Friday, December 30, 2011

What I Love About Christmas Vacation

I'm debating whether or not to dedicate another whole post to my second favorite books of the year. Maybe just the covers? I'm feeling a little Internet-weary, despite my lovely computer free Christmas. BUT I'd still like to wish y'all a very Happy New Year (I'm even early, how about that?). So, as a present to the universe, here are some of the lovely things I enjoyed on vacation.

Sherlock Holmes 2

Noomi Rapace was fabulous, of course.
I was just talking about how awesome it is when a sequel ends up being as good as the first book/movie. Well, this sequel is EVEN BETTER than the first Sherlock. (Unless you want to get all snippy about how the plot doesn't follow any of the books. Which I don't.) So much wittiness! So many explosions! SO MUCH AWESOMENESS!

Blackened Alligator

Yep. I ate that thing.
This has ended up being the year that formerly-picky me got adventurous with food. First, I ate guinea pig in Peru, and then I tried alligator for Christmas (because if you're going to eat alligator, you should do it somewhere they know how to cook it - like Louisiana). I also got to hear the story about the time my dad went alligator hunting.

Vintage Dresses

Too bad I can't afford to buy one.
Despite being a pretty adamant feminist, or really because of it, I am not at all ashamed to admit my undying love for fancy 1950s dresses. I almost bought a $44 dress that was so pretty and so swooshy, but it had Velcro instead of a zipper. Not quite perfect. Someday, I will waste a lot of money on one of these. Or learn how to sew...

Family

In the interest of privacy, I can't post pictures or name names, but let me assure you that I have been having a ton of fun with quite a few awesome family members in the past couple of weeks. Amazingly enough, I managed to see...29 (and two halves!) people I'm related to, one way or another. I think that's an all time record for Christmas.

Figure Skating

Left and center. These guys are incredible.

And now that I'm back, I got an unexpected present: Evgeni Plushenko got yet another gold medal at the Russian Nationals. Thank goodness for YouTube videos of his brilliant performances. In other great news, a couple of my other Russian favorites placed as well - a silver (men) and a bronze (ladies). And to top it all off, Plushenko is eligible to compete at the European Championships!! With a bunch of other ridiculously talented guys. After that, there's only two more years to wait for Sochi :)

I hope each and every one of the lovely people who read this have had an equally wonderful end of the year!

More Blessed Word Count: 17,029

That thousand words? All done in the space of an hour. You can get a lot more done while writing in the car without the Internet to distract you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Introspection and Innocence (69, 78 & 84)

To round out the massive numbers of books I've reviewed, I'm going back to some more of the fabulous adult books I've read this year. I read a lot more YA because A) that's my actual age, not that I've ever stuck to reading just my grade-level books and B) that's what I'm writing. Still, it's nice to break away from the same style of books and read some more nonfiction.

Eat, Pray, Love

I mentioned Eat, Pray, Love when I was reading it and I feel the same way about it as I do know. I realize the whole "journey to find myself" is a very privileged white European/American kind of thing, but this book does make some excellent points about what we should all value in life. I especially love all the diverse people that Gilbert meets in her travels.

Plus, the way she writes is so witty and friendly. The book itself is pretty big but it took me very little time to speed through its three sections. This was made easier due to the fact that she went to three beautiful countries and I'm very jealous of all the things she got to see (although I have been to Italy before, it wasn't for months and months).

Committed

So Elizabeth Gilbert meets a guy at the end of Eat, Pray, Love and due to his foreign citizenship, they have to deal with their negative feelings about getting married so that he can live with her. This book got me thinking even more about my own life and the various goals/dreams that I have. I guess from the various family-oriented classes that I've taken (diversity, relationships, etc.) I have a better understanding than she did of what to expect from a marriage, but I still learned a lot about the institution from her research.

I love when other people do the hard work for me - researching the historical background and looking through statistics. I found her findings (and again, the interactions with people all over the world) endlessly fascinating, especially the idea that a marriage can be revolutionary, in that it's the one place where governments cannot exert total control over individuals.

Room

Man abducts woman. Man rapes woman. Woman has baby boy who grows up thinking everything outside Room is Outer Space. You might think that a book that explores such dark aspects of humanity would be hard to read, but Room was so compelling and honest that it was difficult to put down. I think that's because it's narrated by an innocent 5 year old boy, who doesn't realize that his mother has been kidnapped and imprisoned for seven years in the shed he calls home.

It's all too easy to forget that there are people behind breaking news stories - mothers and children dealing with the fallout of being held captive, raped, sold as slaves, etc. It's so easy to forget that they have permanent scars, physical and mental, that trump our morbid curiosity and deserve more than passing pity.

Because it's Christmas and this is only supposed to be a book review, I'll spare you my whole rant on this subject, but you can expect me to bring it up again.

More Blessed Word Count: will probably not be updated before this automatically posts

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Freaks of Nature (59 & 89)

First, Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, or Happy Chanukah, or Happy Whatever-You'd-Like-To-Celebrate!

Now, onto the books. I wasn't sure that these two fit in the same category, but I had nothing else to pair them up with. The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense to me. Both have elements of sci-fi/fantasy and a character or two with serious mental issues. And both have GORGEOUS covers.

So beautiful I want to post them multiple times.
Bleeding Violet

I have read some strange books in my life, but this is the most beautiful insane creation I've ever read. And may just be the best book I read all year. I don't even know what genre it fits under. Fantasy? Contemporary? Sci-Fi? Paranormal (romance) is the only title that could encompass all of those.

Hanna is half-Finnish and half-small-town-Texan, which already gives her several cool points. She's also biracial and mentally unstable and obsessed with the color purple after her father's death. And determined to make her Momma love her and fit in after moving to her mother's very, very strange hometown. This place is just dripping with unquiet spirits, monsters under the bed (and in the windows and in the hedges and parks), etc. Plus, a cute boy. It never hurts to have a cute boy.

So beautiful I can't stop looking at them.

Across the Universe

You can't get much more sci-fi than a book set in space, right? Amy and Elder are both passengers on the Godspeed, but Amy has been cryogenically frozen along with 99 others, including her parents, who are going to be the scientific and military leadership on a new planet. Elder is one of the thousands of inhabitants of the ship, descended from the ship's non-frozen crew. The ship was supposed to have an uneventful 300 year journey, but then...a bunch of things happen that I won't tell you about :)

The story is told in alternating viewpoints, switching from Amy to Elder. It works really, really well - they even switch narrating during the same scene WITHOUT it interrupting the flow. I think it actually works better this way, because at different points (like in a conversation), you really want to know what the other one's thinking. And then you get to hear it from them!

I know Across the Universe has a sequel coming out in January and Dia Reeves has written a couple more books set in Portero, the crazy awesome setting of Bleeding Violet. So you can fully expect those to be on my reading list for next year.

