Monday, 26 November 2012

Flesh & Bone by Jonathan Maberry

Book: Flesh & Bone (Benny Imura #3) by Jonathan Maberry, 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Reader, 469 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Reeling from the tragic events of Dust & Decay, Benny Imura and his friends plunge deep into the zombie-infested wastelands of the great Rot & Ruin. Benny, Nix, Lilah and Chong journey through a fierce wilderness that was once America, searching for the jet they saw in the skies months ago. If that jet exists then humanity itself must have survived…somewhere. Finding it is their best hope for having a future and a life worth living.

But the Ruin is far more dangerous than any of them can imagine. They are hunted by fierce animals escaped from zoos and circuses. They must raid zombie-infested towns for food and medical supplies. They discover the very real truth in the old saying: In the Rot & Ruin…everything wants to kill you.

And what is happening to the zombies? Swarms of them are coming from the east, devouring everything in their paths. These zoms are different. Faster, smarter, infinitely more dangerous. Has the zombie plague mutated, or is there something far more sinister behind this new invasion of the living dead?

In Flesh & Bone, Benny Imura, Nix Riley, Lou Chong and Lilah the Lost Girl are pitted against dangers greater than anything they've ever faced. To survive, each of them must rise to become the warriors Tom trained them to be.

My Thoughts:
Wow, another intense, page turning book by Jonathan Maberry. I absolutely love this series and was not disappointed by Flesh & Bone.

Flesh & Bone picks up right where Dust & Decay left off. Benny, Nix, Chong and Lilah are making their way through the rot and ruin, trying to find the elusive plane they saw on their quest to find a better life. It seems that the zombie plague has mutated and they must also contend with a fanatical group of reapers. Each character is pushed to their limits, having to evaluate and redefine what it is they are each after.

A large part of this book is about grief, so much so that Maberry even addresses the issue in a note at the beginning of the novel. Each character has lost someone, their old life, and even has had to reevaluate what they are looking for and why. They are each stripped raw and have to put themselves back together. They've even lost their certainty about what a zombie is and how it acts. That being said, each of the four kids grows up a lot in this book.

The reapers add a very dark and disturbing element to the series. Once again, it is not the zombies who are the monsters, it is human beings. Some of the book is told from in Saint John's head, which is creepy and terrifying.

On a fun note, Maberry added Joe Ledger, a character from his adult series, to this novel. I have read some of those, so thought it was clever.

I highly recommend this entire series for young adults and adults. Once again, these books are more than zombie books, they are decidedly human books -- they explore both the good and bad of humanity in a post apocalyptic setting.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Book: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, 2012 by Dutton Books, 313 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 13, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

My Thoughts:
A friend whose taste in books I trust told me to read this, that it is amazing, so I picked it up, not even knowing what it was about. As soon as I started reading, I was drawn in, but also knew that somehow or other, I'd end up in tears by the end. I was right. When I realized the book was about teenagers with cancer, some of them fatally, I put the book down for a bit until I was ready to read it. 

I'm glad I did pick it up again. The story is compelling, the characters are quirky, and the writing is beautiful.

Hazel has a fatal cancer, but has somewhat stabilized. However, she has been away from school and much of her previous, normal, life for several years. I like her sense of humour and appreciated her unique outlook on life.

She meets Augustus at a cancer kid support group. They immediately hit it off, relating to one another on many levels. I love the conversations that they have, how they can delve into trivial or deep subjects and dissect them both equally well.

There are so many issues dealt with in this book, some of which are: dying from cancer, living with cancer, mortality, how people treat obviously sick people, how loss of a loved one affects the living, and what kind of legacy to leave.  These issues are all dealt with extremely well by Green, with sensitivity, humour and intelligence. He must have done some great research to have written such a thoughtful book.

I highly recommend this book to both teens and adults. Be warned, though, it is a tear jerker. This was the first John Green book that I've read and I'll certainly be reading more in the near future.

Here is the book trailer:

Friday, 16 November 2012

Slogging Through the Swamp of My Plot

I was talking with a friend this morning and she asked me how my Nano novel was going. I said that I felt like I was slogging through the swamp of my plot. The image that came to mind was that my plot was sucking me in, and not in a good way, that it was murky and convoluted and difficult. Nothing very exciting is happening right now. These are transitional scenes, things that need to happen, but aren't that much fun to write. Scenes that I realize that I will be editing heavily later, because if I feel this way about them, how will others feel?

I think I've also got some swamp monsters who are doing their own thing, distracting me, sending me off in crazy directions. Not that this is always a bad thing. It can be great to be pushed in different directions. At the same time, it can be frustrating and even a bit scary.
But, a funny thing happened. When I started googling pictures of swamps, I came across amazingly beautiful pictures. It was actually hard to find pictures of yucky, sloggy swamps. These pictures immediately made me look at my novel differently.

Swamps are actually exotic, rich, alive, lush, fertile places. Maybe my plot is too. Maybe if I feed it this compost of transitional scenes I'll come out with something worthwhile, something I can work with to edit later. Maybe I just need to stop, step back and get a broader perspective. Taken as a whole, I think it's pretty good. Really, I love my story, it's fun, interesting, and challenging. Sometimes that is hard to see when I look to closely at one little part.

How's your writing going this month?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Blog Hop! Answering Questions about Antigone: The True Story

Today is my turn at answering questions about my work in progress, Antigone: The True Story for a fun blog hop called The Next Big Thing. I heard about it from Elia Winters.

The idea is that I answer ten questions about my work in progress, then tag 5 bloggers at the end of the post and they will answer the same questions in one week. It's like a giant chain letter without the guilt. Instead we get to learn about other great books on the horizon.

Here are the interview questions about my novel. Be sure to check out the end of the post for the bloggers to read up on next week.

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

1. What is the working title of your book?

Antigone: The True Story

2. Where did the idea come from for the book? 
From Greek mythology. I love Greek mythology and even studied Classical Studies at university. Antigone was always one of my favorite characters. Last year for Nanowrimo I decided to give her "alternate history" a try as a young adult novel.

3. What genre does your book fall under? 

Young Adult Fantasy

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

That's a tough one. Antigone is strong and doesn't put up with much, though she's fiercely devoted to her family. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When the gods start talking to Antigone in her dreams and manipulating her life, she must find a way to overcome her family's curse and still remain true to herself and protect her family.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I would like it to be represented by an agency, but I'm not quite there yet.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

The first draft was written in Nanowrimo last year - write 50K words in the month of November. It did take me a little longer to write the whole story, but not much. Recently, however, I've decided to add one more section to the book, so I'm hoping that will only take a couple more weeks.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Again, that's hard. Maybe Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I am part of an amazing writer's group called Some Good Karma and Some Bad Writing. They were a great inspiration and encourage me to "write it anyway" when I was concerned about some the subject matter for a YA audience (ie,Antigone is the daughter of incest, her father is Oedipus who married his mother and killed his father).

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

This is not your typical book about Greek mythology. It takes place in ancient times, but Antigone has a lot to offer modern audiences. This is definitely a creative retelling. And, there are lots of snakes in the book. I honestly don't know where they came from, but there they are.

Okay everyone. Thanks for reading. Don't forget to check out these interesting blogs next week to read about their works in progress.

When Stars Collide
Thardrandian Thoughts
The Wicked Queen's Mirror

Winner in Thankful for Books Hop

Thank you to everyone who entered the Thankful for Books Giveaway Hop on my blog, and to everyone who commented with what book they are grateful for - I now have a huge list of books to check out!

The winner is: Ashfa A.

Congratualtions, you have won the book of your choice, up to $15 CDN from The Book Depository!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Junie B., First Grader: Boo...And I Mean It! by Barbara Park

Book: Junie B., First Grader: Boo...And I Mean It! (Junie B. Jones #24) by Barbara Park, 2005 by Random House Books for Young Reader, 86 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Halloween with Junie B. has got to be a scream! Get ready for a “Halloweenie” adventure with the world’s funniest first grader!

My Thoughts:
I've been hearing about Junie B. books for years, but my boys never seemed interested. Someone told me about them again recently, telling me how hilarious these books are and how much her kids love them, so I picked this one up at the library to read with my daughter over Hallowe'en.

