Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Is originality dead?

Every time I see something different I absolutely love it. I saw Despicable Me yesterday (I absolutely adore animations) and I thought it was rather different than what the majority of movies are about.

Most of the movies being made these days are adaptations, remakes, reimaginings or revolves around the same plot elements that so many stories before had used. Even the majority of novels can be seen doing this, using the same formula of successful stories, just with a new twist (either to the plot or to the characters).

But, I can see this is a good thing, because it allows the story to be easily classified (especially for movies). Two movies that I absolutely loved at the cinema was Kick Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs The World. The problem with these two movies was that they were hard to classify because they were unlike most other stories out at the moment.

So, my question is, can anything be original or what makes something original? Also, is it dangerous to be too original because the agent/publisher/audience won't know how to react or relate to it?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review: The Cinderella Society

The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy
Synopsis (From Goodreads): When the Prom Queen becomes your fairy godmother…

Sixteen year old outsider, Jess Parker, gets the chance of a lifetime: an invitation to join a secret society of popular girls dedicated to defeating the mean girls of the world. The Cinderella Society guides all new recruits through its top secret ultimate life makeover. It’s all part of preparing them to face down the Wickeds and win. Determined not to let the Cindys down, Jess dives in with a passion. Finally, a chance to belong and show the world what she’s made of.

… be careful what you wish for.

Jess’s transformation wins her the heart of her dream crush and a shot at uber-popularity. Until the Wickeds–led by Jess’s arch enemy–begin targeting innocent girls in their war against the Cindys, and Jess discovers the real force behind her exclusive society. It’s a high stakes battle of good vs. evil, and the Cindys in power need Jess on special assignment. When the mission threatens to destroy her dream life come true, Jess is forced to choose between living a fairy tale and honoring the Sisterhood… and herself.

What’s a girl to do when the glass slipper fits, but she doesn’t want to wear it anymore?

Kay Cassidy has created a story that any girl would love to be a part of. Jess has always been an outsider, even though she's a cheerleader. Her family has always moved around and by the time she has made friends it's time to leave, so she's never really felt like she's fitted in, that's before she gets invited to join a secret society known as the Cinderella Society. Her life soon becomes a fairy tale like Cinderella's (complete with handsome prince). Just like all fairy tales there has to be the Wicked Sisters and she soon finds herself in the middle of a battle between good and evil. When the dream starts to spiral out of control will Jess be able to complete her mission or lose who she really is along the way?

Jess is a strong character with a good heart who will do what's right and stick up for her friends even when she knows there will be consequences. And then there's Lexy who plays the Wicked who's main goal is to make Jess's life a living hell. The one problem I had with the characters were that they seemed too good or too evil, but that can be overlooked because the story revolves around the Cinderella fairy tale and there needs to be good triumphing over evil.

When looking at the secret society as a whole, it can seem a bit over-the-top and farfetched with what they do, but who wouldn't want to be recruited by the Cindy's? Every girl would love to get that makeover which will allow them to feel good in their skin, and also feel included. This book put a good spin on the Cinderella fable and had a good message of girl power. It was a quick and fun read and should be taken as a light-hearted read while curled up in a nice comfy chair.

Cover: A very gorgeous cover, which does a good job at showing what the story's going to be like. It really draws attention to the fairy tale within the pages.

Plot: 4/5 stars
Ending: 4/5 stars
Cover: 4/5 stars
Overall: 4/5 stars
Recommend: Meg Cabot
Debut Author Challenge: #11 of 12

Thursday, September 23, 2010

You can tell a lot from the cover

Like I said yesterday, when I went to the movies I had plenty of time to waste before the movie started, and I couldn't help but noticing the movie posters that were advertising upcoming movies... not thinking about how much I wanted to see them, but what other covers they looked like (and yes, every movie poster really looked identical to numerous others).

Movie posters, the same as book covers, attracts the attention of the viewer/reader, and all these similar looking covers tells the viewer the genre and something about the movie that they might want to see. It was easy to identify what sort of movie they were based around the cover, because they able to relate and capture the attention of the audience from another movie.

It's not just movie posters that use identical features, but book covers do this also. The cover tells the genre, and a lot of books use similar features to identify what the book is about. But, this is a good thing because you know what you're getting yourself in to (and a lot of the cover artists knows how to make them still look original and elegant while still using similar features of others).

Have you ever noticed how much covers/posters look the same? Do you pick up a new book or go to a movie because the cover reminds you of another one you've seen?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Making it realistic

Humans are complicated things. I've read a lot of novels or seen movies where I can't relate to the characters because they're either 2-dimensional, or they're just plain selfish. I know this might sound strange, but if you go and watch groups of people and listen in on snippits of conversation, you will definitely get an idea of how complicated and flawed people are.

Last night I went to the movies with my brother, just to get out of the house. We got to the cinema 30 minutes before the session so we decided to sit just outside the cinema. As another session was coming out, my brother got the brilliant idea of asking whoever would listen what they had just seen, and then it moved on to whether they liked the movie.

By striking up conversations with total strangers, it was interesting seeing the reactions (most were of shock or confusion... some even forgot what movie they had just seen).

As writers, isn't it our jobs to try and understand the psyche's of characters? In one of my acting courses I was told that the best way to get into a characters mind is to observe people, because if you don't know how to react naturally to something it will come out as false and unbelievable.

So, do you do anything special to be able to understand your characters better?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review: Paranormalcy

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
Synopsis (From Goodreads): Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie's always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

Kiersten White has created a truly original paranormal story, and no, the vampires aren't sexy. Evie has always thought of herself as normal, well except for working for a paranormal containment agency and having an ex who's a faery and she can see through glamours. From the first line Evie had me hooked. She was just a girly girl who's obssessed with teen soaps and has a very normal teenage attitude (except for her strong desire to go to school). She's definitely a character that anyone can relate with, and all this paranormal activity is happening around her.

The story is interesting and original, and it kept me guessing right up till the end (which is a good sign of an interesting story). And, who can't fall in love with the guys? Lend is very different from all the others out there, he's just a normal teenager who is just adorable, especially when he's giving cheek in the various forms that he can shift into. And then there's Reth, who is just obssessed with Evie.

This story was up at the top of my list to read, and now I know why. It's definitely a page turner that you won't be able to put down. I can't wait for the next one.

Cover: I love the cover, it's very elegant and depicts Evie really well. The pink among the dark scene really shows what she is like. It's fantastic.


Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 5/5 stars
Cover: 5/5 stars
Overall: 5/5 stars
Recommend: Any paranormal romance
Debut Author Challenge: #10 of 12

Friday, September 17, 2010

How do you write?

I know I usually have trouble with figuring out how to start a novel, but my new novel has been incredibly difficult in finding the beginning, so I have decided to write this novel a new way.

There are many ways to write the story and I usually go with my trusty laptop. I had never thought about eliminating the technology and writing by hand, so I decided it was time to do just that and write the story from start to finish with pen and paper and then go back and worry about how much the story sucks (well, I will definitely need to fix it, but at least I'll have a story).

So, how do you write your stories? Do you use technology or prefer the old fashioned way?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What makes something timeless?

Times constantly change, and there's no way to stop it. I've been constatly warned of placing popular culture into my novels because by the time I've finished writing that so-called fad is over, so how old would it be when it finally gets published?

The same can be said about choosing the stories to write. The one big tip out there is, as writers, write what you want rather than what is currently selling, because it might not be that case when you finish the story and need to find an agent/publisher (I'm having that problem with my vampire novel, and I've been working on it before the fad became huge).

So how can a writer choose what audience they write for when things may be different when the story is complete? I've been noticing these differences when I watch older movies and tv shows (70s and 80s). It's definitely obvious that times are definitely different from 20+ years ago.

I guess the answer is, well for me, to write what I want to write and worry about the audience part when it comes to selling the story. But, I suppose not using obscure pop culture references would also help.

