Randomosity on Fridays: Manatee Takeover Edition

So!  January's practically over and Krispy and I had nothing planned for today's post and I had Thai tea with boba tonight and am blogging this late past midnight but never you mind. I thought I'd just show you in pictures what I was up to over the past couple of weeks.

1. Watched Ides of March with Krispy and her sister.  It was generally depressing but I did make this manatee while we were watching, so at least something fuzzy came out of it.

This is Fuzzy Leopardatee. He is Krispy's new love.
But her love is doomed.
Because she is tofu and I am spicy hot and the manatee is MINE.
(I neglected to mention in yesterday's post that I made all those manatees. Each individually handsewn and stuffed with love, polyfil, and the desire to overthrow the human race.)

2. The other week, Krispy and her sister found something at Target that they knew was meant for me.  When they gave this thing to me, I knew that my life had been but a meaningless span of clockwork measured only by the mundanity of timepieces chopping time into seconds, minutes, hours upon hours of empty bare existence and now, only now did I truly comprehend that my life was just beginning.

Stuffed with valentines and unicorn stickers!
It also makes a very good home for a very special someone who is dear to us.

3. I went to a beadshow earlier in the month and picked up some beads for $1 or $2 a strand.  Krispy can testify that I have a magpie/crowlike nature magnified a thousandfold when it comes to shinies.

4. Yesterday I read A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce.  It was all right.  There are a few good re-imaginings and interpretations of things, but the slow and steady pace combined with the fact that it is a fairly straightforward retelling made it kind of boring after a while since I knew exactly what was going to happen.  The mystery was also not very mysterious.  The writing was nice though and the author clearly did her research.  If you like fairytale retellings, you might want to check it out.

5. I did some writing, working on a couple of short stories and kicking around some ideas to see if they hold up to abuse.  So far they have, so it may be time to give them a break and let them recover and grow before having at them again.

The story contains no manatees.  For now.
So that's what I've been up to: Sewing, beading, reading, writing, and unicorns.  Not entirely in that order, but close enough.

And because I uploaded this picture with the intention of using it and got sidetracked, I'm-a just stick it here.

This is Sherlockatee.
And so January draws to a close! What have you accomplished this month?


Wordless Wednesday: Be Prepared

Bet you thought I was joking about conquering the world with manatees...

Go ahead and laugh.

P.S. A while ago, Krispy asked Lydia for suggestions on slow-attacking diseases. Lydia had some great ideas, the gist of which she shared this week in her Medical Mondays post. Check out Prions from Outer Space. It'll make you grateful your proteins are normal!

And if you have a medical-related question yourself, be sure to check her Medical Mondays archive or drop her an email!


Randomosity on Fridays: Schneizeleffort

Happy Friday! Something a little different with our randomosity today, friends. There seemed to be a little more than passing interest last week about the definition of schneizeleffort, the funny term I used in one of my 2012 resolutions.

So I thought I'd fulfill at least part of that resolution and silence your curiosity about what this term is. It's so useful! It's like the motto of my life.

BUT before I get to that, I'd like to turn your attention to two things:

1. Our blogging/vlogging buddy Sophia Chang's One Year Blogoversary giveaway is still happening. You could win a signed copy of J.A. Yang's Exclusively Chloe OR a critique from Alz and myself (up to 25 pages). So if you're interested in either or both, I'd hop over there soon and enter on the rafflecopter form.

2. It's Lunar New Year weekend! The New Year falls on Jan. 23 this year, and thus begins the Year of the Dragon! This also means I will likely be rolling aboard the fatty train again, the next stop being Fattyville. Choo choo!


One of my resolutions for this year is to be more schneizeleffort.

The Urban Dictionary entry defines it as:

Putting forth the minimum amount of effort required to complete something.

This concept is named after a character in Code Geass, Schneizel el Britannia.

Here's the long-story-short version of the history of this word/concept. (I'm going to talk a bit about anime now. I used to be more into it...before I became so schneizeleffort.) It starts with an anime called CODE GEASS.

Swooshy! Dramatic! You look like a CLAMP creation!

In college, I got into this anime because I saw the above promo and thought, "PRETTY! Looks kinda like CLAMP...OMG CLAMP character designs?!" CLAMP, fyi, is the name of a mangaka group known for their beauteous artwork and angst-tastic stories. Some of my first series were by those ladies.

See, CLAMP draws pretty and epic-looking things.

So I was eager to check out Code Geass because it was pretty, based on art by CLAMP, and I liked the premise. It's a show about a genius Britannian boy, who leads a revolution against Britannia. Oh and he's a Prince of Britannia. What's not to like?

Then I glimpsed this guy in the Season 1 opening, and I was like, WHO IS THAT SHADY BLOND?

Blond, poncy, shady-lookin': you must be evil!
That is SCHNEIZEL, the second prince and Prime Minister of Britannia, and half-brother to the main character.

He is quickly set up as an antagonist but doesn't actually show up in Season 1 until the last few episodes. Then, he's more or less the main antagonist in Season 2, which was a good thing because by then I was in love.

Being VERY PRETTY is, of course, an easy way to win fangirl favor, but he was also an interesting antagonist. He's set up like he might be evil, and he's a strategical genius like our MC. The MC spends much of the series dreading going up against him because of this. He's also ruthless with his tactics - a sort of ends-justify-the-means sort of guy and he's insidiously manipulative. But this is contrasted with his charisma and the fact that he seems like a decent guy in general. He cares about his siblings, about the welfare of the Empire, about peace and order. He has a sense of duty to his people, wants peace, and he's not snobbish. He hires people based on talent/merit.

He's incredibly good at his job/running the government/waging war, so why "schneizeleffort"?

As the series went, I had the dawning realization that Schneizel was just COASTING on his natural talents. It doesn't seem like he's ever TRYING. He puts the minimal amount of effort needed into achieving his goals, and since he's a genius and has tons of $, goals are generally achievable. For example, about to totally crush the enemy? Offer them a peace treaty because it requires less effort (and incidentally, makes him seem merciful)! And when the going gets tough, he just u-turns himself out of there.

Emotion? Too much effort!
In fact, I'm mostly convinced he just doesn't really care all that much about a lot of things. Or he does but in a clinical, detached kind of way. He rarely looks as evil/shady in the actual show as he does in the openings/promo pics. He doesn't show too much emotion either way. One of his siblings actually describes him as "having no desires."

His schneizeleffort is great on the show though because the MC is a drama queen king, who does put a lot of effort into staging this revolution, but Schneizel comes in and ruins everything without giving a flying Cheese-kun. It's awesome. And hilarious (for me).

The person who actually coined the term "schneizeleffort" is koda (or miasmacloud) from gg fansubs. They were one of the main fansubbers for Code Geass.

ANOTHER EXAMPLE of a "schneizeleffort" character from another fandom is Mycroft Holmes from the Sherlock Holmes stories. I haven't actually read the stories, but after watching BBC's TV series Sherlock, in which Mycroft plays a small role, the Sister and I looked him up. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about him:

"Possessing inductive powers exceeding even those of his younger brother, Mycroft is nevertheless incapable of performing detective work similar to that of Sherlock as he is unwilling to put in the physical effort necessary to bring cases to their conclusions.
...he has no ambition and no energy. He will not even go out of his way to verify his own solutions, and would rather be considered wrong than take the trouble to prove himself right. Again and again I have taken a problem to him, and have received an explanation which has afterwards proved to be the correct one. And yet he was absolutely incapable of working out the practical points...
—Sherlock Holmes, speaking of his brother in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter"
After which, I said, "OMG, so he's just the schneizeleffort version of Sherlock!" I'm starting to wonder if this is a common characteristic of older brother types to geniuses, who are themselves also geniuses...

So you see the many applications there are for this word. I suppose a synonym for schneizeleffort could be "half-*ssing" something. Also, the application of schneizeleffort can only work to your advantage if you are already naturally talented enough to get away with coasting through life. Schneizel had that whole born-into-privilege-and-wealth thing going for him, on top of being a genius.

I don't have either of those things, so the schneizeleffort thing is an upward slope for me. The irony is that I need to expend effort to get to the point of being able to schneizeleffort my way through life...

ANYWAY, there you have it. The definition of schneizeleffort. I hope I have enriched your vocabulary. That aside, I wish you all an early Happy Lunar New Year!

Hah! 1/2 a resolution completed!

Have any fun/weird/in-joke terms to share?

*I didn't schneizeleffort my way through this post. I should've. Sorry sleep-deprived self!


Book Review: The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Yet another of Krispy's library books that I absconded with in the hopes of a fun lark. It was a lark, but it was rather less than fun.  I know I promised good reviews, and they are in the works! Just, well, I read this over the past couple of days and needed to expel it from my system.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Pros: Refreshing Spanish-influenced jungle/desert fantasy setting; interesting premise and ideas about being the Chosen One; protagonist is a fat girl with an eating problem and self-esteem issues.

Cons: Protagonist's fat problems are resolved through outside interference; nobody has any idea what's involved in a war campaign and their strategic and military incompetence and the utter implausibility of many military events still makes me want to repeatedly punch their lights out with brass knuckles; WOOHOO PLOT DEVICE ENDING.

Intellectual Rating: 3 out of 10 stars
Emotional Grade: D

Book Blurb: (from Goodreads) Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do

Alz's Take: This book has some good points, including an interesting non-traditional fantasy setting, by which I mean the main culture appears to be Spanish-based, and it's not all forests and castles because it's set in jungles and deserts. The writing style is nice enough, and once in a while quite pretty. The protagonist is a fat useless princess.
Before you get any ideas about this being a cutesy story, it is not.

There's political intrigue everywhere and war on the horizon.

The princess also has self-esteem issues that go hand-in-hand with her weight problems, but the book manages to deal with it without becoming preachy. (Though there was an awful lot of her binge-eating and calling herself a fat pig in the beginning, and also every time I thought she was really fat, she'd describe herself in a way that made her seem even fatter. When it finally said at one point that her breasts and her belly bounce when she runs, and she gets rashes on her thighs just from walking, I was like, OMG how obese is this girl???)

The whole Godstone and Chosen of God thing works out well too—I feared at the outset that the story would devolve into maunderings on faith and morality, but it didn't. The religious aspect of the book was treated more as background and a mainstay of the world than as a focus; the real focus is on characters and plot. I've read some comparisons and criticisms to Christian lit but I've read some Christian lit and The Girl of Fire and Thorns does not fall under that category anymore than Daughter of Smoke and Bone or Chime does.

Where this book is a failboat is the aforementioned war on the horizon and political intrigue. Because the political intrigue is not very intriguing and Princess Elisa for some unexplained reason lives her life by the Art of War, thinly veiled as a book by name of the Belleza Guerra. Why exactly a princess has memorized this book (or even exactly what the book is about, as all we ever know of it is the title and Elisa's occasional references to it) is never explained.

The narrative styles Elisa as a brilliant strategist but all of her strategies are stupid. Pardon me, I meant to say that all of her strategies sound good in theory, but how to actually implement them is either never explained or she comes up with incredibly lame ideas that would never work, and long faces are pulled at how long a shot this is, and then all her ideas miraculously go off without a hitch.

Without spoilers, I'll give you an example of this kind of problem, drawing from an example given in Terry Pratchett's Hogfather. You want to solve world hunger. What do you do?

Elisa's brilliant strategy would be: Feed the hungry!
Very good, Elisa! But where did you get that food?
That's where her brilliance ends. She wouldn't bother to think in terms of crops, perishable vs non-perishable food supplies, storage, transportation, distribution, workforce, etc. Yet somehow, because the story demands it, she'd manage to feed everyone in the world. Hooray.

Now imagine a girl like this wrapped up in court intrigue, political maneuverings, rebellions that aren't even real rebellions, and who is also the center of a never-explained war. Imagine this girl being put into a position of military authority.  Imagine her sheer incompetence that everyone else hails as brilliant strategy. Imagine her succeeding despite overwhelming odds, never-explained apparently-inexhaustible resources, and battle plans that I wouldn't respect by using for toilet paper.

Everyone else in this book suffers from a similar inability to rationally and realistically make wartime plans. The utter incompetence of everyone in this book is astonishing, from enemies to allies to the entire world. I'm sure using the word incompetent a lot but that's just what everyone is. Quite frankly I'm surprised that they even have a coherent government and have apparently won wars in the past. I wonder what happened in the span of a generation that caused the IQ of the populace to drop down into the range of your average potato.

I also didn't much appreciate how the enemy consisted of barefooted fur-wearing savages with painted skins on an apparently religious* crusade led by evil magicians. Oh, but since they're pale-skinned and some of them are blond it's okay and not a stereotype.

*This is sort of left open to interpretation since, again, we never find out what these filthy clump-haired barbarians are after.

Now let's talk about obesity. The main thing that kept me reading in through the early stages of this book was Elisa's presumable future transformation: I hoped that she'd slowly gain confidence throughout the book, wrestling with her eating problem and working hard to lose weight, and that these emotional and mental struggles would tie into and reflect her external ones. I looked forward to seeing how she'd find the inner strength to overcome these problems of her own volition.

I was disappointed.

She does lose the weight, but it's through external extenuating circumstances forced upon her. It's not her own choice, she didn't work for it because she was aiming toward this goal, it wasn't even something of which she was aware. It was entirely out of her control so there was no self-actualization or determination to assert control over her body. Nope. She has almost nothing to do with her own transformation, and afterward she just reaps the benefits without the mental struggle.

Nor does start to have confidence or be "strong" until after she loses her excess pounds. And I say "strong" in quotation marks because I don't ever really see it. I'm just told it by other people. Really? You can't develop strength and confidence before you dump that junk in your trunk?

This has nothing to do with the story.
Not to mention that the love stories were weaksauce. The one with the king she marries had the potential to be interesting and it was at first, but it never developed and we barely get to know the king. I liked the dichotomy they had going between them and what ultimately happened, but I wish there had been more. Plus we're pretty much told everything about King Alejandro by other characters. You're told he's etc. and etc. he is. Tell, do not show.

As for the second love interest, he is unmemorable, flavorless, and characterless. He doesn't even rank tofu; this guy is watery plain oatmeal. While I appreciate that Elisa didn't have a case of serious raging heartfelt lust/love for either of the two love interests, I didn't for a moment believe she was ever truly in love with either of them.

Whenever anything dramatic happened, or someone tragically, tragically died, I felt nothing. I hardly knew anyone. In one scene, something horrific and traumatizing happened, and yet I would have felt more emotional watching a piece of paper go through a paper shredder.

And you know what? Half the time it felt like Elisa didn't really care either, except out of obligation. Certain events seemed to have only a glancing effect upon her when I thought she ought to be distraught or enraged; most often she'd have a page of description or one act to demonstrate how she was upset, and then it was back to business as usual except for a halfhearted token line here and there.

The only supporting character of real interest was Cosmé, a girl who is antagonistic from the start to Elisa for no reason that I can pinpoint, and even then I felt like the story was trying very hard to make her ambiguous—which worked at first but there was no reward for all the waiting I went through. What were her motivations? Cheap stock reasons bought in bulk from Drama Llama Inc.

This same supplier also provided a reason why Elisa had to leave her home kingdom (besides the whole marriage thing) that I thought was going to play an important role later on, but nope. It's a Big Dramatic Reveal and that's it. No further import or impact.

Also, I'm not entirely sure if I might have missed or misinterpreted something, but there appears to be at least one large plot hole. Basically, I was pretty sure at one point that there were two armies (not sayin' whose), but by the end of the book the second army appeared to have vanished. What???
Random dancing fat princess!

The ending is one big huge plot device hurriedly introduced in the last quarter of the book and all the buildup is done almost after the fact. I went back to check on a certain detail and there was one mention of something, but it was so vague that you couldn't have possibly figured anything out. In a non-spoiler example, it's like if a random detail were described as a ball and then 300 pages later it's described as an orange. Could you have guessed it was an orange from the original description? No.

The actual climactic scene had me ROFLMAO because of exactly how it was written. Page 414, to be precise. It's hilarious. And it's not supposed to be. Not only is the entire scene badly-plotted and -explicated thanks to the kingdom of Joya d'Arena's utter military incompetence, but the description of—of—of course I can't say it because it would be spoilerific. Although it's not worth it to read the entire book just to get to one incredibly laughable description in an overall lackluster scene, it's something to look forward to. Or dread, depending on if you want the finale to actually be dramatic. I still can't get the image out of my head.

The book is fairly standalone although it’s the first of a trilogy. I'm almost curious as to what the sequels will entail, but I think that reading the book blurbs will be enough for me since I don't want to devote another 400+ pages to reading about implausible unrealistic battle strategies, political intrigue that's rarely explained and generally makes little sense, and characters who I couldn't care less about if I had my emotions surgically removed.

Alz's Conclusion: The setting and premise are interesting enough that this book will appeal to fantasy-readers looking for something new. The plot and many character actions fail to hold up to scrutiny and half of the romance is more boring than reading a dictionary aloud in monotone, but if you can manage to engross yourself in the story, you might enjoy it.


Randomosity on Fridays: 2012 Resolutions

We were planning to do this earlier, but well, we had reviews (different kinds!) to do. Also, we cleaned up our sidebar and have PAGES now! Anyway resolutions now! And after, that a bit of randomosity!


1. Finish this gosh darn WIP.

2. Sleep more. (No, seriously. We're taking a page from Odin's book and investing in the rejuvenating benefits of Odinsleeping.)

3. BE BRAVE. (courtesy of the Sister)


1. Make Alz blog more.

2. Resolve to be more schneizeleffort*. / Someday explain the concept of schneizeleffort.

3. Stop Alz from bullying me.

4. Get off the fatty-train (I seriously need to stop the holiday-eating spree that has continued past the holidays...) / maybe exercise or something?

5. Write/read/sleep/be present more. :)


1. Bully Krispy more.

2. Get published and get query letters written and sent out. In whatever order. Presumably I'll have to have those letters written before I send them out, but if I can bend time and space to make it happen in reverse order, that's fiiiine by me.

3. Actually watch all those TV shows and movies I have piled up, i.e. Battlestar Galactica, Misfits season 2, Game of Thrones, Merlin, past two seasons of Doctor Who, etc.

4. Write more consistently and actually finish projects. Short stories for starters, and then longer things. As usual.


And now for some randomosity. The making of our long-o Scorpio Races review from yesterday. In no particular order...

K: So for Intellectual Rating, I guess I give it like a 10 out of 10, and Emotional Grade would be...
A: An A?
A: You should just put that!

A: Oh Krispy, you love this book.
K: I don't know that yet. It's too soon! It hasn't stood the test of time! Right now it's like- it's like an infatuation! A YA all-consuming insta-love!
A: No, I think you love it.

(In response from my out-of-nowhere literary analysis of Mutt Malvern)
A: Clearly your great and t00by love for Scorpio Races has brought out the AP Lit-essayist in you.
K: It's because I have to write this review, which is forcing me to make sense of my many feelings. It's too much effort, Alz. All this THINKING and pinpointing. I'm tired just thinking about it. Schneizeleffort ftw. :P

A: Now I have to find a way to condense this entire email conversation into a paragraph or two.

A: I was thinking of doing more doodles, but since this is a fairly serious review, I didn't want to detract from all your eloquence with random doodles.

This last spawned this bit of genius from Lydia** on Twitter: "A serious essay can never be ruined by too many doodles."---Confuse-us

So yeah, we really did write an essay. Two separate ones in fact that we managed to smoosh down into one review. Sort of. Thanks to everyone who read it!

Enjoy the weekend! And for our fellow US-ers, woohoo! LONG WEEKEND!

What are you resolving to do this year?

*If you were in the Code Geass anime fandom, you might have an idea of what I'm talking about.
**Lydia, look at you making another appearance at A Nudge!

P.S. In case you missed it, our friend and fellow vlogger Sophia Chang is celebrating her One Year Blogaversary with a giveaway! We're one of the prizes! Or rather an "angel/demon" critique, up to 25 pages, from us! That's 2 pairs of eyes for the price of one! Also, I think it's HILARIOUS that I'm the angel.


Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I won a copy of this book from Erin Bowman, who gave a copy away because she loved the book so much. THE SCORPIO RACES was the last book I read in 2011, and it was also my favorite! I loved it so much, I bullied Alz into reading it immediately. (Beware: lots of text ahead)

So, this is going to be slightly different - a joint review!

