Monday, April 25, 2016

(Belated) Winter Wrap-Up Post

I swear I started writing this post a month ago. I just got distracted with life...

Step aside Starks, winter is over!

Oh thank the glorious sun and the subtle tilt of the Earth for spring!

But that also means that we've finished a whole season in 2016. And I've been informed that this means I'm allowed to write a wrap-up post! I'll just list all of the things I read, watched, listened to (in no particular order) and let y'all know what I thought of them.

by Maggie Stiefvater

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them--until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her.

His name is Gansey, a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can't entirely explain. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul whose emotions range from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She doesn't believe in true love, and never thought this would be a problem. But as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore. 

Kat's Mini Review: Don't ask me why it took me so long to read this book. It just did. But I adored it. I really did like almost everything about this book. It's a contemporary fantasy that concentrates on the characters. I loved Blue and her crazy mixed family. I adored Gansey and his band of boys. I think that there was a good bit of bromance in there and I think that the boys interactions with Blue were just adorable. I will for sure be reading the rest of this series very very soon.

by Alexandra Bracken
passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever 

Kat's Mini Review: A fun read. It brought forward the concept of time traveling in a novel way. It introduced intriguing and dynamic characters. It was very Alexandra Bracken in style, which I love. And I also really enjoyed the history that she was able to include through the place and times that the characters went.

Go HERE for my full review

by Yangsze Choo

"One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride..."

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim's handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

Kat's Mini Review: Beautifully written, wonderful worlds, and an intriguing story. This is not a book about just Li Lan or just ghosts or just British rule and the Chinese population in Malaya. It is about ALL of that and more. It's like a very beautiful window into that time and place. How the cultures intertwined to very greatly affect all who lived in the port town of Malacca. And Li Lan is just our conduit into that world.

by Jennifer L. Armentrout 

Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all—popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend. Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her—even if the old Sam treated him like trash. 

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory—someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

Kat's Mini Review: Jennifer Armentrout doesn't usually write contemporary, but woah she really should! This book was really good. She writes such good characters and intrigue. And I really enjoyed the mystery of it all. I kind of have a soft spot for main characters that lost their memory and must be reminded of who they used to be by well-meaning if misguided friends and family. It's a mystery being pieced back together. And JLA does that mystery really well!

by Sarah Rees Brennan

It's time to choose sides.... 
(I will not include the full blurb because it will include spoilers from the first book)

Kat's Mini Review: Kami Glass and her witty banter is back! I really enjoyed this book. It's an obvious middle book with alot of angst (ahh, the angst of middle books). But I am a fan of that. Some people hate middle books and their transition states, but I thrive on them. And there is a LOT of transitioning in this book. A lot of figuring out where people stand and what the stakes really are for everyone. It's a good book with good characters. 

by Sarah Rees Brennan

Powerful love comes with a price. Who will be the sacrifice?

(I will not include the full blurb because it will include spoilers from the first book)

Kat's Mini Review: I enjoyed this book. I felt like Kami stayed true to herself and that's what I always want for a main character. The break out star for this book was for sure Kami's dad. He was just so clever and strong and smart and kind. He was a good support for his daughter. Of course, I still love all of the friends and ensemble.

by Marie Rutkoski

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love... 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Kat's Mini Review: Ummm, I adore this book. It's awesome! It's based on Roman/Greek history and just exudes so much of that world without actually being that world! It's a great look into war and soldiers and the cost of empires. I loved Kestrel and her strength. I adored Arin and his pride. I thought they were a great pair and really felt for them when they ran into obstacles (like their inability to accept their own feelings. Angst!) I will be reading the rest of this series very soon, so stay tuned for a series review!


First episode date: January 11, 2016
Final episode date: March 8, 2016
Director: Lee So-yeon
Number of episodes: 16
Network: KBS2

The Moorim School isn't focused solely on high academic scores. The school teaches its students virtues including honesty, faith, sacrifice and communication. The teachers and students at the school come from different countries and each have their own stories.

Kat's Mini Review: A show that started with a lot of action, fun, and character. There was friendship, romance, bromance, and a bit of magic. Really loved how each character was introduced and developed through the first half. The second half felt rushed at some points and slow at others. It was a bit of a flat finale, but I think that's because they lost 4 episodes from the end mid-season.

