Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Lady of the Rivers: Book Review

For the most part my book reviews have been positive, but this one will deviate from that theme. 

I read Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl a few years ago, and I remember it took me awhile to get through it. I find that Gregory's writing style is harsh, and almost clinical, and I think it's a struggle for me to read her novels. I should have know that when I went to read The Lady of the Rivers.

First, can we talk about the fact that Gregory does not write her series in chronological order? That irks me so much! When I started looking into the books for the Cousins' War series I was confused at which book I was supposed to read first. I had to do some research, and I found that although this book is the third she wrote in the series, in chronological order it starts here, so I thought I should read Jacquetta's story first. 

Jacquetta's narrative was interesting at first as it starts with her as a young girl meeting Joan of Arcadia, and we find out that she has inherited the gift of the Sight. Her first husband tries to coax out her gift, but to no avail. Those parts of the novel were interesting and peaked my attention, but then the book falls off from the mystical side and turns into more about the politics of the time. At this point, I started to lose interest in the character. I didn't feel a lot of empathy for her, and I didn't really care what happened to her. Also, I felt like she was pregnant every chapter, but was rarely around her children. I don't know if this was accurate for ladies-in-waiting to Queens at the time, but I thought she was pretty neglectful.

The next book in the series is supposed to be in the Queen's perspective, so I think I will try to finish the series...eventually. I think it's good to read books that are a challenge, and this book was certainly one of those. Even though it was hard for me to read, that doesn't mean I liked it that much. I'm giving this one a 4 out of 10.

Got a different opinion about this book? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bring back Reading Rainbow!!!


I found out about the Reading Rainbow Kickstarter, when I was scrolling through my Tumblr dashboard tonight. RR went off the air in 2009 after nearly three decades of being on. They kept current with an app, which is currently the number one educational app. Despite that, the state of literacy in this country is in danger, so they want to bring it back for everyone, and in a big way.

Growing up in the '90s this show was pretty pivotal to my childhood. Reading has always been an important part of my life. I like to think that my mom teaching me to read at the age of 3 and watching RR as a child were key catalysts to shaping my life as a reader. I also may or may not be named after a Star Trek: The Next Generation character, it depends on whom you ask, so I think I was drawn to RR because the host LeVar Burton was a familiar face to me. On a side note, at first I was so confused why Geordi La Forge was not wearing his VISOR and talking to me about books, but I loved it in the end.

The thing I love about this project is that they have a well thought out plan for their goals, and have thought of how to reach kids of the digital age. They already have a tablet app, but to reach every kid the idea is to be on the web. Being on the web is pivotal to everyone, not only kids. How much time do you think you spend on the internet? Way too much. But the plan to provide interactive books and video field trips to kids everywhere online is a great idea. Not only that, but they want to also provide classroom segments for schools for free. That's a brilliant idea!

I fully back this campaign, and I am amazed at the outpour of support it has gained within its first day. Within 12 hours of starting their kickstarter, RR met their goal of $1,000,000. That is amazing! Since they met their goal they will be able to bring RR to more than 1,500 classrooms, but that doesn't mean this campaign is over. The kickstarter will remain open until July 2nd, and the RR team will be expanding their goals to make a difference.

I've posted the video below so that you can take a look. Maybe Mr.Burton can explain it better than I can!

P.S. Fun fact, when I texted my brother about this he responded with, "I like that a lot doo doot doot". I'll let that joke sink in. 

Happy Reads Everyone!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Like, Try, Why

I posted before about how much I LOVE book recommendation graphics. In college, I learned that I was a visual learner, so I think these image graphics appeal to my brain. I've seen a couple of them here and there on various social media platforms, for the most part on Tumblr. However, if you are a huge young adult fan, like me, I highly recommend checking out what Epic Reads does with their Like, Try, Why graphic book recommendations.

Above is their most recent Like, Try, Why, which they posted on their facebook last Friday, but has not yet gone live on their blog. I love when I can find recommendations like this, especially when they give you some sort of reason why you would like the book they are recommending.

Sometimes Goodreads is not that accurate, and they start recommending every book in the particular genre that you are currently reading. I see it all the time, and sometimes I try a book that it recommends and it just isn't what I thought it was. Albeit, this can happen with these Like, Try, Why recommendations, but I think since they are a little bit more personal, a reader is more likely to enjoy a book recommended in this format.

I love what Epic Reads is doing with these. Go check out some of their older graphics on their blog.

Got any recommendations? Or know of any other sites doing similar graphics? Leave me a comment below!

Happy Reads Everyone!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Why I love Sarah Dessen

My favorite author is Meg Cabot, duh, if couldn't tell already, but Sarah Dessen is another favorite that I flock to often.

