30 August 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (review)

***Spoiler Alert***
If you don't want to know what happens, don't read this.

You can also view the review on my Goodreads.

This is the first book in a long time where I finished it with such a sense of excitement and awe that I could barely fall asleep even though it was almost two in the morning and I had to wake up for work at six thirty.  My initial thoughts don't represent the book as a whole, just my own initial emotions on several subjects that I noticed while reading.  These are something resembling those thoughts (they've had quite a bit of time to mature this past week).

The first thing that's probably on everyone's minds is the whole Team Peeta/Team Gale thing.  After a special statement from the good ladies at Oops . . . Wrong Cookie, I started to feel neutral.  But my natural tendency was to root for Gale despite the shared experiences of Katniss and Peeta.  I thought Katniss's feelings towards Peeta weren't completely natural.  Her going with Gale would have felt like a more natural relationship --- until the events in Mockingjay happened.  It tore my heart that Peeta was hijacked and that Gale was becoming someone Katniss couldn't relate to.  In the end, though, I'm happy for the ending of the love triangle.  That was satisfying.  Besides, Katniss couldn't be friends with Gale after his hand in the final events.  I wouldn't be either.

Truth be told, I saw Coin's assassination by Katniss's hand coming.  I didn't know I saw it coming until she met with President Snow in his rose room, but I caught the hints for it.  When describing the lifestyle of District 13, I saw something resembling the control the Capitol has over its people.  Then I saw Coin's ambition and the fact that she was more of a politician than a rebellion leader.  I noticed a few subtle comparisons between Coin and Snow, and that's when I noticed that Coin wasn't all-good.  I saw Snow wasn't all-evil when he said he wouldn't sacrifice his own children for those ends.

One of the reviews I read mentioned that Katniss wasn't in character the last hundred pages or so.  I would beg to differ.  I didn't notice such a change in character until Prim died; even then I find the change fully justified.  You don't lose an entire squadron of the only people you trust including the two men you love and THEN watch your sister burn without some consequences.  Furthermore, the entire plot of the story takes place in less than two years.  That's a freaking huge amount of death and war in a small amount of time.  On top of that, Katniss is only a teenager.  She's seventeen!!  Did anyone else have some sort of revelation at that?

In terms of how the writing went, I've noticed passages that did nothing but skim events I thought were more important.  But the fact that they were part of the 'skimming passages' meant that they were less important overall -- we the readers just thought they would be important because it's what we expected from a war story.  Speaking of expectations, I thought the character development neatly dived away from the standard developmental tropes.  No, Katniss was not going to rise to the occasion, become a powerful victor, lead a happy life, and finally retire quietly.  Instead, she retreats to herself for months afterward and leads a quiet life avoiding anything that has to do with government and politics and especially war.

I liked the closure of the epilogue.  It was a very satisfying ending that says "this is the end of her story, period."  I like that.  I like that some stories come and some go and others are ended all too suddenly (I think of Finnick as I write that).  And I like the finality of this story.  It's unsettling but it has a clear message.  War leaves you broken and there's nothing you can do to stop it.  All you can do is live with it and hope for the best.  Love it!!!


26 August 2010

Bookworm Questionnaire

1. Favorite childhood book?
I didn't really read much as a child, but I remember particularly liking The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton, Bridge to Terebithia by Katherine Paterson, and The Giver by Lois Lowry.

2. What are you reading right now?
There are several books.  There is a large collection of Ray Bradbury stories that I'm reading whenever I run out of things to read.  Otherwise, I'm dividing my time between Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, The Last Colony by Johns Scalzi (not my choice, I left it in Madison last weekend), and Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
Y: The Last Man vol. 5.  That is currently my only hold.

