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Recreate Cover Contest: The Emerald Talisman

Over at La Femme Readers, they're holding a recreate cover contest for The Emerald Talisman. This is my first time participating in a contest like this! I actually used to be pretty good with graphics and I made logos and things like that, but then I got involved with other things like... umm... WRITING. Anyway, I basically forgot anything I ever learned, so what I made is something the me-from-several-years-ago would scoff at. Yay!

This is the original cover:

Pretty, huh? Here's mine:

Less pretty and wildly disproportionate. Well, tell me what you think! :) And if you participated in this contest, leave a link to your cover!

Paper Towns: Review

Synopsis: When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.

Details: Paper Towns by John Green, 305 pages, 4.10 stars on Goodreads

My Thoughts: First off, I really hated this cover. I'm not a fan of covers with just people's faces on them because it takes more than just a seemingly-ordinary girl's face to draw me in. At least in Firelight, the girl on the cover has those awesome pupils and scales. The only thing that made me pick this up was because it was written by John Green, and I loved his other two books, Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines. I adore his writing style with the witty dialogue and narration, and so I was looking forward to reading this.

For once :P, I wasn't disappointed. Well, okay, I was disappointed on one respect. In Looking for Alaska, the protagonist was named Miles. He was a little nerdy as well as shy, sweet, and sensitive. He was in love with an unpredictable, bold, indescribable girl named Alaska, who he doesn't get. In An Abundance of Katherines, the protagonist was named Colin. He was a little nerdy as well as shy, sweet, and sensitive. He was in love with an unpredictable, bold, indescribable girl named Katherine, who he doesn't get. In Paper Towns, the protagonist was named Quentin. He was a little nerdy as well as shy, sweet, and sensitive. He was in love with an unpredictable, bold, indescribable girl named Margo, who he doesn't get.

When I read Looking for Alaska, I was thinking, "Wow, this is an amazing book! Miles is such a real character! Alaska is fascinating!" When I read An Abundance of Katherines, I was thinking, "Wow, this is a great book! Colin really reminds me of Miles, though, and Katherine is basically Alaska. I like Lindsey, though!" When I read Paper Towns, I was thinking, "Wow, this is a good book! But seriously, John Green, I get it. You were a little nerdy as well as shy, sweet, and sensitive when you were seventeen. You met a crazy girl. Now please, please, please write about something else."

That said, I still looooove this book. And John Green. I mean, John Green's writing. Of course. UMM LET'S CHANGE THE TOPIC NOW. LET'S TALK ABOUT ADAM GREGORY.

Oh. I'm sorry. I'll go back to the book now. Even though yeah, it's the same plot again, it didn't pain me to read it because he has the wittiness and the quirkiness and the funniness going on. And sure, the themes are repeated a bit, but they're so fascinating. For the duration of the book, John Green makes you believe in Margo, in her craziness (how many times did I say "ness" in this post? Green has that effect on me - err, John Green, not the color green), and that maybe, just maybe, Quentin will get her. 

There's so much more I want to say about this book, but it'll be full of adjectives and adverbs and all sorts of poor writing. And so I'll leave you with the rating.

Plot - 3/5
Characters - 4/5
Writing - 5/5
Impact - 2.5/5
Overall - 72.5% = B+

(Note: My new grading system is somewhat unconventional. A B+ is about four stars, which is what I gave it on Goodreads.)

In My Mailbox (4)

In My Mailbox is a meme from the Story Siren, which is not a siren that tells stories, but an awesome blog. Or perhaps the blog owner is herself a siren that tells stories. Or maybe I'll just get on with the post.

I didn't have a particularly exciting week in terms of books. But here we go!


 Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Someone's going to shoot me for saying this, but I didn't tear the box open in a frenzy because I'm not that into Hunger Games. I mean, I definitely like the series and I was excited to win this, but honestly, if I hadn't won it, I probably would have just waited a couple months to get it from the library or just not read it at all. WAIT PUT THAT GUN DOWN I'M TOO YOUNG TO DIE. Still, I was happy to hold the book. I'm obsessed with the color blue, and this cover has, like, the MOST PERFECT SHADE EVER.


Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson. I actually have no idea what this book is or what it's about, but it was on my Goodreads TBR list, so I got it anyway. It looks interesting, though. It seems like a romantic comedy, probably with a psych major who's always analyzing other people or whatever. She probably meets a guy who had some trauma in his life, like a dead father or something, and then she falls in love and learns you can't always use science to determine love or something. Doesn't it just seem like that? I'm too lazy to actually find the summary.

Skip Beat Volume 4 by Yoshiki Nakamura. I've been waiting forever for this one. I think I got Volume 3 like six hundred years ago, or something like that. I like this series - good, fun, light read! It's a little confusing at times with, like, the layout and such, because it's the first manga I've read and so sometimes I would read the boxes in random order and then try to piece together what happened. I'm getting better, though! And oh my God, I love the little girl. (I'd say her name, but seriously, I don't remember ANYONE's name except for Kyoko and Ren and Sho[taro]. It's been so long D:)

After School Nightmare Volume 6 by Setona Mizushiro. I love this series so much. It's great for a beginning manga-reader because all the boxes in the layout and such are nice and easy to work through. I rarely get confused in this one. Some people get put off this one because of the concept (main character has the upper body of a male and the lower body of the female) and they think it'll be somewhat repulsive, but it's NOT! I wish I could explain exactly why this is so (I sort of peeked at the Wikipedia page and got spoilers :[ ), but I'm not going to spoil it for anyone. Seriously, it is SO WORTH IT.

After School Nightmare Volume 7 by Setona Mizushiro. It's a miracle! I got two volumes of ASN in one week! (My library's usually really slow.) I love this volume because you learn soooo much about Sou. I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I love Sou! And there's a much younger Sou on the cover! Isn't he cute? But oh my God, poor Sou. I mean, hot guys who are as sweet as they are passionate with the additional plus of a dark (and okay, fine, repulsive) past? Oh yes.

Read in library but not checked out:

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott. Okay, so... this is officially one of my favorite books. I read this in about thirty-five minutes, and I was totally engrossed. I'll save the raving for the review, but let me just say this: I was sitting next to a scary lady who was bleeding on me (you read that right) and muttering under her breath about those damn liberals, and I completely forgot about her while I was reading this book.

What's in your mailbox?

Restoring Harmony: Review

Synopsis: The year is 2041, and sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the US, Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse—one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities.

Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they’re financially ruined and practically starving. What should’ve been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission. And when Molly witnesses something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn’t, Molly’s only way home may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there’s a handsome stranger who’s willing to help.

Restoring Harmony is a riveting, fast-paced dystopian tale complete with adventure and romance that readers will devour. 
Details: Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony, 320 pages, 3.76 stars on Goodreads
My Thoughts: This one was another dystopian, which, as I've said, I'm getting a little tired of. Or maybe more than a little. Let me say something straight off - I didn't dislike the book, but I feel it just didn't stand out very much, especially given how many other dystopians there are out right now. I read this something like three weeks ago (I know, I'm so behind on reviews), and I don't even remember very much about this.

