Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Best Book of February

Every Wednesday, YA Highway asks their readership a simple question to answer on your blog. Once you answer, you link your blog in the comments for other readers to hop on board. This is Road Trip Wednesday.

Today's topic: What was the best book you read in February?

I didn't have many books to choose from this month and I totally blame John Green. The Fault in Our Stars totally destroyed me and all I wanted to do afterwards was read something that wouldn't leave me a weepy mess.

Sixteen, edited by Megan McCafferty took care of this for me.

Blurb from Goodreads:
Remember what it was like to be sixteen? Whether it was the year your teeth were finally free of braces or the year you were discovered by the opposite sex, that magical, mystical age is something you will never forget. Edited by Megan McCafferty, author of the runaway hit novels Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings, Sixteen: Stories About That Sweet and Bitter Birthday is a compilation of short stories inspired by all the angst, melodrama, and wonderment of being sixteen.

Sarah Dessen’s “Infinity” is about a girl confronting two major milestones: getting her driver’s license and losing her virginity. The Dead Girls in Jacqueline Woodson’s “Nebraska 99” have already decided to “do it” and must now cope with being teenage mothers. And Carolyn Mackler’s “Mona Lisa, Jesus, Chad, and Me” explores whether friendship can survive when partying and prayer clash. Also included is a new Jessica Darling story by Megan McCafferty about the last fifteen minutes Jessica spends—or rather, doesn’t spend—with her best friend, Hope, who is leaving Pineville.

Featuring stories by Steve Almond, M. T. Anderson, Julianna Baggott, Cat Bauer, Emma Forrest, Tanuja Desai Hidier, David Levithan, Sarah Mlynowski, Sonya Sones, Zoe Trope, Ned Vizzini, and Joseph Weisberg, these hilarious, poignant, and touching tales are perfect for both those who have yet to reach that milestone and those who want to reminisce about their “sweetest” year.


What I Liked About It: I've been trying to write short stories for years, but never can manage to do short. Yep, I just admitted that I like that the stories were short. Shoot me. Also, Steve Almond was in here. You know how much I love Steve Almond's writing. A few of my favorite stories were "Infinity" by Sarah Dessen, "The Alumni Interview" by David Levithan, and "The Perfect Kiss" by Sarah Mlynowski.


What You Should Know: Not every short story is created equal. The stories that pulled away from the standard narrative flow were harder to follow than, say, the story by Sarah Dessen. Also, if you loved Sloppy Firsts, you'll probably want it on hand to read immediately after you read "Fifteen Going On..." which is like the prologue to Sloppy Firsts.


What was the best thing you read this month?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

MARCHing Forward

Yep, that is a horrible pun for the fact we're approaching March* and I don't care. The last several months for yours truly has epically been made of suck and I'm looking forward to all the things that happen once March 1 arrives. I just need to make it through one extra day of February**. Since blogging at The Pie has been spastic and not terribly brilliant as of late, I want to share with you what I'm looking forward to.

Movies
Even though there's more hype about the Hunger Games movie, the one I'm more than ready to see comes out in a week and a half. John Carter stars Taylor Kitsch (Tim Riggins to most of you) which means a lot of ogling. I have no shame and am proud to admit it.


Don't think I'm not looking forward to seeing Hunger Games because I am. There's talk about a movie date with Bestie Danielle and that alone is a good reason.

Editing and Revision
For something different, I'll be revising in March. This time it will be a different WIP (thank goodness) and it's for NaNoEdMo.That it's NaNoEdMo is the main reason why I'm looking forward to it. This year I was in charge of gathering articles and we have some great pep talks for the month: Elana Johnson, Jeff Somers, and agent Vickie Motter to name a few. Keep your eye on my Twitter feed over the month so you'll know when these go live.

Spring and Daylight Savings Time!
Though it's hard to complain with the winter we've had, spring is my favorite season. (Probably because of the flowers.) We also gain an hour of daylight. I love daylight a little bit more than sleep, so this is awesome.

These are the main things I'm excited about in the upcoming month. What are you looking forward to?



* There's a reason why Hubby's the comedian and I'm not.
** February is usually the coldest month in New England, IMO. That most of the month has been in the 40s has been the only good thing.

Friday, February 24, 2012

YA Book Club: The Fault in Our Stars

This month's selection for the YA Book Club was John's Green's The Fault in Our Stars.When I found this out, I twitter-yelled at YA Book Club's brainchild, Tracey Neithercott. That conversation sounded a lot like this:

Me: Why are you making this happen NOW? I'd like to get through a month without crying.
Tracey: I wish I could send tissues through Twitter.

