Sunday, January 31, 2010

Monthly Roundup - January 2010

Here's what I read in January 2010:

Why I Let My Hair Grow Out - Maryanne Wood
And Another Thing - Eoin Colfer
What I Was - Meg Rosoff
Another Faust - Daniel and Dina Nayeri
Gilda Joyce: The Dead Drop - Jennifer Allison
Divine Misdemeanors - Laurell K. Hamilton
The Vampire Just Isn't That Into You - Vlad Melich
Chasing the Bear - Robert B. Parker
Knocked Out By My Nunga-Nungas - Louise Rennison
Splendor - Anna Godbersen
Front and Center - Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Secret Society - Tom Dolby
Merrie - Vivian Schurfranz
The Giver - Lois Lowry
The Sleepaway Girls - Jen Calonita
Cat Among Pigeons - Julia Golding
How to Ditch Your Fairy - Justine Larbeleister
Girl in the Arena - Lise Hines
Lily Dale:Discovering - Wendy Corsi Staub
The Pilgrims of Rayne - D.J. MacHale

Total: 20 books

January 2010 Favorites:

Front and Center - An excellent end to the trilogy. D.J. just kept getting better in every book!
How To Ditch Your Fairy - Fairies, moral lessons, romance, humor...I loved it!
The Sleepaway Girls - I just want to go back to camp now! A great summer read.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Met my 50.000 words in 30 days goal!!!!

Okay, so I know this is totally hard to see, but this is the screenshot with my wordcount on it. It says, 50,269! Whoo hoo! Now, I'm gonna take a couple of days off from writing I think, then I plan to polish and maybe let a few people actually read it. Whew! I have new respect for everyone that participates in NaNoWriMo in November. That was the model I used...50,000 words in 30 days and it can be killer.
Also, a special shout-out here to my friend, Jennifer, at yabooknerd, for being a huge inspiration to me when she did NaNoWriMo this year.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Girl in the Arena

Girl in the Arena
by Lise Haines

Lyn is a neo-gladiator’s daughter, through and through. Her mother has made a career out of marrying into the high-profile world of televised blood sport, and the rules of the Gladiator Sports Association are second nature to their family. Always lend ineffable confidence to the gladiator. Remind him constantly of his victories. And most importantly: Never leave the stadium when your father is dying. The rules help the family survive, but rules—and the GSA—can also turn against you. When a gifted young fighter kills Lyn’s seventh father, he also captures Lyn’s dowry bracelet, which means she must marry him...

I was extremely excited to read this book. When I saw it was coming out, all I could think was, " sounds like The Hunger Games. Bad book to draw comparison from, I'm aftraid! Collin's dystopia was amazing and set a precedent for "arena battle" based books. There was no way that this book could match that world or character depth.

It's unfortunate that this book was not published first as it did have many good qualities. The idea of a Neo-Gladiator culture pervading America was interesting and possible. The idea that a woman would be forced to marry her father's killer because of a technicality...intriuging. The relationships between Lyn and the two young men in her life are also very believable. Lyn's relationships with her mother and younger brother are also very touching, honest, and believable.

A good book for readers who enjoy social commentary, cultural exploration, adventure, and dystopian fiction. I would not necessarily advise, though, that this book be pushed on every person who says they read The Hunger Games and are looking for similar reads, as it may not measure up in their eyes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thursday Tween Talk - Jan. 28, 2010

The Pandora Series

Pandora Gets Jealous
by Carolyn Hennesy

13-year-old Pandora Atheneus Andromaeche Helena (or Pandy, for short) has no idea what she’ll bring for her school project. By accident she discovers a simple box, said to contain something so terrifying and horrible that no one must ever, ever touch it for fear of inflicting all of mankind with the wrath of the Gods and Goddesses. This, of course, makes the box the perfect thing for Pandora to bring for her school project. Unfortunately, things don’t go quite the way she was hoping, and the box accidentally gets opened, unleashing all kinds of evil and misery into the world. Hauled before Zeus, Hera and the rest of immortals, Pandy’s given the task of collecting all the evils within a year’s time.

There are now four books in this series, Pandora Gets Jealous, Pandora Gets Vain, Pandora Gets Lazy, and the newest Pandora Gets Heart. These are great to recommend to tweens, especially tween girls, who really enjoyed the mythological aspect of the Percy Jackson series. Pandora is a fun, relatable teenage character, her friends are a hoot, the gods and goddesses are interesting. Each book takes Pandy to a new and interesting location and she meets many different types of people along her journey. These are fun and easy to read. I highly recommend them for the fantasy tween set!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

In the Homestretch Now...

