The Best Of 2012 – Movies

Hello gentle reader,

This is my last post looking back at 2012… I already mentioned the TV shows I watched this year in this post and my favourite 2012 books here.Today I’m finishing this series of posts with movies I watched in 2012. This year I watched a total of 30 new releases (most of them at the theatre) and I have picked 10 to share with you…


The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey


The Dark Knight Rises


The Hunger Games

Breaking Dawn Part 2

Twilight – Breaking Dawn – Part 2


Underworld – Awakening

Snow-White-and-the-Huntsman 2

Snow White and the Huntsman



The Avengers

The Avengers

Dark Shadows

Dark Shadows



What did you watch this year? Any movies you’d recommend? Feel free to leave me a comment below!

Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop (closed)

Hello gentle reader,

This week I’m taking part in the

Stuck in a Good Book Giveaway Hop

Hosted by Kathy @ I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Valerie @ Stuck in Books


The winner will be contacted by email.

It runs from today until 25 September 2012 and it is a chance for me to share with you “a book that I just couldn’t put down”.

I have chosen to give away The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (new paperback, US edition). The giveaway is international.

The Hunger Games is a book that I would have read in one sitting if I could have. I actually remember reading it at work, because I couldn’t wait for the end of the day to know what would happen next. I also remember reading the last page when I was about halfway through the book. I NEVER do that. I always read the book from page 1 to the end and I don’t peak. But this book got me so tensed that I had to know if Peeta would survive the Games. So if you haven’t read The Hunger Games, here is your chance.

And of course,

May the odds be ever in your favor...

Giveaway information:

The giveaway is open until Tuesday, September 25th 2012 at midnight (BST time)

To enter please fill in the contact form below with your name and email.

If you follow my blog by email, WordPress or RSS feed, if you are a Twitter follower , if you like my page on Facebook or if you tweet about the giveaway, this will grant you an extra entry. Mention it below.

Entrants must be at least 13 years of age.

This giveaway is open Internationally.

The winner will be chosen randomly, notified by email and will have 72 hours to reply or a new winner will be chosen.

I am not responsible for items lost in the mail.

I hold the right to end the giveaway before its original deadline without any prior notice.

I hold the right to disqualify any entry as I see fit.

Privacy information: no information given for this giveaway will be used for other purpose than this giveaway. All information provided (names, emails and mail addresses) will be deleted after the giveaway.

Good luck and feel free to leave me a comment below…

This is a blog hop! Visit the other giveaways here.

What is “strong writing” ?

One of the most common reasons for agents and publishers to reject a manuscript is « weak writing ». Rather than listing here what makes your writing weak, I’d like to offer a few pointers to help you make your writing strong – or stronger. I will use The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins as an example, since I think most of you have either read the book or seen the movie based on it.

What you need to work on to make your writing “strong”:

1-      The plot

In real life, things rarely go according to plan. Then why should they in books? Your Main Character needs to start out with a plan (for the day, for the year or in life). Then everything needs to go awry.

 In The Hunger Games, Katniss is constantly faced with the unexpected. She goes to the Reaping thinking she or Gale will be picked. It’s Prim who is chosen. She enters the arena thinking she’ll have to count only on herself to survive. Then she finds an ally in Peeta.

2-      The characters

The world cannot revolve around your Main Character. In some stories, the characters seem to exist for the sole purpose of helping the MC or making her miserable. When you’re told you need to “flesh out” your characters, it means you have to make them unique, but it also means you have to give them their own story, their own plan, their own desires, their own AGENDA that will have nothing to do with the MC.

In The Hunger Games, Effie has her own agenda (get promoted to a better district, have a good career) and it so happens that the best course of events for her is if Katniss wins the Games. So she helps Katniss along the way. But if you look at the story from her point of view, Katniss is a means to an end (at least at the beginning).

3-      The pace

Strong writing means no dull moments. It doesn’t mean you have to write an action-packed story in the strictest sense of the word, but it does mean things need to happen in every chapter, and there needs to be a “hanger” at the end of each chapter that will keep your reader reading.

In The Hunger Games, each chapter ends with a cliffhanger. If you write romance,  your “hanger” doesn’t have to be your MC waking up to “a wall of fire descending on” her, but it has to be something that makes the reader turn the page.

4-      High stakes

Having high stakes in your story means that your MC needs to be faced with hard decisions. Your reader needs to wonder what the outcome of the situation will be. Your reader needs to care about your MC making the right decision.

In The Hunger Games, the stakes cannot be higher since every decision Katniss is faced with means life or death for her or someone else. But a love triangle can constitute high stakes too. What works well in The Hunger Games is that Katniss choosing between Gale and Peeta is a very complicated decision, given the circumstances and who they are.

5-      Style

To avoid a so-called “awkward writing”, you may choose to write short, to-the-point sentences.

In The Hunger Games, Collins’ style is simple and it works. Each sentence is carefully worded, with judiciously chosen images. Example: “Behind Peeta, Cato slashes his way through the bush.” That’s 9 words. Yet we get a clear sense of the scene.

6-      World building / Descriptions

When your writing is strong, your reader doesn’t notice when you include world building or descriptions in your story.

By the end of The Hunger Games, the reader has a clear idea of what Katniss, District 12, the Capitol or the Games Arena look like, yet it’s hard to remember exactly when Collins described them. She intertwined the descriptions with her story.

7-      Depth

Strong writing is a tool to make your reader think. You read The Hunger Games for the story, the characters, the suspense. But the reason why so many readers enjoyed it so much is that it tackles important themes. It questions reality TV, freedom and the things we take for granted in our Western societies.

8-      Grammar, spelling and punctuation

No strong writing without them!


So strong writing makes effortless reading. Your readers shouldn’t be able to see through your writing devices. They should be able to believe in, and care about, your characters so much that when the Gamemakers announce that “both tributes from the same district will be declared winners if they are the last two alive”, they call out Peeta’s name at the same time Katniss does.

Do you agree? What makes “strong writing” according to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section!

« Clear Your Shelf » Giveaway Hop (over)

Welcome to my « Clear Your Shelf » Giveaway! It is hosted by Kathy @ I am a reader, not a writer and it runs from Friday, June 15th to Wednesday, June 20th 2012.

Here you can win ONE of the five following books:

Young Adult books:

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins (UK edition)

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins (UK edition)

I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (UK edition)

Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber (US edition)

Adult fiction:

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire (UK edition)

All books are paperbacks  in perfect condition.

Giveaway information:

  • The giveaway is open until Wednesday 20th June at midnight (BST time)
  • To enter please fill in the contact form below with your name, email and the book you wish to win. Please state if you’re a blog follower (by email or RSS feed) or a Twitter follower or if you like my page on Facebook, as this will grant you an extra entry.
  • Entrants must be  at least 13 years of age.
  • This giveaway is open Internationally.
  • The 5 winners will be notified by email and will have 72 hours to reply or a new winner will be chosen.
  • For official giveaway rules and guidelines please consult the I am a readre not a writer page.
  • Privacy information: no information given for this giveaway will be used for other purpose than this giveaway. All information provided (names, emails and mail addresses) will be deleted after the giveaway.

*Giveaway is now closed*

Thanks for entering my giveaway and good luck! Feel free to leave a comment…

Visit the other giveaways here.

YA Dystopian Books

What’s on my bookshelf ? 4

Today I would like to recommend a few books belonging to the very trendy genre of Dystopian fiction for Young Adults. Immensely popularised by The Hunger Games trilogy, this Fantasy sub-genre offers a wide variety of books, some really worth checking out.

Before providing you with a reading list, let’s remind ourselves of what the Dystopian genre actually is. From Goodreads:

Dystopia is a form of literature that explores social and political structures. It is a creation of a nightmare world – unlike its opposite, Utopia, which is an ideal world. Dystopia is often characterized by an authoritarian or totalitarian form of government. It often features different kinds of repressive social control systems, a lack or total absence of individual freedoms and expressions, and a state of constant warfare or violence. Many novels combine both Dystopia and Utopia, often as a metaphor for the different directions humanity can take in its choices, ending up with one of the two possible futures.”

For a very long time, dystopian books were just science-fiction novels. But its great success in the last few years has required the renaming of the genre and the creation of a specific category on bookshelves…

So, on my bookshelf, you can find:

1- The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins (2008)

Teenagers fight to the death on live TV in a post-apocalyptic America. THE dystopian book every teenager has heard about, and most likely read. Made into a very popular movie this year.

2The Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano (2011)

In a future America and because of a deadly virus, young people die in their twenties. As a consequence, society is collapsing. A powerful first book, with a second installment that was unfortunately much weaker. Wither is a must-read nonetheless.

3- The Eve trilogy by Anna Carey (2011)

United States, 2032: a deadly virus has wiped out most of the world population and survivors struggle to rebuild a free society. A great, fast-paced read for teenagers who are maybe not ready for “darker” books.

4- The Pledge by Kimberly Derting (2011)

In the imaginary country of Ludania, languages divide classes and words can kill. A powerful story about freedom of speech and democracy.

5- The Line trilogy by Teri Hall (2010)

In a future America, a dictatorship rules the country and a line encloses the US. Nobody crosses it. But what’s on the other side? A good book for youger readers who want to familiarise themselves with the dystopian genre.

