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27 Feb 2013

RTW - Best Book of February

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

 This Week's Topic is:
  What's the best book you've read in February?

February was a slow reading month.  In fact I haven't finished the book I've been reading yet.  This month was really about editing and writing so reading wasn't my top priority.

I've been reading On Writing by Stephen King and honestly, even if I had read more this month this would have been my favourite. I've been recommended it by so many bloggers and writers, all with great things to say about it so I finally got it off my shelf and started it.

I'm probably committing book vandalism here (at least in my boyfriend's eyes) but I've been highlighting away on all his great advice.  I love the mix of writing advice and his autobiography.  The way he tells it is itself a story with such vivid memories of how he came to be a writer.  And how much he struggled at first.  It's so realistic.  We see authors nowadays like Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling who became instant hits.  And that's the image people may see of an author.  You write a book and it's worth millions.  But it isn't.  Stephen King is considered one of the world's greatest writers yet it took a few years to get on that road to success.  It didn't come straight away and I'm glad he wrote about that.

And that's my one and only best book of February. What's yours? :)

26 Feb 2013

TTT - Auto-Buy Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish.  Each week there is a bookish topic where we post a top ten list.  
 
This week:
February 26:  Top Ten Authors That I'd Put On My Auto-Buy List 
 
1) Gretchen McNeil
Ten was a fantastic YA horror/thriller and had me turning the pages trying to figure out who could have done and waiting for the next time the killer would strike.  Definitely would pick up another by Gretchen McNeil, especially if it was horror.
 
2) Marissa Meyer
I added Scarlet straight away to my list of books to buy once I finished Cinder.  A sci-fi retelling of a classic fairy tale was genius and I can't wait to read her interpretation of Red Riding Hood and how the characters will fit into the world Meyer has created.
3) Kristen Hubbard
Like Mandarin was an interesting contemporary.  It reminded me a little bit of Thirteen but obviously less dramatic and edgy.  The concept was similar: good girl next door befriends wild and rebellious girl.  But what I liked about Like Mandarin was that Grace just became more confident with who she was rather than changing to impress Mandarin.  I bought Wanderlove as soon as it was released and have yet to read it but I have a feeling I'll love it.
 
4) Kody Keplinger
I love how Keplinger connects her characters into the same high school or town.  I enjoy her books.  They're a nice light read and I'd buy more of her books.  
 
5) Frank Beddor
 The Looking Glass Wars and its sequel Seeing Redd were the best fantasy that I read last year.  I've got the third one still to read but if Frank Beddor ever wrote anything else I'll be racing to the bookstore to buy it.  The world of Wonderland he created was so vivid.
 
6) Victoria Scwab
I loved The Near Witch.  An eerie fairy tale that I'd recommend to anyone if they wanted escapism.  I'm definitely getting her new book.
 
7) Veronica Roth
Divergent is one of my favourite Dystopian series at the moment.  I can't wait for the final book in the trilogy and look forward to any of her future works. 

8) Ransom Riggs
I'd pick up another Ransom Riggs book especially if it involved the same style of using photographs in his work.  It just made the world he was building come to life even more.
 
9) Stephen King
 Do I need to explain? I love Stephen King, especially when he has a large character list.  His stories just hook me in.
 
10) Kendare Blake 
I fangirled my way through Anna Dressed in Blood.  A ghost story with creepy, lingering ghosts.  A suitable amount of gore.  And a snarky Dean-esque main character in ghost hunter Cas.  Loved it.  I read and bought the sequel Girl of Nightmares and I'll have whatever's next on my list too, please!

25 Feb 2013

Currently...

Loving: Playlists and soundtracks.  I've had Beast Inside's playlists on repeat this half term as I concentrate on editing it.  They've helped keep the motivation and inspiration going.  Another playlist has been keeping me giddy about making some notes for a SNI.  All 80s tunes! And I'm loving the Rock of Ages film soundtrack.  I can't sing to save my life but I've loved cooking dinner or cleaning the kitchen and singing along with these songs at the top of my voice!

Some of the songs I've been loving especially:

Twisted Sister: We're Not Going to Take It

Duran Duran: Wild Boys

Rock of Ages: Don't Stop Believin'




Reading:
  
Watching: Misfits season 4 and The Walking Dead season 3.  Absolutely LOVE these two shows.  I've just finished the first two seasons of The Walking Dead and can't wait to catch up on 3! I'm up to the current season of Misfits now but it's not the same with a whole new cast.  I miss the old gang but I do love Rudy.  I'm hooked on both shows at the moment.

Thinking about: PGCE interview on Wednesday.  Another try at getting in! *fingers crossed*

Anticipating: Oz the Great and Powerful.  The film looks fantastic!


Wishing: That Spring would hurry up now.  I'd like some warmer weather.  It's never really mattered to me what season it is.  I like all of them and don't mind winter and snow.  I don't even mind doing playground duty in the cold.  But it's time for a change now and I'm looking forward to Spring and not waking up to pitch black at 6am.

Making me happy: Beast Inside.  The editing is going really well and the story is where I wanted it to be.  I know for sure what I want from it.  Hopefully it'll be time soon to find betas or a CP!

17 Feb 2013

A week in the cave...

Originally for my 100k in 100 days writing challenge I was going to finish Inside the Broom Closet and start on a new WiP, hoping to get a lot of first drafts completed this year.  That ended up changing slightly.  I did finish Inside The Broom Closet and started the first chapter of a new WiP but then I had a bit of development in my edits of Beast Inside that got me all excited and having insanely long writing sessions to keep the story going.  So I've ended up doing that.  My second and third edits side by side, one by hand and the other on the computer. 

This week I just want to concentrate on the editing and catching up on that word count.  I also want to get Stephen King's On Writing finished.  For the half term holiday I'll be in the writer's cave and taking a small blogging break to write and read.  I'm up to 12k now in the challenge and I want to see how much more I can write for this week.

Got my snacks, my playlist is on repeat, and I'll see you next Monday with a currently post for the end of the month... again.

Seriously, where are these months going???

13 Feb 2013

RTW: Loving It



Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
 
This Week's Topic is: It's (the day before) Valentine's Day! Let's jump start the lovefest by blogging about what you love most about writing (and/or reading)!
 
I could probably write an essay explaining what I love about writing and reading.  Writing and reading are, especially writing, my life.  I couldn't see a future where I'm not writing or getting sucked into amazing new books. 
 
What I love the most about both are characters.  Creating them and reading about them.  There are so many that I care about in reading.  Tris (Divergent), Dodge (The Looking Glass Wars), Darren (The Saga of Darren Shan) etc.  I love being introduced to characters who I come to care about.  Who face a lot of shit and try to work past that.  I care when they're whole world could be or has been ruined.  Like Poppy in Night World who dreamt of her future yet fell victim to cancer at 16.  Mark Petrie in 'Salem's Lot who sees his whole town get slowly taken over by vampires. 
 
And I love creating them.  Especially a group of characters who have a strong friendship or sibling relationship and face abnormal threats.  You can't help but fall in love with your characters.  Even when you're putting them through hell you've brought them to life and worked hard to make them realistic.  You learn so much about them that they could almost be real life friends.   
 
You laugh with them, you cry with them, you feel embarrassed when they do etc.  And that's what I love.  Characters who you can share the journeys with. 

11 Feb 2013

Finding Horror: Right Under Your Nose

Photo credit
One of the hardest things about writing horror can be getting that scary idea.  Finding that creepy antagonist or terrifying tale that you can weave into a full novel.  The best place to start looking is to go straight back to where any horrors most likely started for people: home and the area you lived in.

I'm talking about those monsters that you knew were lurking under your bed or wardrobe when the lights went off.

I'm also talking about those local legends or tales that spread around like a wildfire at school.  And that can the best place to look sometimes for ideas.  What urban legends are lurking in your hometown?

When I was in primary school we started going swimming in year three.  Just before we got to the leisure centre there was a house that all of us were dreading to walk past.  It was almost hidden by trees, always dark and also looked like it could collapse any minute.  Just from appearance we were all convinced that it must be haunted and evil.  There was never a sign of life there and we couldn't see a house like that being home to a loving and happy family.  Our eight year minds could only see a witch living there. 

The story stemmed from there.  We saw a haunted house.  And we saw a witch who would curse us if she saw any children walking past her house.  So every time we had swimming and had to pass that house we would be on our hands and knees and crawling past the high wall so the witch wouldn't see us.  That was a building that had us completed freaked out.

There's something scarier about hearing a horror story based in your own town than a horror story based elsewhere.  Because this time it's right on your doorstep and all of a sudden that familiarity has disappeared and you're looking at a town and a history that you never saw before.  It's not the hometown that you know anymore. 

Have you ever heard any urban legends where you live?

7 Feb 2013

Book Review: Hood by Stephen R Lawhead

Robin Hood

The Legend Begins Anew

For centuries, the legend of Robin Hood and his band of thieves has captivated the imagination. Now the familiar tale takes on new life, fresh meaning, and an unexpected setting.

Steeped in Celtic mythology and the political intrigue of medieval Britain, Stephen R. Lawhead's latest work conjures up an ancient past and holds a mirror to contemporary realities. Prepare yourself for an epic tale that dares to shatter everything you thought you knew about Robin Hood.


I'm so disappointed with this book. 

I love legends like Robin Hood and Arthur Pendragon and I especially love retellings.  This book sounded amazing in concept.  English folklore plus a touch of the fantastical seemed like my cup of tea, especially when it promised to show the rise and origins of Robin Hood. 

I started off interested.  The Normans had invaded and the Welsh were being mistreated as a result.  We are introduced to Bran, an arrogant play boy, who is to become the legendary Robin Hood.  Quite Tony Stark/Bruce Wayne in a way.  A man with many flaws starts to see the injustice and mistreatment around him and works his way to becoming a figure who can do something about it.  I'm a sucker for that type of hero.  It's always good character development.  I was even excited to see the characters who were also on their way to becoming Friar Tuck and Little John.  The trio was formed instantly and I thought that this was the start of Robin.

I was just over 200 pages in when I finally put the book down and decided not to continue.  Two hundred pages in and Bran was still nowhere near to becoming Robin Hood.  He was still injured and healing.  The chapters focusing on the Normans didn't help either because that just interrupted the flow of Bran's story for me which is where I felt the focus should have been all the way.  It made his journey slower and I was just losing interest in the tale.  It was still going to take to some time for him to be the hero I was waiting for.  I felt that Lawhead was dragging the story, also trying to work too much on setting up the backstory and events of the Norman invasion. 

So no rating for this one since I didn't finish.

6 Feb 2013

RTW - Best Book of January

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This Week's Topic is:
What's the best book you read in January?
 
January was a good month for reading and I managed to get through four novels.  Overall a good start for my 2013 reading challenge.  I decided to read:
 
1) The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
2) And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
3) To Die For: Slumber Party and Weekend by Christopher Pike (Two novels in one)
 
I was entertained and enjoyed all four of them.  Really good books to start the year out with and I recommend all four of them.  But only one got the five stars and really stood out above the rest:
 
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
 
Before reading this I had already been introduced to some retellings of the book.  First the film Identity where ten people are isolated by severe weather conditions at a motel and are murdered one by one.  Then Ten by Gretchen McNeil which was very influenced by the Christie novel, involving teenagers isolated on an island and being bumped off one at a time.  The original novel and its retellings all had that slasher horror feel which I'm an absolute sucker for as well as being a murder mystery fan.  I love a good whodunit mystery.  Finally I bought the Wii game of And Then There Were None where the murderer has changed and a new character was made for it.  There I got a taste of what the novel was like and I succumbed to curiosity and borrowed my boyfriend's copy.  Luckily he had bought it previously on sale. 
 
