Monday, 18 August 2014

Where I Am Now


So, I go into Fifth Year in eight days, and now is the time my brain chooses to go 'hey, look at all these activities you should take up! Who cares if there are only 24 hours in a day?'. It wouldn't be so bad if it were the start of the summer holidays, but late August? Really?

Here's the list of things I want/have to do:

1. Write this blog
2. Maintain my other (book) blog
3. Learn to code
4. Write 1,000 words a day in the WIP
5. Increase my vocabulary
6. Study for the Science Olympiad
7. Work on my Young Scientist project
8. Keep up with school
9. Visit friends scattered around the country (Galway, Cork and Wexford, to name a few - not easy coming from Louth.)
10. Write freelance articles

Alright, it's only ten things, but it's fairly difficult to do all of those consistently. Let's look at how I'm doing so far.

#1. I've only just started this blog, so I have either a 100% success rate or a 99% failure rate, depending on how you look at it.

#2. I've been running the other blog (which you can find here) for a little over two years now, having published my first post in June 2012. I updated yesterday with a review of Fractured by Teri Terry, but that was a month and a half after my last update. To be fair, they're long posts (the July one was 1,607 words long) and I'm usually faster, but this one definitely needs work. The problem is that I'm not reading enough. It feels like a waste of time to read when I could be *doing* things, so I need to get rid of that mindset. Writing reviews is the easy part. It doesn't help that I can't find my iPod, so I'm behind on my Kindle Netgalley books.

#3. I've wanted to learn to code for a while now, partly influenced by the  BT Young Scientist and - strangely - this video, plus my friends who do it, but I started using Codecademy in July and made decent progress in the Javascript course (23% through, if I remember correctly). I hit a block at the 'Make a Game of Rock, Paper, Scissors' part, unfortunately, and having had no success getting past it I'm considering starting the course over again because I must be missing something. I haven't done it for a month so it'll be a good refresher anyway.

I do have to say, Codecademy is awesome. The way they highlight different parts of the code different colours is a small touch but very useful (and cheerful, which always helps). It's certainly had plenty of recognition. Then again, the way it's spelled annoys me. A lot.

#4. Oookay. So, I started writing the WIP (Work in Progress) in late May/early June and got at least 1000 words in pretty much every day, so I ended up with around 37,000 words before heading off to CTYI (more on CTYI in the next post) in mid-July. I was way too busy during CTYI to write, and then since I've come home I've been in a bit of a slump. So that definitely needs work. I'm not going to blame 'writer's block' or anything, it's just a matter of motivation. And dividing up my time properly. Which is the point of this blog post.

#5. Increase my vocabulary. Okay, this is a new one, but it's been going well so far. I joined a few days ago, which is stellar for teaching new words (although many of them aren't exactly useful in day-to-day life). It uses a points system and the shiny reward icons work predictably well. I don't even care how well the carrot and the stick works on me - it's working, so that's good. Also, have some words.

One of the silly ones I mentioned: absquatulate, meaning to scram. Then there's mountebank (flamboyant deceiver), peripatetic (unsettled) and terpsichorean (to do with dancing), to name a few. I don't know if I can fit these into normal conversation without seeming sententious (pretentious), but they're awesome. My head starts to hurt if I spend too much time doing the questions in one day though ...

#6. Last year I was picked for the national finals of the Irish Junior Science Olympiad based on my Junior Cert results. I think I'm eligible for the Senior Olympiad this year, so I'm trying to study some. Last year I didn't even know Olympiads existed until I was told in late September so at least I have a little advance warning now. I have to choose between Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Biology is the most common choice but it's also my favourite, so I think I might go with that.

#7. I've been working on my Young Scientist project in the lab for a few months now. The project's a bit of a shot in the dark but hopefully it'll work out. I'll probably talk more about that (or at least the Young Scientist) in a later blog post too.