6- The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness (2008)

A chilling story about a society where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts.
7- Blood Red Road (The Dust Lands series) by Moira Young (2011)

A tale of adventures in a violent post-apocalyptic world. Very intense. Not an easy read, but it has received numerous literay prizes.
8- Under the Never Sky trilogy by Veronica Rossi (2012)

In the future, the world is a wasteland and survivors live under a protective dome… I haven’t read that one yet, but it has recieved raving reviews.
9- Article 5 by Kristen Simmons (2012)

In the future, the US are a dictatorship, ruled with The Moral Statutes. Nobody has rebelled, yet. I haven’t read that one either, but I’ve heard great things about it.
10- The Maze Runner trilogy by James Dashner (2009)

 This one has received mixed reviews but it keeps popping up everytime I search for YA dystopian books… Have you read it? What did you think?

That’s it for YA dystopian books sitting on my bookshelf… Any other books you’d recommend? Feel free to comment!

What is Young Adult Fiction?

I was at the London Book Fair last Monday and I had the chance to attend a few thought-provoking seminars and to meet a few interesting publishers/writers there. What was obvious to me from what I heard during those meetings/discussion groups is that nobody agrees on what YA literature is/should be.

The American Library Association describes YA fiction as anything someone between the ages of 12-18 chooses to read. It can include different genres: contemporary, historical, paranormal, fantasy, science-fiction, mystery, etc…

However, this definition cannot be definite, for two reasons:

–          people well over 18 read YA books every day

–          you don’t read the same books when you’re 12 and when you’re 18

I remember going to a seminar on YA literature three years ago and the writers invited there all agreed on the fact that you cannot include violence, sex and swearing in a YA book. However the writers who were at the London Book Fair this Monday disagreed with that point of view, stating that older teenagers deserve to have a literature that deals with those more difficult themes.

To my mind, one cannot give a definite characterization of YA literature. But we can attempt to say what YA books always include and what they don’t have to include to be YA books.

What YA fiction NEEDS to include:

–          The journey of a young person who is becoming an adult. Along the way, this character needs to find the answer to the most important question in life: “Who am I and who do I want to become?” In Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, the whole point of the series is to explore what kind of adult Bella will become, regardless of external factors.

–           Choices and their consequences. Growing up is all about finding out things for yourselves and to understand that the choices you make have consequences in the future and for others. The main protagonist in a YA book needs to be faced with interesting choices that will offer the reader an opportunity to reflect on those decisions. Which is why YA books can include violence/sex/difficult themes, as long as the consequences of such behaviors are explained and explored. For example, you can include children turned into killers (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins), forced marriage (Wither by Lauren DeStefano), graphic violence (This Is Not Forgiveness by Celia Rees) and so on.

–          Themes that are relevant to teenagers: friendship, first love, independence, school, religion, racism, parents’ divorce, bullying, teen sex, teen pregnancy, ecology, politics… But YA books can also tackle issues that are not directly based on the lives of teenagers that read them but are nonetheless important because they open their eyes to problems dealt by others in other times (see YA historical and dystopian novels on slavery, witch-hunts, bleak future, etc…) or in other places (see YA contemporary novels on child labor, child soldiers, child trafficking, etc…)

What YA fiction DOESN’T NEED to include:

–          A first-person narrative. Writers! Third-person narrative is fine! The Morganville Vampires series by Rachel Caine is not a first-person narration and it still is a NY Times best-seller.

–          Parents that are dead/gone/out of the picture/bad at parenting in general. The Line by Teri Hall includes a main protagonist with a loving mother, yet she still manages to learn to make her own choices and to become independent.

–          A teenage girl as the main character. Hey, boys are cool too.

–      A school. A boarding school. Details on the main character’s school life. Usually, writers get them wrong, so unless it’s incredibly relevant to the story, don’t bother recreating in details a biology lesson that will sound nothing like an actual biology lesson.

–          A love triangle/An impossible love. A regular love story between just two people can be complicated enough, you know.

–         Vampires and/or werewolves. Characters with superpowers/magic powers in general. Gods. Sirens. Witches. Contemporary novels with regular people sell well too.

–         A bad boy with stalking habits whose heart melts for the main female protagonist. Seriously. Fictional characters deserve more than to be stereotypes.

So what do you think? What is YA fiction according to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

This post was inspired by two excellent blog posts that I suggest you check out:

Defining YA literature

The YA Drinking Game

You might also want to read : Campbell’s Scoop: Reflections on Young Adult Literature by Patty Campbell (Scarecrow Press, 2010)