Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Writings and Nano

Happy Halloween! Or Happy Recoverings, if you were hit by Hurricane Sandy. (We were all set for power outages and crazy winds here, but we were lucky. Not even a flicker in the lights.)

Also, for those participating in Nanowrimo like me, good luck! Or, Merry Writings! (Gracious wisdom, that sounded like something Charles Dickens would say.)

To celebrate, and as a warmup for tomorrow, I'm posting a short spiff today. It's written right this second, off-the-tip-of-my-tongue. It's not a short story, perhaps not even a scene, but it's writing. Sorry for anything amiss.

The lone black cat stared through the window in the chilly light of dawn. Outside, nothing stirred -- not the people in the houses that lined the other side of the road, not the stray cats and dogs sleeping under bushes, not the birds in the trees. No light shined from the street lamps; it was too dark to see properly, but not dark enough to call night anymore.

The only sign of life was the flickering light from under one of the bushes in her front yard. The fairy light danced, tempting her, but the cat refused to budge. It was her job to watch and protect, not play with fairies.

As dawn bled into morning, the cat flicked her ears. Halloween -- the most important day of the year. Inch-tall figures walked out from under the bush, fairies with fragile wings and nature nymphs with green skin. Busy humans, waking up to work or go to school, passed by the little figures, oblivious to their presence.

Whenever one of the little figures outstepped her bounds, the cat growled, and the little creatures' sensitive ears picked up the warning. They stayed, always, within thirteen feet of their burrow under the bush.

One of the little figures ignored the black cat's warning. The little fairy, glowing blue stepped over the invisible line, looking curiously at the humans passing by. A little human, no more than five years old, spotted it.

In a flash, the black cat bounded away from the window, along the hallway, out the front door. She pinned the offensive fairy to the ground and meowed, more to appease the human boy's curiousity than to punish the little figure underneath her paws.

After the human ambled away, the black cat brought her face up close to the fairy.

"Remember the pact, Little Figure," the cat hissed, with something akin to worry in her words. "It's there for a reason."

"What reason?" the fairy challenged. It was a young fairy, barely an adult, and didn't figure much for a mysterious, centuries-old pact she had nothing to do with.

"To keep the humans from pinning all of you like butterflies," growled the cat. She refused to say more, feeling her duty to protect was fulfilled. She walked back to her perch in the window.

As the day wore on, none of the little figures stepped over the line again. One day of freedom they have, but it was worth keeping that one day than trading it for no freedom at all. By nightfall, the magical little creatures had tired their dancing and gawking, and slipped once again into their otherworldly burrow for another year.

Have a lovely, spooky Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma

Chloe's older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks to and longs for, who can't be captured or caged. After a night with Ruby's friends goes horribly wrongand Chloe discovers a dead body floating in the reservoir, Chloe is sent away -- away from home, away from Ruby.
But Ruby will do anything to get her sister back, and when Chloe returns home at last, she finds a precarious and deadly balance waiting for her. As Chloe flirts with the truth Chloe has hidden deeply away, the fragile line between life and death is redrawn by the complicated bonds of sisterhood.
Imaginary Girls is a masterfully distorted vision of family with twists that beg for their secrets to be kept.

~Print copy, 346 pages
Published: 2011 by Penguin Group USA

I didn't particularly enjoy this story, and I didn't hate it especially. It was somewhat... forgettable, in my lonely opinion.

Chloe is completely dependent upon her sister, Ruby. Ruby is the mysterious, beautiful, and manipulative girl who can control the entire town. Enough to make people come back to life.

When Chloe is 14, she swims in the reservoir, fully intending to reach the other side and come back. But halfway there, she finds the dead body of a girl named London. The way the book is written, I believe Chloe was freaked out enough to leave their tiny town to go live with her father, though the summary there says she was forced.

Anyways, two years later Ruby shows up and says Chloe should come back. So Chloe does, and when she arrives in their small town, home again at last, she sees London. Alive.

As the story goes on, Chloe comes to realize just how much control her sister really has over this town.

