March 30, 2015

YA Book Club: RED QUEEN

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


March 25, 2015

It's Time...






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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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



March 18, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

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

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




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

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

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

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

WHAT WORKS FOR ME

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

WHAT ELSE IS NEW

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




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


March 11, 2015

What's Up Wednesday


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

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



WHAT I'M READING
• I'm (still) doing my reread of SAPPHIRE BLUE by Kerstin Gier.
• I'm (still) reading THE WINNER'S CRIME by Marie Rutkoski.
• Both books are great, but I haven't had much time to read lately.

WHAT I'M WRITING
• Still working on the first draft of my WiP, EVERY SAD & LOVELY THING.
• Still grateful for the lovely ladies who have been doing writing sprints with me.
• Still loving the whole stickers for words written thing. I'm using colourful dots.
• Erin helped me sort out some plot-related issues, which improves the whole thing.
• I managed to write 5000 words this week, which was the goal I set last Wednesday.

Writing goal for this week → Write 4000 new words + fill out character worksheets

WHAT WORKS FOR ME
Just doing the frigging work even when motivation and discipline are sorely lacking.
For me, this often boils down to laziness rather than an absence of inspiration. #lame
Lately, it's all about kicking that laziness to the curb and fighting for every single word.

End of story.

WHAT ELSE IS NEW
I made a new header for my blog and other social media sites. The old header featured a blue butterfly, which was a nod to my first story, WATCH OF NIGHT. That YA sci-fi has been (temporarily?) backburnered while I work on my current WiP, a YA historical/contemporary set at a WWI battlefield in France in both the past and the present. My new header features poppies, which are significant to war-related remembrance that originates with the First World War. (Wearing poppies for this purpose was inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields"* by Canadian Lieutenant Colonol John McRae.) The calligraphy just felt reminiscent of handwritten letters and all things vintage, which feels appropriate to the historical side of this WiP.

* "In Flanders fields the poppies blow/Between the crosses, row on row..."



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



March 4, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a blog hop created by me and my sister, Erin Funk, to help writers connect. With that aim in mind, we would like to encourage participants to swing by other WUW blog posts, get to know other writers taking part, and spread some writerly encouragement around. Before you go, make sure to leave a link to your post in the widget at the end of this post. Also, please remember to link back to the host blogs and/or use one of the fancy schmancy WUW buttons provided. We'd really appreciate it! For those of you who are new to WUW, these are the headings we have been using:

WHAT I'M READING
WHAT I'M WRITING (+ WRITING GOAL) 

WHAT WORKS FOR ME
WHAT ELSE IS NEW


*You can grab one of our Winter 2015 buttons under the WUW tab above!*
WHAT I'M READING 
(Book titles are linked to Goodreads)
I finally read BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE, the third book in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle, mainly because I was tired of dodging spoilers. I know this isn't a popular opinion, but I have to say this was my least favourite of the series thus far. Even while I was savouring bits of prose, I found myself wishing this book was more focused, less rambling. There were moments when I honestly had no idea what was going on. All that aside, I am eager to see how she wraps up this series in THE RAVEN KING. Now, I'm rereading Kerstin Gier's SAPPHIRE BLUE and starting Marie Rutkoski's super awesome THE WINNER'S CRIME (!!!)

WHAT I'M WRITING
Since I checked in on Monday for Writer Recharge, I've been struggling to motivate myself to write. Ugh. I sort of suspected this might happen, but it's still a bit of a bummer. My plan is to jump back in today so I don't lose all of the momentum I gained in February. It was a very productive month. I managed to reestablish a writing routine and I wrote 25K new words!
Writing goal for the week → I would like to add 5000+ new words to my WiP.

WHAT WORKS FOR ME
Tyler Knott Gregson poetry
I would like to work on prettying up my WiP's prose, so I'm totally inspired by poets like Tyler Knott Gregson who write such evocative phrases, particularly about love and romance. So, so beautiful! Check out his Tumblr page → tylerknott.com

WHAT ELSE IS NEW
• I'm finally caught up on The 100 and don't want the season to end!
• I'm knitting a Harry Potter inspired shrug in Ravenclaw colours.
• I got another shiny cover for my planner, washi and stickers too.
• My LadurĂ©e macarons recipe book came and it is so gorgeous. ♥
• I reviewed Elizabeth Briggs' book MORE THAN COMICS here.
• I also reviewed Dahlia Adler's book BEHIND THE SCENES here.



That's my week in a nutshell.
WHAT'S NEW WITH YOU?

March 2, 2015

Writer Recharge: Week Four (Final Check-In)

Well, today is the final check-in for Writer Recharge 2015, and I have to say I'm super bummed that it's all over and done with. This has been a very productive month for me on the writing front, and I think I have WR to thank for that. Thanks to our hosts and thanks to all of you! ♥

Here's how I did this week and this entire month:

WRITE/REWRITE

My overall goal for the month of February was to have 1/3 to 1/2 of my WiP, EVERY SAD & LOVELY THING drafted. I managed to add over 10K (!!!) new words to my WiP this week, putting my total for the month at 25K, which pushes me past the 1/3 of my WiP drafted mark.* Woohoo!
READ/REREAD
I wanted to read the entire BURN FOR BURN trilogy by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, which I did. (Loved it...mostly.) I also wanted to reread RUBY RED by Kerstin Gier. Read it and loved it all over again. Now onto SAPPHIRE BLUE and more Gideon!

