Thursday, December 27, 2012

[Rant] Gender in Japanese Language

English is a fairly gender neutral language. There's not much difference between how men and women talk except from perhaps inflection and word choice. In Japanese, however, women and men speak differently in casual situations. Of course, in formal situations, you use formal language, which is not gender specific.

Some examples:
Men have the option of ending their sentences with -dayo, dane (moderately masculine) or -zo, -ze, (strongly masculine). Women have the option of saying -no (moderately feminine) or -wa, wayo, etc. (strongly feminine)

Also, there's more than one way to say "I." 
watashi- polite - used by both males and females, though it's considered more feminine
watakushi- super polite - used by both males and females 
asshi - used by old men (geezers)
boku- used by boys, men, and tomboys
ore- This one separates the men from the boys. *strikes manly pose* 俺はみんな殺すぞ。
ora- a redneck version of ore.
atashi - a valley girl version of watashi *twirls hair* あたし、全然分からないわよね。
atai - rich girl

So even how you say a simple word like "I" is gender specific. There are also different ways to pronounce the same words. Young men will say, for example, urusei instead of urusai. Both mean "loud; noisy," and is a way of telling someone to shut up. If you watch anime and listen to how, say, Kurosaki Ichigo or Naruto speak, you'll know what I'm talking about. Instead of pronouncing things with the standard -nai, they say -nei. I actually really like the way they talk. They sound kakko ii (cool) and, because I'm a dork, I try to mimic them. However, if I talked like this to a Japanese person they'd probably just shake their heads and think I'm ignorant. They would think I didn't know how to talk properly, rather than realize I am purposefully trying to talk like a teenage boy.

I've read using such gendered language is on the decline, however. Younger men and women rarely use strongly masculine and strongly feminine endings. And women will use moderately masculine endings (though I suppose only homosexual men would use feminine endings). However, older women often still speak in strongly feminine ways. But in movies, anime, and comics, the language each character uses is oftentimes exaggerated in order to create certain character identities.  

For some, it's still seen as vulgar for a woman to talk like a man. Despite this, I oftentimes like to use the male endings instead of the female. In fact, I will never use the female endings. I had a discussion once with a guy friend in my Japanese class and he asked me why I didn't want to talk like a female. He thought it was weird I'd prefer speaking like a man. (He even went so far to say if I was with other girls, it was okay to talk like a man, but if I was in mixed company, it would be awkward if I talked like a guy. I should have told him to go [expletive] himself.) I said it was because I didn't want to sound soft and demure, which is exactly how women sound if they talk like that. Their way of speech lessens the impact of what they say. Kind of like how you add a smiley face to the end of your texts when you don't want to sound too mean. 

"You're stupid. :)" 

I don't like the idea of being limited to only women's speech. And I don't think men should be limited to speaking masculine-ly. I'm blunt when I speak in English and I'm going to be blunt when I speak in Japanese. I'd rather my speech sound more forceful and aggressive than weak and docile.

I'm curious, has anyone else encountered this in other languages? Can you think of anything similar to this in English? Or in your writing? Is there a difference between how your female and male characters talk? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

[Review] Stardust - Neil Gaiman

Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Published: October 28th 1998
Rating: ★★★

Young Tristan Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria--even bring her the star they watch as it falls from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient barrier that borders their tiny village. And beyond the safety of the Wall, strange things can happen to a determined lad chasing his heart's desire into a magical world of wonders and perils--where anything that can be imagined can be found. 

The beginning is pretty slow. The author starts with a lengthy description of the village the main character is from, and I'm not one for paragraphs of description. I need action to keep my attention, so, at times, the novel kind of drags on. Also, I guess I was thinking there would be a more innocent tone to the novel, so I was thoroughly shocked when I came across the first sex scene. It wasn't terribly graphic, but I could have done with out (like with all sex scenes).

The main character, Tristran Throrn, bothered me with his pathetic lovesick self. But I suppose there wouldn't have been much of  a story if he hadn't been so stupid. Men who do anything for the woman they love are definitely not attractive. Grow a spine, man!

The ending was a bit disappointing as well. [Spoiler Alert] I was assuming there would be this huge battle with the witch, as there was in the movie, but the star and her just end up talking. I mean, it works. It's just a bit anti-climactic. I also kind of dislike it when the author describes the rest of the main character's life. I don't like seeing the main character's grow old and die. That's no fun!

It's been a while since I seen the movie, but if I remember it correctly, I think I liked it fairly well. It was pretty funny. I would even go so far as to say I liked it better than the book, though I would have to watch it again to confirm it.

Overall, a pleasant read. Definitely liked the fairy-tale aspects to it.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

[Review] The Looking Glass Wars - Frank Beddor

Author: Frank Beddor
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2006
Rating: ★★★★

When Alyss Heart, heir to the Wonderland throne, must flee through the Pool of Tears to escape the murderous aunt Redd, she finds herself lost and alone in Victorian London. Befriended by an aspiring author named Lewis Carrol, Alyss tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Alyss trusts this author to tell the truth so that someone, somewhere will find her and bring her home. But he gets the story all wrong. He even spells her name incorrectly!

Fortunately, Royal Bodyguard Hatter Madigan knows all too well the awful truth of Alyss' story and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may eventually battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

The Looking Glass Wars unabashedly challenges our Wonderland assumptions surrounding mad tea parties, grinning Cheshire cats, and a curious little blond girl to reveal an epic battle in the endless war for Imagination.--Goodreads 

Ahh! This book was awesome. Jam-packed with action and death. I loved it. My only issue would be that it was sometimes hard to picture the many different devices and characters. Maybe it's just my lack of imagination, but I felt like the author could have expanded more. I couldn't figure out just how advanced Wonderland was either. 

Redd makes an excellent villain. She's so crazy! I think if I were to rule the world, I would use her as my inspiration  Also, the Cheshire cat as a deadly assassin was pretty badass. I liked Alyss better when she was a child. She was more feisty. Then she grew up in Victoria England and lost a bit of her spunk. Ah, well. I loved the inclusion of Lewis Carrol, and I never realized he had such a stutter.

Overall, a wonderful revision of a classic. I'll be going out to buy the next book as soon as the holiday is over. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

One Down, Four To Go

One of the paintings that inspired Uday Prakash's
"Warren Hastings and His Bull."
Yesterday was the last day of class at the U of MN for the fall semester. I cannot begin to tell you how much of a relief that is. However, I still have two finals and two essays to complete by next Tuesday. But at least I am completely done with my South Asian Literature class!

[expletive] yeah!

I hated every second of that class. For starts, I don't have much of an interest in South Asia. My studies and my interests are concerned primarily with East Asia (you know, where all the sexy men are), but I took this class because it counts toward my major and I love literature. The class actually wouldn't have been that bad had the teacher not come off as pompous and arrogant. She would ask for people's interpretations, their opinions, and tell them they're wrong. Also, she's  one of those literary snobs who wouldn't touch a fantasy or a sci-fi book with a ten foot pole. And that, of course, automatically made me dislike her. Also, she likes to call on people and put them on the spot. If you don't give her an answer, then she likes to make you feel like a complete idiot. So during class, I was constantly afraid she was going to call on me. To the point where I was shaking.

Damn social anxiety.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

[Review] Pathfinder - Orson Scott Card

Author: Orson Scott Card
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Published: 2010
Pages: 662, hardcover 
Rating: ★★★★

Rigg is well trained at keeping secrets. Only his father knows the truth about Rigg's strange talent for seeing the paths of people's paths. But when his father dies, Rigg is stunned to learn just how many secrets Father had kept from him--secrets about Rigg's own past, his identity  and his destiny. And when Rigg discovers that he has the power not only to see the past, but also to change it, his future suddenly becomes anything but certain. 

Rigg's birthright sets him on a path that leaves him caught between two factions, one that wants him crowned and one that wants him dead. He will be forced to question everything he thinks he knows, choose who to trust, and push the limits of his talent . . . or forfeit control of his destiny. 

At first, I thought this was going to be a work of fantasy, which surprised me since Card is primarily a SF writer. We're first introduced to Rigg, who comes from a low technology environment and has seemingly magical abilities to follow people's paths. So I was completely taken off guard after we are introduced to Ram, who is a pilot aboard a spacecraft full of colonists looking for a planet to live after Earth is devastated by a comet hitting the moon. Each chapter begins with a snippet of Ram's story and then proceeds to Rigg's and his friend's tale. It's an excellent juxtaposition of the past and present. 

I love the main character Rigg. He's smart, witty, and totally in control. He reminds me a bit of Artemis Fowl at times, only less evil. I only wish we had been given a clearer description of what he looks like. Perhaps I missed it or forgot, but I don't think Card went into depth with any of the character's descriptions. But, anyway, the characters are all lovable and the banter between them cracked me up. 

Rather than ignoring the time travel paradox, Card embraced it. I have to admit, I none too smart, so the whole time traveling thing just hurt my brain a lot, but it's definitely an intriguing plot and I can't wait to read the next in the series, Ruins. Fans of Ender's Game will enjoy this. I certainly did. Speaking of Ender's Game, who's excited for the movie?! 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

[Review] I Have the Right to Destroy Myself - Young-ha Kim

Author: Young-ha Kim
Genre: Adult Fiction (Korean)
Published: 1996
Pages: 119
Rating: ★★

I don't encourage murder. I have no interest in one person killing another. I only want to draw out morbid desires, imprisoned deep in the unconscious. This lust, once freed, starts growing. Their imaginations run free, and they soon discover their potential . . . They are waiting for someone like me. 

A spectral, nameless narrator haunts the lost and wounded of big-city Seoul, suggesting solace in suicide. Wandering through the bright lights of their high-urban existence, C and K are brothers who fall in love with the same woman--Se-yeon. As their lives intersect, they tear at each other in a struggle to find connection in their fast-paced, atomized world. 

I like the idea behind I Have the Right to Destroy Myself, but there were so many scenes in the novel that just made me incredibly uncomfortable, so I can't say I liked the book. Call me a prude, but I don't like explicit sex scenes. Especially when they're super bizarre like they were. My eyes felt violated when I was done.

The nameless first-person narrator searches for his clients (who some would call victims) and seduces them into killing themselves. For a fee, he assists them. When the job's done, he goes on vacations to Europe and  writes about his clients. Death, to him, is a form of art. Though a lot of my classmates thought he was an evil serial killer, I thought of him as a dark hero. He puts people out of their misery and genuinely believes he's ending their suffering. I truly enjoyed his character and wish the novel focused solely on him, rather than the characters C and K.

Maybe I think of the narrator as more of a hero than a villain because I felt little sympathy toward his clients. They're all women who have been sexually abused or objectified at some point in their life, which is, of course, a serious matter. I feel bad for them in that sense. But it's the fact that they end up being so damaged and flaky that bothers me. I like down to earth characters, not the crazy "artistic" type that some of them turn out to be.

The novel is more translatable than the other Korean books I've read for my class. You don't have to know about Korean history, politics, or social issues to be able to make a meaningful connection with the book. In fact, there are more references to Western culture, especially Western art. The author begins his novel by describing the painting below, which really sets the tone of the book. 

The Death of Marat
Jacques-Louis David 
Overall, I give it two stars. It's an interesting read and I would recommend this book to anyone who likes bizarre, messed up stories. There's not a lot of violence in this novel (disappointing, I know), but you have to be able to stomach weird sex scenes (which I can't).

Friday, November 30, 2012

フェイル Fail.

Welp. I didn't make it to 50,000 words. Only got to around, uh, 16,0000.  Don't judge. 17 credits of schoolwork + 1667 words a day just didn't mesh well. Though, if I hadn't gotten stuck on this one part, I could have probably made it. I just don't know how to proceed and I need to take a break and really think about it. Also, I have trouble sticking to one project for an extended amount of time. I like to jump back and forth between my novels because I get bored or stuck. Does anyone else have this problem?

I'll definitely return to writing my NANO novel because I really like the character's voice and the darker tone (plus all the wonderful violence), but it won't be until after I polish my first novel. It's killing me that I don't have anything to submit to agents. I just want to start emailing people! Gah! Overall, I'm a bit disappointed I just gave up, but I'm happy to be revising my other novels. I missed them terribly. 

How did you guys fare? Did you make it? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Loathsome Novels

We've all read them. Books that make us gnash our teeth. Books we want to shred and burn--but we don't because, as book lovers, we know it's a sin. Books we wish we could unread, words we curse ourselves for wasting hours plowing through, authors we want to eviscerate (or maybe that's just me...). Not one person out there has a book they didn't find disagreeable. And these are mine.

Call of the Wild by Jack London 

Half St. Bernard, half sheepdog, Buck is stolen away from his comfortable life as a pet in California and sold to dog traders. He soon finds himself aboard a ship, on its way to Northern Canada. Surrounded by cruelty, Buck's natural instincts and behavior begin to emerge as he works as a mail carrying sled dog, scavenging for food, protecting himself against other dogs and sleeping out in the cold snow.

Sold to a group of American gold hunters who are inexperienced living in the wilderness, the dogs are treated badly and as misfortune besets them, Buck is saved by John Thornton. Indebted to his new master, Buck remains by Thornton's side, saving him from drowning and protecting him with fierce loyalty throughout their time together. However, Buck can not deny the strong lure of the wilderness around him.

Exciting and action-packed, THE CALL OF THE WILD explores the timeless relationship between man and dog, and the inevitable draw of primitive instincts that pull Buck away from civilization and humanity towards the lawless and harsh wilderness. 

I don't remember much about this story. I had to read it for class in like sixth grade. But I remember how cruelly the dogs were treated and, at the time, it pissed me off. However, if I read it again now, I probably wouldn't be so bothered by it. Yay desensitization!

The Silent Cry by Kenzaburo Oe 

The Silent Cry traces the uneasy relationship between two brothers who return to their ancestral home, a village in densely forested western Japan. While one brother tries to sort out the after-effects of a friend's suicide and the birth of a retarded son, the other embarks on a quixotic mission to incite an uprising among the local youth. Oe's description of this brother's messianic struggle to save a disintegrating local culture and economy from the depredations of a Korean wheeler-dealer called "The Emperor of the Supermarkets" is as chillingly pertinent today as it was when first published in 1967. Powerful and daring, The Silent Cry is a thoroughly compelling classic of world literature.

It was soo boring and confusing. Half the time, I didn't even know what was going on. Oe's style is complex and he's kind of, oh, abstract? I don't even know what to call it. His style just doesn't work for me. I like books that are straightforward and clear. His doesn't really fall under that category. There were some weird things going on in the book too that made me uncomfortable. Hippies, drugs, and sex and all that other crap. Bleh.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

And So It Begins...

Yes, the dreaded/highly anticipated NaNoWriMo is here! I've actually decided to take it seriously this year. The one time I attempted it before, I don't think I even made it to 3,000 words. But this year I'm gonna do it. I WILL MAKE IT TO 50,000. ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ

I hope.

Curse homework.