One thing I disliked about this book was Chloe. She was so dependent. I felt like she had no thoughts of her own, or if she did, they were petty things meant to lash out at her sister's sudden rules. Things like sleeping with a guy Ruby doesn't approve of, smoking in a cemetary, dipping one toe in the water of the reservoir that Ruby specifically told her never to go near.

I have an older sister and two younger sisters. None of us are quite that dependent on each other. True, our mother isn't an absent drunk like Chloe's is. But still, I just cannot connect with such a level of dependence on each other.

I felt this would've been a better book if written from Ruby's point of view. She was a much more... fleshed out character. You know what I mean? More alive. Chloe felt like a weak, diluted version of reality.

I liked the writing style, though. It was... on the border of colloquial and proper English. The incohesive way a person thinks mixed with better grammar.  It made the whole book seems mysterious and incohesive even as it made perfect, linear sense.

There is swearing and vague mentions of sex. Not gory detail or anything, just mentioning that she did have sex. Not my cup of tea, you understand. Yea, it's a part of teenagerhood, thanks to stupid society, but I personally plan to do neither. Ever, or at least not any time soon.

Some of this also felt a little contrived. I put it down two nights ago (as I'm writing this post, on Saturday) and I forget the general places where I found such contrivances, but I remembering thinking, that was pure chance. What would've happened if that hadn't happened? Would this have made the story better than it is now?

I didn't mind the world-building. There are mentions of how the town is laid out, the mountains nearby, it's up North, etc.

The most detailed part of the world is the reservoir, though. Ruby has been telling Chloe of how New Yorkers bought the land from many towns to make the reservoir, but one town refused to leave. This town stayed there, even as the water came rushing in, and now they were all still alive at the bottom of the reservoir, refusing to give up, refusing to leave. This is a major plot point and a pretty decent one at that. Mysterious, undead towns at the bottom of a reservoir? Awesome.

So, I liked Ruby, the world, and the writing. I disliked the swearing, the contrivances in places, and Chloe. This is a sort of so-so book. I give it a three.

[As a side note, the edges of Hurricane Sandy are about to hit us (today, on Monday). Our power might flicker out for I don't know how long. No school today, though! Meep! :) And my cat had three kittens last week: one of them is a runt, so I'll be busy hand-feeding it some artificial milk, as well. This all amounts to, I don't know if I'll be able to post on Wednesday or not.]

Friday, October 26, 2012

Follow Friday #21

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: What writing device or trick most irritates you when reading a book? For example, if an author employs an omnipotent narrator that is sometimes considered bad form.

Honestly? There are really three things that irk me as a reader (though from a writer's standpoint, I know how easy it is to do these):

One is love triangles. It doesn't matter if this is a dominating facet of the main plot or a minor subplot. They just don't work with me. If you really loved the first dude (because books like these, I notice, are usually told from the point of view of a teenage girl), you wouldn't have fallen for the second. Just a matter of opinion.

The second is when an author introduces a "strong" character who comes across as too weak. You know the type - the bad girl with the black clothes and the mean, tough attitude, who is in love with the nice, shy boy, or happens to be completely reliant on her little sister, or in reality loves little unicorn statuettes. When you make a character strong, you have to make them flawed, as to be realistic - but there is a fine line between flawed and weak. Especially if they present the character as strong in the back-cover summary, a weak character will really irk me.

The third is where the author leaves the outcome of the climax up to pure chance. Let me give you a famous example - Lord of the Rings. Smeagol happens to be there, he happens to be desperate enough in that moment to try and bite the ring off Frodo's finger, and happens to fall in. I would've been more pleased with Sam wrestling Frodo for the Ring, and forces it off his finger and into the lava and Frodo snaps out of his stupid daze of power. Tolkien also did this with The Hobbit - left the dragon to be killed off by some brave human bystander instead of an epic showdown between the dragon and Bilbo with Sting.

Anyways, these three tend to annoy me. If they're bad enough, I'll set the book down, and trust me I don't do that often. Maybe three times in 2012, and since I read 2-3 books a week...