There's nothing I can find that's wrong with the book - the plot is interesting, the characters feel real, and there are places where I very much wanted to know what happened next. I was a little disappointed, though, because the cover was so pretty (I know, I know, don't judge a book by its cover) and I've heard so many great things about this. In the end, Restoring Harmony simply didn't grab me as much as I'd hoped.

One thing, actually, that bothered me was how easy everything was for Molly. I liked her - she was strong and a little feisty and definitely intriguing - but whenever something bad happened to her, she escaped about half a minute later. For instance, there was a scene when she was about to get raped, but then got rescued at the last moment. A lot of scenes like this occurred where they didn't do much for the plot nor did they affect her much, and I got the feeling that Joelle Anthony was just trying to show how dangerous the world was supposed to be without having anything really, really bad happen to Molly.

When I think of this book, the first word that comes to mind is "slow". The book itself wasn't slow-paced, but it wasn't as suspenseful as it could have been. I think I would have liked this much more if there was more tension, more of that quality that makes you sit on the edge of your seat (and slide off and fall on the floor, if you're me).

This review has been mostly negative, looking back, but I did enjoy parts of this. The romance was cute, and who doesn't like a girl who carries around a fiddle all the time? Molly is an amazing character, the kind of person I'd love to be friends with. She's kind and brave, but not all perfectly perfect like you sometimes see in YA.

(I'm going to try a new rating system, inspired by all the blogs I've seen on the hop.)

Plot - 2.5/5
Characters - 3.5/5
Writing - 3/5
Impact - 1/5
Overall - 50% = C
(Note: A "C" is similar to 3 stars, which is what I gave it on Goodreads.)

Book Blogger Hop (2)

Book Blogger Hop is held over here. If you don't do this and you have a blog, you definitely should because it brought me almost ten new followers, and I started following eight new fantastic blogs!

Every week there's a question, and this time it's:

Do you use a rating system for your books, and if so, what is it and why?
I use a rating system of smilies (they're so much more friendly than stars, because stars are pointy and therefore dangerous), just a simple 1 through 5. I've been considering switching to one of those percent ones, but I think a 1 through 5 is better. With a 1-5, you can use the whole scale (like a 2-star book), but I've never seen someone with a 1-100 give a 40% except for really bad books. (This is also why some people think there should be a better scale for letter grades in public schools so that teachers can use the entire scale and don't have to put "fluff" questions in tests to make sure most people get higher than 50%, instead of just the hard ones. But anyway.) My scale is roughly this:
5 stars: The kind of book that you keep thinking about over the next few days, one that's really memorable and you can safely call a favorite. I try to give this out sparingly.
4 stars: The kind of book that you really liked but didn't touch you quite as much as a 5-star one. 
3 stars: The kind of book you liked but could have been better in some areas, and isn't very memorable.
2 stars: The kind of book that's okay but not something you quite liked.
1 star: The kind of book that was so bad you couldn't even finish / you had to drag out over a much longer time than usual.
If you're hopping by, welcome! :) Please leave a comment so I can hop over to yours!

High School Orientation

Background: I went to a really, really crappy middle school. I mean, okay, I've seen and heard about worse schools, but basically, I hated middle school with the majority of the fibers of my being. This was the time when I had completely unrealistic crushes on people (actually, I'm not sure this is over), and when I had about, umm, oh, one friend, and when I hated most of my teachers with a burning passion, and it was mutual.

There is an awesome magnet high school in my county, and it's famous for being a nerd school even though it's actually got some really great sports teams. I think. I mean, there are a good deal of sports-related trophies, although there are more for academics and arts and music and stuff. Anyway. I apparently got accepted, and today was orientation.

It was amazing beyond belief. First, almost everyone was ridiculously nice. Except, I had one conversation that went like this. (Keep in mind that I'm horrible at socializing, so initiating conversations and stuff is as hard for me as stepping into a vat of tarantulas.)

Me: Um, hi! I'm Izzy.
Girl: Uhhn.
Me: So... what's your name?
Girl: Uhhhhhhn.
Me: Oh. Um... so what town do you come from? I'm from [you wish you knew].
Me: Uh-huh... so... umm... are you excited for the school year? I definitely am.

Then I realized the girl was a zombie. Oops! My bad.

But most conversations went like:

Me: Um, hi! I'm Izzy.
Girl: Oh, hey! I'm [some name]. What academy are you going to?*
Me: Science, you?
Girl: Medical. I've wanted to be a doctor, like, forever.
Me: Oh, really? That's neat! I want to be a wri- I mean, I want to be a published author.
Girl: That's awesome! You know, one of my friends is really into writing. She actually got accepted here, too.
Me: Cool, what's her name?

Did you hear that, bloggy friends? I made conversation with non-zombies! I met people! I talked to people with WORDS that came out of my MOUTH (as opposed to like, my ear or something).

*The school is divided up into different academies, like science, engineering, theater, visual arts, etc.

Also, we played icebreaker games. I think for the first time in my life, the icebreaker games actually made things more awesome instead of more awkward. I remember in sixth grade, my mom made me go to this horrible summer camp where we played this game about the letters of your first name. You had to come up with a hobby that began with the same first letter of your name, so most people were like, "I'm Jenny, and I like jogging!" And I was like, "I'm Isabella**, and I like... umm..."

"Do you like ice skating?" (the counselor would ask)

I would frown and stare at my sneakers. "No, the last time I went ice skating, I fell on this guy, and he hit the ice and broke his shoulder."

"Do you like... iguanas?"

"No, when I was seven, I had a series of nightmares about iguanas taking over the world."

"Do you like... umm... interesting rapists?"

"No, it's not really that fun."


**This was before I called myself Izzy.

The first icebreaker was pretty basic - we just had to say our name and one interesting fact about ourselves. Normal people said things like, "I'm John, and I play electric guitar" or "I'm Katie, and I sew thongs".

Of course, I had to be extra-super-duper-special, so I said, "I'm Izzy. I fenced for about two weeks, but then I stabbed my instructor in the stomach and he had to to go the hospital and my mom made me quit." And everyone laughed, which was the desired effect, and it gave me the happies.

Except - and I'm not sure if this is a good thing - people have replaced my name "Izzy" with "Stabber". Like, "Hey, you should meet my friend, Stabber" or "Hi Stabber, how's it going?"

One other thing! I changed a bit from June to now, so I was hoping some people who went to my old school and are now going to my high school was notice a couple things, like:

1) The fact that I'm taller.
2) The fact that I'm... umm... more developed.
3) The fact that I have somewhat better fashion sense.
4) The fact that maybe-just-maybe I'm the teensiest bit less socially awkward and shy.

I came across one of these people and took in her new haircut, and she took in me. Then:

Me: Hi! You look great!
Her: Oh, hey, and thanks! You look exactly the same.
Me: D'oh!

This blog post is probably way too long, so I'll stop now. Meanwhile, why don't you tell me your horror stories from middle/high school, the awkwardness of icebreaker games, or anything else?

Ready to DUFF and Roll?

Yeah, that was so creative, wasn't it? That was the pinnacle of creativity. Well, you can DUFF and roll by entering here (although, you know, if you really loved me, you wouldn't enter because - hey! what do you mean you don't love me?) and possibly win a finished copy of (yes! you guessed it!) THE DUFF.

