PSA: semi-permanent hiatus

As I’m sure my followers have noticed, I’ve been… less than active recently. To be honest, this summer kind of got on top of me, and I honestly don’t see my schedule clearing up any time soon as I go into my first year at University, so this blog is going to be on a semi-permanent hiatus until further notice. I apologize to anyone whose comments or questions have not been answered, and thank you all for bearing with me patiently!

You can still find me over at Goodreads, where I will be reviewing the books/comics/manga that I read in an abbreviated fashion. My Twitter is also a good place to catch me, and I also have a YouTube account where I will occasionally be video-reviewing.

Again, thank you all so much! It’s been a really cool experience, blogging with all of you; know that I’m not going away forever, either. I just want to focus on my studies (and writing/applying to the Dell Awards!) for at least this first semester. :3

 

Book Review: “Katana” by Cole Gibsen

This cover is badass, despite her completely incorrect and impractical grip on those swords.

Title: Katana (Click the cover to add it to your Goodreads!)

Author: Cole Gibsen

Available In: Paperback, eBook for Kindle, eBook for Nook.

Maturity Level: 16+. Some racy content, violence, vaguely referenced twincest.

You May Like This Book if: you like anime/manga series such as Bleach, Naruto, Ouran High School Host Club, and Rurouni Kenshin; if you were/are a fan of Buffy; if you enjoy reincarnation stories; if you favor action over plot/characters.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you don’t read YA; you don’t like slightly dim main characters; you have a problem with reincarnation plots.

Rileigh Martin didn’t want to start hearing voices in her head. She certainly didn’t want those voices to tell her how to fight. And she MOST CERTAINLY did NOT want a long-dead samurai chick controlling her body. Finding out that she is the reincarnation of said samurai chick? RIGHT OUT.

She doesn’t really mind being able to defend herself from skeeveballs, though. And even though she struggles against it, she can’t really bring herself to mind too much when her new samurai mentor turns out to be Kim Gimhae, hot martial arts instructor… even though the depth of her feelings for him frightens her because they just might not be hers.

I have a feeling that I’m going to catch a lot of flak if I try to argue that this book is great YA literature. In many ways, it reads like a paperback romance novel. Many of the plot points are predictable, and the love triangle is downright laughable and it is very evident early on what is happening. Rileigh’s voice is a little stilted at times—Gibsen just doesn’t have the same easygoing style as, say, Kiersten White’s Evie from Paranormalcy—and the prose is touch-and-go in many places.

And to be honest, I did spend the first fifty pages rolling my eyes at Rileigh because she’s kind of dumb. She’s feisty, for sure, but she just doesn’t have the brain-power to back it up until she really starts to struggle with her dual identity as Rileigh-Senshi. In many ways, this book reminded me of Buffy, and this was one of the not-so-good ways that it did.

But, guys? I just can’t bring myself to hate this book.

Because I usually hate reincarnation stories, but I LOVED this one. The way in which this particular plot element was handled was pretty close to genius. Furthermore, this book was just fun. I really loved the flashback sequences, and applaud Gibsen’s bravery in the whole Michelle/Braden plotline, which is still pretty taboo here and was handled with taste and dignity. Kim makes a good romantic lead, and Quentin a good sidekick (despite his over-the-top and overly stereotypical behavior—in that way, he reminded me a lot of Dante from Illuminate).

(Also, for the record, Rileigh does take a Level in Badass by the end, so all that whining that she does in earlier parts of the book does pay off.)

Overall, I found this book quite amusing, and I’d love to see what Gibsen does next—I have a feeling that she’s one of those writers who will improve with time.

Pros

  • Senshi. I wasn’t really a fan of Rileigh, but Senshi was a badass.
  • The flashbacks were nicely handled.
  • Kim❤
  • Michelle/Braden. I liked the slightly twincest-y twist on the soulmates concept. Kudos to Gibsen for being brave enough to incorporate this element.
  • Drew and Kim’s bromance :3

Cons

  • Quentin is overly stereotypical, ala Dante from Illuminate.
  • Rileigh is…. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer.
  • The love triangle was pretty clichéd. I would have been just as happy if it was just Kim(Yoshido)/Rileigh(Senshi).

Favorite Scene (s):

  • Pg 125-127. Senshi kills things with her “ki” or “spiritual pressure”. It’s totally clichéd but I love it.
  • Pg 209-214. I really liked the deft, tasteful way that the whole Michelle/Braden thing was handled.
  • Pg 251. Love, love, LOVE this scene. So hot.❤

Favorite Line (s):

  • “You better leave a tip. 30% should keep the Nair out.”~ pg 144
  • “I couldn’t have been more surprised if the President of the United States walked into the café and did his own personal rendition of Lord of the Dance.”~ pg 281

Star Rating on Goodreads: 3.5 stars, rounded up for fun factor. :3

Fun Factor (1 being blegh, 10 being ROFLMAO): 8

Final Grade:  B. Amusing enough to make up for its flaws.

