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31 May 2011 @ 02:16 pm
Well, it's been a while. Exams are still going on, second draft of novel is almost, almost finished, lots of sorting out for university, visas, yadda yadda. Basically, I owe all of the mysterious, invisible readers of this blog an apology for vamoosing for a while.


With a shiny new book review, too.

In dystopian Chicago, sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior has one day left to choose which of the five factions she will dedicate the rest of her life to: Candor (the honest), Erudite (the knowing), Amity (the peaceful), Abnegation (the selfless) and Dauntless (the brave). However, when her choice splits her from her parents, she is torn between who she was, and who she has chosen to be. She must also fight for a place in initiation because she'd rather be dead than become one of the ostracised factionless. And while she cannot trust her friends, who all seek to gain limited places in their new faction, she relies on Four, her coach, while suppressing newfound feelings for him. But Beatrice is more than she appears, and her unique position gives her a shock when it allows her to see the corruption beneath the apparent harmony of the factions.

When I finished this book, I felt exhilarated. This book is all about choices, whether right or wrong, and Beatrice makes some very difficult ones throughout the novel. What I liked about this was that there were consequences, some of which were quite condemning. I particularly loved Beatrice, who is tough, but still willing to display kindness to those around her. What's really good is that SHE IS THE SAVIOUR - she doesn't need a man to save her. In a genre where girls are pretty much helpless, it's satisfying to see some girls toughen up and become strong protagonists.

I was also happy with the world building aspect of it; I could easily believe in Roth's vision of a dystopian Chicago (although I've never been there) and I really enjoyed aspects like the train jumping. Most of her characters are well developed and evolve throughout the novel.

The only real issue I had with the plot was the larger conflict at stake, which I felt did not have enough motivation behind it (or, if so, was not explained to an extent where I could understand the resulting actions). I also felt that in the climax, some of the more minor characters just went along with it. Sort of like, "The world's ending? Okay, let's go have tea!" Panic, funnily enough, wasn't exactly on their minds. But these were all relatively minor complaints, and you know what they say about opinions being subjective and all that...

Ultimately, the characters were interesting and gripping, which made up for any flaws that I'd perceived, and forced me to read onwards! AND TO THE SEQUEL (which will not be out for a while).

4/5 for a good read!

Read this if: you are fed up of the paranormal genre, but are not quite willing to give up the romance that is associated with it. Other books similar to it are 'The Hunger Games' by Suzanne Collins and 'I Am Number Four' by Pittacus Lore.

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
- Ring Lardner
Current Music: Florence and the Machines
11 April 2011 @ 07:15 am
Yes, you heard right! Jennifer Donnelly, author of The Tea Rose, A Northern Light - A Gathering Light for the UK - and Revolution, kindly agreed to do an interview. So, without further ado, here it is!

1. In Revolution, Andi has an extensive knowledge of music. Have you always been a music lover, or did you have to research accordingly?

Both. I've always loved music. All kinds. I can't imagine life without it. But I'm not a musician and I knew very little about music before I started writing Revolution. I had to do a great deal of research. I read extensively, and I also talked to musician friends about inspiration and the process of writing songs.

2. What was the hardest thing about writing Revolution?

Thinking about Louis Charles, the young son of France's Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, and what happened to him at the hands of the revolutionaries. Knowing that a young child suffered and died so horribly.

3. And finally, what was the most enjoyable?

Watching Andi and Alex come through their crushing grief. Watching them find the answer they both needed. Finding the answer I needed, too.

You can find Jennifer Donnelly's website here: http://www.jenniferdonnelly.com/index.html

I wholeheartedly recommend her books, which are fantastic, vivid and thought-provoking!
09 March 2011 @ 03:38 pm
So lately my luck seems to have gone up a notch or two. An A in English. Offers to debate. Winning a giveaway for Ally Kennen's set of novels.

Honestly, when I first saw them, I wondered if I'd really hit the jackpot. I mean, the books' covers are a little childish, and the books themselves are quite short. Plus there's that whole, "There's a monster in the lake" tagline.

The old adage of 'don't judge a book by its cover' comes into play here.

BEAST is about a kid called Stephen who's been in and out of care for the past couple of years, when he finally gets the call that he's being kicked out, as the government will soon be no longer responsible for him. Not only does he have to deal with the bitchy daughter, Carol, but he has a terrible secret hiding in the reservoir. A secret that may just destroy everything that he's tried to build up for himself.

I was genuinely surprised by how good it was. The premise was a little dodgy, to be sure, but the writing was punchy and the plot moved well. I liked how Stephen wasn't portrayed as stereotypically troubled, but rather as someone who had got his act together (eventually) and had settled down.I also really enjoyed the realism of it all, although I was surprised by Carol's behaviour towards the end of the novel and I thought that there should have been a better reason than the one the author gave.

Overall, a well deserved 4/5. Short, punchy, interesting.
21 February 2011 @ 11:52 pm
 I know, I know. I haven't really written much, like I'd told myself. "A blog post a week!" Well, we've all seen how well that's worked out...

To be fair, though, I've had an incredible amount of work, and then I've caught the writing bug. I've written about 10k in a week, if that's any indication to go by.

But since I'm here, I may as well tell you something important. Borders, that wonderful bookshop, is closing many stores in the States. Now, I was already aware that they'd started to close stores, since they closed the one I used to frequent back in the summer. Little did I know that it was just the beginning. They filed for bankruptcy last week, and apparently there are loads of Borders bookstores with discounted prices as they are trying to sell the shop's stocks.

A part of me (the one that loves discount books) would be over there right now, fighting the mad bag lady for that last signed copy of God-knows-what.

The rest of me is crying. Now, I'm all for indie bookstores, but regardless, this is still a blow for the publishing industry. Less places to sell = less money for publisher = more selective about manuscripts (they'll start to get more nitpicky about the word count, I reckon) = fewer successful authors. It affects everyone down the chain.

Anyhoo, going to leave you with a funny quote: "The road to success is always under construction."
Current Mood: sleepy
Current Music: davy jones potc soundtrack
 So I'm just finishing off Greg Milner's non-fiction book, and I'm surprised that I've been so fascinated. Perfecting Sound Forever: The Story of Recorded Music is a history of... well, recorded music. From Edison's cylinders to CDs, the book covers just over a hundred years' worth of recorded music. It's particularly fascinating for me, as I'm a MT student, but I think that anyone would find this a compelling read. Some of it - like how the Americans stole recording techniques from the Nazis - I already knew, but others, such as the Loudness Wars, I had no idea about.

However, it's also quite clear to see that he is not a fan of digital technology, describing it as 'alien' and 'inhumane'. I think that the book would have been better if he'd given more on the advantages of digital technology, as well. Despite that, though, it was incredibly informative and readable. It had the potential to be a dull, technical book, but Milner's quirky voice and stories really helped to keep the reader's attention.

Lately, I've been exceptionally busy with schoolwork and whatnot, but in the middle of that, I started to rewrite Subtle Gifts. And do you know what?

It feels really good.

I messed around with the POV, tense and starting point, and hey ho! It's all coming together. Granted, there will be a lot of editing work involved - the change to first person means that any scenes from another character's POV will be cut/ rearranged - but it's looking good!
Current Music: Break Even by The Script
03 February 2011 @ 09:37 pm

I read the ARC (advanced reading copy) of The Vespertine (due out March 2011), not quite sure what to expect. I had some doubts, but I was willing to give it a try.

It is 1889 and Amelia van den Broek is enjoying the summer with her fashionable cousin. She's on the hunt for a husband and although poor artist Nathaniel is unsuitable material, she finds herself unwittingly drawn to him. However, when Amelia begins to experience visions at sunset - visions that come true - she and her cousin decide to monopolise the gift as they mingle with high society.

It's all going well - until Amelia has a vision of her cousin's beloved.

Suddenly, Amelia finds herself stuck in a terrible position, and her attraction to Nathaniel is only complicating it. And Nathaniel is only making it worse.

I'm going to confess - I was disappointed. Originally, it was good. There was a really nice build up and while the language was typical of a YA historical novel (not brilliant, but not terrible either), there was still some good dialogue going back and forth. I expected, therefore, with a good build up of tension, that there would be an equally good release of it.

It seems that I was mistaken. Also - and I'm not going to spoil it - the ending was a bit lame. There wasn't enough time for the slow down and tie up of loose threads. It was too neat and too unpredictable. I would have liked a bit more explanation.

Overall 2/5 because while the opening promised something more, the rest proved to be unrewarding. Kudos, though, for getting me to read it to the end.
05 January 2011 @ 08:20 pm
I'm finally home, after taking the long 10 hour flight from Canada to Londres! Let's just hope I don't suffer from jetlag too badly...

I happened to pass a bookstore (isn't there always a bookstore?) and I came across Jennifer Donnelly's new book, Revolution. She's the author of A Gathering Light (A Northern Light for all you US people out there) and The Tea Rose. I read A Gathering Light and absolutely loved it, so I was more than happy to pick up this next, very different novel.

After her little brother is killed, Andi Alpers is far from okay. Her mother can't cope, her father is absent, and Andi is on the verge of getting expelled from her prestigious school. So her father decides to take her to Paris. Andi can't stand her father, who doesn't understand her passion for music and has put her mother in care. As rage and grief tear her apart, she finds solace in the diary of another girl, Alex, who lived during the French Revolution.

Alexandrine Paradis wants nothing more than to act on the great Paris stages, but her chances are slim. When the young Louis-Charles meets her, Alex thinks it's her lucky day. Unfortunately, the French Revolution is right around the corner. Alex is forced to watch those she has come to love - including the ten year old prince - fall prey to the demands for liberty.


In a word: incredible. Andi's voice lacks the stereotypical dreariness that most YA authors think belongs in the category of 'teenager'. Instead, Donnelly paints a vibrant picture of a girl who is on the edge of suicide, and yet so refreshing and interesting that I found myself cheering for her almost immediately. And she doesn't wallow in self-pity, despite going the trauma of slowly losing her family.

Equally, Alex is a unique and quirky character, who immerses us in 18th Century France. Even though I've never studied the French Revolution, it was very easy to understand what was going on, and the power plays were laid out clearly. However, I didn't feel like it was a history lesson. It was very much 'in novel context', and there were no large paragraphs where all I read was exposition.

Plus there's that really awesome twist at the end!

This is a definite read and I'd give it a 5/5 for being one of those YA novels that will probably be around for a really, really long time owing to its excellence.
02 January 2011 @ 11:42 am
 My mum has a copy of Wait For Me! by Deborah Devonshire and I can't WAIT to get my hands on it and start reading. It's the memoirs of the youngest Mitford sister and apparently it's laugh-out-loud-snort-coffee-everywhere funny. In the meantime, I'm still slogging through In Defence of History by Richard Evans. Must get that finished.

So I'm finally reading through my NaNo 2010. I never actually finished it, though I passed 50k well enough. What I've done is up on Inkpop, and it's got some good reviews for a first draft, as well as some good critiques that I'll need to revise it. Cloudchasers has been an unexpected success for me, and I'm hoping that with some serious revisions, I can get it polished enough to send off. Yay!

Ooh! And I got a lovely new Moleskine for Christmas. Hardback, beautiful, writer-like. As a fully-fledged notebook junkie, I've already started scribbling in it. It even fits into my jacket pocket!

And one more awesome thing: I've finished my US applications!! No more university I-want-your-inner-soul essays EVER!
Current Music: raise your glass
25 December 2010 @ 07:04 pm
Christmas Day has come and gone like a whirlwind. It was unusually fun this year - I don't know why, I have to sleep in my sister's room - and nothing actually burned. I got some AMAZING presents, I have to say!

I've been reading Stieg Larsson's novel (finally), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I've seen reviews that brand it as strange and badly translated, but i find it incredibly gripping. So far, the novel's been mainly focused on Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist about to do time for slander after losing a court case against shady but rich businessman Wennerstrom. I'm looking forward to finishing it.

Current Music: let it snow
22 December 2010 @ 11:18 am
Hi guys! Admittedly, it's been a while since I've written anything, but I've got a lot done since then. NaNoWriMo 2010 is over, and with that comes a sense of relief! Because of NaNo combined with stress and work, I was ill twice during November. However, with the end of NaNo comes a new project.

CLOUDCHASERS is about seventeen-year-old Marie who accidentally stumbles into the middle of a political conflict over Delvine, the city in the sky.

That being said, I don't really know what to do with it. I've been told by several people that I should continue with it, and right now it's proving to be more popular on Inkpop than the 'real' project.


Hugh Dennis: "Viewers of a nervous disposition may be interested to know that your television is off and I am speaking to you from inside your head..." 

Current Music: pony by erin mccarley