Thursday, February 27, 2014

Top 10 Most Influential Books

If you've been paying attention to my blogging habits lately, you might have noticed an increase in the number of the embedded YouTube videos in my post.  That's because the world of YouTube has sucked me in.  After a few weeks of watching basically all the top twenty vloggers in the YouTube community, I realized that I was spending more time on YouTube than the rest of my laptop time combined.  I decided that if I was going to spend that much time on YouTube, it should at least be in dedication of diving deeper into the world of books.

I unsubscribed from a lot of popular vloggers and went and found myself a great community of BookTubers.  So I've been spending a lot of time in this kind of sort of world of book blogging, and I saw a tag I really wanted to do.

Ready for this?  Great!

The following are my top 10 most influential books to date.  I think I might do this post every other year to see what's changed.

10. Magnus by Sigmund Brouwer
For a very long time, this was the only Christian fiction I liked.  It was the first Christian fiction book I read and also one of the first high fantasy.  I think it shaped a lot of my taste in fiction.

9. Miracle on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorenson
I don't know what it is with this book, but I just think of it fondly.  It's one of those books that I kept coming back to.  Its also the first (longish) book I remember reading in one sitting.  (Okay, my mom read it to me, but still.)

8. Heist Society by Ally Carter
I absolutely loved this book.  For me, it showed that solid, clean writing could still sell will in YA without being rated practically R.

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
For a long time, this was the only 'adult' classic I liked.  I like a few others now, but I'm still a big fan of this book.  It made me think more than most others put together.

6. The School Story by Andrew Clements
I think this was the book that really made me think about writing.  It made publishing a book seem easy, fun, and doable, even for a fourth grader like me.  (That's how old I was when I read it.)

5. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson
I read this book very soon after I started studying the draft of writing.  This single book taught me more about this mysterious 'voice' that we hear about in writing books and on blogs than every other article and book on voice I've ever read.

4. Dealing with Dragons by Patrica C. Wrede
This is the first book I remember reading by myself that wasn't Henry and Mudge or Flicka, Ricka, Dicka.  My sister loaned it to me and I read and re-read it over and over.  That paperback copy in my room has seen more falls from trees, long boring car trips, and splashes of milk as it hit my cereal than any one book deserves.

3. Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'engle
This was a book that really made me think.  I was only a third grader when I read it, and it was the first novel I read in a day.  I think that marked my transformation into a fully fledged book worm.

2. Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise McGraw
This was the first YA book I read.  It was also the only historical fiction I liked for a very long time.  This book, I think, first got me interested in spies, intrigue, and thoroughly romantic books whose main plot wasn't the romance.  All in all, a very wonderful book!

1. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
You guys have probably heard me sing the praised of The Thief more than you ever wanted to, but for me, this is the most well written series ever crafted.  It taught me so much, first as a reader, then a learned, then a writer.  The author put so much work into the words of this book that every time I read it, I find a new little gem tucked away in the prose or dialog.  I think this book shaped my taste in reading and writing almost single-handedly.

So there you go, the top 10 most influential books in the life of Sarah Faulkner. Anyone who would like to is welcome to do this tag, but I will tag:

TW Wright
Brooke Faulkner
Emily Rachelle

If you guys want to do the tag, feel welcome.  Either way, let me know 2 or 3 of the most influential (fiction) books in your life.

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

Monday, February 24, 2014

YA Romance Loves and Loathes

A post just on time to be fashionably late for valentines day.

I'm a romance type of girl.  As the youngest girl in my family, I grew up watching Pride and Prejudice and other PG chick-flicks.  I think I was 10 before I was able to stay awake for the whole Colin Firth version of P&P, but I loved the story long before that.

Maybe this constant feed of Jane Austen and other classics is what did it, but I'm a pretty hopeless romantic.  To the point that sometimes my parents, especially my father, I think, worry about me quite a bit.

But when it comes to romance in books, I tend to get a little picky.  There are certain things I love, and certain things that will give me pause when I go to recommend a book to someone.

Something I love.  Love and romance are a part of life.  Books that acknowledge that make me happy.  I love  when two characters, no matter how minor, have chemistry.  I love when I, as the reader, get to watch that unfold and develop on the page.  A side of romance always makes a book a little better.

Something I loathe. Love at first sight.  I'm sorry.  Attraction can happen at first sight.  So can obsession.  But those are both very different than my definition of love.  Because love requires admiration, and admiration is built in observation.  Lately I feel like a lot of YA hinge on this idea of "I see him, I want him."  Yes, we are the Me generation, but that doesn't mean we have to have the 'benefits' of a relationship instantly.  Please let there be some development in the story and romance between the two characters.

Something I love. Admiration from afar.  Accuse me of being a stalker all you like, I will always fall in love with a character who has secretly given her heart away to someone who doesn't even know she exists.  I like secret crushes and girls who know everything about a boy.

Something I loath. Novels whose main plot relationships.  After much beating around the bush, I started reading Twilight recently.  This books is just not grabbing me like I expect a hit YA novel to do.  I think the main reason for this is that the relationship between Bella and Edward is the only major plot.  There's pretty much nothing else going on in Bella's whole world except a boy who's eyes change color along with his mood.  I need some side action.  I need a character who's entire life doesn't revolve around the love interest.  Romance is all well and good, but give me some other plot points to sink my teeth into.  Even some strong character development of unpacking of back-story baggage would be great to have here.

Something I love. A good old fashioned  'friend-zone to date-zone.'  I'll be honest, in the second and third books of The Mortal Instruments series, I was kind of on team Simone.  Not that I don't love Jace, because I totally do, but I'm a big fan of guy best friends.  I kind of wish I had a guy for a best friend.  (Actually, maybe I'd just take a best friend who wasn't fictional.)  And I'm an even bigger fan of guy best friends who pull it off and make it as boyfriends too.

When it's all summed up, I love a story that incorporates romance, but doesn't rely on the romance to carry the story, and I like my YA relationships to be healthy, non-obsessive, and to develop over the course of the story.

What do you like to see in a good romance?  Should romance be a genre unto itself, or should it be something woven throughout all genres? Leave a comment and let me know!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Boys in Books

Hey guys!  I've missed you.

I've been thinking about my favorite characters lately, and I realized something. 

This post was partly inspired by this YouTube video, so feel free to enjoy as you continue reading.

I realized that out of my top 10 or 20 characters, only 2 of them are girls.  Only 2!  I consider myself a little bit of a feminist. So realizing that I love books with strong male characters way more than books with a central female character.

Also, out of the four books I've written, two of them are about boys.  And while those two are the most recent, they're also by far my two most favorite novels.  I simply had to face the facts, I like books about boys more than books about girls.  I feel like their characters are stronger, there plots and better, and I just generally love a good guy character.

I think this could be true for one of any number of reasons.
1) I sometimes think about myself marrying fictional characters.  (What can I say?  I'm just your atypical fangirl when you get to the nit and grit of it all.)  So I tend to think about boys in books a little more than girls.

2) I friend of mine, aspiring teen author Nick Height, pointed out that, especially in YA, boys are not very realistic.  At all.  Like Hale in Heist Society by Ally Carter?  I don't think there's a seventeen year old american alive who could possibly be that nice, considerate, witty, and coy.  And Hale is also a multi-billionaire.  This is just one of the examples where boys are way more cool, amazing, and responsible than boys could ever possibly be in real life.

3) Love Triangles.  Excluding 11th grade Shakespeare, I can't think of a single love triangle involving the readers having to pick between two girls for the MC.  It's almost always one girl to two boys.  Which means that we, especially us female readers, spend an unhealthy amount of time trying to think of which boys best suits our girl.  If you look at the last 3 smashes in YA books, you've got a love triangle with one girl and two boys.  Twilight, Bella has to pick between Jacob and Edward. (I think.  I'm just now reading the first Twilight book.)  Harry Potter, there is only Hermione, surrounded by Harry, Ron, Cedric, Neville, and Viktor Crum, even.  This makes us spend more time focused on the boys of the book and less time on the girls.

How do you feel about boys in books?  Do you find yourself liking books with strong guys more often strong female characters?  Or is this post totally off base?  What are some of your favorite female characters?  Maybe I'll see if I like them as much as I find myself liking the men of literature.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Week Off

Hey guys!  I'm going to be away for the week, so Inklined isn't going to have any posts.  I might also be hard to reach, so if you e-mail me anytime in the next week, that's why I didn't get back to you.  See you back here for a writing related post next Thursday!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Five Star January Reads

I would really like to get back to writing some blog posts centered around the things that started it all: books.  I've tried a lot of different things in the past, including Book Reviews, What I'm Reading Wednesdays, and 6 Word Book Reviews.  None of those posts have really worked for me. I really struggle to write and read book reviews, and I stopped posting on Wednesday.  What I'm Reading Thursday just doesn't have that nice ring to it.

So instead, I decided to just give a few recommendations at the beginning or end of every month. So without further ado, here are some of the five star books I read in January.

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Wake by Lisa McMann
For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams is getting old.
She can't tell anybody about what she does they'd never believe her, or worse, they'd think she's a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn't want and can’t control.
Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant.

I found Wake original.  I really loved Janie.  I've said it before, but I'm really a huge fan of the tortured hero.  And Cabel, the boy?  Together, the pair are about as tortured as you get in what I would call Urban Fantasy.  Definitely worth the read and its five stars.

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Unsouled by Neal Shusterman
Connor and Lev are on the run after the destruction of the Graveyard, the last safe haven for AWOL Unwinds. But for the first time, they’re not just running away from something. This time, they’re running toward answers, in the form of a woman Proactive Citizenry has tried to erase from history itself. If they can find her, and learn why the shadowy figures behind unwinding are so afraid of her, they may discover the key to bringing down unwinding forever.
Cam, the rewound boy, is plotting to take down the organization that created him. Because he knows that if he can bring Proactive Citizenry to its knees, it will show Risa how he truly feels about her. And without Risa, Cam is having trouble remembering what it feels like to be human.
With the Juvenile Authority and vindictive parts pirates hunting them, the paths of Connor, Lev, Cam, and Risa will converge explosively;and everyone will be changed.
I have been a fan of this series since its start with Unwind.  It's a powerful story.  As a teen growing up in a world that I feel is devaluing human life more and more, this book speaks to me.  I highly recommend it to anyone 15 and older.  I love how this book uses the dystopian genre to explore our world today.  It's a very powerful and thought provoking read.

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.
Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.
Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another.
Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

This is exactly my kind of book.  It's got magic and weapons, court and intrigue.  I read it in two days, staying up until 1:00 AM and the waking up at 8:00 AM and diving right back into it.  As much as I loved Rae Carson's Girl of Fire and Thorns, I think I liked Throne of Glass even more.  I loved the main character so much more than Elsa of Fire and Thorns.  I highly recommend this book to lovers of high fantasy books like  Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, Crown and Court Duel by Sherwood Smith, Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, or Soulbound by Heather Brewer.

And that wraps up my recommendations of the books I read in January.  What were the best books you read in January?  Have you read any of my five star books?  What did you think of them?

Happy reading!

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Unwritten Author Contract

Happy February!

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I won an autographed copy of Allegiant by Veronica Roth back when it first came out in October.  It took a few weeks for the book to ship to me and I didn't get it until the middle of November.  By then I'd heard a lot of awful things about it and didn't get up the nerve to read it until Thanksgiving.  I had the idea for this post right after I finished the book, but I wasn't emotionally ready to write it until now.

Do authors really own their readers anything?  I hadn't thoughts about this idea much until I watched a BookTuber's video called I Hate Trilogies.

While I'm not sure I agreed with the whole video, one quote in particular did catch me off guard.
"Publishing a book is actually a pretty pretensions thing to do.  Hear me out.  Your saying that you think your work is so powerful, so heartfelt, so emotional, so good, that people should go out, and spend money to buy a glued together packet of your ideas, and then spend time to read those ideas."     ~Ariel Bissett

I had never thought of books this way.  As a reader and aspiring author, books are something beautiful, something to be loved.  And authors?  They're people to be praised and admired, people to be impressed by, people who are great thinkers and lovers, heroes of communication through fiction.

