Saturday, December 31, 2011

2012

I don't usually make New Years resolutions. I figure, if I want to change, I'll just decide to do it right then, right? Well, there's something to be said about having a marker, about being able to say, that hour, that minute, that was the turning point. Many resolutions fail. But some don't, and let's hope mine are among them.

I've got books I've already read that I am excited to pester you about:

THESE WERE AWESOME. I CANNOT WAIT.

I've got books by talented friends that I can't wait to read:



WANDERLOVE by Kirsten Hubbard
MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza
HEMLOCK by Kathleen Peacock
NOBODY BUT US by Kristin Miller
A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE by Kody Keplinger
TOUCHED and IF I LIE by Corrine Jackson
INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows
TIMEPIECE by Myra McEntire
The sequel to LARKSTORM by Dawn Miller
The sequel to THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin

And books I'm going to go to the bookstore on release day to buy:



17 & GONE by Nova Ren Suma
CROWN OF EMBERS by Rae Carson
CINDER by Marissa Meyer
THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Claire LeGrand
Pretty much everything that Phoebe North is looking forward to.
And goodness gracious, so many more that I'm forgetting right now.

...it's going to be a busy year.

And heck, I've got the INSURGENT release to think about, as well as whatever is going to happen in DETERGENT (aka Book 3). I can't WAIT for you guys to read book 2. Seriously.

But I've got other things, too, other plans. Hard plans. It's time to be honest: the anxiety got much worse this Winter, but I'm grateful, because that means I really have to work on it this time. I don't know if you know that most anxiety is perpetuated by avoidance-- avoidance of the thing that scares you. Exposure therapy is what Divergent was inspired by, and finally, it's what I have to do myself. It's time. 2012, the year of learning how to think in a healthy way, the year of staring fear in the face and finding a way to overpower it.

You know, before the supposed apocalypse, and all.


2012 is also the year of learning how taxes work without step-by-step instructions, of reading more books, of leaving Romania, which I've come to love, and moving back to America, which I have also come to love, in a new way. La revedere/vislat, and hello.

2011 was the best year of my life, and the hardest. Why do we think those things won't go together? They do. I hope next year is just as wonderful, and just as hard.

I hope that for you, too, that if every day feels like a fight for you, you wake up every morning swinging your fists like a Dauntless badass. Let's go beat up some Peters together.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best of 2011: Books Most Often Recommended (To Me)

I have to pack for ze trip to Jordan, so I won't be able to ramble on as I usually do, but here are the books most frequently recommended to me by friends, twitter followers, blog followers, etc. this year:

(from here.)

I should note that yes, I have read DoSaB, finally! The writing was gorgeous. 

(from here.)
(from here.)

I have also read The Maze Runner. And it was great. Suspenseful as all get out.

(from here.)
 I left this one unread in a storage unit in Illinois. And I'm sad about it.



So there you have it! Most often rec'd to me in 2011! Feel free to share what books were most often recommended to YOU in 2011...and whether you listened.

Annnnd everyone else said...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011: Top 5 Books (From Childhood)

I have posted about my top books of 2011 in a variety of places, not least of which is this blog itself. While I could talk about those books a LOT, I don't want to sound like a broken record, so I'm going to switch up the prompt a little. My apologies to our fearless leader, Sarah Enni. I will bake you something to make up for it.

But, in case you wanted a recap, here are my top 5 books released in 2011:

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin.

Rock on, ladies!


So, instead: My Top 5 Recommended Books from My Childhood

(These are probably more MG than YA, because I don't recall that distinction being so clear when I was young, although perhaps I just wasn't aware of it.)

1. Sabriel by Garth Nix (And all the Abhorsen books, actually)

Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Mage Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life, and comes face to face with her own hidden destiny.

Now that I've read fantasy a little more widely, I realize just how unique the world of this book is. There are bells that summon people/things back from death. There's a race of people who see the future. There's a talking cat. I read these books over and over again. Suddenly I want to read them again...

2. The Trial of Ana Cotman by Vivien Alcock


New in town, Anna Cotman wants nothing more than to find a friend. But when bossy Lindy Miller persuades her to join her older brother's secret society, Anna becomes uneasy. She knows that beneath the secret codes, strange rituals, and frightening masks, the society is just a game. But when Anna breaks the rules and is threatened with punishment, she finds the game has gotten seriously out of hand.

Also incredibly unique. May have fed my obsession with categories.

3. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine


At birth, Ella is inadvertently cursed by an imprudent young fairy named Lucinda, who bestows on her the "gift" of obedience. Anything anyone tells her to do, Ella must obey. Another girl might have been cowed by this affliction, but not feisty Ella: "Instead of making me docile, Lucinda's curse made a rebel of me. Or perhaps I was that way naturally." When her beloved mother dies, leaving her in the care of a mostly absent and avaricious father, and later, a loathsome stepmother and two treacherous stepsisters, Ella's life and well-being seem to be in grave peril. But her intelligence and saucy nature keep her in good stead as she sets out on a quest for freedom and self-discovery as she tries to track down Lucinda to undo the curse, fending off ogres, befriending elves, and falling in love with a prince along the way.  

First of all: ignore the movie with Anne Hathaway. (Some of you may have liked that movie, but I did not.) Second of all: I remember getting so frustrated alongside Ella as her awful stepsister takes advantage of her, and cheering (maybe aloud) at the end. And in retrospect, I love how the author plays with "docile fairy tale girl" themes and turns them on their head.

4. Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech







Mary Lou Finney is less than excited about her assignment to keep a journal over the summer. Boring! Then cousin Carl Ray comes to stay with her family, and what starts out as the dull dog days of summer quickly turns into the wildest roller coaster ride of all time. How was Mary Lou suppose to know what would happen with Carl Ray and the ring? Or with her boy-crazy best friend Beth Ann? Or with (sigh) the permanently pink Alex Cheevey? Suddenly a boring school project becomes a record of the most exciting, incredible, unbelievable summer of Mary Lou's life. But what if her teacher actually does read her journal? 

Oh, Sharon Creech. You are amazing. Also, I remember a really strong "Odyssey" theme to this book, and it was really well done. (side note: this book is not silly, as that summary might suggest. At least, it sort of does to me.)

5. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card


In order to develop a secure defense against a hostile alien race's next attack, government agencies breed child geniuses and train them as soldiers. A brilliant young boy, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin lives with his kind but distant parents, his sadistic brother Peter, and the person he loves more than anyone else, his sister Valentine. Peter and Valentine were candidates for the soldier-training program but didn't make the cut--young Ender is the Wiggin drafted to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training.

Ender's skills make him a leader in school and respected in the Battle Room, where children play at mock battles in zero gravity. Yet growing up in an artificial community of young soldiers Ender suffers greatly from isolation, rivalry from his peers, pressure from the adult teachers, and an unsettling fear of the alien invaders. His psychological battles include loneliness, fear that he is becoming like the cruel brother he remembers, and fanning the flames of devotion to his beloved sister.

Is Ender the general Earth needs? But Ender is not the only result of the genetic experiments. The war with the Buggers has been raging for a hundred years, and the quest for the perfect general has been underway for almost as long. Ender's two older siblings are every bit as unusual as he is, but in very different ways. Between the three of them lie the abilities to remake a world. If, that is, the world survives.


So. The author of this book? Not the kind of guy I want to hang out with. He's made some public remarks that I do not think are okay. At all. (Google it if you want to know.) But I do think the book is amazing and creative and disturbing in a good way, and it got me into reading sci-fi when I was younger, so I'm still recommending it.

Tomorrow I'll be talking about recommended books-- but this time, books that were recommended to me frequently in 2011.

Annnd everyone else said...

Caroline Richmond

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best of 2011: Wonderfully Complex YA Heroines

I have a feeling I'm going to be talking about the same books over and over again in these lists, so hopefully you don't get tired of hearing about them. (You shouldn't, because they are awesome!) It's just that when I fall for a book, which honestly doesn't happen that often, I fall hard.


Today is all about characters, and I decided to narrow my scope a little so that I don't just start spitting out book titles like a crazy person. People are like onions-- they're many-layered, they become less harsh the more time you spend with them (on the stove, get it?), they sometimes make you cry...okay, you get it. Basically, real people are complicated. They have a variety of motivations, they have moods, they have flaws, and I'm not just talking about little quirks, I'm talking about deep, intense flaws.

Characters, when they are at their best, reflect this complexity, but that is a hard thing to pull off. So I'm going to list my Top 5 Wonderfully Complex YA Heroines.

1. Melinda, from Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson



At least one good thing came out of that whole Speak banning scandal, and it was that I finally got the motivation to read it. (Admittedly, that happened over a year ago, but I have already established that I'm breaking all the rules with these lists, right?) I was always a little afraid to read it, scared that it would disturb me too much. Well, it did disturb me, but this book isn't an excruciating slog through pain and depression. It is about Melinda, recovering from something she should never have had to go through, and finding the courage to speak up about it.

