Sunday, August 21, 2016

Snazzy Snippets // read fetus sophia's bad writing


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So this round of Snazzy Snippets is technically Childhood Edition, but I decided to ignore questions 2 and 3 and just inundate you with my answer to question number 1:

A snippet from something your wrote more than 2 years ago.

I scoured my basement and family bookshelves for my childhood scribbles, and I was EXTREMELY SUCCESSFUL in my quest. Travel with me into my hobbit history, and cringe with me at my "stories." (Though I realize that I didn't write enough of my crazy ideas down, so I share my thought processes too.) Shall we dive into the madness?

*whoosh**time traveling noises**it's 2005*
my first ever notebook (thanks for writing dates on all my scribble-books, mom!)

The evil Butler Matt
Almost-9-year-old me has just discovered that I can WRITE BOOKS. (Before this, I thought writers were magical sorcerers or something, beings with powers far beyond those of mere mortals like myself.) My first novel is called Great-Great-Aunt and tells of the adventures of a family going to stay with their 99 year old Great-Great-Aunt Margie (who is extremely lively for her age) and the conflict involved Great-Great-Aunt's butler irrational hate of children (which is suddenly resolved without any sort of explanation because I am sick of this story and want to end it fast and write something with MAGIC). This book is five chapters long and involves a very innocent Chapter 3 that I just read out loud with my father and sister, and we all laughed way too hard at all the unintentional sexual innuendos. Oh innocent baby Sophia. I'm not sharing those here but I might on twitter eventually... if I feel like it... ;) Behold instead some other pages of my manuscript, rife with illustrations, cross-outs, and misspellings.



After conveniently finishing that book, I move on to A FANTASY NOVEL OBVIOUSLY because WHAT IS A STORY WITHOUT MAGIC? It's called Princess Katherine and is abandoned after two pages.

Soon after, I move on to The Magic Door which is basically Narnia, except Professor Diggory Kirke is an old, grumpy, and old fashioned man named Mr. Wistly. Oh, and all the children have names that start with the letter S because that's not confusing at all. (You can also always tell how old I am because it's the narrator's age too. *coughcough*MarySue*coughcough* Particularly here because her name is FREAKING SOPHIE. NOT OBVIOUS AT ALL SOPHIA.)


Obviously, my best work is the prophecy that the children find:


That book is left unfinished, right after I introduce an actually fascinating character named Duke Kochel, who is actually a pig in a tri-corner hat.

Next, I begin my first story that actually has a tiny sliver of potential. I call it Edwarde Story, beginning a long tradition of placeholder titles. (Years later, I try again and rename it Kings and Traitors.) IT IS NOT NARNIA, which is something to be proud of. IT IS ALSO PLOTTED ALL THE WAY THROUGH (though not written all the way through), and even has a SEQUEL PLOTTED OUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH which is (if you know my current plotting troubles) something absolutely to be proud of. (2006 Sophia the Plotting Queen please come back!) However, the writing is still obviously cringey, and I actually refer to someone as "substantially pretty," at one point. Like, what does that even mean? Her prettiness had substance? Sophia, what?
Below is my hero being all pensive in a dungeon.



I decide next to try my hand at romance (though still within the genre of fantasy and adventure), and started Over the Mountains, about a badass peasant girl who is recruited to guide a prince over the mountains and to his home. This one was also plotted all the way to the end - granted, it was only 8 chapters long from beginning to end, but still, child-Sophia, please come back with your plotting abilities!

Also, I don't know if you've noticed, but I had a thing for naming my characters normal names but SPELLED INSANELY. Alyce, Olyver, Nykolas, Wyliom, and PHREDRICK. SERIOUSLY.


And now we reach 2007 and The Ancora. I don't really know how to summarize this book. It involved a boy named Alon who somehow got wound up with a bunch of outlaws in a heist to steal a powerful jewel called the Ancora while simultaneously on the search for his father. I even dressed up as one of the lady outlaws for Halloween that year. Think LOTR meets Robin Hood meets God-Knows-What-Goes-On-In-11-Year-Old-Sophia's-Head, and that's basically what this is.


It had a plot bunny of a sequel called The Vong which was basically The Ancora meets mystic cults, and thankfully that plot bunny withered and died.

I think we'll end on that note, yes? Would you actually READ any of these books? And I want to hear about YOUR crazy childhood writing. Isn't it so fun to travel back in time like this?





Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Uprooted by Naomi Novik // lush and eerie and beautiful and polish


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Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows - everyone knows - that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn't, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.


Sadly, I don't have a goodreads progress screenshot for this one, because I read it on a ship in the middle of the North Sea with no wifi. :( 



If you are around here often (or around my twitter often) you know how much I desperately desire more fantasy based in cultures that are not Western-European-Medieval. I'll be happy with any culture (give me all the immersion!) but I PARTICULARLY am always on the search for anything with Slavic roots. This may have just a little bit to do with my own Ukrainian heritage? (Just a bit.)

