Visual References, Ideas, & Storyboards

Are you one of those people who has a corkboard full of glossy magazine clippings and tattered newspaper articles? Or a scrapbook filled to bursting with cut-and-pasted idea-fodder?  A photoalbum filled with visual references in the form of photographs?

I'm not.

'Cause I'm not that organized, you see, and I'm pretty lazy.  However, since Krispy began frolicking on Pinterest some time ago, like a lemming I followed suit and next thing you know, we have Pinterest board dedicated to our WIP that Krispy is still slacking on so I'm bullying her here for all the internets to see.

Before Pinterest, we were Tumblr monsters, but Tumblr isn't the most useful or effective vehicle for image organization and tagging--with the end result being that Krispy and I both trawled through our Tumblr archives to re-pin things we liked onto Pinterest.

It is very nice to have images and references neatly arranged on an endlessly scrolling page online, the process being both easy and a timesuck enjoyable.  My problem is that I forget/neglect Pinterest for long periods of time and therefore hardly use it for the intended purpose of inspiration.  Nevertheless, a glance through it now and again helps me get into the right mindset for the stories at hand.

It's also interesting to see other writers' story-idea boards on Pinterest.  Take a gander at the moody mythological archery-raven-highlands of Beth Revis's WIP or Tahereh Mafi's Shatter Me board.  If there's one thing you take away from the experience, it will be atmosphere.  It can be an enriching experience if you've read the book/are familiar with the work; for instance, I read Shatter Me and seeing that Pinterest board is like omg I SEE IT.

Here is a selection of inspiring images from the masterpiece Krispy and I are working upon:

Source: google.com via Alz on Pinterest

Source: flickr.com via alice on Pinterest

Conspiring together upon a virtual corkboard helps Krispy and me procrastinate keep track of things we like as well as focus on mood, scene, and setting.  (Or at least I hope it does for Krispy, since we only started this board after the writing ball was in her court. Months ago, and is still there. Ahem.) 

Here's the rest of the board for this story: Sandbox

Links to some of our other Pinterest storyboards.
Alz: Muse / Waterfall
Krispy: Luck / Equinoxal

Do you have a literal, metaphorical, or virtual corkboard for your story ideas?


Waiting on Wednesday (2): More Beautiful Covers

Our second Waiting on Wednesday, and in keeping with the theme of our first WoW post, these books all have beautiful covers!

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

There were so many beautiful cover releases recently, many for books we're eagerly anticipating (like Ellen Oh's PROPHECY, for example). So it was very difficult to choose, but here are 3 WoW picks...

1) OCD LOVE STORY by Corey Ann Haydu

Blurb from Teen Writers Bloc: When Bea meets Beck, she knows instantly that he’s her kind of crazy. Sweet, strong, kinda-messed-up Beck understands her like no one else can. He makes her feel almost normal. He makes her feel like she could fall in love again.

But despite her feelings for Beck, Bea can’t stop thinking about someone else: a guy who is gorgeous and magnetic…and has no idea Bea even exists. But Bea knows a lot about him. She spends a lot of time watching him. She has a journal full of notes. Some might even say she’s obsessed.

Bea tells herself she’s got it all under control, but this isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion. The truth is, she’s breaking down…and she might end up breaking her own heart.

This book wasn't on my radar until I stumbled upon the cover reveal, and oh what a cover! I love the bright, pop colors and the scrawling, dynamic text. Plus, the story sounds delightful - equal parts contemplative and quirky.

2) THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR by Mindee Arnett

Blurb from the jacket: 16-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.


Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy is hard enough, but when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing.

But it does.

Eli is dreaming of a murder. The setting is Arkwell.

And then his dream comes true. Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target...

I'm pretty much a sucker for paper-cut-out / silhouette covers (i.e. previous WoW pick, Sarah Rees Brennan's UNSPOKEN), and this one definitely falls under that category. I love all the little details and the way the title type grows into branches, and the purple makes it all nice and spooky. And story-wise? I love some good supernatural sleuthing, and doing it through dreams? Awesome.

Tor.com did a sweet little article about the cover design process that I found fascinating. Plus, I loved seeing all the different iterations of the cover! Link: Cover Reveal for The Nightmare Affair

Oh and you can enter to WIN an ARC of this beauty at Mindee's website: The Nightmare Affair Cover Reveal Giveaway!

3) TAKEN by Erin Bowman

Blurb from goodreads: There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends...and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?

I really adore this cover, and it's not just because I like Erin. No, there's just something about everything here that appeals to me. From the imagery to the colors to the composition, this cover is striking and so different from the covers I've gotten used to seeing in the YA section of the book store. It's a little bleak, a little futuristic, and a lot gorgeous. I love how the warm colors contrast imagery that is so typically rendered in cool tones. And don't get me started on how much I love the raised K in the title! Story-wise, this cover makes me really want to know, what's over the Wall and what is the Heist?

