Monday, May 1, 2017

Sunday Post 010 | IMWAYR

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme

 Corny Joke Monday 

Why did the lion eat the tightrope walker?
He wanted a well-balanced meal.

 Last Week on the Blog 

 This Week on the Blog 

Dear Anakin... Star Wars
Requiem,  The Blacklist 4x17 Worth Watching

EDIT: Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, I have to postpone these. I'm taking a short hiatus for the next week or so. Sorry, everyone! See you when I get back. Until then, keep reading! ^_^

 What I'm Reading: 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and
share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. 

Heartstone by Elle Katherine White
I am loving this. I just haven't been taking time to actually read it. :P

The Wonder by Emily Donoghue (audio)
This one is going so slow I might move on to something else for a while. It's interesting, I'm just not in the mood for it.

Star Wars: Clone Wars Vol 2: Victories and Sacrifices (comic)

 What I Read: 

Not going to lie. It's been a slow-going reading week for me. :P

Star Wars: Clone Wars Vol 1: In Defense of Kamino
Marvel's Civil War

 Internet Shenanigans 

So I finally finished Sherlock Season 4. I say 'finished' because I actually watched the first episode pretty soon after it aired on PBS. AND I COULDN'T GO ON. I was so broken-hearted after that episode, I just couldn't move on to the next one. It was so sad and depressing and John was angry at Sherlock and... and...

But I finally moved on and I'm SO GLAD I did, because those last two episodes were absolutely amazing, story-wise, character-wise, but especially in further developing John and Sherlock's complicated and amazing relationship. Even better, the rest of the season also fleshed out and relieved some of the pangs from that first episode heartbreak so, while I'm still not totally over it, the show has at least saved itself from my everlasting ire.

It was absolutely amazing.

If YOU'RE a Sherlock fan, than you definitely need to check out Sherlock Season 4 Thoughts (Spoilers) over on my friend September C. Fawkes' blog. It is such a fangirl-fueled post, but she's one of the best I know at intelligent fangirling, gushing about developing relationships, subtext, character, and foreshadowing. Seriously. Check it out right now, because her fangirling only ever deepens my love and appreciation for shows I like. ^_^

 In Real Life 

I finished my Camp NaNo goal of 15,000 words!

And you know what? It didn't help me get back into a regular writing routine at all. I kept procrastinating the actual writing part until the last minute and wound up battling for my last 3k a few hours before Camp ended last night. Which is not what I was going for at all.

So this next month I'm not giving myself a word count goal. Apparently that's not really helping to motivate me at all right now. Instead, I'm going to make myself for an hour every day. No matter how much or how little I write, I'm going to write -with no plotting, researching, or outlining- for at least one hour every day.

Because that last 3k I crammed in last night? It was horrible. But it was first draft stuff, so the important part is I wrote down 3k that wasn't actually a waste, that actually has good content and momentum, it just needs to be reworked. But because it wasn't perfect, because I didn't love it, I felt like a failure, and I battled with the sick dread that failure brings on for several hours last night. That's always fun. It made me realize that I have lost a step and gone back into the unhealthy place of being uncomfortable with first draft material, and that needs to stop. Right now.

So hopefully, the far side of next month, I will have written so much crappy first draft material, I will be comfortable with that phase of writing again.


  What's new with you? 

Dembe Zuma (No 10), The Blacklist 4x16 (Worth Watching)

This is all my hysterical, deliriously happy, evil laughter, because THE BLACKLIST IS BACK IN TOP BLACKLIST FORM!!!

So let's just start at the beginning, yeah?

Episode 4x16 -Dembe Zuma (No. 10)

My first thought was literally "Aram -what the crap?!" I mean, for a guy who's been lamenting his destructive taste in women and relationship woes, this second relationship with spy/traitor/betrayer Janet went from 0 to 60 really fast, especially considering he backed out of the opportunity of a date with long-time crush Navabi because she lied to him. I mean, from where I'm sitting, Janet lied and then some, least of which was, you know, trying to kill him.