I don't know how to explain this-- but sometimes, characters that have been through a tragedy become narrowly defined by that tragedy, in books. It's all they think about, it explains everything about them. I am sure I've done this myself in my writing, somewhere. But real people who have been through tragedy don't become that tragedy. They have good days and bad days and really bad days. They have moments of humor and hope, and moments of crippling sadness. That's not to say that the horrible events don't transform every aspect of a person's life, because they do, but it isn't the only thing they are. Melinda feels like a person in that respect, whose ultimate victory is not the stuff of inspiring sports movies, but is nonetheless powerful because it feels grounded in reality.

2. Ruby, from Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma


Ruby isn't the narrator of this book, but she's so well developed that I can't help but put her in this list. On the one hand, Ruby is selfish, vindictive, controlling, narcissistic, and dishonest. On the other hand, she is charismatic, vibrant, loving, protective-- and ultimately, she's even selfless, when it comes to her sister. I read this book in March but I still remember everything about her. If you haven't read this book, you should read it just for her.

3. Sam, from Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver



I have to admit, this book sat on my shelf for awhile because I wasn't sure how the "she relives her last day seven times" thing was going to play out for me. I have the attention of a goldfish sometimes. But all I had to do was start it, last April, and I was in. Sam is fantastic because you start off the book hating her-- or at least, I did. But as she experiences her last day again and again, you get to know the good friend, the good sister, who lives under the surface somewhere. And not only that, but she learns, she transforms. By the last page, it's like she's taken on flesh and walked around in the real world, and I still didn't always like her, but I loved her, and for me, that's the sign of a complex character.

4. Elisa, from The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson


Elisa is an example of a powerful character transformation. In the beginning of the story, she's deeply insecure and unconvinced of her own worth. By the end, she's confident and fierce in her convictions. She, more than the plot or the world (which were both great), carried me through this book-- I wanted to watch her change.

5. Hermione, from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

More cheating, since I pretty much grew up with Hermione. But this was the Year of Rereading Harry Potter In Anticipation of the Last Movie, for me-- that's all that got me through draft two of Insurgent, I swear. So I was able to rediscover all the characters from my new adultish perspective. And Hermione is more complex than I remembered. She has so many different sides-- a caring, almost mushy one (Ron, anyone?), a know-it-all, clever one, a stubborn one... She's smart, and she's painfully aware of that, but not always sure of herself, not always cool under pressure. I love her, but I sometimes want to throttle her. It's fantastic.

So there you have it.

Let's see what everyone else said, shall we?


Tomorrow: Books of 2011!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Best of 2011: Writing Music

I don't know about you, but Best of 2011 lists are quickly becoming my blog crack now that the Christmas festivities have come to a close. I think this is for two reasons: they help me to remember what I loved (or, er...didn't like), and they make me aware of things that I missed. This year my friend Sarah Enni organized a blog circus in which me and some other wonderful people will be making our "Best of 2011" lists, including music, books, characters, the works.

Today is all about writing music. Not necessarily new music, but music that was new to us this year.

I am not at all particular about music genre when it comes to writing music. I don't care if it's bubble-gum pop or country or metal, I'll listen to it if it helps me to "see" the story, so to speak. I also don't always listen to albums, because while one song from a particular artist might work for whatever I'm writing, all the other songs may not. But there have been a few instances in which whole albums helped me with the writing process, so I'm going to list those for you here. (You may be able to tell that the things I've written this year have been pretty different from each other.)

1. Bon Iver (self-titled)

I didn't always like Bon Iver-- something about the mumbling, I think. But sometimes an album hits you in the right place at the right time, and last year, "For Emma" was that way for me. So when the new album came out this year, I was all over it. Several moody, thoughtful, or just plain sad scenes have been ushered along in their emotional development by this CD.

Best of the Best: "Holocene"

2. "Divenire" by Ludovico Einaudi


I've actually had this album for a long time, but it was one of those things I got and didn't listen to right away. And then a few weeks ago, while starting something new, it came on in the shuffle and BAM, instant mood-establisher. It's just piano, so it's like listening to your own movie soundtrack while you write. 

Best of the Best: "Primavera"

3. "Firecracker" and "40 Days" by The Wailin' Jennys



I'm cheating, because that's two albums. But I listen to them as a unit. Often I like to set things in the rural Midwest (obviously nothing Divergent-related), and these albums have a folky, countryish, quiet quality that makes me think of vast cornfields and straight roads and snowdrifts. These albums also got me through some hard times this past year, in a way. They helped me find the beauty in the difficulty.

