Monday, August 29, 2016

Beautiful People: August 2016

Last week, I didn't have a chance to participate in A Novel Idea. It was a really intriguing yet diffcult prompt, but I ran out of time and energy. Maybe at some point I'll go back and do it just for kicks and giggles, but for today, I'm finally completing August's Beautiful People questions. (I can't believe I've waited this long to do it!)


This month the questions are focused on character appearance. Many characters came to mind when I was trying to decide which character to spotlight, but I wanted to introduce someone new--someone with intriguing appearances. Thus I've settled on two characters from my library story, The Secret Library Society. Since I'm still working out the kinks from last November, I thought it fitting to get to know these two in particular.

Meet Recto and Verso, twin siblings that are The Library's Pages. (Pages here refers to the person whose job it is to shelve books.) Together, they guard the Library from outsiders and make sure things within the Library are in order. They're twins, but they are opposites in almost every way--fire and ice, black and white, optimistic and pessimistic. They're quite fun, and I loved meeting them. (Verso, especially, surprised me when I wrote.) In addition, their names literally mean "right page" and "left page" of a book. Clever, eh?

Give a brief overview of their looks. (Include a photo if you want!)
Recto: Think "tall, dark, and handsome" and you've got Recto. He has dark hair, dark eyes, dark clothes. The only thing about him that isn't "dark" is his skin; it's pale. (Side effect of working in a library, right?)

Recto with his "time" discs.

Verso: She's the opposite of Rector; she is all light. She has ice blue eyes, pale skin, and high cheekbones that could probably sharpen knives. She prefers to wear all white, even down to her boots and the shade of her nail polish. The only thing that isn't "white" about her is her hair; it's dark like her brother's.

Picture that figure but in all white. Even a white cape.

Share a snippet that involves description of their appearance.
Recto:
"His eyes were dark, almost black. They gleamed. He wore a long, dark trench coat with a vest and tie beneath, all black. Even the gloves on his hands were black[...] The man was clean-shaven but his hair flopped across his forehead in waves of dark shades." 

Verso:
"Her eyes were an icy blue, and they pierced Arthur’s skin with the feeling of coldness. Her skin was flawless white. Only her hair, which was dark, contrasted against her figure. It was pulled back into a distinguished twisted bun."

What is the first thing people might notice about them?
Recto: His tall stature.

Verso: Her cold eyes and sharp cheekbones.

What are their unique features? (Ex: freckles, big ears, birthmark, scars, etc.)
Recto: His eyes are dark black with a small hint of embers burning inside, like hot coals. When he gets mad, agitated, or excited, the fire burns brighter. He also has impressive eyebrow game.

Verso: In addition to her rigid cheekbones, she has flawless skin. There isn't one blemish or freckle or scar to mar her skin. She also has a cute nose. As cute as Anne Shirley's nose.

How tall are they? What is their build (Ex: stocky, slender, petite, etc.)
Recto: He's tall. Like 6'5. And he's slender. He's one of those tall, skinny types that probably would eat a lot and gain nothing and then eat more. And yet, he still has some muscle to him where he can jab his sister in the side with his bony elbows and leave annoying bruises.


Verso: She is also tall. Around 6'3. She is slender with flattering curves.

What is their posture like? How do they usually carry themselves?
Recto: Unless he's walking, he's usually slouching or leaning against something (a bookshelf, a doorway, etc.). But when he walks, he walks like he's on a mission with straight strides and level shoulders.

Verso: She never stoops to Rector's "lazy" habits. She always holds herself with sophisticated grace. Her shoulders are rolled back, her chin is up, and her body is in perfect posture.

Your character has been seen on a “lazy day” (free from usual routine/expectations): what are they wearing and how do they look?
Recto: He doesn't have a "lazy day," but if he did, he'd probably be in sweatpants, a baggy t-shirt, and a robe two sizes too big, with bare feet and messy hair, looking like he just woke up for a 12-hour nap.

Verso: She would, of course, still look put-together if she had "lazy days." Not one hair on her perfectly chiseled head would be out of place.

I like to imagine that Verso wears this one her lazy day and also does this in her free time.

