Monday, October 31, 2016

Beautiful Books: October 2016



It's taken me a while to figure out what my plan for this year's National Novel Writing Month. As a "pantser" (or if you prefer the term "gardener"), I don't plan a whole lot. I have a bunch of ideas in my head that come together and find a way to make it work together with a plot. Writing a novel for me is a long journey of discovery. Thus Nanowrimo is both good and bad. Good because it's all about writing the sloppy, first draft where I can chase rabbit trails and add new characters halfway through the story. Bad because I never know what's going to happen, which can sometimes lead to a disaster.

I wanted to start a new story this year. I've been thinking about a particular story for a while now, even telling myself all year that I'd shelve it until November. But I don't think I'm going to write it this time. I don't think I'm ready--despite being a pantser. Instead, I'm going to be a "rebel" and use my November to continue editing and rewriting A Girl and Her Dragon. (Boring, right?)

Thus Beautiful Books this month feels... repetitive. I've talked about A Girl and Her Dragon numerous times. At this point, do I really need to explain how I got my idea or what it's aesthetics are? Probably not.

So instead of doing Beautiful Books for A Girl and Her Dragon, I'm going to do it for the story I wish I could write but know I'm not ready to. The novel I'm shelving once more in order to stick to editing and rewriting. It's affectionately dubbed The Superhero Novel. (I know, it's so original and creative.)


1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?
A few things inspired this novel: my adoration for superheroes (comics and movies and television shows) and the Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan. I know what you're thinking: "Jaime, what does Percy Jackson and superheroes have to do with one another?"

Well, you see, the concept of the Percy Jackson books is this: what if demigods--children of the Greek gods--existed in our world today? Thus we get Percy Jackson and the rest of the Camp Half-Blood campers fighting monsters of mythology and completing quests like the ancient legends.

So what if the famous superheroes had children? What would those children do? Would they be heroes or villains? Would they get a choice? How would they feel about their parents being famous and in the public eye? How would they deal with their powers?

I know, you're probably thinking: "Wait! That's been done before. Disney had a film about the children of superheroes that went to a superhero school, Sky High!"

You're right. Disney did do that. But that's not what I'm doing. Disney made up superheroes for that. Will was the son of the Commander and Jetstream, two superheroes that only exist within that film. No, instead, I want to use the superheroes people know and love. I want to know what Bruce Wayne's daughter would be like or how Captain America's son would view the world. I want to use a conglomeration of comic book heroes and villains the world knows and loves.*

(*I realize this sounds a lot like fanfiction. Maybe it is. And maybe it's breaching several copyright laws. I'm a pantser, remember? Things often change while writing and editing.)

2. Describe what your novel is about!
J.J. [last name withheld until files are made public] learns she's the daughter of a famous superhero--superheroes that should only exist in comic books and the movies--after a security breach threatens the lives of several superhero children. She's taken to a secret base where she meets other superhero children and undergoes training for her non-existent powers. Someone, however, is targeting them from within the base--and J.J. doesn't know who to trust. Not even herself.

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!


Pretty much.

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!
All Records compiled by [name withheld]
J.J. [last name withheld]
Age: 17
Powers: N/A
Other traits: quiet, loves to read, has an affinity for remembering historical events

Picture her with shorter hair. 

Kal Kent
Age: 17 by Earth's standards
Powers: flight, enhanced strength, super snark
Other traits: loves the ladies, likes to make jokes at inappropriate times, also likes dogs and pizza

Kal's resting face is a smirk 

Willa Cage
Age: 19
Powers: Unavailable
Other traits: her hair is amazing, she likes to sing

Willa with her half-brother.

Brett Wayne
Age: 17
Powers: None
Other traits: Martial Arts training, observes everything, she always looks angry? No, really, she's glaring at me as I type this up.

Brett likes to frequently change her hair color.

[name withheld]
Age: 23
Powers: None, though I'm a wizard at technology
Other traits: Yeah, right. I'm not telling you.

[picture withheld]

I have several other characters like a kid who thinks he's Loki but isn't (basically, a young, hipster Loki wandering around), the director of the secret group (shhh, secrets), and a league of super villains who are all females (except for their secretary who is a sassy guy named Stanley).

Number Three, Number Four, Number One, Number Two, and Stanley

5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)
Howl. Stock up on chocolate and then immediately eat all of it. Mope around the house with a sore throat and upset stomach. Write down ideas that come beforehand so I don't lose them. More howling.

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?
Whenever I get around to writing this, I'm looking forward to how all the superhero children interact. They all come from different places with difference parents and different standards. It'll be interesting to see how they work together. I'm also stoked to flesh out the super villains. Because they're awesome, right? And to find out who the mole is. And who J.J. belongs to.


7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.
Chaotic
Secret
Dark?

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?
At the beginning, J.J.'s goal is to just figure out what in the world is happening. Who is she? Who is her parent? Why is she there? But as the story progresses and she starts to learn who she is, her goal is to figure out where she belongs: with the heroes or the villains. She also wants to live up to the standards of being a superhero's child. Most of what stands in her way is herself, but her new teammates and the allure of the villains will create conflict as well.

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?
I think she becomes more confident in who she is--not necessarily just as the child of a superhero, but as the kind of person she is and wants to aspire to be. Since I haven't written it yet, it's hard to know, but I think she changes for the better.

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over?
I think there will be a lot of themes of finding identity and this sense of belonging to a family/team throughout the novel. I want my readers to feel the same as they would after watching a Marvel movie--when the heroes have saved the day but also learned something about themselves, the world, or humanity. I want there to be hope and confidence and just an overall sense that the world can truly be a better place. We just have to be willing to save it.

(Wow, that got deep real fast.)


What are your plans for November? Did you participate in Beautiful Books?

Friday, October 28, 2016

Book Review: Gris Grimly's Frankenstein

The last Friday in October is affectionately known as "Frankenstein Friday" to celebrate the birth of Frankenstein and its creator Mary Shelley. The world would be a different place without Shelley's book, which not only created the genre of science-fiction but has also influenced pop culture and the idea of what makes a monster.

For Frankenstein Friday, I decided to read Gris Grimly's Frankenstein. This graphic novel adaptation takes the original text of Shelley and assembles it seamlessly with Gris Grimly's original artwork to tell the tale of Victor Frankenstein and his monstrous creation.


I've read the original novel of Frankenstein and the Classic Comics graphic novel adaptation, but I think Gris Grimly's version is by far my favorite. The artwork is startling. It has the perfect blend of quirky, steampunk, and ghoulish to truly depict the horrors of the tale. It reminds me a bit of Tim Burton's style (which now makes me want a Tim Burton film of Frankenstein that follows the book), but at the same time, it has its own style that can't be compared. I presume this style is all Gris Grimly. By far, my favorite spreads are when the Creature tells his story. It consists of simple panels in black and white with almost no text, yet it poetically depicts the Creature's journey in the world.

I like that he kept true to the book and actually used the original text to weave the story. He kept what I think are the most important aspects--ones often overlooked due to the films and pop culture references--such as the Creature's intelligence and sympathetic nature, Frankenstein's monstrous persona, and the Gothic tone. These, more than anything, are what make Frankenstein memorable and worth reading.


If anybody is unsure about reading the original novel due to the style of story-telling or narration, I would highly recommend they pick up Gris Grimly's Frankenstein instead. It blends wondrous artwork and original text to bring Frankenstein and his Creature to life in a new way. I'm definitely going to read more of Gris Grimly's work.

Have you read Frankenstein? What other Gothic stories are you favorites?

I checked out Gris Grimly's Frankenstein from my local library and chose to write an open and honest review of my own will. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tolkien Lover Book Tag

This really cool person named Kristen runs a writer's advice (?!?) website and also her own personal blog! And she decided to make her own book lover's tag all about... Tolkien!


Basically, I saw her post, cried a lot, and knew deep in my hobbit heart I would participate. Because I love Tolkien and Middle-earth and the whole shebang. So basically, she presented a set of questions about Tolkien, answered them, and then challenged us (her readers) to complete the tag and spread the word faster than the Nazgul fly (or something).

How this works: I will answer the questions (and link back to Kristen's original post) and then tag a few people to also answer the questions and link back to me and Kristen. Got it? Good.


So here I am, ready to take the hobbits to Isengard (Isengard-gard-gard-gard). Well, not really because I don't want them to end up in Saruman's clutches. Maybe we'll just take a long walk to the Lonely Mountain or maybe just down to the Green Dragon for a pint.

Questions:

1. The Lord of the Rings is Tolkien's most famous work. But did you read the books or see the movies first? What are your opinions on each?

When I was about nine, my brother challenged me to read The Hobbit within a year (because I had boasted that the book wasn't that long). I didn't win that challenge. I may have started the book, but I know I never finished it within that year. So technically, I saw the movies first (especially since I didn't read Lord of the Rings before the movies). I do remember watching a VHS copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and hiding behind the couch whenever Gollum shows up in Moria. He was terrifying.

Overall, I adore the books and I enjoy the movies. Okay, I more than enjoy the movies. I love them. While there are things from the books I wish they could have included (the Battle for the Shire, Glorfindel) or done differently (well, there's a lot), I think the movies did a fantastic job bringing the story to life and introducing it to people who otherwise wouldn't have read the books. Every time I read the books again, I discover something new; it's marvelous.

It's kind of been a crux of my childhood and journey as writer.

Basically my life

2. Who is your favorite member of The Fellowship? Does this person differ from your favorite Lord of the Rings character in general?

Samwise Gamgee. He is, and always will be, my favorite character. But I adore so many members of the Fellowship for different reasons. (It's so difficult to choose!) But Sam is just a sweetheart and loyal to a fault. He's probably also my favorite character overall (I cry about him often), but again, there are other awesomazing characters like Eowyn and Faramir and Galadriel.

3. Now for some fun! If you could be any character from The Hobbit, which would you be and why?

If I could be anybody, I would want to be Eowyn. (Fun fact: My dad tried twice to convince my mom to name one of their children Eowyn. Just think, that could have been my name!) Eowyn is awesome. She's regarded as one of the greatest female characters ever (at least, I think she is). She kicks butt and also learns a deep lesson about war, while keeping true to herself.

There is also this scene...

But if we're going to be honest, I'm 100% Bilbo Baggins. (Sneaks around the house, refuses to answer the door, eats a lot of food, wants adventure but also to stay home with books and comfort and food. But mountains, Gandalf! Mountains!)

Actual footage of me

Unless I'm with a close friend. Then we totally turn into Merry (me) and Pippin (her).

Shenanigans and all 

4. Tolkien's work goes beyond The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Have you ever read any of his other books? How about books about Tolkien?

I have read The Silmarillion, which was fantastic, and The Children of Hurin. I also have a book called Letters from Father Christmas, which is a compilation of photocopied letters he wrote for his children as if they were from Santa. It's adorably weird. That's all I can say. I have several of his other works (Unifinished Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight), but I have yet to read them in completion. I have a single shelf on one of my bookcases dedicated to Tolkien and Lewis (with a little bit of George MacDonald thrown in).

I really want to read his version of Beowulf and The Fall of Arthur. Basically, anything he wrote.

I've read a few books here and there about him because I took a class on Tolkien and Lewis and I wrote several essays in college about him (one specifically on his creation of Elvish). But I'm definitely interesting in reading more about him.

5. Let's talk romance! Pooling from all of Tolkien's work, which two characters do you ship together most?

Gollum and the Ring? (Just kidding.)

Truth

I mean, I pretty much love all the couples that are canon already. I didn't really have a choice in deciding who I thought should end up with who. Beren and Luthien's story is beautiful. Arwen and Aragorn are gorgeous. Faramir and Eowyn are perfect. And Sam and Rosie are just so stinking adorable I can't even handle it. I ship them all.

(But sorry, best BROTP is Legolas and Gimli.)

6. Alright, alright. We all have at least one thing from Tolkien's work that makes us waaaay too giddy and excited. Something that we could talk about for days. What's yours?

I just love all the little bits about how Tolkien developed Middle-earth and the story. Like how when he started he knew about Tom Bombadil, but Aragorn was a shock. Or that he had inklings (pun intended) of areas of Middle-earth but not the whole picture.


And the fact that any of this even exists is because Tolkien loved words and languages and created his own language (Elvish) and decided to create a world and people to speak the language!!! WHO DOES THAT? Who creates a language and then decides to create a world to speak that language? Shouldn't it be the other way around? Not if you're name is John Ronald Reul Tolkien.


The Challenge:


-Kristen @ Coffee and Literary Rage
-Victoria @ Wanderer's Pen
-Jameson @ Lovely Whatsoevers
-Sarah @ On Another Note
-Anna @ If you ever get a blog, you fool of a Took! :D

Also don't forget, tea is a four. Don't bother knocking!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Comic Book Conglomeration #5

For the past several years, I've made reading goals via Goodreads. This year, my goal is to read 150 books! Which is a lot. But I'm only seven books away from that goal, and it's only October! Huzzah. Reading comic books helps reach that goal faster. Here are the last three comic books I read.


Maximum Ride: The Manga, Vol. 1 by James Patterson 
I've actually read this before. A long time ago. Back when I actually cared about this book series. But I only read like the first three volumes and there are nine out with more on the way. It follows the books pretty well from what I can remember: six genetically engineered "bird kids" off to save the world from the big bad wolves and terrible experimentation. 

I think I enjoy the manga adaptations better. It cuts out a lot of the unnecessary stuff and gets straight to the point. Also: Fang's hair. It's all about Fang's long, luscious locks. (Excuse me while I go turn back into a 12 year-old fangirl.) Manga-nizing any character makes them 100% more adorable. Gazzy's big eyes slay me every time. And I love that Max doesn't look like a perfect supermodel like the covers of the novels portray. (One of the many, many things wrong with the Maximum Ride series.) Plus the manga starts from the beginning so I haven't gotten to the point where it turns terrible, cliche, predictable, and boring. Huzzah!

Loki: Agent of Asgard, Vol. 1: Trust Me by Al Ewing
This comic is... hilarious. And wonderful. Loki, God of Mischief, died and came back as a child known as Kid Loki.(So clever, I know.) Now he's "grown up" and has become an agent of the All-Mother. Along the way, Loki tries to make up for his past self's actions by doing good (well, relatively good), which was interesting to say the least. 

First: Oh, no. He's hot. This is like a 20-something version of Loki who is borderline hipster Nico D'Angelo. Basically, I love it. Second: his wacky sense of humor and ability to trick anybody--even an entire tower full of Avengers--made this comic super fun and enjoyable. I laughed a lot. Third: I expected this to be weird or cheesy or to fall flat, but it didn't. The plot actually came full circle and tied together nicely. Of course, this is only volume one so there's more to come. And I'm excited. This was perfectly Loki. 

DC Comics: Bombshells Vol. 1 by Marguerite Bennett
What would happen if the female heroes of DC fought on the front lines of World War II? That's basically what DC Bombshells is all about. The super powered heroines--Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Supergirl, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and more--are called to the front lines of the war to basically kick butt and do awesome things. 

I was intrigued by this comic but also wary it would be too... fanservice-y? But it wasn't. It was awesome. Supergirl and Stargirl are Night Witches--badass Russian pilots. Wonder Woman helps the British and dresses like Rosie the Riveter. Zatanna is a showgirl under female Joker's (?) regime. Batwoman plays baseball and fights crime (at the same time). Catwoman is mixed in with the Nazis. And Harley Quinn is flying airplanes while singing Christmas carols?! Yes, yes she is. 

Basically, this was a super unique twist for an alternate history/earth story line. It's focused solely on female characters (with the exception of John Constantine, who has been turned into a bunny) and their superpowers, and it also incorporates historical aspects. There were a few things that put me off, but for the most part, this was interesting. I'm looking forward to more. I can't promise it'll be the most spectacular comic, but it has a gripping concept. 

What comics have you read lately?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book Review: Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

In my last book review, I talked briefly about how I like to read books before I watch the movie adaptation. So, of course, when I heard that Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon was being made into a film (and starring two wonderful, young actors), I really wanted to read this book. Which is odd, right? Because it's not a fantasy story. It's a contemporary YA with romance. Still I was intrigued. So I checked the book out from my library, and after several hours in a car, I finished it.