I want this book so badly. You see, if I don't win this giveaway, because of my unfortunate lack of money, I'd have to get it from the library. However! The library budget got slashed-slashed-slashed, and then unslashed-unslashed (tons of emails and letters were sent to the governor, which was a huge relief, because they were planning on not letting people reserve books from other libraries in the counties and have those books transported to the local library for pick-up). This still leaves one "slashed", unfortunately.

Because of the popularity and acclaim surrounding THE DUFF, I don't doubt the library would eventually buy it, but then you have to take waiting lists into account, and also the fact that you can't do that book-reserving thing until about a MONTH after the library buys it. Which means I won't be able to read THE DUFF until October if I'm super-lucky, but probably November or December.


So I need to win.

The Line: Review (and a blog award!)

The spectacular Elle from Media Molly gave me this award for Lovely Blog! My first blog award, ever. So exciting :) I believe I'm supposed to pass on the award, so I'll give it to two of my favorite blogs - Creepy Query Girl and Badass Bookie. Go visit and follow them if you aren't already!

Now, onto the book-butchering! I mean, book-reviewing. Heh... heh... *shifty eyes*

Synopsis: Rachel lives with her mother on The Property. The good thing about living there is that it's far from the city, where the oppressive government is most active. The bad thing, at least to most people, is that it's close to the Line - an uncrossable section of the National Border Defense System, an invisible barrier that encloses the entire country.

She can see the Line from the greenhouse windows, but she is forbidden to go near it. Across the Line is Away, and though Rachel has heard many whispers about the dangers there, she's never really believed the stories. Until the day she hears a recording that could only have come from across the Line.

It's a voice asking for help.

Who sent the message? What is her mother hiding? And to what lengths will Rachel go in order to do what she thinks is right? 

Details: The Line by Teri Hall, 219 pages, 3.46 stars on Goodreads

My Thoughts: I wasn't as satisfied with this book as I thought it was. To be fair, I read this after about six hundred other dystopians, so I was getting a little sick of the genre (or sub-genre? what's it called?) anyway. As in, I had to go on a huge contemporary binge after finishing this book. So I'm going to start with all the things I liked about the book.

The style. The style was a big, big plus. It had this whole fairy-tale thing going on, with the third person and sort of distant narration. At that same time, it was a little creepy, too, like how you knew from the very beginning that this wasn't going to be a happy-sappy fairy tale. Although, come to think of it, most fairy tales are creepy. Anyway.

The characters were also spectacular. Each one was deep and had a lot of layers, especially Ms. Moore - she was by far my favorite character. The Line is the first book in a series, so I expect there will be a lot of character growth from Rachel, and that will be interesting to see.

For the things I didn't like, world building is probably the first one on the list. I personally didn't find the concept to be very original or shocking or thought-provoking. Basically, the government really sucks. And they made a line. And there are people trapped on the other side of the line. And Rachel decides to cross the line. (These aren't spoilers, by the way, don't worry!) What I really didn't like was that all this information was dumped on us through numerous pop quizzes. There has to be a better way the author could have conveyed what happened.

I didn't like the ending so much, either. I mean, the cliffhanger was okay, but this book was really short, so I don't see why, for example, the second and first book could be combined. Or even the third with the second with the first. The ending of The Line felt unnatural - the beginning was a little slow and there was a lot of building up, and just when something exciting finally happens, it ends.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read and definitely worth it if you're a huge fan of dystopians. If you're not into them so much - well, I wouldn't keep it at the top of the TBR list. 3 smilies out of 5.

In My Mailbox (3)

In My Mailbox is a meme from The Story Siren. I didn't get a huge amount of books this week like I usually do, which is good, so this post will be shorter. xD Anyway, here we go...


 The Imposter's Daughter. This one's a memoir that I devoured in less than twenty-four hours. Oh, and it's also a graphic novel, which is why I read it so fast given that I was reading three other books at the same time. :) A review will come, but only in about six years because the list of books I need to review is soooo long. Like, ridiculously long. Luckily (or not, actually), I'll be reading less once September comes (school), so I'll catch up. Eventually.


 After School Nightmare Volume 5. Can I squee? Like, you won't mind? Oh, thank you, that's very nice of you. Here I go: SQUEEEEEEE I LOVE THIS SERIES SQUEE SQUEE SQUEEEEE! Okay, I'm done. I can't wait for volume 6, but the library's been so slow lately, and the only time they're fast is when they're delivering the wrong volume. I keep trying to finish up Skip Beat, but every time I order it, I get volume 17 instead of volume 4. Gah!

Before I Fall. My goodness, this is my second favorite book in the world as of ten hours ago. And the ending! Ahh!

The Unwritten Rule: Review

Synopsis: Everyone knows the unwritten rule: You don't like your best friend's boyfriend.

Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He's easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he's paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two things: Ryan is Brianna's boyfriend, and Brianna is Sarah's best friend.

Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feels so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants is to hurt her best friend. But when she's thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens. It's wonderful...and awful.

Sarah is torn apart by guilt, but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can't stop herself from wanting more...

Details: The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott, 224 pages, 3.68 stars on Goodreads

My Thoughts: I thought this was going to be one of those light-hearted, beach-type reads. Yes, I've never read a book by Elizabeth Scott before. And yes, I quickly realized that nope, this is very, very far from one of those light-hearted, beach-type reads. The tone was dark and at points, I could really feel Sarah's intense longing, love, and lust for Ryan. 

But most of the time, I kept feeling that the dark tone wasn't entirely appropriate for the story. I've read other reviews of this book and haven't come across any that agreed with this, but it was almost like parts were melodramatic. The other thing I didn't like was how simple this book was. There wasn't much complexity - the whole book was basically Sarah loving Ryan, and Ryan loving Sarah, but Brianna also loves Ryan, and Brianna is mean to Sarah, and Brianna's parents are stupid and cruel, etc. 

The characters weren't very complex, either. Sarah let herself get walked over by Brianna over and over throughout the book, and Brianna was the typical mean rich girl with awful parents. I didn't feel like the book went very in depth with Ryan because I never quite understood why Sarah liked him so much. Yes, he's cute and smart, but why else? It wasn't so much that there weren't reasons for her loving him, but that I feel her love for him wasn't articulated so well. 

I didn't dislike this book, but it wasn't quite enjoyable, either. Normally I would give something like this two smilies, but I feel like Elizabeth Scott is an amazing author and I've heard great things about her two other books, so 3 smilies out of 5.

Book Blogger Hop (1)

Yay, another meme! This one is held over here, so definitely check it out to see other people's. Basically, you answer a question and then put your URL in the Mr. Linky thing. Then you go ahead and hop around at other blogs to see how they answered.

This time, the question is: How many blogs do you follow?

Now, when I first was deciding whether or not to do this awesome-sauce thing, I wasn't sure if I wanted to answer this question. I was a little embarrassed because of the number of blogs I follow. But then I started reading other people's answers and - guess what? - some people follow four times as many blogs as me. Yay! I'm not a weirdo freak who can't stop following blogs! I have permission from myself to follow more blogs! (Until school starts, anyway. So I have about 38 days of blog bliss left.) Anyway, if you're wondering, I follow 102 blogs. All of them are writing or book blogs, except for Graphjam, because I couldn't resist. I used to follow MLIA, but that was just too much for me.

