Friday, January 31, 2014

Five Years

Can you believe it? I've had this blog for five years now, from freshman year of college to now my second semester of 2L year in law school. Crazy.

I'm back at school, and I am SO CLOSE to finishing this book, I swear. Maybe 5k-7k away. I'm basically within hollering distance of the ending. I can't wait. I started this book last January, so it has officially taken over a year to write it. I think that's the longest I've ever spent, although of course, I didn't spend the entire year writing.

On the non-writing side of things, I'm absolutely thrilled with my schedule for the semester. It's much more tailored to my interests than last semester, which was horrible, and I'm starting to get back into looking forward to going to class. I am still on a very good streak emotionally. It is hard, extremely hard, to be okay with not being the best. And I know that sounds disingenuous, coming from where I'm sitting in one of the best law schools in America, poised to do probably whatever I want in the legal field, there is always someone better, and when you're at the top, you're at a great vantage point to see all the people who are giants and have achieved so much more than you. Even your classmates seem like they're positioning themselves on a track that if you don't scramble to keep up, will leave you in the dust. And when you are successful, you become gripped with this terror that if you don't keep it up, everyone will immediately notice you are a fraud and all you've achieved will fall to pieces. Yet simultaneously caught in the relentless fear that you are invisible to the eyes of everyone who might matter.

But I guess, like in writing, it's important to remind yourself that success is not a zero sum game, and everybody's life story is a different one. We're all traveling at different speeds, maybe even different directions.

Who knows, in five years, I could be in a different destination than I ever dreamed possible. At any rate, the heroine in my book is reaching the end of her journey, and in some ways, we're going through similar struggles. I am fascinated to see what she will think, when it's all said and done.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Release Day

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs is out today. Been waiting a long time for this! I already bought it. So should you.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Happy Jar & Other Delightful Finds

I saw this awesome idea on Maureen Johnson's tumblr that I'm adopting for the new year. A jar of happy! The basic premise:

“Start on January 1st with an empty jar. Throughout the year write the good things that happened to you on little pieces of paper. On December 31st, open the jar and read all the amazing things that happened to you that year.”

I've got an adorable little jam jar that I just put a nice gold ribbon on to jazz it up, and I've put in two notes already. I'm so looking forward to a year of great adventures and accomplishments. I think I'm going to do one note for every week of the year.

You should try it too!

Second cool idea, also from Maureen's tumblr (I stalk it, whatever). Don't Break the Chain calendars! Where you pick an activity and cross out every day on the calendar that you do it. It mentally forces you to do that activity for as long as possible because you don't want to break the chain once you've kept it going for all those days of x-es. Yeah. Pretty self explanatory. But it tricks your mind, and that's cool. It's interactive! Plus, it comes in different colors.

AND FINALLY: coffitivity. You can be in a coffee shop ALL DAY LONG. Try it. Try it. Try it. I can't write without it now. It's the best. "Morning Murmur" is my white noise of choice. Although I suspect that all of the sounds are actually the same, except "Lunchtime Lounge" has more plates clanging (FOR EATING??) and "University Undertones"* has some random sounds of hardcover books being slapped on tables if you want to feel more like you're in an appropriately pretentious coffee shop (BECAUSE BOOKS ARE SMART. AND STUFF).

*Con: "University Undertones" also seems to have more sounds of people scraping chairs out as loudly as possible (because college students are assholes?? or because they don't know how to pull out chairs properly? unclear).

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Book Rant: A Monster Calls

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do.

But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting. He's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming...

This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

OH MY GOD THIS WAS AMAZING. I'm on a roll with my reading, which is probably a result of the fact that I am in a really difficult spot for writing right now. I think I've spent four hours working on maybe eight hundred words today. #strugglebus

I keep reading books intermittently between reading The Silmarillion and Bright Young Things. The Silmarillion I'm taking slow, because it's glorious, and I want to savor it slowly and only when I'm sitting in bed before I go to sleep, as a kind of grown-up, awesome bed time story. Bright Young Things is slow because ... well, I just don't really like it that much, but I'm already halfway through so I have to finish it.

Anyway, A Monster Calls has won a million well-deserved awards, and it came out two years ago, so again, I'm not sure I have much to add. Other than I wholeheartedly agree with all the hype. The book starts out a little simplistic for my tastes, but quickly blooms into an incredible, modern parable about grief and childhood and being honest with yourself. It is a "kids book" in the way that Coraline is a kids book -- which is to say, it is better the older you are when you read it. Coraline, for example, was creepy when I was little, and now it is full-blown terrifying.

This book will have you feeling all the feels. It is PERFECTLY crafted. Just an amazing work of art. Everything ties together like a miracle. And when I finished, I immediately downloaded another Patrick Ness book onto my Kindle.

Okay, back to writing now. Urgggggh.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Book Rant: Eleanor & Park

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. When Eleanor meets Park, you’ll remember your own first love—and just how hard it pulled you under. 

This book doesn't really need a review, as it's not new and many more credible people have done it before me.

"Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it's like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it's like to be young and in love with a book." --John Green

"This sexy, smart, tender romance thrums with punk rock and true love." --Gayle Forman

"A breathless, achingly good read about love and outsiders." --Stephanie Perkins.

