Archive for November, 2011

The End of NaNoWriMo

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It’s been a long month. A VERY long month. Between a major family upheaval and a crazy work schedule, I’m amazed I finished at all. But, Saturday morning, bright and early, I officially clocked in at 50,026 and became a NaNoWriMo winner for the VERY FIRST TIME. Especially exciting considering I’d never even tried it before.

The biggest challenge now is actually finishing the story. I would guess I’m between 10-15K off of the end, and I finally (FINALLY!) know what needs to happen. But, soon after I finished, the whole major upheaval thing meant that I haven’t had the time, or the inclination to write further. I had hoped to actually finish the novel by the end of the month, but this morning, my total stayed resolutely at 50,026.

But you know, what? I’m proud of what I’ve done already. I attempted NaNoWriMo, and I wrote more in the past month, more quickly, than I ever have in my life. True, I had written a novel before, but I dawdled about it, spending more than 9 months on the rough draft. And I discovered something along the way that I think I knew for a long time, but always seem to be forgetting – I LOVE to write. I had my bad days just like everyone else, but instead of making me want to quit, I wanted to come back and FIX IT. I wanted to tinker in this fictional world more, and it was a kind of release to come back to it every day and be able to pour my heart out on the page while my life kind of exploded around me. My wrists hurt, I gave myself headaches, and I was often too tired to keep my eyes open, but all it did was make me sad that they kept me from writing.

So now, what next? I’m going to keep on writing. I don’t know if I want to be a novelist. I don’t know if I even want to get published. But I do know that I can’t stop writing now that I’ve been reminded what it feels like. I guess, what this post really is, is a thank you shout out to everyone involved in NaNoWriMo. I have learned so much about myself in this process that I never would have if I hadn’t done it. Also, a special shout out to my cheerleaders Kate and Phanee for being awesome.

And now, back to writing. Who knows? Maybe I will find the end by tonight after all.

Book Review: The Night Circus

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Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern
Origins: My Local Library
Summary: [from GoodReads]

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

My Review: Somehow, those first few lines were just as mystical as “Once Upon a Time” They describe the circus perfectly, equal parts mystery and familiarity. And with that, they launch a story of pure wonderment.

This book is what I would call an experience book. It is less about the characters and their story and more about the circus itself. The book even mimics the circus. It jumps between different stories and between times until you’re turned around enough that time doesn’t exist. And nestled in between the bustling chapters of the story are short descriptions of the major tents, like oases of calm in the middle of the crowds. The descriptions are bright and vivid like the displays they’re giving life to. And every last detail makes you want more.

Because this book is so experience focused, I would love to attend an event in its honor, bringing some of the circus to life. Even just a black and white ball would be fun, but to truly do it justice one would need an entire theme park.

I feel like I haven’t properly described how wonderful this book is. But I wonder if anyone could do so, with something so big, and so different and new. Bottom line? Read the book. You won’t regret it!

Book Review: Name of the Star

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Title: The Name of the Star (Shades of London #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Origins: My Local Library
Summary: [from GoodReads]

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it’s the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.
Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn’t notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

My Review: How many ways can you say “awesome”? However many you come up with, it’s still not enough to describe this book!

I, for one, love an unsolved mystery. They leave so much room for speculation! And perhaps the biggest unsolved mystery of them all is The Ripper. Now, I’ll admit I don’t know as much about the Ripper as I should. I prefer to learn about the unsolved mysteries through the lens of speculative fiction (Plain facts get boring) and I had yet to find one that appealed to me. But a ghost imitating the Ripper killings? I’m SO there!

The thing I loved best about this book is despite the fantastical elements, Rory is very normal. As and American girl who has been on exchange to England I really identified with Rory, but it was the little moments that really made it for me – smuggling the American foodstuffs you can’t bear to be without (Cheez Whiz for her, Ranch Dressing for me) and rationing it once you have it to make it last as long as possible, really struck a chord with me.

But the Ripper parts just made it ten times more awesome! I had no idea where this was going or who did it until the very end, and boy what a surprise! Once it was explained it made so much sense but I never saw it coming!

With so much of a bang in the first book, I have no idea how Johnson will continue the series but I cannot wait until she does!

Mini Book Review: Personal Demons

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Title: Personal Demons (Personal Demons #1)
Author: Lisa Desrochers
Origins: My Local Library
Summary: [From GoodReads]  

Frannie Cavanaugh is a good Catholic girl with a bit of a wicked streak. She has spent years keeping everyone at a distance—even her closest friends—and it seems as if her senior year is going to be more of the same . . . until Luc Cain enrolls in her class. No one knows where he came from, but Frannie can’t seem to stay away from him.

