Archive for August, 2011

Free Book Fridays!

Exciting news people! And not just for me, for ya’ll too.

Coming up next week is the one year anniversary of this blog. Now granted, it was only a school blog at that point, but still…On September 9th, 2011 I will celebrate one year of blogging. And I have decided that to celebrate the close of my first year I am giving four books away.

YEAH! Free books!!!

(Sadly, it is Border’s GOB prices that have made this generosity possible. Please show them some love before it’s too late.)

Starting on Sept. 9th, I will be giving away one book to a lucky reader every Friday. All you have to do to win is simple: Talk to me! Starting with this Friday, I will be showcasing each one of the books I plan to give away. I’ll talk about how it has influenced me as a reader and as a writer. Then I’ll turn it over to you. Reply back to the post and you will get one entry in the drawing. One name will be pulled Thursday night and the winner for each book will be announced and contacted that weekend (Sorry, US only).

Exciting, right?

But wait, there’s more!

You can get extra entries in one of three ways. First, you can follow me on Twitter (@TheGladElf), this is good for one entry into each of the four drawings.  If you’re already a follower of mine, then take a look at option two. The second way is to comment another one of my blog posts and then retweet it (make sure you tag me so I know), you will get one entry into each drawing. For the most part, this is a one-time deal. While I would definitely appreciate the extra RTs, you will not be counted more than once unless you already follow me. If you follow me already, I will allow you to do this twice (making up for the fact that you can’t cash in on option one). The final option is to subscribe to my blog. If you click that little button on the right that says “Gimme More!” you will gain not one, but two entries into each drawing. Just make sure that you leave me your email address to cross reference with my subscription list. For those of you that already subscribe to my blog, don’t worry. You are eligible for option three as well. Just shoot an email to musingsofthegladelf@gmail(dot)com letting me know that you want your double entries too (make sure you use the email address that you used to subscribe).

Alright, now that that’s said, I guess the only thing left for me to do is let you know which books I will be giving away.

(Feel free to insert drumroll here)

Each of these books (or authors) has had an impact on my life as either as a reader or as a writer and I love to share them with anyone I can.

Don’t forget to check back starting on Friday for your chance to win!

Ten Signs That You Might Be A Rabid Reader

"I Love to Read" by Carlos Porto

One of the requests I get most often from my friends is to use smaller words. Now I’m not whipping words like “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” out a daily basis (and that is how you spell that, I checked). But I have been known to use some more obscure words. like morass and, well, actually, most of them escape me right now. Anyways, this happened just the other day and my reply was (as always), “Sorry, I read a lot.” (To which most people tell me to get a life, I usually disagree.) But that got me started thinking about other signs that a person read a LOT! So here’s my list of ten:

  1. Vocabulary- As I said before, when you devour books like me and some of my friends do, it affects how you talk. You use more intelligent words and more complete sentences. People notice. My mother actually had people thinking that she had a college degree before she got a college degree, all because of how she talked. And she talked like she did (does) because she read.
  2. People make you leave the book at home or in the car- This has literally happened to me. I have had friends that told me to leave the book in the car. I have decided with other friends to leave the book in the car so that we would actually hang out. That’s a rare occurrence, but I always get grief for carrying a book with me everywhere. But hey, you never know. There have also been times that I’ve had to hid a book (as is now the case with City of Fallen Angels) because I know I will get nothing done until the book is finished.
  3. You use phrases only fans would know- Not only do you use more difficult words, but you’re also prone to use words that only insiders would get. For example, when was the last time that you told someone you’d “ping” them later. Now to you, all this may entice is a scratch of your noggin, unless of course, you’re a fan of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series. Then you know that a ping is basically a phone call (For more on how Westerfeld has affected my vocab, click on his name in my tag cloud and read the reviews). You can tell what book I’m reading (or what kind of book) by how I talk. If I start referring to people as mots and gixies and coves, you know I’m reading Beka Cooper.
  4. You acquire an inner narrator- This happens to me every time, I read a book. The characters come live in my head even when the book is closed and they comment about everything. Which can sometimes be fun, but try having Katniss in your head 24/7. It wasn’t always pretty.
  5. You randomly burst out laughing- Just admit it. We’ve all done it. A friend or family member will say something and even though it had nothing to with whatever you were talking about, it will remind you about a funny moment in a book (any book). And then comes the staring, and the shaking of the heads and the comments about your sanity. There was one series that had me giggling every time I heard the word “eyeballs” for weeks. Actually, it still kind makes me laugh when I hear that word. Or, you read something funny and start laughing…in a silent, crowded room.
  6. You compare your friends 9or yourself) to characters in books- For example, I recently compared a friend of mine with Mr. Collins from Pride & Predjudice. I’m not proud of it, but he just reminded me of the little guy. More often, while I’m reading a book or a series, I’ll start analyzing all of my friends and deciding who they’d be if I were to cast them in the book. Not sure why I do this, because I’ll never use it, but I do.
  7. You have a big purse- Or in the case of guys, you always have a backpack with you (or man bag if you’re brave wnough to use that phrase). Now I do have one…maybe two purses that are small for when I’m just carting barest essentials. However, the first criteria that has to be met when I go purse shopping is: Will a book fit in this bag or not? If the answer is no, then it had better be a really cute purse. And on sale.
  8. Bookstores/libraries make you happy- So as you may (or may not) know I went to UF my first time through college. One of my favorite places on campus was the giant, huge, mind-blowing main library (they had several). It didn’t matter that I probably wasn’t interested in most of those books. Or that I would never, ever in my life be able to read that much. Just the fact that I was surrounded by thousands, if not millions, of books brightened my day. So does walking into my local Barnes and Noble (RIP Borders), whether or not I’m going to buy anything. I just love walking the stacks and indulging in a little book lust. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling where my brain is.
  9. You try to get all of your friends to read- It doesn’t matter if they even like books; you tell them that they should read (it also happens to be your cure-all for everything from break-ups to the flu to plain boredom). You belittle them on occasion for not reading. You entice them with fun or easy books. And you get really excited when they do read, especially if they don’t like reading. In my opinion, there is a book for everyone. Now not everyone’s brain is built for fiction, but if my Dad can find something that he enjoys reading, then anyone can…unless their dead, but hopefully, they enjoyed reading while they were alive.
  10. You start to narrate your own life- This is a step up from #4, where you got your own inner narrator. You can tell that you read a LOT when you start to narrate your life…in third person. Or start talking about yourself in the third person. Doesn’t matter if it’s third person limited or omniscient, you just do it. You say “[insert name] is going to blah blah blah” or “[Insert name] thinks this, that and the other thing”. And people look at you weird. Or better yet, they join in.

So there you have it. My list of traits that I have acquired (oh, there’s one of those words I was talking about earlier) because I read. Or at least, I blame it on reading. Because otherwise, I’m crazy. This way, I’m just eccentric.

So, for those of you that don’t know—and that is probably a good deal of you—I have been on vacation in St. Augustine for the last few days. Not for the beaches, since I am definitely an anti-beach person (grew up in Florida with skin problems, so they just lack some of the appeal). Nope, it’s because St. Augustine happens to have the closest thing I could afford to an honest-to-goodness castle: The Castillo de San Marcos. What better place to take my Write-Cation? So I packed myself, my computer and a friend to act as bodyguard/slavedriver (because I am easily distracted) into my parent’s minivan and we headed off to St. Augustine for a few days research, refresh and writing. And this brings me to my main point:

It’s important to get away from it all every once and a while.

I’ll admit it. I have been a very bad little writer for the last month. I’ve been working my “real” job to death and trying to get my room cleaned and painted. That takes a lot, so I kind of put the blog and the book to the side. It’s alright to do that, by the way. As much as I want to write every single day, it’s not always possible. Sometimes, other things need to take priority. My parents needed my help getting the house ready to sell, so I gave it. And time got away from me. Rather than beat myself up and make myself feel guilty I made myself a deal. I would go on vacation and then I would go back to working seriously on my writing.

And that was the real point of the St. Augustine trip. Did I get a ton of research done? Eh, no not really. Mostly because St. Augustine is the wrong time period for me to use in my book, so I wasn’t planning to do much in the way to research (I unfortunately do not have the funds to go to a real castle over in Europe). I went more for the inspiration of touching it’s walls and to be able to say that I’ve been to real castle. My imagination can take it from there. Did I get a ton of writing done? Um, no. I only wrote about 1200 words altogether between the two nights that I sat down to work. Did I have a fun time? Absolutely. And that’s the important part. I got a chance to recharge after two packed semesters of school and a summer of working full time. I spent three days running around a city that I’d never been to, learning the differences between Spanish and British architecture (kudos if you can tell me what they are) and not worrying about anything greater than making sure I was on the last trolley back. And I got to spend time with two friends that I love dearly (one of whom I don’t see often enough and the other I of whom will be shortly be living across the Atlantic).

I am refreshed. I am recharged. And I am ready to kick this book’s butt. I am going to spend tomorrow relaxing and reading and possibly doing a little housework to placate my mother. And I’m going to go down to the library to pick up the books they have on hold for me (excited!). If I feel like writing, I will. If David and Annette are not feeling particularly talkative, I won’t. On Sunday, I will sit down with my schedule and figure out my major chunks of writing time, I will figure out what I plan to blog about, I will maybe read some email and I will definitely plan out when I’m getting my chores done (writing tends to be easier when your parents don’t have to nag). And then we will take it from there.

I guess what I’m saying is this: don’t be afraid to tell your story or your characters “Chill, let’s take some time and relax. Forget about the story for a minute.” (I’m lucky enough to be operating on my own deadline; this should be exercised with extreme caution when someone else is setting your deadlines.) Your book is important…oh boy, is the book important. But I think sometimes we forget that we are important too. And we need time to regroup. If you’re dead and tired, chances are your writing will be too. Now, you don’t have to go to the extremes that I did and go on a five day roadtrip. That’s just something I like to do every summer for the fun of it (hehe, last year I went to Hawaii—I guess this trip is tame compared to that). But maybe you decide to spend one of your days off lounging in bed with a good book. Or maybe you grab a friend and hit the mall (or bookstore). The possibilities are as endless as the personalities out there.

And that said, I suppose it’s time to fold the laundry that I was too lazy to fold before I left on Monday.

Book Review: Behemoth

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Ages 12 and up

In Leviathan, we were introduced to an alternate version of World War I. One divided not just by politics, but by sciences. There are the Clankers, who excel at mechanical inventions, and the Darwinists, who have figured out how to fabricate animals into tools and weapons. Alek, an exiled Austrian prince and a Clanker, has been hiding his identity as he lives and works on board the Leviathan, a Darwinist airship. Thanks to Alek and his men, the Leviathan has narrowly avoided the German forces and is now headed towards the completion of her mission in the Ottoman Empire. On the airship, we’ve also gotten to know Deryn Sharp, a young girl masquerading as a boy so that she can serve in the British Air Service. The two started out as unlikely allies and have become friends. In Behemoth, their friendship is put to the test though, when Austria joins forces with Germany in the war. And by the growing feelings that Deryn is trying to hide from him. Of course, Alek is oblivious. He still thinks that his friend is a lad. When the Leviathan finally makes it to Istanbul, Alek and two of his men are able to sneak off of the airbeast and disappear in the Turkish city. But the Clanker influence that helps them to hide causes no end of trouble for the Darwinists’ mission. As it becomes clear that diplomacy will fail to keep the Ottomans out of the war, the Darwinists resort to less diplomatic means to maintain the upper hand and Deryn finds herself stranded in Istanbul with no one else to turn to but the prince she should consider an enemy.

You know that great feeling you get while riding a serious coaster like Montu or Kumba? That is  level of mental loop-de-loops I was doing while reading this book. My brain noise focused into one word (well, form of expression anyways): Wheeeeee!!! As much fun as Leviathan was to read, Scott Westerfeld takes it to the next level in Behemoth. (Is anyone else biting their nails waiting for Goliath?) The plot is twistier, the emotions are higher and stakes, oh boy, the stakes just keep on rising.

In Behemoth, we get to see Deryn go through a broader internal struggle. In book one, we kind of toed the water with her character. We learned a little of her past and we saw how she has to hide her true gender from the rest of her crewmates. Her biggest problem was convincing people that she had to shave. And then she falls for the Hapsburg prince who thinks she’s a guy. Whoops. Her feelings for Alek bring about hurdles for her to jump both as a young woman and as a member of the British Air Service. Her desire to be as honest with Alek as he is with her is at odds with her certainty of how he will react if (when *cough cough*) he finds out her secret. At the same time, she struggles to decide how far she can go helping a friend before she betrays her country. From the first chapter, we see her having to confront these issues. Alek is a constant source of confusion, but it’s refreshing, because the confusion he induces is not merely romantic in nature. At every turn she is confronted with choosing which is more important: her friendship with Alek or her feelings/duty/mission/safety. Despite Deryn’s masculine dress and behavior, we get to see that deep down she is still just a fifteen-year-old girl trying to figure out how she fits in the world.

Alek gets to show growth as well. In the first book, his choices were limited. Most of his actions in Leviathan were dictated by someone else. The most he does is sneak off to try and help a downed Darwinist airship (and then get taken prisoner). He’s still a kid used to taking and following orders. But, he fights back in Behemoth. Takes the reins of his own life so to say. Getting specific would give too much away, but it’s nice to see some really solid growth in Alek…and not just the typical “Oh, the other side isn’t so bad” growth that is always seen in stories where protagonists from opposite beliefs/veiwpoints/social status are thrown together. While Westerfeld does grow both Alek and Deryn by softening their preconceived ideas about the other side, he also grows them in other areas, creating a very distinct story arc for both.

All around the board we get to know the characters in Behemoth much better. And as our understanding of Alek, Deryn, Klopp, Volger and Dr. Barlow grows, our knowledge of the world that they live in grows as well. Leviathan was all about, well, the Leviathan. We spent much of the time learning about the airship and the companion airbeast that keeps it afloat. We were up in the air and in Behemoth the reader is grounded (yes, I meant to do that). Westerfeld’s vivid descriptions are now focused on the city of Istanbul and the Clanker machines. It’s only fair, after all. The first book was about the Darwinists, obviously the second would be about the Clankers. I love how he takes history and then warps it a little, throws in some killer plot and description and  makes you want to dig deeper and find out what really happened. He  creates a desire to learn and I love that.

So often, I’ll find that my attention lags in the second book. The first volume will be all new and exciting and then comes volume two. I’ll be honest, reading volume two is not really what I want to do. What I really want to do is read the last book and find out how it all ends. Do they defeat the evil villain (Of course they do)? Does the guy/girl get the girl/guy (Usually)? Do all the characters make it to happily ever after (Sometimes)? Or does the author randomly ruin everything by turning the main man into a tree (No, I’m not still bitter about that book, not at all)? The second book is normally not gripping for me. Behemoth is one exception. Westerfeld does an amazing job of setting up for Goliath while creating a book that could stand on its own. I could totally just walk up to my bookshelf and just decide to read Behemoth at random. You wouldn’t see me doing that with New Moon or Catching Fire. With them I need the build-up of the first volume. But Westerfeld’s use of pacing and storytelling make Behemoth into a masterpiece all by itself.  And of course, it got me revved up for the release of the final volume next month.

This is a good example of:

  • Character distinct POVs
  • Character growth
  • Description
  • A riveting second volume

This book is on my recommended reading list.

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