After the disasterous week that is last week (wherein I sort of failed all my exams), I am frantically trying to make amends on this week’s finals and papers. My brain is perpetually mushy and not good for anything until next Wednesday 5 pm, when this week is officially over.

The most my attention span is capable of is linking to contests, of which there are many now that the year is ending.

So, yes, be sure to check out Megan Crewe’s End of 2009 Giveaway with two awesome prizes. Megan is the author of Give Up the Ghost. Here’s the catchy trailer:

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Check out this fabulous trailer of Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore!

Nimira is a music-hall girl used to dancing for pennies. So when wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing accompaniment to a mysterious piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it will be the start of a better life. In Parry’s world, long-buried secrets are about to stir. Unsettling rumors begin to swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry’s involvement in a group of corrupt sorcerers for whom the rules of the living and dead are meant to be broken for greater power. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing fairy gentleman is trapped within the automaton, she is determined to break the curse. But even as the two fall into a love that seems hopeless, breaking the curse becomes a perilous race against time. Because it’s not just the future of these star-crossed lovers that’s at stake, but the fate of the entire magical world.

Want to win a hardcover of MAGIC UNDER GLASS by Jaclyn Dolamore plus more prizes? See for details!

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Here are three more synopses for the Enchanted Inkpot’s giveaway extravaganza:

The Runaway PrincessThe Runaway Princess by Kate Coombs

A dragon darkens our dells. A witch haunts our woods. Bandits roam our moors” . . . King Stromgard swept on. “In the tradition of so many monarchs, I offer my daughter’s hand in marriage and half my kingdom to the prince who can rid us of these evils, restoring peace and prosperity to our realm.”

And so the contest in the Kingdom of Greeve begins. But Princess Margaret is not your traditional princess. Meg firmly objects to her parents’ giving her away, and she certainly has no intention of remaining in the tower where she is sequestered. Instead, she sets out to win the contest herself by enlisting the help of her good friend, her loyal maid, an eager guardsman, a young wizard, and a tenacious witch. Does Meg find her distinct place in the kingdom, or is she doomed to fulfill her royal duties?

Kate Coombs weaves a magical tale full of pesky princes, enchanted frogs, a beady-eyed scarf, and invisibility juice – a tale of wonder, but a story familiar to all who struggle to find their own place in the world.

The Emerald TabletThe Emerald Tablet by P.J. Hoover

Benjamin and his best friend Andy are different from normal. They love being able to read each other’s minds and use telekinesis to play tricks on other kids. In fact, they are getting all set to spend their entire summer doing just that when Benjamin’s mirror starts talking. Suddenly, Benjamin’s looking at eight weeks of summer school someplace which can only be reached by a teleporter inside the ugly picture in his hallway.

And that’s the most normal thing he does all summer.

The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Katniss is a 16-year-old girl living with her mother and younger sister in the poorest district of Panem, the remains of what used be the United States. Long ago the districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in an annual televised event called, “The Hunger Games.” The terrain, rules, and level of audience participation may change but one thing is constant: kill or be killed. When Kat’s sister is chosen by lottery, Kat steps up to go in her place.

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I just got out of my Cell Bio exam, which I most certainly failed, and now, I’m taking a small break before diving headlong into studying for the Anatomy exam tomorrow. For the next two week until the end of finals, I will probably be a hermit in my room, buried in notes and papers. However, I’m a hermit with a laptop, and that makes all the difference.

Some contest links, because everybody seems to be giving away books during the holidays season, which is awesome:

1) YA Highway is giving away 7 books to 2 winners.

