Friday, August 30, 2013

Challenge Day 13, Day 14, and Day 15: Reccs, Deal Breakers, and Mentors

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Good Books And Good Wine

Describe one underappreciated book EVERYONE should read

Joan of Arc by Mark Twain.

Who the heck knew that Mark Twain wrote a book on a saint? This book is awesome. Twain considered it to be his best work. I think one of these days I'm going to write a post on books that authors considered to be their masterpieces but never became as famous as some of their other works.

Tell us your deal breakers

Flat characters. If most of the characters in the book have no interesting facets to them, no curious motivation, no small quirks - I will probably find the book too boring to like, no matter how clever the plot. Actually, a really good plot cannot exist without good Characters to move it forward. I want to tell the author to read some Les Miserables. Hugo is a master at Characters... (see this and this)

An unpunished villain. As C.S. Lewis said: "Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book." I don't mind a book that has really gruesome, really sad, really twisted things in it (even though I don't really like horror). Just please, please, show me that the good guys win - or at least that the bad guys lose.

No hope. This is sort of a continuation of the last one. I hate book endings that have no spark of hope in them for the characters or the situation. Let me reword what I said in the "villain" paragraph: The good guys don't have to win, and the bad guys don't have to lose, but please, please, let there be a spark of hope that good will triumph. I hate pessimism.

Main characters who are defined by their relationship. I mean a character who is nothing without their significant other. What about before they met the significant other?? Who were they then? Wisps of nothing in the wind? People are more than their relationships, guys. Give'm some depth, please.

Looking back at what I've written, I realize that the two major things that piss me off about a book are lack of character depth and depressing endings. Yep - that's pretty much it. Any other book will get at least a chance at a passing grade.

Oh, I just thought of one more. Bad grammar. And bad writing in general. Bad grammar is inexcusable - though not entirely the fault of the author. Hello, editor? Bad writing, on the other hand, is more subjective. What defines bad writing? Well, one thing we've already touched on is lack of depth. Other things include not enough description, plot loops, dry writing and other areas that a few read-throughs and edits should cover. These blah-spots should be found before you publish - not by the reader in an already published book. It just makes the book more confusing, less likable, and extremely unprofessional. Give the manuscript to a friend for an informal editing session or something.

And the last question...

Who are your book blogging mentors?
Umm.. I don't have any really... (Wow. Ending with a bang.)

So there it is! The challenge is over (and early, too!). In honor of this, I will take a day off for the weekend, and then post a review (finally) on Monday.

After this crazy daily posting, I want to write novels or something, instead of blog posts. I also have my mom after me about studying for SATs and ACTs. So, from now on, I will be posting only once or twice a week.
Quality over quantity is what I'm aiming for.

See you on Monday!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Challenge Day 12: Blogger Fatigue

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Good Books And Good Wine

How do you fight blogger fatigue?

So my blogger fatigue generally results from a lack of ideas. I am terrible at thinking up ideas for posts.

And how do I come up with ideas?

With challenges like this one. Woot!

Otherwise, if I know I haven't posted for a while, and really am putting it off, I stash the note "Think about the next blog post" in my mind under "Things to think about before I go to sleep." I can't help thinking about random things before falling asleep (which usually means I lie in bed for an hour - or more sometimes - before drifting off), and I might as well think about something productive like blogging. I usually come up with a slight spark of an idea, and then sleeping on it helps evolve it.

When I don't post for a while, I am very quick to feel profound guilt and consider myself a terrible blogger if I don't post something in the next day or so. Because this blog is relatively new, I am trying to be on my super best behavior regarding prompt posting. I generally try to post once a week at least.
(Except for this crazy daily challenge thing. This has been weird and intense.)

As for the kind of blogger fatigue where I just don't feel like writing AT ALL, I really don't know how to fight it. Generally, when I don't want to blog, I want to write something else, like a novel, and so I do that until I'm back in blogging mode. Change of pace.

Anyway, that's the little bit I have for you today. See you tomorrow (with a more interesting post)!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Challenge Day 11: My Personal Faves

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Good Books And Good Wine

Show off! 5 of your best blog posts!

Weeelll... As I just started blogging in May, I don't have that many blog posts posted.
So I'm only going to give you three of my best posts.

