Update: Last Batch of Books from Creative Kids

As July rounds the corner, my term on the Creative Kids National Magazine editorial staff is coming to an end… Over these four years, as an Advisory Board member (2009-2011) and senior contributor (2011-2013), I have greatly enjoyed the experience of reviewing books, submitting creative works and collaborating with the other advisory board members. If you haven’t heard of CK, look it up! And if you’re a kid, submit something! Creative Kids National Magazine is unique in that it’s the nation’s largest completely by-kids-for-kids magazine.

The end of this experience also correlates to a turning point in my life (turning 18). I hope this is when my writing transitions successfully from children’s/teen’s into adult anthologies.

But before my term ends, I have a batch of MG/YA books to review. They just arrived in the mail today. I’m always so excited to get books in the mail. Yeah, yeah, eBooks are good and economical and all, but…paper…shiny new cover…real ink… I’m devoting a blog post to this!

1. The Books of Elsewhere (MG, fantasy) <– I have great hopes that my little brother will enjoy this

2. The Dark Unwinding (YA, steampunk) <– I’ve only dipped my toes into steampunk and I really, really hope that steampunk will prove awesome and unconventional. Maybe I might try my hand at steampunk!

Thank you, Creative Kids! I have appreciated the extraordinary opportunity and hope Creative Kids will continue inspiring creative kids! Goodbye and best wishes.

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Book Review: World on a String by Larry Phifer (4/5)

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World on a String is a feel-good, rhyming picture book. I can imagine toddlers would very much enjoy the sing-songy feel of the words. There is a certain appeal in the rhyming scheme. The storyline of World on a String is simplistic, but there is an expansive underlying message about looking at the world — and loss — in a different way.

Remember when you had a balloon on a string? And it was like your whole world because it was so colorful and free? But it also instilled some kind of fear in you…it could fly away at any moment. And needless to say, you accidentally let go and watched it disappeared into the blue, blue net of the sky. You realized that the sky represented some place you couldn’t go to, some place out of your reach. Even your all-powerful superhero parents didn’t have the ability to bring back your world on a string.

It was then that you felt the consuming edges of loss. Things could be taken from you. You could lose whole worlds, whole feelings that could never be replaced.

I do have a soft spot for picture books, and I was very much disappointed when I couldn’t see the pictures in this galley. I can’t judge very well, because I couldn’t see the illustrations — that’s the main point of a picture book: the interplay between the artist and the writer!

So it’s a 4/5.

But I’m sure I would have found this a charming story as a toddler. It’s nothing amazing and astounding; it’s actually one of the “safe” books. It won’t challenge ideas or plant unconventional ideas in budding minds. But charming.

***eBook provided by Netgalley.com in exchange for my honest review

Book Review: The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich (1.5/5)

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Summary: Persimmon Gaunt and Imago Bone are an unconventional couple and partners in crime: a poet and a slow-aging thief. As they wander to the Eastern edge of the world, they are swept onto an adventure that involves magic scrolls, gangs, the mythical dragons and their unborn child.

I really wanted to like this book. I really did. High fantasy with Eastern influence, threads of Chinese culture. A magical scroll. A poet and a thief as the main characters. The names Gaunt and Bone. It sounds like it could be something astounding, something breathtakingly fantastical.

The author’s writing style…Ahhh this tears me apart. On one hand, it’s very gorgeous, scattered with stunning figurative language and a distinct Eastern cultural influence. But, after reading a few pages, I felt like it was stilted in many places. It was not “fitting.” The author either rambled off into details/thought processes or did too much “telling.”

I could not lose myself into the world of this book; the writing style, alternative plotline and voice just weren’t for me. They kept distracting me. And…main point: the characters. I never got to know the true personalities of the characters. Their stories, especially that of Next-One-A-Girl (the name drew me in, nice touch), could have been heartbreakingly emotional. But they weren’t. They were all kind of flat.

The premise of the book seemed very intriguing. But I never got into the actually story. So much of it felt unbalanced. And it’s not because it’s for a younger age group. Apparently it’s marketed to “Mature Young Adult” on Litpick. I don’t know how other readers will find this book.

Remember, this review is just my own opinion.

***eBook provided by Litpick.com in exchange for my honest review

On My Reading, Writing and Life Palette: Am I Overbooked For the Summer?

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Reading List (28 titles I am currently too lazy to type up):

  1. 17 Netgalley books
  2. 5 library books
  3. 1 Litpick book that I should really get to soon because I want to finish it and then request a possible little gem of a story…
  4. 3 books won from Figment
  5. 2 books I ordered from Amazon

It’s the summer between high school and college. I don’t have a lot to do (except for all that paperwork and testing stuff I’m putting off till the last minute)…But it’s also the first time I’ve actually done a 9 to 5. Also, my parental units hold highly the concept of chores and family time. 

My dear friends, the lovely Inkspelt and the wonderful bluelazuli are both summer interns too (at different places)… But you see, the other day I compared my schedule with Inkspelt’s. And it appears that my parents are quite on board with the “chores” and “long dinnertime” parenting platform. So my free time every day starts at around 8 to 8:15. 

And my mother wonders why I read so late into the night. I need to! To keep my sanity. 

I’m also becoming very devoted to this blog, much like my dear Tumblr counterpart snowraindrops. This new devotion could be the source of my wavering presence on Figment. I’ve been less active on my Figment account. There was a time when, regardless of tests and homework, I’d feel obligated to enter every flash-fiction contest. Now my 8-month long obsession with Figment seems to be wearing off. Figment definitely helped me polish the conciseness of my writing, and quite literally forced me to practice writing “sweet and short.”

Also there’s the NaNoWriMo Camp coming up in July. Alongside my fellow reviewers, Inkspelt and bluelazuli, I really want to do it. I want to write again. 

Some of my art buddies are painting masterpieces, finding inspiration in the nooks and crannies of their summer minds… I need to paint, too. But also… I need to exercise, I need to swim, I need to go to the library, I need to volunteer, I need to get a parttimer, I need to see my friends, I need to organize my closet, I need to spend time with the younger sibling, I need to start multiple blogs, I need to enter contests, I need to submit to journals/anthologies I can now submit to now that I’m almost 18, and most of all: I need to write. 

What’s wrong with me? I’m weeks from turning 18 and I haven’t moved an inch towards that ink dream. 

How do I find time? By reading less? Blogging less?

Or perhaps it’s just a lack of creative spirit. I always thought summer was the best time for an aspiring novel to bloom. Perhaps not. 

This was an extremely erratic blog post. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think. Have you faced similar issues before? How do you writers find time to write? How do you shift into the creative mode from the “reality” mode?

 

 

Book Review: Carniepunk

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Carniepunk consists of 14 short stories in a steampunk anthology with the theme of…wait for it…surprise, surprise…carnivals! My opinion is somewhat scattered along the spectrum, since the stories were written by 14 different authors. To make things simpler, I’ll be rating each story separately.

Overall, I feel like the themes are disjointed — too loosely connected in terms of the type of reader they’d appeal to. I don’t know how the stories were chosen and I’m sure it’s a very tough process, but I feel like the styles and moods decline in quality until a belated spike at the very end. But that’s just my opinion.

Painted Love by Robyn Urman (4/5)

  • very lyrical, bitingly beautiful writing style
  • balance between the harshness of reality and the wonder of moments
  • very interesting characters
  • striking plot twist makes you double back and think
  • psychological references
  • surreal time and place

The Three Lives of Lydia by Delilah S. Dawson (4/5)

  • breathtakingly magical writing style: astounding word choices, heart-shattering imagery, descriptions interwoven with striking emotions
  • delightfully surreal mood
  • dark and wonderful setting — this is probably my favorite “carnival” of the whole anthology
  • also a nice slice of psychology
  • interesting and sad twist
  • my one complaint is the instalove — the instalove with Charlie just made the whole story shallower! It could have been a 5 but instalove peels back the story’s merits.

The Demon Barker of Wheat Street by Kevin Hearne (1/5)

  • I couldn’t get into it. Maybe because it’s part of a series
  • the conversations with the dog are amusing

The Sweeter the Juice by Mark Henry (2/5)

  • zombie apocalypse…typical stuff
  • nice and gory details
  • tries to be deep, somehow, but misses the point
  • redeeming try at being new — the main character is transsexual

The Werewife by Jaye Wells (2/5)

  • interesting, holds on to your attention till the end
  • entertaining with a hint of satire
  • not really extraordinary
  • lacking in thematic element
  • cliches

The Cold Girl by Roxanne Longstreet Conrad (1/5)

  • I remember reading about another reviewer describe it as  too “teenage”. Yes, it’s too typical. That annoying stock teenage girl voice, the abuse, the vampires…
  • It was trying too hard to be interesting
  • Cliches

A Duet with Darkness by Allison Pang (3/5)

  • interesting writing style, characters and premise
  • but just wasn’t presented in the right way; there was something off about the buildup and resolution
  • imbalance in climax

Recession of the Divine by Hillary Jacques (1/5)

  • could not get into it
  • confusing writing style

Parlor Tricks by Jennifer Estep (1/5)

  • could not get into it
  • feel like it was part of a story that already exists and if you haven’t read it, you won’t get it

Freak House by Kelly Meding (1/5)

  • couldn’t get into it
  • perhaps a bit too plot-heavy for a short story

The Inside Man by Nicole Peeler (1/5)

  • couldn’t get into it
  • might have a good plotline, but not for me

A Chance in Hell by Jackie Kessler (1/5)

  • couldn’t get into it
  • original, of sorts, I suppose, but not compelling for me

Hell’s Menagerie by Kelly Gay (1/5)

  • maybe it was a story meant for kids?
  • the emotions of it didn’t feel real for some reason, didn’t rise off the page and project themselves onto the reader

Daughter of the Midway, the Mermaid and the Open, Lonely Sea (4/5) by Seanan McGuire

  • the writing was nice stuff, sprinkled with bits of striking imagery and the personality of the protagonist
  • intriguing premise
  • could have been something more mystical, more of the surreal, saltwater feel
  • emotions mixed in nicely
  • and the title is just wonderful

**eBook provided by Netgalley.com in exchange for my honest review

Currently Reading: Carniepunk

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Carniepunk is an anthology of short stories. Steampunk mixed with a bit of horror, urban fantasy and parnormal.

I’m not sure what I think of it yet (read through two of the stories), but the writing is mesmerizing so far. Both authors know to make you addicted to their writings. It’s not so much the plot (the plotlines are nothing amazing…dare I call them cliche?). But the words drown you — they’re bewitching and feral and full of tangled emotions. I’ve highlighted so much already.

I’ve never reviewed an anthology before, so I’m not quite sure how I’ll be formatting the review. Maybe rating each story separately, with a couple of thoughts on each? I can’t really judge the whole thing as one, since there are so many different authors.

Carniepunk might be something amazing. I’m not sure yet, but I’m gonna slow down my reading for Carniepunk. The words are so wonderful.