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

(Rating/Grade averaged between us)
Intellectual Rating: 9 out of 10
Emotional Grade: A range

Book Blurb: (from goodreads) It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Krispy's Take: So let's start off by being completely honest; I LOVE THIS BOOK. I love it to bitty bitty pieces, which makes it incredibly hard for me to write a coherent review because all I want to do is SQUEE about it and tell you to read it. But I will endeavor to tell you exactly why I feel this way and why you might want to give this book a chance too.
This doodle of Krispy's Starry-Eyed Tears of Lurve™ does not
fully convey the depths of her <3 according to Alz.

A PROLOGUE / MY DOUBTS - I had read Maggie Stiefvater's SHIVER back when it came out, and while I liked it, I didn't love it. I liked it enough to be interested in the sequels, but on the other hand, I have yet to pick up any of them. So when THE SCORPIO RACES hit shelves, I was ambivalent despite the nice cover and horses (even though I love horse stories). I thought it was going to be more typical YA fare - dangerous races with gimmicky supernatural horses all used as a dramatic backdrop to what would ultimately be a teenage love story.

From Erin Bowman's review, I learned that it might actually be more like the beloved horse stories of my childhood like The Black Stallion, which is essentially the story of a boy and his horse - a bond that is formed, tested, and then proven in a climactic match race.

That said, here's why I loved THE SCORPIO RACES.

THE WORLD / WRITING - Maggie Stiefvater's worldbuilding is pitch perfect here. Thisby is a fictional island that feels like a place you can really visit. It is bleak but beautiful, painted with a deft and light hand in spare prose. In SHIVER, there were moments where I felt like the writing was written to be beautiful, but that wasn't an issue at all in this book. The beauty was effortless and subtle. There is weight to the island, substance built from rich imagined rituals and traditions, all of which include the capaill uisce (or the water horses) as an integral part. You're persuaded to believe that there is an island in the Atlantic where vicious magic horses are a normal part of daily life, and because the magic and superstition is blurred and so much a part of the day-to-day, the water horses don't feel like a gimmick. The water horses themselves - both deadly and beautiful, loved and feared - is symbolic of what life on Thisby is like and what Sean and Puck love about their home.

Also, Maggie Stiefvater knows how to set a scene and build atmosphere. In fact, the atmosphere is one of the best and strongest parts of the book. She gives you all the right details to create a mood and a distinct impression of a place. You get caught up in the beat of the Scorpio drums, the jingling of bells, and the smell of warm honey dripping from November cakes at the Scorpio Festival. You feel the cold sea wind on your face and the rumble of hooves in your chest when Sean races along the shore astride his beloved water horse Corr. Each setting, each event is brought to wondrous life.

Oh and Stiefvater uses repetition of images and phrases to great effect. It's how she threads emotions and ideas through the book seamlessly. Sean's mantra of "I am so, so alive" echoed on two different race days - in the beginning and near the end - not only made the literary geek in me squee, it evoked a specific emotion and revealed something about Sean!

THE CHARACTERS - Sean and Puck are fully realized people with needs and flaws and strengths, and it was easy to tell them apart. They co-narrate the novel, and sometimes in dual narrative books, the characters end up sounding too similar. Not a problem here. Sean and Puck have distinct voices and such different (yet similar) life concerns.

Particularly with Puck, I liked that she wasn't your typical "spunky/snarky" YA heroine. She was strong in a very authentic, natural way. She wasn't in-your-face about it. As mentioned in the blurb, Puck is the first girl to ever enter the Scorpio Races, and as such, she is eventually faced with sexist and traditionalist obstacles. In this instance, she doesn't have a quippy comeback or an eloquent speech about gender equality or getting with the modern times (though I do love a good verbal smackdown). Instead, she answers in a way that is wholly personal and true to her character.
"I have my own reasons for riding," I snap. "Just like every man who climbed onto this rock. Just because I'm a girl doesn't make those reasons any less."
As a result, she comes across like a real person and that truth to her character is what reveals her strength. It's not a blustery show.

The supporting cast had substance. They had recognizable personalities and seemed to lead lives outside of the MCs'. They helped and hindered our MCs without turning into pure plot devices (something I feared in the case of George Holly). They gave character to the island, added layers to themes, and played foils to our MCs. I also loved the really random side characters, the ones that were just mentioned on the side (by their full names too), because they made Thisby seem like it was populated by actual people.

