September 26, 2012

RTW: Best Book of September

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 was the best book you read in September?

Guys? This month has been an epic reading fail, I'm ashamed to say. I'm taking stock of what the heck I did for the entire month of September, and I have no really good answers. I had an eight-book lead on my Goodreads Reading Challenge that has probably been whittled down to two at this point. Because I've only read a whopping 2.5 books this month. O.o 
 
Shame: I has it.

So what did I read during the month of September? And of this piddly total, which was my favourite?

1) Something Strange and Deadly - Susan Dennard

Big confession: I did not love this book. I didn't dislike it, but it didn't wow me. After reading everyone's glowing recommendations, I was prepared to jump in and not be able to put it down. Sadly, putting it down was far easier than I'd hoped. What drew me to the story was the Steampunk element, but what pulled me out of it was the zombie thing. Turns out I'm just not into them (This Is Not a Test was also not a fave). I recently read the first two books in Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices series, and she weaves Victorian era setting details into her stories seamlessly. SSaD's details felt too intentional for me, if that makes sense. Verdict: It wasn't my cup of tea, but it will definitely be someone's (many people's) 'drink of choice'.


2)  Lock and Key - Sarah Dessen

This was my first foray into Sarah Dessen territory, and I have to say, I'll be hopping on this train with gusto. There's a reason Dessen has so many fans, and I should have listened to their ravings sooner. Right from the first page I was drawn in by the writing and by MC Ruby's (that totally just made me think of MC Hammer) story. Ruby is dealing with tough issues, but I never felt that this bogged down the book in any way. It had all the right stuff (now I'm thinking about NKOTB), and henceforth I'll be adding Sarah Dessen's books to my TBR list by the truckload.

3)  The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

So I'm only halfway through this one, but I think it's safe to say that it will end up being my favourite September read. This is another one of those books that everyone raved about, but for whatever reason (genre, prohibitive price...) I ignored their ravings. Turns out I need to start listening when everybody everywhere is into a book. The atmosphere, the writing, the setting details, the colour palette (that sounds weird, but it's true), the atmosphere, the atmosphere. Oh, and did I mention the atmosphere? So, so rich and magical. I'm not done, but the verdict is already in: Love it.


How about you? What was your favourite read this month?


September 21, 2012

Currently...

I'm certainly not the first to do the "Currently..." post  I saw it first on Katy Upperman's blog, who picked up on it via Kate Hart and Jessica Love  but I thought it looked like fun, so I'm joining in. After all, Fridays should be fun, right?

Jane Austen's Persuasion infinity scarf
from Storiarts: by Tori Iannarino on Etsy.
Loving...
This totally great and wonderfully nerdy scarf from the Storiarts shop on Etsy. The crafty lady responsible for these prints a page from a book onto an infinity scarf to create this literary fashion statement. I ordered this pre-made Persuasion scarf she was selling1, BUT starting October 1st she will be taking custom orders. Many thanks to Liz Parker for posting the link to this awesome scarf on her Tumblr page!

Reading...
My sister sent me a copy of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and I'm really enjoying it. I don't normally migrate toward adult novels, but this one doesn't really fit into such a neat and tidy box. Here's a little sample of this fantastic story:

“You think, as you walk away from Le Cirque des Rêves and into the creeping dawn, that you felt more awake within the confines of the circus. You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.”

It's all very magical and the atmosphere is indescribable. Definitely an experience.

Someone needs to make this happen. Stat.
Watching...
Hubby and I have been working our way through Friday Night Lights for the first time (we're late to the rodeo), and it's completely addictive. I can honestly say that I give a rip about every single character on the show (we're only on Season 3 at this point), which is no mean feat when you consider the size of the cast. When we finally get around to starting a family, I'd love to borrow from the Coach and Tami Taylor script. There have been some parenting moments on this show that blow my mind. Parenting wins, in my opinion. And then of course there's the prettiest aspect of the show: Tim Riggins. Enough said.

