Randomosity on Fridays: Alz Edition

Krispy had to go to sleep before drafting a post because I kept her up late, so this is Alz posting instead. My first Friday Five! I was all excited until I realized nothing exciting happened to me recently. So maybe I'll talk about books that I haven't finished, since I realize I've got quite a few of them on my literary plate. In no particular order—

1. I'm reading Nightshade by Andrea Cremer. I stole the book from Krispy and started it back in December but tapered off reading because it's got a potentially terminal case of WTF-is-going-on-itis. I'm over 100 pages into the book and still have no real idea what's happening or what things mean or why things are important. I stopped reading around the point where it's revealed that some characters are gay; it was so artificially done and inserted into the story as a plot device that it felt like the author made them gay to make the book cool and hip and trendy. I want to finish it if only to find out what the hell is going on, but I have difficulty reading for more than 5 pages at a time because something usually happens to make me wonder if this is worth wasting my time. (The fact that I'm constantly wondering this while reading tells me the answer is probably no.)

2. Dragon's Heart by Jane Yolen is the fourth book of the Pit Dragon series, written over a decade after the last book. I read the original trilogy when I was pretty young and love love loved them. I nearly had a heart attack from sheer joy when I found out there was to be a fourth book, though I have to admit that due to things like academics and Real Life and just plain forgetfulness, I didn't get around to reading it until, uh, at least a year later. I started it last month-ish but haven't read anymore because—well, the tone is odd. Different. Granted that it's been over ten years and all, but I found the tone, diction and syntax to be fundamentally different from the original trilogy, and it was just too jarring to my expectations for me to keep on reading—especially since this book quite literally picks up right where the last one left off. I had to put the book down so I could mentally adjust. I'm still adjusting.

3. Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen & Bruce Coville: I found this book for sale at our local library for 25 cents and practically peed my pants because I love Jane Yolen (as noted above) and also love Bruce Coville (Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher is a favorite), and I had no idea they'd written a book together. It's a fascinating and well-written story about two young teens whose parents become members of a religious cult and drag their kids off to camp on a mountain because they believe the world is going to end on July 27th. If you heard an unholy scream of rage last week in the middle of the night, that was probably me when I discovered that due to a printing error, the book jumps from page 202 to page 235, straight from an intermission chapter of an police transcript to the heroine suddenly wielding a rifle with blood flying all over the place. The saddest thing is the book is only 266 pages long—so I'm right at the end, where everything's happening, and there's 30 missing pages and no local bookstores have it in stock so I had to order it off Amazon and it's not here yet and RAAAAAAAGE.

4. The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is book I've been reading for probably about two years now—or to be more precise, I got about a third through it and haven't managed to pick it up since. One of my friends who always gives me books absolutely loved this one and I've seen it very highly recommended everywhere, and I just could not read through because I didn't like the narrator and sometimes weird things happened that were way too unexplained. The POV shifts from third-person current-time to first-person in-the-past (not present- and past-tense; it's all past tense), and I liked the third-person chapters, and in general the world-building, mood, and imagery were wonderfully detailed and fully realized. But the hero, Kvothe—asldkfad;fjadf. I stopped having sympathy/empathy for him because he's a young arrogant hotshot prodigy and I felt like he deserved it when he got punished or mistreated. I still want to read the book since I liked everything else, but I first have to master the urge to punch Kvothe in the face or go LOL SUCKER YOU HAD IT COMING when bad things happen to him.

5. I kinda-sorta-semi-started Matched by Ally Condie—or more accurately, I skimmed through about 80 pages while Krispy was reading it, and since she finished and passed it on to me, I have to sit down and seriously re-read those 80 pages and then get on to reading the rest. I'm looking forward to it since Krispy says it's good and I've also read good things about it, though I have tempered my expectations since I've heard it's more of a character-driven slow-paced book as opposed to loaded with action and mystery. While I do love me some good hack'n'slash guns-blazin' lightsabers-buzzin' magic-fireballin' action, I also appreciate good character development and exploration.

That's my five! And at the end, we have a couple of shout-outs from Krispy, who begs advice of you all:

"I will be going on a business trip to Chicago soon. So people who live in COLD places, any tips on how not to freeze?"

Additionally, we have a treat for you in the works that requires your participation. Expect a respectable* and serious** advice column from the Legendary Loquacious Luce in the eventual future!

Says Krispy, "Ask questions, any questions! Just keep it PG-13, people."

If you have any burning questions you want answered in a helpful*** and humorous**** way, feel free to leave them in the comments and/or email us. We make no guarantees on when this guest column will appear or whether Luce will answer, but we will do our best.

* Disrespectable, actually.
** As serious as a popsicle-eating penguin on a pogo stick.
*** We reserve the right to redefine the word "helpful."
hu•mor•ous –adjective 1. Archaic . moist; wet. 2. pertaining or due to the bodily humors.


World-building Wednesday

A few weeks ago, I decided to turn my attentions back to a story idea I'd set aside because I was doing NaNoWriMo. As with most of my stories, I had the two main characters and the inciting incident that happens to them. I even had their motivations and goals.

What I didn't have was a fully fleshed external plot, which is usually the case for me. I also didn't have a fully fleshed world. Aside from a few notes on the existence of magic and what supernatural creatures existed in this world, I knew little else about this new story-verse.

You see, I usually have characters that come to me or a cool idea for a premise. Then I just stick them into a sort of pencil-sketched world and make things up along the way. True pantser here. The rules of the world generally form as I go, and even then, they're very loose. This is usually fine when I'm writing, but it can cause problems later when I have to figure out the logistics of the magical system or what is plausible and what isn't.

So I decided to take a different route with this new story and its world. I decided this world was going to have magic, yes, but there would be some hard and fast rules. Kinds of magic would be limited, and the hierarchy of power for supernatural creatures would be clear. Then I moved on to the human society and its governmental infrastructure.

Two new characters appeared here with their own backstories, and they worked themselves into plot relevant positions.

Let me tell you, it's been so fun making stuff up and watching this totally new world grow around me. It was even better running things by Alz because she asked the pertinent logic questions that I would otherwise gloss over or ignore. (The perks of having writing friends and/or friends who like asking questions!)

However, there was something I hadn't accounted for. The world-building overtook the story. I mean, of course, the world-building helped create plot where there hadn't really been plot before, but I was concentrating too much on random side details and not enough on MY CHARACTERS and what they want or don't want.

So I switched gears, and the plot formed. My problem now, though, is that I have two sides of a plot that are supposed to tie together, but I can't get them to do so. IT IS FRUSTRATING.

The change in my habits and the experience have been helpful and even wonderful, but now I'm struggling to find the balance in the two methods.

How do you world-build? Do you do it on the fly (like I usually do) or do you do it before you start writing/plotting? What's your favorite part to build?

See you all Friday!


Randomosity on Fridays

Thanks everyone for their comments on the book reviews! I'm glad you're enjoying them and I will hound Alz to do more. :)

Also, welcome new followers! Where did you come from? I peeked over and there were a bunch of you!

I have no theme for today's randomosity, so it will be randomosity in its purist form. Get ready!

1. I cut my hair really short - like into a bob that's barely chin-length. Surprisingly, I think I like it. See, I'm a long-hair type of girl and I'm Asian, so this type of move (like getting the straight bangs) could easily have made me look 15. Not saying it doesn't, but I don't totally look like a baby, so that's a plus in my book! Now the back of my neck just has to get used to being cold.

2. The Naked Palette is everything I want in a neutral tones palette. I can take this ONE palette with me on vacation or wherever and I'd be set. I know, I sound like a freaking commercial for this thing, but I love it!

3. Joining Tumblr might have been a mistake. It is the hugest TIME SUCK of life. Maybe I exaggerate a little, but then again, maybe not. But it's so fun!

4. I finished reading Across the Universe and Matched this week, and I quite enjoyed both. I've convinced Alz to read Matched, so we will perhaps have a joint review for you in the near future.

5. Alz and I are discussing story ideas and using extended metaphors to do so. We're talking about playing in sandboxes. Apparently, I almost died (metaphorically) once in one of hers, but she assures me that her new one is bigger and I can bring my own toys. But I'm not sure I like sand all that much to begin with. In the words of Anakin Skywalker: It's coarse and rough and irritating. And it gets everywhere...

I'm not really sure what we're talking about anymore.

Did you do anything interesting this week? Anything DARING? (Cutting my hair totally counts.) Share your bit of random!


Book Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

(This is a semi-joint review. Mostly, it's Alz with input by Krispy.)

I was excited for this book since I read the promotional 111 pages released on the release day of 01-11-11. I offered to pick the book up for Krispy since I could get it sooner, and shamelessly finished it that night. While I was thoroughly engrossed, some issues arose that led to me having mixed feelings by the end.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Pros: Engrossing writing, identifiable narrators, beautiful world- and ship-building. (Krispy's input: deft handling of themes and narrative mood)
Cons: Excessive heavy-handed clues = mysteries are no longer mysterious, violation of the laws of physics, author withholds info and eschews character depth and development for the sake of a plot twist.