2) Enchanted Inkpot is hosting a giveaway extravaganza. I will attempt to post synopses of 3-4 books here daily, starting with ones I’ve read or really want to read first. [blurbs taken from authors’ websites]

Silver PhoenixSilver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

on the day of her first betrothal meeting–and rejection–ai ling discovers a power welling deep within her. she can reach into other people’s spirits, hear their thoughts, see their dreams…and that’s just the beginning.

ai ling has been marked by the immortals; her destiny lies in the emperor’s palace, where a terrible evil has lived, stealing souls, for centuries. she must conquer this enemy and rescue her captive father, while mythical demons track her every step. and then she meets chen yong, a young man with a quest of his own, whose fate is intertwined with hers. here is a heart-stopping, breathtaking tale for fans of action, fantasy, and romance–of anything with the making of legend.

Faery RebelsFaery Rebels by R.J. Anderson

There are humans at the bottom of the garden, and a glimpse inside their forbidden House convinces the fierce young faery hunter known as Knife that they have knowledge that could help her dying people.

But if the human world has so much to offer, why is the faery Queen determined to keep her people away from it? Is there a connection between the House and the faeries’ loss of magic? And why is Knife so drawn to the young Paul McCormick — that strangest of creatures, a human male?

Fortune's FollyFortune’s Folly by Deva Fagan

Ever since her mother died and her father lost his shoemaking skills, Fortunata has survived by telling fake fortunes. But when she’s tricked into telling a grand fortune for a prince, she is faced with the impossible task of fulfilling her wild prophecy-or her father will be put to death.

Now Fortunata has to help Prince Leonato secure a magic sword, vanquish a wicked witch, discover a long-lost golden shoe, and rescue the princess who fits it. If only she hadn’t fallen in love with the prince herself. . . .

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First off, two really cool contests you all should check out:

  1. The Bookshelf Muse’s Massive Followers Contest with many cool prizes. (It’s the last day today!)
  2. The Enchanted Inkpot with its First Annual Inkies Giveaway Extravaganza. Lots and lots of books. I will likely write blurbs for the books over the next two weeks. :)

Onto the booklog: I first created this blog wanting to review each novel I read as I finish them. That was in the summer, before college started and made reading for fun a luxury. So I told myself: “Hey, I can do monthly booklog instead!” That way, if I fail to deliver, everybody will know what a reading failure I am that month. I briefly thought about starting this tradition in 2010, but I never keep any resolution made during the New Year’s, and there is no time like the present, so. :)

I only read one book from start to finish in November. Very sad, yes. In my defense, I did do a lot of selective reading and re-reading for research’s sake.

Hawksong Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes (YA paranormal, 256 pages)

I first ran across this book in my high school library 5 years ago and loved it on the first read and the subsequent re-reads. Amelia Atwater-Rhodes’ tale of success (she published her first novel at the age of 13) planted the dream of being a writer in the 14 years old me. I hesitated before picking this up for re-read because many of old favorites did not stand to the test of time, and I would much rather live with nice memories. Fortunately, I found myself still enjoying Hawksong.

Danica Shardae is an avian shapeshifter, a hawk, and the heir to the avian throne. Her people has been at war with the serpiente for longer than anybody can remember. Danica grew up learning of death and bloodshed, and she is willing to do anything to end the war, even marrying the leader of the serpiente, Zane Cobriana, who wants peace as much as she does. Before she can convince her people and reassure the serpiente that peace is possible, however, Danica must first learn to trust — and love — the one man she has always despised and feared.

Hawksong is a short and fast read, with sympathetic characters and a vivid world. Danica is a strong young woman not because of her abilities, but because of her bravery, her willingness to sacrifice her own happiness for her people, and her determination to see it through. Danica and Zane’s relationship is a sweet one, and I enjoy reading how Danica’s perception of the serpiente, and of Zane, changes throughout the novel.

Though I do wish the novel were longer and the plot deeper, I think it is a very entertaining read that accomplishes the tale it sets out to tell. There are four other novels in this series, and though I have not read any of them, I think I will seek them out eventually.

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As I slowly give up on NaNoWriMo (because when the required daily wordcount quickly approaches 10k, is it really possible I can win this year?), guilt sets in. Guilt for not writing. Guilt for not having enough tenacity to just stick to it. And guilt for once again, failing.