Also, there's the timing, considering at least we the viewer know Navabi turned down her own long-time flame because she realized she's in love 'with someone else', and that Aram himself knows that Navabi is definitely becoming interested. This immediately puts Janet into the 'stock love interest' category, those doe-eyed women and near-perfect men doomed to heartache because their only purpose seems to be separating and then ultimately indirectly uniting that most prominent will they/won't they couple. *cough*TROPE*cough*

And even as I was jotting down a mini-rant about how Janet completely betrayed Aram and crushed his heart and put him into a downward spiral of doubt and... and... I realized something. I kind of like Janet for Aram. When I realized that, I actually got a little miffed because this relationship probably won't wind up going any where, as per 'stock love interest' policy. But I'm going to come back to this later, because I don't want my Aram love getting in the way of my

I seriously love this man. I have always loved Dembe and his supposed betrayal in The Apothecary broke my heart and I really, truly thought it was just a hopeless fangirl fantasy that he could really be exonerated and I AM SO HAPPY RIGHT NOW!!!

And I have to point out, when Red, Harold, and Liz are discussing the unsuccessful hunt for Dembe, can we just appreciate the pride and awe in Red's voice when he describes all of Dembe's skills and attributes? Even when he was convinced Dembe had betrayed him, he still couldn't bring himself to hate him. I absolutely love the bond these two share. ^_^

The best part -and I mean the BEST PART- about this entire Dembe story line is that the writers got me to swallow it, hook, line, and sinker. I mean, I've talked before about cliches in shows and not falling for them, but the writers of The Blacklist basically have me second-guessing everything that unfolds and most of this is because of that season 3 finale. I knew that Liz wasn't dead; I knew it! I even figured out Kaplan was the one to plan it all out. But the show spent so long grieving over her death and hiding it from us that I actually began to doubt. I had just begun to accept Liz was actually dead and to fret about how the show would fare from then on out when they finally revealed the truth. And that's one thing I adore about this show -they write the story so well that I begin to believe everything they want me to, whether I want to or not.

But back to Dembe. Because that look on his face when Aram tells him he can't figure out who stole Reddington's stuff. That utter defeat as he slides to the ground in a dejected, lovable pile of heartache! Awwwwwww! He's so disappointed because he can't help Red! How many times must I express my love for their friendship?! And when he tells Aram: "I have three people in my life: my daughter, my granddaughter, and Raymond." MY HEART ABSOLUTELY MELTED. I love you, Dembe, and I'm so glad you didn't try to murder Red and how could I ever doubt you?!?!

And now we get to switch back to my other character crush, Aram! I absolutely loved the way he handled Dembe in this episode because, before he realized Dembe wasn't really a traitor, he straight up said he'd rather die than help him hurt Mr. Reddington. I love this about Aram, that he will stick to his principles in the face of sheer terror; I love this fierce loyalty he has to Red (though I hope it won't bite him too hard in the backside some day); I love that he always calls Red 'Mr. Reddington'; I love, love, love that he recognized Dembe's utter defeat for what it was. I love that Aram has so much confidence and optimism about the good in people that he was willing to give Dembe the benefit of the doubt and believe that he had nothing to do with the assassination attempt on Red. I love that Aram trusts so much in this good side of people that he was willing to break into a secure database and then ensure Dembe's escape from Ressler and Navabi -because, face it, none of them have a great track record with believing or handling traitors. And I love that Aram has all this faith and trust in people, but he's not so naive that he doesn't stop every few minutes, scrutinizes Dembe and says, "To help Mr. Reddington. Right?"

Can we have more Aram and Dembe team-ups in the future? Pretty, pretty please? A little bit of Agent Mojtabai and Agent Zuma action every once in a while would be perfect. I mean, look how much they get accomplished together!
And you know Aram just loved playing boss.
"Sorry, sir."
They managed to find the name of the person causing Red so much misery -Katheryn Nemec- although Dembe did run out before explaining any of it to Aram to go chase down proof all by his lonesome, which is never, ever a doomed of life-threatening endeavor in a TV show, right?

I will be honest. I was a little disappointed that it turned out to be Mr. Kaplan all along. I felt a little cheated, just because I discounted that option a long time ago because, among other reasons, I thought it was too obvious. However, the next episode Requiem changed everything, so stay tuned for that recap.

Back on the hunt for Dembe, Liz is meeting Glenn for the first time. Now, I gotta admit, Glenn is one of my least favorite of Red's associates. I find him less funny than he is crude and annoying as all get out, but even I have to say he proves an interesting foil to Red's generally cool, threatening demeanor. Of all people, Glenn seems to have absolutely no fear of Red (I wonder if that's ever going to prove his downfall) and he loves -I mean, loves- to push Red's buttons and pull his chain. So I loved watching Liz meet this guy for the first time and seeing how he treats Red and how Red takes it. Every time Glenn said something irksome, her eyebrows went straight up and she glanced over at Red, like "Are you seriously going to let him talk to you like that?" Plus, Glenn's completely shameless habit of taking advantage of his work perks amuses me. Seriously, using a student driver as a chauffeur for an emergency info hand-off with the wanted and at large head of a massive criminal enterprise? But it's okay, because said student driver doesn't speak English. XD

One of my favorite lines from this episode came from Red, right after Liz tells him that Aram swears Dembe is innocent.
"You can afford to hope for the best, but to survive in my world, I have to assume the worst."
It speaks volumes as to what he lives with every day and the burdens he must carry. I'm glad he still has Dembe to count on through his trials.

I was so proud of Red when he finally tracked down Dembe's daughter that he didn't show the slightest bit of anger or aggression, but I'm also glad Liz was with him, because when Isabella realized that her dad ran away from Red, she looked downright terrified. At least we know Liz wouldn't let Red do anything. (Right?)

But I think there's more to his calm than just getting what he needs, because when Red does get hold of Dembe on the phone, there is clear hope in that conversation: "What are you doing, Dembe? Because everything you seem to be doing is making you look guilty."

Despite what Red told Liz about having to assume the worst, I don't think he could entirely crush out that flower of hope that one of his dearest and oldest companions could so completely betray him and, lucky for Red, that hope is going to pay off, because Dembe says just enough -before getting attacked and cut off- that Red gets a nagging suspicion of what's really going on. And after a quick phone call with Aram, the truth comes out. It's Mr. Kaplan and she's out for blood and revenge.

Interestingly, hearing Kaplan is alive and Red's own confession as to the actual act of 'killing' of her, Liz shows some of her first genuine emotion all episode, but I really can't tell whether it's for Kaplan -the  woman who up to now Liz thought had given her life to save Agnes- or for Red. I'm having a really hard time reading her, because her interactions with others -especially with Red- are not what they used to be. There's not a lot of emotion or depth or content in most of her conversations right now, which I've talked about before, and it's starting to frustrate me. Liz is present and hanging out in these more recent episodes; she's here, but she's not really contributing.

If there was one thing I did not expect in this episode it was the return of the CREEPY HUNTER DUDE! And bam! He makes a surprise appearance following an arrow in Dembe's leg and he starts taunting Dembe and praising Kate. I mean, I got that he was impressed with her, but it seems a little like he's obsessed with her. Of course, Dembe takes the inevitable villain monologue as an opportunity to lure the Creepy Hunter Dude closer -so he can yank out the arrow from his own leg and stab him with it! Man, I love this guy!

Red and Liz arrive just in time to scoop up Dembe, hobbling back to his car. The reunion between Red and Dembe is brief -considering the one is bleeding out and the other is rattled that Kate's alive and apparently has an assassin lurking nearby- but I'm hoping for a good moment between those two in episode 18. *crosses fingers*

While Red sends Liz off to get Dembe to the hospital, Baz -who, adorably, has been playing Dembe's stand in as chauffuer and bodyguard- and Red head off into the woods to do battle with Creepy Hunter Dude. They manage to draw him out with a little bit of trickery, at the cost of an arrow wound for Baz, but at least now we know Baz looks just as good in Red's hat as Red does in a knit beanie cap. (Seriously.)
Now we come to the part of the show where Aram realizes that his long-term crush just found out he's been dating his traitor ex-girlfriend again. Yay. I kind of skipped over the part where Janet suggests to Navabi they discuss the fact that they both like Aram because my only note from that was 'Suck it up, Navabi.' I'm really having serious issues with her. So we're going to skip over this right to the part where Aram apologizes to Navabi.

First of all, Aram apologizes to Navabi because he didn't forewarn her that he was dating Janet again. This tells a lot about Aram's character, that he's maybe too nice for his own good, he's a decent guy, and he genuinely still cares for Navabi. I think he takes a very big step in treating Navabi as a real person rather than an idolized crush when he is blatantly honest and tells her that one of the things he admires about her is her intensity but it's also something that terrifies him, especially in a potential relationship aspect.

And Navabi says: "How's this for terrifying? I couldn't care less what you admire."

And the note I jotted down there was: Now I really hate you, Navabi ['really' is underlined about 8 times] and I hope you never get Aram YOU DON'T DESERVE HIM. Seriously, you've had your chances, and so many times Aram tries to be honest and mature about his feelings for you, you not only shut him down, you hurt him out of spite and I abhor that about you. You're becoming a very unlikable character and your good traits are drying up by the episode.

Okay. Trying to be unbiased for a moment, I get that she's upset and frustrated and angry right now. She didn't want to hear what Aram wanted to say and I get that hearing Aram tell her what he admires about her probably just made her angrier. But when Navabi gets angry, she tends to get cruel. I don't like that about her. I don't like that this is not the first time she has taken an olive branch offered out by Aram and broken it over her knee. I don't like the way she treats him, especially when he's being sincere; I don't like the way she takes his words and crams them back down his throat.

So here's the thing with show relationships. I'm not huge into 'shipping', except in extreme scenarios; I'm generally willing to go along with whatever the show seems to be pushing. So it was with Aram and Navabi. The first time he sees her, he is smitten. Everybody knows it; they even joke about it on occasion. Navabi, too, seems to find great amusement with Aram's infatuation and teases him a little. At first, I thought this was cute. If any relationship in the show worked out, I wanted it to be this one, because it was so darn cute. But as time goes on and nothing comes of it -and especially when Navabi slept with Ressler back in season 3, I mean, seriously, what was up with that?!- her behavior towards Aram goes from being cute with him to toying with him and sometimes being just downright cruel.

I'll admit, I'm a little biased against Navabi currently; the more I learn about her character, her personality, her opinions, and, as Aram put it, her intensity, the less and less I like her, but the less suited I think she is for Aram too. Which is why I hope, if Aram winds up in any lasting relationship in the show, that it isn't with Navabi. At this point, I don't really care who he winds up with as long as it isn't Navabi.

So. There's my strong opinion about that.

Moving on.

The final acts of this episode are appropriately dramatic. Red and Baz interrogate Creepy Hunter Dude for Kate's whereabouts and Creepy Hunter Dude is surprisingly and vehemently loyal to the woman he held captive for a few days in his shack in the middle of nowhere.

So loyal, in fact, he tricks Red into dialing the number that sets off the bomb he's rigged in the basement.

Red and Baz run for their lives as the cabin explodes, taking Creepy Hunter Dude with it, although leaving his foreboding last words behind:
Creepy Hunter Dude: She said you'd do this.
RED: She said I'd do what exactly?
CHD: Underestimate her. 
And the episode ends with a shot of Kate, listening to the more foreboding phone message her backwoods admirer left: "...If this is the last time you hear my voice, know that I didn’t give you up. And I didn’t go down without a fight. You told me, if he ever figured out you’re still alive, he’d come at you full bore. Well, lock and load, Katie. Your war has come."

Guess it turns out the cleaner really is quite the strategist, ain't she, Red?

I've been a little worried about how this come-back would fare, but I think The Blacklist is back in top form.
Do you think so?
What was your favorite part?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

REVIEW: The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake House
Author: Kate Morton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Mystery

4/5 stars
PG-13 because it does involve some dark and depressing things surrounding the disappearance of a toddler and memories of war; murder; and some mild sexual content (nothing happens on page, but a child does walk in on it).
Recommend to fans of character-driven stories and twisty-turny mysteies.

I have opted not to include the summary, as it was recommended I not read it, for fear of it giving too much away and therefore ruining some of the suspense. I will say this is about the disappearance of a toddler in 1933 and the detective who tries to solve the cold case in 2003.

The Review:
This is the first book of Kate Morton's I've read, but it has definitely made me a fan. It's not your mainstream kind of genre mystery; it's much more character-driven, the mystery-solving less straight forward, often dealing more about the emotional and/or life changing effect the mystery has on the characters than on how the characters risk life and limb to solve said mystery. And, being a huge fan of character-driven stories, I loved it.

At first, I was annoyed with the amount of detail going into all the different story lines and the character's back stories because this was a mystery and I wanted PLOT. However, once I became familiar with the pacing of the book, I became much more invested in the individual characters and, at times, I wanted to know more about them than I did even about the mystery. Morton is still rather superfluous with her descriptions, but it's easily forgiven in this piece.

The story is complex, insanely layered, and nuanced; it's revealed a piece at a time and steadily unravels until the grand tapestry of secrets and lies finally falls away to reveal the truth. Shifting constantly between two main perspectives over a period of seventy years, Morton leads a merry dance and it's hard not to fall straight into her red herrings because they're blatant and subtle and magnificently crafted. Just when you think you've figured everything out, she reveals a single -sometimes even insignificant- detail that WINDS UP CHANGING EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW.

You think you understand a character inside and out, but Morton is constantly shifting them to expose heretofore unseen facets that rewrite every word and action up to then. This is absolutely a character-driven story and I quickly became invested in them. I became so invested in the characters that, at one point in the book, I actually came to hate it because of one of these twists. I was so devastated that, despite the wonderful crafting of the book, I didn't think I could ever come to good terms with it again. (Fortunately, I did.)

Heartbreaking, wonderful, emotional, trying, and well-plotted, The Lake House is an understated mystery with moments of despair and grit, and a good ending.

Have you read any of Kate Morton's books?
What's your favorite character-driven story?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Sunday Post 009 | IMWAYR

Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme

 Corny Joke Monday 

What kind of tea is the hardest to swallow?

 Last Week on the Blog 

 This Week on the Blog 

The Blacklist | S4, E16&17 To Watch
The Lake House Review

 What I'm Reading: 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and
share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. 

Heartstone by Elle Katherine White
P&P with dragons. YEESSSS!!!

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Re-read, book club read.

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue (audio)

The Clone Wars comics

 What I Read: 

The Lake House by Kate Morton

Chapter two of a friend's WIP that I LOVE

 Internet Shenanigans 

In my love of all things Postmodern Jukebox, I just discovered that its creator, Scott Bradlee, has written inspirational blog posts for inspirational types like us and I'm eating them up. So far, my favorite is How to Turn Practice Into A Habit because it made me reevaluate how I approach everything I do from writing to blogging to 'practicing' piano.

Also, Dragonfly's review of Cress by Marissa Meyer over at IS EVERYTHING I HOPED IT WOULD BE! All her fangirling makes me so happy. XD

 In Real Life 

NBA PLAYOFFS! GO JAZZ! I've been spending every other night at my grandparents' place, watching the Jazz games with them and boy do me and Grandma get into it. They say the Jazz auditorium is the loudest one in all of the NBA -and the two of us aren't even inside it!

Of course, the Playoffs schedule is kind of wreaking havoc with everything else. I mean, I still haven't had time to watch the new Blacklist episodes! *gasp*

  What's new with you? 

Friday, April 21, 2017

AUDIO REVIEW: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Author: Marissa Meyer
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Publisher: Macmillan
Genre: YA Fantasy

3.5/5 stars
PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images
Recommend to fans of Marissa Meyer, Alice in Wonderland, any retellings/branch offs/additions involving Wonderland, tragedies, and villain origin stories; people who don't mind love triangles.
Narration: 4/5 stars

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. (via Goodreads)

The Review

Though well-told and possessing a good story, clever uses of traditional Wonderland elements, fun worldbuilding, and great characters, I had a hard time getting through this one because of the love triangle. Ugh. I really, really hate love triangles.

Initially, I liked the main character Catherine. She's a likable, lovely character, who lives for baking despite it's being an improper pastime for a lady. She's easy to sympathize with, too, because she's set upon by her busy-body mother, who wants her to find a rich husband and get through a single day without covering something in flour! It's no wonder Catherine feels she can't tell her parents what she longs for and dreams of: to open her own bakery. I liked Catherine because really she wants so little -a bakery, for goodness' sake! She just wants to make and sell cakes and pastries and tarts!- and I wanted her to have that more than anything.

What I loved most about Catherine, though, was how Meyer wrote her in the beginning as such a sweet, likable, innocent young woman -but every once in a while, when she's so boiling mad or frustrated, she says or thinks something and I went 'Aha! There's the Queen of Hearts!'

The love triangle was rather infuriating. At first, it was fine. It's the plot of the story -does she choose the King or Jest? Why and why not?- but the middle of the story became so bogged down in this hysteria of emotions as Catherine is floundering between the two of them and between her dreams and her parents' expectations that I WANTED TO TEAR MY HAIR OUT! Meyer tried to compensate for the prominent love triangle by adding in some intrigue, Jabberwocky attacks, and a mystery, all of which is good and really adds to the story, but most of these elements were not capitalized upon during this boggy middle, which made it even worse. While I was impatient to figure out what the Jabberwocky was after and why Hatta seems to despise Catherine so much, Catherine was focused solely on her love woes.

Catherine, who starts out as a really great character, quickly went downhill for me because she won't grow a spine. I didn't mind that she was a fairly meek character; what I didn't like is that she won't speak up for herself, that she lets her mother and the king walk all over her, that she leads the King and Jest on without actually acting on any of the promises she makes them, AND THEN SHE PLAYS HERSELF AS THE VICTIM, moping and complaining that she has no control over her life! The most infuriating thing is that she doesn't notice this in herself, even at its most extreme.

However, there's a flip side to this. As much as Catherine grew to infuriate me with her fickle nature and her tendency to refuse to act and then blame others for her problems -or worse, to act and then blame others for the consequences of those actions- these are the exact traits that eventually form her into the Queen of Hearts. 
Now can you see my dilemma?! One of the key things I didn't like about this book is exactly what makes it such a great villain origin story! Meyer knew exactly what she was doing when she wrote Cath.

On the note of villain origin stories, I gladly give Marissa Meyer a standing ovation because she did not fall into the trap so often seen of late, of casting the 'villains' in the role of misunderstood heroes (al a the film 'Maleficent' and Valentino's 'Fairest of All'). What she gives us in Catherine is a young woman who starts off a mostly good person, but because of how her life turns out, she comes to rely on her flaws. Meyer makes the Queen of Hearts a sympathetic character, but she's no less of a villain for that.

Despite how downright infuriating I found Catherine at many points in the book, I've come to terms with that because this is an excellently-crafted character arc and a great story. My biggest complaint was that boggy middle of the story; I almost DNFed it there, because ugghh love triangles. While I'm glad I suffered through that to the chilling finale, I don't know that I would re-read this.

While not as good as her Lunar Chronicles, it's definitely another feather in Meyer's cap. Because of the prominent love triangle, it simply wasn't my, well, cup of tea.

Speaking of the Mad Hatter... Meyer's version -the rather haunted and bitter Hatta- was, by far, my favorite character in this book, and I bemoan that he didn't have a larger or more prominent role in the story. If she writes a Hatta prequel I will be lining up for that book.

What did you think of Heartless?
What's your favorite adaptation of Alice in Wonderland?

EPIC FAIL: Or, the Take Control Extension



This is a little embarrassing.

Remember the Take Control challenge that ended last month?

Yeah, I've been so busy with other things I haven't been able to post an update yet.

I, um... failed.


I told myself when I set the challenge -as I do every time I take a reading challenge- that THIS TIME will be different, that THIS TIME I won't put too many books on, and that THIS TIME I'll actually read them on. Thus, the epic part of epic fail.

But I'm no quitter! So what I've decided is to continue with the Take Control challenge until I finish it, because all of these are books I still really want to read and I figure late is better than never. Right? And if this actually works to motivate me, well, maybe this will become 'a thing' round these here parts.

So here is the updated list:

From my bookshelves:

I did not get through any of these, unfortunately.

The Finnegan Zwake series by Michael Dahl
I am ashamed I haven't read these yet. Ashamed. I wasn't able to finish the series for years because they were out of print, but my dad discovered they were back in print, and completed my set two Hanukkahs ago. There are five books in total, about 150 pages a piece, and I've only read the first three. Plus, they're MIDDLE GRADE MURDER MYSTERIES! Do you have any idea how rare those are?
I told you. Ashamed.

The Undead Road: My Zombie Summer Part One by David Powers King
This is a book I bought last year. I was really excited about it, yet somehow haven't gotten to it yet. :P

(if I have time)
Star Wars: Rise of the Empire by James Luceno and John Jackson Miller


Heartless by Marissa Meyer | FINISHED!

Sands by Kevin L. Nielsen

(if I have time)
Etherwalker by Cameron Dayton

From my Kindle library:

PWNED by Shannen Crane Camp
Popular cheerleader who 'helps' the captain of the squad pick on geeks, but she's actually a closet gamer herself. I've wanted to read this for ages!

That Girl, Darcy: A Pride & Prejudice Story by James Ramos
This is a gender-swapped Pride and Prejudice retelling. This is either going to be really good or terrible and I can't wait to see which it is.

Avis Blackthorn: Is Not An Evil Wizard! by Jack Simmonds
A kids book in the vein of Harry Potter; the only good wizard from an evil wizarding family is off to wizarding school to escape his miserable home life.

Book Club Read: 

Airman by Eoin Colfer ^_^ | FINISHED!

In addition to my library hoard...

Beauty by Robin McKinely (currently reading)

(if I have time)
Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull | FINISHED!

Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull | FINISHED!

Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull | FINISHED!

Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull | currently reading

Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull

Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull

What books have been on your TBR for a shamefully long time?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Tips and Links for Writing Characters #AmWriting

I mentioned last week I'd found several helpful resources and tips for developing characters and the demand from you lovely Book Dragons was immediate.

So let's travel back in time (to last week) and recall the journey that lead to perhaps some of the most major character writing breakthroughs...

*fade to black*
It all started when I realized the reason I couldn't figure out what my character was doing and why my character was refusing to cooperate was because I had very little understanding of said character. I knew some basics -she's reckless; she has a very strong sense of justice and morality; she's independent, strong, and confident- but it wasn't enough.

So I took a personality quiz.

I've heard this is a good way to peg down your character's personality but, honestly, I always thought this was a super weird thing to do. What can I say? I was desperate!

16 Personalities

The quiz I used is at, which I chose for two reasons. A few months ago, at a friend's insistence, I took this quiz myself and it was pretty spot on. Also, each personality has an EIGHT PAGE summary, talking about strengths and weakness and how they interact in different relationships. This was immensely helpful. I pegged down some specifics about my character's personality that I was aware of, but not consciously so. I extrapolated enough concrete details from the summary that I have a much better understanding of my character.

Now, not everything was accurate, but I was able to amend the bits that weren't very easily. This is perhaps the most hassle-free character I've ever been able to develop.

My next move, of course, was to concrete my character's flaw.

I really have trouble with these; don't ask me why. The outlining of character sketches has always been a plague to me. It isn't necessarily the knowing of the information it's the act of writing it down in any semblance of order. (In school, I always hated outlining :P)

I headed over to K.M. Weiland's Helping Writers Become Authors intending to revisit her step-by-step process for structuring character arcs. I have a love/hate relationship with this particular blog series of hers. On the one hand, it's absolutely brilliant, bursting with great information, and it's a process that should really, really work. On the other hand, it's never worked for me. The few times I've tried it, it's wound up rather destroying my WIP, mainly due to my outlining inabilities.

Luckily, I got distracted on my way there. I was sharing some links with a writer friend from Weiland's blog and wound up stumbling across How To Be a Gusty Writer: Stay True to Your Characters, an analysis of how fantastically Captain America: Civil War handled the good and the bad qualities of our favorite Marvel characters. My gosh. So much inspiration right here, guys.

At this point, I just started reading tons of Weiland's posts, jumping links to the next one and the next one. This is where I found Captain America's 10-Step Guide to the Likable Hero, which is another irreplaceable resource and -even better!- really, really easy to relate to.

One big issue I have with outlining and plotting are 'structure terms'. Catalyst, intro, beat 1, turning point -they all come across as some lofty mumbo jumbo meant to make writing easier, but they don't jive with the creative part of my brain. They're too technical-sounding and -feeling. When I try to break down my free-flowing, creative process into these bland white boxes marked with static, strict, technical headings, my inspiration and will to write just flees. Terms like this and most organization processes tend to box my mind in. It really sucks.

What I love about Weiland's blog posts is that she generally resorts to more laymen terms -these don't scare my creativity off- and she always illustrates her points and tips with specific, step-by-step examples from movies and/or books.

This leads me to the piece de resistance, the #1 most helpful discovery in recent years.

When I clicked on this article, I expected a little advice on how to make well-rounded characters, but what I got was the absolute solution to one of my biggest challenges as an author: Being Mean To Your Characters.

I have always been the type of writer that doesn't like to torture her characters and doesn't like to watch them make bad decisions or screw up because I don't want to put them through that. I'm a very nice person (most of the time) and sometimes this inability to cause pain or trauma or despair is a really frustrating trait to have as a writer!

Weiland's five-step guide to dynamic characters doesn't just give the strength I need to be mean to my characters; it removes my role from the playing field entirely. She shifts the perspective of this idea completely and suggests that authors don't have to mean to their characters. As she puts it:
Here is the single most important thing to understand about your protagonist’s suffering: He must always be responsible.
-K.M. Weiland, The Secret to Writing Dynamic Characters
 That's it. Right there. Now I see this necessity of writing from a completely different angle and I'm write there with the 'cruel' authors. After reading this article, I sat down and wrote a page and a half of bad choices my character could make to put her through hardships and now I can't wait to be mean to my characters because I no longer feel guilty or responsible for said hardships.

So there they are. The three key pieces of writing advice that suddenly clarified writing this character.

I hope these resources will help you with your own writing, too.
But don't be shy!
What wonderful writing resources do you know?