Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: The Girl Who Owned a City (Graphic Novel)

Hello, friends. I've decided I'd try posting a review for once. After all, I review a lot of YA books, so I might as well share some of my reviews with all of you. If anyone wants to see more reviews on my blog, I'd be happy to post more.

Here's a link to the original review on Goodreads, which has a few more spoilers in it. But I'll post the totally spoiler-free review here. So, enjoy.

Title: The Girl Who Owned a City (The Graphic Novel)
Author: Dan Jolley, Illustrator: Joelle Jones
Release Date: April 2012 (ARC provided by NetGalley)

My rating: 3/5 Stars

So, after I finished reading this, I saw on the last page that it had been based on a novel from 1975. I have not read the novel or ever heard of it, so I don't know what the similarities and differences between the original and graphic novels are. Whether the flaws in the graphic novel are in any way the fault of O.T. Nelson––the original author––I don't know. 

Anyway, to briefly summarize the plot:

The Girl Who Owned a City is the story of a grim, futuristic world in which a mysterious virus kills all the adults and turns them into piles of dust. Our protagonist is a girl named Lisa Nelson who is determined to find and protect as many surviving children as she can. But she is rivaled by another gang, led by a boy named Tom Logan who wants to steal her power and form some kind of dictatorship over all the other kids.

I obtained a digital version of this book via NetGalley, which is like my new best friend in website form. After I downloaded it I decided to look through it––so of course, I ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting.

This is an exciting and fast-paced read, and it's fairly short. So, it's something I would recommend if you were looking for something quick and fun. And what with the current dystopian craze, I could see this being a successful graphic novel.

Lisa is a likable main character, although I'm not sure how realistically she's portrayed. I don't think her age is ever defined, but supposedly she's younger than 12. (Otherwise, she would be a pile of dust.) I spent the whole book assuming she was around 14 or 15, because she seemed to be acting a little more like a teenager. Then, of course, I realized that wasn't possible. Granted, she seems to have gone through a lot so I wouldn't be surprised if she'd matured early. But regardless of her age, Lisa is easy to relate to. The reader can feel her stress and frustration as she tries to keep everything together and keep everyone safe. 

However, I thought the other characters could have been fleshed out more. At least the relationship between Lisa and her little brother Todd was pretty nicely done, and Lisa's friend Craig was also somewhat interesting. But in the short span of the book, I didn't feel like I quite knew most of the characters. Most of them just seemed to be there to be Lisa's little helpers and not to have personalities of their own.

As for the plot ... It's not the most original thing in the world. Basically, this book is Lord of the Flies, Gone, and Maximum Ride combined. Once you've read Lord of the Flies, you've pretty much read all the books with the "Oh no! All the adults are gone!" plot, so you can probably already guess what this book is like. As for the similarities to Gone (by Michael Grant), it has the same premise where all the adults conveniently just "disappear" and there is only a vague explanation as to why. (More on that in a minute.) I guess I'm kind of stretching it with the comparison to Maximum Ride, but the whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking that Lisa is pretty much the same character as Max. She has the same tough-girl attitude where she doesn't want anyone to help her, and she wants to handle everything by herself, etc. And it didn't help that Craig kind of has a Fang-ish attitude with his whole "Let's just forget everyone else and live by ourselves!" attitude.

Anyway, as I was saying, I have the same issue with this book as I had with Gone by Michael Grant: the reason for the adults disappearing makes little sense to me. I believe that in Gone, the author blamed it on a nuclear chemical spill, which I found difficult to understand. In The Girl Who Owned a City, this is the only explanation the author makes: "for some strange reason, the sickness is not fatal to children." 

You know, for once I would like to see one of these "post-apocalyptic-worlds-where-there-are-only-children-left" books where there is actually a believable explanation as to why all the adults are gone. Not only that, but it would make more sense if the adults didn't just "vanish." It would make more sense if it was like the Black Plague all over again, with rotting corpses all over the place. Disgusting? Well, yes. But far more realistic. I can't bring myself to believe that there would ever be a disease that would literally just turn people into dust.

The originality and lack-of-explanation issues aside, I think my biggest problem with this book was the lack of emotional reactions in the characters. At the beginning, Lisa informs us that it's only been a few weeks since the plague killed all the adults. Yet, none of the kids seem extremely upset. They all focus solely on surviving and don't seem to remember anything that happened before they were left by themselves. You don't have little kids crying for their parents all over the place. I can't recall any point where Lisa and Todd had a conversation about their mom and dad. It was like the author was so focused on making the story "kickass" that he completely ignored the realistic, emotional impact of the story. I understand if the kids are in shock or in denial or something, but at least a little more effort could have been made. I mean, in such a horrible situation, I really wanted to know how the characters felt. How on earth would it feel to see your own parents turn into dust? Because I'm pretty sure it would be devastating.