Erin did a fun and informative interview with her cover's designer over at Pub(lishing) Crawl. Link: TAKEN Cover Reveal!

Ah, all of these are 2013 books, but I want them all now!

What books are you looking forward to?


Randomosity on Fridays

Up today is a classic randomosity post because Real Life has been kicking my butt lately and Alz is suddenly, inexplicably, but NOT fatally ill! It's a weird summer cold, and luckily this time, she didn't give it to me.

Anyway, without further ado, here's what's been up in the land of Krispy.

1. Calligraphy: To pick-up from Alz's post last Friday on calligraphy, I thought I'd show you some of mine. Sort of. I did indeed borrow the calligraphy book from Alz, but I haven't been learning the formal forms. I'm addressing Save the Date envelopes for my BFF, and she likes my handwriting enough that she told me to just write them. No calligraphy needed!

HOWEVER, since I love doing this stuff, I had to make it at least KIND OF pretty. So I've been doing a little freehand calligraphy with the addresses, and the calligraphy book is helping me incorporate some of the prettier aspects of the different fonts that I like. Here's a sample of what my handwriting looks like.

2. Loki, the Cute Overlord: The puppy is still taking up most of my free time and some of my not-free-time (like my sleep time). I was looking at pics I took of him when we first got him, and he is SO BIG NOW in comparison! They grow so fast, and he's such a little tricksy scamp now! I say this, of course, with the utmost affection.

3. Graduation: Last weekend, the Sister graduated from UCLA. It was a big deal, partly because it was local so more of our family could go. My little Baby Bear Bruin sister is all grown up now, *sniff sniff.* Traditions were upheld, many pictures were taken, fountains were danced in.

You're only allowed into the Inverted Fountain after you've graduated.

More fountain dancing (fountain by Royce)
Me in front of Powell Library where Bradbury
wrote Fahrenheit 451!
Congrats, Sis!
4. Only in Los Angeles: I also realized recently the things that I take for granted living in SoCal. For example, I was tweet-chatting with Caroline last week about Pinkberry, and she mentioned she was going to try it for the first time because one had finally opened in her area. I was surprised because Pinkberry has been out here for a long while now (since it originated here). This led me to thinking about all the other random stuff I don't realize non-LA area people aren't used to. (Aside from the celebrity sightings / talk of celebrity sightings.)

Like how I went to a cupcake ATM after the sister's graduation. Yes, the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM is real and it works.

On the celebrity sighting side of this, only in LA would I get a text from the Sister at 9:38pm Wednesday night while she was working a show that said...


5. It's June: I'm freaking out that June is more than halfway over. My brain still thinks it's the end of May. How is the year going by so fast? Movies I've been wanting to see are out (BRAVE this weekend!), follow-up books I've been wanting to read (Insurgent! Bitterblue!), Sister graduated, I'm actually starting to do work related to my BFF's wedding (bridesmaid dress bought!), etc. etc. It's all moving too fast for me!

Also, why the heck has this summer been so mild weather-wise? I mean, I like the sunny but not sweltering, but I seriously need some consistent heat so I can go swimming. Summer is the only time I'm like consistently exercising! C'mon California!

Q4U: Apparently, it's the ALA Conference this weekend in Anaheim. I, unfortunately, will not be attending, but will any of you be there? OR What's something about your locale that you take for granted?


Collaborative Books

I was digging through a pile of old books recently and rediscovered this old book by Mercedes Lackey (acclaimed author of the adult fantasy Valdemar series which I used to be crazy about) and Piers Anthony (best known for his pun-laden Xanth series, also fantasy) called If I Pay Thee Not in Gold.

Is it just me or does the heroine
look decidedly stumpy?
Ignore the misleading Goodreads blurb, which is the same as the one on the back of the book--the publishers were trying to capitalize on Piers Anthony's humorous/light fantasy renown.  The book itself is serious in tone, and the plot goes nine kinds of WTF in the end.  It starts off with conjuration magic and the Queen trying to murder the heroine, and by midway through descends into a morass of travel and the heroine and her war-party get attacked by giant crabs and anemones and by the end there's gender-shifting and threesomes and--yeah, no.

Why did the book become such a mess?  (Not that it was super great to begin with, mind you.)  I finally read the author's note in the back and apparently Piers Anthony never met Mercedes Lackey--he had the idea for this book and pitched it to the higher-ups, who gave it to Mercedes Lackey to write.  After she was done, the book went back to Piers Anthony who did the final editing.  He had a very good analogy too:
I did a complete job of copy-editing and spot revisions and additions, exactly as I do for my own drafts, polishing the novel to my satisfaction and expanding it by ten thousand words.  Those who are conversant with Misty's writing and mine will see aspects of both here, just as both of our ideas are represented.  Thus I did the top and bottom of it, the summary and the revision.  Picture a sandwich: I'm the two slices of bread.  Most of the nourishment is in the center, but without the bread it wouldn't exist. (397)
And yeah, I totally see it now.  I'm pretty sure that the latter half of the book was his addition since it really has very little setup or tie-ins to the first half.  Add in the plot holes and continuity errors and it becomes obvious where text and plot were added.