Thinking About...
1)  Potential blogging topics. I has none.
2)  How much longer until I'm ready to query this beast of a WiP.
3)  How I can make my contemporary YA retelling of Persuasion more heart-wrenching and swoonworthy. I so badly want to do the original story justice.

Anticipating...
1)  Taking drum lessons through the (Royal Canadian) Legion Pipe and Drum Band 2  in my city, with the intention of hopefully joining the band when I am all trained up.
2)  The local college (which happens to be in my neighbourhood) is putting on the following productions this season: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Peter Pan, and Dracula. I’ve been to productions at the college before and they were fantastic! But without even thinking, I bought tickets for Dracula on Valentine’s Day. I suppose that could be romantic. Maybe. O.o

Wishing...
I wish I could finally figure out my flipping query for my sci-fi/romance YA Watch of Night. I just don't even know how to make it better, and because this is stressing me out big time, I'm just avoiding it altogether right now. I've gotten some great feedback on it, but I still don't know how to approach it. There's just way too much riding on that thing. Bleh. 

Making Me Happy...
The great suggestions and compliments I’ve received on my WiP Watch of Night. Between my CP and my beta-readers, I’m feeling less like my story is a hot mess not worth wasting the time on. It still needs work, but it's slowly getting there.

In closing, I'll leave you with another inspirational quote from The Night Circus, especially poignant for writers:

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.”


1 The page printed on this Persuasion scarf is Captain Wentworth's love letter to Anne Elliot, which includes the words: "You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late..." Swoon factor = through the roof.
The Royal Canadian Legion is a veterans organization with membership open to the public. This is our local branch that has its own bagpipe and drum band.


September 19, 2012

RTW: Spin A (New-ish) Tale

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:
In honor of this month's Bookmobile book, Marissa Meyer's Cinder, name a fable or story you'd like to see a retelling of. If you're feeling creative, come up with a premise of your own!

There are so many directions I could take this, because there are a number of retelling ideas in this brain of mine at this very moment. At least two of them I've already started fleshing them out, and I think they could both be very good. But mum's the word because they're not yet ready to be shared.

As someone with primarily Celtic background, I'd love to see many of the Celtic legends brought to life in a unique way (much like how Marissa Meyer breathed new life into the Cinderella tale). Maybe one day I'll tackle something like that, but for now I think it's best to work with the 5 or 6 stories/story ideas I already have on the go. That being said, there are definitely well-known tales that it would be fantastic to see in some other form than how they were originally told and/or penned. Because isn't that kind of the whole thing with fairy and folk tales? Passed on through the oral tradition, with many cultures telling some version of the same tale.1

I would love to see creative retellings of the following TWO fairy tales (both are favourites of mine):

1.  The Twelve Dancing Princesses - The Brothers Grimm
There are at least three retellings of this tale that I know of 2, but I'd like to see something that veers away from the traditional version of the story. I want to see some sort of paranormal or steampunk or sci-fi twist on the story, where dancing doesn't necessarily have to be dancing (it can be something else totally sinister), and where the princesses don't have to be princesses and there doesn't have to be twelve of them (because generally people don't mate like bunnies these days).


2.  The Wild SwansHans Christian Andersen
I don't know why, but I've always loved this story 3. I remember actually seeing a cartoon version of it years ago, but I've never seen it since. Again, I'd love to see a unique spin on this oneparanormal, steampunk, sci-fi, or some combination thereof. And like the last tale I mentioned, the brothers wouldn't have to turn into swans. It could be something totally different like...creepy, creepy automatons or something. Or to kick up the why-the-H-did-they-make-this-so-fricking-creepy factor, they could turn into ventriloquist dummies or freaky clown dolls. Or not. But you get the idea. 

These retellings would just have to retain the same feel and flavour of the original, along with the skeleton of the tale. Beyond that, it's no holds barred as far as I'm concerned. And that's what makes retellings of familiar tales so much fun!

What tale or story would you like to see retold, and how would you like to see it changed?

This just occurred to me as an afterthought, but how awesome would a retelling of Bluebeard by Charles Perrault be. I'm thinking some kind of YA thriller/horror with some other added element (like sci-fi or whatnot). So, so creepy!

  
1 I took a Fairy & Folk Tales course in university and in the 8.5 years I studied at the post-secondary level (don't ask), it was hands down my favourite class. And it was a night class, so that's saying something.
2 Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Entwined by Heather Dixon, and Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier.
3 The Wild Swans has been retold by at least one author that I know of: Princess of the Wild Swans by Diane Zahler.

September 18, 2012

TTT: Bookish Folks I'd Like to Meet

It's Tuesday so it's time for another Top Ten Tuesday post. This week's topic has me really wishing it could come true:

Top Ten Bookish People You Want to Meet (authors, bloggers, etc.)

Where to start? My mind has already compiled a list that could easily make this Top Thirty Bajillion Tuesday, but in an effort not to get too carried it away, I'll limit it to ten (ish). Okay, I got a lot more carried away than that and cheated a bit:

Bloggers/Tweeters
You can never get a cup of tea large enough or
a book long enough to suit me. - C. S. Lewis
1.  Elodie (a wonderful CP and friend) + Jess Silverstein (beta reader supreme)

2.  All the people I connect with in the blogosphere and on Twitter: Colin Smith, Erin L. Schneider, Sara Biren, Katy Upperman, Rebecca Behrens, Miss Cole Burke, Liz Parker, Alison Miller, Robin Moran, Juliana HaygertKat Owens, Stephanie Scott, Tracey Neithercott, and SO many more that I'm sure I'm forgetting, but this list is already ridiculously long.

And then there are the folks behind blogs I love to follow for a variety of reasons: the girls over at Forever Young Adult (they're always good for a laugh), Janice Hardy (a phenomenal source of writing tips), and many more.

(This feels like an acknowledgements page or an Oscar acceptance speech.)

Authors (Dead & Alive)
3.  Laini Taylor
This woman is fantastic in so many ways, and don't even get me started on her writing. Plus, her blog is quirky and so much fun. You should really visit it.

4.  Stephanie Perkins
So spunky, funny, and a seriously talented writer. Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door are two of my all-time favourites.

5.  C. S. Lewis
His Chronicles of Narnia series is still one of my favourites after all these years. He seems like he would have been such an interesting person to sit and have tea with. Or a pint at a pub. We'd talk about Aslan and Narnia and even theology.

6.  Charlotte Brontë
My favourite book of all time is Jane Eyre, and I'd love to meet the woman behind the book. Then again, I'd probably just turn into a blithering idiot fangirl, which is far from flattering. I'd let her know how much I liked Villette too because it doesn't get nearly as many props as it deserves.

7.  Jane Austen
This woman wrote with so much tongue in cheek humour and razor sharp wit and meeting her would be awesome. I'd ask if she's a Colin Firth fan. I'd also like to tell her (tactfully) how I like Persuasion so much more than Pride and Prejudice.

8.  J. K. Rowling
Who wouldn't want to pick this woman's brain?! She's a genius as far as I'm concerned, and I will always consider her one of the best authors I've ever read. I'd ask her for tips on world-building because she's quite clearly a pro at it.

9.  Charles Dickens
Talk about one of the greats. While Dickens works were social commentaries, his writing was riddled with wit and humour. Take his character names, for instance. There are many funny ones, but my faves are Wackford Squeers, Martin Chuzzlewit, Uriah Heep, and of course, Ebenezer Scrooge. This guy had way too much fun, and I'd love to chat with him.

Other
10.  Agents like Joanna Volpe, Vickie Motter, Suzie Townsend, Kristin Nelson, Sara Megibow, and so many more. This meeting would be especially great if it was because one of these wonder women was offering representation.


How about you? Who is the number one bookish person you would love to meet?