#8. It feels like this summer's been infinite (and incredible) but I only have a week left until school resumes. I'm going into fifth year doing English, Irish, Maths, Biology, Chemistry, History and French, which means studying. Or at least doing homework. So my already-stretched time will be stretched even tighter. Sigh. I am looking forward to doing Biology, Chemistry, English, Maths and History though. Just not French and Irish.

#9. A big chunk of my friends are from CTYI, and people come to CTYI from all over Ireland (and beyond). I've gone to Dublin several times to see people, and had people come from Galway and Bray to see me. There'll be a reunion in Dublin this Saturday, which I'm looking forward to, and then I'm going to Galway on Sunday and Monday. It'll be more difficult once school starts back up.

#10. I've been writing and submitting listicles to sites on the internet for about two months now. I've had three accepted for publication (and payment), which is pretty decent considering I'm new to it. It's quite a lot of work but it feels so cool when they get accepted. The three that got accepted haven't gone up on the site yet, but I'll link when they do. Honestly, coming up with good ideas is the hardest part.

And for the craic I play ukulele and spend way, way too much time on the internet. That's where I am at the moment; I suppose these could be considered my New-School-Year's Resolutions. They don't seem so impossible once I've written them out.

Anything you're planning on doing this year?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Fractured - Teri Terry Review

Hi, guys. Je suis retournée. I feel like the most frustrating part of reviewing a book is that I can't spoil things, so I'm left saying 'it was shocking when a certain thing happened halfway through, and --' - which makes no sense. There will be general spoilers for Slated (#1), though nothing you couldn't guess.

Publisher: Orchard Books
Publication Date: April 4th 2013
Rating: 3*
Pages: 432
Genre: Dystopian

I really really loved Slated (my review here) but I just couldn't get into the first half of this book. Could not. It was all dream sequences and flashbacks, weird disconnected memories and events that seemed to have no bearing on how I remembered the plot of the first book. And so it took me weeks to read that part (this is becoming a worrying trend - I think I need my reading mojo back) but I bought it so I was sure as hell going to finish it.*

So what made the first half so hard to get through? I've already briefly mentioned most of it, but here's some more detail.

Dream sequences are expected in this series - the prologue, the very start, of the first book, is one. But I feel they got out of hand in Fractured and devolved into filler, especially since most of them are very similar. I understand that Kyla is trying to remember something so her mind keeps flashing back to it and uncovering more details, but it got samey and there was probably a better way to present it for the sake of the readers.

Following from that, Fractured lacked the narrative drive I loved Slated for (in the first half). It seemed like a lot of plot strings were being assembled frustratingly slowly, and while they do lead up to a great finish, it's very frustrating for impatient readers (like me, in this instance).

This gripe applies to the whole book, but - the writing style seemed very unusual, so much so that it distracted me from the story. There was nothing strictly wrong with it, but the way the words were strung together was strange. This is probably down to personal taste, so take it with a pinch of salt.

So what did I like? I think the ending was a resounding success. The plot threads that had so gradually been built up pulled together seamlessly (well, almost). One character whom I hadn't been particularly fond of throughout the book redeemed himself near the end, and then tragedy struck. So I wanted more time with them and didn't get it. Also, there is a shocking betrayal at one point, leaving me feeling like Kyla never gets a break. Basically, there was some absolutely brilliant stuff in Fractured, but it didn't start early enough or last long enough for my tastes. Quite possibly a case of second-book-in-a-trilogy syndrome.

I can't say much here without fear of spoilers, but it's really well researched. Fractured in particular requires quite a lot of specialist knowledge (or a remarkable dexterity with creating believable fictions). I appreciated that.

So: the whole book is a massive entanglement of secrets, lies, and Kyla trying to understand it all even though she barely understands herself. The world order (as it's a dystopian) is still completely askew, leaving lots of material for the third book. It also avoids the trap of making one side completely bad and the other perfectly good.  And yes - I am definitely going to read Shattered (out now).

I almost feel like I should rate the two halves completely differently, but overall it's three out of five stars.