The greats of YA Lit have spoken. But it being my first completed book of 2014, I had to comment.

The book is lovely, and for once, I actually do like the dual POV. Rainbow Rowell uses it to great effect. But all sorts of wonderful things have already been said about the book. I can only add that while I would recommend it, I would not rate it as highly as everyone else has. I think, honestly and this might be weird, but the romance is the biggest weakness of the book. It just came at me as too in-your-face and devastating. And probably that is what young love is like, but it kind of got weirdly Twilight-esque at times with Park and Eleanor's descriptions of each other.

The best part of the book for me was the characterizations of the two characters' families. The domestic violence in Eleanor's family seemed so real and heart wrenching. Incredibly well done. And Park's family was frankly, just one of my favorite things I've read. Much, much thanks to Rowell for depicting parents that are in love and mostly normal but with flaws and INTERRACIAL. Amazing. Read quite a few interracial pairings in books now, but as parents? Not very often. I was obsessed with Park's parents. Maybe this is a sign that I am getting real old, as one of my favorite parts of the Percy Jackson books is Percy's relationship with his mother Sally.

It's these things that kept me going through the pages of romance that just didn't quite ring true for me through most of the book; though, I won't deny Rowell's a great writer, and that's part of the reason I finished. And the ending was pretty goddamn perfect. All in all, really liked the book. A modern teenage romance that's solid and puts together two real characters and not skinny, pretty white people at all times.

I'm really into Rainbow Rowell, though, because she wrote Fangirl (which is on my to-read list; will probably check it out from the Cambridge Public Library when I go back to school but won't spend money on it), which means she is obviously Of Fandom -- awesome. Love authors who appreciate and embrace fan fiction, because it's a transformative thing for a lot of young writers and should be seen as such by the law and by published authors. Good for her!

Currently reading: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen and The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Writing Boot Camp Begins!

Must hit 1,000 words from here on out until Jan. 19. But first, had a cavity filled today, so I'm all numbed out. Treating myself with two hours of sitting in bed with an electric blanket, a cup of coffee, and a paper copy of The Silmarillion (which I haven't read yet, shockingly). There's something luxurious about feeling the pages of a real book with a hot drink when it's super cold outside. Translated for here, -17 degrees Fahrenheit without taking into account the wind chill. Brrr!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

My Top Picks of 2013*

{Here a string of new posts: Books of 2013, then Goals for Next Year, and My Top Picks of 2013.}

*This is a weird list, because they're not exactly all the BEST books that were published this year or the best books I read. I tried to create a balance based on the limited genres I read and what I truly thought was amazing. Like if it was just the absolute best books I read, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King would have been on this list, but I figured it's not news that A.S. King is awesome.

1. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (basically 2013 publication)

Coming in December 31, 2012, this book barely missed the cut as a 2013 book, but it's so close, I feel like it counts. If you missed my review way back when, it's here. I reiterate that I found the book profoundly moving, and although terribly sad, a joyous celebration of life nonetheless. I'm a big stickler for interesting premises, and assisted suicide is something I rarely read about, so the tasteful, lovely--if that's an appropriate word here--way it was handled made the book a winner on more than just one level. I don't think it should be marketed as a love story, so much as a story about love. A true gem of a book.

2. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (2013 publication)

I don't know if I think Code Name Verity or Rose Under Fire was better, but I thought it more appropriate to pick Rose Under Fire here, because it's more recent. The drawback is that the unique narrative device in Code Name Verity doesn't seem to serve any purpose here and it has lost much of its freshness since the last book. But Rose Justice is a compelling character to follow and the accompanying cast of characters and friends in the concentration camp are carefully fleshed-out. Like its predecessor, this book gets difficult to read at time due to the subject matter and graphic descriptions, but I would recommend it to anybody, history lover or not. Elizabeth Wein is a rare gift to the YA genre, and I can't wait to see what she will come up with next.

3. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (2011 publication)

Speaking of what people are coming up with next, Ransom Riggs' sequel to Miss Peregrine's is coming out in just under two weeks! My expectations are high because of this book right here, something I avoided reading for the longest time because the hype was so in-your-face all the time. But as usual, my stubbornness kept me from discovering a great book; Miss Peregrine's was a marvelous blend of history and fantasy, text and visuals. It manages to feel like a classic, in the league of a Alice in Wonderland or something. It reminds me a lot of Un Lun Dun by China Mieville, a book that lingered in my mind for a long time. Escapism at its best.

4. Without Tess by Marcella Pixley (2011 publication)

I've read a good number of books involving mental illness in the past two years, and I can say that this one is hands down my favorite. Pixley knows her way around language better than most people I've read and crafts a haunting story of sisterhood and sacrifice. Interspersed with poems that reinforce the eloquence of the prose, Pixley draws you in for a devastating climax that will be stamped in your nightmares for days, I promise you. I picked this book off the shelf at random from the DC public library, and wow, was it a great decision. I really hope more people read it.

5. The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler (2013 publication)

I had to pick a good YA contemporary for my list, and this one, while a traditional boy-and-girl love story, continues to build my admiration of Ockler as someone who can consistently deliver. While general premise starts out as pretty hokey and West Side Story-esque, it quickly transforms into a story with depth and heart. I think my favorite part is how three-dimensional the characters are, surprising, given how large the cast is. With four sisters, it's easy to make cookie cutter placeholders, but Ockler lets the reader feel that each sister has a different personalities. And the father-daughter relationship between Jude and her Papi is very touching. Toward the end, the story takes a turn that I didn't expect, and it wraps up with a bittersweet conclusion that showcases the potential of well-written YA. Satisfying and a smooth read.

Goals for The New Year

{Here a string of new posts: Books of 2013, then Goals for Next Year, and My Top Picks of 2013.}

This year, I'm looking to up my reading count and of course, write another novel!

Can't find the post early in 2013 but I think I hit my goal of 35 exactly. I'd like to read 45 novels this year. It should be pretty doable; that's still less than one book a week.

As for writing, I stick to my goal of finishing my current manuscript (hopefully) by the time I get back to school. Failing that, at least by the end of January. And then, I'd like to query agents again, plus I have a new idea for my fifth novel that I'm just crazy with excitement to write. The main character is a boy, which I haven't tried since novel #2. Haven't decided yet what the POV or tense will be. It'll be good for the idea to simmer for another few weeks. It's about a boy who has hyperthymesia, an affliction of people who have almost perfect autobiographical memories. In other words, they pretty much remember everything that's ever happened to them in great detail. I have always been obsessed with memory, but I've mostly only written and dealt with forgetting. But there is a lot of pain and wonder that comes with not being able to forget too.

Books that I'm looking forward to in the new year:

1. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (April Release)

THIS BOOK SOUNDS AWESOME. Also, Zevin is a bit hit-or-miss for me sometimes, but the only other adult book she's written that I've read, Margarettown, remains one of my favorite books of all time. I intend on rereading it soon. Ever since I found Fikry was slated for release in April 2014, I've been anxiously awaiting it. You know I have a thing for quirky, whimsical things.

2. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (already released)

Everyone has said marvelous things about this book, including John Green. Plus, interracial romance for YA. I love it! The cover looks beautiful too.

3. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins (March Release)

I have been looking forward to this one for a LONG TIME, but due to personal reasons, the release date of this book has been pushed back multiple times. No matter. I'm willing to wait as long as it takes.

4. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (October Release)

Because DUH. Started reading Percy Jackson when I was 18, will finish the journey with Percy at 24. Can't wait.

5. Edit: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (JANUARY RELEASE)

JUST FOUND OUT THAT THIS BOOK IS COMING OUT JANUARY 14. GO AND GET IT GUYS (or read Miss Peregrine's first). Goddamn, I love Ransom Riggs.

Books of 2013 (The Final Edition)

{Here a string of new posts: Books of 2013, then Goals for Next Year, and My Top Picks of 2013.}

These are the final books I read in 2013. Total for the year? 35. Which I think is better than last year, and I'm excited about surpassing that in 2014. I don't want to make too ambitious of goals for myself. I know I am capable of doing a lot; there was one week where I read 7 novels and wrote 10k, so I can do that, but I'm not consistent with my productivity. But I'm happy with where I ended up this year! Without further ado: these are the final five.

31. Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
32. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
33. The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee
34. Just One Year by Gayle Forman
35. The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

Best of the Bunch: Hard pick, because I liked a lot of these. Probably has to go to Rose Under Fire, though. This woman never ceases to amaze with her gorgeously written historicals. I would love to see her branch out next and write something outside of WWII, but if she turns out another WWII pilot book, I won't be opposed. I can't decide if I like this one better than Code Name Verity: probably not, but there are passages where I feel Rose Under Fire surpasses its predecessor. It ends better, for instance. And I continue to love the fact that Wein writes friendship books. Although I write mostly love stories in my books too, I do like that there can be successful YA without romance.

Surprise Favorite: Again, a hard pick. I'll go with Just One Year by Gayle Forman. To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of Just One Day. The main character was blah, and the premise was cutesy, but kind of ridiculous to me. I also just didn't buy that the MC would spend so much of her year obsessing over a guy she met for a day. Willem's story made more sense to me, because although he was really into "Lulu," he did other things and the decisions he made to look for her were not the backbone of the story. I think Forman is actually better at writing guys than girls; I also liked Where I Went better than If I Stay. Anyway, Just One Year was brilliant and surprisingly lovely to read. By the end, Forman had won me over again, and her ending, while some people didn't like, I thought was just perfect.

Biggest Disappointment: Jellicoe Road. The book is not by any means bad, but I had higher expectations so maybe that was why when I read it, I didn't find it as engaging or mind-blowing as people thought. The parallel story in Hannah's manuscript that ends up coming together with the main plot only serves for a large part of the book to be annoyingly confusing to me and at the same time super obvious. Anyone could have probably figured out the significance of the manuscript very early on.

Up next: Unsure, but possibly Bright Young Things. I will resume reading The Diviners when I get back to school, for a 2014 that kicks off with a distinctly 1920s flair.