Monday, May 25, 2015

Book Review Discussion: Paranoia by J.R. Johansson

Book: Paranoia by J.R. Johansson
Genre: YA SciFi
Rating:★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
For: Fun, Support Local Authors
From: I bought this one, but I can't remember where!

Short Synopsis: This is the second book in the Night Walker series about Parker who is a Watcher, which means he watches the dreams of whoever he makes eye contact with last before he goes to sleep. Much craziness happened with that in the first book. This second book is more about his struggle with an alter ego part of himself he calls Darkness. It's also about how he learns there are others out there that live inside people's dreams called Builders (the good ones) and Takers (the bad ones.) This one also deals with the disappearance of his dad that he alludes to in the first book.

My Response: I must say that the plot and the details of this dream world got a bit complicated for me in this book. To the point of not really caring. The Takers especially, I just didn't get what their deal was. Even though they are the crux of the conflict in this story. I was more in it for the romance, how the Builders can help Parker and finding out what's up with the dad. So, that being said, I liked some parts and was a little bored by other parts.

Bottom Line: A fun scifi story, bordering on horror even, that deals with the hard to understand dream world.

Let's Talk About: What would you think if someone sat around and watched your dreams? Isn't that the creepiest idea ever? I mean, Parker has to spend time often in his mom's dreams! Think of it!

Other Reviews:

 There's suspense everywhere, and quite a lot of danger and action, too. The pacing is great, and I just really, really enjoyed the book.  From City of Books

I loved getting to know the secondary characters better–Addie, Finn, Mia, and now Jack too. They added a lot to the story and to Parker’s motives. From Jenni Elyse

Every character in this story is so well developed that it's hard to pick a favorite. I do have to say that I was intrigued by the character Jack. I was THRILLED to see what the author is doing with this character. From Why Not? Because I Said So

The later chapters are filled with action, emotion and apprehension, and we reach the story’s end with a sense of finality, although I would really like to follow Jack’s story. From All in One Place

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Currently: It's a Lazy Sunday Afternoon




Listening: Smoke and Mirrors album by Imagine Dragons. Love.





Watching: I started Daredevil. Yeah. Good. You're all right. It's very good. Dark. But good. In a dark good kind of way. You know. And. Charlie Cox. :)

Reading: From now until the trip I'm going to read random things off my shelves. What a concept. First off, Twenty Boy Summer. Yeah. See, it's been awhile since that book was the buzz! And then while on the trip, I'm going to read random things off my Kindle. I can't wait to see what pops up there! And then in August, I'm going to read so many local author books it'll make your head spin.

Blogging: You know. I look at my blog and it just makes me tired. Maybe the little mini Bloggiesta coming up in THREE WEEKS will kick something back in gear. But then I'll just go on the trip anyway, so it won't matter. Maybe after the trip the blogging mojo will come back. Do you think? Oh, and this week is ArmchairBEA! I hope to participate a bit, but like I said. I don't know. I feel like I'm starting to run out of things to say. Sad sad sad!

Writing: I FINISHED MY BOOK! By that, I mean I finally wrote the 2000 words that it needed at the end to make the story complete. Or sort of complete. In a really cheesy sort of way. But. still. Done. And now, I continue working on draft three knowing that the book actually has an ending and when I get there. . . again. . . I can fix it.

Planning: TRIP TRIP TRIP! I've started the countdown big time. Three more weeks. I skyped my son today. He's in Paris at this very moment. Ah. That city. I can't even. But we'll be experiencing new and different cities and I hope they blow me away as much as Paris did. I really hope those of you that follow me on Instagram will be okay with lots of trip pics, because I plan to be less shy about that. I think there's a fine line there and I worry about that a lot. But. There will be pics. Which I hope is fun and not obnoxious.

Health Watch: I did the Zumba thing for four days this week. Then the weekend (including Friday) hit and it's been bad. But. Still, Even with the discouragement of the stupid scale, I keep on keeping on. I think because it's too much fun really. And besides. There's Beto.



Doesn't just watching that make you want to get up and dance with 'em?


But then I made.. banana chocolate cake, banana brownies, cinnamon monkey bread and now I'm eating ice cream. So there's that problem still.

Gardening: We planted some more stuff this weekend. Beans, peas, lettuce, beets. Already planted previously: tomatoes, peppers, squash (two kinds) and some herbs. I'm always amazed every year when anything at all grows. We'll see what happens this year!

MISC:

  • lots and lots of concerts and violin things this past week. Most of that is over now.
  • book club for Dune this past week. Fun!
  • movie watch for Dune this Friday!
  • Memorial Day tomorrow. SLEEP IN!
  • Lots and lots of rain. It's like we don't even live in the desert or something. 
  • Prep for trek for Toto in a week from now. Can that really be here already?
  • And, that's all I can think of for now. Life. It's crazy you know?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Review Discussion: Erasing Time by C.J. Hill

Book: Erasing Time by C.J. Hill
Genre: YA SciFi
Rating:★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
For: Fun 
From: The library

Short Synopsis: Twins, Sheridan and Taylor, are sucked into a time vortex and are whisked hundreds of years into the future. There they meet science geek, and crazy word historian, Echo, who has his own issues. Basically, they ALL want to escape this wacked out city. Echo is the perfect person to help them because he can actually speak to them in their "old" English language and he's fascinated with their old fashioned "old 20s" traditions and culture. As they go about their adventure, the girls learn much about him and his sad story. There's also a secret they have that he ends up figuring out too.

My Response: Very fun look at what our future might be like. Also, really fun to imagine being that far into the future and looking back at the crazy weird stuff we do now. I totally enjoyed that aspect of this story. I feel like I could have connected to the characters a little more. But I truly can't put my finger on what little thing might have been missing. It was a pretty science-y science fiction, so if that's your thing, you'll probably really love this one.

Oh, P.S. I wanted to mention that C.J. Hill is actually Janette Rallison (who I spent time with last week). She is known for her fluffy fun high school drama YA contemporaries, so when she decided to write science fiction she wrote under this name C. J. Hill, which is actually her mom's nom de plume.

Bottom Line: Fun romp into the future with a look at a world that really isn't that great!

Let's Talk About: What things do you think we do now, that people from the future will look back on and think is totally bizarre? Any thoughts on that?

Other Reviews:

I loved the ending and I seriously cannot wait to find out what's going to happen next!! Fans of Under the Never Sky and other dystopian novels will definitely want to pick this one up! From Literary Exploration

If you are looking for a dystopian a little off the beaten past, this is for you. You are looking for a story to make you smile, this is it as well.  From Bows and Bullets

And, man, is this world building crazy. From the moment we’re introduced to Echo and his father with their crayon colored hair and artistic facial art, the world is defined as an extremely altered version of our own. From Working for the Mandroid

Okay, and so there’s this TWIST in Erasing Time that I just loved and was totally thrown by. I mean, I expect I should have seen it coming (did anyone else?) but I totally didn’t and I loved that. From Hobbitsies


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My #Storymakers15 Experience


Finally finally finally I managed to be brave enough to go to this writing conference! Again, it's one of those things I'd heard about for years but thought, eh, that's not for me. I'm "not in that tribe." It appears these things sometimes take time for me and I must ponder them awhile. I would have gone last year except for all the weddings I had to deal with. So last year, I committed to going this year.

I was so excited!

But when it finally came I was very nervous too. I talked my writing/blogging buddy Kathy into going with me, which was good, because then we could be nervous together. Isn't it awesome how that helps?

Our adventure started on Thursday with Boot Camp. Both Kathy and I were assigned the lovely Janette Rallison for a boot camp instructor. We came prepared with the first 15 pages of our manuscript, all polished as much as we could on our own. We knew we'd be reading them aloud so both of us had practiced on our families, with mixed results. No, they were good sports.

We arrived that day and were joined by two other aspiring authors. We found ourselves a little corner away from the main location where there was too much noise and proceeded to take turns reading our pages. Each one of us got about an hour of time, first with the reading, then Janette's critique, and then the critique of each of the other three in the group. Yes. Scary. But also really eye opening. It's amazing what others see that you don't see. It never fails to fascinate me!

Here's what I took away from boot camp regarding my story:
  • If there's going to be something to do with skinwalkers at some point in the story, I should hint at that right up front in the first chapter. 
  • Maybe I should even start at a different place? Some place more exciting perhaps?
  • The YA voice is good now, for the most part. I've manged to fix that though there are places were it slips into sounding younger too. Many places left to fix!
  • I talked about "hot farm boys" a lot in those first pages (trying to get that YA voice remember!) and Janette Rallison smilyfaced all those spots. She likes my hot farm boys I think. :)
  • My characters meet at church. In Utah. I tried to non-denominationalize the church, but it seems to throw people off. If they are in Utah, I guess it needs to be Mormon. But I didn't want to make it Mormon, you know? So. Dilemma.
  • So I could switch the setting, but it would really throw so many other things off. Dilemma.
  • Everyone seems baffled that a 17 year old girl would be interested in finding the diary of her ancestor. I'm baffled they are baffled. I guess I was a weird 17 year old myself and I think that this (and thus my character thinks so) would be cool.
  • But for the most part, no one blasted my actual writing. YAY! Progress I say! 
After more than five hours of this, it was time to go home! There was a party later, which I thought about going to, but ended up declining. Kathy went though and she can tell you all about it!

FANCY!

Friday I came back for classes. So much fun! And food! I'm not used to getting fed at these things. But get fed we did. A lot. And so much socializing. A lot. Every time I sat down, at a table, or in a class or anywhere, someone would ask: "What's your name? Where are you from? And what are you writing?" 

My name: This is hard question, as I've lamented before. I decided to own up to the nickname. Which was on my name tag, but in small print. Which would then throw people off since I'd say Suey but that didn't match my real name, so I'd hold out my tag and point to the small print nickname. Sigh. Why did I have to make things complicated and create this alter persona years ago?? :)

Where I'm from: TEN minutes away! Which was actually unique because so many people travelled from all over the country for this conference. Wow. Impressive. But being from ten minutes away is pretty dang boring. Sigh.

What I'm writing: The only thing I knew how to answer for sure here was. . .YA! Yes. YA for sure. After that, it's always a garbled mess. Um... speculative you could say, romance for sure, sort of paranormal (shhh, I didn't say that out loud), with a touch of horror even. But definaltey romance! I'm writing one that's set in the 80s! So, that's maybe historical now? Or maybe contemporary?. I don't know. I'm writing YA for sure though. Sigh.

The questions were hard.

Learning about writing a page turner
from Jennifer Nielsen
my favorite class of the conference.

But the classes! I learned how to get the most out of the conference experience (talk to people!), I learned how to write a page turner (make your characters suffer!),  I learned the guidelines for writing romance (always end it happy!), I learned about POV (don't change it up mid-sentence! Oh, and make sure your character is noticing what he or she would actually notice, not what you the author wants them to notice!), I learned about what people who read the slush pile look for or don't look for (basically, stuff they like, something with a good voice and an awesome hook!), I learned about showing and not telling (get rid of thought verbs like see, hear, feel, know, think, etc.) I learned so much stuff!

Meanwhile I was texting my son in France as he ventured out for a weekend on his own and how had managed to get there to Lyon, but was wandering around after dark in the rain trying to find his hotel. But still, I tried to concentrate on the craft of writing. 

And then, AND THEN, after dinner, we were treated to the most amazing keynote speech ever by Martine Leavitt. She said so many things that spoke right me and guess what. Every single other of the 700 people that were there felt the same way. It was seriously amazing. It brought tears to my eyes and everyone else too I think. When she was done, we all flew to our feet and clapped forever. 

After that there were several things they called mingles, but I was so beat, I had no energy left to mingle. My head and neck and eyes hurt like never before. So I party pooped out again and went home. 

Saturday Kathy was back! Our first class was an author chat. Several authors were "chatting" in different rooms, and we choose to listen to the debut author chat which included our new friend Amy Finnegan, and also David Powers King, and Charlie Holmberg. It was a fun chat and we enjoyed hanging with them. 
Charlie, Amy and David

In another chat that I did not go to, which included Brandon Mull, Jennifer Nielsen, J. Scott Savage and James Dashner, we learned afterwards some stuff that happened. Namely,  that James admitted to almost quitting years ago. He knew he had to face J. Scott at a Storymakers conference which was happening soon after that. He knew he couldn't quit. He knew these people were behind him. He knew had to keep going. We heard he got choked up and the room went deathly silent, everyone weepy with him.  But.. as you know,  he didn't quit and look at him now. It's a crazy amazing story.

After that we went to Character leads to Plot leads to Character and learned that there is not one or the other that dominates, but that both of those elements tie into each other. Then we went to a Deep Editing class where we learned words like symploce, polysyndeton, anadiplosis, anaphor, asyndeton, epistrophe and the best one...epizeuxis! (Which, by the way, I used at the very very top of this post!)  Then we learned how to archetype our male characters, which was totally fun. Is he an alpha? A charmer? A gentleman (yes!), an adventurer, a guru? 

So much fun!

I only bought two books to add to my collection.

Then it was the massive author signing. I spoke to Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, Jennifer Nielsen, Amy Finnegan, Janette Rallison, Julie Daines, Angela Morrison (who tracked ME down saying is THIS the famous Suey? LOL!) , Jennifer Moore, Josie Killpack, Sara Eden, and Ilima Todd. To name a few. :)

Then I went home and crashed. 

But you know what? I've managed to write a bit each day since then because Martine Leavitt said if you only get one sentence a day, you are doing it! 

And now that I've finally experienced this conference, I must say, I'm still trying to decide if I fit in. Is this really for me? Am I REALLY a writer? Can I REALLY do this thing? But I think if I can get out Martine Leavitt's speech and read it whenever I'm wondering this,  I can and I will believe in myself and say without a doubt, yes, I AM and yes I CAN!


Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review Discussion: The Fill-in Boyfriend by Kasie West

Book: The Fill-in Boyfriend by Kasie West
Genre: YA Romance
Rating:★★★★☆
For: Fun
From: Bought from Amazon

Short Synopsis: When Gia has last minute issues at prom (for instance her boyfriend just dumped her,) she asks a random dude sitting in his car in the parking lot to fill in for her. Because she's really worried what her friends think. See, they don't believe she's really had a boyfriend. So this random guy fills in and does an amazing acting job. Then they pretend to break up at prom and he's off the hook. And that's the end of that. Or is it? Yeah, stuff keeps happening that brings them together and you can probably guess what happens next!

My Response: I got this book from Amazon, dropped everything and read it that day. Don't you love it when that happens? :) So much fun. The story is simple but each of these characters have things that need working through and it's fun to watch them take that journey. As always, I loved the characters and Mr. Random Parking Lot Guy aka. The Fill-in Boyfriend is especially swoon worthy.

Bottom Line: Fun, read-it-in-a-day sort of book!

Let's Talk About: Do you have an author whose books you'll drop everything to read the minute you get your hands on them? An author whose books are great comfort reads and who's stories just make you happy? So, who is that author and what do you love about their books?

Other Reviews:

I don’t know what it is about Kasie’s books, but they just hook me in and I’ve never not read one of her books in more than a day. From Mostly Book Obsessed 

I felt so bad for Gia that she had those issues with her friends, that she didn’t have people she could trust. But I loved the new friendships she was making, they were so much better for her and more likeable. From This Blonde Reads

However, it's much more than a cute, fluffy romance novel for the summer. It is a slightly intense self-discovery novel with romance.  From Feminist Reflections

The Fill-In Boyfriend will make your heart melt with the budding romance, amazing characters, and an inspirational message! From Dark Faerie Tales

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Currently: Foggy Brain Edition


                              CURRENTLY



Listening: To the album Sun by Thomas Bergerson. Guys. I love these songs so much. Seriously. I need to convert someone to this love. Who's it going to be? Jenni? I nominate you!



Watching: The only TV I watched this week is Survivor. But there's no one to root for since Joe was voted off a few weeks ago. So. Why am I still watching? Because these people are crazy!!!

I did finish the first season of Reign and ah!!! The ending! I can't wait for season 2 to show up on Netflix along with season 2 of The 100 and season 2 of Sleepy Hollow and season I don't know of Once Upon a Time and Vampire Diaries! I hope they will be here in the summer and I can binge watch them all!

Reading: It was the Bout of Books this week, but all I managed was to finish the two books I was reading currently when the week started. But that's better than nothing! I finished Dune and Erasing Time. You can see my Dune wrap up here. Review for the other one to come soon.

