Saturday, July 31, 2010

Winner of the July Book Giveaway!

It's the last Saturday of the month, so it's time to find out who won copies of Claire de Lune and This Gorgeous Game.

Via, that person is...

Nora MacFarlane!!

Congratulations Nora!!  I have your address, so I'll get these out to you as soon as I can.

For everyone else, come back next Saturday to see what I'm giving away next month. 
HINT: it's two ARCs, and one of them won't be released until August 31st...  :)

Friday, July 30, 2010

2010 Debut Author Challenge!

The Story Siren has had a 2010 Debut Author Challenge going on all year.  Basically, Kristi is challenging everyone to read at least 12 books by debut authors this year.  I have been meaning to check it out and sign up for...well...all year.  :)  But it's been a busy year, and I've been reading as much as I've intended, so I don't feel too bad for taking so long to sign up.  :)

Anyway, now that I have, here's a list of 2010 debut books I've read so far this year:
1. Possessed by Kate Cann
2. The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Fineberg
3. The Clearing by Heather Davis
4. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
5. This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas
6. Nomansland by Lesley Hauge
7. Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
8. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
9. Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson
10. The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
11. The Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas
12. Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
13. Halo by Alexandra Adornetto
14. Tell Me A Secret by Holly Cupala
15. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
16. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
17. Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
18. All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab
19. The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy
20. Matched by Ally Condie
21. The Tension of Opposites by Kristina McBride
22. Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
23. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
24. Stolen by Lucy Christopher

I still plan to read the following (and probably more):
Everlasting by Angie Frazier
Sea by Heidi Kling
The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
Princess for Hire by Lindsey Leavitt
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
The Line by Teri Hall

Whether or not I'll be able to read all of these before the year is out is another question entirely...  :)

So, is anyone else signed up?  Is anyone else going to sign up?  Am I the last one to finally get going (officially) on this?  :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The White Cat by Holly Black

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers -- people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail -- he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.
Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.

I’ve really enjoyed Holly Black’s other books, The Spiderwick Chronicles and her Tithe trilogy. And the premise of this book sounded incredibly interesting. I love intricate plots where you have to figure out who’s conning who and what the fallout will be as a result. So I was really looking forward to this book.

I enjoyed it, pretty much. It was difficult to get into at first because the pacing was very slow, and the writing wasn’t up to the standard of Holly’s previous books. After the first third, though, both of these aspects improved drastically.

I loved the whole idea of ‘curse working,’ and how everyone has to wear gloves. Removing one’s gloves is considered a shockingly intimate gesture (as depicted in the playboy-type pictures Cassel briefly encounters). The emphasis put on the gloves was an excellent reminder of how different Cassel’s world is from ours. I would have liked to see more of those differences, though. I also would have liked to know more of how the mafia works. Is it like prohibition, or something else?

The discrimination aspect to the story wasn’t as original as I’d hoped. The whole concept of curse workers registering themselves was explored in X-Men, so I was hoping for a different twist on this. Perhaps there will be more on this in future books.

The best part of this story is the last third, when Cassel finally realizes what’s really going on and who the real enemy is. He deals with it in a very clever way, which I’m guessing will come back to bite him later. This part is what has intrigued me enough to want to read more.

Overall, this is not Holly’s best work, but the concept has kind of hooked me. I’ll have to read further in the series before I’ll feel comfortable recommending it, though.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Procrastinators Unite! ...tomorrow

Procrastination. It’s a common side effect of writing. Whether we’re suffering from writer’s block, lack of motivation, lack of inspiration, etc, it often grabs hold when our guards are down. And, once we’re in its grasp, it’s really hard to get out of it.

“I’ll start writing as soon as I clean the bathrooms.”
“I’ll start writing as soon as I wash the dishes.”
“I’ll start writing as soon as I organize my closet.”
“I’ll start writing as soon as I...”
You get the idea. :)

I’m a champion procrastinator. But, at the same time, I don’t like leaving things to the last minute. So I often get caught between “I’ll do it later” and “Oh crap, there’s not enough time to do this!” It sucks, and it’s taken years for me to even recognize this pattern within myself. Now that I have, I try to keep myself from getting sucked into that whirlpool, but I’m not always successful.

