Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Beautiful Books #1: Let's Talk Books

Beautiful Books is a new linky hosted by Notebook Sisters and Further up and Further in.
[It is a] three-month-long blog event linkup focused on three different stages of writing: plotting, writing, and editing. It was designed with NaNoWriMo in mind.
They ask questions each month that we answer on our own blogs. This is the kick-off of the linky and they're asking about the novels we plan to write (whether in NaNoWriMo or just on our own)

I AM doing it through NaNoWriMo, so if you want, let's be NaNo friends! You can find me here

1. What came first: characters or plot idea? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Weirdly, for me the world often comes first. Then character. Then plot. But that's not ALWAYS true. Just often true. And true of this book too.

I've always said I'm a pantser, and not just because I like using this GIF:

2. Do you have a title and/or a “back-cover-blurb”?

I came up with the title before I came up with a lot of the plot. (I know, I don't do things in proper order). It's called "How to Invade Earth in 7 Easy Steps."

A back cover blurb would be (I'm literally writing this right now off the top of my head. Don't judge me! It's a little based on a query that I already pre-wrote so it's not total bs):
When the aliens first came to Earth they were greeted with screams of welcome and exploding tubes of delicious energy-food. At least, that's what they thought. When Lex goes down in a human body as a scout, he learns two things: 1) humans are not happy with their interstellar visitors and 2) his thirteen-year-old body is NOT the height of humanity. With the help of his new friends--the lady-voice that lives in his phone and Lex's UFO-loving neighbor--he learns how to blend in (sort of). Still, Lex makes a lot of mistakes as he tries to carry out his mission of breaking into a secret government lab in order to steal a top secret device that could save his race from extinction.

3. What wordcount are you aiming for when your novel is finished?

50,000. So NaNoWriMo is perfect for me! :)

4. Sum up your novel in 3 sentences.

Alien invasion from alien POV.

Observations on ridiculousness of humanity (why do people say text abbreviations out loud?)

Misunderstandings and hilarity ensues.

5. Sum up your characters in one word each.

Hero: Lex - clueless.

Best Friend: Siri - phone

(Human) Best Friend: Toby - enthusiastic

Friend #2: Divya - Snarky

Father: Dr. Han - warkaholic

Villian: Singer - suspicious

6. Which character are you most excited to write? Tell us about them!

Lex. He is clueless about Earth, but he's also technically a genius by human standards. So he makes a lot of mistakes, but he makes them because humans are a little ridiculous too. Also, he doesn't see things with a lot of the prejudices that pre-exist on Earth, so even though he doesn't know what it means to have a good heart, he has one.

7. What about your villain? Who is he, what is his goal?

The villain is Singer (technically). She works for the D.O.D. and she is kind of a femme fatale kind of lady. She has her eye on Lex's human father, Dr. Han, and Lex becomes very protective of him. She also suspects that Lex isn't exactly who he pretends to be, so she is a danger to Lex and his whole mission.

8. What is your protagonist’s goal? And what stands in the way?

Lex wants to break into the D.O.D. facility and find the device that can save his race. Unfortunately, he is just a boy, he's having trouble fitting in as a human, and the D.O.D. is on high alert because of the aliens.

9. What inciting incident begins your protagonist’s journey?

It technically happened before the book begins, but the aliens' home planet was destroyed by a bad race of alien and they are slowly dying off. They need something that can help them flourish again, and they've found Earth, the perfect planet for them.

10. Where is your novel set?

Earth, current day.

11. What are three big scenes in your novel that change the game completely?

Lex learning that humans don't love the aliens.

Lex learning about human emotions/feelings.

The D.O.D. finding out about Lex.

12. What is the most dynamic relationship your character has? Who else do they come in contact with or become close to during the story?
His father/son relationship with Dr. Han. It's the relationship that really teaches him what being human is all about. Even though Toby is more actively helpful to Lex (seeing as he finds out Lex is an alien pretty early on) he is more of the best friend character. Seeing how families work on Earth really changes how Lex sees things.

13. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
He learns more what it means to be human and that changes how he sees the universe.

14. Do you have an ending in mind, or do you plan to see what happens?
I have an end-goal, but not sure exactly how I'm going to get there.

