Wednesday, November 28, 2012

On Quotes and Music

Today, I was looking through Tumblr and found this quote:

This picture was made by me in paint. I copied the quote from tumblr.

This kind of reminds me of What Faith Can Do by Kutless. and The Lost Get Found by Britt Nicole. Both lovely songs.

I don't really know the point of this post. I think it was to say sorry for not posting a book review on Monday. But I found this quote instead. You're welcome.

Have a blessed day!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Follow Friday #25

[Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate, and happy Black Friday shopping! It's been a crazy couple days for me, so I apologize for the semi-lateness of this post.]

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

Q: What blog are you thankful for? Are you thankful for a fellow blogger? Tell us about him/her.

Oh goodness. I'm thankful for so many blogs, I can't mention them all. One of the first blogs I ever looked at (almost, what, a year or so ago?) was The Epic, The Awesome, and the Random. Book/writing blog - Annie is awesome.

Um.. Querytracker is a writing blog that I get a LOT of tips from. My revision will be easier thanks to that blog. (I believe a multitude of bloggers participate on that blog.)

YA Stands, Birds Of A Writer, Down the Rabbit Hole, and Steph Bow's Hey! Teenager of the Year all help me look forward to the days occasionally. They have some unique voices/content/stuffs that make me smile. Or agree. Depending on the topic. (The first two and the last are writing blogs. Down the Rabbit Hole is an art blog, I believe, with fairy tales and other stuffs - including a Whovember right now.)

Now, don't get me wrong, I am thankful for every blog I coem across. I tend to read articles more than blogs, and I am thankful for every article I coem across, trust me. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge and all that. It's just that I am following 165 blogs right now, I don't have time to look at or name every single one, so I chose the random ones I read more often.

So, without further rambles or talks, I bid you good night. (That sounded really formal.) Have a blessed weekend, and remember to stay thankful!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Poetry

I have nothing planned. So I wrote a poem for you:

Thy Infinity
Indigo swirls
I cannot see the end
Or is it the bottom?
Everywhere the same
Underneath me, above, around
But at least it is
A fascinating color.
Poetry is not my strong point. I'm still doing nanowrimo, so don't judge me too harshly. (I haven't dropped out yet! I am so proud. I dropped out long before this last year.) I'm up to 35,000 words, despite the homework piling up around my ears.
Not to mention my cat's kittens (they are about four or five weeks old now) are starting to climb out of their box. There are three of them, but only two are climbing around, squealing and distracting me from writing. The third is a runt, who I have to feed replacement milk every other hour: he is so adorable. I named him Woodstock (after the little yellow bird from Charlie Brown) and I feed him every other hour. (Or so.)
Nothing else to say, really. I started reading The Book Thief (Markus Zusak). I may or may not have a review for that on Monday. Other than that... have a blessed day. (And a blessed Thursday, since I don't post on Thursdays.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Melinda Speaks:
I wasted the last weeks of August watching bad cartoons. I didn't go to the mall, the lake, or the pool, or answer the phone. I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don't have anyone to sit with.
I am Outcast.
The kids behind me laugh so hard I know they're laughing about me. I can't help myself. I turn around. It's Rachel, surrounded by a bunch of kids wearing clothes that most definitely did not come from the EastSide Mall. Rachel Bruin, my ex-best friend. She stares at something above my left ear. Words climb up my throat. This was the girl who suffered through Brownies with me, who taught me how to swim, who understood about my parents, who didn't make fun of my bedroom. If there was anyone in the entire galaxy I am dying to tell what really happened, it's Rachel. My throat burns.
Her eyes meet mine for a second. "I hate you," she mouths silently.

~Print copy (Platinum Edition, from the library), 198 pages
Published: 1999 by Penguin (I believe platinum edition is published 2006, with added content at the end)

I've read this book several times, so this "review" is really an explanation of why I love it so much.

First of all, let me explain, since that "summary" is really a quote from the book, put on the back of the book. Melinda is a ninth grader, starting the school year with everyone hating her because she called the cops on a summer party.

But she had good reason to. I won't get into that. I'll just tell you it was traumatic, and that this book is mostly her journey to healing from this experience, speaking up about it.

It really is a touching story. It's written lyrically, the sort of way I think, and has a strong voice throughout. It is packed with emotion, the good stuff that makes you hurt along with the character. And the characters - a set of unique and yet still typical people. That is quite the compliment; what I really mean is that they seem like real people, but they are still unique enough to like anyways.