So tell me, how many blogs do you follow? Or if you do Book Blogger Hop, leave me your link and I'll make sure I check it out!

North of Beautiful: Review

Synopsis: Born with a port-wine stain birthmark covering her entire right cheek, Terra Rose Cooper is ready to leave her stifling, small Washington town where everyone knows her for her face. With her critical, reproachful father and an obese mother who turns to food to deflect her father's verbal attacks, home life for Terra isn't so great either. Fueled by her artistic desires, she plans to escape to an East Coast college, thinking this is her true path. When her father intercepts her acceptance letter, Terra is pushed off-course, and she is forced to confront her deepest insecurities. After an ironically fortuitous car accident, Terra meets Jacob, a handsome but odd goth Chinese boy who was adopted from China as a toddler. Jacob immediately understands Terra's battle with feeling different. When Terra's older brother invites her and her mother to visit him in Shanghai, Jacob and his mother also join them on their journey, where they all not only confront the truth about themselves, but also realize their own true beauty. North of Beautiful is the engaging third YA novel by Justina Chen Headley. This is a gorgeously-written, compelling book featuring universal themes of defining true beauty, family bonds, personal strength, and love.

Details: North of Beautiful by Justin Chen Headley, 373 pages, 4.09 stars on Goodreads.

My Thoughts: Oh man. We're doing this "my thoughts" thing literally, right? Because as soon as I finished the book, that brilliant, eloquent thought popped up: "Oh man." Which, to be honest, is a lot more brilliant and eloquent than what I usually think ("OMG PUPPY SO CUTE. ME EAT COOKIE NOW.") In any case, this book is definitely worth of an "oh man". Also the five awards it won, but the "oh man", too. 

The narrator, Terra Rose Cooper, has one of those voices that are so nice and easy and entertaining to read, but at the same time is somehow real and raw and emotional. From the hooking first sentence (because, oh yes, that is how you start a novel), the voice drags you in and in and in, and the next thing you know, you're crying for Terra and laughing for Terra, and after a while, you're pretty darn sure you are Terra. 

When I first started reading about the countless (and futile) laser surgeries Terra has tried, and the thick make-up she has to wear, I didn't quite get that when she said birthmark, she meant a birthmark. I had to Google Image search "port wine stain" before I got it. If you're not familiar with those, do it now. And you can see why it really, really sucks for Terra. 

But naturally, that's not enough. Terra's dad is controlling and abusive in a different way than in other books I've read, or families I've met. He doesn't physically yell, but he constantly makes thinly-veiled cutting remarks, attacking you verbally and shattering your resolve. 

Enter Hot Boy. Every YA book should have one, in my opinion. More than one works too. But anyway, the Hot Boy is this book is a goth, adopted Chinese guy named Jacob. And he's sweet and sensitive and funny and cute and lovely and amazing. Plus? He totally understands her and her insecurities because he has to deal with similar ones as well. 

All in all, this is a super amazing book that you absolutely must read. As in, right now. Five smilies out of five.

The Elevator of DOOM

Three times a week, I go to a mysterious building. In this mysterious building, I take a mysterious elevator to go to the mysterious seventeenth floor (that's the top one) into a mysterious room. I know what you're thinking: Golly gee wilikers, this is all very mysterious! Well, yes, yes it is.

The elevator in particular has mysterious workings. It all starts when I enter the lobby (which is set to approximately 3 degrees Fahrenheit every day) and wait in the ridiculously long line of people. Usually when I get there, the lobby is packed with people whose sweat is rapidly turning into little icicles that click on to the ground. I end up squished between the wall and the door, and the lovely people that come in like to smash the door into my face.

After a few hours, an elevator dings, and a massive riot ensues. Have you ever seen a hemorrhage? What a stupid question, of course you have. Well, the lobby is the blood vessel, the elevator is the bandage, and the people are the blood. Everyone makes a run for the elevator (except me, I'm still getting beaten up by a door), and eight or nine manage to squeeze themselves in there. The bleeding stops and the elevator leaves, with a couple people hanging beneath it and screaming.

A few more elevators come and go, and finally, I'm close to the elevators and far away from the door. The next elevator comes, and I fling my body into it, hugging my knees to my chest in the fetal position. My body thuds onto the floor, and the next thing I know, people are standing on me. Some guy gets his hand stuck in the doors and starts whining in a loud, obnoxious voice, "Oh, God, help me! Oh, God, I think my hand's coming off from my wrist! OH JESUS!"

"Someone hit seventeen for me," I croak.

The person who's crammed against the buttons sticks his elbow on "17", and I smile weakly, out of oxygen and thus unable to thank him.

Floor by floor, the people leak out, until at last I'm by myself. Gasping for breath, I leap to my feet and stretch out the burning cramps. A second later, the elevator begins the ride of terror, which always occurs when I'm by myself on it. It starts with a tremble, barely noticeable. The trembles become more and more violent until it's like being in Hurricane Katrina 2.0.

I cling to the bar, kicking my legs as if that would help. Something heavy sloshes around in my head - probably a rock that got stuck there or something. By this point, all the shaking is horizontal, so now the elevator goes for the vertical. It bounces from floor twelve to fifteen, down to ten, up to eleven, twelve again, shoots straight down to nine, and so forth.

Now for the sound effects. The elevators makes a shuddering noise, like an arachnophobe who just saw a spider, and then a creaking one, followed by a couple groans for good measure. I brace myself against the wall, humming a 30 Seconds to Mars song in an effort to block out the sounds. It doesn't work.

By some miracle, the elevator makes it to floor seventeen. But really, the challenge has just begun. The shaking stops and the noises cease, but the resulting silence is eerier than anything the elevator could do. I step as close to the door as I dare, clutching my current read like a child clutches a teddy bear. (Sidenote: when I was a kid, I couldn't go to sleep without holding a novel to my chest. My stuffed animals were on the shelves above me. Man, I was such a nerd. Because, like, I'm totally not anymore. *shifty eyes*)

The door begins to slide open, and I lean forward, eyes narrowed into determined slits. Then, in one quick swoosh, the door billows out halfway. I throw myself into the hallway, breath catching in my throat. I tuck my feet under me lest the elevator door snap them off my ankles, and roll safely towards to the mysterious door.

Mission accomplished.

Teaser Tuesday (1)

Teaser Tuesday is a meme hosted over at Should Be Reading.

Right now I'm reading Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard. I've always put it off because for some reason I thought it was going to be like The Clique, but nope, it's so good! I'll definitely be reading the other ones in the series when I finish. Here's the teaser:

p. 111 Emily bit her lip. This was such a perfect friend moment, it made her melancholy and nostalgic.

There weren't actually any good teaser sentences on that page. Oh well. Post the links to your Teaser Tuesday blog posts here!

Face: Review

That's right, I'm reviewing your face, and you got one star. Just kidding.

Synopsis: Martin is a good-looking, self-assured boy who accepts a ride home from a drunken acquaintance and ends up in a horrible accident--badly burned, his face completely disfigured. Life as it was before is over...he loses his girlfriend and his friends, and finds that people are making judgements about him and how he feels without even knowing.

