January 27, 2012

Friday Fives: Contemporary YA

This week's Friday Fives topic over at Paper Hangover is:

What are your FIVE favourite contemporary YA novels?

If you had asked me this question a few months ago I wouldn't have been able to answer it because up until then I really hadn't read much YA contemporary. Not sure why that is, but now that I have read some, I'm kind of hooked.

Here are my FIVE favourite YA contemporary novels with FIVE things I about each:

1)  Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • The setting - Is there anywhere more romantic than Paris?
  • The sweet relationship between Anna and Étienne
  • Étienne St. Clair - "French name, English accent..."
  • Anna's voice - Stephanie Perkins is a voice genius
  • The writing was fantastic. I could not put this book down.

2)  Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
  • Cricket Bell, the boy next door (for real) - tall, sweet, and a hint nerdy
  • Lola's unique sense of style, or as she put's it, her 'belief in costume'
  • Lola's voice - again, Stephanie Perkins is nothing short of a voice genius
  • The sweet relationship between Lola and Cricket, years in the making
  • The family dynamic in the Nolan household - unique and really great
  • I'm cheating and adding a 6th reason: Completely unputdownable

  • Nothing fancy, just a cute, sweet romance between two likable people
  • That both Hadley and Oliver were working through personal difficulties
  • That it doesn't shy away from the possibility of love at first sight
  • The dual settings of an airplane over the ocean and London, England
  • Oliver's sense of humour - he was funny and completely charming

4)  Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
  • The road trip was great, with little tidbits about locations visited as well as road trip playlists for the journey - I found new music that I like on them!
  • The road trip was like a journey in that both Amy and Roger were sorting through their own personal struggles all along the way - very interesting
  • No insta-love here, it takes a while to develop from amicable to 'in love'
  • I genuinely liked both Amy's and Roger's personalities and interests
  • Overall, the story was just well-written, engaging, and entertaining

5)  Jane by April Lindner
  • I love modern day retellings of classic novels when they're done right, and since I have been in love with Jane Eyre for years, this thrilled me to bits. And as far as I know, this particular story has never been tackled before.
  • Updating a story about a governess to suit a 21st century audience is no mean feat. We as Western females have so many more options open to us nowadays. I think April Lindner handled this challenge spectacularly.
  • Even though I could anticipate what was going to happen next (knowing the story it was based on really well), I didn't find this to be a problem at all.
  • If you don't go into it with super high expectations and just enjoy it for what it is, it's a fun read. Like I said, kudos to Lindner for even attempting a retelling of this classic.
  • I'm a sucker for a good romance fraught with challenges, but with a happy resolution.

So most all of these are primarily Romance, and I haven't branched out much from there. I do plan on reading many more YA contemporary novels from here on in. I've really been missing out!

This is one of the songs I got from a road trip playlist in Amy & Roger's Epic Detour:

World Spins Madly On by The Weepies (click the ♫ symbol to open player)

*     *     *
Totally unrelated, but really cool: Just visited Laini Taylor's blog and found out the title for the upcoming (Fall 2012) sequel to the completely amazing Daughter of Smoke and Bone:

So, so excited for this book! There's also a little snippet/teaser on her blog for Book 2 HERE.

January 26, 2012

A Desk of Her Own (and Some DIY Upcycling)

I'm in a bit of a mood at the moment after upending my much-anticipated shepherds pie leftovers (from last night's Robbie Burns 'feast') face down on the kitchen floor. It looked a whole lot more appealing on my plate. On the floor, it looked like it belonged in a pig trough. At present I'm giving less appealing Replacement Lunch the hairy eyeball. So, so disappointing, but to quote The Bard: 
"[I] hae meat and [I] can eat, and sae the Lord be thankit."
Anyhoo, back to the original purpose of this post... (I'm the Queen Consort of Babble & Digression)

For quite some time now I've been working on my WiP at an IKEA table passing for a desk. And in case you couldn't guess, no keyboard tray = a very bad idea when you're using a desktop computer. My wrists, elbows, neck, and shoulders have been pretty much plotting my murder for many a month. There are plenty of desk options (check out this YA Highway post on the topic) but most are either too expensive, too clunky/ugly, or are just plain dangerous. Like the treadmill desk, for instance. That thing would almost certainly land me in a neck brace at best, or traction at worst. I hadn't been actively looking for an alternative, but lo and behold, Costco solved this problem. I found this very simple, very inexpensive, and very sturdy beauty* there the other day:

My desk is always a cluttered mess (I'm a stacker), and it didn't help that my keyboard and mouse were mixed in with the chaos. Now I not only have a keyboard tray, I also have two small drawers to toss odds and sods of crap formerly rolling around on my desktop into. This is where I spend the better part of my day, working on my WiP or this blog, so it had to be just right. And it totally is.♥

In addition to being a stacker, a babbler, and an expert at digression, I've also got a bad case of "This looks like it could be useful for something"-itis. I wouldn't say we've quite reached Hoarder territory, but I do try a little too hard to see the diamond in the rough AKA the storage possibilities in more than a dozen empty CoffeeMate containers (I know, it's completely embarrassing).

