Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Favourites of 2011!

I have read a lot of great books this year. I have come to know great characters and amazing new worlds that I didn't want to leave. I have fallen in love, become angry and even cried. I have had to sadly farewell some of my favourite series and opened up my mind (and bookshelf) to new ones. That is the beauty of books and I can't imagine a world without them.

So, without further ado, here are my favourite lists for 2011!

Favourite Book Covers:

Daimon - Jennifer Armentrout

Half-Blood - Jennifer Armentrout

Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake

Fury - Shirley Marr

Wither - Lauren DeStefano

Shadow Heir - Richelle Mead

The Iron Queen - Julie Kagawa

Supernaturally - Kiersten White

Hourglass - Myra McEntire

Favourite Couples:

Eugenie & Dorian - Iron Crowned/Shadow Heir

Karou & Akiva - Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Tris & Four - Divergent

Lia & Dimitri - Circle of Fire

Favourite Female Character:

Anna Korlov - Anna Dressed in Blood

Runner Up: 
Karou - Daughter of Smoke and Bone 

Favourite Male Character:

Cas Lowood - Anna Dressed in Blood

Runner Up: 
Dorian - Iron Crowned/Shadow Heir

Sad Farewell:

Georgina Kincaid/Succubus Series - Richelle Mead

Dark Swan Series - Richelle Mead

The Prophecy of the Sisters Series - Michelle Zink

Exciting New Series:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor

Divergent - Veronica Roth

Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake

Covenant Series - Jennifer Armentrout

Favourite Books (Read in 2011):

Thirteen Reasons Why - Jay Asher

Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor

Fury - Shirley Marr

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld

The Golden Door - Emily Rodda

Iron Crowned - Richelle Mead

Succubus Revealed - Richelle Mead

Wither - Lauren DeStefano

Most Anticipated Releases of 2012:

Girl of Nightmares - Kendare Blake

The Selection - Kiera Cass

Under the Never Sky - Veronica Rossi

Everneath - Brodi Ashton

Incarnate - Jodi Meadows

Something Strange and Deadly - Susan Dennard

Fever - Lauren DeStefano

Insurgent - Veronica Roth

Leave a comment and tell me a few of your favourites for the year or a book that you can't wait to get your hands on next year!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

I hope that my fellow bloggers enjoyed their Christmas and have a great New Year!

Due to the holiday season, I'm taking a break from blogging, but I will be back in the new year with more reviews, interviews and giveaways!

In a couple of days I will be posting my favourite books of 2011 so stay tuned for that!

P.S. The gingerbread house pictured was made by my aunty-in-law. She makes the best gingerbread houses!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Author Interview with Nadja Notariani

I am thrilled to be interviewing Nadja Notariani the author of CLAIMING THE PRIZE, her debut novel, which is about mixed-martial arts with a dash of romance. Her latest release, HER DARK BARON, is a historical romance novella which came out on December 3, 2011.
Hello, Nadja! Welcome to my blog!
Hello, Komal! Thanks for inviting me over today.

Could you please tell us a bit about your latest release, Her Dark Baron?
Her Dark Baron is a novella set in northern England, 1640, near the Scottish border. A young and smart Lady Mariel Hayes faces the harsh realities of being a woman in that time period as she realizes that her hand will be forced to wed an unwanted and vile husband. Mariel prays for intervention, and it's an intervention she gets - albeit not the sort she had expected. When a stranger appears, saving her from the terrible fate, Mariel thanks heaven above...that is until she learns his identity - Baron Gervase Daltrey of Ayleshind. The Hound of Hell.

Her Dark Baron is set in a different time period. What sort of research goes into making it feel so authentic?
Writing a story that is set in a different time period does take a bit of research. Here are a few items that required a bit of extra 'leg-work'.
A) Was the phrase 'Gentlemen' or 'Good Sirs' more prevalent?
B) Did women's fashions feature laces or hooks - and were they more commonly placed in front of the dress or in the back?
C) What were some marriage rituals of the time period? Were people married in a church at that time?
D) What date did castle inhabitants cease to use the great hall for all meetings and business and begin to have a separate 'meeting-chamber' ?
These questions had me running in circles a bit, especially the last. I visited many web sites, and even consulted a friend who lives in England! As for the setting of my story, well, Google is a blessing. The landscape of the area I wrote about, castles, stables, and the lakes of northern England are easily viewed and read about on the world-wide-web. Amazing!