15. What are your hopes and dreams for your book? What impressions are you hoping this novel will leave on your readers and yourself?
I want people to have fun and laugh when they read it. But I also want it to have heart. It's a middle grade and I think the best MG's I've read are fun and have adventure, but they have heart and that's what takes them from good to great.

I kind of heart these questions, they've made me even more excited for NaNoWriMo. Hey guys, writing is fun!

If you guys want to participate in beautiful books go to Notebook Sisters and Further up and Further in.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Musings: NaNoWriMo

It's almost November so you know what that means! Yup, my birthday is coming up! Aaaaand, it's almost Nanowrimo. 

I guess, you guys are more interested in the NaNoWriMo part of November (even though I do throw a good b-day party). For everyone who doesn't know what it is, it's a challenge to write a WHOLE BOOK(50,000 words) in the month of November. But it's so much more than just going slowly insane while trying to meet word count. It's supposed to bring the writer community together and kind of jump-start a new novel idea.

According to Nanowrimo.org:
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.
So a leetle bit of history:
NaNoWriMo is all about using the magical power of deadlines to tell your story. Give someone a goal and a goal-minded community and miracles are bound to happen. Pies will be eaten at amazing rates. Alfalfa will be harvested like never before. And novels will be written in a month.Part of the reason we organize NaNoWriMo is just to get a book written. We love the fringe benefits accrued to novelists. For one month out of the year, we can stew and storm, and make a huge mess of our apartments and drink lots of coffee at odd hours. And we can do all of these things loudly, in front of people. As satisfying as it is to reach deep within yourself and pull out an unexpectedly passable work of art, it is equally (if not more) satisfying to be able to dramatize the process at social gatherings.
But that artsy drama window is woefully short. The other reason we do NaNoWriMo is because the glow from making big, messy art, and watching others make big, messy art, lasts for a long, long time. The act of sustained creation does bizarre, wonderful things to you. It changes the way you read. And changes, a little bit, your sense of self. We like that.
Our experiences since 1999 show that 50,000 is a difficult but doable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. The length makes it a short novel.
So Nanowrimo might seem like a place where writers get together and talk about their books and write nonsense for 50,000 words before they go back to their "real" novels. But it's totally not! Some awesome novels were started and/or written during Nanowrimo (http://nanowrimo.org/published-wrimos).

Some stand outs for me as a reader were The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen,Cinder by Marissa Meyer. All of which are super successful. Also Water for Elephants became a movie and The Night Circus is in development (if you participate in Nanowrimo then your book will become a film!)

Okay, so here are some of the fun things you get by signing up (FOR FREE) at Nanowrimo.org

Cool stats and graphs telling you how awesome (or, in my case, how lazy) you are:

Awesome Forums where you can connect with other authors. There are so many options to base the forums on (genre, hobbies, progress in your WIP, where you live, who you read):

And there are some Regional specific events:

I wrote about my experience in NaNoWriMo last year on Books Are Bread (and I miiiight have stolen from my last post for this one, but it's my own words and I give myself permission to use it!). Anyway, I will try to write about my experience this year too, but I won't go too cuh-razy about it (probably...maybe...actually, no promises).

Anyway, I love the idea of it. I like anything that gets people to write and to get excited about writing. I am having severe writer's block right now, but I am already excited for NaNoWriMo, I can feel myself overcoming my mental blocks already. 

If you want, you can find me on the site and we can be nanowrimo pals! (I'm katjc589)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Feature Follow Friday: Bring back your favorite character (from the dead!)

Every Friday Parajunkee and Alison Can Read hosts Feature Follow Friday. It's a great way to get to know the blogging community and they ask fun questions!

This week's Question is:

Characters, sometimes our favorites, die during books. If you'd get to choose, who would you bring back? - Suggested by Howling for Books

This is hard to choose actually because I have just so happened to read a lot of books where people die! So I'm cheating and making a mini-list:

Hazael (Days of Blood and Starlight) - I am still mourning the loss of one of my favorite side characters from Daughter of Smoke and Bone. He was so funny and he kept Akiva and Liraz grounded. It truly broke my heart when he died. Sometimes a side character will die and you'll think "okay, well it sucks that they're gone, but at least none of my favorites died." That was NOT the case for me here! I was devastated! And I was so sad for Akiva and Liraz as they mourned their brother's death.

Ned Stark (A Game of Thrones) - He was a voice of reason in a crazy world! He would never have let the war get so out of hand. Westeros needs someone to bring reason to this world and it's Ned Stark.

Sirius Black (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) - Seriously, ALL of that generation of awesome people died. I was like "OMG, it's the end of an era!" I think one of them really should have survived, and that person should have been Sirius Black. He could have been the father Harry never had. It was really harsh to take away every adult parental figure from Harry.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

(Not-Monday) Musings: e-readers vs. paper books

I know it's not Monday, but not enough people read/care about my personal memes to make a stink about me writing this on a Thursday. Also, I read a cool article that I MUST share with you all!

I wrote a previous Monday Musing about audio books (summary: I'm not a fan of fiction on audio). However, I never really spent too much time worrying about whether to read my fiction on paper or on an e-reader.

To be honest, I buy most books on my e-reader now because I live in the city and it's easier to carry around my tablet/phone to read than a million books. Also, I read about four books at a time so I like to have them all handy because I'll never know which one I'm in the mood to read.

Also, at the end of reading a really good book on my e-reader I'll sometimes even buy it in hard copy so I can add it to my ever growing library (and my dream is to one day have a library in my home).

However, studies have now been done on whether we should read from an e-reader or a hard copy paper book. 

And the winner is: Paper Books!

The study was done by Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger. Apparently e-readers make us less able to absorb information and readers can't remember the order of events in their stories.

According to Mangen, studies suggest that using screen devices (like iPads, kindles, nooks) might impact readers' cognitive abilities and it affects the emotional aspect of reading. What does all this mean you ask. It means that e-readers are turning us into emotionless zombie readers! (noooo) J/K it's not that serious, but it could mean that we aren't connecting to our stories in an emotional way and we're not processing story details well since we're reading it on e-readers.

Why is this happening? Apparently we need to be able to feel the pages and physically turn them, having the option to flip back and forth, fold over pages (blasphemy!), and have a tactile experience of feeling the pages during reading helps steep us in the experience of reading.

I personally have always said that the smell of books is a huge part of reading, so I can see what this study is getting at. I just didn't know that the feel of books could make me empathize with the characters more.

What do you guys think? How do you read your books? Do you think e-readers are making readers lose out on the experience of reading?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Breaking the Spine features a weekly event where we talk about the books we can't wait to read.

By: Marissa Meyer
Release Date: January 27th 2015
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,Who is the fairest of them all?
Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now. 
Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series

I love this series (see my review of the first three books here). I love the fairytale retelling aspect and the great ensemble cast. But I particularly like the very well-developed creepy antagonist, Levana. So the fact that this book will tell her story is very exciting for me. Also, I always like to think there's more to people's actions than them just being innately good or evil.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Series Review: Lunar Chronicles (Cinder, Scarlet, Cress) by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1)
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Fantasy | Fairytale Retelling
Copyright: 2012
Publisher: Fewel and Friends
POV: Third-person - multiple narrators

Check out a Dream Casting of Cinder I did with my blogger friend/cousin at Books Are Bread: here.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Main Character: I really liked Cinder. She was strong even though she lived a very down-trodden life. She also did things because she knew they were right. She had to survive in a world where people were prejudiced against her for being a cyborg, so she really is starting in the negative. However, she still has spunk and I can respect that in a heroine.

Love Connection: This is a fairy-tale but it's also a futuristic cyborg's world, so the love-style in this book is full on: Disney Princess meets the Fifth Element

Kai is a swoon-worthy prince. He has morals and is a "real" person, not just a stand-in hunky guy. I do wish we could have seen more from him and his feelings towards Cinder, but that's just the fan-girl inside of me.

Allies and Enemies: Iko! She's R2D2 meets sassy Disney side-kicks (actually, now that Star Wars is owned by Disney, I guess she's just R2D2...) Iko is awesome, she's an android, but she has a 'tude. And she is fiercely loyal to Cinder.
Levana. Evil incarnate. She is slick and elegant and dangerous. Her evil lies in her ability to manipulate people with her lunar mind powers. Her people love her, because she makes them think they love her! (EVIL!)

Setting: It's set in New Beijing, so there are definitely diverse characters and a diverse setting. So props to Marissa Meyer for her setting choice. Although there's very little of the Chinese culture that we know today, there's enough that we know where the story is set. I do wish that there was more incorporation of the Chinese culture, but you can't ask for everything and the story is supposed to mainly be a fairytale retelling, so it didn't bother me. It was just on my wishlist for the book.

Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time.

Vanity is a factor, but it is more a question of control. It is easier to trick others into perceiving you as beautiful if you can convince yourself you are beautiful. But mirrors have an uncanny way of telling the truth

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Fantasy | Fairytale Retelling
Copyright: 2013
Publisher: Fewel and Friends
POV: Third-person - multiple narrators
Rating: 3 out of 5

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

You guys, things got REAL in Scarlet. We're not in fairytale land anymore (except...we kind of still are, since this is a Red Riding Hood retelling).

Main Character: I enjoyed Scarlet, not as much as I liked Cinder, but she was a good main character. She starts off stronger than Cinder was in the last book, so that might be why it was harder for me to relate to her. But she's a strong heroine who is worthy of this epic world that Marissa Meyer has created. Also, some of the book is still told from Cinder's POV.

Love Connection: Wolf, the hunky and mysterious fighter who helps Scarlet as she tries to track down her missing grandmother's location. 

Scarlet is more mature than Cinder. So this love style is: Grimm (the TV show) meets any Teen Action movie (a la Abduction)

Allies and Enemies: Captain Thorne. He is actually Cinder's Ally not Scarlet's. However, Scarlet only hangs out with Wolf in this book, so she really doesn't have a lot of Allies to speak of.

And of course, the big baddie is still the sly and manipulative Levana.

Setting: Still as large and intriguing as in Cinder. It's even bigger since the whole world is getting in on this Lunar conflict now. And with the new setting of France we see how everyone is affected by the threat.

A sickening howl stopped her, sucking the air out of her lungs. The night's chatter silenced, even the loitering city rats pausing to listen.Scarlet had heard wild wolves before, prowling the countryside in search of easy prey on the farms.But never had a wolf's howl send a chill down her spine like that.

Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3)
Genre: YA Science Fiction/Fantasy > Future Fantasy world > Fairytale Retelling
Copyright: 2014
Publisher: Fewel and Friends
POV: Third-person - multiple narrators
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

In this third book in the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army.
Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl imprisoned on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.
When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has

Main Character: Cress is a little naive, a little innocent, a lot of a super genius. She's like Ed from Cowboy Bebop (bringing in the anime references!).

Love Connection: Captain Carswell Thorne. Cress is more innocent, Thorne is very debonaire. This love style is Princess Bride meets These Broken Stars.

Allies and Enemies: Levana is still the biggest baddie in the galaxy, but Sybil really gives her a run for her money.

Dr. Erland is back in this book. I think I was hoping he would be a Dumbledore/Yoda character, but he's not as sage as Yoda and not as lovable as Dumbledore. Still, he's a good man and he has secrets of his own that are revealed!

Jacin, he's originally the pilot of Sybil's ship and just seems like a basic soldier for Luna. But when he ends up on Cinder's ship he proves to be a little more complicated. I have no intense feelings about him as a character, but he's a good insight into the Lunar mind (other than Wolf of course).

Setting: Finally we're in Space-ace-ace-ace! Also, Earth (Africa and dessert settings). And one character gets to go to Luna so we see that creepy place.
The characters are kind of broken apart in this book (but it happens in the beginning so I don't feel like this is a spoiler). So there are a lot of new people to meet and places to go.

Maybe there isn’t such a thing as fate. Maybe it’s just the opportunities we’re given, and what we do with them. I’m beginning to think that maybe great, epic romances don’t just happen. We have to make them ourselves

So the series ain't over yet! So my mid-series rating is: 3.5 out of 5

Where Meyer shines in this series is her interpretation of the fairytales. I like my retellings to give me moments of recognizing things from the original fairytale, but overall I want a new story. That's why it's a RE-telling. And Meyer sure delivers on that.

