Monday, September 30, 2013

DC National Book Festival 2013

Having grown up in a small town in the, almost, middle of nowhere, getting to see authors that I admire face to face has always been a hard thing to do. If anything, Washington D.C. has been the closest thing to a "big city" I've been near since Cleveland, and the D.C. Book Festival my saving grace when it comes to seeing awesome authors and having them sign equally awesome books. 

We started out our journey on the ever reliable DC Metro. Reliable it is, but quick it is not. They're been doing construction on the metro probably since I've been using it (which was around 2009). Though I only ever travel it on weekends I've definitely noticed the lag. Also the price. The metro had definitely doubled since I started riding. BUT, whining aside, it is nice to feel like a city girl, public transportation and all, once in a while.

We also had awesome snacks as made by my greatest festival going friend. They were rice balls. We demolished them.

When traveling to a festival with so many high caliber authors such as Holly Black, Veronica Roth, Lisa McMann, Tamora Pierce, K.A. Applegate, etc, you will often find yourself needing to bring books to be signed, which are heavy. Originally I was going to bring a back pack, but decided against it. Instead I packed my handy-dandy FokiDoki bag filled with Divergent by Veronica Roth and Tithe by Holly Black. Both excellent reads.

Once at the festival, we found ourselves giddy with the pure awesome that means tons of book-lovers in one place. Poetry Out Loud was presenting as soon as we arrived but we also realized that Holly Black was speaking.

We only made it to the tail end of her question and answer portion, so we decided to go ahead and book it to the line that was forming for her signing an hour later.

And we waited. In line. For awhile. Before we did get to the line we made our purchases in the book tent. Specifically, I bought The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, of course, as well as The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann. The second book is a middle grade that sounded interesting and I've wanted to check out other things that she's written.

Then, the line waiting. Which was broken up by copious amounts of reading the books we bought and discussing our reading lives.

And then, the waiting paid off.

YAAAAY Holly Black!

 The rest of the day was another set of lines and the mall. It was a little weird to see the Washington monument all done up in bandages after the earthquake last year.

The last line was Veroncia Roth's and while I'm a big fan of the  Divergent  trilogy, I haven't had the same length of love as I have with Holly Black. meeting Veronica was cool, but the poor woman had such a horrible line, it was very brief. Definitely excited to read the rest of the series.

We were in line for at least two hours. It was intense, but we made some awesome friends while there. We talked books and I'm sad now we didn't get their contact information. 

All in all, the day was amazing! We'd originally had plans to go both days to see Tamora Pierce and Lisa McMann, but unfortunately it was not to be. If you ever get a chance to head to this shindig, do it! 

Awesomeness did occur. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Delay

I didn't forget. Honest.

This week/last weekend has been crazy both in life and at school and blogging took a back seat. I'll be back this Saturday with my run down of the DC National Book Festival AND a book review.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

When I Grow Up

I would loooove to be a professional writer. By professional writer I mean spending my career writing novels, traveling for research, visiting towns to do book signings and working with schools and university English programs. 

Good dream. 

For those of you also fantasizing about this wonderful dream, there are a few truths I've learned in the past few years about being a professional writer and how hard it really is to gain that sort of notoriety. These are things I've not only heard multiple times, but have found the most grounding when working toward my own dream. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from going for their goals, but it is always good to know the realities and plan accordingly. So here we go. 

1. It takes a little more than just skill at your craft to be a successful writer. It take a good amount of "luck" as well. 
It's the American ideal to believe that hard work will always get you where you want. However, sometimes a little bit of luck, and being in the right place at the right time, comes in handy and can open doors that your skill can then get you through. Planning for being at the right place at the right time is also important. If being published is something you aspire to; read, read, read. Know what is out there and what is popular at the time. Sure, your story might get picked up by an agent or publishing house and start a revolution in the genre, but the probability of that happening is very slim. Knowing what is popular and using that to your advantage can give you a foot in the door. If vampires are popular, you might have a better chance of getting picked up if something like that is in your story OR you find an agent or publisher that has a history of picking up those sorts of tales. This in no way means that you have to pander to the current genre quips, but at least knowing about what is going on in the publishing world helps. 

2. Keep on trying, because you will get rejected a lot. 
Rejection is going to happen. A lot. When we got to the truths portion of my senior writing class, my professor brought in his collection of rejection letters. It was very thick. I'm pretty sure if he dropped it on a small animal it would have needed medical attention. He'd even organized the letters by their level of politeness and rudeness. He read a few of them to us and ew, they were harsh. If your skills are up to snuff and you're really bent on getting that deal, you have to keep going. And listen. Listen to what people tell you about your writing. Sometimes you might need to work on something before you're up to the level that a publisher would be looking for in a sellable novel. It can take years to sell a novel and usually does. Don't stop believin'.