This is not one of those books where you sympathize with the bad guy. There's good reason, too. This simple equation -- unlikeable bad guy + his unlikeable actions = good plot fodder -- is what spurs this book along. Pretty much the entire point of this book, really.

This book... it has that spark. That something. It really connected with me. You take an ordinary girl, damage her, and watch her heal. It is about strength in the face of weakness. It's resonating story. Not many people could pull off a story like this, on such a hard topic - but Laurie Halse Anderson manages it.

Overall, I recommend this book. Definitely. I've read it three times in three years, which with my TBR list is rarer than dragons. Five stars.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Follow Friday #24

[I love even numbers, especially 24! I'm kind of happy today. I realized dragons are really just magical dinosaurs. And that there are two types of dreams: during NREM sleep, your mind replays memories or something that's already happened in a compressed amount of time. During REM sleep, your mind tries to simulate the future. It tries to play out the possible outcomes for the future, in order to help you prepare; during REM sleep, you're more connected to the primal part of you, and that's why these REM dreams are more intuitive, more fantastic.]

(Don't you just love Nova?) Now that I'm done with my random dream tangent...

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

Q: Books are turned into movies all the time! Turn it around. What movie would make a great book?

Oh, yikes. I don't watch movies often enough. Um... Tin Man would be cool - it's sort of a twisted version of the Wizard of Oz, where DG (like, Dorothy Gale?) is a waitress in Kansas, when suddenly a time tornado drops off some military men from the Outer Zone (OZ) want to kidnap her on the orders of the Evil Queen Azkedielia. The only way to escape is to jump into the time tornado on her own and hope to find a way back.

Needless to say, that would be pretty cool. I don't know if that's already a book, but Tin Man is an awesome movie, at least.

How about you? What movie did you choose? Have a blessed weekend!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

In the good old days, magic was indispensible; it could both save a kingdom and clear a clogged drain. But now magic is fading.
Drain cleaner is cheaper than a spell, and magic carpets have been reduced to pizza delivery. Fifteen-year-old foundling Jennifer Strange runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management, an employment agency for magicians -- but it's hard to stay in business when magic is drying up. And then the visions start, predicting the death of the world's last dragon at the hands of an unnamed Dragonslayer. If that's true, everything will change for Kazam -- and for Jennifer.
Because something big is coming. Something known as... Big Magic.

~Print copy, 287 pages
Published: 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

This is the type of book that reminds me, after a string of mediocre books, exactly why I love reading so much.

Let me explain. This book is about dragons, and magic, and temperamental but honorable wizards, and a fifteen-year-old orphan who has to take care of the temperamental wizards. Jennifer Stone, a foundling who is an indentured servant to Kazam, has taken over the business of running this business, because the owner has mysteriously disappeared.

Magic has been drying up for decades now; but suddenly, on a day like any other, it seems, magic surges, like a last surge of strength before it disappears entirely. And now, by fate it seems, a vision of the future is seen by every diviner in the Ununited Kingdoms (like the United Kingdom; except Ununited). The last dragon on earth is going to die, at the hands of the Last Dragonslayer.

This book... it's just written in a lighthearted way, even though it's about the extinction of a species. Jasper Fforde is a master at humor; I've read another of his books - The Big Over Easy - and this one is similar in a good way: it's hilarious, and it has an outrageous ending, and it's freakin' awesome. And I don't use freakin' lightly.

The characters are really quirky but good. Take Jennifer's pet metal beast, called the Quarkbeast, who is loyal and sweet, and happens to make some passersby faint from his fearsome appearance.

According to this, when a dragon dies, the force field keeping people out of the dragon's homeland disappears, and anyone can lay a claim to the land. So thousands, millions of people show up to the Dragonlands in hope for a bit of unspoiled land. You know, to spoil it.

When I finished reading this book, and everything made sense, this book was awesome. It took me a week to read (it's November, and I'm participating in Nanowrimo!) but it is, simply put, worth the time.

This book is funny and fast-paced, and quite the read. I recommend it to everyone. As long as you're a fan of fantasy and good characters and humor. A definite five stars.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Follow Friday #23

Follow Friday is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: Do you mind books with similar ideas to other books? Similar concepts, backgrounds, retellings, or pulled-to-publish fanfic?

Honestly? I don't mind them too much, if they're original enough. I mean, there's a fine line to walk between similar-but-unique and this-looks-like-plagiarism. I mean, even at sixteen, I've read enough books to know that there are a lot of similarities between books, and that those similarities don't somehow make those books inferior.

Now it's just my opinion, but books are actually better when they draw off of preexisting ideas. I mean, cookies come in all types - chocolate chip, peanut butter, sugar. But if your "cookies" consisted of frozen ketchup and raisins in a bowl, can you really consider them cookies anymore? Same with books. You want to deviate from the normal as much as possible, but if you go too far, then it'll be incomprehensible.

Whether you think so or not, books are all similar to each other. They are all stories comprised of words. They all tell something that is happening (or has happened). They are all beautiful, no matter how much you dislike this one or loathe that one. They all have characters, a setting, they are time and place and look-at-what-is-happening.

So, really, books are similar and books are unique at the same time. That's what makes them so special - you can tell the same plot a thousand times, but if you put a unique spin on it each time, then they'll all be loved.

Not that you can confuse this with plagiarism. Or cliche-ness. Those are copying; copying is for the writers with little skill of their own. None of that "oh, I'll change Character A's name and rename Quiditch and take out the wizard's robes." If you did all that and then added fairies with the ability to blow your Mogwarts to smithereens, and then told us this was all located in the magical kingdom of Hessia, then you might have something.

But do you understand my point? I know that rambled a bit. I can't help it. But similarity in books should be celebrated just as much as uniqueness. They both need to be equally present in a book, or at least present, so that the book can be recognized as a book and not some... I don't know... nymph in disguise. Or perhaps a nymph's corpse; they live in those trees, people!

Anyways, I'm stopping here before this turns into a rant about dead nymphs and frozen ketchup.
What do you think? Are similarities really that bad? Have a blessed weekend! 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

On Writing Plays for Writing Exercises

So, this is a short post, because I am super-duper-extra-busy.

Why am I super-duper-extra-busy, you ask? Because my mother said if I get the laundry room sorted out (seriously, it looks like some sort of cloth bomb went off in there), if I take out the trash, do the dishes, and clean the litterboxes... THEN she'll take me to Barnes and Noble and buy me TWO BOOKS.

You know you're an avid reader when you're so psyched to get two books that you'll do that list of chores.

But this was not the point of my post. I meant to talk to you about plays. In my creative writing class today (I have it as a school elective, in-case-you-didn't-know), we're starting plays, to "branch out from regular fiction." That's not even something my teacher said. That's what I percieved from this particular class.

We're supposed to write a one-act play, on anything we so desire to write about. How does this relate to us novel-writers?

It turns out that writing a play is harder than it seems. Especially me, since I've read about one play in the entirity of my life: The Crucible.* There is generally no narrative, no pages-and-pages to spread your creative description and dialogue and character-building (oh my!). In this case, we have 20 pages of a one-act story to fill out. The. Entire. Story.

With plays, most of it is told through dialogue and those little italicized stage directions. The setting, the character-fleshing-out, the tension and conflict and whatever else you want to throw into the mix. This is a pretty excellent way to spread your creative roots.

Think of a tree - it needs to spread its roots over lots of area; in the same way, you need to spread your creativity over a lot of different types of literature. Including plays. And it is a decent way to develop the acquired skill of showing, not telling.

Those stage directions are a lot of work, but they show most of the tension. And not those crazy symbols you place in the setting ("the curtains are blue, indicating his sadness!"), but the actions of the characters. Frowning, leaning forward, that sort of thing.

It also has a small cast of characters. At least the one-act play does. This provides a chance to really know and develop small groups of people. Which is a helpful tool in any writer's toolbox, in my opinion.

Movies are kind of the same thing, but this one-act play doesn't switch scenes so often. In plays, you don't have months and a camera; people are performing it live. So you really need to make it all count.

So, instead of writing short stories or a short spiff for exercising your creative muscle, maybe try a one-act play. Who knows, it might help novel-writing more than you think.

How about you? What do you think of plays? Have a blessed Wednesday!