More Blessed Word Count: may or may not be changing due to holiday fun

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Zombies Can Be Sweet (57 & 58)

I was going to call these dystopian books, but the other day I read (somewhere) a post complaining about how everything is getting called dystopian today (I think mostly because of the Hunger Games) even when they don't fit the genre. So these are actually post-apocalyptic (harder to spell) because there's no evil government masquerading as a utopia.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth

We start this novel with Mary and her brother facing some family issues. Then there's the Sisterhood, the nun-like group who controls the fenced in town where she grew up. There's also Henry and Travis and Cass, her closest friends. And of course, a horde of Unconsecrated (AKA zombies) waiting outside the vigilantly guarded fence.

The combination of the fabulous setting, complex characters and brilliant writing make this whole series stand out. It's brutal by nature, with many of the characters not surviving long past adulthood. It's also heart-breakingly beautiful, especially Mary's desperate desire to someday see the ocean.


The Dead-Tossed Waves

Many of the same elements of the first book appear in a different form in the second. This time, the narration follows Gabry and her best friends, brother and sister Catcher and Cira. It's not long before tragedy strikes, in the form of mudo (AKA zombies). And then the journey begins :)

I loved the change in setting (not that there was anything to dislike about the forest) - Gabry lives in a coastal city with a different set of zombie problems as the forest. As in, they wash ashore and have to be beheaded before they invade the town. And just like Forest, this novel has the same suspenseful energy that makes it impossible to put down.

And now I have to wait for the library to get The Dark and Hollow Places.

These two books are more that I would never in a million years have picked out for myself to read - it's not really a secret that I can't watch horror movies and I'm really jumpy when watching anything remotely suspenseful. I ended up reading The Forest of Hands and Teeth one night when my roommate wasn't home and I had to check the whole apartment for zombies, just in case but I still am SO GLAD that I read them. They would definitely be in my top 10 of the year, if I sat down to figure that out.  

More Blessed Word Count: 16,117 (plus I've been working on a short story)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Girl on Fire (51, 61 & 64)

Please, please, please read these if you're planning on seeing the movie next March.

Just in general, if you know a movie's been based off a book, read that book first. Or at least read it at some point. It's driving me crazy that I haven't read Stardust or The Fellowship of the Rings, to name some famous examples, when I've already seen the corresponding movies (several times). I guess I should go back to the library, now that I think about it. But anyways...

The Hunger Games

The book begins with Katniss and her harsh existence, scraping by with hunting and trading in District 12, located in West Virginia. Ish. Her life is changed by the 74th (I believe) Hunger Games - the annual tournament where each district has to send 2 adolescent tributes to serve as gladiatorial entertainment for the Capital.

Basically the whole book centers on the Games. They're bloody and intense and horrific, yet totally believable. I think the different characters' reactions to this brutal situation are genuinely portrayed - the conflict between wanting to survive and retaining your humanity. That's what really hooked me. And Katniss is pretty darn awesome. She and Archer from Fire make me want to take up archery.

Catching Fire

We don't usually expect a sequel to be better than its predecessor (for example, just about every Disney sequel ever created). This one, though. You guys, this is one rockin' sequel. It starts out slow, but then there were SO MANY THINGS that surprised me, shocked me even. I LOVE not being able to guess what's going to happen.

First, though, I never could have imagined the world-wide ramifications of the end of The Hunger Games. It makes total sense though! I won't go into detail, obviously, but the choices the characters have to make and the brutality of the system are so much more important and ever-present.

Mockingjay

And then we get to the final book. I'm torn on this one. I love the series as a whole, but there were some elements of Mockingjay that really bugged me. Especially the ending. But I can't talk about that here so...well, I really can't talk about the plot at all because most of the surprising things that happen in Catching Fire are related to the action going down in Mockingjay.

My memories of reading this are kind of vague, I guess overshadowed by the inconsistencies and obviousness I saw. I do want to point out that Suzanne Collins has an incredible voice throughout the series. They're very easy to get lost in, whether it's an action segment or a sentimental segment or something in between.

I have a confession to make, though. I put off reading The Hunger Games just because the series was so popular and I often have low expectations for more "mainstream" books. I don't know why - I end up liking most of them, which was certainly the case for this trilogy. I should have known. After all, I LOVE dystopias. (How ironic - Firefox thinks "dystopias" is misspelled. It wants to correct it with "utopias.")

More Blessed Word Count: 15,817

Monday, December 19, 2011

An Alternate WWI (50 & 90)

I've come up with another way to stave off those writer's blocks: staying up really late. I wasn't up until 3 last night writing (I was reading book #100) but I was reminded just how much energy I typically have left despite it being the middle of the night. I've been physically incapable of waking up on time for most of the past week and a half. Not even kidding.

(Thank goodness I woke up for my 8:00 exam last Tuesday. I had a dream last night that I forgot the time and showed up in the afternoon.)

But since it's Winter Break and I can do crazy things like sleep in until noon, I've decided to experiment with staying up late to work on my book. I don't seem to get much done in the mornings anyways. At least I'm getting blog posts written!

Leviathan

Okay, first, I discovered a deep love for steampunk. The British/Darwinist clash with the German/Clanker perspective is such a perfect way to retell the World War 1 story. Second, I love Derryn-disguised-as-Dylan Sharp. But of course, I always love spunky girl characters. Especially when they hang out on airships.

As far as plot goes, the narrative basically follows the actual historical timeline. There are some inaccuracies that are necessary to the story - in this book, the character of Alek is introduced as Sophie and Franz Ferdinand's only child (they had several, none named Aleksander). As much as I love when authors stick to the history, I understood why Scott Westerfeld had to make this kid up.

Behemoth

The Darwinists and Clankers are busy fighting in Europe while the crew of the Leviathan heads over to Istanbul. They get their own share of surprises in the diplomatic fight over control of the Ottoman Empire - and in the resulting difficulties, we learn more about the brilliant lady scientist (with all her sneaky plans) the Leviathan has been carrying.

Again, there are some liberties taken with history, but that lets Behemoth include fun things like secret missions and elephant rides. And of course, lots of crazy plotting and antics from both Alek and Derryn. I don't want to say any more because I'd hate to ruin the twists, from this book or the first.

I had no clue what this series was about when I picked it up as part of my 300 book long To Read list. I can't even remember who first recommended it because so many authors and readers were talking about how brilliant Scott Westerfeld is. I get it now. The two books are so much fun to read and so marvelously crafted.


I mean, just look at that map. Yet another great thing about these books is all the beautiful artwork (meant to give the book a 1914 feel). The illustrations are invaluable for picturing some of the complicated machinery and "beasties" that the Clankers and Darwinists use, respectively. And they're pretty :)

More Blessed Word Count: 15,613

(Mind you, I have been doing other researchy stuff, so the word count doesn't reflect any of the work that's gone in behind the scenes, if you will. My notes and stuff take up several documents and thousands more words.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Monkey Could Write a Book, Except...

I'll be back to book reviewing tomorrow - I'll actually be writing the rest of my reviews and hopefully set it up so they can post automatically over Christmas. But I've had a busy weekend and my laptop (which contains my super helpful master list) has been sitting blissfully unused today, so you get this rambling instead.

I've heard or read a few times that joke/saying that if a monkey sits down with a computer, eventually it'll hit the right combination of letters and spaces to write an entire book.