3. The money isn't just going to start pouring in. You'll have to keep your day job for awhile. 
Barry Lyga has probably the best response to how authors get paid (something I didn't know myself). It's not an instant in and there's lots of hard work that goes into making yourself financially stable. There isn't much more I can say on the topic that isn't up there. Read it!

Those are really my big three. If you're looking for even more advice from ACTUAL professional writers, if you Google the question, there will be much more info than what I can provide. Keep on writing. That's the best advice.   

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

[Review] These Broken Stars *****

Another ARC!! This will be the last one for awhile, as I'm going to be focusing on the new books that are coming out this fall and the giant pile that is my "to-read" books. So my apologies that you're going to need to wait until December for this book. Seriously.

The Story
Lilac and Tarver are from two completely opposite ends of the social ladder. Tarver, a young military officer, has fought his way from the ground up only to find himself being shown off like a prized pony to those he has no respect for. Lilac lives the life of a princess but finds herself overwhelmed with the dance of society and having to pretend she actually cares.
The story of two people from different ends of society isn't a new one. Yet when both teenagers find themselves stranded on a planet that is seemingly empty, they have to work together if they want to survive. And this planet is different, it whispers to Lilac and pushes both of them beyond what they thought their own world is supposed to be.

What's So Great About It?
The beginning of These Broken Stars is something that would make Jane Austen very excited. The intrigues of two groups of people, one greatly disliking the other solely based on how they view them, is truly fleshed out. I'm not a huge fan of Pride and Prejudice, so the beginning almost turned me off. However, the wit between Lilac and Tarver really became something that I wanted to see through, and as it became clear that they were both attracted to one another, but couldn't find common ground, I started to truly root for them.
The few times that I've read a novel by more than one author, I wasn't hugely impressed. Yet the dichotomy of these two writers really brings out the differences between the two characters and I think it's what gives legitimacy to the two voices of two very different people.
Not only were the characters great to follow but as the plot carried on it quickly became obvious that there was so much more going on with an apparently "deserted" planet. There was SO much more going on that by the time the book finishes. I wish I could give more details without spoiling the best surprise of all, but it's heart breaking.
Heart. Breaking.
And then utterly awesome!

Why This Book?
The twist that happens near the end of this book, and what it does to the two main characters, is the major reason I recommend this novel. I didn't see it coming at all and when it happens, not only is the even heart breaking, but because the authors have really made you feel like you know who these two are, the pain of everything is very intense.
And of course, the characters are fleshed out in away that made the two author dynamic something that worked out exceedingly well. This book has helped me get over my dislike of  multiple authors in a single book, and I am looking forward to reading Beautiful Creatures, because that has been something that has held me back from it for awhile.

ps. For those of you who don't know, The National Book Festival will be held in DC on September 21 and 22. If you're in the area GO! This will be my third year and it's always amazing and totally fun. As someone who never seems to live close enough to see her favorite authors, it's an amazing chance to meet them, thank them and get signatures. I'm excited for Holly Black, Veronica Roth, Tamora Pierce, and Lisa McMann.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Book to Movie That Didn't Stink...I Think

I may have made a funny play on words. It amuses me. (Today has been a day of learning new bad jokes from Popsicle sticks. I've clearly had an intense day.)

Other things that amuse me are books turned into movies that don't bite the big one. A friend and I just returned from seeing Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. Granted, I haven't read the book that this movie comes from, but I do know enough of the story to know what's supposed to happen.

-The story was easy too follow.
As I said, I haven't gotten to the books yet so I don't know them as I do other books. However, knowing what I do know, the story was set up with care and the events moved well together. I was interested every time they decided that something else needed to happen and I believed them. I really liked the constant references to greek mythology that you might only know if you've had the chance to read The Odyssey. Some of the characters really stretched my brain to attempt to remember, which was fun.

-The characters were so much fun!
I loved all of the little cameos and personalities of mythical creatures and characters. The hippocampus was definitely my favorite (cute sea horse!) and Tyson was so adorable and such a goober that you couldn't help but love him. Plus, can we just mention Nathan Fillion and his AMAZING Firefly reference! I'm still in shock that he was able to get that in such a huge movie. Percy seems to have grown up and Grover, as always, was fun. But Tyson definitely my favorite and probably the most well rounded character as well.

-The effects and the overall look of the movie were cool. 
They had a Fall Out Boy song at the very beginning, clearly the environment was set up for awesome!The special effects were great to look at and I especially loved how Chronos was rendered and how he moved. The sets were really interesting and looked great as well.

The Con:
-I'm really sad that it got such horrible reviews
I'm honestly not 100% sure why it only got a 39% review on Rotten Tomatoes. Honestly, the movie was fun and interesting and if you have any interest in the books it was a good way to get through the story while having fun as well. Perhaps the only thing I might see as giving it a poor review was that though the characters were cool, there wasn't a lot of development. Annabeth dislikes Tyson for a very superficial reason that made me question her character. Yes, it makes sense with her past, but the way it was brought across the screen didn't really grab me. Otherwise, the movie was great! I definitely recommend it.

