Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to time travel? Yeah no, actually, it wouldn’t. You have to put so much thought into time traveling to do it safely – What if you wind up catching an old disease and bringing it back to present day and killing everyone? What if your clothes deem you a witch and you’re burned at the stake? What if you step on a bug and ruin everything ever? I’ve always had thoughts like that whenever people mention time travel, and behold! A book exists that takes those thoughts into account! And a rather good book, at that.
Cover Girl: I like red. I don’t know if it’s because it’s so attention-grabbing or it’s somehow soothing to my crazy brain, but I like red a lot. So I spent a good while staring at this cover in the library and getting some odd looks from the librarian who was already concerned with my being the oldest person in the teen section. It’s a bright cover, and it’s pretty, so there’s that. The design of the cover harkens back to fancy olden days, which is precisely the feel of the book. Or at least, the parts of the book that are set to the past. The design of the cover is one of the better matches to a YA book that I’ve see in a while. Well played, April Ward.
Character Witness: Gwen is your average semi-outcast YA heroine. She’s not supposed to be the special one and yet, lo and behold, she is. Her personality feels rather natural in that she’s your typical rambling, kind of unsure of herself girl. Her cousin Charlotte is a spoiled brat that’s supposed to be the one with the magic blood but is not. The rest of Gwen’s family feels a bit like the author took a page from Cinderella and created wicked stepmothers, stepsisters and every other kind of step. They’re snobby and annoying almost to a comical fault. Gwen’s best friend Lesley seems a bit like an excuse for exposition, but I kind of like their dynamic:
And he was terribly good-looking. All the girls thought so, except Lesley. She thought Mr. Whitman looked like a cartoon squirrel.
“Whenever he looks at me with those big brown eyes, I feel like giving him a nut,” she said. She even started calling the squirrels running around in the park Mr. Whitmans. The silly thing is that somehow it was infectious, and now, whenever a squirrel scuttled past me, I always said, “Oh, look at that cute, fat little Mr. Whitman!”
And then there’s the love interest. Gideon is…Well. You could insert basically any YA love interest in this position and there wouldn’t be much of a difference. Take one awkward teen girl with no experience with boys and pair her with one teen boy who can’t stand her at first, and eventually love blossoms somehow. His characterization feels the weakest to me, and I can’t much say I care for him, or the romance subplot. Speaking of…
Plot Plot Fizz Fizz: Charlotte’s place as the special snowflake of the family is “stolen” by Gwen, who has not been prepared for time travel in the least. This first book (out of three) plays out the way many first sections of a trilogy do. Much of the novel isn’t so much plot-driven but rather a means to explain what’s going on to the reader. The seed of plot for the later installments is sowed, but it isn’t as well-developed as I’m sure it will be in the sequels. An actual plot starts to form toward the end of the book and then–WHAM! End.
Okay, kind of cool, but definitely aggravating that there weren’t an extra two or three pages. I’m assuming the plot moves along at a much faster pace in the sequel, but as far as expository pieces go, this book manages to do a good job of setting up the scene for me without making me feel bored or noticing too much that it’s just a lot of talking and not much action.
Aesop It To Me: If you’re going to travel back in time, make sure you take the necessary precautions.
Say Something Nice: The original story, written by Kerstin Geir, has been translated into English by Anthea Bell. Part of me wonders exactly how much was lost in translation, but I imagine not very much. The translation is such that I actually forgot that this wasn’t originally written in English until I started writing this post. Points for a natural translation!
Final Verdict: Essentially, the book reads like it already knew there would be multiple parts. On the one hand, I hate when books – and movies, looking at you, filler installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series – do that. On the other, it’s a rather effective way to get people to keep reading your work if they’re intrigued enough. And I’m definitely intrigued enough to read the two sequels. Just not likely anytime this year, considering the big backlog o’ books I’ve built up.
Now that I’m done with alliteration, I’ve got to say, while I enjoyed the book, I’m mad at the cliffhanger ending. 7/10 – The sequels are out already (I think? Pretty sure I saw them at the library) so you could likely get through them all in an afternoon and be less annoyed than I am. Go forth, buy/check out this book!
In a few days, NaNoWriMo begins. If you aren’t familiar, NaNoWriMo, basically it’s a month-long effort by writers in the US and worldwide to produce a novel that’s at least 50,000 words. Basically, writers are crazy and we needed a whole month to prove that. 50,000 words in 30 days averages to be about 1,667 words per day. That’s kind of a lot to force yourself to do every single day. I can’t wait!
I’ve participated in NaNo to varying degrees of success since 2005, minus 2007 when I was taking care of mi madre, and 2008 when I just couldn’t do it. Last year was the first year that I actually won, and I credit that rather fully to Scrivener. Prior to Scrivener, I was cobbling research together via an odd combination of web links, saved images and Microsoft Word documents. Scrivener, on the other hand, allows for easy research compilation and a more comprehensive, writer-intensive format. It’s great. And no, I’m not being paid to say this. (Although if someone wants to slip some cash my way…)
People approach NaNo in different ways. Some make meticulous plans, usually throughout October, although some far too zealous souls start planning next year’s NaNo project immediately upon completing the current year’s. These are the planners. For the normal people like myself, there’s pantsing. Pantsers don’t have a concrete plan. It’s winging it. It’s risky, but it’s fun. I did minimal planning last year to the extent that I had a basic plot and characters in mind, and this year I’ve done the same. I feel like planning too much boxes me in, and then I start to resent my plans, the story, and everything in existence. Not a good way to write.
This year’s NaNo will be a little different for me, as I’m working more hours and therefore will have less time to screw around and just write. I’m hoping that I can do it, and I’m hoping people prod me into not giving up (hint, hint!). The lack of writing projects I’ve had lately has been both annoying and discouraging. Hopefully, participating in NaNo will get my wheels turning again and I can get back to writing more frequently. Maybe I’ll even get published! If Stephenie Meyer can do it, so can I.
Being scared is fun. Just look at all the adrenaline junkie activities we’ve come up with and it’s clear people enjoy that heart-racing, stomach-in-your-throat feeling. A good ghost story evokes those same feelings, but without the potential death from falling down a mountain or jumping out of a plane.
In October, the best place for ghost stories has to be Travel Channel. For as long as I can remember, whenever October rolled around, Travel Channel transformed from a station talking about old-ass restaurants in Spain to a one-stop horror shop filled with haunted tales of Scottish castles and antebellum plantations. I’ve maintained a mental list of all the haunted places I’m dying to go to (no pun intended) one day when I win the lottery and/or marry a multimillionaire.
My favorite–and apparently Travel Channel’s favorite, too, given the number of specials including this tale–has to be the story of Robert the doll. Formerly owned by a Key West painter named Robert Otto, Robert the doll currently lives in the Fort East Martello Museum. The doll’s evil, is the basic story. Allegedly, Otto received the doll from an African servant that couldn’t stand his family, so she cursed the doll. The doll supposedly talked to Otto and caused all sorts of mischief around the house.
Individuals who desire to visit Robert in the Fort East Martello Museum and wish to take a picture of him, according to legend, the person must ask the doll politely, and if he does not agree (by tipping his head to one side) and the individual takes a picture anyway, then the doll will curse the person and their family.
Fun fact: Child’s Play is loosely based on Robert!
Another of my faves has to be the story of the Myrtles Plantation. The land is, of course, an ancient Indian burial ground, so the grounds were already cursed. One of the servants named Chloe was caught eavesdropping on a conversation that her owner was having, and her ear was chopped off. To get back at the family, Chloe decided to poison the birthday cake of the children. She soft of accidentally killed them, however, and was killed herself.
The plantation’s open for visitation now, and it’s reportedly haunted by the dead family and Chloe.
And finally, there’s the
Overlook Hotel Stanley Hotel. This is the famed inspiration for the Stephen King classic The Shining, and the future site of my honeymoon once I find someone I feel like marrying. The Stanley is filled with ghosts, from haunted ballrooms to phantoms that have sticky fingers. If a hotel’s enough to rattle Stephen King’s nerves, then it’s definitely a place that I’d like to be.
Travel Channel details so many haunted places that I’d love to go that it’s impossible to list all my favorites. Just tune in and you’ll see!
I love anything that has to do with possessions. Books, movies, TV specials…You name it, I’ll watch it if it involves someone going all Linda Blair within. So my interest was piqued upon reading about Possess via an interview with the author, Gretchen McNeil, on YA Fantasy Guide. I had only just recently been discussing with Kat the fact that YA horror – and horror in general – is overrun with vampires and zombies, but no one’s put out a good possession story in a while.
Maybe the idea of possession makes too many people uncomfortable. From a religious standpoint, it’s pretty terrifying, and from a non-religious standpoint…it’s pretty terrifying. Still, crazy people like me enjoy things of that sort, so it’s nice when we’re thrown a bone in the form of a new possession story. Said possession story as a debut novel is a pretty ballsy move, which fortunately for McNeil, pays off pretty well.