Andbutso, I was more than a little inspired/thrilled/tempted when I found a bunch of very useful packing cardboard in with my new desk. Not just any cardboard, folks, but large rectangular pieces that are about 1/2" thick, along with some foot-square pieces about 1" thick. Immediately, my brain started practically smoking at all of the DIY possibilities in this small pile of packing material. The winning project? While making a life-size cardboard cutout of my husband (who's away for work a lot) might have been appealing, I've decided on a giant storyboard/inspiration board for above my desk in my home office. We're living in a 3-bedroom townhouse, and since we have no munchkins (meaning 'kids' and not 'members of the Lollipop Guild' <-- though that could inspire some excellent stories) to fill the two extra rooms, we each get an office. That means wall space!

A bulletin board this size would cost way too much, so why not make my own? So yesterday I went to our local fabric store and purchased a remnant of gorgeous damask upholstery to cover this slab of corrugated goodness (my office is decorated in taupe, black, and white):

This looks grey, but it's actually a deep brown and black.
This will go quite nicely with my giant (23"x35") picture of 1878 Paris and will also allow me to see important details, notes, and bits of inspiration pertaining to my current WiP. Plus, it's an excellent way to upcycle some otherwise useless cardboard! I tell you, it's a win-win scenario all around :D

Why all the fuss about a desk and some fabric-plastered cardboard? Well, because I'm a firm believer in creating the right space, with the right atmosphere for working on my writing. I don't work well in clutter and I don't work well in a completely uninspired workspace. Simple as that. 

How about you? Is the suitability of your workspace an important factor in your writing process?

*Broadmoore Academy desk from Costco - made from birch in espresso stain with antique brass drawer knobs. The best part: It only cost $129 CAD! At that price I kind of feel like I ripped it off.

January 25, 2012

Tak A Cup O' Kindness

Robert Burns 
(Jan. 25, 1759 - Jul. 21, 1796)
Scots th' warld ower ur celebratin' Rabbie Burns Day the-day, wi' aw ay its weird, pure bonkers, fin wee traditions* (Translation: Scots the world over are celebrating Robbie Burns Day today with all of its weird, totally bonkers, fun little traditions). More on that in a moment.

The evening is a tribute to the life and poetry of Robert Burns (Jan. 25, 1759 - Jul. 21, 1796) also known in Scotland as "The Bard". Robbie Burns is the national poet of Scotland and some of his works will be familiar to you:

Auld Lang Syne
A Red, Red Rose
Ae Fond Kiss
among others

Burns Suppers are hosted all over the world in memory of this Scottish icon and begin with one of the weirdest traditions of them all:

Piping in the haggis** (marching the sucker in on a platter to the sound of bagpipes) and then the host reciting the Address to a Haggis, which goes like this:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my arm...

You can read the rest of this address here.

A Burns Supper (following the whole haggis hullabaloo) also features a 'Toast to the Lassies', with a reply sometimes called a 'Toast to the Laddies', and a whole lot of lauding The Bard through recitation of his poetry and songs. Oh, and of course plenty of bagpipe and bodhrán playing. In short, a whole lot of fun, good music, and lots and lots of tartan (and good food if you like shepherd's pie, oat cakes, and *shudder* haggis).

In honour of Robbie Burns day, here's a little Celtic jam session at Foulis Castle in the Scottish Highlands with some pretty talented kids (how 'bout that kid on the pipes???). They call themselves Clacharan:

Zeeto the Bubbleman and the High Drive

The Soupdragon and Thunderhead

This is my favourite Robert Burns poem:

A Red, Red Rose

Oh my luve is like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
Oh my luve is like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.
Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.
And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel a while!
And I will come again, my luve,
Tho' it were ten thousand mile!

So Canty Rabbie Burns Day tae ye and 'slàinte maith, h-uile latha, na chi 'snach fhaic!'***
*For a good time, go to this site and throw some sentences into the Scottie translator.
**Haggis: a savoury pudding with sheep's heart, liver, and lungs minced with oatmeal, suet, onion, spices, and salt mixed with stock and stuffed in a stomach (though most haggis you buy now is in a casing and not a stomach) and simmered for three hours. Basically, it's a great big ball of gag-me-with-a-caber-or-spurtle. But hey, you might like it....
***'Good health, every day, whether I see you or not!' - a Gaelic blessing/farewell

January 24, 2012

Top 10 Tuesday: Filling In the Gaps (Or Giant Craters)

This week's Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and the Bookish is a total free-for-all, so I'm picking a topic that relates to my current WiP. More on that in a second.

If you're anything like me, you're a list-maker - an avid list-maker, a list-making enthusiast, a 'list-making is my brand of heroin' kinda gal. I have multiple lists on the go at any given time for any number of different things I need to remember to do. My WiP is no exception. So, my topic is:

Top 10 Things To Develop Further In My WiP:

1)  Sci Fi Elements
My story is set some time in the future and I want to make this more evident. This is a lot trickier than I bargained for, let me tell you. Certain expressions that we use now, slang, and even words that have weaseled their way into our vocabulary through pop culture would seem out of place in the distant future. Technology would be different and most likely more advanced (assuming no major apocalyptic events have taken place). BUT, I don't want this to come across as corny or too try-hard. I don't want weird little words or distracting slang. I also don't way want over-the-top, unbelievable technology and gadgetry. I need to work on setting and voice in my WiP and these two areas are probably the best for inputting some of these futuristic elements. In small doses.

2)  Fleshing Out Mr. Bad Guy
What exactly is this person's motivation for doing what they do? What is it about them that inspires distrust, dislike, and even fear? I want this guy to be believable and for his actions and intentions to make sense in the story. His motivations are wrong, but you should be able to at least understand (not agree with) why he thinks and acts the way he does. Right now Mr. Bad Guy is feeling flat and not developed enough. Also, how did all of the tension/animosity/whatever between Bad Guy and my MC come about?

3)  Relationship: MC and Love Interest
Right now it seems like these two are fighting, making up, fighting, making up, and on and on. It's realistic that couples have squabbles, but I'm starting to wonder if this is all becoming a little too much like Sisyphus and his troublesome boulder. Because I'm a tool and included a love triangle (I know, I know, but it's important to the story), and since this relationship is the right one for my MC, it needs to be apparent to the reader. Ergo, more basis built into the story for why the reader should be Team 'Right Guy' and not Team 'Distraction'.

4)  Relationship: MC and 'Distraction' or Dude B
Like I said, the love triangle in my WiP serves a specific and significant purpose. Otherwise, I would have just stuck with one relationship. At present, Dude B is coming across as too appealing. Crud! My MC is not supposed to end up with this dude, so I need to find subtle ways to make that more obvious. I want him to be likable and believable as a potential suitor (never used that word before), but only to a point. He's wrong for her, and the reasons why should creep out gradually.

5)  Relationship: MC and Herself (no this isn't a Smeagol and Gollum scenario)
My WiP is told through a first person POV, which feels right for the story. While we're seeing everything through her eyes, I don't want this view to be completely outward. I'm working on the view inward as well - my MC working through her personal fears, dreams, wants, and needs.

6)  Secondary Characters
Are there enough of them? Do they serve a necessary purpose in the story? How much should they be fleshed out? How much page time should they get? All of these are questions I'm trying to answer and details I'm trying to sort out.

7)  Societal Norms and Taboos
This ties into #1, but is specifically aimed at the dos and don'ts of this future society. My story is not dystopian (<---Seriously, Blogger? Still? It's a word!!! Don't believe me? Page 424 of my Oxford Concise Dictionary, 9th Edition. Take that! Oh, and pass the news on to Word while you're at it.), but there are definitely elements that might feel a bit like a dystopian story. I have managed to incorporate a thing or two that underscores that this future society is very different than our own. There's something else coming down the pipes, but it needs further development.
8)  Crime and Punishment
As a (secluded) society set in the future, there are laws set in place for the individuals that are part of this society. I know what some of these are and the reasons for them (don't worry, I'm not bogging my story down with futuristic legalese) but I also need to decide what the repercussions for breaking these laws will be. Because they will be broken.

9)  Similarities Suck
We're all readers and those of us who are writers probably all run into the same problem: finding similarities in what we read that are too close for comfort to what we're writing. That sinking feeling in your stomach when you waffle between "Do I take it out?" and "Do I leave it alone?" totally stinks. I've had this happen a few times now, but mostly I'm not letting it get to me. Anything that I can legitimately say is a) used enough that it's no longer unique (but not cliche), b) gleaned from my own personal experience, or c) used in a different context is safe.  There are other things that have to go (like names), but fortunately they are easily altered. 

10)  The Element of Mystery
I'm reading A Million Suns by Beth Revis right now, and one of the (many) things it has that my story doesn't have enough of is this feeling of mystery surrounding it. There are all these questions that need answering in her story and while mine has some, I feel like it could use more. So really, what my story is in desperate need of is more plot. You know, nothing major at all. Awesome.

I'm sure this is all about as boring as reading a dictionary backwards, but I thought I'd share some of my process with you and/or get some suggestions. So...any suggestions?

January 23, 2012

It's Almost, But Not Quite...But Almost Here!

January 23rd - What's so special about this day? Well nothing, really. Unless you consider the 55th anniversary of the rollout of the Frisbee by Wham-O to be somehow significant. Or maybe you'll be celebrating Richard Dean Anderson's (MacGyver*, AKA 'I saved the day with only a paper clip and some bubble bath') 62nd birthday? But probably not.

It's far cooler than both of those put together. Cooler than Frisbees and MacGyver??? Yes indeed.

We are now officially only TWO MONTHS away from the Hunger Games movie!! Okay, January 23rd itself isn't all that cool or significant after all, but still. How long now have we been waiting for this movie? Um, awhile (<---that was for you, Erin ☺). I had my reservations, let me tell you, as the release of the trailer grew closer and closer. But when that sucker aired, I think I probably jumped up and down, clapping my hands like an idiot. I may have done something a little like this:

I could not be more satisfied with how they've handled this whole ginormous undertaking. Obviously, the jury's still out until my butt is actually in that theatre chair and the end credits start rolling, but I have high hopes. 

So, unless you're frozen solid under a rock at the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Antarctica, you've probably seen this. And if you've seen it once, you've probably seen it an embarrassingly large number of times since (like me). But in case you haven't, or in case you have a case of the Mondays and could use a little HG pick-me-up, here you go:

In anticipation of this movie's release, and to tease the living heck out of all of us, they've released some pretty great movie pics. The latest I've stumbled across is this one:

And then there's that pic of Effie with the crazy butterfly lashes to kick off the soft launch of Capitol Couture, a mysterious site dedicated to fashion(?)/cosmetics(?)/who really knows(?) to tie in with the HG movie:

Colour me intrigued, but a bit unsure about the appropriateness of all of this given the series' messages. Plus, it feels a little reminiscent of the cheeseball Twilight 'Sparkle Tool Collection'** of hair-styling products released this past fall. Only cooler. Because The Hunger Games is infinitely cooler (and I'd fight you to the death in the arena if you said otherwise).

So, two months to go.... Are you as excited as I am?

*I'm still totally creeped out when I think about that episode where they did facial reconstruction on a skull with pencil erasers and plasticine...and it totally looked like MacGyver's friend Penny (who I only just found out today was a younger, less Skeletor-like Teri Hatcher - huh). Ughhhhh!

**I did not make this up. If I had personally coined this phrase it would probably have been in reference to the Cullen clan or something a whole lot more low-brow.

January 21, 2012

In My Mailbox

It's been awhile since I last participated in The Story Siren's In My Mailbox thing, so today seems like as good a day as any to take part.

After checking out the Book Depository and realizing that their YA hardbacks are a good $4-$5 cheaper than any other online source (in Canadian dollars), I thought I'd give them a try. Result: I am completely impressed that not only were the books cheaper, the shipping was free and the delivery was speedy. This last bit was really impressive considering they hopped the pond from England and traveled to Western Canada. Funny thing is, they all arrived separately, so it was like Christmas every single day this week!

 Here's a glimpse at my mailbox goodies this week:

1)  On Writing by Stephen King
This is one of those books that you stumble across all over the writing blogosphere. I figured it was high time I found out what all the fuss was about.

2)  Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
I've been waiting for this book to come out for a while now, so I'm happy to see it sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read very soon. 

This was the book that I was most looking forward to and I whipped through it pretty quickly. It was really fun, cute and romantic, which is everything I was hoping it would be.

4)  A Million Suns by Beth Revis
Across the Universe was one of my favourite reads in 2011, so I've been eagerly anticipating the release of the second book in this series. I've only just started reading A Million Suns, but I have every confidence that it will be as good as, or better than Across the Universe. I'll let you know!

5)  Touch by Jus Accardo
This book has been on my radar for many months now, so it's nice to finally have it in my hands. When I mentioned that I'd gotten it on Twitter, Jus Accardo tweeted me to wish me happy reading (as did Marissa Meyer with Cinder). I'm sure this has become somewhat customary for authors in this age of social media, but it's still nice to feel appreciated for reading their books, you know?

And now for a completely unrelated side note...

I cannot even move around my house without getting shocked on EVERYTHING. I'm sure I could shock myself on a loaf of bread at this point. And we're not just talking little zaps, but big fat blue ones that scare the living daylights out of me. It's kind of like this actually:

If you don't hear from me in a while, and if my neighbours are complaining about a burnt toast smell coming from my place, you'll know what happened - I've just Palpatined myself, that's all.

January 20, 2012

Friday Fives (or Holy Buckets This Girl Has Verbal Diarrhea)

Paper Hangover's Friday Fives today is The Five Books you're looking forward to in 2012, but I feel like I've done this topic already, so I'm skipping it this week. My Friday Fives are basically a conglomeration of what's rattling around in my skull today:

1)  On Books Dealing With Cancer
I mentioned this on Twitter and in the comment section on somebody's blog (in reference to TFIOS*), but I feel the need to mention it again - I choose not to read books where cancer plays a major role. Sure, I've read My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult and even saw the book-bastardizing movie, but both left me feeling like a wrung out dishrag. Not a pleasant thing. Why exactly? My father is a cancer survivor. And while the fact that he survived is something to celebrate, I will always look back on that period in my life (three years) with a sick feeling in my stomach. My junior high years** were filled with a kind of stress and fear that I can't articulate in words. A little girl that I babysat during this span of time passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. Hers is the only funeral I have ever attended. I choose not to revisit all of this in the books I'm reading. I suppose these kinds of books give those not personally acquainted with the big C a little glimpse into what it's like. I suppose this does raise awareness as well, which is a good thing. But as someone who has lived through it personally, I just wish this trend (I feel terrible even calling it that) would just go far, far away. And that's all I want to say about that.

2)  Gushing Over Books v. Reviewing Books
I've given this topic some further thought (since I wrote this post) and I think I've come to a conclusion. Rebecca Behrens left a helpful comment about deciding whether or not you as a blogger are online primarily as a writer or a reader. I hadn't considered this before, but I think there's a lot of wisdom in it. In light of the colossal brouhaha*** on Goodreads, the blogs, and Twitter over the nastiness of reviews and the nastiness of certain authors' responses to those reviews, I think I'd like to just avoid all the nonsense. Reviews are important and rants are rude, but I choose to stay out of it. As such, I will only talk about books that I really enjoyed or loved on this blog. I prefer to gush than rant in the end. Plus, I'd rather not have anything come back and bite me in the toches**** down the road. I'll still rate books on Goodreads, but I suddenly don't feel the need to say why I only gave a book 3 stars (which is still 'I liked it') or less as the case may be. 

3)  From One Book to the Next
This point's title has a double meaning. First, I'm kind of on a reading rampage these days for no other reason than I'm totally enjoying what I've picked up thus far in 2012. I've finished Cinder by Marissa Meyer, Legend by Marie Lu, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, and Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik. Some were better than others, but all were completely enjoyable. I'm currently reading A Million Suns by Beth Revis, the sequel to 2011's Across the Universe. Which brings me to the second meaning of this point's title. Reading a sequel to a book that came out a year or more ago is tricky business. I ran into this problem in the first pages of The Death Cure by James Dashner (3rd in the Maze Runner series) and ended up putting it down until I can refresh myself on Book 2. A Million Suns is not so much of a problem, but it's still challenging to recall what happened in the first book when you've read a crap ton of books in the interim. Somebody needs to come up with a really good YA book site that has complete summaries of books (with GIANT spoiler warnings, of course). Then I wouldn't have to reread entire series just to know what's going on in this book that I'm currently reading. So many books, so little time.

4)  The Power of the Subconscious
We all pick up little tidbits of things as we go about our day, some big and some small. Often this is why our dreams end up as bizarre mash-ups that we have difficulty making sense of. All of these bits influence us in some way and even sometimes creep into our writing whether we intend it or not. This becomes especially frustrating when we've unwittingly included something in our WiP that too closely resembles something we've read (been there, unfortunately - whoops!). This is one of the challenges of being both a reader and a writer. I was talking with my sister the other day, outlining a little snippet in my WiP and she pointed out that it was influenced by something that happened in my real life. Something really funny that I'd completely forgotten about. I had no idea that this is where it came from, but my subconscious must have spewed it onto the page without my knowing it. Kind of makes me think more carefully about the characters and events that I write (wouldn't want anybody seeing themselves in, let's say, a particularly awful character O_o).

5)  The Beauty of Blue Morphos
These are more accurately 'fluttering' around my brain than 'rattling'. My current WiP has blue morpho butterflies (the species Morpho menelaus) in it and lately I'm seeing them everywhere (not for real, but that would be freakin' awesome!). It's wonderful being surrounded by inspiration without even seeking it out. As is usually the case in nature, blue morpho males have more brilliant colouring than the females. To which I say: Boo. That's like dudes with prettier eyelashes than girls - So. Not. Fair. Their wingspan can grow up to 15cm (5.9in)! And they're just absolutely breath-takingly gorgeous, aren't they?

There's plenty more junk between my ears - some useful, most totally useless - but I've rambled long enough. So what's new with you? Care to share some of your brain vomit?

* The Fault In Our Stars by John Green - I'm happy that some of you enjoyed/are enjoying it.
**We didn't actually have junior high, but this is the appropriate age range (11-14 years).
***Cuddlebuggery outlines this mess in great detail and YA Highway has a number of links in their Field Trip Friday post today.
****A fun little Yiddish word for ass, bum, buttocks, behind, gluteus maximus, or tush. 

January 18, 2012

Things I'm In L♥VE With Today

This can change from one day to the next, but today I can honestly say that I'm totally gaga over the following:


I'm not crazy about Snow Patrol's new album, I have to say, but I can't stop listening to New York on repeat. I much preferred Snow Patrol's last album, but I lve this song*. Definitely inspirational for both of my WiPs, but one in particular. I found the guitar chords for this song (can't find sheet music yet) so that I could attempt to play it by ear on the piano, that's how much I'm addicted.

If you were here beside me
Instead of in New York
If the curve of you was curved on me
I’d tell you that I loved you
Before I even knew you
Cause I loved the simple thought of you
If our hearts are never broken
Well there’s no joy in the mending
There’s so much this hurt can teach us both
Though there’s distance and there’s silence
Your words have never left me
They’re the prayer that I say every day.
[more stuff in here]
The lone neon nights
And the eke** of the ocean
And the fire that was starting to spark
I miss it all, from the love to the lightning
And the lack of it snaps, me in two
If you were here beside me
Instead of in New York
Of the arms you said you'd never leave
I'd tell you that it's simple
And it was only ever thus
There is nowhere else that I belong
[more stuff after]


This is a super quick read and I plowed through it in one sitting. More like gobbled it up. Initially, I was thrown by the third person limited (present tense) POV, but it grew on me. This was just a sweet and romantic read that I enjoyed every minute of. And cute Brit boy Oliver? Um, yes please. Here are some of my favourite lines from The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight:

"It's not the changes that will break your heart; it's that tug of familiarity."

"He's like a song she can't get out of her head. Hard as she tries, the melody of their meeting
runs through her mind on an endless loop, each time as surprisingly sweet as the last, like a
lullaby, like a hymn, and she doesn't think she could ever get tired of hearing it."
And this:

While I take issue with the 'aboot' bit (Canadians don't talk like this unless they're from the province of Newfoundland which most of Canada isn't), I still get a giggle out of this particular Hey Girl from the Ryan Gosling Reads Young Adult tumblr. I like the nod to the fact that Mr. Gosling is one of Canada's handsome homegrown Ryans (Reynolds springs from here too). And who doesn't love Anna and Étienne from Anna and the French Kiss???

Oh yeah, and this:

The song World Spins Madly On by The Weepies - I didn't know about this song until I came across it on one of the road trip playlists in Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson.

What kinds of things are you in lve with today?

*I love a singer whose accent creeps out in his music. Gary Lightbody's voice = magic.
**None of the lyrics sites can seem to agree on what this word is: heat, ache, eke? 

January 17, 2012

YA For the Not-So-Sure-About-YA

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme that takes place every Tuesday over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week's list is a fill-in-the-blank topic:

Top 10 Books I'd Recommend to Somebody Who Does't Read [Young Adult Fiction].

This topic is tough not because I can't think of a ton of YA books that people should read, but because I'm trying to think of the YA titles that make the crossover just a bit smoother. I want people to realize that YA isn't all sparkly vampires, swooning (though, I'm totally on board with swooning), and angsty heroines. So this list is not to be taken as my 'Top 10 Favourite YA Books Of All Time' (some of them definitely make that list), but rather YA that I feel is accessible to the skeptical, on the fence, 'convince me' folks.

1)  Divergent by Veronica Roth
2)  Cinder by Marissa Meyer
3)  The Maze Runner series by James Dashner
4)  The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
5)  Blood Red Road by Moira Young
6)  Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
7)  Dragonfly by Julia Golding
8)  Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
9)  East by Edith Pattou
10)  Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins (for those people looking for sweet romances that aren't bodice-ripping, boot-knocking raunchy for a change)

I also like to call this list "Books I'm Not Ashamed/Mortified/Scared To Read In Public". Like I said, this list is for people who might be considering checking out YA. It's not really intended to win over the naysayers, the haters, the drag-YA-through-the-mud, the judge-all-of-YA-on-the-basis-of-one-Sparkly-Saga gum flappers. I'm convinced that nothing will ever change their minds. Speaking of this topic, if you haven't read this rant by Shannon Hale, you should. It's entitled "In Which I Gamely Stick Out My Tongue" and if that doesn't get your attention, I'm not sure what will. I think she pretty much sticks it to the aforementioned blowhards with this insightful post.

Any books that you would recommend to someone thinking about crossing over to the YA side?

P.S. I kind of have a lot of hope pinned on the upcoming Hunger Games movie. I'm hoping it will win over some new people to YA that previously ran screaming after the Sparkle Saga.

January 16, 2012

It's Because I'm Irish...

I have a confession to make: I just won another giveaway. As the title of this post suggests, it's almost entirely because of my heritage. That's right, I'm descended from potato lovers and leprechauns. Truth be told, I'm actually starting to feel a little guilty about all of this good fortune. Maybe I should step away from the giveaways so others have a chance at winning. Maybe.

What did I win exactly? Remember a little while ago how I mentioned that Mrs. Silverstein over at Reading on the F Train was hosting a super generous giveaway? Well, you're looking at the winner. I won a book of my choice from Mrs. S's sixteen book high TBR pile, so I chose The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. I also got to pick a 2012 pre-order from Amazon, so I went with Everneath by Brodi Ashton (which comes out Jan. 24th). As it turns out, both of the books I selected are from debut authors. Yay for debut authors! 

But this wasn't all. Mrs. S. also included a $10 gift card for a donation through DonorsChoose.org. Guys, if you haven't checked this organization out, you definitely should. As a former teacher, I know that teachers often end up paying for many of the supplies in their classrooms. I also know that Canadian teachers have it far better than their American counterparts. This isn't a Go Canada! moment, this is just an unfortunate fact. When I headed over to DonorsChoose to use this gift card, I found the following project and decided to kick in a little of my own 'mad money' to help Ms. Hermosillo's kindergarten class at Farragut Elementary in St. Louis, Missouri reach their goal:

Call it paying forward my own good fortune. I won books, and now these children are getting books too. And my heart just grew three sizes . So thanks again to Mrs. S for her generosity!

P.S. Within about an hour of donating, I received these words of thanks from Ms. Hermosillo:
My students are going to be thrilled to see the new technology that we will have access to in the classroom. This will get them excited about reading. I hope that it will ignite a passion that will make them successful for their educational careers. Thank you again and I truly can't express through words how grateful I am.
With gratitude,
Ms. H
And now I have a lump in my throat. 

January 12, 2012

Thoughts On A Thursday Afternoon

This has been a great day thus far. Instead of spending a crap ton of time on the blogs like I did yesterday (seriously, how fun was that RTW?), I buckled down and started writing first thing. The words seem to be flowing pretty freely today, so that's a good thing (I feel like Martha Stewart when I say that). I've taken breaks here and there to check out what's new on the blogs (you can't expect me to stay away completely), but mostly I've been pretty diligent. And it feels great!

So what exactly has me excited today?

1)  Well, obviously my ability to focus on my writing today (this blog break notwithstanding).
Side note: I've never used 'notwithstanding' in a sentence before, so I'm hoping I used it right.

2)  The wonderful Bailey Hammond at Over Yonder... did an ARC giveaway of Kristin Cashore's Bitterblue, and yours truly won! This will be the second ARC that I've had the privilege of reading (the first was Cinder by Marissa Meyer from Rebecca Behrens). I own the first book in this trilogy, Graceling, but I haven't yet read it (I know, I suck). Guess I'll be hopping on that right away, followed by Fire. Thanks again for your generosity, Bailey!

3)  Not sure if you've noticed, but Blogger FINALLY added a reply directly to comment feature. I've been grumbling since I started blogging about this very thing, since other blog providers have had this for a while. I love that I can respond to each of your comments directly now. Love it! It's probably a little strange to be so excited about such a silly little thing, but I refuse to apologize.

4)  I'm thinking about going to see Beauty & the Beast in 3D tomorrow. I'll be going alone because the hubby's out of town and anybody else would have to track down a sitter in order to go (this is not the exciting part). Beauty & the Beast has always been my favourite Disney movie (this is the exciting part) and I'm not sure I can pass up the opportunity to see it on the big screen again. Not crazy about the 3D thing, though.

5)  I just ate Campbell's Smoky Bacon & Clam Chowder and I lived to tell the tale. So far, anyway. This is not so much exciting as it is a relief. Seriously, bacon and clams with cream in a can hardly seems like a safe bet. Am I right? If you don't hear from me in a while, you'll know why.

6)  Yesterday, the cover art was revealed for Moira Young's upcoming Rebel Heart. For those of you who don't know, it's the much anticipated sequel to Blood Red Road. If you haven't read this yet, you definitely should, by the way. Too bad Rebel Heart doesn't come out until later this year.

I'm sure there's more, but I have no wish to overwhelm you with all the exciting things floating around this brain of mine. Plus, you might not find them anywhere near as exciting as I do.

Happy Thursday and Happy Reading or Writing or Whatever It Is That You Do! 

January 11, 2012

RTW: Nom de Plume

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:

If you couldn't use your own name, what would your pseudonym or pen name be?

Hmm... tough one. I hadn't really given much thought to using a nom de plume, but this is kind of fun. Well, since Renesmee*,  Tookie De La Crème**, and Wackford Squeers*** have all been spoken for I think I'd probably have to go with something from my personal ancestry. Family genealogy is fascinating to me and I have some dead ancestors with names I'd gladly rip off. Or I'd do a little mixing and matching among these folks. Some personal choices might be:
  • Bridget O'Shanahan (sometimes 'Shanahan') -- my maternal great grandmother's name and extremely Irish (as is most of our heritage, which is something I'm extremely proud of).
  • Grace McMann -- my great grandmother's name (she lived to be 100 years old [on a farm!!!]), so I'm hoping maybe her longevity and gumption will rub off on me.
  • the surname 'Jolicoeur'  -- it's from my mother's side way back, and I think it's beautiful. Translated from French it loosely means 'pretty heart'. Isn't that sweet?
  • Genevieve Demers -- also French, and also from somewhere on my mother's side.
  • McMurrough OR MacMurrough -- earlier versions of my own surname (Morrow)
I think my choice of a pen name would also be influenced by the type of books that I was writing (ie. target market, genre, etc.). Something like Jolicoeur, for example, might be well-suited to romance or children's books because it can sound either romantic or cute and sweet depending on the target. Do you get what I mean? If I was writing something super pretentious (*snort* 'cause that would happen) I'd probably choose Collinridge (maternal great great... what'sherface) because it sounds all smarty-pants and literary (like Coleridge, as in Samuel Taylor).
After all of this blathering on, I don't think I'd actually consider using a pen name. It has always kind of bothered me a little when authors don't use their real name. I don't know why exactly. I think maybe it just feels false to me or something. I understand why they might choose to do it -- genre-hopping, anonymity for personal reasons -- but I'm still not crazy about the whole idea.

I also happen to like my own name: Jaime Allison Morrow
  • I like that none of the letters go below the line (like 'g', 'j', 'p', 'q', or 'y'). Yes, I'm weird.
  • I like that my given name and my surname are almost equal in length (also, disyllabic).
  • I like that my surname is almost the same backwards and forwards (well, kind of).
  • I like that my mother sort of named me after the 1970s Bionic Woman (same spelling).
  • I like that my name is the same word for 'I love' in French (if you add an apostrophe) even though it's origins aren't actually French. It's Hebrew and means 'supplanter' or 'usurper' -- neither of which is overly flattering -- and shares origins with the name Jacob. So, does this make me Team Jacob then? Hmm... how 'bout Team Neither.
I wasn't always crazy about my name. Part of this had to do with frequent misspellings, AKA name-massacring (and I'm not the only one). It's amazing how many ways people can spell (and even pronounce) this simple name. Basically, if they aren't sure of the spelling they'll just toss the letter 'i' after every second letter or stick with the dude spelling -- Jamie. I have family members (mostly in-laws) who still spell my name wrong. For some reason, all of you seem to get it right whenever you use it (thanks for that!). 
I guess when you get right down to it, if I do the work, actually get published (!), and have my name plastered across books, I want it to be my name and not an assumed name. You can have your Pittacus Lores and Lemony Snicketts, I think I'll stick with Jaime Morrow.

P. S. I should probably mention that 'Morrow' is my maiden name. My husband's surname is 'Fink' which (no offense, hubby o' mine) doesn't exactly inspire much confidence in potential readers. ☺
P. P. S. I hope I didn't offend anybody by saying that using a pseudonym feels false. If so, sorry.
P. P. P. S. My Canadian-ness is showing (saying sorry and qualifying my statements). Sorry....
* from Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (as if you needed me to explain that)
** from Modelland by Tyra Banks
*** from Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (and outrageous in typically Dickens fashion)

January 10, 2012

Book Blogs, Award, and Randoms

Tarah Dunn graciously passed on the Kreativ Blogger award to me! Thanks, Tarah ☺ I'm supposed to mention 10 Things You May Not Know About Me as part of receiving this award. I decided to go with 'completely random' as my theme. So without further ado, here's
10 [Random] Things You May Not Know About Me:
1)  I own two action figures: Jane Austen and Sidney Crosby. They like to drink tea together and discuss hockey, writing, & etiquette.
2)  The only time I've ever been in a newspaper was in Scotland. Sadly, I was done up like a clown at the time. Strange? Oh yeah.
3)  When we went to sort out our home insurance one of the questions we were asked was whether or not we owned a Segway. A Segway?! Are we that geeky? "Yeah, it's in my garage parked between my Delorian and my Batmobile." I can't think why this was important.
4)  In other geek-related news, I may or may not be wearing a shirt with Han Solo and Chewbacca flying a falcon (the bird and not the ship) on it right now. Thanks, Teefury.com for this nerdy surprise.
5)  I play the violin and the piano - neither very well. I used to be able to play the recorder with my nose, but I haven't tested my skills lately.
6)  In less than a month I watched Just Friends (starring Ryan Reynolds) twice and The Proposal (starring Ryan Reynolds) twice. Houston, I think I have a problem.
7)  I lve the colour red. Cherry red in particular. I also really like red shoes. I own a pair of red Converse high-tops (Chuck Taylors? To me they'll always be Hoosiers* shoes) and red Toms. I'm tempted to order these because they're a) rad, b) red, and c) they look like ruby slippers like in The Wizard of Oz!
8)  I collect cobalt blue glass. I lve cobalt blue as much as I lve cherry red. I especially like the way it looks with the sun shining through it, casting blue patterns all over the wall. 

9)  I attended an all-girls uniform school for most of high school. Unfortunately, the school no longer exists (I guess single gender schools just aren't that appealing - shocker!), but fortunately, I still have and can still (barely and uncomfortably) fit into my kilt!

10)  I was a cheerleader for one day...in the mall of all places (I was filling in for someone else). I remember being so mortified after our routine that I slunk out of there, hoping not to be spotted by anybody I knew. Why so embarrassed? General consensus was that having cheerleaders for an all-girls school seemed a little weird. Plus, I was SO not the type. More quiet than chipper, geekier than cool.
[This would have constituted a uniform infraction ------------------> and would have earned me a pink uniform slip. Girls used to wear these slips shish kabobbed proudly on their kilt pins. Real classy.]
The next requirement of this award is to pass it on to... 
Six Other 'Kreativ' Bloggers:
The theme in my choices is apparently 'pretty' and 'books' as well as creative today.
1)  Anna over at Anna Reads - her blog is so pretty and her reviews are respectful and helpful.
2)  Ange over at Moonlight Reader - another pretty blog about books, books, and more books!
3)  Susan over at A Soul Unsung - also very pretty and all about books with honest reviews.
4)  Meredith over at Fairy Tales and Cappuccino - pretty and full of fun posts. I especially love to read her 'random' posts about the little things in life (I like reading random stuff about people).
5)  Jessica over at The Firefly Book Loft - reviews, books, and just overall blog prettiness.
You should check them all out if you haven't already, especially if you lve books as much as I do!
_ _ _ _ _
*Years ago I watched the movie Hoosiers and all of the basketball players were wearing Converse high-tops. I got my first pair in elementary school and they were bright bubblegum pink.