Synopsis: the System controls everything, minus one group of rebels, some of whom have special abilities. When one of the rebels is taken, her brother, Levi, goes to the group’s leaders and then embarks on a journey with Ava and Leymah to rescue her. As they go, they realise there are fewer people whom they can trust than they originally thought. Who will they trust? Will they succeed? Read it and find out.
This opener to the System trilogy by Anna Jakobsson Lund, definitely held my attention, and I enjoyed learning more and more about the characters and the setting as the story went on. Although I wasn’t really sucked into the book until the last 75 pages or so, I enjoyed the ending a large amount and definitely want to continue reading the series. I’m just so curious as to how everything plays out.
In a story filled with fear of betrayal, Lund explores the interactions of friends, strangers, and supposed allies when trust is put to the test. Levi, Ava, and Leymah’s interactions continually change through the book as they discover different things about each other and about the other people that they have interacted with along their journey to free Levi’s sister from the System. I really enjoyed that Lund captured the break of trust and the difficulty of overcoming barriers so well in this book, and I want to see how this theme is carried over into the sequels.
The interconnectedness of the three main characters’ backstories, and those of the background characters as well, intrigues me, and I have a feeling much more about Levi, Ava, and Leymah’s pasts is related than what is revealed in this first book. But I’m even more intrigued by how this will play into their futures.
If you like dystopian YA books, I definitely recommend this. I gave it 3/5 stars, as I found the beginning of it rather confusing at times and there were moments in which I wish she would have revealed more about the characters. However, I rather how those details were revealed in the end. As the book wrapped up, I certainly gained more interest in the characters and the story, and I most definitely plan on reading the other two books in the System trilogy.
Tea in hand, Google Docs pulled up, Harry Potter soundtracks blaring through my headphones, and a desire to write (and hopefully motivation and inspiration to go with it). This is a common picture of how I start writing on whatever project on any given day. But lately, I’ve found myself sitting down and just staring…and staring…and staring…and then looking at the time and realising that I now have to go to work and have wasted my writing time for the day. I have the desire to write. But my motivation and inspiration have been lacking, especially when it comes to my novel. Which has forced me to take my usual “pantser” self and set it on the shelf, replacing it with a planner.
I’m pretty awful at planning and outlining most of the time, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts. But frequently, I find it to be necessary to get any writing done.
I find planning scenes to be even more difficult than outlining my novel most of the time, which is the exact opposite of what I would expect. However, when writing a scene, you need to be certain that everything that is happening (or not happening) is exactly as it should be so that it can properly support the rest of the chapter, the book, the themes, and most importantly the character development.
I’ve found it easiest to work on particular scenes that fit my mood or my fancy on a given day, instead of trying to write through my book in order (this will most certainly make it rather difficult to edit later on, but hey! You gotta do what you gotta do!). But even when I work on a particular scene, my brain can be going a million different directions and make it very difficult to actually get any words onto the page.
So I thought I’d share my tips for plotting a scene.
Figure out what theme is important to the scene.
Sometimes this is your main theme for the novel; other times, it might be one of the minor themes. Whatever the case, think about what actions and dialogue will help present it to your characters/readers. What are your characters’ opinions about the theme? Do they support what you are trying to portray? Are they against it? Have they ever thought about it before?
For example, if you have a theme regarding the importance of family, you may have one character who’s experienced unconditional love and support from their family. This character may be open to whatever is happening and the lesson that can be learnt from it. However, if you have a character who was abused, neglected, orphaned, or abandoned, they may not be able or willing to comprehend the theme. This character may even try to influence the other characters to agree with them.
Pay attention to which characters are there and how they interact with each other.
Going beyond how the characters may react to the theme and what’s happening around them, look act their personal interactions with each other. Do the characters in this scene get along? Are they soul mates? Best friends? Mortal enemies? Complete strangers? Is one of them hiding a big secret from another?
Write down the first thing that happens.
Do you know the first thing that happens in this scene? Write it down! Get it out on paper as quickly as you can. I like to use telescopic text when writing like this. In other words, I write down the simplest sentences about what’s happening, and then I go back and add detail, and I’ll continue going back with more detail until I’m satisfied. But getting the first bit of the scene out can help you figure out what comes next.
Write out the end goal for that particular scene/chapter.
Now that you know how the scene begins, where is it going? Where does its action end? Knowing the beginning and the ending will help you clarify what can happen or needs to happen in the middle.
Ask what can go horribly wrong. OR Ask what can go wonderfully right.
This is a pretty common piece of advice for writers, or at least the first half is. Sending the characters and plot into chaos is a great way to add drama (and interest) to your story; however, sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming. You don’t want only bad things to happen to your characters…do you? Finding out what can go wrong can you give great ideas, but so can asking what can go well. I personally don’t like deus ex machina for helping things go well for characters; I prefer the characters’ past actions or present decisions to lead to good things happening. Also, finding ways to show the joy and love that characters can experience can help your readers fall more in love with them and, as a result, the story. I hope these little bits of advice are helpful! What are some of your tips for plotting scenes? Let me know in the comments below!
Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl is a wonderful coming of age story about a Jewish girl growing up in Boston at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s told from the perspective of Addie Baum when she is old and telling her life-long tale of adventure, woe, determination, and love.
I was excited to read this, but I honestly didn’t have very high expectations, largely because I didn’t think I would be able to relate to the characters or situations as well as I could with other books. I also haven’t been much in the mood to read lately, so I didn’t want to force myself through another book. Reading the first five pages, I thought I was right and might end up trudging through the story, but once I got used to the writing style and to Addie’s voice, I found it to be easy and enjoyable to read. It’s rather fast paced the entire time, and Addie’s unique thought process and experiences as well as her form of story-telling made it fun and exciting to read.
I actually fell in love with this book and its characters, far more than I could’ve imagined. Addie’s determination to experience the world in a different way and to be educated reminded me of myself more than I would’ve dared possible. As I saw her pursue her education and becoming independent, I saw my own failures and successes. I cried with her, I laughed with her, I feared with her, and I cared with her. The amount of simple and blatant emotion that Diamant was able to pack into Addie’s interview with her granddaughter was overwhelmingly well done; and the creative wording, imagery, and simplicity of Addie’s life and way of talking about her life are beautiful and occasionally comical.
I sincerely didn’t want to put this book down or for it to end. From its terribly sad scenes to possibly the best meet cute in history, I was reliving Addie Baum’s life with her, celebrating new jobs, mourning the loss of loved ones, learning about child laborers, and pondering what it means to be oneself.
One of my favourite (many) favourite lines: “I thought I’d never fall asleep, but I was gone the minute I closed my eyes. I guess falling in love makes you tired. Or maybe it was all that walking.”
There are many common misconceptions about book nerds. One of the biggest ones is that they are constantly reading. I mean, in a sense they are. They may be reading short stories or articles or magazines, or they may be like me and be “currently reading” a book for a month or so without really picking it up at all. A great example of this for me is Les Misérables. I started reading it back in June because I was just too excited and couldn’t wait. But here I am in September, about 100 pages in, and I’ve barely started. I love the story. And I love reading. But sometimes I just get tired of reading or find myself turning to other modes of entertainment, like Netflix and Solitaire.
I read six and a half books in July. Before that, I had only finished one book in June and had been very slowly reading through two other books. Because of reading so much while on holiday, I got a little burnt out at the beginning of August. But I’ve also been incredibly stressed and busy since I returned to the States and don’t have any of my books with me, let alone the books that I truly want to read, because all my stuff is still in storage and I’ve been living out of a suitcase for nearly three months. So here I am, longing for my books and wanting to read, but without the means to read what I’ll be able to focus on. If you’re in a similar situation in any way, these are my ideas of how to be a book nerd without your books.
So I can’t really talk about owning fandom merch, especially when it comes to book-related fandoms. However, there is so much you can have! From artwork and posters to graphic tees and pins, bookstores and websites are constantly coming out with more book-inspired gear. Right now I am showing off my book-nerdiness by having a Hogwarts crest pinned to my book bag and a Winnie-the-Pooh tsum tsum figural clipped to one of the pockets. I’ve not read any Winnie the Pooh in ages; but growing up, I loved the Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, and I really wish I still had that book so that I could reread it now.
Following Booktubers, Book Bloggers, and Bookstagramers
There are so many wonderful people who are actively involved in the book side of social media, and I’ve made some amazing friends by getting involved in these communities, even if I’ve not been active lately. These wonderful men and women range from taking beautifully posed photos of books and rating and reviewing their latest reads to recommending books and discussing the writing process. And there are always more book nerds getting involved.
Whether you like to read or to write, fanfiction is a wonderful way to keep fangirling over your favourite characters, stories, and worlds. I don’t tend to read much fanfiction and I’ve never written any, but I am still aware of how wonderful of a community it can be. I’ve come close to writing fanfiction a couple of times, but my stories always come to be their own completely unique tales and never seem related to the original stories at all. But if you or I were to write fanfiction, there are so many sites that make it easy to spread our work and, more importantly, our love for these fandoms. Most fanfiction sites have a search engine that makes it easy to find the fandoms and types of stories you most want to read. So have some fun and take a dive into the community of readers and writers.
For those of you who don’t live near libraries, I’m so sorry!! Libraries have always been some of my favourite things. The library I’m staying closest to doesn’t have a wide selection at all, but it does do inter-library loans, and many other libraries are doing the same thing more frequently now. If you don’t have books but want to actively be reading, check out your closest library.
Loads of libraries also have classes and events on a regular basis. Just last week one of our local libraries had its second annual LibraryCon. It was so much fun! There were loads of people cosplaying, people creating and selling things, a life-size TARDIS, authors and artists, and various panels. My friend and I went to two panels. The first one was about nerdy books that are the librarians’ favourites and book that are about to be released over the next few months to year (including X-Files: Origins!!!!). It was great hearing about the books and why the librarians loved them so much, and I added around twenty books to my TBR (because I totally needed more) just during that panel. The second was an author panel. We got to hear six different authors discuss their writing habits and process, ask questions, and hear about their books. We even stopped by an author’s table afterward so Katie could buy a book, and we found out about some opportunities to write some short stories have submit them to published.
Go see what books, events, and classes your library has to offer!
Now I really need to start taking advantage of these. I’ve not been in one since high school; in other words, it’s been over six years since I sat down with a group of people (outside of a class setting) to discuss a book. And goodness, do I miss it. I know the library system here has book discussions, and I would love to get involved with those, but I want to be a part of a proper book club. I might just have to start one myself, and I’d definitely be okay with that. But there are websites that exist that can help you find online and real-life book clubs. I’m certainly going to join one.