Sunday, July 24, 2016

Beautiful People #19: Stefan


I seem to be taking a lot of unplanned blogging hiatuses lately. This last one was due to the combination of microbiology and Camp NaNo which apparently forms a kind of schedule that allows for basically nothing else. But I am back! (Hopefully without any other unplanned hiatuses soon? Because microbiology and Camp NaNo will be scrambling up all my time until the end of the month.)

"So!" you ask. "Since you have abandoned us for Camp NaNo, you can at least give us an update on your writing!" (Of course you want to know this. If you don't, you should.)

My writing has been going pretty well, actually, and SlavicNovel is promising to be at least 75k long, considering that I am currently around 30k of my rewrite and I am most certainly not halfway through. It'll probably end up 100k in the end. (And dang, do I have an epic ending planned. I am so excited to write that climax, since it didn't exist in draft 1.)  I think I've finally figured out which ships sail and which ships sink, so that's great. (Also, many of my ships are CharacterXThemself, so yeah...)

In terms of characters, Tanya is getting less constantly obnoxiously immature, and is simply immature, with sporadic occurrences of obnoxiousness. In other words, she's just where I want her at this point.

Laryssa (my mermaid? do you remember her? I should feature her one of these days) has become a full blown Character, instead of the shell she was in the earlier drafts, and has earned her own POV.

Stefan, my darling grinning* prince, has become far more fascinating, and has earned a POV of his own as well.
*grinning boys in books are my downfall so of course I decided to create one.

Baba Yaga continues on her morally-ambiguous, snarky, fabulous way.

Who do we choose to feature for this month's Beautiful People? I think Stefan's the man for the job, no? I haven't introduced him to you lovelies yet, have I.

1. Do they want to get married and/or have children? Why or why not?
Theoretically, Stefan does want to get married and have children. Eventually. A long time from now.
Marriage is a little more present in his mind than children, since he is a prince after all, though not the heir. He knows that he might end up marrying some princess or another to benefit political ties, especially since Ivan, the middle brother, married a village girl. But his oldest brother, Luka, isn't yet married either, and he's probably the one who's more likely to be married off anytime soon, so Stefan doesn't mind keeping his romantic endeavors to occasionally kissing pretty girls at royal banquets.

2. What is their weapon of choice? 
Probably the sword - he's been well-trained since childhood - but he'd consider his words to be a decent weapon as well. (Whether they actually are is a different question - the idea of talking his way out of a situation is much more attractive than actually doing it.)

3. What's the nicest thing they've done for someone else, and why did they do it?
Stefan is a nice fellow (if a recent acquaintance had to assign adjectives to the three princes, Luka would be noble, Ivan would be passionate, and Stefan would probably be nice). To be nice doesn't mean a lot - it doesn't mean as much as to be kindhearted, or chivalrous (or noble or passionate for that matter). So if you asked Stefan what the nicest thing he's ever done for someone, he'd immediately school his face into the face he presents at royal banquets when introducing himself to foreign ambassadors and tell you some irrelevant story that he may have just made up on the spot.

But really? The really nicest thing he's done - as in most kindhearted, chivalrous, noble thing - is probably something he does over the course of SlavicNovel, and that is befriend Tanya. He would tell you that it was entirely selfish - he was fascinated by her, he found her to be a good person (under her prickles) - but really, it takes effort to be friends with someone convinced that they were cursed with friendlessness. Good job, Stefanchick.

4. Have they ever been physically violent with someone, and what instigated it?
He's a prince, trained in fighting, so yes. Also, he's a boy, with two older brothers, so yes.

5. Are they a rule-follower or a rebel?
Stefan is a rule-follower who thinks he's a rebel.

6. Are they organized or messy?
Depends. He thinks he's organized in everything, and in home life, where he's comfortable and safe, he is pretty organized. But dang, does he have a tendency to fall into situations that cause a mess, and after a while, it makes organization difficult. But he tries. He really does.

7. What makes them feel loved, and who was the last person to make them feel that way?
Someone laughing at his jokes and acknowledging his desires and dreams. I suppose it's been a good couple years since he's really felt like that, since his brothers are both now in worlds of their own, when before they were kind of an inseparable trio. Darn adulthood.

8. What do they eat for breakfast?
Eggs and toast and ham and butter and coffee (imported from the country south of them*).

*none of my countries have names yet. oops.

9. Have they ever lost someone close to them? What happened?
When Stefan's mother died, he was only six years old, so it didn't impact him as much as it did his older brothers. But I suppose that's one example. Beyond that, he's really had a good life, as good as life can be for a youngest prince. :-P

10. What's their treat of choice? (Or, if not food, how else do they reward themselves?)
Excuse me (thinks Stefan) is there another way to reward oneself if not with food? From chocolate, to fresh buns surreptitiously nabbed from the kitchens, to potato pierogies with fried onions and sour cream, to kolatchkies filled with strawberry jam... Stefan can dream about food for years. (And eat it too, being a prince with kitchens that have access across the country.)

So that's my Stefan! I really like him, and I hope you did too!

Are you doing Camp NaNo? How's your writing coming along? And please tell me I'm not the only one who always falls for the grinner in books :-P

Friday, July 8, 2016

Where in the World is (was?) Sophia: A Bookish Recap of my Semester Abroad

I'm hoooooome! And I have been for the past month and a half - settling back into my daily life in Chicago, saying hello to my lovely books (oh, how I've missed you), stroking all of them, and buying new ones since my mother just went with me to IKEA to buy a new shelf for my room (Best Mom Ever, right?). But then I realized that even though I'd written lots about my study abroad adventures on my travel blog, you blogglings here only get the tiny bits I share in my monthly recaps.

So what are we doing today, lovelies? ADVENTURING, THAT'S WHAT.

I am going to take you to each and every country I visited, with the help of my bookshelf. Let's fly!

Something is definitely NOT rotten in the State of Denmark. Copenhagen was my home base for my study abroad travels, and it was absolutely marvelous. I actually visited "Hamlet's Castle" during my last days there - it's called Kronborg castle in the town of Helsingor, and supposedly was the inspiration for Shakespeare's invention of Elsinore castle, home to Hamlet and his messed up family. 

We didn't go inside the castle, because it was expensive and unfurnished, but we did have an excellent day for watching the many fishermen and eating ice cream. 

Hamlet has always been a favorite of mine in the Shakespearean Canon, along with Much Ado About Nothing. It's so twisted and messed up and dramatic and I love it. 
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This (and Germany) was a class trip to visit hospitals, so we didn't do a lot of exploration, but it was still a lot of fun. Poznan is a tiny little town, in my American opinion, but it's something like the third or fourth largest in the country. I loved being in a place where I felt connected to my Slavic roots - though not Ukraine, Poland's a pretty close alternative! I became the main translator of menus and signs for my non-Slavic friends, and together we rejoiced over the cheap prices of everything. (Denmark is EXPENSIVE.)
I have not yet read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but it's definitely on my TBR. It's apparently very intense and set during WWII. (You'll notice that some of the countries get books that I haven't read yet, but now that I've found them, I'm putting them all high up on my list!) 

Uprooted is a fantasy novel, but it's written by a Polish-American, and the fictional country of Polnya is obviously based strongly on Poland. It's a fabulous book and a review for it is coming soon! (If I ever get my act together.) SLAVIC FANTASY FOR THE WIN! WOO!

I really need to return to Berlin, because we only got three hours to explore on our own. THREE HOURS. How are you supposed to do Berlin in THREE HOURS? Also, Berlin is the place where I realized I had left my passport in Poland and had to do some Embassy hopping to get a temporary one. Lovely. So I obviously have to go back to Berlin, and get the full effect. I wanted to go to ALL the historical places and see ALL the museums!

The Book Thief isn't set in Berlin, but it IS set in Germany, and is a fabulous book about WWII that made me cry in public. My mother happened to call me right after I finished the book and freaked out when I cried into the phone. "THIS BOOK!" I gasped, when I could speak again. She gave a giant sigh of relief and annoyance and said, "Oh.You're not dying. It's because of a book." 


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My friend lives in Amsterdam, so I went to visit her for the weekend. (Cuz, you know, going to another country for the weekend is a thing you can do when you live in Europe.) We got a whirlwind tour of the city, and saw the three major museums (Anne Frank House, Rejiksmueum, and the Van Gogh Museum), as well as the Red Light District (ummmm) and a lovely bar that was so much like a tiny house on the canal that we had to take our drinks outside. 

Of course, I had to include The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank here, even though I haven't read it yet. BUT NOW I WANT TO BECAUSE DANG. She was a good little writer, and would probably have become famous for other things beyond her diary had she lived. What potential.
And even thought I gave The Fault in Our Stars three stars, that doesn't mean I don't think that John Green writes extremely beautifully. He was actually quoted in the Anne Frank House museum!


I ADORE BARCELONA. I really, really want to go back. I was there for Easter Week and oh my goodness from Gaudi to the Easter Celebrations to just the tiny side streets of the Gothic Quarter - I AM IN LOVE. PLEASE PLEASE TAKE ME BACK. I also want to see more of Spain in general now.

My book for Barcelona is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I haven't read it yet, but I did see it on the staff-recommended shelf at Barnes and Noble last week, so it's on my TBR! Apparently the writing is just beautiful.


Budapest was a surprise, because I only flew there because I wanted to go to Prague, and it was nearby, and a $33 flight there from Copenhagen, so why not? But it totally exceeded my expectations. I and my two travel partners arrived in the airport having done absolutely NO research (which was weird for all of us, but we had just finished midterms), and we didn't even know how to get to the hostel. Luckily, once we got there, the hostel lady took twenty minutes explaining to us all the good things to do in Budapest. We went to so many good photo-taking viewpoints (mountains, church steeples, etc.), and explored the ruin bars (I'm not a bar person but OMG if you're ever in Budapest go to Szimpla it's amazing. Even if you don't drink - just go to check it out. I don't remember there being a cover charge.) Suffice to say, Budapest won me over 100%.

The Door by Magda Szabo is another TBR for me, but again, apparently super awesome. I definitely want to read it soon! Szabo was a Hungarian writer, and the main character of The Door is a writer too! The book tells about the strange relationship of a writer and her housekeeper (a very fascinating woman), and is set in Hungary.

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Ah Prague! I had so many expectations for you, and so little time to truly explore! When you're in a city like Prague with three other girls who all have their own agenda, it's hard to truly experience the city. I definitely felt that Prague was magical, but I'm not sure if that's because it WAS, or because I WANTED it to be. That just means that I have to come back alone to find out!

The Three Golden Keys is a picture book written and illustrated by the amazingly talented Peter Sis. I remember it from my childhood, though we never owned it (we were a library family). A few weeks ago, my mother impulsively looked it up on Amazon and now WE FINALLY OWN A COPY. It is AMAZING and STUNNING and MAGICAL and basically the reason for my high expectations for Prague.
And then of course, the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor are partially set in Prague as well. I adore them, and it was so much fun to stand on the Charles Bridge and imagine that this was where the fights went down. Now I want to reread the series, having actually visited the city, and finally understand her references to buildings and bridges.

Norway was my only other Scandinavian country I visited in all those five months, and I found it to be like Denmark, but more.... natur-y. It's farther north, so you get way smaller cities (like Denmark's are that big haha), and way more arctic forest. We went on a boat cruise up one of the largest fjords and that was absolutely fascinating. The mythology is super cool, and the Norwegians really do love their trolls. I really want to write a book set in a fictionalized version of Scandinavia. *starts plotting*

Before I manage to do that (because I've got way too many ideas already without being inspired by my travels), we can satiate our need for the dark and Scandinavian by reading The Snowman by Jo Nesbo, the first Scandinavian crime fiction novel I read when I arrived in Denmark. It's eerie and violent and amazingly paced, and not the thing to read when it is cold outside and you are alone in the house. Obviously, I highly recommend it.


Our final stop on this whirlwind European adventure was Scotland. Not just Edinburgh (Also the Shetland Islands and Glasgow and Inverness (Loch Ness) and the Isle of Skye), but Edinburgh was my favorite. (Though Skye comes in a close second.) We happened to go to the Elephant Cafe for lunch without realizing why it was famous and were plesantly surprised - it's where JK Rowling wrote a bunch of the first Harry Potter books!

The nice thing about the Elephant Cafe is it hasn't used its famous client for publicity as much as it could, and hasn't turned into a shrine to Harry Potter, like a lot of things associated with that series have. The only shock comes when you step into the bathrooms - their whitewashed walls are COVERED with messages to Rowling and quotes from the books and jokes and references.

Of course, I could have picked Harry Potter as my Scotland books, since JK Rowling lived for a while in Edinburgh, but I'm going to pick Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson instead, since he was a Scotsman through-and-through. We went to his museum too (well, a museum he shares with Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott), and that was really fascinating. I haven't read his books in a while, so I think it's time for a reread!

Sadly, that's the end of our bookish tour of Europe... I hope you enjoyed it! Which of these books have you read - and which of these places have you been? Where do you really want to visit? What's your favorite place you've ever traveled to? Tell me everything about your bookish and travel adventures!

Friday, July 1, 2016


YES - I know I've been super absent - I've been busy doing such productive and unproductive things as:
  • Summer School: I decided to take two classes this summer: Microbiology and Spanish 4. Spanish 4 is the easiest thing in the world (at my school), which is good, because Microbio is wayyy harder than I thought because it is wayyy more online than I thought it would be. And I recently discovered that I don't really need it for my current degree or for medical school. So that's fun.
  • Instagram: I gave myself a personal challenge this month (before I started that cursed Micro class) that I would post one bookstagram a day. AND I AM PROUD TO SAY THAT I SUCCEEDED! It's been super fun, and you should go check out my pictures! Though I think that I'm going to take a break and post once every two or three days because Microbio is taking over my life.
  • Graduations: No, not mine, but basically everyone else's, it feels like. It's graduation season, which means a party every weekend wooo. My sister's was this past Sunday, and that was epic, but took up the entire weekend because planning and shopping and cleaning up.
  • Bookshelves: If you follow me on twitter, you will know that I have been measuring my room for new bookshelves, thanks to my mother wonderfully pointing out that if I got rid of a certain useless shelf and desk, I would have room for SO MANY BOOKSHELVES. Yes, I have the best mother ever. So we are going to IKEA shortly to purchase said bookshelves. I CANNOT CONTAIN MYSELF. Prepare yourselves, because so many #shelfies are coming!
Yeah, I'd say that's basically been it. It's been fun (and not so fun, MICRO), but I've also got stuff planned for July, namely, a mega blog post about all my travels from the past semester BUT WITH THE HELP OF BOOKS. (Yes, I know that I've been home for over a month, but shhhh it's a super long post so be quiet.) I'm excited, so you should be excited too!

ALSO CAMP NANO. Where are my other friendly Campers? I'm doing a rewrite of #SlavicNovel - hopefully Micro doesn't take over again aaaaah - and I want to hear all about your projects!

ALSO - today, July 1st, is the day my baby sister turns 18! So go check out her blog and wish her a happy happy birthday :)

This month has been my best haul month ever. Seriously. Look at this beauteous pile:

 Let's break it down, shall we?


Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein - am I ready to have my heart smashed into pieces? I think so.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff -I FINALLY HAVE IT. I can't wait to read this amazing-looking work of art! (Also, IT'S SIGNED OMG)


Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman - this book looked interesting and feels like a study of dialects and multiculturalism disguised as a fiction novel. I'm intrigued.
Printer's Coffin by M.J. Carter - a fabulous cover and a shadowy mystery... what can go wrong? It's apparently the second in a series but works as a standalone.
Murder Underground by Mavis Doriel Hay - A British Library Crime Classic. I always love these classy mysteries.


The Three Golden Keys by Peter Sis - Peter Sis is an amazingly intricate artist who creates books that feel like they contain magic in the pages. I want to live in his sketches, please. This book is from my childhood - I remember getting it from the library - and a week ago, my mother and I bought it on impulse from Amazon. BEST DECISION EVER.


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel - I won the lovely Lisa's twitter giveaway! THANK YOU <3 <3


The Raven Boys and Blue Lily Lily Blue and The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater - (yes yes of course I have The Dream Thieves on hold, did you think I had forgotten? NEVER.) I'm rereading them so that I can better prepare myself for what is the potential explosive feels-tornado that is The Raven King. HOLD ME
(photos link to their instagram versions)


How was your June? Did you do anything exciting? What did you read? Are you doing Camp NaNo? Tell me everything!