First episode date: January 4, 2016
Final episode date: March 1, 2016
Number of episodes: 16
Director: Lee Yoon-jung
Network: TVN
Genres: Romance Film, Drama

Drama depicts the delicate relationship between female university student Hong Seol (Kim Go-Eun) and her senior Yoo Jung (Park Hae-Jin). Hong-Seol works part-time due to her family's poor background. Yoo Jung is good looking, gets good grades, athletic and has a kind personality, but he has a dark side.

Kat's Mini Review: I really liked the first 90% of this show. It's a quiet drama about character more than anything else. Each character really sticks out and has very distinct character arcs. I loved the three mains. I also loved the two best friends. The sister was okay (a bit over the top in her craziness if you ask me). The ending was...odd. But I don't think that is how I should judge this show. So, I'd still recommend it.

First episode date: February 24, 2016
Final episode date: April 14, 2016
Number of episodes: 16
Network: KBS
Genres: Romance Film, Melodrama, Action Film, Comedy

This story tells of doctors stationed in the fictional war zone of Urk (Uruk), and follows the love story that develops between a surgeon (Kang Mo-yeon) and a special forces officer (Yoo Shi-jin), both elite in their respective fields. The story will track both their personal and professional struggles while exploring issues about the value of life.

Kat's Mini Review: I LOVE THIS SHOW. This show is my everything! Song Joongki and Son Hyegyo have the BEST chemistry. The story was tight, the drama was high, the actors were awesome. The second couple was great too. So much angst and drama and greatness. I love that they prefilmed this whole show. It really does show in the direction, writing, and production. It's just a well thought out show and phenomenal acting by the whole cast.


Unsteady - X Ambassadors
Don't know why Blogger won't let me find the Music video for this song. But HERE's a link to it. Seriously, the MV is powerful. So is the song. And it's so longing and sad. But, while it seems like it could be full of hopelessness, I actually think that there is a decent amount of hope in it. The lyrics are pretty much a cry for help. And if there is a cry for help, it means there's still time to come back from that edge. 
I use this song for the second half of my WiP because my characters are crazy angsty in part 2.

Powerful - Major Lazar (feat Ellie Goudling and Tarrus Riley)
This song is short and epic. And it makes me feel like I am a powerful wizard (or I guess they might be telekinetics in the MV. I dunno, but I love it). It's a melody that sticks with you and Ellie Goulding's voice is pretty perfect for it. Also, I discovered Tarrus Riley from this MV, and I like his voice just as much. It's so gritty and goes along well with her clearer tone.
I use this song to write all of the steamy and/or intense scenes between my two main characters.

Also, apparently all images that show up when you Google "Goodbye Winter" are sadly melting snowmen.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Reason I Adore the Diversity in K-Drama Moorim School

Moorim School: Saga of the Brave
Network: KBS2
Episodes: 16
Release Date: January 11 - March 8, 2016

Moorim School started airing this winter. It's about a secret university that concentrates on training its students in discipline and martial arts.

Yoon Shi-woo (Lee Hyun-woo) is the leader of the idol group 'Mobius'. His rise in popularity and fame made him become arrogant and prickly in nature, but he has a serious problem: he is suffering painful hearing loss that doctors have not been able to pinpoint or cure.
Wang Chi-ang (Lee Hong-bin) is the son of Wang Hao, the president of China's largest enterprise groups in Shanghai. Spoiled and selfish, he acts like he owns the world, yet hides his own wounds: he is an illegitimate son who was born from a Korean mother.
The boys both end up at the Moorim Institute and are forced to share a room together despite an instant dislike for each other. But Moorim Institute isn't focused solely on high academic scores. The school teaches its students virtues including honesty, faith, sacrifice and communication. The teachers and students come from different countries and each have their own stories. As the boys grow in character and strength, they discover that there is more to both of them than appearances suggest.

