Sunday, October 30, 2011

Looking for Alaska

Looking for Alaska
By: John Green
Reported by: Juli Helms

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the "Great Perhaps." Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A stunning debut, it marks John Green's arrival as an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

  
-Summary from Goodreads


This book destroyed me.


Every single tear I could possibly have spilled out and I swear I fell asleep crying more and more. Looking for Alaska is an emotional ride that will shake everything you feel out of you and leave you no, not empty, but drained, and then you'd just want to cry more because everything that happened just couldn't possibly have happened and they did and you're just like, no, this is all a joke.


I loved this book and then I hated it. Not because of the writing or the characters, for in that aspect this book is a masterpiece.


It was, in fact, a major event that happens that divides the book into Before and After that had me wanting to rip the book to shreds, because I just couldn't stand it, you know? 


I'm trying to talk about how amazing this book is. Hopefully that is conveyed. But the thing with Looking for Alaska is not how realistically John Green portrayed teens or how the book is simply fascinating, but rather that the messages in this book will leave you horrified, touched, amazed, destroyed. 


I'm going to read other John Green books--truth to be told, I just can't not read them, because maybe there's a part of me that's hoping what happened didn't happen, that John will tell us all it was just a joke in another book.


But the other reason is that this book made me a reader again. I didn't scold or care about the writing technique, inflicting conflicts play-out, etc., which I now tend to do with books and analyze them. No. This book flipped the clock around like what The Hunger Games did to me, and that was enough. I want to be able to read without stressing over punctuation. 


I don't know if this book should be starred. I want it to be, but it destroyed me, so on that account I can't. Maybe one day when I re-read it I will analyze it again, and give it a star. Or maybe it will destroy me again and again and again.


I don't know. But I do know that I am going to get out of this labyrinth of suffering one way or another, and only then can I love this crooked book with my crooked heart.
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Queryometer and hiatus WHAT?

H-H-H-HIATUS

You guys. YOU GUYS.

I'm going on a hiatus.

"Wait, WHAT?" you say? I know, I know. I really don't want to, and I'll still be updating the blog at least once a week (so I guess it's not really a hiatus...) but here's the reason why:

I go to school. I write. I'm the debate captain. I have activities involving music. I need to wash those dishes. I need to finish my papers. I-

need to do a lot of stuff. And even though I want to try and balance all of this, it just doesn't work. For the past three MONTHS I've been sleeping at midnight every night, and I just can't do that anymore, so... yeah. I'm really sorry. :(


QUERYOMETER

Now, some of you may know that I have started querying my YA Fantasy novel. I want to share with you guys my successes and failures, so you know it's normal to get rejected, and that you shouldn't ever ever let that make you give up!

I'm going to start officially querying in November, but I've sent out one query so far. I also entered this pitch contest where the agent requested my full! YEEEP!! So, yeah. Basically, I will have a QUERYOMETER gadget on the right sidebar of my blog, and there I will post the number of rejections, partial requests, full requests, offer of rep, total, etc. Let's travel this journey together! :D


OTHER NEWS

In other news, I recently did a guest blog on the Midnyte Reader. Check that out here! Also, don't forget to vote for my friend Amy's trailer for the SLJ Trailee awards here (Amy's trailer is under the Adults category--Incarceron by Catherine Fisher)! Trust me, you won't regret it.

And that's it! Thanks for tuning in, all. YOU ROCK! \m/

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday {11}


This week, I'm waiting for...

Tiger's Voyage
By: Colleen Houck

The third book in the gripping Tiger's Curse series!

With the head-to-head battle against the villainous Lokesh behind her, Kelsey confronts a new heartbreak: in the wake of his traumatic experience, her beloved Ren no longer remembers who she is. As the trio continues their quest by challenging five cunning and duplicitous dragons, Ren and Kishan once more vie for her affections--leaving Kelsey more confused than ever.

Fraught with danger, filled with magic, and packed with romance, TIger's Voyage brings Kelsey and her two tiger princes one step closer to breaking the curse.

This fast-paced novel includes a sneak peek at Tiger's Destiny (Book 4) and a smartphone Tag code on the back cover that links to the series website.