As Martin struggles through the reconstruction of his face, he is also working hard to reconstruct his life. His character, however, remains intact. There are startling truths in this story, written with clarity and insight, which make it utterly believable and impossible to read without heartfelt empathy. Parents, librarians, teachers and mostly children will be absorbed by the story. (Note: The phrase "mostly children" threw me off the first time I read it. I thought they meant, like, kids who were not fully human. Hmm.)

Details: Face by Benjamin Zephaniah, 208 pages, 3.64 stars on Goodreads

My Thoughts: I got this book from the library, and it came with an orange sticker that said: "Mature topics. Recommended for age 16 and older." Being under 16, I took this as a personal challenge and began reading it right away. 208 pages later, I still don't see what "mature topics" were involved. I mean, yes, his burns were gruesome and Martin went through a lot of bad stuff, but nothing anyone under sixteen would have a heart attack from reading.

In any case, I would hugely disappointed by this book. The intriguing synopsis and amazing cover made this seem like it would be great, but I had so much trouble connecting with the characters. I didn't dislike Martin, but I did feel pretty apathetic toward him. He seemed a bit cocky to me and just overall difficult to relate to. Even in the scene when he looked at his horribly burned and disfigured face for the first time, I was thinking more about how terrible that has to be for anyone rather than feeling especially bad that it happened to the main character, if that makes sense. 

I also feel like this book didn't delve too deeply into the issues Martin's facing. The ending didn't really feel like an ending to me, and I would have liked to see this book expanded. I wanted to know more about Martin because I never felt like I got a good grasp of who he is and his personality. The writing itself felt a bit flat and dragged on in places, and sometimes I had trouble picking it up.

That said, this book did have its good points. I like that the author didn't shy away from anything, and it was an honest portrayal of what burn victims have to go through. It was both believable and sad when Martin's girlfriend no longer wanted anything to do with him and instead hooked up with some other guy, and the scene when he confronted her nearly brought tears to my eyes. And although his old friends melted away from him, I was glad that Martin was able to make other friends.

All in all, this book wasn't really bad, but I didn't enjoy it too much either. Face got some great reviews on Goodreads so perhaps I'm among the minority in not recommending it. Either way, I give it 2 smilies out of 5.

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox is a meme from The Story Siren.


A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott. This one came in the mail on Friday. It looks great! Unfortunately, I have such a huge stack of library books that are due in the next few weeks, so I have to put this off for a while.
The Making of a Story by Alice LaPlante. Technically, I won a $20 Barnes and Noble gift card, but I used that to buy this, so it still counts, I guess. It's more for beginning writers (wish I had this four years ago!), but I couldn't resist buying this anyway. 

From the Library:

The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I saw the movie last year, and it was amazing, so of course the book must be super-amazing. Can't wait to read this one!
The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I didn't like Twilight, but I decided to try this just to see if it was better or worse. I've heard it was pretty good, so I might as well see. But, Jesus, this is a thick book! 
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. I loved Mockingbird, and I heard this book is similar/better, so I'm interested in checking this out.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore. I know, it's about time I've read this!
Carrie by Stephen King. I've read some other books by him and they were pretty good (I liked It a lot, although I still think the sex scene was just sort of weird and, I mean, eleven-year-olds?), and I've heard this one's good.
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. People keep threatening to murder me in my sleep if I don't read this already, even though I don't really like Sarah Dessen. In an effort to stay alive, I will read this one and later review with a (I promise!) open mind.
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard. The cover put me off this book for a long time, because for some reason I thought this was like Lisa Harrison's The Clique, which I only enjoyed because it was fun to watch bad things happen to those main characters I absolutely loathed. Then I realized that none of them were going to be murdered or anything so I stopped reading.
Skip Beat Volume 3 by Yoshiki Nakamura. Already read this one. The beginning confused me because Ruri and Kyoko were dressed exactly alike and wearing the same wig, so it took me a while to figure out who was who. But it got better quickly. 
After School Nightmare Volume 3 by Setona Mizushiro. Oh my God, SUCH a cliffhanger at the end!
After School Nightmare Volume 4 by Setona Mizushiro. I didn't like the... uh... what would you call it? Cliffhanger response? Cliff-saving? Well, I didn't like it so much. I expected Shinbashi to react more strongly, rather than just getting all flustered and embarrassed. But still, this was great! Can't get enough of Sou :)

That's it for this week! Pretty long list, huh? What'd you get in your mailbox?

When Not to Write

You hear a lot about the importance of writing every day. You know, make a daily word goal, a schedule, stick to it, write write write write, generate those words, that kind of thing. I try to do all this (I keep missing a few days, but there's so much procrastinating to be done!), but recently, I learned there are times when you shouldn't write. So, here is a list of when not to write, each point from personal experience.

1. When you're delirious. I had some unexplained fever a couple days ago and I fell into delirium. Like, "OMG, look at the pretty colors and is that a man-eating rabbit?" I decided to go and write my daily 1500 words, so I pulled up my latest WIP and started typing. I don't actually remember any of this, but I must have written a lot because my word count was about 3000 words higher.

A lot of words, yes, but... umm... I started writing about tomatoes eating shoes and squishing their seeds all over New York City. In the middle of the most important scene. Plus, in my delirium, I mixed up "your" and "you're". I'm ashamed of myself.

2. When there is an elephant sitting on you. It tends to flatten the top of your skull, which squishes your brain. This usually leads to an inability to think well, and you start writing about flies all the time. Like: "He leaped out of his flies are pretty neat chair and threw a flies make funny noises in your ear punch at the big fat fly man."

3. When you're hungry. Your writing becomes like this: "He picked up his fork and speared his steak with it. The succulent juices trickled out, spilling onto the plate. After taking a bite of the delicious, tender meat, he encircled the glass of wine with his fingers and poured the red liquid down his parched throat." Darn, now I'm hungry and thirsty.

Can any of you think of more conditions under which you shouldn't write?

Lesley Hauge: Interview

You might remember that I recently read and reviewed the YA novel, Nomansland. The author was kind enough to agree to answer a few questions on this blog. So without further ado, Lesley Hauge!

1. What was your inspiration for writing Nomansland?

I had a few sources of inspiration for writing NOMANSLAND including the book THE CHRYSALIDS by now-deceased British author John Wyndham (and the epigraph for NOMANSLAND comes from that book). But perhaps my main inspiration came from my own schooldays in Africa. I know NOMANSLAND is set on an icy, remote island that is nothing like Africa but the society I depict in the book is a distorted version of my all-girls, all-female staff school in a country that was called Rhodesia at the time but is now called Zimbabwe. The school was strict, petty and obsessively competitive and all this came from the adults rather than the students. They were also obsessed with our appearance in that any attempts to wear makeup, short skirts and or have our hair loose were among some of the worst crimes. But then they allowed this really weird thing: an incredibly cruel beauty contest, where the students (actually we were called "pupils") picked the entrants, and this was the inspiration for the beauty contest in the book. It was one of the first things that started me thinking about women, the pressures on them, the competition to be gorgeous and how all this makes women and young girls miserable. 