September 16, 2012

Working Together To Outrun Cancer

Today is the 32nd annual Terry Fox Run to fight cancer. This is an important cause as all of us either have been or will be personally touched by cancer in our lifetime. My father is a cancer survivor, so I know just how crucial this kind of funding is. This is a post I wrote back in June about my favourite Canadian, but given that today is Terry Fox Run day, I thought I'd re-post it in his memory:
THIS is what perseverance looks like. 
Today, I thought I'd share the story of one of Canada's greatest people. And I promise you, few Canadians would disagree. I get choked up even typing his name because he's that much of an inspiration in so many ways. Let me introduce you to:

Terry Fox
(July 28, 1958—June 28, 1981)

Terrance Stanley Fox was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba but raised mostly in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. An avid athlete, Terry played as many sports as he could including basketball, even though he was not overly tall. At the age of 19, Terry was diagnosed with osteosarcoma—a cancer that often begins in the knee region—and his leg had to be amputated. He was given a 50% chance of survival, which was far greater than it had been only a couple of years earlier (15%). Through it all—the chemo, the amputation, learning to walk on a prosthetic leg only three weeks later—Terry maintained a positive attitude. He'd watched many of his fellow cancer patients succumb to their diseases, and wanted to do something to change this. With this in mind, Terry began marathon training with the intention of running across Canada to increase awareness about cancer research and to raise much-needed funding.

And the Marathon of Hope was born.

On April 12, 1980, Terry  "dipped his right leg in the Atlantic Ocean near St. John'sNewfoundland, and filled two large bottles with ocean water. He intended to keep one as a souvenir and pour the other into the Pacific Ocean upon completing his journey at Victoria, British Columbia."* His run started out rough—horrible weather, arguments with his friend (travel companion), and drivers trying to force him off the road—but by the time he reached Ontario things were looking up. His Marathon of Hope was receiving exposure, and funding was starting to come in.

Sadly, the exertion of his run and his refusal to take a single day off was taking a toll on his body. Increasing exhaustion and pain in his stump and chest forced him to seek medical attention. Terry's cancer had returned and had spread to his lungs. 143 days and 5, 373km (3, 339 miles) in Terry's run had come to an end. Terry had raised $1.7 million for cancer research, and the funds continued to pour in. By the following April, over $23 million had been raised in his name. Terry underwent further chemotherapy, but the cancer continued to spread, and on June 28, 1981 he lost his battle with cancer.

Terry's legacy continues today, and every fall people in more than 60 countries around the world take part in the Terry Fox Run to raise awareness and funding for cancer research. The Terry Fox run is the largest one-day campaign for cancer research in the world. To date, over $500 million has been raised in his name.*

"The people in cancer clinics all over the world need people who believe in miracles. I am not a dreamer, and I am not saying that this will initiate any kind of definitive answer or cure to cancer. I believe in miracles. I have to." (in a letter to the Canadian Cancer Society)
Source

Information for this post borrowed from here.

September 13, 2012

Bookshelf Peekaboo

Today the ladies over at YA Highway are showing off their bookshelves, and I've noticed that other blogs have decided to join in the fun. Because I feel like being a joiner, I've decided to share pictures of what my overflowing bookshelves hold:

It was very difficult to find the best angle to capture my shelves completely, but I tried. There are more stacked on top too.
And yes, that is a stuffed Jane Austen doll on the shelf. She looks a touch Muppet-y, but that just adds to her coolness.

Then there's my TBR shelf (there are unread books on the other shelves too). But these are at the top of the TBR pile:


One thing is for certain: I won't be running out of reading material any time soon!

*
The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

September 12, 2012

RTW: Word Up

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 word processing program do you use to write your manuscript, and can you share one handy trick you've learned in that program that has helped you while you write?

This is my totally unexciting answer:


Last November during NaNoWriMo, I purchased a copy of Scrivener (there was a discount for NaNo members) and still have yet to try it. To be honest, I'm used to Word. I wrote my entire story and have revised it using this program. The idea of learning a new program with a bunch of bells and whistles that I'll never use is not overly appealing at this point. So, for the foreseeable future I'll be sticking with Word.