-Summary from Goodreads
Release date: November 1st, 2011

I love the Tiger Saga! (you can see my review of Tiger's Quest, the second book in the series, here.) The Tiger Saga is basically like Beauty and the Beast mixed with Percy Jackson, except with a heavy emphasis on the romance. The plot is fast-paced and absolutely riveting. Now, I gotta warn you, the books in this series do not have happy endings. But if you can look past all the boxes of empty tissues, then I recommend this book infinitely! Also, isn't the cover just absolutely AWESOME?!



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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Diamonds and Teeth

Daughter of Smoke & Bone
By: Laini Taylor
Reported by: Juli Helms

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?

-Summary from Goodreads

Be prepared for a fantastical tale unlike any you've ever read. 

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is nothing short of magical. The prose of Laini Taylor flows like a master storyteller--and yet (and yet!) here is my first problem.

I couldn't connect with the characters. This book was told in the way you might hear a story during a bonfire at camp. You are intrigued, you want to know more, but you just don't feel the characters, not like you know them. And that saddened me, because I really wanted to love this book.


The first half of the book was my biggest struggle. At first, Karou's no-nonsense personality enticed me and I hungrily read on... but the plot. While there were cool creatures, interesting histories, there was no stakes. And this was a big problem for me, because I just couldn't care about the characters. She was just a person. Sure, someone with an interesting backstory, but there was nothing that made me want, should care about her.


And then the second half.


The second half of this book is what completely redeemed the first half and the entire book for me. I was just about to give up on the book when Akiva appeared and, oh, that one guy changed the entire book for me. Suddenly there were stakes, suddenly Karou had feelings I could relate to, suddenly the world had a reason and there was mystery and things finally started rolling. 


*SPOILER* (highlight to read)
I had one little bitty problem with the second half, though, however much I loved it. The interspersing history of Madrigal felt like too much. I inferred and predicted most of it by myself, so I had to drag along those backstory parts, too, even though it was interesting. I feel like if the history was condensed/simplified, the book would have ended up as a real winner for me--for the second half would have absolutely allayed the first half.


Overall, I would suggest this book to fans of a fantastic and epic tale of hope, strength, war, and enlightenment. Give it a chance. Don't let it go before you reach that halfway mark. Hope, keep on hoping, because it will get better.


Much better.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

The craziness that is querying



AHHHHHH!!

*takes a deep breath*

So, as most of you guys know, I like to write.
I like writing so much that I wrote a book.
I worked so hard on the book that today, after I finished typesetting, I indulged myself and let the anxiety swallow me, and I
SENT
A
QUERY
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Many of you are writers. And if you are, you know the CRAZINESS that is querying. Honestly, I have a few friends looking at the manuscript right now, but I felt confident enough to send a "test query" to an agent.
Yeah.
Test query.

LIES!!

I already wrote a query, so I pasted it in the e-mail. I personalized it. I stared at it. I told myself it was just a "test query". I stared at it longer. I stared at it so hard my eyes started burning.

I stared at it until my brother got tired of me staring and just told me to freakin' hit the send button already.

And, you guys?
Here's a secret:

It's my first query.


AND I WAS TOTALLY TERRIFIED!

So I kept making up these excuses. And then I sent it to myself first to check for any formatting problems. AND THEN
I
SENT
IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 I'm going crazy right now. I mean, this agent doesn't reply unless she's interested. So... if I kind of get a bit off my rocker in the next few weeks, you guys know why, right?

Okay.

Okay.

*checks e-mail*

GAHHHHH!!!
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Carrier of the [Ink]Pop

Carrier of the Mark
By: Leigh Fallon
Reported by: Juli Helms

Their love was meant to be.

When Megan Rosenberg moves to Ireland, everything in her life seems to fall into place. After growing up in America, she's surprised to find herself feeling at home in her new school. She connects with a group of friends, and she is instantly drawn to darkly handsome Adam DeRÍs.

But Megan is about to discover that her feelings for Adam are tied to a fate that was sealed long ago—and that the passion and power that brought them together could be their ultimate destruction. 

-Summary from Goodreads

Carrier of the Mark is a wonderful blend of mythology, destiny, love, and journey.

I enjoyed Carrier. The characters were very relatable, and the plot definitely hooked me. However, while this book met my standards, it didn't leave a huge impression on me that made me think, wow.

