Banned Books Week & THANKS!

Quick mid-week post because I couldn't hold back any longer, and plus, it's an important week.

FIRST, I'd like to say a ginormous THANK YOU to everyone who stopped by and commented on our Compelling Characters blog post. We really had no idea it would be received so well, and we loved reading your comments (and posts)! So thanks!

And what the who now?! We got to over 50 followers in the course of like 2 days, my head is still reeling from the quickness! (That or my head is still recovering from the UNREAL EPICNESS that was MUSE at the Staples Center, but I digress.)

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to those of you who thought we were cool enough to follow! YOU are the coolest.

Wasn't that blogfest fun? I'm still reading posts!

SECOND, it's Banned Books Week here in the U.S.!

The week celebrates the importance of intellectual freedom and the freedom to read. Intellectual freedom and the effects of censorship are both important topics, period, but they're important to me because I'm an avid reader, who learned A LOT from books. My parents are great and super involved in my life, but they let me read whatever I wanted to read, trusting me to choose what I thought was okay for me, and for that I am very, very grateful. (That and I think they were just really glad I was book-inclined, rather than playing-inclined.)

So all of this is also about individual choice, and I am a big fan of that.

I planned on celebrating by reading SPEAK, but I got my hands on both Blameless by Gail Carriger and The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. So I'm celebrating by just READING what I want, when I want, and how I want (which at this juncture is both books at the same time). I do plan on reading SPEAK soon though.

Speaking of celebrations, the writers at The League of Extraordinary Writers are posting on banned books all week. So go check that out!

I'm a big fan of often challenged and banned To Kill a Mockingbird, which is poignant, beautiful, and brilliant.

What challenged or banned books are YOU a fan of?

See you Friday!

P.S. My dear Alz did a fun post way back about Animal Group Names. Here's a fun follow-up I saw tweeted: A Guide to Supernatural Collective Nouns.

I know I need that. I've got angels and beasties and all sorts of anthropomorphic what-have-yous running around. And don't get me started on the tangle of cosmic serpents!


Blogfest - Writing Compelling Characters: Who was that again?

It's Sept. 24th, which means The Great Blogging Experiment is underway! Check out the other cool entries on the topic!

Alz and I discussed for a long and frantic time how we should approach this. I wanted to have our characters debate each other to the death, but you don't know them, so that wouldn't be very compelling, and Alz pointed out that they would probably just tear the blog apart (I think they only hear the 'to the death' part of my plan). So, we settled on a list of characters we found compelling and not so compelling and why.

Yeah, this was a little rushed, so I probably shouldn't have watched Fringe but it was SO GOOD. Ahem. Alz wrote up the descriptions after we discussed and I went to sleep early. Thanks, Alz!

HERE'S OUR POST on Writing Compelling Characters!


LIKABLE Compelling

BOOK: Soulless by Gail Carriger
CHARACTER: Alexia Tarabotti - Soulless, Victorian, a bluestocking, and quite conscientiously conscious about all of these things.

Krispy - She's confident but also very aware of her flaws and even insecure about them. She's compelling because she deals with all the craziness in her life head on with such delightfully plucky aplomb and poise.

BOOK: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
CHARACTER: Katniss - This 17-year-old BAMF cares deeply for her family and is their sole breadwinner. She can shoot a squirrel in the eye in the dark from a hundred paces with her bow and arrow. She's forced to engage in a fight to the death with twenty-three other teens in a booby-trapped arena beneath the thumb of a ruthless totalitarian government.

Krispy & Alz - What more can you ask for?
Krispy - Katniss is actually a very reactive heroine rather than active, but she's still incredibly compelling. Of course, the compelling circumstances help, but still, you always hear about the importance of having an active protagonist and here we have one who mostly doesn't act until she is forced to/has to. What makes her compelling then? When she does act, Katniss does so with courage and determination. She tries to remember what is important to her and to be true to herself.

Alz - I also found that Katniss's occasional indecisiveness and uncertainties made her compelling. Ordinarily I find a female protagonist's indecisiveness about boys or what to do about etc. to be wishy-washy same-old same-old, but because Katniss is normally such a strong character (and also because of her circumstances) it's refreshing to know that she still worries about these things. Also, she doesn't wallow in self-pity or drama, indeed, Katniss is a very practical-minded and down-to-earth girl.