What do you enjoy the most about writing romance fiction?
Loosing my imagination productively is a fantastic feeling, as is playing with the English language. I love words! Long words, short words, forgotten words, just the right words - stringing these together in an order that breathes life into a story is satisfying beyond measure.
That being said, I have to admit that I have a great affection for happy endings. Writing romantic fiction allows me to stir together all of the above while writing the happy endings...What more can I ask?

Could you tell us about your publishing journey?
Before I had written half of my first novel, Claiming The Prize, I had decided to indie publish. Being a bit of a control freak...(No, you say...But, yes, 'tis true. )... indie publishing offered me complete control over my work. I liked the idea of being part of each step in the process. The writing, the editing, the corrections, the cover design, the promotion – all come from me. I find this extremely satisfying as I'm also a task-oriented person. Each step enabled me to enjoy a sense of accomplishment instead of being tossed along in the ocean waves of traditional publishing. No waiting for someone to find my book idea as fantastic as I ...No accepting a cover I didn't want...No edits that fundamentally changed my story (although I cannot stress enough how important it is to get beta reader opinions and to use their thoughts, suggestions, and ideas to sharpen your writing – and to get yourself an editor)

As a self-published author, what do you feel are the pros and cons about going down this path?
Keep in mind, however, that indie publishing is also scary! It's learning on the job for sure. I needed every ounce of self-confidence I could muster to take on formatting. I needed to follow my gut with my story – and then prepare for whatever that meant, whether good or bad. I've made some mistakes. But that's okay! How else can we learn but by doing? And when we fail to learn, we fail to grow. When we fail to grow, we wither. We decay. We die.
I chose the option that was best for me. Each of us must weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision that fits where we are at the time.

What do you enjoy reading in your spare time?
I have been an avid reader since I was quite young. My parents directed me away from watching television, talking on the phone, listening to modern music - you know...pretty much all the things that teens want to do with their spare time. I'm so glad they did. (You would never, never, never have heard this come from my lips when I was a teenager...)
I was encouraged to read many different types of literature, and because if that, I have a love for all types of books.
I read in phases.
My meaning is this...I go through periods where social science books are consuming me! Recently, I read 'The Post American World', and 'Culture and Imperialism' - both excellent reads.
Then I'll go for historical non-fiction. 'John Adams' by David McCollough, 'Flavius Josephus', and 'Famous Men of Rome' are a few of my favorites in this category.
Next up - mystery/thrillers...I get a hankering once in awhile. Faye Kellerman's Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus mysteries are just great. I'm also a huge Tom Clancy fan, having read at least twelve of his books!
Straight fiction/literature brings to mind 'A Thousand Splendid Suns', 'The Historian', and 'Shantaram'.
The Classics...need I say more? Every so often I revisit old favorites - or try out something I've never read before.
But in all honesty - romance is my favorite category of them all! A few authors I enjoy most...
Danielle Steel - all time favorite romance author
Maya Banks - new favorite because she writes amazing highlanders...yum.
Marie Treanor - her Awakened by Blood series was out-of-this-world!
Francine Rivers - her novel about Bathsheba took me by storm!

What is one thing no one knows about you?
No one?? Hmmm.....I'm not sure there's anything my one sister (I have four sisters and four brothers) doesn't know about me...
Here's a little story I shared only recently. After you read, you'll understand why!
My sister and I once took personality tests on the computer. The results promised to match you up with your best movie/cartoon characters, so we thought it would be a hoot and delved right in, imagining our perfect match know.
We received our results, and while I cannot argue with them, as we both laughed our 'unmentionables' off at how 'right' their assessment was, neither of us wanted to admit to our responses.
My sister's over-all title was 'Mastermind', and her number one match up was Cat-Woman from the Batman movies....Ha! I still laugh until the tears roll as that describes her to perfection. She was always coming up with these 'ideas' and 'plans' when we were growing up that were guaranteed to get us both a spanking.
It was a bit harder at first to laugh at my own result, but I've managed to 'own' it...
My over-all title was 'Barbarian', and my number one match up was Lucy from Peanuts (you know the one who pulled the football out from in front of poor Charlie Brown over and over....the one who set up a stand and charged 5 cents for advice...yeah, her.) Who wants to be Lucy? Maybe Lucille Ball....heh heh.
Anyway, I hope you gained a laugh. And in the end, old 'Lucy' and I came to an agreement. We'd tone down the football snatching and concentrate more on charging the 5 cents...Ha! My sister calls that 'growing up'. She's the 'strategist', right?

