April 21, 2015

In Lieu of WUW

{Fun fact: What's Up Wednesday was based at least in part off of the Currently... post that had been circulating at the time. Thanks goes to Katy Upperman for reviving this and giving us a place to dish now that What's Up Wednesday is no longer.}

The spring sunshine. This was a fairly mild winter, but even so, it's always nice when spring rolls in. I love, love, love TOMS and Chucks weather.  I'm also in love with my Erin Condren planner and all the fun washi-ing and sticker-ing that has been going on with other writer/planner friends. It's a great way to start my week and is yet another fun creative outlet.


This has been a pretty decent reading month for me, with some new faves added to my list. I've recently read (and loved) SOMETHING REAL by Heather Demetrios, A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray, THE BOOK OF BROKEN HEARTS by Sarah Ockler, and BONE GAP by Laura Ruby. I also read I WAS HERE by Gayle Forman, which was good, but I didn't love love it. I'm currently reading OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord, and no big surprise, I'm loving it already.

I've been all over the map with binge-watching Netflix shows lately. I'm finally finishing up The Killing, which earns the prize for giving me nightmares twice in the past few weeks. I'm countering this with yet another Gilmore Girls re-watch. I'm also watching Game of Thrones, Outlander, iZombie, among others. Basically I'm watching too much TV in general.

Like always, my musical tastes tend toward playlists of a variety of artists rather than solely listening to entire albums by a single artist/group. Lately, there's been a fair amount of Ed Sheeran mixed with random songs I've picked up while watching Hart of Dixie, Grey's Anatomy, and a plethora of CW shows. (See what I mean about watching too much TV?)

About to get real here, folks. I could tell you all kinds of things I've been thinking about lately, but these days my brain is plagued by doubts and worry. A few weeks back, my husband lost his job and since the few substitute teaching shifts I'm able to get don't add up to much, we're both on the hunt for new jobs. Ugh. Not fun. So my mind is constantly occupied by job hunt-related stress swirled together with the self-doubt that comes with trying to write and hoping it doesn't suck.
#wompwomp

The flip side to starting over career-wise is all of the opportunity that comes with that change. It's tough to stay positive, BUT there's always that anticipation that things could end up so much better than you're hoping for. There are so many things open to us that we might not have had the guts or the motivation to seek out had this whole unemployment crapola not been forced on us. The possibilities are kind of exciting and I'm choosing to focus as much as possible on that.

I'm wishing that a few entrepreneurial ideas I've come up with will maybe kinda sorta work out. You never know, right? Also wishing and hoping I can get the hang of baking macarons. We took the leap and attempted chocolate macarons over the weekend, and while they tasted yummy, they looked...not great. We've done some troubleshooting, so we know exactly what we need to do differently next time, so my wish is that Macaron-Baking Round Two will be much more successful.


The many ways I'm connecting with writer friends is one of the things making me happy these days → Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, email, etc... You ladies are seriously the best, and you make me smile every single day! ☺ The hubs and I have been rearranging things around here—the couch faces a different wall! no glare on the TV! the kitchen island is free of clutter!—and it's amazing how that little bit of change makes me feel lighter, happier to live in this place awhile longer. The pipe band I'm part of has decided on our next trip: Scotland + Ireland. Can't wait to visit Ireland in particular!

Our last trip (NW Europe) was incredible, so Scotland + Ireland should be wonderful too! (I've been to Scotland but not Ireland.)


So tell me, what are you currently up to?



April 1, 2015

SOMETHING REAL Is Something Special

My last review was more rant than rave, so I wanted to talk a bit about a book I just finished and totally loved. If you haven't checked out SOMETHING REAL by Heather Demetrios, I strongly suggest you do. She's quickly becoming a fave. Here's the story:

There’s nothing real about reality TV.

Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before. (from Goodreads)




#

There was so much to love about this book. I had heard great things about it, and after reading (and really, really liking) I'LL MEET YOU THERE, I had high hopes for this one as well. It definitely delivered. SOMETHING REAL had me laughing one minute (the voice and humour were fantastic), raging the next, and choked up after that. I love books that do that to me.

Perhaps my favourite aspect of this book was the relationships. I'm all about the romance in books, and this one was particularly swoonworthy (I adored Patrick), but surprisingly the relationship I loved the most was actually Chloe* and her brother Benton™'s. It was so, so good, you guys. This book was all about family dynamics--good, bad, and really, really ugly--and these moments with Chloe and Benton™ were especially funny and heartwarming. Close contenders were Tessa and Mer who were the best kind of besties. 

SOMETHING REAL called to mind "reality" TV shows like Jon & Kate Plus 8 (then the less popular, trimmed down version sans Jon, Kate Plus 8) and 42 Million Kids and Counting...or whatever that hot mess is called. Obviously there are questions about the rightness or wrongness of forcing kids to live like zoo animals in front of a camera for millions of viewers. This book explores that controversy through Bonnie™'s eyes and experience and consequently made me so ragey at times that I wanted to scream at certain characters in the book. (Specifically at her RealMom™, Kirk, and that mulleted f@$k named Chuck.) I thought the author did a fantastic job of portraying it like it probably is: There's very little real about reality TV.