Do they wear glasses, accessories, or jewelry on a regular basis? Do they have any article of clothing or accessory that could be considered their trademark?
Recto: Sometimes he wears a hat, and he always has his trademark pocket watch "time" discs on him.

Verso: Occasionally, she'll wear glasses, especially when learning a new book trick. She wears a bracelet cuff on her left wrist, which has a built-in watch and book essence calculator. She also has a necklace pendent that holds a bit of book essence in case of emergency.

Have they ever been bullied or shamed because of their looks? Explain!
Recto: He doesn't get out much, but Verso is always rolling her eyes over his clothes or posture or something he probably did wrong.

Verso: No, never. If anybody dared to bully or shame her, they would pay. So no one would dare.


Are they happy with how they look? If they could change anything about their appearance, what would it be?
Recto: Yeah, he's perfectly fine with how he looks. Anyways, he doesn't have time to worry about his outer looks, he has The Library to guard!

Verso: She knows she's already reached perfection. There isn't one thing she would change, except maybe that she looks so much like her brother.

Did you participate in Beautiful People? Join us here!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Book Review: Lavishly Illustrated and Interactive Edition of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

I don't know when my rapture with Peter Pan began, but it's been there for a while. I grew up watching the Disney films and the 1955 production starring Mary Martin, wishing I could fly off to Neverland so I didn't have to grow up. Almost anything relating to Peter Pan instantly becomes magical to me. I wrote an 18-page essay in college about J.M. Barrie, dressing as the part of the Boy Who Never Grows Up for my presentation. The adventure and allurement of Neverland with pirates Lost Boys and mermaids always swept me away. It still does today.

Thus when I was at a local bookstore and discovered the "Lavishly Illustrated with Interactive Elements" edition of Peter Pan by Minalima, I knew I had to have this book despite already owning two copies of Peter Pan (one being the annotated version). The cover is absolutely gorgeous, and the inside breathes to life the magic and enchantment of fairy dust and Neverland. I received the book as a birthday present this past year but only recently did I crack open the pages to fly second star to the right and straight on til morning.


The story itself is the same one J.M. Barrie published in 1911, originally called Peter and Wendy, after his stage play became a success in 1904. It follows the same well-known story of the Darling children flying away to Neverland with Peter and having all sorts of adventures with pirates, mermaids, Indians, and the Lost Boys. There are some things, I think, that differ though from the perception of Peter Pan today, especially due to the Disney version films. While Peter isn't the sweetest boy, he still is full of charm (probably due to the fact that he doesn't grow up and always has fun and is "youth and joy and the little bird that has broken out of its egg.") But all in all, it's still the same story many children have fallen in love with over the past century. Peter never grows up, and he never grows old.


This edition in particular is beautiful. The illustrations are spectacular to look at. There are so many smaller details on the pages that it's hard to take it all in with one look through. This is definitely a book to buy and relish reading. The interactive elements are fantastic as well and make me feel like a child again experiencing the magic of the story for the first time. The team at Minalima is creative and talented. I will probably buy every single classic they illustrate. I already bought The Jungle Book version, which came out this year.


Overall, the magic of Peter Pan lives on through this lavishly illustrated edition. (Isn't lavishly such a wonderful word?) I'm in love with the story and the illustrations. I will never be over the brilliance of this story or the wonder that it evokes inside of me whenever I read it or experience it in some way. I love the magic and the sense of the adventure and the danger and the adorableness and cleverness of it all. I will always be in love with Peter Pan.


Have you ever read Peter Pan? What other classic stories sweep you away?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Comic Book Conglomeration #2

In the past two weeks, I haven't had as much time to read as I would have liked. Thus my stack of comic books has slowly been growing instead of being read. (I can't help but check out comic books that come across my desk at work; it's quite a problem indeed.) But I did have a chance to read a few, and I thought they were meritorious to discuss. (Isn't meritorious such a lovely word?)

Here's Comic Book Conglomeration Round 2.



