Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sup y'all

Book Lover's Problems:


I want to read them both NOW RIGHT NOW. Have you seen the trailer for Beautiful Creatures? Fan-fucking-tastic. There are several movies I'm excited for in 2013:
Beautiful Creatures
The Host
Carrie
The End of the World
World War Z
Side Effects
Plus more, but especially these.

Not that I have much time for reading these days. We finished hanging drywall in the living room last night, then promptly spent all night bailing out the sump well since the pump broke. Really. Phil and I both got two hours of not-sleep, and spent the rest of the night hauling the wet/dry vac around.


That is the newly empty well, with the newly installed sump pump, big enough to hold several bodies. I never thought it could be so awesome that Home Depot opens at 6am. I installed the pump myself! It wasn't that cool, actually, it was gross. But still proud of my handiwork. =]

And let me tell you, sump pumps are one seriously underappreciated piece of magic. There should be a Sump Pump Appreciation Day, where the world makes ritual sacrifices to keep the Basement Gods appeased.

This happened.

I ordered Doctor Who yarn from Etsy. There are so many beautiful handpainted yarns posted there. This one is from SeeJaneKnitYarns, it's called Mad Man With a Box. I'm really excited to get it. I also got fancy circular knitting needles for Christmas to help me with my double-pointed needle deficiency. Can't wait to make fingerless gloves!

Image via here.
Have a picture of my cat.

Odin. Also known as Odie, Dopie, Asshat, and Peanut.

Or I should say, my father's cat. Little traitor. He plays fetch, usually with little paper balls, but he figured out that if he drags the pouch of cat treats around someone will eventually give him one because that's just so damn cute. He also had catnip for the first time on Christmas. He was chewing his leg for half an hour.

I had a really fantastic pile of gifts from Christmas. =] Just trust me, they were fantastic. The annoying part is that they're spread between four houses right now, so they are never where I am. Still working on that. Other people liked the gifts Phil and I gave them too. I think families exchange gifts on Christmas so they hate each other a little less when they have to spend time in cramped quarters with no escape. It worked. Christmas was bearable, not as bad as I dreaded. Glad it's over though. Now I can enjoy my new knitting needles and boots and cookbooks with a clear mind. Except for that little house-overhaul. That takes up most of my brain power these days.

All in all, happy, and tired.






Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gun Control Won't Help

Despite the overwhelming evidence that people are stupid lugnuts without two brain cells to rub together (i.e., Christmas shopping season), people, in fact, are very smart. Have you ever seen a prison documentary where they show various shivs that have been confiscated? It is incredible the creativity and resourcefulness that went into obtaining and making these makeshift knives. All while they are seemingly under constant supervision. Preventing the general populace from owning guns won't prevent crime any more than Prohibition prevented alcohol comsumption. Adding software and DRM to dvds and cds did not and does not prevent people from ripping them anyway. No matter what the media companies come out with, some one out there is always smarter.

I am on the side of Mental Health reform. Because this country does shit to handle these things. I work in the city, and everyday I pass someone dirty and smelling of piss muttering to themselves and shambling down the sidewalk like a zombie. It's a horrible thing to see, especially when if someone, anyone, had taken any kind of interest in getting the right people the right help, it could have been prevented.

Most of everyone has already spoken about the Sandy Hook shootings, much more eloquently than I could. I only want to link to a few people who said it particularly well.

I Was One of the Scary Kids
How Close are we to More Killings?
Health Care, Mass Murder, and So On

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

There is this wonderful, rare feeling you can get when you open up certain books. That utterly happy, floating, lost-in-the-world-of-the-book feeling. When a favorite author publishes something new, or when the long-awaited final installment of a series is finally out... It's all the comfort of an old re-read, even though you are reading it for the first time.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore ( BN | GR ) by Robin Sloan did that for me. It's a book for book lovers. But it's funny. And heartwarming. In my whirlwind life right now, this was just the book I needed. When everything gets crazy I start reading a chapter and ditching the book, reading a chapter and ditching the book, over and over again. (The last book I finished was back in October. Terrible!) I have a bad habit of sticking to a reading list for way longer than I should, so that by the time I get around to reading a book my interest in it has already waned and died, and that is no way to read a book. The good thing is, I'm getting better at recognizing this, and am making an effort to finish a book, and then pick up the book I am most interested in right now. I knew I needed something great, and I'm glad this is what I picked up.

You can follow Robin Sloan at his website (sparse), twitter, and goodreads page, which has a live interview they did the other day. My Mom-sub-2 listened to the audiobook and loved it (great narrator). She's the one who recommended it to me. And after buying the hardcover and taking the slipcover off to read it, I realized the cover glows in the dark!! The meh-yellow-boring cover suddenly became awesome!

A synopsis, from BN:
A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore
        The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.
        With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that’s rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.


It's all about the clash between new technology and old. E-books and print books. Secret societies. Quirky bookstore owners that remind me of Dumbledore. High-level computing and parallel processing and rudimentary books scanners made out of cardboard. Role-playing games and old friendships. Immortality, and that book about dragons you read so many times as a kid the cover fell apart (you know which one I'm talking about). And funny! It's the next installment to the fandom of books. If you liked Among Others by Jo Walton and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, you'll like this one too.

You can't break this book down into character, setting, and plot to analyze it. It won't hold up. Everyone aside from the main character is one-dimensional, the romance is wooden and convenient, the quest is traditional and herky-jerky. But, my friends, "the magic is in the creation." Focus on what this book is about. It's an homage to everything you loved as a child: the books, the video games, the boobs, the quirky old man who owned a bookstore. In no other book could "ERROR 404 PAGE NOT FOUND" make you laugh, or invoking your old Dragonlance character name make you nod in understanding.

It's so hard to describe this to you. I'm trying to break it down into something tangible and snarky when really all I have to say is READ THIS BOOK. Then you will understand. The magic of this book is not in any single part, but it's how it makes you feel and how it warms your heart while you read it. As a matter of fact, if I had to tie one word to this book it would be "heartwarming." Buy it for the book-lover in your life. Buy it for yourself and pass it around to all your friends, but make sure you get it back because you'll want to re-read it again and again.

I also want to mention: read this book with a pencil in hand. It is littered with underline-worthy gems you'll want to remember. They are a mix of contemporary and pop culture and just lyrical, beautiful writing. One of my favorites not included in the Goodreads Quote page (it doesn't stand alone as well as it is a zinger at the end of the chapter):

This is Mat's secret weapon, his passport, his get-out-of-jail free-card: Mat makes things that are beautiful.

Reading Next: The Time Traveler's Wife

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Goddammit, I WILL learn how to knit!

This skill just... eludes me. My fingers cramp and everything gets progressively tighter until I can't even get the loops over the needles and then I miss a stitch somewhere and there's a fucking HOLE I have to stare at for the rest of the damn project....

I bought the Beekeeper's Quilt pattern. Those cute little hexipuffs are damn difficult. And then I found this help video, which would have been great except her fingers look as clumsy as mine and that isn't helpful. I will figure it out eventually.

I really want to make fingerless gloves. They're awesome, and damn expensive in the store for something I only kindof like. I tried last winter, but it was a bit small and I only made one... so once again not helpful. I may try this pattern, easy and simple and a good thing to learn from, I'm sure. But "easy" is not really my style. I don't know how to jump into the shallow end of things. Because how cool are these gloves?! They have OWLS on them! And this pair would be my first choice, but yeah WOW way out of my pay grade. This pair is pretty neat too, I love the gray/blue pair.

This website seems to be the best from everything I've found. Clear instructional videos that tackle one thing and that I can actually understand, plus there seem to be videos on absolutely everything I could possibly want to know.

Decorative stitches!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why so silent?

BECAUSE WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!!

I know. It's unbelievable. September 26th, I thought I was doomed to live at home forever. There wasn't even talk of moving out yet. I was trying to push for an apartment, but P was having none of that. September 27th, we drove by the most perfect house, called our friend's mom (who's a realtor) that very night, and said "Make it happen."

And it happened!

We are currently renovating. Three cracked layers of plaster and no insulation in the entire house. And wood paneling. OH, THE WOOD PANELING. In every color you can imagine. Let me tell you, it's a mess. The place probably had the same decor since it was built in 1940. And man, did it have the stains to prove it. But the house was filled with beautiful, sturdy wood, and the layout is great.

BEFORE - Left bedroom. I don't even know what to say about this wallpaper/carpet combo.
BEFORE - Right bedroom. If we had a little boy, the sailboats would actually be cute. But we don't. And the walls had to come down anyway. And the wood paneling could never be cute.
This is in the middle of ripping down the walls.

The rooms currently look like this, but at least the dust has settled since then.
 The living room is all ripped out as well. We are going to caulk all the bazillion little holes and spaces, then redo a bunch of the wiring (there isn't much light in the entire house, and the outlets need ground wires), then add some insulation, and walls, and then comes time to PAINT!!! (Guess which part I'm excited for.) But the whole house has wood flooring that's just been sitting underneath the carpet, so we plan to sand and refinish the floors.

Have I mentioned we're doing all of this ourselves?

Once the two bedrooms and the living room is done (and I'd like to paint the dining room as well, but we don't have to rip down the walls there because there is nowhere we need to add insulation, the only outside wall is almost completely taken up by a window) we get to move in!!! And then more renovations, like the other two bedrooms and the kitchen and the bathroom (and the basement, and the workshop...). It's going to take a while. But let me tell you, when it's done, it's going to be AMAZING. There are a lot of rooms, so there are lots of steps, but it makes the projects a bit more manageable.

The house is full of all kinds of hidey holes, for instance: there are SIX separate crawl spaces. Lots of storage space! Which is good, because there is not a lot of floor space. One of the reasons we are going all gung-hu on the wiring is so we can add wall sconces to all of the rooms for additional light instead of taking up the floor or tables with lamps.

And did I mention the workshop in the back? P has a great place for all of the brewing equipment him and his friends use, and their patron (an extremely patient sister of the brewing group) can finally get her shed back. He's really excited because the workshop has a little porch with an overhang, so they can brew if it's raining out (which they can't currently do).

Our frat house fridge, full of pizza and beer. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd get sick of my beloved pizza, but holy shit I'm so sick of eating it. It's not even fresh pizza. It's reheated. All the time. UGH.

Our new washer and dryer! And P, hiding in the back. They're BLUE! Bossman says You know you're an adult when you have a new washer and dryer and are EXCITED about it. :) So I'm all growed up now?
 All in all, it's going to be AMAZING. We want to move in by Christmas/New Year. It's definitely feasible. More pictures to come! *Excited!*

Monday, December 3, 2012

Inspiring

Kristin Cashore's handwritten manuscript for Bitterblue, and the four years of hair-pulling it took to write it. I love handwritten notebooks...
Link

Thursday, November 15, 2012

NaNo

How quickly these things flop. I was writing merrily along for the first week and a half, putting out an insane amount of words (for me, at least). Then I hit a brick wall. It's my fault, I was completely not prepared for November 1st. I started brainstorming on October 30th, and that just didn't work.

And for the past several WIP, I've always had a male protagonist. But the whole time I'm writing, these female characters keep popping into my head, disrupting the story. They was a voice, and I try to work them in, but then it completely derails the story I was trying to tell before. I don't want to add a female character if she isn't going to let me tell the story I wanted to tell. I still love the story I was working on, but now is obviously not the time to write it.

So, I am taking a completely different tactic, and writing something with a female protagonist driving everything. I might as well write about what I am thinking about, and not fight it. Maybe it will help to actually finish something. I am sad to leave my other story behind, but now I have something new and exciting to think about! So that is a very good thing. And I'm not rushing this either... NaNoWriMo is fantastic for all the camaraderie, but I need my own pace. I wish the NaNo chat rooms were open all year round though! Anyone know a substitute?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Hobbies

There's is something I've realized during NaNoWriMo is a problem, that I didn't think would be a problem. I thought I was going to get backed up with my plot, because I usually only plan out a few scenes at a time, and writing so much would mean I'd have to stop and plot every few days instead of every other week. And that's been happening, but the worst part is that I've just been so tired.

I don't say this to complain. I love that I am busily writing and seeing my story unfold. It's true that writing more and writing faster go hand in hand. It becomes more like watching a movie unfold in your brain than it does hashing out sentences. And I desperately want to know how the movie ends. But why is it that I can maniacally quilt for two weeks straight, stopping only to eat and sometimes shower, but less than a week of focusing on writing and I'm already getting burned out?

Well, for one, writing is mentally draining. After putting in a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is think. Whereas with quilting, while it does require me to think and work things out (especially when cutting fabric and trying to get everything you need from the piece you have), it is more something to do with my hands. My brain can wander, which is why I usually watch tv when I quilt. I can bang out a lot of seasons of a tv show when I'm quilting for six hours a day for wo weeks. (Quilting usually happens in marathons.)

And can we just, for a moment, focus on the crazy emotions? Your not just writing a death scene, your living through the goddamn death. How can you write in a character's voice if you don't momentary place yourself in their shoes? I make a lot of funny faces while I write when I am trying to get the right words for an emotion.

Word wars are interesting creatures, because they force you to write a lot of words in a short amount of time, and it doesn't give you a chance to feel the emotions. I've never written this much in so short a time. I like it. While I know there are endless problems with my draft, I'm an editor at heart, and I can't wait to have a framework to start playing with the words.

I don't really know how to combat this. Making sure I block out time to quilt would be the obvious thing, but my sewing machine is currently packed away. I have a really big project coming up, one that will be amazing and completely disrupt my NaNo schedule, but it's just so unspeakably awesome I don't care. It's going to be really tough to carve out writing time after the 16th. But maybe this project will be just what I need to recharge from all the writing. Who knows, maybe I'll see a jump in my writing? But I have a whole week of no work, so it'll be interesting to see where my focus goes.

So there's my NaNo update. I'm currently at 9k, and par for tonight is 13.3k. I hope to write a bit more tonight, but we'll see. I should have figured out my next three scenes but I wrote a blog post instead. It happens. Another thing I realized: the NaNo chat rooms are freaking awesome. Word wars every night from 9:30 to 11? Yes please! There's got to be a way to get people together for this all year long. Oh yeah, there is. Writing groups.

So who wants to start a writing group with me?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Write from your heart

Write from the gut, not from fear of prejudice.

I am tempted to just keep reading this article every day. Not only is it a very sweet road-to-publication story about writing the book of your heart, but I was particularly struck by the ending paragraphs:

Now, I’m not telling you this story to prove that getting a book about a queer character published is easy. Getting published in general is not easy, and sure, some things may make a manuscript a harder sell to some editors. But you know how you can make your manuscript stand out? It’s really pretty simple. Write the best book you can. Work hard on your craft. And tell a story you believe in.

In many ways, this goes against the majority of what we’re told about capitalism, marketing, and promotion. But I have to break it to you: Creative writing is not a lucrative field; it’s an art. There is no way you can focus group your way to a genuine, heartfelt story. The only way to get there is to listen to your gut — and your heart — and do what it tells you.

So this is what I think you should say when people tell you it’s harder to publish a book with non-”mainstream” themes or characters: SO WHAT. And then go back to your computer or notebook and finish that novel.


I need to remind myself that NaNoWriMo is about one very specific thing, and one thing only: to churn out words like there's no freaking tomorrow. This NaNo draft is going to be completely unrecognizable from the final, perfect version you have in your head. This month is all about getting words onto the page that can act as a springboard. You can't edit a blank page. Don't lose sight of your end goal, and keep walking against the wind to get there. Worry about making it perfect once you've already reached the end. And don't forget, this month is supposed to be FUN. If you're not having any fun, you're doing it wrong.

But after this month is over, keep working to turn the messy, godawful draft into the book of your heart.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

ASMR

So, instead of actually doing my writing for NaNo, I was browsing the internet (surprise, surprise). At least it was mildly related, because I was searching for a white noise-type track of keyboard typing to get me into the write-in mindset and to drown out the noise of P's video games. (A guy in a write-in last year made a writing track that was keyboard typing and classical music superimposed on top of each other. Pretty cool.) Anyway, I ended up finding this non-sexual fetish subculture called ASMR that is basically that good feeling you get in the back of your head when you fall asleep to something monotonous and repetitive, for example happily listening to the sound of typing, or of scissors clipping something, or a vegetable peeler, etc. While some people would find a youtube video solely of someone's hands peeling potatoes so insanely boring it makes them want to shoot themselves, evidently there are a lot of people who don't because the video has 350 thousand views. This immediately reminded me of yoga classes, because the soft music and the teacher's soft voice really are so fantastically relaxing. Anyway, some linkage:

ASMR, The Good Feeling No One Can Explain
Explanation of Synesthesia (not directly related, but still interesting)
Sound clip of typing and clicking

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Draft 1: October 2012

More than anything else, keep on truckin'. It's hard sometimes. Believe me, I know.

Novels don't get easier, but it's reassuring to know that it felt this impossible the last five times and I somehow managed anyway. -Alaya Dawn Johnson ‏@alayadj

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through. —Ira Glass

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NaNoWriMo Begins!

I'm so excited for NaNo this year! I'm already going to a write-in tonight, and I can't wait. Plus, we still don't have any power because of Hurricane Sandy, so I have to really squeeze in writing whenever I can. But all the houses are okay! I'm starting my story fresh. Not sure if that's the best idea, but I refined my plot a little more, and my characters a little more, so we'll see how it goes. Good luck everyone!

Be my writing buddy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stormdancer

It's always such a good feeling to be looking forward to a book release. To have it marked in your calendar and counting down the days. I'll never forget the midnight release party for The Deathly Hallows, where the parking lot of the local BN was packed with people because the building had exceeded its fire codes. How people ran to the register when their letter was called and ran out of the store clutching their bags. All this for a BOOK.

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff was my most anticipated book for 2012. I held myself back from buying the hardcover on release day (sorry J, trying to conserve the monies) but I reserved it at the library a month in advance and I still wasn't high enough on the list to get the first round of books. I had to wait until mid-October. They said I was at the top of the list (because yes, I did make special trips to the library to check my place in the queue), but that obviously didn't matter. I take that as a good sign, that no one wanted to bring the book back.

Because... I don't want to bring my book back. I want to keep it. I want to buy my own copy and read it again. I probably would break down and buy the hardcover if not for the fact that I don't care for reading hardcovers. They look badass on the shelf, but books aren't meant to be looked at. They aren't decor. They are meant to be read. I'm partial to the mass market versions because I can read them and love them and I can hold them comfortably, and I can look at my shelves and see all my favorite books in various stages of disrepair and everyone else can know that I love them. So. Please don't come out in trade paperback, Stormdancer, waiting one year for the next format is bad enough. September 2013 I need you.

Before we really getting rolling, here is the expected linkage: Jay Kristoff's blog is insightful and entertaining, and I highly recommend it. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads. Let Scalzi convince you to read it.

A synopsis, from BN:
The first in an epic new fantasy series, introducing an unforgettable new heroine and a stunningly original dystopian steampunk world with a flavor of feudal Japan.
       A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.
       AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
       A HIDDEN GIFT
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.
       But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.


But please don't listen to that synopsis, let this book trailer convince you instead. It's probably the most fantastic book trailer I've ever seen, and against all odds (I don't see the point in book trailers) it actually made me want to read the book more.


I expected this book to have fantastic worldbuilding and a good plot. Japanese Steampunk? Yes please. Imagine my surprise when I was still surprised by how good it was. The level of worldbuilding in this book is insane. The country has this entire epic history and the cities actually make your throat dry and you can feel the suffocating humidity of the forests. But what I didn't expect was the beauty of the prose and how Kristoff used that to his advantage for all the descriptions. This isn't just a book that takes place in a Japanese world, this book came from a Japanese world. He uses sentences without subjects that make you pause and really think about the setting. And short groupings of three sentences that taste like haikus. It isn't just the description that makes this book genius, it's the way he manipulates the actual telling of the story.

If you follow my blog, you already know that prose is incredibly important to me for creating the feeling of a books. Words have a taste, and while plot is important to make the story interesting, that taste and tone of a book is what really makes me fall in love with it. That's why I love The Name of the Wind so much, and why The Perks of Being a Wallflower pulls at your heartstrings. Also The Fault in our Stars. And it's what separates these books from the so-so books that are forgotten two years after release. The prose is doing more than just sitting on the page, it is manipulating you. It is no longer paper, ink, and wood pulp.

And that, my friend, is why books are magic.

Can you tell that this is going to sit on my favorites shelf, falling apart and loved? Well. Enough mooning then. THE PROBLEMS. 310 pages? Really? You make sweet, sweet, book love to me and then slap me across the face the next morning? That's all for you, sweetheart, next time pay the big bucks and you get me for twice as long. I don't care that part of this book's charm is it's length. You don't get to make me love your characters and your world and then skip three weeks in the blink of an eye. I WANT MORE. The ending was too quick. It's over already?!? Could you do me a favor and make book 2 at least 600 pages? I want to spend more time with the characters and the nuances of their relationship. Buruu and Yukiko were fantastic by the way. Again, I would have liked to see more, because then I would have more awesome to keep reading. Buruu just makes my heart squeeze. And did I mention? You made me cry three times, THREE TIMES, with those flashbacks in the first 60 pages. That's not even fair.

Now, on to the tattoos. I love tattoos. Because if it came down to a getting a chestpiece or keeping my job, I would be looking for a new job. Because discrimination against tattoos is wrong and disgusting, and I am stopping now in effort to keep this post about the book and not about that little sore spot. I LOVE tattoos. Because wearing my heart on my sleeve is not enough, and I want everyone to know what is important to me by the artwork on my skin. I'll admit I was disappointed when they became the symbol of slavery, because there goes my gorgeous idea for a fox and cherry blossom sleeve. And I don't know who you killed to get such a beautiful cover, but I'm glad you did it. So fitting, and awesome to boot.

By the way, this is badass: 


I guess I really don't have much to say other than this book was just as amazing as I hoped it would be. Please bust your ass and make book 2 a thousand pages long. I'd appreciate it. And to all the other authors out there: YOU'RE LUCKY this was a library book, because I have to return it and I can't read it a second time.

Fall Reading List:
A Matter of Blood - Sarah Pinborough (The Dog-Faced Gods #1)
The Timekeeper - Mitch Albom
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce
The Casual Vacancy - J. K. Rowling
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff (The Lotus War #1)
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking Trilogy #1)
Swan Song - Robert McCammon
Brood of Bones - A. E. Marling
Leviathan Wakes - James S. A. Corey (Expanse Series #1)
Gojiro - Mark Jacobson



Reading Next: The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Matter of Blood

Let's see, how to describe A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough? It came to life, is all there really is too it. Three plots that interweave seamlessly and believably, a character who is normal and extraordinary all at the same time and you feel his pain and his wants, and a crisp setting that leaves dirt under your fingernails. Normally a story so fucked up could only be true, like the unbelievable stories you hear about on the news, but thankfully this one is stuck on paper. I've had this book for two years now, and I can't believe I am finally getting around to it. I started it once, got about halfway, then stopped. I don't know why, but it was right after college and I was giving up on a lot of books around then. I'm glad I finally got to finish it this time, because it was awesome and I can't wait to get to the rest of the trilogy.

You can follow Sarah Pinborough on her blog and twitter. Since her books aren't available in America yet (for shame!) you should get them at BookDepository.com. I think AMOB is set to release Fall 2013 in the US, but I could be wrong. I first discovered these books on EBR, and since they absolutely raved about the first book and then about the second and third books, I knew I had to read them.

A synopsis, from BD:
The recession has left the world exhausted. Crime is rising; financial institutions across the world have collapsed, and most governments are now in debt to The Bank, a company created by the world's wealthiest men. But Detective Inspector Cass Jones has enough on his plate without worrying about the world at large. His marriage is crumbling, he's haunted by the deeds of his past, and he's got the high-profile shooting of two schoolboys to solve - not to mention tracking down a serial killer who calls himself the Man of Flies. Then Cass Jones' personal world is thrown into disarray when his brother shoots his own wife and child before committing suicide—leaving Cass implicated in their deaths. And when he starts seeing silent visions of his dead brother, it's time for the suspended DI to go on the hunt himself—only to discover that all three cases are linked... As Jones is forced to examine his own family history, three questions keep reappearing: What disturbed his brother so badly in his final few weeks? Who are the shadowy people behind The Bank? And, most importantly, what do they want with DI Cass Jones?


The reason I love series so much is that they give you such a window into the character's life that you can't help but fall in love with them. Even if they are despicable. You have time to see the mundane and the extreme, and watching a character interact in the calm scenes is all the more interesting after you just watched them be a badass in a previous scene. And when I say love, it's not love in the kissy-kissy sense, but more in love with the idea of them because they are so real. Cass Jones is one of these characters. He is not snarky, he is not charming, he's in a loveless marriage and he doesn't give a damn. He's done some very despicable things that would make you turn away in disgust if you ever met him in the flesh. As a matter of fact, his past would make any normal person walk quickly away and thank their lucky stars that they survived the encounter with such a rogue. He is that awful person who should have gone to prison for life but instead got off on a technicality.

This is what really makes Cass so wonderful: his all-consuming guilt over what happened in his past makes you feel for him before you ever find out what he did, and later, when everything comes to the surface, you are already emotionally invested in him and his past doesn't matter anymore. Cass has a classic case of guilt: he's trying not to think about it, but he can't avoid it. While most people don't have such a doozy in their past, everyone can relate to soul-eating guilt. Cass is a normal person just trying to do some good at his job, who gets wrapped up in all kinds of crazy and can barely handle it. The all-night benders with booze and drugs and girls are testament to that.

But the real genius of this book is way the plot threads fit together. There are three: the serial murders, the shooting of the two schoolboys, and his brother's suicide, and when they come together (as you know they will) it is awesome and it makes sense and you can tell that Pinborough put a lot of thought into finding something that wasn't obvious. It was very similar to V for Vendetta, regarding the plot threads, and that's awesome, because you all know by now that V is one of my favorite movies ever, so naturally I think this book rocks.

I was having a really hard time writing this review for three days now (I finished the book on Monday) because the only coherent sentences I could make were all just variations of OMG AWESOME READ IT OMG WHAT, but add a bottle of beer and daaaamn those words just start flowing. In sentences, no less! Thought I'd share.

I was very appreciative of the setting: it was unique and it added flavor and color to the book, but it wasn't overwhelming. There are very few people who can entertain me with drawn out descriptions of stuff (Tolkien is not one of those people. Elizabeth Kostova is.) but this book found the right balance, and the descriptions were very tailored to the character, which is awesome. We read what Cass noticed, mainly, the buildings, and the architecture. An old friend told Cass to "keep looking up," and it's something that recurs throught the book in a very sweet way. It's nice to see that Cass has a soft spot for something. Too bad it isn't other people. (But then, he's a cop, so I guess he does have a soft spot for other people.)

It's really hard to find generic things to talk about that shows you the awesome without giving away the awesome. Really, you should just read it. It's a thriller and a horror and it's interesting to have a valiant main character who is so wracked by his guilt. It really affects everything he does, every day, but he still finds ways to cope. Not the best ways, but still. Ways.

I will mention that I loved the loyalty between the characters. And not necessarily between the cops, although I did love the relationship between Cass and Ramsay. Alsoooo with the other guy who owns the bar and is supposed to be against the cops but helps out Cass but I can't remember his name right now. I liked him a lot too.

If you like really gritty books with dark protagonists you'll love this book. This is the horror/thriller equivalent of Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch. Honestly, this is a lot darker than Scott Lynch. I don't really think the Gentleman Bastards books are all that dark, really, because they are all frilly and goofy and they wear expensive clothes. Sure people die, but people die in Nicholas Sparks book all the time and no one calls those books dark and gritty.

Well, this review turned into rambling real fast. =] So much for the brilliant beer idea. Well. Read this book!



The next book in the series is The Shadow of the Soul ( BD | GR | EBR ), and the final one is The Chosen Seed ( BD | GR | EBR ). I just love these UK covers! I can't wait to get my copies. Technically the paperback of CS isn't out until November, but that's okay because I have lots of other books to get to on my TBR pile, even though I would really like to keep going with this series. But I made my plan! STICK to the fucking PLAN. I think marathoning these books would be a bad idea though, I'll end up all depressed like after watching a marathon of Law and Order. You start the day with knitting and hot tea and by the end of the marathon you're in your underwear with a cigarette in one hand and vodka in the other. Oh, that's just me? Nevermind then.

Fall Reading List:
A Matter of Blood - Sarah Pinborough (The Dog-Faced Gods #1)
The Timekeeper - Mitch Albom
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce
The Casual Vacancy - J. K. Rowling
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff (The Lotus War #1)
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking Trilogy #1)
Swan Song - Robert McCammon
Brood of Bones - A. E. Marling
Leviathan Wakes - James S. A. Corey (Expanse Series #1)
Gojiro - Mark Jacobson

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Snippets

Picturing Autumn: An Equinox Celebration

The Real Fauxtographer. Margot Wood has a series of photographs representing YA novels. They are great! I also now have several books to add to my TBR list. (Does Tiger Lily sound as awesome to everyone else?)

If you are a writer, you should be following Janice Hardy on Twitter. In addition to her wonderful blog, she links to other articles around the interwebs that are all great learning tools or just great reading.

The Write Space blog feature by Meagan Spooner. A series of photos and interviews with authors about their writing areas and habits. I love these! (I also love gawking at the bookshelves.)

Write when you're tired. An interesting (and practical) way to look at it. Also contains several other links for writing faster.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Draft 1: September 2012

I don't know how well this format works. On one hand, I'm not flooding my blog with meaningless complaints and drivel every other day. On the other hand, how many people avoid this post like the plague because they don't want to read chapters and chapters of meaningless drivel and complaints? Actually, I guess I just answered my own question. One post it is. I write them for me, and for the people interested in reading them. This way they are easy to avoid for the people who don't want to read them. But I know I like seeing other writers flounder and succeed, because it tells me I'm not the only one. Read at you're own risk, thar be pirates after the break, arr!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Irrepressible Library

I am really ready to start bashing my head against hard objects, except that would slow me down even more from reading ALL THE THINGS. I really don't know what to do with myself. I don't get through as many books as I'd like to, even though I am always reading. I give up on a lot of books, plus I'm just a slow reader, plus I get distracted easily.

I really don't know how I have time to breathe right now. I work full-time, I have my EMT course which takes up all night Tuesdays and Thursdays and has a freaking large textbook to read the other days, plus I'm trying to really crack down on my writing (I'm not going to let it get pushed to the side because of my class!), which leaves me just the train ride for reading. =/ Not to bemoan my situation, but that's never enough! \end{rant}

MY BRAIN IS BREAKING.

Currently reading:

A Matter of Blood - Sarah Pinborough (The Forgotten Gods #1)
I started reading this a while ago and got 70% of the way through, then put it down for god knows why. I'm reading it from the beginning again, and this time I can really notice how clean and crisp the prose is and how brutally plotted it is. Every scene is doing 3-4 things. That's a champ writer, people. This isn't available in the US yet (I think it's coming here Fall 2013?) but you can order it (and should, because it's awesome) from Book Depository.

The recession has left the world exhausted. Crime is rising; financial institutions across the world have collapsed, and most governments are now in debt to The Bank, a company created by the world's wealthiest men. But Detective Inspector Cass Jones has enough on his plate without worrying about the world at large. His marriage is crumbling, he's haunted by the deeds of his past, and he's got the high-profile shooting of two schoolboys to solve - not to mention tracking down a serial killer who calls himself the Man of Flies. Then Cass Jones' personal world is thrown into disarray when his brother shoots his own wife and child before committing suicide—leaving Cass implicated in their deaths. And when he starts seeing silent visions of his dead brother, it's time for the suspended DI to go on the hunt himself—only to discover that all three cases are linked... As Jones is forced to examine his own family history, three questions keep reappearing: What disturbed his brother so badly in his final few weeks? Who are the shadowy people behind The Bank? And, most importantly, what do they want with DI Cass Jones? (Book Depository)


A surprising amount of Mainstream Fiction:

The Timekeeper - Mitch Albom
I admit, I've never read Mitch Albom before. My best friend loves him, and even Phil has read The Five People You Meet in Heaven (I loved the movie). His new one looks awesome and might be purchased, despite my kibash on hardcovers, and the fact that I bought a hardcover last week and it only turned out ok and I hate myself a little for buying it (Every Day).

From the author who's inspired millions worldwide with books like Tuesdays with Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven comes his most imaginative novel yet, The Time Keeper—a compelling fable about the first man on earth to count the hours.
        The man who became Father Time.
        In Mitch Albom's newest work of fiction, the inventor of the world's first clock is punished for trying to measure God's greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years. Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.
        He returns to our world—now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began—and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.
        Told in Albom's signature spare, evocative prose, this remarkably original tale will inspire readers everywhere to reconsider their own notions of time, how they spend it and how precious it truly is.
(BN)

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce
Several people, including Phil's Ma and several coworkers, have come to me and said OMGYOUHAVETOREADTHISBOOK. I admit, it sounds really good. I hope I don't ugly-cry at the end, because I don't know if I can handle that kind of emotional turmoil right now. There's a copy available at the library I plan to snag.

LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE
Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, Maureen, who seems irritated by almost everything he does, even down to how he butters his toast. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning the mail arrives, and within the stack of quotidian minutiae is a letter addressed to Harold in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye.
        Harold pens a quick reply and, leaving Maureen to her chores, heads to the corner mailbox. But then, as happens in the very best works of fiction, Harold has a chance encounter, one that convinces him that he absolutely must deliver his message to Queenie in person. And thus begins the unlikely pilgrimage at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut. Harold Fry is determined to walk six hundred miles from Kingsbridge to the hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed because, he believes, as long as he walks, Queenie Hennessey will live.
        Still in his yachting shoes and light coat, Harold embarks on his urgent quest across the countryside. Along the way he meets one fascinating character after another, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise. Memories of his first dance with Maureen, his wedding day, his joy in fatherhood, come rushing back to him—allowing him to also reconcile the losses and the regrets. As for Maureen, she finds herself missing Harold for the first time in years.
        And then there is the unfinished business with Queenie Hennessy.
        A novel of unsentimental charm, humor, and profound insight into the thoughts and feelings we all bury deep within our hearts, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry introduces Rachel Joyce as a wise—and utterly irresistible—storyteller.
(BN)

The Casual Vacancy - J. K. Rowling
I was a bit worried about this at first, not that it would be bad, but that I just wouldn't enjoy it. It's been getting great reviews so far, so I'm excited to read it. Not sure when I'll get to it, but I'll most likely buy it on my nook.
The Sex and Unicorns Interview
Lev Grossman's Review
Haha

When Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock.
        Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.
        Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.
        And the empty seat left by Barry on the town's council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?
        Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults.
(BN)

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
I know! I KNOW. I can't believe I haven't read this book yet. Once again, I read a few chapters and then gave it to my best friend to read because it was so amazing and she had to read it RIGHT THEN. Of course, then I didn't have it to read myself. (I don't know why I thought that made sense at the time.) She has since informed me that it is one of her favorite books and I need to get my ass moving on it, and here's my copy back.

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
        Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.
(BN)


And last but not least, the Fantastic Fantasy:

Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff (The Lotus War #1)
I am SO EXCITED for this book. I had my name on the waitlist at the library as soon as it was in the system, and I don't have it yet! *sad* I'm supposedly at the top, so hopefully soon! I can't wait!

The first in an epic new fantasy series, introducing an unforgettable new heroine and a stunningly original dystopian steampunk world with a flavor of feudal Japan.
        A DYING LAND
        The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.
        AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
        The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
        A HIDDEN GIFT
        Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.
        But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.
(BN)

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking Trilogy #1)
This is another book that's been on my list for a while. I keep reading five pages, putting it down for three weeks, reading five more pages, putting it down for three weeks... that's no way to read a book. By all accounts this book is amazing and the rest of the trilogy gets even more amazing, so it needs to happen.

Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is. (BN)

Swan Song - Robert McCammon
Not much to say about this one, except that it sounds amazing. I discovered it on EBR, and they have good taste (damn elitists).

In a wasteland born of rage and fear, populated by monstrous creatures and marauding armies, earth’s last survivors have been drawn into the final battle between good and evil, that will decide the fate of humanity: Sister, who discovers a strange and transformative glass artifact in the destroyed Manhattan streets. Joshua Hutchins, the pro wrestler who takes refuge from the nuclear fallout at a Nebraska gas station. And Swan, a young girl possessing special powers, who travels alongside Josh to a Missouri town where healing and recovery can begin with Swan’s gifts. But the ancient force behind earth’s devastation is scouring the walking wounded for recruits for its relentless army, beginning with Swan herself. (BN)

Brood of Bones - A. E. Marling
This has been on my TBR pile for a while. I am... strangely intrigued and simultaneously grossed out by the premise. I've been waiting to buy it until I'm ready to read it, and lo! It's free for Kindle today! I feel guilty downloading it for free when I was planning to purchase it anyway, but if I like it I will probably buy a copy for my Nook to read it properly instead of on my phone with the Kindle app.

Cursed with endless drowsiness, Enchantress Hiresha sleeps more than she lives. Since she never has had a chance to raise a family, she sometimes feels like every woman is pregnant except for her. This time, she is right.
        From virgin to grandmother, all the women in her city have conceived.
        A lurking sorcerer drains power from the unnatural pregnancies, and Hiresha must track him by his magic. Unfortunately, her cultured education in enchantment ill equips her to understand his spellcraft, which is decidedly less than proper. The only person uncivilized enough to help is the Lord of the Feast, a dangerous yet charming  illusionist. Associating with him may imperil Hiresha's city, yet refusing his help will allow the sorcerer to leech godlike power from the mass births.
(Amazon)

Leviathan Wakes - James S. A. Corey (Expanse Series #1)
Another high on the list! I haven't fallen in love with a space opera since the Revelation Space trilogy by Alastair Reynolds, so I'm excited to fall in love with this one. It's been getting great reviews (and the second is out already, so I need to get my ass in gear).

Humanity has colonized the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond - but the stars are still out of our reach.
        Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for - and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why.
        Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything.
        Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations - and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.
(BN)

Gojiro - Mark Jacobson
I thought I would include this one since I'm kindof also reading it. A coworker gave it to me because he loved, loved, loved it, so I'm giving it a go. I'm about fifteen pages in, and honestly, it's really hard work. Not giving up yet though! I have no idea how he found it, but evidently it's a cult classic. The description cracks me up.

This remarkable first novel combines the manic energy of monster movies and comic books with a serious and sad look at the post-nuclear world. At center stage are two friends. One is Gojiro, a 500-foot-tall lizard who has swollen to his extraordinary size--and acquired the shrewd brain of higher life forms--as a result of an atomic test. Then there's his comrade Komodo, a human victim of Hiroshima. A mystical and telepathic bond unites them; they make a home for themselves and other radiation victims on a volcanic island in the middle of a ``roiling petrochemical sea.'' But Gojiro becomes a movie star, setting out with Komodo for Hollywood at the strange request of a film producer (whose father was involved with the Manhattan Project tests that produced Gojiro). They soon uncover a plot to test new atomic weapons that, in the best comic book tradition, threatens the world. The plot is fast-moving and fun, but the bulk of the book consists of long, philosophical dialogues between the austere youth and the wisecracking monster--whose hipster jargon is a perfect imitation of the late rock critic Lester Bangs. The novel's beauty lies in the way these often hilarious conversations strike a poignant note while the ``mutants'' try to come to grips with the horrors of their lives. (PW)


And there you have it! Now can you see why I feel so overwhelmed? And these are only the books that are competing for the top "Read Immediately" spots.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Every Day

I bought this Friday, and had it finished on Sunday. I rarely ever do that, but it's always nice when I do. This is a quick little story that has a simple plot but will leave you thinking, mostly about gender identity and societal constraints. Those are big ideas for such a little book. I've never read David Levithan before, but he has a lot of books, including the coauthored Will Grayson, Will Grayson with John Green. I picked it up pretty much solely because of my love for John Green. (I wonder how sick Levithan is of being compared to JG. Those are big shoes to fill.) You can follow Levithan on his Twitter (which appears to be devoted to another of his books, The Lover's Dictionary) and his website. There is also some crazy pen-name action going on.... info from his website: "David Van Etten is actually three writers: Chris Van Etten is a full-time writer for ABC’s One Life to Live; David Ozanich is a freelance writer and playwright; and David Levithan."

A summary, from BN:
       A has no friends. No parents. No family. No possessions. No home, even. Because every day, A wakes up in the body of a different person. Every morning, a different bed. A different room. A different house. A different life. A is able to access each person's memory, enough to be able to get through the day without parents, friends, and teachers realizing this is not their child, not their friend, not their student. Because it isn't. It's A. Inhabiting each person's body. Seeing the world through their eyes. Thinking with their brain. Speaking with their voice.
       It's a lonely existence—until, one day, it isn't. A meets a girl named Rhiannon. And, in an instant, A falls for her, after a perfect day together. But when night falls, it's over. Because A can never be the same person twice. But yet, A can't stop thinking about her. She becomes A's reason for existing. So each day, in different bodies—of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, walks of life—A tries to get back to her. And convince her of their love. But can their love transcend such an obstacle?

The first thing I had to realize about this book is that it was not, in fact, written by John Green. Seems obvious, I know, but they are two different people with two different writing styles, and it's not fair to compare them. That being said, I don't know if I would have picked this up if not for Will Grayson, so comparisons are inevitable.

This was a quick book and I read it in 2½ sittings. The plot was simple. He wakes up in a different body, and he can't stop thinking about Rhiannon. The science fiction part of the book was cool. The romance was tried and true. But I would have just liked.... more.

Since A does not identify as a male or a female, the book raised some really great questions and unique problems to their relationship. I loved all the gender identity stuff. This book had a very strong love-who-you-love and anti-label approach, which I completely agree with. It's a great book for teenagers to read, especially those who are having a hard time figuring themselves out, but like I said before, it shied away from some of the big problems. Such as: the religious nuts who demonize him when his story leaks. The free will issues. Levithan touched on the problems around a relationship with a person who changes physical form every day (and I absolutely loved that Rhiannon was not perfect and had her qualms, no matter how open minded she tried to be). Everything seemed like it was scratching the surface.

Maybe it's because I normally gravitate toward thick books that have plenty of time for all the explanation in the world that I feel this way. I certainly understand if Levithan only wanted to focus on the romance, but lets be serious, no one in real life can only focus on the romance. Everyone has to deal with other issues, it would have been great for the characters to deal with other issues as well. Gender identity is a sensitive topic among teens, and this could have been a really great, emotional book for all that. But my emotions were never pulled while reading this, and I guess that's the biggest point I'm trying to make.

Also, the ending. *SOME NON-SPECIFIC SPOILERS* I mean, was this supposed to be a happy ending? It read that way, and it felt like it, but I don't think so. How is that honestly supposed to work for Rhiannon? She would be basing everything on physicality, which was the opposite of what this book was trying to say, that it's the inside that counts. It all felt rushed, and Levithan used that pesky first-person narrator is suddenly censoring their thoughts to the reader trick, which I noticed right away.

With the way everyone raved about this book on Twitter, I expected more. More depth, more story, more ending, more everything. After the first chapter I knew it wasn't going to be JG-awesome (there I go again, but I can't help myself), but even looking at it critically after reading it I'm just not that impressed. It was a great idea, though.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Name of the Wind

I read it again. The whole thing, over the weekend. And after all the books I started and stopped within a chapter or two, this one grabbed my attention immediately. It sucked me in and I was happy and I didn't want to stop reading, so I didn't. I had the weekend to myself and didn't write as much as I wanted to, but that's ok. Reading is still a requirement of writing, and it reminds me why I want to do it in the first place. I'll admit it had me a little down at times, because how can I ever write something that compares to this book? By working my ass off, I guess. It gives me something to strive for! It's hard when all you have is a partial first draft and you can't help but compare your work to the published masterpieces. But anyway, this book was just as amazing as I expected it to be, which is why I wanted to read it. This is read number six or seven, but surprisingly the first time I've read it this year. Surprised I lasted this long. I'm reading The Wise Man's Fear now, which is only my first reread. I've been holding out for the mass market, but I have seven months until that is out so now is as good a time as any. By the time April rolls around it'll be time for me to read these again anyway!

The best part about reading is going back to the books that really resonate with you. Sometimes I have to remind myself it's ok to read something again. New books are great, but favorite books have power.

Update 9/11:
I just saw this article on A Dribble of Ink, and while I read about PR's new fantasy deal a little while ago on Publisher's Lunch, I couldn't believe how he so nonchalantly dropped the name of Day Three, The Doors of Stone. I haven't seen that mentioned or announced anywhere yet, though it does make sense. And for the record, I do believe Pat when he says Kvothe's story will finish in the third book, and I don't think the new series will be in the Four Corners world. As to whether or not it has a satisfactory, "hero beating the odds" ending, I have no idea. I can see it going either way. Also, OMG Day Three has a name!!!!

P.S. That fan drawing above is amazing and I don't want to post again to move it off the top of my blog. *g*

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Snippets: I'm a bit passionate about this stuff

The Hugo Awards were announced! Among Others by Jo Walton won best novel, which I was really happy about because I loved that book, even though I think Seanan McGuire deserved it more for Blackout and I wanted her to win.

Even more interesting, the mass market edition for Wise Man's Fear was finally announced!!! Seriously, I looked this up at least 2-3 times every month. Now, instead of my hopes getting squashed because there was no new information, they are squashed because I have to wait until April 2nd. Which realistically means I may be able to find it March 28... I've been waiting to re-read this book because it just isn't the same on the Nook. Re-reads especially deserve pages and paper and ink, a physical form my heart-strings can attach to. Yes, I am passionate about this.

The Powers That Be have created possibly the best book trailer ever for Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff.

I Am What I Eat by Susan Dennard, Part 1 and Part 2. Eating fresh and healthy food is really important to me. In college, when I was cooking just for myself, baked potatoes and cheese and vegetables became the staples instead of meat. I devoted my required speech class to the meat industry and how going vegetarian reduces global warming. (Seriously. Did you know that the cattle industry in South and Central America releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire transportation industry?) I love healthy food, and I crave it, and I really do feel so much better when I eat healthily. You can really tell a difference in your mental and physical states when your body can focus on things other than filtering out all the awful chemicals and processed fats in packaged foods. One of my favorite breakfasts is yogurt, granola, cinnamon, and fresh blueberries. You can EAT YOUR FILL and not feel like SHIT afterward. I avoid fast food whenever possible, but I do eat it occasionally. I usually regret it afterwards, no matter how good it tastes. I don't exercise regularly (I think running is uber boring) but I love being active, and I go to yoga once a week (it makes Mondays AWESOME), but I'm not huge on the exercise scale. And another big thing I do is drink as much water as I can stomach throughout the day, and always when I am eating. If I cave and grab a soda, I think of it as a snack and I never go for a diet. I don't count calories. This got a bit out of hand. \end{rant}

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Rook

I first heard of The Rook by Daniel O'Malley in Alex Adam's Terribleminds interview, where she named Myfawny Thomas as a strong female lead. After that I thought about it for a while, I kept hearing good things about it around the interwebs,  it stayed at the top of my TBR pile, and I finally picked it up at the library. Truth be told, I almost returned it without reading it. I picked it up on a whim and read the first five pages. AND THEN I WAS FREAKING HOOKED. And by the way, Myfawny Thomas? Totally badass.

I don't know much about Daniel O'Malley, but you can follow him at his blog (which he doesn't seem to update too often) and his twitter. (The best parts of his twitter are the little info-bits in his replies to other people, which unfortunately are not featured in your general feed.) His bookpage has a hilarious book trailer that will make a lot more sense if you've read a chapter or four, which *also* happens to live on his bookpage! (Lucky you!) It's out in hardcover now, but the paperback is out (in the US) October 16. And if it means anything to you, Lev and Austin Grossman, Charlaine Harris, Chuck Wendig, Jaye Wells, and Katherine Neville have all sung it's praises. And I completely agree with them.

A synopsis, from BN:
       Myfanwy Thomas awakes in a London park surrounded by dead bodies. With her memory gone, her only hope of survival is to trust the instructions left in her pocket by her former self. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there is a mole inside the organization and this person wants her dead.
       As Myfanwy battles to save herself, she encounters a person with four bodies, a woman who can enter her dreams, children transformed into deadly fighters, and an unimaginably vast conspiracy. Suspenseful and hilarious, THE ROOK is an outrageously inventive debut for readers who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime.


At first, I was turned off by the language. This is not a poetic book by any means, and the books I've been reading lately have all been of the well-written, snot-nosed sort. And I'm sorry to say that it put me off for a minute, and I am ashamed. Because this book turned out to be SO AWESOME. As in I'm pretty tempted to crack it open at the beginning and start all over again. It kept me so engrossed I read it last weekend in the hotel room during our ANNIVERSARY trip, people. I'm not entirely sure what that says about me. (We also watched a Shipping Wars marathon while eating take-out Thai food. In New York City. I don't know what that says about us. But hey, ten years, we must be doing something right.) But don't let the simple prose turn you off to this book, because honestly by about page seven I was completely pulled into the story.

Jaye Wells summed it up best when she said this book is "wildly inventive and startling hilarious. Part Bourne Identity, part X-Men, and with a hefty dose of Monty Python, this genre-bender is a refreshing addition to contemporary fantasy." Katherine Neville added Harry Potter, Ghostbusters, and War of the Worlds. Honestly, they all fit. This book is just a heap of fun with lots of action.

The main character, Myfawny Thomas, left letters and notes for herself (her new self) to keep her functioning in her job. Because if the traitor found out that she had lost her memories and outed her, she wouldn't be able to figure out who it is and fix the organisation. Because things are happening that need fixing, and Myfawny has to keep up. It's really interesting to see how the other people reacted to Myfawny not acting exactly like she normally does, that is, meek. This new Myfawny is snarky and doesn't put up with any bullshit, and people are taken aback by her. But I really loved all the characters who reacted well to this, and hated the characters to were taken aback. I'm pretty sure O'Malley planned every bit of that.

And that part where I said Myfawny is badass? Yeah. That. She's like a mix between Rogue and Sentry and Katara, and her ability to think outside the box with her new body and mind takes her all kinds of places that the old Myfawny would never have been able to handle. I'd say that I'd love to be the Rook, but I'd be dead in an hour.

And the people, the weirdness! Every character had an interesting power, not to mention a unique personality. There was Gestalt, the person with four bodies controlled by one mind, who could kick ass and send the bodies to opposite ends of the earth doing independent tasks without breaking a sweat. There was the quietly powerful Alrich who seemed to be made completely of potential energy and did things like walking on snow all Legolas-style, and I'll admit I was a tad disappointed when I finally figured out what he was (blame popular media), but he was still awesome. Myfawny had a history with each character, and it was great to see her interacting differently with each person because of their histories, what she had read from old-Myfawny's letters, and the little she knew of them since her awakening.

A fair warning, this book has a ton of info-dumps. Now, I am not opposed to info-dumps if they can keep me interested. Mira Grant's Newsflesh Trilogy has a shit-ton of completely undisguised info-dumps that are fascinating, so I had no problem with them. The dumps in The Rook are disguised as the letters from old-Myfawny and take up a significant portion of the book, and other than my annoyance at reading pages and pages of italic text, they were just as interesting as Grant's. We find out the background of the other characters, and more about the Checquy (the supernatural CIA Myfawny works for). They serve as short stories within the main narrative. Sometimes they disrupt the pacing, but I always liked them. I may have gotten bored once or twice, but it was always short-lived. Mainly they set the scene for whatever is happening currently, and it makes it funnier or more dreadful, depending on the situation. They were great, rounded out the characters nicely, and the book wouldn't have been the same without them. Actually, it would have been pretty empty without them. There are enough action scenes throughout the book that make the info-dumps a nice breather for the reader, and they all you to process all the weird that is going on.

A small gripe: the denouement. Granted, this is a pet peeve of mine, so perhaps other readers won't have a problem with this. But after the huge climax at the end, I want that book to wrap up in five pages or less. This book had several chapters of Myfawny getting back to headquarters and tying up loose ends and diplomatic negotiations when I've already been waiting for her to collapse from exhaustion for several hours. These things need to be cleverly tied up during the climax, and it's not necessary to touch base with every significant character while setting up for the next book.

But the best part about all this? There's going to be a sequel! While I'm not entirely sure what direction he is going to go in, I am really super freaking excited. I am so reading that book. And buying this book, so I can read it again. Daniel O'Malley, you have one lifetime reader right here.