I was introduced to Dessen's body of work in 9th grade. This girl Jess who sat next to me in honors English would lend me her mangas, and one day she was reading Dreamland. I was always a big reader, even back then, so she highly recommended it. Geez, was that book heavy!

Whenever someone is on the fence about Dessen, or they tell me they really don't like her work, my first question is, "Have you read Dreamland?" If they say no, I tell them they have to read it, because of all the books Dessen has written I think that one is her best. That book is hard to get through and deals with some heavy things so readers might find it hard to swallow, but I think it's an essential piece of literature. Go read it, right now!

One of the complaints I have heard about her novels are that they tend to be formulaic. I have also seen the phrase "A Sarah Dessen Book" used multiple times. I will admit that I noticed a lot of her protagonists come from broken and/or blended homes, so I think that is where some of the formulaic criticism is coming from. I don't think this aspect really takes away from her books, and since we live in a society where fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, I think it makes sense. It certainly helps for teens to better relate to the characters they are reading about. My parents have been married for 30 years, but even I found that I was able to relate really well to Dessen's protagonists when I read her books as a teen.

I enjoy Dessen, not only because I think her protagonists are very relatable, but because I love the intertwining of her novels. All of her novels are set in the beach town of Colby so sometimes characters from previous novels will show up as "cameos". I always loved that about her books, because if you are an avid reader of hers you will pick up on those "cameos" quickly. I love the idea of having companions pieces as opposed to trilogies or larger series so much that I am doing that with the two novels I am currently working on.

I always enjoy Dessen's work and feel like I get sucked into her books so easily. I was talking to a writer friend from college the other week about Dessen, and she said every time she thinks she won't like a new novel from Dessen when she reads it she remembers why she loves her books. I full heartedly agree.

Got a favorite Sarah Dessen book? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

Happy Reads Everyone!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Songs of Willow Frost: Book Review

Going into reading Songs of Willow Frost, I had no idea what to expect from it. I won this book from Random House's Pin to Win contest back in December, so I had just skimmed the summary thinking it would be interesting. I had never read anything by author Jamie Ford before reading this, but I am really glad I gave this book a chance.

One of the biggest problem with literature right now is that there is not enough diversity. This is especially a problem in young adult fiction. Things are starting to change, which is good, because we need to read about different people and see from their perspectives. Sometimes I feel like I am reading about the same 15-year-old white girl in YA, which is why I will flock to John Green for a male perspective or sci-fi adult fiction to get away from it for a bit.

I liked Ford's book because we weren't seeing the same character rehashed in the narrator. Not only was the novel written in the perspective of the Chinese-America boy William, but also in his mother's perspective. I thought it was a refreshing take for a novel, and I really liked the back and forth with their narration.

Ford didn't write this novel in chronological order, and that was a cool risk he took with the novel. I really enjoyed that juxtaposition in the novel, and I think it kept the reader's attention. You wanted to find out why Liu Song left William in the orphanage, and you wanted to see if they would have a happy life together after they found each other. Instead of giving us the story from point A to point B, Ford chiseled off a chunk, and then pushed you back to the past to see why and how you got to point A. It was an unconventional way to tell the story, but one that kept the reader engaged.

One of the biggest complaints I saw about this book was that there were too many villains in it. Too many villains that kept Liu oppressed. Considering that the novel was set in depression era Seattle, and if you know your history on how the U.S. was treating asian immigrants at the time, I think it was a pretty accurate depiction. It wasn't pleasant, and it did make the book have a sad ending, but I think why he wrote it this way made sense. I think the message behind that was that, sometimes really bad things happen, but rather than dwell on it, you have to move on.

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would, so I'm giving it a 7 out of 10.

Got any books you want me to review? Leave a comment below.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

#IreadYA Week!

In case you have been living under a rock, or have been sick like me, you may have noticed that Scholastic's teen division This Is Teen tweeted on Monday that this week is #IreadYA:

I think I've tweeted a couple times using the hashtag, but haven't really given any of my book recommendations. Basically, just look at my goodreads, I have too many recommendations. Basically anything Meg Cabot, Sarah Dessen, Holly Black, Maureen Johnson...see what I mean?

I love this twitter campaign, because I think it brings about good discourse about young adult fiction. When I was in high school and reading a crapton of Cabot and Dessen, young adult fiction was somewhat regarded as "chick lit," and I always felt kind of ashamed to be reading what I was reading. Cabot is the reason I wanted to become a YA author, and there have been times where I have felt uneasy about telling certain people that was my dream job. The real question is: why?