Here's why:

1) There is a lot of back story needed in this book to fully understand Megan and the DeRís's powers. Back story is extremely difficult to execute well, so I'm not taking points away for that, but there were times when I found myself thinking, huh? and re-reading a section because it didn't make much sense. That may be just me, but it is something that took some fun out of reading.

2) The insta-love. There's a reason behind Megan and Adam's instant love. I like that. But often I felt like Megan was the only one who really loved Adam beyond that reason, and that threw me off a bit, because as you can tell from the summary, their love plays a big part in this story. And while I wanted to think that they truly, genuinely love each other, and that all the steamy romantic scenes were authentic, I couldn't help but feel a bit reluctant to accept their relationship.

3) The conflict. I can't place my finger clearly on the conflict here. A lot of things could be accounted for it, but the reason why I find this difficult to analyze is because Megan kind of ignores the conflict, which made me think, oh, okay, so... there's this huge problem and you're not gonna really do much it? Er, okay... This may be just me, but I felt like there wasn't really much conflict at all with Megan, because even while the other characters were striving to overcome the problem, she felt the part, but didn't play it.

But, really, there was very few things I didn't like about this book. It was such a fun read that, honestly, I don't think you'll mind the few problems I mentioned. The story behind Megan and the Mark is immensely interesting, and I would definitely recommend Carrier of the Mark to anyone who enjoys Kiersten White and Alyson Noel.





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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday {10}

This week, I'm waiting on...

The Fault in Our Stars
By: John Green 

Author of the New York Times bestseller Looking for Alaska, John Green delivers his next page-turner -- The Fault in Our Stars. Pre-order his book today!

-(sort of) summary from Goodreads
Release date:  January 10th, 2012

!!!! I LOOOOVE John Green. And his books. Seriously. I can't WAIT for this! Apparently, if you pre-order it, you will get an autograph, too! And if you're lucky, perhaps a yeti (that kinda rhymes.. :D), too. Now, if you haven't read anything by John Green yet, I demand suggest that you do immediately as soon as possible. His writing is as realistic as it comes, and I guarantee think you will like LOVE it!! 

What are YOU waiting for this week?


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Things of Great Importance!

Greetings, good people!! I have several important things to tell you today!

1) My friend Amy O. of Fictitious Delicious (also known as zee awesome tossome starter along with zee fantastic Jen of #TeamKilt) makes absolutely ASTOUNDING trailers, and, guess what?! She got nominated! For the School Library Journal Trailee Awards!
You can find all the information on how to vote and other im-PO-tant matter here... what's that you say? Why should you vote? Why, that is one no-brainer question! Watch this!

FREAKIN' AMAZING, RIGHT?! VOOOOOOTE!!!!

2) The graceful Paula Mclaughlin interviewed me on her blog! You can find the full interview here. But basically it's just me talking about crêpes. And cute cat pictures. Not that any of you would be interested in THAT...

3) The Carrier of the Mark review should be coming up very berry soon! Be wary! :D

Stay tuned!


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Monday, October 17, 2011

Music Monday ♫ {3}

Music Monday is a weekly meme started by Jena at Shortie Says!

Clearly, I have been turning a blind eye on the "weekly" part of this meme, but, ahem, here it is:


One and Only by Adele
Adele. Goodness, there are no words to describe this amazing woman's phenomenal vocals. It's just... I can't imagine what it must be like, to stand in front of thousands of people, open your mouth, and have that just... heart-wrenching voice come out. I guess you can describe both her music and Adele herself as beautiful, but that just doesn't cut it. She's much more than that, and I think this is also the type of character we all like to read about. Someone who is so much more than what they appear at the surface. :)
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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood
By: Kendare Blake
Reported by: Juli Helms

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life. 

-Summary from Goodreads


Now, if you read my blog, you know that I like to play around with the name of the review. I almost never use the actual name of the book as the title of the review. When I do, there is only one explanation:

The title is unbelievably awesome.

The cover of this book is unbelievably awesome.

This entire book is unbelievably awesome.

Anna Dressed in Blood is unlike anything I've ever read before. It's a haunting story, but the book itself is almost like a spell because you just can't stop reading it, you're almost trapped by it, and every emotion you can possibly feel boil just beneath the surface and reaches out to you like tentacles.

