May 31, 2012

Book Discussion: Insurgent

This month's YA Book Club book up for discussion is Veronica Roth's Insurgent. For those of you who have never heard of this book (haha...right) here's the Goodreads summary:

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence,even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Divergent (the first in the series) is the only book that I've ever reread within a matter of months of reading it the first time. That's how good it was. Needless to say, I had really high expectations for Book 2. And I was (mostly) not disappointed. I'm going to try my hardest not to include spoilers, so this could be fun. Plus, I should probably add a bit of a disclaimer: I read the majority of this book on a 7-hour flight to Scotland, so my excitement over that may have taken away from my excitement over this just a touch. So bear that in mind.

Faction Road Trip
As much as Dauntless was the main faction that interested me in Divergent, I was still a little curious about everyday life in Candor, Erudite, and Amity (we already know a decent amount about Abnegation from the outset). Insurgent gives us a really good taste of each faction, albeit under more stressful circumstances following the events of Divergent. It was great to get these glimpses, though I started getting a little tired of it by the end of the book. After a while I felt like I was bouncing around like a ball in one of those Fisher Price corn popper push toys. Plus, I really felt the absence of the Dauntless headquarters in this book. Even though there were some pretty awful things that happened there, it really set the mood for Divergent. I wanted to be there again.

Tris + Four
I'm one of those girls who likes a good romance in the books she reads. The relationship between Tris and Four was one of my favourite things about Divergent. I looked forward to it in Insurgent, and while there were some steamy scenes, I found myself wishing for more Four when he wasn't on the pages. And I don't just mean more smoochy scenes, I mean more interaction between Tris and Four. At times it felt like Tris was sabotaging their relationship, and it drove me batty that she felt the need to sneak around and lie to Four about what she was up to. It made me dislike her a little bit. That being said, I think Roth created a real relationship here with all of its warts and flaws, which is commendable. None of this My special guy is so perfect and so dreamy he poops rainbows crapola. Although, I do take issue with the addition of further description of Four's appearance that included sticky-outy ears and a hooked nose. What!? Ewww! It gave him a Sloth Love Chunk or Dear God What Is That Thing kind of feel, which is Just. Not. Good.

Characters Old and New
Most of the characters who survived and returned in Insurgent were developed really well—Peter, Johanna, Marcus, Christina, Uriah... And, of course, there was (as Tracey Neithercott has dubbed him) You Know Who (not Voldie) and the shock at what he does. Yowza! Did not see that coming. Insurgent does a great job of showing different groups of people trying to cope and survive in this new landscape.

Action and Reaction
This book seemed like it was always go go go—there was always something going on. And that's a good thing. There was never really a dull moment. I thought it was very realistic to show Tris in the aftermath of the events of Divergent, and the effect that would have on a person. Not only did she survive when others didn't, she also has to deal with things she was forced to do. Very few people would bounce back and move on unscathed. I did start to wish she'd snap out of it, though.

Without giving anything away, I will say that the big reveal answered a number of questions while (obviously) raising a multitude of others. There were things about it that I thought were pretty cool, but there were also aspects that I found somewhat hard to believe. Of course, I'm hoping this will all become clearer and will be explained further in a way that I can buy into when Book 3 comes out.

Final Thoughts
Despite how it may come across, I really enjoyed Insurgent. Not quite as much as Divergent, but then my expectations were high and I was a little distracted as I've already mentioned. I think I need to read this book again soon to see if some of my negative reactions change at all. Even with some of my quibbles with certain aspects of the book, there is still no disputing the awesomeness that is Veronica Roth and her writing. Seriously, that woman puts me to shame while giving me something to aspire to. Well done! I can't wait for Detergent, and to see where she takes this story.

If you'd like to read what others thought about Insurgent, follow this link to Tracey Neithercott's Words on Paper blog for links to other Insurgent reviews.

Have you read Insurgent yet? What did you think? Feel free to share (w/o spoilers) in a comment.

P. S. I would almost lay money on Book 3 being titled Convergent. I think the idea of all the factions finally coming together from their different corners makes sense. What do you think?

May 30, 2012

RTW: Book Conferences

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:
What book and/or writing conference(s) would you love to go to?

Short answer: I'd be thrilled to attend just about any outside-of-Canada* book and/or writing conference. I have never been to one.

Longer answer: The 'outside-of-Canada' thing makes it seriously unlikely that I'll be able to attend any book/writing conferences unless I plan on saving for years. But, if I was rolling around in cash, these would be my top picks (due to location and description):

1.  SCBWI Winter Conference (NYC—Feb. 1-3, 2013)
I'd choose the Winter Conference over the Summer one in Los Angeles, because I'd far rather attend a conference in NYC than LA. I've never been to NYC, so this would be the prime opportunity. Not to mention, LA in August seems...stinking hot. Since NYC is the hub of the publishing industry, it seems only right to attend the conference there. But, the cost of attending, accommodations, flights, and so on makes showing up pretty prohibitive any time in the near future. A girl can dream, right?

2.  Comic-Con (San Diego—July 12-15, 2012)
Who doesn't want to go to Comic-Con??? This would be the one conference I could probably coerce the hubby into attending with very little effort. It's like movie-/comic-/book-/video game-lovers heaven. And with costumes! If we went, I'd be seriously tempted to go in full cosplay. Not sure what I'd dress up as, but it would probably be something like this or this, but definitely not this or this.

3.  YALLFest (Charleston—Nov. 10, 2012)
I only just found out about this one-day event today, and it sounds pretty great. Aside from the pretty spectacular group of authors that will be there, the best part would have to be that it's FREE!

To borrow Blog Me MAYbe's May I ask something about you? Wednesday question and steer it in today's RTW direction: What book and/or writing conference(s) would you like to attend and why?

* Canadian conferences tend to bring in a handful of never-before-heard-of Canadian authors and place a heavy emphasis on Canadian publishing, which is a route I have no intention of taking.**
** More on why in another post another day perhaps.

May 29, 2012

Geek/Nerd Uniform

It's the last Tuesday of Blog Me MAYbe, and "May I tell you something about myself?" day again. So here's something about me that you may already know, or you may not even want to know:

I've got a nerd/geek* t-shirt buying compulsion.

Well, maybe not so much a compulsion, but I've certainly got a bit of a collection going on. Some time last year, I stumbled across a website called This site features different artists, selling their t-shirt design for only 24 hours, and at a price that really can't be beat—$10. Often, Canadians ordering products from the States can expect to pay through the nose in shipping (sometimes more than the product itself), but teefury only charges $3 for shipping, which is great! If you're a Doctor Who fan, you might want to check this site out every so often. It seems that every second tee is somehow Who-Inspired.

Here's what I've collected so far:

(For a better look at each image and more information about the artists, click on the links below.)
1.  Han + Leia Kiss—A Star Wars take on Klimt's The Kiss.
2.  Caprica City Toasters—For Battlestar Galactica fans.
3.  Should You Need Us—A collage of Labyrinth characters.
4.  Dire BrewGame of Thrones-inspired Winterfell lager tee.
5.  Ravenclaw CrestHarry Potter-inspired Ravenclaw crest.**
6.  Odds In Your Favor—A Hunger Games-inspired tee.
7.  Hunger-LympicsHunger Games meets the Olympics tee.
8.  District-13 Mockingjays—If District 13 had a baseball team?
9.  Ride the FalconStar Wars' Millenium Falcon = a real falcon.
10.  Mars TerraformingTotal Recall (1990)-inspired tee.***
11.  Team Eddard—Gotcha! Not Twilight, but Game of Thrones-inspired.

I like a good cheap geek tee enough to check every night before bed. The tee changes at 10pm my time. So if you're just as geeky/nerdy and lacking in self control as I am, check it out!
* Apparently there's a difference between Geeks and Nerds.
** I'd definitely be sorted into Ravenclaw. Just sayin'.
*** I bought this not because I'm a Total Recall fan, but because it's linked to my WiP.

May 25, 2012

So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish

Innsbruck, Austria—where Adams
became inspired to write the Guide*
It's Friday and "May I share something funny?" day for Blog Me MAYbe. Today also happens to be Towel Day, which I would call both funny and a little bit sad. Why? Because Towel Day commemorates the life and work of the great Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Adams passed away in May of 2001, and his fans wanted a day set aside each year on which to remember him. Every May 25th, hardcore fans of Adams' books carry a towel around with them...all day. If you've never read his book(s) you're probably wondering: Um, what's with the towels?

In the world of the Hitchhiker's Guide, a towel is the single most important article that a hitchhiker can remember to carry at all times. And here's why (right from the pages of the book):

"Partly it has great practical value - you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to- hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you - daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have "lost". What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with." (source)

The Hitchhiker's Guide is a comedic science fiction trilogy of five books, and is loaded with little tidbits that will make you snicker and chuckle (if you're into that kind of thing). If you haven't gotten to it yet, you really should. It's well worth the read, and by next May 25th, you may just find yourself donning a towel too. But not just a towel, because that would be just creepy and weird.

In parting, I have two pieces of Hitchhiker wisdom to share:
1.  Don't panic, and always carry a towel.
2.  42 **

Happy Friday and Happy Towel Day!

P. S. For all you Hitchhiker's geeks out there→ Somebody pointed out that this Towel Day is an especially important one because of this:  25 + 5 + 12 = 42!! (DD/MM/YY). Mind = blown.
* Picture and caption source
** You'll have to read the book(s) to figure this one out.

May 24, 2012

Conquering the Classics

Since today is the "May I tell you something about someone?" day for Blog Me MAYbe, let me tell you a little story:
Once upon a time there was a girl who liked to read, especially Young Adult Fiction. Sure, she'd read a fair number of books from the Adult market and even some Classics, but in this latter area she'd come to find herself wanting. It's not that she didn't like the Classics, the girl just preferred lighter reading. Consequently, her "Classics I Really Should Get Around to Reading" list had become quite long. Embarrassingly so if she was being honest with herself. To remedy this problem she came up with an idea, and Conquering the Classics From A to Z was born. Twenty-six Classics. Not too shabby.
Big (obvious) confession: I'm that girl, and the list of Classics that I've read is appallingly short.

I love reading YA, but I feel like I need to broaden my horizons a little bit. I've always been acquainted with the Classics and even read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë of my own accord at a fairly young age. Since then I've tackled books like Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpho and Charles Dickens' David Copperfield, but I know there are piles of others that I should really get to.

I noticed recently on the So Obsessed With blog a challenge called The Classics Club, which I proceeded to check out. This club was "created to inspire people to read and blog about classic books."* What a fantastic idea! I'd sign up in a heartbeat except that I'm not prepared to commit 100% to the terms of the challenge (50+ Classics over the next 5 years and blogging about each and every one of them). So I decided to start a personal challenge inspired by this club, with or without anybody joining me. By that, I mean that this is for myself, but you're welcome to join me.

On my Conquering the Classics page to the right (which you can also reach by clicking on the picture to the left), I will be posting a list of the Classics I intend to get to—one book per author based on the first letter of his/her surname.^ Huh? Example: A for a Jane Austen novel. Get it? I'm not putting a timeline on it, but I'm hoping that I will finish these twenty-six Classics over the next couple of years. Some will be more challenging than others, and some will make me fall asleep or rip my hair out. And I'm okay with that. At least I'm making the effort, right?

I will also try to post my thoughts on most of them, and I'm not afraid in the slightest to tell you what I really think—these authors are no longer around to have their feelings hurt. And there's no chance that we'll ever cross paths if I ever get published. I'm mostly kidding. Mostly.

Like I said, if you find that you're in the same boat as I am on this whole Classics thing, feel free to take part. You can use my A to Z list, or you can come up with your own. It's entirely up to you. I honestly believe that it will be both fun and enlightening. And it certainly can't hurt! ♥

* From The Classics Club blog.
^ I'm having difficulty with some letters, so if you have suggestions I'd be happy to hear them. If I don't come up with anything for a particular letter, I'll just slip in another Classic I want to read.

May 23, 2012

RTW: Faction Selection

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:
What faction are you?

For those of you who have no idea what the heck this even means, I urge you to pick up Divergent by Veronica Roth and find out. Like, yesterday. You won't be disappointed. And then move right on to Insurgent. The best part? You won't have to wait forever for the sequel like the rest of us had to. 

Anyway, back to the question. There's no easy answer for this. I think when it all boils down, we're all a bunch of Divergents. To be completely one faction seems absurdly unrealistic (this is not a slam on the books, it's just reality as we know it, which is perhaps the point Roth is trying to make???).

I'd love to say that I'm Dauntless. I love so much about that faction—the dark clothing, the tattoos, the bravery—but I'd hardly call myself brave. Quite the contrary, actually: I'm the world's biggest chicken. The thought of jumping onto a moving train gives me palpitations and makes my knees go all rubbery. Instead of calling me 'Four', I'd end up as 'Four Hundred' or something equally terrible.

Nope, this would probably be my aptitude test result:

I feel like calling myself Erudite "The Intelligent" seems a little arrogant, but it's more because I'm on the nerdy side and love learning WAY too much (*snort* as if there's such a thing as 'too much' with learning). This would be the greatest fraction of my faction equation, followed by a handful of Amity, and a dash of Abnegation. Amity because I prefer to keep the peace in my everyday life, and Abnegation because I like to make others happy—I'm a bit of a people-pleaser. Just call me Doormat.

But Candor? Ha! Tell people what I really think and feel? But that would mean rocking the boat and potentially making people unhappy with me! I can't do that! You get the idea. Pathetic, right?

As for choosing the faction that I plan to call home, I'd kind of be thrilled to move into Erudite headquarters just so I can permanently plant my nose in a book (in a perfect Erudite scenario, not the actual turn of events in the novels). Taking up residence with either of the other two factions in my equation would make me want to jump off the Hancock building without a zip-line. Just brutal.

What would your faction equation look like, and which faction would you choose?

May 22, 2012

May I Tell You Something About Myself?