This led me to thinking about collaborative writing, since that's what Krispy and I have done in the past and are currently doing (or would be doing if someone would finish her section already, hint hint wink wink poke poke nudge nudge).  In the case of the aforementioned book, the authors never met and never discussed anything, and ultimately never even spoke to each other.

Whereas with Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, the authors worked very closely with each other.  Wikipedia has a very good section about the authorship of the novel (though there may be a couple of spoilers in there, so be warned!) wherein both authors say that things started out kind of separate but by the end everything merged into one big beautiful indistinguishable whole.

And indeed, at first I was easily able to tell which author probably wrote which bit.  But as I read further and further into what is a masterpiece of fiction (really, Good Omens is fantastic), I stopped noticing the differences in style--perhaps because the differences no longer existed.

For this novel, the authors worked together on everything from plot development to the acutal business of writing and editing, and it shows.  The novel comes together as a cohesive and delightful whole, unlike poor sordid WTF-laden If I Pay Thee Not in Gold.

On the other hand, there are cases where having two authors works in the book's favor.  First-person (or third-person) narration from two different narrators, for instance, means that differences in style, tone, and diction work well.  The contemporary YA novel Armageddon Summer by Bruce Coville and Jane Yolen is a great example of first-person perspective from two characters.  I reviewed it last year here and talk a bit about the two authors = two narrators = advantageous thing.

Book was so-so but
the cover is still awesome.
Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett is an adult fantasy with four different first-person perspectives.  The voices of each POV are each distinct and unique and the characters were a pleasure even if the actual plot was lackluster because, really, it hardly existed.  

I wish I could cite a webpage or a book note here, but I can't seem to find a source right now (I'll edit later if I find it), so take it with a grain of salt when I say: I'm pretty sure that each author took on two characters, and they collaborated very closely as they wrote.  Once again, the character interactions show a cohesive, believable wholeness.

A not-very-good-but-still-interesting example of collaborative writing is Tiger Burning Bright by (wait for it) Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, and Mercedes Lackey.  When I got my hands on this book years ago I was so super beyond excited because omg three such awesome fantasy authors collaborating on one fantasy book! 

The book design is cool because that red cover lifts up and
inside is a full color plate of all three main POV characters in their
roleplaying costumes distinctive garb.

It was okay.  It's told from three distinct third-person POVs: the Dowager Queen, the Queen, and the Princess, who have to respectively diguise themselves as an acolyte, a merchant, and a gypsy.  I'm pretty sure that Mercedes Lackey wrote the Princess perspective.  I'm less sure that Andre Norton wrote the Dowager Queen and Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote the Queen.  I've read less of their books than Mercedes Lackey's so am less familiar with their styles.

I know absolutely nothing of how the authors collaborated on this novel.  The plot is kind of a mess, especially as the Queen's section hares off on its own political intrigue and worldbuilding that's almost completely separate from the other two POVs.  The Queen's section was also the most different in terms of tone and style, and often felt like reading a separate book; the other two characters' sections meshed better, but were still oddly isolated from each other in terms of plot.

Overall, the book was disappointing since I was expecting a shining masterpiece and what I received was something lackluster; the story comes across as a some kind of role-playing game that never quite got the editing it needed to smooth it out.  Which may be why this book is lesser known despite three huge fantasy authors' names plastered all over it.

On the other hand, there's Lisa and Laura Roecker's The Liar Society.  In this novel, there's only one first-person perspective (I think--it's been a while since I read it) and it's impossible to tell where one author begins and another ends, in terms of writing and ideas.  It's a seamless perfect whole, without any weird gaps, jumps or bumps in the narration, tone, style, diction, you name it.  The authors worked closely together and it shows because it doesn't show.

I'd blather on here about how Krispy and I write together but we've done that in the past, so I'm schneizelefforting this one in Krispy's honor and telling you to just take a gander at our collaboration tag

In our current endeavor, we've gone for the Different Character Perspectives approach.  Krispy in fact tried to write a section from "my" character's POV and found it rather difficult, so switched back to "her" character and the words flowed again.  Right, Krispy?  FLOWING, right?  That's what they're doing now, flowing like a fountain from the top of a mountain?

Anyway, collaboration has its pros and cons.  What are your thoughts and experiences concerning collaboration both in your own writing and books you've read?  If a colony of pirate penguins and a single ninja narwhal got into a fight, who would win?


Randomosity on Fridays: Calligraphic Edition

I found The Complete Guide to Calligraphy: Master Scripts of the West and East, Step-by-Step with 45 Projects by Ralph Cleminson at a discount store.  This is the type of book I'd never pay retail $35 for but for $10 hot damn yes I'll take it home.

