Friday, November 25, 2016

Comic Book Conglomeration #6

Sometimes in the midst of Nanowrimo and other November events, it's nice to take a moment to read a comic book and relax my mind. Here are three graphic novels I've read recently.

Runaways, Vol. 1: Pride and Joy by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona

Last spring, I read a comic about the Runaways--a ragtag group of kids with superpowers and a velociraptor. It was fun, but I realized that comic wasn't the first so I was a little confused on all the characters. So I decided to read Vol. 1 to figure everything out.

The story line itself wasn't what I was expecting, though I didn't really know what to expect since I hadn't read much about them. Still, it was fun. It was definitely an adventure, and every single one of the kids was an absolute joy to meet. The six kids accidentally discover their parents committing murder and determine their parents are supervillains! This starts them off on a runaway expedition to uncover the truth, which leads to a pet Raptor, "tinkerbell" powers, and a whole lot of hilarious jokes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume of this superhero group. I loved the sly references to DC Comics, like Batman and Kryptonite. (Smooth, Marvel, smooth.) It was entertaining, and I will definitely read more. If you like an adventure story with jokes, craziness, and a group of teens ready to save the world, pick up this comic. You won't be disappointed.

Attack on Titan: Lost Girls, Vol. 1 by Hajime Isayama

Lost Girls Vol. 1 follows Annie Leonhart (from Attack on Titan) in the days leading up to the 57th Expedition Outside the Walls (highlight for AoT spoiler: when she turns into the female titan to try to seize Eren). Overall, I thought this manga was okay. It wasn't necessarily great, but it was interesting. I was hoping that the entire series was going to be about Annie and her backstory, but it's not. Instead, each volume will highlight a different female character from Attack on Titan.

That being said, the manga itself wasn't bad; it just wasn't what I was expecting or wanted. Annie is still pretty cool. She kicks butt, and we get to see inside her head for a while (even getting glimpses of her childhood and training). This manga revealed a side of Annie we don't see in the main manga.

I think if you're a fan of Attack on Titan, you would enjoy reading this and seeing an expansion of the world you already know. I love the idea of a manga that highlights the female characters, so I'm definitely going to read the next one (which is about Mikasa!!!). I just wish there was more on Annie here. Perhaps they will return to her later in the series.

Manga Classics: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Stacy King, and Poe Tse

It's difficult to rate a manga that is an adaptation of a story I already know. Mainly because the story line is exactly like the original book. I adore Jane Austen's novels, however, so I was interested to read the manga adaptation. While it follows the same story line as the original novel, the artwork was absolutely gorgeous.

Sense and Sensibility isn't my favorite Austen novel, but I think this manga adaptation did a fantastic job bringing the story to life with a new artistic approach. It has the spirit of the original novel but includes breathtaking panels and spread. (I appreciate how the two sisters were designed.)

If you like Sense and Sensibility or you're looking to read it but aren't a fan of classic novels, I would encourage you to read this adaptation. It's thicker than most manga, but it's still an easy, fast read. I would honestly read any classics these artists would adapt into manga. Where are my Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, and Frankenstein manga?

What comics have you read lately? What's your favorite adaptation of a classic novel?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Beautiful Books: November 2016

November has proven to be a busy month. I started a new project with a few friends: a high fantasy serial story called Thieves of Bakkaj. Basically, the four of us will switch off writing chapters to tell a story about a handful of heroic thieves. And it's going to be epic. The first four chapters are already available to read, and we'll be releasing a new chapter every week. Check it out and let me know what you think! (Also, I'm super stoked for you to read because this is the project Ryker and Wren are from!)

In addition, I've been rewriting and editing A Girl and Her Dragon for Nanowrimo. How is it going? Well, I'm glad you asked. This month's Beautiful Books link-up is all about mid-Nano progress! Here are the questions. Huzzah!

Overall, how is your mental state, and how is your novel going?
Surprisingly, my mental state is fine. Nanowriomo is actually the calm part of my mental state right now. Overall, it's going splendid, which is not a word I ever thought I'd use to describe the editing and rewriting process. But I'm making progress and ideas are coming together. I'm impressed with myself.

What’s your first sentence (or paragraph)?
Since I'm editing/rewriting the middle of the draft, I don't have a "first sentence." Instead, I'm going to share a favorite line:

"But here, the books lived and breathed. Here the spines squabbled for space. Here the ink lifted right off the page and danced before Brielle’s eyes."

Who’s your current favourite character in your novel?
Making me pick a favorite character is like picking a favorite pet or a favorite food. It's hard. And I can't choose. Nope, no. I can't. I love them all.

The whole gang

What do you love about your novel so far?
The characters are the heart of the novel. They are guiding this story (which is great except the plot kind of just gets sidetracked at times). I just love that each character is so distinct and their own person without even being real.

Have you made any hilarious typos or other mistakes?
I'm sure I have, but nothing significant comes to mind. Since I'm editing/rewriting, I've been looking over my "baby" draft of this novel, and oh, boy, there are tons of awkward taco scenes that should never, ever, ever see the light of day again. I'll just burn them. It's fine.

This kind of happened also.

What is your favourite to write: beginning, middle, or end — and why?
Usually, I like to write beginnings--the thrill of a new story sweeping me away is what I live for. But since I'm rewriting, I'm actually focused on the middle of the story. And surprisingly, I'm enjoying the journey. I like putting in the conflict points and watching the story unfold as the characters grow and learn. It's amazing.

What are your writing habits? Is there a specific snack you eat? Do you listen to music? What time of day do you write best? Feel free to show us a picture of your writing space!
My writing habits consist of thinking of great ideas at inopportune times when I can't sit down to write, spending too much time working myself up to writing, and also writing late into the night so I'm dead tired the next morning. I don't have a specific snack to eat, but I've learned keeping water nearby is definitely good. (Who knew writing made one so thirsty?)

I've been listening mainly to the soundtrack for Stranger Things, which has been oddly motivating and conducive to focusing. My novel doesn't relate at all to the 80s-style synth music of Strange Things, but it works.

My writing space is pretty much anywhere I can sit down and write.

How private are you about your novel while you’re writing? Do you need a cheer squad or do you work alone (like, ahem, Batman)?
It depends on the person. I've been telling a few close friends about my progress, but otherwise, I'm find just barreling through this thing by myself. So maybe more like the Flash then Batman?

What keeps you writing even when it’s hard?
I guess I keep writing because I want to see how the story comes together. I want that sense of accomplishment when I finish off the draft and know I did the thing. It's also helpful to have people begging to read your story, so you're motivated to do good and not give them a messy pile of writing vomit.

What are your top 3 pieces of writing advice?
1. Carve out time every day. Even if it's not necessarily writing toward a specific work or if it's only ten minutes, writing every day gets you into a habit. Habits help get things accomplished. When I don't write, I tend to slack off and then suddenly it's a month and I haven't written anything. Bad.

2. Find time to read. We all know that to be a writer you have to write a lot and read a lot. So make sure you have time to read. Sometimes we need a break from writing--it's okay to do that. Just don't binge-read an entire book series in one sitting instead of writing. Balance is key.

3. Have fun. I know, cheesy. But if you're not having fun while writing, why should you continue? Why should you write? If a story isn't working for you--if you're not having fun writing it--put it aside or toss it completely. It's okay to write something fun, that's the whole point of writing.

Tell me about your NaNoWriMo month below!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Review: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

"Children can sail easily over the fence that separates reality from make-believe." -E.B. White

Sometimes I find myself so overwhelmed with a pile of books that I completely ignore the entire pile and go find something else to read. That's what happened when I read Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet.

I had plenty of other books to read, but my mom told me I should at least look at this book and put it on my list to read some day. Instead, I sat down, opened the book, and read through it all in two sittings. It was definitely worth it.

Surprisingly, I didn't know a whole lot about E.B. White's life. I knew he wrote Charlotte's Web, but I honestly didn't even know if he was a man or a woman. I had no clue he wrote Stuart Little or that it was banned from several libraries when it was released in 1945. Or that he wrote for The New Yorker and had a snarky personality or contributed to The Elements of Style (which I have either read or heard of frequently in college). I didn't know when he was born or when he died or what his life was like. The only thing I knew was that his name was printed on the cover of a book about a pig and a spider that I must have read at some point in my childhood.

So Some Writer! was a pleasant surprise for a number of reasons. The dedication to documenting this beloved children's author was astounding. There were pictures from when E.B.--known as Andy--was a baby until the last years of his life. There were letters and drawings and manuscripts of his work collected in this book. It was fascinating to see it all collected together.

In addition, the book was set up differently than most biographies. It was kind of like Melissa Sweet did an art journal of his life instead of just regular chapters and paragraphs. So there was cool backgrounds and art collages and all sorts of knick-knacks thrown across each spread. The detail of what Melissa Sweet did to bring E.B. White's history, writing, and imagination to life was touching. There were moments I paused to admire the small, intricate details she perfectly placed on the pages. (Can I please be paid to do this for an author? Because it's so cool.)

The actual narration/story of E.B. White was interesting. It, obviously, focused on the writing aspect of his life, but it also revealed details of how and where the stories came from. It was interesting to read, and I found myself easily relating to this man who was born in 1899 and died years before I was born.

It's not often that I enjoy non-fiction, but Some Writer! swept me away. It was an interesting take for a biography, especially of a man that had so much to offer the world. I want more biographies like this. And now I want to read all his children's books just like the book suggested.

Have you read anything by E.B. White? What is your favorite biography?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Audiobook Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster

Ever since Star Wars: The Force Awakens released in theaters, I've thought about reading Star Wars books again. I did a long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away?) when I was young. I demolished all the Jedi Knight and Jedi Quest books. I read tons and tons of the children's Star Wars books. But there are so many. So a few months ago, I started at the beginning--the chronological beginning--and told myself I wanted to read all the books under the "Legends" heading in chronological order. It was a terrible decision, but I'm going to keep trying.

But I took a break from that list--that forever long list--and decided to read the novelization of The Force Awakens. I've been told it contains a lot of interesting scenes and bits of dialogue that weren't in the movie. (*peers around suspiciously*) But sometimes I have too many books to read. So, I checked out the audiobook from my library.

I've listened to quite a few audiobooks in the last year, and almost none of them have music of special effects. (No, the weirdo songs in A Series of Unfortunate of Events does not count!) So it was delightful to pop in the first CD and hear not only familiar Star Wars music, but special effects from the film such as BB-8 beeping or ships flying or lightsabers humming. It was brilliant. Maybe all Star Wars audiobooks are all like this and I'm just missing out.

While the writing isn't the most stellar, it was still fun to listen to (especially on an eight-hour drive). The narrator, Marc Thompson, was great. He did iconic voices fairly well but also had his own voice for the narration parts. I enjoyed his voice-acting ability.

There was a lot of moments--dialogue, scenes, etc.--that made me stop and clutch my car's steering wheel with excitement. There are things that are enlightening about this book and the theories fluttering around the Internet. I am considering reading the print version just so I can see these moments with my eyes. (And maybe take pictures or make notes or do research or something. You know, nothing huge. Or crazy. Nope. No.)

Overall, the audiobook of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an exciting, enjoyable ride. It follows the movie, obviously, but also reveals a few other tidbits as well. I think it's worth your time if you like Star Wars as much as I do. (Which is a lot.)

Also, from here on out, I should just listen to Star Wars audiobooks instead of read them. It's much more thrilling.

Which Star Wars books are you favorite? Do you like to listen to audiobooks?

Friday, November 4, 2016

Book Review: Lavishly Illustrated with Interactive Elements Edition of The Jungle Book by Ruyard Kipling

Due to my adoration for Minalima's gorgeous edition of Peter Pan, I told myself I wanted to buy every version of a classic the company illustrates. So I bought The Jungle Book by Ruyard Kipling. I hadn't read The Jungle Book before, but I knew the illustrations would be brilliant as well. And they were, however I didn't enjoy the story as much as I had hoped.

The only thing I really knew about The Jungle Book before reading was what I had seen in the 1967 animated film by Disney. Which is nothing like the book at all. There are similar characters like Mowgli, Bagheera, Baloo, and Shere Khan, but the similarities end there. It still takes place in the jungles of India, and there are moments where things are the same (like the monkeys kidnapping Mowgli, though for an entirely different reason, or that Shere Khan hunts Mowgli or that Mowgli is part of a wolf pack). But overall, the book was very different. And I didn't enjoy it.

About half the book follows the adventures of Mowgli--who is a complete brat and irked me during most of it. He never listens, and he acts like he knows everything. He even spends time in a human village to learn their ways and then flaunt back to the the jungle because, well, he can. In addition, he kills Shere Khan. Which is sad because Shere Khan is the best. Baloo wasn't around a lot in the book either, which was sad. Most of the things I actually like about the film weren't present in the book.

My camera isn't that great, so I found images online this time. (source)

The other half of the book is made up of random, unconnected stories. Some still take place in the jungles of India, and some don't. There's a story about a white seal, the tale of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, a story about elephants sneaking off at night to "dance" or something, and an odd tale about animals discussing their obedience training. It was strange and not at all what I was expecting.

The illustrations were gorgeous. I love the design and details. Each chapter ends with a fantastic page spread that includes song lyrics or poems. I love all the interactive elements too. There are maps and fold-out monkeys and spinning discs and much more.

I think Minalima did a splendid job with lavishly illustrating The Jungle Book. I just didn't enjoy the story. I'm not a huge fan of the animated film either, so perhaps it's just me. I don't regret buying the book because it is beautiful, and I think if I were to buy classic books in a fancy form, I would choose these designs every time. The two books look nice together, and I'm glad I finally read it.

Have you ever read The Jungle Book? What other children's classics do you enjoy?