What she doesn’t know is that Luc is on a mission. He’s been sent from Hell itself to claim Frannie’s soul. It should be easy—all he has to do is get her to sin, and Luc is as tempting as they come. Frannie doesn’t stand a chance. But he has to work fast, because if the infernals are after her, the celestials can’t be far behind. And sure enough, it’s not long before the angel Gabriel shows up, willing to do anything to keep Luc from getting what he came for. It isn’t long before they find themselves fighting for more than just Frannie’s soul.

But if Luc fails, there will be Hell to pay . . . for all of them.

My Review: Take Supernatural and add a Twilight flair to it and this is what you come up with. Franny has to choose between demon Luc and angel Gabe in a battle for her eternal soul. Sound familiar?

I will say the book is plenty steamy and both boys are to die for (literally!) I know who I would have picked (Gabe) and I wonder what might have happened if she had chosen differently. And despite knowing where the whole thing was headed, I just couldn’t put it down. I’m still not sure why.

This is an enjoyable and fairly easy fluff read. I know most of you will have already read this one, but if not, give it a try!

Live Blog from Nano-Land 11/18!

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I’m baaaack! I apologize for last week’s cancellation, but I had to spend all day without internet, because of a minor family emergency so it couldn’t be helped. But today, I shall have internet most of the day! So we will try this again =)

Goal for the day is to hit 45K. I would really like to make 50K by Monday, so to do that, I pretty much have to make 45K. It’s possible, but it’s going to be a stretch, especially since I have appointments at 10 am and 1 pm. Anyway, I’ll be back throughout the day to update, so come back and see how I do.

Official Starting Word Count: 39,070/50,000

7:00 – Tea Kettle is brewing! I have tea! Time to get up.

7:39 – I have already earned breakfast! I can totally do this! Also, I have FINALLY finished the big event that I thought was halfway. Hope not, cause that means this thing is going to be at least 80K…

Official Word Count: 40,072/50,000

8:15 – Allowed internet now as well: Check emails and Twitter.

8:23 – Guess I should get back to writing…

8:43 – Ok, NOW I should get back to writing!

8:45 – Uhhhhmmm… I no longer have any idea what happens next. This is going to be harder than I thought…

9:22 – I’m pretty sure I’ve just killed off my favorite character. *sadface*

9:35 – Time to get ready for appointment no. 1! Word count is looking… disappointing. 

Official Word Count: 40,629/50,000 

1:57 – Both meetings done, errands run, am full – time to get back to it. Now, what was I talking about? 

2:04 – Well, ok, but I had to check the internet first, right?

2:15 – Book is being mean.  Why is it being mean? I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what comes next. I don’t know ANYTHING! Why am I doing this again?

2:22 – Have made it past 41K, ergo, may have break for word count update. Pretty sure I’m going to have to delete most of what I wrote between 40K and 41K, but IT HAS BEEN WRITTEN. 

 Official Word Count: 41,014/50,000

2:50 – I have written over 2K today! This deserves a cookie/internet break, yes?

 Official Word Count: 41,154/50,000

3:44 – The internet is being distracting. The story is being boring. The writing is being crap. None of this is helping.

 Official Word Count: 41,461/50,000

4:06 – My cheerleaders are THE BEST! No really. About 50 tweets back and forth and I’m back on track! Writer’s block, you will not best me yet! 

4:30 – 6 – Skyping with my cheerleaders. Did I mention they’re THE BEST? =D 

 Official Word Count: 41,767/50,000
7:30 – I have reached 42K, and I think that’s it for today. It’s been a good day, but I’m just getting REALLY tired. Thanks for following along, see you next Friday!

 Final Official Word Count: 42,014/50,000

Book Review: Chime

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Title: Chime
Author: Franny Billingsley
Origins: My Local Library
Summary: [From GoodReads]

Before Briony’s stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family’s hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it’s become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.

Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He’s as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she’s extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn’t know.

My Review: I’m going to be honest – I almost didn’t finish this book. Not because it was bad, though. I put it down in the middle to try to catch up on reviews and it took me a very long time to pick it up again.  If anything, this was probably because the style is so different, and required some extra work to read.

Different, in this case, is a good thing. The style was harder to read and made me think more, but that fit very well with Briony’s personality and the setting. Sometimes a sentence would trip me up and I’d have to read it 2-3 times before really understanding, but invariably it was an important sentence that deserved the extra pondering. And sometimes a strange concept or new facet of the world would come to light and I’d be forced to stop and reconsider my view – but the characters were doing it at the same time so really the author is just forcing me to experience the book at a different level.

I know there are those of you out there who adored this book and will read it over and over and cherish it until the day you die. That’s not me. It was a wonderful book, with a great message, but once was enough. I respect the book for what it is and what it does, and I think every teen should read it. But it just wasn’t my thing. Even so, congratulations to the author on a job very well done!

NanowriMondays #3

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How on earth is it Monday again?!

Official word count: 35,013/50,000

Let me tell you, I may have had my week 2 blues, but I am BACK! My plot has taken off. The brain monkeys have provided me with solutions to two of my MAJOR problems! I’ve almost made it to the big halfway revelation that changes everything! I am at 35K words! OK, so technically my plot is behind my word count. Shhhh!

I think for this week, the big goal is make it to the official nanowrimo finish line by next Monday. It will take a little bit more of a push – I’ve been averaging 15K a week, and while this is actually what I have left, this week is more than usually busy. That said, the following week is EVEN MORE busy, so I would really appreciate being considered a winner, by Nano standards at least, before that. Once I’ve hit that, then I can just focus on getting the story finished. Who knows when that will be (likely somewhere between 60-70K).

Interested in other Nanowrimo Updates? Visit Casey at The Bookish Type to see how she is doing and links to others who are doing this crazy thing called Nanowrimo.

Cancelled! Live Blog from Nano-Land 11/11

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Due to a minor family emergency, I’m not going to be able to live-blog as promised today. I will leave you with short updates on word count, if I have them.

Thanks for understanding!

10:30 –
Official Word Count: 27,270/50,000
Today’s Goal: 30,000

10:30 p.m. – 
Final Official Word Count: 29,605/50,000 

Ok, so I was close. After spending the entire day in a car, I’d say getting that close is, well, close enough =) 

Book Review: Throne of Fire

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Title: The Throne of Fire (Kane Chronicles #2)
Author: Rick Riordan
Origins: My Local Library

Summary: [from GoodReads]

Ever since the gods of Ancient Egypt were unleashed in the modern world, Carter Kane and his sister Sadie have been in trouble. As descendants of the House of Life, the Kanes have some powers at their command, but the devious gods haven’t given them much time to master their skills at Brooklyn House, which has become a training ground for young magicians.

And now their most threatening enemy yet – the chaos snake Apophis – is rising. If they don’t prevent him from breaking free in a few days’ time, the world will come to an end. In other words, it’s a typical week for the Kane family.

To have any chance of battling the Forces of Chaos, the Kanes must revive the sun god Ra. But that would be a feat more powerful than any magician has ever accomplished.

First they have to search the world for the three sections of the Book of Ra, then they have to learn how to chant its spells. Oh, and did we mention that no one knows where Ra is exactly?

My Review:  I have read every book Rick Riordan has written so far. It’s a formula that should work for me (mythology + modern setting = awesome) because mythology is one of my favorite subjects for retellings. That said, I must be a descendant of the Greco-Roman Gods because for some reason I cannot concentrate on the Kane Chronicles. I blame it on the ADHD. 

Luckily, once I got into it I found myself back to nearly normal speeds.  The book was filled with fast paced action and interestingly renovated ideas I’ve come to expect. And one thing I like that is unique about the Kane chronicles is a strong female character narrating. So far the Greek and some of the Roman series’ have been led by male characters It’s somewhat fitting because of the societies they represented, but I love seeing kickass women like Sadie and Piper take the lead.

Honestly, I would recommend this book on the author alone. My favorite will probably always be Heroes of Olympus but this one is good too! (edit: I have recently found out that Riordan will be doing a Norse series. I reserve my judgement on the favorite until I see that series, because the Norse Gods are AWESOME!)

NanowriMondays #2

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It’s Monday again! Time for a short check in.

Basically, my weekend sucked, as far as writing time. I had agreed way back when to help my mother with her craft show this weekend, and between that and work I only came home to sleep. As such I only wrote 900 or so words in the two days.

To make matters worse, my inner editor is waking up. She’s telling me all the different ways my novel sucks donkey balls. She’s also telling me about the many things I am neglecting to do and should. And she’s pointing out that in another 5-10 thousand words, I will be OUT OF IDEAS, at which point I will be making it all up by the seat of my pants, and if I think it’s crap now, OH JUST WAIT! There is more crap to be had where that came from!

Despite all of those difficulties, I am still slogging along. My support group (aka you guys) is being AWESOME and just generally very supportive. (They are also telling me that a Magical Beanie Hat is not an INSANELY stupid idea, so I have this sneaky suspicion they may be lying. I try to ignore that.) And I just keep reminding myself of how it doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be done. We’ll see how that works.

Day: 7
Words written today: 586
Words written total: 19,001/50,000

Interested in other Nanowrimo Updates? Visit Casey at The Bookish Type to see how she is doing and links to others who are doing this crazy thing called Nanowrimo.

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