Saturday, January 19, 2013

Book Review: Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Title: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: YA dystopian
Why I read it/how I found it: I got a free copy.

Ninety-five days, and then I’ll be safe.
I wonder whether the procedure will hurt.
I want to get it over with.
It’s hard to be patient.
It’s hard not to be afraid while I’m still uncured, though so far the deliria hasn’t touched me yet.
Still, I worry.
They say that in the old days, love drove people to madness.
The deadliest of all deadly things: It kills you both when you have it and when you don’t.

Why did I wait so long to read this book? I don't know! For some reason it always missed me. I'm glad I found a copy and got to read it. The writing's beautiful, the world-building's strong, the characters feel real. 

I think what both surprised and pleased me most was that while this book is about love and the main plotline certainly focuses on the romantic part, a good deal of the book focuses on other kinds of love. Lena's best friend and her family are just as important to her as Alex, her love interest, and those relationships cause trouble just as the romantic storyline does. It was refreshing to have a heroine with all of these facets of her love that we as people have also.

Other information: First in a trilogy. Optioned for film by Fox. The third book, Requiem will be out in March.  Oliver's website is here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Giving the reader some emotion

If it hasn't become obvious to you, I love The Hunger Games. The whole trilogy. Everything. And upon watching the movie for the fourth time or so, something that bothered me finally clicked as to why it did.

In the book, right after Peeta's reaped, Katniss describes in detail how he saved her life by giving her bread and hope. In the movie, there's a brief flash of the two in the rain, but without context of what's actually going on.

Why does this bother me so much? Because in the book, we're given a strong characteristic as to who Peeta is. We see that he's kind and willing to sacrifice for others (his mom beats him because of what he did). Right away, the readers like Peeta, and the situation of the two going into the games gets more complicated.

In the movie, we get none of that. He's just a boy Katniss will have to fight against. Of course, those who read the books know about the bread, but those who haven't don't care. There's no emotion or connection between the two, and it takes a while to see Peeta's goodness come through the movie. And by then, most people will already have their feelings about him sorted.

This made me think of how important it is for us as writers to set up our character's personalities sooner rather than later. We can make the reader love (or hate, depending) the character with even a sentence, and hopefully within a scene. The bland characters, without their good or bad qualities coming through immediately, won't grasp the reader and then they won't care.

Sure, there are characters you can grow to love/hate, but the sooner the connection the reader has to them, the better. The sooner they'll think to themselves One more page, and get sucked in.

What do you do to make a reader instantly have an emotional reaction to your characters?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Uncertain 2013

Sunday night I found myself back in my apartment, back in the snow (*sob*), and back to school for the last time.

It's really strange, because your whole life you go to school. You keep on thinking of all of years and time you have left, and how it seems so impossibly far away. School will never end, it seems.

Now here I am with the last semester of my undergraduate degree and all I can think is wait, already?!

Granted, I'm applying for a master's program, so that's another two years, but still. Even that feels like school's practically over. Plus, I'm so incredibly anxious as to whether or not I'll actually get into a program. So in addition to the looming presence of my current lifestyle ending, I have very little idea of what will be in the future. It's not a feeling I've had before and not one that I particularly care for.

Do you have any recent changes coming up? What's been a big uncertainty in your life?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Book Review: Red Glove by Holly Black

Title: Red Glove
Author: Holly Black
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: YA urban fantasy
Why I read it/how I found it: Sequel to White Cat

**Spoilers for White Cat below**
Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth — he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything — or anyone — into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she’s human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila’s been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion-worker mom. And if Lila’s love is as phony as Cassel’s made-up memories, then he can’t believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel’s oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue — crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too — they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can’t trust anyone — least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.

I love the magic of this world, how the touch of a hand can produce magic. I love placing it in an urban setting and watching how to incorporate the mobs.

What I found to be a great strength of Red Glove was the hard choices Cassel had to make. He has to face the knowledge of his power and how everyone wants to use him, which made for great conflict. Making the right choice wasn't easy, especially when those offering the right choice were corrupt as well. It refused to be straight-forward. 

This was plotted so well, I didn't see the outcome until it was playing out in front of me. The mystery is great.

My one gripe would be that it started a little slow for me, as at the beginning Cassel's simply finishing up his summer vacation of conning and there isn't much that's important to the plot at this point. But page 50 it goes and I devoured it.

Other information: This is the second in a trilogy. Holly Black's website is here.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The power of what if

For Christmas I got season 1 of the TV show Once Upon a Time. The first thing I watched was the bonus features, because I love seeing how these things are made. What stuck out to me was how many times the writers of the show said "we wondered what would happen if" or "this path was obvious, so we asked ourselves what if..."

The biggest thing to me is when they were talking about Prince Charming's back story. They knew everyone would expect to know his story--the royal prince with a rich father who would take Snow White away. So they asked "What if that wasn't his story? What if he was actually a pauper?" From this simple realization that  the story would be more interesting with Charming having a different back story, the show has a whole other plot to go into with the conflicts of becoming a prince without having been raised as one.

As I've been plotting my next book, I've asked myself these same questions. What would the audience expect to happen from this? If it's something good--like the heroine winning, then I don't touch it. But who's expected to be the bad guy? The good guy? What cliches are in this genre that I want to avoid? Then from this, asking "what if this happened?" Sometimes it's awful. But sometimes it's good. And I've found that things are a lot less predictable and a lot more interesting.

Do you have any tricks for plotting your story?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Best books I read in 2012

I think 2012 was my greatest reading year yet. I read 120 books this year. This post will probably hurt, having to choose some of my favorite, but I chose my top 10 books I read in 2012.

1. Everneath by Brodi Ashton is an amazing paranormal romance based off of the Persephone myth that I devoured. It gave me so many emotions and I absolutely cannot wait for the sequel to come out on the 22nd.

2. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. I finally got around to reading this classic, and I loved it! Completely deserving of its title. It's also considered one of the first young adult novels. It's certainly the first classic young adult novel.

3. The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is a contemporary novel about Lennie, who's dealing with the death of her sister, a mother who abandoned her, and a new boy in town. I loved the setting and the characters and the depth of this novel. It was absolutely wonderful.

4. Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale. This is a sequel that may just be better than the first. I loved where Miri's journey took her, the politics and personal stakes in this book.

5. The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams is a contemporary novel about Kyra, a thirteen-year-old girl in a community that practices polygamy, and is told she's to marry her much older uncle. High stakes and beautiful language with strong characters--this book is a quick recommendation for me.

 6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I read this along with the nerdfighters and found it worth all of the hoopla around it (which unfortunately I don't always find with classics). So very thought-provoking and amazing.

7. Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins. This entire series is amazing--lots of action, strong characters, and moving themes. Recommended in a heartbeat.

8. Endlessly by Kiersten White is the final book in the Paranormalcy trilogy. A perfect ending for Evie and everyone else. Strongly recommend the whole series.

9. Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. I think the only thing I could recommend more than reading this play is to watch it, especially the version from the 90s. This was my favorite Shakespeare play we read for my class.

10. American-Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. This year I was introduced to graphic novels, and I am now a huge fan of them. This Printz-winning book was probably my favorite that I read. Funny and meaningful, this is an amazing piece worthy of its award.

Other favorites from 2012: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, Wintergirls and Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred  D. Taylor.

What were some of your favorite books you read in 2012?