As for handy tricks, I've got nothing. CTR+F is about the most useful thing I've used (especially when I decided to change a character's name in my WiP O_o). I may not have any nifty tips, but I will share something that I did in Word when I started my revisions. I made a table with four columns: 1) The chapter number, 2) a few bullets outlining the contents of the chapter (since the chapters don't have titles, this was handy for locating scenes), 3) any alterations/additions for that particular chapter, and 4) the word count for each chapter (also important because I wanted to even out chapter lengths). My brain thinks in bullet lists and tables, so it's extremely useful to me to be able to organize my thoughts this way in my word processing program. I don't imagine this is overly high-tech or earth-shattering, but it has certainly been useful to me in the revision process.

Since I don't have anything new to teach you, I'll leave you with this mid-80s gem* instead:



I may or may not be sporting the same outfit as Cameo while I'm writing this post. Kidding... Or am I? W-O-R-D Up!

* And by 'gem' I really mean 'stinker'.

September 10, 2012

It Could Go Either Way

Picture this: Girl is alone at airport before heading to foreign country. Girl sees Boy and is intrigued by his eyes and his accent. Boy is friendly and eager to make Girl's acquaintance. Girl is hesitant at first, but Boy seems harmless and genuinely nice, so she caves.

"There are so many ways it could have all turned out differently."

Meet "Boy":
Oliver from The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Oh, but wait. You also need to meet another "Boy":
Ty from Stolen by Lucy Christopher


The opening paragraph applies to both "Boys"; Oliver gives you the warm fuzzies, while Ty gives you chills...and a whole multitude of other confusing feelings. The funny thing is, that quote above comes from the very first line of The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight. After reading Stolen, I have to agree: It really could have turned out differently. Worse, actually. Hadley could just have easily found herself in Gemma's shoes. Scary thought. Or Gemma could have found a sweetheart.

Statistical Probability is one of my favourite reads of 2012, but after reading Stolen, I can't help comparing the two stories in my mind. I wonder if I'll ever be able to read the former without thinking about the latter. It's kind of like a dark cloud over this whole notion of airport romance. And then, of course, my mind takes it a step further and I'm thinking about the movie Taken with Liam Neeson & Maggie Grace, and how all things considered Gemma was lucky, and Hadley more so.

Statistical Probability is a sweet love story, while Stolen is a scary reality check.


Here's the summary from the back of Stolen :

That last line there? I initially read it and thought, "What the—?!" But after reading the book, I can honestly say there's a raging case of Stockholm syndrome here...and it's not just Gemma struggling with it. I didn't love this whole book*, and I particularly didn't love the creeped out feeling it gave me at times (mostly when I was imagining this kind of thing actually happening). The middle-of-nowhere-in-Australia setting was not something that I enjoyed reading about, but I think it added to the sensation of loneliness, seclusion, and utter hopelessness.

What really surprised me is the fact that Ty didn't scare me. Never once did I feel like Gemma was in danger, like Ty was going to harm her in any way. While certainly odd, Ty was just a boy, looking at a girl, asking her to love him.** Kidding. Sort of. But this is really what it boiled down to, which was surprisingly uncreepy. And that is what made this book interesting and worth the read. Kudos to Lucy Christopher for making readers fall for Ty (as much as I hate to admit it).

So, while it's great to enjoy an airport romance like Hadley + Oliver's in The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight, it's important to remember that there are other ways this could have turned out. It could have been an unlikely love story made in Stockholm syndrome Hell like Gemma + Ty's. The moral of this post? It's okay to have your head in the clouds, but keep your feet planted firmly on the ground and ready to run if the situation calls for it. Oh, and NEVER, NEVER, NEVER let a stranger "fix" your drink, no matter how intense and icy blue his eyes are.*** [End preachy rant.]

* There are no chapters in this book, only scene breaks. As someone who likes to finish a chapter and stick the bookmark in the book, this drove me a little batshiz. But whatever.
** from Notting Hill (sort of) 
*** This is in no way meant to be a finger wag at Gemma (it wasn't her fault this happened). I'm certain Ty would have just found some other way to make his plan work.