He's writing the Complete Works of Shakespeare, according to the Infinite Monkey Theorem.

I knew when I started writing that it wasn't going to be that easy.

(Actually, when I first decided "Hey, writing a book would be really cool!" I thought I would be writing masterpieces in a matter of months and become the next Christopher Paolini. So much for that idea.)

But anyway, by the time I finally started working on More Blessed, I had read enough author/aspiring author blogs that I had a pretty good idea of how difficult it is to get published. I've never had any false hopes about publishing this book, if and when it gets finished, and I wouldn't dream of querying until I had several more practice novels under my belt. The whole business aspect of writing, I have no illusions about.

The part that, strangely enough, I didn't consider being difficult was the actual sitting-down-and-writing-sixty-something-thousand-words part. I should have. In 7ish years of "writing," I managed to get a couple chapters written on a couple of ideas. Clearly, I have issues with focusing and motivating myself. I am proud of the 15,000 words I have written in the past few months, but I wish I was further along.

I seem to keep hitting all these blocks. Not writer's block, really, but a lack of interest in the current section. This is partially due to some issues in the beginning section, which I'm hoping to fix by adding in a character (which also makes some tweaking necessary, further distracting me from the part I'm not liking right now). The rest of it may be due to the fact that I have the middle chunk all plotted out. I've already visualized how it plays out so the actual putting scenes on paper seems so long and laborious. The end is still up for grabs, depending on how long the rest of the book is.

What I probably should do is force myself to make deadlines. As a recovering IB student and current college student, I have a love-hate relationship with procrastination. I hate doing it, but I love how quickly things get done at the last minute. I don't know exactly how I should go about doing this with book writing, but it seems to work well for other authors. I should probably set an end date, but even that would be too far away to be helpful. I have a feeling I'll be tying word count minimums to things like:

Going to see Sherlock Holmes. Multiple times.

For some reason I couldn't get these to not be blurry.
Finding a theater near me that's playing In the Land of Blood and Honey. And then seeing it several times.

I'm not even sure if it's being released in the indie theaters nearby.

Reading lots and lots of celebrity gossip. Especially about babies.

Especially when it concerns Angelina Jolie's babies.

What other bribes/motivations could I use?

More Blessed Word Count: whatever I said on the last post

Friday, December 16, 2011

Men Who Hate Women (45 & 88)

No, this isn't a feminist rant (at least, I don't think it will be). Yes, that is the most fitting title for these reviews. Let me explain.


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

You'd have to be living under a rock to not have heard of Steig Larsson's Millennium trilogy. I finished the series this year, as well as seeing the first two movies. (The Swedish version, of course. I could write a whole post on how amazing Noomi Rapace is. Several, actually.) Lisbeth Salander is the most ethical character I think I've ever seen, even if those ethics don't always conform to society's. Hence, the reason for the trial at the center of Hornet's Nest. The size and breadth of these novels may seem intimidating, but they are totally worth it.

I am still horribly upset that Steig Larsson passed away before finishing all his work, writing and otherwise. I feel like he and I would be best friends. We both think giving women equal rights and saving the world from fascist right wing hate groups (among other issues) are incredibly important. That is why the first novel is really titled Men Who Hate Women instead of the more neutral The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

"There Are Thing I Want You to Know" About Steig Larsson and Me

The person most horribly upset by Steig's passing is his widow, Eva Gabrielsson. Because they never married due to concerns for their safety, she got shut out of his estate by his father and brother, who rarely saw him. This is despite Steig's wishes, set down in an unsigned will, and the fact that they were together for 30 YEARS. A very ethical person herself, Eva has always been more concerned about the intellectual/artistic rights and integrity of the series while her in-laws greedily grab up all the money that should have been hers and Steig's.

As a way of coping with this terrible situation, she wrote this fabulous book. She describes their life and activism together, as well as detailing portions of the trilogy that come from their direct experiences and friends. It's a fascinating and heartbreaking look inside Steig's mind. I hope someday she'll be able to finish at least Book 4 because I would love to read it and all the other books Larsson had planned.

I hope I managed this post without sounding too ranty. I admit I felt compelled to cut a few sentences that seemed really angry. I just have really strong feelings about everything tied into the series' content (exposing the ever-present sexism, racism, homophobia, classicism, etc.) and its publication.

More Blessed Word Count: 15,613

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Nerdfighters are Cool (34 & 54)

Oh look! I do read books with boy protagonists! This shouldn't be so surprising. John Green is one of several YA rockstars. For real. This man is one of the most witty, brilliant authors I have ever read. And that's not just an opinion - he's won all sorts of fancy-shmancy awards too.

An Abundance of Katherines

Child prodigy Colin has only ever dated Katherines. And not just a couple. Number 19 breaks up with him at the beginning of the book, prompting him and his best friend Hassan to take a random road trip. And then he meets a Lindsey... (who is dating The Other Colin). Plus, the grave of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

PLUS, during the whole novel, Colin is trying to attain "genius" status by perfecting a theorem to predict the outcome of relationships. Primarily, the 19 relationships he's had with Katherines. The math is even explained, more or less. It's funny and snappy and freaking hilarious.

Looking for Alaska

Still keeping the wit alive, John Green's debut novel is a bit heavier than Katherines. This time, the MC Miles is obsessed with last words. He goes off to boarding school - to seek a Great Perhaps - and makes a bunch of wild and crazy, serious thinking, pranking friends, including "The Colonel," Lara, Takumi and Alaska.

It's also very deep, but I can't tell you why or that ruins the whole book. Well, I can mention their English (I think) class where they discuss suffering and the meaning of life. But nothing else. Just read it. Please? Further justification - look at the fancy-shmancy Prinz Award stamp on the cover :)

A warning - in both of these and other books on my list, there's plenty of drinking, sex, smoking, kissing, swearing, etc. that some people have found offensive since they're about and for teenagers. Just so you know.

More Blessed Word Count: 15,493

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

More Magical Ladies (28, 65 & 98)

The problem with starting to review 2011's books before the year is completely over with is that you end up reading freaking fantastic books that will then need to be added to the absolute favorites list...so I've bumped another book to the Honorable Mentions list in favor of number 98.

The Goblin Gate

My absolute favorite book when I was younger was Hilari Bell's The Goblin Wood. I was so ridiculously excited when I found out that she was writing not one, but TWO sequels. And the first of those definitely does not disappoint. (Depending on the library/bookstore, they might be considered children's books and not YA.)

We thought everything was resolved in book number one, but surprise! Incorrect. I loved that the world gets explained more and the stakes are higher and my darling Makenna gets even more awesome (yes, I'm naming one of my future children after her). Plus, there's a character with the same name as me, just misspelled :)

The Folk Keeper

Speaking of names - this book is the reason I also answer to Corinna.  I first read it so long ago that I forgot about it, but one day I randomly read a Wikipedia article about selkies and it popped back into my brain. And I am oh so glad that it did. Franny Billingsley is an absolute genius. She writes beautifully and with such magic and emotion that it's impossible to put her books down.

Miss Corinna starts off disguised as a boy in an orphanage. She is the best Folk Keeper they've ever had, meaning she keeps the mysterious, powerful and rather ominous Folk from destroying the place. And then she moves to a manor. And then crazy stuff happens. Which I will let you read about.

(Also, I imagine this would also be considered a children's book, but I can still call it YA if I want to!)

Chime

And now...one of my new EVERYONE IN THE WORLD MUST READ books. Oh my goodness. I'm still feeling blown away. SO MUCH MAGIC. I'm jealous.

First, Chime is set in (next to) a swamp, which is bound to give it an eerie feel. But add witches, pretty boys, and Dark Muses, and you get a novel jam-packed with melancholy images and secrets and so much magic.

Second...nope, there is no second. Don't you want to read it already?! If for some bizarre reason you don't, you can fully expect me to buy it and shove it in your face. Or get it from the library and shove that copy in your face, because I'd never loan my own precious (future) copy to anyone.

I realize that all three of these (and the majority of the other books I read) are told from the girl's perspective. At least girls get one form of media to be the majority in :) But seriously, if guys want more male MCs, then they should read more.

More Blessed Word Count: 15,241 + brainstorming

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fangirls and Strong Women (13 & 14)

A bit later than promised, I present: my gushing love for Kristin Cashore and her two novels.

Graceling

I liked this book so much that I read it twice. And then bought it. And will soon be reading it again. I don't think I've mentioned before but I got the original idea for More Blessed after reading Graceling. I was thinking about how the "graces" were recognized by eye color and how you might identify them if you didn't have that to go off of. Thus, the supernaturals and the Registry were born :)

The idea and worldbuilding are obviously inspiring, but the protagonist is my favorite part. Katsa is fierce and strong and so beautifully flawed. She feels trapped by her uncle, who happens to be the King, but at the same time figures out how to help people. Sneakily. Relentlessly. Awesomely.

Fire

Book #2 is more of a companion than a sequel. It tells the story of some important stuff that happens before Graceling, in the country that lies past the mountains. There's still plenty of traveling around, but no one clear destination or journey.

I haven't decided, but I might like Fire a bit more than I do Katsa. (Maybe because she likes babies, which is the polar opposite of Katsa.) She's unabashedly feminine and yet so powerful. The politics aspect of the book is a little...not weak, but kind of unexplained. It's the relationships between all the major characters that are really compelling.

More Blessed Word Count: 14,569

Friday, December 9, 2011

Traveling through History (12, 27 & 62)

How else would OCD little me proceed through my "New Favorites" book reviews except to make a highly thought out, categorized list? I've read so many good books this year that I had to make myself cut the amount of reviews (and therefore posts) from a impossible number to a mere 26...plus 9 "Honorable Mentions." So, in a very particular order, I give you the first three finalists :)

Revenge of the Rose by Nicole Galland

This lady is another of my absolute favorite authors. I randomly picked up her third book, Crossed, from the new books section of my library and FELL IN LOVE. For reals. The writing is brilliant, the characters are fabulous, the settings are artfully done. Historical fiction is tricky to do but all of Nicole Galland's books are amazing!

I'm jealous of the genius that went into crafting Revenge of the Rose. I love love love all the sneaking around the characters get to do in this one. Everybody's working for their own benefit - even some of the "good" guys are at cross purposes - and it's a guess as to who's going to come out on top in the end.

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Thank you Ms. Gregory. Now I can astound my friends with my detailed knowledge of the War of the Roses. I love all the twists and turns - especially since they're more or less factual history. I love the added element of magic (always a fan). And I love that this is just as in-depth as her other books. It's not just a snapshot of Elizabeth Woodville's life, but (basically) the whole, fascinating thing.

I'm just mad there's already a book about this. I wanted to write a super awesome book about the Princes in the Tower! But I imagine my version wouldn't take place in actual England, so it's all right :)

A Death in the Venetian Quarter by Alan Gordon

And this guy rounds out the trio. I've read the rest of this series but my library at home didn't have this one. Thank goodness the one at school does! The sneaky jesters (agents of peace and foolery) are in Constantinople working their magic right before the Fourth Crusade hits. Plus, a baby!

I don't think Alan Gordon can write a book I won't like. He's mixed Shakespeare's plays with Feste/Theo's life and real historical events and murder mysteries. I have no idea how he does it, but these books are so witty and so complex and so OMG awesome! If I could make a suggestion: go get Thirteenth Night from your local library. Right now. And then read the rest of these fabulous tales, in order of course.

Well, that wraps up that category. Tune in for tomorrow's fangirl moment featuring two lovely novels by Kristin Cashore.

More Blessed Word Count: 14,097

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Old Favorites

I wrote a post a while ago about reading and rereading books. Since no one cared to resolve my indecision for me, I figured I'd group my favorites rereads into just one post, especially since they're all series.

Inheritance Cycle (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr + newbie Inheritance)


Eragon goes from poor peasant farmer to savior of the continent. Hooray! And dragons! They're very dense reads but I think the ridiculously diverse characters and world building are worth it. My favorite parts are anything having to do with Arya: gorgeous, elf princess, always beating up the boys. And the second book is pretty cool in terms of twists and surprises. Also, I felt so relived after FINALLY getting a conclusion.

Chronicles of Narnia (All 7, in the chronological order of this boxed set)

How great are these books?! They're aimed towards children so the first time I reread them (a few years ago) I was surprised at the simplicity. But that's because the stories and the whole of Narnia are so endlessly fascinating, even if you don't buy into the allegory.  

The Horse and His Boy is my favorite because I adore Aravis. And the line at the end: "So that years later, when they were grown up, they were so used to quarreling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently."

C. S. Lewis is a genius with words. The End.

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (by Douglas Adams)

Everyone should read these. Quite literally the funniest and most bizarre series I have ever read in my life. It's all in the titles:  
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (makes a smashing film)
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (not the end you'd think)
  • Life, the Universe, and Everything (witty comment?)
  • So Long and Thanks for all the Fish (my favorite song in the whole universe)
  • Young Zaphod Plays it Safe (sadly short)
  • Mostly Harmless (if I recall correctly, this one has Elvis in it)

The Thief Series (The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia plus A Conspiracy of Kings)


We all know how much of a fangirl I am about MWT. I don't really need to repeat myself, do I? Good.

The Heir Chronicles (by Cinda Williams Chima)

My sister is the one who got my reading this series, and I just fell in love. I'm not sure what it is - a combination of marvelously thought out magic, characters I want to be best friends with and some crazy villains. I found this beautiful set at Half Price Books and then reread them while I was in Peru. (I overcame my dislike of boxed sets after not having to worry about packing these.)

I haven't been able to decide which is my favorite; it's a very close contest between The Wizard Heir and The Dragon Heir, the second and third books. Mostly because of a boy named Seph. I wish I'd thought of that name. He's beautiful. And he speaks French.

Whew. That was a lot of formatting and picture-finding. Now, if you're especially insane and have studied my 2011 book list, you've noticed that I also reread Graceling. I figured since this is the first year I read it, even though I did read it twice, I'd talk about it with it companion, Fire. Only fair to let the buddies hang out together. And this post is long enough without adding that fangirling out.

More Blessed Word Count: 13, 923...I may have miscalculated my word count yesterday

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I WON A BOOK!!

I am currently freaking out. I am probably freaking out my friends right now.

The reason I'm so excited? There are two, actually. One is that I won a book in a SUPER AWESOME CONTEST from one of my favorite authors, Maria V. Snyder. My librarian aunt had me read her brilliant debut Poison Study several years ago and now I own all of her other books. All 8 of them. Soon to be nine.

This is my favorite cover, but they're all pretty awesome.

The second is that I never win things. NEVER. Sometimes I tell myself that my rooting for a team makes them lose (like this year with the Rangers...that was a sad day). But then things like this happen, or my favorite figure skaters win gold medals or something, and my faith in the universe is restored.

More Blessed Word Count: 13,962

I know that hasn't changed much recently. I'll write a bunch this weekend, I promise! And I'll write those posts about my favorite books of this year too, I promise! But first, let me shout, "I WON A BOOK!" again, because I don't think it's sufficiently sunk in for my apartment-mates.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

100 Books in Review

I haven't quite gotten my hundred books read this year, but I'd say 96 is a pretty good indication that I'll make it there. I had the idea a couple of months ago (and then had to wait for it to get to December when I promptly forgot) to do some book reviews/reactions for my favorite books that I read this year. I won't be talking about books I didn't like, because that's just my opinion and I don't want to bash anyone's hard work.

Cover collage. The only hard work I've done all day.
I haven't decided how many of these I want to do...any suggestions on a number? It'll either need to be odd or ending in 5 or 0. I also don't know if I should focus on new, less well-known books or include some of my old favorites that I reread this year.

Just looking at my list, I don't even know where to start. So I'll be starting this series tomorrow.

More Blessed Word Count: 13,869

Friday, December 2, 2011

When Two Lesbians Raise A Baby

I'm not going to preach, but I do want to comment on this video that's been popping up all over Facebook and the rest of the Internet.
 

I know there are a lot of reasons for people to be opposed to gay marriage,  but this shouldn't be one of them. Research has consistently shown that homosexual couples are equally, if not better, able to raise families, despite facing a lot of pressure due to society's prejudice against them.

Still, there are states that ban them from adopting just as they ban them from marrying. Someday, I suppose, people will look back on this and other minorities' struggles for their rights and shake their heads at our misplaced concern. But for now, there are so many children going to bed alone that could be living with loving moms or dads. For me, those families-that-could-be are the most tragic part of this whole fight.

More Blessed Word Count: 13,864

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Occupy Black Friday

How appropriate is it that this picture popped up on my Facebook newsfeed this morning?


I didn't even notice the (because television says so) comment on the bottom until just now, but how appropriate is that? The media has such an encompassing influence on our lives from the moment we're born - promoting Black Friday, which wasn't even a big deal until a few years ago; glorifying one political party while tearing down another; stalking celebrities like hawks (I'm definitely guilty of this one).

Take a moment to think about what you base your behavior on - politically, commercially, socially. Is it because it makes you happy or you want to do it or you've though about it? Or is it because the television, or Internet, said so?

More Blessed Word Count: 13,359

Friday, November 25, 2011

Unbitten by the Black Friday Bug

I hope everyone's had a happy Thanksgiving! I sure have. It's lovely to be around family, especially when you don't get to see them that often. And eat yummy food, of course. But mostly the family :)

But after the joys of Thanksgiving come the menacing hours of Black Friday. I'm not a fan of consumerism to begin with, but today's craziness is just too much. I feel like a lot of people feel the same way - especially the ones that have to work ridiculously long hours. I understand that spending is good for the economy, but I don't think the economy cares whether you buy stuff at 4 a.m. or 2 p.m. Or whether you buy it in one mad dash or spread the same purchases out over a few days. It's Commercial Christmastime, everyone's buying stuff.

Still, I wish we were buying more of the right things - fair trade, organic, items that support various charities and causes. I don't know if I'm more cynical or just practical, but I find myself wanting less and less of the stuff I used to love. Trinkets and figurines? I have more than enough, thanks. Clothes? I have too many. Electronics? I'll wait until something breaks before I buy a new one. Too bad our American culture wants new, better, more, even in the middle of a recession.

One thing I can never have too many of? Dream catchers.
What is so inherently wrong with having less? I can tell you, after spending six weeks in Peru, that it's not necessary to have McMansions and department stores and Hummers. We all did just fine cramming into the vans that serve as city buses or the crowded stalls of vendors in los mercados. My room there was probably half the size of the one I have here, but I don't know what I would've done with more space. (It did help that I brought only a tiny portion of my possessions with me, but that's just another symptom of the same problem.)

I admit to being a packrat. I make myself sort through all the junk I've accumulated every summer so that I throw at least some of it away. It's easier now that I can keep so much nicely divided into folders on my computer, but I still manage to collect an odd assortment of papers that I "might one day need." The thing is, I never look at any of them again, they just gather dust underneath my bed.

So this year, as with all of the years before it, I did not stay up late or wake up early to find mountains of stuff on Black Friday. I don't need any of the things that are going to be on sale. (I did go discount store shopping with my sister, but we left at 8:30 and I spent less than $9.) What I would rather have? More of the same - food, movie watching, family, writing, singing, friends, etc.

And something no one can ever have too much of: BOOKS!

Official More Blessed Word Count: 13,000!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Devil of Dialogue

You may think I'm being slightly melodramatic with that title. However, you would be incorrect. I've always felt like the worst part of my writing is the dialogue. I don't know if that's necessarily true - I think after really writing for a while, everything in that document looks like crap at some point or other. But dialogue is the part I worry about the most.

Part of this is my fear over my character's words sounding too contrived, too bookish. Sometimes when I'm talking to myself, I use all sorts of fancy, old-fashioned words that no one uses anymore. Like that scene in National Treasure (haven't seen that in ages, geez) where Diane Kruger tells Nicolas Cage he talks weird - that's how I wish people would talk all the time. And so half of me wants my characters to sound like that, even though I know it makes no sense whatsoever.

The other half of me wants everyone to talk "normal." But what on earth is normal? I'd really like to someday record every conversation I have during the day to figure out what people really spend all their time saying. Has anyone else every thought about that? I mean, we have so many words in our languages, but which ones do we really use? I refrain because I don't have a recording device and that would probably come across as really creepy.

The rest of my reluctance to write dialogue can be blamed on action movies. (I'm not really blaming you, action movies! I love you! I just love you a bit too much for you to be helpful in my becoming a better writer.)
There aren't monologues or even long conversations in action movies. Truth be told, there aren't that many in real life either. I LOVE THAT. Too much talking in a book or movie makes me bored. As a result, I spend more time sighing over explosions than I do witty conversations. And therefore would rather be writing about said explosions, even when they don't fit into the story either.

It's getting easier though. I think I wrote a big chunk of pretty organic conversation today - no action, no explosions, just small chat. It also helps that I was using Write or Die, a handy little application that gets angry at you when you stop writing. I got 1,373 words done in two 20 minute segments, which was a nice little boost to my word count :)

Official More Blessed Word Count: 12,391

P.S. Does this post still look nice without pictures? I wanted to add some action movie examples and a screenshot of that scene in National Treasure, but then I couldn't find one and I figured it'd be strange to have a random montage of action movies.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wanted: Properly Functioning Brain

So it's taken me this long to realize I hadn't updated my word count on that last post! Agh. It shot up this weekend and then has stagnated during the week. Majorly. I am so looking forward to some relaxing writing time over Thanksgiving. I only have to get through two tests first :)

Make that three. I have to take the English CLEP exam tomorrow so that I don't have to sit through a painfully repetitive college English class. Given my college physics lab experience, there is no way I'm putting my poor head through that nonsense.

I took the time to make this. Evidence of my brain's inability to function? I think yes.
School has been turning my brain to mush, even when I skip physics. This semester has just been rough - a lack of focus combined with increased time spent online (reading other people's blogs) and trying to write has made me very sleepy and not thinking cohesively all the time. I'm capable of reading fun books, but my attention span goes down the drain when I start homework or writing. I've already given up on any hopes I had for finishing NaNoWriMo (which I'm totally fine with). I don't think the write a lot of words every day method is going to work for me just yet.

On a much more positive note, I did just finish my new favorite scene in my book! I've finally gotten past introducing the characters and mysteries and got to have a bit of Delaney running for her life. My favorite part of books, or movies or plays or anything with a plot: ACTION! That's probably why I got so much done this past weekend, now that I think about it.

Official More Blessed Word Count: 11,008

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This I Believe...Technology

Me and technology do not always get along.

Part of this is because I lack an understanding about how things work. I don't even have the slightest amount of curiosity for the subject. This isn't such a big deal when your dad has an engineering degree - although living away from home makes it harder to get help when things won't work. I'm glad that someone cares about this stuff, otherwise our society would be hurtling even farther down the drain.

Most of the time, I like having technology around, even if the mechanics of it confuse me. After years of living with all this nonsense, I can't imagine surviving, permanently, without my computer, fast Internet access (something I missed dearly in Peru), T.V., fridge, microwave, etc. I must admit to loving automatic sinks and paper towel dispensers. Less germs!

On the other hand, I hate the automization of everything possible - toilets, doors, staplers (terrifying). I do, of course, make an exception to the doors thing for people with physical disabilities. But other than that, why do we waste our finite resources on this stuff? Electric can openers confuse and annoy me - they take the same amount of time as hand-crank ones, but don't leave the lid ever-so-slightly attached so you can drain the can. Electric mixers are the stuff of nightmares. I prefer using whisks. Again, same amount of time with a lot less worry.

Interestingly enough, Google image searches using such phrases as "evil electric mixer," "electric mixer menace" and "electric mixer DANGER" did not yield any helpful pictures. In fact, a good portion of the mixing devices shown were NOT electric. I did find this though:


I don't really know what the point of all this is. I guess I want to say that while some aspects of technology are good, some of them I'm either really ambivalent about or totally dislike. I may be very separate from American culture in my longing for a more tech-free life. I'd like to see us be more connected to nature/books/ spirituality/each other than to machines.

But who am I kidding? I spend most of my day inside using the technology that I complain about. Sure, sometimes I read or clean house or do non-computer related homework, but I doubt that makes up the majority of my time. The worst part is I know how bad being glued to a computer makes me feel.

Not today, though. Actually, this whole week I've been pretty good about leaving my computer off. I wasn't online at all on Wednesday, hardly got on this weekend and spent a lot of time reading books instead. I need to do this more often. Not relying on technology for constant entertainment makes me a much happier and headache free person. So, while I'm glad you're using technology to listen to me rant about it, I'd feel better (and you would too) if you turned your computer off and went on an adventure in a new book (because I admit to not being as in love with nature as I'd like).

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dilemmas and Perspectives

Would I be a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad person if I added my pre-November writing to my NaNo word count? I can't decide if that's being a cheat or just being honest about how long my book is. It would definitely be an ego boost to have 9,000 words already up there - especially because I am pretty sure I won't make it to 50,000 this month (without some serious help, say, stopping time or creating clones of myself).

Then again, that 9000+ word count is being buffered by about 2000 words of those 3rd person flashbacks I got really excited about and then decided to cut. And just...haven't actually cut yet. Can I make it a tradeoff - if I cut all that stuff out, can I boost my word count without feeling guilty?

I realize it's not that big of a deal, especially if I don't get to 50,000 in the first place, but I keep going back and forth on whether or not I should do it. Do other people have miniature moral dilemmas like this?

Sometimes I'd like to be able to see the world from other people's perspectives. Actually, a lot of times. I've thought this almost every day this week while walking across campus (and I'm mildly surprised I can make an analogy out of it).

You see, for me, walking is not just getting from point A to point B. Due to a (mild) case of OCD, I have to pay attention to the bricked sections and other patterns in the concrete. I need to remember which sets of steps have even numbers and which are odd. (And I have a bunch of other self-imposed rules that I won't bore you with.) My point is - I wonder, as I do all this to myself, how do other people view walking down steps or across patterned floors? Or, you know, other, more important stuff like human rights and adoption and world hunger.

Right now, I'm thinking of adding the extra words in bit by bit. Especially since it's my first attempt at finish a book and NaNo (and November is kind of a crazy month school-wise), I think I deserve this bit of a break. Hopefully, I'll be more motivated to write when I see those nicer word count numbers :)

Official More Blessed Word Count: 9,721

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sad Days and Fangirl Moments

We're already four days into November. How is my first NaNoWriMo going, you ask?

Ha. Hahaha. Sob.

I've written 200ish words on a short story. Nothing so far on More Blessed. Hopefully that will be fixed shortly.

I've just felt completely exhausted all week and don't want to do anything other than lie in bed all day and read pointless stuff online. (I did get two books read, at least). I put equal blame on the mean wintery weather and the past couple of weeks of school. I'm cold, tired, grumpy and craving junk food. Not a good combination for writerly inspiration.

I realize this is not a very uplifting post. Sorry. To make it up to y'all - now for something completely different!

If you know me at all, you know that my role model/favoritest actress ever is the brilliant Angelina Jolie. I love seeing pictures of Angelina with her freaking adorable kids or looking hot on red carpets or being an amazing humanitarian, but I miss seeing her in movies. I happened to be reading through her IMDB page today (ever heard of In the Land of Blood and Honey? It has a December U.S. release!!) and something fabulous caught my eye.


OMGOMGOMGOMG.

THEY'RE MAKING A SALT 2!!!

ONLY 2 MORE YEARS UNTIL I CAN SEE MALEFICENT!!!

(And Cleopatra's pretty awesome too. And FDR. Or Teddy, if that's the Roosevelt they mean. But it's probably FDR - nobody liked Churchill when TR was in office, right?)

This woman is my hero. She gets to act in powerful movies and raise a beautiful multicultural family AND save a bunch of people's lives. I think I would faint if I ever got to meet her. I had a dream that she came to the orphanage school I ran for a tour and we became best friends. Also, the twins were born on my 17th birthday. So yes, I am not ashamed to admit that I am probably her biggest fan.

Official More Blessed Word Count: 9,289

Saturday, October 29, 2011

World Building

When I was setting up my NaNoWriMo account yesterday, I had to write a synopsis of my book. I guess I'm kind of cheating at this since I already started, but I'm still trying for 50,000 words. Which is a lot considering I haven't even gotten to 10,000 in the last 2 months.

But anyways, I tweaked the summary I posted before I started writing and plotting and it hit me - whenever I talk about this book, I always have long-ago background info in mind. The book starts right before Delaney's 16th birthday, but I always mention the major things that happen when she's six months old: her Registration and her mother's discovery of her shapeshifting. That got me thinking about my 2nd favorite part of writing (second only to names): world building.

You, as a reader, aren't supposed to notice all the individual little details the author puts in to make the story seem more real. And let me tell you, there are a lot, especially when you're always creating your own worlds because you don't like the actual geography/history of Earth and you're a control freak. Ahem. I've read a lot of advice on this, but I think you have to pick and choose what's most important to you or you'll end up with a report instead of a book.

What's important in More Blessed, you ask? (Didn't ask? Too bad. I like talking.) Supernatural stuff, history/politics/government, language, technology, religion, a bit of food, geography, physical characteristics...each in very small ways. You wouldn't believe how much time I've spent thinking about all these things. Some of it I make up as I go. Some of it I'm ignoring until later. Some of it just fits together with what I've known from the beginning.

For example, a rule that every baby has to be checked by the government for supernatural abilities and is taken away if they are blessed with powers? That doesn't fit with a freedom emphasizing, hands off government, so my world has powerful Councils at the city, state, and country levels. I had to make all sorts of aspects of life very structured, from the school system to the calendar. (I think I became officially insane when I sat down and created a precise new calendar system for a book I'm never going to publish.)

Right now, I'm having some issues with technology. It's my own fault, really. I don't like the overabundance of long horseback journeys in fantasy books, but I also know I can't write anything really modernized. This leaves me stuck in the middle having to decide which elements I want to include. High speed trains? Check. Cars? Absolutely not. Air conditioning? Sometimes. Computers? Hmmm...

Sometimes I wonder if all this work is really helping. Do normal people (the ones who don't have a bajillion characters running around talking to them in their heads) even pay attention to this stuff when they read? I've already decided to cut out all my flashback scenes because I think I'm the only one who cares about them. I'm leaving them in for now because I don't want to destroy my word count. Decisions, decisions.

Also, I went a little link crazy today. I don't know what that's about.

Official More Blessed Word Count: 9,216

Friday, October 28, 2011

More Motivation

Oh dear goodness, it's almost NaNoWriMo.

(I feel like a lot of the things I start with don't make sense if you haven't read 532809324 writer's blogs.)

So National Novel Writing Month (according to their website, thirty days and nights of literary abandon!) is where a bunch of crazy people try to write a whole novel. Just a 50,000 word novel, which is on the short side for the books I read but still a whole lot more than I have right now.

It's a good thing it's almost November because I've written approximately zero words in the past week or two. I've felt like I got transported back to high school with all the writing and studying I've been doing. But that's mostly over now, so back to writing I go! I might actually be talking more about writing and doing less rambling this month. If I have any brilliant insights to share. And if my brain doesn't explode from trying to write more than a thousand words a day.

In other news, I've decided to give my blog a makeover. The text background color is driving me insane.

Official More Blessed Word Count: 8,640

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

This I Believe...Adoption

I'm currently looking for an internship.

(As in, oh my goodness I need an internship in 2 months so I can graduate in less than a year and get a real job and get closer to leaving the country AHHHH!!)

Ahem. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher. I dabbled in dress-designing and architecture in middle school, but by high school I was back to teaching. I even did two internships at schools in our district. There, I discovered that I did NOT want to be a teacher. Not with this education system, at least.

Luckily, that led me to Child Life which led me to my major which is now pointing in five million possible internship directions. What I really want (and what I've been avoiding this whole time because I thought it wasn't possible) is to work with adoptees, orphans, poor kids, and somewhere else on the planet.

I imagine I'll do a lot of rambling on those last three in the near future, especially as I get further into the application process. But today, you get a shortened and heavily edited version of an essay I wrote in high school.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
       I believe that every child deserves a loving family and a safe home. This normally wouldn't be a radical statement, but when I say every child, I don't mean every child born in America or a nuclear family. I mean that the upbringing of every child around the world is our collective responsibility. For me, building a family through adoption will not be a last resort but something that I will be privileged to do. I would consider myself irresponsible if I weren't adopting any children. There are too many people already crowded onto this planet for me to have as big of a family as I want without adopting internationally.

       Let me start by saying that I realize there are problems in the U.S. foster care system. (I've taken who knows how many classes where this gets brought up). However, as a result of my aforementioned overlapping areas of interest, I am most interested in and concerned about international adoptions. Kids in the foster care system have a tough life, but they have the opportunity to do so much if they choose to and get the right encouragement. The children left in third-world orphanages don't even get a first chance, growing up without parents or resources until they are dumped on the street to make room for more orphans. These kids are the ones who hold my heart but they are also the hardest to adopt.

       From a child development and human rights perspective, the two biggest issues facing orphans and adoptees are attachment disorders and child trafficking issues.

       Reactive attachment disorder is to blame for many of internationally adopted children's behavior issues. I don't want to bore you with the details, but attachment issues are a result of children never getting the chance to properly bond with their parents or their overwhelmed caregivers. This bond, as anyone who's studied child development can tell you, is vital to the child's developing a sense of trust (instead of mistrust). The longer it takes the child to get adopted, the longer they go without meeting their emotional milestones, impacting the growth of autonomy over shame and doubt, initiative over guilt, industry over inferiority. This is why many orphans have learning disabilities and/or behavior problems.

       Then, there is so much corruption within the system itself. Many of the children in orphanages are not orphaned or unwanted. They have loving families but have been kidnapped and virtually sold to an adoptive couple. Child trafficking problems have led to many countries delaying or even permanently halting adoptions. Unfortunately, these tragedies are hurting the adoption cause – children who need homes aren’t getting them because they can’t be adopted internationally. People that thought they would be taking home their son or daughter learned that the child they considered their own is part of someone else's family. Ending the corruption and maintaining the integrity of foreign adoptions is crucial to the estimate 143 million orphans around the world waiting for a home.

       Even with all the things that can go wrong in an adoption, the basic underlying fact is that adoptions work. A majority of Americans have been affected by adoption, either personally or through a close friend or relative. Adoption gives the mothers and fathers that cannot care for their children the reassurance that their child will be cherished. It provides a future for a little one who has lost all of his or her relatives as a result of disease, poverty, or violence. Above all, it is the only hope for the hundreds of millions of orphans who just need someone to take them into their family. If I don't adopt that child, who will?

Official More Blessed Word Count: 8,640

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Don't Kill That Character!

So today I'm talking about a love triangle that ended up in character assassination that really drove me crazy when I read this book. And I'm not going to tell you what book it is because I can't figure out how to talk about it without spoilers :)

Here's the story. Girl has a Best Friend Boy and a Shoved-Together-in-Plot Boy and she ends up loving both of them but not knowing which one she's really in love with. For a long time. Including lots of kissing and banter with both guys.

BUT THEN, to help Girl make her final decision, Author X commits a heinous literary crime. Character assassination. (That is, his personality got assassinated, not the actual character. That would have made the choice really easy.) Best Friend Boy suddenly becomes I-Hate-The-Bad-People-They-Should-All-Die Boy. So obviously Girl chooses dependable, calm Shoved-Together-in-Plot Boy over him.

WHICH WAS THE WRONG CHOICE!

Okay, I admit I had a bias for Best Friend Boy from the beginning. I thought he was cooler and smarter than his rival, plus he had a long history with Girl. Despite all that, I am completely fine with Girl's being in love with Shoved-Together Boy. I am NOT fine with the unnecessary destruction of Best Friend Boy. Yeah, a little character development should happen at the end of a book or series because people change. However, people don't become destructive maniacs overnight. (Actually, Shoved-Together boy did, but that wasn't his fault. He got better!)

Rant over.

Official More Blessed Word Count: 8,200

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Oh The Irony

Why have I never gone to a book festival before?  More importantly, why could I not have realized this a year or even a week ago? Free Austin Teen Book Festival last weekend? I was home the whole time, so I'm not that crushed to have forgotten about it, but still.

Then I got excited about the Texas Book Festival that's also in Austin and that happens to be the weekend of October 22. When I will be going home again! I don't understand why these dates have to be so ironic!

I love the sight of a nice tall stack of books.

Then again, maybe I do. This is the stack of books I just checked out from the library. It's a beautiful, gigantic stack, but these represent only 4% of the nearly 300 books on my to-be-read list. This is why I shouldn't go to book festivals - I already have too many books recommendations and I have a lovely library to supply me with all the books I want. For free!

I'm still a bit bitter. Just think, all those gorgeous books in one room together...curse you, cosmic irony! (Is that the right one? Or is it dramatic? I haven't needed to remember in a long time.) Someday, I will go to a festival and meet really awesome authors and maybe even be one myself :)

Official More Blessed Word Count: 7,731

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Lazy Saturday Songs

I love Eurovision!

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about (you should probably check out their website [or Wikipedia] instead of listening to me). Ahem. Let me introduce you to some of my favorites from the last couple of years of competition.

(You thought this was going to be another thought-provoking post? Ha! I'm sleepy and my brain is fried and I haven't even started studying for the three tests I have this week. I really don't know where that insightful post came from yesterday.)

Lithuania: This song will randomly get stuck in my head and then I have to play it. Several times. And dance. Also, matching plaid pants? Awesome.


Norway: Despite my sister's horror, the lovely Alexander Rybak is one of my favorite singers. And he was born in Belarus. Cute AND tri-lingual!



Russia: Dima Bilan. This is the guy who started it all (for me, not the actual contest). I found out about him because he's buds with Yevgeni Plushenko and his wife, who actually are both in the video. I'm just a bit jealous.


Official More Blessed Word Count: 7,365

Friday, October 7, 2011

This I Believe...Politically

I try not to discuss politics, especially on the Internet. I don't mind the heated arguments people get in over which side is right and which side is delusional/uninformed/evil but I just don't want to get a headache thinking about how much of a mess we're in.

So I won't be discussing my politics (although it's kind of obvious from my blog name, isn't it?) but something that's been bugging me. Last week, I had a conversation with a 12 year old (for anonymity's sake, let's call her Emma) who had some very strong opinions on a lot of current issues. However, I happen to know that these beliefs come straight from her parents, with the help of a particular news source and probably also online. She has every right to those opinions, but I wonder if she even knows why she thinks that way.

This made me very grateful for my parents' policy of not talking about politics when I was younger. At the time, I didn't like it - I remember in elementary school being upset that my parents wouldn't tell me who they voted for. It was during the 2000 Presidential election and we had done a school project where we had to research the candidates and decide which one we liked, so I wanted to know if they felt the same way. I still don't know who got their votes. On the other hand, even without talking to Emma's parents, I know exactly who they voted for, and I'm sure she does too (just not in 2000, when she was one).

I don't know how different my views would be if my parents had told me. They're both pretty moderate so I wouldn't have gotten a clear vision of the "correct" political side like Emma has, but it might have made me dilute some of my strongly held beliefs. I've built my political ideas from a lot of different sources and values and they continue to evolve, but no matter what, I know they're my own. No one told me what was right to think and I didn't try to think like anyone else.

I think that's especially important in our sound-bite friendly political climate. People choose one side or the other without knowing why and then declare it the best. Sometimes, you can't even talk to people from the opposite party without being called names or yelled at. I admit that I have said and thought some not so nice things about the opposing party. I guess it's human nature, this splitting into two camps over some issue. And because this is sort of a writing blog, let me also say that politics is starting to play a bigger role in Delaney's story than I originally intended. Bring on the headaches, book.

Official More Blessed Word Count: 6,812

Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Humor

I have been laughing a ton today. I'm hanging out at home and so I've spent a good portion of my time making fun of my littlest sister. Most of our conversations today probably wouldn't make sense to anyone else. Even our parents have given us strange looks (and we've got a pretty crazy family).

Sample Conversation
Nats: You're just a hobbit.
Me: Right, like you've ever met a hobbit.
Nats: Umm, I have. You're a hobbit.
Me: You haven't even read The Hobbit, Munchkin butt.
Nats: So my butt's small?
Me: No, it means you're small minded.
Nats: Well you're small brained.

Like I said, we don't make sense. But it sure amuses us. Earlier, I laughed so hard I cried. That was when my mom told my sis to get duct tape (implying but not saying that she would duct tape my mouth shut) and proceeded to steal the computer my sis was using.

Apparently Nats and I never stand next to each other in photos. At least, not ones we want to show people.
The reason I'm telling you all this is to talk about humor in books. (Aha! You knew there was a point to all that, didn't you?!) In Children's or Middle Grade or Young Adult books, humor can be a big deal. Sometimes, it's so the author can talk about touchy subjects without making the whole book dark and depressing. Sometimes, the humor is dark. Then there's all sorts of cute kid's books with fart jokes galore.

You might think that writing these books would be easy - because they're for kids or they're "light" reads. For me especially, writing comedy would be really hard. I like humor alright in books - witty, ironic humor - but I'm not really a big fan of comedy anywhere else. I watch mostly cop/crime TV shows, dramatic musicals and (smart) action movies. And that's how I write.

I may try to be amusing on the blog (although I'm not so sure that works...) but if I tried to make my books light and funny, they would just sound fake. Especially considering my MC's a socially awkward only child who has one (deaf) friend and has to keep her supernatural identity suppressed. That doesn't leave room for witty banter or practical jokes.

Speaking of which: Official More Blessed Word Count: 6,000!!