December 31, 2009

My Favorite Book of 2009

I read a lot of great books this year, so it's difficult to pick a favorite. However, there's a book that stands out in my mind over all the others.

Name of the Wind
by Patrick Rothfuss

Now, if I'm going to name it my favorite book of the year, I should probably say a little as to why. I have always, for as long as I can remember, been fascinated by story-telling. When I was a kid, my favorite movie was The NeverEnding Story. There was something about the idea of a story becoming real just because you were reading it that stuck in my head. Ever since then I've had this idea that if you could tell a good enough story, it could come to life.

Reading Name of the Wind was kind of like that for me. It was a story that came together in such a way that it felt real. And on top of that was the way the story was told. A harmless innkeeper, Kvothe, is more than he seems, with a past that is beyond believing, and a story-teller hunts him down to get the true story from him, rather than listening to the rumor and exaggeration that always follows heroes of fantasy stories. Kvothe agrees to tell his story, and so the book bounces back and forth between the current setting, where dark things are hinted at in the background, to Kvothe's past, where dark things are faced head on.

And yet, it's more than that. As the innkeeper tells his story, it becomes apparent that his story is based on the stories of others.

But it's more than that, too. His life story centers on a story he heard bits and pieces of as a child, a story that haunts him his entire life.

Through the entire book, I was astonished at the layers that were involved in what was going on. Not to mention how deeply I was sucked in to the story. There was one scene in particular that I noticed my heart was racing and my palms were getting sweaty. My physical response matched that of the main character. It was amazing.

All in all, I feel Name of the Winds was one of the best books of 2009, and it was definitely my favorite.

Happy New Year!

It's been a pretty interesting year, all told, and as I sit here I find myself considering my accomplishments and failures of the year. A lot of people in the blogosphere and Twitterverse I follow have been doing the same thing, and there's a pretty steady consensus that 2009 was a horrible year, but I have to disagree. I know it's selfish, in the face of all the horrible events that have happened over the year, but I happen to think 2009 was an amazing year.

I started the year with an amazing new day job, with great pay and great benefits. As a result, I've earned more money this year than I've earned in my whole life. Granted, I still don't make a great deal of money, especially considering where I live, but this year I've been safe, comfortable, and happy, at least financially speaking. Don't get me wrong, there have been a few scares. Unexpected financial burdens and medical bills and the like, but overall, things have been good.

Thanks to the great benefits offered by my day job, I have managed to take several paid vacations this year. I've never taken more than a week off of work in an entire year, but this year I was able to travel to see my family, to take some trips with my amazing husband, and to take some time off just to hang out at home.

Don't get me wrong, I also worked hard this year. I had some amazing accomplishments at work. I had one scholarly article accepted for publication, and one abstract accepted for a convention. I wrote more this year than I ever have before (finished three short stories and started two novels). I even got up the nerve to let some people read what I wrote, which is saying something. Somehow, in the middle of all this, I managed to read almost 75 books.

What's on my plate for next year? Right now, I have almost new 30 books on my bookshelf to read (I don't even want to think about how many I have on my list to buy in the next year). I have a goal to finish at least one of the novels I'm working on, and to write several new short stories. Maybe I'll even get up the nerve to submit something. I have a list of things to do a mile long at my day job, and most of those things will help me get published in one capacity or another.

2009 was a great year. And I'm hoping 2010 will be even better.

October 9, 2009


As most of you know, National Novel Writing Month, also known as NaNoWriMo, is almost upon us. At this point in time, most people interested in the act of NaNo'ing are scrambling for plot ideas, working on outlines and character bios, and dreaming storyteller's dreams, all in anticipation of churning out a 50,000 word novel in 30 days or less.

Here's a little about how it works:

1. You write 50,000 original words between 12:00AM November 1, 2009 and 11:59PM November 30, 2009.
2. You don't start writing before, or keep writing after, the deadlines.
3. Writing outlines and character bios before the start date are ok, you just can't actually start writing your novel.
4. As far as the novel goes, anything goes. Whatever you want to write about is fair game.
5. No one will read your work (unless you give it to someone to read). To win, you upload your work to the NaNo site, which counts the words, and that's it.
6. If you reach 50,000 words, you win, even if you it's all nonsense.
7. No cheating! But really, it's all on the honor system. That being said, what would be cooler than being able to say, "Hey, I wrote a 50,000 word novel in 30 days!" and mean it?