Finish this sentence. I am currently obsessed with…
I joined CrossFit two months ago, and I'm absolutely addicted!
Thousands of push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, dead lifts, push-presses, squats, wall-ball-squats, ring-row-pull-ups, box-jumps, kettle-bell-swings, clean-jerks, and jump-presses later...I feel fantastic! It's hard, no doubt, but I'm seeing results. I'm changing. I'm getting stronger every week.
You must understand...I've never been a fitness nut. Now, I'm hooked! Who'd have ever guessed it?

Do you have any writing tips or advice for aspiring authors?
As for advice, I'll say this.
A) Don't give up. Ever. Go back to the drawing board if you must, read a craft book, take a class, revise until you're cross-eyed, but don't quit.
B) Prepare..... Add a folder with pictures to look at when you write that upcoming scene. Outline your chapters, your scenes. Create a character profile for each character. I've seen my writing improve by employing these tips.
C) Relax. You don't have to write a best-seller on your first try. Grow with every piece you write - that's success.

What can we look forward to from you next?
My newest WIP, The Third Fate, is a paranormal romance, and it is the steamiest yet! I hope to have it released in March 2012.
Thank you so much for joining me today, Nadja!
Thank you, Komal for having me over today. It's been a pleasure. Best of luck to you!
You can visit Nadja Notariani at her home on the web to on the links below:
You can purchase her books at the following site:
You can find my review of Her Dark Baron here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Even with broken keys, I still did it!

I would now like to direct everyone to look at the right side of the page. To the far right. See that word count bar? 100% complete!

Guys, I completed my first draft! I cannot describe how amazing it feels to have a complete novel! Not that it is ready to be seen by human eyes other than mine - it still has a long way to go!

I was somewhat hindered this week by the loss of my keyboard keys (See picture) so I was really upset by that. My laptop is only a year old, which in technology world is more like a decade, and it hasn't suffered any injuries until now. To be honest, it was sort of, kind of my fault...

See, I was curious as to how a key fit onto the laptop so I removed the 'J' key to take a look. Unfortunately, I couldn't put it back on so I took off the 'K' to try and copy how that went back on. The 'K' went on but I still couldn't do the 'J' so I took off the 'H'. Somehow, in the process, the 'G' and 'K' came off too. Guys, please don't laugh at me, but I never realised until now how much I use 'H'. *sad face* Okay, you can laugh now.

Aside from that self-induced disaster, I managed to complete my WIP! On Monday and Tuesday, I wrote 4586 words and by Tuesday 10:15 pm, I had completed my story. What really amazes me is how much I actually wrote for this round of ROW80:

49215 words

My productivity was at its highest and I actually know why. It's because I wrote chapter outlines. Once I started outlining chapters ahead of time, it kept me on a path. Sometimes I changed things up but, for the majority of it, chapter outlines truly helped me churn out 2000-3500 words a day.

I also have to thank all the lovely ROW80 participants this round! You guys kept encouraging me and were so kind even when I had a bad week. I couldn't have done it without you! A special thank you to Nadja Notariani who said something to me in October which made me want to join up for this round of ROW. I can't remember exactly what she said but if she hadn't, I wouldn't have a complete manuscript today. Also, I must mention my friend, Michelle Flick, who has been so supportive of me throughout this entire process. I hope all of you have someone you can go to when you begin doubting yourself.

I will begin revisions after the holiday season so if any of you have any advice for me, please share!

Finally, here is Part Three of a writer's attribute which I found in THE AUTHOR'S CRAFT by Arnold Bennett. If you didn't see my previous posts, here is Part One and Part Two.