This book is, in its essence, very, very clever. When I first started reading it, the descriptions felt jumbled, disorientating. The plot felt dragged on.

And here's where I was wrong.

Anna Dressed in Blood is not at all what it seems. Not the characters, not the plot, not the prose. This is a book that you won't really realize the wonderfulness of until after you finish reading it. Kendare Blake writes some of the best descriptions I've ever read, yet I never noticed until I finished the book and went back, looked at it, and oh, it is just beautiful.

Here, read this:

The city smells like smoke and things that rot in the summer. It's more haunted than I thought it would be, an entire layer of activity just under the dirt: whispers behind  peoples' laughter or movement you shouldn't see in the corner of your eye. Most of them are harmless--sad little cold spots or groans in the dark. Blurry patches of white that only show up in a Polaroid. I have no business with them.

But somewhere out there is one that matters. Somewhere out there is the one that I came for, one who is strong enough to squeeze the breath out of living throats.

Actually, that was on the back cover, but I don't want to spoil anything for you.

Overall, Anna Dressed in Blood is a book that you have to read. The ending broke my heart, the characters won my heart, and my heart devoured this book.
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Friday, October 14, 2011

Descriptions... boring?

(Original is here)
It's been a while since I've done a writing post, but I've got some good stuff in store!

Descriptions. Everyone loves adjectives and adverbs--they make our job easy. "The bright light lit up the dark, cold room." Yet you always hear from professionals to avoid those adjectives/adverbs like the plague. But if you do, how can you still describe your scenes? How can you still form that image in the reader's head? How do you write without boring descriptions?

Verbs.

This is amazing advice from an English teacher I know. He told me to search up Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell and study it. Peruse and analyze how come we can see and feel the scene so intimately when few adjectives/adverbs are used.

The answer? Verbs.

Take this passage from the short story, for example:

"He neither stirred nor fell, but every line of his body had altered. He looked suddenly stricken, shrunken, immensely old, as though the frightful impact of the bullet had paralysed him without knocking him down. At last, after what seemed a long time – it might have been five seconds, I dare say – he sagged flabbily to his knees. His mouth slobbered. An enormous senility seemed to have settled upon him. One could have imagined him thousands of years old. I fired again into the same spot. At the second shot he did not collapse but climbed with desperate slowness to his feet and stood weakly upright, with legs sagging and head drooping. I fired a third time. That was the shot that did for him. You could see the agony of it jolt his whole body and knock the last remnant of strength from his legs. But in falling he seemed for a moment to rise, for as his hind legs collapsed beneath him he seemed to tower upward like a huge rock toppling, his trunk reaching skyward like a tree. He trumpeted, for the first and only time. And then down he came, his belly towards me, with a crash that seemed to shake the ground even where I lay."

-Shooting an Elephant, George Orwell


It's not the descriptions that make us feel the scene. Rather, it's the verbs. "...jolt his whole body, knock the last remand of strength..." I don't know about you, but when I read that line, I can see the elephant jolting, knocking away strength. Verbs have the power we often underestimate, and it's that power that breathes life into the most persuading and graphic descriptions.

Let me show you what I mean:

Here's the sentence I showed you above. "The bright light lit up the dark, cold room."

What you can change: The [bright] piercing light lit up the [dark, cold] shadows creeping on the iciness of the room."

So now, you have: "The piercing light lit up the shadows creeping on the iciness of the room."

Easy, right? But there's more you can do.

Stronger, more powerful verbs.

See: The [piercing] glaring light [lit] spilled across the shadows [creeping] slashing the iciness of the room.

The end product?

The glaring light spilled across the shadows, slashing the iciness of the room.

Much better, no? And you use this with any type of scene, too. Whether it's romantic, suspenseful, lighthearted, etc. Sometimes, you'll have to add in more words (like I did), and that's totally fine. Same thing if you find it necessary to cut words--whatever works.

But, sometimes you just have to leave a sentence/description the way it is. To edit every line like this would be insane! Or should I say, appalling?

What do YOU think about verbs?



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Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Best Advice

Thank you, the amazing Stephanie Perkins, for bringing me to this, the best advice ever: