Sunday, 23 December 2012

Musings on Disappearing into the Aether

Hey all,

Hope everybody is well. This is probably going to be my last post for 2012. I'm gearing up for a bit of heavy reading and a lot of writing over the Christmas and New Year holidays so I won't be spending time on posting. I'll still be lurking and reading your blogs though.
       Given that it's the holidays and a time to be with friends and family, I'm not surprised that I've been hit with a small case of melancholy. At least that's what I think it is. Maybe it's really just me being overly sentimental. Whatever it is, it has got me thinking about internet friendships and how truly amazing but also fraught with potential heartache they can be.
       I will see my physical friends this holiday season. I call them physical friends instead of real life friends because the more I think about it, the less I can find a distinction between those friends I can meet up with in a physical location and those friends who are the click of a button away. My physical friends are those people I went to school/university with. Some are people I work with and others I can't even remember where I collected them from. Even if I don't see them for a while, I'll get updates about them from other friends and if worse comes to worse, they're a short drive away. What I'm getting as it that they are accessible.
       What's been on my mind lately, is the ease at which my blogger/email friends can disappear never to be heard of again. I've been a blogger/book reviewer for less than two years but I've luckily managed to make some wonderful friends. I've also lost some in that time. I'm not begrudging these lost friends their busy lives or their choices not to blog anymore. I guess this post is more an ode to the lasting affect they've had and continue to have in my life. Sometimes I think it's my obsessive compulsive disorder causing me to be unable to release those ties even after a year of not hearing from a person.
       It's really hard to put what I'm trying to convey into words. That doesn't bode well for a would be writer does it? All jokes aside, and to put it very plainly, my biggest fear is that someone will drop dead and the only way I will know about it is when the blogging/emailing stops. Morbid I know. But it's also the crux of my problem. I don't know any of my blogging/emailing friends through any other medium. No one will know to notify me should something unexpected happen. Lord knows no one I know would think of writing one last post should anything terrible happen to me. It all makes me very sad.
       This is becoming a thoroughly depressing post and that's not how I intended it at all! I guess what I really want to say is a big thank you to all the friend I've made through this blog. You may not realise it but you've made a lasting impression on me and if you leave for whatever reason, I will miss you.

I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.Looking forward to another year spent in your company.

xoxo Lan

Monday, 10 December 2012

Review: Fury by Rebecca Lim

THE STORY:
Heartbreak. Vengeance. Fury.

Mercy is an exiled angel cast down to earth and forced to live out thousands of different lives for her own protection. Betrayed by her eternal love, Luc, Mercy burns with fury. The time of reckoning is here and now she must wage open war with Luc and his demons. Ryan’s love for Mercy is more powerful than ever, but loving an angel is mortally dangerous. As their two worlds collide, Mercy approaches her ultimate breathtaking choice. Hell hath no fury like Mercy ...


MY THOUGHTS:
 I've been reading a fair few angel books lately because my NaNo novel is about angels and it always gets me curious to know how a writer resolves the angel/human love equation. Unfortunately, I was severely disappointed with the way this book ended and it's a testament to Rebecca Lim's extraordinary way with words that I managed to finish reading this one at all.

The Plot:
I don't think I'm the only reader who has mentioned the anti climatic way Fury ended and how upset it made them after the incredible first three books in this series. I was three quarters of the way through when I finally realised what was bugging me so much. It was the phenomenon of a lot of doing but not much actually happening. In my opinion too much time was spent on the minor details, to the point where everything became mundane. Lim does an incredible job of building up the suspense but when it came down to the actual nitty gritty, I felt like the easy way out was taken and it all pitched on a word or a choice to be made rather than anything proactive on the part of the characters. I've always maintained that Lim is the only author I've read so far who has been able to convey the magnitude of what's at stake when angels are involved. To have so much build up only to have the ending fizzle out in a page felt like an insult.

The Characters:
This for me was by far the most disappointing aspect of Fury. Where I found Mercy to be a gritty, gutsy heroine in previous books, in Fury she came off as selfish and I'm so sad to say, a bit of a Mary-Sue. For all intents, she wasn't exactly blameless in her own exile and yet she and the other angels treated the situation like she was the one who was completely wronged. Almost all the other angels were her close friends or people who cared about her so much that they would give their lives for her. I counted at least three other angels who were in love with her for no reason that I could discern. She certainly was never described as being particularly beautiful, nice or caring. She of course had super special powers that the other angels couldn't fathom and was able to save everyone with a single word. 

Then we come to Ryan. I so adored him in Mercy. He was a bit unbelievable but still charming in Exile and in Muse I was anxious for him to catch up to Mercy so that I could get a glimpse of what their relationship would be like when the two were finally able to spend more than a few minutes together. Now I wish their love was a tragic one that could never come to pass. There was a real disconnect between the Ryan that we were introduced to in the first book as opposed to the Ryan that surface in Fury. On the one hand, Lim did an amazing job of getting across how utterly useless humans are in the celestial fight between the warring angels. On the other, it thoroughly irritated me that despite not contributing in any meaningful way, Ryan became a whiny little girl intent on dragging at Mercy's coat tails until she gave in and risked many lives to allow him to follow her. The romance between the two verged on nauseating yet still managed to be essentially shallow.

The Final Verdict:
 I know it doesn't sound like I enjoyed this book much and for the most part I did have to put it down and pick it back up again several times. The thing that saved it for me was the writing. Even though this wasn't my favourite book of all time I am going to miss the beautiful writing. If only the rest of the book was of similar quality.


THE RATING
3/5

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Changing Obsession

Hey All,

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately  about my future as a blogger and  how I can make life easier for myself so that I'm not constantly absent for extended periods of time. As the blog name suggests I am an obsessive person by nature and when I am in one of my obsessive moods everything else seems to get pushed to the side. For example, I am doing NaNo at the moment and my house looks like  a bomb shelter. We've eaten take away almost every night and there's no clean laundry left.
       But I recognize that things need to change. I love my blog and being able to interact with everyone and I want to put more priority on it. So I've devised a list of things that I'm going to overhaul in order to get me back on track:

DNFs: I know a lot of people frown upon reviews for DNF books but frankly my dear bloggers I don't give a damn. I  spend 50% of my reading time with books that eventually become DNF. Sometimes because the book wasn't really my style. Sometimes because I hate it with the fiery passion of hell. Regardless, I think I should at least get credit for trying!

Reply Comments: I've decided that I'm going to scale back on replying to comments on my blog if I'm really busy unless I have something really pressing to say. That way I have more time to visit the blogs of people who do comment on my blog. Please don't be offended if I don't reply to your comment. 

Reading Challenges: I am officially dropping out of all my reading challenges. As sad as that makes me it's for my own good. Not only have I not kept up with my reading challenges I haven't even kept up with counting books as part of my reading challenge. I think it's better for me right now if I give myself some flexibility.

Reader/Writer Balance: I'm going to try and post at least one review a week and one writer post. I keep thinking that reading is cutting into my writing time but in all  honesty it's what motivates me to write and helps me improve as a writer. Also, the other week, I had dreams about creating a separate writer blog. That was monumentally stupid of me. I can barely keep up with this one. So I'm going to continue posting my writer stuff on this blog. I hope you guys don't mind.

Review Policy: I'm going to do a major overhaul of my review policy. Sad as it is, I think I was way over zealous when I first started blogging and just accepted anything to review. Most of what I've got isn't anywhere near my kinda book. So now that I'm older and wiser I am going to put in strict criteria so I don't waste my time or anyone elses.

That's all for me today. Hope everyone is well and see you on the flip side of NaNo!

Lan

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Reader's View: My Ebook Price Rant



I recently read a post over at Camille Picott's Blog that asked when an ebook is too expensive. At the time I didn't really think too much about the topic because I'm not in a position to spend big on anything and there wasn't anything I wanted to read that was over the usual $2.99 ebook price tag (I don't buy traditionally published books as ebooks because I think that's kooky).  
       Then a few days ago I read a review of a book that's been really popular. It was a glowing review in a long line of  glowing reviews that I've seen pop up all over the place. I started to get really keen so I jumped on to Amazon to give it a shot. To my horror I clicked on the Kindle edition and the price came up close to $9. At first I thought it was a mistake. So I checked again. Nope. Then I looked to see if maybe the book had been snapped up by a traditional publisher and hence the now hefty price. Nope.
       It could be crossover annoyance at having to type all day as part of NaNo but I found myself getting really irritated. I totally understand indies wanting to make money off their books the way any other author would. I get that if something is in demand it should be priced to match. But be reasonable. I won't buy a traditionally published ebook for over $5. What makes you think I'll buy your ebook for $9?? Especially when I can just get the paperback for the same amount of money.
      Before anyone asks, I've put myself in the author's shoes and totally believe that if I were in the same position I wouldn't even dream of pricing my book so high. Mostly because I know that in doing so I'd make it inaccessible to a lot of readers. I would prefer for more people to read my book even if it doesn't make me as much.
      Maybe I'm delusional in my belief that indies tend to price their books lower in order to entice readers to buy. Maybe the author no longer needs to have a cheap ebook in order to move her stock. Whatever the case, there is no chance in hell I am going to buy this book now. Neither the ebook nor the print version. EVER. I just don't understand the necessity. Angelfall by Susan Ee has been an immensely popular ebook and yet I've never seen it go over the $2.99 mark.
      I hope this isn't the way ebooks are going in the future because I am one reader that won't stand for it.


*PM if you'd like to know what book I am referring to. I can't be bothered naming names on here as I don't want to encourage trolls.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Musings on the Influence of Randomness


Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
          This month I started reading The Click Moment by Frans Johansson. It's a breakthrough book which looks at the influence of randomness and serendipity on success.While it's an amazing book and teaches that you never know what's going to speak to people and propel you into super stardom, it also takes the standpoint that often talent and hard work aren't enough to ensure you become successful.
           One of the examples used to highlight the points made by the book is Stephanie Meyer's huge international success with Twilight and how she went against the grain in terms of making her vampires differ from the norm. People responded to this in a completely random way and now she's laughing all the way to the bank.
           Whilst reading The Click Moment has been a huge eye opener and has taught me to cast my net wider as you never know what's going to strike a chord with people, it's also given me pause to worry about never being able to tap into the random opportunities and therefore never being able to reach the audience I need to enable me to pursue writing as a viable career. 
           Let's face it, half the reason why writing is so desirable to me is because it doesn't involve too much human contact. At least not for the most part. I'm not overly shy per se, I just feel like conversations always go better in my head (or in a book!) than they do in real life. Therefore, I'm not really the kind of person who jumps at small opportunities that could lead to big success. I guess what I'm saying is that if success is based on randomness and serendipity, where does that leave control freaks like me who work hard but lack the confidence to grab opportunities when they arise?
          That my friends is my insecure moment for the month!
         

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

NaNoWriMo? Misery Loves Company

So you may have noticed that I haven't been around much lately. My absence has been the result of a culmination of things not least of which is that I haven't really been reading or writing. What then would possess me to even think about participating in NaNoWriMo?? I'm not even 100% sure myself. I think it has a lot to do with my fuzzy memory. All I can remember is that I won at the eleventh hour , had a great time encouraging my fellow writers and was really happy to have accomplished it. Sure I have vague memories of my fingers, back and eyes really hurting but that's collateral damage I suppose :)
       Who's with me this year?? My profile name is Write_Obsession if anyone wants to add me as a friend!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Writer's Corner Guest Post: Multiculturalism in YA by Camille Picott




Since I read Camille Picott's children's book Raggedy Chan a while back, I've had questions about multiculturalism in YA books and in books in general rolling around in my head. IMO not only is there not enough multicultural representation happening in books/TV/media in general but when it is done, we tend to Westernise it anyway to make it more palatable. So, when Camille offered to do a guest post on my blog, I jumped at the chance to get her views on the topic!

 ***

I was thrilled when Lan asked me to write about multiculturalism in YA. It’s a topic that’s near and dear to me. My personal speciality is speculative fiction with Asian influence, but I love all multicultural YA.

I’ve seen multiculturalism explored several ways in YA fiction. Here are some examples I’ve found:

Direct: The author reveals the ethnicity of the character and weaves the experiences of that ethnic identity into the story. The Direct method is generally found in stories with a contemporary aspect and portray “real” ethnicities. (As opposed to fictional ethnicities, like elves and orcs.)

A great example is Rick Riordan’s Kane Chronicles. The two main characters, Sadie and her big brother Carter, are half black, half white. Sadie shares the experience of being raised by her white grandparents and never feeling like she fit in.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the first book in the series, The Red Pyramid, but I remember feeling very connected with Sadie’s experience of being mixed. I appreciate the fact that the author tackled a multicultural subject in mainstream fiction.

Indirect: Multiculturalism and ethnic minorities are portrayed in fictional worlds with fictional races.

The example that comes to mind here is Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. Again, it’s been a while since I read this book, but I do recall that the main character, Tally Youngblood, is not white. Ethnicities and races as we know them today do not exist in this world; instead, the world is divided between those who are Ugly, and those who are Pretty.

I did enjoy the Ugly versus Pretty divide that Westerfeld explores. In this fictional world, the fact that Tally isn’t white doesn’t matter to the story at all; the fact that she is Ugly is what matters.

I enjoy the indirect approach when it’s done well. With this story, I think many readers can identify with being Ugly. But if one is looking to connect with a character because she’s non-white, this isn’t the book for you. 

Passing: When a character has a multicultural or minority background but essentially passes for being white.

I first learned about “passing” in college from my roommate. You can read an in-depth article on it here. In a nut shell, “passing” is when a person from a minority or mixed heritage attempts to pass as part of the main “white” majority.

In Marie Lu’s Legend, the main character Day is primarily of Mongol descent. But he has blond hair. This rings true to me—in my own family, I have cousins who are 25% Chinese, yet they have blond hair and blue eyes.

I have to admit, I was personally disappointed that Day doesn’t “look” Mongolian. For me, it strips away the coolness of having a minority main character. Even though the way his looks are portrayed is totally realistic, I would have loved for his ethnicity to have been more apparent in either his looks, tastes, or actions. But that’s just my personal preference. This isn’t meant to be an insult to Lu’s book, which I enjoyed.

What are some multicultural YA books that you have read? Have you encountered any of above-mentioned multicultural examples in other YA books?

***
Thanks Camille for the great insights. I haven't read the Uglies series but I want to give it a go to see how Westerfeld handles the issue. On my part I think self published authors do a much better job at cross cultural representation than traditionally published authors. Possibly because they're not hindered by publishers who want to whitewash so that books are more marketable.
      I come from a non English speaking background and even I seek out books where the characters are essentially Caucasian.  It would take a much greater mind than mine to psychoanalyze that but I think part of it has to do with the greater representation of Caucasian characters in books and movies. I've been especially disgusted by Hunger Games Controversy as well as the supposed outcry of the casting of an Asian actor in The Mortal Instruments movie. It's funny because I think most readers would like more diversity in these mediums. It's only the select few who ruin it for everyone (as usual!). Thankfully, with the emerging popularity of ebooks and titles like by Sulan: Episode One: The League Camille and Telesa: The Covenant Keeper and its sequel When Water Burnsby Lani Wendt Young, I think multiculturalism is going to take books by storm very soon!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group: When the Ideas Run Out...

Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        I've been doing a bit of archiving this last month while I've been away. One of the things I've cleaned up is my folder of potential novel ideas.  I have bits a pieces of books I've started, quotes I like, research I've done and even full novels I've scrapped. It's amazing how much stuff you can collect as a would be writer. A lot of the stuff I collected when I first stated to entertain the idea of writing a book. It's been a while now since I've had an idea for a book that I just have to write. And that got me thinking, even though I have a folder full of ideas, what happens if one day I run out of ideas? What if I only have so many stories in my head and once I've used them all that's it?
       For the past couple of months I've struggled to come up with ways to make my characters and world building distinct between the books I write. Now I'm starting to wonder if it's just because I don't have enough ideas. This completely freaks me out. What if this is all the inspiration that I get and after these few books I'm going to be cut off? I'm probably jumping the gun bigtime because I haven't even finished editing the my first book yet, but as a would be writer, having no ideas really scares me.
      Do you guys get like that sometimes? Do you get the feeling that your week of writer's block could become months and years of writers hiatus? Am I just being paranoid? Thoughts please!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Review: Sulan by Camille Picott


THE STORY:
Sixteen-year-old Sulan Hom can’t remember life before the Default—the day the United States government declared bankruptcy. As a math prodigy, she leads a protected life, kept safe from the hunger and crime plaguing the streets of America. She attends the corporate-sponsored Virtual High School, an academy in Vex (Virtual Experience) for gifted children.

Beyond the security of Sulan’s high-tech world, the Anti-American League wages a guerrilla war against the United States. Their leader, Imugi, is dedicated to undermining the nation’s reconstruction attempts. He attacks anything considered a national resource, including corporations, food storage facilities—and schools. When Sulan witnesses the public execution of a teenage student and the bombing of a college dorm, she panics.

Her mother, a retired mercenary, refuses to teach her how to defend herself. Sulan takes matters into her own hands. With the help of her hacker best friend, Hank, Sulan acquires Touch—an illegal Vex technology that allows her to share the physical experience of her avatar. With Touch, Sulan defies her mother and trains herself to fight.

When Imugi unleashes a new attack on the United States, Sulan finds herself caught in his net. Will her Vex training be enough to help her survive and escape?


MY THOUGHTS:
I can sum up my thoughts about Sulan: Episode One: The League in one sentence: Traditional publishing is in serious trouble. I don't know where the industry is going to go when authors like Camille Picott are starting to choose to self publish. Sulan is such a high adventure, easily accessible story that I didn't come across many of the issues I tend to have with other YA novels. That's got to be saying something when you guys know how picky I can be.

The Basics
Sulan's world is a world like no other that I've come across in the YA genre so far. It boggles my mind the amount of research and imagination that has gone into writing this book. I can see dystopunk taking off in a big way. Though I'm not a huge fan of sci-fi, I think Camille has done well to make the science is Sulan accessible to the layman reader. Especially since I can really see the world going in this sort of direction in the near future. A great deal of care has gone into the world building in Sulan and I think that is reflected in the slower pacing of the first half of the book. Though this isn't necessarily a bad thing, the story does take a little bit of time to really rev up but it's well worth the wait for the thrilling second half. If I had one complaint about the world building, it would be that there isn't much explanation of how the world really works outside of Sulan's immediate surroundings. It would have been nice to see what life for the underprivileged was really like. Though I'm sure these themes will be more clearly explored in later books.
      Camille's writing was one of the aspects I enjoyed most about Sulan. I'm not big on huge literary tomes and while overly pretty writing is okay sometimes, I am all for accurate metaphors and succinct sentences. I flew through the book in a matter of days and that's saying a lot for someone who reads at a snails pace.

The Characters
Sulan: I must admit I started reading Sulan with a sense of trepidation. So often minority characters are portrayed in a very stereotypical way. I don't know why I was so worried. Camille does an excellent job of creating a heroine with depth and although the story has strong Asian influences, the theme is not rammed down readers throats every few sentences as a lot of other stories do to overcompensate.For all intents and purposes Sulan is a normal teenager struggling to balance other's expectations of her against what she wants for herself. Sulan manages to have a healthy and close relationship with a female friend who isn't secretly a plot device in disguise.

Gun & Taro: I can feel a love triangle coming on. Not sure how I feel about that at the moment, but I will say that if this is where the story is going, it's getting there at a respectable pace. No insta-love in sight. Whilst I am not a big fan of love triangles, I can see the merits in both boys and would be interested in seeing how the romance plays out. 

The Smaller Players:
I would have to say that some of my favourite characters in this book are the minor ones.  One of them especially (I won't reveal who for fear of spoiling the story) is so hilarious and vivid that I wouldn't be surprised if Camille knew someone like that in real life. That Camille is able to give him such animation in such a short part of the story is incredible. In fact, the only character I didn't really feel was fully fleshed out was Imugi. He doesn't have much page time and we never get a real sense of the motivation behind his devastating attacks. I get the feeling he won't be the big bad of this series at all.

The Minor Details
I really enjoyed reading Sulan and these points are probably just me being really nit picky but there were a few things which didn't quite ring true for me. For example, Sulan is a math prodigy and has managed to achieve a perfect score on her Vex school entrance exam. I'm not sure how she does this unless the entire exam is based on math. Which I don't think it is considering the vast array of talents exhibited by other students. Also, I'm still at a loss as to why Sulan's mother refuses to let her train to defend herself. It would seem like a logical step considering the dangers Sulan faces in her new world. 

On the whole, I really enjoyed Sulan and am looking forward to the next books in the series coming out. Anyone who enjoys dystopian or cyberpunk and is tired of the cookie cutter YA novels being published these days should really give this book a try!

THE RATING:

4/5

Monday, 10 September 2012

Going MIA

Hey All,

Sorry I haven't been around lately. Some not so great stuff is happening in real life and I need some time to regroup.

I'll be back in a few weeks. Hope you are all well.

Lan xoxo

Monday, 27 August 2012

Review: Legend by Marie Lu


THE STORY
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem. From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

MY THOUGHTS

The Basics
It took me well over a year to start and finish this book because I kept having to put it down. Though the synopsis paints it as some kind of political romance/thriller, I couldn't help but notice how incredibly slow the plot actually is. For most of the story there is no real villain and the reader is left to wonder what the point of the whole thing is. If it was to be some kind of show down between two teenage prodigys than it failed miserably. A lot of reviewers have said before and I wholeheartedly agree, if you take away the chapter headings and made the fonts the same, it would be almost impossible to distinguish between Day and June's voices. The world building could have been elaborated on a lot more as many of the aspects of the world were unexplained. On the writing front, Lu is a talented writer and I liked that she used a mix of long and short sentences to break up the flow of the story telling. It made the writing more interesting. Had it not been for the writing and the lack of love triangle, I don't think I would have been able to finish this one.


The Biology

One of the main reasons I bought this book was because it was written by an Asian author and claimed to have Asian inspired characters. This aspect of the book is by far the most disappointing for me. If I sound annoyed it's because I am. I can forgive outrageous hair and other characteristics in fantasy/paranormal novels but not in dystopia. Not when you're trying to make me believe your world could really happen. For a while now I've been wondering whether some writers or their editors EVER do any genetic research before they give their characters certain physical attributes. Let me give you a quick lesson now. You CANNOT classify a person as having dominant Mongolian attributes (I'm looking at you Day) and then describe them as being blond with blue eyes. In my books dominant means more than 50%. If you're 50% Asian, you will have dark hair and dark eyes. End of story. This is basic biology. If one of your parents is full Asian and the other is blond Caucasian, you will have dark hair and dark eyes. By the time you get to a point where two dark haired people produce a child with white blond hair and bright blue eyes they are no longer dominant anything. Above all else, and I don't think Lu would have meant it to come across this way, I am insulted by the way Day looks. It makes me feel like an effort was made to write an Asian character but somewhere along the publishing line a decision was made to "whitewash" the character to make them more palatable.


The Characters

June - Present me with a rich, spoiled, seemingly perfect child prodigy and I will immediately get my hackles up. Make her stupid on top of that and I'm checking out. In my opinion June was very difficult to warm to. Besides being utterly clueless for someone who is meant to be so smart, she has a self entitled air of importance simply because she scored well on a test. She experiences loss which is sad, but the way she handles it doesn't inspire any empathy. I was hoping for a strong female lead and though June is very handy in a fight, I think her attitude leaves a lot to be desired.

Day - I have a hard time believing in Day's characterisation. No one survives living on the streets in a Dystopian novel without getting their hands dirty. And if they do, they're not a well rounded character. I expected Day to be edgy. To be rough and snarky. He was none of those things. We get told very often that Day has done some incredible things such as breaking into a bank in 10 seconds but we never see any of this in action. Despite being the Republics most wanted criminal, he sure starts trusting people very quickly.


Insta-Love

It was there. I did not like it. This novel really just wasn't for me.


THE RATING
2.5/5

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Writer's Corner: Careful Or You'll End Up In My Novel


Thanks to Jessica and her great but dangerously enabling posts about Etsy, I have become a bit of an addict. There are just so many wonderful hand made things you can't get anywhere else. Plus, a lot of the stuff is book related and I tend to go a bit nuts over that sort of thing. A few weeks ago I bought the necklace in the pic from The Book Fiend and I absolutely adore it. It feels like it was made especially for me. You see, I may seem normal (Ha!) but I do spend a great deal of my time in real life warning people that I'll write them into a book and kill them off. Even stranger, some people seem to think this is some kind of complement.
     The other day I started to get a little contemplative and annoyed that everyone else is having all the fun and I'm doing all the work. So I thought, screw it, people are going to think all the characters are based on me or my twisted fantasies of myself anyway. I may as well go the whole nine yards and just write a character who is actually based on myself!
    Am not sure if I'm going to make the character look or just act like me but I have until NaNoWriMo to figure that out. So tell me guys, have any of you ever contemplated writing a character totally based on yourself? Or at least thought about it?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Review: Forbidden Mind by Kimberly Kinraid


THE STORY (From Goodreads):

Sam thinks she's months away from freedom. After spending her life in a secret school, rented out to the rich and powerful as a paranormal spy, she is ready to head to college like any normal eighteen-year-old. Only Sam isn't normal. She reads minds. And just before her big going-away party, she links to the mind of a young man who changes everything. Drake wasn't raised as a 'Rent-A-Kid.' He was kidnapped and taken there by force. But his exceptional physical strength and powers of mind control make him very dangerous, especially to Sam. When they meet, Sam is forced to face the truth of her situation, and to acknowledge that not all is as it seems in her picture-perfect world. For what awaits her on her eighteenth birthday isn't a trip to college, but an unexpected nightmare from which she may not be able to escape. To survive, they must work together. But will their powers be enough to save them before it's too late?

MY THOUGHTS:
I'm in love with the free samples on  Smashwords at the moment. Although lately I've started to think that it's a very clever marketing scheme though of by some corporate dark elves who know that curiosity and obsessiveness is my weakness. I must admit I was drawn to Forbidden Mind for superficial purposes. The premise of kids with super powers is one that I'm exploring in my novel as well. But that's beside the point for this review :)

The Basics
From the very first sentence, I knew what I was getting into with Forbidden Mind. Sam is like a female super-spy complete with telepathic powers. The only problem for her employers is that she has a conscience.And she wants out. That's when things go wrong and the plot begins to twist in some very unexpected and somewhat disturbing ways. I can't go into too much detail without revealing spoilers but let's just say that Kinrade has a gift for upping the creepy factor of an organization that is largely faceless throughout the story. You can see why I liked this book. Forbidden Mind does what many books on telepathy leave out. It provides stream of consciousness insight into the minds of the people Sam is reading and for the most part their thoughts were very entertaining. Even though the powers weren't new, Kinrade puts her own twist on the classics and I loved her idea of the Rent-A-Kid program.

The Novella Trap
As much as I enjoyed how quick the story leaped, I feel like Forbidden Mind suffers from the novella trap. Too much plot condensed into too few words. There are a number of aspects (plot/relationships/characters) that could have been fleshed out a lot more.I'm a big fan of sling shot pacing but I have to admit there were parts of the story which moved too quickly even for me. Characters were introduced and revelations made only to be snuffed out shortly after. Much too early for their existence to have much on an impact on me personally. Though they don't physically meet until long after their psychic relationship blossoms, I still didn't feel like the connection between Sam and Drake was realistic. Thumbs up for non physical attraction romance (even though they're both hot, it's still YA remember?), thumbs down for what could be construed as insta-love.

Sometimes Less Is More
Novella trap issues aside, Forbidden Mind is without many of the other YA traps which knock off stars for me. There was no angsty teenage psycho babble, no love triangle, no TSTL heroine and best of all no secretly bitchy best friend. There was just plot, action and powers.

What more can I say? Despite being so short, Fobidden Mind was interesting and fun to read. I actually stayed up late into the night reading this one which doesn't happen that often anymore.


THE RATING:

4/5

Friday, 17 August 2012

Sulan: Free For A Limited Time!!



Next month I'm going to be participating in my first ever book tour for Camille Picott's new YA Dystopunk Novel: Sulan, Episode 1, The League.

It just so happens that Sulan, Episode 1, The League -- is available free download on Amazon from August 16th to August 20th. Download a free copy and tell all your friends! If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a Kindle Reader for free onto your computer here.

About Sulan, Episode 1: The League: Sixteen-year-old Sulan Hom can’t remember life before the Default—the day the United States government declared bankruptcy. As a math prodigy, she leads a protected life, kept safe from the hunger and crime plaguing the streets of America. She attends the corporate-sponsored Virtual High School, an academy in Vex (Virtual Experience) for gifted children.

Beyond the security of Sulan’s high-tech world, the Anti-American League wages a guerrilla war against the United States. Their leader, Imugi, is dedicated to undermining the nation’s reconstruction attempts. He attacks anything considered a national resource, including corporations, food storage facilities—and schools. When Sulan witnesses the public execution of a teenage student and the bombing of a college dorm, she panics.

Her mother, a retired mercenary, refuses to teach her how to defend herself. Sulan takes matters into her own hands. With the help of her hacker best friend, Hank, Sulan acquires Touch—an illegal Vex technology that allows her to share the physical experience of her avatar. With Touch, Sulan defies her mother and trains herself to fight.

When Imugi unleashes a new attack on the United States, Sulan finds herself caught in his net. Will her Vex training be enough to help her survive and escape?

Camille and I will be discussing multiculturalism in YA novels so be sure to stick around for that hot topic!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Review: Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

THE STORY
As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy into the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reasons to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI, and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town goes missing, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel. In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed—about God, your family, and yourself—is transformed.

MY THOUGHTS

The Basics
If I  have one goal as a writer it will be to one day write a contemporary novel. As much as I'm a sci-f/fantasy/dystopian girl, I am finding that it's the contemporary novels which keep me glued to the page. Once Was Lost was no exception. Sam had a really enjoyable and very genuine voice, as did most of the characters. It wasn't difficult to immerse myself in the Sam's world and get caught up in the mystery/kidnapping. Zarr dealt with the competing threads of Sam's life seamlessly, showing the anguish Sam felt over the missing person's search in parallel to  her personal family tragedy. I stayed up late reading this one, something I haven't done in a long time.

Symbolism Free Zone
I don't get it. I had to read about it in a review by Jenny and from other Goodreads reviews. That's not saying that the symbolism wasn't well done. I am just very dense when it comes to that sort of thing. Now that I look back on the events, it seems pretty obvious.

Is Frustration Ever Good?
Everybody who sticks around long enough on my blog (is a legend!) will know that I'm a character driven reader. It's so hard to pin down what it is about characters that makes them especially relatable. Sometimes I like them tough. Other times I like them funny or playful. Sam was downright frustrating at times. In many of the situations she faced, I found myself literally screaming at her to open her mouth and let it all out. Instead she kept everything bottled up inside and got a little sadder each day. And yet there's a tiny part of me which respected her ability to let things slide. Goodness knows I would have whipped out a can of whoop ass on her dad a long time ago. I guess what I'm saying is that I liked Sam because she's not at all like I am. She has the ability to understand what other people may be going through and thinks things through before she says anything. As much as it frustrated me that she didn't go postal, I have to agree it wasn't in her character.

The Religion Thing
I wasn't sure if I should talk about the religion thing but then I figured, hey, this is MY blog. Even though there's not overly a lot of blatant religious teaching in this book, I still err on the side of "it's a religious book." There's a lot of soul searching and I personally felt that there was a tendency to forgive and forget and let's move on. From what I can see, Sam and her family don't really deal with their issues so much as wait for them to blow over. Maybe the category of this book as YA precludes it from going into too much depth, though I suspect it's really just a religion thing. That kind of disappointed me because I would have loved to see the issues being dealt with on some level. everyone just seemed to want to keep things 'nice.' Maybe it's just me. On the whole, I still enjoyed the book and am looking forward to reading more of Zarr's work. 

 THE RATING
4/5

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Just Plain Insecure


Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
       I'm getting stuck into edits at the moment and aside from the usual frustration that I'm so slow, I'm starting to get insecure about the quality of my work. It's funny how when you're actually writing, things seem to be so rigid. There's no way for you to say what you want without writing it a certain way. Then you get a little distance and come back to edit and it's almost embarrassing how many typos, plot holes and general inconsistencies there are.
       What if the writing is actually terrible? What is no one wants to read my book? What if there's too much Aussie slang for anyone to decipher? These are all the things running through my head at the moment and I thought it would be better to share and not just bottle it all up. Would love to hear from others who have had the same insecurities.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Bloggin' Tough

Hey All,

Am using my limited internet time today to pass on an important message about the dangers of using unauthorised pictures on our blogs.

Jessica from Thoughts at One in the Morning summarizes it perfectly in her post. Check it out HERE.

If some of my posts look funny in future and the graphics are all dodgy stick figures from MS paint, you'll know why.

Lan

Thursday, 19 July 2012

We Interrupt This Program......

Hi Guys,

Have to make this quick because I'm blogging on borrowed time. The internet at home has gone completely haywire so I haven't been able to blog for over a week. Withdrawal symptoms are quite bad. Luckily I have the phone I can use to check your blogs.

Hopefully I will be back up and running soon. Think of me as I struggle through another phone call to my internet provider and assure them for the thousandth time that I have my modem plugged in and I have turned it off an on again.

If I come back crazy, you will know why.....

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Blogspiration: Staying Motivated

Last night I had an epiphany. I spend way too much time moaning about blogging and writing when really, they are some of the most fulfilling things in my life. I was going to start up my own meme but why would I do that when the amazing ladies at Saz101 and GrowingUp YA have done it for me! Enter Blogspiration where I will vent some of my positive energy instead of the insecurities I'm constantly spread. I don't know if the rules say I'm allowed to write a massive post to go with the inspirational pic but I claim newbie ignorance this time!

I didn't particularly enjoy the movie Love Happens, but I did spend the whole time lusting over Jennifer Aniston's pretend career as a florist with the coolest shop imaginable.  I mean, she had old french display cases converted into flower coolers. That is beyond awesome.
       One day when I am super famous and totally rich, I am going to open a florist/cafe/library. It'll be a quaint little place that smells like fresh flowers and coffee and baked bread and cookies. Where people can browse and read for as long as they like. The store will be stocked with books I like to read, foods I like to eat, flowers I adore and best of all, in the down time, I can write till my heart is content. Come to think of it, these seems like very selfish inspirations. Oh well :) It's my blogspiration and I'll dream if I want to!

Have a great week guys!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Insecure Writer's Support Group: What Trolls Beneath


Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     This week's topic is a very personal one for me so bear with me guys. I have a very bad habit of stressing about thing that haven't happened yet. This is one of those things.
     I worry that I won't be able to stop myself from reading bad reviews of my book and going into anxiety mode or worse, troll mode.
     I've trolled before (long long story and way before I started this blog) and however justified I felt when I did it, I just don't want to fall into that trap as a self published author.
     As a writer, I know how much of my heart and soul I've put into my story. I'm sure all writers have the intention of staying neutral and taking the moral high ground, but when you read a review that tears your book to shreds and then defaces on it's remains, I totally understand the urge to lash out at the reviewer on their blog/Goodreads/Amazon.
     As a book review blogger, I firmly believe that when writers, whether traditional or indie, decide to put their books out into the world, they should be ready for the reaction. Good or bad. It's fine to rant and rave about reviews in private but it's never okay to unleash on a reviewer no matter how unfair you feel the review is. Not only because everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but because one small comment always snowballs into a fiasco. As big as the blogosphere is, it can turn into a a very little pond, very quickly.
    If only theory and practice could meld together so well in real life. So, my insecurity this is month is that in a moment of weakness, I'll decide to leave a bit of feedback on a review. I'm wondering if anyone who is already published has ever thought about doing that or if I'm the only nut job around?
     Above all else, this is a plea to you guys who I spend my blogging days with, DO NOT let me shame spiral into a nutcase author. PLEASE!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Review: Muse by Rebecca Lim


THE STORY
An angel in exile, caught between lives ... and loves

Mercy is an angel, exiled from heaven, and when she wakes in the body of nineteen-year-old Irina, Mercy discovers that she′s one of the world′s most infamous supermodels on the verge of a very public breakdown. Against the glamorous background of Milan′s opulent fashion world, Mercy continues her increasingly desperate search for Ryan Daley, the mortal boy she remembers falling for in a past life. But this time, Mercy′s memories and powers are growing ever stronger - and she begins to doubt the pleas of her dream lover, Luc, as more of her mysterious past is revealed. Are Luc′s desires as selfless as her own or does he want her for a more terrifying purpose?

The grand scale celestial battle for Mercy′s soul builds to an incredible stormy crescendo as archangels and demons clash in a cataclysmic showdown that not all will survive ...

MY THOUGHTS


The Basics
I started reading Muse a couple of months ago and had to put it down for a rainy day. I knew I'd need it as a back up after a particularly terrible bout of YA books. Based on other reviews I've read, I know that some readers don't like Mercy as a character. I personally love her. She's cold and often uncaring and just the closest representation of how I think an angel would behave. 
      This installment sees Mercy sub planted into the host body of world famous supermodel Irina. I love how Mercy is unaffected for the most part by Irina's lifestyle and beauty. She neither covets nor shuns Irina's looks and astounding wealth. Though that doesn't extend to her appreciation of beauty in her male counterparts. A trait she freely admits to having. And who could blame her? If I rolled with a horde of gorgeous angels I'd be swooning over them too. Not that Mercy does this is the normal YA sense. In fact Mercy does nothing in the normal YA sense and I think that's why I love her so much.
     Mercy finally breaks free of the bonds which hold back her memories and we learn of the events leading up to her exile as an angelic body snatcher. I must admit I'd already figured out most of the reveals, but that didn't really phase me. It was obvious that the memories weren't meant to be difficult to work out, more that Mercy herself had so much trouble piecing them together because the angelic interference brought on my her constant body shifts. 
     It's clear how much research Lim has done for this series. Where other books just skim the surface of the world of angels, Muse in infused with  layer upon layer of it. I'm doing a lot of research into angels for my own story and I had a semi attack of excitement every time another angel I recognized appeared.

The Craft  
I'm going to take a moment to let myself be jealous of Rebecca Lim's incredible writing talent. Like the previous books in this series, I can only describe the writing style as a poetic symphony. The style fits particularly well with the heavenly plot, adding a sense of etherealness that I haven't seen before in any book except maybe Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Lainy Taylor. 

The Literally Star Crossed Loves
I complained of a lack of Ryan in the last book. That complaint still stands. What's with Aussie writers and the ability to imprint a character so vividly on a reader without giving them much page time? Ryan is the kind of love interest I want to be able to write. He's sweet and easy going which is hard to pull off given the scale of the events in this book. Sure it's unbelievable that he keep uprooting himself to go in search of her but no less so than some of the other stuff that happens in other books. I'm in awe of how accepting he is of the stratosphere of crazy that gravitates towards Mercy. How vulnerable he is as a mere human in the face of the highest order of angels. I can't see a HEA for Mercy and Ryan but that won't stop me from hoping for it.

One Tiny Complaint
I've only just realised how large the print in this series is and wish that the books were longer so that more time could be devoted to flashing out a few things. Things like people's reactions to Mercy's true nature for one. I know if I found out there was an angel inhabiting the body of someone I knew my reaction would be a heck of a lot of screaming and not such easy acceptance.

THE RATING
4.5/5



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