My writing used to suffer as a result, too. I’d fall into the I’ll-do-it-later trap, really *truly* meaning to do it later. The trouble was, it was *always* later. I’d gotten myself into a routine where everything came before writing. And if everything comes before writing, the no writing is ever going to get done. Still, nothing changed, even after I realized this.

You see, I like routines. They’re comfortably predictable. I like knowing what’s going to happen and when, and if I break out of my routine, then that comfort is taken away. My oldest son exhibits these traits, too. Poor kid. :)

Actually, I think many people are this way. I think it’s easy to find habits and routines where everything is the same. It’s reassuring, even if the habit or routine isn’t the greatest or best thing for you. On that same note, I think many people find change very difficult. Change is the unknown, and often the unknown is scary. Even if that change is for the best. That’s probably the easiest way for procrastination to get a hold on you.

And then there’s the fear. Fear of failure, success, inability to finish what you start, etc. Fear can be an excellent motivator, but it can be just as effective as an inhibitor. After all, if you don’t try, you’ll never fail. And it’s easy to talk yourself into things with statements like you never had time, other things always got in the way, things didn’t work out, etc.

Getting out of a procrastination rut can be the same kind of thing. It was for me, anyway. My desire to get published finally broke me out of it, and I created a new routine that included time for writing. I’m still using that routine, but I’ll still lapse I said, I’m a champion procrastinator. :)

Are you a procrastinator? If you’re not writing, why not? And is it something you feel needs to change?

That kind of gets into the next subject: what is not procrastination. But that’s for next week. :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In My Mailbox...

In My Mailbox is an exploration of what books I brought home this week, and is organized by The Story Siren.

I got a couple interesting books this week...

ARC of Halo by Alexandra Adornetto
Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Venus Cove. But everything changes when three angels are sent from heaven to protect the town against the gathering forces of darkness: Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, a teenage girl who is the least experienced of the trio. They work hard to conceal their true identity and, most of all, their wings. But the mission is threatened when the youngest angel, Bethany, is sent to high school and falls in love with the handsome school captain, Xavier Woods. Will she defy the laws of Heaven by loving him? Things come to a head when the angels realize they are not the only supernatural power in Venus Cove. There′s a new kid in town and he′s charming, seductive and deadly. Worst of all, he′s after Beth.

ARC of The Magnificent 12: The Call by Michael Grant
Twelve-year-old Mack MacAvoy suffers from a serious case of mediumness. Medium looks. Medium grades. Medium parents who barely notice him. With a list of phobias that could make anyone crazy, Mack never would have guessed that he is destined for a more-than-medium life.And then, one day, something incredibly strange happens to Mack. A three-thousand-year-old man named Grimluk appears in the boys’ bathroom to deliver some startling news: Mack is one of the Magnificent Twelve, called the Magnifica in ancient times, whatever that means. An evil force is on its way, and it’s up to Mack to track down eleven other twelve-year-olds in order to stop it. He must travel across the world to battle the wicked Pale Queen’s dangerous daughter, Ereskigal—also known as Risky. But Risky sounds a little scary, and Mack doesn’t want to be a hero. Will he answer the call?
What books did you bring home this week?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Shifter by Janice Hardy

Nya is an orphan struggling for survival in a city crippled by war. She is also a Taker—with her touch, she can heal injuries, pulling pain from another person into her own body. But unlike her sister, Tali, and the other Takers who become Healers' League apprentices, Nya's skill is flawed: She can't push that pain into pynvium, the enchanted metal used to store it. All she can do is shift it into another person, a dangerous skill that she must keep hidden from forces occupying her city. If discovered, she'd be used as a human weapon against her own people.
Rumors of another war make Nya's life harder, forcing her to take desperate risks just to find work and food. She pushes her luck too far and exposes her secret to a pain merchant eager to use her shifting ability for his own sinister purposes. At first Nya refuses, but when Tali and other League Healers mysteriously disappear, she's faced with some difficult choices. As her father used to say, principles are a bargain at any price; but how many will Nya have to sell to get Tali back alive?

I really enjoyed this story. Nya was an interesting character with an incredibly strong voice. I loved her humor, as well as how she viewed her world. Watching her grow from a survivor, to a reluctant heroine, to a purposeful rebel was just wonderful.

The world that Nya lives in is just as intriguing as she is. I love the idea that the ability to heal others comes with a price. In Nya’s case, it’s mental anguish from knowing that, in order to heal one person, someone else must suffer the pain. She’s presented with very difficult choices and does the best she can with them. She doesn’t let her choices endlessly torture her (they bother her, but don’t incapacitate her), which I found very believable since she’s a survivor, and survivors quickly learn how to compartmentalize. The fact that she’s always quick to make amends, and goes to a great extent to do so, shows how much she wants to make things right with the world.

The political aspects were sometimes confusing, and there were a few times where I had to go back and figure out who was connected to who and how/why. But that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. The villains were evil, but with a clear purpose, which kept them from being flat. Nya’s friends were strong and likable, with plenty of flaws that kept them interesting.

Nya’s gradual discovery of her skills upped the stakes in wonderful ways, and paved the way for the next book in the trilogy. Which I am very much looking forward to. Definitely recommended.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Creating Believable Worlds

What does good fiction do? It transports the reader out of his world and into someone else’s. Sometimes that world is fantasy, sometimes it’s not. In either case, that world has to be believable or else the reader will roll his eyes, snap the book shut, and move on to something else.

So, how do we create strong, tangible, and believable worlds that will make the reader forget where he is?

Short answer: Research.

Long answer: throughout the years, I’ve heard varying opinions about writers doing research for their novels. Some have said this: “Of course a novelist should do research. Otherwise how can she know what she’s writing about?” Let’s call these people Team Yay. Often, people in Team Yay spend a good amount of time looking up the things they aren’t sure about or just plain don’t know. Some spend more time doing this than others, but when they’re done they are armed with a good amount of info to add to their stories.

Others have said this: “Why should you do research? It’s fiction! A novelist just makes it up as she goes.” Let’s call these people Team Boo. Often, people in Team Boo don’t want to get mired down in a bunch of potentially useless facts. As in, they wonder what’s the point of knowing a detail that never gets used in the story—if they happen to come across something they need to know, then they’ll will look it up. They are more interested in getting the story written rather than spending too much time gathering stuff they won’t need.

Which team are you in, Yay or Boo? Why? I think neither team is wrong as long as the information you include in your story is accurate. Sometimes a writer knows so much about the story that research isn’t necessary. But that writer still needs to pay attention to the details, and if she comes across something she doesn’t know, I think it’s imperative to research thoroughly. A cursory glance at info can result in a misunderstanding, which can lead to incorrect information.

I think anyone who regularly reads this blog knows I’m in Team Yay. Why? Because I need to have all my information up front before I write a single word. I also think anyone who regularly reads this blog knows that I do *way* more research than necessary. I do this because I never know what I’m going to need, and I like to have a lot to choose from. I’ve also discovered that sometimes research can change my story’s direction. I may think it needs to go in a particular direction, but then discover something that makes that impossible. So, yeah, I’m all about the overabundance of research. :)

But what if you’re writing fantasy or science fiction? Those worlds are mostly made up by the author, and the rules and facts in real-world fiction may not apply. So, how do you create a solidly believable world in those genres?

Well, you still need to do research. There are some rules that apply to the universe that you just can’t get around, like gravity. Or the effects of massive heat or massive cold, the weight of snow and ice, which kinds of stones can create a spark, etc. You won’t need to do as much research with these genres, but you’ll likely need to do some. If you want these details to be different from what we know on Earth, then you’ll need to have a reason for it. For example, if everyone walks on the ceiling instead of the floor, then we need to know why. Saying ‘because I said so’ isn’t going to cut it for the reader (that only works for moms).

For the rest of your world, you need to sit down and define it. How does it work? What are its elements, weather patterns, levels of technology, etc? What holds it together and what can pull it apart? You need to sit down and create the rules that your world abides by, and then hold consistently to them as you write. Depending on where your story takes place, this may take as much time (possibly more) as it takes to research real-world fiction. But if you do this in earnest, you’ll end up with a rich and tangible place to transport your reader.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

In My Mailbox...

In My Mailbox is an exploration of what books I brought home this week, and is organized by The Story Siren.

I've been bringing lots of books home, but haven't had the time to sit down and blog about them.  So, I'm determined to do it this week.  :)  Here's what I got.
ARC of Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan
Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.
Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.


ARC of Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler
"Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world."
Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?
Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home—her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power—and the courage to fight her own inner demons?

Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner
Teen Genius (and Hermit) Carrie Pilby's To-Do List:
1. List 10 things you love (and DO THEM!)
2. Join a club (and TALK TO PEOPLE!)
3. Go on a date (with someone you actually LIKE!)
4. Tell someone you care (your therapist DOESN'T COUNT!)
5. Celebrate New Year's (with OTHER PEOPLE!)
Seriously? Carrie would rather stay in bed than deal with the immoral, sex-obsessed hypocrites who seem to overrun her hometown, New York City. She's sick of trying to be like everybody else. She isn't! But when her own therapist gives her a five-point plan to change her social-outcast status, Carrie takes a hard look at herself—and agrees to try.
Suddenly the world doesn't seem so bad. But is prodigy Carrie really going to dumb things down just to fit in?

What did you bring home this week?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Wish Stealers by Tracy Trivas

Griffin Penshine is always making wishes. But when a sinister old woman tricks her into accepting a box of eleven shiny Indian Head pennies from 1897, Griffin soon learns these are no ordinary pennies, but stolen wishes.
This box of labeled pennies comes with a horrible curse: People in possession of the stolen coins are Wish Stealers, who will never have their wishes granted.... In fact, the opposite of what they've wished for will happen. Griffin must find a way to return these stolen wishes and undo the curse if her own wishes are to come true.
But how can Griffin return wishes to strangers who might not even be alive? Her journey leads her to ancient alchemists, Macbeth's witches, and a chance to help people in ways she never imagined, but the temptation of the Wish Stealers' dark and compelling power is growing stronger. Can Griffin reverse the curse in time to save herself and the people she loves?

When I was a kid, I always wondered what happened to the coins that people tossed into fountains. I wanted to believe in the magic, but the more practical side of me wondered if someone came along and cleaned out all those coins...and I also wondered what happened to them. I never could shake the idea that if someone took the coins out of the fountain, something bad would happen. This is the fabulous premise in The Wish Stealers, and I was very excited to get my hands on a copy.

I wish the characters and plot had lived up to the premise, though. I liked Griffin, but the other characters weren't as fleshed out. Samantha becomes Griffin's arch-rival for no good reason, and her appearances throughout the story seem too convenient. Like she's only there to create tension, and that made her very 2-dimensional.

I also wish the light/dark objects in Mariah's box and Grandma's box had been explored or explained. Same with the Shakespeare witches. A connection to Mariah and Grandma is implied, but not clear.

Lastly, many of the story's events didn't ring true to me. While the author clearly did some research, I think she could have done more. As in, you don't look at constellations through a telescope (they are too big and can see them with the naked eye, so you look at individual stars or planets through a telescope). In Kansas, you don't wear cashmere in August (it's *way* too hot). The price of garnets, even unusually large ones, isn't high unless there's some diamonds in the setting. Etc.

Perhaps I'd set my expectations too high in the beginning, but this wasn't a book I enjoyed. It didn't have enough depth for my taste, and came across as a bit preachy. That said, younger kids may enjoy this as a light and fun read, and it may spark their own imaginations as to what might happen if you take a wish-coin out of a fountain...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Revision Broken Down Into Multiple Drafts

Last month, we heard from several different authors about how they attack the first draft. So, today, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at subsequent drafts.

Personally, I think it’s impossible to write a really good story in just one draft. Okay, there are some people who can do it, but they aren’t the norm. And, some people can revise as they go, but I’d still argue that, technically, they’re still writing in more than one draft—it’s just difficult to know how many. :)

My writing process is done in layers, because that’s the easiest way for my brain to keep track of everything. I used to try to do everything at once, and ended up so overwhelmed that I usually wanted to throw the whole project out the window. So, now, I break everything down into manageable chunks, doing the real work in revision.

Draft 1: Raw Materials
For all my first drafts, I consider this to be the equivalent of slapping a big ol’ lump of clay on a table and preparing to mold it into the shape of my story. Nothing more. I’ve tried doing more than this in first drafts, and I’ve always ended up getting myself lost and frustrated.