So, what  makes a story timeless? How do you handle writing for the generation gap? Or, isn't it a problem for you when you write?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review: Girl Saves Boy

Girl Saves Boy by Steph Bowe
Synopsis (From Goodreads): The first time we met, Jewel Valentine saved my life.

Isn’t it enough having your very own terminal disease, without your mother dying? Or your father dating your Art teacher?

No wonder Sacha Thomas ends up in the lake that Saturday evening…

But the real question is: how does he end up in love with Jewel Valentine?

With the help of quirky teenage prodigies Little Al and True Grisham, Sacha and Jewel have a crazy adventure, with a little lobster emancipation along the way.

But Sacha’s running out of time, and Jewel has secrets of her own.

Girl Saves Boy is a hugely talented debut novel, funny and sad, silly and wise. It’s a story of life, death, love… and garden gnomes.

Stephe Bowe has created a perceptive look into modern families. All families have problems, and it's not just from the kids either. This beautiful debut shows that sometimes parents can screw up even more than their children. Jewel didn't know that returning home after 10 years would mean anything, but after finding a boy drowning in the lake and rescuing him she finds herself getting close to someone for the first time. Sacha didn't really want to be saved, but glad he was, especially when he starts developing a friendship with Jewel. He has a problem though, how is he going to tell her he has cancer? As a relationship starts developing, both Jewel and Sacha have to try and leave the past behind them and learn to trust each other in order to move forward.

Stephe Bowe has created realistic characters that both have their own problems. Sacha is running from the death of his mother and out of time from the cancer that has returned. Jewel is trying to forget her brother's death and the father who abandoned her, and is now living with a mother that she barely knows and hasn't really seen for the past 10 years. This novel gave a real look into family life where no one is perfect and sometimes the problems that each member has is difficult to put aside to come together and support each other.

I've been wanting to read this since Steph announced it was getting published (especially down here in Australia first), and I'm glad I did. The writing was cheeky in some parts as well as heart-wrenching in others. And, for the first time (mainly because I do read a lot of US novels) it was great to see some familiar settings that I'm so used to (especially Bunnings, the description of the house and hardware warehouse was perfect, exactly how I feel every time I step foot into the concrete floored tin building).

Cover: This cover is elegant and definitely catches the attention. I love the water droplets that run along the cover, it's beautifully set out.

At the moment Girl Saves Boy is available in Australia, but don't worry US, it will be available Summer 2011.

Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 4/5 stars
Cover: 5/5 stars
Overall: 5/5 stars
Recommend: Jody Piccoult
Debut Author Challenge: #9 of 12

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How much culture is too much?

Okay, I hate to say it, but most of the books I read are American... there's just not that many Australian books that I'm interested in (most of the time when I think of Australian literacy I think of the boring school books we were forced to read).

I'm actually reading one at the moment, very well written and interesting (Steph Bowe's Girl Saves Boy) and I'm finding it very refreshing seeing the familiar landmarks and sayings (like, I'll just drop by Bunnings in the morning). Being Autralian, I'm very aware of what Bunnings is, and sometimes I even shop there if my parents need some timbre or paint.

But, how much culture can you put into a novel before it becomes confusing to the foreign audience? I'm often getting called on some of my sayings and Australian words that are unfamiliar to some of the audience who reads my stories, like doona

(hey, when I first started writing I wasn't aware that doona was known as a duvet in some places).

Sometimes it can be confusing, with different countries using different words to mean different things. I used to change things to make more sense (when I was starting out), but now I know that all the words that are different are a part of the Australian culture (and since my books are set here) I can't get rid of what's familiar with me.

So, how do you handle cross-cultural language differences?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Doing research

Well, as I've been speaking about, I've just recently started writing (well, trying to plot or make sense of) a new story. It's not funny how many times the idea has changed. The one thing that hasn't changed, and won't, is my MC. Michaela (or Micki) is spunky and adventurous, but the one flaw she has is that she can never resist a dare, and she can be talked into anything.