There was one storyline that I wish we had been given more of at the book's conclusion (The One With the Legal Stuff), but this absolutely did not take away from my enjoyment of this book. And I suppose it's realistic to not have every single plot point tied up in a neat bow, right? All in all, this was a thoroughly enjoyable read that was especially tough to put down. I highly recommend it!



* Chloe = Bonnie™ (Just to clear up any confusion.)


March 30, 2015

YA Book Club: RED QUEEN

(Jump in on the discussion on Tracey's blog. For a full synopsis of RED QUEEN, head to its Goodreads page.)

There is nothing new under the sun.
There are only x amount of plots.
It’s all been done before.

This might all be true, but if it is, then the challenge of spinning those plots in new and different ways becomes greater. I wish I could say that RED QUEEN does that deftly…but it kind of doesn’t. Which really bummed me out. We can’t escape our influences—nor should we—and it is always fun to spot those things that inspire an author. The problem, for me, is when those bits of influence and inspiration become distractions from the story I’m currently reading. I was able to pick out strong similarities to a handful of other stories while reading this book (THE HUNGER GAMES, THE SELECTION, GAME OF THRONES, X-MEN…) and it kept pulling me out of the story. It's like a patchwork quilt made up of "been done before".

This was a story that I really wanted to love. The hype was real and my hopes were high, folks.

I wanted to immerse myself in this book’s world, but I found myself craving more information about it than was provided. How did this caste system arise? Is this our own world, and if it is, what brought about all of these big changes? Was it just the natural result of uneven evolution? Because despite the cover’s appearance and the jacket description of this book as a “lush fantasy”—which is what I was expecting—it totally read as dystopian to me. (Which feels like a bait and switch, now that I think about it. Trying to pass off dystopian as fantasy to hook dystopian weary readers… Badly done, marketing team.) We were given info about Mare’s world up front, but what there was of it came at us so fast that it’s entirely possible I missed something that sheds light on all of this. I suspect more will be revealed as the series moves forward, but I’m not sure I will be going along for the ride. (All signs point to no.) Which is too bad because there is just so much potential here.

Then there was the love triangle, which I confess I don't normally mind. In this case, there wasn’t enough time spent on either brother to convince me that there was anything of substance between Mare and Cal or Mare and Maven. But then it stumbles into love rhombus (?) territory with yet another fine fellow who quite clearly has feels for our heroine. With not nearly enough page time allotted to any of these potential romances, it was too much and too little all at the same time. It all becomes more than a little problematic when key plot points hinge on the believability of the romance in the story.


Because I know that many people loved this story—subjectivity FTW!!!—I feel like I would be doing a disservice to it and to anyone reading this review by not mentioning what I liked about RED QUEEN. Despite how it seems, I dislike slamming on books. It’s that whole “walking in someone else’s shoes” thing, you know? So, here’s what I thought was cool about the book:
  • Superpowers. Who wouldn’t want awesome superpowers? As a Marvel (and the odd DC) fan, I can honestly say that this aspect really appealed to me as a reader. And the powers the Silvers (and Mare) possessed? Pretty cool.
  • That Harry Potter and/or Cinderella thing where the hero/ine is plucked from obscurity into a life that he/she never even dreamed is something I’ll never tire of. (Putting aside, of course, the fact that she really did not want this life and had it thrust upon her.) To wake up one day and discover you are sorta special would be AMAZING.
  • I really liked Cal and Maven and many of the supporting characters. I would have liked more depth and development where Mare was concerned, but the interesting cast of characters was enough to keep me reading.
  • I felt like the author played fair when certain plot reveals took place. There were enough hints along the way to make the twists and turns feel like they weren't coming out of nowhere. I was able to figure some of them out.
That said, it's really too bad that all of the stuff that I liked was wrapped up in a package that I had a tough time loving.

So, the takeaway here: This book was not for me, but the 4.13 rating on Goodreads suggests that it was THE book for many. If you like YA dystopian/fantasy with heavy X-MEN and THE HUNGER GAMES vibes, you should totally check this one out!


Have you read RED QUEEN yet?
If so, what did you think of it?
Jump in on the conversation!


March 25, 2015

It's Time...






After a good deal of thought and discussion, Erin and I have reached the decision to wind down What’s Up Wednesday. We started this little blog hop in April of 2013, and it has been two years of making so many awesome connections with writer friends like you, sharing “what’s up” each and every week. You have provided accountability and encouragement to us on this writing journey, and for that we are more grateful than you will ever know.