Anyway, it took me a while to choose which project I wanted to work on. One is a New Age novel that deals with religion and the anti-christ and all that junk. The other is a gritty Young Adult action story with lots of violence, drinking, and swearing. Naturally, I picked the latter. It's going to be 1st person present tense. It'll be a nice change from the project I've been working on, which is 3rd person past. I've actually been working on this story off and on since high school, but I've decided to start from scratch with it. It should be fun, since the tone's a lot darker than what I'm used to writing.

My goal with this story is to self-publish it as soon as possible. And then I'd like to take whatever I make on it, if anything, and put it towards studying in Japan for a semester.

So if you don't see anymore blog posts throughout November, now you know why.

Anyone else participating in NaNoWriMo?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

[Review?] The Lost Hero - Rick Riordan

Author: Rick Riordan
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy > Mythology
Published: 10/12/2010
Pages: 557, Hardcover
Rating: ★★★★★

Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper and a best friend named Leo. They’re all students at a boarding school for “bad kids.” What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly?

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out.

Leo has a way with tools. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god.

So this isn't really a review. More of a recommendation. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the novel. It is 557 pages of heck yeah! I honestly couldn't put it down. I would almost go so far as to say this novel was better than Riordan's Percy Jackson series. But then I feel like I'm betraying Percy. Unfortunately, I had the darnedest time remembering what actually happened in the previous series. I wish I would have read this immediately after The Last Olympian. 

I think the characters this time around have a bit more depth and the plot is pretty interesting too, with the gods having both Roman and Greek aspects. Being huge on mythology, I thought Riordan did a great job incorporating the two. I also burst out laughing quite a few times, which is sort of unusual as I rarely laugh out loud when I read. Riordan has a fun sense of humor.

Seriously can't wait to read the second novel Son of Neptune!

Have you read it?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

[Review] The Guest - Hwang Sok-Yong

Author: Hwang Sok-Yong
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2001
Pages: 234
Rating: ★★★★

The guest is smallpox, an infectious disease from the West that destroyed lives and families. The guest is the twin horrors that Christianity and Communism became when they reached fanatical heights in Korea. And the guest is Ryu Yosop, who visits his homeland for the first time in forty years to face the repercussions of his brother's actions during the Korean War.

I didn't think I was going to like this book just because it was for a class and my teachers have a habit of picking the most demented or boring books on the planet. However, I was pleasantly surprised with this book. I would't label it a favorite, but it was definitely worthwhile and interesting.

I love gritty books with lots of violence and death (and this has an abundance of both). However, this novel is based on real life, which just makes it depressing rather than cool. The novel recounts the Sin'chon massacre that took place between the 17th of October and the 7th of December in 1950. It just blows me away knowing what people will do to one another. Especially people you've known your entire life. It's a very sobering work of fiction. There are few, if any, parts that will make you smile. Unless you're, like, a sadist or something.

At times, the story has a creepy tone. Yosop is haunted by his older brother and the people his brother killed. You even start to wonder if these are real ghosts of if it's just Yosop going crazy. Tension is thick throughout the novel. Between scenes of the massacre, the reader is thrust into North Korea, where Yosop's every move is constantly watched.

For the most part, the book is written from Ryu Yosop's perspective in the third person. But I find it interesting that Hwang also employs multivocal narrative, which is the use of multiple first-person voices. He writes in the first person when he shows scenes of the past. It's very confusing at times, though, because you don't know who the speaker is. I think this is intentional though. It kind of blends the characters together. I really enjoyed the constant juxtaposition of the past and the present.

If you like gritty war novels, this is definitely the book for you. I would highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

[Review] From Wonso Pond by Kang Kyong-ae

Author: Kang Kyong-ae 
Genre: Fiction 
Published: 1934
Pages: 360
Rating: ★★

From Wonso Pond explores life in Korea through the eyes of orphaned Sonbi; her destitute childhood neighbor, Ch'otchae; and a restless law student, Sinch'ol as their paths cross in an impoverished village and the port city of Inch'on. They all take on treacherous and underpaid work in the city, but soon find hope in underground activist networks. As they drift in and out of each other's lives, their stories of hardship, resistance, and romance reveal an embattled society on the cusp of great change.

What I liked: 

Unfortunately, there are few things I can say I like about the story. 

I guess I could say that I liked that the story was a work of critical realism and explores the social issues of living in Japan-ruled Korea. And, in particular, it shows how women are affected in such an environment. Kyong-ae was criticized for writing so politically. As a woman, she was expected to write women's fiction, which is supposed to be sentimental, romantic, and melodramatic. Hers has elements of all three, but there is an underlying political argument. However, at times, especially towards the end, I feel like her argument is a bit too blunt. And this is coming from someone who is terrible at interpreting stories and needs things told to her outright. I would have liked for her argument to be more subtle and buried beneath her prose. 

It's also interesting to note that the story was originally serialized in a newspaper.

What I didn't like: 

The story is a melodrama. From the very first page it starts out as one. It tells of how Wonso Pond is created by the tears of the villagers who grieve for their dead. From then on, it's just melodramatic blah. Too much emotion! Kind of felt like a soap opera. Because it's a melodrama, there's really no hero. Ch'otchae is probably the closest thing. Like most melodramas, it has a very tragic ending. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Top Ten Anime Characters - Males

So some of you might have noticed I'm a Japanese major. I fell in love with learning languages when I first took French in middle school and then German in high school. I decided to pursue Japanese because I wanted to learn an Asian language and it seemed the easiest to pronounce. I also love the culture, including anime, which I watch quite a bit (my way of studying for class). In the future, I plan on featuring an anime review once I've completed a show. I'm not sure if anyone would be interested in reading them, but I think they would be fun to write. 

Here, in no particular order, is a list of my top ten male anime characters. This was hard to make because there are a ton of characters that I adore. And, yes, I am a complete geek for doing this. d(≧▽≦)b

Kurosaki Ichigo (黒崎一護) from Bleach (ブリーチ)

I have a special loyalty to Bleach. It was the first Japanese anime I ever watched, and is really what got me hooked. 

Why he's awesome: First of all, he's a substitute shinigami (god of death) with a kick-ass sword. He's super determined. Even when he has, like, a billion swords sticking out of him, he won't back down. He goes out of his way to protect everyone. Even his enemies. He's noble, courageous, and super strong. And his Hollow powers are wicked cool! 

Uzumaki Naruto (うずまきナルト)from Naruto (ナルト)

Why he's awesome: He's a teenage shinobi with a nine-tailed fox inside of him. The fox gives him an incredible amount of power that he has to control lest it destroy him. Naruto isn't the smartest, but he's the bravest. Like Ichigo, he'll never give up. He's also a goofball, and he messes up a lot, but that just makes him more lovable. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Still Alive. For Now.

Wow, this is my first post since the 21st of September. I know I said if I stopped posting things, it was because I jumped into the Mississippi, threw myself under a bus, or shot myself. Unfortunately, I haven't done any of those things. But it is getting close to midterm...

Anyway, there's really not much of a point in this post except saying what I've been up to and how much I hate life. And why do I hate life, you ask? 

Because I haven't had the time to write!

I'm either studying Japanese (a.k.a watching anime) or reading pointless articles for my other classes. Seriously, I don't feel like I'm learning anything that's going to help me in my career choice. What does colonial India have to do with interpreting/translating Japanese, I ask you? However, I'm trying to incorporate the things I learn from my classes into my writing. What elements can I include into my stories? The history classes are usually the best for this. The class I am taking on ancient Rome is especially helpful for battle tactics, government, etc.

So instead of paying attention in class, I've been thinking about my story. I'm trying to add more and more layers, making everything connect in some way. I like to include random scenes into my novel because I find them amusing, but I've realized every scene has to have a specific purpose and has to carry the plot on otherwise the reader doesn't feel like the story is moving forward. Definitely have to work on that. 