2. Can you tell us about how you got to be published? What was it like?
I am trained as a journalist and published articles regularly, but I wrote unpublished fiction for many years, at least three novels and some short stories. Everything was rejected but sometimes I got encouraging letters saying that I had promise, or words to that effect, and that would keep me going. I took about a year to write NOMANSLAND and I knew it was a YA book although I had never written YA before. I sent out about 12 queries to agents and two agents came back to me. My agent, Ann Tobias, helped me enormously because she is an incredible editor as well as an excellent agent -- she taught me more about writing than any MFA course could. I cut and polished the manuscript and it took many months but it sold quickly, for a modest sum, to Henry Holt. Watching the manuscript morph into a book was one of the most fun experiences of my life. That was all the nice part. I cannot say I have enjoyed the actual publication part. It is nervewracking. Suddenly your work is out there for all to comment upon, and being publicly discussed requires an author to develop a thick skin -- I must acquire one. But no one makes you write, so you can't whine about any part of it.

3. What was the hardest part of writing Nomansland for you?
     Um ... it was all hard!

4. Your book has a strong theme of feminism. Is there anything you would like to say regarding that?

    Yes!! I wanted readers to think again about feminism because I don't agree that we live in a post-feminist world. Also I'm not sure what young women today think about feminism and I'm hoping to find out via responses to the book. Part of what I was trying to do with NOMANSLAND was to show how deeply embedded female oppression is in our culture, which is why I included the Pandora myth, Eve in the Garden of Eden and the internalized oppression of some of the women in the community. I think we need to remember feminist ideals more than ever in a world full of narcissistic, sexualized images of women that both fascinate us and make us miserable because we can't ever look like that. The particularly insidious thing about these images is that in this supposedly "post-feminist" world this fetishized sexiness is presented as "girl power"-- as if all this imagery is proof of our liberation. But the sexual power in these images is, in fact, presented as the only source of female power. Well this is a tricky one. Women do have a certain sexual power but, in my view, it is the least reliable way to go about shaping your own identity. But it sure sells stuff and works upon our sub-conscious very effectively. I want to say that your intelligence, independent-mindedness, skills, humor and grace will stand you in far better stead. On the other hand, we are wary of the joyless, man-hating caricature of feminism that is the mocked-version of 1970s feminism -- young women today have to navigate their way between the grim version of feminism that has become a silly populist view of the 1970s feminists and this other consumer-driven shiny, shiny celebrity perfection. The girls in the book look back at our society with all its shiny surfaces, magazine pictures of smooth, flawless women, a world full of objects and possessions, and are both fascinated by what they see and repelled by it (well Keller is). They are hesistant and confused and overwhelmed. I suppose there are darker things going on in their psyche when they are inspired to compete with one another to see who is the most beautiful ... I'm not offering any easy answers.

5. What are some of your favorite books and authors?

When I get asked this question I do the equivalent of closing my eyes and reaching into a barrel full of goodies to pick some at random:

J.M. Coetzee (South African writer) in particular a book called WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS

Ian McEwan -- I am reading SOLAR, his latest book about climate change, and it got terrible reviews in this country, but it is really good. I'm sad USA didn't like it.

I just read an excellent book called MARY REILLY by Valerie Martin, which is a retelling of the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story from the point of view of a housemaid in Dr. Jekyll's household.

Books from other eras would include: MADAME BOVARY (Gustav Flaubert); MIDDLEMARCH (George Eliot) and THE SECRET AGENT (Joseph Conrad)

I also love books by Patricia Highsmith and J.G. Ballard and poetry by Elizabeth Bishop and Philip Larkin. I also read lots of non-fiction. One I would recommend is called THE WORLD WITHOUT US by Alan Weisman and it is a book about what the world would become if human beings were suddenly one day to disappear completely.

Thank you for answering my questions! It was a pleasure interviewing you.

Mr. Was: Review

Synopsis: This involving tale of destiny, passion, and death takes teenager Jack Lund from the mysterious town of Memory, Minnesota, to the steamy jungle of World War II Guadalcanal to the sterile walls of a secret government asylum--all because of a strange metal door that changes the lives of all who pass over its threshold.

Details: "Mr. Was" by Pete Hautman, 256 pages, 3.83 stars on Goodreads

My Thoughts: First off, I love this cover! It's intriguing and matches the somewhat creepy and definitely suspenseful tone of the book. Normally, I don't really give my own synopses for books because I suck at writing them (you should see my first-draft query letters), but the Goodreads synopsis doesn't actually tell you much about the book. I'll do my best to summarize this accurately, but it's been nearly a month since I read this, so don't be surprised if I make a few mistakes here and there. If you've read the book and you notice an error I made, please do point it out!

The format of the book starts off as something being written in a notebook, switches to a series of letters, and then goes back to a notebook (if I recall correctly). The protagonist, thirteen-year-old Jack Lund, has a less-than-stable family. When his grandfather (on his mom's side) dies, they go live in his old house, which is big, old, and creepy. Jack starts having dreams of a small door, and one night, he finds it. Up to this point, the book had me on the edge of my seat, and I even got chills at some points. After it's revealed that the door takes him back in time, I was a little disappointed, but the book was still good. He went back to his present time and tried to forget about the door.

Three years later, his dad came home drunk and killed his mom. Jack was horrified and promised himself that he would go back in time and wait as long as he had to until it was the 90s again, and then rescue his mom just before she died. 

I loved the ending of "Mr. Was". Even though it was rather sad, it fit perfectly and I can't imagine any ending would work better, because they would be rather paradoxical. At points the book got a little confusing and there's still one part I don't really understand, but it's definitely worth it. 4 smilies out of 5.

Would You Rather...

I have a question for you. Yes, you, the person who is reading this blog post and plans on not commenting. And yes, I also know you are there because I have added a brand new view counter to the bottom of this page and I'm using Google Analytics. There are people from wild and foreign places reading this, places like Mars and Antarctica and Canada.

I was playing Would You Rather with a four-year-old (please don't ask why I was trapped with a four-year-old for several long hours because it involves really bad elevators and really good cookies) and while this question didn't come up, it came to me later.

Would you rather

(a) have your books write themselves without any input or effort from you and go on to be more famous than Harry Potter but you will never, ever, ever be able to write another word for fun again (so you can make shopping lists but you can't write things for the sake of writing)


(b) be able to write as much as you want (although you still have to work and take care of kids if you have any and sleep and the like) but never, ever, ever be able to have a single word published?

I am sorely tempted to say (a), but no matter how much I complain about how hard writing is and how annoying it is to stick to a schedule, I think I would die if I couldn't write for fun ever again. Like, my lungs would explode and my heart would shrivel up (some would say it already has) and my eyes would spontaneously combust and my skin would turn black and my hair would fall out.

What about you? If you had to make the choice, what would you choose?

Caragh O'Brien: Interview

Recently I read and reviewed Birthmarked, which you must read if you haven't already. I had the good fortune to be able to interview the author. Everyone, let's welcome Caragh O'Brien!

1. What was your inspiration for Birthmarked?

Let me say first how delighted I am that you invited me by, Izzy. I feel so honored! My inspiration for Birthmarked came first when I saw the drought in the southern states in the winter of 2008. We were driving across the country, and when I saw the empty lakes in state after state, the landscape struck me as a wasteland and I started imagining how we would adapt socially and politically to climate change. I was also inspired by my students and my own kids, especially when I imagined Gaia and how strong she was.