PSA: my apologies for being so lax about posting!

I would like to apologize for my lack of blogging presence recently. There are many reasons why I haven’t really been blogging, but the two primary ones are a.) I’ve been having a really rough (and busy!) few weeks, with WAAAAAYYY too many trials and quandaries ranging from family issues to money troubles to water tanks failing right in the middle of a hot shower (ARGGGGHHH) and b.) I’ve been devoting my 1-2.5 hours of writing time to my fiction work instead. My work on my novel (which began as a short story a few months ago and has now expanded) has been limited to  character intros and outlining so far, but I’m about to charge recklessly ahead into the first chapter. Expect to hear updates on The Novel as time goes on!

(I’ve also been working on a short story set in The Novel’s Asian-inspired fantasy universe, and that’s also coming along quite nicely. I’ve finished all my set-up work and am about to head into my second act, and I’m thinking this one JUST MIGHT come out publishable, if I can avoid messing up the ending.)

As for A, there is a light at the end of the tunnel in that regard. The family issues are resolving themselves (thank gods!) and I’m getting ridiculously excited for college in the fall! This gap year has been wonderful in terms of having the scheduling freedom that I’ve had, but I am finding that without the structure of an academic work schedule, I am not as good at ignoring distractions/making deadlines. Also, I love learning, and am very excited about the classes I am taking this semester, especially Women’s Studies and Anthro 101.

For the record, I also have Evil Plans for this blog, which I will reveal in due course as they come to fruition.😉 You guys are wonderfully patient with me, and I intend to reward that patience!

ETA: The next review to go up will be of Katana by Cole Gibsen; after that, expect to see my reviews of City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare and Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott! Happy reading!

Clockwork Princess Countdown

I’m so excited! Literally can’t wait!

Freeform Fridays: Writing an Ensemble Cast (Lessons from Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers”)


So, I’ve gone to see two movies over the last couple of weeks. For me, that’s a lot—I tend to only emerge for “big” stuff like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter, and get everything else on DVD. They were Dark Shadows (which is going to have its own post eventually—I spent much of the movie with my face in my palm so I haven’t quite figured out what to say about it) and The Avengers.

I could seriously write a whole post on how much I loved this movie—I’m seriously considering going to see it again, and I’ve NEVER watched the same movie twice in theaters—but that’s not the focus of this post, so I’ll move on to the real topic: what we, as writers, can learn about writing an ensemble cast from this lovely superhero flick.

  1.    There needs to be conflict.

Conflict is important to all writing, but never is it more necessary than when you are working with an ensemble cast. It’s absolutely unrealistic to expect to get the different personalities necessary to make up a team in the same room together and have them all hold hands and get along right away. It’s even preferable to have a character like Tony Stark, who spends most of the first half of The Avengers quipping at the others and being a pain. Conflict between characters in an ensemble cast equals dynamic scenes and even laugh-out-loud funny moments that can ease the tension of your plot a bit and keep your reader intrigued.

 

2.      …but, there also needs to be a certain amount of harmony.

If your characters do nothing BUT bicker all the time, I doubt very much that anything is EVER going to get done. Someone’s in danger? S/he will probably die while everybody’s hashing it out. Evil supervillain poised to take over Earth with an alien army? Done, while Steve and Tony are still butting heads. When the push comes to shove, your characters HAVE to work well together, whether they like one another or not, so that they CAN save the day.

It also bears mentioning that it’s always a good idea to have at least two characters in the group who kind of “get” each other, achieved to great effect in The Avengers with RDJ’s Tony Stark and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner. Stark pokes Banner and is generally a pain in his neck, to be sure, but he has an understanding of the scientific aspect that none of the others do, and Banner seems to see right past Stark’s jokey exterior to the softness underneath. They don’t necessarily “like” one another, but each UNDERSTANDS the other, and that understanding is palpable in many of their scenes.

Here they are being total bros. In identically hideous shirts. :3

3.      Choose the right characters/interactions for each scene.

One of the best scenes in The Avengers, in my humble opinion, was the scene where Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is “interrogating” Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Both actors played their parts perfectly, and the scene simply would not have worked had it been, say, Tony Stark or Steve Rogers in Black Widow’s place. There are other scenes that illustrate this point, but this one really stuck out when I was considering how I was going to write this post. Choose the right characters and the right dynamics to emphasize in a scene, and you will come out with something tense and powerful. Choose the wrong characters, and the scene will fall flatter than a cake after the oven door has been slammed shut.

4.      As you get toward the end, try to utilize a polarizing/drastic event to show how the characters have grown together.

The moment when Tony Stark falls to the ground made everyone in the theater that I was in gasp, and you can see that it catches Tony’s fellows off guard as well. This concern—this deep caring for “one of their own”– is what really brings this ensemble cast together. Why this, and not the scenes where they’re all fighting together in a completely unified group? Because this scene packs an emotional punch, and readers/watchers almost always connect to scenes in an EMOTIONAL way rather than a strictly rational way. So give your ensemble cast a tragedy to deal with, even if it’s only for a couple of minutes. Put one of their makeshift “family” in danger and watch for a moment, allowing your readers to feel like it could be their sibling/parent/child/lover/best friend lying there on the ground, dead or dying or in grave danger. Punching your readers/watchers in the gut can be a good thing—just don’t do it every scene/episode/chapter or they WILL come to hate you. (I’m looking at you, Supernatural season 7.)

So that’s it. If you’ve enjoyed this blog post, or have questions/comments/criticisms, go ahead and drop a comment below.

Book Review: “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” by Emily M. Danforth

I love the way that the model is posed in this shot. I’ve often been in a similar position during haying season– it allows you a “world view” of the hayfields that is just awesome.

Title: The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Author: Emily M. Danforth

Maturity Level: Upper YA. There are a few marginally explicit sex scenes and a lot of difficult concepts.

You May Like This Book if: you enjoy YA that’s written in a more adult/literary style;  you remember what it was like to be a teenager; you have an interest in LGBT issues.

You May NOT Like This Book if: you don’t enjoy literary fiction.

Cameron Post is your average teenage girl, devoted to swimming and old movies. But on the day her parents die in a sudden and violent accident, Cameron is busy shattering the status quo of her tiny-town-in-Montana life in a big way: kissing Irene Klauson in a hay loft. Suddenly and orphan, Cameron moves in with her super-conservative Aunt Ruth and tries to forget all about that day, hiding her sexuality in an attempt to blend in. Until Coley Taylor comes swooping in, that is, and Cameron can no longer hide.

This book was beautiful in so many ways. It was poignant and heartbreaking, with just enough humor mixed in to lighten the darkness. The whole “de-gaying facility” subplot was handled very well, with some really obvious research and care given to its portrayal. There is not a character in this book who is not wonderfully flawed and yet totally relatable, and the world is also drawn in such a way that you have no doubt where you are.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It has such a lovely feel to it, and I appreciate Danforth’s concise but lyrical prose. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of Danforth’s work in the future!

Pros

  • Attention to detail. Danforth has dropped us right into the 90’s-era Bible Belt culture without being preachy.
  • The leisurely pace. Rather than being draggy, it was a joy to read and savor.
  • Cameron and I could be friends in real life. She was likable without being perfect, and I ached for her loneliness and confusion, celebrated with her when she had her breakthrough, and generally identified with her despite our differences.
  • The Promise kids and the research that Danforth obviously did into these sorts of facilities.
  • Adam and the wonderful portrayal of the winkte concept.

Cons

  • Slightly slow-moving, and definitely written in a style more suited to adult literary than YA—but I can’t say I didn’t like it!

Favorite Scene (s):

  • Pg 311-394. The whole end bit ran the gamut from arresting to terrifying to beautiful, a raucous roller-coaster ride of emotion that left me stunned by its ferocity. Very well done.

Favorite Line (s):

  • “There was more than just one world beyond ours; there were hundreds and hundreds of them, and at 99 cents apiece, I could rent them all.” ~Pg 40
  • “It felt really good to do something that made no sense at all.”~ pg 71

Star Rating on Goodreads: 5 stars out of 5.

Final Grade:  A+. Transformative, sad, and poignant.

Waiting on Wednesday: “A Confusion of Princes” by Garth Nix

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine and showcases new releases that we can’t wait to get our claws… err, hands… on. :D

I really like this cover. The color scheme is so pretty😀

Title: A Confusion of Princes (Click  to add to your Goodreads!)

Author: Garth Nix

Expected Publication Date: May 15th, 2012 (for the U.S. release, anyway).

Summary from Goodreads: You’d think being a privileged Prince in a vast intergalactic Empire would be about as good as it gets. But it isn’t as great as it sounds. For one thing, Princes are always in danger. Their greatest threat? Other Princes. Khemri discovers that the moment he is proclaimed a Prince.

He also discovers mysteries within the hidden workings of the Empire. Dispatched on a secret mission, Khemri comes across the ruins of a space battle. In the midst of it all he meets a young woman named Raine, who will challenge his view of the Empire, of Princes, and of himself.

 Why I’m Waiting: I’ve loved Nix ever since I read The Ragwitch when I was twelve. Since then, I’ve pretty much devoured everything he’s ever written (even Shade’s Children, which was a little too hard SF for me but whatever), and I can’t wait to see how he incorporates his own military past into this lovely little sci-fi.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Comment below and let me know/link me back to your WoW post. :)

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