Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Forest Born, by Shannon Hale; Here Lies Arthur, by Philip Reeve

So I went to the library this morning and stayed for 3+ hours. I've been away from it for too long, and it was like coming home.

Thought I'd share some book reviews (one from last week, one from today):

Forest Born (The Books of Bayern, #4)Forest Born by Shannon Hale

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


It's been a long time since I read River Secrets, but I had no problem getting back into the world of Bayern. Hale's writing is not quite as polished as I remember it (fire sisters? I'm sure there's a less cheesy way to put it) but then I did read the other books when I was younger.

Aside from that, I think I liked this story better than any of the others (or at least equal to Goose Girl). Rin is supremely empathizeable (not a word, I know) - she's a girl who is afraid to show people who she really is, who is used to being ignored, who fears that inside she is broken and rotten and that there's something wrong with her. Watching her overcome her insecurities somehow hits harder home than Isi's fairy-tale quest. That's not in any way putting down Goose Girl. It's downright cathartic to see a reticent wallflower girl work through her issues.

Isi's character development from the first book to here was a surprising treat. Once she moved out of the role of the main character, I kind of expected her to become a vaguely benevolent queenly force. Never again shall I doubt Shannon Hale's magic with characters: while indeed regal - a "force" - Isi remained a complex and dynamic character. Also, the reveal of the "queen of Kel" and her characterization was handled beautifully.

I'm also happy that Hale broke with the trend of at least one new relationship developing per book. The previous pairings - Geric and Isi, Finn and Enna, Razo and Dasha - were well-constructed, with plenty of character interaction and chemistry to back them up. More importantly, though, they developed because both parties involved understood each other. Since this book was mostly Rin finding out how to understand herself, no relationship would have been genuine.

This review is running on the long side now, so in a nutshell: characters were the strong point, prose wasn't as good as it could have been, can't wait for the next book.

Here Lies ArthurHere Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


5/31/11: Just finished rereading this book, now having read King Arthur's Court. This book was as good as I remembered it - Gwyn(a)'s personality carries the book well through the various twists her life takes. Even though I love fantasy, the story's lack of magic did not hurt my opinion of it at all. Rather, I believe it spoke to the power of words and storytelling. A gritty, gripping take on the King Arthur legend.

Caveat: this book is not for the faint of heart. The description of Bedwyr's death made me wince a little fine, a lot. Still highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Caduta

I

I can’t do it.
My dreams will not let me fly
My wings are saturated with the rain
And my bones are too heavy
I can’t get off the ground
I can’t reach that hard bright sky
No wind stings my eyes and cheeks
I can’t get closer to the sun
I’m always slipping
Falling back down to the ground
The sky is a body and I am the rejected organ
And so I slam into the ground
Or maybe I don’t
(Because I couldn’t get off the ground in the first place)
And it is dirt and concrete
Not air beneath my feet
And these wings flap uselessly, and I think
Maybe some people are just not meant to fly.

II

Don’t be sorry
The sky is not the only place
I wade out into a sea of dreams
Until a shelf breaks beneath my feet
And I slip into a chasm of blue
But I breathe
When there is no ground
I can fall eternally
There is forever beneath me
And strange monsters lurk in the deep
And in the blackness I cannot see
(It’s terrifying)
But the shark is my brother
And the anglerfish will light my way
I am safe in the embrace of a sea monster
Sometimes I want to disappear
So I am salt in water
Raindrops merging with the waves
And I sink into the dark without control
Because I trust this, I do, and
Maybe some people are just meant to drown.

--

Maybe I'm one of them.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Look What I Found

It was galling
They were indomitable
His eyes were like blind firepoints
It was beautiful, and horrible too
He took his shotgun
He pulled the trigger
Move on
It veered sharply
Moved in angles
Hang suspended there in the twilight
The last stains of sunset had melted away
How deep, after all, can it go?
Nothing holds together
The worst is happening at last
There is no thunder.

Poem written in sixth grade using lines from Tuck Everlasting.  Discovered while cleaning my room.

--

I went to the library today and checked out several books, but also two movies: "How to Train Your Dragon" (this will be my third time watching it) and "The Secret of Kells" (I've heard good things about this one).

--

This wasn't the "new content" I talked about last time.  That is still upcoming.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I am longing for...

Blue skies that go on forever

Golden sun

Library books by the dozen

Quiet mornings

Time

Actual content coming soon. :)  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This Week's Reblogs

Sorry about the scarcity of posts this month. School's been keeping me busy (finals next week AAAAAH).

Some links current, most less so, but all inspiring.

Hungarian Fairies, by Theodora Goss. Really makes me want to explore non-Grimm fairy tales.

Journal of Mythic Arts, a now-discontinued fantasy newsletter that has over 10 years of archives I've only just begun to touch. Take a stroll through the articles.

When I finally get around to splitting up my "Inspiration" page, I'll definitely feature Kay Nielsen. Even with all the details there's a lovely sense of space.

A Youtube video that strikes a beautifully desolate post-apocalyptic chord:


And a list of the top 10 most frightening books for teens, compiled by author Cliff McNish (I've only read one book by him, but it was good). From the list I've only read 1984, Coraline, and the Diary of Anne Frank, so it looks like I have more books on my to-read list.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to Write a Terrible Essay

From the rough draft (which took three days to write) to the ridiculously unhelpful (read: nonexistent) peer editing remarks to the sea of red pen I unleashed on myself, my last English essay of freshman year was certainly more of an ordeal than usual.

I already posted six ways to make essay writing easier, but this last experience has given me some insight into what not to do:

1. Don't keep it simple

Convoluted thesis = much RAEG.  If I hadn't complicated things, I would not have had to run around looking for evidence for two battling main ideas.

2. Don't murder your darlings

Finding a great piece of evidence is good.  That's like an adaptation that helps you become more fit to your environment. (Studying for bio final, yay.)

Keeping it when a better piece of evidence serves the same purpose is not so good.  That's like a vestigial limb that only gets in the way some of the time.

Keeping it when it diverts your paper's focus is even worse.  That's like evolving one wing that you drag around on the ground and can't do anything with.  Better to amputate it and save it for another day (wow, that analogy fell apart real quick).

3. Don't do your own revisions

There's an evil thing called "peer editing."  It sounds innocuous - someone else does the heavy lifting on the revisions for you, and you use their suggestions to make your paper better.

Until you get your paper back and there's not a single mark on it.  "I couldn't find anything wrong," your peer editor says, and you resist the urge to say, "Try harder."  No paper is ever perfect.

Of course, peer editors have no incentive to be useful to you.  So even if you roll your eyes, know what to expect.  If you want a thing done well, you must do it yourself.

4. Don't edit with a machete

I know, some teachers have word count requirements.  Mine doesn't, so I have the luxury of cutting away all the filler.  If you, too, have this option, use it.

5. Don't rearrange as needed

Does it flow logically?  No?  Then change, move, or cut it (see above).  Something I did a lot in this last essay was put commentary before the evidence on which I was commenting.  Nice going, bro.

6. Don't scrutinize word choice

During the first draft, filler words ("conclusion of sheer awesome goes here") are fine.  However, in a final draft, the words "idiocy" and "foolishness" are, well, idiotic and foolish.

Likewise, tone is important, but "academic" does not mean "pretentious."  I was so sick of this essay that I let the conclusion (of a literary persuasive essay) drift into a proposition to right the evils of society.

If I didn't know that my teacher is capable of reading a six-page research report without making a single comment except to quibble about bibliography formatting, I'd be worried about that.

7. Don't take breaks

My brain would be fried if I didn't take breaks.  Just be careful that your well-intentioned five minute break doesn't turn into "herpinternetbrainsuckderp" time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Writing Advice, Reblogged

Helpful links.

Seth Godin's advice for authors. Geared more towards publicizing your book.

More general advice from Zadie Smith.

Remedies for writer's block. Part of a series that includes an intro and causes.

A site called AdviceToWriters with quotes.

Finally, an examination of use of the term "craft" to describe writing.

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My own writing has been going painfully slowly.  I'll elaborate more on that another time.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Catch It


The wind is riding high...

Started March 20, finished today. It's been too long since I did a watercolor.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Books we have to read for school typically do not much impress me. This is an exception.

Scout was a very likable narrator, clever without being unbelievably so, tomboyish without being ridiculous, and consistent even through her character development. Viewing a court case about rape through a child's perspective works surprisingly well. I liked how the Boo Radley storyline came in again at the end.

It's a shame Harper Lee hasn't published any other books.

View all my reviews