July 31, 2010

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Date Started: July 27, 2010
Date Finished: July 31, 2010

Summary: It's 1914 and World War I has just started. On the one side, it's the Clankers, who giant war machines are built from metal. Alek is the prince of Austria-Hungary, whose mother's common heritage renders unable to inherit anything. In the middle of the night he is on the run. On the other side, it's the Darwinist, who use fabricated animals created with various purposes. Deryn is hoping to be a middy, but can only do so as a boy. She now goes by the name Dylan and after a storm sends her floating around half of England, she is rescued by the Leviathan, a giant living whale ship with a whole ecosystem to keep it in the air. With the war in full swing, Alek and Deryn find themselves in the midst of a strange alliance.

Likes:  The worldbuilding of this novel is fantastic, one of the best in my opinion. It just throws the reader right into the midst of everything and we learn through the characters, dialogue, and action about what the world is like. It doesn't bog the reader down with useless info dumping, but weaves it almost seamlessly through. The the alternate history fascinated me. Most of the things that were changed didn't seem hokey or strange. Everything in the novel, however outlandish it may have been, seemed entirely plausible to me because it gave just enough scientific evidence to be grounded in reality without seeming overdone. The art was simply gorgeous.

Dislikes: I want to learn more about the characters. There is so much action that I don't feel like I got any downtime to get to know Alek and Deryn as well as I wanted to.

Overall: Easily one of my favorite fantasy/sci-fi novels I've read this summer. It took me a long time to get through because I was so inspired, that I had to stop reading, so that I could write. (lol) That's a good thing. It's not many books that can positively inspire me to do that. (and if they do inspire me, it's usually because I was disappointed by something in the novel and it's something I wanted to fix.)

Recommended by: I just did some research on steampunk and this novel came up. It's been on my reading list for a while as have many of the authors other books.

Acquired: Library. (I might actually buy this trilogy though)

July 23, 2010

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

Date Started: July 21
Date Finished: July 22

Summary: Franny is going through a bit of a quarterlife crisis. She's dropped out of school because of all the phony people that are so involved with their egos. She's quit the theatre department and is irritated with her boyfriend and his mild pretentiousness. Franny is on the verge of nervous breakdown, she can't take the falseness of her life anymore. Her older brother, Zooey, is an actor and is trying to talk her out of her despair, with little success.

Likes: First of all, I think I enjoyed this book a lot more because I'm not forced to write an essay about the meaning of it. Second, I think this book is hilarious, especially the parts with Zooey and his mother. As a college student, I could relate to Franny's irritation with the academic world. She wants knowledge for the sake of knowledge, not knowledge for the sake of bragging. I enjoyed reading the family dynamic as well. It still seems like they are grieving the loss of their oldest brother, who committed suicide (I believe his story is in Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger). The family is so sharp and honest with each other, something that we hardly ever read about families these days. They speak so honestly, regardless of whether they hurt each others feelings. They just speak openly and honestly, with little tact and it's just a refreshing read from some of the contemporary stories where the families hardly interact.

I think the reason I loved this is that it's timeless. In the story, it's 1955, but the themes can ring true for this day and age as well (that's why I believe a lot of high schoolers admire Catcher in the Rye because of its timelessness. I should probably reread that book without the issue of analyzing things and enjoy it for enjoyment's sake.)  I wasn't sure I was going to like it after reading Franny's part, but when Zooey was in the bathtub, reading his script and smoking, then his mother walks in (granted he's 25 years old too) and starts talking, I was won over and could hardly put the book down. 

Dislikes: There's not much I dislike about this book. I'm just glad I don't have to write an essay about it.

Overall: I loved it. The dialogue was hilarious. I think if you are forced to read this in high school, you'll enjoy it as much as Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger has a way of writing disillusioned characters that engage you.

Recommended by: This has been on my reading list for years. I was just browsing at the library and I decided to pick it up. I wasn't sure what I was expecting. I was pleasantly surprised. 

