Monthly Archives: December 2010

Read-Through Thursday: City of Bones

This is a new series for my blog, wherein I will discuss whatever book or books I’m reading or have just finished that week.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading this week, too, or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

12/30/10:  City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

This week I’m reading Book One of The Mortal Instruments series, in which 15-year-old sassy New Yorker, Clary, discovers she and her missing mother are Shadowhunters, humans with special powers to fight demons.  Now she must find her mother and the Mortal Cup her mother’s abductor will use to create his own Shadowhunter army, and save the world she didn’t even know existed.

I’m digging this book.  It’s another huge one – more than 450 pages – but the story keeps me turning the pages.  Clary is a fun and strong character and I can’t wait to see what happens between her and the two boys in her life: dark-haired, boy-next-door, Simon, and the golden boy Shadowhunter, Jace.

Despite my enjoyment, a few questions keep swirling around in my mind while I read. 

  • Why do so many YA paranormal/urban fantasy novels have a love triangle?
  • Why do so many of the author’s dialogue tags interrupt a character’s dialogue?  I find myself reading those lines at least twice to get the right flow.

 Despite those questions, there are several things I like about this story.

  • Clary is strong-willed without being annoying.
  • She doesn’t yet know she’s part of a love triangle.  To be fair, the triangle is more like a rectangle anyway.
  • She recognizes the differences between herself and the tall, lithe, gorgeous Isabelle without being overly upset about those differences.
  • Jace may be the bad boy, but he’s been right there for Clary from the beginning.  His charm is fun and I definitely get why there are Team Jace fans.
  • Simon keeps surprising me.  I liked him from the first chapter, but he isn’t a static character.  I definitely get why there are Team Simon fans.
  • Isabelle isn’t just a mean girl.  There’s more to her and we can all relate to the things that motivate her.

I love that I generally like books and can learn something from almost everything I read.  If I really don’t like something and don’t finish reading it, I probably won’t bother to talk/write about it either.

Oh, another thing I like about this book – since it pubbed in 2007 two other books in the series are already out, plus the first book of the prequel series came out this past year, so if I still like this book at the end, I’ll have plenty more to read about this world and these characters.

Happy New Year!

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Snow Day

Hope everyone has enjoyed a holiday or some time off this month (regardless of your beliefs).  For those of you who are snowed in, I hope you are making the most of it.  My boys are looking forward to sledding today.  I’m looking forward to them sledding while I continue revising Sophie.

This weekend I got to enjoy several movies related to books:  Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Prince Caspian.  The kids were a bit confused by the Narnia movies, especially the beginnings, but enjoyed them none the less.

I am constantly amazed by how my childrens’ brains work.  At dinner last night the 4 year old said, “What if Hagrid was Hagrid the Hut?”  To which RocketMan replied:  “A big, hairy blob with a magical umbrella?  Cool.”

Maybe instead of sledding they should make a Hagrid the Hut Snowman.  Too bad it’s powdery snow.

Maybe my 7 year old will want to read the Chronicles of Narnia soon.  He’s currently about halfway through the 2nd Harry Potter book:  The Chamber of Secrets.  Every night when I come to turn off his light, sing him a song and say goodnight, he begs for a few more minutes or a few more pages.  Then again, he has a couple of Magic Treehouse books, How To Train Your Dragon and a few others he received for his birthday or Chanukah.  There is never any shortage of books in this house!

Thanks to all this family movie time, I have completed several crocheting projects (4 pairs of fingerless mitts, and 3 hats) and the bug hasn’t yet run its course.  What should I make next?  I like quicky, easy projects that satisfy my need to get back to revising, and my need for almost immediate gratification (since I don’t get that from writing – LOL).

Well, I hope you are enjoying the comforts of a warm hearth or a warm beach, or at the very least, somplace dry.

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Read-Through Thursday: Whisper

This is a new series for my blog, wherein I will discuss whatever book or books I’m reading or have just finished that week.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading this week, too, or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

 12/23/10:  Whisper by Phoebe Kitanidis 

A girl from a family where the women Hear the thoughts of others, called Whispers, finds everything in her life changing when her Hearing changes.

I liked reading this book just fine, but didn’t think it was to the “can’t-put-it-down” level, until Tuesday night when I really couldn’t put it down until way past midnight.  I had to talk myself into putting the book down.  I had to tell myself that I had too much to do the next day (the last day of school before the break, a sick husband, the rodent-chasing puppy, another pair of kiddie mitts to crochet before the holiday, a major revision…).  But it means I put the book down at the end of a chapter with one of those perfect chapter endings designed to make the reader turn the page and keep reading.  I really wanted to turn the page and keep reading.  I really really did.  But my eyes burned.  I was sleepy.  And I had all those things I had to do yesterday.

And then I did it again last night.  Another night up past midnight because I couldn’t put Whisper down until I finished it.

The beginning was a little slow for me, but it somehow hooked me gently without me noticing.  Because by the time I got to the point where her Hearing changes and all that ensued, I was hooked but good!  I guess I could relate to a story about a girl who always does what others want.  She enjoys making others happy and fulfilling the wishes she Hears in her head.  To the point where she doesn’t really know who she is and what she wants for herself.

What a universal concept!

Coming of age is about self-discovery.  And this book is about Joy discovering herself with and without her Hearing, and with a Hearing that has gone from a gift to a curse.  Yesterday I looked forward to reading the rest and finding out how Joy resolves the conflict between the Hearing she didn’t think she could live without and the Hearing she can’t live with.

It was quite a ride.  I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say there is a boy.  A special boy.  And I couldn’t help rooting for him as much as I rooted for Joy.

That Phoebe Kitanidis is a crafty one.  I look forward to more from this debut author.

(And, of course, I love her name.  She shares her first name with my beautiful and energetic puppy and her last name sounds Greek.  Those who know me well know how much I love Greece and that I thoroughly enjoyed learning some Greek before my honeymoon.  RocketMan still tells the story of how I charmed various older men with my language skills.  But I so obviously digress…)

Anyone else out there read Whisper?  I highly recommend it.

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A Question of Values

So I finally took the plunge back into revising Sophie. My last revision notes were taken in early July. It’s a slow process, but absolutely worthwhile. I’m making sure the plot is full of tension and I’m deepening all the characters.

I’ve been giving the antagonist a lot of thought, too. According to various sources, the antagonist should be created in much the same way as the main character. S/he needs values, conflicts, goals (both abstract and concrete) and other qualities to make her/him human. So, in thinking about Giselle’s values I wondered if values change over time based on life experience, or rather do you keep your values but express them differently in changing circumstances.

RocketMan and I attended a cocktail party in our neighborhood the other night. One of our neighbors is a clinical psychologist and I posed my question about values to her. She gave me the example of one of her patients who thought she would react to a certain situation in one way, but actually responded in a different way because of deeply felt values she didn’t realize she still held. My psychologist friend said that while we may try to think through a situation with our heads, our hearts can’t help but be connected.

In other words, we think we change our values, but we can’t completely let go of the values we were raised with.

This thinking opens up some really interesting avenues for Giselle. Wouldn’t it be fun for her to hold the same values as one of the other characters (Louise, the MC’s sister in the past, for example)? But after all she has been through, Giselle would want to react differently now, but would still have to react, at least partially, in a way defined by those long-held values or beliefs. What a contrast that could make!

Psychology is fascinating to me. A good understanding of psychology is absolutely essential for a writer. It just opens up so many possibilities that I can’t wait to explore as I continue my revision process.

For more on psychology for writers, please check out LB Diamond’s Mental Health Monday posts, The Writer’s Guide to Psychology by Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD, and Margie Lawson’s online body language and editing courses.

Feel free to add more resources in the comments.

Thanks to all who help me see what is in the heads and hearts of my characters!

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Read-Through Thursday: Girl, Stolen

This is a new series for my blog, wherein I will discuss whatever book or books I’m reading or have just finished that week.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading this week, too, or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

Oops, almost missed this week’s post.

12/16/10:  Girl, Stolen by April Henry

A blind girl is accidentally kidnapped when a boy steals her stepmom’s car.  When the boy’s father finds out the girl’s father is rich and powerful, he decides to hold her for ransom. It is told in present tense, in alternating chapters by the girl and her young kidnapper.

As for Cheyenne’s inner conflict, she is a girl who lost her sight three years earlier in an accident and she struggles with whether to allow herself to look weak because of her blindness in front of her kidnappers.  This is a struggle for her because she hates looking weak in front of anyone, but she also wants to do anything she can to survive this ordeal.

I’m only about halfway through, but I’m in awe of the spare prose and how the author handles backstory and description.  I’m definitely hooked!  This topic could be really depressing.  This could be a really dark book.  But it isn’t.  Because April Henry doesn’t let us wallow in the lows or spend too much time worrying about Cheyenne.  The plot moves too quickly for that.  Cheyenne constantly thinks about how to get out of her predicament.

Okay, I’m going to go back to finish it now.

Have a good weekend, reading and writing friends!

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Reasons to write YA

The end of the year is a good time to look back before looking forward.  So here is my list of reasons I’m glad to be a young adult writer.

  • I read lots and lots of awesome YA books.
  • I hang out on Twitter with lots and lots of awesome YA writers/authors.
  • I learn about new awesome books before they are even published.
  • I relive some awful, embarrassing, or wonderful, empowering moments of my life.
  • I suffer teen-like angst about my writing abilities.
  • I relive all the self-doubt I thought I had conquered more years ago than I plan to let on in this public forum.
  • I have made awesome friends through writing, including (but not limited to) my critique partners.
  • I have conversations about my favorite topic (books!) with my teenaged niece and nephew.
  • I am the family YA book expert.
  • I compile lists of books for my 7-year-old son to read now or in the future.
  • I attend conferences with other writers and agents, editors, book publicists, etc. to learn more about childrens’ publishing, which has the added benefit of giving this Mama a very short break from being a Mama.
  • I read any time of day and call it research.
  • The manager of the café in our library knows me.
  • I read my friends manuscripts and get to help them make them better.

Feel free to add your own reasons in the comments.

Yay YA!

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My Young Reader

My oldest kiddo just finished the first Diary of a Wimpy Kid, against my initial better judgment.  When I read the first page last year, I immediately saw words I didn’t want him to know quite yet.  But a year later, all his friends are reading the fifth and newest Wimpy Kid, and his teacher believes all reading is a good thing.  So, he got it for the first night of Chanukah last week from my cousin and he was so excited.  He started reading it right then and there.  He finished it yesterday.  He loved it.  He called it hilarious, which is his highest praise.  And he couldn’t pick a favorite part. 

He’s got another Magic Treehouse on his bedside table, which he started last night.  And he’s looking forward to reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets during the Winter break.  Omigosh, we are once again all about HP – Harry Potter Legos for Wii, Harry Potter Lego kits and the Harry Potter Lego boardgame have all arrived for Chanukah, so far.

What he doesn’t know is that the Chanukah Fairy is also bringing him Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon, and two Magic Treehouse books.

I just love books.  And I really believe there is a book out there for everyone.  I just wish I could convince my 11-year-old niece of that.  She won’t even let me try to find a book she might possibly like.  Well, she may spend a week here during the Winter break, so I’ll have more time to work on her.

Any suggestions for a reluctant female reader of that age?  I’ll gladly accept your suggestions in the comments box.  

Happy Whatever-Holiday-You-Celebrate-in-December!

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