"...The other one important attribute in the equipment of the novelist - the attribute indeed which indeed by itself practically suffices, and whose absence renders futile all the rest - is fitness of mind. A great novelist must have great qualities of mind. His mind must be sympathetic, quickly responsive, courageous, honest, humorous, tender, just, merciful. He must be able to conceive the ideal without losing sight of the fact that it is a human world we live in. Above all, his mind must be permeated and controlled by common sense. His mind, in a word, must have the quality of being noble. Unless his mind is all this, he will never, at the ultimate bar, be reckoned supreme."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Second last check in for ROW80& Writing Advice Part II

Last week I talked about the first attribute of a writer that is taken for granted, as mentioned in THE AUTHOR'S CRAFT by Arnold Bennett. Part One was about the sense of beauty that writer's see in their work and how we wouldn't write something we are repelled by. This week, I take a look at the second attribute.

"The other attribute which may be taken for granted in the novelist, as in every artist, is passionate intensity of vision. Unless the vision is passionately intense the artist will not be moved to transmit it. He will not be inconvenienced by it; and the motive to pass it on will thus not exist. Every fine emotion produced in the reader has been, and must have been, previously felt by the writer, but in a far greater degree."

I believe that last line is an incredibly important one. As writers, we must emote with every scene that we write and every character that we give life to because if we don't, then how can we expect our readers to do the same? If a scene isn't working, if a character doesn't feel right, we need to realise that it will not work for the reader either.

Wednesday will be my final update for ROW and I will post Part III of  a writer's attribute. It's hard to believe ROW ends in three days. I didn't do too well with my goals this week. A week ago, if you had asked me, I would've told you that my story would be done by this Sunday. Unfortunately, I was very busy this week and didn't manage to get it done.

Monday - 1465
Tuesday - 1400
Wednesday - 837
Thursday - 0
Friday - 0
Saturday - 0
Sunday - 571

Total - 4273

I really want to get the story done by the Wednesday check in. I only have a chapter and a half to write so I really hope I can push through and finish my first draft!

Good luck to everyone for the next few days!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Review: Her Dark Baron

Her Dark Baron - Nadja Notariani
Genre - Adult Romance
Release Date - 3 December, 2011

Scottish marauders, incensed at England's King Charles I and emboldened after achieving the upper hand in the Bishop's War of 1640, wreak havoc on the inhabitants of Northumberland, England, and Lady Mariel Hayes finds herself at the mercy of the land hungry Baron Harold Flanders after her father is killed in a border raid. Powerless to save herself from being forced to wed the vile Flanders, Mariel prays for divine intervention. But when her salvation comes, it proves more terrifying than comforting as Mariel learns that by order of the crown, she is to wed the dark and mysterious Baron Gervace Daltry, known far and wide as the Hound of Hell.

Mariel seeks to accept this new life with her dark Baron, a man whose secrets haunt her even as his touch inflames her body. But before her mind can reconcile the sinner she knows him to be with the seductive lover she willingly surrenders to, Mariel must confront the fears that whisper to her, as evidence mounts that her life may soon be forfeit, and decide whether to trust the man she begins to love, or betray the man rumored to be the Devil's instrument of destruction.

Her Dark Baron is written beautifully. The words flow well and the descriptions are vivid and transport you immediately to a different time period with ease. The novella has just the right touch of intrigue, mystery and sensuality to it to make it a great romantic read.

I was drawn in from the very first chapter. Mariel, our leading lady, is such a great character and what I loved about her was that she was strong-willed. Yes, she did need saving. Yes, she did what she was ordered too, but there is some part of her that doesn’t conform to the ideas around her. She thinks for herself and it was great to see her interaction with her husband.

So, we come to Gervase. He’s mysterious and dangerous, and I was curious about his character from the beginning. Was he a murderer? What did he want with Mariel? Was he going to hurt her? Nadja Notariani answers all our questions in due time and I was satisfied with what I learned. The steamy scenes are written well but, keep in mind, this is a book for adults not teens. When Mariel and Gervase consummate their marriage, it is well worth the wait.

A mystery kicks in midway and I’d already made my deductions about who was behind it. I ended up being half wrong so that left me feeling surprised. It was a well-incorporated plot twist so I have to give Ms Notariani points for that. The side characters weren't just there for the sake of being there. They each had a purpose and a strong personality, and were memorable in their own way, especially Baron Flanders. I appreciate how difficult this must be considering it is a novella and there is a limit on words.

The only thing I wished was different was that it had been a full length novel instead of a novella. I was so absorbed by this world that I didn't want to leave so soon. I wanted to learn more about Mariel and Gervase’s relationship and would have loved if there was even more tension between them. As a novella, I felt that everything tied in together well with no loose ends.

Recommended: For lovers of Adult Historical Fiction, such as Gabrielle Bisset’s novels.

Many thanks to Nadja for sending me a copy of Her Dark Baron.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cover Reveal - The Owens Legacy: Revelations by Michelle Flick

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the cover for Michelle's debut book, The Owens Legacy: Revelations. If you would like a review copy of the book, please visit Michelle over on her blog OH! For the LOVE of BOOKS!

Here it is!

When telepathic twins, Piper and Ryder Owens are dumped at Evermore Academy, they thought that the only thing they’d have to worry about was Piper staying out of trouble long enough for them to graduate. They will not, for any reason, be separated. But someone at Evermore knows about their secret and wants to separate them permanently.

But then Piper’s Achilles Heel shows up: a good looking guy. Victor Mira is everything Piper is supposed to avoid, yet she feels drawn to him in a way she never imagined. But Victor is hiding a dangerous secret too, and what he knows could be the one thing that could divide the sisters. Forever.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

ROW80 Update & Some Writing Advice

Since I am drawing closer to the end of my WIP, I have started to read books on writing. I guess, instead of reading in the genre that I write in, I want to read books that I can relate to as a writer.

As I find advice in these books, I'm going to post it up for everyone to see. Maybe you will find something that inspires or helps you. This week I will be quoting from THE AUTHOR'S CRAFT by Arnold Bennett. The passage below defines the first attribute of a writer.

"In considering the equipment of the novelist there are two attributes which may always be taken for granted. The first is the sense of beauty - indispensable to the creative artist. Every creative artist has it, in his degree. He is an artist because he has it. An artist works under the stress of instinct. No man's instincts can draw him towards material which repels him - the fact is obvious. Obviously, whatever kind of life the novelist writes about, he has been charmed and seduced by it, he is under its spell - that is, he has seen beauty in it. He could have no other reason for writing about it."

It's funny how I never looked at it that way, but I can completely relate to what he is saying. I will post Part Two next week.

I have been working hard on my story this week. I'm finding it a lot easier to write  2000 words in a day which is great for me because I am so impatient to finish this novel. I think my characters are impatient too!

Monday - 672
Tuesday - 0
Wednesday - 2183
Thursday - 375
Friday - 0
Saturday - 1073
Sunday - 2263

Total - 6566
Catch up - 2856

I can't believe ROW is almost at an end. I would really love to get my story finished by then. I only have three chapters left to write. I really want to get them done this week, but we'll see how I go.

Hope everyone has a great week!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

ROW80 Check in for Sunday

Hey everyone! Hope you're all well. This is going to be a short, uneventful post from me. I've been feeling unwell this past week and don't have much energy.

The weather has been so horrible in Sydney this week, it's hard to believe that it's summer here, but it's great reading weather. I love curling up on the sofa under a blanket with a book.

This week, I manged to write over 3000 words in one day again! I kind of wish I'd kept up the momentum though. I was so busy towards the end of the week that I didn't get as much done as I'd wanted, but I'm not disappointed. I need to tackle the final 10 000 words of my manuscript and then...bring on revisions!

Here is a breakdown of my words for the week:

Monday - 273
Tuesday - 1055
Wednesday - 3409
Thursday - 572
Friday - 0
Saturday - 0
Sunday - 0

Total - 5309
Catch up - 5422

I really wished I had pushed myself over the weekend but it's silly to regret that now. I really want to push through and get 7000 words done this week, but I'll be happy even if I get 4000 words done.

I hope everyone has a great week!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winner of the New Author Blog Hop Giveaway!!

Wow, that's a mouthful!

Moving on, I would like to thank each and everyone of you for stopping by on the hop! It means a lot to me that you stopped by and commented.

I'm also very grateful to Kendare Blake for taking time out of her busy schedule to do the interview with me. She's such an exciting new author and I am in love with her latest release, Anna Dressed in Blood.

So, I have picked a winner at random from my infamous ice cream bucket (Okay, I don't know why my ice cream bucket is infamous...).

Congratulations, K.M. Walton! 
You have won a $25 e-gift card to spend at the Barnes & Nobles website!

I will email you shortly to confirm your prize. If I don't hear from K.M. Walton in 48 hours then I will randomly draw another winner.

To those who missed out this time, don't worry! I will be having another giveaway shortly, so stay tuned!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come. The note was on vellum, pierced by the talon of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. 'He never says please,' she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she's a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to a family. Raised half in our world, half in 'Elsewhere', she has never understood Brimstone's dark work - buying teeth from hunters and murderers - nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn't whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

My Review *Spoilers*

"Once upon a time, an angel and a demon fell in love. It did not end well."

I absolutely loved The Daughter of Smoke and Bone! It’s such an amazing story and Laini Taylor does her best to keep everything from the reader until the very last minute. The story is set in beautiful, beautiful, Prague, where Karou lives. Karou is not your average 17 year old; she has her quirks such as unusual eye tattoos on her palms, blue hair, a narcissistic ex (Stupid ex), an awesome best friend and an odd job where she collects teeth for Brimstone, her otherworldly guardian.

Oh, did I mention that Brimstone is some sort of demon thing called a Chimaera, and his workshop is in a place called Elsewhere which has a door that can open anywhere in the world? Very Howl’s Moving Castle - loved it. There is also another door in Brimstone’s workshop and Karou, with her healthy curiosity, is determined to find out about the secret of the door. For her unusual occupation, Karou gets paid in wishes, each holding a different level of power.

The problem with Karou is that she’s lonely and has this emptiness inside her that can’t be filled. I thought it was pretty deep for a 17 year old, but it all makes sense in the end. There is also this super-hot seraph angel guy, Akiva, who is Karou’s love interest, but there is so much more to it than that. Much, much more. When I found out why the book was called Daughter of Smoke and Bone, it gave me shivers.

What Worked: The fantasy world that Laini Taylor created is amazing, and the bits of jargon that go with it are so interesting, especially with the wishes - I loved that. I loved Karou, just loved her. She’s mysterious, but not in a brooding way. More like, you can’t stop turning the pages to find out more about her way. I loved the way the plot unravels. I loved the flashback from Madrigal’s POV and my last thought, as I shut the book, was how amazing Brimstone was.

What Didn’t Work: Towards the end of the book you start finding out a lot about Akiva and Madrigal. Maybe too much. You’re suddenly thrown into not one, but two completely different worlds, trying to figure out what on Eretz an Evorrain was. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the fantastical worlds, but maybe the sudden rush of information could have been toned down a bit.

Recommended: If you enjoy fantasy novels like Philip Pullman's, His Dark Materials trilogy. It also has a Howl's Moving Castle vibe to it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

ROW80 Update!

Oh. My. Gosh. Guys, I did it! *jumps up and down ecstatically* I managed to write 2000 words today!

But, you know what's even better?

I didn't stop at 2000. I kept going and I got to 3145. I wrote over THREE THOUSAND words today!

You know what else?

I actually enjoyed it! I didn't feel like it was a chore. I was loving my plot and my characters, and I had fun! I kept writing because I was enjoying myself so much that I didn't want to stop.

I think it's moments like these that are really important. Writing because you love to. No other reason.

Sorry for the lack of coherent post. I was actually going to post something interesting along with my ROW post but I was too darn excited.

So, here's a breakdown of my goals. You can see that I didn't have a great start to the week but Saturday and Sunday I really stepped it up.

Monday - 834
Tuesday - 198
Wednesday - 748
Thursday - 283
Friday - 0
Saturday - 1602
Sunday - 3145

Total - 6810
Catch up - 6731

My goal for the week is to write 4000 words and to catch up on the words that I'm behind on.

I hope everyone had a great week! Happy writing!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Uglies

Uglies - Scott Westerfeld
Genre: Young Adult Dystopian

Tally can't wait to turn sixteen and become Pretty. Sixteen is the magic number that brings a transformation from a repellent Ugly into a stunningly attractive Pretty, and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks, Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend, Shay, isn't sure she wants to be Pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the Pretty world - and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn Pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

My Review *Spoilers*

Uglies is one of the best books I've read in recent times. What immediately grabbed me was the protagonist, Tally Youngblood. The great thing about Tally is that she's not necessarily the heroine that you might expect in a dystopian novel because Tally spends most of the book believing in the procedures put in place by the government. Sure, she's rebellious and breaks the rules, but her ideals follow the government's - she wants nothing more than to turn sixteen and have her operation to become a Pretty.

The real driving force behind the story is the customary best friend, Shay, who is the instigator of a series of events which changes Tally's perception of the operation. When Shay runs away to the Smoke, a group of people living in the wilderness, the government recruits Tally to go after Shay and find the location, and Tally goes because she wants to become Pretty. Quite selfish for a heroine, I would say.

Actually, a lot of things that Tally does are selfish but that's why I love her. Her behaviour is realistic because if you have been taught to live a certain way your entire life, you can't just change yourself because someone says so. Tally only changes when she arrives at the Smoke. There she meets David, whose ugliness she manages to get past, and there is a love triangle which I found refreshing. She begins to see the Smoke differently and has a change of heart, and that's why her transformation is believable.

What Worked: I really enjoyed the way the story unfolded. Tally wasn't the one trying to figure out a mystery, she was the one keeping the secret. I really liked the characters in this book such as Shay and David. who were both very strong and independent. The best part was Tally's realisation that being ugly wasn't as bad as she had always believed.

What Didn't Work: The book was great overall. Towards the end when Tally was trying to rescue her friends, I got a bit muddled with what was going on because there was so much action.

Recommended: If you enjoy YA Dystopians like The Hunger Games or Divergent.

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood & Giveaway

Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake
Genre - Young Adult Horror/Paranormal

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until his gruesome murder by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead - keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town and in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything out of the ordinary: move, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangles in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

And she, for whatever reason, spares his life.

My Review *Spoilers*

Nowadays, many Young Adult novels are dominated by female voices, so it was refreshing to have a male as the protagonist this time around. Cas Lowood is a 17-year-old ghost hunter who travels around the country banishing ghosts with a magical athame. This is a profession which he inherits from his deceased father, and it leads him to a new town where a ghost, known as Anna Dressed in Blood, has haunted the town for many years.

Enter Anna. Holy smokes, is she fantastic! I loved Cas from the beginning, but Anna just fascinated me. She was so cruel and full of rage and she ripped people apart; it was awesome! I kept wondering what made her that way and I found out, and I wished I hadn’t found out. As vengeful and scary as she is, you can’t help but feel sorry for her. The visual which Kendare Blake puts into your head of Anna in her white, bleeding dress is hard to get rid of.

The other amazing part of this novel is the imagery. For example: “Dark, purplish veins cut through her pale white skin. Her hair is shadow-less black, and it moves through the air as though suspended in water, snaking out behind and drifting like reeds. It’s the only thing about her that looks alive.” You just don’t forget descriptions like that. Kendare Blake’s writing has this way of getting into your head…and, ok, I admit it. I was a little spooked out by this whole novel.

What Worked: Many things. Cas Lowood was a great protagonist. He was strong, confident without being arrogant, and he was humorous at times which really worked amidst the horror. Anna was a great antagonist for the first half of the book, but after that she becomes someone who you pity, very much like Cas begins to. Imagery was great and the spooky bits really did freak you out. Also, the minor characters didn’t have stereotypic roles and actually added to the story, so that was great.

What Didn’t Work: I have very little to say here, but I will mention something about the ending. There seems to be this expectation that YA books need to have a romance in them, which I disagree with. I think ANNA would have been just as enjoyable without romance. Anyway, it does make things interesting for the sequel.

Recommended: If you enjoy the TV show, Supernatural, or even if you’re a Ghostbusters fan.

This review is part of the New Author Blog Hop and giveaway, so leave a comment here for your chance to win a $25 e-gift card for Barnes & Noble.

Giveaway Requirements:

- This is an international giveaway
- You must be over 13 to enter
- You must be a follower of this blog
- You need to leave a comment with your email on this post or on the Kendare Blake interview

This giveaway is now closed.

New Author Blog Hop: Interview with Kendare Blake

I'm so excited to participate in the New Author Blog Hop co-hosted by Michelle and Saba. Go and check out their blogs to find links to other amazing giveaways!

As for me, I'll be hosting a giveaway where you can win a $25 e-gift card for Barnes & Nobles. You might even want to use it to purchase Kendare Blake's debut novel, Sleepwalk Society.You can find my review of Kendare's new release, Anna Dressed in Blood tomorrow.

