Not a Book Review

THE SUMMER LIST 2013:

  1. Finish writing a book
  2. Take on the reading program at my library
  3. Learn to drive
  4. Finish a knitting project
  5. Finish an art project
  6. Memorize a song on the piano

As many of you may or may not know, I have issues finishing things. Is it because I’m lazy? Perhaps. But in any case, it looks as though another project will go uncompleted.

Originally this was going to be a book review, and I guess it still kind of is. But I’ve realized something very important, and it’s that I don’t like writing book reviews.

Maybe it’s because a lot of times the expectancy is brutality in book reviews. Unless I have a burning hatred for a book, shredding it just doesn’t sit well with me. Or maybe it’s because I don’t like to dissect books after I’ve read them– then it’s more like reading for school than reading for fun, and dissecting things makes those things unmagical sometimes.

So it looks like I’m calling it quits on the book reviews. And if I do write about books, they won’t be very review-y.

But because this was going to be a book review, I might as well talk about some books. Book covers are courtesy of Goodreads.

Man in the Empty Suit

Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell

I had a lot of fun reading this book. I mean, a lot. It wasn’t exactly a birthday party with like eighty different versions of my self being the only guests, exactly, but it was extremely entertaining.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This is the first Neil Gaiman book I’ve read (yes, I just said that. You may now pelt me with tomatoes if you feel the need to), and I have to say, I really enjoyed this book. I fell in love with the magic and the mystery. Beautifully done.

And that’s that. *Wipes brow* glad that’s over. Next year we’ll try something more fun, yes?

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I have writer’s block, so don’t expect a creative title.

I meant to write a more meaningful post last Saturday on Tuesday today, but I don’t think it’s going to happen.

I am teetering on the edge of writer’s block. For a while I’ve been writing nicely, getting stuff done, and the like. My words and I were on speaking terms, and we were so close becoming friends again. But then I hit a chapter that I just thought was horrible. And that’s when it started. Now my brain’s starting to freeze over and I can’t seem to write anything of value.

Even this post seems very… unattractive? Unpleasant. Uninspired. Meh. Something like that.

Up till now I’ve been driving around Writing City in a shiny new convertible at 70 mph, cruising with the top down, feeling the wind in my hair with a freshly opened bag of potato chips in the passenger’s seat to keep me company.

Ignored the red light, kept speeding along.

And now I can see the cars dashing across the intersection in blurs, and my pretty little convertible is about to smack right into them.

About to. As in, it hasn’t happened yet. But I can feel it coming. The canaries have passed out, people. Something’s about to go down in the mine.

And then,

*BOOM*

Cue pile of burning car guts.

I am sinking in the mud. I have the urge to write, to make something with my bare hands, to create. But every time I try, it just ends up in a pile of nothing. I feel like shouting. (But I won’t because my family will think I’ve finally cracked.)

I sit and stare at a blank screen, willing it to be covered in words. And yet, every word I write is rewritten scribbled over crossed out flushed down the toilet deleted almost immediately.

I think I need a break.

Maybe I should go for a walk.

I’m becoming very fond of these.

I need some cake.

Yeah, that’ll do.

Handwritten Words

To be honest, most of my writing is done on the computer these days. Writing stuff out by hand doesn’t let me move stuff around like I want. And sometimes when my mind is going a million miles an hour, scribbling is just not fast enough.

That being said, I love writing things out. Maybe not long things, but short stories and notes and reminders are perfect for page and ink. Handwriting just looks so pretty to me.

(And here I take my two seconds of vanity. Yes, I like the look of my own handwriting, I think it’s awesome.)

Not just my handwriting, either. I like to compare how different people write. A lot can be said from other people’s script.

Don’t even try to tell me your handwriting is ugly. Art is never ugly, only unique.

And handwriting is certainly art.

…Even if you can’t read said art.

So I decided I’d hand-write some stuff for today’s post. Sorry if the lines aren’t straight. They probably never will be. Also sorry if you can’t read my handwriting. You can click it to make it bigger, if that helps.

Handwriting by me

The Shifting of Light (Flash Fiction Challenge: Last Lines First)

I’ve never tried this before, so this should be intersting.

