Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

A Continuous Book Review and Vocabulary Assignment

October 9

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Quiet, Read-a-Thon, NaNoWriMo, and Changes

by Ann-Katrina

Solitary Bench It’s been quiet around here.

Had an unscheduled hiatus due to some familial duties. I’ve still been reading though (and updating my 2010 reading list if you’re curious), just haven’t been blogging about it.

Slowly things are getting back to normal so the blogging should pick up soon.

I had planned to do the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon this year—even had a book pool filled with books perfect for this Halloween season picked out—but I’d thought it was tomorrow. Turns out I was wrong and it was today. To all those officially participating in the read-a-thon, I’m there with you in spirit, reading unofficially. Press on, have fun, read lots. :)

For the infinitely curious, here’s a small sampling of my planned pool:

Soulstice, The Devouring Book 2Tales from the Odyssey Book 2Solitary by Travis ThrasherEmpty by Suzanne WeynThe Thief Lord by Cornelia FunkeOne Across, Two Down / The Face of Trespass / Make Death Love Me by Ruth Rendell

Plus a few short stories thrown in for good measure, selected from Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King.

NaNoWriMo 2010 ParticipantAnd can you believe it’s October already? That means NaNoWriMo is less than a month away. I thought about whether I’d like to participate this year, and the answer is of course yes. It’s simply too hard to resist.

Although I’ve been feeling the creative juices lately, I hadn’t been writing as much. I’d jot a quick note here or there, or a sentence or two, but nothing serious. Instead I’ve been working mainly on short stories or outlines for longer stories. NaNoWriMo will give me an opportunity to take one of those seedling ideas and transform it into a shitty first draft.

Again I plan to use the Liquid Story Binder software. (Jesse might even give the same 50% discount throughout the month of November that he did last year, so if you haven’t already, it’s time to set your sights on it.) Although I have a fairly good system worked out for new novels, I’m planning to tweak that system to incorporate more Builders (which I absolutely love for writing short stories).

But, for the non-writerly types, I plan to keep this blog mainly about books and my readings and other musings and keep all my writing and NaNoWriMo stuff to my actual writing blog (which is in sore need of an update or three).

Finally, this has been clunking around in my head for some time now, but I’m planning a number of changes around the blog. The first of which might be the design. Although I’ve grown quite fond of it, I think it’s about time to change the look, especially since I’m planning to expand the blog a bit.

Which brings me to my second point: I’m planning to expand the blog a bit. Right now I have a sidebar which lists the books I’m “currently” reading and books which I’ve “recently” read, but they’re dreadfully out of date. Rather than fight with them every so often, I plan to move the “currently” reading section to its own page where I’ll just list my entire TBR pile. I’ll keep the recently read section and update it periodically.

Also, I’ll be starting up a Comment Rewards program. Basically, I have a ton of books which need new loving homes. Some I’ll inevitably donate, but I figure my readers might enjoy some of them. So I’ll set up a comments rewards bookshelf where I’ll select a commenter at random once every couple of weeks to choose a book from the shelf.

All commenters are eligible (as long as a valid email address was provided during commenting), past or present or future. More comments equal more chances to be chosen. That’s it. Assuming all goes well, it will become a long term feature of the blog. I’ll make a formal announcement post when I’m rolling out with it.

And that…is the update.

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November 22

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Sunday Salon: Week End Round-up

by Ann-Katrina

Sunday Salon I’m lazing away this Sunday afternoon, about to dig into a patty and coco bread. The dark clouds outside are teasing me, but I still have hope they will open up and provide the perfect atmosphere to get my creative juices flowing. In the meantime, I figure now is the perfect time to offer the “where has Ann-Kat been?” update.

For a little while, I was sick (think delirious and semi-conscious) with the flu. It’s an experience I’d rather not repeat and luckily I’m all better now (yay!). The downside is that I’m racing to catch up with everything that’s fallen behind…

Writing

NaNoWriMo 2009 Participant I’m now nearly 16,000 words behind on my NaNoWriMo project, but I hope to fill most of the gap by the end of the day—cloud inspiration permitting.

I did, however, manage to get most of my NaNo board finished and discovered the face of my female lead along with a few secondary characters. Since I promised to bring this blog back to all things bookish, you can read all about the NaNo board (and my writing progress in general) at Today, I Wrote….

Reading

After finishing Wuthering Heights, from which my head is still reeling (Kidnapping and extortion? Really?!?), I’ve moved on to The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame and Fallen by Lauren Kate. I’m about a third of the way through both.

The Wind in the WillowsFallen by Lauren Kate

The former I remember from childhood; reading it as an adult brings some new perspectives. The latter is interesting so far, but I’ve already found a few items of contention—here’s hoping it will redeem itself by the end.

Reviews

My review queue is backlogged a bit, but I hope to have that sorted just after the holidays. Some of the books awaiting review include The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett, Dawn by Kevin Brooks, and Soulless by Christopher Golden.

The Man Who Loved Books Too MuchDawn by Kevin BrooksSoulless by Christopher Golden

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much was enthralling. I thought I was in for a true crime read, but it was more a journalist’s memoir of the book collecting world and the misguided lengths to which one man would go for his passion.

I managed to get up a mini review of Dawn since I read it for the 24 Hr. Read-a-Thon, but I do need to get a proper review online. This book certainly deserves one.

I expected to like Soulless a bit more than I did. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy it. Then again, I’ve always been fond of those B zombie movies with cheezy overacting and that’s the feeling I got from the book. Plus, it had an original premise in how the zombie apocalypse started. There are some book notes up (and a Sunday Sketch depicting a scene), but like the others, this deserves its own full review.

Arrivals

Thank goodness the book fairy didn’t forget about me while I was infirmed. A number of books made their way across my threshold and I’m excited to read all of them. The list includes:

Finch by Jeff VanderMeerDefenders of the Scroll by Shirazi sold Andy Warhol (too soon) by Richard PolskyRaiders' Ransom by Emily DiamandMadapple by Chrstina Meldrum

Soon I’ll get a proper “recent arrivals” post up along with synopsis for each of the titles. But for now, that ends my Sunday Salon week end round-up. You have been updated. :)

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November 2

Comments: 5

NaNo Board Almost Complete, or NaNoWrimo Day 2

by Ann-Katrina

Going into the second day of NaNoWriMo, I have just shy of 2,000 words complete (and by the end of the day, that total should jump to just shy of 4000—I hope).

The NaNo board still isn’t complete; it’s only halfway done, but I figured I might as well post up a progress report.

Unfinished NaNoWriMo Board

In case you’re wondering, yes those are pictures of Paul Walker. I was watching Into the Blue the other day and all of a sudden, I jumped up and screamed, “OMG! It’s Rick! It’s Rick!”

Of course, now my craziness is showing, but to explain, Rick Dawson is one of the main characters in my NaNoWriMo novel and he goes through many, many changes in the story; I needed someone who could visually pull it off. Paul Walker goes from a sweet pretty boy (upper left corner) to a gritty bad boy (bottom right corner) just like my MC.

paul-walker-20070223-216200paul-walkerwalker66

Unfortunately, I still haven’t found the perfect visual example of my leading lady and I’m afraid I may have to break down and draw her, but I’m keeping hope alive. (If you know of any young biracial models or actresses, please let me know.)

In the center of the NaNo board, I have the calendar that I printed from deviantART and colored in with water colors.

NaNo Board Calendar

To its left is my Magna Carta I, all the things I like in a novel, and to its right is the Magna Carta II, all the things I dislike in a novel.

Magna Carta IMagna Carta II

I still need to include the mind map cloud thing because it would be much easier to look up at the board for reference rather than dig through my notebook. Goodness willing I’ll get that finished and glued on there this afternoon.

All right, since this is technically my book blog, I’m going to return it to discussions on books and reading. I’ll continue my NaNoWriMo ramblings over at Today, I Wrote…. The goal is to update every other day or so, but at very least, once a week.

(P.S. This is also the reason there was no Sunday Sketch yesterday.)

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November 1

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And So Begins NaNoWriMo…

by Ann-Katrina

I didn’t get the NaNo board finished yet, but it’s coming along. The calendar, Magna Carta I & II, and some visuals have been completed. The goal is to finish it up this weekend so I can hang it above my desk by Monday.

In the meantime, I’ve already set up Liquid Story Binder XE for my newest novel by resetting my global work logs from last year’s and preparing my Planner.

LSBXE Layout for 2009 NaNo Novel

I’m doing things a bit differently by incorporating Builders. The reason is that this time around, I’ve actually prepared a mind map for this particular novel—something I didn’t have last year (I flew by the seat of my pants).

Right now I hope to write as much as possible because I want a nice comfy cushion when those lean writing days arrive…and I know they’re coming.

I’d also like to keep a daily writing journal and post over at Today, I Wrote… (which is desperately in need of some love) as I go along. I hope I won’t become too preoccupied.

If you’re also participating in NaNo, buddy me. You can never have too much support.

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October 26

Comments: 17

Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2009

by Ann-Katrina

NaNoWriMo.org

In less than a week, the mass month-long caffeination of hundreds (possibly thousands) or writers worldwide will begin. Yep, I’m talking about National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo, where the participants are asked to complete a 50,000 word novel in 30 days’ time.

Impossible, you say? Not so. Last year I won, even if the 50,000 words I managed to churn out amounted to nothing more than a coaster made of recycled trees. (Yes, I really am using last year’s novel as a coaster right at this very moment.)

But learning from past experience, this year, I’m going in with (more of) a plan.

My brain likes structured chaos—you know, the stuff that looks like a hodgepodge but is really organization in disguise—and highly visual stuff—big and colorful so I can’t miss it.

The light bulb flickered on for me when I saw the extra 24×36 in. poster frame I had stashed in the corner of my room. I thought, “Hmmm, that’s big enough to fit a whole bunch of bright colorful stuff on. (sound of mental gears grinding.)” Story collages, mind maps, the magna cartas, inspirational quotes…a calendar…all smooshed together.

BAM! The NaNo board idea was realized.

With the easy part out of the way, it’s a matter of figuring out how to implement it. (Wish me luck.) Here’s the blueprint so far:

  • Epicenter = mind map. A few months ago I came up with a story idea and drew up a mind map on an 9×12” sheet of paper.
  • Calendar below. I was going to create my own, but finding a link to all the NaNoWriMo calendars on deviantART saved me the trouble. (I printed out a fun one with coffee stains and quotes.)
  • Magna cartas on either side. No Plot? No Problem! (links to my review) discusses creating two magna cartas (aka lists), one detailing everything you like in a novel and the other detailing everything you hate.
  • Inspiration on the fringes. Pictures, other images, and words that relate to my story and help keep me in my inspired happy place while writing. (In other words, shinies in collage form. Looks like all those magazines I’ve saved since 2006 will finally come in handy.)

During the next few days, I hope to finish, in addition to the chaotically structured  NaNo board, my novel folder which will include character dossiers, location samples (i.e. maps, descriptions, random town facts), and fleeting bits of dialog.

When it’s all set up, I’ll be sure to take pictures and update.

Meanwhile, I need writing buddies. Hit me up please. :D

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