Sunday, March 30, 2014

New Adult Project: "The Wicked We Have Done," by Sarah Harian (recommended)



THE WICKED WE HAVE DONE is an NA science fiction novel about people who have done horrible things, so you can imagine that it's been on my to-read list for a long time. Did it meet my expectations? Well, let's look at the list:

Things I liked:

1. the secondary characters--especially Valerie and Tanner
2. engaging--I read the book in a day, even though I had other things to do
3. a well-developed lesbian relationship (I'm really pissed about how it ended though--do LGBT endings always have to end tragically)
4. the author wasn't afraid to kill off your favorite characters

Things I didn't like:

1. the protagonist was boring
2. the love interest wasn't much better
3. it's difficult to relate to Evalyn's guilt and self-hatred, since you don't know exactly what she did until the end of the book (YMMV on whether her actions were truly guilt-worthy. Personally, I think they were, but I would have related to her guilt a lot more if I actually knew (or had a more concrete hint) about what she did earlier on. (Like, at the very least, I would have liked some certainty that she'd ACTUALLY killed someone.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

WIP Marathon March Check-In

Last check-in: finished chapter 9 (34,806 words)

Currently: I finished re-writing chapter 10 and now I'm halfway through chapter 11. Also, I re-outlined the rest of Part One. (current word count = 39,414)

WIP issues this month: The re-writes of chapters 10 and 11 had to reflect the changes I made in chapter 9. Like I've said before, the plot itself didn't change significantly, but the characters arcs did. I've basically had to reconstruct the way I see these characters.

One of the consequences of these changes is that one of my characters has become a lot more interesting--but another one has become a bit less interesting. I'm still happy with it overall, so we'll see what happens.

What I learned this month: It's almost impossible to be both a writer and a med student at the same time. I have study days and I have writing days, but my usual window of focus is so narrow that it's hard to gather the mental energy to be both in the same day.

I also been better at getting my insomnia under control, which is important because I can't write or study when I'm tired (and I can't rely on caffeine because my tolerance to it is so low that if I have it after 4:00 PM, I can't sleep that night). I've discovered that if I turn off the computer, dim the lights, and read for half an hour before I go to bed, I'm a lot more likely to fall asleep.

What distracted me this month: I procrastinated during spring break a lot, particularly because I was working on a scene that didn't really go anywhere. It's one of those scenes that does have a reason for existing, but since it doesn't have a particular destination, I wasn't sure what to do with it.

When I got back to school, my main distraction was school. Also, I read The Wicked We Have Done (which I need to review) and watched Orange is the New Black. (The last episode has some uncomfortable similarities with later scenes in my novel. I hate when that happens.)

April goal: I've been shooting for a goal of 3000 words per week. At that rate, I can definitely finish Part One (14 chapters). Also, I would like a solid plan for Part Two (more than half of the Part Two scenes are already written, but I also have to figure out how to structure it (since that's where the characters' plotlines begin to split off) and what to do about backstory/flashbacks (there's a. lot. of backstory).

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Summary Reactions 2: Half Bad

"Summary Reactions" is a series of posts where I analyze the Goodreads summaries of books heavily-hyped books that I haven't read yet but am planning to read.

Half Bad is a recently-released YA fantasy, and from what I heard, a lot of people have given it great reviews.

***

"Half Bad by Sally Green is a breathtaking debut novel about one boy's struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.

You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch. (It's been a long time since I've read a book about an illiterate character.)

You get sick if you stay indoors after dark. (Oh?)

You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one.

You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen.

All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who eats boys. (Intriguing. Awesome.) And do that before your seventeenth birthday.

Easy."

***

They must have changed the summary for this book, because the original left me feeling very "eh." (It talked about Black Witches and White Witches and how the protagonist was both. The whole categorizing of good vs evil made me roll my eyes.) This summary is awesome though. There are a lot of weird details, and yet it's still pretty vague. That combination works really well.

I'm very curious about this book.

Edit 6/18/2014: My review of Half Bad can be found here.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book recommendation: "Foreign Gods, Inc."


Goodreads Summary:

Foreign Gods, Inc., tells the story of Ike, a New York-based Nigerian cab driver who sets out to steal the statue of an ancient war deity from his home village and sell it to a New York gallery. 

Ike's plan is fueled by desperation. Despite a degree in economics from a major American college, his strong accent has barred him from the corporate world. Forced to eke out a living as a cab driver, he is unable to manage the emotional and material needs of a temperamental African American bride and a widowed mother demanding financial support. When he turns to gambling, his mounting losses compound his woes.

And so he travels back to Nigeria to steal the statue, where he has to deal with old friends, family, and a mounting conflict between those in the village who worship the deity, and those who practice Christianity. 

A meditation on the dreams, promises and frustrations of the immigrant life in America; the nature and impact of religious conflicts; an examination of the ways in which modern culture creates or heightens infatuation with the "exotic," including the desire to own strange objects and hanker after ineffable illusions; and an exploration of the shifting nature of memory, Foreign Gods is a brilliant work of fiction that illuminates our globally interconnected world like no other.

***

Foreign Gods, Inc. is a very powerful book, and not one for the light-hearted. It's a story of desperation, greed, religious clashes, false promises, and Western appropriation and commercialization of exotic cultures. It's not an easy book to read, especially because you constantly get the sense that Ike's plan to steal his village's war deity is a mistake. But he's a fully realized character, and the story itself is well-written, with very good use of magical realism.

I acknowledge that this book might not be for everyone, but I still highly recommend it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Book Recommendation: Vicious, by V.E. Schwab


This is the book I have been waiting to read for a long, long time. (Even before I knew that Vicious existed.) I absolutely love anti-heroes and villain protagonists, so when I heard that this book was about supervillains, there was no way I could not read it.

The most impressive thing about Vicious is the characterization and the relationships between all of the characters--especially Victor and Eli. It was so refreshing to see their early friendship shown in all of its complexity: the dark fascinations, the rivalry which sometimes borders on toxic, the way they push each other.

My mind was blown.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Summary Reactions 1: The Queen of the Tearling

I've decided to write a series of posts where I analyze the goodreads summaries of soon-to-be-published, heavily-hyped books. I think this would be a fun way to compare my initial reactions about a book with my feelings after finally reading it.

I'll start with The Queen of the Tearling, a fantasy novel that comes out in July.

***

The following summary was copied from Goodreads (minus the parts in, blue, which are mine):

"On her nineteenth birthday, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, raised in exile, sets out on a perilous journey back to the castle of her birth to ascend her rightful throne. Plain and serious, a girl who loves books and learning, (bookish protagonists always give me a knee-jerk sense of dread--the first thought that jumps into my head is always "self-insert".) Kelsea bears little resemblance to her mother, the vain and frivolous Queen Elyssa ("I'm not like all those vain and frivolous girls!"). But though she may be inexperienced and sheltered, Kelsea is not defenseless (Good): Around her neck hangs the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense magical power; and accompanying her is the Queen’s Guard, a cadre of brave knights led by the enigmatic and dedicated Lazarus (Wait, nevermind. She's not defenseless because she has an item of uber!magic and a team of powerful, brave men to defend her). Kelsea will need them all to survive a cabal of enemies who will use every weapon—from crimson-caped assassins to the darkest blood magic—to prevent her from wearing the crown.

Despite her royal blood, Kelsea feels like nothing so much as an insecure girl, a child called upon to lead a people and a kingdom about which she knows almost nothing. (She's nineteen. I get that she was raised in exile, but did no one ever think to actually spend those nineteen years actually teaching her about said kingdom? Whatever happened to 'she loves books and learning'?) But what she discovers in the capital will change everything, confronting her with horrors she never imagined. An act of singular daring will throw Kelsea’s kingdom into tumult, unleashing the vengeance of the tyrannical ruler of neighboring Mortmesne: the Red Queen, a sorceress possessed of the darkest magic. (Okay, so besides the protagonist, we have mention of one woman who is/was "frivolous and vain" and one who is evil.) Now Kelsea will begin to discover whom among the servants, aristocracy, and her own guard she can trust."

Wow. Not only does this story sounds incredibly cliche, but it really knows how to push all my feminist buttons.

***

As you can see from this reaction, my expectations for this book are not very high. However, that doesn't mean I won't enjoy it. If anything, this book makes me think of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I had my doubts about it at first, but I ended up loving that series, so maybe there's still hope for The Queen of the Tearling.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Recommendation: Palace of Spies, by Sarah Zettel



Goodreads Summary:

A warning to all young ladies of delicate breeding who wish to embark upon lives of adventure: Don't. 

Sixteen-year-old Peggy is a well-bred orphan who is coerced into posing as a lady in waiting at the palace of King George I. Life is grand, until Peggy starts to suspect that the girl she's impersonating might have been murdered. Unless Peggy can discover the truth, she might be doomed to the same terrible fate. But in a court of shadows and intrigue, anyone could be a spy—perhaps even the handsome young artist with whom Peggy is falling in love...

History and mystery spark in this effervescent series debut.

***

I don't read a lot of historical fiction or mysteries, but books like this make me think that maybe I should. Several years ago, I read and enjoyed Sarah Zettel's A Sorceror's Treason, so when I heard that another one of her books was going to be at BEA, I made sure to snag a copy.

It was a very good decision. I was hooked from the first chapter--mostly because of Peggy's clever and engaging voice. The story was fun, too. I appreciated how Peggy was intelligent without being infallible, and I loved her relationship with her cousin, Olivia. (Another example of a story where female friendships CAN and DO work!) The story did ask me to suspend more disbelief than I normally would, and there were times when the story couldn't decide whether or not there was supposed to be a love triangle, but otherwise, this was a very enjoyable read.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

WIP Marathon February Check-In

Last check-in: Re-writing chapter 9 (30,800 words)

Currently: I finished chapters 9-11, but then decided to re-write chapter 9 again. After that re-write, I wasn't sure which version of chapter 9 I liked better, so I sent both to Ifeoma. I was leaning towards the original, but she liked the new version a lot better. I decided to re-write the story with the new version in mind, which will involve huge changes in character development. I have to re-write 10-11, but that's okay, because I'm optimistic about the changes.

I had hoped to finish all of Part One during February, but that didn't happen--so that has become my March goal.

(current chapter count =  9 chapters; current word count = 34,806)

WIP issues this month: Writing a scene that's medically-accurate and believable, even though I have very little experience with actual clinical medicine, and having to choose between two scenes that result in strikingly different character development.

What I learned this month: I need to be more explicit and clear in my writing and stop expecting my readers to interpret everything, because it's really easy to miss stuff that way.

What distracted me: Because of last month's writing spurt, I severely neglected most of my classes. That meant I had a lot of catching up do this month. I'm also taking physiology this semester, which combines chemistry, physics, cell biology, neural/hormonal/conduction pathways, and clinical medicine. It's a LOT of concepts, and not always fun. (Though it's definitely helped with the whole medically-accurate thing.) I've also been dealing with a bunch of random health conditions, so I've been combating them by going to the gym more often. (The problems are mostly stress-related, so exercise helps a lot.)

Other stuff that happened this month: I passed my Clinical Skills Exam, watched a surgery, and took my first real patient history (that was awkward). I now have a shiny copy of Some Girls Are, which means that I am one step closer to completing my goal of reading all of Courtney Summers' books in order. Also, my roommate bought the third season of Game of Thrones, so that's what I'm doing this weekend.
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