Wednesday, June 27, 2012

RTW: Best Book of June 2012

Today is Road Trip Wednesday! What is that? It is a blog carnival where the contributors of YA Highway post a weekly topic and participants write their responses. You can jump from blog to blog to see each blogger's take on the question. 

Topic of the week:

What was the best book your read in June?

I post a list of the books I've read over the month and give mini-reviews to them in The Heroine's Monthly Reads. I want to take more time to review books, however, I'm trying to focus on my actual writing for the time being.

I'm really trying to jump around more with what I'm reading. However, I've been dying for some satisfying fantasy after reading Kristin Cashore's Bitterblue. When I heard about Leigh Bardugo's Shadow and Bone, I knew that I had to read this as soon as I could get my hands on it. I was lucky enough to pick up the book at my local bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy, the day after it came out during the the Fierce Reads tour. Even though I hadn't read the book, I was really excited to meet the author. It helps, too, that my name fit the Russian-inspired fantasy tale (which she was so kind to sign my book with, and made me a fangirl right there).

It took me longer to read Bitterblue the month before because I wanted to savor every single word. Shadow and Bone also had that effect on me. The books are nothing alike, but adore them both. Shadow and Bone's heroine is someone that I could relate to since she is bold at times and I love her fun-loving dialogue with the other characters. Her relationship with her best friend, Mal, is one of the things that also kept me reading since he charmed me right away (and why do I keep seeing Captain Mal Reynolds when I think of him?). I loved how subtle everything between them is, and at the same time, so incredibly strong.

The Darkling is a curious character, a powerful and almost immortal man who remind me a bit of Dracula. People fear him, and yet Alina is very drawn to him. Now, he isn't a sparkling vampire. He is a mystery that Alina doesn't try to unlock. She falls into it, as she does everything that happens to her.

Shadow and Bone has everything that I love to see in a fantasy, and more. So if you have a craving for some well-written fantasy, go and pick up this book!

Are there any fantasy books that you are loving this month?

Thanks for stopping by!
Natasha

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

RTW: The Summer after Graduation

This is my first Road Trip Wednesday put on my YA Highway! They post a question that you can answer on your blog, and go check out what other people have to say. Cool, right?

This week's question is:

How did you spend/how will you spend the summer after graduation?

I recently read The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour and Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard that involves the summer between graduation and college, and so I thought about my more than I previously have have in the past. Here is my story. 

I graduated from high school in the year 2000. The year before, at age seventeen, I decided to join the North Dakota National Guard. My eldest brother joined fourteen years earlier and encouraged me that it was a good way to pay for college, and to have a part time job during college since that is what he did.

I admit, I was scared about the future. I lived in a small town all my life (population 15) and I was the youngest in my family. I had a lot of wisdom coming down the lines about how I should plan my future. I decided I would go get my military training, and apply to college when I returned. My parents invited me to live at their lake house and attend the nearby college for computer administration. I needed a way to support my writing, or that is what I told myself.

I went to leave for boot camp, and they told me that I needed to lose five pounds. I had never been told before that day that I needed to lose weight, and also, they needed my current records on my recently diagnosed hypothyroid (underactive thyroid). I went home devastated and confused, and after two days, I knew that I couldn't go back. I knew with my thyroid, it would need to be regulated or my whole metabolism would go crazy. Even now, if I miss one pill, my whole mood changes and brain goes foggy.

I went to my parents and brother #1 (who lived practically next door) and told them that I couldn't go through with it. I wanted out due to medical reasons (since I was diagnosed by the military and didn't know previously). It was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. My mother and brother were angry at me for breaking my contract. I now look back and I think my dad was actually relieved.

I called my unit and explained it to them, and the next step came that I would go to college. I ordered catalogs before and went through them all. I decided to read about the classes that would interest me the most and circle them. When I went through the next time, it was obvious that computers wasn't what caught my interest. It was writing and books, my dearest passions.

I applied for colleges while working in the house clean as I did in years past, painted everything my dad told me too (my old playhouse, the deck, the garage), and helped my mother in the garden. I would drive into town to see my best friend, who was two years younger than me, with no idea what my future held.