What annoys you when reading? Have a blessed weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In Which I Update and Advise

Gah! Running behind on everything. Just schoolwork, homework, schoolwork.

I get so little sleep from all this. I stay up for hours, sometimes the entire night, thinking about what I forgot to do here but it's too late to actually do it now. About what I need to do the next day, or what projects are due what date, or what my grades are in one class and how I can bring it up from a D to a B.

This is a rambling way of telling you I didn't plan a post for today. But it's also implied advice.

Sometimes worry makes you suffer. Your creativity, your sleeping, the amount of time you spend writing. School teaches you that you need to be productive in everything you do, every minute of the day, using your time wisely.

Personally, I spend more time trying to be productive in that way than I do actually being productive. Let me explain: I worry about my productivity, and I lose sleep over it. When I lose sleep, my productivity level drops because when I don't sleep, my attention span suffers. Then I worry even more because my productivity level has dropped.

The boatload of homework doesn't really help, either. It's fine that your teacher gives you an hour of homework; but then, you're taking seven classes, and when all teachers give you an hour of homework, you cry and do your best to finsih each in half an hour so you have time to sleep.

There are a couple things I suggest:

1. Try to find something you like. In EVERY subject, every place. That's what your teachers want, right? It makes working on that stuff a lot easier. That's what your boss wants, right? Loving your job means you're more efficient. That's what you want, right? You're so much more likely do get what you need done when you like it.

2. There is so much stuff in the world sometimes that #1 is impossible. Forcing yourself to do so makes an hour-long project drag into three hours. I know this from when I was little and my mom told me to clean my room. So, perhaps you should simply schedule a time to do it, and schedule a little time for infrequent breaks. Take a walk or make tea or something.

3. Sometimes, I find that forcing myself is the only solution. You can't like everything, and let's face it: life tends to throw something unexpected at you to ruin your lovely little schedule. So, sit down and coax it out as painlessly as possible. Bottle of water (or cup of coffee or tea) and some music on, and just focus for short bursts of time. Force the right words or planning or actions out. I still recommend breaks.

4. Don't stress out over it. I find that sometimes you need to remind yourself that this is doable. "This is easy, I know this. It's simple and totally, 100% possible." This really helps if you're a student and you're learning something new. Something that doesn't fit in your brain right, even if your (*cough math cough*) teacher lectures on it for an hour and a half.  Your brain is tricked into thinking it really does know this, and makes it easier to grasp in reality.

I hope you (and I) get something out of these four little tips. It may or may not work - #4 helps me pass math pretty much every school year, but no matter how hard I try, I cannot find anything to like about it to save my miserable hide.

What do you think? Do you lose sleep over this ingrained school maxim? Do you find yourself itching to work and feeling guilty about any break? Have you tried any of these tips?

Have a blessed... night! (Sorry this is such a late post.) So, have a blessed tomorrow!   

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett

Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, filled with hours of rigorous training by stern priestesses. Her former friends no longer dare to look at her, much less speak to her. All that she has left are her mother and her beloved, misshapen brother, Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety.
So when a ship arrives one spring day, bearing a tribute of slaves from Athens, Ariadne sneaks out to meet it. These newcomers don't know the ways of Krete; perhaps they won't be afraid of a girl who will someday be a powerful goddess. And indeed she meets Theseus, the son of the king of Athens. Ariadne finds herself drawn to the newcomer, and soon they form a friendship -- one that could perhaps become something more.
Yet Theseus is doomed to die as an offering to the Minotaur, that monster beneath the palace -- unless he can kill the beast first. And that "monster" is Ariadne's brother.

~Print copy (from the library), 310 pages
Published: 2011 by Harcourt

This was a pretty good book, overall. Adventure, Greek mythology, complications and misunderstandings.

One of the things I disliked was that in this summary, it mentions it could "become something more." Which it doesn't. There is very little romance in this at all, and so the summary is a bit misleading. I thought I would dread this book because of that one line.

But in fact, it was pretty good. It switches POV between Ariadne, in past tense, and Theseus, in present tense. Together, they tell this story of how Ariadne's mother died and how Ariadne has to take her mother's place.

They have this ritual in Krete, where She-Who-Is-Goddess (Ariadne's mother) chooses one man, who supposedly houses the god Velchanos's body, to make love to and then have him killed, so his blood can fertilize their fields. Ariadne is She-Who-Will-Be-Goddess, born to take her mother's place in this gruesome ritual.

Theseus is the illegitimate son of the Athenian king. His stepmother, the Queen, has had a child with the king already, and sees Theseus as a threat to her child's claim to the throne. When a serving girl (whose uncle is the king) suggests that they send Theseus along with the yearly tribute to Krete, everyone's happy... except Theseus.

I'm not sure what kept me from that I'm-obsessed-with-this! feeling. It just didn't catch my spark, for whatever reason. But I still think other people would love this new take on the Minotaur.

This book intertwines Theseus's adventures and Ariadne's destiny, and it was pretty well-written to boot. I would recommend this to any one who likes a good adventure/destiny/mythology book. I give it a 4.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Follow Friday #20

Follow Firday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: When you step out of your USUAL genre, what do you like to read? Best books in that genre?

Oh, goodness... what is my usual genre? Fantasy, really. The epic kind. As well as dystopian, post-apocalyptic, set-in-the-future-sci-fi kinds of books. If you can fit fantasy, sci-fi, set in the future in a dystopian world, post-apocalype all in one book, I'd squeak with happiness.

Outside of those genres, I do read general/historical or realistic fiction. What I mean is, set on earth, in a real time period, without magic. Myth, religion, and legend come into play, awesome - but I usually mean "this is a fake character in a real time period setting", like World War 2 China or present-day Australia or something like that.

The best books in this genre... There's a book I read recently called Sold by Patricia McCormick. It's the story of a poor girl in Nepal who's sold to a brothel called Happiness House. Heartbreaking, lyrical story, really. Prostitution is a tough topic to pull off right, but this author did it brilliantly.

There was Battle Dress by Amy Efaw, about a girl who joins the military. I could really connect with the main character, even though I have no will to join the military. (Don't get me wrong, I love our military; but I have no place there. I'm not what you'd call "disciplined". Or "logical". Or "physically fit".) This story caught my attention pretty easily, compared with other books. It's been awhile, like months or even a year or two, but I still feel like I know the character. You know?

Gah. I read a lot of fantasy. I keep looking at my bookshelf and what I see are general fiction books where the MC finds out about magic. Or is hiding magic from the general world.  Two examples are enough for you.

What do you think? What's your favorite genre, and what do you read when you stray away from it?

Have a blessed Friday and weekend!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

One Girl's Trash Could Later Be Her Treasure

So, yesterday I cleaned my room. Well, "clean" is an overstatement. "Reorganized" is a better term for What I've Done.*

I have this drawer full of random junk that most people would have thrown out. I tend to keep the small stuff, and I'd set aside a drawer for it, but as I was cleaning yesterday, I found a new place to stick them all. This is a quick list of the more unusual stuff I found:

  • 3 empty packets of Trident Layers gum (strawberry/citrus flavor).
  • 2 hairbands, one purple and one black, that are as worn down as they can get without breaking.
  • 3 plastic Barnes and Noble bags, the ones they hand you your books in. Nothing inside**
  • 1 hem from a pair of old blue jeans: cut off when they'd dragged on the ground.
  • 2 silky-type scraps of painted cloth: 1 lovely dark purple, 1 lightish blue with purple patches.
  • 1 plastic, fake Roman coin. 2 dice, 1 blue and 1 white. 1 (funny-looking) red duct-tape flower.

The sort of junk you keep without anyone asking you to keep it is amazing, when you think of it. I have movie ticket stubs, every school binder I've used since freshman year (I'm a junior now)***, one of those plastic rings they sometimes put on cupcakes, as well as a metal tiger-head ring. I've even kept water bottles, soda cans, marbles, beads, and those paper wristbands they give you at concerts (Acquire the Fire, for me).
Trident Layers, a metal tiger-head ring, and my pitiful duct-tape flower.
How does this relate to writing? I think the point I'm trying to make is that even when you think it's junk, you should collect it. Past me didn't find this stuff practical in any way: I just kept it on a whim. But now, this random junk I've collected is priceless: they represent a memory of something, anything.

Every day is precious. Keeping the little things can help you remember them.

I think I'll label this is as inspiration. Delving through memories of happier or sadder times, turning over old objects and thinking of their past. I think it'd be kind of interesting to see what your characters keep as well. Do they collect old water bottles or movie ticket stubs or plastic bags?

Now, just as advice, I don't recommend you become a true hoarder. You'll have to throw away some things or get buried alive in your own trash. But keeping mementos, memories, little things can really delve deep to that soul you've buried under mounds of chocolate-bar wrappers.

What do you think? Keep the junk or hoard it? Have a blessed day!

*There's a song from Linkin Park called "What I've Done". I love that song. It has nothing to do with this post, just thought I'd mention.
**Well, technically, one of them had stuff inside. A Godiva chocolate bar wrapper and the cover of The Host by Stephanie Meyer. Sad, I know. I don't even like that book, nor did I buy that book from B&N - I bought it from Walmart.
***I used to have binders from middle school too, but I had to throw them away. My room is too tiny to keep them all.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Singing the Dogstar Blues by Alison Goodman

Seventeen-year-old Joss is a rebel -- the daughter of a famous newscaster and a sperm donor; a wild girl who can play a mean harmonica; a student of time travel at the prestigious Centre for Neo-Historical Studies. This year, for the first time, the Centre has an alien student -- Mavkel, from the planet Choria. And Mavkel has chosen Joss, of all people, as his roommate and study partner.
Joss is less than thrilled to have her freewheeling lifestyle ruined by the high-tech security surrounding Mavkel, and alarmed by the danger he seems to attract -- an assassin and an anti-alien lobby are the least of it. Still, she is intrigued by Mavkel and his heritage, because the Chorians are a harmonizing species of twins who communicate through song. What better partner for a demon harmonica player?
Then Mavkel gets sick. First, it seems to be a simple cold, but Joss soon realizes it's far more -- Mavkel is pining for his lost twin, and his will to live is draining away. The only way Joss can help is by breaking the Centre's strictest rules... and that means going back in time.
Singing the Dogstar Blues is a genre-breaking mix of humor, science fiction, mystery, and adventure that will keep readers eagerly turning the pages.

~Print copy (from the library), 261 pages
Published: 1998 by Viking

This book was pretty good. I expected something less, but I got something more.

Joss is a spirited rebel-child. Her mother is too busy to notice and since she was concieved in a petri dish, she doesn't know her father. She hangs out at a local coffee place/bar with the owner, Lenny. She's been kicked out of a dozen schools, and the Centre is probably her last bet.

Then along comes Mavkel, who chooses her as his partner before the Centre's head professor can kick her out. Mavkel is a lonely alien, an outcast of his race because he survived and his twin didn't. The Chorians are a telepathic bunch, and now that Mavkel is an outcast, he's on the brink of suicide from the loneliness of his own mind.

The two become friends, despite Joss's privacy requirements. Then Mavkel gets sick. He is dying from loneliness, and unless Joss can "join minds" and become telepathic with him, he will die.

This book was quite well-told. The worlds are amazing - both the advanced-technological Earth and the alien planet Choria. The characters were just the right side of shady and suspicious.

The only problem I had with it is slight, and probably not too noticeable unless you're a voice freak like me -- Goodman used passive voice somewhat frequently. You know:"he was doing" "they had been doing". That sort of thing. Again, minor, one of those things your English teacher reviews every year.

From the summary, it seemed like this would be a romantic book, and I was reluctant to pick it up, but in the end, this book was not. It's all action and Joss and a cool university for time traveling. I give this a four. I'm reluctant to give it a five simply because I'm not too much a fan of sci-fi or passive voice. Still a lovely book.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Follow Friday #19

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: What book do you think would make a great Halloween movie? Please explain in graohic detail of goriness...

My answer... hmm... Unwind by Neal Shusterman. That one takes place in the future, where they've "solved" the pro-life/pro-choice arguement - all children must be born (not aborted) and raised. But after their thirteenth birthday, children can be "unwound", where they donate everything of the child to people in need - blood, heart, brain, lungs, arms, legs, spine... everything.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner. A boy wakes up in a maze with no memory of his former life, surrounded by other amnesiac boys. They are samck-dab in the middle of a maze filled with blood-sucking slug-like monsters with blades for arms. And the very next day, the first girl ever shows up, with one message: everything is going to change. She's the last one. Ever.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. A seven-year-old boy is the only hope of murdering an alien race; they take to a battle-training school to teach him strategy, which he is already brilliant at, hoping that he'll be able to lead a squadron of ships and commit genocide.

Those are my choices. I could name several more, but I assume you want this post to be short. So, good day and have a blessed weekend! :)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

the ARCs of Writing

*I have been planning to post this for weeks. My schedule's been busy like a bee. (Pardon the alliteration. Though I do love alliteration, like a little kid loves candy. Do you see what I did there? :D)

This is a short post, because this is an easy topic. In fact, I think I've blogged about this before, back in June. This time, I'm adding another element, because they spell a nifty little acronym: ARC.

Action --> Reaction --> Consequence.

An action is when your character does something.

A reaction is when something happens against/for your character and he/she does something against/for it.

A consequence is whatever happens as a result.

Pretty simple to remember? A - R - C - A - R - C...... three lovely words, applied over and over again. This is why I think of the concept of writing as a swinging pendulum, or maybe a dance: it's just one-two-three, one-two-three. It flows from one, to two, to three. This is the only way I come up with ideas and outlines, because it's so simple for me. For example:

Melody Anne went to the ball (action). The prince danced with her, and she threw up because she was so nervous (reaction). The prince left to dance with Cinderella instead (consequence). Melody Anne left the ball at midnight in shame (action). She witnessed Cinderella drop her shoe and picked it up (reaction). The prince thanked her with fifty gold coins and a pony for keeping Cinderella's shoe safe and he went off with it to find his true love (consequence).

That was easy to write and read. It flows from action to reaction to consequence, in chronological order, without any interruptions. You could argue that Melody Anne leaving the ball in shame is a reaction or a consequence of her nervous vomit all over the prince, but I list it as an action because no one is forcing her to leave. She does it because of her own self, her own shame.

Now, that was a pretty small example. It works with entire novels (or so I've read - my first-novel sloppy copy hasn't even reached the midway mark!). This ARC method is a pretty nifty trick if you like outlining, and if you're a pantser, it shouldn't be too hard to go back and incorporate it into something written (I'm not a pantser, so you might get mixed results on that).

This is my bad example:

Donni goes to find a lemonade (action). He stumbles across a little lemonade stand run by a couple of six-year-olds (action). They sneer at his drunken appearance (reaction). He flips their table over, outraged (reaction). But first he yells at them for awhile (reaction). The little girls start crying at the drunken rage (reaction). Donni walks away, forgetting the incident (action).

Despite the obvious atrocity of a drunken man being mean to six-year-olds, Donni has no consequences for his actions. He acts, they react, he reacts, they react, then he walks away and forgets the whole thing, which is an action.

Adding consequences is especially necessary when the actions are bad. It's expected in real life and in fiction that bad guys go to jail, or are punished in some way. We crave it. Our morals refuse to accept bad things going unpunished.

Action --> Reaction --> Consequence.

I didn't study (A); I panic at the sight of the test and randomly guess (R); I get a 70%, or a D, on that test (C).
(True story. American History is freakin' difficult, man.)

ARC means many things. It's Noah's boat; it's an Advanced Reader Copy; it's action/reaction/consequence. It's a good thing to remember ARCs when you're stuck.

Have a blessed week. :)

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs

Magic. Ancient portals. What if the legends are true?
Teen brothers Hadyn and Ewan Barlow are forced to adjust to a depressing new life when tragedy strikes their home. Then a secret viking runestone opens the door to a world in peril, and they discover a crisis larger than their own pain.
In the Hidden Lands of Karac Tor, names are stolen from the young and darkness spreads. Hadyn and Barlow become targets of war, forcing them to make a reluctant choice: join the battle or risk losing each other and their home forever.

Print copy, 379 pages
Published: 2008 by NavPress

This story begins with an unhappy city boy, in a miserable new small town, and a regular gray day.

Sounds kind of cliche. I admit, I found this book rather the same way. Now, don't get me wrong - just look at that summary! - there are good, original parts. But it kind of felt like the Lord of the Rings to me. And I should know because it took me two freakin' weeks to read LoTR.

Let me give you my reasons why. First, it felt bogged down with description. There is an entire page devoted to the commerce of a town called Threefork, which was just another destination. It was near the entrance to the secret gnome trail that would leave to the evil sorceress' tower (LoTR also features a dark tower, by the way). But we didn't really need to know what goods come from where - where the furs and metals come from, which country they get wheat from, where does the fish come from. We didn't need to know. There are also other sections, but this is the first that came to mind.

Another, related point is the amount of myth. The amount of legend they tell each other. How often do I get to sit around and tell other people this long story from ancient days about beings they've never heard of? Granted, I wasn't transplanted into some medieval world where they DO believe that stuff, but still.

The main characters both want to go home to the Shire Missouri and pretend this adventure isn't happening.

Finally, it felt a little disorganized. This isn't strictly a LoTR thing, though I see it there, too. Actually, it's a pretty common book thing: it doesn't... tie together neatly. It doesn't flow perfectly. There are bumps and snags in the plot, or the character arc, or wherever. I felt it: it didn't catch my spark. It's something I can't quite name.

So, now I get to the good points.

First of all, there is a witch named Nemesia, who is a pretty decent villain. Still a little stereotypical - wears dark, seductive clothing, has a special magical staff, is prone to monologues - but still, she stole the names and identities of an entire generation. Every teenager in Karac Tor: they all become these empty shells, "walking bombs" as she calls them. Begs the question, "How does a medieval-seeming sorceress know what a bomb is?" But still, a pretty cool, creepy idea.

Second of all, it is chock-full of magic. From making rocks glow like candles to making magic music, it's pretty lovely. I'm a sucker for magic stories.

And, well, that summary. The mysterious runestones. I am quite fascinated with mythology, and there are definitely echoes of it in this story.

I'm sorry to say the characters were not much of a good point. They almost don't deserve a point. Sure, Ewan's magic music and Hadyn being able to feel the true name of stuff were pretty cool, but when I think of this book I think of Nemesia and magic.

Overall, this was a so-so book. Not to be scathing, but I felt it a little cliched - almost LoTR, except it involves Earth. I give it a 3, out of fairness to the points I like, but it felt a little lacking.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Follow Friday #18

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish with your blog? Is it to one day become an author yourself, just for fun, maybe get some online attention, or maybe something very different?

Honestly? Mainly for three reasons: one is because I want to be an author one day. Writing blog posts - writing anything, for that matter - is good practice. Plus, blogging is a scheduled thing, which might help if I make a career of writing.

The second is because I need an audience. A platform. To get my voice out there, so when I do publish a book, people actually know about it. A platform sounds kind of impersonal - it's sort of a way to connect readers to my books and ultimately to me. Word of mouth is the best advertisement and all that.

The third, and main, reason is because a year or two ago, when I first started becoming interested in writing and book blogs, it looked fun. To connect and share with other people? I'm not social, but if it's not face-to-face, I'm all for it. And I still find it fun. Reading your comments warms my day. Commenting on others' gives me a fuzzy feeling (Which, when I put it that way, makes me think there is a squirrel or a chipmunk nesting in my shirt).

I "accomplish" a warm and fuzzy feeling when I maintain this blog. I "accomplish" a connection with readers of blogs and future readers of my future books.

Have a blessed weekend, y'all. :)  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Lovely Blog Award

I got nominated for the Lovely Blog Award! With thanks to Bookworms Avenue for nominating me. :) As for the rules (copy and pasted from Bookworms Avenue because I'm lazy)...

  1. Include the blog award logo in your post
  2. Thank the person you nominated
  3. Nominate 15 other bloggers and let them know about it...
  4. Seven random facts about yourself..

So, my seven facts:

1. I love cats. Very much. I have three cats around me as I'm writing this.

2. I love words. I read and write in almost every spare second I have.

3. My favorite school subjects are English and History.

4. My favorite month of the year is April. And not just because my birthday is in that month.

5. I cannot stand wearing too-tight clothes. Especially those shirts that show off way too much cleavge while they're at it.

6. My biggest pet peeve is people who swear like, three times in every sentence. I don't care if you do it every now and then, but there comes a point when it makes you seem crude and unprofessional.

7. My least favorite time of day is morning. I don't wake up very easily.

I'll start posting up my nominees soon! Have a blessed day!

1. Efflorescence
2. Nocturnal Readings
3. See It Or Read It
4. Confessions of an Inner Aspen
5. [Insert your blog here]

Gah. I can't finish this list. I have no willpower. Everyone's got a lovely blog. I'm so terrible at people skills, I've never even seen the Twitter homepage. Or know how to turn a cell phone on. Or know any more html than the little line break tag <br>. Let's face it - I'm not tech savvy or people-savvy.

Have a blessed day, beautiful bloggers and readers alike.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Shabanu: Daughter of the Winds by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Life is both sweet and cruel to strong-willed young Shabanu, whose home is the windswept Cholistan Desert of Pakistan. The second daughter in a family with no sons, she's been allowed freedoms forbidden to most Muslim girls. But when a tragic encounter with a wealthy and powerful landowner ruins the marriage plans of her older sister, Shabanu is called upon to sacrifice everything she's dreamed of. Should she do what is necessary to uphold her family's honor -- or listen to the stirrings of her own heart?

Print copy, 240 pages
Published: 1989 by Laurel-Leaf Books

This book focuses more on the characters and setting than the plot. Just to tell you. It focuses on the workings of her family, her life in the desert with her camels... the plot is vaguely present, but it's not really the focus.

That being said, I still really liked this novel. It is a fascinating setting and some pretty fascinating characters. For one thing, there is her older sister, Phulan. She is a dreamy, almost empty-headed child, and Shabanu several times expresses a wish to shake her into the real world. They have camels to look after and a house to keep. Phulan is about to get married to Hamir, and that is almost all she thinks about.

Of course, marriage is a big thought in Shabanu's mind, too. Though Phulan is thirteen and Shabanu eleven or twelve years old, they are both fast approaching their marriage dates. Actually, Phulan's wedding is a part of this book.

Another couple characters are her parents. Her Mama is a nice woman, obedient to her husband. Dadi is also nice, but he has a bit of a temper. He wouldn't really hurt them, but he gets frustrated with Shabanu's willfullness several times.

The desert is Shabanu's home. She doesn't want to leave to go to her husband's home, but she knows she will eventually. It's very well described in this book - the sands, the lack of water but the brightness of the stars. Nature at its finest and cruelest. It plays a major role in this book.

The problem is that the plot really picks up at the end of the novel, and I don't want to spoil the ending. So I'll just say it's a bit of a weird ending. I didn't dislike it, but I didn't particularly like it either.

Overall, I think the setting and characters made up for the lack of plot, but I know a lot of other people might not think so. I give this a 3.5, which I'll round up to 4. But as I said, the plot is a background element until the end.

(By the way, happy first day of October! :D Such an orange-and-black month. Cold but pretty, much like the precursor to winter that it is.)