Spider-Gwen Vol. 1: Greater Power by Jason Latour

So far, I've read Vol. 0 and Vol. 1 of the Spider-Gwen comic book series. However, Vol. 0 doesn't really dive into the origin story I had hoped (apparently that's in Edge of the Spider-Verse). Still this series has made me appreciate the "spider" mantle much more than Peter Parker ever could. You see, the best thing about Spider-Gwen is that Gwen Stacy is... Gwen Stacy. She isn't "female Peter Parker." She isn't "another Jessica Drew/Spider-Woman." She is Gwen Stacy. She has her own life (read: her own universe), her own fighting style, and her own (hilarious) personality. She plays in a band, tries to avoid her dad who is a cop, and deals with the ups and downs of early adult life. (It's quite great and relateable actually.) She makes mistakes, but she doesn't give up; she keeps going because she has to. She's a great role model.

This volume in particular was much better than Vol. 0. I think the story dives deeper in Gwen's character and struggles with life and battling bad guys (as well as not-so-good vigilantes like Daredevil/Matt Murdock). There's more weight to this volume than the other one. Which also means that this volume is sadder.

The artwork in this series is brilliant and bright. It's unique. There are many characters that crossover into the story such as Matt Murdock, Frank Castle, and even a female Captain America. (Remember, Spider-Gwen hails from a different universe than where Peter Parker is Spider-Man.) The series also shows a great portrayal of a father-daughter relationship, which is important to me.

When they first introduced Spider-Gwen to the Marvel comic book world, there was some criticism that this comic book hero wouldn't be able to hold up her own series. But I think they are wrong. I think she can hold her own; she's doing just fine right now. In addition, she's hilarious: she sings while she fights, she cracks joke, and she makes perfect puns. She may not be Peter Parker, but I think she makes one heck of a "spider" hero for the world to welcome.

(Also, I would like my Netflix TV show please.)

Ms. Marvel Vol. 5: Super Famous by G. Willow Wilson

Fun fact: I've heard G. Willow Wilson speak in person. (She spoke about why we need fantasy, and I was in love.) It's actually that encounter that prompted me to pick up the first volume of the new Ms. Marvel. And I'm so glad I did.

Kamala Khan is a 16-year-old American-Pakistani girl trying to survive high school, her parents, and troubles with love when she's hit with the Terrigen Mist and turned into an Inhuman. Thus, Carol Danvers--the original Ms. Marvel--encourages her to take up the mantle of the new Ms. Marvel. And now Kamala has one more thing to juggle: being a hero.

This is why, above all else, I love the Ms. Marvel comic book series: Kamala Khan is a regular girl dealing with regular teenage things (religion, school, parents, hormones). And she's hilarious. She's a fangirl to the max, who has a secret blog where she writes fanfiction about the Avengers. The Avengers, that in Vol. 5, she ends up joining. She also takes selfies with Wolverine during a team-up. It's perfect. I love her. Let's be friends.

Each volume of Ms. Marvel continues to get better and better. Sure, the stakes are raised as well, but this only reveals how strong and awesome Kamala is. I love watching her balance her normal life with being a hero and also trying to keep her integrity and faith intact. I think she's relateable even though I'm no longer a teenager. (Though being a fangirl definitely helps!)

A lot occurred in this volume, which spoke volumes of who Kamala Khan is as a person. She's funny, she's crazy, and she's Ms. Marvel. Now I need a sitcom TV show of her life please!

The Defenders Vol. 1 & 2 by Matt Fraction


Honestly, I added this series to my list because Matt Fraction wrote it. It was also recommended to me by a friend. However, I'm an intelligent human being that accidentally picked up Vol. 2 and read that first. (Because that has never happened to me before. Ever.) Let's just say I was confused and disappointed.

After I read Vol. 1 though, I started to see the merits of Vol. 2 and the series as a whole. While I can't recommend the series because of a stellar plot line--because honestly I was confused during most of it, and even after reading both volumes, I'm still scratching my head and wondering "What?"--I can definitely recommend this for the characters. Most of the characters--with the exception of maybe Doctor Strange or even Silver Surfer--aren't well-known faces for most Marvel fans. They simply don't have live-action adaptations about them yet or they just aren't one of the "biggies" when it comes to superheroes. Yet I liked this series because they focused on these heroes and not the big ones. It was refreshing to learn about other heroes and get to know them in a new way. (In addition, other heroes made cameo-eque appearances, which were really cool. I fangirled a lot.)

First, Red She-Hulk: she was amazing. She carries around a "big-ass sword" and doesn't taken no for an answer. She's hilarious and big and red, and she takes it all in stride. I love her already. Second, Danny Rand aka Iron Fist: he is stellar. He's one of those characters that immediately feels familiar and like we could be best friends. One of his first comments are about comic books: "The older I get, the more life seems to be the stupid, frustrating stuff that gets in the way of you and reading comics." I feel that, Danny Rand. I feel that. I'm excited to meet you soon. Third, Silver Surfer was pretty fun. His depiction in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer doesn't do justice to him. I was excited to see more of him--and what he does when he's not under Galactus' thumb. Doctor Strange's story was interesting and sad. Namor was just perfection. Literally. He's perfect, and he knows it.

While I definitely didn't enjoy this series as much as I adore the Hawkeye comics by Matt Fraction. I still think this was worth the read. The characters definitely make up for the crazy story line (which may have been shaky due to my weakness of trying to read too fast). And that ending will keep you wondering. Literally.

Have you read any of these comics? What other comics have you read lately?

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Novel Idea: 8/9/2016



This week's A Novel Idea prompt is about characters.

This week, make a list of 20 things about your character. They can be as simple or unique as you want, but hopefully it will help you learn at least something new about your character and their backstory.

The first character I thought of to feature was Ryker... again. I'm still starting to get to know him as we plan our writing project. But then I thought about it, and I decided I didn't want to do Ryker again. Not yet, at least. Instead, I'm going to feature Ryker's best friend: Wren.


Wren is an eleven-year-old girl with a strong sense of magic. She can write anything into existence provided the elements that make up said thing are in the vicinity. Of course, it doesn't always go perfectly, especially when she gets impatient and rushes the magic process. But she's young and still learning, and she has an interesting perspective of the world.

Here are 20 more things about Wren:

1. She doesn't have a favorite color. She loves all the colors in the world, and she can't choose a favorite because she doesn't want the others colors to be sad.

2. She lives in Blitzkrieg with Ryker, but she was born on an uncharted island of Bakkaj.

3. She doesn't have any memories of her life before the age of seven when Ryker rescued her from the "husks." At times, she pretends she remembers her parents, but she really doesn't. She believes they were nice people that didn't deserve to die so young.

4. She had been trained from an early age to use her magic, which is why her magic abilities are much greater than Ryker's. Her parents recognized the early signs of strong magic in her, and they hired a tutor.While she doesn't remember any of this, she still possesses the knowledge to use her magic.


5. She likes to collect clothes of different sizes, styles, and colors when she can. Usually, she wears them altogether at one time in order to keep warm in the cold of Blitkrieg, feel all the fabrics, and wear all the colors of the world.

6. She loves to read, but she only owns one book that she and Ryker swindled from an apothecary. The book is volume three of a set of ten about using magic.

7. She likes to sing.

8. If she sets her mind to something, she is very stubborn.

9. She has Ryker wrapped around her finger. There is a way about her that she can get him to do almost anything.

10. She likes to use her magic to show off. She enjoys when people notice how powerful she is.

11. Her favorite animal are birds, but Blitzkrieg doesn't have many.


12. She daydreams about visiting every island in Bakkaj, especially Central Isle, and using her magic to help people.

13. Her favorite food are croissants for both their shape and taste.

14. When she sings, she can also use magic, but it's not as powerful as when she writes it.

15. She can use many different kinds of mediums to write her magic--her finger through the air, her nails on wood or ice, charcoal on paper, etc.--but the most powerful form is when she writes permanent ink on to skin.


16. She's given Ryker three magic tattoos--one on his shoulder for protection and the other on each of his calves for speed.

17. She has always wanted to learn how to swim, but since she lives in Blitzkrieg, it's too cold to go into the water.

18. Most people are physically drawn to her due to her magic aura and her gorgeous physical attributes.

19. She's half-Fae, but she doesn't know this. Neither does anybody else who is alive. She takes after her mother, but there are glimpses of her father--the Fae--in her appearance as well.

20. She has a huge "schoolgirl" crush on Ryker and daydreams about growing up and marrying him.


Tell me about your characters! Better yet, link up with A Novel Idea.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Book Review: the Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

In 2011, Divergent by Veronica Roth was published on the heels of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. What followed those two series was a stack of other dystopian-esque stories that took over the YA shelves of bookstores and libraries. It also made me swear off dystopians for a number of years because while I loved The Hunger Games, the books that followed often times fell flat or just kept falling. For me, Divergent was this way.


I remember reading it when it was first released and enjoyed it. I even gave it a generous 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. I remember discussing it with friends where we highlighted what we liked (the characters and basic idea) and disliked (the high levels of violence). I remember being excited to read the second book, Insurgent. But I don't remember reading it. I know I did read it; I gave it 5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. But I couldn't tell you one thing--significant or not--that occurred in that book.

Thus I never read Allegiant. I never saw the movies in theaters. I never cared.

As the years passed and I read other books and went to college and learned what makes a good story, the more and more I heard about Divergent and Tris and Veronica Roth, the more I started to loathe the whole series. I've heard every argument under the sun about why it's good ("Tris is such a strong role model for girls!") and why it's bad ("It's just a carbon copy of Hunger Games.") And I came to the conclusion that despite how much I started hating it, I really needed to re-read and finish the trilogy in order to make a decision for myself.

So five years since Divergent's release, I gave the series another chance. This time, though, I listened to the audiobook version, and now I have formed my own personal opinions of the three books.

Divergent--

When I finished Divergent, I completely understood why people hyped up this book. I could see the good and the bad weighed against one another, and for this title, I could see how people could ignore the bad to focus on the good. The concept is interesting with the factions. Tris is decent because she's supposedly a strong, female character. This book contains action and danger and making huge choices, which apparently are all relateable to sixteen year-olds. (Hey, I was sixteen when I first read this book.)

But the one thing I kept thinking as I listened was this: there are so many better books out there.

In the past five years since I first read Divergent, I've learned a lot about books and story-telling and writing. I've learned there are things called multiple drafts where an author needs to pick apart every inch of his/her writing to make sure it is sound and can't be easily disputed. (I found a lot of flaws within Divergent. A lot of flaws within the world building, the characters and their development, in the concept of the factions, and in the details of Dauntless' society. Many of these flaws could have been avoided if there had been given care to multiple drafts and editing.) Word choice and sentence structure and details are all vital to whether a story lives and breathes. (The repetitive nature of the word choice and sentences was unnerving.) I've also learned there is more to a story than smoking hot boys, badass girls, and dystopian futuristic societies. (I'm wholly convinced that Divergent is not a dystopian. Not truly. It's just a futuristice setting.) I've learned there is more to story-writing than just trying to throw together a half-baked idea in order to be "special" or different than the other ten bajillion YA dystopians being released.

My only hope with Divergent is that it will get people who don't normally read to read and then to get them to read other books--better books.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Insurgent--

As I said before, I read Insurgent once upon a time. But I cannot remember one detail about what happened. Here is why: This book is completely unnecessary.

There, I said it. It's unnecessary.

Veronica Roth could have made this trilogy with two books. Two. Not three, two. Almost nothing significant happens in this book. The important stuff comes at the beginning or end or in random spots throughout the rest of the narrative, and the other events aren't relevant or exciting enough. Nothing happens for ages, and then there is one sentence, among five hundred pages worth of sentences, that is important.

This book also opened up my eyes to how disappointing the main characters are. Tris may be strong and quick to action to save lives, but she is also a terrible person. (Yes, I said it.) A lot of her actions are selfish, self-centered, and senseless. I don't care what people have done to you, there is no reason to treat people with such selfish hate. I also don't find her relationship with Tobias to be that stellar. They fight a lot, and they lie to each other... a lot. In addition, they don't talk about their fights or lies, they just kiss and pretend it didn't happen. They've been escalated as a high standard for a relationship, but honestly, I don't see it. I do not want to have a relationship like theirs, and I would never encourage anybody to have a relationship like theirs. The side characters are brutally written without character development or necessity. Are there only others characters added so 1) people can die 2) It won't end up that Tris and Tobias just impossibly save the world/Chicago on their own?

Roth also dug herself into trouble by eliminating both of the main enemies. Sure we're all dying to know what is outside of the fence (literally and figuratively, apparently, since there is zero concept of world building), but what could possibly be the plot of the third novel if you killed off Tris and Tobias' main nemeses? (We'll get to that in a moment.) Also, I still don't understand why a society would allow sixteen year-olds to decide their entire future in one moment based on a test.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars (It gets two stars because of "drugged" Tris and the ledge scene that discusses suicide and the value of life.)

Allegiant--

Ah, here we are, at the end of all things. Really. Allegiant was the end. The doomed end. The end of all ends. The end that finally ended this series. This book is by far the worst of the trilogy. And it's not because of the very predictable and not satisfactory ending.

There were many flaws with this series, and this book collected all of them into one long, boring, dragged-out plot that was very disconnected from the other two books. I felt like Allegiant was an entirely different story. The tone, the plot, the world--everything felt disjointed from Divergent and Insurgent. The only connection were the characters.

The reason for the Divergent, the test, the factions, all it was disappointing and unbelievable. I've only taken one biology class in my life, but I can tell you that genes don't work the way she wanted them to in this story. It made it seem like she published Divergent and Insurgent and had to wrap up the story with some kind of grand explanation, but she didn't plan it until the first two books were published. It didn't work. It didn't fit with the faction-oriented Chicago she had created. There was no build-up for that kind of explanation or ending. It fell flat. And it fell hard.

About two-thirds through Allegiant, I realized Veronica Roth wrote the wrong story. Yep. She wrote the wrong story. After I learned about why the faction society exists, I didn't care about Tris or Tobias or Chicago or any of it. (Okay, okay, I cared even less about it.) I wanted to know about the people who fought in the Purity Wars, who dealt with the onset of "genetic damage," who had their lives thrust upside down by something crazy and not just another "rebellion."

Instead, we get a story about a girl who makes a choice that ruins a city and gets herself killed but she actually doesn't do anything substantial to save the world or the people who are suffering. That is my biggest problem with this story. Nothing significant happened. Sure, Chicago was saved, I guess. Sure, things might get better for those people. But what about the rest of America? What about the rest of the world? I hate comparing it to Hunger Games, but at least Katniss' actions brought about substantial change for the entirety of Panem and not just District 12. In Allegiant, nothing happened in the end. Tris died for absolutely no reason. 

Allegiant disappointed a lot of people but probably not for the same reasons as me. It has a lot of flaws, a lot of boring parts, and a lot of characters that don't matter and don't live up to the potential everybody gives them.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars. (If I could give it 0, I would.)

There are a lot of flaws to this series. If I were to list them all, it would take a long time. I might do that eventually. I think I've figured out ways to fix a lot of what is wrong with this series--including making this story two books instead of one and having older characters, so the romance and the ability to make life-altering decisions is more plausible. I've watched the first two movies, and I can honestly say I enjoyed those more. Some of the flaws of the books were fixed in the movie (or at least didn't drag out everything for 500 pages).  I think the Divergent series had potential, but I think that potential has been wasted by shoddy writing and the goal of trying to be unique yet similar to other YA books (*coughHungerGamescough*). And no, I will not be going near Four.

Hey, maybe someday I'll re-write it to make it work. Or maybe it's not worth it.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Novel Idea: 8/2/2016

July was a crazy month. I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo with a goal of 15,000 words. It exhausted me, but I won! I had hoped to finish section three of A Girl and Her Dragon, but once more, I did not. I'm not even halfway through the section yet. I'm still trucking along for the 100 for 100 challenge. (It's day 68! How did I get this far?) In addition, I started a side project with a few friends that I mentioned when I did July's Beautiful People. I can't make promises of when you'll see it, but I can promise you will know first thing. I'm super stoked to share it with the world.


Thus, I've neglected other writings, such as A Novel Idea. There were two weeks I really wanted to participate in, but I couldn't scrape together the time or energy. Hopefully I can find time in the future. For this week, the challenge is as follows:

Who is an author (or two or three) you aspire to write like? What is it you admire about their work or their writing style? Are there any similarities between you and your writing role model(s)?

Picking only two or three writers is like trying to pick your favorite pet or favorite character--it's hard, but honestly, it's not impossible. (Maybe that's because I only really had one pet that was important growing up.) There are actually three authors that immediately came to mind when I read the prompt.

C.S Lewis


I bet you all thought I would say Tolkien, right? Well, you'd be wrong. As much as I adore Tolkien, I can't fathom ever writing like him. It would be too much to consider I could ever write like he does. You might think the same should be said of C.S Lewis, but I do think I could write like him. Maybe not as deep or theological like him, but I could write similar to him. I have actually. The Chronicles of Narnia are the books that really got me started on the fantasy track. I was swept away into the magic of it. One of the first true stories I ever wrote had similar narration techniques C.S. Lewis used in the Narnia books, such as the narrator being part of the story, almost talking to the reader.

In addition, I love the simplicity of what C.S Lewis wrote. Some people might think he was too simple or too obvious or too allegorical, but as a child, I loved it. His world made me feel closer to God and made me feel like I could understand God better through characters like Aslan. I didn't need to analyze every single detail or word choice to understand the messages C.S. Lewis was trying to say. And I was amazed that a set of books written forty years before I was born could still be relateable, but they were.

One of my favorite authors is Donita K. Paul. I've read every book written under that name, and I have fallen in love with every single one. And every single one includes dragons. (Who is actually surprised right now?) I aspire to write like her, not just because of the dragons. She has a wonderful way with fantasy that just lifts me up and makes me fall in love with other worlds and other people. Her books are also full of simple messages, but I love how the characters must also learn and grow into being who they were created to be. There are just a lot of great things about her books, and I want people to read my stories with the same kind of delight and discovery. And also... dragons.

If you haven't heard me rave about Lisa T. Bergren, you're missing out. Lisa T. Bergren has such a way with her writing that I am immediately swept away into the story, and I can relate to the characters. She does such a good job blending action and romance and adventure that I can't even properly sort her books into one specific genre. I want to have that kind of balance and ability to captivate my readers. She also doesn't sidestep the real stuff of life or brush things under the rug; she faces tragedy and choices and the deep parts of life without hesitation or fear. I want to write characters that kick-butt but also lend compassionate hands. I want strong heroes and brave heroines and beautiful worlds. I want to craft stories that leave me with just as much astonishment and hope that her books leave me.

In addition, Lisa T. Bergren is also a wonderful presence for her readers. She responds to tweets, facebook comments, and emails as if you are close friends with her. I don't know many authors that do that or have time to do that. She also encourages her readers and fans, posting artwork and sharing encouragement. I love her writing, and I love her heart. So I want to be more than just a good writer, I want to be a good author.

I'm sure the list of authors I aspire to be like could go on for pages, but I'll leave you with these three as the most important three.

What authors do you admire and aspire to be like? Let me know if you participate in A Novel Idea!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Comic Book Conglomeration #1

Often times, people wonder why I know so much about superheroes and their story arcs. While most of my knowledge is gleaned from reading Marvel and DC encyclopedias (which list every character known to the comic book world) or even Wikipedia pages, I have read quite a few comic books. I can't explain how many or where they all came from, but I can tell you I've read a lot. I've read a comic where the DC universe clashes with Marvel and the famous heroes are pitted against one another in battles to the death. I can tell you the entire story arc of Marvel's original Civil War, and I'm working my way through DC's Injustice arc (which is fantastic by the way).

I haven't read that many comic books though. My ability to get them is limited to my library and the surrounding ones, yet I keep trucking through the collections I can get my hands on. Also, comic books are sometimes hard to start because they don't always start from a beginning and go to an end. They mix around in the middle, fly off into other stories, and connect with many other issues and volumes. It can be quite confusing, but I've managed to navigate my way through so far. I'm not an expert by any means, but I do think the comic books I find interesting or worth reading should be spotlighted.

Like books, I want to start reviewing comics*. I'm not an expert on all the heroes I read or on artwork for that matter, but I'd like to share my opinion and recommend them. Of course writing a single blog post for all the comics I read (I've read over 60 just this year) would be a little excessive. Instead, I'm going to write mini-reviews of some and combine them into COMIC BOOK CONGLOMERATION posts. It sounds cute, right?


*For all intents and purposes, comics and comic books are going to refer to graphic novels in general. Thus, I might end up reviewing manga, graphic novel adaptations, or comics from Marvel or DC. It's just clever to say "comic books conglomeration." (Sorry, Manga.)

These are the three most recent comic books I've read and what I thought of them.

Hawkeye Vol. 4: Rio Bravo by Matt Fraction

Alright, let me tell you a thing. On a whim, I picked up Matt Fraction's Hawkeye comics about a year ago, and I struck a gold mine. Seriously, these comics are perfect. They follow Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, during his off-hours, when he's not helping the Avengers, as he gets into all sorts of back alley trouble. They are hilarious and brimming with lots of fun, action, and heart-wrenching moments. Clint's personality paired with Kate Bishop (Hawkeye #3) makes me laugh for pages. Lucky the Pizza Dog is also a great addition. The panels are chock-full of unique artwork, relateable moments, and humor.
Clint:  "Thor doesn't have to deal with crap like this I bet. I wish I was Thor. I wish I could smash this guy in the face with a hammer. Wish I hit myself in the face with a hammer. Wish I was anyone else. Anywhere else."
Volume 4: Rio Bravo is especially interesting. It dives into Clint's backstory and childhood and introduces us to his brother, Barney. (Yes, his name is Barney Barton. Brilliant, really.) It has a lot of emotional tug to it, especially toward the end, due to the events. But it's still just as good as the others. The opening comic is a little odd, but still touching. Don't skip over it! There is a point to it. The rest is fun and spot-on. I guarantee if you give these comics a chance, you might end up loving Hawkeye--or loving him more.

Superman Vol. 1: Before Truth by Gene Luen Yang

A while back I heard Gene Luen Yang had signed to write a Superman comic. To put it lightly, I was ecstatic. I had read some of his books for school and of my own free-will, and I liked what he had to say. I was interested to see his style and his focus brought to the Man of Tomorrow. Superman Vol. 1: Before Truth follows Superman as he tries to handle his new "solar flare" powers. These powers allow him to release a lot of energy in one burst, or flare, but then it leaves him weakened and vulnerable for 24 hours.

This wasn't the best Superman comic I've ever read. It was intriguing though. The concept of the "solar flare" powers was new, which works for a superhero that's been out for over 75 years. I thought the camaraderie between the Justice League members as they help Clark/Superman control his powers was fun. The second half of the arc focuses on an all-knowing man who knows Clark Kent's greatest secret! This part wasn't as interesting. For one, Clark and Lois aren't a couple, which was kind of sad. It didn't feel quite like Superman without that in there. Plus, the big-evil-overlord bad guy didn't seem that threatening. The arc didn't feel like it quite panned out, and it left Clark and the others in a sticky situation.

While I will definitely keep reading, I didn't feel as connected to this comic as other ones. It was a good start; there is potential here. Just make it better!

Groot by Jeff Loveness

Ever since the Guardians of the Galaxy movie came out, I've been interested in knowing more about Rocket and Groot, specifically Groot. All I know about him is that he is a walking, talking tree that says three words: I am Groot. I know little else about this character. So when this comic book caught my eye, I jumped at the chance of reading it. And let me tell you, I wasn't disappointed one twig.

If you've seen Guardians of the Galaxy, you know that it was full of a lot unexpected things like defeating Ronan the Accuser with a dance-off, becoming best friends with a group of criminals, and crying over a tree. Well, Groot was pretty much the same: unexpected and full or surprises. But it was also very magical and touching. Groot is a loveable character because he's... well, he's Groot. And he does Groot things. This comic was filled with adventure and chaos and stunning moments of outer space and friendship. There was heartaches from heartbreaking moments and bellyaches from hilarious moments. (The Star Wars references and the Superman spoof were spot-on.)

I think this comic had it all, and I enjoyed every moment of it immensely. The artwork was a combination of cute and gorgeous. I'm also impressed at how well this story was told despite that the titular character can only say three words. The writers did a good job with the other characters' responses to Groot, so it was easy to follow and understand the conversations.

Basically: I love this comic. For lovers of Groot and Guardians the Galaxy, this one is definitely for you.

Also, I am Groot. 


Have you read any of these comics? What comics have you read recently?

~Review Disclaimer: I required all three of these books through my local library and decided to write reviews of my own freewill. All opinions are my own. All book cover images are from Goodreads.~