There is no reason for someone to have guilty pleasures, if you like it, you like it, and you shouldn't have to defend the books you like to others. I'm talking to myself here too. I am guilty of judging 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight Readers. Basically, you are allowed to read what you want, who cares what people think about you?

YA has come a long way since I was in high school, which was only 6 years ago mind you! I think that now with so many millennials displaced between reading adult fiction and young adult fiction, we have realized that YA is not just for teens anymore. There are a lot of heavy themes in YA, so why can't adults also enjoy these books that are marketed for teens? They can, they absolutely can. Just like how I didn't read Harry Potter until I was in my 20s, and I still loved that.

Got any YA recommendations? Tweet with #IreadYA or leave me a comment below.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Grasshopper Jungle: A Book Review

Another Teen Book Club review for everyone.

If you want a bat shit crazy apocalypse novel, Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle is for you. Did I mention the apocalypse is brought on by six-foot praying mantises? Don't worry that won't spoil this book for you, because there is so much more to it than that.

Smith never intended for this book to get published, but I'm glad that it did. This book got more weird as I read it, but it's one of those books that I just couldn't put down.

The thing that I liked about it was that it wasn't just a apocalypse story. There was much more to it. It was also about the main character, Austin's struggle with his sexually and identity. It was very interesting to have that theme be in a novel like this. In the end, I don't think it is ever clear if he gets this resolved. I don't think that Austin knows for sure if he is gay or bisexual, I think he's just very confused, and I think the message in the end is that it's okay to be confused.

The plot got very weird and science fiction-y quicky, and as a scifi fan that really made me want to continue to read the story. I wanted to know what happened in the end. I'm still not sure if I like the ending of this book. It's a bit open ended, and I wanted more of a resolution.

Smith uses a lot of repetition in this novel, which made sense for the overall plot and message behind his novel, but towards the end it was starting to annoy me. He already put the nail in, so he didn't need to keep hammering away. This is a really finicky thing on my part, so it's not that big of a deal. It's doesn't hurt the overall appeal of the novel, but was just something that bothered me towards the end.

All in all, on a scale from 1-10, I think I will give it a 7.5.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

More Than This: Book Review

So I decided to start doing book reviews for my blog. Partly for my readers to see what type of books I read, and also to help them discover new books. I think I am going to try to not post spoilers in these for that reason, but I am not making any promises.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Blood of Olympus Cover Revealed!!!

Earlier today USA TODAY revealed the US cover for Rick Riordan's Blood of Olympus, the final installment of his Heroes of Olympus series. Riordan wrote about it on his blog, so you can see it here.

How freaking awesome is John Rocco's artwork? AMAZING! The artwork for Riordan's book are always epic, and have gone perfectly with his books. I'm super excited to hear this news, because it means we are getting close to October 7th. That's the date for BOB to come out, for those not in the know.

I am a huge mythology fan, so Riordan's Percy Jackson & the Olympians and The Heroes of Olympus series were exactly what I wanted in an epic tale. Some of the criticisms I have heard about the books is that he plays fast and loose with some of myths. Considering that they are myths and have probably been changed over the years, I am okay with that. His books aren't really a retelling of classical myths, but rather bringing mythological characters into the modern world. I don't care what people say, I love his books, and I highly recommend them.

Riordan writes juvenile fiction, so sometimes I feel WAY too old to read his stuff, but I think his writing is for mature readers and has mature themes. I also like that with bringing Percy into the Heroes of Olympus, he did something different with it. In his first series we got the story from Percy's point of view, but in the new one it is told in multiple perspectives. I think that was a great way to separate the two series from each other. He also does it really well, so that you would be able to tell the character without him telling you. Remove the "Percy", "Frank", "Hazel", etc from the title of the chapter, and you would still know who was speaking.

I'm so amped for the final installment, too bad we have to wait so long until it's out!

Happy Reads Everyone!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!

My initial intention for starting this blog was not only to use it as an outlet for my writing journey, but to also connect with other writers and potential readers. Due to that, I want to provide my readers with some knowledge about being a writer.

I have been struggling to get my novels published for a very long time, so I am no expert, but I like to think I learn with each new draft. And let me tell you, I've been drafting and re-drafting two novels off and on for the the past few years. Anyway, so my first and most important advice I want to give to fellow aspiring writers is to pick up a copy of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. This book will be your bible on your journey in writing.

This is my second copy of this book. When I was still in high school my cousin gave me the 2007 issue of it, and I read the crap of it. I read that thing cover-to-cover and made good use of the agents and publisher listings as I tried to get published.

