Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

From the very first page, the language of this book brought me right into this Victorian world. It was very poetic to match this time period, even though it could seem flowery to today's standards. The choice of words caused me to stop from time to time to jot down a word or two because of their beauty and eventually I had to push myself to keep going so I wouldn't lose the story.

The mystery that is presented in the first chapter sets up the reader to wonder what will happen to the main character, Amelia. We know it must come from her newly acquired talent of seeing into the future at sunset, but it is hard to know what will cause her misfortune. In the meantime, her friendship with Zora and romance with Nathaniel keep us occupied as we are thrust into the past.

The friendship between Amelia and Zora is a huge part of the book. From the very beginning, you can sense that Amelia cares for her friend above all else and wants the best for her. Their infectious repartee is something to look forward to with each chapter and really shows that they understand and care for each other from the very beginning. Zora stands by and supports Amelia through all their meetings because of her talent, and when Zora reads a shattering prediction of her own, her understanding shines through.

On the other hand, Amelia's relationship with Nathaniel isn't as charming or healthy as the one she has with Zora. Nathaniel is an artist and one of the Fourteenths, who sit in on parties who don't want the unlucky number thirteen sitting at their table, and this is how they first meet. Amelia and Nathaniel are instantly linked from their first meeting and they seem to jump into the romance, despite that they have no real future in their world. They dare the odds, and sometimes I wished I could believe that there was a real chance of them getting caught with repercussions. The rules of the society forbid them to be together, but their sneaking around didn't leave me nervous at all.

The intriguing part of their relationship is Amelia isn't the only one with an ability. We discover that Nathaniel has a secret of his own, and this somehow deepens their understanding towards each other. It isn't until this revelation that I am convinced that there are more risks that could cause them trouble in the future.

It seems to take a bit for the climax of the book to appear, and it was done with a splash. The pace of the book caused it to take longer for me to read than other books that I have picked up recently. After the climax, the pace seemed to change. It was an unexpected surprised at the sense of immediacy that appeared to push me to the ending a lot quicker than if the information in the first chapter was shoved in there. I believe that was a good call.

I did have some reservations at the end as to why Amelia's ability didn't show up sooner than when she traveled from Maine to Baltimore and if Nathaniel knows more than he has told her. The talk of the elements when regarding them (fire when she sees the future, air for his ability to travel) also leaves me with unanswered questions that might appear in the next book (or maybe not).

3 Stars-- Liked it

Thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the chance to read this book.

Be sure to check out the Author's website for more information on the book and posts on various reviews.

Natasha

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Learning to Drink

"Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up."
— Stephen King

I won't write my goals here every week since it might seem a bit strange trying to boast, cover up, or hide my successes and failures. Instead, I will just go to my observations and whatnot.

This weekend I finally received the batch of books that I ordered on writing and drawing. Both books open with the idea that writers aren't born and that writing and drawing are skills that just need lots of practice so you can learn, try, fail, and eventually succeed. Most of the time we hear about "natural born talent" and it can be discouraging if you see that as something you don't have.

I've always had a knack for writing and it comes down to reading. The more I read, the more I learned, and it has made me into a better writer because of it. I took classes and earned a degree in writing, but even after five years, I am struggling with trying to find my way. If I just decided not to read and write any longer, I think I would be no where near my goals. I do, however, read more than I ever have and write whenever I have the chance (which is never enough). I study writing in some shape or form every single day (it is never far from my mind) so I know that this is definitely a passion.

These books I have begun reading are a way for me to exercise my mind and to help those skills come alive. As I go through them, I hope to share some of the useful tidbits.

Natasha

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Bigger Picture

"After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world."
-Philip Pullman

I have a simple day job. It gives me enough time to think about my writing as I work, but something needs to change. I have been working longer hours during the week so I can leave early on Fridays for quite a while now. It has been great when I have a list of things to do, but I wanted it more for my writing. Those afternoons eventually came to be what my husband noticed from fellow employees as a time for recovery.

The thing is, I need time to write in the evenings if I want to meet my goals for writing and exercising. To do that, longer hours at work will just not do. It is time to go back to the 8-4:30 schedule. I am hoping that it will also help the feeling of the evenings getting away from me, especially when I sit staring at the computer screen. More energy will also serve as a plus.

Oh, the things we do for our art!

Natasha

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Minor

Last week's goals were a success. There was a minor change in how many words that I needed to write since I had a bit of research to do that cut into my time. When I have goals like these, it is the research that can sometimes do the harm to the total word count. With that set-back, I have added a 1000 words onto this week goal. Research is necessary, so I am not going to be angry or disappointed. Just mindful.

Weekly goals
-Write at least 6000 words in Kin
-Exercise at least 2 times
-E-mail swag contacts for CoreCon

I completed The Hunger Games this week. It doesn't merit a review since you can find them everywhere. I will say that this series had me losing sleep at night since I kept telling myself that I would read one more chapter when I would read four or five. I know that people are looking forward to the upcoming movies that should start in 2013. I am now one of them and am very interested to see how it will look since Suzanne Collins did the initial script for the first one and who they cast as Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.

On the horizon for books, I am lucky enough to have a copy of The Vestpertine from NetGalley to review. I've heard lots of good things about it and already from the first few pages I am being drawn in.

Natasha

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Back to Basics

Felicia Day's wonderful post about 2010 is worth mentioning. Her #5 "Just because you feel it, doesn't mean it's real" is something I know I will be saying to myself over and over again in the future. There is so much to look forward to, why let it get to you when it won't matter down the road? Easier said than done, but it is an effort in the making.

Speaking of effort in the making , I am back to achieving creative goals by getting back to the basics. That means task lists! What does my task list look like this week?

-Write at least 5000 words in Kin
-Exercise at least 2 times
-E-mail panel contacts for CoreCon

It doesn't look like much, but it is a start. This week I have plans with friends and family to make up for the Christmas holiday so I am trying to keep myself realistic. I need to build up my morale!

I started and completed the first book in The Hunger Games trilogy. The story is so fast-paced and it won't be hard to get through the next two. I am really enjoying Katniss sees the changing world around her and it is easy to see how people fell so easily into these books.

Natasha