So, the reasons I like this show are plentiful. I absolutely adore Lee Hyun Woo (To The Beautiful You & The Technicians). And, because of this show, I really like Seo Ye Ji. The story is also really fun (if not that novel, but that's alright, I don't need everything to be mind blowing). I like the relationships between Shi Woo and Chi Ang (bromance!). As well as the four lead kids as a group. Even the teachers have fun dynamics and add a lot of comedy to the stories. I don't mind the adults and their complicated flashback stories and drama. I even tolerate the villains (oftentimes the villains are the most boring characters in a drama, but I don't absolutely loathe them in Moorim). If I'm being honest, the ending fell flat (I blame this on the fact that 4 episodes were cut from the end mid-production).

However, the main reason I'm writing about Moorim School here is because of its treatment of the international cast. There are people from Africa, Europe, South East Asia, and beyond. Of course, the majority of the cast is still Korean, however, the point is that there is an international cast. And what I kind of adore about what Moorim School does is that it just lets its characters be whatever they are.

To be fair, it uses really awkward English (spoken by former U-KISS member Alexander Lee) to show how international the school is. And they also have the Thai character speak Thai even though everyone else always replies to these two in Korean. But I never get the feeling that these characters are being made into tokens.

With the teachers, there's one from Europe and one from Africa. They both only speak Korean the whole time. The European teacher is an expert at martial arts and just does his thing being a badass as he teaches the kids discipline and skills. He's not fetishized or exotified. He's just a professor who happens to not be Korean in a mostly Korean school. I like that. I think that it feels more integrated than if he were the "English teacher" who could only speak English and is otherwise super separate. And this is in a country where that legitimately exists (e.g. white teachers who come to Korea just to teach English).  However, Moorim School doesn't care about those stereotypes. It just does its thing with its international, diverse cast. And because of that its diversity is easy to watch and not awkward. The not awkwardness of it is the best part. And it's what I'd love all of my entertainment to have when it has diversity.

Listen, Moorim isn't perfect. There is are small things that give me a "hmmm" moment (aforementioned English spoken by Alexander Lee). And they aren't oblivious to the international cast angle, it was legitimately marketed as an international Korean Drama. But at the end of the day, it's kind of refreshing to see the branching out of an industry that's mostly Korean and/or token foreigners.

In the publishing industry right now, we have movements like We Need Diverse Books, DiversifYA, and publishers (Lee & Low) who are doing great things like creating Diversity Baseline Surveys for the first time ever! I love it. However, the sad side-effect are books being written and published because they fill a "diversity" niche.*

But are they really?

When I read a book that is supposed to be diverse and I feel awkward when reading it because the diversity is overblown I don't feel like I need to validate it automatically. Like someone waving something shiny in my face and going, "Look-it what I did!  Isn't it great?!"

Because what they claim is a diamond is actually a rock covered in glitter.

And I'm not going to let that fly.

I don't think a book that has an MC that's "diverse" in only superficial, stereotypical ways is effectively filling a void. I think it's actually ripping that void even wider. We don't just need diverse books, we need authentic diverse books. Books where the diversity feels less exotified and tokenized.

I want the YA book version of Moorim School. And it wouldn't hurt to have some eye-candy cuties like Lee Hyun Woo and Hong Bin.**

*Oh hi, soap box, my name's Kat, I'm going to stand on you now.
**I will note that I don't think we should mirror the diversity trends of other countries. I don't think Moorim is perfect in its diversity. It just made me think and appreciate something that is new and diverse. And that's the point of this post. Soap boxing done.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Conferences (#RT16) and Twitter Pitches (#DVPit): My very emotional post after doing both within a week

This is a writing post! So, sorry if you're one of my reader followers. I just need to squeal and dance about life.

First off, last week(end), I went to a conference, Romantic Times Convention (or RT Con). I not only got to meet some of my HERO authors (squeal #1) but I got to meet an awesome group of writers.
Scroll down for book suggestions I have based on the conference

Being a writer is hard, because it feels so solitary. You have your characters to keep you company on a daily basis, but you often wonder if they're only people that you could love (kind of like the saying that a baby is so unattractive only a mother can love it). I wonder this DAILY. And I have a group of critique partners that do give me a lot of boosting. But I am also randomly fierce in my protectiveness over my writing.

