October in Review!

I know I say the same thing at the end of every month… but I have no idea where this year is going. It’s November tomorrow, which freaks me out for two reasons:

1. 2014 is almost over and
2. I need to write 1,667 words tomorrow for NanoWrimo and I don’t have the slightest idea what my novel is going to be about.

But that’s okay, because October was a pretty good month. Most notably, I made the transition to my very own domain name, which is endlessly cool. But the following also happened:

Most Popular Blog Posts This Month: (by views)
1. Writers & Bloggers, Do You Have a Job? (132 comments)
2. Writers, what do you do when your ideas run dry? (64 comments)
3. Writing a novel… Where do you start? (68 comments)
4. Bloggers, where do you find your blog post inspiration? (65 comments)
5. Writers, what does your blog say about you? (24 comments)

My October Book Reviews: (by stars)
Two five-star reads? Not a bad month, really. Five-star reads for me are pretty rare.
The Protected by Claire Zorn – 5 stars
Foreplay by Sophie Jordan – 5 stars
Talon by Julie Kagawa – 4 stars
Solitaire by Alice Oseman – 3 stars
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven – 3 stars
A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – 2 stars
Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick – 2 stars
Puppy Love by A. Destiny & Catherine Hapka – 2 stars

New Obsessions in October:
Tumblr – because seriously, how amazing is Tumblr? I’ve always had an account there but this month I’ve been stalking my dashboard feed. Loving it. My Tumblr is here

The Originals & The Vampire Diaries – the new seasons have just started and I’m excited!

Scrapbooking & Project Life – I’ve been doing Project Life for about a year and a half now, but this month I started taking scrapbooking classes to bring a more “creative” look to my pages. It’s so nice to mellow out once a week after work and do something creative.

Things I’m looking forward to in November
Nanowrimo! And I don’t think I’ll have time for much else. Let’s do this!

How was your October? What are you looking forward to in November?

Are you participating in NanoWrimo this year?

So… I wasn’t going to do NanoWrimo this year. Mainly because I completed Camp NanoWrimo in April (and one NanoWrimo a year is enough for anyone), but also because life is super busy. But then I started thinking… there are two months left of this year, what can I do to ensure that I look back on 2014 as being epic? And all I could think of was:

I can write three novels!!!!

So… I’ve written Wrapped in Darkness and I’ve written Chemicals Collide, so I may as well embrace the challenge and pen another!

Which of you crazy people are going to join me?!

Review: Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick

Title: Black Ice
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
Links: Book Depository | GoodReads | Amazon

Blurb:

Britt Pfeiffer has trained to backpack the Teton Range, but she isn’t prepared when her ex-boyfriend, who still haunts her every thought, wants to join her. Before Britt can explore her feelings for Calvin, an unexpected blizzard forces her to seek shelter in a remote cabin, accepting the hospitality of its two very handsome occupants—but these men are fugitives, and they take her hostage.

In exchange for her life, Britt agrees to guide the men off the mountain. As they set off, Britt knows she must stay alive long enough for Calvin to find her. The task is made even more complicated when Britt finds chilling evidence of a series of murders that have taken place there… and in uncovering this, she may become the killer’s next target.

But nothing is as it seems in the mountains, and everyone is keeping secrets, including Mason, one of her kidnappers. His kindness is confusing Britt. Is he an enemy? Or an ally?

Why I picked it up:

This book was sent to me from Simon Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

What I didn’t like about it:

I went into this book with a lot of reservations. In part, because my average rating for Becca Fitzpatrick on GoodReads is 2.5, but mostly, because this book has some really bad reviews.

Right away, within the first few chapters, it’s easy to see what everyone is complaining about. Britt and Korbie are not likeable characters. Reading about them brought words to mind like petty, thoughtless, naïve, rude, selfish, spoilt, and shallow… Not to mention Britt is a compulsive liar and thinks the world revolves around her.

Even when I managed to get past those things… Britt just wasn’t a very interesting character. Aside from being obsessed with an ex that cheated on her and basing her decisions around ‘you said I can’t, so I will anyway’… she’s just sort of… nothing. There isn’t anything there. I had no empathy for her whatsoever, despite her situation.

The writing was repetitive. Britt would think the same things over and over, and after a while it was like yeah, I got it, thanks. The pace was pretty slow. The plot was predictable and midway through, I started to get bored. The writing style didn’t have enough diversity, and the constant break of dialogue to hear what Britt was thinking broke the flow.

What I liked about it:

Despite all of the above, I actually found myself getting caught up in the “mystery” of the story in the first half of the book. Some sections were pretty creepy and I found myself turning on all the lights in the house to run from my bed to the bathroom a couple of times.

My Verdict – 2 stars

Writers, what does your blog say about you?

If you’re anything like me, you blog because you enjoy it. You post about topics you’re passionate about, and what other people want to see doesn’t really register, because your blog is a form of self expression.

But what does your blog really say about you?

I didn’t think too much about it until I got an email from a publisher that said this:

“By the looks of your blog, you are totally committed to your writing, and have since completed another YA novel. We’d be interested in seeing this if it’s ready for circulation.”

Which was fantastic, but it really got me thinking, wow… what does my blog say about me? Apparently I’m showing that I’m committed to writing, which is great, because I am. But I’d also hope that my blog shows I have a good work ethic, am professional, and passionate about life.

Do you post with the anticipation that what you write may be read by agents or publishers? And if so, what would you like your blog to reveal about your personality?

Review: The Protected by Claire Zorn

Title: The Protected
Author: Claire Zorn
Publisher: University of Queensland Press
Genre: Young adult, contemporary, issue: bullying, grief
Links: Book Depository | GoodReads | Amazon | UQP

Blurb:

Hannah’s world is in pieces and she doesn’t need the school counsellor to tell her she has  deep-seated psychological issues. With a seriously depressed mum, an injured dad and a dead sister, who wouldn’t have problems?

Hannah should feel terrible but for the first time in ages, she feels a glimmer of hope and isn’t afraid anymore. Is it because the elusive Josh is taking an interest in her? Or does it run deeper than that?

In a family torn apart by grief and guilt, one girl’s struggle to come to terms with years of torment shows just how long old wounds can take to heal.

Why I picked it up:

This book was sent to be from UQP in exchange for an honest review.

What I didn’t like about it:

*crickets*

What I did like about it:

Geez, I loved this. What a beautiful story. Protected tells the tale of Hannah, a girl who is crippled by her social anxiety and is mourning the death of her sister.

This is one of those stories that just… worked. Everything about it worked. The characters were well developed, the pace moved well, the plot was interesting, the emotion was strong, and I really liked Hannah’s interactions with Josh – they built slowly, which was the perfect rate for them.

I like how Claire Zorn writes. It’s simple, direct, and yet still elegant and descriptive. She’s very good at describing characters without actually describing them. It’s more that she gives you the tools to come to your own decisions.

For example: He has useful-looking shoulders, like he could throw a damsel over them if it was required.

I really enjoy books that deal with bullying. It’s such a relevant issue that needs to be tackled in a more effective way in our schools. Books like this make me realise that I was one of the lucky ones, because I was never bullied. I coasted through school pretty easily, so I find books that explore the subject of bullying incredibly interesting, but very sad too.

All in all, a fantastic read. Why in the world doesn’t this book have more recognition? Only 70 ratings and 28 reviews on GoodReads… are you kidding me?

My Verdict – 5 Stars – aka. Show a small Aussie publisher some love and get your hands on this hidden gem!

What do you spend the most time doing?

I stumbled across this question somewhere in cyber space, and I thought it would be a good way to get to know everyone.

The question is – What are the top 5 things you spend the most time doing?
My answers would look something like this…

1. Working 

Yup. It sucks that this has to be up the top of the list, but the truth is, I work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. And while I love my work, and it enables me to live a nice life, I’d still rather have something else up here at number one.

2. Reading

Read, read, read. Read, read, read. I’ve been really lucky to forge some relationships with Aussie publishers who send me books to review, so… read, read, read :) Loving it.

3. Social Butterfly Activities

I have a close group of friends who I see pretty often. We always seem to be at the pub having a few drinks, throwing BBQ’s, having movie nights, going out in the boat, going to the beach, etc. Recently I’ve started taking scrapbook classes with a friend from work too. Socialising is good, particularly when I spend so much time in front of the computer in my spare time.

4. Writing & Blogging

I’m linking these up together because they both require me to be in front of my Macbook. Obviously I blog a lot – I try to post every second day. And I’m about to start my third novel of the year, so yes… type, type, type. I find writing and blogging to be endlessly fulfilling.

5. Sleeping

Self explanatory. I love sleep :) 8 hours a night for me.

What are the top 5 things that you find yourself doing? And do you enjoy them?

Review: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Title: A Thousand Pieces of You, Book One in the Firebird series
Author: Claudia Gray
Publisher: Harper Teen (Harper Collins)
Genre: Young adult, science fiction, time travel
Links: Book Depository | GoodReads | Amazon

A Thousand Pieces of You

Blurb:

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

Why I picked it up:

This book was sent to me from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.

A Thousand Pieces of You

What I didn’t like about it:

It could have been easy to go into this book with high expectations, because look at that cover! It’s gorgeous. But I went into it with a healthy dose of scepticism… primarily because I’ve read Evernight by Claudia Gray, and I wasn’t a fan.

The book started with some pretty solid info dumps and I was immediately unsure whether I liked the writing style. It felt passive and detached, despite being written in first person, present tense. Some of the descriptions were gorgeous, but the first ¼ of the book failed to really grab me. I kept putting it down and picking it back up.

I finally sat down around page 80 and committed to reading it in one big stint. By page 84 my attention was wandering. I think the problem was that the book launched into a revenge mission without taking the time to explain why I should care. Okay, so someone killed your dad and you’re on a revenge mission… that’s fine, but give me a reason to care about it. The initial emotion felt as clinical as the science fiction world the characters lived in.

It wasn’t until about page 100 that I finally sank into the story. I came to understand the characters, the world, and what was going on. I just needed those 100 pages to relax into the story and the writing style.

I guess my main issue with this book was the characters. Rich and well developed characters that fly off the page are one of the main things I look for in books. Great characters can make me love a novel, even if the plot or world or structure isn’t great… but Marguerite, Paul and Theo were so flat to me. I couldn’t relate to them at all. It wasn’t until Paul came into the picture that I felt like they came to life. But even then… this novel took me forever to read.

What I liked about it:

Despite all of the above, this book had some redeeming qualities. I thought the “world” was really interesting and unique. I was particularly impressed by the idea that when you jump into another dimension, you don’t just jump as yourself, but materialise into another “version” of yourself. I thought the possibilities of that were endless, because you’d never know who you were jumping into. In a sense, it’s you, but with different personalities, hobbies, priorities, jobs, settings. Very cool.

I thought the best part of this book was the middle section. When Marguerite and Paul jumped into the Russian setting. I really liked that part. The other worlds didn’t grab me as much, which sucks, because I really wanted to like this.

My Verdict – 2 stars. I wanted to give it a 3, but stopping and starting as much as I did is the sure sign of a 2 star book for me.

What book series do you want to start?

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Broke and Bookish. I don’t always partake, but sometimes their topics really catch my eye. Like this week, which asks the question – What book series do you want to start? I feel like I have an endless list but here are my top ten:

The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo
I’ve seen this series around everywhere. I finally bought the first book the other day and I’m excited to start reading it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a blurb, but I’ve seen some good reviews and the covers look gorgeous, so I’m keen.

The Raven Boys Series by Maggie Stiefvater
I really like Maggie Stiefvater’s work. I loved The Scorpio Races and enjoyed the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, so hopefully The Raven Boys will be just as good.

Fallen Angels Series by JR Ward
I’m a big fan of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but I’ve never picked up any of the books from the Fallen series. However, I recieved the 6th book from Hachette the other week, so it’s a great excuse to start the series.

Simone Elkeles – Wild Cards
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Perfect Chemistry series, so I was really excited to see Simone Elkeles writing another series!

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Considering it hasn’t even been released yet, this one has a lot of hype.

Unwind Dystology Series by Neal Shusterman
This one has been on my list for so long that I can’t even remember why I originally put it there!

Mara Dyer Series by Michelle Hodkin
This series has some great reviews and has been on my radar for a while.

The Archived Series by Victoria Schwab
This book just sounds cool! I mean, listen to this : Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. How can you go wrong with a premise like that? It sounds so cool.

The Lux Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
I’ve actually read the first book before, but it was back in 2012 and I can’t really remember it, so I want to revisit this series.

The Body Finder Series by Kimberly Derting
This is another series that has been on my “to-read” list for a while. It looks really interesting.

So there it is! My massive list! What book series do you want to begin?

Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Title: All The Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Issue: suicide
Links: Book Depository | GoodReads | Amazon

Blurb:

Theodore Finch wants to take his own life.

Violet Markey is devastated by her sister’s death.

They meet on the ledge of the school bell tower, and so their story begins. It’s only together they can be themselves…

But, as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. Can they save each other through their words and wanderings – and the magic of their love?

Why I picked it up:

This book was sent to me from Penguin in exchange for an honest review.

all the bright places ARC

What I didn’t like about it:

Usually I have a lot to say about novels. I generally get a chapter or so in and I’m making notes about the characters, the setting, what I like and what I don’t like. But with this book, I was 100 pages in and had nothing to say. Nothing jumped out at me. I wasn’t loving it, or hating it… I hadn’t made any notes, I hadn’t highlighted any outstanding passages, and I hadn’t fallen in love with any of the characters… I was completely unemotional about it.

I probably didn’t start to warm to the characters until around page 200. And it wasn’t until the last quarter of the novel that the story really started to redeem itself.

What I liked about it:

Probably the best part of this book is the last quarter. Despite a slow start, All The Bright Places covers some really relevant subject matter. I sometimes accuse YA novels of being way too shallow, but this book had some really great, important content.

While I didn’t find the characters or the plot engaging, it was beautifully written. Jennifer Niven clearly has a love for words.

In short, this book took forever to get started, but it finished well.

My Verdict – 3 stars

Twenty Things About Me…

As my first “official” post here at my new domain, I decided to take part in the Twenty Things About Me meme. So here goes:

danger memes ahead

How tall are you?
I’m about 5’6. Maybe even 5’6 and a half if you want to get technical about it.

Do you have a hidden talent and if so, what?
A hidden talent…  I’m really good at getting jobs. If I get an interview, then I’ll likely get the position. I think that’s because I make a really good confident/bubbly/passionate first impression. Which I suppose isn’t that hidden because it’s my personality… *gives up on this question*

What is your biggest blog-related pet peeve?
I always immediately exit blogs that have MASSIVE text and MASSIVE headers. They must have larger screens than I do. I like blogs that are narrow and compact.

What is your biggest non-blog-related pet peeve?
People who make decisions about things without experiencing it for themselves. Especially in regards to travel. People will be like, oh such-and-such went there and didn’t like it, so I’m not going. I’m always like, that doesn’t mean you won’t like it.

What’s your favorite song?
I’m really loving Feeding Line by Boy and Bear. It has been my favourite song for a while.

What’s your favorite Etsy shop?
Wow… I haven’t bought anything from Etsy in ages. I went on the other day looking for baby shower stuff for my cousin, but ended up creating my own designs. I think a lot of stuff on Etsy is really over priced.

What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone?
Reading. Blogging. Cruising my dashboard on Tumblr. Spending time with friends, family and my boyfriend. Catching up on my TV shows. If the weather is nice, heading to the beach.

What’s your favorite junk food?
Red Bull and chocolate. They’re my big vices. I love a can of Red Bull.

Do you have a pet or pets?
I have a Maltese shiatsu named Charlie. I love him :) The photo below is him when he was a puppy, but he’s 8 now! I also have a “couple’s pet” with my boyfriend, a Princess Parrot named Khaleesi.
Maltese shiatsu princess parrot

What are your number one favorite non-fiction and fiction books?
Fiction – Harry Potter. I love that book series more than any other. Love, love, love. As for non-fiction… I’m not a big non-fiction reader. The closest I come is biographies.

What’s your favorite beauty product?
I use the Ultraceuticals range. Love.
ultraceuticals

When were you last embarrassed and what happened?
In all honesty… I don’t get embarrassed much. I figure I’m 27… the time for embarrassment is over :)

If you could only drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Red Bull! Obviously.

What’s your favorite movie?
I’m a big fan of Inception. I thought that movie was brilliant.
inception gif

What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist prep etc?
I don’t think my school had those sort of stereotypes. Australia is a little different in our stereotypes in general though because we don’t play inter-school sport, or have proms, so the majority of those “types” are already cut. Our types were more so the “brains” or “deros”. I wasn’t really either. I did a lot of dance, so I guess I was in the performance/arts crew.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
I’ve traveled a lot, and I’m really happy to call myself an Australian. I think we’ve got it damn good here. But if I had to move, I’d probably jump across the pond to New Zealand.

PC or Mac?
Mac. All the way. I bought my first MAC laptop back in 2009 and I’d never go back. I use a PC at work, but at home, I’m a MAC fan.

Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boyfriend/girlfriend?
I’ve been with my boyfriend for about 2.5 years. He brings me flowers from time to time. Probably my favourite gesture from him was heating up my heat pack and putting it on my back when I fell down the stairs and hurt my tail bone :) It’s the little things sometimes.

Favorite celeb?
As a general rule, I have a lady-crush on Megan Fox and Scarlet Johansson.

Which blogger do you secretly want to be best friends with?
I’m a bit of a fan of Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner

This was fun. Feel free to link to your own answers in the comments!