Cover Girl: I don’t know what to say about this cover. Half of me likes it, but the other half says no. The colors are nice; that’s one consensus my brain reached. My issue, it seems, are the shadows. I just don’t get it. Are they tree branches? Are they representing veins? Why are they there when neither has much to do with the book? Well, ignoring the tree-veins, the girl on the cover has an intriguing look, at least. Designed by Sarah Hoy.
Character Witness: Bridget Liu feels like a pretty average girl. She’s got catchphrases and everything! Nothing about her personality feels disingenuous, which is good. Even later interaction with the book’s resident Perfect Boy Matt Quinn feels natural to her personality. Her friends are fairly well-written as well, particularly Hector. My one gripe is the characterization of Peter. It’s not entirely clear why Peter’s personality flips so suddenly. I mean, sure, he’s in love with Bridget and Matt swoops in, but the contrast is almost enough to pull me out of the book. But then things like this happen and I totally forget my annoyance at Peter:
When his lips touched hers, she was afraid to move. She’d never kissed a guy before and she was terrified that she’d do it wrong. But Matt’s lips were surprisingly soft, his touch light and calm. And when he finally broke away from her, he looked nervous, as if he’d been afraid he would break her.
“Are you okay? I mean, was that okay?”
Bridget barely nodded. There was so much weirdness pulsing through her body she felt like she was going to pass out. “Yeah, thanks.”
Thanks? Did she really just thank him? Bridget, you complete loser.
Plot Plot Fizz Fizz: On the most basic level, San Francisco is having a little problem with demons. Bridget somehow developed the ability to not only see and hear said demons, but also banish them. And thus she’s tasked with the job of ridding the city with demons because a priest at her school says so. Oh right, and these abilities happened to show up right after her father’s murder. So, there’s that.
The romantic side-plot doesn’t feel as distracting as it possibly could have been, nor does it really get on my nerves the way so many teen romance subplots tend to do. Granted, it falls prey to the “I hate you but now I love you” cliche, but the same can be said for quite a number of stories. The plot’s pacing is spot-on and moves along very fluidly; none of the parts felt dragged out, nor did any section pull the story down.
If anything, I was a little disappointed that a story about possession lacked a lot of potentially creepy moments. I wanted to be scared, but nothing much unnerved me. There was more humor than horror, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
A hot wave rushed through Bridget, starting with her fingers and washing over her body. It moved down from her stomach, lower, and ignited a spark deep within her.
The demon was turning her on.
That was so messed up.
Aesop It To Me: The only moral I can think of would be a major spoiler, so I’ll just say there isn’t a moral.
Say Something Nice: McNeil’s got a voice for dialogue. (See what I did there?) Bridget and her friends speak very naturally.
Final Verdict: If you don’t plow into the book expecting a scare on every page, then it’s a really good book. I, however, wanted a little more possession and a little bit less exposition. Then again, it’s a novel, not a movie. Even so, the book’s fairly solid. 7/10 – Go forth to a library and check it out! Or buy it and completely ruin my wordplay. The choice is yours.
One of the best parts about life in October is the fact that TV becomes inundated with Halloween specials. Or at least, that’s the way it used to be. Specials appear less frequently nowadays, but they’re still rather prominent. Back in the olden days of the late ’90s, it was impossible for a show to NOT have a Halloween edition. It was like Thanksgiving without turkey. It just felt wrong and someone would probably wind up crying.
Of course, reigning queen of the Halloween special episode is and will always be Roseanne. Nothing you say can change my mind. The Halloween episodes of Roseanne are more often than not some of the best in the season. The Connor family did Halloween up the way I always wanted, so living vicariously through them was an alarming amount of fun.
Nickelodeon also knew how to do Halloween the right way. Every show in the Snick lineup had a Halloween special, and it was always great fun. From The New Adventures of Pete and Pete to Halloween-themed All That, Nick was the channel to watch as a kid during October. Personal favorite? The Zeke the Plumber episode of Salute Your Shorts. Hands down, one of the creepiest kids’ show Halloween episodes around, and something I still enjoy watching every Halloween.
My Halloweens always consisted of binging on these Halloween shows with my mother, eating candy and popcorn and occasionally handing out candy to other kids trick-or-treating. I was never big on wandering around the neighborhood begging for candy, so the couple of times I actually did it weren’t particularly memorable. These specials, however, are a much bigger part of my October, and a part of what makes me me in general.