3. A Funny Little Story This post is, as you may have guessed from the title, a Funny Little Story about an old man I met on Prince Edward Island. You may ask - what does this have to do with books and literature? Nothing really. It's just an interesting story that I posted with the excuse that it's an example of journaling and Rambling With A Purpose, both of which I had written about in a previous post.

2. Holmes vs. Dupin: The Ultimate Detective Face-Off This was one of my first posts, and a warning - it is quite long. But I consider it one of my better posts because it was super fun to write and I actually did a bit of research while I was at it! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

1. Mondegreens! My personal favorite, this post was one of three posts I did on weird literary terms. I had so, so, so much fun writing this post and finding pictures to go with it. And I got to talk about my book nerdy childhood and how it caused embarrassing situations through my lack of knowledge of common pop/rock. Wheee!!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Challenge Day 10: Choosing the Next Book

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Good Books And Good Wine

How do you choose what book to read next?

So how I choose my next book is rather a random process. I don't actually keep a book list - well, I do, but it's all in my head. So it's not like I go down the list checking off books.

The easiest decision is if the book I just finished is part of a series - I just get the next book! However, if the book I finished is not in a series, or the library doesn't have the next book (remember, most of the time I get books from the library instead of buying them), or if the next book hasn't come out yet, the decision is a little harder.

The first book from my mental TBR list that pops to the forefront of my mind is usually the best contender for Next Book. I roll that option around in my head, and if nothing else comes to mind in the next ten minutes, I head to the library. If walking through the shelves doesn't produce any more results, that first book is it and I take it out.

That's my usual routine, barring three exceptions:
~I am tired of a particular genre/style/author. If so, and the book that comes to mind first is of the same genre/style/author, I have to do a deep search into my mental TBR list for something drastically different. For example, after reading the first four books of Harry Potter in less than a week (and yes, Harry Potter is great, but there are limits), I had to take a break. So I read five Jane Austen books the next week (which was also great, but then I promptly returned to Harry Potter).
Generally, this exhaustion of a genre/style/author happens when I speed through books, as in the aforementioned example. This usually happens in the summer, when I'm not just reading a few chapters in between homework assignments. I probably get through twice as many books in the summer as I do in the rest of the year.
This exception may also happen after I have read a very long book - Les Miserables, for example (and yes, Les Miserables is also an awesome book, but again, Very Long). After reading this, I had to go for something light - I ended up with Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books.

~One of my friends recommended something and is bugging me to read it, which usually means that title is in the forefront of my mind anyway. One example is from back when I was eleven or twelve and my friend kept telling me how wonderful Gone With the Wind was. I told her I would read it next - and I did, except the book I was reading at that point was The Count of Monte Cristo, so it was quite a while before I got to it. (That reminds me - it's been a while since I read Gone With the Wind.)

~I need to read something for a class. This is similar to the second exception. If my English class requires me to read, say, The Great Gatsby (for the fourth time), that's my next book.

There's my book-choosing process!
Do you have one that's different? Or are you as random as I am?


Monday, August 26, 2013

Challenge Day 9: Why Blog?

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Good Books And Good Wine

Why do you blog about books?

I blog about books for two reasons: I love to read and I love to write. What better combination than a book blog?
Books are my life. I have been reading books since I was three. All my friends know me as a bibliophile - that word is even in my email address! I have been called a Book. I have a dream library in my dream house. I give my parents crazy analysis speeches on various classics and they (kindly) smile and nod through the entire thing.
Actually, this blog is the result of those crazy analysis dissertations. You get to read them now, so my parents don't have to hear them (as often. My mom reads this blog).
We have come to the root of the matter - my rambling literary dissertations. A blog is practically an expression of your ideas. I express my ideas on books all the time. I love discussing books. And a book blog is the best place to do it.

When I am reading a book - any book with a plot to it - I am fully happy. Completely at peace. I forget any pressing homework assignments, chores, errands, and just live in the book and the book in me.

It's all very zen.

(And not very useful for getting things done.)

I want to spread my love - no, my crazy, intense infatuation - of books with the world. I want everyone to experience the zen-ness and peace that I have felt.

Maybe if more people read books at an early age, there would be more peace on earth, because there would be more overall happiness.

Peace Through Books!

Ok. Enough of that. You realize how important books are in my life, and why I want to share my love with others. Love is a generous thing - you need to share it.
And this blog is me sharing my love with you.


I'm going to make two confessions about this blog:
1. It is a lot more work than I thought it would be. It was fine in the beginning when I had what I thought was a long list of post ideas. But then they ran out. This blogging thing is HARD.
2. I'm super nervous about this blog. I know that's common for a starting blogger, but I have all these doubts and questions running through my head. I know it's only been a few months, so I'm gonna stay optimistic and push on!

See you soon! (I'll have a review coming up in a couple days. Why haven't I posted one sooner? One word: School.)


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Challenge Day 7 and Day 8: Quirks and Bullets

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Good Books And Good Wine

Today's Day 8, so now I'm all caught up. Woot!

Talk about your blogging quirks

Aha... my blogging quirks...
Well, don't think I've been a blogger for long enough to develop serious quirks.
So I'm going to hand it to you, my dear readers!
What are my blogging quirks? Don't be afraid to be honest. Seriously.

Quick! Write 15 bullet points of things that appeal to you on blogs!

  • Not too much sarcasm and snarkiness.
  • Lots of pictures.
  • Organization - a good archive - neat sidebars with organized buttons. - easy to find things - search bar - clean layout.
  • A readable font for posts. No crazy cursive stuff! No weird colors that inhibit readability!
  • Please, please, please spellcheck! And check your grammar, too! Improper English turns me off from a blog like nothing else.
  • A few personal stories outside of whatever topic they're blogging about. 
  • Friendly - sincerely tries to get to know their readers.
  • Posts at least once a week.
  • Doesn't take themselves or their writing too seriously.
  • Joyful, or at least optimistic. 
  • Posts a few paragraphs long or less, if there is a lack of pictures. 
  • No songs or music - or any sort of noise for that matter.
  • Lots of comments - an active discussion.
  • When they blog about something I like and have similar opinions to mine.
  • An "About me" page. I love finding out more about the blogger, and seeing if they're "my kind of person."
Ok, that was harder than I thought. :-)
Give it a try!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Challenge Day 5 and Day 6: Tear Jerkers and How I Shop

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Good Books And Good Wine

Ok, sorry, this one's a bit late - it's actually Day 7 today! Whoops... I'll catch up eventually...

Recommend a tear jerker

A tear jerker....

Well, Les Miserables made me cry. So there's one.
Also - Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom made me tear up a bit.
I'm sure there are more, but I just forgot them. I generally don't physically react to books - laughing out loud, crying, etc. I'm the kind of person who can hide their emotions relatively easily.
But my hidden emotions are super strong.

Describe how you shop for books

So... if you look at Day 1, Confession #6, you will see that I rarely spend money on books, because there is a library five minutes away from my house.
So I don't really shop for books.
However, when looking for a book to read at the library, I am very suspicious of all the new arrivals. I don't want to waste my time on a bad book.
(Which is why I read a lot of classics.)
So when I go to the library, I generally have a book in mind - one that a friend has recommended, or one that has been on my booklist for a while. I am very hesitant about trying out a random book from the shelf.
So that's how I "shop" for books.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

A package in the mail

Look look what came in the mail today!

Books for me!

Oh. Just Organic Chemistry.

Ha ha - tricked you!

This is just one of the small things that signify the Beginning of the School Year.
The first day of school for me was on Monday, and I can tell this is going to be a busy year for me (isn't it always?). But it's also going to be super fun.
But because I have a suddenly very-packed schedule, this blog might have to slow down quite a bit. It won't die, don't worry - it's only been a few months, and I'm not going down that quickly. Granted, having a blog was harder work than I thought - having ideas for posts being the hardest part - but I still love writing for it, and I hope to continue doing so for a long time!
I'm hoping to post at least six times a month, though my posts may be drastically shorter now.
Even though I will have less time to write, I think what will suffer more is my fiction writing, rather than my blog writing. And believe me, it's been suffering for quite some time. I'm waiting for the desperate deadlines of NaNoWriMo to wake things up.

Anyway, the next book(s) planned on my list are technically Game of Thrones, but I might end up putting that off for a bit more - not sure if I'm ready for the intensity just now - and read a few more Anne books. Or something else calm.
We'll see.

Hopefully the "What I'm Reading" button on the left side panel will be a little more active in the near future.

Meanwhile, I'll continue this challenge, which will supply me with post ideas at least 'til the end of the month.

I'm also considering trying the Classics Club challenge (read 50+ classics in 5 years), but probably not for a couple months. I'm compiling my list 50 books - any favorite classics that you could recommend? I'd appreciate any input! 


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Challenge Day 3 and Day 4: BFFs and Flinging Books

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Good Books And Good Wine
Because my answers to these questions are relatively short (and because I missed posting yesterday), I have clumped them together. So here are Days 3 and 4.

Who are your blogging BFFs?


So I'm a relatively new blogger.
Which means that all my BFFs are in the real world, and none of them have blogs.
So I have no blogging BFFs.

If you have a blog and want to become my blogging BFF, comment with a link to your blog.
I hope to have many blogging BFFs before my blogging journey here is over!

What's the last book you flung across the room?

I don't fling books.
They are sacred objects.
Even boring or annoying books are still books, which means they are still sacred.
So there.

But if I did fling books, I would fling Moby Dick heartily. Actually, I would probably fall asleep before I could fling it.
Or I would fling Mansfield Park. But not for the same reasons as Moby Dick. Mansfield Park is a good book. I would fling it because I would be so frustrated that Fanny wasn't getting the Edmund she deserved and that Edmund wasn't being as awesome as he could be.

But I don't fling books.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Challenge Day 2: Bedtime Reading Ritual

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Good Books And Good Wine
What's your bedtime reading ritual?

I'm still dependent on my parents for things like food, clothing, and housing. So I better do what they tell me. And when my mom says it's lights out, it's lights out.
And reading under the covers suffocates me.
And bugs my sister, because we share a room.

So most of the time, I don't read in bed, or have a bedtime reading ritual.
I end up getting ready for bed, then turning off the lights and falling asleep.
But for those times that I do read in bed, it goes like this:

- Rush rush through the tooth brushing because I know there's a book waiting for me on my bed! And if I finish before my sister, I might have some time to read before she turns the light off!
-Crawl in with my book and read a couple chapters.
-Sister comes in and gets in her bed. "Turn the light out, Sophia!"
-Me: "Let me finish the chapter!" (I get teased for saying this by my family all the time. My dad says I should have a t-shirt with this on it.)
-Sister: Either, "Ok, just the chapter," or "Just turn the light off already!"
-I finish the chapter under or over the covers, depending on my sister's leniency.
-I turn the light off, if it isn't off already.
-I attempt to read more than the one chapter under the covers with a little booklight (that usually is really dim because I forgot to recharge it).
-I persist through as much sweaty suffering as I can, and then emerge, plop the book down on the floor, and turn my booklight off.
-If she's up for it, I chat with my sister for an hour in the dark.
-I spend another hour in the dark thinking about the book, this blog, upcoming parties, plots for novels, and various other exciting parts of my life, before finally drifting off to sleep.

So there you have it. My (not so) elegant reading ritual.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Challenge Day 1: Bookish Confessions

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Good Books And Good Wine
Make 15 book related confessions

Here we go!

1. I can only read one book at a time. I am not one of those readers that can have a couple books going at once. It gets confusing if I'm trying to read two books together - especially if they're in the same genre. But because I read super super fast, it doesn't really matter. I finish a book in no time and can move on to the next one on my list. If I end up sick and tired of the book, I switch to something in a different genre. I'm one of those people that has to finish what I started.

2. I can't stand writing in books. Especially in pen. I never ever make notes in my books. If I'm going to make notes, it's going to be on a post-it. And in my textbooks - I make notes in pencil, so they're not permanent.

3. I don't use bookmarks. Well, I use scrappy train tickets, old receipts, and sometimes an un-sticky post it, but most usually I just dog-ear. Yes, yes, I know some people think just as badly of dog-earing as I think of writing in books, but it's just simpler. I always end up playing with my bookmark as I read and breaking or ruining it, so if it's a scrap of paper it doesn't really matter if it ends up as some sort of weird ripped up folded bit. I do own a lot of bookmarks, though, that I got as gifts, but I rarely use them.

4. I like physical books better than e-books. I have a Kindle that my dad got me for my 16th birthday, but I only "buy" the free classics available, and rarely use it (especially now that it's dead because I dropped it in the water and promptly attempted to turn it on. Yeah, stupid me.). Somehow seeing myself make my way through a long tome is much more gratifying than a percentage in the bottom of a screen on a device that's thinner than a picture book. And the smell and texture of books - and the way they get old and yellowed and awesome...

5. My dream house has one of those old libraries with oak shelves that cover the walls. And a comfy couch in one corner. And a nice desk that matches the oak shelves, with lots of drawers. And possibly a second level balcony with more books.

6. I rarely spend money on books. Weird, I know. But the library is my best friend. I read fast, so due dates are no issue. Free books, whenever you want them. There are four libraries in my area, so at least one of them should have the book I want. Also, classics are free on the Kindle, in case I want one now, and not five minutes from now. (Let's disregard the fact that my Kindle is dead at the moment.) I have only spent $3.99 in my entire life on a book. That was when I was very very desperate. It was the night before my flight to Costa Rica and I had no books to take with me, so I resorted to buying one on my Kindle. Of course, I spent more money buying books as gifts for friends, but otherwise - just $3.99.

7. My favorite complement ever was when my friend called me a Book. Another friend was complaining about how he got a 4 on the AP Lit test, and I got a 5. She replied, "But Sophia is a Book. When you're a Book, Lit tests just come naturally. There are gifts that come with being a Book." Yes. I am a Book.
Favorite. Complement. Ever.

8. I freaked my dad out when I corrected his reading. I was three years old. He was reading The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh to me before bed, and I was looking over his shoulder. He was tired. He accidentally misread a word.
"Dad?" I said. "You read that wrong."
I showed him exactly what he had read incorrectly, and told him what he should have read.
He woke up completely. :-)

9. I hate grammar errors in books. Especially if they're big ones, like who vs. whom. Darn editor should have been doing his job.
Surprisingly, I am not a Grammar Nazi in speech. Maybe because my sister is one, and yes, I make grammar mistakes too, and know what it is to have them shoved back in my face. It gives the impression that the listener is not listening to the content but for the grammar.

10. I am very hesitant about reading books without a recommendation from a friend. I just don't want to waste my time on a bad book. I don't generally just pick a random book off the library shelf and check it out - I need to have a recommendation from a friend or have read a review.
This is why I read so many classics - they're the "Tried and True." I know they're not all my style, but there's a pretty good chance most of them will be.

11. My favorite books ever are The Chronicles of Narnia. I love them because they are children's books, but they also have a depth that makes them great for adults, as well. I have them all in one volume. I got it for Christmas a few years ago. I have also seen the movies. The first one was good.
The other two, you ask?
Keep reading.

12. I don't judge movies-based-on-books as harshly as you may think. It takes one person to write a book. It takes hundreds to make a movie. And a movie script is mostly dialogue - which is only a small part of a book. What is great in writing may not be so great on the screen.
Which, in continuation of #11, is why I think the movie of Dawn Treader is better than that of Prince Caspian. The plot of the former is not made for cinema. The latter could have worked without so many changes from the original story, which was decently suited to the big screen.

13. I cannot read in the car. My friend's mom once said, "I though that if anyone could read in the car, it would be Sophia!" Nope. Sorry. My inner ear clearly doesn't realize that I am a Book (see #7). :-) I get dizzy if I even read a page. However, I can read on the bus for a short time, and I can read on the train with no problems. Weird, huh?

14. I hope to publish a book of my own, someday. Yes, one of my dreams is to be an author. (the others are to be a pediatrician and a world traveler, if you are wondering.) I'm working on all three dreams, currently.

15. I'm running out of ideas for these confessions. Seriously, this is hard!
Let's just leave it at 14, okay?

If you want, make your own book-related confessions in the comments! 

The challenge continues tomorrow!


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fabulous Findings

My train station has a little shelf where the public library puts all the books it doesn't need anymore. Usually they're just romance novels, but sometimes a classic pops up - hopefully because the library got new ones, not because it doesn't want classics anymore. :-)

Look what I found there:

I'm so excited!!! I got the complete Anne collection on my Kindle, but it didn't have two of the books for some reason. Windy Poplars was one of the ones missing. 
(Also, my Kindle is dead now, but that's another story.)

So now I can continue reading about Anne! I love Anne so much. (If you want to see my favorite quotes from the first three books, click here.)

You may notice it is sadly missing the front cover. :-(

The covers of the books on the little train station shelf are sometimes ripped off so that people know that they don't belong to the library anymore and are free.

(... except for the romance novels. These usually have their cover still intact. Covers of shirtless men passionately embracing scantily dressed women... and the cover of dear little innocent Anne was torn off. Tut tut.)

Anyway, I'm enthusiastically making my way through Windy Poplars. I might write about it once I'm done.

If you've read the Anne books, which one is your favorite? Why?
(And are the movies worth watching?)


Wyrd Sisters and Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett // Epic Footnotes

For her birthday, my sister got a good number of books. When people don't know what to get us, they usually get us books - but I'm cool with that. Remember:

In particular, the books that looked most interesting to me were these two:

While some people read chic-lit for "fluff," I read crazy fantasy books. I literally get lost in books, because reading requires no concentration whatsoever on my part.
I read both those books over the course of about four days, and let me tell you, they were nothing at all what I was expecting.
On the back of the Wyrd Sisters, there's a quote from the Houston Chronicle: 
"Think J.R.R. Tolkien with a sharper, more satiric edge."
It is nothing whatsoever like Tolkien. It's not an edge. It an entire book that's sharp and satiric. It's sharp and satiric to its core.
I would actually compare it more to The Thirteen Clocks, by James Thurber.
It's not Epic Fantasy. It's more like a spoof on Epic Fantasy.
Wyrd Sisters spoofs on Hamlet and witches, and Guards! Guards! spoofs on dragons and the legends that go with them. (How do you get rid of a Patrician and get a King in his place? Summon a dragon, of course, so someone of king material can come and kill him! Logical solution, of course. Especially when the dragon gets mistakenly crowned king...)
Some excerpts:

"The duke had a mind that ticked like a clock, and, like a clock, it regularly went cuckoo." (Wyrd Sisters
"It was a good storm. There was quite effective projection and passion there, and critics agreed that if it would only learn to control its thunder it would be, in years to come, a storm to watch." (Wyrd Sisters)
"Thunder rolled... it rolled a six." (Guards! Guards!)
"'Then we are agreed, brethren? You are prepared to practice magic?' 'Oh, practice,' said Brother Plasterer, relieved. 'I don't mind practicing. So long as we don't have to do it for real --'" (Guards! Guards!)
"Normally the only decoration in there was on Sham Harga's vest and the food was good solid stuff for a cold morning, all calories and fat and protein and maybe a vitamin crying softly because it was all alone." (Guards! Guards!)

Almost every other sentence is funny. If I read a few pages without inwardly laughing I would read them again to find the joke(s) that I missed!

And there are awesome footnotes, too. See:

"If it wasn't for the engine of her ambition, he'd be just another local lord, with nothing much to do but hunt, drink, and exercise his droit de seigneur*." (Wyrd Sisters)
"He liked a big noisy banquet and had quaffed** many a pint of good ale." (Wyrd Sisters)
I just love it. There are adaptations for the theater of both these books, and if they ever show up in Chicago, I will definitely go see them.

A weird part - these books don't have chapters. None whatsoever. I generally go by chapters to determine when to stop reading and to cajole my dad/mom/sister into letting me finish "one more chapter," before attending to whatever they are asking me to do. But these books have no chapters. Which means I can say, "Let me finish one more chapter," and get to read the whole book! Mwahahahahah....

If you like fantasy - and a good laugh - try some Pratchett. I'm definitely going to read more of his stuff.


*Whatever that was. He'd never found anyone prepared to explain it to him. But it was definitely something a feudal lord ought to have and, he was pretty sure, it needed regular exercise. He imagined it was some kind of hairy dog. He was definitely going to get one, and damn well exercise it.

**Quaffing is like drinking, but you spill more.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

characters vs. CHARACTERS

Since in the title of this post it may be hard to differentiate between the two types of "characters" I'm talking about here it is again:

characters vs. Characters

You may notice that in my posts I vary between referring to characters with either a capital or a lowercase "c." I will, in this post, define what I mean by either, because, yes, there is a difference.

By the way, before we begin, I am not even addressing the definition of "character" as, "moral or ethic quality," as in "he was a man of strong character," or the topic of those "character building courses." Here, I'm only talking about a character as in a character in a story. I hope that makes sense.

We proceed.

When I say, "I don't like the character of Javert," for an example of the lowercase version, I mean that I would not like to hang out with him, because he's not a nice guy. It's what people mean when they say, "He's an evil character," or, "She's a funny character," or "He's a calm, sweet character." It's the conventional use of the word.

When I use a capital "C," however, it means something entirely different. Though I may not like the Javert's character, I do like his Character. Character with a capital "C," has to do with Characterization, how the author portrayed the Character. Javert is an awesome Character. Look at his depth! Look at his transformation! In fact if you want a good example of a Character, choose any from Les Miserables. They are all spectacular Characters - though only some are nice characters.

To be able to produce good Characters in your writing, you have to practice. The opposite of a good Character is a flat one without any depth; the opposite of a good character is an evil one.

I hope this makes at least some sense.

See you in the next post.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Les Miz Part 4: A little bit more on Javert

So I realized that I hadn't talked a lot about Javert as a Character, mostly about how he looked.
Which seems a little superficial, doncha think?

So back in Part 2 I said:
Javert is a deep Character, and Russell Crowe didn't even begin to show that depth. He was a villain, nothing more.
First things first, let's get this straight:

Javert is not a villain.

Though Javert may be the antagonist, that does not necessarily mean he is a villain.
He's actually a pretty decent guy, with (almost all of) his morals straight. He just has an extremely strong sense of justice, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Bad guys get punished, good guys get rewarded.
Those who follow the path of the righteous shall have their reward. 
And if they fall as Lucifer fell, the flame! the sword!
(That's from the song Stars from the musical, by the way.)

What makes him not likable is his absolutism and his lack of mercy.
He cannot even consider that people can and do change through the course of a lifetime, and that the law might possibly - just possibly - make a mistake.
Javert likes the simplicity of categorizing people as either "good" or "evil," and does not accept that a good person can become evil or an evil person can become good, or even that a person can be partially good and partially bad.
From this stems the lack of mercy. No emotions need be involved - a person labeled as good by the unfailing law is rewarded, and a person labeled as bad is punished. Forgiveness doesn't even fall into the equation. The concept does not even exist in his mind.

Which is why when Valjean, time and time again, has Javert at his mercy, and, time and time again, lets him go free without harm, Javert's perfectly organized world is shattered. He has never seen anything like it.
He's been begged for mercy before, many times, but never has he been given it. Let free.
His simple world isn't so simple anymore when mercy is put into the picture.
And somehow, a small part of him in the end wants to participate in this world of forgiveness, which is why, in the end, he lets Valjean go.

But the rest of him is utterly shocked that he accepted the mercy into his life, into his world. His whole being rebels against a world like that. It's not the nice, tidy, absolute world of Javert's plan.
And he can't live in a world like that.

So in the end, we pity him. We don't see him as a villain; we don't triumph over his demise; we don't say, "He met his rightful end." He was just trying to do his best for a God he saw as the Great Judge, and when he realized God was Forgiveness, he couldn't handle it. His world flipped.

We can actually draw some nice parallels between Javert and Valjean. When Valjean stole the silver from Monsieur Myriel, Valjean was prepared for the priest's condemnation. Instead, he received forgiveness. It flipped Valjean's world, too. But he was so overwhelmed by it that he decided to follow in Myriel's path, and become Monsieur Madeline. (Side note: I love Myriel. He reminds me of St. John Marie Vienney, my favorite saint.) When Valjean saw the opportunity to continue to give that mercy that had so changed him, he took it, and forgave Javert for continually dogging him. He decided to propagate the forgiveness, and hoped Javert would be as profoundly touched as he had been.

Which Javert was. But in a completely different way.


Here is Les Miz Part 1: Introduction
Here is Les Miz Part 2: Javert
Here is Les Miz Part 3: Marius

I know that this Les Miz series of posts was long, but if you managed to get through it, I'd like to know your opinion on it. Have you read the Book? Seen the Musical? or the Movie? 
Favorite characters, scenes, songs? 
Any philosophical thoughts you may have regarding anything Les Miz
Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Les Miz Part 3: Marius

Marius is, in short, a stalker.
But he is an awesome stalker.
He is on my list of Literary Crushes. :-)

Lynd Ward's sketch

One part that they didn't include in Les Miz show or Movie is the letter that Marius leaves under a rock in Cosette's garden. (I understand that this would be hard to do... still, it's one of my favorite parts in the book.) The letter is a collection of epigrams he wrote to her when he still didn't know where she lived. This chapter (The Idyll of the Rue Plumet, Book V, Chapter 4: "A Heart Beneath A Stone) is the most romantic chapter I have ever read. Seriously. Here are some of the best:

"The reduction of the unverse to a single being, the dilation of a single being as far as God, such is love."
"The soul only needs to see a smile in a white crepe bonnet in order to enter the palace of dreams."
"Separated lovers cheat absence by the thousand chimerical things, which, however, have their reality. They are prevented seeing each other, and they cannot write, but they find a number of mysterious ways to correspond. They send to each other the song of the birds, the light of the sun, the sighs of the breeze, the rays of the stars, and the whole creation; and why should they not? All the works of God are made to serve love. Love is sufficiently powerful to interest all nature with its messages."
"O spring, though art a letter which I write to her." 
 "You gaze at a star for two motives, because it is luminous and because it is impenetrable. You have by your side a sweeter radiance and greater mystery - woman."
"If you are a stone, be a magnet; if you are a plant, be sensitive; if you are a man, be love."
"What a gloomy thing it is not to know where to find one's soul!"
"I have met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, his coat was out at the elbows, the water passed though his shoes, and the stars through his soul."
"If there were nobody who loved, the sun would be extinguished." 

There are so many more. So many wonderful letters.
After such spectacular writing, I think I'm just going to leave it at that.
There might be a Part 4 coming if I think of anything else to say.


Here is Les Miz Part 1: Introduction
Here is Les Miz Part 2: Javert

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Les Miz Part 2: Javert

Surprisingly, I have never seen the Broadway production (which I shall call Les Miz, to differentiate it from the book. The movie will be The Les Miz Movie, or simply The Movie.). I have sung songs from it for voice recitals, I have heard others sing songs from it, and so I knew that the music was excellent. I truly wanted to see it.

When The Les Miz Movie came out, I considered it my chance to see the Broadway production without having to deal with buying expensive tickets. However, I happened to be on vacation for the extent of its playing in theatres. I eagerly anticipated the DVD, and finally - finally - saw it the night before I left for Costa Rica. It being my first experience with a theatrical version of Les Miserables, either live or filmed, I will combine my comments.

As I said in my last post, I could go on forever about the Hugo's excellent characters and their many layers. But I'm going to skip over a couple and go straight to Inspector Javert.

Javert is an awesome Character because, even though he is the villain in the story, he is not evil at all. You can't condemn a guy for trying to pursue justice. He is only doing what he thinks is right and what God wants him to do. His ideas of right and wrong are pretty spot on except for the fact that he has no concept of mercy - none whatsoever. Other than that, he is a good guy.
But that one fault - no mercy, only justice - is a pretty big one, and so he becomes a villain.
Javert believes that the law is impartial, and therefore it is perfect - and whoever is a convict must have done something wrong to merit imprisonment. And once a convict, forever a convict.

If you've seen The Movie, you may have guessed what I am about to say about Javert. It is the general consensus - and I do agree with this - that Russell Crowe was not exactly the best Javert.
Disregarding Characters, and Characterization, he didn't even look like Javert. Here is the description of Javert from the book:

His human face consisted of a stub-nose, with two enormous nostrils, toward which enormous whiskers mounted on his cheeks. You felt uncomfortable the first time that you saw these two forests and these two caverns. When Javert laughed, which was rare and terrible, his thin lips parted, and displayed, not only his teeth, but his gums, and a savage flat curl formed round his nose, such as is seen on the muzzle of a wild beast. Javert when serious was a bull-dog; when he laughed he was a tiger. To sum up, he had but little skull and plenty of jaw; his hair hid his forehead and fell over his brows; he had between his eyes a central and permanent frown, like a star of anger, an obscure glance, a pinched-up and formidable mouth, and an air of ferocious command.

Which one of these Javerts looks more like the description?
This one (from the Movie):

Or this one (the sketch by Lynd Ward from my book):

Here's some more Hugo:
Javert's entire person expressed the man who spies and hides himself... His forehead could not be seen for it was hidden by his hat; his eyes could not be seen, because they were lost under his eyebrows; his chin was plunged into his cravat, his hands were covered by his cuffs, and his cane was carried under his coat. But when the opportunity arrived, there could be seen suddenly emerging from all this shadow, as from an ambush, an angular, narrow forehead, a fatal glance, a menacing chin, enormous hands, and a monstrous rattan... As we have said, he had no vice; when satisfied with himself, he indulged in a pinch of snuff, that was his connecting link with humanity.

(Side Note: A rattan,by the way, is a switch or cane made from a palm of the same name.)

Here's another sketch:

Javert is a deep Character, and Russell Crowe didn't even begin to show that depth. He was a villain, nothing more.
(And don't even get me started on his vocal abilities - but this is a literary blog, and I will restrain myself.)

We move on to Marius next time.


Here is Les Miz Part 1: Introduction.