Everything Everything is about a girl named Maddy who has a rare disease that makes her allergic to pretty much anything outside. Thus, she cannot go outside. Thus, she's been locked in her house for the past eighteen years--like a modern-day Rapunzel--spending her time reading books, watching movies, and daydreaming. Until a family moves in next door and she sees Olly. Thus, her life is dramatically changed forever. And it's, as she narrates, a disaster.

I'm kind of torn when it comes to Everything Everything. I can definitely see a lot of flaws with this kind of story. So Maddy is essentially allergic to everything, right? Then how can anything be in the house with her? How can she even read books or eat food or whatever? It wasn't very clear what exactly she was allergic to (sunshine? fresh air? blue skies and rainbows?), but she was stuck in a house for her entire existent. Thus, some of the plot and the events that happen are predictable as well.

Most of the time, I can't switch off the part of my brain that nitpicks the little details of the plot and setting in a book. Most of the time, I question everything because flawed writing is annoying. But for some reason with this book, I just let it go and allowed myself to enjoy the story. And it was adorable.

A lot of the story is internal thoughts--Maddy's through process and almost record of her days. There are chat messages and books reviews and medical forms and other unique additions included as part of the progression of the story. It was an interesting way to show her life inside the house.

I could probably read volumes of Maddy's narration--like I want to read about her entire life starting from when she first learned to speak/write until the events of this story begin. I want every detail of how life was inside that house for eighteen years. Her life inside a "bubble" is very interesting and has a lot of material for a unique story. Maddy's character was unbelievably adorable. I loved her daydreams and her spoiler book reviews and the way she looked at the world. She was funny and adorable. She was fun to get to know, and I think I would enjoy being friends with her. (She's also half-Asian, half-African American, so that's just awesome.)

Olly was interesting to get to know. As I read, Maddy's perspective of him kind of made you fall a little in love with him too. He wasn't a standard, cardboard cut-out of a YA male love interest, so that was cool. He was his own character and person. He had his own life, thoughts, and dreams.

Basically, Everything Everything can be predictable and at times illogical (or at least some stuff isn't completely explained), but it's still a good book. It's a work of fiction, so it's allowed to have things that aren't 100% perfect or realistic. This makes for a great modern-day Rapunzel story (minus the evil witch, sort of), and I enjoyed it immensely. It has given me hope to try YA contemporary books again. And I'm looking forward to reading Yoon's next book The Sun Is Also a Star. So if you can turn off the logical part of your brain and just let the story be, I think you'll enjoy it a lot.

What other YA contemporaries do you enjoy reading?

I checked this book out from my local library and chose to review it of my own free will. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Settling Like a Spinster

You know. I keep hearing people say to others, "Don't settle. Don't settle. Don't settle." And they could be referring to anything: mediocre jobs, half-lived lifestyles, that dog you just happened to pick up off the street corner after working for eight hours straight without one sip of so-so coffee.

But always, without a doubt, I think of significant others. I think about the phrase "Don't settle." and I wonder if that is what am I doing. Can Prince Charming actually exist? Not in this fairy tale. So if I don't settle, will I only end up a spinster with scraggly fingers and thinning hair and decades worth of disappointment? Or is there someone at there who is better, more qualified, with less flaws and a better fit for my socially awkward/anxious, perfectionist, organizational brain?

The honest truth is I don't know. I don't know if I'm settling. I don't know if I should settle. I don't if I shouldn't. I don't really know what "don't settle" means because in the long run, doesn't it mean you never will and you'll end up alone with a heavy heart of hopelessness? Because if you never settle, it means never. It means forever. It means you never, ever, ever ever, ever (etc.) settle. Which means you won't settle for Prince Charming. Or even that poor, sad-eyed dog that just wants a warm place to sleep and something to eat and maybe your entire heart (metaphorically, I think).

But I guess when I look at his smile or the shine of his eyes and I think about all the laughs and the teasing and the jokes. I can ignore the flaws and little things that make my perfectionist person rage with unholy fire and brimstone. Instead, I think about all the adventures we've had and all the adventures we're going to have.

And suddenly, I don't care whether I've settled or not. Because that smile is worth it all.

My slimy frog is 23 now. 

For the record, I don't even like Prince Charming.