I'll start by saying that my daughter really liked this book. She was engaged and thought it was funny and enjoyed the pictures.

This was a cute story of Junie B. who is scared to go out trick or treating because a boy at school has filled her head with scary stories. It is fun how she tries to get out of the situation, but then also comes up with a solution.

However, I had a terrible time reading it to her. Junie B. uses very strange grammar much of the time - I don't know any kid who talks like she does. I found myself correcting it for my daughter as I don't want her language to regress. I am continually torn with books like this. They are engaging and kids like them but the grammar! I know there is something to be said for being approachable and using authentic language, etc, but much of language is learned from what we read. I can understand wanting kids to sound like kids, but I don't see how consistent, strange grammar helps them at all. It feels condescending, like they couldn't understand the proper use of language. Maybe it's just me because these books are wildly popular.

So, there is my rant. It's possible that my daughter will seek out more of these books. Maybe it will be a good opportunity to talk about language.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Nano Train Wreck

Here we are, well into week two of Nanowrimo. As I posted a few days ago, I felt like I had hit the Nano wall. Now I feel more like I'm the engineer of a Nano train wreck.

This is how I see my Nanowrimo progression this year.

I started off out of the gate, speeding away. I hate even to take credit for my writing then, as it felt like my book was writing itself.
Week one felt so good!

Then came week two and my novel literally felt like a train wreck. My plot crashed, the whole thing had gone off the rails, I had no control, and I was definitely not divinely channeling my story anymore.
And now, this is how I feel:
Yes, that's me, the happy little Thomas train going around in circles. I am making my word count goals, so I am progressing - and I realize that's huge so I am giving myself credit for that - but I feel like I'm getting no where. My characters aren't actually DOING much.

This is strange because there is so much more for them to do! But I just can't seem to get there. As I said before, I'm writing the story of the ancient Greek mythological character of Clytemnestra. She still has to get married, have a baby, have Agamemnon come along and kill her husband and child, then she has to start plotting her revenge, then her son has to plot his revenge. Lots of juicy things to write about. But, what am I doing? Having her sit around worrying about marrying a man she doesn't know, being sad about having to leave her family, eat, talking with her family, getting reassured by her family, thinking deeply about marriage and how her life will change, eat some more... You get the picture, going in circles.

So, today my goal is to get back on track and actually move the story along. I don't need to go great guns, but I need to go forward, at least putt along at a respectable speed.
Everyone else out there in Nanoland... How are you doing? I would love to hear your week 2 stories. If you blog, feel free to leave a link in the comments if you have a post on this. I'm needing some (procrastination) inspiration.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Hitting the Nano Wall

We are now into the second week of Nanowrimo - the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. This is my fourth Nano and, I have to say, I came out of the gate running. I wrote 22,975 words in the first week. This was amazing, even for me, writing about double the minimum amount to keep on track. It felt like the story was writing itself.

But, this week...
...that's me, hitting the wall.

The thing keeping me going is that this happens to me every year, though this year seems particularly bad. My thoughts are going something like:  I hate my book, my characters are terrible, the plot is going nowhere, no one will ever want to read this, and what am I writing anyway????

Then I take a deep breath and remind myself that I am doing this for FUN. No one ever needs to read it and, as long as I keep on typing, I'll get there. I can fix the plot holes later. Then I raid my kid's Hallowe'en candy, check the Nano forums and Facebook and get back to writing.

This year's book is based on the mythological character Clytemnestra (try typing that one out over and over again). She was married to Agamemnon (another finger tangling name), the leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War. When he gloriously returns from war, her and her lover kill him. I think the story is a nice juicy one with lots in it. There's some great, meaty background that lead her to these actions, but the mythology is also tangled like a crazy, incestuous web. I'm a Classicist, I love this stuff, and I'm having trouble keeping things straight.

This is also, most definitely, an adult book, the first one I've written. My other books have been middle grade and young adult, so this is quite a departure for me. I've been hesitating over some of the gory killing, intimate scenes and language, but then wrote it anyway. Again, I can always edit it out later if need be, right? I think it's been good for me to write scenes that make me uncomfortable, it has pushed me and (hopefully) will strengthen my writing.

Ultimately, I know the best thing I can do is to take the great Nano advice and:

So, this is where I'm at part way through week two. If you're writing, I would love to hear from you about how it's going.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Bloggers with WIP Wanted for Hop

Hello everyone,

I am participating in a blog hop of a different kind. I am going to answer questions about my WIP (work in progress) then tag 5 (or so) other blogs who will answer the same questions about their WIP and/or new release on their blog the next week. In a way, it's like a giant chain letter, but without the guilt. Instead we get to learn about some great new books on the horizon.

Is anyone interested in participating? If so, I can tag you in my blog post on November 14, then you'll do your post on November 21.

You can let me know you're interested by leaving a comment or by emailing me at: coreenamcburnie at gmail dot com. I will need your email address, blog name and URL.

I'll pick the first blogs to respond.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Thankful For Books Giveaway Hop

Welcome to my stop on the Thankful For Books Giveaway Hop, hosted by I Am A Reader Not A Writer and Tristi Pinkson.

I love this hop because books are such a huge part of my life - I've been heavily influenced by them for as long as I can remember. 

The giveaway: a book from The Book Depository (so long as they ship to you, you can check here) up to $15 CDN that you would be thankful to have.
This giveaway is international.
I will post the winner on my blog and email them when the hop is over. The winner will have 2 days to respond to my email or I will have to pick a new winner. I am not responsible for books lost in the mail.

You can enter in the rafflecopter below, then check out the list of all of the other blogs in the hop.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 5 November 2012

Book Review: Blood Promise by Richelle Mead

Book: Blood Promise (Vampire Academy #4) by Richelle Mead, 2009 by Razorbil, 503 pages.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Rose Hathaway's life will never be the same.

The recent attack on St. Vladimir's Academy devastated the entire Moroi world. Many are dead. And, for the few victims carried off by Strigoi, their fates are even worse. A rare tattoo now adorns Rose's neck, a mark that says she's killed far too many Strigoi to count. But only one victim matters . . . Dimitri Belikov. Rose must now choose one of two very different paths: honoring her life's vow to protect Lissa—her best friend and the last surviving Dragomir princess—or, dropping out of the Academy to strike out on her own and hunt down the man she loves. She'll have to go to the ends of the earth to find Dimitri and keep the promise he begged her to make. But the question is, when the time comes, will he want to be saved?

Now, with everything at stake—and worlds away from St. Vladimir's and her unguarded, vulnerable, and newly rebellious best friend—can Rose find the strength to destroy Dimitri? Or, will she sacrifice herself for a chance at eternal love?

My Thoughts:
This fourth installment of the Vampire Academy series had me turning the pages, yet again. The story was fast paced and there were some great new characters.

I really liked some of the themes of this book, especially how Rose feels she has to explicitly choose between the man she loves and her best friend. The other books have been leading up to this, but this one dealt with it more fully. And, I'm sure, the next book will too.

I liked Rose again in this book. I love seeing strong female characters who can stand up for themselves, but who are flawed as well. Rose is relatable and kiss-ass fun at the same time. I am hoping that her relationship with Lissa gets better in the next book. Not that it's bad, I would just like to see the growth.

Mead uses the fun devise of Rose being able to go into Lissa's head to keep us up with what is going on at the Academy while Rose is in Russia. I thought this was a clever way to keep both story lines going and developing.

There are parts to this book I wasn't thrilled with, especially during some of Rose's time in Russia (I liked the parts with Dimitri's family, but not some of the other times, I'm being vague so as not to spoil anything).  Overall, though, I did enjoy the book and will be on the lookout for the next one. I felt Rose is really starting to come into her own and I can't wait to see what she does in book 5.

Winner of YA Mythology Giveaway Hop

The winner of the YA Mythology Giveaway Hop is:
Kaci V
for tweeting about the giveaway.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by my blog and entered.

The prize is a YA Mythology book of her choice from the list here.
I have emailed her and she has 2 days to respond to my email or I will pick another winner.