*I recommend reading the Crucible, if you never have. I thought that play was hilarious. They were all running around screaming, "WITCH!! :O" The paperwork I did on it for English class wasn't so funny, though.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

Stealing Beauty
You saw me before I saw you.
A girl: Gemma, at the airport, on her way to a family vacation.
You had that look in your eyes.
A guy: Ty, rugged, tan, too old, oddly familiar, eyes blue as ice.
Like you wanted me.
She steps away. For just a second. He pays for her drink. And drugs it.
Wanted me for a long time.
He takes her, before she even knows what's happening.
To sand and heat. To emptiness and isolation. To nowhere.
And expects her to love him.
Written as a letter from a victim to her captor, this is Gemma's desperate story for survival. Ty has stolen her bosy. Against every instinct screaming inside her, will he also steal Gemma's heart?

~Print copy, 299 pages
Published: 2010 by Chicken House

Where do I begin with this novel?

First of all, there's Gemma. She's an ordinary London girl: she feels her parents are too out-of-touch with her. As they're waiting in the airport to go to Vietnam, she steps into a coffee place for a drink, and Ty offers to buy a drink for her. She thinks he's handsome; but he drugs her coffee and smuggles her through the airport, onto a plane to Australia.

Once there, he takes her out into the unmapped desert, where he has a home set up for the two of them.

Ty is referred to as "you" the entire novel. It's a strange way to write a book; I like it. A romance, if I bothered to pick it up, should read like that. It makes things more intimate, more emotional. And even though he's stalked her since she was ten, kidnapped her, and took her miles from home, it still is a little bit romance-ish.

Gemma doesn't know how to feel about him. He's a stranger to her: somewhat familiar, since he's been stalking her since she was ten, but still a stranger. The entire novel, all she thinks about is escape and who this person is.

We learn Ty's backstory this way, through Gemma's questions. In my opinion, Ty was more realistic than Gemma was. A wild man, grown up among Australia's particularly wild wilderness.

What dampened my lovely opinion of this novel was the ending. I don't know: I guess I wanted a somewhat different ending. I can't tell you specifically what disappointed me, as that is what's known as spoilers.

There is a decent amount of swearing in this. And a little bit of nudity. But no sex. It was a bit of a damper as well, but life ain't perfect. There'll be swearing in a lot of books I come across, especially since I read so much YA.

The worldbuilding is amazing. Described in colors and emptiness. I suppose it has to be, being quite a part of the plot (no people around, no hope of rescue).
But overall, it's a decent novel. If it's your cup of tea. (Cup of tea. The main character's from London. Ohgoodness, excuse that.) I give it a 3.5 in my humble opinion. So, rounded to 4 by default.

[By the way, I am up to 7900 words on Nano. Whoot!]

Friday, November 2, 2012

Follow Friday #22

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

Q: What is a deal breaker for you in a book? For example, do you abhor love triangles? Or can't deal with bad editing?

Yes, I abhor love triangles. Just choose one guy/girl and get it over with; please do not drag it out for an entire novel. Bad editing I can deal with, if the premise and plotline are good enough. For example, I read an entire series where there were mistakes on every page, because it was a solid world and awesome characters.

What really breaks the deal for me? Several things really, which you can't really blame me for (after all, there is simply not enough hours in the day to read everything). If you can't effectively introduce any likeable character within the first 10-50 pages, I will set it down. It doesn't even have to be the main character; it could be the MC's cousin's dog. Just, someone with at least a hint of depth.

Too much swearing or sex will put me off, as well. I know normal teenagers do that sort of stuff, but I don't, and I'd appreciate reading works as clean as me. Or at least not as dirty as "normal teenagers". If I wanted to relate to a normal teenager, then I wouldn't really be reading books and minding my language.

I also might put the book down if I don't like the voice. The style, or whatever you want to call it. That modern-teenager-girl voice you hear in a lot of novels can really pluck my last nerve. On the other hand, Medieval-Speak, and sometimes 1800s-Speak, confuses me, so a lot of older novels end up on the TBR pile as well.

If the book seems bland and cliche within the first 10-50 pages, I also set it down. I mean the starting out with her waking up, the over-descriptions on food, the slow pace, too much purple prose, the cliche archetype (like a nagging wife, a wise old man, a rebellious-just-to-be-rebellious teenager), etc. etc. etc.

So, yea. Love triangles, unrealistic characters, too much swearing/sex, unappealing voice, bland and cliche. I can't pick up every book; I can set standards for my reading selection.

[By the way, Nanowrimo has started! I'm up to 2,000 words. Just another 1500 or so today!]

How about you? What is a dealbreaker for you? Have a blessed weekend!