STRETCH
I completely gave up on my stretch goal of turning the TV off a couple nights a week. What can I say? I love Netflix. A lot.

SELF
My goal was to eat fruits + veggies daily and exercise at least once (increasing this to twice, then three times, etc.). I ate the odd bit of fruit and even less veggies, so FAIL. And I really didn't add any exercise into my daily routine. Again, FAIL. Boooo. 

CONNECT
From the start of Writer Recharge, I wanted to pop by Twitter from time to time and maybe jump in on a word sprint or two. Well, I'm happy to report that word sprints are my new favourite things. They have helped me so, so much this week. That 10K word count is all thanks to a series of sprints with some lovely ladies. They definitely motivate me to get writing!

FUN
I wanted to do some serious knitting this month, but other things took precedence for the most part. I did, however, start working on a Harry Potter-inspired project → a super cute shrug in Ravenclaw colours. At least I hope it's cute. We'll see.☺

Well, I didn't meet all of my goals, but I met my biggest goal. I wanted to get back into a 
writing routine and I think I can safely check that off my list. I'm calling that a huge win.

So, #WriterRecharge peeps, how did you do this month?
Thanks again for keeping me encouraged and accountable!




* I already some words written before starting #WriterRecharge, so this 25K just topped that up.

March 1, 2015

BEHIND THE SCENES by Dahlia Adler (A Long Overdue Review)

Let me start by saying that I have always loved the whole non-famous person + famous person romance in books and movies. Heck, I was raised on Cinderella and other tales like it, so I've been lapping it up my whole life. BEHIND THE SCENES delivers this same sort of scenario with a whole lot of swoon, which makes it an instant win in my books. But there’s so much more to it than just that. Here’s what I loved about BtS:

ALLY + THE HOLLYWOOD THING
I liked that Ally wasn’t completely star struck when she got to go “behind the scenes” of bestie Van’s TV show. She’d been friends with Vanessa for years, so that did give her an inside look at all of the not-so-glamorous aspects of fame, but even so, it was a relief to not see her go gaga on set. She regularly rubs shoulders with celebs, but you never get the sense that she considers this something to be used to her advantage. Ally working on set had everything to do with helping Van out and making college possible, not cozying up to the show’s stars. That just happened to be a side bonus she wasn’t expecting or seeking.


ALLY + VAN
Ally and Van’s friendship was one of my favourite parts of BtS. It isn’t all smooth sailing, of course, but it never treads into frenemy territory either. Feuding friends are normal in YA, but I never once found myself asking why the heck these two were even friends in the first place. Their relationship is tough at times given Van’s celeb status and all that that entails, but throw in the whole actress/assistant dynamic with a side order of secret romance with your bestie’s very public boyfriend and BAM, you’ve got some serious challenges to face. I enjoyed watching these two push through it all.

ALLY + DAD + CANCER
I often have a tough time with books featuring a parent with cancer—particularly a dad—having been down that road myself. Dahlia handled this storyline especially well, and I found myself looking forward to those scenes between Ally and her dad, despite the hospital room setting. It got me right in the feels every time they were on the page together. But then I loved moments with Ally and her mom and sister as well.

ALLY + LIAM
As someone who has studied French my whole life, I loved the tidbits with Ally tutoring Liam and the two of them swapping French phrases. The swoon between these two was strong, my friends. Being forced to keep their romance private provides great conflict and a certain amount of risk that makes it that much hotter. Their relationship was flawed, which only made it more believable. With the added challenge of a fake, very public relationship between Liam and Van, you’ve got no shortage of obstacles in the way of Ally and Liam’s happy ending. I loved these two so much! And a word about Liam: He is that great combo of Good Guy who isn’t perfect but is never the Bad Boy who needs reforming. I’m so over Bad Boy, let me tell you, so Liam was basically everything with a chaser of great abs.

ALLY HERSELF
As a reader, I could relate to Ally’s insecurities without them constantly being a THING, if you know what I mean. They didn’t centre around her non-star status or a bad case of “not worthy”-itis. You would think this might happen a lot given the non-star hobnobbing with stars angle, but this story never strays into normal girl with a certain je ne sais quoi that has been done to death territory. Sure, the fact that she isn’t famous is in the back of Ally’s mind, but it doesn’t become the thing the story revolves around. Ally deals with some heavy stuff—her dad’s illness and the impact this has on her family, working as an assistant to Van in a world that is pretty cutthroat just be able to pay for college—and yet she’s still very much a teen. Things like going to prom, being able to go to college, falling in love for the first time all remind us that she’s a teen with similar dreams to other kids her age. All of this makes her completely relatable.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Dahlia Adler has such a great sense of humour and this really shines through in this book. There were many points while I was reading that I’d burst out laughing at one thing or another. I love humour and great voice, and this book definitely delivers both in spades along with a romance you’ll root for right until the final page is turned. Definitely give this one a read! You'll be happy to know that Daylight Falls #2, UNDER THE LIGHTS, is out this June and features both Van and Josh!

Where to buy BEHIND THE SCENES:
Amazon (US) (CAN) (UK) • Barnes & NobleKobo • iTunes • Book Depository

Find Dahlia Adler on the interwebz:
WebsiteBlog • TwitterFacebook