Thus, I was super super excited to read Uprooted, because there had been rumors of its Slavic-ness. And when I read it, I quickly realized that it wasn't only very Slavic, it was through-and-through-no-questions Polish. SO POLISH. (Which makes sense, I suppose, because that is the author's heritage.) It was as Polish as you could get without setting it in actual Poland. Here's why I felt this way:

  • The country was called Polnya
  • The country they were at war with was called Rusya (*cough cough Russia cough cough*)
  • The main character was Agnieszka (only Poland creates sounds with that many s's and k's and z's next to each other.)
  • The spells had equally difficult smushings of consonants in them. 
But this isn't to say I didn't LIKE the Polish vibes - I actually super adored them (except for the obvious Polnya/Rusya deal). I (being Ukrainian) was able to sound out the spells and figure out sometimes why they did what they did, which was epic. It's kind of like in Harry Potter, where, if you know Latin, you can see the correlation between spells and their results. For example, kalikual, which is a crippling curse in Uprooted, sounds very similar to a word in Ukrainian meaning cripple - kalika - and to the Polish word too - kaleka. Also, one of the towns that had been destroyed by the evil, sentient Wood was called Porosna - sounding very much like the word for empty.  It was really cool to notice little things like this, where I could see the worldbuilding actually happening. 

Yay! My need for Slavic folklore was satisfied.


Let's talk about what else I liked:
  • Agnieszka! (Which, by the way, is a gorgeous name and the diminutive of the Polish version of Agnes, if you were wondering.) I love her as a character. She is insanely clumsy and always manages to have dirt on some part of her clothes, no matter how hard she tries. She's thrown into this world of being a witch, and manages to wrap her head around it effectively enough to make good use of her powers - but it doesn't happen so quickly that it felt like one of those fantasy cliches. I just adored watching her grow as a character.
  • Kasia! Kasia is Agnieszka's friend, and is gorgeous and elegant and strong in ways that Agnieszka isn't. But I loved the way her character developed too. To be honest, I didn't expect her to become more than an introductory beautiful maiden contrasted with our clumsy MC - but she totally defied my expectations. The way her development was intertwined with Agnieszka's was beautiful to read.
  • The descriptive writing - this book is written so gorgeously! The eerieness, the beauty of the country, the elegant magic, all of it was so immersive. It really made me think of paintings of folktales - quiet, pretty, with an ever-present foreboding of something malicious around the corner. i mean, just the idea of a sentient and evil Wood is fascinating and chilling and I love it. As a disclaimer, I do love full descriptions and all that, so see my last bullet point of this review for more commentary on that. 
  • The spells - I kind of mentioned this already, but I really love the way the spells sound and feel in my mouth. I read them all out loud (in a whisper, obviously, so people didn't think I was cursing them or something), because I wanted to see if I could translate them. A side effect of this was that I got to experience what they would sound like if actually spoken. The sounds repeat themselves in each spell, in different orders, sometimes slurred for less effect, sometimes enunciated for full power. Just say this: Paran kivitash farantem, paran paran kivitam. See what I mean? THEY. ARE. GORGEOUS. I also love the interplay between the way that Agnieszka works magic and the way that the Dragon works it. 


But I didn't give it five stars on goodreads! Why not?
  • In general, books with really old wizardy love interests that look like young men just creep me out. Agnieszka is SO MUCH younger than the Dragon, literally like a toddler compared to him. I can forgive the creepy bits about him taking girls from the village - the explanation for that is satisfactory enough - but I'm just not aboard shipping him with Agnieszka. It happens too fast (he's immortal, for heaven's sakes), and if Agnieszka doesn't know better (she's young, I'll give her a pass), he should. 
  • I... kind of didn't know this wasn't YA? It read like a YA for a lot of the book (though some people say that the flowy writing isn't super YA characteristic, but I liked the writing, so didn't really notice). But then suddenly - SEX SCENE. It wasn't very graphic compared to other NA/Adult books, but it was definitely not your average YA fade-out-to-black sex scene. I didn't mind it necessarily, but I didn't like it because (a) see bullet point above and (b) I was thinking "YA" this whole time and it was a bit of a shock at first. (This isn't really what brought the rating down to four stars, tbh).
  • Granted, the writing could be a little slow at times (even for me!) though not frequently. As much as I loved the fullness of her descriptions, it was less of an action adventure fighting book (though it had those scenes) and more of a slow, beautiful, eerieness to it.
Have you read Uprooted? What did you think? What is your favorite fantasy not set in Western-Medieval-Europe? And what is your opinion on immortal and old but young-looking handsome love interests?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ch1 Con // i went to a writing conference and loved it!


