Monthly Archives: August 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday is a cool meme created by the people over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Bookish Confessions.

1. I thought Harry Potter sounded stupid at first.
It’s true. I was in fifth grade, and my mother had heard other people talking about the series. She mentioned it to me, and I thought it sounded stupid. Still, she bought the first book for me out of one of those Scholastic catalogs. One night, when I was bored and had nothing else to read, I gave the book a chance. The rest is history.

2. I would not hate the Twilight series as much if it weren’t so popular.
This one’s pretty shameful, but I have to admit that I read the first two books in this series and didn’t completely hate them. I hate the message they send to young girls, and I have no idea why so many people LOVE this series, but I didn’t completely the hate the first two books. If it was just a random book I had picked up, I probably would have read it, said, “Eh, that was lame,” and moved on, not thinking about it again after that. Of course, I also probably wouldn’t have picked it up if I hadn’t been curious about the Twilight debate, but I’ll go into that more in the next reason.

3. I judge books more harshly if they contain vampires or werewolves or other mythical creatures.
I used to think I just didn’t really like fantasy books, but now I know better. Most of my favorite books are fantasy novels. I just don’t usually like books with fantastical creatures, at least not when they’re the main focus. I don’t care about fairies or werewolves are vampires. Strangely, I like zombies, but that’s a different issue. There are exceptions to this rule – I love Remus Lupin, and The Dresden Files series focuses on killing/fighting magical creatures – but as a whole, I generally won’t pick up a book containing anything other than humans with magical powers unless I’ve heard great things about it from someone else.

4. I don’t like Shakespeare or Jane Austen.
This one wouldn’t be as big of a deal were I not an English major who’s currently studying to become a high school English teacher, but it’s true. I’ve only read one Jane Austen novel (Pride and Prejudice), and I didn’t care for it. I also find Shakespeare boring most of the time. I sometimes like the meaning that can be read into his works, but I don’t really think those meanings are worth reading the whole play.

5. I don’t know how to read poetry.
This one’s also bad for a future English teacher. I just don’t get it. Why put a line break if you’re supposed to read it as a sentence? It doesn’t make sense. And those stressed and unstressed syllables just confuse me. I mean, I know what they are, but I can’t put it into practice. I know how to read poems that I’ve written, and I like poems in general, but I hate reading them out loud.

6. I have to read books multiple times to remember them.
I think this fact saddens me the most. I’ve read hundreds of books, but I often forget about what happens in them soon after I finish reading them. I’m getting better now that I’m writing reviews for each one, but in general I have to read a book at least twice before I remember overall plot and details. I can quote Harry Potter sections by heart, since I’ve read them all at least eight times, but I can’t remember most of what happens in the His Dark Materials trilogy because I’ve only read them once.

7. I like to write in books.
I highlight my favorite passages. I write notes in the margins. Some of the notes are good and some of the notes are bad. For instance, my copy of Brave New World is filled with notes of me screaming at the characters for being stupid, as that was the only way I could get through the book. Same with the beginning of Jane Eyre. The only books I feel bad writing in are the Harry Potter books, but I’ve even highlighted one of them (the sixth one) in order to help with the essay I was writing.

8. I dislike most short stories.
I’m very picky about short stories. I like them to have a point. It’s strange because I don’t mind if novels focus on characters and just ramble on and don’t have a basic plot, but short stories I like to have a point. I’ve started to expand my definition of what makes a good short story, but it’s still much more limited than my definition of what makes a good novel. This got me into trouble with one of my creative writing teachers, but that’s a different matter.

9. I rarely by new books.
Most of the time, I get my books from the library because they’re free, and I’m very cheap. When I do buy a book, I generally get it used on Amazon. I can think of one book that I bought new in the past five years, and that was only because I needed something to read and was already at Kroger, so I went ahead and bought a book. Before that, the only books I can remember buying new were the Harry Potter series and the His Dark Materials trilogy, and that one was only because they had all three of them in a huge book for like fifteen bucks. I’ve realized this is a horrible way to support my favorite authors, though, so I’m starting to buy more books new – when I can afford it.