Currently Reading:
What Happens Next  by Colleen Clayton
You Are Mine by Janeal Falor
Fractured by Sarah Fine


Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
This book made me bawl like a baby by the end. I found the premise really intriguing (girl is raised to be the sacrificial vessel for a god, but her god never comes) and what came next was a twist of characters that did not disappoint. I was really invested in the main relationship...and then the end THE END. Oh, you just have to read it.

Sanctum by Sarah Fine
I haven't read a book with this topic in a long time where I felt that the two main characters were as original as these two. She's trying to complete a "quest," he's trying to kill her/get her out of his turf but eventually decides to help her out. Etc, etc, etc. Heard it. Yet, this story surprised me. I'm currently reading the sequel, so we'll see if it holds up it's end of the bargain.

The Scourge by A. G. Henley
This one reminded me a lot of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, what with zombies surrounding this little group of people who are trapped by the infection. It took me a little bit to realize that when they meant the main character was "sightless" they literally meant that she was blind. I really started enjoying this book about half way through, when the relationship between the two main characters started to really make sense.

Waiting In the Wings

Crash by Lisa McMann
Pivot Point by Kasie West
Strangelets  by Michelle Gagnon
The Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
The Murmurings  by Carly Ann West
The Program by Suzanne Young

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

[Review] Crown of Midnight *****

Hopefully soon I'll be able to post a bunch of books at once, but since the EXPLOSION of the fall is upon us, you're probably going to get a bunch of reviews. There are so many amazing books that are out and coming out between now and December that almost everything I read requires a review.

The Story
If you haven't read Throne of Glass you're missing out on a large chunk of the story, so I'll do my best to bring you up to speed.
Celaena Sardothien is Erilea's most deadly killer. Trained as a child to be a master assassin, her past is rife with murder, loss, and secrets. After being betrayed and sentenced to a criminal camp, Celaena is rescued by the King, a man with less than admirable intentions.
In Throne of Glass, Caleana fights and wins the position of King's Champion, a job that puts her under the beck and call of the King, but affords her the ability to delve into the mysteries surrounding the kingdom. Along the way, she gains the trust and friendship of Dorian, the reluctant heir to the throne, and Chaol, a captain of the guard who's loyalty begins to turn into something more.
In Crown of Midnight, Calaena's discovery of magic, which disappeared over ten years ago, leads her a deadly game that she doesn't want to be apart of. The King has ordered her to kill those who he believes are trying to destroy his hold over the country, but Caleana has her doubts. She becomes entangled in a web of lies, treachery, and her own past that threaten to unravel everything: the tenuous stability of her life, and her every growing relationship with Chaol.

What's So Great About It?
If you have ever been a fan of Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore, Robin LaFevers, and Laini Taylor then the intrigue, politics, and old style setting and plot of this novel will snag you. I'm not sure the best name to give this genre of YA, but it usually centers around castles, kings and queens, and even some magic. Each character of Crown of Midnight comes with a past deep enough to continue to affect the overall story. Calean's own background has not only been a mystery to the others, but also to the reader, which I find really refreshing and interesting. Sure, there are a few hints here and there, but nothing solid enough to not make it a surprise.
The relationship between Caleana, Dorian, and Chaol is one of the more realistic, practical, and solid "love triangles" I have read in a long time. There is maturity and solid basis of friendship between the three of them that I have only ever seen in Casandra Clare's Infernal Devices trilogy. I'm not often a fan of love triangles mostly because they often center around shallow attraction, especially in YA. Rarely do you find examples where there's a legitimate reason to want to be with one or the other, which COM has.
Characters and romance aside, this book's most intriguing point is the huge 180 degree plot turn that happens halfway through the book. When I read the first novel, I thought these books would go the direction of Robin LaFever's Grave Mercy and just be about court intrigue with a hint of magic. Instead, what starts out as some magic and faeries turns into a story that might eventually center around them. I felt like this was a bit of a smack in the face, especially because I didn't necessarily see it coming. Did it stop me from reading the book? No way. It just took a bit to get used to.

Why This Book?
The quality of Crown of Midnight and the maturity of how it handles it's content is plenty of reason to highly recommend this novel. The writing is great quality as well and Caleana herself is a fierce lady who takes no prisoners. Caleana is tough as nails, so much so that sometimes she becomes hard to like and rather frustrating, which is great. I'm becoming so impressed by the maturity that is coming out of the YA genre lately. Make sure you get a copy of Throne of Glass on your way to getting Crown of Midnight! You'll want to set aside a long weekend as well.