Requirements for the giveaway are at the bottom of this post. Check out the interview, check out the review tomorrow, and leave a comment for Kendare!

Please give a warm welcome to Kendare Blake!

Could you briefly tell us what ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD is about?
ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD is about a ghost-killing guy and a dead murderous girl. They meet. Blood flies. And in the midst of all the flying, dismembered limbs, the guy manages to make some real friends, and the girl manages to not tear his head off. Right away.

What inspired you to write ANNA?
I wanted to do something gory. Something ripping and gritty. I wanted to play SILENT HILL but I was too scared. It wasn't until after the book was written that I started to think of it as 'horror'.

What made you want to write a novel with a male POV, and how did you get into a teenage boy’s head so well?
The fact that people seem to think it was done well, is such a relief! I've written in men's heads before. I've got a pretty butch brain, myself. And I'd double check a lot, with dudes. As for why I wanted to write a male POV, I didn't. It's just a matter of who should tell the story. And Cas was the one to tell the story. If Anna had told it, we wouldn't have seen half as much. She's trapped in her house, after all.

In your book, Anna is something of an urban legend. Is there an urban legend you’ve heard that makes you shake in your boots (or preferred footwear)?
Always the one about the corpse stuffed into the box spring of a hotel mattress. Every time I stay in a hotel, I wonder what's dead inside the bed. And then I figure, "well, it's dead, and I'm tired. It won't care if I sleep on it."

ANNA is definitely in my Top 5 best book covers of the year. What was your first thought when you saw it?
Mmm....I can't exactly remember, but it was probably something like, "Oh, holy crap. Holy crap crap. Holy, holy crap." The art department, the artist, and my editor did a great job coming up with that. I'm glad you like it! I think it's pretty darned pretty. (And if I'm honest, the real words out of my mouth when I first saw it were probably lots and lots of swear words. Happy, happy swear words.)

What was your publishing journey like?
Long. I've been writing now for over a decade, studying in a master's program, churning out short stories. My first novel, SLEEPWALK SOCIETY was a small, indie press book. I sold it right before I started writing ANNA. But since then, everything's been fantastic. I lucked out with a great bunch of people, from my small press publisher to my editor, Mel Frain, at Tor, and my agent, Adriann Ranta at Wolf Literary. Of course, the publishing journey can never really be talked about in the past tense. Unless you just give up and quit. So who knows what lies ahead?

Personally, I am a huge fan of horror movies. Do you enjoy them too, and what are your favourites?
I do enjoy them! But I enjoy them best when I'm watching them with someone who is a huge chicken. I really liked INSIDIOUS this past year. I love the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, even though they're not scary. Hopefully they come out with something else soon that's wicked creepy. I still haven't seen the Paranormal Activity movies. I don't know. They don't seem like my cup of tea.

I procrastinate a lot during the writing process. Do you also procrastinate or are you very motivated when you write?
I procrastinate right at the start. Before I start a book, I'll do just about anything else that could possibly need doing. But once I start, it's on. I'll write straight through (with only minimal procrastinating) until the end.

What are your three favourite books of all time?
Oh, that's a hard question. I mean, there are books that are my favorite to read over and over, and then there are books I've read once that still resonate. There are guilty pleasures, and books I admire. And you want me to name the three favorites of ALL TIME? Impossible. So I'll just name a bunch.
HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy by Philip Pullman. THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley. THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES by Anne Rice. STEPHEN KING stuff, by Stephen King. 20th CENTURY GHOSTS by Joe Hill. JANE EYRE, by you know who. AMERICAN PSYCHO by Bret Easton Ellis. THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING by Milan Kundera. Holly Black.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read! Read the writers that you love and find new ones. Think about the stories you enjoy and why you enjoy them. Notice how writers you love handle certain things, like the passage of time, or revealing back story. Read, read, read. And then, write, write, write.

Thanks so much for joining me today!
Thanks so much for having me on the blog! Cheers, Kendare.

To find out more about Kendare, visit her on the links below:


Requirements for the giveaway:

- This is an international giveaway
- You must be over 13 to participate
- You must be a follower of this blog
- You need to leave a comment and your email address so I can get in touch with you.

The winner will be picked at random and will be announced on December 1. Don't forget to check out all the other blogs in the hop!