4. Bad book habit?
I'm guilty of looking ahead to see how many chapters are in a book.  Depending on how into the book I am, I'll read the first sentence of each chapter in backwards order until I get to my current spot in the book.  Horrible thing to do, really.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Summer Knight by Jim Butcher, 2061: Odyssey Three by Arthur C. Clark, and Y: The Last Man vols. 3 and 4.  All are due to go back to the library shortly because all but Y were just sitting in my room.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
No.  I'm interested in renting one to try it out, but I haven't seen any services that do that yet.  I don't have an opinion until I try it out because I'm interested.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
Ha.  Usually, it's one at a time.  But my current predicament is contradicting this statement.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
No.  I still read when I can, write when I can.  Now I can write random things to the public.  Hello, Public.

9. Least favorite book you read this year (so far?)
Probably Mainstream by Jay Lake.  I couldn't finish it because I couldn't get a sense of story from the main character.  Couldn't establish myself in this strange clock-punk world.  We also had to read Robinson Crusoe for my British Literature before 1750 class.  

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
Truthfully, my sense of time is askew.  The question asked "this year" and I could only think as far back as last May when summer started.  So I don't have an answer for you.  Instead, I'll just say Old Man's War by John Scalzi because I like the humor and the universe.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
I guess not very often.  There was one time where a friend recommended a romance book because she thought I would like it.  I did, but I thought the sex was kind of pointless.  Hence why I don't read romance often.  And I guess Harry Dresden is a bit out of my comfort zone being a mystery.  Anything for school is a bit out of my comfort zone as well.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
If there's adventure and action with a science fiction twist, it'll tickle my fancy.  I'm also prone to reading about leading ladies in medieval-esque worlds such as Tamora Pierce's Tortall series and Kristin Cashore's Graceling.  If I'm the one that stumbled across it and found it intriguing, I'll consider it in my comfort zone.  And if I'm intrigued and hear good things about it, I'll also read it on my own too.

13. Can you read on the bus?
Yes and no.  When the bus is accelerating and going at a constant speed, yes.  When it's braking, no.  I don't usually read on the bus anyway.  Why read when I can people watch?

14. Favorite place to read?
The living room couch in my parents' house.  Also my papasan chair, my bed, and anyplace else that will allow me to recline and has good lighting.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Please give it back at a reasonable time.  If you don't, I'll bug you forever and a day.  

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Only if I REALLY like a passage.  Otherwise, I'm totally against it.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Not yet.  I've been tempted to go back and edit a few grammar mistakes I've caught though.

18. Not even with text books?
I buy those pre-highlighted.  I'm sneaky like that.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
It is currently English because I can understand it.  But I would also like to read aloud French even though I can't understand it.  And I LOVE listening to Japanese.  I think it's such a beautiful language.

20. What makes you love a book?
I couldn't tell you.  I love American Gods by Neil Gaiman because of the subtle ways of storytelling, but I also love 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clark.  Then there's the Old Man's War series by John Scalzi.  I wanna say . . . characters.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
How awed I feel about it after reading it.  I satisfied I feel about it afterwards.  Whether I think a certain person will like it or not.  Something like that.

22. Favorite genre?
Adventure/science fiction

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you didn't?)
Steampunk.  Gotta read more of that some day.

24. Favorite biography?
I haven't read one of those out of Wikipedia since elementary school.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Maybe.  I have a I Hope You Dance book in my room that I re-read whenever I feel like it.

26. Favorite cookbook?
Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child only because I like the movie so much.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
I can appreciate the art and intricacies of Paradise Lost (John Milton).  It takes a ton of not-thinking to do that.  I feel sorry for his daughters.  Furthermore, I enjoy the discussions and the arguments that can be made from this single epic.  I also like how the words are woven and how certain things are made to be eye-catching.  Despite all this awesomeness, I can't stand the damn thing.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  

28. Favorite reading snack?
Crunchy finger-snacks like popcorn or crackers or chips.  Anything that requires one hand to eat.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I don't read critics.  I find their views distort my views and I don't like that.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I prefer people didn't.  But if I'm so mad at a book that I have to publicly rat it out to strangers, it must be a pretty bad book.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Japanese.  It's so pretty.  And I'm a quiet fan of Japanese literature.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Paradise Lost by John Milton.  Seriously.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?

35. Favorite Poet?
Lee Young-Li.  We had to read one of his books in Creative Writing 300 last semester.  It was gorgeous.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
2-3 depending on what they are. A bit more if I'm reading a graphic novel in installments.

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
Once in a while.  It's more common than I think, I guess.

38. Favorite fictional character?

39. Favorite fictional villain?

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Anthologies.  I'm also a quiet fan of anthologies.  They're short and simple and one sitting is all they need.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
I actually don't keep track of this.  I read when I read.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Mainstream by Jay Lake.  I think I mentioned this before.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
The television.  I don't like the TV being on when I'm reading in the same room.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
I don't pay attention to these.  I like judging a film by it's quality as a film and not as a book-turned-film.  I can write a whole blog post about this.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
See previous answer.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Maybe $30.  It could have been $50 when I was in high school.  

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
I've never heard of people doing this until this questionnaire.  But it sounds like it ruins the book before you read.  Is that how critics read so they can take in more in one reading?

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Lack of connection, personal schedule, slow-moving developments, annoying characters, or any combination of these.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
They are currently in boxes sorted between "hardcover" and "softcover" and "manga and comics".  When I get them to my shelving unit in Madison, they will be organized by author's last name.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
I prefer to rent them, myself.  Libraries are awesome.  But when I buy a book, I buy it for keeps or as a gift.  

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Obvious romance books.  Twilight (even though it's in aforementioned boxes).  

52. Name a book that made you angry.
Mainstream.  I keep coming back to that, don't I.  It was my most recent disappointment, that's why.  But there's this one part in there that I don't understand, and it's too gross to really write about here.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
In a small way, both American Gods by Neil Gaiman and 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clark I expected to not like.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
Mainstream.  Seriously?  Clock-punk?  It's almost as intriguing as steampunk!  Also, Pendragon: the Quillan Games by D.J. MacHale.  I hated Bobby in that one.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Harry Potter and Ray Bradbury short stories.  They're my backups whenever I need something to read.  Also, the Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce.  It's my favorite of hers.

23 August 2010

Shine On You Crazy Diamond

I wasn't surprised when the dark colored 4-door was quickly on my back bumper.  At first, I glared at it thinking it would tailgate me.  On a back country highway, I was usually the one tailgated because I liked to look at the scenery.  Besides, hardly any cops are on these kinds of roads so everyone else feels obligated to blatantly ignore the speed limit signs.  In any case, this one car backed off once it realized I wasn't going to go any faster.
The passing lane came and it was the one who went into the next lane about the same time I almost turned on my blinker to switch.  These people were impatient.  But I let them and stayed in my lane anyway -- being the last person in a line of cars.  Unfortunately for them, they didn't get to pass anyone else, so now I was the one looking at their back bumper.
I didn't see the writing until we passed through a town and stopped at a light.  It was written in some sort of specialized paint -- contrasted enough to see it up close but unreadable at a further distance.  That writing lifted my spirits a little more.  One would have to be crazy not to smile at it.  It's endearing, unexpected, and shows great kindness towards the strangers that read it.  I almost expected a swear word at the end, but there wasn't.  Replacing the expected was the unexpected word that was what really caught my attention.
"Shine on you crazy diamond"
I tried to get a picture, but I'm sure I creeped those people out when I whipped out my camera and tried to get closer to them.  I let them go and made note to write about it later, whether in journal or blog or someplace else.  So now I’m telling it to you, because I think you deserve it whoever you are.
So shine on like the diamond you are, and pass it on to those who need it.

19 August 2010

The signal is returning. We have text, captain!

Sorry about the lack of postage last Monday.  I aged about 55 years and joined the military.  And you should too because it's awesome.

I am currently reading the second book in the series, and I will probably be reading the third this weekend and the fourth by Monday.  Why not?  They're all here with me.  I borrowed them from a friend so they have to go back eventually.  (But not now.  Definitely not now.)

Meanwhile, I went to Ann Arbor, MI last weekend.  I was going to post a couple pictures, but my Bluetooth seems to be out of commission.  I used my camera to take pictures and the only way to get them to the computer is by Bluetooth.  Mayhap that'll be my project for Monday.  In the meantime, go check out John Scalzi's blog.  He wrote the book series I'm reading.

09 August 2010

August for NaNo!

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, hereafter referred to as NaNo) usually takes place in November.  Since I'll be abroad and most likely busy with all sorts of school work and travel weekends in November, I'm having my NaNo in August, my waiting month, but with some changes.

I'll be studying in the UK from September until January.  As of now, I have an approved visa, plane tickets, a list of things to take along, and a large amount of impatience.  Not to mention a brand new travel backpack that's just dying to be used.  Everything is in place, except now I have to wait a whole month before anything can happen.  August is my waiting month.  To pass the time, I'm moving my NaNo ahead of schedule.  Besides, I already have a story planned.

I'm modifying the rules a bit for myself.  Instead of writing 50,000 words, I'm aiming for either 40,000 or story's completion. If the story ends at 35,000 words, I'm not going to complain.  I'll just celebrate for a few days and start the editing process.  No big deal.  My final aim to finish writing the story.  

This will effect blogging.  So be prepared for late posts, missing posts, and general disorder with actual updates for the month of August.

Happy writing fellow writers!

~ story info ~

title:  (not) broken
synopsis:  After losing his Memories and Heart, Remen befriends his old rival who nurtures his growth into a new person.  At the same time, his friends Val and Burm set out to recover the lost Memories in an attempt to save the Remen they know.
goal:  40,000 words / story's completion
current status:  15,448 words / 1,661 word debt*
book cover:  for grins, giggles, and because I really liked that picture

*word debt:  my marker for how many words I'm behind

02 August 2010

A Font-abulous Discovery

Whenever I start a new story, I like going through my computer's fonts to find the one that I like to see my title written with.  I create my story's own logo, if you will.  Just for my own use, and mostly because I need some sort of break from writing once I get two pages in and need the feel that the current project is official.  

Also, just for fun, I go wandering flickrCC for pictures I could create into potential book covers for my stories.  Fancies from dreams, I know, but still fun to do.  It caters to the inner graphic artist in me, however amateur and inexperienced.  Whenever I visit flickerCC for pictures, I use Picnik to crop, edit, and decorate the chosen material until it resembles an image in my head.

There was one time where I made a cover for a story with a logo I call the perfect logo for that particular story.  It uses a certain font on the computer and I space it out in such a way that it looks cool and intriguing and you can vary it up slightly if it ever becomes part of a series.  However, the fonts at Picnik did not have anything that resembled the font I use in my word processor.  Those covers are a bit of a disappointment, and I'm not sure I'll find anything that'll represent that story for a very long time.

My current writing project, however, is a different story.  I went to make the logo in the word processor and none of the fonts seemed to work for me.  When I went to make the book cover (after a combination of boredom and the need to release some visual art energy), I found the perfect font at Picnik.  

This isn't a font I can just let go.  With Google at my fingertips, I went searching for this font and found something much more cooler.

Ladies and gentleman and variations thereof, I give you, dafont.com -- a very large collection of downloadable fonts for free.  Donations to the font authors are encouraged, so be sure to give your spare change in exchange for fonts so diverse your eyes will spiral out of control.  At this website, I managed to find the perfect font from Picnik, install it into my computer, and use it in my story's document.  

Am I crazy in that I'm inspired by computer fonts?  Every time I see one I really like, I want to think of a concept that will allow me to write with that one specific font!  

Now I shall go and bask in my discovery.  See you on Thursday.