10. I hate lending people books, and I hate being lent books.
I hate lending people books because I’m always afraid they’re going to damage them or steal them. Maybe that’s just because I’ve seen my sisters’ bookshelf, which is filled with books she’s “borrowed” from others and have never given back, but I don’t trust people with my books. I also hate being trusted with other people’s books. I borrowed a friend’s book in high school, accidentally bent the cover, and felt guilty for the next year because it was damaged, even though she said she didn’t care. Plus, I hate when people give me a book to read when I know I don’t want to read it. I feel guilty saying I don’t want to read it, so I end up keeping it on my shelf for a long time until they eventually just ask for it back. It would just be so much easier if people didn’t ask to borrow/loan books.

What about you? Do you have any bookish confessions you’d like to get off your chest?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite books You’ve Read During the Lifespan of Your Blog.

Top Ten Tuesday is a cool meme created by the people over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Top Ten Favorite Books You’ve Read During the Lifespan of Your Blog.

This is actually one of the easiest Top Ten entries I’ve written so far. I’ve been keeping up with every book that I’ve read so far for my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge. The following are my top ten books, linked to my review of them, in no particular order.

1. The Hunger Games
This was the first book I read this year, the first book I reviewed on my blog, and I couldn’t imagine a better book to start the year out with. A great cast of characters, a fast-paced plot, and a criticism of American pop culture. What more could you possibly want from a novel? I loved this book. The other two in the series were interesting reads, but I don’t think either of them quite lived up to the awesomeness that was this first book.

2. Prep
Whenever I talk about my favorite books, this book sneaks onto the list. If you’re not a fan of whiney, insecure characters who obsess about everything, this probably isn’t the book for you. I, however, found the main character, Lee, to be extremely realistic and incredibly easy to relate to, so I loved this book.

3. Cinder
The best fairy tale retelling I’ve ever read. A cyborg Cinderella, an evil moon queen…it’s just an awesome book. One of the “twists” at the end was rather predictable , sure, but the novel as a whole was interesting, and I’m looking forward to the next installment.

4. Before I Fall
It’s rare that a novel can focus on a character so incredibly unlike me and not only make me keep reading until the end but also completely change my mind about the character. An absolute joy to read. I cannot recommend this book enough.

5. Thirteen Reasons Why
This is another one of my new favorites. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so hooked on a book that wasn’t part of a series. I had to keep reading to find out what her thirteen reasons were for killing herself. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but in a way that just makes it more interesting. I would definitely recommend this book for teens.

6. The Ultimate Vegan Guide
I’ve read many books on becoming vegan this year, but this one was the most direct, amusing, and fun to read. If you’ve ever considered going vegan, or want to know why someone in your life has chosen this lifestyle, this is the book for you.

7. What Happened to Goodbye
All of Sarah Dessen’s books were great, but this one has to be really high up on my list. The characters are flawed but real, and for once it didn’t have the ending that I thought it would, so that was a nice change. Definitely one of my favorites.

8. Mistborn
The first Brandon Sanderson book that I’ve read, and after reading this, I can understand why they chose him to finish The Wheel of Time. He’s great at world-building and at creating interesting characters that you can’t help but cheer for. I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to doing so.

9. Just Listen
I wasn’t sure which other Sarah Dessen book to include in this list, but I finally settled on this one because I found the characters really interesting and realistic. There were multiple storylines in this one, but they were weaved together nicely. I always like when an author can take a character type I hate and make me not hate them quite as much. She didn’t do as good a job as Lauren Oliver did in Before I Fall, but she still did a decent job.

10. Everything Bad is Good for You
I find myself talking about this book a lot in real life, so it should probably make this list. Everyone always talks about how pop culture is ruining society, but this book actually talks about how the opposite is true. If you’re a fan of video games and television (although we’re talking shows like Lost and 24, not the Real Housewives of anywhere), and you’re sick of people talking about how such things are ruining society, then you’d probably like to read this book.

Still behind and slightly worried

I seem to have some sort of mental block with this novel. This is the third time that I’ve attempted to write it, and I’m having only slightly less trouble writing it this time than I have in previous attempts. Part of my problem is that this book is primarily about how we see people, and how our perceptions change once we get to know someone, and I’ve never been very good at slowly changing characters’ minds.

Another problem (and probably the main problem) is that this book has a lot more dialogue than any of the others that I’ve worked on. I don’t dislike dialogue as a whole, but the dialogue in this book is more difficult because one my characters is one of those peppy people who can talk to anyone and is always giggly and happy (or at least almost always is), and that is so completely not like me at all. I was at my boyfriend’s house all day on Saturday for a family get-together, and I was extremely proud of myself because I spoke one time. That’s how much I hate talking to people. I’m not good at it. In a work setting, it’s different. I’m considered loud at work because I’m the one who gets people attention and tells them what to do. When it comes to personal situations, though, like with friends and family, I clam up. It’s not that I don’t like people – I just don’t know what to say. Which makes it extremely difficult to write about a character who does know what to say.

That said, I’m working on it. I’m currently at 21,464 words. I’m about 10k behind where I should be for Camp NaNo and 17k behind where I should be for my personal goal of 60k. But I’m also further into this draft than I ever have been with a draft of this novel, so I’m not completely devastated about that. I wrote a little over 3k yesterday, and I’ve written about 1,500 words today and still have a little over four hours before I have to leave for school, so I’m hopeful that I can get closer to where I’m supposed to be. If I write about 3200 words a day, I can still hit 60k by the end of the month. I’m not entirely sure that’s going to happen, but it’s not completely outside the realm of possibility, so I’m going to go with it.

I’m not going to let myself get distracted anymore. I read and reviewed four books and a short story in the past two weeks. While I’m happy I got some more reading in before school, I should have been focusing on reading AND writing. I’ve finally finished all of the library books that I had out, so at least I don’t have to worry about finishing them before their due date anymore.

In vaguely related news, my first day of grad school is today. I have classes Mondays and Thursdays from 5 to 8 pm. I already have the syllabus for my Thursday class (Planning and Organizing Instruction for Secondary Education, for those who are curious), and I’m already freaking out a little. Two tardies (15 minutes or more) equals 1 absence, and 2 absences mean that the highest grade you can make in the class is a B, which is the lowest grade you can get and still pass, according to this program. If you get lower than a B, you have to retake the class, and you can only retake two classes before they kick you out of the program. And, okay, sure, I never got lower than a B+ in any of my undergrad classes, but I’m sure their standards are higher in grad school.

My main concern is actually getting to school. Most people with jobs go to the same place every day and therefore know how long it takes them to get to school from work, so they would know beforehand if it was possible for them to get to school on time or not. I, however, don’t have a normal job. I’m at a different school everyday. Some days I’m five minutes from home. Some days I’m two hours from home. Some days I get done at noon. Some days I get done at five. It varies that much. I’ve already talked to my team lead, who agreed not to put me at middle schools on the days I have school (since middle schools don’t usually get done until 4, which means I almost can’t get out of there before 4:30 or 5), but there’s only so much she can do. Thursday, I’m going to be way up in the mountains. It takes an hour and fifteen minutes to get from that school to my school, and that’s without factoring in traffic. That school day ends around 3, which means that it’s possible that I won’t get out of there until 3:30, which would only give me an hour and a half to get to my school before I’m late. I’m hoping that that school will get done early, but I’m still freaking out that I won’t make it to class on time.

Oh, and one of the textbooks that I bought from eBay probably isn’t coming. It already charged me $40, and now it says that the member is not longer registered with eBay. Since I already paid, the only thing I can do is wait a week and see if the book still shows up. If it doesn’t, I can get my money back. Of course, I don’t have a week because class starts today and I probably need to have read something by the next class, so no matter what I’m going to have to buy another copy just in case. I guess it’s better to have two copies than none, but it’s still a pain in the ass, especially because now only the expensive copies of the book are available.

And now that I’m done freaking out about something that I can’t do anything about right now, I’m going to focus more on writing. The plan is to at least finish this chapter and the next chapter before I have to leave for school.

Book 39: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Page Count: 487
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Young adult dystopian

Rating: 8/10

Summary:
In a future Chicago, the population is divided into five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), and Amity (the peaceful). At the age of sixteen, teens must decide which faction they belong in and undergo a rigorous initiation process that tests whether they really belong in that faction or not. This novel follows Beatrice Prior as she struggles to find her place among the other initiates and discovers that people aren’t always what they seem.

Opinion:
I continually see this book described as the next Hunger Games, and while I can’t say that this book lives up to the hype, it was definitely an interesting read, and I will definitely be reading the next book in the series. Tris definitely has her flaws, but overall she’s fairly likeable and reads like a real person. I also really liked Four. He’s sort of a young adult cliché (an eighteen-year-old who’s the best at what he does AND who’s drawn to Tris AND who’s a virgin AND who has a troubled past), but I could go with it. Given what we learn about his past later in the book, it makes sense why he would be curious about Tris to begin with, and I could see how that curiosity could grow into something more.

That said, I didn’t really like anyone else in Dauntless. They’re supposed to be the brave, the ones who protect the city, but they seemed more like drunk frat boys than people I’d want looking out for me. Gryffindors are brave – the Dauntless are just a bunch of jerks. I understand that part of that has to do with the fact that there are new leaders who are moving Dauntless in a different direction, but I can’t really see why Tris would want to join them. Perhaps it’s just because I’m a coward and would probably end up joining Erudite (if, you know, they weren’t just as crazy and greedy as the Dauntless), but I never saw the appeal of joining Dauntless.

I also feel like the pacing was a bit off. The beginning didn’t really interest me at all, and the main reason I kept reading was because I was trapped at work with a lot of free time and my hands and only one book to read, so reading it was really my only option. Once she chose her faction, I because more interested, but I still feel like most of the book could have been better spent. There’s nothing really going on for 415 pages. On page 416, everything starts happening, and the plot is just racing uphill after that. It’s like all the action that wasn’t in the rest of the book was thrown into the last 70 pages.

That’s not to say that there was no action in the rest of the book, but the action was a lot more laid back. Yes, they beat each other up and there’s a lot of violence and even a death, but it’s not really dealt with that much. It’s just sort of this thing that happens. It’s like there are no real consequences to any of their actions until the end of the novel, and even then, the consequences are kind of random. For instance, everyone tells Tris that being Divergent can get her killed, that she has to do well enough to stay in Dauntless but not so well that she draws attention to herself, but she’s constantly drawing attention to herself, and it never really seems to matter.

This book does remind me of the Hunger Games trilogy only in that the ending reminds me a lot of the end of Catching Fire, where stuff happens and then you get to the end and are scrambling to catch up on everything that you missed offstage. Definitely not the part of the trilogy that I would have recommended copying.

All of that said, I still enjoyed the book. Once I actually got into the book, I wanted to keep reading, even when I didn’t really agree with Tris and the choices she was making. I still look forward to reading the next book. I think I just had slightly higher expectations for this novel. I didn’t like it nearly as much as The Hunger Games trilogy, but I definitely liked it more than Matched, so if you like most of the current YA-dystopian novels, you’ll probably like this one.

Book 38: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Page Count: 288
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Young adult

Rating: 9/10

Summary from goodreads:
Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate and crush who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.

Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, debut author Jay Asher weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect teen readers.

Opinion:
I absolutely loved this book. As soon as I read the premise, I had to read the book to figure out what Hannah’s reasons for killing herself were, and from the moment I picked the book up, I couldn’t stop reading it. This was such an interesting idea for a novel, and I liked the way it switched back and forth between narratives. It’s not like most books where you read a chapter or a scene from one POV and then it switches; it switches back and forth between sentences sometimes, and the whole thing flows really nicely. I was immediately hooked, and I couldn’t stop reading until I knew all thirteen reasons.

I think this is an important book for teens to read, and if this whole become-a-high-school-English-teacher thing works out, I will definitely try to find a way to either include it in a reading list or at least have a copy on my shelf for people to read if they want. This novel shows that you can’t just assume you know what’s going on with a person based on what you’ve heard about them, and it shows how even the smallest, most insignificant things can make a huge difference in someone’s life. It also shows that you can’t let your fear rule you, that sometimes you just have to put yourself out there.

There’s a definite moral to this story (in case you couldn’t tell by the last paragraph), but I didn’t mind the lesson because it was such an interesting story, and I think we can all relate to at least one of the characters. Sure, not everyone spreads rumors or uses people, but most of us have seen someone in pain and brushed it aside. Most of us have had crushes on people and have had trouble acting on it. I think that’s part of what makes Clay such a great narrator – his biggest flaws are the ones that most of us can relate to.

I will admit, though, that as much as I loved this book and couldn’t stop reading it, I was a little let down by the ending. I guess I was just expecting the reasons to keep getting bigger as the list went on, and while that was sort of the case, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I still enjoyed the novel, but I guess I expected there to have been a bigger reason behind her wanting to kill herself. After all, she had a guy who liked her, parents who loved her…I guess I just don’t see why neither of those things balanced out the rest. It wasn’t like she was tortured every day. I guess I just wanted to finish the book and be able to say, “Yeah, I’d probably kill myself if I were in her position, too,” and I just couldn’t say that, not even a little.

That said, I still enjoyed the book. And, really, the ending that I disliked really makes it that much more of an important lesson – that it’s not just the obviously miserable people that you have to watch out for. Everyone gets sad and lost and overwhelmed. Everyone needs help sometimes. And I liked that Hannah wasn’t blameless, that part of her reason for killing herself was also guilt over what she let happen because she was afraid. She’s not completely blameless in some of the events that happened, and I think that’s part of what makes this such a compelling novel – the characters feel very real. I would definitely recommend this book for teenagers and anyone who likes a story that focuses on people and the consequences of their actions.

Book 37: This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers

Title: This is Not a Test
Author: Courtney Summers
Page Count: 322
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Young adult/paranormal

Rating: 7/10

Summary from Goodreads:
It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Opinion:
I thought that a book about the zombie apocalypse would have had more scenes with zombies in it, but I have to say that I didn’t really miss them. If you’re looking to read a book with a lot of fight scenes and descriptions of zombies, this isn’t the book for you. If, however, you’re looking for a book that deals with real characters and explores how far you can push people before they break, you’ll probably want to read this one for yourself.

We don’t know where the zombies came from. We don’t know if anyone else survived. All we know is that a week after the zombies attack, six students take shelter in Cortege High School. They have a limited supply of food and water, and two of their party have already perished. The radio plays a single warning again and again – telling them to seek immediate shelter, that this is not a test.

I sort of wish the novel addressed where the zombies came from, but it’s not a huge concern. The main focus of this book is on the characters, and what they’ve had to do survive. The characters in this novel are incredibly realistic. Some get along. Some don’t. There are arguments and tears. Relationships are formed and broken. There was really only one character whom I disliked the entire novel, and even then I couldn’t really blame him for his behavior. That was probably the best part of the novel for me – the fact that the characters were so believable. They sounded like real people, not characters created to make a point.

There were really only two downsides to this novel. The first was the narrator, Sloane Price. I feel sorry for her, and I can understand why she begins the novel wanting to die, but the fact that she goes with these people just seems really selfish to me. She wastes a ton of water. She eats the food. She slows them down. And on top of all of that, she keeps saying that she wants to die. II just sort of wanted her to just pick one and stick with it.

The other downside was the ending. I’m not going to give anything away, but it just seemed like it was rushing to get nowhere. There’s about 250 pages of relatively low amounts of action, and then all of a sudden big things start happening. It almost feels like Summers didn’t know how to end it, so she just started throwing stuff together. The ending’s not quite that bad, but it’s close, or at least it seems that way to me. I would have given the first two-thirds of this book full credit, but the ending just sort of didn’t live up to my expectations at that point.

Overall, though, I still really enjoyed this book, and I would recommend it others. Summers has a very interesting writing style that just sort of pulls you into the story, and made the book so much more enjoyable.

Short story review: The Enchanted Truth by Kym Petrie

I’m supposed to be writing right now, but I decided to take a break to read e-book I received today from NetGalley. I’ve seen a bunch of other book reviewers get books from this site, and I wanted to check it out and see what it was about. This is the book that I got for review today. I say book, but it’s really more of a short story. Still, the premise intrigued me, so I decided to give it a shot.

Title: The Enchanted Truth
Author: Kym Petrie
Page Count: 40
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Sort of self-help fairy tale

Rating: 5/10

Summary:
A modern-day fairy tale for any woman who’s sick of waiting for her Prince Charming to show up.

Opinion:
I’m not quite sure what to make of this story. The premise is an important one, one that I feel girls and women should read about. There’s so much more to being a woman than finding a guy who likes you, and this books demonstrates that. I’m glad of that, as I don’t really feel that there are enough books out there that focus on that lesson.

That said, I wasn’t extremely impressed with this story. It was cute at times, but there were other times when it just seemed to be trying too hard to be clever and amusing. It also switched between being funny and goofy (almost self-deprecatingly so) to being a self-help book. I was hoping this would read more like a regular fairy tale and less like I was being preached to. I can understand why the author would want to preach this message, as it’s a good one, but I think she could probably have gone about it in a different way. Maybe 40 pages isn’t enough time to really get into the issue, but I would have rather seen her come to the realization on her own, rather than have her Fairy Godmother basically come right out and beat her (and us) over the head with it.

That’s not to say it was horrible. It’s a short read, and it entertained me enough for the ten minutes or so it took me to read it. Plus, it has a good message. It just reads a bit too much like the type of story you’d read in Sunday school (though obviously a very different subject matter).

Top Ten Tuesday: Posts That Give the Best Picture of You

Top Ten Tuesday is a cool meme created by the people over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is the Top Ten posts on your blog that give the best picture of you (as a reader and a person).

This was a difficult list to make, as I could make arguments for so many of the entries on this list. I’ve finally settled on ten, though, choosing a mix of posts about reading and writing, as both of those activities are a huge part of who I am as a person. The posts that deal primarily with reading are first, and the ones that deal more with writing are after that.

1. Before I Fall book review
I don’t generally give books 10 star ratings, but this book deserved it for the single fact that I went from hating the main character and being glad that she died to sobbing and hoping that she could find a way to save herself. It’s rare that I can read a book about a character I can’t stand and actually finish reading it, but I couldn’t put this book down. This is the type of author I want to be, the kind that can make you fall in love with characters you previously couldn’t stand.

2. Top Ten Favorite Authors
I like this post because it shows how diverse my reading interests are. I have fantasy, urban fantasy, literary fiction, young adult, comedy/satire, and mainstream books on that list. It may no be the most diverse list ever or anything, but I like the fact that it’s not focused just on one or two genres. Some people have one genre that they like to read or write, and that’s great, but I’m not like that. I don’t focus my reading on one genre, nor do I focus my writing on one genre. I write fantasy, literary fiction, young adult, satire, new adult… Granted, most of my books would fall in the YA category first, but not all of them, and this post helps show that.

3. Prep book review
It’s rare that I find a character that I can relate to on so many levels. Lee is one of those characters. She’s observant and is constantly afraid of doing or saying something stupid. When she finally does break out of her shell a little, she ends up ruining things. She and I aren’t completely alike, but I can understand her motivations. A lot of people who read this book didn’t like it, but I thought it was great.

4. Top Ten Characters Who Remind Me of Myself or Someone I Know in Real Life
What better way to represent myself than to share a list of characters who remind me of myself? There’s at least one on there who reminds me of someone else, but most of these characters remind me of myself in some small way.

5. Top Ten Summer TBR List
I rarely post about non-fiction books on this site, but this post is almost exclusively non-fiction. If you ever wanted to know my opinion on anything outside of reading/writing, this would be the entry to read, as the books I put on this list say a lot about my viewpoints on things.

6. Why do I write, and who do I write for?
A friend posed these questions on her blog, and I felt the need to respond. Everyone writes for different reasons, and knowing those reasons can tell you a lot about a person. This post definitely shows who I am as a writer but also who I am as a person.

7. Older But Not Wiser
In which I reflect on some of the main problems I have with my writing. I’m still struggling with most of those problems, but I’m also learning from them.

8. “Afternoons and mornings, I threw them all away…”
This post focuses on another problem I have: using my time wisely. It also shows what my schedule looks like for the fall, and how busy I’ll be with work and school and writing. It should be an interesting semester.

9. Lucky Sevens
I talk about writing a lot on this blog, but I rarely ever actually post my writing. This is the exception.

10. How Do You Finish a Novel?
This is one of the biggest problems I have with writing, and, as you can see from this post, I’ve had it for rather a while.

Book 36: Matched by Ally Condie

Title: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Page Count: 366
F/NF: Fiction
Genre: Young adult dystopia

Rating: 7/10

Summary:
Cassia lives in the Society, where there are no real choices. The Society chooses what job you’ll have, which person you’ll marry, how many kids you have, what food you eat, and when you’ll die. There are 100 poems to read, 100 movies to watch, 100 paintings to look at, 100 history lessons to learn. And none of that bothers Cassia…until she goes to look at her Match, the person she will marry, and sees two faces. Now she must finally make a choice for herself: does she marry Xander and follow the life that the Society has chosen for her, the one that will keep her and everyone she loves safe, or does she give up everything for Ky, the boy with the troubled past who was never meant to marry anyone?