I think that this year I will be participating in NaNoWriMo. I haven't decided what I want to write about yet. Probably either a WWII love story (of sorts), or some sort of paranormal urban fantasy thriller type story. Normally, I've never been able to participate due to the craziness that is my day job in the month of November, but my job is currently implementing a "no overtime allowed" policy, so I think this year I might just pull it off.

Now all I have to decide is if I want to share what I'm writing with my friends who are also participating in NaNo. I'll probably have to if I want to read anything they write, and they all tell pretty good stories.

I guess what I'm trying to say at this point is that I'm in. Wish me luck!

September 1, 2009

The City is on Fire

So, as everyone has probably noticed, LA is on fire. Every year it seems like the second temperatures hit 100 degrees, blazes start up all over the city.

A few days ago, I was watching the news coverage of a fire near Long Beach (I can't remember the name of the actual neighborhood) that had sprung up about two hours earlier. This particular fire had spread incredibly fast, was already burning one home, and several others were threatened. The part that got me was the news reporter kept repeating that this fire was spreading so rapidly because it was in an area that hadn't burned in four years.

Now, that's not a great deal of time, as far as burn zones go. And the fact she was stressing the time over and over made me wonder: has this city become so jaded to natural disasters that four years without one is a long time?

And then, I think the next day, the Station Fire started up, in an area that hasn't burned in decades. Now that's a good chunk of time for brush and other fuel to build up. And as I'm righting this, it is only 5% contained, covering 105,000 acres, with over 50 homes destroyed and 5 people dead.

There is so much smoke in the air, my eyes are swollen and puffy, I'm congested, and I'm coughing a lot. And one of the ones in good shape. I keep checking for news updates on the fires around the city, because although my home isn't anywhere near a danger zone, I think it's important to know what's going on around you, especially when so many lives are being affected.

And I have friends telling me to quite obsessing. It doesn't affect me, so I should pretend it's not happening a mile from my front door. That I can't see flames from the freeway as I drive home.

So it's true. This city is jaded to natural disasters. And that makes me sad.

August 24, 2009

Mini-Reviews Abound

Well, after falling off the radar for three weeks, I have returned. I don't have a lot to say, however. Mostly, I just felt the need to post a blog. So, today, you get some mini-reviews of all the books I've finished recently:

1. My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent: I absolutely loved this story. There are so many paranormal YA novels coming out of the woodworks lately involving love affairs of vampires, or werewolves, or vampires AND werewolves, and one of things I love most about the My Soul to Take series is that there are no vampires. Or werewolves, for that matter. Kaylee sees the shadow of death around those who are about to die. At first, she thinks she's crazy, but she discovers that she is in fact a bean sidhe, what we would commonly call a Banshee. Rachel Vincent writes a gripping tale encompassing young love (it is a YA, after all), unconditional friendship, and dysfunctional family foibles that I just couldn't put down until I was done.

2. Storm Front and Full Moon by Jim Butcher: The first two novels in the popular Dresden Files series, Storm Front and Full Moon are both good quick reads. Harry Dresden if fairly sardonic, which I always enjoy, and is the only practicing wizard listed in the Chicago Yellow Pages. His forays into crime fighting and detective work always land him in the hospital (and he always certain any given situation is going to get him killed), yet he is driven to do the right thing. He is preoccupied with proving to his detractors that he is in fact one of the good guys, while he is constantly being tempted by the dark side. I highly recommend this series.

3. The Age of Misrule by Mark Chadbourne: This is a three-part series taking place on the Isle of Britain during the End of the World. I've read the first two so far, and I must say that Chadbourne tells a good tale, but for me, the story is hard to stick with. The story follows the five Brothers and Sisters of Dragons (and their trusty side-kick, Tom), a group destined in Celtic mythology to save the planet during the Apocolypse. They battle demons while angels sneer in contempt at their humanity, and they screw up a lot. Because, hey, they're only human, right? So, like I said. It's taking me a while to get through them, but I'm enjoying the story pretty well.

4. His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novak: This book is one of the free e-books currently being offered through Kindle and other e-book sellers, mostly as a hook to get people into the series, and hopefully, the genre. The story is set in England during the middle of the Napoleonic Wars, with one interesting little twist: Dragons form a division of the armed forces. Navy Captain Lawrence finds a dragon egg on a French vessel during a military engagement, and when the egg unexpectedly hatches, he finds his life turned upside down when the dragon chooses him to be its rider. Novak's prose moves me, and a couple of weeks after finishing this book (and finishing others), I still find myself thinking of Temeraire and his Captain. I will most certainly be purchasing the remaining books in the series.

5. The Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb: Again, this was a free e-book I downloaded through Kindle, and again, I enjoyed it. The story is of a bastard child of the King-in-Waiting, and how he is thrust into the political spotlight simply because of who his father is rather than any effort on his part. He is continually put in difficult situations of other people's making, and he continues to do his best, proving himself an intelligent and honorable boy. And again, I will be purchasing the remaining books in the series. Good call, Amazon, good call.

July 30, 2009

Bloggers Round-up

Today I'm going to share my favorite authors to follow online:

Brandon Sanderson
John Scalzi
Lilith Saintcrow
Neil Gaiman
Deadline Dames
(Actually several authors, all of whom are enjoyable)
Wil Wheaton
Kathy Reichs
Charlaine Harris

All of these folks post helpful advice for writers wanting to write, amusing anecdotes, and/or information on their upcoming projects.

July 22, 2009

Two blog posts in one day? What? Oh, the insanity! I felt the need to add a post in regards to writing in order to balance out the post about reading. In fact, the two are connected.

Here's the deal: I spend a lot of my time reading blogs and Twitter feeds of various authors. I have read at least one thing by all of these authors I follow, and I enjoyed their stories, which is why I decided to follow them. And most of these authors offer occasional bits of advice about writing. Writing advice is another reason why I follow them.

Do you want to know the number one piece of advice I've read? Every single author I follow that has offered advice on being an author has mentioned this one piece of advice at least once. In a way, this particular nugget of wisdom should be self explanatory, and yet there are so many out there who don't think they need to do it. Simply put, it's this: To be a good writer, you have to first be a good reader.

Like I said, it's pretty self explanatory to me. I am a voracious reader. I usually have at least two books going at once. I've even taken to listening to audiobooks while I'm working (please, don't tell my boss). By reading everything I can get my hands on, I expose myself to a variety of writing styles. It takes a lot of practice to be a good writer, and it takes a lot of exposure to the written word.

And so, in addition to writing when I can, I read everything I can, and here I will be posting reviews of what I read. See? It all fits together.

Stephen R. Lawhead's "Hood"

I've spent the last few evenings reading a fabulous new book. Let me preface the coming review with a bit of personal information about me: I love Robin Hood. Like, I get giddy with joy over every new Robin Hood tale that comes out, movies, from the serious to the ridiculous, (Men in Tights, anyone?), TV shows, mini-series, and books. There's just something that gets me about a single man taking up for a poor, oppressed, overtaxed people, doing what he can to make their lives better.

So, onto the book!

As the name indicates, Hood is about the legendary Robin Hood. But not in the way we remember. The story is set in medieval Wales, shortly after the Norman invasion of England. Anyone familiar with the common Robin Hood mythos will recognize the deviation in that. In fact, the main character's name isn't even Robin Hood. The character's have old Celtic and French names, which can be difficult to read.

And yet? I couldn't put it down.

Bran ap Brychan is the rightful heir to the currently Norman occupied throne of Elfael. This heir wants nothing to do with the throne and spends most of his days doing what he can to aggravate his father, the king. After the king's brutal murder at the hands of an invading Norman army, Bran's first thought is to flee, but is convinced to stay and try to reason with King William the Red to get his land back. When this attempt fails, he again, tries to flee.

A great deal of the story is Bran's personal acceptance of his role in the world and his responsibility for his people. But when he finally steps up to his destiny, he becomes the hero we knew he would become from the beginning.

The story is steeped in (accurate) medieval history and geography. I know this, because I looked a lot of it up online. I like a story that claims roots in the real world. The characters are rich, deep, and just as fickle and conflicted as most people I know, making it much easier for me to connect with them. Even the villians, who aren't as evil as they are ambitious.

All in all, I liked it a great deal, and will be purchasing the sequel, Scarlet.

And as a personal aside, when we were introduced to Friar Tuck and Little John? I squeeled like a little girl.