And since I inherited an ancient cheap fountain pen from my mom along with a bottle of equally ancient ink, I had a go at calligraphy since the book contains step-by-step instructions on the order and number and direction of strokes that compose each letter for a variety of different fonts. It was tedious and slightly rather a little bit hard at first, but I got the hang of it eventually. The above is the level I'm at after two days of messing around and not following directions such as drawing out lines and calculating angles and practicing strokes.

It's pretty fun.  Then again, I do have a masochistic nature.  Which is why I wrote my friend an 8-page letter in calligraphy without practicing beforehand.  Page 1 is a mess but page 8 isn't bad.

It has also given me new insight and consideration for when characters in fantasy novels write stuff--since if it's Ye Elde Fantasye, they're not carrying around pencils and ballpoint pens.  It's likely either quills or fountain or dip pens, and since the letter "g" in Carolingian font (the main style I used in the above) takes no less than 5 separate strokes, and all other letters also require multiple strokes in a certain order and keeping things level and the same size is no frolic in the park, uh, well, let's just say I have a new respect for penmanship in olden times.  That's the sort of detail I never really dwelled upon since, you know, it's usually not important.  But now I know.  And appreciate.

(Also for dip pens you have to reload pretty often, and then wipe off the excess.  I don't need to use a blotter but I imagine it must suck to worry about smearing your hard work.)

I have played around with fountain pens in the past--I had a cartridge pen that always bled everywhere and I got discouraged and dumped it once the ink dried up inside and everything got clogged--but I rather like messing about with this dip pen and nib.  Especially since it makes my ugly handwriting look nicer. 

Have you tried calligraphy pens before?  Is your handwriting a symphony of form and function or is it more like the scratchings of a blind chicken on crack?


Book Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Happy Wednesday, lovelies! It's been a while since we had a meaty post, though I do hope you enjoyed our APA Month features. I actually have a few more reads that I wish I'd finished in time to include in APA Month, but you'll see them here eventually.

Anyway, onwards to today's Post of Substance. Joint book review for the upcoming SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman. We are in agreement for practically everything in this book, so the format of this review will be a bit different.

We read this book as an e-ARC that we received from Netgalley, but it'll be out in less than a month (July 10th). We can't wait for you all to read it!

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Pros: Characters, worldbuilding, writing, everything!
Cons: Slow to start (pacing), also walks thin line of info-dumping near the beginning

Intellectual Rating: 9 out of 10
Emotional Grade: A

Book Blurb (from Goodreads): Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.


Some of you may not realize that we’re Fantasy readers at our core. It’s a little hard to glean from the types of books Alz and I have been reading and reviewing of late. We’ve been binging on YA for a few years now, and most of what’s hot in YA recently has been paranormals and dystopians. But really, we love fantasy with all its magic and superstitions, its prophecies and quests and fearsome beasties. And the most fearsome beastie of the genre is the dragon.

So you can imagine our figurative ears perking up when we read the blurb for Seraphina. Dragons that fold into human shape? An uneasy peace? A royal murder? Oh, the potential and the intrigue! And did we mention, DRAGONS?

KRISPY: I’ll be honest though, the blurb didn’t fully hook me because Seraphina’s big secret seemed rather obvious to me even before I read the book (I won't say here for those who are especially spoiler-skittish). That second paragraph made me wary too. I’ve read enough YA books with similar sounding blurbs to know that when the heroine is partnered with some dude in the blurb, there’s probably romance on the horizon. This in itself isn’t a bad thing (I do enjoy the well-done romances), but I’ve been burned before by books that waste their potential because the plot bends over backwards to accommodate the romance, shifting the major focus to it.

About the Romance

ALZ: We've all been burned by books like that, but not with this one! There's even a love triangle of sorts, but it isn't a typical one and it's handled well.

KRISPY: I also like how atypical the tension in the love triangle is. These people are friends and allies first, so their friendships are at stake too. The focus isn't on insta-love or lust because of that foundation AND on top of that, there are politics at play as well! Oh and the love between Seraphina and her Interest is developed slowly over the course of the book.

ALZ: I liked that it was based on mutual respect and nerdiness. They both love reading and philosophy. Also, the third side of the triangle isn't vilified, though that is the expectation. In fact, many expectations are overturned in this book. I liked how not all characters were what they seemed, i.e. first impressions are not necessarily correct ones.

KRISPY: I loved that too because it was a continued theme throughout the book. The characters were constantly surprising me because they'd appear one way at first and then reveal their wonderful layers.

About the Characters

ALZ: The characters were what really made this book shine, which is unusual in that it is plot-driven as well as character-driven--and yeah, that's kind of sad to say that's unusual in YA. And what's especially unusual is that both the plot- and character-sides are good! Especially again since there are so many supporting characters, each of whom is distinct in appearance, dialogue, behavior, actions, etc. They feel like real individual people.

