Friday, January 11, 2013

A Critical Feature

Sorry about the lateness of this one, but the idea came rather late.

Last month I had the pleasure of participating in a great Critique contest on deviantART hosted by one of the many lit groups I'm a part of:

Super Writers Help

This contest featured six prose pieces and eight poems, offered up by various members and staff from the group, for critique and comments.
The person who critiqued the most pieces won.

I managed to read and critique all 6 prose pieces, but as poetry is not my forte I declined adding my input. It's not that I hate poetry, really, it's more that I don't understand all the rules, types, and tones that poems should/could be, so I don't find myself confident enough to offer my opinions, in terms of critique anyway.

But I'd like to share with you the pieces I did critique, a couple of which are utterly phenomenal, so you might enjoy them as much as I did.

The Boy's Gift
by *007Balel
We walked into the room, only to be welcomed by the stench of blood. Suddenly I fell silent; no words could be uttered from my lying mouth. I was shocked to find his body tied up to a cold and hardwood chair in the middle of this deserted room. A grisly and dimmed light hung above his head, swinging to and fro every time the door was opened, threatening to fall and crack open onto his skull. A dim circle illuminated his head, shadowing the rest of his face. This was ironic; it was like he was some sort of subject ready to be questioned, but if he even happened to utter a word, we would beat the crap out of his thin and scrawny frame.

The Tale Of The Little Robot
by *Diluculi
In a land far far away there was a scientist. This scientist was very curious. He nearly knew everything about every thing in the universe. But there was one question he couldn't answer himself. So he built a computer. It wasn't small or pretty, but that did not bother the scientist. The computer should only be able to do one thing. He should answer the question the scientist could not. The when the computer was started, he asked it: "What is the sense of life?" The computer made no sound but several lights started flickering. The scientist was patient, so he waited.

Time passed by and the scientist still waited.

Even more time passed until the computer gave an answer. A small piece of paper slit out of it somewhere. The scientist read: "Too many variables. More input needed."

An Angel's War (Part 1)
by ~Zune164
Today is my first day of being an Angel. I know what you're thinking, a messenger of God, with snow white wings and a halo. Playing the trumpet and shouting the return of God. Well, I can't play the trumpet to save my life. Plus I have no halo and black wings. If you are the sheep and Jesus is the shepherd, we are the shepherd's crook. We are the Angel corps. We fight demons on earth to protect humans. This is my story of how I became an Angel.

Devil of a Friend
by *TheTerrorOfTheDeep
Seth died on a sunny day.

They held his funeral three days later. It had been sunny then too. I didn't go. I was too busy trying to exorcise Seth's ghost. I burned sage, but it didn't seem to bother him. Instead, I sneezed.

"It's your fault I'm dead."

I sat on my bed with a red sheet wrapped around me and over my head so it formed a hood. I gripped it closed over my chest. "Stop lying."

He settled across from me, echoing my Indian style so our knees would have touched. Even as a ghost, he was taller than me. "I'm not lying. If I never met you, then none of this would have happened."

"The way I see it you would have died sooner." I glared at some lint on my lap. When he laughed, I jerked my glare up to him.

"You know what I love about this whole thing?" He smiled. "Is that only you can see me. Maybe I am just a figment of your imagination, brought on by guilt."

I smirked right back. "I would have to feel guilt for that."
*For some reason this amazing deviation was moved to despite it being one of my favorites, you can only enjoy and comment on the copy made for the contest.
Still, do be sure to check it out!*

The Dissection of How
by *vespera
When they asked me how I could do it, I told them it was like making love.

You start slowly, with your eyes on the skin of your beloved. You take your time. You notice if she is cream or churning butter, any layer of milk fat, really - and if she is, if she's dotted with freckles (and you almost don't want to wait to find the rest.) Or, perhaps, she's semi-translucent and you can see her tiny blue veins on close inspection. You notice that maybe she is none of these things. She may be copper, beer-glass brown, or even two minutes from melting into the night.
*Another of my favorites, and that last line of the second paragraph is simply ingenious.
Go read the entire thing NOW!*

Death by Conversation
by ~LuckyClover38
         The ground is truly beautiful today. The dirt is a lovely, rich brown color. It's not quite muddy but a little damp and sprinkled in fine powder. There are some musty, rotting leaves, littered across the ground like no one cares for them. No one probably does. They are limp like corpses. You can't forget about those pretty little ants though. They track with heavy crumbs on their backs, spinning circles. Beautiful isn't it? So I might as well just keep staring at that loathsome ground and hope he doesn't come over to talk to me. But, of course I'm not that lucky am I? Oh no. Of course he's coming to talk to me. These ants are really fascinating today. Really interesting. More interesting than his face, which I refuse to look at as I have done since I met him.


Like I said, I had a lot of fun with the contest, and I'm sure the other 3 participants did too! If you'd like to check out all the submissions, as well as see some of the comments/critiques we left, head on over to Super Writers Help and check out the contest folder! Also, I hope you enjoy reading some of these fantastic pieces as much as I did.

(Seriously, check out #4 and #5 and show them some MAJOR love. You won't be sorry.)

Hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Audio Addendum: Hex Hall

Hex Hall
~Hex Hall~
Hex Hall
Book 1
By Rachel Hawkins

Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It's gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie's estranged father--an elusive European warlock--only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it's her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

As a series of blood-curdling mysteries starts to converge, Sophie prepares for the biggest threat of all: an ancient secret society determined to destroy all Prodigium, especially her.

Original Review

Approximate Reading Time: 3.5 Hours

Audiobook Review
Read by Cris Dukehart
Length: 7.1 Hours
Listened at 1.9x Speed

As far as audiobooks go, this one was probably middle of the road. It wasn't horrible in narration or deviation from the book, nor was it spectacular enough to turn a non-audiophile into a fanatic. But for someone who greatly enjoys audiobooks as a means of reading, or for a general reader wanting to give audiobooks a try, it was fine.

Ms. Dukehart was a great voice for our snarky narrator, and did a good job differentiating the numerous female characters without sounding too outrageous. I was especially impressed with how successful she was in all the Southern accents — from thick to slight — as well as the lone British accent. I will admit the accents might have gotten dropped a time or two on the shorter passages, but not distractingly so.

Really, my only peeve was the pronunciation of one of the Faerie's names. Nausicaa, which I've always imagined as Naw-sic-ca, was instead pronounced Naw-sicky-a. Now, the character is really only mentioned maybe four times in the whole book, but every time it came up I had to shake my head and wonder where that random i/y sound came from. If that's really the correct pronunciation, I retract this peeve, but if not...

Overall, a good read of a great story. I see the narrator is also cast in both sequels, so I do look forward to hearing more of her as Sophie and crew. I'll be especially interested in hearing all those new British accents in book two!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Goals For 2013

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

Bookish goals. Pretty self-explanatory this week. So without further adieu...

10. Read More

Yeah, that pretty much explains itself. Too often I get distracted by all the other media available, or bogged down with other things... Some of it can't be helped, but I do hope to try and prioritize reading a little higher than it's been before. And I hope my new dedicated reading chair will help me in this endeavor.

9. Try Out Some Group Reads

Quite a few of my GoodReads groups have monthly book discussions. Unfortunately, as of yet, I've only participated in reading/discussing one. I'm hoping this year I can clear out my schedule a little and get my eyes reading some of these group reads. I love discussing books, I'm just horrible at working on a time crunch...

8. Complete Series/Trilogies

There are quite a few series out now which I've either neglected entirely, or read the first couple and neglected the finale. This year I plan on finally putting some of these series to rest.

7. Read My Own Books

Amazon is way, WAY too generous sometimes. There are SO many free books for Kindle, and more and more cycle through every day! I've already 'purchased' over 700 in the near-year I've owned my Kindle, and I just keep buying more! One of these days (maybe this year) I need to sit down with my Kindle and just get to reading them.

Plus, I own another few dozen physical books which I haven't touched. I'm hoping the one of my reading challenges will help me finally crack down on these too.

6. Author Requests

I know, I know, I'm a horrible horrible person. I still have four books sent to me for review, a couple I've won from GoodReads, AND another seven I need to review from NetGalley! I hope to get these off my shoulders by March at the latest (preferably done this month, if I can manage it!), and finally clear off my Review Policy hiatus message (which people seem to ignore anyway...)

5. Complete Reading Challenges

Even though reading challenges are more goals, not etched-in-stone promises, it'd still be nice to actually complete one for a change. Last year I took on a ton of challenges around March (some even later) and didn't complete even one. This year, no matter how tempting, I'm restricting myself to the five (six) challenges I've taken on. If I'm making a huge headway, I might allow myself to tackle another one... We'll see.

4. Attend More Author Events

Even if the YA2U tour doesn't hit up Portland, we still get a ton of various authors stopping in. I mean, next week we get Kevin Emerson, Martha Brockenbrough, Sean Beaudoin & Cat Patrick on the same night! Not to mention all those coming to LeakyCon (which, I can't, since they haven't been announced yet).

Problem is, I tend to hold myself to reading their book(s) before attending, and if I don't I totally stress myself out about not having anything to say or sign or getting I don't sleep, get sick, and don't go. I missed out on an entire convention last year because of that. Not this year. I will attend and I will enjoy myself.

3. No Breaks

No, I'm not a self-imposing slave-driver. At least, I try not to be. I'm talking about month-to-three-month-long breaks of absolutely nothing going up on the blog. It's horrible. Stop it. Just read/write something! So even if it's just TTT posts (hey!) I'll at least *try* to have something up every week, if not more. And the next goal should help greatly with that...

2. Prepare

I hope to have quite a few posts pre-written days if not weeks before they're posted. I already schedule posts for 5:30am (8:30am EST) usually for the following day, just so I can hit inboxes first thing in the morning. But I figure if I can get enough content generated beforehand, then I won't have to worry about slow times, like when I go to LeakyCon in June!

1. Stop Procrastinating

I'm a master procrastinator. Did it all through high school. Did it all through college. It's resulted in greatness...and it's resulted in massive stress, failure, breakdowns, and shutdowns. Even though all my Reading Challenges and such are my own goals and don't really mean anything, I'd still like to actually get them done this year.

