NaNoWriMo Day 29: I Won!!!

50,071/50,000

The book isn’t done. Not quite. It’s close though and I passed the 50k mark!

It feels really good to win. I started out this month after a rough six months of searching for a job without success. Filling out job applications day in and day out, getting interviews only to hear rejections or nothing at all in response is really discouraging. It was so nice to finally accomplish something I’d set out to do. And this was a goal I set for myself and completed myself. I didn’t do this because I had to for school or because my family wanted me to, but because I wanted to and that feels extra wonderful.

I didn’t do it completely on my own though. Practically no one reads these NaNo posts, but having my progress out on the internet for anyone to find is motivating. As was my local NaNo group. Once I committed to going to write-ins, I felt good pressure to have my word count up there with the rest of them. Plus they amounted to almost 8 weekly hours of writing time, which covers many of the week’s words. It was so much fun to meet new people, take on a new challenge, even to recover from the setback I had in week 3. I feel confident I can take on the next things in my life. Editing. And finding The Job.

NaNoWriMo Day 27: The End is Near

46,445/50,000

I should actually be able to do this thing. Barring some freak turkey explosion tomorrow or something. I finally got caught up to par yesterday, and I sneaked ahead about 1k today, so I am well on my way. The story is approaching its climax too. It’s getting complicated to keep track of all the characters as the run about, preparing for battle. They’ll converge again pretty soon, so that will clear up, but I’m still nervous about executing the big final scenes.

I’ve been back and forth on how long the story will wind up being, but I’m thinking it will probably actually fall right at or a touch beyond the 50k mark. I’m pretty sure, but now that I’ve said so it will stretch on and on for like 65k words or something.

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to you all and good luck on the last few days to my fellow Wrimos out there. I believe in you!

Review: The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines #4) by Richelle Mead

Image
The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead (Bloodlines #4)
Published November 2013 by Razorbill
438 pages (Hardcover)

The Rundown

The Fiery Heart is the fourth book in the Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead. Bloodlines is a spin-off of her earlier Vampire Academy series and, as I said in my Bloodlines Review, you should probably read VA first, though I know that people have done it without and managed just fine.

I had mixed feelings about the first book in this series, but from the second one on I’ve been completely in love with it. This book is the best yet, working out the previous installments’ kinks in secondary character development quite well and developing the central relationship excellently at the same time. This one felt a little lighter on pure action than some of the others in the series, which are in turn less action packed then the later Vampire Academy installments, but it was still extremely gripping as Sydney fights the system she was raised in and Adrian battles his inner demons. 4.5/5 stars.

What’s It About?

The Fiery Heart is book 4 in a series, so you want to stop reading here if you have plans to read the preceding books because spoilers for them start. right. now. Sydney and Adrian got together (Finally! OMG! Hallelujah!) in a grand romantic gesture at the end of The Indigo Spell and here we find them a month later back in Palm Springs after boarding school winter break. Sydney has been joined by her newly Alchemist-sworn sister, Zoe, whose presence is putting a serious damper on her love life. Sydney deals with this development, as well as some new family drama, as she pushes forward in her attempt to determine Alchemist involvement with the shadowy Warriors, who may or may not be hunting Jill, and continues her magical training: joining a coven and continuing her work with Alchemist rebel Marcus.

Adrian gets a first person POV in this one too, so for the first time in the series we see a dual perspective, getting an inside track on the vampire brain and seeing first-hand the euphoric but devastating effects of spirit magic. He battles these demons and continues the investigation started in The Golden Lily, trying to determine how to prevent forcible conversion by the evil, undead Strigoi.

The Good

The dual perspective really works well here as Adrian and Sydney have distinct voices. Sydney we’re used to, but being wrapped up in Adrian’s head is painful and infuriating at times though it is so worth it and does great things for the story. Mead uses the two voices to a huge advantage, sometimes allowing a scene to be explored from two perspectives, though usually they bounce back and forth in one smooth timeline. The biggest exception comes near the end of the novel, with the climax done in the equivalent of a flashback, driving some serious tension. It was so frustrating to watch the pieces click into place near the end, knowing there’s nothing that will make things better, but hoping it all works out anyway. (No spoilers, don’t worry. Does whatever it is work out? I won’t say.)

Sydney has changed her views completely by the time this book starts, but much about her as a character remains the same. It has been a pretty darn natural transition and I really love her character. Passion and levelheadedness meld well in her, creating a wholly unique yet believable character.

Adrian struggles valiantly in this one with his many vices and mental illness. He makes brave decisions and gains some self-respect, coming into his own. He grows and changes with enough bumps along the way to make it entertaining and believable. We’ll see where he goes in the next book, but I have high hopes. Plus I’m just in love with him myself; he’s a fan favorite love interest for good reason. Just damaged enough to be pitiable without being clingy or creepy, yet at his core, he is deeply and unshakably kind and good.

Then there’s the Sydney/Adrian relationship, which progressed quite nicely.[Insert fangirl squealing here] They’re madly in love, but between interracial taboos and personal demons, they have a lot of issues to work out. They constantly choose to fight for each other and they are pretty equal participants in their relationship, which is so refreshing and healthy, despite their secrecy and personal hang-ups. It works. They work, despite being total opposites and I love them together so, so much. [More squealing here.]

The secondary characters fare better in this installment than some of the previous ones. Eddie and Jill deal-but-not-really with their feelings for each other. Angeline and Trey are a nice echo of Adrian and Sydney as they cope with the race taboo as well, and even new-comer Neil fights to maintain his sense of duty and act in a way he feels is right, even if it is reckless.

The Less Good (But Still Pretty Good)

Sydney’s eating disorder is pretty much glossed over. It’s mentioned once at the beginning, but we don’t see her deal with at all, though she does easily brush off a pretty harsh comment about her weight at one point, so I guess that’s progress? She never fought for it, so I don’t get it, really. It feels like a forgotten plot point.

The Jill turning up in pictures for that fashion designer thing never came back, and neither did Alicia from Indigo. Those things still can come back later on, but who knows? There are a lot of new things that came up in this book that need dealing with, so I wonder if those still open story lines will ever get wrapped up. It will be a shame if they don’t, but like I said, there’s still time.

And, I guess that’s it really…Pretty small issues, all things considered.

The Wrap-Up

I really liked this book and I am infatuated with the series. I fidgeted through an entire work meeting (the jist of which was: “Black Friday is coming.” said Stark style) thinking about getting back to it when I should have actually been nervous about my big interview trip. It dominated my life for a day. A day in which I should have been busy doing Important Life Stuff. It’s that kind of book.

I recommend Bloodlines as a series to romance fans, especially of the teen vampire persuasion, though all should find something to enjoy. I should also note that it is thin in the love triangle department, so if you’re tired of being stabbed in the eyes with those pointy bastards you can try this on for size (though the secondary characters do experience them somewhat, swapping partners rather often throughout the series). The conflicts in the major romance come from other sources entirely. Well worn sources also, certainly, but not a stupid love triangle. (I am not a big fan of love triangles, as you will know if you’ve read my reviews before. They are so overdone in the teen romance genre, always with a predictable outcome.) I am dying to read the next installment in this six-part series, which isn’t due out until some undetermined day next summer.

Time machine, please.

NaNoWriMo Day 24: Catching Up and Burning Out

38,400/50,000

I had a busy week last week. I hardly wrote at all. Despair levels were high yesterday. I wrote 5000 goddamn words today though (thanks in large part to Sunday coffee house write-in where I’m watching people get super close to winning!) and something like 3,000 last night, so I’m almost all the way back to par which for today, is 40,000. I probably won’t hit that today, but I hope to be back on track or ahead after tomorrow. I’m starting to think that the book is going to be a bit over 50k, so I’d like to hit that count a little early if I can, in hopes of finishing the story by month’s end.

I am right in the thick of no idea where the plot is going land, but I just keep forging on, tired of coming with character names, totally unknowing as to where the hell I’m going, but it’s been fun. Character love is all I’m running on at this point. I don’t know how to do them justice in the end, but I owe it to them to at least try.

Keep forging on, Wrimos. The end is in sight.

NaNoWriMo Day 17

28,553/50,000

My beautiful lead went away! I was actually behind yesterday, but today was a write-in day and I got caught up. I was busy painting again this weekend and then I attended a friend’s wedding last night, so the day was gone before I knew it. I wrote part of a wedding/reception scene into my book today though, which was unplanned, but I was inspired to after the party last night. Who knows if the scene will fit in with the rest when I’m done, but it’s been fun to work on anyway.

I’ve been doing some skipping around writing scenes in general, trying to work out events and mood as the story begins to change. The endless travelling around my characters have been doing will end soon and things will get complicated. I still don’t know exactly where I want to leave things at the end, and I have no good estimation on what the final word count will be either. Some days I think it’ll be shorter than 50,000, but there are others where I think it’s going to turn out a lot longer. I’ll find out by the end of the month, I suppose.

