Monday, January 31, 2011

Fellowship of the Ring Read-a-long: January

Chapters read: Prologue, 1-7
Favorite chapter: "Three is Company," because we see our first real glimpses of Sam and Pippin, and we meet our first Elves, including Gildor Inglorien (he's hot, wise, and provides Elven booze for our heroes).
Looking forward to: meeting Strider!
Things that struck me differently: I used to love "Shadow of the Past" but I was really bored with it this time around. I'm guessing that it's because it's a world-building chapter: very fascinating when you don't know much about the world, but very boring once you know it all. I did enjoy Sam getting caught "dropping eaves" at the end, though.
The runes. I've been learning in my Old English course that the runes that carry into the Old English of the Middle Ages from the pagan past have a lot of significance. They all have a signature word, for example the rune "M" (which doesn't quite look like our "M") means the word "mon," the letter M, and also has various other connotations. I thought about this when I read the part about how Gandalf's fireworks are marked with a "G" rune and with an Elven rune. Tolkien was an Old English scholar; did he assign meanings and connotations and such to his runes?
Further, I'm noticing all of the Old English influences in names and words, or words that are probably derived (like "mathom"). It's NERDY. And distracting.

Character notes: I'm not loving Frodo, but he's never really been a particular favorite. I think Sam is awesome, especially how loyal and protective he is of Frodo. He's determined to follow Frodo even if it's to the death. He's also offended by people who think Frodo is a liar, like Ted Sandyman, and is suspicious of nice guys like Maggot just because he beat Frodo in the past when he was a stupid kid. Dawww.
And I forgot how responsible Merry is! What a dependable chap! The movies have clearly broken my brain, cuz I always think of Pippin and Merry as buffoons. Even Pippin isn't an idiot, he just suffers from tunnel-vision and doesn't take things seriously enough.
As for Gandalf, the more familiar I get with him, the less he impresses me. In these first few chapters he does a good job of extricating Bilbo from the Ring, but then he is just all vague to Frodo, then he info-dumps, and then he disappears. Come on, G...
I have nothing to say about Tom Bombadil and Goldberry. I always sleep-read through their chapters, and the best I could summon this time was forced interest.

Coming up:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Serenity Vol 1: Those Left Behind

Serenity Vol 1: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Will Conrad

Spoilers Ahead!

Sometimes movie tie-in comics lean too much toward directly copying the actors who portrayed the roles, and end up looking creepy, because it's not realism but it's not quite traditional comic either. Serenity: Those Left Behind hit a nice balance between the two. The characters evoked their on-screen counterparts but the art was still pretty, unique, and not too realistic. Win! The spaceships and space-battles, especially, were quite well-done.
The point of this volume (series? I believe there are to be more) is apparently to fill in some of gaps that exist between Firefly (the tv show) and Serenity (the movie). For example, Shepherd's reasons for leaving the ship, and the disappearance of the Hands of Blue. It was really cool to learn the answers to some of these questions, but I was a little disappointed in the Hands of Blue. We are told everything and at the same time, nothing. Plus, their deaths were totally anti-climatic. Like, oh, that's all they needed to do? Why didn't you SAY so? I wouldn't have spent nights awake terrified of them.
But the story was very consistent with the existing canon, I suppose because Joss Whedon helped write/create it. All of the dialog matched the characters we know and love, which I was worried about, and all of them acted in character. However, River seemed to be more her Firefly self than her Serenity self, and there was no hint of a transition to her Serenity self. Seriously, I am bothered by River's shift in between the show and the movie, and was hoping this comic would help a bit. But maybe they cover it in the future volumes? This one seemed to cover everything else in between, though (we get a teaser for The Operative, as well).

Random nerdy bit that I loved: BADGER! He's probably my favorite show-only character.
Nerdy bits I didn't love: The lack of Kaylee and Simon. Also, WHY IN THE VERSE WAS DOBSON THE MAIN VILLAIN? Hands of Blue should have been the main villains. There was really no need for more Dobson.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

Juan Rico (or "Johnnie") never planned to join the military. But when his best friend Carl and his crush Carmen both join up, he spontaneously does so as well. The future society of Terra (Earth, of course) is ruled by the law that only people who have served a term in the military can receive full citizenship rights, including the right to vote. So that's a perk, anyway. Starship Troopers is about Johnnie's personal journey through boot-camp, the companies he is attached to at different points, and his desire to become an officer. It's also about the starship troopers in general, or "Mobile Infantry" (MI): what they are, what they do, how they're set up, how they think, and the bonds between them.

My review:
I could have used more science fiction in this novel. I mean, I've heard about it for years as the classic military sf novel; plus, it's HEINLEIN. All of the science fiction seemed marginal to the military descriptions and commentary. That being said, I loved the hints we got of the future society in this book, particularly the idea that only people who fight should be allowed full citizenship rights. I also loved the tech bits we got, like the suits and the capsules. The Bugs terrified me, easily, but I felt bad for all of the aliens in this story. They were all painted as either treacherous, stupid, or really, really freaky. The humans weren't quite to the genocide level yet, but they definitely didn't mind killing as many of the aliens as they possibly could. Science fiction is so different now, it was almost amusing.

Speaking of being out of date, I could instantly tell that this book was published before the Vietnam War. Nowadays, any US book that includes a war in its plot has to at least suggest the idea that the soldiers are all deluded, brainless machines. Soldiering can be a noble cause, from the present POV, but only if the war is without a doubt moral and just and proper, and everyone seems to have different definitions of that. This book has virtually no discussion on whether it's "right" that the soldiers don't care what war they're fighting. They care about keeping their people alive and completing whatever the mission is, no questions asked. And you know what? I kinda LOVED that. They were brave enough and loyal enough that they just did what they were asked, and trusted their officers. It was refreshing to have a military book be about the fighting and the soldiers, and not have to worry about the politics or morality. In the same spirit, I'm not going to launch into a discussion of the real-world viability of that, or the definition of a just war.

I am now going to awkwardly segue into another thing I liked about this book: the military competency. Well, generally. All of the soldiers were SO well-trained, and the officers were too, it was just fantastic. I hate reading military stuff where everyone literally FAILS AT LIFE. Some of the really high-ups were incompetent (like the Sky Marshals), but all of the people actually fighting or directly commanding the fighters were awesome. Yay!

I think my main complaint was the lack of consistent characters. Very, very few characters were present for the whole novel, or even ALIVE for the majority of the novel. The ones who lived went on and off screen with only tiny bits with our narrator. The ones who died would have a chapter or so in which we got to the point where we remembered their names, and then they were offed. Blargle. But Johnnie was a jolly good MC, so it was survivable.

Rating: 4/5 stars.
PS: This is my first read for the ""Men in Uniform challenge, and oh babies, were there men in uniform!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Deathday Letter by Shaun Hutchinson

Jacket Blurb:
The clock is ticking.
Ollie can't be bothered to care about anything but girls until he gets his Deathday Letter and learns he's going to die in twenty-four hours. Bummer.
Ollie does what he does best: nothing. Then his best friend convinces him to live a little, and go after Ronnie, the girl who recently trampled his about-to-expire heart. Ollie turns to carloads of pudding and over-the-top declarations, but even playing the death card doesn't work. All he wants is to set things right with the girl of his dreams. It's now or never.

My Review:
I gave this 3 out of 5 stars, and I still can't decide if I want to burn it or love it. I almost stopped reading it (and throw it across the room) like five times because the main character was such an ASSHOLE. Grade A. But simultaneously you feel bad for him and want to hug him and make him be a JOLLY. There was a ton of dirty humor (basically typical 15-year-old boy humor) which turned me off, but at the same time there was a lot of other humor that had me in stitches. The plot was inevitable but still kept me wondering WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT.
Clearly I'm bewildered by this book. I think for people like me, who are constantly turned off by the content but manage to finish it, will at least appreciate the overall effect of the book. Some people, I'm sure, will read it and love it just because of the humor.
I thought Ronnie and Shane were fantastic supporting characters. I especially admired them for sticking by Oliver regardless of whatever stupid stunt he was going to attempt next, both to keep him company and also keep him from doing anything TOO illegal/stupid/degrading. Oliver's family was fantastic and crazy: I want Nana to be my BFF, and I want to observe the Evil Twins from a safe distance and laugh at their victims.
This book also reminded me of the film Stranger Than Fiction, specifically a conversation that Emma Thompson's character and Dustin Hoffman's character have about characters that know they're about to die. This book kinda contradicts their conversation, and is basically exploring the idea of, "What if we KNEW when we were going to die? Would it change anything?" If that concept bothers you, don't read this book.