I swear I'm almost done ranting now. There's only one more thing I have to criticize, and that's the ending. I'm not going to specify too much so as not to spoil it. But in my humble opinion, it was a total cop-out and I was kind of disappointed.

So, in conclusion, I think this book had some potential in its premise, but there were a lot of issues with its execution. However, I still found it enjoyable. It was an easy, fun read and something that could keep you entertained for an hour or two. Even though the characters aren't totally fleshed-out, at least they're likable.

And if all else fails, the illustrations are pretty cool.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What order do you write in?

I know a lot of other writers who have no problem writing stories out of chronological order. And I understand the benefits of doing this. I get stuck a lot of the time, and instead of writing future scenes like I possibly should, I either force myself through the slow parts or I give up.

Obviously, the whole "giving up" thing can lead to problems––mostly the guilt that I abandon so many of  my poor little stories. But on the other hand, I can't seem to force myself to write out of order. I do plan ahead as I write, I just don't want to "skip" anything as I'm actually writing.

Of course, just as there are benefits to writing out of order, I think there are benefits to writing in chronological order as well. My fear is that, if I didn't write in chronological order, I would only write the "interesting" parts of the story––the main events and whatnot––and skip over everything in between. Sure, the in-between stuff can be kind of dull, but I also think it's important for creating tension and building character relationships, etc. I guess I feel like, if I don't force myself through the less interesting parts, I don't know my characters well enough to be sure of how they would respond in the most disastrous situations––if that makes sense. I find that my characters usually turn out differently from what I initially expect, and if I wrote out of order, maybe I would miss out on that.

So, what does everyone else think? Do you write in or out of chronological order? What do you think are the costs and benefits of each?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What I'm Listening To (As I write my NaNo)

Hello everyone!
I hope everyone doing NaNoWriMo is having fun & success. (Only a week left! Ahhhh!)
Since I haven't posted anything in a while, I thought I'd share with you guys some songs/lyrics that have inspired me as I'm writing. Whether it's the lyrics or the moods of these songs, these are all songs that have helped me survive NaNo so far. As you can see, they all involve some kind of "dreamy" mood or the mention of dreams ... I can't help it. I'm so ... literal.

So, yeah. Here it is. My playlist for Sweet Sorrow:

1. "Set Apart This Dream" by Flyleaf

Close your eyes pretty girl
'Cause it's easier when you brace yourself
Set your thoughts on a world far off
Where we only cry from joy

2. "On Top Of The World" by Boys Like Girls

Let's spend tonight on top of the world
We can do anything
We can be anything
I'll meet you tonight on top of the world
As real as it seems
You're only in my dreams

3. "Blinding" by Florence + the Machine

Seems that I have been held
In some dreaming state
A tourist in the waking world
Never quite awake

4. "Painting Flowers" by All Time Low

When I wake up
The dream isn't done
I want to see your face
And know I made it home
If nothing is true
What more can I do?
I am still painting flowers for you

5. "Keep the Car Running" by Arcade Fire

The same city where I go when I sleep
You can't swim across a river so deep
They know my name 'cause I told it to them
But they don't know where
And they don't know 
When it's coming

6. "Ghost" by Blue Foundation

He's burned down many a bridge
And he's scared of walking in the dark
It hurts when the rain falls on his skin

Oh he is worn out from marching
And he's forgotten for what he's searching

7. "Don't Wake Me Up" by The Hush Sound

You came to me
In seamless sleep
Slipped right in
Behind my eye
On the back of my mind
We swam a sea
Of pretty sights and chandelier skies
I swore I could feel you breathe
It was all so real to me

The light had slipped through the window
The morning ripped you away, oh

8. "Where the Fence is Low" by LIGHTS

Each shadow I walk
To the ends of the forest
And the shape of the hands
That break the ground for us
The fear that contains
That binds like a blessing
I've been here before
Then again I'm guessing

9. "Misguided Ghosts" by Paramore

Misguided ghosts,
Traveling endlessly,
The ones we trusted the most,
Pushed us far away,
And there's no one road,
We should not be the same,
But I'm just a ghost,
And still they echo me

10. "Unleashed" by Epica

Where was I meant to be?
I'm feeling lost in a dream,
Long for the day I can be myself

11. "Sweet Dreams" by The Eurhythmics

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree
I travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something

12. "Imaginary" by Evanescence

Don't say I'm out of touch
With this rampant chaos––your reality
I know well what lies beyond my sleeping refuge
The nightmare I built my own world to escape

13. "Trust Me" by The Fray

Looking for something I've never seen
Alone and I'm in between
I found a friend or should I say a foe
Said there's a few things you should know
We don't want you to see
We come and we go
Here today, gone tomorrow
Take it from me
We don't give sympathy
You can trust me, trust nobody

14. "Leave My Body" by Florence + the Machine

I'm gonna be released from behind these lines
And I don't care whether I live or die
And I'm losing blood, I'm gonna leave my bones

15. "Somewhere Only We Know" by Keane

I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I've been dreaming of?