Every week Chuck Wendig posts a Flash Fiction challenge on his blog terribleminds (fantastic blog, by the way), and I thought I’d try it out– I mean, sounds like fun, right?

Usually short stuff is tricky for me (hence the maxed-out word count), so… this is going to be some good practice.

This week the challenge is to take one of the lines given to us and use it as the first sentence in a piece no longer than 1,000 words.

Okay… here goes…

• • •

The Shifting of Light

Life was easier before killing all the rabbits. Before they all died out. Before the snow foxes starved to death.

Everything changes.

When I was a little girl and my Nana was still alive, she would always tell me about the Shifting Ears, the polar rabbits. After a day out in the bitter snows of late autumn, my papa and I would come back to our home, back to Nana. As night fell we traded our castle of ice for one of earth and fire, one of logs that creaked, of a fireplace that struggled.

When we came home my Nana would sit me on her knee near the fire to warm me, though she was probably too brittle to bear my weight. She braided my hair down my back to look like hers. She sang to me in a language I did not understand, from a place she said most couldn’t remember. And one night, she told me her story.

Shifting Eyes. Shifting Ears. The Shifting of Light.

When my Nana was young, the rabbits were very common. The Shifting Ears, they called them. In winter they were the color of cream, but as the seasons changed, winter white turned to summer brown, and the rabbits would change their seasonal coats.

Every day, my Nana and her friends would set out with their weapons to hunt. But they were never to hunt the Shifting Ears. They were sacred creatures. Only through them could one reach the Shifting of the Light, along with the Shifting Eyes.

To see both Shifting Ears and Shifting Eyes together was a rare blessing from the spirits. The Shifting Eyes were the snow foxes, shifting coats much like the polar rabbits.

Shifting Eyes could see everything in crisp detail. They could count the feathers of an eagle ascending, though the eagle was high in the air, my Nana would say, her voice frail.  And the Shifting Ears could hear a lynx’s footsteps from many miles away, perhaps even before the lynx had taken them.

Snow foxes hunted the polar rabbits, but there were always more hares than foxes. The balance was kept right, never shifting too far.

So to see them together was nearly impossible; and yet, my Nana had seen them. Seen, and followed.

That day Nana and her friends were crossing the lake, frozen over from winter. They had been warned not to; the closer it came to spring, the thinner the ice became. But they did anyway.

We were fools, my Nana said. We did not listen to our elders. We heeded no warnings.

On that day my Nana’s youngest brother would fall in. He would drown in the crackling of ice and the bite of snow, and none could save him.

If only it were anyone but him. I loved my brother. But we hadn’t listened. We had killed him.

And so Nana and her friends asked the spirits for help. They wanted to go to the Shifting of the Light. Legend said that in the Shifting of the Light, the souls of the dead were able to flutter to earth like beams of sunlight, and the living could see them again.

The spirits answered them, and from the forest rose a pair of animals—the fox and the rabbit.

The Shifting Eyes and Shifting Ears beckoned them, follow, follow. And so Nana and her friends would follow them, through valley and pine. The Shifting Ears and Shifting Eyes knew the path though they had never followed it. They heard the singing and saw the light far before my Nana could. And they followed.

They were brought to an unfamiliar place. Stars began to cluster in the dark sky. The ground was covered in an even snow. Tall pines pointed upwards.

Light came in ribbons and streaks like paint across the night. The forest sang with an unearthly humming, and there were voices resonating in the air. And down from the light came my Nana’s brother, glowing as brilliantly as a star.

But we were fools. We did not listen.

Eagerly my Nana tried to get her brother to go with her, to leave his place amongst the stars and to fall back to earth.

But it couldn’t be done, you see. He was in the Shifting of the Light. He was light himself—different now. One cannot simply capture sunlight and force it into a jar. He was dead, and we couldn’t raise him.

The light faded. They mourned the death of Nana’s brother, screaming and wailing. And in a rage, they had used their hunting weapons to attack the only thing that was left—the Shifting Ears and Shifting Eyes.

They went on to hunt down every last hare they could find.

Every last rabbit was murdered.

Every last fox had starved.