BOOK: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
CHARACTER(S): The Warden - Ambiguous and manipulative, full of hidden depths, intrigue, and questionable ambition.
Keiro - Ambiguous intentions and actions, moral yet immoral, a loyal cheater, sort of not good but not bad either.

Krispy - Both of these characters are compelling for their ambiguity. I was never quite sure where either of them stood, especially Keiro. They're both blatant about their own ambitions, but they act in ways that sometimes hint at something deeper - that they might have less selfish motivations.

Alz - I was never sure if I liked Keiro or not, but I cared enough to want to know what would happen to him. You keep reading because you want to get a better grasp of who they are. Even with the Warden I was never really sure if what he claimed in his more emotional moments was true or all an act.

MANGA: Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
CHARACTER: Light - He's a teenage genius whose disillusion with the system and good intentions develop into a giant God-complex. He thinks he has an absolute sense of justice and, when given the nigh-undetectable supernatural power to inflict his moral vision on the entire world, he does not hesitate to murder as, when, and who he deems unworthy of life—and whoever gets in his way.

Krispy - Here's a great example of a protagonist who is not necessarily likable (I stopped liking him real fast as the story progressed), but is super compelling. I was actually rooting for his antagonist - the guy sent to catch him - because I liked the antagonist more, but I was still pulled along by Light's brilliant machinations.

Alz - Even if you don't like him, you find yourself invested in his plans. You kind of want to see him get away with it, even if you don't agree with his methods or even his ideology. He's supremely intelligent and though he has good intentions, well, you know what they say about the road to hell.


BOOK(S): Havemercy & Dragonsoul by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett
CHARACTER(S): Rook & Thom - Listed together because in both books, their first person narratives are on the same plot-line. Rook - no-nonsense, foul-mouthed, rough-around-the-edges Airman of the Esar's Dragon Corps, who grew up in the roughest parts of the capitol city. He doesn't give a flying *bleep* what you think of him, but if you're on the same team, he'll have your back. Thom - a street kid who managed to pull himself out of the slums by intellect. He's smart, well-mannered, University-educated, and in the first book, he has the dubious pleasure of having to rehabilitate Rook (and the other Airmen) into (at least) presentable members of Society.

Krispy - They're very different characters with very different views of the world and ways of approaching situations. Thom is easily likable, but Rook is a huge JERK a lot of the time. Still, Rook ended up being my favorite character because he's also funny, honest (like in a character sense, his actions and words feel authentic), and has these moments where you get where he's coming from and why he's so antagonistic. Thrown together, Rook and Thom have a lot of personality clashes ,but there's also growth. Nothing comes easy for these two, but you want to see if they'll manage to work together or even understand each other a little. The dynamics of their volatile relationship is what drives the story forward.

Alz - I only read Havemercy but I have to say that Rook and Thom were my favorite POVs in that 4-person-POV story. They have a very intense relationship that starts off based on bullying, hatred, fear, and disdain, but neither guy is going to give in to the other. The sizzling chemistry practically burns the pages of the book to a cinder. Rook is indeed a big fat jerkface quite often, but he makes no excuses for himself or for others; Thom is a little more stable a character, but hard work is his ethic and he sticks to it grimly in the face of people like Rook who want nothing better than to make him give up.

BOOK: The Tamir Trilogy by Lynn Flewelling
CHARACTER(S): Brother & Tobin - Here we have a creepy baby ghost. "Brother" was killed as soon as he was born so that his twin sister could magically assume his male form and escape the execution her female nature would have brought upon her.

Alz - Their relationship is fascinatingly ambiguous and often violent as Brother haunts Tobin; Brother knows everything while Tobin knows nothing. They grow up together, the ghost who was robbed of his life and the boy who doesn't know he's really a girl.



BOOK: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
CHARACTER(S): Nora Grey - Boring name indicates boring non-personality, too much teenage angst, zero sense of self-preservation/caution, beyond poor taste in friends, not enough wits to compete with a potato in a first-grade spelling bee.
Vee Sky - Nora Grey's best friend, boy-crazy, fewer brains than a mummy, criminally stupid, criminally juvenile, criminally existent.

Krispy - Maybe you can tell Alz didn't like this book much. Nora was okay to me, but there was nothing about her that really drew me in. She was kind of just...there.

Alz - I freely admit that my descriptions are perhaps a wee tad bit biased. I suppose that Nora was all right, but she lacked any strength of character or interesting/unique characteristics to separate her from a thousand other generic YA-romance heroines. As for Vee, though, I feel I was probably too gentle and generous in my description...

BOOK: Joust by Mercedes Lackey
CHARACTER: Vetch - So overwhelmingly pitiable and pathetic that the author feels it is necessary to explicitly tell us on page 12 that "he was truly the most miserable of boys," after 12 pages of telling us how horrible and pathetic and terrible his life is, and then 5 pages later he's whisked out of said horrible life into a brand new life where everything conveniently, and coincidentally happens to go exactly right for him for the rest of the book.

Alz - This is a classic case of show, don't tell. The author spends the entire first chapter telling us how miserable Vetch is, and then it becomes pretty much a non-issue for the rest of the book. Vetch is very much the angry downtrodden serf-boy, and he was extremely irritating because I felt like rather than outside circumstances making him feel that way, he adopted the attitude and styled himself to suit it. Vetch has no personality beyond the cardboard rebellious-serfboy cutout and his struggles are pretty much nonexistent.



BOOK: Shadow Magic by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett
CHARACTER: Caius - one of the 4 first-person POV characters; a young, very talented magician. He's eccentric and charismatic, witty and funny, and strange enough to keep most people on their toes. He also has a rather dark reputation, which adds to his air of intrigue.

Krispy - So I kind of loved Caius. He's the type of character I like - seemingly composed and good-natured on the surface, but harboring some sort of unpleasant past. The thing is, by the end of the book, I didn't feel like I'd gotten to know him THAT much better than when I started, even though I spent a quarter of the book in his head. I didn't feel like he'd changed very much over the course of the book, which is a problem when the book is heavily character-based.

So that's our post! Agree? Disagree?

I guess the takeaway message is that compelling characters come in MANY DIFFERENT forms. You can love them, hate them, love to hate them, but no matter what, you're drawn to follow them on their journeys. Also, it takes more than just likability, cute quirks, or badassness to make a compelling character. They have to be real, flawed and human. They need to ring true to the reader, and I think most importantly, they need to grow and change to be truly compelling.

Be sure to check out other takes on the Compelling Characters topic by visiting the link at the top of this post! Have a glorious weekend!

P.S. This is a great article from Nathan Bransford about the role of parents (or lack thereof) in kidlit: In Defense of Dead/Absent Parents in Children's Literature

P.P.S. I'm seeing MUSE this weekend! I didn't even realize! It's going to be EPIC!!!


Randomosity on Thursday?

Yep, you read that right, folks. I'm doing my Randomosity post a day early because TOMORROW, we at A Nudge will be participating in Elana, Alex and Jen's Great Blogging Experiment!

The topic is Writing Compelling Characters. I'm excited but also freaked because Alz and I haven't discussed what exactly we will be doing and/or writing about, and I want to watch the season premiere of Fringe tomorrow. Yes, priorities, I know. Besides, I already did most of my freaking out this weekend when I cried, "I don't even know if I do write compelling characters!!!" - to which Alz assured me I did, but she's possibly just being nice.

So SEE YOU TOMORROW HERE for Character Bloggage!

Ahem. Onwards and upwards! NYC picture-spam will be next week since I'm still uploading them.

1. Next week is Banned Books Week. I'm sure many of you have heard of the stir surrounding the modern YA classic SPEAK. Basically, some guy wants to ban it from his school district because he thinks it's pornography. Yeah, SRSLY. Read more about this here at author Laurie Halse Anderson's blog, and be sure to watch the SPEAK poem video. It's moving.

2. In that vein, I will endeavor to read a Banned Book next week since I'm finishing up with my current read. Perhaps SPEAK? Also, check out the #speakloudly hashtag on Twitter.

3. TV IS BACK! Glee on Tuesday, Criminal Minds yesterday, FRINGE tonight, Supernatural on Friday!!! AH! I need to control myself so I don't spend all my time on TV.

4. People, I am freaking out about this. The Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 1 theatrical trailer is out!!! IT'S SO EPIC!!!