This past Saturday (the 6th) was one of the happiest of my life, and a very major reason was that I spent most of the day at Chapter One Young Writers' Conference in St. Charles, a suburb of Chicago. A short summary of why this conference was awesome:
  • Published and agented authors giving superb advice!
  • Meeting online friends in real life!
  • Free books and swag!
Let's start with the advice :-)

First, there was a query writing workshop, led by Christina Li and Patrice Caldwell of the Ch1Con team, and even thought I'm not anywhere near querying yet, I'm filing away all the awesome things I learned in my mental folders (and hopefully it'll still be there when I'm in need of it in a year or two). One of the most useful things I collected at this workshop was: The Hook, The Book, and The Cook. This is a general outline of a query: first, you grab the reader with a one-sentence Hook. Then, you summarize the Book in a paragraph or two. And finally, you talk about yourself, the Cook, in a few final sentences. What a handy outline!

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Next, Jordan Villegas, an unpublished but agented author, gave us a general overview about the non-technical aspects of writing. It really helped me feel better about not writing every day when he pointed out that we are not robots of inspiration, churning out stories. Perhaps there's a reason why you aren't producing writing on your slow days - you were experiencing some other aspect of life. After all, you can't write if you haven't lived!
Another one of the most useful things I got out of his talk was his "solar system" analogy when it comes to finding the theme of the novel. A good novel is like a solar system, where the theme is the sun in the center, and the plot points are the planets surrounding it at a good distance. But you have to be careful so the sun doesn't turn into a black hole and suck in the entire novel (the theme is too heavy and overwhelms the story), or so the sun doesn't shrink and allow the planets to float away (the theme is too light and doesn't hold the story down). 

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Next, Susan Dennard talked about her path to becoming a writer. I'm currently reading her book Truthwitch so this was perfect timing! She shared many of her own insecurities when it came to feeling valid in the publishing world, which is something so many writers face but you never hear about, and she said that even now, with a bestselling book like Truthwitch, she still faces those same insecurities every day. But one of my favorite things she said was - "There are no expiration dates on dreams." We've got to keep trying because no one gets it right on the first try!

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The next talk, by Jennifer Yu, was about finding time to write in college, and was mostly focused on the high-school and younger audience. I agreed with a lot of her advice, since I'm two years into my college adventure, and I'm sure that were I in high school I would have gotten a lot of good advice out of her talk.

The final talk was by Francesca Zappia, whom I forgot to take a picture of. (Ooops.) It was about character building, and super useful! She suggested we draw pictures of our characters, even if we weren't good artists, and that we write out scenes from our characters pasts, even if those scenes didn't end up in the book. 

Finally, there was a panel by all the authors, and here is a photo that I stole from the Ch1Con website. :-)
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In addition to meeting these wonderful writers who spoke at the conference, I also got to hang out with people who's faces I only knew from their twitter profile pictures! Here are only a few of those marvelous people:
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Brett
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Brianna (on our Friday Chicago adventure where I got to play tour guide for a bit :P )
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Lily (center) and Katie (Right)
And THEN. I got books signed! I also acquired some ARC's and swag. The most exciting was an ARC of The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart, MG author of The Mysterious Benedict Society series, which my sister and I ADORE.

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All in all, it was a fabulous Saturday! I drove the hour long ride home with the windows down and the radio blasting (even on the interstate - ESPECIALLY on the interstate) and I legitimately almost cried because I was so full of happiness. (The gorgeous glowing clouds of afternoon sunlight didn't help either.)

If you are a young writer (as in college age-ish or younger), I HIGHLY suggest you check out Ch1 Con. I am definitely coming back in 2017!

Have you ever been to a writing conference? What's your favorite bit of writing advice?

Thursday, August 4, 2016

July // NaNo + Micro + Shelves (oh my!)



The reason why this post is late is because I was taking summer school finals on August 3rd and I couldn't afford to take any time off to blog. And it paid off! Well, with the help of my splendid microbiology professor:

Now I have two weeks until the fall semester starts, and, lovelies, do I have a LOT planned. Writing and reading and blogging and photography and...

Oh talking about writing! I completed July's Camp NaNoWriMo with 51k, but am just barely halfway through the novel. #SlavicNovel is turning out to be a 100k monster of badass women and creepy forests. My ultimate goal is to finish this draft before school starts, but I'd be happy if I can manage it by sometime around the beginning of September, really. And then I'll put it aside for a bit, because I've got plot bunnies to tend to and eeeee NaNoWriMo!

You may have noticed that I've been rather AWOL around here lately, but that's all because of summer school. Don't worry! I'll be around much more! I've got a lot of reviews coming up and a lot of random and fun posts hopping around in my brain. My blog inspiration has been a little dead lately, but now I think it's BACK!

I've been saving the biggest news for the end here, but it's not really July news, since it only happened this morning. BUT IT'S GOING IN THIS RECAP BECAUSE I SAY SO.
Anyway, look! I have a NEW BEAUTIFUL FLOOR-TO-CEILING BOOKSHELF! It's right across from my bed in my room so it's a perfect thing to wake up to. I am so in love. (Thanks dad for doing all the heavy work <3) GAZE AT IT AND BE HAPPY:


Yes, it's color coded. Yes, some of the series are split up. If you are bugged by that, go commiserate with my sister, who is organizationally annoyed though aesthetically enraptured with the whole thing. BUT I COULD NOT RESIST THE RAINBOW. 

So guess what's on the horison? BOOKSTAGRAM #SHELFIES. I have never taken a shelfie and look! That picture I just shared! That was my FIRST EVER SHELFIE. 

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Something Strange and Deadly, A Darkness Strange and Lovely, and Strange and Ever After by Susan Dennard - in preparation for Chapter One Young Writers Conference on Saturday! Susan Dennard is the keynote speaker, and will be having signings afterwards - I'm so excited! I haven't read any of them yet :-)
Made You Up by Francesca Zappia - also for Ch1 Conference! Also TBR!
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue - found at my train station free-book shelf. Changelings and fairies!
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard - from the library, unfortunately, and not to keep for the signing. But I'm currently reading it and I love it!



(all photos link to their instagram versions!)


Friends! Lovelies! How was your July? Tell me everything! What did you read? What did you write? What did you do? 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: books i would buy if i had a million dollars


A habit all bibliophiles have in common, I am sure, is desirously stroking every book in a bookstore and whispering to it, "I will take you home someday, I promise, I promise, I just need to make some money because I am poor, but one day...!"

(I do that, anyway.)

And we can't help dreaming what books we would buy if we got a million dollars (because obviously we'd spend it on books). Here's my shopping list (since I got new shelves now YAY). It also has more than ten on it because pshh who follows rules.

(Covers link to Goodreads)

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The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

I finished The Raven King last week and OMG I LOVED IT. (Prepare for a flailing squeeing review soon!) But I don't OWN any of this series! THIS IS A SIN. I need them on my new bookshelves NOW.


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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

This one too... I reread it on Audible (which I really enjoyed - I think I'm going to do more audiobook rereads), and now I want to put it in my own physical collection <3

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The Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo

I read this one a loooong time ago, but it was the first time I had ever read YA Slavic Fantasy. And so well written by someone who wasn't Slavic at all herself (as far as I can tell?) So yes please, put these pretties on my shelf, posthaste.

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Don't kill me, no I don't own the Harry Potter books. And now there are so many editions, I don't know which ones to get! I'm thinking that I'll wait until all the new illustrated ones are out and buy those, because those are stunning. Though, by the time they're all out, I'll have kids of my own probably, and so I'll be buying it for them I suppose. :-P

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone and the rest of that series by Laini Taylor

I desperately need a reread of these. I downloaded them as audiobooks, so I'm really excited to reenter this gorgeous world (which I realize I never reviewed on this blog. oops.). But I'd really love to have the physical copies on my shelves!


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Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

I'm going to see Marissa Meyer in November on the Heartless tour (if all goes as planned) so I can get this there and complete my signed Lunar Chronicles collection! (And also get Heartless of course *heart eyes*)

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Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

How have I not read Six of Crows yet? I know I will love it. I'm also going to see Leigh Bardugo this fall on her Troublemakers Tour (hopefully), so I want to get allll her books for that. And dang those covers are stunning! The colored pages too... Maybe I'll get the box set!


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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand

I actually saw this when I was in Barnes and Noble last time, on a SIGNED BOOKS TABLE because it was SIGNED (duh) but I resisted buying it because I was there on a mission to buy a gift for my sister's birthday. (Unfortunately, I didn't buy her a book, but I did buy her a hovercraft, which is almost as good.) Everyone is saying that My Lady Jane is hilarious, and I love the cover, so please put it on my bookshelf?


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The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye

I heard this is Slavic-inspired. That is all I need to know to say GIVE IT TO ME NOW

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Anything by Victoria Schwab

Everyone is raving about Victoria Schwab, and I am so slow in getting to her books! I KNOW I KNOW I MUST READ THEM



The Penguin Drop-Caps Collection

So I just spent a good hour looking at photos of this collection on instagram. Basically, it's a 26 book collection of (mostly) classic books, with each one corresponding to a different author representing a different letter of the alphabet. And do you want to know what the best thing is? When you put them in alphabetical order THEY MAKE A RAINBOW. I AM ABSOLUTELY IN LOVE.



If you had all the money in the world - what books would you buy? Let me know in the comments!