Draft 2: Voice
Voice is extremely important, so this is something I try very hard to nail early on. I will work on some of this before I even write the first draft, when I’m getting to know my main character. I do this through journaling from the character’s point of view, and that usually gets me directly into her head. After I get the first draft down, I’ll go through the entire manuscript and make sure that everything sounds like it’s coming from my characters and not from me.

Draft 3: Subplots
Subplots are always in the back of my head when I’m planning and writing out that first draft, but I consider them too important to tackle along with something else. I will devote an entire draft to them to make sure they’re being introduced in the right place, as well as resolved appropriately before the story ends. I often have several subplots, many are subtle and some are more obvious, so I find that giving them my undivided attention is the best way to keep track of them. (in case any of you are wondering why Plot isn’t in this list, I go through an elaborate Plot process before I even write the first draft)

Draft 4: Character and Dialog
Character is not one of my natural strengths, so I usually wait until I’m close to the end before attacking this. If I feel that everything else is in good shape, then, somehow, that gives me the confidence I need in order to tackle character and dialog. Often, I don’t have enough of how my characters think and feel in vital situations, so I painstakingly go through each chapter to look for that...and it usually take more than one draft to get it all. :)

Draft 5: Polish
Once I feel that all the big pieces are in place—the voice is strong, my characters are solid, and my subplots make sense—then I will go through the manuscript with a fine-tooth comb and look at every single paragraph, sentence, and word to ensure it’s in exactly the right place. This always takes more than one draft, because it’s easy to miss a detail when you’re focused on the one above it.

The order of these drafts always varies depending on what story I’m writing. Some stories pull me in one direction. while others pull me the opposite way. Certain aspects of one story may come naturally to me, but, in the next story, I may agonize over it. But I do keep these areas broken down like this, because it helps me get my head around the concepts. It also means I can’t write a story in less than five drafts. If I did, my story would be incomplete.

Have you found your revision process? What is it?

Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting

Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the sixteen-year-old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend since childhood, she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense dead bodies—or at least those that have been murdered. Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world . . . and the imprints that attach to their killers.
Violet has never considered her strange talent to be a gift; it mostly just led her to find dead birds her cat left for her. But now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town, and the echoes of the local girls he's claimed haunt her daily, Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him.
Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer—and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling intensely in love, Violet is getting closer and closer to discovering a killer . . . and becoming his prey herself.

I’ve been hearing mixed reactions to this book. Some love it, and some say it has too many faults. I find myself in the odd position of agreeing with both...

I really liked this story. The overall pacing is break-neck, the romantic tension is palpable, and the creepiness injected by the serial killer kept me on the edge of my seat. It had its issues, though. Most of the things I loved also had a flip-side, such as getting trapped in too many mundane details. So I’m going to break down what I loved about the story, and what I thought could have been done better.

--I loved how strong Violet is in many scenes, refusing to be ordered around by her love interest and standing up to him with as much determination as he shows her. I wish there were more female characters with her gumption. I also found it refreshing that she came from a good and loving family, rather than one with lots of dysfunctional problems. Those families have their places, as do loving ones.
--Many of the characters are hilarious with their bantering, and the solid friendships were refreshing. I also appreciated that the cattiness was kept to a minimum, and that Violet’s friends were quick to stand up for her. But also that she could stand up for herself.
--The snippets from the killer had just the right amount of creepiness, as well as lack of clues as to who he could be. That kept me glued to the pages because I wanted to find out who he was. I also loved the twist introduced about two-thirds of the way through.
--After Violet and Jay become a couple, the romantic tension between the two is tangible. Their make-out sessions leave the reader needing a cold shower (just like Jay and Violet do).

--The parents were not as present as they needed to be, in my opinion. Unfortunately, the sake of the story took priority over what real parents would do in this kind of situation. Yes, later on, Violet’s comings and goings are restricted, but that’s prompted by extreme circumstance. If my child was the potential target of a killer, you bet I’d be around ALL THE TIME, and I would know exactly where she was and what she was doing. I could not leave her life up to chance.
--While there was a lot of dialog that made me laugh out loud, which also made me like the secondary characters a lot, there wasn’t much else regarding those characters. I would have liked to see more of them so I could see more of Violet’s relationship with them. They are obviously good friends, but I never got a sense of how close they are because there were never any conversations that showed that. They seemed like they’d been friends for many years, but the friendships also had a superficial quality about it. As in, they were more on the surface rather than deep confiders in one another. I would have liked to see more depth here.
--After the twist regarding the killer, the ultimate conclusion was a bit predictable. And, as a result, the fact that Violet was left alone again and again seemed a bit too contrived. Also, it really bothered me that we never learned how the girls were killed. Were they strangled? Stabbed? Drowned? What happened to them before they died? This information says a lot about the killer (and it’s info the police would find out, and also release to the press), and would add much tension to the story.
--Before Violet and Jay become a couple, Violet’s pining is a bit too repetitive. I wish it had been clearer as to why Violet was fighting her attraction to Jay in the first place. It’s hinted that she’s afraid he’ll reject her, or that it’ll make their friendship weird, or that she just doesn’t believe he’s interested in her that way, but I wish that could have been clearer.

Still, this was an enjoyable read that I couldn’t put down, and ended up finishing in one sitting. If you can overlook the flip-sides to the things I loved, then this is definitely a book for you. If not, then you may not enjoy it as much.

Monday, July 05, 2010

100 Book Challenge

Last year, I managed to read 108 books between January 1st and December 31st.  I'd set a goal of 100 books for the calendar year, so I'm pretty proud that I exceeded it (even if it was just by 8 books).  :)

At the beginning of the year, I've set myself the same challenge: read 100 books before 2011 rolls around.  So far, I'm on book #58, which puts me slightly ahead of my pace from last year.  I will say, though, that It's been much harder to keep to my reading schedule with everything else I've got going on--husband working overtime, no help with child care, and a few things going wrong with our house.  Oh yeah, pigeons are trying to take over my house, and it's been interesting trying to deal with that.  :) 

But I have managed to squeeze in as much reading time as I helps that my kids are happy if I sit next to them on the floor and read while they put legos together.  :)

So, how's your reading going so far this year?  Are you on schedule?  Ahead?  Behind?  Given up?  :)  Do tell!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

July Book Giveaway!

I can't believe it's already July.  The year is half over!  What happened???

Anyway, it's still another month, and I still have more books to give away.  This month, I will give away two books to one lucky winner.

Hardback copy of Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson

ARC of This Gorgeous Game by Donna Freitas

To enter, fill out the form below.  Then come back on July 31 to see if you've won.  Good luck!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Nomansland by Lesley Hauge

Sometime in the future, after devastating wars and fires, a lonely, windswept island in the north 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, which introduce a world they have never known? And what does it mean for their strict society where friendship is forbidden and rules must be obeyed—at all costs?

This book intrigued me because of this society’s rejection of anything feminine. Sure, some of the women wear skirts, but they are expressly forbidden to make themselves look or feel pretty. Today’s society has some women who want nothing to do with looking or feeling pretty, and other women who live for it. So I was curious to see how Hauge would create her society where pretty = vain, and wanting to look pretty results in punishments.

There are some interesting parallels in this story. The Foundlanders are Amazon-type women who run a tight ship, breeding hatred for men, and keeping the other women ignorant of many things in order to maintain that hatred (I’m betting that many don’t know where the ‘seed’ comes from). Then there is the leader, Ms. Windsor. She enforces her ‘thou-shalt-not-be-pretty’ rules on everyone else, but doesn’t completely follow them herself. She never actually breaks the rules, but she certainly bends them to suit her purposes. This reminded me a bit of Animal Farm. There are even Seven Pitfalls in Nomansland, like the Seven Commandments of Animal Farm.

Keller’s discovery of the objects that women used to wear—high-heeled shoes, teen magazines, make-up—put her in an interesting position. She has always had difficulty fitting in, and the information she learns makes that even more difficult. She finds ‘traitors’ in her midst, sees Ms. Windsor in a new light, and is presented with some very difficult situations that force her to make even harder decisions. All of this kept me glued to the pages.

But the concepts in this story haven’t been resolved yet since there is obviously another book to come. I am interested enough to want to read it, but I really have no idea whether or not I will love this story until I have read more of it. For now, I think it’s a good start.