Monday, February 28, 2011

Upcoming Asian Inspired Fantasy Books

Over the last year, I have become more aware of the trends in the young adult publishing industry. Actually, a lot of people have noticed. From vampires, angels, zombies, and werewolves and now anything contemporary paranormal to dystopian. I have dipped into all types of books to help fine tune when I like to read. I am really excited about dystopian, but then, I am not grabbing up every contemporary paranormal book out there.

Right now, the books I am really looking forward to don't fit into this trend at all. I am really surprised and thrilled at the same time since I feel like these are some of the books that we need to see. One with a different culture, a different perspective, and to help broaden the audience. I already know that I like what I am reading since I have already read the first books in their series, and I am hoping my book will join in the ranks someday. They are Asian inspired fantasy!
I found out about Cindy Pon's book right before the San Diego Comic Con back in 2009. I was looking for different kinds of fantasy, and her book, Silver Phoenix, was a new release. I was lucky enough to meet her at the convention to pick up the book and have it signed. Check out the review I did back in October 2009. I am re-reading it again before her next book,
Fury of the Phoenix, comes out on March 29th, 2011.

Malinda Lo's book Ash was based on a Cinderella premise and was more different than any other that I have read. Her main character, though given the Irish name Aisling and referred to as Ash, is of Asian descent. It also a lesbian love story. It is beautifully done and I was lucky enough to receive an ARC at that same Comic Con I saw Cindy Pon. I did a brief review of it here. Her next book, Huntress, comes out April 5th, 2011.

Now, Eon by Alison Goodman, I didn't review and I didn't think I needed to at the time since it had been out long enough to garner some rave ones. This was one of my favorite finds last year and it really captured my attention with its boldness in its Chinese-inspired fantasy setting. The theme with dragons was unique and kept me on the edge of my seat. I am definitely going out and buying Eona when it comes out April 19th!

So these are new releases and fantastic Asian fantasy that I am looking forward to reading starting at the end of this month. Be sure to check out the first books, as well!

Also, if you want to find more diversity in your reading, check out the Diversity in YA. It covers more than fantasy and is a great resource.

Natasha

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

SEO, Borders, and Publishing

I have been bookmarking a lot of informative and thoughtful links lately that I will share at the bottom of this post. Most relate to each other, and a few don't.

The ones that relate to each other are about Borders going bankrupt this week. On Twitter, there has been discussions, lots of links, and speculation at what this means for the future of (print) publishing. Borders is re-organizing stores, but will people trust going there? (Probably.) Will publishers sell their books there, and where will authors go to publicize? (Possibily.)

I have noticed people pointing out independent bookstores in their area, most of which are listed at IndieBound. I went there to see what is listed in my area and I was surprised to see places listed in smaller communities around Fargo. Zandbroz Variety wasn't listed so I e-mailed them suggesting that they should consider it because I want them to stick around in Fargo (and Sioux Falls, SD).

There is a lot of talk about bookstores and the publishing industry out there. There is one certainty that I am seeing: times are a-changing.

As an aspiring author, it is a bit intimidating enough to get your work out there, and now with the rise of e-readers and e-publishing, and how people buy books, this is just the beginning. I am dedicating myself to keep going forward with it and to do my best to support the book community.

As a reader, I bought 25 books last year, and I will probably buy the same amount this year to support authors. This year, I will again go out and buy them at different places to spread it out a bit, visit the library, and support e-reading (love my nook).

And why go through all this trouble? Because I love books, stories, and words. That's why.

Links

Websites
6 Ways to Make Your Blog SEO-Friendly by (the awesome) Alexis Grant

Borders
Where Were You When Borders Went Bankrupt? by Melanie Benjamin (Huffington Post)

Writing
10 Ways To Make Editors Fall in Love With Your Work by Michelle V. Rafter (Word Count)

E-publishing
What Would You Pay for an E-Book? by David Carnoy (CNet)


Happy reading!
Natasha

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

(2)9 and Holding

"We make a circle linking the child we once were, all those decades ago, with the child who will read our stories. It never ceases to amaze me that we are able to do that. Most adult novels, except for really major works, have a relatively short life; they go out of print as they go out of fashion. But a good children’s book can go on for decades and decades; that circle of connection keeps sparking and resparking like an electric circuit, linking the reading child’s imagination with the book written before he or she was born. Linking the child of today with the child that we, the writers, used to be."

When I was a child, I remember one of the first grade teachers at my school saying that she was "29 and holding" when she was asked her age. It was something that I would hear over and over during the years (mostly, from other school teachers. Is this because they are asked by their students so much?). I never really stopped to wonder why they picked 29 as their holding place for age.

Today, I turn 29. I look back over my twenties because I am nearing the end of the decade and I hear people my age wishing each other "a last great year in your twenties" like it is the beginning of the end. Is there something about being in your thirties and beyond that I don't know about?

