Friday, August 31, 2012

TGIF (29): Choose Your Next Read

TGIF is a weekly meme created and hosted by Ginger of GReads! that recaps the week's posts and has a different question each week.

Question: How do you go about choosing what you read next?  Do you have a schedule you follow, or do you read whatever makes you happy at the moment?

My Answer: Usually it depends on what blog tours I'm participating in because those titles usually take priority.  However, if there is enough time in between, I typically read whatever makes me happy at the moment.  Sometimes, if I've been on a reading hiatus, I read a contemporary young adult novel to help get me back in the reading groove.  What I have on schedule for the fall is Anew by Chelsea Fine and Amarok by Angela J. Townsend.  I'm looking forward to reading both books.  ^_^

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Dark Unwinding Tour: 10 Pieces of Advice that Worked for Sharon Cameron

First off, thank you to Hannah for allowing me to participate in the blog tour for The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron.  I would also like to thank the amazing people at Scholastic for giving me the chance to read this unique young adult novel, and you can check out my review here.  Now, please welcome Sharon Cameron!

What are the top ten pieces of advice you can offer to aspiring writers?

Every writer is different, Amy, so much so that I always hesitate to say “go do this!” or “do that!” Writing is not a “one size fits all” business, you know? So instead of advice to aspiring writers, I think I’ll call this “The Top Ten Things That Worked for Sharon When She Was an Aspiring Writer.” (And yes, since I totally cheated, it’s really more like twelve things.)

So without further ado, here are the top ten (or twelve) pieces of advice that worked for me:

1. Read books, tons of books, in and out of your genre, new and not so newly published. And when you really, really love a book, read it again, this time with the eye of a writer.

2. Discover what is about that favorite book that truly moves you. Is it word choices, character development, setting, theme, or a certain issue? Delve deep, and know what lights your own inner fire. (For me, it was grim, gloomy houses and secret passages. Who knew?)

3. Experiment. Find your own unique way to incorporate that “inner fire” and write about things that make you passionate. If you are moved by what you’re writing, then there’s a good chance someone else will be, too.

4. Finish your project, especially when you’re uninspired, tired of it, hate it, and wonder why you ever started the thing in the first place!

5. When it’s complete, read your story start to finish, this time with the eye of a reader. (Yuck. Painful!) Revise.

6. Find a committed, professional, and honest critique group of writers working in your genre. A wonderful critique group (like mine!) is pure, unadulterated gold.

7. Give constructive critique on the work of others (and note the emphasis on “constructive!”). Critiquing constructively was hands down the best writing education I ever got.

8. Consider each and every criticism without taking offence, weigh it in the balance, and then learn to filter out the advice that doesn’t resonate.

9. Revise. Set your story aside and help others revise. Then revise your story again. (Yuck again. Painful!)

10. Treat yourself as a professional long before you make any money. Join organizations like Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, go to conferences and workshops and network, network, network! There’s nothing like the love and support of your book tribe.

Thank you, Sharon!  As you said, while there is no set way for a writer to become an author, it's always fascinating to see what works for each individual writer.  I'm sure your advice is a great boon to some aspiring writers.  (I know it is for me!)

About the Author:

Sharon Cameron was awarded the 2009 Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators for her debut novel, The Dark Unwinding. When not writing, Sharon can be found thumbing dusty tomes, shooting her longbow, or indulging in her lifelong search for secret passages.

Find Sharon On:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
{Photo credit to Rusty Russell 2011}

About the Book:

The Dark Unwinding begins when seventeen year old Katharine Tulman is sent to her uncle's remote and bizarre estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, she finds a child-like, genius inventor with his own set of rules, employing a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London. Katharine is torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving her uncle's peculiar world that she has come to care for deeply, a choice made complicated by a gray-eyed apprentice, and the strange visions and nightmares that have her secretly fearing for her own sanity. 

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Visit other Tour stops!

 August 26 Hannah @ The Book Vortex
Guest Post - Introduction

August 27 Marielle @ Book Thoughts by Marielle
Interview with Sharon

August 28 Marla @ Starting the Next Chapter
Guest Post: Favorite Real Life Mystery

August 29 Amy @ Denim Jacket Librarian
List: 10 Pieces of Advice

August 30 Lauren @ The Housework Can Wait
Interview with Sharon

August 31 Tirzah @ The Compulsive Reader
Character Interview: Mary

September 1: RELEASE DAY!

September 2 Alli @ Magnet 4 Books' Reviews
Guest Post

September 3 Emily @ The Ninja Librarian
Interview with Sharon

September 4 Christina @ A Reader of Fictions
Character Interview: TBA

September 5 Jessica @ Wastepaper Prose
Guest Post

September 6 Sara @ Through the Looking Glass
Interview with Sharon

September 7 Katie @ Katie's Book Blog
Character Interview: Lane

September 8 Jessica K @ The Cozy Reader
Guest Post: A Discussion on the Novel's Setting

September 9 Linda @ Mission to Read
Interview with Sharon

Saturday, August 25, 2012

ARC Review: The Dark Unwinding

Title:  The Dark Unwinding
Author:  Sharon Cameron
Pages:  318
Genre:  YA Steampunk Mystery
Publisher:  Scholastic
Obtained:  Publisher at TLA
Summary:  When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance.

The Dish:  Katharine Tulman has a hard task set for her by her miserly Aunt Alice who is only concerned for the financial well-being of her young son, Robert.  She must go to visit her Uncle Tulman's estate and decide whether or not he is of a sound mind all because he has been using the family's finances in "frivolous ventures."  Now, given Katharine's own financial situation rests on being able to maintain the bookkeeping of her aunt so she won't be tossed out onto the street, her frame of mind when she first arrives at Stranwyne Estate is understandable.  While she first believes she must save herself, after meeting her uncle and the people who are part of his "ventures," Katharine comes to a crossroads where she must decide whether her own fate is worth that of hundreds.

When I first received The Dark Unwinding, I was very curious about Katharine and particularly what her uncle could be doing that would force her aunt to question his state of mind.  It was a little difficult getting to know Katharine simply because she was in this constant state of "me, myself, and I."  However, learning more about her past and family, I could see why she was rather self-focused.  It was fascinating to watch her expand her focus as she ventured around her uncle's estate, meeting more of the people behind the so-called "frivolous ventures."

I enjoyed seeing Katharine's relationship develop between the people on the estate, especially with Lane Moreau, her uncle's apprentice.  Since readers are hearing the story from Katharine's point of view, it was a bit difficult to understand Lane's feelings regarding our heroine, but I think more of his emotion shone through the pages despite her ignorance.  It was surprising to see how quickly the relationship between Katharine and her Uncle Tulman developed, but readers will see why once they hear more about the "guardian" outside Katharine's room.

The story overall was very enjoyable and Cameron did create a mystery that was, at first, confusing to where even I was questioning Katharine's state of mind after she came to Stranwyne.  As the pieces to the puzzle began to fall into place through the developing story, it was a matter of narrowing down the list of suspects.  During Katharine's earlier "episodes" it felt as though the story was... stilted as if it were an entirely separate piece that didn't quite fit with the rest of the story.  However, in hindsight, this was probably to help set the stage for the mystery.  I think readers who enjoy steampunk young adult literature and a good mystery will favor reading The Dark Unwinding.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tune In Tuesday: Home

Tune in Tuesday at GReads is hosted by Ginger at GReads Books and showcases music. Each week we can post a new or old song in hopes to gain more interest. Let's help her in spreading the love of music!

This week is a very special week for me.  Well, particularly Saturday.  My beau is going to be moving to Texas as of that day, exactly 4 months before Christmas.  Yeah, we're big Christmas people, so it's nice to be getting an early present. ^_^  So I'm featuring songs regarding "home."  Please excuse me while I get sacchrinely sentimental.

First up is, ironically, "Home" by Phillip Phillips since I will be helping to make Texas my beau's home.   He's already an official Texan since he's killed both a scorpion ('11 visit to my parents' house) and a black widow (last March outside the apartment).

Next, we have, you guessed it, "Home" by Circleslide since my beau is slowly making his way to his home here.  This was one of the first alternative Christian groups I really got into back when I had access to Power FM during grad school.

I think Ginger would like this last song.  ^_^  It's one of my beau's and my favorite songs, "Just Breathe" by Pearl Jam.  When I first went to visit him, he brought the album with "Just Breathe" on it, and it's become one of my absolute favorites.