It took massive effort, but I managed to write over 10,000 words yesterday while I was off from work. That officially puts me in the homestretch now to finishing the 50,000 words in the 30 day deadline. Hooray!
By Jan 31st, I should officially be able to say that I've written a first draft of a full length novel. Whoo hoo!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dealing with the "Devil"

I am a big fan generally of books that explore morality and decision making in interesting ways. Lately there have been several YA books that have explored these themes in what I think are fantastic settings. I think these books are important because they really make readers, both teen and adult pause to think, "How far would I go? Would I do that? What do I really believe?"

When I read about Another Faust by Daniel and Dina Nayeri, I was very excited by the premise. In a modern telling of the "Faustian bargain" (also known as a deal with the Devil), five teens are taken from their homes across Europe one night. Then five years later, they reemerge in New York's high society to dominate one of the most elite prep schools in the city. As they climb their way to the top, others begin to question their abilities, unaware of the special "talents" that the teens have received from their Governess.

Unfortunately, I did not think that the execution of the book lived up to the really interesting premise. The teens are given gifts by their "Governess," such as the ability to stop time and "hide," extraordinary beauty, or the ability to read minds, whatever it is that they desire most. Hence the title, Another Faust. Once readers delve into the story, though, and the gifts have been revealed, it is easy to discern where the story is going and unfortunately it just takes TOO LONG to get there. The book could easily have been cut about 50 pages short!

So, very cool idea...not really recommended.

On the other hand, another title, Secret Society by Tom Dolby, is very much recommended. This title is not literally based on a deal with the Devil, but it is about the proverbial selling of souls. In Secret Society, four teens are "tapped" to join an infamous secret society amongst Manhattan's elite. The four teens, very different in talents and interests, are brought together as they begin to realize just how deep the influence of the Society goes. Is membership worth their lives?

Also set in modern New York City, this book takes all of the most interesting parts of high society life in Manhattan and brings their decadence and immorality issues to light. Similar to Gossip Girl, this book shows readers the vices that teens begin to explore early in life when given the opportunity, when money and status are not an issue. The Society also allows these teens to take all of those opportunities to the next level.

Yet, while adult readers might stop to think that teens should not be participating in these types of activities (drinking, partying, etc.), teens will relate and again, this particular book approaches these issues with the question, "Should I be doing this?" Each of the four teens has to question how far they will go, what they are willing to do, to get the things they want from life. Though each comes to their own conlusions in different ways, the ending is realistic in that they all realize that they cannot leave the Society, but will have to band together to try to survive on the inside.

A very fun and slightly decadent read.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Halfway Point!!

Just another update post...

I hit 25,000 words today!
The official halfway point on my book project.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Xanth series by Piers Anthony

Xanth series by Piers Anthony

Each human character in Xanth is born with a unique magical ability, called a talent. In addition to the human characters, Xanth is populated by centaurs, demons, dragons, fauns, gargoyles, goblins, golems, harpies, merfolk, naga, nymphs, ogres, zombies, curse fiends, and other fictional beasts.

Geographically, modern Xanth resembles the real-life state of Florida. One major exception to this is the Gap Chasm, an enormous canyon a mile wide which completely bisects the country. Xanth has a connection with the normal world, which is referred to as "Mundania," its people are called "Mundanes". Although any citizen of Xanth can enter Mundania at any time through an isthmus in the northwest, Mundanes enter the isthmus in Xanth from random geographic locations and time periods throughout history.

The Adult Conspiracy is one of the prominent features of the Xanth world. Nearly every book except the very early ones contain references to the Conspiracy and its effects, particularly those novels in which the main characters are children. At its core, the Adult Conspiracy seeks to protect children from knowledge that could bring them to great harm. The precise age for entering into the world of the adults is age 18, corresponding to the age of majority in most places. The primary principle that inducts children into the Conspiracy is the understanding of the secret of "summoning the stork." In Xanthian terms, "summoning the stork" literally means to put out a call to summon a stork which will deliver to the couple a child. Other faculties of the Adult Conspiracy include censorship of foul language and the inability to have childish fun.

*Description taken from the Wikipedia entry for Xanth.

I discovered the Xanth series by Piers Anthony when I was around 12 years old. It was one of the first young adult/adult series that I read and once I discovered them, I read every novel in the series that I could get my hands on.

