“Vixen”

04/28/2011 at 8:56 pm (book recommendation) (, , , , , , , , , , )

I know that I disappeared again.  I’ve been really busy at work, and since I’m going back home to the East Coast for a little over a week, I’m trying to get all caught up at my job.  Unfortunately, staying late and the like totally zaps my energy and kills my writing motivation.  I would like to say that I’ll be better about posting after this week, but I’m not sure if that will be the case while I’m at home.  So, sorry in advance for my potential silence next week!

In the mean time, here’s a book review/recommendation:

“Vixen” by Jillian Larkin

“Vixen” takes place during the Jazz age, or the age of the flappers in Chicago.  There are three main characters, and the story is told from each of their perspectives.

There’s Gloria, who has a pristine reputation and is about to be married off, but she wants to live the life of a flapper, so she ends up living a double life.  There’s her cousin, Clara, who used to be a big time flapper in New York City, but is living a lie in Chicago, pretending to be a good country girl.  And then there’s Gloria’s best friend, Lorraine, who is jealous of Gloria, yet she is trying desperately to hang onto their friendship as it slowly slips away.

I thought the style of writing in this book was really good, and everything was so vivid and easy to picture.  I liked how much each of the characters changed throughout the book, especially Lorraine, even though Clara was my favorite.  I am definitely going to go out and buy the sequel when it’s out.

On a typical scale, I would have to give “Vixen” 4 out of 5 stars.  It had everything going for it, but in the second half of the book there was a major turning point that I found a little unbelievable.  I also wasn’t too blown away by the ending.  I felt like some of the coincidences that were leading up to all the characters going to the same place felt a little forced.  But all and all, it was a really well written book, with some really great examples of character growth.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes young adult, historical fiction, and some good romance.

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Happy Belated Easter, or Any Other Holiday You Might Have Been Celebrating!

04/25/2011 at 8:02 pm (book recommendation, Moday Check In) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This past weekend was actually really productive for me.  Even if I didn’t get everything done that I had hoped to.  I did manage to get all the scenes that I felt needed work in my novel fixed up along with everything my critique group suggested to me.  So what that means is that as soon as I get feedback from my last test readers, I’m going to start sending out query letters!

Also, this weekend I took a small break from “Boneshaker” by Cherie Priest, the book I was reading last week, and started reading “Vixen,” by Jillian Larkin.  So far I really like it.  All the lies and tension building up between the main characters is really great.  I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes young adult historical fiction, although, I do think that this book was written for more of a female audience.

And just in case anyone was curious, just because I’m taking a small break from “Boneshaker” doesn’t mean that I don’t think that the book isn’t good.  It just means that it wasn’t what I was looking for when I started reading it.  I was looking for something a little more lighthearted with some romance.  But from what I’ve read of “Boneshaker,” it’s very well written with a really strong female protagonist.  Her son’s not too bad either.  So if you’re in the mood for steampunk, and zombies, give it a try.

Well, that and going to and Easter party was my weekend.  Did everyone else have a great weekend?

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A Quick Check-In

04/20/2011 at 4:17 pm (Writing) (, , , , , , , , )

Since I was too taxed to do this on Monday, I figured I’d just update anyone who is reading my blog on the status of the novel.  This weekend, I finally went through and added character growth to my main character in chapter 7.  So, to celebrate that, I stopped working on it and went back to working on the novel I’m writing with my sister.

On that novel, we are nearing the big, climatic end before the first draft is finished!  Yay!  After that, we have some major changes to make so that the whole plot makes sense.  Fun times, fun times.  But I am looking forward to making a spiffy map of the city that the story takes place in.

On a only slightly related note, I went to Borders on it’s 2nd to last day of life, and bought 10 books.  Later, I might take a picture of all the books I bought from them since they started filing for bankruptcy to show you what an addict I am.  I’m going to miss that store, but I’ll probably find it easier now to save up more money to go to a writing conference someday.

Other than all that, my weekend was pretty uneventful.  I was sick on Friday, spent Saturday writing and book buying, and spent Sunday planning out the end to the novel I’m working on with my sister.  But I was thinking the other day, what kind of person in real life inspires me to write about them most.  Do I feel more like inventing a character similar to a quirky friend I love, or that annoying, jerk I’m stuck seeing all the time that with a little exaggeration would make a good antagonist.  How about you?  What are your thoughts on this?

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What Will You Do During the Zombie Apocalypse?

04/19/2011 at 4:49 pm (Zombie Tuesday) (, , , , , , , , )

Continuing on with Zombie Tuesday, I’m going to move on to the line of thought that started it.  A lot of times when I need something to pass the time, I think about what I would do during the zombie apocalypse.  Hasn’t everyone done that at some point?

Anyway, my point is, I think I’ve solidified my plans if the zombie apocalypse starts while I’m at work.

The office I work in isn’t particularly large, and it is on the second floor with two exits.  The back exit I’m not too worried about since it is a typical wood door that leads down to a fenced in yard.  In that yard there’s an overgrown tree, and on the other side of the fence another two story building.

The front door is another problematic story all together, because it is made of glass.  Luckily, the stairs leading up to it are narrow, so I’m hoping that they will slow down the zombie hordes enough that I can put my plan into action.

Step 1: Fortify the front entrance

As I mentioned earlier, the front door is a bit problematic.  So I was thinking, the very first thing I’d do is probably push the couch we have sitting in the waiting area, outside onto the stairs.  That way the zombies would have to climb over it to get to the door.  Next I’d flip over the desk next to the door so it’s blocking as much of the glass door as possible.  And then I’d wheel over the copy/fax/scanner machine we have to hold the desk in place (the wheels on the bottom of the machine can be locked so it’s really hard to move).

Hopefully that will buy me (and anyone else trapped in the office with me) time to follow through with the rest of my plan.

Step 2: Prepare the Emergency Exit

This step is pretty easy, since we have a little skylight thing in our kitchenette that leads to the roof.  I would prefer, when the time came, to exit out back into the little fenced in courtyard, but preparing for the worst case scenario where the zombies are swarming back in the courtyard, and they’re about to get in through the front, I would want to set up a ladder going up to the skylight, and open it so it’s an easy exit.  Lucky for us, we have a ladder at my work in the little utilities closet for roof maintenance.

If I did end up having to go to the roof, I’d have to improvise since I’ve never been up there before.

Step 3: Arm myself

The quick and easy way to arm myself would be to grab a golf-club from the little tic-tac-toe putt-putt set we have, but I’ve always fancied myself as more of a blade girl.  And since we have a nice Exacto paper cutting board, I think I’d take that apart and use the blade on it as a machete.

Step 4: Preparation for the long haul

So I’m somewhat armed and secure now, but for all that I think that the office I work in is the most defensible place I can easily get to (being a large assassin firm, and all that), it’s not a permanent solution.  There will be the issue of food, plus, because of my sunny location, the ground does this really terrifying thing where it violently shakes from time to time.  Add that to the fact that there are fires as often as there’s rain, and I’m thinking I might need to move up north a state.  But that’s a plan to describe at a later date.

So what are your plans for the zombie apocalypse?

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Impromptu Book Review

04/13/2011 at 8:15 pm (book recommendation) (, , , , , , , , , )

I know I mentioned before that I was reading “The Unidentified.”  Well, I finished it.  In fact, I finished it a few days ago, but I wanted to think about it for a little while because I wasn’t entirely sure how I felt about it.

 

I liked the book, and for the most part I thought it was well written.  The main character, Katey, better known as Kid, was very likeable, and the world she lived in was vivid and easy to picture.  I did not like one of Kid’s best friends, as I mentioned before too, but I believe the author made her intentionally not likeable.

 

What made me unsure about the book was its ending.  It felt a little rushed, introducing key information right before it was used for the resolution of the book.  I prefer it when that sort of information is shown way earlier in the book, and then brought back up again when it’s needed at the very end.  I also didn’t feel all that much chemistry between Kid and the guy who she seemed to end up with at the very end of the book.  They felt more like they were just friends than anything else.

 

I had a few other issues with the end of the book too, but we are talking about the last 25 or so pages.  For the most part, up until that point, “The Unidentified” was a very enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to pretty much anyone who likes a good distopian novel that concentrates on world building rather than action.  And since I’m pretty sure that this was Rae Mariz’s first book, I imagine her later books are only going to be getting better, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for some possible sequels.

 

On a typical scale, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars for its good characters (well, mostly), great world building, and fun to read style of writing.

 

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Zombie Tuesdays

04/12/2011 at 4:27 pm (Writing, Zombie Tuesday) (, , , , , , , , , , )

So I have decided to start doing something slightly new with my blog.  I was thinking about how I can only talk about so many different writing subjects per a week, and how it might be nice to spice things up a bit with some zombies.

 

The funny thing is, I don’t really read much or watch much with zombies, and I’ve only ever written one short story for Halloween that had any of the undead in it.  But whenever I can’t sleep at night, or need something to occupy my thoughts during a long workday, I think about what I would do in certain worst-case scenarios, and I can’t think of anything that’s worse than the zombie apocalypse.

 

Anyways, to start off this zombie Tuesday, I thought I’d share what I wrote for my Self Review at the end of last year.  Unfortunately, my boss made me redo it, but here is my original self-review:

Kati, Administrative Zombie Slayer

Self-Review

 

Throughout this last year the zombie infestation has gotten more than a little out of control, and whereas it’s my job to deal with the undead pests as Administrative Zombie Slayer, I find that the alarm system that was set up is more distracting than helpful, and the shotgun pellets are starting to get expensive.

 

We have tried the freezing method, but then the sales team complains: “Oh, I can’t work under these conditions,” or “It’s so cold, I can’t feel my limbs,” so we are forced to turn on the heat again, and the zombies thaw and start to try and chew on anything with flowing blood, which does include the sales force.

 

I therefore recommend stronger firepower, and maybe booby-trapping the perimeters of our office.  Sure the explosions might be louder than the alarms were, and sure there might be some property damage, but hey, at least then we’ll be able to reduce the zombie infestation while we try to sell mats over here.

 

In between my efforts of battling the undead, I do enter in all the orders, answer all the questions about tracking, payments, and medical research on zombie infested bites, and I feel I perform these tasks rather admirably considering the circumstances.

 

I do feel it was a large drawback when we had to let the cyborg go do to an infected bite, but alas, I agree that having a zombie cyborg running about the office is quite terrifying.  That was a huge dampener on moral, and the troll that was hired in the cyborg’s place just isn’t doing it justice.  But hey, you work with what you’ve got.  And the troll doesn’t complain too much about the zombies’ goo when it comes to the messier aspects of the job.

 

Things that I feel I could improve upon for this coming year are, I think I would be able to get more filing done if I had stronger firepower along with the booby-traps that will hopefully be set by then.  And I’m not talking about little stuff, but rather flamethrowers, and maybe a mini-uzi or two.  That way I spend less time reloading the shotgun, and more time firing, therefore giving me more time to enter in orders and do some serious filing.

 

If the sales representatives complain about the noises of battle, I suggest we replace them with some of the zombies that have finally been tamed and trained to do a little bit of phone conversation.  Sure, we won’t be able to allow customers into the office anymore, since there’s the risk of those zombies going berserk and trying to eat them, but in the end, I think it will improve morale and general productivity.

 

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“The Shifter”

04/11/2011 at 7:55 pm (book recommendation) (, , , , , , , , , )

“The Shifter”

By Janice Hardy

 

I know I’m not getting this up on Friday like I said I would, but I kind of got too busy on Friday to do really any blogging.  I had to head up to Sacramento to visit my sister for one of our last long runs before the marathon we entered, so I really didn’t get much done then.  But here’s my book recommendation for last week.

It’s been a little while since I’ve read “the Shifter,” but I loved the voice and personality of Nya, the main character.  Even when she’s faced with tough decisions her quirky personality shines through.  Plus all the other characters in this book have their own unique personalities as well that help keep the book moving along.

The setting of this book is very exotic, and very easy to picture.  The other thing that I found really neat was Nya’s unique magical ability of being able to shift pain from one person to another person.  It is because of this ability that Nya is thrust into dangerous and morally questionable situations, and it also because of this ability and her quick wits that she is able to get herself out of those situations, only to find herself worse off from where she started.

The basic plot of this book is that Nya’s sister, Tali is training to be a healer at the Healer’s Guild (something Nya can never do, since she can’t put pain into a of strange kind of rock that healers deposit it into after healing someone; all she can do is shift it into another person).  While at the Healer’s Guild Tali goes missing, along with many other healers, so Nya has to try and find her.  What makes the situation harder is the fact that her strange magical ability has attracted the attention of the Healer’s Guild and the Pain Merchants, which are the two most powerful groups in the city.  With healers going missing, that’s not the sort of attention that she wants to have.

There’s a lot more to it making Nya’s situation more urgent than just that, but I don’t want to give too much away.  If you want to find out more you’ll just have to read it.

The ending of this book I felt was fairly strong, even though it was a first book in a series, and when I was done I eagerly was waiting for the sequel.  My biggest complaint is, when is the third book coming out?!  I would also like to note that “The Shifter” is an all right title, but Janice Hardy’s original title “The Pain Merchants” sounds much more intriguing.

Even though I’m only really supposed to be recommending a book because of its interior content, I have to admit I would have totally bought this book for it’s awesome cover as well.  I love it!  But that’s a post for my illustrator blog when I finally get that up.

To wrap this post up, I’d give “The Shifter” five out of five stars.  I loved the plot, the characters, and the setting.  I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!

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Another Lazy Weekend

04/11/2011 at 7:46 pm (Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This past weekend was another rough one for me when it came to getting much writing or reading done.  I headed up to Sacramento as soon as I got out of work on Friday (which is why I’ll be doing my Friday book recommendation later today), and we played “Heroes of Might and Magic V” for the rest of the day.

I know, I know, playing a computer game is no excuse for not getting my work done.  But I really love “Heroes of Might and Magic III” and “V” is very similar.

Anyway, Saturday I ran 16 miles.  My sisters, brother and law, boyfriend, and I are getting ready for the Big Sur Marathon in May, so we’re going to start tapering now.  Our 22-mile run last weekend was our longest run until then.  After the run on Saturday, I didn’t really get too much more done for the rest of the day.  When I got home that evening I pretty much just crashed out in bed and had some weird dreams.

Sunday was when my critique group met.  I spent the morning re-reading the sections that we were critiquing that day, and the critique itself took up most of my evening.  So when I did get back home again, I didn’t feel like doing too much else other than reading a little more of “the Unidentified.”

My sister and I did start drawing out a city map for our novel before the critique happened, and we did start talking about how we’re going to wrap up some of out major plot lines.  Also, as I was walking over to the coffee shop we’re we meet every three weeks for our critique I saw baby geese!  They were so cute and fuzzy!  Here’s a picture I took of them (although they are almost too small to see):

The final think I accomplished this weekend was that I found a picture of me where I: 1.) don’t look like a zombie, 2.) am not doing that stupid lithe fake smile that I tend to do in photos, and 3.) am not purposefully making a stupid face at the camera.  So that is not my profile picture.

How is everyone else doing?  Did any new and exciting news happen while I disappeared from the blogging world?

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Bad Best Friend Syndrome

04/07/2011 at 8:41 pm (book recommendation, Reading) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

The other day I started reading “The Unidentified” by Rae Mariz, and for the most part I really liked it.  The style of writing is easy to get into, the main character, Kid is someone I can relate to, and one of her best friends is likeable too…but it’s her other best friend who I have the problem with.

 

Ari, the bad best friend, is flighty and unreliable, and she only has one common interest with Kid, and even that she doesn’t seem really all that into anymore.  Plus, I don’t think Ari sounds like a good person.  I get the feeling that she would totally sell out her friends to achieve her goals.  So I don’t really understand why Kid is friends with her in the first place.

 

The thing is, “The Unidentified” is not the first book that I’ve read that has this bad best friend syndrome.  Earlier this year I also read “XVI” by Julia Karr, and it had the same problem.  There was also “The Iron Thorn” by Caitlin Kittredge that I was reading and put down for a while, and in that book I just wanted to reach into the pages and punch the main character’s best friend in the face.

 

So, what’s up with this?  Has anyone else come across this trend, or am I just gravitating to the only books like it?

 

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Two Heads Are Better than One…Unless One Head is Rabid and Spiteful

04/06/2011 at 7:42 pm (Writing) (, , , , , , , )

I know, that was a really long post title, but I figured today it might be fun to talk a little bit about the perks and pitfalls of working with another writer on a novel, or at least the perks and pitfalls that I’ve come across so far.

 

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but right now I’m working on a novel with my sister.  We both hope to be published someday, we both mostly write young adult fantasy novels, and we both like having strong, female protagonists.  So pretty much, we’re a good fit to be working together.

 

Before starting this novel, my sister and I talked about writing one together for a long time.  Then I had this idea that I was running by her that I originally was going to write on my own, and a light bulb went off, and I asked her if she wanted to write it with me.  Since then, my idea has merged with her warped imagination and evolved to become our idea.

 

One of the big perks about writing a novel with her is that she is a more experienced writer than I am.  I’m not ashamed of this fact since I did spend a large part of my life trying to perfect my drawing, not my writing skills, while she’s wanted to be a writer pretty much her entire life.  And since we are working on this first draft together, it feels more like a second, or even a third draft to me.

 

But one of the pitfalls that I keep stumbling into working with her is that she likes to throw completely unexpected characters and side plots my way that we never talked about.  How is a girl supposed to work under these conditions?  Plus, I’m one of those people who likes to outline and plan out my novels before hand, with the occasional unexpected scene that writes its own way into my story.  My sister on the other hand, likes to write stories by the seat of her pants.  So that means while I’m working with her, I have to be prepared for anything she might throw at me.

 

Even that particular pitfall isn’t all that bad though.  It just means that she adds more flourish and depth to out story while I try to keep us somewhat grounded to the main plot and keep it moving along.  All and all, I would say our styles work well together, and it’s nice being able to take a small break from a story I’m working on and still know that progress is being made on it.  So the only real pitfall that I’ve actually come across is that I spend more time with this new novel rather than fixing up my old one.

 

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