I'm currently writing my second book and I have to say it's a billion times more fun than the first. The content is more interesting. It helps that half of it is urban fantasy, which is easier to write in my opinion. I've introduced a few new characters who I absolutely love. However, the draft is pretty sparse. At 44,000 words, I should be at the halfway point. But actually I am probably 2/3 the way done with the book. I have so much stuff I have to add in the second draft, which I cannot wait to write. Once I finish the second draft, I get to move on to writing the third book! I've heard that you should never write the second book unless you get the first one published. But, because mine is a trilogy that is so closely related (it's more like just one book broken up into three parts) I need to make sure everything fits. I'm not one of those authors like George Martin or J.K Rowling who can just think far ahead and know everything that's going to happen. I mean, I have the general gist of what I'm going to do, it's just all the details I want to make sure work. 

I suppose me being busy failing school has its perks. I'm finally getting some distance from the first story. I'm able to cut a lot of stuff that's unnecessary. It helps that I'm now revising for my boyfriend to read. He's a harsh critic, so I'm trying really hard to make the story my best.

How's everyone else's writing going by the way?

Next week I hope to get back on track with my posts. I haven't even been able to read anyone else's blogs and for that I am sorry. I haven't been able to read much of anything, really. Except stupid literary pieces.  

Sooo how's life? 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

[Review]- Become (Desolation #1) - Ali Cross

Author: Ali Cross
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Published: 11/11/2011
Pages: eBook, 340
Rating: ★★3/4 (I was so close to liking it)

Sixteen-year old Desolation Black wants nothing more than to stay in Hell where it’s cold and lonely and totally predictable. Instead, she’s sent back to Earth where she must face the evil she despises and the good she always feared.

When Desi is forced to embrace her inner demon, she assumes her choice has been made—that she has no hope of being anything other than what her father, Lucifer, has created her to be. What she doesn’t count on, is finding a reason to change—something she’s never had before—a friend.

What I Liked: 

The story blends together Norse and Biblical mythology. I'm a huge fan of Norse mythology so I was pleasantly surprised when my favorite Norse god, Loki, showed up as Satan. And, of course, Odin was God and Thor was, uh, Jesus, I believe. Though I wonder if Baldur would have been a better choice. Anyhow, it was an interesting twist and I quite liked it.

The depiction of Hell makes it sound like a fun place to me. Dark, cold, what's not to like? Unfortunately, however, Lucifer takes on the form of Hugh Jackman, but ah well. It would probably be wrong if I was actually attracted to the devil.

I like that the main character, Desolation, is part demon and part angel, that one half of her is black, the other golden, and that she has to choose between good and evil (though I don't really think she has much of an evil side).

Despite the fact that it was a chore to actually get to the end, it left me wanting more, and I might have to try reading the second book just to see what happens. Even though I only gave the book 2 and 3/4 stars. I need to know what happens next, even with sucky books. Otherwise, I will always wonder.

What I Didn't Like: 

I'm afraid there are more things to this story that I disliked than liked. First off, the main character didn't jive with me. Desolation, nicknamed Desi, over analyzes her emotions. There are paragraphs upon paragraphs of her contemplation and self-analyzing. There's just not enough action to hold my attention throughout the story. Until the end, that is. The story is mostly Desi going back and forth from feeling like she doesn't belong to feeling she is loved. She's pretty self-loathing, self-pitying. She's just too much of an emo for my tastes.

Monday, September 17, 2012

音楽を聞きながら書く - Listening to Music While Writing

Music plays a fairly big role in my life. Whether I'm driving, walking around campus, doing homework, cooking or cleaning (which is almost never) or just sitting around, I like to have music playing. And listening to music while I write calms me, gets my creative, uh, juices flowing, and gets me motivated to put words to paper.

For the most part, I like all kinds of music. Except country. And I loathe slow songs. Other than that, rock and classical are tied for first place as my favorite music genre. Lately, I've been branching out and listening to a lot of K-Pop and J-Rock. Mostly, I listen to my iPod, but I'll also tune into Pandora (which I usually have set to Two Steps from Hell radio) or

A few favorites from my writing playlist: 

Monday, September 10, 2012

[Rant] Don't Judge a Book by Its...

Despite the saying, I judge books by their covers. In fact, I'm very picky about what books look like. And it does affect whether or not I make a purchase. Sometimes, if I don't like the cover, I will buy it in eBook format so that its ghastly appearance does not mar my bookshelves. Or I'll rent it from the library. 

The usage of models on covers is now my biggest peeve. It seems to be the new thing. Every book you see--especially in YA (*cough* Paranormal Romance *cough*)--has some teenage chick on the cover. And they're always posing the same way. Here is a great blog post that analyzes YA covers.

My irritation is not because it is so popular and overused, but because I don't want to look at real people. I would prefer a badly drawn illustration to an actual person. And I especially do not like books with half-naked women or men on them. It took me forever to buy Cassandra Clare's City of Bones. Had a half naked dude on it, and at the time, I was embarrassed to buy it.

For adult books, my biggest issue concerns covers that look like the following examples.

Covers like this were the reason I didn't read adult books until late. I avoided the adult section because I thought all books, at least in the fantasy genre, looked as lame as these. They're not bad illustrations per se, but they're pretty outdated and full of meh.

However, there are some covers that make me all giddy. Here are a few examples of some super epic covers!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Liebster Award?! Ausgezeichnet!

So I was nominated for this award last week by an awesome blogger: Rhamy Payne (aka Voltech) of Cross-Up. Be sure to check out his site. It's full of awesome.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to cheat though. I do not have 11 people to pass this on to. *hangs head*

Joey Harpel = Epic Fail
(シ_ _)シ
申し訳ありません! I'm sorry!

I can't help it! I've been working on my writing and getting ready for school. I just don't have time to make a lot of blogger friends. I'm socially inept. I accept this.

But I still want to answer the questions because it seems like a lot of fun! To my understanding, what I'm supposed to do is tell 11 things about myself, answer 11 questions created by the person who tagged me, then compose 11 of my own questions, and then tag 11 people so they can enjoy/suffer the process. Hate me if you will, but I'm just going to do the first two things...


Joey Harpel = Epic Fail

11 things about me: 

1. I have an obsession with all things Asian. Especially Asian men. (。♥‿♥。)

2. I have two pets. My cat, Cuddles, is fifteen or sixteen years old. I've had him since I was six or seven. I also have an annoyingly cute Pomeranian/Chihuahua named Wulfgar. 

3. I've been to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Iceland. I threw up at Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, skinned my knee jumping into the river that runs through the Englischer Garten in Munich, received kisses on the cheek from an Irishman, ate horrible cheesecake on the Rhein, got lost in both Dresden and Munich, got burnt to a crisp and saw two avalanches in the Swiss Alps, toured a bunch of churches and castles, and consumed a lot of Pringles and orange Fanta. Best two weeks EVER. 

4. I'm deathly afraid of talking to people. It took me years to become semi-comfortable going up to a cashier to pay for stuff. I still loathe talking on the phone, and holding a conversation with a stranger is impossible. Hell, it's hard to even talk to family at times. 

5. I love to fly. First time I flew through a storm cloud, I fell in love with being up in the air. After that I took an aviation class in high school and got to help fly a small plane. One of my biggest dreams was to become a pilot. That was before I realized how much math and money is required to get a license. Though, perhaps one day I will have my own plane... 

6. Teen Titans and Avatar: the Last Airbender are tied for first place as my favorite cartoons ever. True story. 

7. I tend to contradict myself a lot. No, I don't.

8. I strongly believe all insects should be eradicated off the face of the planet. Along with sharks, religious fanatics, politicians, and reality TV stars. 

9. This is my shadow. 
It looks like I'm missing half of my arm. Hehe.

10. I'm blunt. I don't like sugarcoating things, or trying to be subtle. I try to tell it like it is.

11. Causing people physical pain makes me happy. I'm pretty violent. Punching and kicking things is fun, and I abuse my boyfriend all the time. Don't worry. He likes it.

My answers to 11 questions: 

1. Surprise! You're a superhero. What's your superpower? Telekinesis! Like Raven from Teen Titans.

2. As a corollary to the above, are you a hero or a villain? As much as I would like to be a villain, I would probably end up as a flawed hero, dishing out justice in my own, twisted way.

3. As a corollary to the corollary, what's your catch phrase? Some variant of "It's clobberin' time," perhaps? "Wapacha!"

4. Have you ever been in a fight? Unfortunately, I have not. But it sounds super fun! I always wonder if I could hold my own in a fight.

5. Have you ever had (or still have -- not that anyone's judging) an imaginary friend? I think I may have played poker with my imaginary friends when I was like three or four, but I didn't have a specific friend with a name. I think the closest thing I've had to imaginary friends are the characters in my novel. I like to pretend I'm in the story with them or that I'm one of them. Yes. Yes, I am creepy.

6. You hear that there's an ancient treasure, and you narrow down the location to two places: a deep jungle, or a mountain summit. You only have the resources for one expedition. Where do you go? Hmm. I love the idea of being in a jungle, but in reality they harbor huge ass bugs. And, like, other killer animals. So I'm gonna go with mountain summit.

7. And now you're in an RPG! You have a choice of being a fighter, a mage, or a thief. What do you choose, and why? Ooo. Tricky. Being a fighter or a thief would be awesome, but I'm going to have to go with mage, since I've always wished I could do magic.

8. You can have your dream machine -- a new computer, a rocket car, jetpack, personalized mech, etc. -- delivered to you by tomorrow morning. What do you want? Time machine!

9. You have the power to resurrect any canceled/finished TV show, with the original cast and writing that's better than ever. What do you revive? Awesome question! There are so many... Teen Titans, I guess. I heard they might be making another season though, so I may get my wish.

10. You've been struck by lightning! Oh nutbunnies! What are (presumably) your last words? "Welp."

11. And just to close out on a curveball, what's your dream? I have many. To become a fire-breathing dragon, to become an evil tyrant, to own a castle on my own island, to own a fleet of cars/trucks, to create an all Asian reverse harem(!!!), and to become a best-selling author. I wonder which'll happen first. My money is on the first.

Woo! That was fun. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back To School (ノД`)・゜・。

This is going to be a painful semester.
This year is gonna suck. Big time. It's my fifth year of college and I'm incredibly sick of school. Not looking forward to boring books, weekly five to ten page essays, and having to actually talk to people. Class discussions are the worst. And I think I'll probably end up going for another year after this too. Hopefully it'll be in Japan though.

Classes I'll be taking this semester:
  • Japanese Year Three (super nervous because I've forgotten nearly everything)
  • Modern Korean Literature
  • Modern South Asian Literature
  • Ancient Rome (I could be a freaking history major with all the history classes I've taken over the years.)
  • The Christian Left and Right (laaaame) 
I wanted to take a German Folklore class, but it went until 8:50 at night and I just don't have enough interest in the topic to risk being mugged or murdered.

*places hands on hips* Look at that freaking stack of books. I'm not going to have any time to read anything good or finish my novel! And college books are way too expensive. Even buying most of mine used, I paid over three hundred for all of them. And one of my classes hasn't posted what books we need yet, so I'm sure I'll be buying another four or five books. I'm glad I'm past the point where I have to pay a hundred to two hundred dollars for a single book. Now I take mostly discussion type classes that require novels rather than huge textbooks.

To motivate myself to actually do my schoolwork, I'll probably be posting stuff related to my classes. So long as it has something to do with reading or writing, such as the differences between Western and Eastern literature. I'll also be complaining from time to time on how much school sucks. Sorry in advance.

If you don't see anymore posts from me, it's because I jumped into the Mississippi, threw myself under a bus, shot myself, etc...

Anybody else heading back to school? 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Adaptation > Novel

Most of us avid readers probably agree that the movie is never as good as the novel, right? For the most part, movies simply pale in comparison to the book. However, on very rare occasions, I enjoy adaptations more. Here is a list of a few of those movies.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
Directed by: Paul Weitz
Novel by: Darren Shan
Synopsis: Teenager, Darren Shan, meets a mysterious man at a freak show who turns out to be a Vampire. After a series of events Darren must leave his normal life and go on the road with the Cirque Du Freak and become a Vampire. --IMDb

It's been so long, I don't remember why I didn't care for the book. There was something about it that just didn't appeal to me. Which was disappointing since I knew a bunch of people who loved the series. When the movie came out, I figured it would suck too. I was surprised that I actually liked it. Gave me a few chuckles, it did. It was bizarre and quirky, but it wasn't terrible. Since it's been so long since I read the book, I think I may give it another try sometime. Especially since there are so many books in the series. I'd like to know what happens to the MC.

Blood and Chocolate
Directed by: Katja von Garnier
Novel by: Annette Curtis Klause
Synopsis: A young teenage werewolf  is torn between honoring her family's secret and her love for a human. --IMDb

Fans of the novel were incredibly disappointed when this movie came out. And rightfully so. The book and the movie are completely different. There are a few similarities, such as character names and the fact that they're werewolves, but everything else was pretty much changed.

I actually seen the movie first and found out later that it was an adaptation. Though the movie still kind of sucked as far as movies go, I liked it better than the book. In the book, Vivian (the MC) was a complete biatch. Huge attitude, annoyingly overconfident, I hated her. In the movie, she was actually kind of likable.

I was so excited when I went to see the film. It turned out to be kind of a disappointment though. I think I force myself to like it because it has Hugh Dancy in it. Me likey likey Mr. Dancy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

[Review] Tiger Lily - Jodi Lynn Anderson

Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genre: Teen Fantasy/Romance 
Published: July 3rd 2012
Pages: 292
My Rating: ★★★★1/2

Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .

Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn't believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.

Peter is unlike anyone she's ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland's inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she's always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.

With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it's the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who's everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.

I grew up loving Disney's Peter Pan, so I was both excited and a bit leery of reading this book. Cracking open the first page, all I could think of was...she's gonna mess it up...she's gonna piss me off somehow... But once I got into it, I found I couldn't put it down. I devoured it in a day.

Beautifully written with incredibly vivid and descriptive language, I envy Anderson's writing style. Though the focus is on Tiger Lily, the book is narrated by Tinker Bell. I wasn't expecting this, but it's creative and works well. As an insignificant faerie, no one really notices Tink. For the most part, all she can do is observe. But we don't always feel her presence in the narration. Sometimes it feels like we're in Tiger Lily's head. It's a nice blend of first and third person. Tink's attitude and jealousy comes through at times too. Spitting in people's hair, biting, reguritating gnats on people...she's a fun character.

Tiger Lily is an outcast--girls don't like her because she's so manly and boys don't like her because she's better than them at hunting and fighting. Fearless, strong, silent, she's one of my favorite heroines. And she doesn't immediately become head over heels for Peter like most girls do in romance books. Nor does he immediately fall for her.

At first, the story makes Peter Pan and his gang seem sinister. Tiger Lily's people think he's dangerous. Numerous rumors surround him--he eats animals raw, kills viciously, steals girls. But we find out Peter and his lost boys are just a bunch of scared, lonely kids. However, they can be ruthless when they need to be. Especially when it comes to Captain Hook and his pirates who constantly hunt them. Pan is unpredictable and childish, which just makes him even more lovable. I have mixed feelings concerning his inability to fly though. I like that Anderson portrays him as more of a normal kid, but Peter Pan should be able to fly!

Though I would prefer to label it fantasy, this story is pretty much a romance. I grudgingly admit that. But it was about freaking Peter Pan, so I had to read it. Usually romance in stories makes me roll my eyes or worse. This story didn't really affect me that way. I think if Tiger Lily had been a girly girl it might've bothered me. I like being able to watch as both Tink and Tiger Lily fall in love with Peter.

Though the novel gets dark at times, I wish there had been a bit more action and death. Personal preference. I was going to give the novel five stars, but I was a bit disappointed in the ending: SPOILER ALERT: Peter goes to England with Wendy, leaving Tiger Lily to marry her childhood friend Pine Sap. I mean, it's a happy ending. But I hate to see Peter grow old. He needs to stay a kid. Always.

If you're a fan of Peter Pan, I don't think you'll be disappointed reading this book. As long as you don't mind  a bit of romance. It's an excellent twist to a classic tale. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hello, Author. Nice to Meet You.

Since we're neck deep into the digital age, we have easy access to our favorite authors. We stalk them on Twitter, like their Facebook page, and creep on their blogs and websites. We learn more about them than just the short bio on the back cover of their book.

I'm not sure I entirely like it.

When I became obsessed with reading in junior high, I didn't want to know anything about the authors of my favorite books. What they looked like, where they're from, how they came up with their brilliant stories. I avoided the back cover like the plague. If I saw just a glimpse of their picture, I'd get pissed off. And it's not just with books that I feel this way. I have this thing where I hate learning who the voice actors are of my favorite cartoons. Why, you ask? Because I end up picturing them in my mind when I watch the show. I do the same with authors. I picture them as I read their story. And, let's face it, authors aren't always the most attractive bunch.

Most importantly, though, knowing the author lessens the story, makes it just a book rather than something more special.

Okay, so you're probably thinking I'm insane (and you're right). I realize, of course, it's just a made-up world with made-up characters. But I like to pretend something like it could actually happen, that it actually does exist. I can't help it I prefer fiction to reality.

But since I've gotten serious about writing, I realize I have to push away my wants as a reader and begin looking at things like a writer. It's imperative to know some things about successful authors. Their techniques, their style, how they got into the business, etc. Sometimes it gets me even more motivated to write by knowing how famous authors live. I want their lifestyle. I want to go to be able to travel to another country to write my next book. I want to go to writing retreats in the Greek Isles and to writing conventions. I want to do book signings. I want my book to become a movie.

*strikes godly pose* I want readers to grovel at my feet. 

It's also nice being able to chat with fellow aspiring (though I hate that term) writers. I like that I can share my work on my blog and have other writers read it (*waves* wassup?). I like being able to talk to people who have published their work and are wonderful enough to share their secrets.

My biggest fear, however, is following an author on Twitter or their blog and finding out they're, quite simply, an asshat. I mean, what if it turns out I don't actually like the person who created such an amazing novel? Will I still like their work? Or will I hate it just as much as I do them?

Do you prefer anonymity? Or do you like getting to know your favorite authors?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review Wednesday - Insignia

Author: S.J. Kincaid
Genre: Teen Science Fiction
Published: 7/10/2012
Pages: 464
My Rating: ★★★★★

More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.

Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible—a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War III. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted—friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters—but what will it cost him?

Kincaid's debut is humorous, fast-paced, and action packed. I enjoyed every second of it.

Her take on WWIII is intriguing and disarmingly realistic. Though there are still governments, corporations basically rule the world. I think her story is very critical of big businesses today and how they have so much influence. The battles between the Indo-American Alliance and the Russo-Chinese Alliance are fought with spaceships that are controlled on earth by teenagers who have neural processors installed in their brains. There's no risk of death, but there's always the chance of having your brain messed up by a virus or having it reprogrammed by the enemy.

The main character, Tom, is funny, easygoing, brave, utterly ruthless when provoked, and, at times, bloodthirsty. When others run away in fear, he charges on, sword swinging. The best thing though: he's a normal kid (besides the computer he gets in his brain, of course). He's not a genius, not some amazing athlete. He's your average, scrawny, pimple-faced fourteen-year-old who's good at playing video games. I found him to be super likable.

This book has something for everyone--computer geeks, gamers, fantasy freaks (*waves* That's me!), history buffs. There are tons of references, especially to fantasy books and movies as well as real life people and battles. During their training simulations, they fight as King Arthur and his Knights, defeat Japanese ronin, fend off zombies, relive the battle of Troy... Kincaid does an amazing job incorporating all of these elements.

Overall, awesome read. Highly recommended. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Five Mediocre Film Adaptations

Here is a list of book to film adaptations I can watch more than once without wanting to shove my head into a blender. They're not completely terrible, but they're also not entirely great. If you click on the movie's title, it will bring you to the trailer on YouTube.

The Thief Lord

Movie Directed by: Richard Claus
Novel Written by: Cornelia Funke
Synopsis: Threatened with separation, recently orphaned brothers, Bo and Prosper, run away to Venice where they join a group of young thieves who live in an abandoned cinema. Led by Scipio, the Thief Lord, the kids steal from the rich to support themselves all the while evading a bumbling detective, who seeks the two orphans.

Though it was an enjoyable movie, it didn't give me the same tingly nostalgic feeling I get when I read or think about the book. The effects were pretty bad, but they weren't a huge part of the movie, so it didn't bother me too much. The pacing was kind of slow at points too. I also think they could have cast a better actor for Scipio. Though he looked the part, the actor just didn't have the charisma needed to pull off the character.

It's a cute children's movie, and I would recommend seeing it at least once, but it didn't wow me like I wanted it to.


Movie Directed by: Geoffrey Sax
Novel Written by: Anthony Horowitz
Synopsis: After his uncle's death, Alex Rider, a fourteen-year-old schoolboy, learns that his uncle wasn't the banker he claimed he was, but in fact a spy for MI6. Alex Rider is recruited to continue the mission his uncle failed. He is sent to Cornwall where he must spy on a billionaire who is planning on donating thousands of his newly developed computers to schools across England.

I was so excited when I learned Anthony Horowitz's book was going to be made into a movie. I was literally jumping up and down, and nearly in tears. I then spent the next few months getting all of the information I could on the movie's progress, which was mostly me stalking Alex Pettyfer (Alex Rider), who I immediately had a huge crush on (I was, like, sixteen. Shaddup).

When I saw it, I was severely disappointed. Sax changed quite a few things from the book. The tone of the book was a bit darker, a bit more serious. In the movie, it felt like they were trying to make it more lighthearted and comical. And then they went and brought the girl (you see the stupidhead gawking at the sexy blond?) in two books too early. Why does there ALWAYS have to be a freaking love interest? I also didn't care for the choice of Mickey Rourke as the bad guy. He didn't fit the part at all and he's not, in my opinion, a very good actor.

Besides Rourke, this movie had an amazing British cast: Bill Nighy (Viktor from Underworld, Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest), Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid from Harry Potter), Stephen Fry (V for Vendetta), and Ewan McGregor. American actresses Alicia Silverstone and Missi Pyle also starred in it. Great cast. Yet, even they couldn't save the movie.

I should've known it wasn't going to be very good when I had to have my dad drive me and my friend a half hour to some theater in the middle of nowhere because it wasn't playing anywhere else. *sigh* (I still bought the DVD though...shhhh).

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review Wednesday - The Princess Bride

Author: William Goldman
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Published: 1973
Pages: 450
My Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchmen, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she'll meet Vizzini--the criminal philosopher who'll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik--the gentle giant; Inigo--the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen--the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup's one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.

Normally, I wouldn't do a review on such an established book. I like to find more obscure titles to analyze, but as it happens, I didn't have time to read another book this week and, for the sake of trying to keep to a schedule, I'm posting this.

Goldman's story is outrageously bizarre and funny. Throughout it, I chuckled my ass off. The entire story is just so light-hearted and amusing. It's very different than the books I usually read (which have a lot of violence and, you know, death).

At first, I was a bit confused. Was there an actual S. Morgenstern? Did he indeed write the novel that William Goldman abridged? So I googled it just to be sure and, of course, there wasn't any such person. I really liked how Goldman created the pseudonym to add another layer to his novel. It's an incredibly unique and creative narrative device. I had once wanted to write a fairy tale that is similar, I realize now, to his style. I scrapped the idea years ago, deciding to go with a more serious approach to the story. I don't think I'm funny enough--or at all--to get away with something like that anyway.

Surprisingly, there were quite a few negative reviews for the novel. A lot of people gave the book one star. Their reasons:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Titles Make Me (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

I loathe titles. With a passion. Always have. For term papers, I use "Paper One," "Paper Two," and so on. If a teacher asks for something more thoughtful, I take a keyword or two out of the paper. Needless to say, I never got, nor will I ever get, extra credit for having a spectacularly creative title. Honestly, if I could get away with it, all my research papers and essays would be titled, "Go Suck It, Mr/Ms.____." or "I Just Love Wasting My Time Writing Crappy, Useless Essays."

I've been playing around with the title of my blog. I change it almost daily (hope I haven't annoyed anyone besides myself by doing so). I just can't seem to find one that I like. I've reverted to [Insert Title], which, I am very well aware, is incredibly lame. It's just a placeholder until an epiphany slaps me in the face. Of course, I want something witty, something clever, something that will stand out and also give a fair description of what my blog is about (which is writing and books if no one has noticed). However, my mind keeps coming up blank every time I think about it.

In the book industry, titles are rather important. Perusing the shelves at the B&N, your title has to stand out from hundreds of other books. This has me a bit worried. Not only do I struggle with the title of my blog, but I also strain to come up with a title for my manuscript. Luckily, however, I've read that agents don't really worry too much about the title in query letters. And, besides, the publisher gets the last say anyway.

A few horrendous titles:
  • Le Livre This was when the story was about a special book that brought my characters to another world. Waaay back in 8th grade when I was taking French. Titling a book "the book" in a different language is just idiotic.
  • The Kingdom of Garthna Yeah, that's just stupid. Nobody knows anything about "Garthna." Which, by the way, is a horrid name for a country. I also have trouble giving names to countries, rivers, fortresses, swords, horses, etc. Most of the ones I do come up with are mediocre at best.
  • Summoned Because the main character is summoned to a foreign world.
  • The Kingdom's Champion: Summoned Meh.
  • The Kingdom's Champion: Book One Which is now the current title. I'm not certain I'm happy with it. It doesn't make me "oooh" and "aaaah" like I'm watching fireworks, but it doesn't make me want to stab myself in the appendix. So it works for now. Until someone can suggest something better. *looks meaningfully at*
I've known some crazy mofos who enjoy titling things more than they actually like writing. They come up with dozens of titles and don't even write the story to go along with it. What is that, I ask you? And I say "damn you!" to amazing world-builders like Terry Goodkind and R.A. Salvatore. How dare they be so imaginative! How dare they come up with hundreds of creative names! Makes me wanna take an icepick to someone.

I must ask myself why do creative titles so elude me? The answer:

I am inept.

Here are a few helpful articles I found:
How To Title Your Book
How to Title a Novel
Choosing the Right Name for Your Story

Does titling stuff make you want to bash your face into the keyboard too? If not, do you have any tips you'd care to share? *nudge* *nudge*

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ten Books I Want on the Big Screen

A lot of my favorite books have already been adapted into films. Harry Potter, Stormbreaker, Eragon, Howl's Moving Castle, The Thief Lord, etc. But there's still a TON of books I'd like to see made into movies. Here's a list I'm dying to see in theaters. Although, they're also very special to me. So if the director messes them up (as they so often do), I'd have to kill him/her. Anyway, onward!

Homeland - R.A. Salvatore

Drow ranger Drizzt Do’Urden, first introduced in The Icewind Dale trilogy, quickly became one of the fantasy genre’s standout characters. Homeland first reveals the startling tale of how this one lone drow walked out of the shadowy depths of the Underdark, leaving behind a society of evil and a family who want him dead. It is here that the story of this amazing dark elf truly began.-- Goodreads

I actually read this book first, mistaking it as the first in the series. It is if you go by chronological order, but I like to read books in the order the author published them. When I found out, I was none too happy.

I have no idea who would play Drizzt (it would have to be someone outrageously sexy) or how they would even go about with his costume. I would love to see Johnny Depp play Jarlaxle though. He's quirky enough to do it.

Alanna: The First Adventure - Tamora Pierce

Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Disguised as a girl, Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page. 

But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies. 

Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna's first adventure begins--one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a  legend in her land. 

I really enjoyed this quartet as well as Pierce's other Tortall books, which she ties together quite well by including the same characters.

New Moon - Midori Snyder 

Two hundred years ago, the Fire Queen destroyed her rival queens of Earth, Air, and Water in the fateful Burning and took power over the land. No child with a trace of the elemental magic was allowed to live. Years later, the country of Oran still trembles under her oppression. There is unrest in the city--and, for the first time in decades, rumors of hope. They say that four young women bearing the ancient magic escaped--four who have the powers of Earth, Fire, Water, and Air--and are even now finding one another. 

These four have allies. A ragtag army of artists and singers, orphans and vagrants, thieves and knife-wielders, is stealing into the city. Their sign is scrawled on the tavern walls: the bloodred, blade-thin New Moon . . . 

This was a pretty gruesome trilogy. It's a teen book, though at times it seems like it's adult. Lot of swearing, graphic violence, and sex. But I love anything that deals with controlling elements (huge Avatar: The Last Airbender fan). I don't think this book is in print anymore, which is super freaking lame.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review Wednesday - Anna Dressed in Blood

Author: Kendare Blake
Genre: Teen Paranormal Romance/Horror
Published: 8/30/2011
Pages: 320
Rating: ★★★★

Ghosts aren't just harmless phantoms who spook people. They kill. Viciously. Armed with the athame he inherited after his father's gruesome death, seventeen-year-old Cas Lowood travels the country dispelling violent, killer ghosts. For the past few years, it's been a familiar routine for him, his witch mother, and their spirit-sniffing cat. Until he goes after Anna Dressed in Blood, a girl who was violently murdered sixty years ago. She haunts her house, ripping apart everyone who enters. Except Cas.

Anna isn't like any ghost Cas has ever met. She not only is clever, but also has tremendous power. Cas quickly learns he's in way over his head. Especially when he begins to have feelings for her.


First off, I didn't care for the color of the text. It was a dark shade of red. At twenty-two, I have old people eyes. I need black ink on white paper. I almost didn't buy the book because of it. And at one point, I almost threw the book down when Harry Potter was referred to as a wimpy boy wizard. *not amused face*

Other than that, it was a gruesome story and I loved it. One of the first books I've read in a while that's really held my attention. I loved the main character, Cas. He has a dry sense of humor and a brooding personality. He's seen so much stuff, so many dead people, that there's a fearlessness about him. When normal people freak out, he's calm and collect. Except when it comes to the ghost who killed his father. Then we see his fear. But it's not enough to stop him from seeking revenge.

I'm not a good judge at what makes a great horror story. I haven't read enough/seen enough horror movies to be an expert. I thought this book was pretty scary in parts, but I get scared super easily. Like I said, not a great judge.

Though it's labeled paranormal romance, I wouldn't necessarily consider it chick-lit. It's written from a guy's perspective and has plenty of action and gore in it. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of romance. Makes me wanna vomit. But this story's romantic elements aren't obnoxious. There's a great balance.

I believe there is going to be a sequel. Definitely looking forward to reading it!

Have you read it?

Monday, July 30, 2012

日本の本 - Japanese Books

What I'm Reading: Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake
What I'm Listening to: Nothing. And I love it.

There is more to Japanese literature than just manga. I actually don't read manga at all, which is kind of bizarre because I’m obsessed with Japan. I actually prefer watching the anime (not dubbed though. I despise dubbed and anyone who watches it). Besides traditional Japanese literature, which mostly entails old ghost stories, I've read a few contemporary pieces for my class. My teacher has an . . . interesting taste in novels. She likes edgy books with lots of, uh, weird stuff. I also had her for a Japanese film class. I can’t say I share the same tastes in film either. But she did introduce me to a few novels that I liked.

Six Titles I’d Recommend:

Train Man (電車男) – Hitori Nakano (not an actual author, but a pun that refers to all of the people who were part of the conversation in the book)

The story is a boy meets girl romance. Train Man (username) is a shy otaku (essentially a geek) who confronts an obnoxious drunk on the train who is harassing a young woman. Later, she thanks him by sending a pair of expensive teacups. It would have ended there, but Train Man goes to an online message board seeking help on how to date her. There, he receives advice and encouragement from anonymous netizens.

The story is told as a series of chat room threads and is supposedly based on a true story. It was a huge phenomenon in Japan and it was made not only into the novel, but a movie, a television series, and a manga. I've only watched the movie so far, and I enjoyed it.

Though I was a bit sad that the main character had to change himself  to get the girl, I loved the book. It was funny and cute and totally Japanese. It's also what got me started on using Japanese emoji.

All She Was Worth – Miyuki Miyabe

Stealing it from the back cover:
When a beautiful young woman vanishes in Tokyo, her distraught fiancé enlists the help of his uncle, a police inspector, to find her. The detective quickly realizes that she is not who she claimed to be, and his search for her brings him to a dangerous financial underworld where insurmountable personal debt leads to crimes of desperation. Here, spending frenzies, stolen identities, and unscrupulous creditors can create a lethal mix.

Apparently, there's two drama series based off of it. Also, there's a Korean movie adaptation called Helpless that was released this year. I haven't seen it yet, but now that I've heard about it, I'm looking forward to it.

Overall, it's a fast-paced, suspenseful thriller.

The Woman in the Dunes (砂の女) – Kobo Abe

Entomologist Niki Jumpei is searching for insects that inhabit sand dunes near a remote village. After missing the last bus home, he asks the villagers for a place to stay. They lead him to a sand pit where there is a house at the bottom. Thinking only to stay the night, Jumpei climbs down the rope ladder to the bottom. Only, the villagers pull the rope back up, leaving the entomologist alone with the quiet woman who lives in the house. So begins Jumpei's captivity in the sand pit, where he must shovel every night in order to keep the sand dunes from taking over the village.

There’s also a movie, which follows the book closely. However, it’s a bit boring. There's long moments of silence and lots of scenes where the screen is just completely black. In fact, I did a paper on it regarding cinematic excess.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Voice - Why You No Easy?

What I'm Reading: The Future is Japanese - Haikasoru
What I'm Listening to: Danse Macabre, Op. 40 - Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

Brushing up on my Japanese too.
This is the kanji for "voice." 
Voice has been the main focus in my revisions, so I've been revisiting my How-To-Write books, and I've decided to post what I've learned/reread.

To start with, what is voice? Quite simply, it is the writing style expressed by the character's speech and thoughts.

Authors can assume multiple personalities in their writing. Whether they're a raging hick, a ghetto thug, a schizophrenic adolescent, or a feisty dragon, the voice of the character must be distinct enough for the reader to make a connection. Otherwise, the story feels like it's being narrated with the author's voice, which is undesirable.

Voice tends to be very clear when the story is told in first person. You're right in the character's head, rather than floating above him/her watching their every move. In third person, however, it gets a little more tricky because the author is the narrator, but not entirely in their own voice. I like how Jerome Stern puts it in his book Making Shapely Fiction: "Your reader hears your character's voice through you, and simultaneously hears you through your character."

There's also a thing called psychic distance in third person. John Gardner, author of The Art of Fiction defines it as "the distance the reader feels between himself and the events in the story." His examples:
1. It was winter of the year 1853. A large man stepped out of a doorway.
2. Henry J. Warburton had never much cared for snowstorms.
3. Henry hated snowstorms.
4. God, how he hated these damn snowstorms. 
We feel much closer to number four than we do to number one. So much so that we don't even learn his name. Personally, I like the fourth one the best. It's more engaging and you get a clear sense of voice.

Voice is an easy concept to understand, but it's not always the easiest to actually pull off. A strong voice is one of the things my novel is lacking the most. I have six points of view, therefore six different voices which I need to make unique. I have to pick the right vocabulary, pick the right level of formality, pick the right sentence structure, establish their speech rhythms, and their degree of awareness--are they kind of out of it, or do they pay a ton of attention to detail? I need to describe things how they would describe it with their own eyes, not with my own. One of my main characters is a bad-mouthed tomboy. Out of all my characters, she is the most informal. And yet, when I write her scenes, her thoughts and speech patterns come off as super formal. I have no idea why I do this, so I have to pay closer attention to her scenes than I do with the others.

Voice must be consistent. Otherwise, it's not convincing. Unless, however, the character goes through a change as the book progresses. My characters are thrust into a different world. After a while, their surroundings begin to rub off on them. Here and there I'll slip in a formal sentence. But, for the most part, I try to keep it consistent.

A few basic suggestions:

Create a playlist. I created a playlist for each of my characters who were from Earth. When I listen to it, I think solely of that particular character. How they react to things, how they describe things, what they would be doing while listening to each particular song. I haven't yet, but I plan to go through the book, focusing on one character at at time, and rewrite all of their scenes while listening to the music I picked out for them.

Read books that have voices similar to yours. For my characters who aren't from earth, I usually like to read R.A. Salvatore's books right before I write or revise their scenes. I like his style and I feel like it helps me with their medieval fantasy-like voices.

Read out loud. Where does the voice go flat or lose rhythm? What seems out of character? Ask yourself, would he/she actually say that? If you don't think so, or you think they might say it but aren't sure, then reword it or ditch it entirely. You don't want the reader questioning whether or not the character would actually say such a thing.

Get some distance. Step away from your work for a week or more. Then come back to it. With fresh eyes, you'll notice the inconsistencies. This works the best for me.

Find someone to read your work. I've known my characters from their birth. So everything they do makes sense to me. But not always to other people. Find someone you can trust to give you honest, constructive feedback. Have them get to know your characters and point out when things don't seem right. Most of the flaws in my novels have been brought to my attention by readers. As hard as it is to share my work, I know I can't  catch everything by myself.

How difficult is voice for you? Have you run into any problems with it? Do you have any more tips on how to make voice more vivid?