Best of the Best: "Arlington" and "Glory Bound"

4. "Memento Mori" by Flyleaf


This is also cheating, because I've talked before about writing Divergent to this album. After I finished the rough draft of Divergent, though, I never listened to it again, because I was so tired of it. Then this year, while writing Insurgent, I put it on again, and there it was. Same inspiring effect. This is some intense music, perfect for an intense story.

Best of the Best: "Chasm"

5. "Sigh No More" by Mumford and Sons


This is another album that got me through the hard times last winter. I also wrote to it-- I'm pretty sure that each one of the stories I dipped into this year had at least one of these songs associated with it, at some point. It's pretty great.

Best of the Best: "White Blank Page" (if you don't like it at first, skip to about the 40 second mark, because that's when it really gets going.)

So there you have it: my top writing albums of 2011. Other honorable mentions are "Absolution" by Muse, "This Is War" by 30 Seconds to Mars, and "Invincible" by Two Steps From Hell.

Check out everyone else's responses!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

CoverLove: IF I LIE by Corrine Jackson

Awhile ago, one of my writer friends Cory (aka Corrine Jackson) needed someone to read the first thirty pages or so of her work-in-progress, and I volunteered. It was one of the only times when I've read a work-in-progress for someone and completely forgot that's what I was doing, because I was so absorbed. It was so beautifully written then-- I had some serious writer envy-- and I'm sure it's even better now.

Okay, I'm going to post the cover now:


Ah! So pretty and expressive! And an interesting spin on a "there are people on the cover" cover.

And here's the summary:

A powerful debut novel about the gray space between truth and perception. 

Quinn’s done the unthinkable: she kissed a guy who is not Carey, her boyfriend. And she got caught. Being branded a cheater would be bad enough, but Quinn is deemed a traitor, and shunned by all of her friends. Because Carey’s not just any guy—he’s serving in Afghanistan and revered by everyone in their small, military town. 

Quinn could clear her name, but that would mean revealing secrets that she’s vowed to keep—secrets that aren’t hers to share. And when Carey goes MIA, Quinn must decide how far she’ll go to protect her boyfriend…and her promise.

IF I LIE comes out August 28, 2012 (so far away, I know!). Here it is on Goodreads. And you can see her thoughts on it here.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Little Round-Up

I've been taking a little break recently as I wait for Insurgent copy edits (that's right, it's still not done!), which is perhaps a bad thing because the e-mails are building up-- sorry about that, everyone who has e-mailed me!

Anyway, I've been writing non-Divergenty things so that by the time I sit down to write book 3, I will feel refreshed by Tris's voice instead of used to it.

A few things have occurred, however:

I have a guest post up at The Book Smugglers about my favorites of 2011 and what I'm looking forward to in 2012. (This may or may not include postulating that everyone is either a Pride and Prejudice person, a Jane Eyre person, or a Wuthering Heights person in their heart of hearts--or a "none of the above" person, of course.)

There's a little Q&A up at Best I've Read, as well as a Divergent giveaway that is open until the 23rd. My favorite question was "If Tris and Four had to describe one another in 3 words, what 3 words would they use?" So fun to think about.

Annnnd a Goodreads interview that reveals whether there will be a love triangle in book 2. (If you're fretting about that, it's at the very end.)

And the lovely people over at Epic Reads created this highly amusing e-card for all fans of Four.

Also, Ryan Gosling has something to say to you, girl.

Mulțumesc! La revedere!

-V

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Goodreads Choice Awards NEWS

So.

Thanks to the votes of my incredible readers, Divergent was named the Goodreads Favorite Book of 2011 AND Best YA Fantasy & Science Fiction! (In the words of my thirteen-year-old self, and sometimes my 23-year-old self: Holy. Crap.)

If you click on that link, you can watch my (short) video thank-you. But for those of you who can't watch it or would prefer to stare at gifs instead of my face, I'd like to summarize my reaction for you here:

First, shock and disbelief:

Thanks, gifsbyrachel!
And then, grateful happy dance:

Courtesy of...
I'm still sort of in disbelief, but so, so thankful for the Divergent readers for making this moment happen. You guys are fantastic.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Guest Posting for The Fab Life

I'm over on The Fab Life today answering the question: "what if you wrote utopian fiction?"

And I said I already had. (Sort of.)

Read more here

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