Yesterday, Savannah J. Foley posted an entry on the Sudden Novel Death Syndrome, and two of the reasons she gave are 1) talking too much about the novel and 2) beginning too soon.

1. Some agree with, and some disagree with, the first rule. Thinking about it, however, that just might be the explanation (or part thereof) for me. Talking to too many people about the novel pre-first draft causes an idea to become stale and saps my creative juice. Instead of channeling the pre-writing enthusiasm toward the first draft, I use all of it on telling everybody I meet how awesome my ideas are, and how this novel is going to be the best ever. By the time I actually sit down to write the novel, it’s not very… novel anymore.

Bouncing idea off another writer/reader, however, is a different matter altogether. I still need to find the balance between the two.

2. Beginning too soon has always been a fault of mine. I begin typing the moment I have the beginning, the characters, and some semblance of the central conflict. For some, this might just be enough. Not for me, though, I am beginning to suspect. After writing the first chapter, I would sit back and think to myself, “Soooo… what’s next?” and come up blank. I have important scenes with no thread to tie them together. This thus gives rise to inane scenes with flaccid prose. Which makes me think all my writing is, well, terrible, and that the novel is frankly unsalvageable: no point in even writing it.

Detailed outlines, however, makes me feel as though I have already written the novel, since I already know everything that will happen. There’s no factor of surprise, of wanting to know more.

I wonder: how does everybody approach planning a novel? Do you do a detailed outline, or do you just write and see where that takes you, or a blend of the two?

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Snagged from Rachel:

Leave a comment saying “Interview me,” and I’ll respond by asking you five questions. Post your answers to the questions and the questions themselves in your blog/journal, with the offer to interview someone else in the same post.

1. What inspired you to write The Beast’s Apprentice?

Sometime at the beginning of August, I randomly thought about matchmakers, and told myself, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if Beauty is originally the Beast’s matchmaker who ends up falling for him (and he her)? Hmm, but why would she want to play matchmaker for the Beast? Oh, I know! He’ll have to make her his apprentice and teach her magic in return! Also, let’s make Beauty seek out the Beast and force him into accepting the deal herself!”

Thus, The Beast’s Apprentice was born. It combines two of my favorite tropes: “Beauty and the Beast” re-telling and mentor/apprentice romance, which makes me very, very happy. Often, I only manage to weave in one of my kinks into any given story — any more than that would render it terribly cliche.

2. What is your favorite food?

Living in the dorms and eating servery food have taught me appreciation for all edible food that is not heart-stopping snacks. However, I do have a special fondness for Vietnamese food. Especially any form of Vietnamese noodles and vermicelli. I’ve missed eating it every day. :<

3. Do you have a favorite quote; if so, what is it?

I horde quotes the same way I do good stories, and it’s difficult choosing just one. However, the quote I’ve been liking for a while now is Gilbert K. Chesterton’s

    To love means loving the unlovable.
    To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable.
    Faith means believing the unbelievable.
    Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.

Especially that first line, I really like.

4. What is your favorite book? Did your favorite author write it, and if not who is your favorite author?

I have half a dozen favorite books that I tend to cycle through. Currently, my favorite is Mairelon the Magician duology by Patricia C. Wrede, two YA fantasy novels set in Regency England. As The Beast’s Apprentice is set in the late 1800s, I’ve been re-reading them to get a feel for Regency/Victorian England. Mairelon, the main male character, is perhaps one of my favorite characters ever — next to Howl (Howl’s Moving Castle) and Eugenides (The Queen’s Thief series). As in, I’d like to marry him if he didn’t already belong to Kim. Patricia C. Wrede is also one of my favorite authors: I enjoyed the majority of her works that I’ve read.

5. If you could time travel, what time period would you go to and why?

To live permanently, or to visit? If the former, I would stay in the here and now, as there are freedoms we have now (as a woman, etc.) that I don’t particularly want to lose. If the latter, I’d want to travel to Christ’s life time, because I’d be insanely happy seeing him in person just once. :>

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