The murderer is a clever psycho who has let years of murderous thoughts finally lead them into temptation and take the law into their own hands.  Murders that cannot be touched by authorities because of lack of evidence or murders that were committed indirectly by the culprits.  The victims are all led to Soldier Island through personal acquaintances, jobs, and agendas where one by one they fall victim to a twisted children's nursery rhyme called Ten Little Soldier Boys. 
 
Each character has done wicked deeds.  They have committed crimes that they cannot be sentenced with yet you feel fear with them.  As the number of guests decrease the sense of isolation increases.  You're just as suspicious and just as isolated as they are.  The killer never makes themselves known, lurking around in the shadows.  It is quick to be discovered that the murderer must be one of the guests and tension rises as the characters try to figure out which one of them is lying. 
 
It's a fantastic murder mystery and the first Agatha Christie novel that I've ever read.  I doubt it'll be my last.
 

4 Feb 2013

Starting Off...

Amy Lukavics' post on cheesy horror for YA Highway got me all nostalgic.  Goosebumps was the first books I bought.  They were the first series I fell in love with and collected religiously.  As a child I thought R.L Stine was the best writer I'd ever known.  He still is but he's now joined by quite a few other authors.

Most of all he was the one who got me writing.  I started writing Goosebumps-esque books with twists and ridiculous horrors.  I never wanted to be a published author until I was thirteen but I've always written stories and R.L. Stine started me off.  They were awful but I was seven/eight at the time of writing so I have an excuse.

When I'd gone through most of the Goosebumps books I started to look for similar series.  Are You Afraid of the Dark? became another favourite with its twisty tales and occasional uncertain fates for some characters.

So that's what I thought I'd ask today about writing.  What set you off as an aspiring writer? Was it something that you just began doing or did something you read or watched inspire you to start?

1 Feb 2013

Book Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

The first thing that I have to admit is even for a paranormal romance this wasn't the worst one I've read.  But I still don't think paranormal romance is something I'm never going to be a fan of and sadly the romance between Sam and Grace didn't change my feelings. They were your typical supernatural boy + plain girl-next-door couple. As soon as Sam walked into the picture he was all Grace could think about. He was her obsession and it's just plain unhealthy.  I know what the thrill of a new relationship is like and in a way I could understand why they were both a bit clingy.  This was possibly Sam's last year as a human and Grace was finally meeting that mysterious golden eyed wolf that hung around a lot.  But Grace was suddenly disinterested in school and just started skipping to spend time with Sam.  Maybe this is the teaching assistant in me but EDUCATION IS IMPORTANT!

Ahem...

What bugged me the most was the case of the absent/neglecting parents that seem to crop up time and time again in YA books at the moment. Grace had the typical YA parents. Didn't listen, didn't want to listen and had distanced themselves away from their daughter with work and their own interests. It's just been done so many times that I'm pining for a book where the parents actually act like the responsible, caring adults they should be.  Yes there are broken and dysfunctional families in real life but there are also parents who act like parents.  There needs to be a better balance here.

Another pro to the novel was Sam's P.O.V which was interesting at times. There we got a sense of his conflict as wonders whether the werewolf family that raised and looked after him are actually the good guys and a little bit into his character.  For a supernatural boy I liked him.  Definitely an improvement from the Jaces and Edwards of prn.  He was nice and friendly, a genuine guy who was conflicted about being a werewolf but didn't sulk and brood about it all the time. 

But it wasn't a book that captivated me.  I wasn't hooked and couldn't bring myself to really care about the characters, especially Grace.  She wasn't personality of the year and didn't stand out.  Quite bland to be honest.  She was quiet, didn't have much of a friendship with her friends, and didn't seem to have many interests, choosing to obsess over the wolves.

Overall, I think I might leave it here. I wasn't interested in finding out what happens in the rest of the trilogy.