You might be wondering why What’s Up Wednesday is coming to an end, so we figure you deserve an explanation: In short, we would like to place our focus more on writing and less on blogging. Over time, What’s Up Wednesday has strayed a bit from the writing and has moved more toward the other headings we have been using, which is fine, but this blog hop was always intended to be mainly about the writing. Always the writing. In order to get back to that focus on our WiPs, we would like to take part in more writing intensives as they crop up throughout the year. As most of these intensives include a weekly check-in post of some kind, we both feel that coupling these posts with a regular What’s Up Wednesday post is far too time-consuming. Time that could be spent on our WiPs and on that pesky little thing called family.

SO, while What’s Up Wednesday is drawing to a close, we still hope to touch base with you in a variety of ways around the interwebs through social media and the many writing intensives and other fun events hosted here and elsewhere. We hope to do a Month In Review type of post at the end of each month, but this will simply be an informal rundown of the reading, writing, and other life stuff we did over the course of the month. You’re welcome to join us, though there won’t be a link-up of any kind. Maybe a hashtag? We haven’t really thought that far ahead, to be honest.

Some writing- and reading-related things to look forward to on the horizon:

  • Tracey Neithercott’s YA Book Club → This month we’re reading RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard and will be posting our reviews and discussing it on our blogs on Monday, March 30th. You should join us!
  • The YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp 2015 → Tentatively scheduled for April and May. Writing, goal-setting, accountability, and loads of inspiration. Sounds pretty much perfect, don't you think?
  • The Ready. Set. WRITE! summer intensive → Hosted by a group of ladies that includes Erin and me, this writing intensive runs from June right through August. Many of you have joined us in the past and we look forward to writing and revising alongside you again this summer. Stay tuned for further details!
  • Spontaneous writing parties on Twitter → There always seems to be a cluster of writers working on their WiPs all throughout the day and evening, popping onto Twitter and doing sprints together, keeping one another accountable. You should give it a try sometime!
  • NaNoWriMo → We’re sure you’re all more than aware of this November writing event.

Should you wish to continue doing What’s Up Wednesday, we invite you to do so. There will not be a link-up on our blogs, but you are welcome to keep posting with the WUW headings. If you should choose to do so, we would ask respectfully that you not give us attribution in your posts and that you would also discontinue use of the WUW buttons as we will no longer be moderating. (With regards to the buttons, as the images were paid for, there is the concern that this might open up legal issues pertaining to their use.) 

Again, we would like to thank you for taking part in our blog hop and for keeping us encouraged week in and week out. You are wonderful people! We hope to cross paths with you all, but if we don’t, we wish you all the best on your writing journey!






Thanks for two awesome years of What's Up Wednesday, folks!



March 18, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a blog hop created by me and my sister, Erin Funk, to provide a space where writers can connect. With that aim in mind, we would like to encourage all of you to visit other WUW blogs, get to know other participants, and spread some writerly encouragement around. Before you go, make sure to leave a link to your post in the widget below. Also, please remember to link back to the host blogs and/or use one of the fancy shmancy buttons provided. (Find them under the What's Up Wednesday tab above.) We would really appreciate it! For those of you who are first timers to this blog hop, welcome and thanks for joining us! Here are the headings we've been using:

WHAT I'M READING
WHAT I'M WRITING (+ WRITING GOAL)
WHAT WORKS FOR ME
WHAT ELSE IS NEW




WHAT I'M READING
• I finished Marie Rutkoski's THE WINNER'S CRIME, and no big surprise, it was fantastic.

• I'm still doing my reread of SAPPHIRE BLUE by Kerstin Gier and still very much enjoying it.
• Just started THE CONSPIRACY OF US by Maggie Hall. This international thriller is pretty fun.
• I'm hoping to start Victoria Aveyard's RED QUEEN this week for the YA Book Club. JOIN US!
• I'm reading something else that's pretty great... {See below.}

WHAT I'M WRITING
Not a whole lot of anything, to be honest. I did a bit of a writing sprint with my sister and that resulted in about 600 words. I've also been puttering away at character worksheets for my MC because I feel like I need to know her a bit better before I do too much more drafting. I'm also fleshing out more outline details.

Writing goal for this week → Finish MC's character sheets. Other than that, I'm focusing on reading a friend's WiP. Yay! :D

WHAT WORKS FOR ME

I'm sure I've said this a million times under this heading, but accountability really works for me. I'm pretty lucky to have a good group of writer friends--and, of course, my awesome sister--to keep me from getting derailed. Thanks a bunch, ladies!

WHAT ELSE IS NEW

(From left) First attempt at Jamberry nail wraps. I like them! (But I need more practice.); I subbed in my favourite grade six
classroom on Monday; my pipe band took part in a "St. Practice Day" event on Saturday, which also happened to be PI Day, so I
celebrated with shepherd's pie; still loving my planner and this old-timey pointer finger in particular; my pipe band did it's
annual pub crawl for St. Patrick's Day. It was tons of fun, but my ears are still ringing, and I'm sort of sick of drunk people.




Well, that's it for me.
WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU?