Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Wintersong

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that focuses on the yet-to-be released books we're waiting for. It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week I'm talking about a goblin-infused marriage!

Title: Wintersong
Author: S. Jae-Jones
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Add to Goodreads

Goodreads summary

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the
Amber the Blonde Writer - Cover of Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

Why I'm Waiting

Goblins are usually overlooked so that intrigued, but I was also drawn to the idea of sacrificing life over passion. Most people might think life is greater, but without my writing, I would have no passion for things to pursue and most importantly, I wouldn't know how to help or connect with others because writing is how I try to do that. This book sounds like it will be spectacular!


What books are you waiting on?

Other posts you may like:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Book Review: The Winner's Kiss

Title: The Winner's Kiss
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #3
Genre: YA Fantasy/Romance
Release Date: March 2016

Source: I borrowed a physical copy from the public library
Purchase from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

Goodreads summary:

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

My review:

This is the final book, so I'm skipping over the summary.

I love Arin. He's wonderful and compassionate and so forgiving and selfless.

Oh, and the politics and intrigue! Oh this story ended so well! I don't want to go into anything that would give the story away, but I do want to highlight what made me rate this installment higher than the previous two.

Most YA series (specifically trilogies, I don't know why) end vaguely and years after the fact. Take Hunger Games. It ends about twenty years after the final act with some sense of "I feel like I can be normal but maybe not but we'll see." So many books end this way. Allegiant ended very brokenly, and while I cried in that book, I needed more concreteness. Think of it like life: we may feel broken on the inside, but life keeps going around us and we're forced to face it.

The Winner's Kiss faced it. 

The ending carried through after the final "act." It showed the weeks following the ending for the characters. Yes, there were many emotional moments of division and misunderstanding, but the characters pushed through because life wasn't waiting around for them. I love that Rutkoski let the novel keep going after the fact because that's how we all live. We get accepted into college, we land a great job, there isn't a huge stain on the shirt we pulled on in the dark without checking, and these moments make us feel victorious, but we are expected to live the way we were before.

Life goes on, and I'm so glad this story did to let us get a glimpse of how we somehow need to function in society again even though, with this series over, THERE IS NO MORE ARIN AND WHAT DO I DO WITH MYSELF?!

But read it. No, really. Die slowly on the inside with me. It's wonderful. 

Rating: 5 / 5 stars

Other posts you may like:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Star-Touched Queen

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that focuses on the yet-to-be released books we're waiting for. It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week I'm talking about a story that focuses on Indian folklore that I absolutely want!

Title: The Star-Touched Queen
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Genre: YA Fantasy-Mythology 
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Add to Goodreads

Goodreads summary:

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you're only

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of Death and Destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father's kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran's queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar's wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire...

But Akaran has its own secrets -- thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most. . . including herself.

A lush and vivid story that is steeped in Indian folklore and mythology. The Star-Touched Queen is a novel that no reader will soon forget.

Why I'm Waiting:

Again, I minored in Asian Studies for a reason, and my country of concentration was India. A YA fantasy based on Indian mythology and folklore? I'm going to be all over that. YA writing and Indian-inspiration--it sounds like the perfect arrangement!

What books are you waiting on?

Other posts you may like:

Monday, April 18, 2016

Book Review: Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott

Title: Fire & Flood
Author: Victoria Scott
Series: Fire & Flood #1
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Release Date: January 2015

Source: I borrowed a physical copy from the public library
Purchase from Amazon
Add to Goodreads

Goodreads summary:

What would you do to save someone you love?

Time is slipping away. . . .
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to the middle of nowhere for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying--and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

Victoria Scott's breathtaking novel grabs readers by the throat and doesn't let go.

My review:

The story starts off somber with Tella worried about her sick brother, Cody. She gets an invitation to a race against other contenders where she has a chance to win the cure for his illness. However, as the race kicks off, Tella realizes that death is around every corner and most of the time, it's coming from the contenders she's up against.

I saw a lot of bad reviews of this book, but I saw a lot of praise. I decided to tackle it and finished it in about a day. I understood where the frustration came from and where the love came from.

Here's how I broke down the novel.

Tella's voice was super young. She is sixteen years old, but talks like she's twelve. This bothered me because there is a romance in the story. Fortunately, and this one huge points for me, the romance plays a strong role in Tella's head but not in the overall plot. Someone please tell other writers to do this, because when the romance takes over the plot and not just the character, it becomes a romance, not a science fiction or fantasy or mystery or whatever. 

Going back, Tella's voice felt very middle grade to me. If you cannot get into MG stories, this one may not be for you for this reason alone. Not only that, but Tella's priorities do not change. Whether's it's page two or page 302, Tella is still concerned about how she looks without make-up in front of the guy she likes even though she's stranded in the wilderness with no food or water. It was a character trait I couldn't connect with.

As for what sold me on the story, the action doesn't stop. The fight scenes are written well and very detailed, and the other contenders offer more substance to soak up. I appreciated the fact that each person was fighting for another person. In most dystopians, they fight in a "race" to survive and win something they can share with their families. In Fire & Flood, it's not just survival: if they die, someone in their family will automatically die as a result of their illness.

I expected something fishy was going on, but I can't wait to see how every person and Pandora is tied into the unveiling in the second book. Speaking of which, the Pandoras were really cool. Someone on Goodreads compared them to Pokemon or Digimon. No. No they are not either. They don't evolve. They don't speak. They don't come equipped with 3-4 moves. They are cool mutations and should be called such.

Lastly, this is NOT a dystopian. This story happens in 2014. Yes, it's science fiction. No, it's not dystopian. On that note, it will not be as dark as Hunger Games, Divergent, or The Testing because not every person is starving or dying. Death is specifically centered around the people called to be contenders, which gives it a unique spin.

I will be picking up the sequel because I did like the story. Tella annoyed me, but the rest of it was fine. I know, disagreeing with the protagonist is not good, but I want to see what happens with the race and the characters. And those Pandoras! So cute!

Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Other posts you may like:

Friday, April 15, 2016

#WritersLife: Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 Update

#WritersLife: Amber the Blonde Writer

#WritersLife, where I talk writing in real life.

Camp NaNoWriMo has gone in a way I did not expect and is proving to be a mixture of joyful and frustrating moments. I'm pleased.

Cons of my Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 Experience

I am currently at 12,478 words. Where should I be as of April 15? At 22,500 words.

I'm behind, but that's my fault.

I have organized a way to fit my manuscript reading for the lit agency in between my work hours, so that's not the problem. The distraction comes from me trying to focus on things that are just as important as my writing.

I'm job hunting in the middle of baby NaNo.

My internship ends the first week of June (I think; it could be last week of May). So I've been looking for new work since March. I got my first interview on April 1, and my next will be April 22. All this traveling means less time to write, but it's still important so it's okay.

For those who follow me on Twitter, you may have seen my cries for help as I shamelessly promoted my online portfolio. That will probably continue until I sign new employment papers, so I'm offering a friendly warning to be prepared for those Tweets.

But alas! I discovered something amid the chaos!

Camp NaNoWriMo {articipant 2016 - Amber the Blonde Writer

Pros of my Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 Experience

The darling Rae, whom you all should follow and shower with love, tweeted some time ago about a blog post that talked about creating a DIY Writer's Retreat

The summary is this: reserve a hotel room for one or two nights, don't ask for the WiFi password, and write and work until you check out of the hotel (but the full article is very eloquent so check it out).

I decided to try it out at home this weekend to 1) save money and 2) because I had a four day weekend from work so Friday and Monday the house was empty.

Friday, April 8, I wrote 4.3K words. Monday, April 11, I wrote 3.1K words.

I average 1,200~ words per hour during my rewrite session because I have to care about which words I choose, whereas during NaNoWriMo 2015 I was averaging 1,000~ words every half hour (#1K30 on Twitter). When I sit down and close all my sessions and treat myself like I'm on a retreat, things got done.

I didn't call back my car insurance agency about my quote although I promise to do that...this week. I finished my manuscripts by Thursday so I wouldn't be tempted to read instead of write. And Monday I put down The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski to write those 3,000 words.

Because of this, I want to try to plan out sessions throughout the week. My day off is usually Monday and then if I can carve out alone time on Saturday that would give me at least two. 

My goal is to write 1,800 to 2,000 words a day to catch up, and then use sessions days until the end of the month. 

How's Camp going for you guys?

Updated Stats for Camp NaNoWriMo 2016

Start: April 1, 2016
End: April 30, 2016
Daily word count goal: 1,500 words (same as my original revision goal)
Actual average daily word count: 891 words
Current novel word count: 12,478 words
Projected end count: 70,600 words
Projected cups of tea: 55-70 cups
Current cups of tea: 35 cups

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Outrun the Moon

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that focuses on the yet-to-be released books we're waiting for. It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week I'm talking about a beautiful sounding (and beautifully covered) historical fiction story set in 1906 Chinatown/San Francisco.

Title: Outrun the Moon
Author: Stacey Lee
Genre: YA Historical
Publication Date: May 24, 2016

Goodreads summary:

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, an historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Mercy can't sit by while they wait for the Army to bring help. Fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, yet Mercy still has the 'bossy' cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenaged girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

Why I'm Waiting:

This story captured me with its Asian-American roots. I love the cultures of Asia and have fallen in love with so many transition stories (A Step from Heaven and American Born Chinese are among my favorite books of all time). Pair that with the historical twist and I'm sold!

What books are you waiting on?

You can pre-order Outrun the Moon on Amazon: Hardcover and digital copy

Other posts you may like:

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: RoseBlood

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme that focuses on the yet-to-be released books we're waiting for. It's hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week I'm talking about the next book from one of my favorite authors, and it's another retelling!

Title: RoseBlood
Author: A.G. Howard
Genre: YA Retelling
Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Goodreads summary:

In this modern day spinoff of Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-
old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. 

Hoping creative direction will help, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera. At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn -- an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks.

As the two discover an otherworldly connection, a soul-deep romance blossoms. But when Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light, he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known. 

Why I'm Waiting:

I love A.G. Howard and I love retellings. Not only that, but Phantom of the Opera retellings are definitely not as common as princess stories! I can't pass this book up!

What books are you waiting on?

You can pre-order RoseBlood on Amazon: Hardcover and digital copy.

Other posts you may like:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Book Review: The Winner's Crime

Title: The Winner's Crime
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #2
Genre: YA Fantasy/Romance
Release Date: March 2015

Source: I borrowed a physical copy from the public library
Purchase from Amazon: Hardcoverpaperback or digital copy

Goodreads summary:

Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement... if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

My review:

The sequel kicked off with a bang, showing us what has happened in the short time since Kestral made the choice that would change not only her life, but Arin's and her country's. 

I am definitely growing on this romance. Before, I loved Arin for his honesty and faith, and I loved Kestral for her bluntness and decisiveness. Now I'm seeing how great they work with each other, but like them, I'm realizing it too late as their actions create a rift within the kingdom.

The emperor is a fantastic villain. He's so devious and sure of himself, but his cruelty comes off so flippantly that it's terrifying and addicting to watch. I really hope he continues to be a main character for the remainder of the series. 

I feel like I'm mainly talking about characters in this review, but it's because I loved each of them! Verex is such a sweet soul I wanted to spend the whole story with. Tensen wrapped me in from his first scene, a much needed grandfather figure. The only one I couldn't stand was Jess, but I didn't like her from the first book, so I have to say whatever happens to her will probably be okay with me.

The world-building definitely takes a stronger stage as travel picks up. The stakes are higher as politics become murky. The entire idea of honor and morals are tested, and it's shocking how these two are rarely related.

I loved this book, and I cannot wait until I can get a copy of the third book!

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Other posts you may like:

Friday, April 1, 2016

#WritersLife: Participating in Camp NaNoWriMo 2016

Amber, the Blonde Writer - #WritersLife

#WritersLife, where I talk writing in real life.

I decided to go out on a limb and sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo this April! You can find my camper's profile here.

For those who have been following this series, I've been working on a YA SF about parallel universes for a few months now. I wrote the draft during NaNoWriMo 2015, worked out a revised outline in January 2016, and have been rewriting the second draft since February.

Here's the thing: I'm only at 25,600~ words for the second draft. I planned on finishing between 60-70K words by March 31st. That's not going to happen.

Enter, NaNoWriMo! I love this community and have joined the Camp version for the first time. I set a goal of 45,000 words by April 30th, which would put my novel just at 70,000. If it needs less, then I'll stop before my goal.

Amber, the Blonde Writer - Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 participant

Camp NaNoWriMo 2016 Stats

Start: April 1, 2016
End: April 30, 2016
Daily word count goal: 1,500 words (same as my original revision goal)
Current word count: 25,600 words
Projected end count: 70,600 words
Projected cups of tea: 55-70 cups
Cabin: TBA

I'm hoping with the second draft finished that I can start looking at minor edits or changes I might want to make rather than piecing together most of the plot.

My problem started because 1/3 of the way into my first draft, I changed the voice to better match the protagonist. About halfway, I realized I wanted to incorporate more hidden plot points between the protagonist, the villain, and the mentor. Lastly, during the revision outlining, I knew some kind of romance was needed and used a character I wanted to save for later in the series and introduced him sooner. 

All of that changed the bulk of the draft. That's probably why the editing is sucking the life out of me.

For those who have participated in Camp NaNoWriMo, how do you like it? I'm so excited to see what cabin I get placed into!

Other posts you may be interested in: