"The pen is the tongue of the mind." -Miguel de Cervantes

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Review: Zombie Tag by Hannah Moskowitz


Zombie Tag is a novel that will touch everyone who reads it differently. In my opinion it is genre breaking and makes room for an entire line of edgier middle-grade novels, not to mention more paranormal middle-grade novels.

For some, the edgier part won't be a good thing. For myself I think it is the most amazing thing to happen all year. Hannah Moskowitz already has two great Young Adult novels under her belt. Zombie Tag is her debut middle-grade novel.

Spirited is the best word I can use to describe thirteen-year-old Wil. A boy who appears well-adjusted even though his brother has been dead for six months. Wil and his friends spend much of their time playing a game that Wil and his brother Graham invented called Zombie Tag.

 Wil is obsessed with zombies and even though he has a fear of his brother coming back to eat his brains, he takes a great change and rings a bell he finds in his friend's basement that is said to bring back the dead.

Graham comes back, but not for Wil's brains. Instead he is distant and numb. Now that Graham is back and living with the family, Wil is left to wonder if he has made the right choice, and faced with the challenge of fixing his brother.

Zombie Tag is about decisions. It is about right ones, wrong ones, and dealing with the ones you have made. For that reason I believe anyone can benefit from reading this story. You can't go wrong here. The characters are so true to what children are and what they believe. Though Zombie Tag deals with many BIG issues some parents  try to hide from their kids, I believe the story deals with them in a way children can understand.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fairy Tales, Myths, and Folklore: The Perfect Writing Jumpstart


Fairy tales are big right now. Very big. If you are anything like me, you sigh instantly when you see them in film adaptations and television shows. You like all the stories, like Snow White, Red Riding Hood, and The Three Little Pigs. Sure you do, but inside you wish they were all a bit more twisty.

But what about all the ones you've haven't heard of? Right now on your kindle or kindle phone app you can get dozens of free fairy tale and folklore collection including the complete set of The Brother's Grimm and a few short story collections by Oscar Wilde. Don't have the phone app? Just search them up on Amazon and type them into the search bar.  So maybe you are thinking you know them all, and maybe you do. I was of the belief that I knew every fairy tale in existence. I was wrong, and that isn't something new.

Last night started out very dull. Sure we have Netflix, but there are only so many 80's cartoons you can watch before you go back to being bored. So I pulled out my phone and decided I was going to splurge and buy a new book for my phone app, but first I wanted to mill through the 'free' section. I clicked on half a dozen 'free' fairy tale books and was surprised at how unique and fresh some of the stories felt because I had Never. Heard. Of. Them. One of the stories in the Grimm collection stuck out because the main character had the exact same power as my current MC. He couldn't sense fear and fought all sorts of ghoulies and ghosties during the tale. (The Title is: Oh If I could but Shiver!)

The next morning I woke up much earlier than I usually do, sat down instantly at the computer and wrote 3,432 words in a matter of a few hours. Definitely a personal record. I'm not saying it will work for you, but when you find yourself with a block or your muse took a hike, try looking at some of these stories and fables. Even if you are working on a crime novel or a memoir. They may just give you the spark you need or get you more in touch with your whimsical side.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Tangerine

First, and I promise it will be short (and I promise it is totally relevant) a little about this semester. My family has fallen on hard times this year. My mother has been in the hospital twice with a broken arm and dislocated shoulder, and my dad recently had to have surgery to help remove a kidney stone.

Last week, I regret to say I lost my job. It is very easy to fall into the cycle of pity. To think like a broken record and say 'Why me? Why me? Why me?' Tangerine by Edward Bloor helped me break out of the 'why me'. It showed me that no matter what happens you can still have a new beginning.

I was reluctant to pick up Tangerine. I was told it was the best thing since HOLES, but I knew that it centered around sports. Lets face it, I'm not into sports. Many writers aren't into sports. By taking a look at the cover and reading the blurb you gain that Tangerine is the story of Paul, a kid that loves soccer but has the eyesight of a bat. It had come as a recommendation from a friend of mine at Absolute Write, because I needed to read some of the edgier middle-grade stories to help with a new work-in-progress.  I was not prepared at how dark a story like this could be.