This angered the spirits greatly. Hard frosts fell upon the land, with shorter summers and frigid winters. Food supplies dwindled. Every animal turned to attack any human it saw.

Her people were hunted by animals and starved by frost. And no person could ever again speak to the dead.

My Nana came to regret her actions. She tried to right what she had done, but couldn’t. She knew that when it came time for her to die, she would see no light—her crimes were too great; her heart to heavy. She’d never see her brother again.

That evening ended with my Nana shedding tears that she was too weak to wipe away.

I am trying to tell you these things because I doubt I will be reunited with you after death. Please, remember what I have said.

In the winter my Nana passed away. She did not get another chance to tell me her story again. But I do not worry. She might have upset the spirits once, but there was hope for her. In her old age, her coat could have changed from the dark color that it once was.

The light is always shifting.

Dragonfly by Julia Golding

THE SUMMER LIST 2013:

  1. Finish writing a book
  2. Take on the reading program at my library
  3. Learn to drive
  4. Finish a knitting project
  5. Finish an art project
  6. Memorize a song on the piano

Dragonfly

Book cover courtesy of Goodreads.

Rating: * * * 1/2

Princess Taoshira of the Blue Crescent Islands is appalled when she is ordered to marry Prince Ramil of Gerfal. And he’s not too pleased, either. She is used to a life of discipline, ritual, and splendor. He is used to hunting and carousing. They hate each other on sight. But both of their countries are under threat from a fearsome warlord, and the only chance of peace is to form an alliance.

When Tashi and Ram are kidnapped, they fear there’s no escape–from their kidnappers or from each other. Can they put aside their differences long enough to survive ambush, unarmed combat, brainwashing, and imprisonment? And will the people they meet on their adventure–including a circus strongman, a daring rebel leader, a sinister master of spies, and the best female fighter they have ever seen–help them or betray them to the enemy?

–Summary from Goodreads

This is one of those books that I didn’t realized I liked until after I finished it… thus earning it a plus a half a star. At first, I was kind of like, meh. Book. Made up words. Yay. But it was actually a good adventure. At around the halfway point, the story started to shed its meh-ness and picked up in my opinion.

The book started out like an average fantasy adventure, heavily saturated with fictional names that I couldn’t keep up with. They seemed kind of heavy in the beginning, but eventually I got used to them.

The point of view switches between characters, which I didn’t really think was necessary at first. When I started reading I couldn’t help but think that if they were to cut all of Tashi’s narrative out and just give it all to Ramil, the book would be just fine. But again, towards the second half of the book, it actually worked for the story.

It slowly got better.

Slowly.

One thing that I really liked about this book was the way the main characters actually changed. They were actually different people by the end of the book, which is kind of rare nowadays. Ramil started out as a jerk, plainly put. Tashi was unemotional and stiff (which really annoyed me for some reason), plus she cried too much. But they became more and more likeable as time went on.

I was very skeptical about how their love story was going to play out. They kind of warmed up to each other as the book went along– it wasn’t like one realized they were in love before the other making this awkward unreciprocated love-hate thing. No, they learned to appreciate each other, step by step. In fact, I wouldn’t even say that they hated each other to begin with– it was more like a mutual disliking/mistrusting. At no point did they feel like killing each other– not exactly hatred.

However, I did feel like they got off too easily– I mean, they were captured by the enemy, and they weren’t really harmed very much. Usually your kidnappers aren’t that willing to become your allies. Not so soon, anyways. Slave rebellions are not generally that easy to instigate, and are generally not that successful. And I think there’s an unspoken law that if you’re beaten half to death, it should hurt more than ow, I vaguely remember passing out after being beaten yesterday… But hey, it’s fiction.

But other than that the book was great. After I turned the last page, I found that I actually liked it (despite the rant-iness of the review above.)

The Frogs Outside my Window

Imagine the sound a frog makes. Go ahead, imagine it. Really loud, now.

Then multiply that by two.

And then by five.

Ten.

Twenty.

Then stop.

*Silence*

And then start again.

With the coming of deep, heat-drenched summer comes many things: sleeping in until 11:00, eating potato chips and popcorn on the couch, watching movies, using my free time to do something other than homework. You know, the usual.

But where I live, summer also brings around frogs.

Ah, yes, the frogs. Notorious, sneaky little things. Every summer, all night long, the ribbit-ribbit of frogs goes on and off like a light bulb. A bright, bright light bulb. In your face. While you have a headache. A chorus of frogs will sound off for a solid amount of time (usually anywhere from 10 seconds to 2 minutes), and then stop, all of a sudden.

You think they’re done, but they’re not.

*during dinner*

“Hey, mom, can you pass me the–”

RIBBIT RIBBIT

“Um… okay. Mom, can you pass me the–”

RIBBIT RIBBIT RIBBIT

*angry sigh* “GIVE ME THE–”

RIBBIT RIBBIT RIBBIT RIBBIT RIBBIT RIBBIT RIBBIT RIBBITRIBBITRIBBITRIBBITRIBBITRIBBITRIBBITRIBBITRIBBIT

… silence.

… maybe they’re done.

… should I try now? No, better not risk it.

… seems safe…

“Okay, mom can you please give me the–”

RIBBIT.

*tears hair out throws dinner plate in the bushes in hopes of hitting a frog*

*fails*

…yeah.

I’d include a picture of them, but the thing is, I’ve never seen one. They are ghost frogs. They hide. You can hear them, boy can you hear them, but you can never see them.

Sometimes it sounds like they’re fighting with each other, trying to see who can scream the loudest. In the middle of the night. Or maybe they’re conspiring against humans and it’s all part of their plan for world domination.

I don’t think they were always there– I don’t remember them being around when I was little. But then again, I wasn’t exactly an attentive child.

The thing is, they JUST. DON’T. STOP.

And you want to know something weird? They used to be annoying. Like, really, really annoying.

But…

But now it’s kind of nice, hearing them outside. It makes me feel like I’m out in the country, on a farm or something, and tomorrow morning I will be awoken by the crowing of a rooster at sunrise. And I will have fresh eggs for breakfast. And I will run out into the apple orchards and knot daisies through my hair and play with the family sheepdog.

It’s kind of peaceful.

RIBBIT.

Kind of.

Creamy, Buttery Moonlight

Creamy, buttery moonlight. The phrase really makes me want to eat a cupcake. You know, like a moist, fluffy pillow of a cake plus a swirl of vanilla bean frosting. Ooh and little chocolate shavings. Chocolate and vanilla. Mmmmmm…

…I’m getting off topic. So, anyway, one thing I like to do when writing (besides eating cupcakes) is to mash up all the senses when I describe things. Sure, moonlight (unfortunately) does not feel creamy or taste buttery, but it makes you envision some pretty sweet moonlight, right?

I didn’t know that there was a name for it, though, until a few months ago when my English teacher talked about it as a rhetorical device. What do you know, I learned something at school that day.

The combination of different senses, using one sense to describe another, is called synesethesia.

Wait! I’ve heard of that before!

As soon as she’d said it, I recognized it. While it may be a rhetorical device, synesthesia did not start out as one. Synesthesia is actually a condition in which the senses are sort of mixed together, so that when one sense is stimulated, another one is too, if that makes sense.

The first time I had ever heard of synesthesia, I was in sixth grade, I think. I was walking around Borders (may you rest in peace), and happened upon a book called A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass, about a girl who had synesthesia. In this book, the main character saw different shapes and colors when she heard certain noises or read letters and numbers. Is that not amazing?

Ever since then I’ve been really interested in it. And inspired.

I drew this for my portfolio for art class freshman year. I think of it a lot when I think of synesthesia.

Colored Swirls

And it’s not just sounds and sights that can get all mixed up. Remember the movie Ratatouille? That was one good movie. But remember when they were tasting the grapes and the cheese and all those colors were swirling in the background?

Yes, synesthesia can be something like that.

My teacher said that many people may have synesthesia, but maybe not quite to that extent, and it might be stronger when we are younger. And when I think about it, it makes sense– I mean, I used to associate certain days of the week and certain letters and things with specific colors. But I never actually saw anything, sadly. Just an association.

I have yet to meet someone with synesthesia. I would love to talk to them, to ask them about it. Wouldn’t you?