2. You have some wonderful codes in the novel. How did you come up with these?

Thank you! I love codes. I think they’re fun. When I was a kid, my brothers and sisters and I routinely wrote messages to each other in code. My father, a veteran cryptanalyst for the army, wrote codes in his letters to me. I thought this was typical. When I needed codes for the book, I tinkered with ones I remembered from my childhood.

3. What's the hardest part of writing for you, and how do you tackle it?

First drafts are hard for me because there are so many possibilities and the wrong directions seem just as enticing as the right ones. I give myself permission to make huge mistakes (as in 50-page-long mistakes) just to get anything down. Then I trust I can do better once I’m revising. Revising is the part I like.
4. On your website, you mentioned that Birthmarked is the first book of a trilogy. Can you tell us anything about the second book?

Sure. Book 2 (like the catchy title?) picks up a couple weeks after Birthmarked ends, and Gaia encounters another dystopian society which is also based in a stressed environment. In this case, women rule the men who vastly outnumber them, and Gaia suffers with a strict social code and intense injustice against people she loves. Speaking of revising, I’m starting my 8th draft and the story is shaping up.

5. You've been stranded on a desert island. You can request one book, one album, and one movie from an awesome genie. Assuming the desert island is equipped with a CD player and DVD player, what would you choose?

Ha! The music and movie are easy: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, and American Beauty. The book is impossible to choose. I suppose I’d take along Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale because I’m rereading it now and I want to get to the end. 

Thanks again, Izzy, for having me by. I enjoy your site, and your “How To Be A Great Writer” post especially made me laugh. Good luck with your own writing!

Thanks so much for doing the interview and answering all my questions!

In My Mailbox (1)

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted over at The Story Siren. And yup, it's my first time doing it! Nothing actually came in my mailbox this week although I won a couple books, so hopefully those will arrive soon. Everything I got came from the library. Also, if you do this meme too, post a link in the comments and I'll go read/comment on your post!

After School Nightmare Volume 2. I read Volume 1 last week and it was amazing, so I was excited to get this. Actually, I already finished it, and it was just as good as the first one! I reserved the third volume from the library but it takes forever to arrive. Can't wait! I highly recommend this series to anyone who likes manga, unless you're very easily grossed out or disturbed. It's rated 16 or older, but I've never paid attention to ratings anyway.

Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey. I read the first book ages ago (actually, like three months), and absolutely loved it. I've been meaning to read this for a while, and my friend was going to lend it to me when she finished. But she finished and forgot to give it to me, and then I forgot to remind her, and finally, I just reserved it from the library. (Yeah, I reserve a lot of books. They have a special shelf for me, and all the people who start working at the circulation desk are warned about me. Not even kidding.) I'm currently reading this, and it's just as good as the first one!

Restoring Harmony. I'm also currently reading this one. It's been on my TBR list for a while, so I was anticipating a lot from it. I'm nearly done with it, and though I'm a bit disappointed, it's still pretty good. Some parts dragged for a little, but others were quite suspenseful. Oh, and there's a hot guy in it. I like hot guys. Spill (the hot guy) is my favorite character by far! Also, fiddles are cool.

The Lovely Bones. I saw the movie and really enjoyed it, and someone told me the book is great. Someone else told me the book sucks. As soon as I finish the Mysterious Benedict Society or Restoring Harmony (not sure which I'll finish first), I'll be reading this one so I guess I'll find out! I'm not a fan of the cover, though. I usually like simple covers, but this one's just too plain for my tastes, not the kind of thing I would pick up.

Memoirs of a Geisha. I loved the movie (except why were Chinese actresses playing Japanese people?), so I wanted to read the book for a while. I stuck it on my TBR list and finally got around to it (I have 140 books on my TBR list... so...). Or at least, I finally got around to putting it on the TBR pile.Oh, and I so love this cover. The girl's eyes are really neat, and I love the way her lips stand out against the pallor of her face. The wind-swept hair adds a nice touch, too, and I like that the title is tucked securely in the corner, rather than being all IN-YOUR-FACE.

The Time Traveler's Wife. Another book I've always meant to read. I'm actually officially twenty pages in, because I had to go for a check-up at the doctor's, and we were running a bit late. My parents kept yelling at me to hurry up, so I grabbed the first book I saw. When I got home, the library had sent an automatic email that the second Mysterious Benedict Society book had arrived, so this book was suddenly toast. I'll get to it eventually, though. I think.

Paper Towns. I read Looking for Alaska and An Abundance of Katherines, both of which were beyond amazing, so I decided to pick this one up, too. John Green is quickly becoming among my favorite authors! I'm not loving the cover on this one, but the title is neat, so it makes up for everything. I badly want to read this one after I finish what I'm currently reading, but the other books are due sooner.

That's it for me this week! And like I said at the beginning, if you did IMM too, just post the link in the comments.

How to be a Great Writer

Setting Up Your Lifestyle

1. Get a rich husband or wife. Why should you bother with a day job or (snicker) marrying for love? Psh, that is so last season! Instead, go out and find yourself a super-rich spouse. Good places to look include fancy-schmancy restaurants, business man conventions, celebrities' doctors or massage therapists, and Hollywood. Just walk around until you see a man or woman by his or herself, stroll up to him or her, and pour on the charm! It's so easy, Bella Swan could do it! And she did! (Hint: Men are fans of women randomly running up to them and stroking their stubble, and women are fans of men shoving them into dark alleys and whispering in a deep, throaty voice, "I love you.")

2. Convince your rich spouse to buy you a mansion. A good way to start the conversation is as follows:

You (at 3:00 in the morning, tapping Spouse on shoulder): Hi, honey, let's get a mansion.
Spouse: *grunts*
You: Oh, I'm so glad you agree! I'll go over and sign some papers now, okay?
Spouse: *grunts*

Easy as pie, right? I told you! Writing is super-easy when you know what you're doing.

3. Never have kids. Ever. Kids are messy and irritating and expensive. You have to drive them to school and to various activities and clothe them and feed them and listen to their stories, complaints, whines, laughter (ugh! the laughing!), pleads for even more driving-ness, clothes, and food. It's simply not worth it. And seriously, why spend money on raising a kid when you can just buy a nice printer or a pretty new laptop?

4. Set up a schedule, and stick to it. Everyone knows how annoying it is to write first thing in the day. The best thing to do is to procrastinate. Here is a good example of a schedule:

1. Wake up, eat breakfast, and contemplate the mysteries of life as the maids clean the house.
2. Go to the spa.
3. Take a nap.
4. Call up some friends and get together for lunch. Be sure to show off your brand-new limousine!
5. Go to the spa again.
6. Take a really, really long nap.
7. Have your live-in and super-hot massage therapist, your super-hot manicurist, and your super-hot pedicurist work on you.
8. Eat the fantastic dinner the maids made. (See what I did there?)
9. Take a long, luxurious bubble bath. 
10. Go to the hot tub, with the massage therapist, manicurist, and pedicurist.
11. Write. But only if you feel like it. Otherwise, go to bed.