When Paul moves with his parents and older brother to Tangerine, you start to think 'Oh great, another one of THOSE stories'. New kid in school rises to the top and gains the love of everyone. I was very wrong to think that. The story has an amazing voice, and the secondary characters are fleshed out better than many of the adult novels I read.

The story starts off slow, Paul has memory loss at how he lost his vision, but through *SPOILERS* a lot of build up you find that Paul's older brother Eric was the cause. Tangerine contains murder, abuse, and neglect but only brief strong language. If you are reading this as a parent, I would consider reading Tangerine for yourself because you may not find it suitable for your younger children (stronger readers under age eleven). Otherwise Tangerine is a spectacular read if a little draggy at times.



 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Inspiration


Today I decided to push writing aside and catch up on some of the blogs I follow. I found one entry over at YA Highway that really turned my gears. It was a post by Lee Bross about where the blog's readers got their inspiration. I read the post and sat in my chair a minute. Where did my inspiration come from, and how did I end up with my work in progress?

The truth is, many of my ideas come from dreams. *Gasp!* What a cliche! But a very correct cliche. I can only guess that my brain is wired to place me into half-baked fantasy/dystopian plots every time I sleep. So I suppose a dream is where I get my base idea and I add a million what ifs to it to create a storyline.

You could really almost break this down into a formula. Idea+3(what ifs)=story. So lets say you have an idea about an organization of sandmen. Then three what ifs. 1) What if they were all lawyers during the day. 2) What if sandmen hated wearing socks. 3) What if wool could make them turn to dust.

Ok I'm kidding about that entire formula idea, but it was fun while it lasted. The true beauty about inspiration is that it can come from anywhere: Other works of literature, experiences, memories or any number of other possibilities. I think the unique interpretation of those inspirations by individuals is why we have such a variation of ideas today. So going back to Lee's post, YOU are the inspiration :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Favorite 2011 YA Reads So Far

Even though I'm severely behind on reading due to my wedding in April (and all the stress that goes along with moving into a new house) I have managed to pick a few favorites so far.

#1 The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

This book was a major surprise. I imagined that Armstrong would do a second trilogy but i had no idea it would follow the last series so quickly. Here we have another girl Maya with a supernatural form that is a little different than the general shift-o-change-o werewolves that are pouring onto the shelves . Although not very different from what we are use to seeing in paranormal YA you can still enjoy Armstrong's strong writing.




#2 DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth

I would like to give a big congrats to Veronica Roth on her debut novel DIVERGENT.
I can't think of many who pushed themselves as hard you have. I LOVE to see people
who I've witnessed develop their talent make it to the shelf so yay! yay! yay Vero! :) . Divergent is a dystopian about sixteen-year-old Beatrice who must choose a 'faction' they will commit themselves to for the rest of their lives. Yes. I know. I'm not one for dystopians but I can make a BIG exception for this gem.









#3 Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz



Yes! I admit it! You have me! I have a huge fan-girl crush on Hannah Moskowtiz. So much so that I called the bookstore where my husband and I honeymooned in advanced so I could have a copy of Invincible Summer waiting for me the day it came out. I spent many nights that week on a mountain top in a hot tub reading Invincible Summer. A contemporary YA novel about Chase and the four summers of his high school life. A story so realistically sad that it stuck with me for days but one I still enjoyed. On a happy note I am so TWEAKED for her next book Zombie Tag coming in December.

Next post I will list the three YA books we have all (well most) been waiting for and give you some feedback on why I'm so stoked. :) Thanks for reading.





Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On Naming Characters

Recently I've read a handful of forums that rant over bad character names, and today I want to cover a few things that will help you come up with believable names that will stick well with a reader or agent. I can't say all of my character names have been perfect. Far from it. In fact, a few of my writer friends pick my names to death, and for good reason. For example I had finished half of my first ever W.I.P before I realized that Lily Waters was a very common perfume and besides the fact made for a very 'Sue-ish' name. Oh, and of course there is Grimace. I get ragged to death for Grimace. Alright, so enough with my bad names. Lets get right down to it.

Tip #1: Make your character names match the age of your character. Or if they don't, have a GOOD reason why not.

This one kills me. I see names that were popular for teenagers in the 1980's being used to portray characters that are suppose to be teens now. Why is this a problem? It isn't realistic. Lets say you are writing a contemporary YA novel set in 2011 and you name your MC Pamela. Well, Pamela may have been popular when you graduated in 1986 but in 2011 there may be one Pamela in ten high schools, thus making your work seem dated from the get go. So, how can you fix this? I suggest using the Social Security Database. It lists the popularity of baby names by year and comes in handy because it saves valuable research time.

Tip #2: Make your character's name easy to pronounce.

There is nothing worse than staring blankly at a page trying to pronounce a the name of a character you have just been introduced to. Half of the time when this happens to me I make a mental name change, and keep going rather than have my entire flow of reading thrown off. Do a test. If it takes more than five seconds for a friend to say the name of your character, then consider changing it. This tends to be common for Sci-Fi/Fantasy works, but trust me. You can have a quirky name that is easy to pronounce.

Tip #3: Research your character's name.

Like I said before. I'm guilty of such names as 'Lily Waters'. I could have saved myself some time just by typing it into google and hitting search. Before you get attached to a name you just have to have make sure you plug it into a search engine. You may find out that even though you just *love* the name Albert Fish that you may not want him to be associated with the Albert Fish that ate children in the 1920's.

In the end, it is your choice. Your characters are your own and you can do with them as you like. But keep your readers in mind next time you are thinking of naming Joe's love interest Carla Jean Hipps

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Slice of Life, and Other Bad Puns...

Before my last blog post it felt like I hadn't blogged in ages, so I decided to give you guys an idea of what I've been up to. I value each and every one of the people that follow my blog and those that just drop in from time to time.

Let me tell you this: I should have eloped. I would have maybe, but there is this eight-year-old entity in all women that still wants to be a princess and have a special day. That princess stabbed the sensible/practical part of me in the eye. If I had room I would make another pie chart that compared how much time it takes to plan a wedding to how much time the wedding actually lasts. The truth is sad my friend.

Well, it's all said and done and now I may as well enjoy it. I have an awesome family and a million awesome friends that have helped me plan, cook for, and make arrangements for my perfect day. More than anyone though, I have my mom to thank the most. Thank you mom for sticking with me on this and doing all in your power to give me something you never had. I feel so blessed to have you.

With marriage comes a million other things, like a house, packing a million boxes into said house, and unpacking said boxes in a timely manner. Then you have all the other real world things flying in to kick that spoiled princess off her chair. Like work, and staying up with a sick hubby-to-be in the E.R. two days before Christmas.

Just gotta muddle through as they say. Thanks for listening. I'll try to keep princess in the closet.

Review: The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan


First, I would like to say I loved the first few Cirque du' Freak books, and I'm mulling over buying the first Demonata book. Darren Shan has brought many good 'boy friendly' stories to the table and I think that is something that YA is in great need of, but it isn't something i've seen happen in the last year.
Guys, (and girls) if you feel like you have been missing out on all the gut wrenching, axe throwing, blood gushing action that comes with a novel geared to those with more testosterone, then you have found it. For those that enjoy bunnies, flowers, and unicorns please keep your seat because you may find something to peak your interest.
The story starts with a thin, runt of a boy named Jebel, and Jebel has much to live up to. His father is the legendary Rashed Rum, executioner of their city, an honor second only to governing such a place.
When Rashed announces his retirement, Jebel steps forward to prove himself. He knows that he is no match for his older brothers J'an and J'al so he fabricates a plan. To go on a quest to find Sabbah Eid, a fierce and ancient fire god that grands invincibility to those that find him. But the way to mountain in which Sabbah Eid dwells is littered with perils, and the worst aren't your dime store monsters.
At first I didn't know if I was going to like Jebel, but he grew on me as the story went along. Shan did a good job of showing how teens can be conditioned by society and their parents. It was interesting to see how Jebel reacted to the many different countries in Shan's world. I could tell he put some serious world building into this story.
There are a few places that seem sort of drab but over all I recommend The Thin Executioner to anyone who is looking for a story with very creepy antagonists.