I'm not sure if it's hormones or age or my mortality is showing, but my eyes began watering on page one and did not stop until the end. TFIOS is one of those books where you just know it's going to end badly. You're reading about teens with cancer--of course it's not going to end well.

But this isn't a cancer book. It just happens that the characters have cancer. It also just happens that I still can't think about it without getting misty-eyed. In fact, I'm still processing it.

What I liked best about TFIOS is that, despite the sad factor, it was a very uplifting book. I found myself comparing it to Madeleine L'Engle's A Ring of Endless Light a lot. It gives off that same comfort factor that L'Engle gives me.

If you want to hear what others are saying about TFIOS this month, check out Tracey's list here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Giraffe Love

As a kid, I didn't have an imaginary friend. I had an imaginary GIRAFFE.

This unnamed giraffe would be my scapegoat whenever I did something I shouldn't. (Which honestly, wasn't that often. I was a well-behaved rugrat.) The giraffe got stuck in the back seat of my dad's boat of a car whenever we schlepped to Connecticut to visit the grandparents. Though I don't remember ever talking or playing with the giraffe, I'm sure that happened too.

It shouldn't surprise you then when I say that giraffes are one of my favorite animals to watch at the zoo. They're pretty and seem so peaceful*. They have little horns on their heads and I like the pattern of their coat.

Because of my giraffe love, Chez Gregoire has several giraffa camelopardalis items: the magnet, the keychain, the cat toy, the figurine. Yes, even the stuffed animal(s).

The best giraffe acquisition of late, though, was found in the Target dollar section. Hubby was kind enough to add it to our kitchen art gallery**.


Isn't it great? We have it under our clock so I can see this little guy's smiling face all the time***. The color brightens up the kitchen and it is impossible for me not to cheer up with one look. I'm sure if Child Alicia were to draw her imaginary giraffe, it would look like this guy, but with more of a five year old art skill.

Did you have a non-person imaginary friend? Anyone else out there love art for a buck?


* That opinion gets totally ruined once you see footage of giraffes fighting.
** There is no rhyme or reason to our kitchen art, but we have lots of it. 
*** Get it? Clock? Time? (I crack myself up.)

Friday, February 17, 2012

You Tell Me: Best Gateway Books

Credit
The first thing you're told when you decide to write in a particular genre and market is to read what you're going to write. This, of course, is so you know what works and doesn't, what is trending, and whether or not giraffes are a useful protagonist*.

So you read all the kidlit you can get your hands on. Some is awesome and others aren't worth the ink used. With each fantastic book you've read, you want ten other people to read it as well.

Now we're at the meat of today's post.

Over several conversations with Hubby, I've learned that his knowledge of middle grade and young adult books is paper thin**. This is quite fucking sad. We all know that there is so many fantastic worlds and stories in these two areas and he's missing out.

What are you getting at? It's Friday and I have stuff to do.
I'm so glad you asked. Hubby has agreed to give reading MG and YA a try. Because of this, I want to make sure that he starts off reading something strong that way he'll want to read more in this area. Hubby is pretty geeky and our house is filled with comics and fantasy books***. He also likes nonfiction that deals with true crime-like things.

Below in comments, tell me what book(s) you think Hubby should read and why.




* Well, maybe not the final thing.
** He hasn't even read Harry Potter.
*** Not to mention lots of video games where he kills things.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Flippant Girl’s Guide to the Most Ridiculous Holiday of the Year

On non-Leap Year years, February 14th marks the exact halfway point of the month*. It’s also Valentine’s Day. Known first as one of the millions of saint’s days, we can thank Chaucer for making it about sex**.

It would be great if that’s all what the holiday turned into, but we all know that is so not the case. If you’ve been around for a while, you know about my thoughts about red roses. So if you’re like me and can’t abide by what you’re supposed to do on this “holiday” or if you’re alone and feeling sorry for yourself, never fear—FLIPPANT GIRL IS HERE.

1. Role play. Pretend you’re an urban cupid, complete with foam bow and arrow. Walk around the crowded city streets and shoot unsuspecting passersby with your love arrow.

2. Live tweet your romantic dinner. Whether it’s for one or twenty, share all the things with the world. Did the waiter have a nice rear? Share! Did the guy with the off-kilter toupee make a pass at the college girl? Share! We should all live vicariously through you.

3. Live vicariously through someone. We all have that one person who has a story for every time they step out of the house. Today’s the day you shadow them.

4. Eat chocolate. Today it’s guilt-free.

5.  Drink wine in abundance. Today it’s hangover-free.

 

* That we’ve somehow blown past six weeks of 2012 shocks the shit out of me.

** Read in between the lines, people. It’s so about that.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Should I Trunk My Idea?

Every Wednesday, YA Highway asks their readership a simple question to answer on your blog. Once you answer, you link your blog in the comments for other readers to hop on board. This is Road Trip Wednesday.

Today’s topic: What story ideas have you trunked because they were too similar to published/well-known stories?

I’m lucky to say that I haven’t trunked anything. Yet. That’s not saying I’ll never will, but so far I’ve been lucky.

Confession time: The Assassin Project could very easily fall into the trunked category, if I’m not careful. There were initially a lot of similarities between my story involving an academy of assassins and the Gallagher Girl series by Ally Carter. Because of this, I haven’t drafted Assassin Project. Instead, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on how to make my story different.

That’s what needs to be done when a story idea is too close to something that is out there. You have to see how you can make yours unique.

I forget who said it (and I might be misquoting horribly), but there’s only two types of stories: someone goes on a quest and a stranger comes to town. When you only have two ideas to go from, there will definitely be places where things overlap. The important thing is how you present it.

With that in mind, it’s exercise time. I’ll give you an opening sentence and you write a paragraph in the comments. The opening sentence is…

The doorbell buzzed seconds after minute.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Importance of Detail

One of my favorite shows in the last decade was PRISON BREAK. If you never heard of it, here's the blurb from imdb.com:

Due to a political conspiracy an innocent man is sent to death row and his only hope is his brother who makes it his mission to deliberately get himself sent to the same prison in order to break the both of them out from the inside out.

Each episode ended in such a way that you had to tune in for the next episode. All characters were fleshed out, including the most deplorable character introduced. And the planning behind the prison break? It totally proves how important detail is.

WARNING: THE NEXT PARAGRAPH CONTAINS SLIGHT SPOILERS

In Season 1, everything rides upon the plan Michael put in place prior to his incarceration. Michael laid out the entire escape plan on his body, all the way down to how he and his brother will make it out of the country. At one point, part of Michael’s tattoo gets damaged. This jeopardizes the escape.

This example illustrates detail and what happens when the detail goes away. Without detail, everything around us falls flat. The same goes for detail when we write. We need to keep detail in mind wherever we are in our writing process. Detail is what makes a setting vivid and a character more three-dimensional.

If I was to write a story about a chimp about Bubba, it might be awesome or mundane. As it stands, the Bubba-chimp story isn’t too exciting. We know nothing about what kind of story to expect. If Bubba the Chimp flies with mechanical wings, that is a totally different story. Just by adding that small detail, we get a better snapshot of the type of story and character we can expect.

If you haven’t seen Prison Break, it can be streamed through Amazon Instant Video and Netflix.

What shows have you seen that illustrate a fantastic use of detail?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Things That Amuse Me: Ian McKellen on Acting

There's nothing better than getting advice from professionals in our desired field. Sometimes it's even important to get advice from something that doesn't involve our field at all.

This is the case with this snippet from the television show Extras. This clip makes me laugh every single time. I hope it does the same for you.


Ian McKellen on Extras by Victor_Bugle

When Sir Ian says acting is all illusion, he's right. This also holds true for writing. When we write, we're creating our own universe. As a writer, our job is to make sure that we don't shatter that illusion.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Best Book of January

Holy hell, Lurkdom! How did it become February??? I don't know either, but time needs to learn to slow down. I have things to do, you know? Of course, I'd probably get them done faster if I didn't read freaking 13 books. Out of all these books, only one stood out as five star material.

EVERNIGHT by Claudia Gray.

Blurb from Goodreads: 
"Bianca wants to escape.

At the eerily Gothic Evernight Academy, the other students are sleek, smart, and almost predatory. Bianca knows she doesn't fit in.

When she meets handsome, brooding Lucas he warns her to be careful--even when it comes to caring about him. But the connection between them can't be denied. Bianca will risk anything to be with Lucas, but dark secrets are fated to tear them apart...and to make Bianca question everything she's ever believed.
"


I know, it doesn't say much. But! It was definitely worth it.

What I Liked About It: The twist. It seriously shocked me out of reading for thirty seconds. Long enough for me to go, "Wait... WHAT!?" and flip back to the start of the scene if I read correctly. Normally getting this pulled out of a narrative, is a big no-no, but this time it was totally worth it.

What You Should Know:  I hate this cover. I hate it so much I put the book down three times in the Borders close out sale. I hate it so much I couldn't bring it to the gym*. It's just so... ugh. I can't even explain how deep my loathing goes.

What Else You Should Know: This is the book you should read if you need your faith restored in the vampire genre. Gray gets rid of the sparkle, but keeps the humanity while also adding back a bit of a vamp's inherent nature. That's right, Twihards: vampires should eat people.

What book totally rocked your socks off in January? Share below!



* This is saying A LOT because I went to the gym with the dust jacket of INHERITANCE on.
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