Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: I'll Give You the Sun

My review of I’ll Give You the Sun, the winner of  2015 Printz award, by Jandy Nelson is below. Those strange noises you hear are nothing to be concerned about…it’s just me crying and dying over this book. 

Summary (from goodreads): Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world.

Rating: 5.0/5.0

How is it even possible for me to have another book worthy of a re-read? I’ll tell you how, Jandy Nelson decided to write I’ll Give You The Sun. 

Just like Jellicoe Road, I didn’t expect this book to hit me so hard. I didn’t expect to fall in love with this book. I started the book and though I wasn’t confused, it didn’t grab my attention completely. But somehow, the book snuck up behind me and practically consumed me because, once again, I was about 100 pages in and I couldn’t put the book down. (This was an actual problem because I had class at eight in morning after—I almost missed class). 

Past affects the present. Amazing characters and plots. Twins who are willing to do anything and everything. I loved it all. I’m doing my best to keep this spoiler free, people, but it’s so hard. I want to fangirl about everything in this book. 

I once again fell in love with the characters before the plot in this book. At thirteen,  Noah is the person I was when I was in high school (and kinda of even now). Jude was the person I wanted to be. At sixteen, Noah was the person I envied and hated. Jude was the person I wish I was courageous enough to be. 

Ms. Nelson does a perfect job in depicting a brother-sister relationship. I don’t have a twin, but I’m best friends with my younger brother and everything that happened with Jude and Noah—the jealously, the misunderstanding, making each other angry just because they could—I have been through it with my brother.

Then there was their passion for art. Both Noah and Jude are artists and I really connected with that. Now, I’m not an artist—I tried it for a couple of years because my sister was and is really into art—but the passion, devotion, and determination the two twins had. I saw their passion reflected in my own pursuits with writing and that was really cemented my love for the book. 

The plot also helped. I can’t say much without giving everything away, but I’ll put it this way. There’s a reason I loved both I’ll Give You the Sun and Jellicoe Road. There’s a reason I’m willing to read both again. It’s because both books had authors that knew how to tell not just one story, but two. Two stories that are intertwined from root to branch. 

Have you read this amazing book? What did you think? Please tell me you loved it :) 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Believing Myself

This is a short companion piece to what I wrote on Monday. I didn't want to leave like that and so this post was written *superhero pose*

I am a kick-ass writer. Excuse my language, but I need to say that again. I am a kick-ass writer. 

I know it sounds a little odd, but don’t worry I only really ever say that phrase in my head. I do say it many times to be honest. 

Like all writers, I get crushed by self-doubt and fear. It’s enough that I really can’t even think about writing when those negative feelings are present. It usually occurs in cycle so I’m good about knowing when a mood like that’s going to turn up. And while I haven’t found a cure, I’ve found  pretty good way of staving it off or at least reducing the blow. 

It’s with that simple statement: I am a kick-ass writer. 

Henry Ford said “Whether you are or you aren’t—you’re right.” Well I applied that to my fears and doubts about being a writer. So whenever I feel self-doubt, I deny it with the fact that I am a kick-ass writer. I repeat that phrase until I have some momentum and I can smile.

Our expectations and thoughts are a tricky thing. I’m very quick to assume the worst and I’m definitely more pessimistic than optimistic, but I realize with writing, I can’t be that way. Because if I’m feeling pessimistic about my writing, anything I write will be crap. And to ignore the self-doubt and the tiny little voice in my head that says I’m not good enough, I shout back that I am a kick-ass writer. And even though I’m not the best writer, I’m learning. And one day I really am going to be the epitome kick-ass writer. There’s nothing left to it. 

But until that day, I’m going to keep repeating that simple statement because it’s going to come true. It’s going to take some time, but I’m going to get there.

Do you guys have a quick way to pull yourself out of the spiral of doubt? Care to share? 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Doubting Myself

I’m going to be frank. There are a lot of days I doubt myself. It’s not just a simple—oh I can’t do it. It’s more like—nothing’s going to work out, what’s the point in trying, what if I do all this work and it amounts to nothing, etc. (I’m a tad dramatic).

And to make matters worse, it doesn’t just affect my overall mood, it affects my writing. I seem to cycle through different stages. 

Stage 1: After a week (or longer of not writing), I feel the urge to write. It’s a casual thing. Sort of an obligation. A reminder that writing should also be a priority of mine. It’s just a small idea in the back of my mind while I’m doing homework or studying (inevitably this occurs around or after times I’ve had my series of exams for school) 

Stage 2: My fingers twitch, my synapses are making new connections, etc. I need to write. On my home from class, I’m hit with a brilliant idea and I know how great its going to be. I can see all the scene playing out in my head.

Stage 3: This is after stage 2 has died down. I’m in more a hopeful state. I believe that this rush and hit of inspiration will be able to continue. I’m a little delirious and irrational. I believe that it can last a long time. I’ll be able to write as much as possible. 

Stage 4: I actually think about the logistics. The reality of wanting to publish and become an author. That what I want—my dream— hinges on everyone else saying yes (agents, publishers, readers). It’s depressing to think about it in those terms. There’s no point in me continuing my writing. It’s a waste of time. I should be focusing on something  that will actually be productive. 

Stage 5: Then that worry morphs into self-loathing. Am I stupid and irrational for wanting this? I’m not good enough to publish a book. I’m not good enough to even submit to an agent. I should focus on something that requires a little less of me being so vulnerable and open for rejection and pain. It infects me. It seeps into my entire life for some time. Ruining me. Making me sit on my bed every night with thoughts of why? I stop writing. 

Return to Stage 1 (and go through it all over again) 

It’s easy to let Stage 4+5 to take up the majority of life. We’re wired to remember the bad parts more than the best moments in our life. I’m guilty of falling into the trap of Stage 4+5. It sometimes takes me a month to get out of it, but the truth is, I pull myself out of it sooner or later. 

I recently read a post on PubCrawl (great website for writers!) and it said “Do what you love because you love it. Don’t let terrifying “what ifs” control your life”. I know I need to listen to this perfect piece of advice because I do love writing and I can’t let my fears hold me back. 

Do any writers get into slumps out there? Comment below if you’re comfortable sharing your own experience! 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review: (On the) Jellicoe Road

This book. This book. (Imagine me shaking the book in front of you.) I never thought I would say it, but I have a favorite book. I don’t even know where to start. Characters, setting, plot, backstory. *Incomprehensible noises* It was all amazing.

Now that I’ve calmed down a little. Here’s my review of On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Summary (from goodreads): I'm dreaming of the boy in the tree. I tell him stories. About the Jellicoe School and the Townies and the Cadets from a school in Sydney. I tell him about the war between us for territory. And I tell him about Hannah, who lives in the unfinished house by the river. Hannah, who is too young to be hiding away from the world. Hannah, who found me on the Jellicoe Road six years ago.
Taylor is leader of the boarders at the Jellicoe School. She has to keep the upper hand in the territory wars and deal with Jonah Griggs - the enigmatic leader of the cadets, and someone she thought she would never see again.
And now Hannah, the person Taylor had come to rely on, has disappeared. Taylor's only clue is a manuscript about five kids who lived in Jellicoe eighteen years ago. She needs to find out more, but this means confronting her own story, making sense of her strange, recurring dream, and finding her mother - who abandoned her on the Jellicoe Road.

Rating: 5.0/5.0 stars 

I would re-read this book. It’s been a good two weeks since I’ve finished this book and I still find myself thinking about it. I’m planning on buying this book and all of Ms. Marchetta’s other books as a graduation gift for myself. This is how much I loved this book. 

The way that Ms. Marchetta weaves two stories together is amazing. I loved how perfectly everything with the two stories was set up. I don’t even know how many hours Melina Marchetta worked to craft this story, but I can tell you it couldn’t have been easy. I loved that as I read the book I could guess what was going to come next. There’s just enough information given to you so you can guess, but the reveal doesn’t come in the book for a couple of pages or even chapters later that you can’t help but doubt yourself. I don’t think I’ve ever been so worried while I was reading a book, honestly. It was predictable, but only because Ms. Marchetta wanted it to be that way. This is how you write an amazing book.

Then the characters. I wanted to be Taylor. I understood Narnie. I fell in love with Jonah. I saw a little bit of myself in every single character and connected to them all. Yes, the plot was amazing and that alone is enough to get you through, but in the beginning when there isn’t much to go on, you read because you love how tough and sassy Taylor is. 

I could go on and on about this book.

But I’m not going to lie. The beginning was confusing. I was frustrated because nothing was explained, but once I got about 100 pages in I was hooked. I literally read the rest of the book in one sitting and the whole time I was screaming at various moments throughout the book. I am so glad I kept reading. 

If you have this on your to-read list, bump it to the top. If you thought about reading it, do it. If you have no clue what this book is, read it. I promise you, you won’t regret it. And even if you do, that’s fine with me. It’s your opinion :) But seriously, read this book. 

Has anyone else read this amazing book? Please tell me I’m not the only one that adores this book? 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Long Road: Beta-Readers

Here’s the low down, peeps. (Yes, I just laughed at how ridiculous that sounds. It is yet another reason I love blogging. It’s good practice for making yourself vulnerable, but I digress). 

I’ve recently finished my first draft of revisions for my urban fantasy YA novel called THE LOY. This book is the book. And no, I don’t think it’s going to be published right away once I start querying. It might not even be received well by the agents I query in all honesty, but this book is my book. This the first manuscript I’ve loved and hated enough to get through revisions. This is the first novel I am going to query. This is the first book I’m going to feel the sting of rejection from. 

This is also the first novel I’ve let my friends read. (Technically they’re reading it right now.) I have my three closest friends reading my novel. This is what’s known as beta-readers. They love me enough to suffer through this first draft that isn’t completely perfect and they’re willing to give me comments and critique.

This is a huge step for me. Before this novel, the only people I let read my book was my sister (who is, undoubtedly, my alpha-reader—a person who looks at a writer’s drafts even before revision) and my brother. I stuck to my siblings because they’re safe. 

I know a lot of people say don’t have your friends or family read your novel, but I disagree. I need a buffer between writing and sending it off to a harsh critic who will rip it to shreds. Don’t get me wrong. I wouldn’t give my novel to any random friend or family member. There’s no reason for me to give my novel to my parents who don’t really enjoy reading unless it’s in Korean—their first language. And I definitely wouldn’t give my novel to one of my friends in my biochemistry class because he doesn’t like reading and he doesn’t even know what YA stands for. There are certain people you shouldn’t give your novel to.

But I chose these three friends to read my novel for various reasons. One is a screenwriter and loves films to the point where she talks about them for hours. My other friend is a rather critical reader and won’t put up with a book if it’s boring or annoying. Then my last friend reads the most YA in my group of friends and has the same taste as I do; she’s also amazing at giving feedback and critique without destroying my hopes and dreams. 

I need to have my friends as my beta-readers. I know they’re going to provide me with awesome comments and ways I can improve my novel. They understand how serious I am about publishing. They also know that I’m ready for critique and open for all suggestions, but my skin isn’t quite thick enough to handle the blunt comments that others may give. 

 Basically, my friends as beta-readers is like jumping down a flight of stairs into a nest of pillows. It’s going to hurt, but at least there’s some cushion.

Did you guys have a hard time letting people read your work? What’s your opinion about friends reading your work? Comment below! 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

This is the review for the third book in The Raven Cycle. If you haven’t read the first two books in this series—The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves— (which I reviewed before) and you don’t like spoilers, stop! I try really hard not to have any spoilers, but I don’t want to upset anyone on the off chance that I did spoil something.  

Summary (from goodreads): There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up. Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.
Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

It was a great book.

But it was setting up a lot of things. It was like watching a chess player contemplate all the possible moves before he actually moves a piece. Ms. Stiefvater was moving all of the pieces into place with this third book. While it was intriguing to read and I would literally read anything with the Raven Boys and Blue in it, there were sections of the book that dragged a little. 

The reason I got through it was because of Ms. Stiefvater’s writing style. It is amazing as always. I don’t know how she does it, but if I could spend a day in her mind, I would do it. There’s a certain way people view the world and I’m starting to wonder if Ms. Stiefvater’s view is a little tilted (in the best way). 

Other than the plot and writing style, I still loved reading about all the characters. It was yet another reason I couldn’t put the book down despite the plot. I am invested in these characters and I am not afraid to admit. And we get even closer to Blue and how her mind works. It was also great to see Blue and Gansey’s relationship bloom a little more. Adam’s finally taking control. And Ronan is his wonderful Ronan self. 

This book isn’t as great as the previous two, but it still definitely has it’s merits. It’s definitely enough to get all the readers to pick up the fourth and last book of the cycle, for sure. 

What did you think of Blue Lily, Lily Blue? Are you excited as I am to read The Raven King? 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Need To Read (2)

I can’t believe it’s already April. It’s my last month of college and so the list of books I absolutely need to read is a little short. I did this previously for March and found I spent less time trying to decide what to read and more time actually reading. This is definitely going to be a monthly thing. 

So onwards to my Need to Read for April!

1. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater: I love Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle books (I even wrote reviews for the first and second book). I knew the moment I read The Raven Boys that I had to read everything she wrote or at least give every book a shot. I have a pretty good feeling that I’m going to love this book. And how amazing is that cover?

2. We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach: This was released not too long ago. I think I saw this book on a list on some article (I can’t remember exactly *shrugs*), but I’m excited to read this one. I’m trying to include more 2015 release books on my list and this has a cool concept. What would you do if you knew an asteroid was going to destroy Earth?

3. Across the Universe by Beth Revis: This book has been on my To-Read list for too long and I finally have a copy from the library, so I’m going to take the plunge. I usually love sci-fi books that aren’t hardcore sci-fi and I think I remember Beth Revis describing her book exactly like that, so I’m excited.

And there’s still one left over book from March—James Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication. Hopefully I’ll finish reading that this month.

What are you planning on reading? Any books I should know about? Comment below! I would love to hear from you. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Camp NaNoWriMo: April 2015

Camp NaNoWriMo. Is there a better way to spend my last month of college? I think not!

For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a commitment to write 50,000 words in the month of November. The Camp versions occur in April and July. I participated in my first NaNo this past November and really loved it. Therefore, I signed up for Camp NaNo.

The biggest difference between the Camp and the regular NaNo is that you get to set your word count. Also you don’t have start a new novel. You could work on a WIP or you can revise one. It’s whatever you want to make it. 

I was thinking about revising my novel, but I decided against it because I found I haven’t been writing as much as I want to this year. Therefore, I’m working on a brand new, sparkling novel. Well, that’s a lie. I’m actually working on two different novels this month. 

The first idea I have I actually set aside for NaNo 2014 when another idea invaded my mind. It’s a fantasy novel with some dark elements. In my head it’s similar to Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo—a little bit darker and a little mysterious. But who knows how it’ll actually end up. I’m excited to see where I can take it though I still don’t have a clue where it’s going. 

My second idea isn’t exactly young adult since it’s about college students. The novel is most likely a product of my impending graduation and reluctance to leave college. I think it would be classified as New Adult in the marketplace, but I’m not entirely sure. The best comparison would be Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell minus the writing plus a lot of mystery, puzzles, and murder. 

I’m leaning towards the second idea. Especially since I’ve already written 10k even before Camp NaNo started, but I really don’t want to push aside the first idea once again. I know it’s going to be a great story, but there’s got to be a reason I pushed it aside just months ago. Maybe I’m not a good enough to tackle it yet? Or maybe I’m not exactly sure if I really want to write it? 

Either way, I’m going to work hard and try to write 40,000 words this month of April. Whether it’s in story idea number 1 or story idea number 2. I just want to write because I feel like it’s been too long. 

Anyone else participating in Camp NaNoWriMo: April 2015? Comment below if you are! I would love to talk to others through the month so we can cheer each other on!