5. I'm already thinking about Halloween. Any costume ideas? I have Gail Carriger's Blameless sitting on my desk, which makes me want to go all steampunk (but mostly I want to read it!)

What's your random this week and who else is participating in the blogging experiment tomorrow?!

P.S. Yesterday was the first day of autumn, and also the Moon Festival! I'm not really a fan of moon cakes, but the Moon Festival's cool! Hope you all had a good one!


Randomosity on Fridays: NYC Edition

I am BACK my darlings from New York City, and oh, was she a more glitzy temptress than I remember! I did much, I ate much, and basically, there was much muchness and I came back with a milkshake cup from the chocolatey paradise of Max Brenner called The Alice Cup. How fitting is that? I love chocolate AND I get a named cup. AWESOME.

Anyway, I'm about to pass out, so quick recap this week. Pictures next time!

1. I experienced the longest shuttle ride of my life. Take a cab from the airport into the city. It's a lot faster and TOTALLY WORTH the extra money. I got in a shuttle at 7:55am and didn't get to my friend's place until 11:30am. I KID YOU NOT.

2. I was a fatty the entire trip. I had a DAY of my vacation dedicated solely to EATING. That day was topped off by a homemade dinner from my friend's pastry chef friend, who (of course) made us dessert. I ate THREE of the brioche desserts he made - with ice cream and strawberries.

3. Um, books! Chilled at a Borders near Wall Street, stepped into Barnes & Noble on 18th - apparently "The Largest Bookstore in the World," and checked out Books of Wonder. Perk to the Books of Wonder trip was the Cupcake Cafe next door. They were part of Bravo's Top Chef: Just Desserts thing, so we got free cupcakes. SO GOOD.

I did mention I was a total FATTY on this trip, right?

4. The sister and I had a whole PERCY JACKSON Adventure at the Metropolitan Museum of Art while we were there. We joked about it when we got there since Percy's a New Yorker and part of his adventure does take place in the Met, but the Met actually has like a pamphlet thing ABOUT Percy Jackson and how "mythology lives" at the Met in their Greek and Roman collection. So that was pretty cool.

This is @kangaru chillin' with Hamilton on Twitpic
Chillin' w/Hamilton at Trinity Church
5. ALEXANDER HAMILTON. For those of you who don't know and/or are new around here, there's something you have to know about me. I'm kinda sorta in love with Alexander Hamilton. Yeah, that handsome fellow on the $10. I think he's super awesome. Well, he was a New Yorker - went to Columbia University (known as King's College back then), lived and practiced in Manhattan, and was interred at Trinity Church. So, OF COURSE, I had to go on little Hamiltonian excursions. Hit up Columbia, Trinity Church, and stumbled upon a portrait of him done by John Trumbull in the American Wing of the Met. Oh and this is behind a building facade replica of a branch of the Bank of the United States a.k.a. Hamilton's brainchild.

That's all for now. You can check out all my ridiculous foodage on Twitter/Twitpic: @kangaru.

More updates/pictures in the future. It's technically Thursday night as I write this and I am tired from travel and I have work tomorrow. So, I will see you all next week. Hope you all had a wonderful week! Anything interesting happen while I was away?

P.S. In case you hadn't heard, the sweet and cool Tere at The Lesser Key HAS AN AGENT!!! Go congratulate her if you haven't already! Oh and her agent also reps Suzanne Collins, as in the woman who wrote the freaking Hunger Games trilogy. So yeah, congrats FOR REALS, Tere!


Randomosity on Fridays: Vacation Edition

Don't you LOVE these short weeks? It's Friday already! Yay! Likely, the next time I'll see you will be next Friday as I will be on vacation starting tonight (I really wanted to say NOW, but alas, 'tis not so!). When I arrive on the Eastern shore, I may pop in during the week if I have internet and time and show you what I've been up to.

Until then, have a fantastic weekend and week! :D

1. I don't know why I'm such a time optimist when it comes to certain things - things that inevitably take at least twice as long as I think they will. Thus, my optimism only ever brings me stress and suffering. Guess that makes me some kind of masochist too?

2. Following that, I suck at packing. It takes me FOREVER. The sister, on the flip side, is REALLY GOOD at it. Usually, I mooch off her superior abilities, but she left earlier. Sad times. Do you suck at packing or are you a super packer like the sister?

