My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

Archive for the ‘Literature’ Category

Fury of the Phoenix Releases Today

Fury of the Phoenix, the sequel to Cindy Pon’s amazing fantasy novel, Silver Phoenix, releases today!

I have been looking forward to this book since I finished the last one. I’m so happy it’s finally here!

Also, Cindy is having a contest over on her blog to celebrate the release. To enter, you have to read the book first though. 🙂 Prizes include some amazing original brush paintings by Cindy herself. Check out the official rules here.

You can get some amazing swag just by posting or tweeting about the contest. I have to say, those postcards are seriously amazing.

Congrats, Cindy, on your second book release!

Top Ten Favorite Heroines in Literature

Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester

So, a little break in our mini-series on Meiji era Japan.

I found this lovely literature blog last week called The Broke and the Bookish, and every Tuesday they have “Top Ten” list–from the Top Ten Books You Can’t Believe You’ve Never Read to the Top Ten Most Intimidating books. This week, it’s Top Ten Favorite Heroines and I simply had to participate. Here are my favorite literary heroines, some rather well known, others fairly obscure.

  1. Jane Eyre from, what else, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.  Simply my favorite heroine in all literature. She’s strong and courageous and I love how we see her grow from childhood to adulthood, and watch as she truly matures.   And of course we can’t forget she’s independent too–a remarkable feat given she’s living in 1840s England. I think that’s why I like her so much; she’s not afraid of life. She just lives it.
  2. Elinor Dashwood, from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen. Seems like a bit of an opposite from Ms. Eyre, doesn’t she? Still, I like her, especially for her common sense and strength of understanding. How she can remain this way when her sisters and mother are completely over-the-top shows a quiet strength that I’m envious of.  
  3. Elizabeth Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Who doesn’t like Lizzie Bennet? Lizzie’s  not afraid to speak her mind. I love her wit too–if only I could speak with such precise mental quickness; I too often think of good comebacks much later.
  4. Hermione Granger from all the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. Gotta love her ability to read and memorize encylopedias. 🙂 She’s also a strong and loyal friend, incredibly compassionate and protective, almost to a fault. She can be a little too bossy sometimes, but that flaw has helped her, Harry and Ron survive in many instances.
  5. Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hester manages to carve out a life for her and her daughter, despite being an outcast. She also refuses to give the name of her child’s father, showing how deeply she loves and cares for the man, despite what he’s put her through. Though she has her flaws, she’s remorseful for her actions and strives to give her daughter a decent life.
  6. Peony from Peony in Love by Lisa See. Peony has a very passionate nature, losing herself completely to emotion and love, something that was frowned upon in 17th century China, especially for women. She broke convention by meeting a man in her family’s garden during the opera The Peony Pavilion.  Her passion was her downfall though and created much pain through the remainder of her “life”, yet this passion makes her one devoted individual.
  7. Anne Shirley from all of the Anne of Green Gables books by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Talkative, intelligent and a bit on the fiery side, Anne is truly a wonderful character. She has an incredibly vivid imagination–something I loved reading about when I was younger since I identified with it. She can be a little rash and stubborn but she’s also a devoted friend.
  8. Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Lucy’s the glue of the Pevensie children, in my opinion. She’s the one who first discovered Narnia (not counting Digory and Polly, who were there at is creation in The Magician’s Nephew) and the one who believes in it the most. She’s courageous and compassionate and has the ability to forgive easily, which is something that I wish I could do.
  9. Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Even though she’s only six years old, she’s truly an awesome character. I love her tomboyish nature and her standing up for her father’s honor in the schoolyard. She’s a caring person and nearly fearless. She may be young but she’s a favorite.
  10. Jo March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. She’s incredibly outspoken, to a fault in many instances, but she’s also strong in that way as she’s willing to fight and not be passive about anything. She’s also willing to sacrifice for her family, like cutting off most of her hair to get a train ticket for her mother to visit their father.

Intro to Steampunk

So, while I may not write in the steampunk subgenre myself, I do enjoy reading it. Perhaps someday I’ll attempt a story set in a steampunk world.

Anyway, my little sister wrote a very informative article on the genre of steampunk, much better than I could’ve worded it.

If you’re curious about steampunk, I think she does a great way of summarizing it simply. Or perhaps that the sisterly bias talking. Or perhaps it’s just made of awesome. You decide.

Read it here!

2010 Debut Author Challenge: Magic Under Glass

So let me say that it’s been awhile since I’ve had a hard time putting a book down. Magic Under Glass was certainly one of those books; I stayed up until 1 AM last night finishing it.

Anyway, the book was as amazing as I’d hoped it’d be. Dolamore creates such a vibrant world and her descriptions paint such a picture that it seems like Lorinar was as real to me as any place on earth. The story hardly had a slow moment; each chapter ended at such a point that I couldn’t wait to read the next one…and the next and the next and so forth.

The main character, Nimira, has to be one of my favorite female heroines that I’ve read in awhile. She’s strong and brave, yet graceful and determined. I love how she’s not the standard “spitfire” heroine; her strength comes from within and she’s not the type to quickly speak whatever comes to mind; she carefully considers what to say–and who to say it to–instead of making the same mistakes as so many heroines her age by letting her emotions get out of control. I have to say I’m not sure I’d have been able to act as she did, with such bravery and calmness–especially when people would make less than kind comments about her ethnicity. Yet she wisely kept quiet, even if her emotions were raging within.

I loved how Dolamore portrayed all the characters in this book–from the mysterious and conflicted Hollin Parry, to the automaton Erris (whom I love almost as strongly as Nim), to the quiet and meek Linza and the dark and sinister Smollings. Each character was so three dimensional, it was like reading about events and people that actually existed.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy and romance. It’s a quick read once you get started, trust me 🙂 And I’m really hoping that there will be a sequal to this fantastic world.

Definitely 5/5 stars.

What’s On My Reading List

My reading pile grows larger and larger every day. Just check out my “To Read” shelf on Goodreads–there’s dozens of books on there.

Many of the ones I want to read are part of the 2010 Debut Author Challenge and most haven’t been officially released yet. Also, my local libraries are having budget issues so it’s hard to find the ones that are released.

Anyway, here’s a few of the books that are at the top of my reading list. Two of these are on hold for me at the library and I’m anxious to make a trip to pick them up.

The first one is debut author Jaclyn Dolamore’s Magic Under Glass. The premise of this one intrigues me, as it’s a Steampunk-type setting. It’s a tale of love and a race against time to break a curse. It’s waiting for me at the library right now and I’m anxious to start reading it.

The next one that’s on my reading list is called Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. I only just recently heard about this one from Lisa and Laura, but it sounds amazing. It’s about a young girl overcoming a childhood with a crazy mother; it’s set in Savannah for most of the book ( a city I’m dying to visit and may actually get the chance to see in June). It has glowing reviews all around, and it looks like an interesting read. I also found out the author is coming to my local book store on the 27th of this month, so I really want to read this before then.

The next one is a historical (my favorite genre of all!) called The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran. I read her latest book, Cleopatra’s Daughter, and really enjoyed it and I’ve heard this one is equally as good, if not better. Set in ancient Egypt, it follows Nefertari, the niece of the famous Nefertiti. Moran has a great way of setting you right in the middle of the time period and her painstaking research is evident in what I’ve read from her. At the same time, she’s careful not to overwhelm the reader with too many details. I also love the author’s blog, History Buff, where she posts links to intriguing archological stories.

Finally, I just discovered this one today, called Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin. Isn’t the cover gorgeous? That’s what caught my eye at first, as well as the title. It’s about Alice Liddell, the little girl that inspired Alice in Wonderland. It follows her from childhood through adulthood and old age. It too has glowing reviews. This one is on reserve at the library for me, but there’s a waiting list for it, so it’ll probably be a few months before I get to read this one.

So there you have it: a glimpse at my reading list. Do you have an ever-growing to-be read pile like I do? What books are you looking forward to reading?

Eyes Like Stars Release Day!

I cannot believe I forgot the date! Today is the day debut author Lisa Mantchev’s novel, Eyes Like Stars.

EyesLikeStars Isn’t the cover absolutely beautiful? Anyway, I think the premise of the novel sounds incredible–definitely something unique. A quick blurb from the book:

Beatrice Shakespeare Smith is not an actress, yet she lives in a theater.

She’s not an orphan, but she has no parents.

She knows every part, but she has no lines of her own.

Until now.

Enter Stage Right 

NATE. Dashing pirate. Will do anything to protect Bertie.

COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARD SEED, and PEASEBLOSSOM. Four tiny and incredibly annoying fairies. BERTIE’S sidekicks. 

ARIEL. Seductive air spirit and Bertie’s weakness. The symbol of impending doom.

BERTIE. Our heroine.

Welcome to the Théâtre Illuminata, where the actors of every play ever written can be found behind the curtain. They were born to play their parts, and are bound to the Théâtre by The Book—an ancient and magical tome of scripts. Bertie is not one of them, but they are her family—and she is about to lose them all and the only home she has ever known.

Check out the Amazon page too! I’m definitely heading out to the bookstore to find it.

Avid Readers

My appetite for a well written story is growing more and more every day. Searching for a good book has always involved a bit of frustration for me, especially as I read too fast sometimes and then I’m back at the beginning, searching earnestly for the next page turner. So, what better way to indulge in my desire of books than to search for blogs about them?

I’ve added a new section to the side called “Avid Readers” and those blogs are focused (for the most part) on book reviews. I find that most of the books I read (and have enjoyed) have come from a detailed review of the book by someone who obviously loves reading as much as I do. I don’t put too much stock in the Amazon reviews, for it’s clear that many people are way to quick to bash a book for something they don’t like. While I may not like a certain book I read, there’s a way to review it that doesn’t call for borderline vulgarity.

Anyway, if you have any book review blogs or websites you like to visit, let me know. It can be anything from adult mainstream to young adult, to fantasy to thriller and historical fiction–I’m trying to add to the list every day (or at least on a regular basis).

Contest Time Again!

This contest comes from literary agent Rachelle Gardner. It’s very simple. Write a haiku (you know–the standard 5-7-5 syllable pattern) about the writing life or the holidays.

The deadline is Saturday, the 20th, 11:59 p.m.; finalists should be up on Monday for readers/voters.

I submitted mine, the horrible poet that I am 😛 I wrote this in ten minutes, as is probably obvious but it’s lack of poetic quality. Anyway, I decided to try in the limited amount of syllables to convey my passion for writing historical fiction, but that’s probably not that easy to see, lol. But hey I decided to try–who can turn down the oppportunity to have the first ten pages of a manuscript critiqued or a $20 Amazon gift card?

Characters find me
Voices from the distant past
Begging to be heard.

Go ahead and give it a try–it can’t hurt!

Foundations of Good Literature

I must admit, lately it seems I am becoming somewhat of a literary snob. I don’t want to be this way, yet I have the hardest time finishing a book, either due to the actual story not fulfilling up to its glowing reviews or because the actual writing is so poor, I get frustrated with it.

Seriously, it’s been a couple of months since I last finished a book.

Perhaps it’s because of my degree in English (which has yet to prove useful in life, lol) that I find myself more critical of things. Then again, half the books that are considered classics that we were made to read really weren’t, in my opinion, “classic” at all (case in point: anything by Hemingway. I seriously cannot understand how his work has become so lauded in literary circles).

So, I was thinking about it, and I made a bit of a list of what I consider to be the foundations of a good story. It’s pretty simplistic.

  1. There must be a character the reader can identify with. This has been something that I think has been neglected in many popular books and the “classics.” Perhaps that’s why I dislike Hemingway’s stories so much–I cannot identify with his main characters–or any characters really–that he writes about. Example: Frederick Henry in Farewell to Arms. Throughout most of the story I’m pretty disgusted by him and his actions. How then am I supposed to enjoy the story if I’m reading about someone I could care less about?
  2. The story must be compelling. I may really love the character, but if the story isn’t compelling enough for me to keep reading, I won’t finish the book. For me, this is typical of some chick-lit books I’ve read (or attempted to read and just couldn’t get past the halfway point). I’ll love the character, but his/her story just doesn’t catch me enough and the book will seem neverending. This also goes hand-in-hand with #1. If the story is compelling but the characters are distant, it also falls short.
  3. Will I be able to understand the message? Perhaps I’m not a “deep” reader, but some literary fiction (I say some because I’ve read a good number of literary books that don’t fall into this category) makes my head hurt. Questions are good to have throughout a story, as long as they are not drawn out or never answered. This is what I found particularly frustrating when I took a Contemporary Lit class in college. One of the books we read was Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. It was so confusing I would literally have headaches after reading it. The only reason I was able to make any sort of sense of the book was because of my lit teacher (and some of the more talented lit majors :P). Perhaps I’m just not cut out for such “deep” prose, but I do not care for books that need a doctorate to understand.
  4. Is the message too blunt? The opposite of #3 but are you being inundated with the message at every page? This is something I know as a writer I need to work on as I’m afraid I may be making things too deep for the reader to catch on to. But you have to give readers credit; they can figure things out if the message isn’t too deeply hidden.
  5. Is the story too cliche? Is it a story you can figure out the ending from the first few pages? I know nearly everything has been done before. However, a story could be the typical boy meets girl type yet be original in how it’s presented. It’s difficult, but not impossible–I’ve read a good many books that manage to present what could be a “cliche” topic yet are still successful in my opinion–at least to the point where I finished the book.

Does the story stick with you long after you’ve finished? I believe this is one of the most important aspects of a great story. If it’s a book you’d want to pick up again and again, a story that haunts you hours, days, weeks after you’ve read it–then it’s a great book. Many stories are good but the truly great ones achieve this aspect.

I know as a writer this is everything that I need to live up to as well, at least if I want my book to be moderately successful and not one that people wonder how it was published in the first place 🙂 I think as writers, these are things we should keep in mind.

I realize that all of this probably makes me sound even more like a literary snob/elitist when it comes to reading–and perhaps I am in a way. But as a reader, I’m spending valuable time with an author and their story. It can be incredibly disappointing when the book you had great expectations for turns out to be a dud in the end. Truly good literature can be hard to come by, but when it’s found, it’s equivalent to gold 🙂

Anyway, any comments? Any suggestions of a good book are welcome too as I am always willing to try anything.

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