But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with the above quote.  Authors are asking a lot of their readers.  They're asking to be heard, to be well listened to.  Teens are not generally very great at listening.  So when readers show us enough respect, admiration, and devotion to listen to a 50 to 85 thousand word peak into our inner thoughts and imagination, we, as writers, had better respect them enough to deliver a fantastic story.

And so is born the unwritten writers contract.  It's the understanding that exists between reader and writer.  The reader will listen to what the writer has to say, and the writer will respect the reader and not break too many rules that the reader takes for granted.

Here are some ways authors can respect their readers:

1) Respect Their Time
Readers could be doing anything but reading your book.  They probably should be doing homework or getting much needed sleep, but here they are, reading.  So don't waste their time.  Don't but in paragraphs of description when a sentence would do.  Don't drag a book out far past its natural ending, and don't drag your series on to book 12 when it should have stopped at book 6.  (You can read a whole blog post on dragged out series here.)

2) Respect Their Intellect
Readers are smart.  They can figure some stuff out for themselves.  After you have a big plot twist, you don't have to go back and explain how everything works.  Let the reader trust the the twist is plausible.  Let them figure out the details for themselves.  In the same way, you don't have to show the reader your characters entire tragic back-story to make the reader believe the character is tortured.  Just show them a few scraps and let them piece the rest together.

3) Give Them What They Expect
I'm not saying a book needs to be predictable.  Not at all!  But by the time a reader is half way into a contemporary thriller, they're expecting it to stay a contemporary thriller.  If Aliens suddenly invade and take all the parents, your reader is going to feel disrespected.  (They'll also feel like they're in a Jimmy Neutron show, but that's beside the point)

4) Be Consistent
One thing that really bothered me about Allegiant by Veronica Roth was how totally different the last book felt from the first two books.  The world totally shifted, and I did not like the third book nearly as much.  I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, and instead was handed this totally different novel.  Veronica Roth lost a lot of my respect as a reader because of Allegiant, and I probably won't be picking up her future novels.

5) Keep Your Word
If you say a character is dead, only to have them reappear half way through the book, your reader isn't going to trust future character's death.  And if you keep doing that, you'll cheapen all characters' death as well as making the reader doubt you.
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In the same way, if the narrator says something is going to happen, it should happen in that book.  I loved the Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians series by Brandon Sanderson, but the fact that the scene we were promised in book 1 hadn't happened by the end of book 4, the last book, was quite disappointing for me as the reader.  How can I give the author my trust and respect when they lie to me like that?
Broken promises like that not only breaks your readers trust in you, it also takes away their suspension of disbelief.  They can't let themselves totally fall into a story because at any moment you might tell them it's all a character's dream or bring zombies down on your honest coming of age story.

The five points above are my five articles of an authors unwritten contact with the reader.  When the author doesn't uphold their end of the contract, they lose my faith and trust.  As a reader, the authors that I trust are the ones the deliver great stories time and time again. They can write about different characters and still write well.  They don't hid genre shifts in the middle of their books and don't bring characters that are dead back to life.

The authors that can do that are the authors I trust not only now, but in the future.  They're the authors whose books  I'll pre-order and tweet about.  They're the authors who will become favorites and build a following.  They're the authors that stand out from the crowd

That's it for today's post.  What do you think?  Are there books or authors that lost your trust?  Are there key parts of the Unwritten Author's Contract I left out? As a reader, when do you feel betrayed by a book?  As a writer, do you think these points are too limiting?  What do you think of the quote and YouTube video?  Leave a comment and share your ideas!Also, if you have any posts you'd like to see, let me know!

If you're looking for another thought provoking video that inspired this week's post, here's one by the same YouTuber, Ariel Bissett, on what it takes to be a favorite author.

Also, just a reminder that February's Teen Book Chat is tonight at 8:00 PM Eastern Time.  Follow the hashtag #TBkChat!

Thanks for reading and have a great week!