And that means not leaving all of them until December when I get super busy with family, church stuff, and life in general. If I could have *all* of my challenges completed by November (before Thanksgiving even!), I'd be ecstatic!

But even on a smaller scale, I tend to leave my reading until last-thing. Book's due at the library next week? I'll read it tomorrow...this weekend...the day before it's due. An author's coming next month? I'll get to their book(s) next week...the week before...the night before their event/signing. STOP IT! Just pick up the book now!!! Hopefully I'll have less self-imposed stress and burn-outs, and more happiness, confidence, and blog content.

So, what goals do you have this year?
Are you trying to read more, less, differently?
Got any major plans for your blog?
Let me hear you howl!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Amazon Best Books Challenge - 2013

Basically, Amazon posts a list of the 100 Best Books of the previous year. Whether or not these are in fact the best is up to us to find out.

Since the majority of "Bests" aren't really in my usual genres... I'll be aiming for the Competent Level of 10 books:

10) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green ~ Amazon | GoodReads

15) Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie ~ Amazon | GoodReads

21) Quiet by Susan Cain ~ Amazon | GoodReads

23) Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt ~ Amazon | GoodReads

32) Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan ~ Amazon | GoodReads

40) How to Be a Person: The Stranger's Guide to College, Sex, Intoxicants, Tacos, and Life Itself by Dan Savage ~ Amazon | GoodReads

51) The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters ~ Amazon | GoodReads

53) The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey ~ Amazon | GoodReads

56) Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo ~ Amazon | GoodReads

59) America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't by Stephen Colbert ~ Amazon | GoodReads

The challenge host, Cassandra, also decided to include the YA Top 20 Listin the challenge, since only 1 or 2 YA books made the main Editor's list. Of those, I'll probably be picking up...

2) Reached by Ally Condie ~ Amazon | GoodReads

6) Dodger by Terry Pratchett ~ Amzon | GoodReads

7) Insurgent by Veronica Roth ~ Amazon | GoodReads

9) Seraphina by Rachel Hartman ~ Amazon | GoodReads

10) Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor ~ Amazon | GoodReads

11) The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater ~ Amazon | GoodReads

12) The Diviners by Libba Bray ~ Amazon | GoodReads

13) Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver ~ Amazon | GoodReads

16) Cinder by Marissa Meyer ~ Amazon | GoodReads

17) Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas ~ Amazon | GoodReads

I figure between the two lists, I should be able to get at least 10, if not even 15 (or 20 if I get really motivated!). Overall, I'm pretty excited to give this another go. And thanks again Cassandra for hosting this challenge for us!

Any others on the list you think I need to check out?
Leave a comment below, and wish me luck!

Keep track of my progress on my Reading Challenges page.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Women Author Reading Challenge

Women Authors Challenge
Hosted by Peek-A-Book!

Since my own Girl Power reading challenge didn't go off so hot last year (I'd be willing to give it another go if I got any responses), I figured I'd give someone else's a try. But instead of characters, this challenge is about reading female authors.

For this challenge, I'll be aiming for the Wonder Woman level of reading 16+ different women authors. Technically the challenge is just to read 'books written by women authors', but as I read so many series/trilogies, I'm pretty sure that goal would get completed without much effort.

I'll probably also keep a list of honorable mentions for amazing female characters written by male authors on the reading challenge list as well.

So, who are some of your favorite female authors? Any I haven't heard of?
Leave a comment below, and wish me luck!

Keep track of my progress on my Reading Challenges page.

Audiobook Challenge(s) - 2013

Audiobook Challenge
Hosted by The Book Nympho & Hot Listens
(sign up by clicking the picture or this link)
Audiobook Challenge 2
Hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner

I'm already a HUGE advocate for listening while reading, but I figured I'd add a challenge to see if I can up my numbers this year. I tend to listen to audiobooks on my computer with them sped up to match my natural reading speed, then read along with the print (or electronic) copy in front of me.

For the first challenge I'll be going for the Plugged In (I can quit anytime) level of listening to 15+ audios, and for the second I'll be shooting for the Lover level of listening to 25 audios this year. I figure when one challenge ends, the other begins!

Here's my list of what I already have planned:

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Demonglass by Rachel Hawkins
Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Revived by Cat Patrick
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Paranormalcy by Kristen White
Supernaturally by Kristen White
Endlessly by Kristen White (before she visits on tour in March!)
Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers
Original Sin by Lisa Desrochers
Last Rite by Lisa Desrochers (when it gets released!!!!)
...and many more!!

Anything else great you've heard recently that I should look into?
Leave a comment below, and wish me luck!

Keep track of my progress on my Reading Challenges page.

The Dusty Bookshelf Challenge - 2013

I'll trying again for the Cobwebs level of dusting off 10-15 books this year. Of course, I own far more than that, so here are the lists of all I have to choose from:

Giving me nearly 1000 books to choose from! Amazon's free Kindle books are officially too addictive...

Any ideas where to start? Leave a comment below, and wish me luck!

Keep track of my progress on my Reading Challenges page.