Archive for September, 2011



It is time to tell you about my final giveaway. And I’ve saved the best for last: The Hunger Games.

The ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (Scholastic)

I still get chills thinking about this series.

I didn’t know it was possible for a book to affect me like these books did. This book is intense. With a capital ‘I’. I was shaking when I finished the series.

Now Hunger Games allows you a little control. It makes you think that you can put it down and that you are still a functioning human being and then you read the next book. You are not in control. Suzanne Collins is in control. And you had better be ready for the ride.

Another thing that I didn’t know was that it was possible to write like she writes. I lived, I breathed that world. It was me, I was it. And that book was glued to my hand. Someday, I will have the time to reread this series, without the desperate need to know what happens, and I will be able to figure out how she did it, but I have never experienced the sensation of being unable to breath while reading a book (well, not when my asthma is under control).

You know the hype. You know it’s going to be a movie. And it is going to take the world by storm…even more so than it already has. Experience it now. Be one of those people that read the book before they saw the movie. You will experience something incredible.

To win, just comment on this blog post. Tell me about an author that took your breath away or affected you in a way that you did not expect.

Also, you can get extra entries if you do any of the three following things:

  1. Follow me on Twitter. Just make sure you leave your Twitter handle in your comment so I know to credit you.
  2. You can also comment and repost any of my blog posts for another entry. Make sure you tag me on Twitter so I know you did it, or send me the link if you choose another method.
  3. Subscribe to my blog. I will give you two entries.

Do all of this by 9 p.m. E.S.T. on September 30th. I will announce the winner on October 1st as well as draw names for any of the books that I have left.

Also, if you haven’t been convinced by my rabid fan ravings, you can check out the review here.

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Book Review: Goliath


Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

Ages 12 and up

With disaster successfully averted in Istanbul, the Leviathan and her crew are headed to an unknown destination in Asia. But of course, when you’re just a few months into a world war, trouble is always sure to pop up. The airship is rerouted to Siberia first, where Deryn has to deal with the brilliant (and possibly mad) Dr. Nikola Tesla who claims that his weapon, the Goliath, has the power to level cities from half a world away. He believes it will stop the war. Alek instantly sees Tesla’s invention as his chance to stop fighting that he feels his family is responsible for. After all, his father’s marriage to his mother, a commoner, is what made them targets in the first place. And if they hadn’t been killed, Austria would never have invaded Serbia. To further complicate things, he discovers that the boy he has known as Dylan, his best friend, is actually a girl. Hurt and betrayed, Alek pulls away from everyone but the eccentric doctor. Will Deryn convince Alek to trust her again? Will Alek be able to stop the war? And is Tesla a genius or a madman?

I have had to put this book down at least five times since I sat down to write that bit. In fact, I think I better put it back on its shelf. Out of sight, out of mind. Right?

Okay, I’m back.

So, Goliath. Oh, Scott-la, you have outdone yourself again. I’m still giggling from my favorite bits and pieces. And my fingers are itching to pick it back up and reread right now. If I didn’t have at least fifteen other books on my “to-read” list, plus the research for my book and my book, I would gladly spend another lunchless afternoon. I was little more than a bump on a log (well, bed) yesterday. You can ask my mom. A giggling, cackling, kicking with joy bump.

So what is that made Goliath so good? Other than the fact that it’s the final tome in a series that I love?

I think Scott Westerfeld’s biggest strength as a writer is his world-building. It is so easy to get caught up in the world that you’ve created and go overboard on the detail. Westerfeld has never done this for me. If I could pick one series that I would most want to have turned into a movie (a good movie, that is) right now, this would be it. Westerfeld uses beautiful, vivid, colorful detail in his story. I can almost see and touch and smell the world that he’s made in the Leviathan series. I was transported to Tokyo and to New York, as well as into the familiar passageways of the airship.

But wait, that’s not the only thing.

It’s not just this new world that he has created that makes this book so unique, but the way he integrates that world into history. For all of the new ideas between the Clankers and the Darwinists that are included, it never feels outrageous. And that’s saying something when you’re dealing with a giant flying whale. I think the reason is because he uses facts to ground the story. There is just enough of the world we know to make this fantasy real. For example, one of the characters that makes a brief cameo is William Randolf Hearst. In our world, he was a sensationalist newspaper mogul. In their world, he is a sensationalist newspaper mogul. Through his character we get to experience the conflict between the New York Journal and the New York World. We get to glimpse a little of the silent film era through him also. All of these are elements that existed in the real U.S. or A. around the time of WWI. For his use of history alone, I would recommend this series to anyone looking to write historical fiction (whether or not you’re going to change history in your book).

His characters were just as much fun as in the previous books and showed just as much growth. I loved how when Alek found out Deryn’s secret (oh, c’mon guys, it’s on the front jacket flap) he was upset for a variety of different reasons. Not just because she hadn’t trusted him or because he’d felt that she betrayed him. But more on that later. I believe that I have already talked about how well Westerfeld crafts his main characters in my Behemoth review. It wasn’t until Goliath that I truly appreciated how well-rounded his side characters are. They were never stereotypes. You know that thing they say about small actors? I think perhaps here the phrase should read “There are no small characters, only small writers.” When I shut that book, it wasn’t just Deryn and Alek that I missed (as is often the case), I miss them all. Klopp and Bovril and Dr. Barlow and even Eddie Malone (despite the desire to strangle the man). I missed their personalities and their quirks and even the way they talked.

My final favorite part of this book was the relationship between Alek and Deryn (no brainer, I know). Westerfeld could have easily ruined it for me, but instead he had the relationship grow naturally, after Alek knew Deryn for who she truly was. And though it was awkward at first, I think they both handled it in a way that showed how much they had grown over the last three books. And that’s as far as I can go on this subject without getting myself in trouble.

If you have not read Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series, I have only two things to say to you. First, shame on you for reading this whole review without having read books one and two. Second, get thee to a library/bookstore and obtain thee copies of these books. This series is in no way a waste of time and probably the most good, clean fun you will have until Oct. 4th. (You can’t see it, but typing that date has put a manic grin on my face.)

This is a good example of:

  • World-building
  • Integration of fact and fiction
  • Characterization
  • Character utilization
  • Pacing

This book is on my recommended reading list.


First off: Congratulations to last week’s winner, Mariajose. Who will be receiving her very own copy Heist Society by Ally Carter in the mail just as soon as she gets me her address.

And now, on to this week’s book: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. For those of you who’ve never heard of Percy Jackson, keep reading. If you’ve had your eye on this series for a while (or you already love the series) just skip the italic bits and get to the good stuff.

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school…again. And that’s the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy’s Greek mythology text book and into his life. And worse, he’s angered a few of them. Zeus’ master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus’ stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves. (Disney Hyperion)

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning…or really, for the last few months…you’re probably aware of some of the authors that I just adore: Scott Westerfeld, Lauren DeStefano, Suzanne Collins, Eoin Colfer, Cassandra Clare (oh, wait, I haven’t told you about her yet), Ally Carter. The list is rather long.

Rick Riordan is somewhere near the top. Like way high up there.

His Percy Jackson series is currently my most battered and beloved set of books. I’m addicted. I love Percy. I love Annabeth. I love Grover. I even love Clarisse on occasion.

I picked them up one January day, right before the movie came out (because, when possible, I prefer to read the book first).

And I could not put them down.

Seriously, I made a late night run to Barnes & Noble just to get The Last Olympian, because I could not stand just hanging where The Battle of the Labyrinth had left me. I was addicted. And I still am.

And thankfully, he didn’t stop with Last Olympian. Anything of Riordan’s that I can get my hands on, I devour. I’d probably show up to purchase his shopping list if he published it.

And it’s not just because his writing jives with my own sense of humor. Or that his characters are so memorable and fun. Or that his plots are not what I would expect from a borderline YA (actually, it’s more middle grade, but I don’t care). Nor is it the fact that I have loved Greek mythology since I was eight.

He has taken something that I love, something that I am utterly familiar with, and he has done more than retell the stories. He has reinvented them with the humor and the characters and the plot.

The Lightning Thief is the first book I bring up when I hear someone reads. It’s the first book that I recommend when someone is looking for something to read. It’s the book that I gave as birthday presents to my two best friends. I reread this series often, because I love it and because it just makes my day happier to dive into Percy’s world. I think, if I could live in any of the books that I have read, this is the one I would choose (unless, of course, I could be an elf in Middle-Earth).

You can bet that when Son of Neptune comes out, I will have scraped all of my pennies together and will be waiting on the sidewalk, for my Barnes & Noble to open so that I can take my copy home and read it. Or at least, I’ll go over right after work.

And this wonderful experience can be yours too. There is a copy of The Lightning Thief sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for someone to comment below and win it. Tell me about an author that you absolutely adore, or one that you’ve followed forever…but make sure you do it by 5 p.m. EST on September 22nd. And if you’d like extra entries into the contest, try one of the three ways below (all of which will get you entered into this week and next week’s drawings):

  1. Follow me on Twitter. Make sure you put your Twitter handle in your comment so that I know to give you the credit.
  2. Help spread the word. Comment on another of my blog posts and then post the link to Twitter (or facebook). Just make sure you give me the link (or tag me if you choose Twitter).
  3. Subscribe! This one will earn you not one, but two entries into the next two drawings!

There is a manila envelope on my bookshelf, tucked between my Dragonology calendar and an almanac from the year I was born. Inside is a folded up newspaper, something I have saved for nearly ten years. The image on the front is still striking and recognizable, even now, ten years down the road.

For my generation, September 11th is our Pearl Harbor. It is a day that we will never truly leave behind, no matter how old we get. For us, it is the day that, for one brief moment in time, the whole world stopped. Not just my world. The whole world. And God wept.

“We will not forget.” That’s what we said.

I have the decency to say that in most ways I have forgotten. The half-page, newsprint flag that the St. Pete Times printed was taken down just months after the event. I go about my day-to-day and it rarely crosses my mind. I cannot claim that it affects me, because it doesn’t. I didn’t lose anyone. I didn’t live through the horror of 110-stories of steel and concrete and glass raining down on me. So yes, in a way I have forgotten–just as many have.

But that’s the funny thing with words. The phrase, “We will not forget” will have one meaning to the group of people who lost someone in the attacks. It will have another meaning for those who lived through the attacks. And for the group that includes me?

I am about as south of New York as you can get without having to swim (there’s not much below me, mostly just swamp…and Miami). For me all the events of Sept. 11th were relayed over the television and radio and through the newspaper.

But I still remember watching the towers fall.

I remember lying on the tile floor in our kitchen/living room (why I was lying on the floor instead of sitting at the table, I cannot tell you). The was a yellow No. 2 pencil in my hand and I was working on my schoolwork. I can’t remember the subject. What I do remember is my brother bursting in the front door shouting, “Turn on the TV!” I, of course, being the older sibling, took offense at being bossed around by baby bro and demanded why. The response came, “Someone crashed a plane into one of the Twin Towers.” At that point, we still thought it might be an accident.

My family spent two days in front of the television. Watching. Waiting. Mom didn’t even make us do our school work.

Of course, then day three rolled around and she decided that that was enough and we needed to get on with life.

But, even though she tried to avoid the channels with footage of them, I still remember the videos of people jumping out the windows.

And I still can’t believe that there are people that could think it was okay to take that many innocent lives. Especially not lives like the little girl on Flight 175. Her picture shows a chubby-cheeked, happy little baby–maybe a year old–with baby’s breath in her hair. How anyone could walk right past that little girl and condemn her to death is probably beyond most of us.

September 11, 2001 was the day we saw some of the worst that humanity has to offer.

But we also got to see something else. Something that most of us will be truly lucky to ever witness. Because, in our everyday life, we may get to see good things, but we don’t really get to see humanity truly shine. It is only when we are faced with the worst that we get to see the best humanity has to offer.

In the days following the attacks on the Twin Towers, we got to see heroes. An entire generation was impacted by the stories of firefighters. Of people that carried a quadriplegic man down flights of stairs. Heroism that we so rarely get to see was shown in abundance across newspapers and television channels everywhere.

I will always remember that day. Always be able to close my eyes and see the towers fall when I stop to think about it. For we that’s the meaning of “We will not forget.”

And that’s what it says on my newspaper clipping: “9-11-01. We will not forget.”

Today I remember. Today I will thank God for the best that humanity has to offer. For the men and women that protect us at home and overseas. Today, I will look at that newspaper and be proud of them.  Today I thank all of those who stepped up on that day and every day since and confronted the worst with the best they had to offer. To all the victims, firefighters, police, and soldiers that have carried the burden of 9/11, I thank you.

Today, at least, I will not forget.

On that newspaper, under the caption is a familiar picture. A picture that impacted all of us as we contemplated horror. In the midst of tragedy and ruin, three firemen took the time to get the stars and stripes flying again. In that moment, our flag was hope.

In the midst of horror, hope is the one thing that keeps coming back.


First off, YEAH! My blog is one year old today!!!

And now, it’s time to get started with my next book giveaway, which will be:

Heist Society by Ally Carter

When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned the con of her life—scamming her way into the best boarding school  in the country, determined to leave the family business behind.

Soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, the gorgeous Hale, appears, pulling her back into the world she had only just escaped. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster’s priceless art collection has been stolen, and he wants it returned. Now. Only a master thief could have pulled off this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help.

Kat’s solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and, hopefully, just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family’s (very crooked) history. And, with any luck, she just might be able to steal her life back along the way.

This book surprised me.

And it wasn’t just because I didn’t think Ally Carter could write a series that I would love more than her Gallagher Girls series (which she did). Or that I didn’t think that it was possible to come up with a guy that was hotter that Zach Goode (which Hale is).

Now, I will admit that I was rather amazed when I put this book down and said, “You know, I think I might like this better that Gallagher Girls.” (I was not so amazed at how hard I fell for Hale—strictly in a fictional sense of course.) But, what really got me about this book was how different it was from her work that I had previously read.

I mean, it is still an Ally Carter book. Her style is all up and down the plot and the dialogue and that hilarious scene on page 283 (Yes, I’m still going on about that). But Kat is vastly different from Cammie and Hale is certainly not Zach. Heist Society takes place in world that is outside the law in the boldest sense (versus working for the government). Not only that, but it was an entirely different viewpoint than I was expecting. Carter isn’t one of those authors that changes characters and settings and still manages to write the same book anyways. You won’t find her accidentally repeating any dialogue.

This book is YA gold, and you can get your hands on a copy (if you haven’t already). If you’re curious you can read my review of Heist Society here.

Just leave me a comment between now and September 15th at noon (EST). Tell me about an author that surprised you. Was it the way they ended the book or a plot twist or something else that you didn’t see coming? Make sure that you leave me a way to contact you (email is preferable) should you be the lucky winner. You can also earn extra (note the “extra”, meaning please comment first) entries by completing the three options below. For each one that you do, you will get a certain number of entries into all four drawings, for a total of up to four extra entries per drawing. They are:

1. Follow me on Twitter (@TheGladElf). Please make sure that you put your Twitter username in your comment so I know to credit you.

2. Spread the word. Join the discussion on another one of my blog posts and then post the link through your Twitter feed (or in your comment). Make sure you tag me so that I know you’ve done it. One time use for new followers. Anyone following me before 10 a.m. Sept. 2nd can cash in twice on this option (two separate posts, obviously)

3. Subscribe! Sign up to receive my blog posts as they come out and you’ll get not one, but two extra entries into each drawing.

The only other rule for the extra entries is that if you already own any of the books, please let me know so that I can take out your entries for that particular entry.

Last Week’s Winner: Sadly, no one entered into the Crown Duel giveaway. I suppose I’ll just have to wrap it up and save it to use as a Christmas present…Kidding. At the end of the month, I will draw from any names that have been entered and give away any books that have not yet found a home.


Writing by pedrosimoes7

So…this is it. The pivotal moment that is going define the rest of your writing career. You’ve read lots and lots of books, maybe even a few on how to be a good writer, and there is now an idea in your head. An idea that you want to turn into a novel. There is a notebook on your desk and your favorite pen in your hand. You are ready to write your first draft.

But wait! You can’t just start writing–can you?

You sit there, staring at the blank page as you wait for the perfect words to come to flow from your pen. After all, it has to all be perfect  from the get-go, right?

LOOSEN UP. Don’t be afraid to write dirty (I’m referring to the quality of your writing here, not the content).

That’s what I have to tell myself. Often. Sometimes every few minutes. It is possible to get so caught up in writing something just right, that nothing gets written at all. Remember that whole “week” of writing that I did back in August? Yes, the one where I only wrote 1200 words. Part of that was writer’s block, but most of it was because I got so caught up in how the words should be put down that I wasn’t putting any words down at all. No book is perfect. There are good books, great books, amazing books and books that can fool us into thinking that they are perfect. And you know what: it took a couple of drafts to get them there. Of the two writers that I was able to poll, both said that they revised several times before they were “finished”. If someone who has been writing longer and has also managed to write and sell a trilogy doesn’t expect to get it right the first time, why should I put that kind of pressure on myself.

Multiple revisions are perfectly normal.

You gotta allow yourself to get a little sloppy. Have some fun with that first draft. Don’t worry so much about how you write it. Just write. As soon as I did that I was able to churn out 600 word in ten minutes (I know, I took a whole week off and only actually wrote for ten minutes a day). This is the draft where you get to be corny and repetitive and over dramatic and cliché. Don’t be afraid of that sentence or phrase or scene being too over the top, just write it. Allow yourself to write freely and you may discover genius that you never knew you had. You can clean out the crap later.

In the two stories that I have actually finished there is a lot that needs to be worked on, but there are also pieces of it that blow me away because I find them absolutely brilliant. There is dialogue and foreshadowing that I thought was too (insert word here) at the time, but once I pulled back and looked at whole picture, it actually kind of fit. And I couldn’t believe I had written it. All it needed was some polishing up.

When you’re growing flowers, you need to be ready to do a little weeding.

This is the most important thing that I felt that I took away from my little write-cation. When I find myself stalling because I want to get it down perfectly, I just give myself a slap on the wrist and start writing again. I have no doubt that I can write an amazing book, but first I need something to work with.

 


As I mentioned earlier this week, this is the first in a series of weekly book giveaways. Throughout the month of September, I will give away four books that have influenced me as a writer (The list can be found here). This week the bo0k is:

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

It begins in a cold and shabby tower room, where young Countess Meliara swears to her dying father that she and her brother will defend their people from the growing greed of the king. That promise leads them into a war for which they are ill-prepared, a war that threatens the homes and lives of the very people they are trying to protect. But war is simple compared to what follows, when the bloody fighting is done and a fragile peace is at hand. Although she wants to turn her back on politics and the crown, Meliara is summoned to the royal palace. There, she soon discovers, friends and enemies look alike, and intrigue fills the dance halls and the drawing rooms. If she has to survive, Meliara must learn a whole new way of fighting–with wit and words and secret alliances. In war, at least, she knew whom she could trust. Now she can trust no one… (Firebird Fantasy)

Of the four books I’m giving away, this one is the only one that actually dates from my high school reading years. Which means that I first read this book (well, these books…but we’ll get to that) at least eight years ago. Wow, I just blew my own mind.

Every Friday after co-op (weekly gathering of homeschoolers for socializing, also, some teaching occurs as well), I would head across the parking lot to the public library behind the church we used. I can still close my eyes and picture Crown Duel sitting on the top shelf, a white spine mixed in with some many other darker colors—well, two white spines. Crown Duel was originally published in two volumes: Crown Duel and Court Duel. I personally, prefer the two separate titles because of the symbolism that the changing of one creates, but seeing as how I have no say in the matter… Anyways, I pulled down the books and there  she was, this girl with sword propped over her shoulder and a  nasty looking black eye. It looked exactly like my kind of book.

I believe that I mentioned in a previous post how Lord of the Rings was the book that got me writing (First person to correctly identify that post gets a double entry into this drawing). Crown Duel is the book that got me writing my own stuff. It is also the book that most heavily influenced the first drafts of the Cinderella retelling that’s sitting on my computer waiting for me to rewrite it (which will happen, just as soon as I finish with Mind Games and etc.). The only real story I had completed before then was my little LOTR-wannabe. While the idea for Shattered‘s premise was inspired by another book entirely, everything else was originally influenced by this book right here.

My copy has been read a couple of times, so it’s a little battered. It even spent a few years buried in my brother’s room because he’d been interested in it (I finally told to either find it or buy me a new one). This is one of the few books that I have been able to introduce into my circle of friend (come to think of it, all four books make that list) instead of the other way around. It has everything that I love in a book: adventure and misadventure, a smart sword-wielding heroine, mistaken identity, a dysfunctional romance (in a good way, not in a Cathy-and-Heathcliff way) and a whole lot of intrigue.

And you can get you hands on your own copy of this book (as long as I will be shipping to an address in the good ol’ U.S. of A).

How?

Just leave me a comment between now and September 8th at noon (EST). Tell me about a book that found you. One that you weren’t really looking for, but you ended up taking home anyways. Make sure that you leave me a way to contact you (email is prefereable) should you be the lucky winner. You can also earn extra entries by completing the three options below. For each one that you do, you will get a certain number of entries into all four drawings, for a total of up to four extra entries per drawing. They are:

1. Follow me on Twitter (@TheGladElf). This is good for one entry for anyone who follows me after10 a.m. today EST. Please make sure that you put your Twitter username in your comment so I know to credit you.

2. Spread the word. Join the discussion on another blog post and then post the link through your Twitter. Make sure you tag me so that I know you’ve done it. One time use for new followers. Anyone following me before 10 a.m. today can cash in twice on this option (two separate posts, obviously)

3. Subscribe! Sign up to receive my blog posts as they come out and you’ll get not one, but two extra entries into each drawing.

The only other rule for the extra entries is that if you already own any of the books, please let me know so that I can take out your entries for that particular entry.

And now it’s your turn!

(P.S.-Here’s the original cover for Court Duel as well. I absolutely adore this cover, another reason the one volume version makes me sad despite its purse-friendly size.) —>

EDIT: The deadline has been extended until 9:00 p.m. Sept 8th.

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