Writing: Oh boy. Well. I will do a separate post about my experience at Storymakers these past few days, but to prep for that I had to spiff up my first 15 pages of my story and get them critiqued. And now... I need to start it all over again. Like. from scratch. So... yeah. Writing. DANG, it's hard! Anyway, I blame my foggy brain on the past three days. CRAZY!

Blogging: Plugging along. The Dune RAL has pretty much ended, though we'll have a couple of other events which you can join in on through Twitter. Bloggiesta for June is in ONE MONTH! It's going to be VERY low key. And, I feel like I've been doing a lot of Utah author promoting lately. It seems to be a thing for me. I hope you don't mind it!

Eating: Terrible. Not eating much. Small amounts, but terrible stuff. Eating is the hugest pain. Seriously. BUT... (this should be in an exercising category but it's related so I'll put it here) I have been keeping up on Zumba. EVERYDAY (less the weekends)  for FIVE weeks! ZERO pounds lost!!! GO ME!! :)

Planning: This week I'm planning book club, and many concerts for kid four, and Zumba every day, and starting my book over again, and  I can't remember what else.

Worrying: About everything. As usual. Kid two and kid three are having fun on their respective adventures. Two weeks down, a bunch to go! One month from today our own European Adventure Take Two starts!
JJ at some waterfall in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador.
Dev (center blue shirt) at Cannes France during the Festival.

Well. On to another week. I'm so tired. Wish me luck.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dune Read Along Part Three Discussion



Well. We did it! Dune is done! The discussion questions for part three are over at Kami's blog.

Don't forget our chat tonight at 9 pm MDT. (It'll be a miracle if I get this posted before that time! Update: I didn't.)

Book club is this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. MDT. We'll (mostly Jenni) tweet the discussion for those interested. (It'll be a miracle if anyone else besides Kami, Jenni, Jenny and I read it! But we'll see!)

And we'll watch the mini series on either Friday or Saturday May 29 or 30. Leaning toward Friday right now. (Sorry, my schedule is messy at the moment!)

But now... here are my answers.


1. What are your overall thoughts? Did you like it?

Well, I liked parts. And the premise and world is really fun and interesting. But I really really disliked ( I hate to use the word hate, but I'm nearly there with this one) the writing style. I've just been to a writing conference all weekend and Frank Herbert pretty much does everything we are taught (at least nowadays) NOT to do. But back then in the olden days, maybe no one cared.


2. Do you think you could ride a giant worm?

No. Mostly likely not. But it might be fun to try!


3. Paul's relationship with his mom, Jessica, dramatically changed and evolved over the course of the book. How did their relationship change and why do you think it did?

Paul became The Dude (oh, I mean DUKE.. and that other thing) and now he's the big wig and seems to look down on his mom. Yeah, that bugged me. I think they should work out how to be partners in crime.

4. What do you think about Paul's lack of emotion?

Well, he did cry at that one guy (Jamis?) funeral, which pretty much freaked everyone out. And I did seem to catch some emotion with regard to Chani, but I longed so much to see more. So so much more. I think he figured that because he was now The Dude, he shouldn't/couldn't/wouldn't show any emotion. But I think it would make him a better leader if he did.

5. Now that I've finished, I feel like I'd pick up on a lot more of the details and things if I read it again. Do you think you'll reread Dune? If this is a reread, did you catch different things this time around?

No. I think this'll be it for me.

6. How do you feel about the political arrangement at the end? Do you feel bad for Princess Irulan or Chani?

I do feel bad for both of them. Awful arrangement. Terrible. Crazy. Sad. All of it.

7. Will you read the rest of the series?

No no and no. I have too many other things I'd so much rather read! I am happy that I re-read this though and have remembered all the things.

8. Favorite character and why?
No one really stood out to me as someone I totally loved and/or connected to. I felt much lacking with the character development. Stilgar was cool. Chani was interesting. The Baron was disgusting.

9. What did you think about the quotes at the beginning of each chapter? Did you read them? Were they interesting? Were they helpful?
I did read them. I actually quite liked them and thought that those things would almost make a better book. I liked that it gave us insight into Princess Irulan's character just a touch.

10. Did you have fun during the Read Along? Was there anything we could have done better? Would you have read this book if you hadn't joined?

Read alongs are always fun! Thanks to all who joined in with us! What should we do next???! :)

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