3. I signed up for Elana, Jen, and Alex's Great Blogging Experiment on Sept. 24. It's about Writing Compelling Characters. Um, right... I might make Alz write that one.

4. I had a dilemma yesterday - what to wear onto the plane? I mean, do I go for comfort and be a slob or do I try to look kind of presentable since I'm getting to my destination in the morning and will have to SEE people, maybe even INTERACT with them? I settled for something in between (I think); I tend to dress comfortably anyway. I just hope it doesn't look too slovenly. How do you dress for travel - slob or chic?

5. Finally, a friend let me in on some squee-worthy news! It totally made my morning! Awesome possum start to the weekend.

Aaaand I'm off to NYC!


Teaser Tuesday: Siblings

Welcome back from the long weekend for those of you who celebrated Labor Day! Nothing like a 3-day weekend to rejuvenate the mind and body. I think we should have 3 day weekends at least once a month. Other countries have siestas and tea time and other sorts of afternoon breaks! Can't we come to a compromise and have a 3-day weekend once every couple of weeks?

Ah, wishful thinking. How were your weekends, by the by?

In any case, I will be a busy bee this week, trying to make my most pressing deadlines and getting down to the dread business of packing (I hate packing). The sister is flying off to NYC before I do, so I can't mooch off her superior packing abilities. SIGH.

But I will probably get in a Randomosity post on Friday, and then everything's up in the air because I will be on the East Coast indulging in frolicsome revelries.

So in honor of down time and chillaxing with siblings, I give you my very first Teaser Tuesday post. Wrote it last week on a whim and rediscovered two characters I barely ever wrote before. I remembered how much I liked them.

Have you ever forgotten about a character or story only to rediscover them again? Did you pick that story back up after?

Snippet written from the following prompt from Toasted Cheese.

Use the following words: bored, useless, together, little, stars.

On nights when the weather permitted it, Sybil knew she could find her brother on the roof. Sol liked to lie on his back and stare into the darkened sky for hours. She always wondered what it was he thought about when he did that, but she didn't feel it was right to ask. Like it would be an invasion of his privacy, even though she knew he wouldn't mind her asking.

As expected, she found him there tonight, his arms crossed behind his head, eyes on the little pinpricks of light. He didn't take his gaze away when she sat down next to him and ruffled his dark hair. Instead, he said, "I wish there were more of them. I wish they looked like they did in the pictures, a whole shining white ribbon."

"You only get that stuff out in like the desert or something."

"I know. I just wish, you know?" He was silent for a moment, and then he turned to her. His eyes were the color of charcoal, unreadable. "Were you bored or something? You never come up here."

Sybil shrugged. "Eh, sort of. I kind of felt useless downstairs, sitting in a room all by my lonesome."

"No TV?"

"Just the usual crap."

"You'll be bored here too," he said and went back to looking skyward.

"I know."

With a sigh, Sybil stretched her legs out and lay down next to him. The roof was hard against her back, and she wondered how Sol could spend hours up here lying on something so uncomfortable. The bowl of the sky curved over them, trapping the lights and sounds of the city under its dome. It was the perfect weather for stargazing - cloudless and clear. If it weren't for the light pollution from everything around them, Sybil imagined they'd be treated to quite a sight. As it was, she only saw a few glittering points far, far in the deepest of the blues.

"Hey," she said. "What do you see up there anyway? What are you looking for?"

He didn't answer her for a while, and she didn't push him. Sol kept a lot of things to himself, and maybe he didn't want to say anything. She was used to that by now - his silence and his secrecy. It didn't bother her as much as it used to because she knew he didn't mean anything by it, and out of everyone, she was the person he trusted the most. He would tell her in his own time.

"It makes me feel like I'm not alone," he said. "Like there's something out there like me, bigger than me."

Sybil rolled onto her side, propping herself up on an elbow to peer down at him. His face was expressionless, and his skin was an eerie shade of pale in the relative darkness. She could tell his mind was far away from this rooftop where they were together, searching the galaxies flung wide above their heads. Slowly, Sybil reached her free hand over and flicked the tip of his nose. Sol started, shaking his head and staring at her in surprise.

