhere. There is even an app that gives you access from your phone or tablet. But the best part is that I can organize all my notes. For each project I’m writing, I create a ‘notebook’ with the title of that project. Then, I tag all relevant notes so it’s associated with that notebook. Easy-peasy. I love Evernote. I never have to wonder “what did I do with that list of websites” again. :)

The other program I use regularly is an app call CloudOn. I installed it on my iPad, and it works in conjunction with Dropbox—it gives you full access to the documents you store in Dropbox. If you don’t have an app that can read Excel files, no problem! CloudOn can let you read and edit it. Same with word and text files and probably more I haven’t discovered. Any changes I make through CloudOn gets automatically uploaded via Dropbox, and is waiting for me the next time I sit down at my computer. I actually write many of my blog posts using CloudOn (including this one) because it’s more convenient to carry around an iPad than my laptop.

Anyway, these are two programs I use regularly and love. Have you used them? Do you have any that you love?

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .
Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.
Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.
With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

The Peter Pan story has been retold a zillion times. Some were good, some not so much. But I don’t remember one that’s all about Tiger Lily and Tinker Bell. I was intrigued, so I decided to give this book a try.

The thing I liked most about this story is how different Neverland is. It’s nothing like the image that Disney created. You don’t get there by flying (in fact, there isn’t any flying). It’s an island that people only seem to find after being shipwrecked, and no one ever seems to be able to leave (because of whatever natural disaster brought them there in the first place). It’s inhabited by plenty of people, some native and some not, and you grow up until you just stop growing. You could be ten or eighty when you stop growing, and the reason for this isn’t known. I like how much time the author spent figuring out the rules of this place, and, even though it was nothing like I expected, it was my favorite part of the story.

I also liked how she reimagined the characters. Tink isn’t Peter’s best buddy. If fact, she’s hardly noticed by anyone—which, I’m sure, is why she’s the narrator. She can get in anywhere and spy without anyone giving her a second thought. I think this makes her an effective storyteller, and I think it fits with the characters of both Peter and Tiger Lily.

Peter isn’t a little boy in this book. He’s a teenager, hormones and all, showing classic signs of ADHD. But there wasn’t much more to him than that. I get that the halt in growing can also make a person static, and that might have been the reason for the stunt in his character growth, but I would have liked to see more depth to him.

Tiger Lily was completely intriguing in the beginning. She’s a strong character with an interesting adoptive father, Tik Tok. Her world is violent, which has made her violent—and a survivor, and everyone seems to accept this as the status quo. I thought this gave the world more layers, which I was happy to delve in to. But the more we saw, the more I didn’t quite understand.

Since Neverland and Peter were so different, I was hoping for more of that difference. But we don’t really get it. Tiger Lily is your typical tom-boy and never really grows beyond that. Wendy is the ultimate girly-girl and never really grows beyond that. Peter is a clueless teenage boy and never grows beyond that. I get that people stop growing in Neverland, but I thought this was taken a bit too far. Particularly considering where things end up.

My favorite character, by far, was Tik Tok. His situation was heartbreaking, and the themes underlying those trying to ‘help’ him were strong and well done.

So, for me, this book had good parts and not so good parts, but if you like atypical retellings then you might like this one. 

Monday, February 04, 2013

Fiction Fun: Snowman

In honor of all the snow I woke up to this morning, here's a little fiction fun about two kids building a snowman. Enjoy!

Snowflakes float to the ground. One settles on my nose, a brief chill before it melts. The trees are covered in thick mounds of white, and the air feels soft and quiet.

My brother, Jordan, runs his little legs through a snow drift. He trips, landing on the white cushion blanketing the ground. His laugh tinkles through the snowflakes, bouncing off each and echoing through the air. He rolls and rolls, the snow crunching underneath. I scoop up a handful, pressing it together, adding more and more.

Jordan stands up, eyes bright and cheeks red, and runs over to help me. We push the ball around the yard, picking up more and more snow until it’s too heavy to move. Then we make another and stack that on top. And then one more and we’re done. Two shiny, black rocks for the eyes, a string of brown pebbles for the mouth, and a broken stick for his nose. Our snowman smiles down at us as Jordan wraps a scarf around his neck, the light catching his shiny eyes just right. I’d swear he just winked at me.