Acquired: Library

July 21, 2010

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Date Started: July 17
Date Finished: July 20

Summary: Ai Ling has been rejected repeatedly by suitors and she is okay with that, even though it brings her family shame. Ai Ling's father leaves for the castle and doesn't return. After a lecherous old man asks for her hand in marriage to pay an old debt by her father, Ai Ling runs away to bring him home. Along the way, monsters and demons are out for her soul. She finds shelter and comfort from Chen Yong and his adopted brother Li Rong

Likes: This was as refreshing departure from the standard fantasy. It has all the same tropes most fantasies do (long quests, monsters, etc...), but the Asian-inspired myths and monsters were a breath of fresh air for me. The writing, while it took me a bit longer to get into, was beautiful and the style was very lyrical and visual. The characters felt familiar in a way and their stories felt familiar, but they came together in a way that was different. For the first half of the book, Ai Ling's ability didn't necessarily feel completely convenient, especially since it seems to endanger the party that she's traveling with. The tension was high when it time to confront the bad guy and I thought it was going to be a total blood bath, but it wasn't. It was a subtle fight and it had me at the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. (I bet the people at the library were wondering why I was gasping so much)

Dislikes: It had its share of cliches that I was willing to overlook because of the setting and the writing. There were points in time where things were too convenient for the characters. I was mad that the ending was so simple. (Of course there is a sequel so I'm excited to see where the next book picks up).

Overall: I enjoyed this book. However...

I hate how the whole repackaging issue sort of peppered the way I read the book. My biggest question was who were they trying to market this book to? Was it people like me and those who enjoy anime and Avatar: The Last Airbender (I have to spell the whole thing out of these out now so people know I'm not talking about the blue smurf kittens or the epic fail that was the live-action movie) or specifically Asians (who have seen this type of story before according to T). Did they even do any marketing to both markets? If it wasn't for dedicated PoC book bloggers, I wouldn't have known this book existed. And that's a shame because there are thousands of people out there like me in all colors of the rainbow that would like this book, regardless of the cover. If those people are anything like me, they are tired of seeing covers that look like paranormal romances.  

That being said, I enjoyed it. Like I said, even though it does have its cliches, it was a nice deviation from the standard fantasy. 

Recommended by: Reading in Color. Like I mentioned before, I'm not sure I would have read this novel if I hadn't heard about the repackaging scandal. My library carries this book at another branch, but I wouldn't have known to look for it otherwise.

Acquired: Library

July 19, 2010

Creativity Workshop Post: Week 9/Week 10

I'm chugging along on the Creativity Workshop. I'm not following the rules, but sometimes you have to break the rules to get things done.   There are no rules, just guidlines. I'm working on Infinite Aless which I retitled Sex, Drugs, and Steampunk because it just sounds sexy and cool. Now I'm wondering if I can live up to that title. I've never written a sex scene and shared it with the world before. I'm hoping to make this a web serial, so I'm trying to push myself out of my comfort zone by writing about things I'm not necessarily familiar with or have personal experience with. To be honest, sex scenes aren't exactly that hard to write for me, but I do rewrite them repeatedly to get the feelings and the characterization right. There is nothing worse than having a badly written sex scene. (and I don't mean a scene about bad sex, lol.)

I'm trying to make a strong female protagonist and writing Alessandra has been a delight. She's abrasive, tough, but she's not a boy with girl's clothing. She's not an anti-sue that is trying so hard to be tough that when it's time to act feminine, her reactions are melodramatic (*cough*Katsa*cough*). Right now in the first couple chapters, she meets a hot guy, has causal sex with hot guy, and gets her heart broken in more ways than one. And no she doesn't turn into a heaping mess of misery and fail like Bella nor is she completely insane and sex crazed like Hanna from Bleeding Violet. I'm trying to find a happy medium between being a girl and being a bad ass.(I do it all the time, I don't know why it's so hard to write lol). I want to read a story where it's just about a guy and a girl who like each other and occasionally have sex with each other and other people. Plus writing at least two sex scenes without fading to black is on my 101 in 1001, which is a specific way of writing outside my comfort zone.

Anyways... that was a lovely(awkward) little tangent.