Intellectual Rating: 7 out of 10 stars
Emotional Grade: B-

Book Blurb: Amy is a cryogenically frozen passenger aboard the spaceship Godspeed. She has left her boyfriend, friends—and planet—behind to join her parents as a member of Project Ark Ship.

Amy and her parents believe they will wake on a new planet, Centauri-Earth, three hundred years in the future. But fifty years before Godspeed's scheduled landing, cryo chamber 42 is mysteriously unplugged, and Amy is violently woken from her frozen slumber.

Someone tried to murder her.

Now, Amy is caught inside a tiny world where nothing makes sense. Godspeed's 2,312 passengers have forfeited all control to Eldest, a tyrannical and frightening leader. And Elder, Eldest's rebellious teenage heir, is both fascinated with Amy and eager to discover whether he has what it takes to lead.

Amy desperately wants to trust Elder. But should she put her faith in a boy who has never seen life outside the ship's cold metal walls? All Amy knows is that she and Elder must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets before whoever woke her tries to kill again.

Alz's Take: I've seen this book promoted as a science fiction love story, but it's far more interesting than merely that. There is romance, but it is by no means as headbangingly drippy as a YA romance novel, and romance is not the sole focus. There's a murder mystery going on in an enclosed space, a dystopian society ruled by a questionable despot, and the question of how things ended up this way. Amongst other things, of course.

The book is first-person narration and chapters faithfully alternate between Amy's POV and Elder's. The writing is strong, although I should make a small note that I wish Amy and Elder's voices were just a little more distinct; cultural references and differences in vocabulary aside, they sounded a bit similar to me—strong, and reacting to different situations differently, but all in the same tone. But the narration is very, very close to the speaker, as opposed to, say, The Hunger Games where the narration is first-person but somewhat distant. Engulfing emotion rolls off the pages of Across the Universe in waves. It's great!

Amy is a realistically portrayed teenage girl, and her vulnerabilities are made as evident as her strengths, which I liked. She doesn't immediately somersault out of her freezer box wielding a phase rifle and a flamethrower and ready to gun down her attempted murderer, or emerge clear-minded and level-headed and ready to take on the challenges of shipboard life. No, she emerges crying and dazed and suffering from no little trauma, and her distress is neither brushed off nor glamorized. As she recovers her physical strength, she recovers her personal and character strengths as well. Amy has several very intense scenes and in all of them she is presented for what she is: a seventeen-year-old girl and a stranger in a strange land. She is likeable and identifiable without feeling doctored to appeal to a target audience—she is what she is: Amy.

Elder is also likeable, has his own motivations and frustrations and worries, and he's also a good window into the world of the Godspeed. You know how I say I like to learn about worlds through immersion and context? This is what I'm talking about right here and now, in Across the Universe. Elder introduces us to his world, either with a casual description of the "floppies" that are computer membrane-sheets or simply spitting out cursewords like "frex." (Yay, another F-word addition to my scifi lingo lexicon: Frak! Frell! Frex!)

The Godspeed is a world built unto itself as much literally as metaphorically, and I felt the ship around me as a reality when I was reading. The senses of entrapment and frustration were intense. The mood is meticulously crafted and the story itself deals with many social and political themes, as well as handling mature subjects (read into that term what you will) in a tactful and insightful way.

The chapters are super short, averaging around five pages each, sometimes much less—there are 398 pages divided into 80 chapters. So it reads quickly and the book is probably a lot shorter than it looks because of so much blank space between chapters. The chapters are also written so that they frequently leave off on emotional epiphanies or situational cliffhangers. I tore through the book in about three and a half hours because I didn't want to stop.

That's the positive stuff. Let's move on to some of the less positive stuff.

Aside from Amy, Elder, and one of the characters named Harley, all the others seem a little flat. If Amy, Elder and Harley are three-dimensional, Eldest, Doc, and most everyone else of note is two-dimensional—not so flat as to be one-dimensional because there are hints toward deeper character, but by halfway through the book I was getting impatient for some change or revelation; by the end of the book, I was disappointed because all that potential remained unfulfilled.

Most of the plot is very transparent. Although Krispy has accused me of being uncommonly perceptive and I admit I have a suspicious nature, these glaringly obvious clues should have been glaringly obvious to the characters too. There were a lot of times when plot-blindness came into play, by which I mean that otherwise intelligent characters failed to notice obvious things or make obvious connections simply in the interest of prolonging the book. Because stuff is so obvious and you've already figured everything out, there's not much tension surrounding the mysteries, no matter how much the story tries to play it up; most of the tension lies in wanting to see how things pan out and wondering if there's going to be a plot twist of some kind.

(Note from Krispy: I have to agree here about the transparent nature of some of the clues. I'm one of those readers that gives everything the benefit of a doubt, which is to say, I pretty much turn off my brain for full immersion in story and I REALLY suspend my disbelief. To begin with, I will take most in-story facts/laws/what-have-yous at face value. But EVEN I SAW some things coming almost as early as Alz did, which is saying a lot.

Then again, I do watch a lot of crime dramas.)

There were some plot twists, yes, but the two main ones—which is to say the two that I didn't see coming from the first quarter of the book—I have beef with. Serious beef. Like a whole herd and a half of Apollo's sacred white cows kind of beef. Unfortunately I can't get into the meat of the problems since that would be spoilerific, so I shall attempt to describe them without really describing what's happening.

Basically, we're told something via a plot twist that's a Very Big Problem and very integral to the plot—but this plot twist ignores the laws of physics.

However, it is something that if you're reading quickly because you're absorbed in the book (and it is quite absorbing) and you're not really thinking about it, you might not notice. For instance, Krispy did not catch on until I pointed it out to her. (Note from Krispy: I would like to confess here that Physics was by far my worst subject in school, EVER. My reader perception being low aside, I think this was another example of how much Physics and I just do not get along.)

Now, this is science fiction, and it's clear the author's done some research to fill in certain details and put a hell of a lot of thought into sustainable life on a spaceship that'll be centuries in reaching its destination. I applaud her for that and enjoyed the fruit of her efforts up until the Very Big Problem part, when it suddenly turned sour. I can accept without question or thought the technologies of cryogenic freezing, artificial gravity, and a ship on a 300-year-old autopilot system. But I can't accept a violation of the laws of physics. That's the basic foundation of science fiction—screw up there and it skews everything before and after, and creates a very shaky house indeed.

(Krispy has informed me that Beth Revis announced that two of the things we learn in the book are actually lies that will be revealed in the next book, but I'm not taking that into consideration. I shouldn't have to rely on external authorial input to excuse a glaring inaccuracy, especially since there's no hint or other indication that this plot twist is indeed a lie.)

The other plot twist I didn't like because it made me feel cheated and deceived—it was an authorial plot device wherein the author kept a very important tidbit of information from the reader simply for the sake of revealing it as a huge twist in the end. This sort of thing can be done well, but it's very hard to do it when everything is first-person narration, because then you have to wonder: Why didn't the character ever think about this during the hundreds of pages of the book? Especially if it's something that should've evoked a great deal of emotion.

I went back and reread around the events concerning the plot twist, and there were some vague hints, but they were ambiguous enough that I didn't bat an eyelash when I read them the first time. There was no other setup, clues, or hinting toward this twist.

In light of the twist, though, and the fact that the character involved didn't dwell on this matter or think about how it influenced things, it changes my opinion of said character for the worse. I'm pretty sure my opinion isn't supposed to plummet as much as it did, and if I'd just taken everything at face value and not thought about the deeper implications, it might've been more okay. But if I'm offered depth, I'm going to take the plunge, even if that's not what the author intended.

The book is open-ended to the point that I was a tad unsatisfied because there are so many loose ends, though there is some resolution for some of the immediate problems and mysteries. I initially thought the book was a standalone but after I'd gotten halfway through Krispy told me it's actually going to be a trilogy. I'd rate my level of ending-satisfaction at around 70%.

(Note from Krispy: I was more okay with the ending than Alz was because while there were still big things to be resolved, the main mysteries and thematic focuses of this book were resolved or satisfactorily dealt with. There was also enough of what I characterize as "a feeling of hope" in the tone of the end that let me be okay with the loose ends. Of course I'd like to know what happens after, but as it is, I think I would be okay if I didn't know this book was part of a trilogy.)

Alz's Conclusion: Across the Universe is a fast-paced, absorbing read, and stylistically well-written. The plot is too easily predictable from the plethora of obvious clues which the characters' plot-blindness prevents them from seeing; it also suffers from an integral but incorrect assumption about the laws of physics. I'm somewhat disappointed and unsatisfied due to my high expectations and the story's brilliant start, but I did enjoy most of the book. It's worth reading and I definitely want to read the sequel.

(Krispy's Conclusion: Mostly ditto what Alz said, though my high expectations were probably the result of being a bit overhyped, but it was still a good read and Ms. Revis is a skilled writer. I'm looking forward to the next book, and I still definitely recommend this one. Grade: B)


Randomosity on Fridays: Procrastination Station

What is going on? How is it already mid-January?!

In any case, I'm both sad and happy to report that I am doing only half-way decent with my 2011 resolutions. The excuse, of course, is my lingering cold. That is killing my resolution to cultivate health, but we'll see how it goes after I'm back to 100%.

As for some other resolutions, I'm doing okay! For example, I was here twice this week! I even got Alz to pop in for a review! I'd be doing better if I weren't procrastinating so much, but what else is new? That brings us to the topic of this week's Friday 5.

1. I now have a Tumblr. I've been wanting one for a while, but I resisted and resisted. Then the New Year happened and I thought, oh why not? So if you're so inclined, please visit me at Scribbles from Wonderland. Mostly, I post up photos and quotes that inspire me. Eventually, I'll post up random bits of doodling and art that I sometimes do.

2. I'm on goodreads now too. It's Luce's fault. She wanted some friends, so she conned Alz and me into it. If you're around thereabouts, I'd love to be friends with you too! I'm listed as Krispy on goodreads.

3. I'm reading 2 books at once - Matched by Ally Condie and Across the Universe by Beth Revis. This is not normally my style, but I've been wanting to read Matched, so I started it. Across the Universe I had to have after I read the 111pg excerpt on release day. Well, Alz bought the book for me, and now I have it. So I'm reading it. The cover is really as gorgeous as it looks.

4. I also picked up 3 more book from the library, even though I have more than enough books on my plate. Really excited to read Light Boxes by Shane Jones, which sounds like it is right up my alley. Mixed format storyt-telling, a literary fable, a personified month (February) tormenting a small town? Yeah, that's my cup of tea. I'd like to add is a "big people" book. See, making good on my resolution!


"What's the big deal?" I hear you asking. "It's just another eyeshadow palette." TRUE, but it is a palette of lovely neutrals in different textures that comes with a mini bottle of primer, and a two sided eyeliner pencil - all in a pretty brown box.

You just need to see it. I wasn't impressed when I first saw it in a catalogue, but after I saw my friend's in person and tried it out - it was Love.

Also, I've been wanting it since September. Why didn't I get it until now? Because it was SOLD OUT. As in completely, "I'm sorry NO ONE HAS IT" SOLD OUT since then until NOW. Last week, when I got the notification that it was back in stock, I placed my order. Now, it is miiiineeee! (Good thing too. Sephora website is out of stock again.)

And that's it for me. What procrastinatory activities have you been up to? Any plans for the weekend?

P.S. My other procrastination activity has been the game Plants vs. Zombies. Yes, it is as addictive as everyone says it is.


Book Review: The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce

Much to my surprise, this book was published in 1982, predating the current trend for fallen angels and vampires. I got it from the flea market for $1 because I thought the back cover copy sounded like a laugh. In the end, I was somewhat surprised by what I read.

The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce

Pros: Intriguing back story, setting, and world-building.
Cons: Extremely dense heroine, confusing terminology, melodramatic prose.

Rating: 4 out of 10 stars
Grade: C
(Two ratings because sometimes I have mixed feelings, and how I felt emotionally about a book might vary from how I felt intellectually.)

Book Blurb: Aeriel is kidnapped by the darkangel, a black-winged vampyre of astounding beauty and youth, and taken to his castle keep. There, she must serve his thirteen wives, wraiths whose souls he has stolen away. Aeriel knows she must kill the darkangel before he takes his fourteenth bride and comes into full power, but she is captivated by his magnificent beauty and intrigued by the spark of goodness she sees inside him. Will Aeriel risk damning all of humanity to save the darkangel's soul, or can she end his reign of beautiful terror before he finds his final bride?


Alz's Take: Imagine a fairytale padded out (not developed but padded out) to 238 pages and set on a post-colonial terraformed moon. That's what this book is. As a 3-page fairytale minus the science fiction back story, it would've been fine, but as it stands, I only kept reading The Darkangel because the world history was interesting.

The background of the world is that long ago colonists (creatively called "the Unknown-Nameless Ones") came from Oceanus, terraformed its moon, and populated it with genetically engineered/hybrid plants and animals. Then some kind of disaster happened that cut them off from their homeworld and they sealed themselves into their cities away from the rest of the moon—but left genetically-engineered mostly-immortal magical animals behind as guardians for the various lands, as well as leaving behind prophecies and riddles.

(There's even a wise ass-kicking talking guardian lion lyon in this book. His name is Aslan Pendarlon.)

The problem is that all this world history appears halfway through the book, and while some of it does figure into the current story, the main plot has to do with the darkangel's not-so-mysterious past and Aeriel deciding whether or not to kill him, which could've been interesting but isn't. Things that work in a short fairytale don't really work in a novel, and the characters in this book have all the dimensionality of fairytale characters—which is to say that they don't have any. Aeriel is a pure empathetic maiden with emphasis on the pathetic and the darkangel's told-not-shown personality can be summed up like so: 99% evil + 1% good = 100% broody.

Aeriel swoons 4.5 times in the book (seriously, I counted, and there was a "half-swoon" in there) and even though she says initially that she doesn't love the darkangel just because he's beautiful (she just admires him for it), the reason she later cites for wanting to save his life is because she's fallen in love with him because he's beautiful. Say again?

The darkangel had potential, but falls short of fulfilling it either in terms of villainy or tragedy. We are repeatedly told that he is cruel and evil and majestic but has a "spark of goodness" in him, but we never see him do anything but mope through the empty castle, fly around, and maim some bats and lizards—which last he stops doing when Aeriel cries big dewy tears at him to stop and tells him stories day after day a la Scheherazade instead.

The author takes great pains to make it not-this-worldly with references to Solstar (the sun), Oceanus (the giant blue planet hanging in the sky), and terms like earthshine, earthlight, nightshade, and day-month, as well as things like hornflowers and marshgrass and greathorses. While I enjoy immersion into a world and learning by context, there is such a thing as over doing it, especially when the jumble of vocabulary serves no real point. Do you really need three interchangeable terms to describe Aeriel's love interest: darkangel, icarus, and vampyre? Do you really need to refer to him by all three terms on the same page over and over again?

Another problem is the term "day-month." Time plays an important role—will Aeriel be able to do etc. before the day of etc.?—but the length of days is not the same as we of Earthly ken are used to. Point of fact is that I read the entire book and still have no idea how long a "day-month" or "nightshade" is except that the book mentioned once that night lasted a fortnight. It's pretty confusing when the darkangel tells Aeriel he'll deal with her at dawn and then it seems like weeks go by.

The magical fairytaleness seems at odds with the initial atmosphere of the story, wherein slave-girl Aeriel's friend/mistress is stolen away right off the mountaintop by the darkangel and Aeriel sets out to seek vengeance because she'll be sent to the auction block any day now (which, thanks to the bizarre day-month thing, is an indeterminate amount of time). Naturally the darkangel sees Aeriel and whisks her away to serve him at his remote abandoned castle, where Aeriel's duty will be to weave clothes for his poor frail wraith-wives—

Then it suddenly gets all twee and magical, because there's a "duarough" (read: tiny troll since he turns to stone in the sunlight) living under the castle who used to serve the old king, and who is all too eager to help Aeriel with anything and everything. This sickeningly friendly creature feeds Aeriel fish and berries and other things magically grown underground by a magical river of life (not kidding, it's a magical glowing river of life), and he gives her a solid gold spindle that can spin emotions like hate or pity or charity or love into different kinds of thread, that she may weave cloth to clothe the helpless wraith-wives.

Very fairytale, no? Weird magical fairytale stuff like this happens again and again, and it's just so casually mentioned and accepted out of the non-magical blue that it feels as out of place as clothes at a nudist convention.

Another problem was how dense Aeriel is. "Clues" to the darkangel's real identity are punching her in the head left and right and yet she fails to make the incredibly obvious connections. (To be fair, maybe all that clue-punching caused some brain damage.) There's also a riddle-prophecy with a fairly obvious hint in it that she totally misses, and even when Pendarlon not-so-delicately hints at her to repeat the prophecy, she still doesn't get it so the lyon tells her outright what to do, and Aeriel still questions whether or not she's doing the right thing. Then, to crown this masterpiece of thickheadedness, later when she finally accomplishes said task, she thinks to herself that maybe the Pendarlon was right and she did do the right thing after all. Yes, Aeriel. Yes, you did.

And then in the end, Aeriel thinks she's Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade and has an A-HAH! moment where she Makes the Connections and Reveals the Entire Story. Only I'd already figured that out 150 pages ago right after the enormous barrage of clues was fired point-blank in my face, so I wasn't impressed.

The ending was also another one of those Very Fairytale moments that drew me out of the story because it was so very—well, it's hard to explain without spoilers, but it's something just too metaphorical-turned-literal fairytale-magical for me to continue precariously suspending my belief.

Alz's Conclusion: The Darkangel has a basic fairytale premise with overly melodramatic execution at odds with its complex back story and setting. I'm willing to read the sequel but only because I'm interested in the terraformed moon and the history of its current inhabitants. The main characters and their quest-type defeat-the-great-evil storyline offer no particular draw.


Special Announcement: Launching the Godspeed Across the Universe

Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our normal broadcast to bring you this special announcement.

Banner made by Jeremy at Novel Thoughts

Today, we are proud to announce the launch of the good ship Godspeed on her maiden voyage Across the Universe. The Godspeed is a wonder of modern technology, built to sustain life within its walls while it explores deep space.

It is our pleasure to share with you these words from the mind behind the Godspeed, Ms. Beth Revis.

You may explore the wonders of the multiple levels of the Godspeed at the official ATU website. Look closely, and you may discover that space isn't the only place holding secrets.

Interested in what space travel and life aboard the Godspeed is like? Check out this testimonial:

EXCLUSIVE: In honor of the launch, io9.com will post an 111 page excerpt from the written account of life on the Godspeed, the book Across the Universe. The excerpt will be available from 11:11AM EST to 11:11PM EST on 01.11.11 (launch day only).

If you like what you see and are interested in this space exploration program, consider Liking our official page: Across the Universe book.

If you're still curious about the Godspeed and her voyage, try these resources to learn more:

BETH REVIS (straight from the creator's mouth)
Website: www.bethrevis.com
Blog: bethrevis.blogspot.com
Twitter: twitter.com/bethrevis

PENGUIN TEEN (Thank you for letting us participate in this awesome launch!)
Website: www.penguin.com/teen
Facebook: www.facebook.com/penguinteenbooks
Twitter: www.twitter.com/penguinteen

Get the full scoop by reading Across the Universe yourself.
Get it at Borders - Across the Universe or your favorite bookseller.

Thank you for celebrating the launch of the Godspeed (and Across the Universe) with us.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.
(Stop by tomorrow for a post from Alz.)

(P.S. Who else is super excited to read this book?! Have you seen the website?! It's so cool, but the "access denied" areas make me so curious! Congrats, Beth! Happy Book Birthday!!!)


Randomosity on Fridays: 2011 Resolutions!

HELLO, HELLO internet homeslices! How are you? I must say that week break between Christmas and New Years was kind of tough because I was bereft of you.

But you're back now, and I am back too! Yay, it's a party!

Well, except not because I promptly got sick 3 days into 2011 and I would hate to pass it on to you. So let's keep this short so that I can go back to recovering and you can leave without catching anything unsavory. :)

These are my RESOLUTIONS for 2011!

1. Blog more! Just like last year, except I'll get more specific. I'm going to try to get on a consistent at least 2x a week schedule: Wednesdays and Fridays (because I love Fridays). This means more creative brainstorming on my part because I never feel like I have enough to say. Who knows, we might even get series or weekly features or-- Okay, I'm getting way too head of myself. Also, it'd be totally awesome if we got to 111 followers in 2011, yes?

2. Read more widely. I read 35 books last year, and maybe 5 of them were non-YA. I have rediscovered an enjoyment for YA, and I will definitely keep reading it (there are so many books I already have on my radar), but there ARE "big people books" (as Luce and I have come to refer to adult-targeted Fiction) that I'd like to read too and classics and maybe non-fiction too! So really, this is my "read more Big People Books this year" resolution.

3. Finish a short story. No, seriously. I have so many half-started ones lying around, it's getting ridiculous. What's even more ridiculous is that I know I have trouble with the short form, but I start these things anyway. You can either look at this as "I have masochistic tendencies" or "I like a challenge!". Personally, I'm going to go with latter, more positive outlook because 2011 is going to be my Year of Positivity!

4. Finish a draft of a novel. One of them. ANY of them. Also, it SO counts if it's co-authored with Alz. Just sayin'.

5. Cultivate health. Yeah, that one has nothing to do with writing (except that it does!). I'm not a watch what I eat (I eat what I want, srs), go to the gym, or run for fun kind of gal, but I do believe in the benefits of exercise and relaxation and getting enough sleep. This past summer, I felt pretty darn great because I actually got myself on a consistent routine of yoga and swimming. I let it go with winter (it's too cold for yoga in my cold, wood-floored living room), and I want to get back into it (the yoga, not the swimming - too cold!). That and I'd like to start meditating again; I can't believe how RELAXED I was that one semester of college when I took a meditation class. I don't have to sell you on the goodness of sleep.

What does this have to do with writing? Cultivating health in body is bound to cultivate health in mind, which is the home of imagination. :) Besides, when you're relaxed, your mind relaxes too and it can really open up and take you to new places.

What are YOUR New Year's Resolutions?


Old Resolutions & New

First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR! May 2011 rock ever onward and be full of fun and frolics and free of sadness and hard times!

Krispy posted how she did on her 2010 resolutions and though I procrastinated about following suit on my 2010 resolutions because I dreaded how dreadfully I've done, well, here I go:

1. Establish more regular writing habits. I did actually do this, largely because of resolution #2 down below, though I admit I slacked off a tad this month. But considering I finished my thesis and then immediately followed that up with Nanowrimo, I'm giving myself a break. Grade: A

2. Finish Nanowrimo 2006 story/thesis. This I did. And revised it. And turned it in. And, incidentally, as I found out right before Christmas, all three of my professors enjoyed it and I passed. I'm still wallowing in joy like a holiday hog in a vat of caramel candy so I'll grade myself with gross self-indulgence. Grade: A+

3. Blog more. I don't think I did. I may have blogged even less than in 2009. Let me go count right now. Yep, utter fail on this one—I blogged 12 times in 2009, whereas in 2010 I blogged 11 times. Such fail. All my energies went into thesising from the summer onward, whence my already dwindling blogging dropped precipitously. Grade: F

4. Read more. I should have kept track of how many books I actually read, but I think I did okay on this one, especially since I did go on a mild frolic (definitely not on a par with Krispy's rampage) through YA thanks to Krispy and reading many detective/noir novels for school, and then I went crazy and read like three books in a row in a week in December because I suddenly realized how free I was. Grade: A-

5. Get published. This did not happen, though I did submit to a few places and got rejected, so I'll give myself points for trying. (Once summer hit though, this resolution went out the window because I was writing my thesis. That's been my excuse for everything. Didn't do chores? Thesis. Didn't blog? Thesis. Sadly vampiric (albeit not sparkly) from lack of sun? Thesis. Ate sandwiches for every meal three days running because I didn't go to the market? Thesis.) Grade: C

6. Finish/revise Nanowrimo 2007/2008. This did not happen at all. Grade: F

7. Renew and revise Syldraverse story. This also did not happen at all. Grade: F

8. Work on Co-Novel Baby with Krispy. Nor did this happen. Such a sad trilogy of fail. Grade: F

So I have a C- average. It's all highs and lows but that's still passing! Though if I hadn't set myself so many writing goals, I would've done better.

2010 felt long and exciting and amazing—I read my work semi-publicly at two different readings, I finished my last semester of grad school, wrote like mad, finished my thesis and handed it in and passed, and I'm now awaiting that magic piece of paper with my name printed on it declaring that I'm a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Non-school-related, I got another pet rat after over five years of going ratless, I sewed 15 manatees (3 tiny wee ones, 10 little ones, and 2 big ones), I finished Nanowrimo 2010, made a boatload of jewelry and failed to update my craft blog in a regular or timely manner, watched tons of movies, played Epic Mickey and was vastly disappointed, and on and on and on…

This year, more than my senior years in high school and in undergrad, was the academic year of my life. I've mentioned it like eight times already in this post alone and it was both the best and worst senior year ever. I've never felt so accomplished and I've never worked so hard in my life. Okay, enough gushing and repeating myself about that. Time for some 2011 resolutions in no particular order!

1. Maintain consistent writing habits!

2. Blog more!

3. Read more!

4. Get that Etsy shop up and running!

5. Submit to places and get published!

6. Co-author something with Krispy, be it our original Co-Novel Baby or something else!

7. Finish writing some short stories!

8. Finish writing a long story/novel!

9. Stop being nocturnal and get my sleeping habits in order!

I'm stopping there. That's one more resolution than last year and a lot of them are the same, though I decided to be more general and less specific in the hopes that my future GPA won't be so rife with failure.

It's only January 3rd. The future looks shiny-bright and brimful of potential! Now if only the sky would be the same—it's been raining around here on and off for the past few weeks. I think I'll go write something right now and make good on keeping some of those writing resolutions!