Welcome home, my loving beau. <3

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Thought for Thursday: Why I've Been So Lax

I'm sure some of you have noticed I haven't been posting as much lately.  There's just a lot going on over here between work and a special someone coming within just a little over a week's time.  I've been trying to keep up with my reading, but truthfully, my mind has been elsewhere.  My current read has been very interesting and has kept me guessing pretty much the majority of the book, so I definitely commend Sharon Cameron.  I look forward to posting my review of The Dark Unwinding soon. 

While I haven't been posting as much, I'm still trying to keep up with posts during the week because I'm still here!  *waves arms around!*  Just really busy and preoccupied.  I'm definitely hoping to have another giveaway for my readers soon, so keep a look out! 

Tomorrow's event is going to be such fun!  The Girls' Nightmare Out Tour featuring authors Marta Acosta, Kendare Blake, and Lisa Desrochers at Murder by the Book shall be most exciting.  I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of Houston bloggers and readers there, too. 

See you there, Houston!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tune In Tuesday: Rock Opera

Tune in Tuesday at GReads is hosted by Ginger at GReads Books and showcases music. Each week we can post a new or old song in hopes to gain more interest. Let's help her in spreading the love of music!

So as August is a regular Tune In Tuesday month, this week I'm going to feature big voices bringing it center stage in a rock band.  That's right everyone.  I'm talking about... Rock. Opera.  Oh, yeah.  Who better to start out with than one of my favorite bands, Nightwish.  

Now, this is their original vocalist, who is pretty awesome but sometimes a bit tough to understand in the way of the lyrics.  Still, "Wish I Had an Angel" is one epic song.  The actual video's a wee bit on the freaky side, so I'm linking one with the lyrics.

And this is their current vocalist, which I have to say is pretty awesome, too.  "Amaranth" was the first song featuring the new vocalist, and I think she really blends well with the band.

Last is another band I've grown to love dearly, Within Temptation.  Their songs really do tell stories and you can just imagine what those stories look like.  My favorite has to be "Hand of Sorrow."

I hope you enjoyed, dear readers.  ^_^

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (9)

We are all book lovers and the need to share our enthusiasm is sometimes overwhelming. Stacking the Shelves, created and hosted at Tynga's Reviews, is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in stores or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks!

For Review:

Amarok ARC by Angela J. Townsend (From Spencer Hill Press)
Wild Ink by Victoria Hanley (From Prufrock Press thanks to LibraryThing)
I'm really excited to read Amarok and also to have a great writing tool like Wild Ink.


Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma (Bought)
Haunted by Joy Preble (Bought & Signed)
Anastasia Forever by Joy Preble (Bought & Signed)
It was so exciting helping Joy Preble celebrate the completion of her Dreaming Anastasia trilogy. I look forward to seeing future books from her. ^_^  Also, Christin from Portrait of a Book nudged me into getting Forbidden, so hopefully I'll be able to read it soon.

From Library:

A Bride's Story Volume 2 by Kaoru Mori (From Library)
Half-Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout (From Library, sorry about the Interlibrary Loan tag)
Cinder by Marissa Meyer (From Library)
My library is so efficient when it comes to getting the requested books I want to read.  Looks like August will be a very good month of library books. 

That's all for my shelves the past couple of weeks.  
What did you stack on your shelves?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thought for Thursday: "First Memorable Reads"

Do you remember the first book you ever read or had read to you by a parent?  While I can't remember the very VERY first book, several other "first memorable reads" come to mind.  As a little girl, my parents and grandparents would read to me, and there was nothing that made me happier than sitting on my grandpa's lap while he read The Tawny Scrawny Lion.  

Maybe it was the way my grandpa spoke and maybe it was just the brilliant colors of the pictures, but this is one book I'm happy to still have in my personal library.  

The first memorable series I remember reading was probably The Saddle Club books by Bonnie Bryant.  Yes, I read a lot of horse books back in the day, including The Black Stallion and Man O' War by Walter Farley, Beauty by Bill Wallace, Misty of Chincoteague and King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry.  However, these either weren't a consecutive series of books or I just didn't stay with the series.    

The Saddle Club was great because Carol, Stevie, and Lisa were all horse-crazy like I was (and still am).  Also, my dad seriously fed my horse-crazyness by getting me a huge stack of Saddle Club books on sale at Sam's Club one year.  Can you say book enabler? ^_~

I remember one Christmas at my grandparents in which I received a beautiful collection of stories by James Herriot.  While I'm sure I'd received books as presents before, this was the first memorable gift because it was a hardcover edition full of gorgeous pictures.  On Christmas Day, I read one of the stories to my grandpa after he'd read to me so many times.  

James Herriot's Treasury for Children has remained on my bookshelves ever since then, and I hope to read from it to my children one day.  

What books do you remember as your "first reads?"

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tune In Tuesday

Tune in Tuesday at GReads is hosted by Ginger at GReads Books and showcases music. Each week we can post a new or old song in hopes to gain more interest. Let's help her in spreading the love of music!

Since August is a regular Tune in Tuesday, I'd like to share some songs that I've heard on the radio and have just really stuck with me for some reason or other.  You know how some songs become ear worms, right?  You start to hear it in your head and you can't help humming the melody once it starts.  

I'm not sure what it is that I like about "Primadonna" by Marina and the Diamonds.  Perhaps it's Marina's lyrical voice or the easy-to-follow chorus that just sound mischievous.  

What is with me and Train?  I mean, there's always a song by them that I just can't help but hum the melody to.  "50 Ways to Say Goodbye" is just so weird, it's funny.

While I enjoy George Michael's original rendition, there's just something... wild about hearing "Careless Whispers" from Seether.  I'm thinking it's that amazing guitar intro... or perhaps that powerful voice.

Enjoy dear readers!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thought for Thursday: The Book Hunt

Have you ever searched through various bookstores, trying to locate that one gotta-have-it book only to find that either all of their copies have sold out or they do not carry books by that title's publisher?  Raise your hand if this has happened to you.

*raises hand!* 

Now, granted I know that with all of the online booksellers, there is no means by which we cannot obtain a book.  HOWEVER.  There is something about the thrill of hunting through bookstores and at long last locating a copy of that gotta-have-it title.  Back when I was in library school, my roommates (also in library school) and I would visit three or four bookstores over the weekend usually Barnes & Noble, Borders (when they were still around), Half-Price Books, and Hastings.  (Yes, clearly, the city we lived in was a library school city.)  Why did we visit three or four stores, you ask?  Sometimes out of boredom, sometimes because we were clothes-shopping at the mall, but mostly because of the hunt. 

I will admit that I didn't always know what I was hunting for in the bookstores, just that I was "on the hunt."  You could have a list of titles in mind, but that doesn't mean any of them will be in any of the bookstores.  And you know, one of my roommates usually had a list of titles on hand.  I really should have learned from her, but a mental list is so much more fun!  (Especially when you're grasping at that gotta-have-it title that's on the tip of your tongue but you just can't quite remember it.)  I look at it as a way to keep my mind sharp.  Now, what was I talking about again...?

Ah, yes.  The book hunt is something that any shopper can hopefully understand.  Searching for that gotta-have-it title and then trying to find it for the best possible price.  Yes, I definitely admit to placing a book back on the shelf because I thought I could find a better deal at another bookstore.  Sometimes I was, but most times not so much.  However, you just can't get over that feeling of, "Wait, maybe if I check *insert bookstore* they'll be having a special or sale!"  There have been times that I've followed this route only to be led back to the original store because they were the only one carrying the book I wanted. 

That brings me to another point.  I'm curious as to why major bookstores don't always carry popular upcoming books from smaller publishers.  Don't the smaller (and growing!) publishers deserve a chance to be in the bookstore limelight, too?  Now perhaps this is just at my local bookstores (not the indie bookstores, mind you) and there could be others within the same major chain that do get one or two copies of smaller publishers' titles.  And there is the opportunity to order titles and have them shipped to a local store, but come on!  That takes all the fun out of the book hunt.  Definitely brings to mind the phrase, "Shooting fish in a barrel."  But sometimes that is the way to do it.  That and ordering them online to have them delivered straight to you, which is great, too, especially if you're wanting that gotta-have-it sequel to an amazing book ASAP.

I guess my point kind of goes in the same vein as last week's Thought on print books surviving.  The book hunt is a HUGE reason why we still have books in print.  And I know I'll still be going on the hunt in the future. 

How do you hunt for your books?
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