She also created a pretty cool world for her characters. The conflict is awesome, and works well with all of the fairytales she incorporates. Also, the big baddie is kind of super creepy, so I like that it's not just a dude in a ship who wants to blow-up Earth or something. It's all a mind game, it's political, it's insidious (not the terrifying movies, just the feeling)

Meyer does a good job of giving us great characters. I do wish she would add more layers to them with each book (and she has definitely done that a little with Cinder). However, as casts get bigger it gets harder to give each character individual attention.

I'm excited for book 3.5, Fairest, coming out January 2015 and book 4, Winter, coming out in late 2015.

Recommendations: For a YA Fantasy in a non-Western setting read Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. For a futuristic retelling of a classic story read For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Throwback Thursday Review: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

By: S.E. Hinton
Original Publication: 1967
Publisher: Speak
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

According to Ponyboy, there are two kinds of people in the world: greasers and socs. A soc (short for "social") has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. Ponyboy is a greaser, and he's always been proud of it, even willing to rumble against a gang of socs for the sake of his fellow greasers--until one terrible night when his friend Johnny kills a soc. The murder gets under Ponyboy's skin, causing his bifurcated world to crumble and teaching him that pain feels the same whether a soc or a greaser.

Main Character: Ponyboy Curtis - a greaser (from the wrong side of the tracks). His parents are dead so his two older brothers raise him. He's kind of the runt of the litter in the sense that he's the youngest and his older brothers and their friends are faster, stronger, and more popular than Ponyboy in school. But he's smart and his brothers keep telling him that this is what will get him out of this place. (I think it's hard for Ponyboy because this puts a lot of pressure on him to be better and to be different from the brothers he loves and admires.)

Allies and Enemies: Johnny - even though Johnny is older than Ponyboy he's kind of the sad puppy of the group. Everyone takes care of him since he's a little bit frayed around the edges, he doesn't have a good home life and he was jumped by some rich jerk kids and beaten half to death once.

Sodapop - Ponyboy's funny, cute, popular older brother. Even though he has a lot going for him, Sodapop kind of doesn't have aspirations to ever leave the neighborhood, but he thinks that Ponyboy should. Ponyboy really looks up to Sodapop and I love that their brother relationship is so tight. They comfort each other when times are tough and Sodapop really looks out for Ponyboy even though he's so cool/popular and could just ignore him.

Darry - Ponyboy's oldest brother who takes care of the family. He was a star athlete in high school and could probably have done something with that but since their parents died he stays home and takes care of the family. (He makes me sad because he had to give up so much, but he did it for his family and that's so sweet and sad at the same time).

Dallas - He's the ultimate thug, he's a greaser who's a little older and a little more jaded. He's not just a neighborhood hooligan, he could probably kill a guy if he had to, but he's also very close to the Curtis brothers and their group of friends.

Setting: A small American town in the middle of the twentieth century. A town where there are definite social classes and a wrong side of the tracks kind of situation.

“Sixteen years on the streets and you can learn a lot. But all the wrong things, not the things you want to learn. Sixteen years on the streets and you see a lot. But all the wrong sights, not the things you want to see.” 

“It seemed funny that the sunset she saw from her patio and the one I saw from the back steps was the same one. Maybe the two worlds we lived in weren’t so different. We saw the same sunset.”
Review: This book really solidified a love of reading in me. And it was a school assigned book, so it helped me realize the school assigned books aren't all bad. It has a lot of "lesson" type stuff (social class, being true to yourself, not letting the world get you down, rising above your situation). However, it didn't feel like that on a first read-through. It was just a great story about a group of boys who are trying to get by. It has a definite YA feeling (even though it was published before the phrase YA existed). It's because it's about boys who are thrust into a world on their own and have to deal with all the bad stuff that comes with it.

It also has an awesome ensemble cast (the movie had a decent one to mirror this: Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane). I love ensemble casts that really mesh well (see every Joss Whedon show). And it had bromance! Which I love and which really showed that these boys were just boys deep down, despite all the violence and drinking and b.s. that they had to deal with.

Be careful, this book is a tear jerker, I actually cried when reading it in class, so beware of the sad scenes because there are a good number of them.

And finally, I have to talk about the fact that S.E. Hinton was sixteen when she wrote it! WTF? Talk about YAs writing YA. You go girl.