I received two letters in late July that I was accepted into a technical college, and a four year university in Moorhead, MN, the sister city of Fargo, ND. I couldn't start the four year university since I was accepted for the spring term, so I went to the technical college for the fall.

I moved to Fargo, started college, and worked at K-Mart for the first two years. The first day of college I met one of my best friends, and at K-Mart I met the love of my life. He works as a programmer now so I can stay at home and write. And you know what else? This small town girl now lives in San Diego, CA and has traveled all over from NYC, London, Tokyo, and Paris. Not too bad, right?

Strange how the worst decision I ever made took me on the path to make the best, and how one summer can change your whole life.

Natasha

Monday, June 11, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo: Give It a Little Time

"I tell you all these things to show you that working is not grinding but a wonderful thing to do; that creative powers is in all of you if you give it just a little time; if you believe in it a little bit and watch it come quietly into you; if you do not keep it out by always hurrying and feeling guilty in those times when you should be lazy and happy. Or if you do not keep the creative power away by telling yourself that worst of lies-- that you haven't any. "
 --Brenda Ueland, "If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit"

This quote helped bring into perspective, and I recommend this book to writers. If you don't want to take my word for it, seriously would you deny the wisdom of Felicia Day via The Flog? I thought so.

After college, my husband worked while I planned our wedding. I traveled with him around the upper Midwest while he did photography. During that time, I also focused on writing my first novel. I had started it in college and wanted to finish it, and after six months, I had the first draft completed. After getting married, I went out and got a job, working ever since. I wrote a few more novels. Short stories. Poetry. Blogged. I made time whenever I could while working, at night, on the weekends. That is how it is done, and it never had any set pattern. I created goals. What to blog, my word counts, completion dates.

I'm now able to write from home, and my mind is sticking to this pattern. I don't know if I write better in the morning or evening. My process is developing while I explore different options. Whatever it is, I'm learning that I write when I'm inspired. Oh wait, I shouldn't wait for inspiration Most of the time I need to sit my butt down, open Scrivener, and start typing. And it works. I might not write as much as I like, but when I'm  at a stopping point, I'm at least 500-1000 words deeper.There is no magical time, or place. I have a brand new shiny laptop that I can drag to the library, or the coffee shops, to the living room, outside on the grass, or the patio. It is light (3 pounds) and my new companion in this city.

The biggest thing that I've had to learn is what Ueland talks about above. To give myself time to enjoy other things without destroying my creativity. Spending time with my husband, giving my cat a belly rub, and even doing the dishes while listening to 60s music. Sometimes stories unfold in those times, and that is good. I'm tired of feeling guilty when I told my laundry, or groan when I see the dishes have piled up. I let myself have moments--- do the dishes before supper, fold laundry when I need a writing break, and indulge myself when I sit down at a cafe after a nice walk over there.

The worse lie is to tell myself that what I do is not worthy, and that doesn't lead me anywhere. It stops me in my tracks and that isn't productive or healthy.

Camp NaNoWrimo is happening in June and August, and having that goal is helping boost my confidence. I'm a little behind due to my brother's wedding, but I'm writing a chapter a day! It is helping me push forward. I hope then to continue with at least 1000 words a day, 5 days a week. I choose to start goals since that is where I excel. I like drawing a line through something that I've accomplished. It is a system that works for me. I'm flexible, but also grounded.

I haven't been updating at much since I'm doing my best at adjusting to our new environment.

Now to meet my daily writing goal.

Natasha

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Heroine's May 2012 Reads

May was a great reading month! I read more books by authors of the YA or Bust! Tour that didn't disappoint and a few books I've been dying to read. So here we go!

YA or Bust! Authors
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
This is the sequel to If I Stay from the perspective of Mia's boyfriend, Adam. It takes place three years after the first book. It is showing us how they coped with the events in the first book. I have to say that the two books fit so well together with their internal struggles despite one  was in a coma, or the other awake in the middle of New York City. They are just as important since they belong to that person and I really love how Forman approaches their worries, hopes, disappointments, pain, and love.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
I'm going to admit that Stephanie Perkins has become one of my favorite writers ever. She writes some of the most refreshing characters ever. Anna and the French Kiss blew me away (since Paris IS ridiculously romantic and beautiful), and Lola didn't disappoint. I loved the setting of San Francisco that she helped me fall in love with the city. The relationships between Lola and her parents, friends, and Cricket cycle through time with many ups and downs, just like Anna's yearlong struggle in France, and Perkins really knows how to do pacing. I can't wait for her next book that comes out next year. I will for sure pick them all up for now on!


The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
I love, love the website that I have linked above. Totally go check it out! I just went on a road trip with my friends to move to San Diego so this last road trip with friends before college really resonated with me. There is something about the big unknown that can hold a lot of scary, and somewhere along the way, there is a lot of excitement once things start to click. I did this once before when I moved to Fargo and went to college, and doing this in San Diego, brought a tad bit of anxiety of forming friendships again. This book is a great example of transformation of one's self, trying to stay strong, and listening to the universe and yourself. A fun read, and what I like most about it is that it is from the POV from a guy road tripping with girls. It is way better than Crossroads.


Like Mandarin by Kristen Hubbard (moderator in San Diego)
We visited on the road trip that I mentioned above so when the Grace  speaks of the winds of Wyoming, I totally know what she is talking about after driving through the state. This book speaks true of what it is like living in a small town. I grew up in a small town area, and now looking back at the kids I grew up with, it is easier to identify some of the things we went through. This book touches on what it feels like for not just Grace, but someone she has grown close to. I'm really looking forward to reading Wanderlove next!

Sequels 
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
The first book, Divergent, had me put it as my favorite dystopian society after The Hunger Games. Roth does a great job at the twists and turns of this society and for the character. Teenagers have to choose what factions that they want to live in that better fits their beliefs and personalities. Tris, however, is Divergent and fits into multiple. She soon finds out that she isn't the only one and soon war breaks out between the factions, and has to decide what is the best way for society to survive. This is a lot to go through while also falling in love with someone that has such similar, and different, struggles going on inside. I'm really looking forward to the conclusion to see how not just how Tris prevails, but also society.


Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
I've been anticipating this book for what seems like forever. I bought Graceling when it first came out in hardcover and Cashore is one of those authors that I will keep buying. I have to say, Bitterblue blew me away. The ciphers, the complex castle, the character arcs (some from past books), and Bitterblue's discoveries made me wish that I didn't have to finish (and the book is long at over 500 pages!). The pain of her father's cruelty is what is really shocking, and Bitterblue is trying to pick up the pieces. This is unlike any fantasy book that I've read and I can't highly recommend the series enough! Oh, and did I forget to mention the illustrations in Bitterblue? The book is absolutely gorgeous!!! So pick up the paper copy for the e-version will not do it justice. It is one of those books that is an experience.

Indie
Legacy by Michelle Bredeson
I was looking for local North Dakota authors on Google+ and that is how I learned about Michelle's writing. Since then, I've been writing back and forth with her about various things (mostly writing). We booked her as a guest for CoreCon this past year, which I was sad not to attend because of the move. She currently lives in the area where I grew up so that is fun too. This book has the perfect Midwest feel since it is based in Sterling, Minnesota. It was so easy for me to envision the setting in my mind, and even the teenagers fit what I remember of growing up. I love the shapeshifting in this story and how each of them have their own animal, and aren't just a pack of wolves. Pick this one up! There is more to come too. The second book is also out at this time.

Fierce Reads Tour
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
I've been meaning to pick up this book and finally read it in anticipation of the Fierce Reads tour that comes to San Diego (tonight!). This is a spin of the Cinderella story set in the future with cyborgs, even Moon queens, an Asian prince, and many twists! I sometimes think that Cinderella is overused as a re-telling, and then something like this makes me shut up (my other favorite is Ella Enchanted). This is the first in a long series of books that I will pick each one up with different fairy tale characters.

Novella
The Assassin and the Pirate Lord by Sarah J. Maas
This is one of four novellas that unfolds before the event in the novel Throne of Glass. I've bought the first three that are out right now, and I've had Throne of Glass on my to-read list since it was pretty much signed. I love the concept of it-- and guess what? It is another Cinderella re-telling where she is an assassin. How cool is that?

Currently Reading
Struck by Jennifer Bosworth and then Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (both part of the Fierce Reads Tour)