Back then, I had not matured as a writer yet, but I am still working hard to get to the point where at least one of my novels can get published. So recently I picked up the 2014 issue, and it was the best idea ever. I highly recommend getting a copy of it if you are an aspiring writer. Whether you aspire to be a novelist for young adult, scifi, mystery, romance or even to write non-fiction, this book is key to your success.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Book Recommendations for Orphan Black Fans

I try to follow as many libraries, bookstores and general book lover blogs on Tumblr, so I LOVE seeing those "If you like, then try, here's why"graphics come up on my dash. I love it so much, because sometimes goodreads recommendations don't always pan out. I am also a very visual learner, so I think it appeals to how my brain functions. Every time I see these graphics on my dash, I'm 90% sure I always reblog them. 

Before the season 2 premiere of the BBC America original show, Orphan Black, Simon & Schuster Canada posted the above graphic onto their tumblr page. I only saw it because the Pickerington Public Library reblogged it, and I happen to follow them. Of course I started following S & S Canada so fast, and learned that they do these Cup of Tea graphics so much they have a tag page for it on their blog.

I am such a fan of this graphic, because I love Orphan Black. The show had a great marketing plan, because their promos didn't really tell you what the show was about so you had to watch to figure it out. I love the whole concept to the show, and the hair raising plot twists make me continue to tune in each week. Oh yeah, and the fact that Tatiana Maslany is fantastic at playing multiple roles and doing it well. She does it so well, that you forget she is playing all of the characters. 

So if you are an Orphan Black super fan, I highly recommend taking a look at these three. I actually read the The House of  the Scorpion in middle school. I don't remember everything about it, but I remember it being rather weird. I grew up on the X-files, so weird is good for me. I don't think I ever read Double Identity, but I have read a good amount of Margaret Peterson Haddix and I highly recommend her. 

Happy Reads Everyone!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Writing Tunes

Some writers might use Pandora or Grooveshark to help them get into the groove of writing, but I am a huge supporter of 8tracks. Some writers might not even listen to music, as they feel it distracts them. I am not one of those writer's. I need something to be playing in the background while I write, sometimes it's a hockey game I don't really care about, but most times it is music.

When I really want to get into my writing, I tend to listen to classical and soundtrack score music. 8tracks is great for this because there are so many soundtrack/classical mixes you can find on there. There are a lot of studying/reading/chill mixes that I have found pretty helpful when writing. But there is one user whom I absolutely adore, and their mixes are my go to when I need to hunker down and write.

8tracks user Lamusette has the perfect mixes every time. Most of the mixes fall into this music category, but I especially love their 7-part Story Time mixes. They are perfect to help me focus on my writing, but they are also great to suck you into the book you are reading. For me it kills two birds with one stone...oh god I didn't mean to sound that cliche...My point is, these mixes have multiple uses that I have found rather helpful. I highly recommend checking them out.

There are a ton of other similar mixes that you can find on 8tracks that will help you with writing, reading and even studying. I highly recommend checking out the site. You can pretty much find any sort of mix you are looking for. AND IT IS AWESOME!!!!

Happy Reads Everyone!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Surprise Book Box

I saw a really cool post on Pinterest today in the book tag where you write down names of books you want to read on little slips of paper and put them into a jar. When you want to start a new book, you pull a slip out at random and whatever you get that's your next book. After seeing this, I got inspired to make my own.

I was planning on doing this and putting my slips of paper in a mason jar, but turns out my mom couldn't part with any. I did; however, have this little box she had given me years ago that I never used. So I used that instead.

It took me quite a bit, because I meticulously wrote down every single book I had on my to-read shelf on my good reads profile. 102 books. I have a hundred and two books in this little box. I think I put some series in here too, so I think I can bend the rules if I pick up book 3 in a trilogy, or something similar.

I love creative stuff like this, so I recommend it to any reader that needs to find a different way to decide what they want to read.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Meg Cabot To Release More Princess Diaries Novels!

I needed a few days to calm myself before I talked about this.


In case you didn't know already, Meg Cabot is my favorite author. She is the reason that I got into writing professionally, and the Princess Diaries series is what did it for me. Cabot posted on her blog last Thursday that she is writing another Princess Diaries series, but this time it will be an adult spin-off series. I am so excited, because when I was fourteen and reading about Mia Thermopolis, it was the first character that I really connected with. She was bad at math, like me, and her voice just spoke to me. I loved that series, and it eventually led me to read more of Cabot's work.

Not only is Cabot continuing where she left off with Mia, but is introducing a new character to the series and writing a middle-grade spin-off series about her. I'm not sure if I will read the middle-grade series, because I already feel too old still reading young adult novels. I definitely think it's cool that she will also be illustrating the middle-grade series.

Cabot also announced that she is writing a seventh book in her Mediator series, which will also be an adult spin-off series. It's not clear if she's going to just write that one book, or continue it, but I am excited to read it nonetheless. That series was probably my first foray into the paranormal genre, and I think she made it realistic and funny. She initially wrote this series under her pseudonym Jenny Carroll, so I don't think it sold as well as others, but from my experience it is a fan favorite.

Ahhhhh!!!! I'm so excited about these spin-off series.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Read, Read, Read!

One of the biggest cardinal rules about writing is that you have to read and read and read some more to develop your writing style. I agree with this philosophy of writing full heartedly.

The concept means not to read just in your intended genre, but to read massive amount of books from widespread genres. Reading helps you see what is working on the page, and what isn't. It also helps to read different styles of writing because you can hone your craft to be your own. Rather than trying to write the next Harry Potter, you can pull from all the different styles you have learned from over the years to show your strength as a writer.

I have always been an avid reader. One of my earliest memories of a child is reading my first book. It was Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham, and I was just about to enter pre-school. Reading has always been a part of me and it grew more as I got older. My love of reading was one of the catalysts that led me to become a writer.

I liked to write early on, but it wasn't until I read Meg Cabot's Princess Diaries that I really began to take my writing seriously. I wanted to be Cabot...I kind of still do. That woman has been churning out books left and right, and I admire both her work ethic and her talent. Back then, I consumed young adult books as much as I could. I also heavily read the Star Wars expanded universe books, and quite a bit of fantasy novels. I read anything I could get my hands on, and I still do.

I don't think I'm quite there yet with my craft, but I'm working hard to get there. So in addition to writing, revising, and writing some more, I take a lot of time to read a variety of genres. I  also spend a lot of time of Goodreads. Although, sometimes I think I spend more time reading about books I want to read rather than actually reading.

Writing well is not just about editing and revising, you also have to read, read, read!

Happy Reads Everyone!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

It All Started With Sailor Moon

As I stated in my introduction to this blog, this is a blog where I will tell my story of where I am in my writing. Before I do that, I would like to properly introduce myself and explain how I evolved as a writer.

If it wasn't blatantly obvious, my name is Deanna. I graduated in 2012 with an English degree and a minor in creative writing. Writing has always been my passion, especially fiction writing. I may not have a full-time job that lets me do creative fiction writing, but I believe my degree helped me to obtain full-time employment. Despite this, my heart still yearns to be a young adult novelist. It is my biggest dream, and I am working hard to try to achieve that. So let me first tell you how I came to this conclusion.

When I was a kid, I hated my name. Not sure why, perhaps because it's not that common. Maybe because one of my cousins always called me "Banana". I was constantly trying to change my name. The few name changes I can remember off-hand are: Andrea, Fiona and Serena. So as a child I always had an overactive imagination, and that didn't really change as I got older. It's interesting that Serena is one of the names I remember trying to change my name to, because it was the name of Sailor Moon in the dubbed English version of the anime. I wanted to be Sailor Moon, and that TV show guided me to fiction writing.

I began like most writers, loving a medium and wanting something more out of it, so I started writing my own story lines. Yes, I too started my writing path writing fan fiction. Only, I had no idea there was a name for it at the time. I was 10 after all. I can be completely honest when I say that those stories were terrible, probably the worst thing I will ever write. However, it had planted the seed of writing in me. Eventually those stories became more original character centered, and thus my writing began to evolve into something more and something better. Or at least I hope.

I'm not ashamed that I came to writing via fan fiction. Never be ashamed for doing something you love, even if others don't understand it. Who cares if you write fan fiction? If it helps as an exercise to write, then I say go for it. 

Happy Reads Everyone!

The blog is back!

A few years ago, I started a blog about my writing, but I don't think I went about it the right way. Back then I was making blogs with story excerpts, and I don't think that made sense. It's hard to get readers in general, and even though I made that blog for me, I never really used it. But now, I'm back.

After graduating college in 2012 and finally finding permanent employment last August, I've finally gotten back into the groove of my writing.

I recently picked up the 2014 issue of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, and it was the best $30 I  have spent. I read the 2007 issue back in high school, so I knew it was time to get an updated copy. I'm not that far into it, but what I have read has been really helpful in honing my craft. I've also been working more on one of my novels, and I found that now it's time to actually start marketing myself as a real novelist.

This blog will be a combination of me writing about honing my craft, story ideas, prompts and just discussing good articles I've read in the literary field. I might even start doing book reviews, if I'm ambitious enough.

My next blog, I'll introduce myself to my readers to better to show where I am with my writing.

Happy Reads!