I am enjoying my twenties. So many wonderful things have happened and I wouldn't replace the good or the bad. There is a better sense of security and happiness that I am becoming more content with over time. I am learning more about myself, and instead of feeling rushed, I have learned to enjoy the moment that I live a bit more. There has been a sense of urgency in my life to get things accomplished, but why do we have to accomplish everything in the early part of our life? What will there be to look forward to?

I am not going to tell people that I am "29 and holding" now or ever. I am going to stick by my age and still act like a child at heart.

Now that I reflect, would be better if I tell people I am "9 and holding"?

Natasha

Monday, February 14, 2011

Favorite Couples

Valentine's Day is here, and I decided to do a list of some of my Favorite Couples from books. They all have quirks and heartaches, but still manage to stay together. Here they are!


#5- Anne and Gilbert from the Anne of Green Gables series
"I don't want sunbursts or marble halls, I just want you."

I have a picture of myself (somewhere) that my brother took of me when I was about nine years old with the first book. I read it many times over the years and I used to love checking out the movies from the library. A
few years ago, I bought the movies (the first two, since the third isn't based on the books) and I have all the Anne books. I read them all within a few weeks, and I just loved the relationship of Anne and Gilbert. They were enemies in the beginning, became friends, and then Anne finally got the message they were obviously meant for each other.

#4- Sophie and Howl from Howl's Moving Castle

"I think we ought to live happily ever after," and she thought he meant it. Sophie knew that living happily ever after with Howl would be a good deal more hair-raising than any storybook made it sound, though she was determined to try. "It should be hair-raising," added Howl.
"And you'll exploit me," Sophie said.
"And then you'll cut up all my suits to teach me."

I admit that I was a fan of the film first (and we named our cat after Sophie). This couple's love story is a bit unusual, and that's why I like it so much. Most of the book Sophie is an old woman and when she becomes herself again, it is amazing at what
happens next. What is fun about them, too, is they are both stubborn and unusual. The story is one of the most original I have ever read and awesome in all aspects to me. The love story is just an added bonus.


#3-Jamie Fraser and Claire Beauchamp from the Outlander series
"I talk to you as I talk to my own soul," he said, turning me to face him. He reached up and cupped my cheek, fingers light on my temple. "And Sassenach," he whispered, "Your face is my heart."

I have been reading this books since I was a teenager (first book came out in 1991) and Diana Gabaldon is still writing the series. The books are full of romance (a bit steamy now and again!), time travel, history, stone circles, and the list goes on. This couple goes through so much to be together and their love stands the test of time (so far). One of the things that I remember vividly is the author saying in a podcast that the series isn't about a couple that meets and that's it. It is about a marriage and not too many series write about a marriage and that is really something.

#2-Sorcha and Red from Daughter of the Forest

"You are the blood in my veins, and the beating of my heart. You are my first waking thought, and my last sigh before sleeping. You are - you are bone of my bone, and breath of my breath."

I bought this book ten years ago and I have bought every book written by this author ever since. Her stories are written so differently than other books that I have ever read, but this book stands out as my favorite. The love between Sorcha and Red develops despite Sorcha's inability to speak and his watching her hurt herself by sewing shirts that are tearing up her hands. He trusts her even though others think she is mad. She is able to speak, but she must complete the shirts to break a spell
that is over her brothers and can't say a word until it is done. Red really stands by Sorcha when it matters most, and their love manages to survive through all the hardships and mistakes they go through.


#1-Lois Lane and Clark Kent from Superman
"Don't be cute, Kent. You're hard enough to resist with those puppy dog looks."

I admit that I have mostly watched the movies and the television shows. I haven't read much of the comics, but you know what? Their characters don't change that much from many of the reincarnations of their characters. There is just a snappy charm to both of them that makes it
hard not to yell at Lois to see beyond the glasses and get the ball rolling on their romance (or, on the other hand, for Clark to just spill it already). They are another couple that we see not just falling in love, but having a relationship and all that comes with it. They are complete together, and
are better because of each other.

Husband Pick

#0- The Princess Bride
"Enough about my beauty.” Buttercup said. “Everybody always talks about how beautiful I am. I've got a
mind, Westley. Talk about that."

Joey reminded me that The Princess Bride was originally a book. I
don't want to change my list, but I think I will just put this as his pick since he deserves the credit. The book has some really good lines not found in the movie, but the movie is definitely one of the best I have ever seen ever. They are both terribly romantic, the characters are unforgettable, and it is full of adventure and romance. (Also, I want to give a special mention to Miracle Max and his wife. "I'm not a witch, I'm your wife!").

Now, here's the question. Who would you have on your lists?

Natasha

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

This is a sequel to Once a Witch which starts at Tasmin Greene's birth, predicting that she will be the most powerful witch every seen in her family. However, her power doesn't manifest at the age of eight like the other members of her family and she does her best to live her life as normal as she can. She does this by going to high school in New York City away from her family and having a normal best friend, Agatha. One weekend when she is helping out in her family shop, a man named Alistair Callum comes into the store asking for her sister, Rowena, to help him find a clock long lost in his family. Tasmin tells him that she is Rowena and takes on the task, a choice that will lead her to find the clock that could have serious consequences for her whole family. When you meet Tasmin's family, you really cheer her on to do whatever she can to save them. Every character is defined and distinct, which is definitely an added plus when Tasmin jumps back and forth between the past and present.

