Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Bible Project: Weeks 29 and 30 (Proverbs; Ecclesiastes)

YAY! I've caught up - finally!

So Proverbs is basically a bunch of collected advice from father to son - or at least that's how I look at it. There's tips on making and keeping friends, avoiding enemies, and, of course, how to find a good girlfriend.
If Leviticus was a bunch of physical laws to keep the Israelites healthy, then Proverbs covers the spiritual, emotional, and social side of things.

A lot of the proverbs were, I found, really applicable to my own life, especially the friendship ones. Here are two of my favorites:
He who covers up a misdeed fosters friendship, but he who gossips about it separates friends. (17:9) [Trust me, I have plenty examples of this in my own life. Plenty.]
 The man who remains stiff-necked and hates rebuke will be crushed suddenly beyond cure. (29:1) [Why I like this one is because it reminds me that constructive criticism is a good thing. I tend to tense up when people tell me what I need to improve on, especially in my writing. Not good if I plan on improving!]
Proverbs would be good to read more closely, and contemplate each piece of advice separately.

Gosh, this fellow is depressing! Apparently, Ecclesiastes is the Greek translation of the name Qoheleth, which the KJV translates as Preacher, but my version leaves in all it's unpronounceable glory. (Ecc 1:1)

Anyway - yes, Mr. Qoholeth/Ecclesiastes is extremely depressing.
This is the book where we get "Vanity, vanity, everything is vanity," and "There is nothing new under the sun." (Both from Chapter 1)
Ecclesiastes insists that all our toil and pleasure will disappear and be of no use to us. If you're a good person, you will probably suffer, and if you're evil, you might be glorified in the town square. Don't expect any rewards from God for following his commandments (at least not here on earth).

So apparently, Ecclesiastes was an advance beyond the previous books of the Bible. Where Proverbs says that the just people will be rewarded by God with full harvests and many children etc., Ecclesiastes says that the most you have to look forward to, as a God-fearing person, is possible happiness in heaven. But that's unsure.
He was the first to suggest a more lasting divine retribution, rather than an earthly one.

Phew. I'm caught up.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

My Latest Library Trip Results

Today I stopped by at the library to quickly pick up The Dream Thieves. 
Guess what I came home with?

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The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Cress by Marissa Meyer

Yeah, a lot more than I planned. And - they're all coming in twos! That's a coincidence.
Note that these books are all YA - and not just YA, but super popular YA.
This is odd for me. Very.
I also dislike that my library is calling the YA section the "teen" section. Young adult has such a better connotation that "teen."
But oh well. My library is awesome otherwise - they just did a really great renovation and it is so beautiful! There are quotes on the walls and self check out and the front door is actually a door and not just a "fire door" that will alarm if you try to go out that way.

I suppose I should talk about other books and things that I got recently. One is this book, which I got for my graduation:

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It's from my aunt and uncle (and little cousin too, I suppose). My aunt is Hawaiian, and my cousin is named after St. Damien of Molokai, so this was a fitting gift. :-)

A second graduation gift I got from Samantha (remember her?). But it's not a book. It's this beauty:

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She actually got to see Maggie Stiefvater in person (!!!) and was kind enough to get me the book cover! Next step - actually purchase and read the book.

Any exciting books you've acquired recently? Let me know!


Friday, July 25, 2014

Camp NaNo Update #2

Camp NaNoWriMo

So far, my wordcount goal has gone down twice.
First, to 40,000. Then, just yesterday, to 35,000.
Because technically we can validate now, I can't lower it anymore.
So 35k it is.

My current wordcount is 22,408, and to reach 35k, I must write 1800 words today and for the next 6 days. I think that's achievable, especially with the weekend coming up.

Since my last update, I have learned one important thing about me as a writer.
I am not a plotter. My stories ALWAYS work better when they are character-based.
This is why I came to a huge screeching halt at around the middle of Week 2 - my characters clammed up and wouldn't talk to me. So I freaked and started plotting feverishly, to no avail.

I think this is my one problem with NaNo. Because it demands that we churn out words, we don't really have time getting to know our characters. I can't pause and say - today, I'm going to explore Besina - because I have to write my 2,000 words.

Anyway, it's good to know that not being a plotter is A-OKAY. I always seem to think too much when I plot.

That's all for now. Off to write my 1800 words!

If you're participating, how's Camp treating you? 
If you're a writer, are you plot-based or more character-based?
And if you fall into neither of the above categories - how's your summer going so far?


Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Bible Project: Weeks 26, 27, and 28 (Psalms)

I thought I'd combine all the Psalms into one post instead of spreading them out over three weeks.


I recognize a ton of Psalms because we sing them all the time in church, and they are referenced in a bunch of hymns and classical music (Many requiems, Handel's Messiah, etc.). So while reading this I was humming quite a bit.

Something that I didn't know about Psalms was that they are NOT all written by the same person, namely, David. I thought that he was the only psalmist, but no - there are a bunch, some even anonymous.
I still think David is the best because he seems to be the most skilled at the following literary things that crop up a lot in Psalms:

Oh my gosh the imagery is fantastic. The way David describes villainous scheming evildoers is spectacular, and he does it multiple times.

Similes and Metaphors
But especially metaphors. They are EVERYWHERE. The soul without God is compared quite a lot to parched earth without water.

Personification, symbolism, and their friends
SO MUCH of this. God has "eagle's wings," and so on.

Psalsm are the poetry of the Bible, and I think I read through them too quickly to do them justice. They're definitely something to reread multiple times.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Notice Regarding My (Temporary) Disappearance

You may have noticed that I have not been super active in the bloggy world, and that is due to two factors:

  1. A full time internship at a hospital, which leaves me with at maximum two hours of time for blogging/writing per day. (This adventure ends on August 1.)
  2. Camp NaNoWriMo, which takes up the aforementioned two hours. (This adventure ends on July 31.)
Here's the math:

2 hours - 2 hours = 0

ZERO time for blogging. 
Well, maybe that schedule is a bit more flexible than I've made it out to be, but still, it only leaves me with an hour or so per week.

Thus, I have decided that, through July, I will take a 90% break from blogging/commenting/etc. That 10% left will include The Bible Project (no, I haven't forgotten about it), sporadic comments on posts I find EXTRA interesting, and possibly a few Camp NaNo updates and Top Ten Tuesday posts. Just possibly.

My point is - don't expect too much from me for the next 2-3ish weeks. But I promise I'll be back in August with a slew of reviews and discussion posts!
Some books that I will be talking about next month include:

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane (Modern and funny)
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (!!!I CANNOT EVEN - !!!)
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (Unique in the best sense of the word)
The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak (Haven't read it yet, but I'm sure it's awesome)
...and probably a bunch more.

'Til then, my friends!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Beautiful People #2: Nicolo

The character featured in this Beautiful People post is the second main character from my as-yet-untitled novel for Camp NaNoWriMo: Nicolo Dolfin.
Is it possible to have a literary crush on a character you created? (Or is that a kind of incest or something?) Because I'm really liking this guy. He is so utterly classy. He is really a beautiful person. :)

So - meet Nicolo.

1) What's their favourite food? (Bonus: Favourite flavour of chocolate!)
Well, the bonus question is easy - dark chocolate wins hands down. But his ideal intake of caffeine is through a nice cup of coffee. [I would say a shot of espresso, but that wasn't invented until a century later.]
As for favorite food - octopus ink pasta with squid. Weird, I know. But strangely delicious. [Trust me, I've tried it.]

2) What do they absolutely hate?
Pretentiousness. People thinking they are better than others. Unfortunately, this trait is slightly manifested in his father, Antonio Dolfin.

3) What do they enjoy learning about?
Not classical literature, science, or mathematics. He's had enough of that during his two years on the mainland getting a higher education. He doesn't mind it, but he'd rather be learning the intricacies of maskmaking.

4) Who is the most influential person in their life?
His mother. She's always there with solid, sensible advice, and, frankly, runs the household, though his father blusters about thinking he's in charge.

5) What is their childhood fear?
Not living up to his father's expectations.
[Well, that's a bit profound. But Nicolo was never afraid of things like ghosts or the dark. In fact - he loved the dark and thought that ghosts were awesomely mysterious.]

6) What is something they have always secretly dreamed of doing, but thought impossible?
Making a mask that is alive, with personality.
[Zaneta Soranzo, from the last BP post, can make these kinds of masks. The maskmaker imbues the mask with memories and emotions, which can infiltrate to the wearer. The wearer and the mask choose each other - it's not a one sided process. But only the Soranzi know the secrets to making these kinds of masks.]

7) What is something that he is impractically afraid of?
I don't know if this applies, but it is all I could think of: his mother dying. Because then what will happen to his family? The responsibility of keeping it together and running will be on his shoulders. (His younger brother is very much like his father.)

8) Are they a night owl or a morning person?
Night owl.

9) Do they say everything that pops into their head, or leave a lot unsaid?
Oh Nicolo definitely leaves a lot unsaid. Which makes him a good couple with Zaneta who leaves NOTHING unsaid.

10) What are their nervous habits?
He runs his fingers through his hair.

So there you have Nicolo Dolfin, son of the (second) best maskmaker in Venice!*

For Zaneta's Beautiful People post, click HERE.

*Best maskmaker is obviously Zaneta's father, Bartolomeo Soranzo.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cinder by Marissa Meyer // Androids Blow My Mind

Wheee! Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, was a really fun book. It involved cyborgs and aliens and fairy tales - an awesome mind-blowing combination.
So I haven't read very many sci-fi books that deal with cyborgs and androids, which is what Cinder involves in extensive detail. My brain just finds it hard to wrap around the idea that something that is partially human and partially machine can still have feelings and nerves and things like that. That's just AWESOME. And even more awesome is something that is totally machine, like an android, that can still have emotions and personality. How does that work, scientifically!? The brain is such an intricate thing. How can engineers make FAKE brains that are sentient and can have FEELINGS?
Well, that's a question for my sister to answer when she becomes a bio-medical engineer and makes bionic limbs. But it's such an excitingly mind-blowing concept, right? (Right? Or is that just my science-nerd showing....?)

Another thing that I liked (besides the awesome science stuff) was that this was set in the future but it wasn't at all Apocalyptic with cruel governments and messed up systems. The world in Cinder is actually a potential scenario for a bunch of years into the future. This world could actually really happen! How refreshing. Yes, yes Divergent and The Hunger Games are great, but it is so nice to read about a functional Earth where the government isn't all 1984. 

Instead, the danger is coming from the creepy and crazy queen of the moon. Not much better, but you get my point.

The coolest part of this book, in my opinion, is that it's a fractured fairy tale. It is, ultimately, a version of Cinderella - an epic version of Cinderella where what's at stake is not just happily ever after for Cinderella and the prince, but happily ever after for the whole world. And I loved picking out the slightly less obvious references to the fairy tale. It was so much fun!
Additionally, both stepsisters aren't evil (though evil wouldn't be exactly the word to describe the older stepsister and the stepmother. They're more - unpleasant.). The younger stepsister is actually very close to Cinder and they are all sisterly and everything. It's such a pleasant surprise. 

The ending was rather abrupt and inconclusive, but I know that there are three more books in the series, so I didn't mind. I'm an extremely patient reader, I've discovered. 

I sped through Cinder like I did with Shadow and Bone, but that just means that it was a fun, uncomplicated read. I'm excited to read the next book in the Lunar Chronicles: Scarlet!

Have you read Cinder? What did you think? And what do you think of androids and cyborgs? (Would you like an android servant?)


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Camp NaNo Update #1

So I thought I'd update you on how my Camp NaNo writing is going, and I'm proud to report that I am only a few hundred words behind - and I'll catch up tomorrow, I'm sure.

Camp NaNoMy novel was going pretty well until this afternoon, where my plot just slowly skidded to a halt. Perhaps that's because I had no plot to begin with, just a bunch of characters. Now the characters have all met, so there's nowhere to go from here. I shall ponder the great question tonight - "What next?"

The second Main Character has been introduced a few days ago, but he has no name as yet. I've just been calling him B. Then his brother popped into the story today, but he had no name either, so he's A. (I'm very creative with names.) B should have a proper, multi-letter name soon, and once he does, I'll do a Beautiful People interview with him.
Because he is a Beautiful Person. Oh definitely. (Am I allowed to have literary crushes on fictional characters that I have invented?)

So I've also discovered that word sprints (thank you Twitter!) have been helping ENORMOUSLY with my writer's-procrastination issues. I used to write only 500 words in a few hours because of - ooh look at that Facebook post, and now I can pound out a couple thousand in the same time!

I recently got what's known as the "My-Book-Will-Never-Be-As-Good-As-My-Favorite-Authors'-Books" Syndrome, which I thankfully have dispelled by reading bad novels on Wattpad. See, it wasn't a waste of time - it was a self-esteem booster!

And finally, tomorrow, you will, at last, get a review of Cinder. Yay!

Are you doing Camp NaNo? If so, how's it going? And do you have any other advice on how to get rid of the depressing Syndrome?


Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater // Marvelous Characterization

You may know that we are currently five days into the madness of Camp NaNo, so I am furiously writing whenever I have a spare moment. (I am rather behind in my wordcount. Like, 4000 words behind. But I'm hoping to make that up this weekend.)

What that means for this blog is that my reviews and other posts will probably be short and sweet throughout July. Or some reviews may not happen at all this month, and just be written sometime in August or September. So there's my friendly warning.

Now, onto The Raven Boys.

This is my first Maggie Stiefvater book ever, and I must say that it definitely lived up to all the hype I've heard about her. What automatically makes me love an author is when they can describe things in new, clever ways, without using cliches, even subtle ones. Some examples of this kind of author are F. Scott Fitzgerald, Erin Morgenstern - and Maggie Stiefvater. So that is definitely a huge point in her favor.

I also loved the Characters. I think I've figured out that these are the two things that will make me adore a novel - creative descriptions and excellent characters. And The Raven Boys has both.
So clearly Blue is the main character. But I also would consider all four of the Raven Boys to be main characters as well. So we've got five main characters, which is a lot to work with. And on top of that, three of them get to have chapters from their own POV. If I were writing this, that would be a recipe for disaster.
But Maggie Stiefvater does it marvelously. Every character is clearly a separate defined Character, with unique quirks and a unique voice.

The Raven Boys is set in a contemporary world, but it's not super defined exactly what year. I'm only making a note of this because I'm currently reading Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, and that book is also contemporary and is threatening to become fantastical. However, it is SUPER contemporary - very much 2012 or 2013. But The Raven Boys is more ambiguous about that. Not that one is worse than the other. Just a comparison of two books I read recently.

That's all I'm going to say, because I've got to go write a bunch of words about Venice now. I loved The Raven Boys, and am looking forward to reading more Maggie Stiefvater!


Have you read The Raven Boys? What did you think? Which is your favorite Maggie Stiefvater book?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo // My Beloved Motherland!

You know, I've always loved the Middle Ages in Western Europe (I was OBSESSED with it as a kid), but Eastern Europe is really my motherland. It's fantastic to finally read some nice Slavic fantasy! I felt right at home in Ravka.

I'm 100% Ukrainian, and I grew up in a household that celebrated all the holidays in the traditional Ukrainian way. I grew up with Ukrainian folktales (lots of talking animals), and a good bunch of Western ones made to sound more Slavic. Snow White is a Western fairy tale, right? My first introduction to it was through this epic Ukrainian picture book:

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(The publisher's name is awesome: A-BA-BA-HA-LA-MA-HA. Seriously.)

Anyway, back to Shadow and Bone. Leigh Bardugo's world felt so much like the fantasy Ukraine in my head did when I was told folktales as a kid. Every country or culture in our world has their own "structure" for folktales. You know the classic ones from Western lit: There once was an old king and he had three sons (of course, the youngest one gets the girl. WHY?). There once was princess with an evil stepmother. Etc, etc, etc. 
The Eastern ones generally start like this: There once was an old [very old - like grandparents old] couple who really wanted to have kids - but couldn't. Or: Deep in the forest there lived [insert animal].
And there's usually a Baba Yaga (old witch that lives in a house that stands on chicken feet, like this:)
Creds to LiaSelena's DeviantArt page for this awesome work!

My point is - there are things that are inherent to Slavic folktales, just as there are things that are inherant to Western ones. And Leigh Bardugo makes Shadow and Bone just feel Slavic, even if it doesn't have Baba Yagas and talking animals. There are little things that make it feel so comfortable and homey for someone like me who's been raised with this stuff.

Firstly, the Ravkan words are almost all near-legitimate translations with real Slavic roots. I don't think Leigh Bardugo is at all Slavic (the bio in my book says she was born in Jerusalem), so I highly commend her on going that extra mile and creating a language that feels Slavic, sounds Slavic, but isn't Russian, Ukrainian, Polish or whatever. It's just some Slavic language. THAT'S AWESOME. And a ton of work for someone who isn't even from a Slavic background. WA.
(I found this post where she talks about creating the Ravkan language. I totally picked up on a ton of stuff she talks about in that article!)

By the way, as she mentions in her article, kvas is real:
As she says, in the books it's a stand-in for vodka, but in reality it's not alcoholic. It's fermented rye bread.

Also, kefta is clearly taken from the word kaftan, which is basically a Ravkan kefta

I love how the words are sort of  the same but not exactly. This gets me SO EXCITED.

Okay, enough about the worldbuilding, which you can clearly see I ADORE. 
On to characters.

I think Mal is inching his way towards a spot my Literary Crushes list. We'll see if the next two books put him on it. I'm sort of hoping they do. :-) The Darkling, on the other hand.... everyone talks about how he's so sexy, so desirable, so yummy. To be honest, he creeps me out. I have no interest whatsoever in bad boys, and don't really see why some people think that they are so attractive - in fact, they scare me. Nice boys all the way!
But as a Character - the Darkling's pretty great. I think it's commendable that he creeps me out so much, since that means he's pretty well written.
Alina is fantastic, and I'm looking forward to seeing her development in the next two novels. 

The writing itself seemed.... simple? No, that's not it. I don't exactly know how to describe it, but let's just say I felt like I whizzed through the book. I don't want it to sound like a bad thing. It's just I felt like the story was just washing over me and I barely gave any effort to actually reading it. Maybe it was just such a contrast to recently-read books like Gone With the Wind. 

Anyway, it was an excellent book and I was SO excited to finally read some Slavic fantasy. I can't wait to read the next two books, especially now with all this hype about Ruin and Rising! I'm feeling so behind.


If you've read Shadow and Bone - what did you think? If you haven't - have you read any other Slavic fantasy, and do you have any recs for me? Or even any other non-Western fantasy - I'd love to read some!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Camp NaNoWriMo Begins!

Participant 2014 - Facebook Cover

Today is officially the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo, and I'm trying to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of July!

(Today is also officially my sister's Sweet Sixteen birthday... YIPPEE!)

So I don't know how this will go (the writing, not the birthday), because I'm now working full time at an internship at a hospital in the city. That means I only have between three and four hours to spare - and some of those will have to go to blogging, chores, and other necessary things. Which leaves about - one to one-and-a-half hours to do Camp. I may shift my word goal down a bit from 50K, just saying.

Anyway, I will be chronicling my Camp adventures here (if I have the time), and probably posting excerpts from my writing. And definitely doing July's Beautiful People on a new character!

So here's to a fantastic July!
Anyone else doing camp?


"Fool," said my muse to me, "Look in thy heart, and write!"

~Sir Phillip Sidney

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Classics

As always, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
Today's topic is Top Ten Favorite Classics. Well, look at that! Classics! This shouldn't be too hard :-)

(Note: these aren't in any order, but CoN are definitely #1!)

1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

2. Lord of The Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien 

3. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

5. Basically any Jane Austen book
Persuasion gets the honors for this post

6. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

7. Hamlet  and Much Ado about Nothing by William Shakespeare

8. The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

9. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

10. The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

But you must understand that this is only a smattering of my favorite classics. These are the ones that jumped to mind, but there are SO MANY.

What are your favorite classic novels?


P.S. Happy Sweet Sixteen to my awesome sister! <3