Thursday, January 22, 2015

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater // I attempt coherency

17378508There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

Let me flail for a moment, so that I can get all the fangirling out of the way before I dive into my serious and analytical review.

Alrighty then. Let's get serious.


Yeah, no, I don't think we're getting an entirely sensible review here, no matter how much I try to get the flails out beforehand. Be forewarned.

Okay, where to begin? I don't even know.

My review of The Dream Thieves was extremely short because I was sort of blown away and had no clue what to write. This one threatens to be super long just because there is SO MUCH to write about. Maggie Stiefvater really outdoes herself with each new book on so many levels: characters, description, hidden meanings, EVERYTHING. 

The characters just keep developing further and further, even when you think you've fully understood them. They're ever-changing and ever-growing within their own selves, just like real people. And I think that in BLLB, they grow the most. 

Adam - oh goodness, I am SO PROUD of Adam. I feel like a kind of older sibling to all well-written characters in the books I read, and so WANT them to go down the right path and find happiness. And Adam finally let his past go and figured it out about Gansey and charity and kindness. I AM SO SO PROUD OF HIM. He's growing up into a fine young man. 

We're also seeing another side to Ronan - actually, it's less another side and more just a greater part of him. We've only been exposed to a small percentage of Ronan so far (though it's quite a loud bit of him), and in BLLB we have the privilege of catching glimpses of the rest of him that so often gets drowned out by that really loud bit. I think Adam is seeing those glimpses along with us, and through them, his relationship with Ronan tightens.

Really, BLLB is about the tightening of all the relationships that were forged in the first two books. All of our Main Characters get to know each other so much more and get to see parts of each other that they never thought existed. It's situations like these that make or break friendships, and I'm glad that our lovely Blue and her Raven Boys made it through so far so well. 

(A side note: I entirely empathized with Blue-learning-to-drive. Though I think I was half scared of the power I now held in my hands and half extremely thrilled [I discovered I LOVE driving fast, which comes as quite a shocker to those who know me]. Anyway, I quite often, like Blue:
...could never forget that she was a tiny pilot in a several-thousand-pound weapon
Except I sometimes did. When I was excited about going fast.)

Talking about relationships, can I just squeal a bit about darling Bluesey here? All the shipping comes out in full force in BLLB and UGH STAR CROSSED LOVERS. It's the worst. I'm really curious to see how Maggie Stiefvater manages it.

But seriously, Bluesey is proof of how much romance can happen WITHOUT KISSING. Think about it. We're all squirming in our couches with our hearts exploding out of our chests and all they've done is JOKE ON THE TELEPHONE ABOUT CONGRESS. 

Let's talk about DEATH (since we're talking about Gansey, of course). There was death in The Raven Boys. There was death in The Dream Thieves. But the death in BLLB somehow was more poignant and heart-wrenching - maybe because, as the series progresses, the people dying are characters I like more and more. Is this just portending the death of one of the main characters - GANSEY PERHAPS? I... hope not. But it's kinda been promised from the beginning, so...
Hey, I can hope, right? ...Right?

BLLB seemed to be, so far in the series, the book most filled with hidden meanings and secret foreshadowing and subtle commentaries. I LOVE THAT KIND OF STUFF, because, hey, I love literary analysis, but I also lovingly hate it, because there's just so much I KNOW I missed. That means that I will most likely be buying these books as soon as I get around to it, because darn it, I love a good reread!

BUT SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE. What kind of an ending was THAT? I am dead until book four comes out.

I liked OH SO MANY, but here's one of my favorites:

Have you read Blue Lily, Lily Blue? What did you think?


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: FREEBIE (Writers to Emulate) 

As always, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

So today's topic is a freebie, so I get to pick whatever I want! I've decided to throw some writing into it today, and do Top Ten authors I wish to emulate, and who inspire me.

A lot of times these authors have many wonderful skills - good a plotting, characterization, description, etc. But for the purposes of this list, I'm focusing mainly on the ones that I'd like to particularly learn from that author.

Basically, if I could have a private writing class with an author, these are the teachers I would pick, and the topics I'd ask them to teach me.

1. Maggie Stiefvater.
Not only are her characters fabulous and her plotting wonderful, but her writing style is just so unique. She uses metaphors to full advantage, and doesn't slip into cliches. We SEE everything she describes. I want to be able to write like this so badly.

2. F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This man is able to fully describe a scene in one sentence. Short, sweet, and dreadfully evoking. He, like Maggie, ditches cliches entirely and I think this is what helps him to evoke such clear images in our minds with so few words.

Also, he created Jay Gatsby. That takes skill.

3. Erin Morgenstern.
I don't consider her plotting to be the greatest, but she is seated along with the previous two in the glorious thrones of cliche-less and scene-evoking description.

4. Elizabeth Wein
I would like her plotting skills, please. Of course, her characters are awesome, but... gosh. Plots. Timelines. Flashbacks. This woman is master.

5. Arthur Conan Doyle.
This is the man who created the mind of Sherlock Holmes. He must have been quite clever himself. I so want to learn how to plot a good mystery, and Conan Doyle is the one to teach me. 

6. Charles Dickens.
I know I struggle with reading Dickens - he tends to go off on about some virtue or another, and for some reason that bugs me more that Hugo's digressions. But there is no doubt that Dickens created some of the most colorfully memorable characters in all of Literature (he also gave them awesome names). Think about it - Ebeneezer Scrooge? Miss Havisham? There are also a bunch of smaller characters that pop in and out of his novels who are just plain out WEIRD.

He's also an excellent plotter, and I need all the help with plotting I can get.

7. Victor Hugo.


8. Alexandre Dumas.

Another plotter. I think that The Count of Monte Cristo has some of the most impressive plotting in all the classics I've read. I want to plot like that.

The words "plotting," "plot," and "plotter" are starting to sound very strange to me. I've been saying them too much. :-)

9. George R. R. Martin.

This is an interesting one, because I don't ADORE his books. I read the first two and quit- I didn't feel involved. But I will admit without hesitation that his worldbuilding is some of the greatest in fantasy literature, and would love to hear about his worldbuilding process. Also, plotting. Of course.

10. C. S. Lewis.

I'm not sure what I'd ask from dear old Jack. He was one of my first writing inspirations, and I think I'd just like to tell him thank you. :-)

What authors would you like to learn to write from?
Or if you're not a writer - what authors (living or dead) would you dreadfully love to meet?
And what was your TTT topic? Link it in the comments!


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Beautiful People #5: Author Edition (Me!)


Beautiful People is BACK! You may remember that for the last three months, we've been doing Beautiful Books, but now it's back to characters!

And this month's character theme? Someone who actually exists: The Author.

Yup. Me.

1. How many years have you been writing? When did you officially consider yourself a 'writer'?

I have been writing for... eleven-ish years. I've considered myself a writer since then. Seriously.

2. How/why did you start writing?

I started when I was eight and carpooling with my friend to a ballet class, and noticed a notebook in her car. My mind was blown: WAIT. I can actually WRITE those awesome books that I so love to read? This is AWESOME.

3. What's your favorite part of writing?

My favorite part must be the planning. I like to lie in bed and let the idea swirl around and think about how I am going to describe whatever scene.
I also like returning to a rough draft and realizing that - wait. I actually wrote that? Not bad.

4. What's your biggest writing struggle?

And actually writing. Because when I am confident and motivated, I generally have other priorities and responsibilities. And when I have time to write, the confidence and motivation is gone.
Hey, I'm feeling confident today. I should write.

5. Do you write best at night or day?

Both, really. I don't care.

6.What does your writing space look like? (Feel free to show us pictures!)

So I have a few different writing spaces, depending on which computer is available. The desktop, clearly, is in a set position, in our piano room/library. Here are two different views (with my sister unconsciously modeling for you):

The laptop usually hangs around the dinner table, or occasionally in our sunny front room. This is the happiest room of the house (other than the kitchen of course, because FOOD):

But sometimes I take it out onto the porch in nice weather. (It's a barren Chibera right now, but usually there's a super comfy couch and a table out there. It's quite pleasant, 3/4 of the year.)

And occasionally I bring the laptop up to my own desk upstairs, where I have a wall for post-it plotting (excuse the mess).

7. How long does it typically take you to write a complete draft?

Oh gosh. This varies ever so much. My life schedules change so much that from year to year I have different amounts of writing time and different responsibilities outside of writing. I haven't gotten into a pattern yet.

8. How many projects do you work on at once?

I used to work on countless amounts. Then I reverted to only one. But now I've got three going, with another one on hold. I like this multiple project thing.

9. Do you prefer writing happy endings, sad ones, or somewhere in between?

Like in my reading, I prefer hopeful endings in my writing. Ideally happy, but with a hint of sad. Bittersweet? I may even go full out tragedy, but it can never be utter despair. There must be a touch of hope.

10. List a few authors who've influenced your writing journey.
C.S. Lewis was the first. I wanted to write the next Chronicles of Narnia, and I loved the idea of doorways into another world.

Now, I aspire to have a unique descriptive style, explaining things in a way that makes readers think, "Oh, I wouldn't have thought of it that way, but it's totally true!" I want to write concisely yet expressively, and the authors I consider as masters of this are: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Erin Morgenstern, and Maggie Stiefvater.

11. Do you let people read your writing? Why or why not?

I let people read it when I feel that it is mediocre. In other words, never first drafts. Usually third drafts. But I've rarely gotten to that position - only with a couple short stories.

12. What's your ultimate writing goal or dream?

To have people read my book and actually SEE what I'm describing. For them to become so engrossed in my writing that they forget that they are reading - they are simply experiencing.

But getting published would be nice too. :-)

13. If you didn't write, what would you want to do?

Considering I'm planning to both write and be a pediatrician, there's your answer. I will do both simultaneously, and if, for some reason, one fails, I'll do the other. Bam.

14. Do you have a book you'd like to write one day but don't feel you're ready to attempt it yet?

Hah, not really. I tend to dive in to my writing projects, thinking that if it comes up crap this time around, it'll be better next time. My Venice story is something like that. It's good, and I like it, but it needs some fermenting time. Perhaps next year, I'll be ready.

15. Which story has your heart and won't let go?

I don't know yet. I haven't found one.

Wow, I wrote this post super fast. I guess it's easy to write about yourself. :-)


If you are a writer - how did you start writing? What's your biggest writing struggle?
If you are not - would you like to write a book someday? Do you have a story in your heart?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Once and Future King by T. H. White // A Study of Humanity

Add it on Goodreads!
Once upon a time, a young boy called “Wart” was tutored by a magician named Merlyn in preparation for a future he couldn't possibly imagine. A future in which he would ally himself with the greatest knights, love a legendary queen and unite a country dedicated to chivalrous values. A future that would see him crowned and known for all time as Arthur, King of the Britons. 
During Arthur's reign, the kingdom of Camelot was founded to cast enlightenment on the Dark Ages, while the knights of the Round Table embarked on many a noble quest. But Merlyn foresaw the treachery that awaited his liege: the forbidden love between Queen Guinevere and Lancelot, the wicked plots of Arthur’s half-sister Morgause, and the hatred she fostered in Mordred that would bring an end to the king’s dreams for Britain--and to the king himself. 

Wow. What a perfect culmination of my Arthurian readings! This was definitely EPIC, in every sense of the word.

It was also uproariously funny (which I TOTALLY did not expect). And it was also depressingly sad.

There are four sections to this book - "The Sword in the Stone," "The Queen of Air and Darkness," "The Ill-Made Knight," and "The Candle in the Wind." Each one adds on another layer to the gradually deepening saga. As I progressed through the book, the story deepened and matured, just as Arthur did. "The Sword in the Stone" was a childish thing: it tells of little Arthur - or Wart (from Art, if you were wondering) - and how he was tutored by Merlyn. Excellently written, but almost seemingly intended for a younger age group then the rest of the books. 

It was by far the most lighthearted and playful section. Arthur gets to explore the lives of animals other than humans when Merlyn turns him into a fish, a goose, an ant, and a bunch of other creatures besides. The escapades seem to add little to the story further on, since Arthur forgets all his adventures as he ages, but White used them to make some poignant social commentary on deep issues such as war and love. For example, the ants are quite a brainwashed little society, with constant lectures and chants broadcasted at them through their antennae-speakers, and they fight the Other Ants simply because they are Other. "When Other blood spurts from the knife," goes one chant, "then everything is fine." And here is one of the lectures:

Don't these sound like basically any argument for war in the history of the world? My social commentary buzzer is going off! This is some pretty poignant stuff, no?

In general, The Once and Future King tackles a lot of big issues, mostly dealing with war and when is it okay to use Might? is it ever okay? can you use Might in support of Right, or will that backfire? is Law, instead of Might, the proper way to achieve Right? HOW THE HECK DO YOU ACHIEVE RIGHT?

Big questions, and we struggle right along with Arthur as he tries to answer them in his Great Experiment of the Round Table. 

Through the book, White makes references to things that seem anachronous and out of place in the Middle Ages, such as comparing the gazes of villagers to those of visitors to the Uffizi Art Gallery. This may seem a bit troubling and annoying to some, but it caused no issues for me, because of two things. The first is that basically all the anachronisms are in the narration and not the dialogue. The Narrator is obviously White himself, and since he is from the twentieth century, he gets to make references to things up to that time period. It's as though he is telling a story out loud to a group of kids - he gets to explain things to them using modern references, if he thinks they'll understand better that way. 
Secondly, Merlyn is living backwards in time. If Merlyn has already lived in the Victorian Era, he is totally allowed to hold his hands like Sherlock Holmes.

Let's talk Characters, because there were some pretty awesome ones here.
The original Arthurian tales that I read (Mabinogion, Chretien, Malory) introduced us to the major players of the court of the Round Table, but these were ancient writings. We understood Characters and their motivations, but it was White who turned them personable, sympathetic, and just overall more real. He was able to make us fall in love with the characters and their struggles while still retaining the history of the ancient tales. 

I have two points to make regarding my history with the Gwen/Lance/Art love triangle:

1) Before The Once and Future King, I kinda thought Guinevere was slightly annoying and not at all in love with Arthur, it being simply an arranged marriage.
2) WAY back when I was younger, I had the opposite view. I just refused to believe that Guinevere and Lancelot had an affair. Arthur and Guinevere were my OTP and obviously had to remain together forever, and I staunchly insisted that the version where she ran off with Lancelot was an UTTER ANOMALY.

Now, having read The Once and Future King, I wholly and entirely understand the Gwen/Lance/Art situation. Somehow, White just makes it so clear. It's really a true love triangle, in which all members are in love with the other two. (Hey, it reminds me of The Raven Cycle books by Maggie Stiefvater where Blue and her boys are all in love with each other at the same time, and it all makes sense. But parentheticals aside - ) Arthur was Lancelot's "first love," as White likes to say, because Lancelot truly and wholly lives for and embodies the ideals that Arthur wishes to present to the world. And their friendship is amazingly strong. Neither wants to end it, and each does what he can to ignore the issue while the solidity of their friendship is dissolving before their own eyes. Guinevere is also SO much more of a sympathetic character than in Malory - she's a full Character, a Woman, a Real Person:
She was not the kind who can be fitted away safely under some albel or other, as "loyal" or "disloyal" or "self-sacrificing" or "jealous." Sometimes she was loyal and sometimes she was disloyal. She behaved like herself.... It is difficult to write about a real person. 

And then there's God. I never thought of God as being the fourth part of a love rhombus, but White makes him one, and it makes sense. Lancelot realizes that he can either choose God and keep Arthur as a friend, but lose Guinevere, or choose Guinevere, but through it lose God, since it would be adultery. And he really does love God and tries to choose him, by going on the quest for the Grail. He so Wants to be holy. But somehow, it isn't enough - he cannot match the purity of his three companions on the quest: Galahad, Bors, and Percival.
[Lancelot,] an earthly, sinful man, but the best of them, plodding along behind these three supernatural virgins; his doomed, courageous, vain toil.
Really, The Once and Future King is about humanity - the beauty and fault within us all. 

(Also, I really like playing around on Picmonkey. Have you guessed?)

Have you read The Once and Future King? What did you think?