KRISPY: Obviously, I loved Prince Lucian Kiggs, who was clever and courageous and noble. I know the Bad Boy and/or the Rogue (aka Spicy Hot) has been popular in YA, but Prince Kiggs proves there is seriously something to be said about a gentleman (not quite the same as Tofu). And he's not perfect! He has his own prejudices, which he doesn't instantly get over (e.g. he's hurt when he finds that a trusted friend has lied to him), and a chip on his shoulder that he carries with dignity. He's totally swoon-worthy, despite not being typically YA "hot."

ALZ: Princess Glisselda was a pleasant surprise because she seems frivolous when you first meet her, but as with most of the characters in this book, there's more to her. I also liked the distinct personalities of the strange inhabitants of the Mind Garden (this will make sense when you read it).

KRISPY: And the best of all these characters is, I'm quite happy to say, SERAPHINA herself! She's an amazing, nuanced protagonist. She's even a reluctant protagonist!

ALZ: She is a bit of a special snowflake because of her musical talent, but she is also blessed with suck (TV Tropes: Blessed with Suck), so that works out. Her story is interestingly not about the obvious conflict presented by her Big Secret but more about being able to accept herself, live her life, gain the acceptance of others, and be unafraid to be who and what she is.

KRISPY: Yes! I loved her character arc SO MUCH. Here is a character who is insecure in her own skin for various reasons, but she still manages to be strong and resilient. She is grappling with her identity, but she still has a sense of self-worth, and she isn't self-pitying.

ALZ: Her personality is also described as "prickly" by other characters and this book is an excellent example of show-don't-tell--Seraphina's prickliness comes across mostly in her reactions and words to people in stressful situations, but her own thoughts/narration (since it is first-person) don't drip thorns and sarcasm. She is an excellent liar but only when her tongue is forced to it--she is not herself someone prone to lying or deliberate deceit all the time, and it doesn't seem like something she's either proud or ashamed of. It's great to see how circumstances and events force Seraphina to act in certain ways, while at the same time observing her thought processes.

KRISPY: The thing I find most refreshing about her is that she's a strong female character who kicks ass without literally kicking ass!

Seraphina is a girl who time and again saves herself without ever having to pull a punch; she saves herself and others with her wits.

She isn’t a skilled warrior (and she doesn't suddenly become one), and she doesn’t have magical powers to protect her. She’s even pretty low on the social ladder, but she’s smart and brave and loving. Despite her issues with herself and the secrets she must keep, she is loyal to the people she cares about and rises to meet every occasion, despite the danger to herself.

ALZ: And we can't forget ORMA. Krispy, I love Orma.

KRISPY: Me too! I feel about him like how I feel about Brimstone in Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, except MORE because Orma is in this book more than Brimstone was in DoSaM.

ALZ: There is much to be said about Orma, Seraphina's draconic tutor, but you'll have to read the book to understand our love for him. It can't really be described.

About the Dragons

ALZ: And speaking of Orma, the dragons in this book are great--different and unique and they're written in a way where it's clear they think differently from humans. It really does feel as if they're hard-wired one way and we're hard-wired another, and so the gap of understanding between species is real and palpable. The mathematical mode of thinking and the detail given into how dragons transform into humans and what rules and laws about such transformations are brilliant!

KRISPY: Too often I feel like the "other" creatures we're presented in books are just humans with non-human traits or humans in the bodies of dragons/fairies/mermaids/etc. And that's fine if the story calls for it, but in Seraphina, the dragons are so distinct from the humans. Not only do they feel hard-wired differently as you said, but they have a whole culture and background to support it! They are technologically advanced, but they don't really get art. The closest thing they have to religion is about order and balance. It's all so well-crafted!

About the Worldbuilding

KRISPY: The world of this book is well-crafted. It is full of details. We get a richly imagined religion, developed national history and politics, holidays, etiquette, government, national mythology, cultural norms, fashion, culture, social/class/race tensions. It's glorious and amazing, and at times overwhelming, but I LOVED IT.

ALZ: I liked the Allsaints religion. I like the religion as a delicious- to use Krispy's term - "flavor particle", or maybe it's like salt, accenting and accentuating other flavors/worldbuilding.

KRISPY: I can see how it can be a little too much at first, but I think the Allsaints religion adds so much depth to the world. Here we have this very religious society, and you can see how much that religion stretches into every part of the people's lives. I feel like no world-detail in this book is placed there without it being logically threaded into the society and people's lives.

About the Writing & Plot

ALZ: Yes. It felt organic, and I like how there are certain details that essentially act as loose ends for any sequels, but these details/threads don't feel like they're shoved into the book for the sake of the sequels. When you read them, these threads feel like a natural observation or they somehow relate to a thread or plot point that IS relevant to this book. The political intrigue was actually intriguing! And the plot twist! There was a plot twist I didn't see coming even though it had setup! And it was good!

KRISPY: Take note, guys! Alz is a ridiculously perceptive reader, and more often than not, she can see a twist coming like 50-100 pages away. For the record, I agree; the plot twist was great and so well hinted at but also hidden. I love that this story was something of a murder mystery too! Rachel Hartman is an amazingly skilled writer for pulling off all the things she does here. It felt like Hartman was totally in control of her writing and her story.

ALZ: Dynamic fleshed-out distinct characters, amazing worldbuilding, and lush prose.

KRISPY: Seriously. I think my favorite part of the book is how it doesn't spell everything out. The writing is subtle, especially when it comes to emotions, which is unsurprising considering the logic-ruled dragons. The writing isn't flowery or dramatic, but it is very grippingly real. There is so much that is UNSPOKEN between characters and thematically, but you can see it and feel it. Those are my favorite kinds of scenes, where the emphasis is on the subtext.

About the Cons

The book IS slow to start. Much of the opening is set-up for the rest of the book. We hesitate to call it an info-dump because it is presented in an engaging way and it is all actually pertinent to the rest of the book, but we are given a lot of information at the start. We get a hint of the plot (e.g. the suspicious death) but then the story immediately drops us into a character-driven thread (Seraphina's background). So the pacing is a bit weird, but we were quickly enchanted by the excellently built world and the pacing rights itself as the book goes on.

Conclusion: All in all, you can tell we loved this book. The characters and story are great, and the writing is superb. I (Krispy) even had to look up a few words, and it's been a while since a book has done that to me, haha. This is also a case where we're champing at the bit for the sequel even though it doesn't end on a huge cliffhanger, although it is certainly quite open-ended and we can see what the general thrust of Book 2 will be.

If you like strong heroines whose greatest assets are probably their brains, high fantasy, elaborate worldbuilding, awww-worthy feelings, and dragons, we suggest you go out and get your hands on this book as soon as it's out!

I know I will be! It's that good!

Links elsewhere:


A Reflection on Ray Bradbury

Instead of randomosity this Friday, you're going to get something a little more serious.

As many of you have probably heard Ray Bradbury passed away earlier this week. He was 91, a ripe old age, but you wouldn't have known it from the youthfulness of his demeanor. I suppose that's why I was surprised by the news and then deeply saddened that I never did get to meet him.

Ray Bradbury is one of my literary heroes. I've long been interested in writing, but a door fell open when I read Bradbury. I thought, "THIS is beautiful and wistful and dark and provocative and, most importantly, unafraid. This is the kind of emotion I want to evoke. This is how you play with language."

My first introduction to Bradbury was in 7th grade. We read his short story "All Summer in a Day" about a classroom of children in a colony on Venus. The planet is very cloudy, and so the sun only shines on the surface once every seven years. I can tell you, it wasn't a very happy story and left me feeling uncomfortable, despite the story's resolution. And it's one of his stories that has stayed with me since then; it was powerful. Bradbury drew me in, despite the initial sci-fi trappings - sci-fi (for some reason) has always been a hard sell for me, even though I usually end up liking whatever it is I read/watch - because he wrote about something familiar and true like children in a classroom and their capacity for careless cruelty and put it in a strange, new landscape.

The next time I encountered Bradbury's work was in 10th grade Honors English, when we had to read Fahrenheit 451 for class. I'll be honest, I wasn't that into it at first. The writing style was a tad weird - much more loose with the metaphors than "All Summer..." had been - and I just didn't know what was going on. Also, it was a summer reading assignment. But the story grew on me, and while it's still not my favorite book, it is a compelling, important one with themes that continue to resonate today - perhaps more so now than before.

And then I read The Illustrated Man and became a fan. I bought the beautiful hardback book From the Dust Returned and was delighted to find something equally beautiful inside. I fell in love with Bradbury's eternal family of ghouls, vampires, and dream seers. I stood in human Timothy's shoes and wished and wished that I could fly with Uncle Einar as I listened to the dry whispers of A Thousand Times Great Grandmere. I fell in love with the slippery, fluttering words, and the way they strummed my heartstrings.

I was hooked.

“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” - Ray Bradbury

His writing and his attitude towards life and creativity taught me so much. His stories took me out into space and far into the future and showed me the worst of man, but they also showed why we're worth saving. They taught me about madness and love and longing and cruelty and kindness. They taught me families come in all shapes, sizes, and species, and that there is magic in ordinary places - that dark carnivals can roll into sleepy, little towns. They warned, enchanted, provoked, and moved me. I learned to cherish the past and look towards the future but to always live in the present.