"You aren't alone, stupid," she said, poking him in the cheek for good measure. Then she settled back down and pointed up at the stars. "Look, if you connect those ones, they make a lobster."

"I think it's supposed to be a crab," he said, sounding a little confused.

"How does that look anything like a crab? It's a lobster. It's got a tail."

She heard the rustle of fabric as her brother shifted his position and felt his hand wrap around hers. His skin was ice cold. This too she was used to, so she didn't flinch from his touch. He only held her hand briefly before he let go, but it was enough to make her smile.


Randomosity on Fridays: Happy Labor Day Weekend!

I'm sure you're all eager to be off on your frolicsome revelries, given the long weekend. So let's get to it! Friday Five time!

1. I got my hair cut yesterday. It was supposed to be short - like a bob, but my hairdresser (who I like very much) suggested I try something that is something like a bob but also still long. It's kind of cute, but I think it's also kind of mullet-y. I'm not sure how I feel about this...

2. Lately, I find myself annoyed with random, little things. Is it time for a change of scenery? A change of pace?

3. College football has begun! I'm rather excited. It feels like it's been a long time since I was into it - probably because I didn't pay much attention last year. Possibly this sense of hope and anticipation has to do with the USC fiasco. Sorry Trojans fans, sucks for you, but maybe FINALLY Cal will get into the Rose Bowl. It's been like 50 years since the last one! C'mon! Now, we just need to not mess ourselves up. GO BEARS!

4. I've had a bunch of weird dreams lately, likely brought on by my speeding through the Hunger Games trilogy. In one dream, I was in the Hunger Games in the arena. I had a knife. My partner/ally/friend was injured but limping along okay with the help of a walking stick, and we were trekking down some foresty path. It was a lot like hiking actually, except for the part where people were hunting us, but I didn't seem that concerned.

In another dream, I was a werewolf. Something (not the moon) triggered my lycanthropy, and I spent most of the dream shaking and feeling clammy (like in a cold sweat) as I tried not to shapeshift into a wolf. Anyway, I met my favoritest professor in the world, Remus Lupin (of Harry Potter fame) on a bus and tried to act like I was not going to either be sick on or wolf out on him. At the next stop, I made a run for it, but he caught up to me in a parking garage (yeah, I don't know). He very kindly asked me if I was trying not to turn into a wolf, and when I said yes, he gave me a bottle of pills. DID YOU KNOW that Wolfsbane potion now comes in PILL form? Yes, it does. I thanked him, took one, and was no longer in danger of shifting.

5. For my New York trip (soon!), I'm not sure if I should bring a book or if I should bring the Kindle. I have yet to use it, which also means there is nothing on there yet. But yes. Book or Kindle?

Any advice for me? Have you had any weird dreams lately? Have a safe, sunny, and fantabulous Labor Day Weekend! TGIF!


Internet Addiction

Welcome to September everyone! I can't believe August is already over. How is it possible that we are already 8 months through the year? How? Eck, I just had a thought about my New Year's Resolutions, and I think it might be time for another progress report, which makes me kind of depressed.


Ahem. Last night, the cable and internet at my house inexplicably went out. The following conversation took place between the sister and I.

Sis: OMG, what am I going to do? What am I going to do?

Me: Um, I'm going to read. *pulls out book*

Sis: What the heck! What am I going to do? I'm going to pull my hair out. I can't even read this! *picks up The Book Thief* I'm too depressed.

Me: Post-Mockingjay syndrome still? You're going to be more depressed if you read that (the Book Thief).

Sis: I know that. Mockingjay effed up my mind so much that I can't read this or anything. Argh. *flails* How did people live before the internet?

Me: What the heck. Dude, when were you born?

Sis: It's like when something good comes along, you know. Like what did I do on the internet before youtube?! *pulls out phone* Crap, even my iPhone is useless... (she doesn't have a data plan) *fiddles with it* Hey, you wanna play Cooking Academy? iPhone games save me again!

Me: Until the battery dies.

Sis: No, whatever! It's not like a blackout! If this was a blackout, I'd really be pulling my hair out.

The conversation did bring up a good topic - how people spend their time and how people used to spend their time. So who else is addicted to the internet? What do you do when there's no internet or cable? What do you do when there's a blackout?