Opinion:
Despite what other reviews I’ve read have said, I think Condie does a decent job of introducing us to her world. In the beginning, I can understand why Cassia doesn’t question anything. That’s just the way things are. I’m slightly ashamed to admit that I was a bit jealous of her. I hate making decisions, and everyone seemed so happy that it actually seemed like a nice place to live. As the novel progresses, though, you realize that everything’s not what it seems. Sadly, it’s not until the last quarter of the book that we really begin to see what’s wrong with this society, and that’s when the plot really starts picking up.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the beginning of the book, because I did. I liked the beginning. I liked the end to an extent. The middle just sort of fell flat. It was interesting, and I still enjoyed the book overall, but somewhere in the middle I kind of lost interest a little. I never considered not finishing the book (like I did with Starters), but if someone had stolen it from me, I wouldn’t really have cared, either.

I will say that the love story mostly worked. I could understand why Cassia was torn between Ky and Xander in the beginning. She’s grown up with both of them, but Xander is her best friend. This is the only real part of the book that reminded me of The Hunger Games, when she has to choose between her best friend and a guy she sort of knows but doesn’t really. Like Gale, Xander is strong and reliable, and he looks out for her and loves her, and you can’t help but feel sorry for him, even though you’re reading the book knowing (or at least hoping) that she’s going to end up with the other guy. So I did like that that part felt mostly realistic. She didn’t just bump into Ky and immediately fall in love with him for no reason. There was a build up. It still felt a bit off at times, but I can go with and assume that anyone would feel that way when they discovered that they might have been Matched with someone else.

This was far from my favorite book, and I don’t think it comes close to living up to the hype from The Hunger Games, but it was a decent story that entertained me for a few hours. I’ll probably go on to read the next two in the series, if only because I’m curious to see how it ends.

Already behind but still not worried

Yes, it’s only the fifth day of Camp NaNo August, and I’m already behind where I’m supposed to be. According to the NaNo calendars I’m using as my background, I should be at 8,065 words today. Since I’m aiming for 60k this month instead of 50k, I should really be at 9,670. I’m actually at 6,511. I’ve written the prologue and chapter 1, and I’m at least halfway through chapter 2, probably a little more. According to the Camp site, I have to write 1,611 a day to finish on time. I can do that easily if I actually focus.

I generally get like this when NaNo starts. For the week or so beforehand, I’m excited to start working on this new project. Then the day before and the day it starts, I panic and realize that I haven’t planned enough and that nothing I write is good enough, and I drag out the writing process. I sit at my desk with my coffee, but instead of writing, I watch TV. I watch movies. I play games. I read blogs. I start making notes on other novels I want to write in the future. I pretty much do everything but write.

Most of the writing that I do have so far is based on the chapters I already had from previous attempts to write this novel. The first time I tried to write this novel was NaNo 2008. I wanted to try pantsing a novel, so I wanted to start with a character and just see what happened after that. I ended up with four characters (which eventually evolved into three), and I had an overall outline in my head before NaNo even started. I got about 10k in and then quit. I tried writing this again back in August 2010. In order to prepare for NaNo, I was going to try to write a novel over the span of August and September. I got about four chapters in before I gave up.

Now I’m more prepared. I understand most of the characters. I have a clear view for the first several chapters at least. Now I just have to deal with the fact that it’s never going to be as great in my head as it is on paper. The rational part of me knows that that doesn’t matter, that it’ll get better when I edit it and that my second draft is always better than my first, but the other part of me is still afraid to keep going. I think part of my problem is that I’ve now done a bit more editing with Tilt, and I don’t want to make it harder for myself later. Both Tilt and Learning to Lie had to be completely rewritten, and I’m afraid that most of Degeneration will be, as well. I already know that The Story of Em will probably need to be tossed, or at least reworked, if I want to make it a completed draft. Part of me just wants to slow down a bit with this one and see if perhaps I can actually keep the first completed draft of this one. Obviously it will still need editing and reworking, but I shouldn’t have to redo the entire thing.

I think that’s throwing me off, though. I should just write. If it ends up needing tons of editing later, that’s fine. Editing Tilt is actually proving to be rather enjoyable. I have tomorrow and Wednesday off work, and possible Tuesday, as well. I forget how slow the first few weeks are. My plan tomrrow is to get caught back up with where I’m supposed to be. That means a little over 5k and 4 chapters (since I wanted to write at least 1 chapter a day). I’d rather keep up with the chapters than the word count, but I’d be happy either way.

And tomorrow, the TV stays off.