A few years ago, when I was still in college, Ray Bradbury did a book tour with his biographer, Sam Weller, for his biography. I was, unfortunately, up at Berkeley at the time for school, but the Sister did me a huge favor and went for me. I never got to meet Ray Bradbury, but at least I have an autograph and a cat thanks to my sister. (Also, it's possibly better this meeting never happened because I probably would have said/done something embarrassing, haha.)

The world is a dimmer place without him, but it has certainly benefited from his prolific work.

"If you dream the proper dreams, and share the myths with people, they will want to grow up to be like you."

Well, Mr. Bradbury, I want to grow up to be like you. Wherever you are, I'm sure you're already spinning new yarns about greater, shinier horizons. Thank you, sir, for the fantastic worlds, timeless summers, and for sharing your vibrant imagination. Thank you for the adventures, for filling my eyes with wonder, and for the memories. You're already missed.

Not sure who did the art, but img source: Goweli

Q4U: Have you read any Bradbury, and if so, what's your favorite?


"Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories."

"You must live life at the top of your voice! At the top of your lungs shout and listen to the echoes."



Conversations with Krispy: Story Version

Tuesday evening, Alz went over to Krispy's house to play.  It was a warm-ish day but cooling down some to the point where Krispy needed to fetch a jacket preparatory to puppy playtime.  Alz, however, was adequately clad in her Doctor Whoodie, proof against everything from the bitterest cold of outerspace to the burning of a super nova.

Once properly clad against the elements, Krispy and Alz frolicked outside to play with Loki, whose ears had by this time of his life (approximately nine and a half weeks) developed a slight but noticeable perk.  He took no notice of the darkening night or the encroaching chill; all that mattered was that there were now people and chewtoys.  They were both the same thing to him.

"Still in the nippy stage, I see," said Alz, as Loki attacked her pants, her shoes, and her.  She crouched down and little Loki leapt up, all curly tail and panting exuberance and distressingly long claws.  "Off.  OFF.  NO, LOKI, NO."

"He was attacking my pants earlier," said Krispy, who had donned puppy playtime pants along with her jacket.  They bore no evidence of Loki's earlier attention but Alz believed Krispy because she always believed everything Krispy told her, especially when Krispy said things metaphorically because it was always more interesting to take her words literally.  Not that this was an instance of said metaphor, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless.

"Good boy," said Alz, when Loki chose that moment to plop down, hind legs askew and ears aperk, to cock his head.

Having received praise for good behavior, he then naturally leapt up to resume behavior that warranted scolding.  While Alz offered herself up as willing sacrifice to the namesake of the Norse God of Mischief, Krispy went about necessary tasks: cleaning up and setting puppy things in order.

"He's getting so big," said Alz, chasing Loki around the driveway and watching him tear through bushes and around trees and trip over his own feet to faceplant on the concrete.  Loki had the resilience and boundless energy of puppyhood and was none the worse for wear.  He bounded into the garage, skidded under the car, and scrabbled around.  "He's going to be huge.  Soon, buddy, you won't fit under that car anymore."


"Dude," said Alz.  "He just whanged his head on the bumper."

"He does that," Krispy called from poop-cleanup-duty off the in the darkness.  "All the time."

"He'll eventually learn not to.  Maybe.  You were training him today to respond to his name and learn how to sit, right?  He seems pretty smart, learning how to do things and stuff."

"I dunno, Alz," said Krispy, appearing with Loki's waterdish in hand.  "Everyday I come out here, and everyday he goes for my knees."

Alz looked at Loki.  He did not look all that smart when eating leaves and rolling around in the dirt.  He snapped up a palm frond and began chewing on it with such joie de vivre it almost made her want to try it.  No doubt he was extremely intelligent, a prodigy of a puppy, and all this palm-frond dirt-rolling business was a deliberate ploy to lower expectations and disguise his deviousness.

"I'm on to you," Alz said in a low voice.

Loki paid her no attention.  The palm frond was his everything.

"Can you bring me that cinderblock?" Krispy called from the garage.  "It's over by the fence."

Alz shot Loki a parting I-know-what-you're-up-to look and went to fetch the cinderblock.  But the fence was cinderblockless.  All Alz found was a brick on the ground, albeit a gray concrete-y cinderblockish-looking one.  The brick was one of a pair Alz had brought Krispy and her sister the other day for the express purpose of weighing down Loki's nighttime pee-pad.

This Alz brought to Krispy and, handing it to her, said, "Is this really a cinderblock?  Isn't it a brick?"

"It looks like a cinderblock," said Krispy, clonking it down into Loki's crate.  Loki darted over to begin pawing at the crate's slats, whining and scratching and scrabbling about because Krispy was in his bed and what was she doing there and hey that's my space and I want to know what you're doing and let me in let me in let me in!  (Though, of course, once put in the crate, he would immediately begin to whine let me out let me out let me out.)

These are cinderblocks. What Alz gave to Krispy did not look like these.
"It's a brick," said Alz, patting Loki's sides and petting his head.