So, going to a writing convention kind of forces you to lay your soul bare. Once you've given in to the fact that you're going to put this book out there, you have to pitch it to agents (and potentially editors). This means TELLING an agent about your book (gasp!). Suffice it to say, I almost died inside a dozen times. And then I sucked it up and just did it. I got requests. And I died again (but this time I was a happy ghost. And also squeal #2).

Lessons learned: 

1) Just do it. You can't hold in your work forever if publishing is your end goal.

2) Don't be afraid to ask for advice. I met a lot of great authors who were more than willing to let me pitch practice on them.

3) Accept it if your story isn't for everyone. Some agents loved my pitch, some didn't. It's the fact of a subjective industry and you just have to keep trucking.

4) DO NOT try to fit your whole story into your pitch. Just tell the main gist and the main character. If you go cuh-razy, the agent will just go to their happy place and not follow your thread. I literally pitched my book as a concept instead of a full plot and I got requests. It was epic :)

Do not be Sheldon! Be you! Your awesome author self

Some advice given to me by Agents who requested:

1) Take your time! Do not send the MS right away if it is not squeaky shiny! It's hard not to just flood all of the agents that request, but it's kind of like being considerate that they want your best because you'd want their best if they were your agent. I went to the conference thinking "this is it." But I'll still give it read overs before I hit the send button.

2) Make sure you put in some info about the pitch you told them. A query is great, and it's usually longer than a conference pitch. Make sure that your story is what you pitched. And if your query is grossly different than your pitch...maybe reassess (when I think about it, this advice is something to be given before you pitch at all).

3) Be excited! This is happy times! You got requests! At one point I couldn't stop smiling as I spoke to an agent and I apologized about my face (yes, you're allowed to laugh at me). She said it was fine, that she was happy for me too. (Agents are super nice y'all).

Okay, so now we're onto Twitter Pitch contests.

I did #DVPit this week. The wonderful contest put on through Twitter by the Amazing Beth Phelan.

The gist of it was:

#DVpit is a Twitter event created to showcase pitches about and especially by marginalized voices. This includes (but is not limited to): Native peoples and people of color; people living and/or born/raised in underrepresented cultures and countries; disabled persons; people with illness; people on marginalized ends of the socioeconomic, cultural and/or religious spectrum; people identifying as LGBTQIA+; and more.

Can I just say, it was EPIC!

I love that it was for marginalized voices! Loved all of the #ownvoices out there. I would tell everyone who follows this blog to go to Twitter-->search #DVPit-->read the pitches. Because these books are the ones that will be in your bookstore in a few years, and you get the privilege of having a sneak peek!

This is what I learned:

1) Be simple with your Twitter Pitch. If you were simple with your conference pitch, do that times TEN for twitter. You only have 140 characters!

2) community is everything! Signal boost your favorite pitches. Many participants were paying it forward and it was magical to see. Seriously, I love my writer community!

3) It's full of hope! To see these unagented/unpublished authors right now and to KNOW that their books will be published in due time. It just makes you happy warm inside.

4) Take this opportunity to cultivate new relationships. Tweet at people if you like their pitch. Say thank you when they like yours back. And be respectful ALWAYS of the time put into a huge event like this! (Seriously #DVPit trended nationwide, that's epic).

5) Also, know that agents and editors are still professionals, don't ask them weird personal stuff. And when you query keep it as professional as if it was a cold, slush-pile query. 

Seriously! Everyone who did #DVPit was awesome, and everyone who was at #RT16 was epic. Thank you writing world for possibly the best writing week of my life! Kat. Out. 

Suggested Reading:

Zoraida Cordova's NA is awesome!
Obviously be on the lookout for Labyrinth Lost coming out in September 2016

Tiny Pretty Things is a BIG Beautiful Book! (See what I did there?)

I will always post this cover because it is gorgeous! Cindy Pon is an amazing fantasy writer!
Speaking of, her book WANT, set in a futuristic Taipei will come out July 2017. ADD TO YOUR TBR!
Leigh Bardugo and her books need no introduction. If you haven't read this, rectify that.

I'm going to assume you already read Wrath and the Dawn. The Rose and the Dagger comes out in LESS THAN A WEEK!