The Writing Itself

1. Description. Description is the most important part of writing. You need your readers to be able to visualize everything, and I mean everything. Consider the following passage:

He sat down at the table and took out an unsharpened pencil from his pocket. Sweeping a brown lock of hair out of his eyes, he reached forward and sharpened the pencil.

It's okay, but it doesn't have nearly enough description. Now consider this:

He sat down at the table. His dark blue jeans crinkled a little as he sat, the price tag still swinging close by the dark brown belt. He leaned against the back of the chair, his white t-shirt pressing against it. Millions of bacteria transferred from the furniture to his clothes to his body. He reached his fish-stick fingers into his pocket and removed an unsharpened pencil. The pencil was long and yellow, exquisite in its beauty, and the end was as blunt as a miser's heart. Slowly, he leaned forward and placed the end of the pencil, lovingly, into the mouth of the electric sharpener. His ears rang with the grating hums of the sharpener, and a brown lock of hair fell into his brilliant turquoise eyes. He brushed it away with a quick flick of the back of his hand, the tiny hairs on his knuckles briefly coming into contact with his silky smooth scalp.

So much better, right? I know, I know. I'm a genius.

2. Metaphors and similes. They are so important! I can't possibly stress it enough. Consider:

The sky was blue.

Now consider:

The sky was as blue as a dead-by-hypothermia baby's cold flesh.

Doesn't it add so much?

Over to you! What other tips should be included on How to be a Great Writer?

The sky was

Nomansland: Review

Synopsis: Sometime in the future, a lonely, windswept island is populated solely by women. Among these women is a group of teenaged Trackers—expert equestrians and archers—whose job is to protect their shores from the enemy. The enemy, they’ve been told, is men. When these girls come upon a partially buried home from the distant past, they are fascinated by the strange objects—high-heeled shoes, teen magazines, make-up—found there. What are they to make of these mysterious things? And what does it mean for their strict society where friendship is forbidden and rules must be obeyed—at all costs?

Details: "Nomansland" by Lesley Hauge, 256 pages, 3.47 stars on Goodreads.

My Thoughts: I've been excited to read this since I first read a review of it, and I wasn't disappointed at all! Even though I was getting a bit tired of dystopians, the idea of a society completely made up of women was fascinating. When I was a kid, I read this book about the Amazons and thought it was really neat (despite the fact that there was an incredible amount of gore), and this book sort of reminded me of that. Except there wasn't a lot of gore in Nomansland, luckily. 

Life in Foundland is fascinating. No one is allowed to have a fancy first name, or have hair longer than a certain length, or wear anything designed to look nice or flattering. There are strict rules regarding the "Seven Pitfalls" (things like vanity), and the society was basically feminism to the extreme. Men were referred to as the enemy, and many of the girls and women believed that men are dangerous. If you're wondering, women got pregnant by artificial insemination, but what was interesting was how horrifying pregnancy was. First, there's the fact that being artificially inseminated isn't really all that fun, and since the women don't get to keep the baby in the end, they have none of the motherly love that makes pregnancy worth it for modern-day women. 

Keller is a multi-dimensional character, and throughout the book I admired her strength. She struggles to do the right thing, but that can be so hard when everything is confusing and you don't know who's good and who's not. I felt at times she could a little apathetic to what was going on, but overall, I definitely liked her.

The only thing I didn't like so much about Nomansland was that after I finished it, I still wanted to know more. Why, for example, did the genders separate in the first place? How long has it been since the Time Before? Who came up with the Seven Pitfalls? Other than that, this was a great book, and absolutely worth a read! 4 smilies out of 5.

Mockingbird: Review

Synopsis: An unforgettable story in the tradition of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful. 

Details: "Mockingbird" by Kathryn Erskine, 224 pages, 3.98 stars on Goodreads

My Thoughts: Even though I usually review young adult books on this blog, the synopsis of this upper middle grade novel intrigued me. I know someone with Asperger's (although I don't know her very well, but she goes to my school), so I was interested in reading a book from the point of view of a girl with Asperger's. Kathryn Erskine did an excellent job of portraying how Caitlin thinks differently from others and has difficulty understanding how to socially interact, but how she's by no means any less intelligent because of it. 

Caitlin's older brother, Devon, was always the one who helped her. He told her when it was okay to say certain things and when it wasn't, and whenever she was sad, he would make her feel better. Prior to the start of the book, there was a school shooting and Devon was killed. Her father is racked by grief, and Caitlin feels alone in the world. Time and time again through the book, my eyes watered, and I didn't even realize it until several minutes later. The book completely engrossed me, far beyond what I expected.

"Mockingbird" was powerful and honest. No matter how old you are, it's still a moving read, and definitely worth being picked up. It's really eye-opening to see the world through Caitlin's eyes, how she doesn't always understand idioms or why when people smile they're not always happy. Some people found her affinity for art to be cliché, but I thought it added a nice touch to the story even if it is used a lot. 5 smilies out of 5.

Being Observant

Every day, I have to walk my dog because for some reason when I was nine, I told my parents that if we got a dog, I would walk it every single day without any complaints. So we got a dog. And I walk it every single day (well, mostly, anyway). As for no complaining... well, I mean, that's not really important.

My method of dealing with things that bore me to tears is to space out. And I mean, really space out. I have basically no memory of French class. I can recall walking in, putting my books down, and then walking out when the bell rings. This was not news to my French teacher, who liked to call on me. Someone sitting next to me would proceed to stab me in the forearm with a pen until I wake up, at which point I would say in an embarrassingly loud and startled tone, "What?"

My teacher would give a derisive snort and then threaten me with detention. (For the record: he only ever gave me detention once in three years. I'm actually not sure what I got it for, considering that was one of the days where I'd paid attention and I did my homework and everything. But he's not the kind of guy you argue with.)

As walking a dog in searing hot weather is among the things that bores me, I usually withdraw inside myself and idly think about random things. This gets to the point where I sometimes stumble off the sidewalk and begin walking in the middle of a busy road without quite realizing it. My dog has saved my life more than once by darting after a squirrel on someone's lawn.

However, I recently read a post about how it's important to be observant as a writer. I decided to actually pay attention to stuff that happens around me as I walked my dog, because right now in my WIP, my character is an icky spot and I wasn't sure how to save him.

These are the things I observed:

- A butterfly and a moth were floating near a flower, and suddenly the butterfly flung itself at the moth, knocking it to the ground. The poor moth twitched on the grass while the butterfly smashed its wings against it again and again until it was dead. Reminded me of school.

- The exact way a terrifyingly large mosquito sucks blood from your suddenly-skinnier-and-paler arm, and how it feels to be such an insect-phobe that you can't even slap it away, but you don't want that horrible beast on your flesh. Also, it hurts.

- A little girl bashing a little boy's head in with a red plastic shovel while her mother coos, "Aww, how cute!"

- My dog sniffing feces.

- My dog sniffing more feces.

- My dog eating f- oh wait, okay, that's just not right.

And then, a squirrel raced past me, an orange clamped in its mouth. And inspiration struck. I suddenly knew exactly how to save my MC, and it had nothing to do with squirrels, oranges, or racing past teenage girls. I'm still not actually sure if the idea would have come to me whether I observed or not, but I guess it didn't hurt.

What about you? Do you make yourself pay extra attention to things going on around you, and does it actually help your writing?