She likes one sport, and this is something that I don't know much about... parkour. What is parkour? It's free running. Most action movies has it when there's a chase and they climb up walls, jump fences and are just awesome. Apart from seeing it in movies, I really have no idea what's involved in it, but I do know that there are actually classes where I can learn it (which I believe will make writing about the movements easier).

I have always wanted to learn how to do that, even though I probably will suck at it. If it makes my writing more beleivable, isn't that what really counts, though. So, I'll probably take the chance and go ahead to see what is really involved with this sport (or end up hurting myself in the process, oh well it's for my story).

What kind of research do you do before you start writing? Do you write just what you know, or do you go out and find something new and have that new experience to know what to write?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Review: Tomorrow When the War Began

Tomorrow when the War Began (Tomorrow series #1) by John Marsden
Synopsis (From Goodreads): When Ellie and her friends return from a camping trip in the Australian bush, they find things hideously wrong--their families are gone. Gradually they begin to comprehend that their country has been invaded and everyone in their town has been taken prisoner. As the reality of the situation hits them, they must make a decision--run and hide, give themselves up and be with their families, or fight back.

Ellie and her friends want to get away from the weekend. It's the weekend of the Show and to get away Ellie organises a group of her friends and her to head up the mountain and down to a place in the absolute middle of nowhere called Hell. One night they hear a series of jets fly overhead but pay no attention because they think they are just coming back from the celebrations at the showgrounds. When they return to their little country town they discover that it has been invaded and the town has been rounded up and is being kept at the showground. Ellie and her friends soon discovers that they have to make one of the hardest decisions anyone ever has to make; to run or fight.

I had never thought about reading Marssden's book before I had to teach it as part of my practical experience, because to me it had always been a school assigned book (and aren't the books we read in English always boring). I'm so glad I picked it up. Marsden has created a unique outlook on the world, especially in Australia. He has taken the big 'What if' and placed it into a small town, into an ordinary life. What if you returned home and found that someone had invaded and taken your parents, friends and community prisoner? This was all too believable (maybe because I'm from Australia and I also come from a country town) and that's what made this book a fantastic read.

The characters that Marsden creates are believable and realistic. They are normal teenagers who are thrust into this extrodinary and horrific situation. Ellie, as the main character, grows through her experiences and it's fantastic to see that all the actions and motivations that are being done by both the invading forces and the group of teens have dire consequences. Ellie had never had to think about fighting for survival and she tries to figure out the answer to one big question, 'is it okay to take someone else's life to remain living?'

Another good thing with this series (and possibly the biggest mystery) is the identity of the invaders are kept anonymous. In an interview Marsden even stated that he didn't want the novel to revolve around the invaders so he chose not to point the finger and no one culture is blamed.

The novel kept me reading from start to end (which wasn't an easy feat since I had to answer questions about each chapter so I could teach it to my year 10s). I would definately reccommed this book, but don't feel threatened or confused by the use of Australian slang and culture (hey, I even had to look up some meanings because it comes from dialogue we don't use anymore), because this book is a great read.

Cover: There are several covers available for the series (and now there's a movie there's even a movie cover), but most of them revolves around the ferris wheel and showground with the planes circling around. These are interesting because the fair is often a symbol of freedom and excitement, but the looming presence of the jets adds a more dangerous element which captures the attention.

Movie: I couldn't resist from commenting on the movie, mainly because I had to see it opening day and I've just gotten back from seeing it. This was probably the first adaptation that I've seen that has kept so close to the  storyline. The characters were portrayed well by the young cast, and the emotions came across and kept the suspense (even though I knew what was going to happen). It was definitely a worthwhile adaptation as well as a fantastic Aussiie flick. Actually, the only difference I really noticed was that the invading forces could speak English when they didn't in the book (but my brother quickly pointed out that it would be impossible for them to speak their own language, unless they were speaking Klingon, because that would point the finger to one particular culture... even the soldiers looked multinational so they did a great job of not suggesting any one country as the invaders. It's definately worthy to see.

Plot: 5/5 stars
Ending: 5/5 stars
Cover: 5/5 stars
Overall: 5/5 stars
Recommend: Any good action/adventure novels
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