At the moment, there are 33 books in the series. The first book is A Spell for Chameleon. This introduces the magical world of Xanth and its magical human inhabitants, except for Bink, who apparently is without magic. Bink sets off to see the Good Magician Humphrey, who has a giant book of answers, to find out why he has no magic. Thus begins a fantastic and pun-filled adventure that sparked a wildly popular fantasy series!

When I started reading this series, though, I did not begin with the first book. I randomly picked up book 17, Harpy Thyme, and instantly fell in love with the characters and world. One of the great things about this series is that you CAN pick it up anywhere. Though there are a few themes that continue and develop throughout the series, each book basically stands on its own.
Each has a separate cast of main characters, its own series of puns, romance, adventure, and a satisfying conclusion.

Another thing that I really enjoy about this series is that it is fun and romantic, and sometimes a little wild, but without being outrageous or smutty! With the inclusion of the "Adult Conspiracy," Anthony guarantees that there are no gratuitous sex scenes and swearing is almost nil. There is a lot of suggestiveness, but a twelve-year old CAN read these books without being traumatized!

The newest book in the series is Jumper Cable. It is another fun addition to the series, though I personally was not fond of one of the characters, a wood wife, who spoke using "nature terms" throughout the book. For example, she would say "Yew look very nice today." I was constantly correcting the words in my head as I read them, so my brain began to hurt if I read for too long in any given sitting. Other than this character's speech pattern, though, it was another excellent Xanth book.

If you are looking for a fun and light read, try one of Anthony's Xanth books.

Friday, January 8, 2010

10,000 Word Milestone!

Burning drive to post...
hit the 10,000 word milestone this morning!!!!
Very exciting.
Now only another 40,000 to go.

Keep your fingers crossed!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thursday Tween Talk - Jan. 7, 2010

As I stated in my last Thursday Tween Talk post, our Library is not doing any Tween Time programs in January because the program attendance dropped so significantly last year (probably due to the weather!). So, instead I decided to do a Tween book review.

Sharp Shot
Rich and Jade series: Book 3
by Jack Higgins

Rich and Jade Chance are once again on the run— but this time, trouble finds them while their father is away on his own mission. After a breathless chase through an amusement park, Jade is taken hostage by a man from Chance’s past who is plotting a dastardly political coup in the Middle East with nuclear weapons as a threat. Worse still, the President of the United States is on his way to the region for a summit meeting. It will take all of the Chance family’s wits and skills to find the bomb and defuse the threat—and time is running out.

I thought this was an excellent choice for tween boys, reluctant readers, and girls who like the "Gallagher Girls" series. The chapters are short, it is action packed right from the first page, and though it involves some geography and politics, it is all written in an extremely easy to understand language. In fact, this book almost read like you were watching it happen on a movie screen. Definitely recommended for those sometimes hard to please tween readers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Head's Up: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

Alrighty! My first head's up!!

In case you haven't already caught wind of this...

The Kane Chronicles: Book One
Due out on May 4, 2010.

Product Description (courtesy of Amazon)
Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.

One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.

Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Three Book Challenges for 2010

Alright, other than reviewing titles that SLJ sends to me, I hardly let anything guide my reading choices. I do not plan. I wait for something to catch my eye, either by cover choice, title, subject matter, series continuation, etc. To this point I haven't committed myself to having to read any certain type of book.
This year, though, I have decided to try three book challenges. I am signing up for an audio book challenge, a Support Your Local Library book challenge, and a historical fiction book challenge (all info below). I commute about 45 mins. each way to work 5 days a week and have officially become addicted to audio books, so I decided to go whole hog on that one and agreed to "read" 20 titles. I work in a Library and check out nearly all of the books I read from my workplace. Therefore, I committed to reading 100 titles from my Library. Lastly, I realized this year, that though I never seem to pick up any historical fiction titles on my own, through recommendations, books I have to review for SLJ, and reading books that are up for awards, I end up reading a bunch of historical fiction every year, and I end up really enjoying them. So, I played it somewhat safe on that one and decided to just commit myself to 6 titles this year.

These are the challenges I signed up for:

1. The Support Your Local Library 2010 Challenge, hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog.

2. The Audiobook Reading Challenge, hosted by Royal Reviews

3. The Historical Reading Challenge, hosted by Royal Reviews

For more information, you can check their blogs for all of the rules and to sign up.
Good luck on all of your challenges!!