This week is super busy, so all posts will be lacking again, though I’ve already cleared as much of Tuesday as possible for reading Richelle Mead’s new book, so I might get a review of that up before I get on a plane Wednesday morning. We’ll see about NaNo…I might be playing a major game of catch-up next weekend, but I’m determined to see this through to the bitter and glorious end.

NaNoWriMo Day 13

24,297/50,000

I kicked major ass today all thanks to the @NaNoWordSprints twitter account. Seriously try some if you’re feeling stuck and lonely. I had the teeth-pulling sensation during the first 500 or so again today, but I pushed through it and wrote more than 4,000 words. I still have no clue where I’m going with this story. I’m really getting into the parts that are supremely poorly planned out, but there have been fun moments today anyway.

I’ll be attending the second half of my local write in tomorrow (I have another commitment early in the morning when it starts) and hopefully there I can get another couple thousand in and stay ahead. I wasn’t sure if getting ahead would actually happen when I said I wanted to yesterday, but hurrah! It’s happening. (And hurrah for write-ins at coffee places! Hurrah for coffee!)

Can you tell I just finished NaNoing for the day? is this post even coherent? I’ll just go ahead and stop there.

NaNoWriMo Day 12: The Day Things Get Busy For Once

20,050/50,000

I wrote like 400 words this morning and it felt like it should have been 1000. I couldn’t believe my word count. I skipped forward and then came back and found that it helped me out a lot. Once I stopped dwelling on the complicated details of the next scene, I was able to pound out the set up pretty quickly.

I’m proud of myself for staying on par this long but I really, really, need to get ahead this week if I hope to finish. This Saturday I’ll be cleaning and painting again and then I’m going to my old roommate’s wedding. Then next week I travel for a three day second round interview with a company. No writing will get done next Wednesday and Thursday for sure. I might write on the plane home on Friday, but I’m sure I’ll still be wound up and exhausted simultaneously. I can’t let those things get in my way for long, though, I’ll just have to keep finding the extra time and push through the extra work on certain days. I’m sure I can still make it.

NaNoWriMo Day 9

14,710/50k

Today was officially a write-a-thon day. My ML hosted a local write-in, but I couldn’t make it. So sad.

Instead, I spent the day painting and raking leaves and generally doing non-writing related things around the house. I sneaked a few minutes of writing time, but I’m not quite to today’s goal of 15k. I’ve still got the whole night though, and I’m sure I can finish a few hundred more words before I have to go to bed.

The story’s feeling a little boring and I’m not sure everything is going the way I really want it to. There’s magic in my fantasy world and I think my outsider character is starting to pick up on things just a little too quickly. It’ll all be ok though, I can always go back and rewrite some of the early scenes, make her a little less sure of herself, but for now I just gotta run with it.

I’ve never done this before and I know that Week 2 is where a lot of people drop out. I get it. I’ve let a bunch of other things I need to get done pile up and some times it feels pretty pointless. Who is ever going to read this anyway. It’s my first novel; it almost definitely sucks. I don’t want to quit, though. 1667 words per day takes only about an hour if I really work at it and by putting myself out there and committing to it on here and through my local group really keeps me on track. I’ve spent enough time this year waiting around for job offers that never come and I really need to do something for myself. So no Week 2 doldrums for me, it’s time to keep pushing forward and finish something for once.

Review: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

Image
Bloodlines by Richelle Mead
Published January 2011 by Razorbill
421 Pages (Hardcover)

The Rundown

Bloodlines is the first book in the series of the same name by Richelle Mead, though it is part spin-off/part continuation of her earlier Vampire Academy series, so, if you haven’t, read that first. You’ll want to if you want to avoid spoilers and confusion. Overall, I really liked Bloodlines. It took secondary characters from Vampire Academy that I already knew and cared about and gave them a cool new setting and some new conflicts. It suffered from some of the plot hole and predictability problems that the earlier Vampire Academy books did, but it was extremely entertaining, if a tad slow to start, and I think it is a solid opening to what I hope will be a series I can get into as much as Vampire Academy. 4/5 Stars.

The Good Stuff

I loved the new perspective. Sydney is human, with a completely different outlook on the whole vampire society than the one we saw in Rose in Vampire Academy. Sydney’s placed in an awkward position, trying to live with vampires without becoming too friendly with them, but it becomes an impossible task as she realizes that not all of her preconceptions are necessarily correct. She builds unique relationships with each supernatural character and I love the idea of putting her and Adrian together. They’re the perfect opposites attract case study and when they do get together romantically in the next few books (we all know it’s coming) the taboo (human and vampire) nature of the whole thing will be absolutely delicious and dangerous. I’m looking forward to it.

The mystery layered into the plot was pretty great. Sydney had lots of threads to follow, and I really enjoyed the ending; it was unexpected. And–I have to be vague here, but–the last line was perfect. Thrilling in good and bad ways all at the same time.

The Not So Great Stuff

There was one mystery in the first half of the book that had me screaming in frustration. Sydney didn’t figure it out until something like page 205 when any idiot who’d cracked a VA book had it figured out before page 70. If she’d been totally ignorant of spirit magic, I’d get it, but she’s definitely not. So we’re getting all this exposition about how Sydney is so smart and so logical, pinpointing problems in plans and just generally being observant and meanwhile she is missing the most obvious thing about the girl she’s supposed to be protecting. It was ridiculous.

Speaking of Jill, I think she’s still just a tag-a-long little sister character like she was in Vampire Academy. I didn’t see her change or do much as a character at all. What I know about her I like, but she’s pretty flat overall. Plus it bothered me that Sydney and Eddie are there for the sole purpose of protecting her and then they never see her as they all go to different classes. It makes zero sense, since it’s not like the average human boarding school security is exactly high class. The plot that comes after they all arrive makes sense, but it’s sort of like they forget the reason that they’re all there.

The Wrap-Up

I went into this series really excited. I knew I liked the characters and wanted to know what was going to happen to them after the end of the previous series. I wasn’t disappointed after all that self-hype, though i do think that it was the initial excitement that got me through the clumsier opening scenes so well. The ending was worth it, and–even though this book has some problems–I think it lays a solid foundation for future installments. I’ve already started book two and I’m looking forward to reading even more. Definitely pick this up if you liked Vampire Academy (especially if you’re an Adrian fan!) If you haven’t read Vampire Academy and you like action, romance and mystery with your high school drama (Think Buffy or The Vampire Diaries show not Twilight), go read it and then come back for this.

Review: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Image
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Published in 2012 by Disney Hyperion
488 Pages (Hardcover)

The Rundown

The Darkest Minds is the first book in the YA dystopian series of the same name by Alexandra Bracken. After the initial exposition, I found it to be an extremely engrossing read and I definitely recommend it to dystopian fans looking for their next fix. I rate it a 4/5 stars.

So What’s it About?

In the world of The Darkest Minds, kids who survive the illness that strikes them in pre-adolescence are left with some sort of psychic power, classified by color. These psi kids are rounded up and placed into camps, to control, and nominally, to “rehabilitate” them.

Camp Thurmond in West Virginia is where we find our narrator, Ruby, a dangerous Orange with the power to control other people’s minds. Ruby’s hid her power, managing to stay with less dangerous Greens, and she soon escapes the camp with help from the outside, eventually meeting up with some escapees from another camp. Together they seek out East River, where a boy called The Slip Kid can help them find their families and maybe teach Ruby to control her terrifying powers.

My Thoughts

Ruby undergoes a significant yet believable transformation from always in the background self-preservationist to confident and self sacrificing heroine.She’s strong, and fairly likeable without being nauseatingly perfect. I also loved that her (inevitable) romantic relationship seemed to challenge and strengthen her character. She didn’t dissolve into some weak and weapy mess who was in constant need of rescue. Instead, she becomes a natural and integral part of the group of kids she falls in with, and has meaningful relationships with more than one person.

The loyalty and trust-worthiness of characters and political entities is always in question, giving the story a huge number of entertaining plot twists. Although the novel did start off a little slow with necessary exposition of the camp and the disease and things,  once I’d got past the camp break-out, I found that this was a book I was drawn into, no matter how many other things I should have been doing.

I also thought that the revelation about Ruby’s parents could have happened a little sooner, since it wasn’t really all that big of a reveal. It was easy to figure out what must have happened to them early on and I think it could have been explained early on too, but other than those small complaints, I didn’t have that many problems it. It was fun, smart, and composed well.

The Wrap-Up

I recommend this to dystopian fans for sure. It’s one of my favorite dystopians of the year (and I’ve read many!). It ended in a really interesting and somewhat unexpected way, leaving me really interested to find out what happens next. Never Fade, the sequel, came out last month, and I’ll be tracking it down as soon as I can.