A Bookish Birthday

Expect regular posts soon, because I have a LOT of drafts thanks to 750words, plus a lot of end-of-Jan updates/reviews on my various challenges. But for now I just have BIRTHDAY SWAG for you to drool over.

I got a LOT of Timothy Zahn books from my sister and my parents. He's probably my favorite science fiction author and one of my favorite authors ever. The titles are:
  • Dragonback Bargain (omnibus including Dragon and Thief, Dragon and Soldier, and Dragon and Slave)
  • Dragon and Herdsman
  • Dragon and Judge
  • Dragon and Liberator
  • Night Train to Rigel
  • The Third Lynx
The last two are part of a different series than the Dragonback ones.

Then I got a bunch of Cressida Cowell's dragon books, featuring Hiccup the Viking and Toothless:
  • How To Be A Pirate
  • How To Speak Dragonese
  • How To Cheat a Dragon's Curse
  • How To Twist A Dragon's Tale
  • A Hero's Guide To Deadly Dragons
I've read those before, but they are all excellent! So now I own the whole series except the newest one.
The rest are:
  • Dangerous to Know: Lady Emily #5 by Tasha Alexander (the cover is gorgeous, let's FACE FACTS)
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • The American by HENRY FREAKING JAMES
  • The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (which I've's really fun so far!)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Graphic Novel Mini-reviews

Hatter M Volume 2: Mad With Wonder

This is the second in Frank Beddor's graphic novel versions of his "The Looking Glass Wars" YA trilogy, which is a reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. From what I've gathered, Princess Alyss is the main character in the trilogy, but here, her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, is the hero. He's on a quest in our world to find Princess Alyss, who has disappeared. Meanwhile the imposter Queen Redd is ruling Wonderland and trying to kill Hatter.

The artist is different from the artist for the first volume, but I didn't really notice. The art is still the same bizarre weird that sometimes comes out as beautiful and fantastic and MAD, and sometimes just looks butt-ugly. The writing seemed worse to me this time around. There was a lot of awkward dialog, a lot of cheesy dialog, and a lot of dialog that made me want to head-desk. Hatter Madigan is still a madly intriguing character, and the bonus art they include in these volumes are GORGEOUS. I want prints.
I thought the story wasn't as interesting in this volume, because it didn't include as much of the Wonderland plotlines or the fun stuff about the Imagination. I loved the arc in the first volume at the orphanage where everything was dark and gray except for when they used their imaginations, and then the color was promptly stolen away by the baddies. There wasn't anything close to that awesome in this volume; mostly it was just dark and gray and historical. The plots centered on the Civil War, insane asylums, etc, and didn't have enough fantasy and Wonder for me. I may continue reading this series for Hatter and the occasional gorgeous panel, but with even more unflagging indifference to its content.

Tactics Volume 6

I am loving the Tactics series. The main plot revolves around a folklorist/demon hunter, Kantarou, who hunts down the "Demon Eater" who has been sealed away long ago by who knows whom. Kantarou releases the Demon Eater, names him Haruka, and the two of them frolic around and hunt demons, some of which are nice, some of which are not so nice. There's also a Big Mystery with Haruka's past.
In this volume, the main storyline, as always, is cruising along and rocking, but there's been a bad habit in the last few volumes of giving half the volume to random side-stories. The side-stories are fun, but I kinda feel like there's enough of them to do a whole different series of publications. But then no one would buy them, cuz, OH HEY, no one cares. We read them because they're there, and we might laugh, or cry, or like the art, but at the end of the day, or rather, the beginning, we just want to know when Haruka is going to spill the beans. I'm curious how long they can keep stringing us along without cluing us in on the Enormous Lurking Backstory in the room. We got a lot of big hints in this volume, despite the lack of main storyline.
And is it wrong that I constantly want to cuddle with Kantarou? Eesh. Even though he's like, what, 26? He looks like he's 12. And that makes me feel a bit like a cougar.
This is one of my favorite series ever. As long as the rest of it doesn't break my heart, it will remain so. The characters are hilarious and interesting, the art is my favorite (it's a lot like Black Cat and Black Butler....or like a manlier version of CLAMP). I am eagerly awaiting volume 7 which should arrive any day now.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bats are nocturnal, fast, and out of their minds

750words is my new favorite site. I heard about it last year, tried to use it last month, and am finally utilizing it this month. It's basically a blog site, but very simple, private, and is geared for Wrimos and the like. You can earn fun badges if you write 750 words a day for enough days in a row, or if you complete challenges or do other jolly things. It also has search and export functions for your entries, stats, and stats on other people to keep you competitive and all that. Plus, it is soooo satisfying to see the little Xs at the top to show how many days in a row you've done your wordcount. I don't know why it's easier to use this site rather than stare at my Microsoft Word and demand I write 750 words. I mean, it's completely mental. Check it out, tell me what you think. :D

I've started a new story called "Batty Batty Bats." I don't actually know what it's about yet (superheroes, contemp. pantheon, organized crime? Idk!), but it's a lot of fun. Here are three very short excerpts from it:
The first is after the main character Saul gets injured.

A ferocious roaring filled his ears, drowning out that thought, and a deep, rhythmic thud made his bones ache. Was he back at Damien's club? It was like listening to Daft Punk while drunk and hungover and under water.
Screams. Shouts. The roaring ceased--no, was replaced by the roaring of voices. Saul wished they would stop.
They stopped.
Cool, Saul thought. I wish for a pony and a plastic rocket.
The second is an early morning convo between Lyssa and Alex, two randoms.

"Your hair," Lyssa said, unable to control her response.
Alex raised an eyebrow. "Yes?"
"It's purple."
"And four people saw Damien come out of your room this morning."
Lyssa considered this. "Fair enough."
And the third is the plot trying to animate itself, but turning into a sideshow to Damien's feature film.

"Saul! SAUL!"
"Yes?" Saul asked.
"I need MEN!" Damien announced.
"What kind of men?" Saul asked, bemused.
"PRETTY ones!"
Saul stared at him. "Are you intoxicated? It's 9 in the morning!"
"Why wait for alcohol?" Damien waved a hand expansively as he walked toward him. "Silly!"
"I saw him put tequila in his morning coffee," Alex said, popping his head out of the doorway beside Saul.
"Holy-" Saul started.
"Get me men, Saul!" Damien repeated.
Saul looked at the ceiling for patience and divine comprehension. "What kinds?"
"At least one sniper, two marksmen, and maybe a demolitions man, just to be thorough."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Eagle has LANDED?!

I saw Tron: Legacy today. This post is not about Tron: Legacy. This post is about The Eagle. When I was finding my way to my theater, I saw this larger, friendly poster for a movie called The Eagle. First I saw Romans. "Yay, Romans!" Then I saw Channing Tatum. "Yay, Channing Tatum!" Then I saw Jamie Bell. "OMFJAM JAMIE BELL!!!!" Connor gave it The Eye and we went to Tron: Legacy. Then God smiled on me and gave me the trailer for The Eagle before Tron started. Here is the trailer and my thought-commentary moment by moment:

"Dude, it's that movie!"
"Dude, Romans."
"Duuuude, Channing Tatum."
"Dude, Hadrian's Wall!"

As you can see, I am not exactly the most discerning of viewers. But oh babies, if the world has any goodness, that movie will be awesome and I will heart it. That trailer has pretty much everything I want in a story: pretty boys, fake!history (not to be confused with real!history or just plain History), horses, military, FRIENDS, conflicting loyalties, slavery, betrayal. The only thing it's missing is witty banter. But I didn't see any skanky girls (their absence is a plus, yes), and the witty banter might be hidden.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Arma virumque cano

There's some Vergil for you. Now you can say, "I read some Vergil today," and sound totally awesome. If you want to sound even more awesome you should know that that means, "I sing of weapons and a man," which, in my opinion, are pretty legit things to be singing about.

I am taking three dead languages this term. It is...wearying, but fascinating. On the fascinating side, I found out there's a graduate program at my school for ancient languages. Should I do it? Idk. But it's a possibility. Anyway, for the last week and a half I have been primarily reading "The Dream of the Rood" in Old English, The Aeneid in Latin, and the Icelandic sagas in Old Norse. Yeah, no big deal, I'm reading Old Norse. *insufferably smug*
I am also reading through my friends' 2010 Nanos, which is hugely entertaining. So between those and ancient poems, I am pretty busy, reading-wise. I'm also working on my first graphic novel of the year, Mad With Wonder, and the LotR read-a-along
I will post a review of I Am Number Four, hopefully soon. Also White Cat.

Writing-wise I am.....well, writing. Which counts for something. I've written a short story already this year, "Annie and the Ocean of Hands" which was all right. I'm also working on Saulos' backstory/futurestory, because it's insanely fun. His life is SO psychotic and lolzy. Uhhhm I'm also thinking about (haha) working on "Drem" some more. I think my main writing goal should be to finish a second draft of "Drem" this year. Blargle.

For any English lit nerds out there, has anyone else noticed how trendy The Tempest is lately? Everyone's reading it. I'm reading it in my lit crit class, and I read it in my Shakespeare class last year, and Advanced Shakespeare is reading it this year, and they're making the movie, and...WUT? I don't even like that play, much. Completely personal opinion. But is anyone else noticing the trendiness?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

*WAVES TO 2011*

Heyyyy guys and gals and indeterminates! 2010 was pretty chill. I just wanted to post some stats on the fact, and also the results of my December CRAZY. Let's be backward and talk about December first.

Books read in December: 12 from the list, plus 2 debuts, plus 8 library books=22.
Blogs posted in December: 20.
Comments: I definitely did better in the first half of the month. The second half had the actual holidays, wedding prep for my cousin, and I was feeling ill most of the time. I got all of my debut reviews done sans one, but I think since I only joined in AUGUST, I can live with myself. Although I really expected to finish I Am Number Four and get a review up. >.>

2010 stats!
Short stories written: 16.
Follow the White Rabbit: A chapter in my Alice in Wonderland reimagining. In which Allie meets Warren, an odd college student with white hair.
Uncertainty (parts 1 and 2): Part of my Star Wars fanfic, featuring my Star Wars OC, Loreli Scrye.
Annie and the Four Winds: A Hans Christian Andersen-inspired fantasy.
The Bird and the Stone: A brief introduction of Saetone and Falarra, two sprite characters of mine.
Recipes: Alec and Bahnree attempt to make a spell while arguing.
Vakko Round Five-The Pit: Vakko kicks Atlantean butt while spidercrawling on a wall.
Moosen Freedom Fighters: Freedom Fighters. On Moose.
The Privateer: In which I confuse my history and Benjamin Trades makes his comeback appearance.
the dark: A fantasy based on an artwork by sandara on deviantART by the same name.
Sand Fae: The humans come to the planet of the sand fae and of course start decimating them. We get a few words from a sand fae prisoner.
Messy Magic: Alec and Rogue meet up in a bar, and get in a fight with zombies. As they do.
Beaten: A William Faulkner fanfic that I had to write for a class. I never lie to you, bloggers.
One of the Living: A one-shot from the POV of Adrastus, one of my OCs from "Hell Hath No Furies."
A Day in the Life of an Electro-bot: Pure crack. Fish, electrons, and robots.
Annie and the Forest of Voices: Annie's career continues and she meets up with a Wind again.
The Morning After: The Nutcracker fanfic. >.>
Novels written: 1.
"Mad As Gods" rough draft was started and completed in Nanowrimo. "Mad As Gods" is the sequel to my 2007 Nanowrimo, "Hell Hath No Furies," and continued the adventures of my versions of Dionysus and Ariadne, as well as producing two new characters, Ektor and Saulos. I vote Hades.
Editing work: Nada.
I rock.
Books read: 114.

Everything else of interest in 2010 is over at my other post, Best Read in 2010. Thanks for reading, following, and commenting! :D I hope 2011 rocks for everyone.