I've been back from the UK for two days now, and Jet Lag has her nasty teeth in me and doesn't seem to want to let go. Sucks, but our trip did not, which is a good thing. I've missed out on the first 2/3 of the Blog Me MAYbe Blogfest, but I figured I'd just jump in on the tail end.

The suggested topic for today is: May I tell you something about myself?

Okay, here goes...

I am seldom satisfied. That's such a terrible thing to admit, but it's true. I suffer from grass-is-greener syndrome and pretty much always have. This doesn't always have to be a bad thing. It means that I'm not content to settle on mediocre. In my writing, for instance, it means that I will likely fiddle with my story over and over again before even considering querying the thing. That only becomes a bad thing if I take it too far and never end up sending my WiP out into the world.

On our trip to Scotland, I found myself constantly wishing I lived somewhere so beautiful, so rich in history, and so inspirational. Red Deer, Alberta is hardly what I'd call any of those things. Truth be told, I don't feel like I've ever really lived anywhere that feels that way. And I want to. I'm not about to pick up and relocate to the Highlands of Scotland (though I wish I could), but I'm still hoping that someday I find a place that feels mostly right, that feels like it's where I'm meant to be.

And gosh darn it, I really wish it was this place:
Eilean Donan Castle

May 1, 2012

Me From A to Z

Circa 1981-ish.
I hadn't planned on blogging today (so much to do!), but then I saw this fun get-to-know-you kind of thing on Elodie's blog which she'd found on Katy's blog. It looks kind of fun, so I'm doing it too.

A is for age: Ugh. Currently 33, which is about a decade older than I'd prefer to be. Though, I honestly don't feel that (icky) age.

B is for breakfast today: Haven't had it yet, but it'll be coffee and boring ole cereal. Or maybe Tim Hortons (I am Canadian).

C is for currently craving: It's morning still, so something like French toast with fresh berries, or a hubby-made yummy omelette.

D is for dinner tonight: Likely something quick and devoid of any nutritional value (*sigh*). We've got so much to do before the trip.

E is for favourite type of exercise: (*snort*) Hmm...tough question. Not a fan. Awhile back I was using the treadmill for the exact length of a Gilmore Girls episode. That made it almost fun.

F is for irrational fear: Too many to count, but I'm going to go big here→ getting in an accident.

G is for gross food: Liver. It's like eating the human body version of a pool filter. So disgusting.

H is for hometown: I was born and spent the first twenty years of my life in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the sister city of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. I've mostly lived in Alberta since then.

I is for something important: Family→ the one I was born into, and the one I made for myself.

J is for current favourite jam: Food or music? Well, my favourite (food) jam has always been raspberry. My current favourite (music) jam is a handful of Florence + the Machine's sweet tunes.

K is for kids: TBD. Tick Tock.

L is for current location: In my office, in my house, in Red Deer, in Alberta, in Western Canada.

M is for the most recent way you spent money: Pizza and Strongbow at The Rock yesterday.

N is for something you need: Insurgent, like, yesterday. Oh, and more time to pack for our trip.

O is for occupation: Formerly→Barista, Banker, Special Constable, Teacher. Currently→Writer.

P is for pet peeve: A general lack of consideration and manners for others. Like an epidemic now.

Q is for quote: Not that long ago I was feeling particularly down on myself, and then I found this:

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts."
—Winston Churchill

R is for random fact about you: I used to be able to play the recorder with my nose. Now I just settle on playing piano and violin (not very well, I might add). One day I'll add bodhran to the list.

S is for favourite healthy snack: Hmm...not something I'm familiar with. I guess I'll say berries.

T is for favourite treat: Now that's more like it. I've always loved caramel drumsticks. Yummy!

U is for something that makes you unique: In my lifetime, I've called 21 different dwellings 'home', attended 12 different educational institutions, and spent 8.5 years in post-secondary studies.

V is for favourite vegetable: Seriously, who made this questionnaire? If we're talking location in the grocery store, green onions, bell peppers, and pumpkin (the latter two are classified as fruit).

W is for today's workout: Nothing besides running up and down the stairs while I try to pack for our trip, and lifting our just-narrowly-missing-the-weight-cutoff-for-airline-travel suitcases.

X if for x-rays you've had: I'm sure I've had dental x-rays in the past. When I was younger, I had one for a potential curvature of my spine. Three years ago I fractured my sternum in a car accident and had to get an x-ray to find this out (the pain from the airbag made it kinda obvious).

Y is for yesterday's highlight: Having a spontaneous dinner date with my hubby midafternoon.

Z is for your time zone: Mountain (MST) or UTC-6 (because we're in Daylight Savings Time).

Well, I'm sure that's more random junk than you wanted to know about me (or anyone). I'll be away from the blog for the next three weeks, but I'll be back with more random junk before you know it! ☺