As for steampunk... I guess this is more of an Urban fantasy/Steampunk. I pretty much have no idea what exactly entails a story to be steampunk. In my mind, it's a bit like Full Metal Alchemist and Kiki's Delivery got together and had a baby, then that baby grew up and got on crack and had a threesome with Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop. I'll probably be working on setting and world building  in the second draft. I'm hoping to finish this by the end of August for WeSeWriMo.

My biggest issue with this story is fighting the urge to edit. The only things I've truly overhauled so far are the issues leading up to the sex scene. I think things need to be a bit smoother. I'm currently on the hunt for a critique partner. I'm trying to move a bit slower when it comes to posting on the web, so I don't burn myself out.

The best thing I got out of the Creativity Workshop is that it has taught me to have the foresight to when an idea is going to run me into the wall so I catch it before it happens. Having this ability makes writing a bit easier. I've made some notes for the second draft, but I won't put them in until the second draft. I just want to crank this story out as soon as possible and when it's done, go back and revise and edit. I have never done this before, so I'm hoping it'll work with a story I'm a little less emotionally invested in and then hoping it'll work out for when I go to write the stories I want to get published traditionally.

July 18, 2010

Donorboy by Brendan Halpin

Date Started: July 16
Date Finished: July 17

Summary: Rosalind's two mothers died in a freak car accident and now she has been taken in by her donor, the man who technically who is her father, but has never been in her life for the past 14 years. Rosalind starts acting out and trying to deal with her grief while her clueless dad tries to guide her along.

Likes: I thought that the premise seems interesting, that's one reason why I picked it up. A girl who was raised by two mothers now has to live with a man who doesn't even have a girlfriend. The two mothers added an interesting dynamic that wouldn't have been the same if it had been a heterosexual couple. The premise didn't disappoint. I thought the format choices were interesting as well. At first I didn't think it would work as a series of recordings, journal entries, e-mails, and IMs, but I was actually entertained by it. I think it really worked in favor of the story, which sometimes isn't the case. It was short and sweet, a quick light read.

Dislikes: The writing seems like it's trying too hard to be a teenager. Majority of the time it comes off as authentic, but there are points where it was way too much slang and jargon that it loses some credibility. I wish there were dates on the journal entries because I wasn't entirely sure how much time passed over the course of the novel. I was aware that it ended on Christmas. The story seems unfinished, as if its a start to something new.

Overall: It was an entertaining read. Cute, heartwarming, and light.

Recommended by: Another cover that caught my attention at the library. It was the spine that caught my attention with the words looking like a label machine. It jumped out at me from the paperback rack. The title sounded interesting, so I read the blurb. The cover itself is not that special and doesn't have much to do with the story itself(in fact I didn't really look at the cover until I started to read the book) but the blurb and the title won me over.

Acquired: Library.

July 16, 2010

The Fatttening Hut by Pat Lowery Collins

Date Started: July 15
Date Finished: July 16

Summary: Helen is now of marrying age and must move into the fattening hut to plump up for her new husband. In her world, a small island reminscient of sub-Saharan Africa, to be fat is to be beautiful. Helen's Aunt Margaret knows secrets about the practices of the fattening hut that could almost kill her. Helen decides to run away and follows the little clues left behind that lead her to safety.

Likes: The writing is absolutely beautiful. I loved the writing first and foremost. It was poetic and although it was in passive tense, it was really evocative and lyrical. I liked that the story bringing to light the horrors of what is happening in Helen's world. I also liked the story for the same reasons that the author wrote it. I wanted to know more about this world and I do like that it was a non-description place and didn't rely on stereotypes. The ending was sad, but well-written and justifiable. I only hope(wish) there is a sequel about Helen and her younger sister, Suba as they adjust to their new lives. 

Dislikes: I wasn't too keen on the prose poetry format. I don't think the format did the story a complete justice. There was a lot of punch packed into such a small space, but I didn't feel like I got to know more about the characters. I also wish there would have been more about the times and the setting because I wasn't entirely sure when this story takes place. I wanted more of Aunt Margaret, she was a really compelling character that I feel didn't get enough face time.

Overall: This story is an engrossing tale and appropriate for a YA audience. As an older young adult, I would have liked a little more, but the story wasn't geared towards people in my age group and I feel that it was well written for the demographic it was written for. I still enjoyed it and it's still haunting to think of what Helen was running from and that these things really happen.

Recommended by: There were no recommendations. This is a case where the cover drew me in. I heard about fattening huts on Oprah on the episode about cross-cultural beauty. The cover is posted above and I thought that it looked really interesting. I'm glad I picked it up.

Acquired: Library.

July 15, 2010

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Date Started: July 2, 2010
Date Finished: July 14, 2010

Summary: People who are Graced are given a special talent and Katsa's is killing. People can tell who the Graced are by their different colored eyes. Katsa has blue and green eyes. When she saves a kidnapped ruler of a foreign kingdom, she meets Po, a man with silver and gold eyes that is Graced with fighting. Despite saving people, Katsa has been used by her uncle for her killing ability. Katsa decides to stand up for herself and takes back her control. She and Po go to save Princess Bitterblue from a cruel and evil king, who is also her father.

Likes: This story reminded me what I liked about fantasy. I liked the writing and the world building. The world was fantastic. I like the idea that some Graces are useless and not everyone is gifted with something as extraordinary as fighting or killing. I love the writing itself. It was simple, yet evocative and it made the story for me. The writing style with like a shout out to Tamora Pierce's Lioness Quartet and all epic fantasies before it. I look forward to reading more about this world, despite my dislikes in the following section.

Dislikes: This story reminded me everything I dislike about fantasy as well. The story is just a series of conveniences. There was no tension on anything, even the final Katsa's grace was convenient and so was Po's. Everything worked out fine in the end. Katsa and Po get together early on and it seems to never be mentioned again(until the epilogue). It seems like all sexual tension was diffused because of that scene. I personally don't see why it was necessary and there were better places for this scene to be placed.

Bitterblue (argh, what kind of name is that?) was surprisingly mature, not like a normal 10 year at all. It's understandable, but there's never a point in time where her calm composure comes undone. Even when witnessing the deaths of her family members, she cries, but her emotions seem so reserved to experience so much like that. I can understand that both Katsa and Bitterblue were strong girls, but Katsa was easily reduced to blubbering when confronted with Po's proposal. Her reactions seemed too extreme. When a situation called for anger, she was full of rage. When a situation called for sadness, she went through depression. I thought that she was an okay character, but it seemed like she written to be the tough anti-girl, so when it was time for her to act "feminine", her reactions were just over the top and melodramatic for me.

Overall: I wasn't impressed with this story. It was an interesting read, but it took me a long time to get through. There were certain things that had me rolling my eyes and putting the book down to do something else (like write). I was interested in what was going to happen, but things were solved way to quickly and way too clean (well, not exactly clean, but you know what I mean). That being said, I'm in love with the author's writing style and look forward to reading Fire and any other books that she writes (I hear she's writing a novel about Bitterblue)

Recommended by: I've heard about it on the internet, then I recommended it to my friend, who read it before me. I hope she enjoyed it more than I did because she actually bought the book.  
Edit: So the friend and I discussed this last night (and morning for her or something because she was in Europe). I can appreciate that Katsa played a role that was typically given to guys. It would have been so easy for the author to switch the roles of Po and Katsa and make Katsa the damsel in distress. I'm SOOO glad the author didn't resort to that. However on the other hand, things were just too convenient. I really wanted to know where Katsa's Grace ended and where her actual personality began. I believe that her greatest limitation was herself, but that storyline (as well as many others) was diffused too quickly. That was what I found disappointing more so than the novel itself.

Acquired:  I got it the library.

July 10, 2010

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life By Bryan Lee O'Malley

Date Started: July 10, 2010
Date Finished: July 10, 2010

Summary: Scott is a 23 lazy slacker dating a 17 year old high schooler, Knives Chau. He's living with his gay friend Wallace and he's in the band Sex-Bob-Omb. He's been dreaming of a beautiful girl whom he learns is Ramona Flowers. After awkwardly asking her on a date, they begin to date(it was really that simple). Unfortunately for Scott, he has to defeat Ramonda's seven ex boyfriends. Can he do it for the girl he loves? Wait, doesn't her already have a girlfriend?

Likes: It's a quick read. It's a ridiculous stupid and silly story, but it's a fun read. Scott is the stereotypical slacker in a band and his misadventures are fun to read. He reminds me of my friends in college and trying to navigate our way though our lives and relationships. At least we don't have to fight exes and whatnot. Things happen quite fast, it's a little insane, but it's good.

Dislikes: I'm not sure about time line, but things happened really fast. It felt like this happened over a span of days not weeks.

Overall: I can't wait to read the rest of the series. The artwork is simple but oddly complex in a way that can't really be imitated. Despite how "cartoon-y" it looked, I thought the artwork was dynamic and the cover

Recommended by: Okay, the movie is coming out and someone had a Scott Pilgrim avatar on their facebook and I fell in love with the simple artwork. Then today, while goofing off on the internet, I watched several trailers for the movie and thought this movie would be so ridiculous. I could wait to get the graphic novel so I went out and bought it. I'm probably going to collect this series. I can't wait to see the movie.

Acquired: Borders.

Creativity Workshop Post: Week 8/Week 9

Not much got done during Week 8. I believe I had a midterm and papers that week and couldn't get much done. Most of the other weeks have been like that too with summer school kicking my ass. That being said, I love my psychology classes, even if I'm not doing as well as I'd like. It's all about time management for me, which is something I'm normally fairly descent at. This time, I'm trying to write papers a few days in advance. After losing the first battle with time, I kicked up a few gears and finally got down to business (though it was a week too late, but oh well)

However, with Week 9 ending, I thought it was going to be more of the same, but I was pleasantly surprised M.C.A. Hogarth's guest post on Merrilee's blog about Turning Disappointment into Ideas has been stuck in my head for a few weeks. I tend to do this with all my stories. It's probably a little known secret that most of my stories are just mash-ups from different stories mixed with the things I would have liked to have seen . I'm currently reading Graceling by Kristin Cashore (review forthcoming), but I'm reading it as a writer, not as a reader. I'm enjoying this book because I like the writing and pretty much I'm trying to understand POV. But I'm not enjoying this book as much as I thought I would, which is not surprising because I hate reading fantasy as much as I love writing it. This book has reminded me why I hate fantasy, but also what I enjoy about it.

This jump started me to writing my WeSeWriMo thing early. I was going to start in August, but I couldn't wait that long. I picked up Infinite Alice again and started reworking the plot. It's a steampunk, which is something I am starting to get into after watching Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Cowboy Bebop, and remembering how much I loved Samurai Champloo. I decided not to take it seriously and it worked. I've gotten 3,000+ words in three hours and I'm loving every ridiculous word of it.

I can't focus on it too much. I have midterms to study for and assignments to do, but I'm hoping I can balance it between writing and reading because I'm really enjoying what I'm writing right now. I may have to put book reading on hold because I enjoy what I'm writing that much. This has been a first because there's no pretense. I'm just going with the flow. I'm doubly inspired by Malinda Lo's post on ignoring the inner critic and the inner editor partially because someone famous answered my question and they actually had a good answer about it.

I just have to be willing to be ridiculous with my writing. I know this is going to work for the other stories.

July 6, 2010

A RaceFail! all around: Part 1

Interestingly enough, I was planning on posting a Seg-book-gation and how books written by Black authors are packaged in a way that only appeals to Black readers. The stereotype is that Black authors write for Black people and supposedly Black people don't read. So according to the stereotype, Black authors are packaged for people who don't read so they are for no one. I can tell you now that Black people do indeed read and read alot. This post only came about after reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Would a book written by a Black author get as much hype as she did? The answer is "no" and I'm still trying to figure out why it's still the case. Why are publishers still trying to silence Black voices? What are they afraid of? It's so obvious that the stereotype of Black people not reading is untrue, but fueled by the fact that there aren't any books for us to read.

Apparently there aren't any books for other minorities to read either. Or at least you can't tell just by looking at them.

July 2, 2010

Book Recommendations


July 1, 2010

Works in Progress

Untitled Contemporary YA- For the past three years since he was adopted, Max has been trying to be the best adopted son possible. Even though he knows it's not possible now, he is still afraid that he might get sent away if he isn't perfect. Max makes good grades, plays in the band, joins clubs, all the things that college admissions counselors are looking for. The life of perfection comes to a halt when Max meets Isabelina "Izzy" Rodriguez-Smith, a firecracker of a girl with a less than stellar reputation at a party. At first, Max and Izzy ignore their initial meeting, dodging each other at school and pretending that night never happened. However, as punishment for sneaking out to go that party, Max is sent to a foster kids support group aptly named "On The Right Track". To his surprise, Izzy is also a part of this group. Izzy and Max start a secret Saturday relationship while pretending not to know each other while at school. After stealing Izzy's file from the "On the Right Track" counselor, Max learns that Izzy is a troubled girl with dark and painful secrets. Now she has a major secret that threatens to upset Max's picture of perfection and his chances for a full ride scholarship for the university of his dreams.Will Max give up his dreams to make Izzy's come true?
           Plotting stage- first 18 chapters are plotted, just need to figure out the conclusion.
           Next Stage- Writing the rest of the darn thing. 

It's All Relative- Aoikin University is not an ordinary college and its students aren't  ordinary students. For one thing, Aoikin Unversity is in the magical world of Atheria, a world previous blocked off to most humans. Its students are the best and brightest magical creatures the world has to offer. Some creatures are familiar like nymphs, dragons, phoenixes and others like the animal-humanoid creatures called an Animari are not so familiar.  Sora Kainomori and her new friends are college freshman eagerly awaiting their first year. Takun Kuroshiro, the Prince of Atherian Celebrity Royalty (and the "princesses" he hooks up with) can't wait for the year to be over. Sasuke Kohakume, a dedicated senior is only a few credits shy of graduation. When a peaceful protest over a string of major attacks turns into a deadly riot, the paths of these students and their friends intertwine with terrible consequences. Now instead of midterms and finals, they are each being sucked into a violent revolution in different ways. And you thought your college years were hard.
                 Brainstorming the structure(Multiple POV similar to The Help) and the plot(completed).
                 Writing on hiatus

Untitled Dystopian Fantasy/Colab Story- One thousand years into the future, the world has expanded and exhausted every inch of land. Hurting for resources, the people of the world are forced to move upward towards the sky. The new world has turned into one giant vertical City Planet and is broken into nine levels, with each level building on the remains of the levels before it. Arden St. James is a Level One "Roach" in charge of sanitation and death disposal. She prepares the dead by logging them out of the city-planet's system. Arden decides that she's fed up with being a roach when she gets the wild idea to use a stolen ID pass and a family pass from a dead Level Three woman. Arden plans to use her newly acquired passes to help her brothers and her friends get the food and supplies they all so desperately need. More importantly, the pass gives her the chance to look for her scientist father "Robert" St. James, who disappeared six years ago. Arden's plan goes well, until she gets caught by Roone Veritas, a boy from the highest level, Level 9. As Arden tries to run away, she and Roone uncover something dangerous beneath the surface of their vertical city.
Free Writing------ Currently Doing
Planning my parts  of the book------- Currently Doing        
First Chapter Due------ July 31

Quarter Life Crisis: Tales of Super Senior (Comic)- a semi-autobiographical tale about a girl in her early twenties trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life and all the wonderfully strange people she meets along the way.
           Planning Stage- Figuring out what events I need to include.
           Next Step: Taking an art/photoshop class. Read comics, imitate art styles. (I'm really looking forward to reading the Scott Pilgrim Series, I'm loving the simple animation style and bright colors)

To Be Read List

Reading  List (continuously updated)

This is broken up into Authors with more than five books that are not in a series, Series, and Standalone books, or books that are in a series that I have already read, but not finished. I'm going to put out a call for more books to read soon, but I want to tackle some of the books on this list.

July Goals: Read Books in a Series
  1. Graceling by Kristin Cashore
  2. Fire by Kristin Cashore
  3. City of Bone by Cassandra Clare
  4. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
  5. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
  6. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  7. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld
  8. Specials by Scott Westerfeld
  9. Extras by Scott Westerfeld
  10. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
  11. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Titan's Curse
  12. Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Battle of the Labyrinth


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