The second book, Always a Witch, continues on this quest to save her family. This time, Tasmin knows that she has her own Talent of taking others Talents. She has to go back into the past to the 1800s to come face to face with the Knight family, the true family of Alistair Callum (Knight). Years ago, they wanted to use the fifth element (ie: earth, air, and fire) for their own devices. The fifth element being that of blood. The Greene family, Tasmin's family, bound a spell that would prevent this from happening. With Alistair able to time travel, Tasmin must make sure that he doesn't go back to stop her family from saving innocent poor people who the Knight killed for their blood magic. This time, however, Tasmin doesn't let her boyfriend Gabriel help her and she goes on her own.

When Tasmin arrives in the past, she gets a job working for the Knight family's daughter and learns more about each of their own Talents. It is hard not to feel on edge while she is serving the people and wondering when Alistair will eventually show up to warn the Knight family. Also, Tasmin tries to save innocent people from being used for their blood and the risk of her getting caught is always nagging at the back of my mind.

This book is different from the first since we don't see much of Tasmin's family, which to me, was the highlight of the first book. Instead, we see the other side of what magic can do and what it can do to people in the process. Tasmin proves herself a strong heroine who struggles with her new found ability and has to decide how she wants to live her life.

These books are so much different than other things that I have read lately. Tasmin feels like a real person with her already established relationship with her best friend, a torn friendship and blooming romance with Gabriel, her fighting and caring for her sister, and even her admiration for her grandmother. The people in her life matter, and even with the lack of their appearances in the second book, they are with Tasmin every step of the way from her using her best friend Agatha's name as a decoy and using her Talent to keep Gabriel safe by willing him not to find her. This sense of commitment to people doesn't feel forced and are easy to relate to in one way or another.

I really enjoyed the ending of the book, as well, and I love that it wasn't something ordinary or expected. I think fans of the first book have a real treat in store for them.

4.5 Stars-- Really liked Once a Witch
4 Stars-- Liked Always a Witch

Check out the author's website.

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

Natasha

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Moment of Clarity

My mind hasn't been clear for a little while and I was having a hard time sleeping. It was really affecting my writing, my mind going blank when I would try to think about it. Someone said it was writer's block, but I felt that it wasn't the only reason. I went to the doctor for my annual blood test and found out that my thyroid is out of whack again (I have hypothyroidism). Today, after about a week on my new pills, I am feeling a world of difference. I am not dragging throughout the day (I actually had to leave work one day I was so tired) and can look at my story without suffering from "numb brain".

I added a progress bar for Kin in the sidebar of the blog. I am hoping that things will keep moving along and it will be interesting to see where I am at as time goes on. Right now I am sitting at 52%. Realizing that I am in the middle also makes me think of hitting that mark where I am unsure about what I already wrote, contemplating going back. Why make an utter mess throughout the whole thing if I have to fix it now? I keep telling myself that I must keep moving forward or I will never get to the finish line.

I think the reason why this novel is especially difficult lies in the details of the culture and world that I am trying to create. Japanese culture is something that I am beginning to understand and I feel of terrible inaccuracies in the details. When we visit Japan in May, I am hoping that it will give me a badge of courage. I will be able to sense the world around me and take the experiences home with me. That is enough to have me drop everything now and get back to planning (when I am not writing!).

Natasha

Friday, February 4, 2011

Writing as an Exercise

Before I say anything else, go to this Lauren Oliver's blog to check out something that I wrote for one of her writing challenges. It is the last one posted out of the entries and I love, love, love the second comment. I am wondering the same thing of where this all could go, but most of all, should I keep writing this? We shall see.

If you haven't read my piece (My writing is on an awesome author's blog) then this post is not for you. Seriously, go read it. And the other pieces. Trust me, they won't disappoint.

Now that everything is settled I can move on. I have been reading a bit more YA futuristic dystopian writing than I have ever before and I am really, really enjoying it a lot. There is a lot of suspense of waiting to see what happens next. It is our world disassembled and all we know is gone except to keep what we have left of our humanity.

These books have taken me a bit out of my comfort area of what I want to write. It is great and scary at the same time. My little less than 250 words piece has me realizing that maybe I have it in me to go in that direction someday. It is amazing what you can discover about yourself. Who knows what other writing challenges I will do in the future!

Right now, I am trying to emerge myself in Japanese folklore while finishing Kin this month. It is really helping me get my mind set back in place. I will sneak in Lauren Oliver's book Delirium that came out February 1st sometime in there over the next week. I can't resist!

Thanks for reading what I wrote and I encourage other writers to take some challenges. You never know where they can lead you--- and your writing!

Natasha