16. "Help I'm Alive" by Metric

I tremble
They're gonna eat me alive
If I stumble
They're gonna eat me alive
Can you hear my heart beating like a hammer?

Well, that's all folks!
Anyone else have any particular songs that have helped them through NaNo so far?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Collage Brainstorms

Hey guys. This post is going to be very short and sweet because I'm a busy gal and I need to get back to NaNo-ing. (Or whatever the word is. The point is, I'm working on my NaNo at the moment and I'm trying to reach the magical 50k mark today. And I still have quite a bit to go. So ... wish me luck!)

This is a fun idea I got from my friend Ally's blog, NOVEL IDEAS (which is a fabulous blog, by the way, and you should all read it). She probably explains it better than I do, but the basic idea is that you search around on the Internet for pictures that represent ideas/places/characters/etc. in your story. I tried it out and found it quite fun and motivational. I've always found images to be inspiring, so I think this is a tool that could really help me in the future. (I already make book covers for my own stories, so this is kind of similar to that.)

So, here it is! My first collage brainstorm. It's for Sweet Sorrow, my NaNo novel. :)

(You can click on it to make it bigger.)

I found photos on deviantArt (so, they're not my photos!) and edited the collage using Picasa. (Picasa is a free photo editing program on Google, and it has a cool collage-making tool.)

So, what do y'all think? Is this an activity you think would be helpful? If anyone else makes collages, I'd love to see them! :)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

It has begun. How will you survive?

So, it's the second day of NaNoWriMo. If you don't know what that is after I've explained it a billion times ... just read the post before this one.

I know a lot of people are hesitant to participate because the challenge is intimidating––but really, there's nothing to lose even if you don't reach the word goal. Trust me, I'm busy as heck. I'm always busy. But I'm still trying to find time in my hectic schedule to work on my novel. So you should try it, too. You might be surprised by how much you get done! And no matter how much or how little you get done, it's better than writing nothing at all.

Anyway, to those of you who have decided to participate, I've decided to put together a list of survival tips, being an experienced Wrimo myself. Hopefully this will help. :)

8 NaNoWriMo Survival Tips (In No Particular Order):

1. Write crap. Seriously. What you write is probably going to suck, and that's okay. Don't delete words. Don't think too hard about what you're writing. Just let go of all your inhibitions and write whatever comes into your mind. It doesn't matter if your prose is cluttered with filler or if you keep repeating yourself. It's all about getting out that first draft. It's about quantity and not quality. If you want quality, you can edit in December (or, you know, whenever). Write rants, internal monologues, dialogue, whatever. Write anything, and don't be too concerned with your plot.

2. Keep the NaNoWriMo website open at all times. Heck, make it your homepage for the month. I at least always have it open in one tab, so that every time I open my web browser, I'm reminded of what I'm supposed to be doing. That way, if I'm about to get on Facebook, I always get a wake-up call.

3. Get on Write or Die. This website is a life saver. It always keeps me focused. Enough said. Linkage:

4. Have writing buddies. Doing NaNo alone is a sad, sad thing. Just explore the NaNo forums for anyone else who wants a writing buddy. If it's someone who writes at about the same pace as you do, that's ideal. Challenge other Wrimos to word wars. Adding a little bit of competition does wonders for motivating you.

5. Get ahead of schedule. Don't just stop at 1,667 words every day. If you get there and you still have ideas, keep going. I like to get at least a little bit ahead every day, because you never know when there's going to be a day when you'll have no time to write at all.

6. But remember to take breaks, too. Don't expect to sit down and write all 1,667 words in one sitting, or your poor brain is going to burn up. I'll usually write for 15-30 minutes and then take a break for a few minutes to think about what I'm going to write next. It's best to write in chunks over the day. That way you have time to think––and thinking is just as important as writing.

7. Exercise your wrists. I know one big problem I have that prevents me from writing is when my wrists start to hurt like crazy. I highly recommend doing exercises like these ones whenever you take a break from writing. You don't want to get carpal tunnel!

8. Find a song that really inspires you. For me, that song is "Blinding" by Florence + the Machine. It fits the mood and the story of my novel perfectly. Whenever I listen to it I feel excited about writing and that helps a lot to motivate me. I recommend finding a song that fits a particular tone/theme/character in your novel that will excite you about writing. Or it doesn't necessarily have to be a song. It could be a poem, quote, whatever. Just come up with a little reminder that will inspire you every day. :)

Hopefully that helps!

Now I should get off Blogger and return to writing ... *Waves*