"When you say brick I think of the red ones," said Krispy.  "You puppy-puncher.  Look at him, see, he knows you're a puppy-puncher."

"He loves it," said Alz.  "And this is just petting, not punching.  I haven't punched him at all yet today.  And it's not punching, it's a gentle loving massage like kneading bread dough.  And anyway, aren't cinderblocks bigger and used in like walls and buildings?  Whereas bricks are smaller.  Or is a cinderblock merely a type of brick?"

Krispy tossed her head and looked down her nose at Alz, or would have if they hadn't been the same height.

Declared the Krispy: "I don't care about the difference between a cinderblock and a brick."

"What, you don't care about the etymology and classification of bricks versus cinderblocks?" said Alz, backing out of the garage and enticing Loki to follow by shuffling her feet loudly.  "Well, you should.  What are we blogging tonight, Krispy?"

"I don't know.  I was thinking of finishing my Seraphina review but I haven't gotten very far on it."

"How about we blog about, uh, boba?  And different types of tea.  And how you think that mango is a less common flavor than peach at Asian tea places, whereas I and your sister think they're pretty much equally common.  And our question for people could be: Do you think mango flavor is less common than peach?"

Krispy gave Alz a Look and Alz made a :D face in return.  Krispy went into the house to bring out Loki's absolute and without question (currently at the moment for the time being) favorite toy: stuffed sausages on a rope.  Loki tore into them with Herculean strength and ferocity and while Krispy was thusly engaged in tug-of-war with the pint-sized pup, Alz picked up the thread of conversation again.

"You finished Kill Me Softly recently and just saw Snow White and the Huntsman," said Alz.  "You could write a post on fairytale adaptations."

"That sounds great!" said Krispy.  "Except schneizeleffort, Alz.  Also, that sort of thing takes me forever and we need to blog tonight."

Krispy handed the sausages to Alz and, while Alz wrestled with them and Loki with much more snarling and growling upon her part than the pup's, went to finish preparing his bed.

"How about a post where I just quote stuff you say?" Alz suggested, snarling and growling some more while Loki attempted a death-shake on his half of the sausage rope.

"I don't know," Krispy replied as she hooked up the iPod to play Loki's bedtime lullaby, Jason Mraz's Lucky.  "I'm not that entertaining."
"You lie," Alz accused, dragging Loki along by the sausages and then letting him drag her in turn.  "You are hilarious and always entertaining."

Lucky by Jason Mraz on Grooveshark


What do you think? Krispy sure is unamusing, eh?  Totally boring.  Also, peach or mango?


Picture Perfect Puppy Piggy Friday

Damn you, Friday, if only you were called Priday instead.  Then my alliterative title would have been perfect!

Ahem.  Welcome, folks, to another of our Randomosity on Fridays--this time, Puppy Style!  Because as you may or may not know, the Krispy and her sister adopted a puppy.  This past week has been one of adventures and frolics and discipline and cuteness, and I am in the happy position of getting to play with the puppy without doing any real work.  Hooray for friends who adopt puppies!

First things first though before puppy picspam: the ever wonderful Sophia featured Krispy and me in her A Day in the Life series.  Twice the fun because there are two of us, complete with photos and doodles and tales of swashbuckling unicorn derring-do!

Second things second before puppy picspam: This is my new best friend who I found at Target while searching for an article of clothing with which to perpetuate an eyesore of a monstrosity upon the world if only I could find the proper type and color of garment to mutilate.

This pig is such a violent shade of pink that the iPad camera can't deal.
Picture with Madatee who is mad because he always is and also doesn't like matching Piggy.
I walked past the toy section, did a 180°, seized the pig, and announced unto the world, "If he's under $10 I will buy him." 

Price check scan: $9.99.

Said the Alz, "THE PIG IS MINE."

And now, finally, what you've all been waiting for--PUPPERS!  Meet Loki.

Left: Bewildered in his new mommy's arms.
Right: His face is sad: probably because this pic was taken right after
he got unmanned at the vet's.
He's a German Shepherd mix and he's adorable and getting into the nippy stage.  In particular he likes Krispy's sister's toes, Krispy's shoes, and trying to hamstring me.

Left: Sitting and looking alert. And maybe thinking about eating rocks.
Right: Forlorn because he's forbidden to go out. Or maybe just sleepy.
He's so cute.  Especially when he romps, or faceplants in the dirt because he's running too fast, or smacks into Krispy's legs because he hasn't yet figured out how to put on the brakes. 

All right, I'm running out of words because I'm too alsdfja;dslfja over puppy adorability.  Also, I'm probably inventing all sorts of weird personality quirks for the puppers in my captions because I can't entirely remember what Krispy said was going on in the photos.  So just have puppy picspam!

Puppies!  Piggies!  Pictures!  Have a good weekend, peeps.  Have you acquired a new best friend recently, be it in fur, flesh, or plush?