THE STORY/STORIES - Dual perpectives can be hit or miss because the characters might sound too similar or one character's story is more interesting and maybe even more important than the other character's. Not so here! While it's true that I was more interested in Sean's story at first (and it remains the story closest to my heart), I grew into Puck's story. I became just as invested in her well-being as I was in Sean's.

The dual narrative also serves to portray two different kinds of drama and to give you a comprehensive look at life on Thisby. Puck's story is essentially about family and what makes a place "home" to a person and what makes people leave. From her, we see the simplicity and hardship of life on the island, the danger of the water horses, and the closeness of the community. Sean's story is the archetypal story of a boy and his horse. From him, we see the horse-based side of life on the island, the politics and pageantry involved in the horse business, and the raw beauty and old magic of Thisby.

The dual narrative here truly interweaves - that is, each story line has its own stakes, its own tension. Sean and Puck's journeys intersect at times before really intertwining, but they are never wholly dependent on each other. The main characters don't meet and suddenly become completely invested in the other person's concerns. It was refreshing to see that. I liked that even as they became more involved in each other's lives, Sean and Puck never lost sight of their individual priorities.

Stakes are consistently raised on both sides. They're both in the race to get what they want. Puck is trying to keep her family together, is trying to keep the things that make Thisby home. Sean races to be with the only thing he cares about, his horse Corr, and he races to be free. They're both discovering what the difference is between want and need, and they're both discovering what's truly important to them.

Both of them NEED to win the Scorpio Races, but only one of them can. This never becomes a compromise between them, despite their growing friendship.

THE THEMES - This is a story about the ties that bind, about love, loyalty, and about letting go. It explores what makes a place "home" to a person. It highlights the bond between humans and their animal companions. The characters find their courage, find things they're willing to risk their lives on, find room to change. Their individual stories are woven in such a way as to highlight and strengthen the overarching themes of the novel. By the time you get to the end of the book, it's like reaching the finish line of the races. You're breathless with how everything came together in this pretty little package, perfectly book-ended by the love a boy has for his horse.

(c) Maureen Clark Photography - click to see more

SOME NOTES - This is not your typical "horse story," but it is still, in part, a horse story. So if that isn't your thing, you might not like it. Since it isn't a typical horse story though, I still suggest you give it a try. It is also a SLOW book. It unfolds at its own pace, slowly building tension. That's because this a book where setting the MOOD is a very important part of the storytelling. It is also a story that is more literary than you'd probably expect from something with flesh-eating horses. That said, I've seen people call the book "boring."

Expanding on that last point, this is NOT an action-y novel. There's action and danger but not a whole lot of it. It's also not a heavy "plot" novel, and the magic is subtle. It's called THE SCORPIO RACES, but the races are the goal, the set-up and the end point for the story. Unlike The Hunger Games where a big part of the story are the Games themselves, the Scorpio Races is not actually about the races themselves (and technically, the only race we care about is the one that Sean and Puck are in).

Alz's Take: I pretty much agree with everything Krispy's said about themes, characters, settings, water horses not being a gimmick, etc. I'm also one of those for whom this book was not my cup of tea—and yet I still enjoyed it.

Let's go back to the beginning though. I don't know how or why, but for some reason, I thought The Scorpio Races was going to be like this:

I thought it was a high fantasy where carnivorous water horses pulled chariots in a weeks-long bloody battle-race through the desert. And so I was totally weirded out when I perused the book, amusing Krispy with my exclamations of, "It's on like a British island or something!" and "WTF they have cars?" and "There are no chariots."

But after I got over my disappointment and defied expectations, I enjoyed the book even though I never had a horse phase. I echo most everything Krispy said—though I do have some quibbles.  And that's all I have with this book. Quibbles. No serious issues. For all the length I expend here, these quibbles did not detract from my reading experience for the most part; they're more in the vein of "I wish this had been done better."

1ST QUIBBLE - Mutt Malvern is the sole child and bastard son of Benjamin Malvern, the man who owns most of the wealth on Thisby because he has the biggest stables, and the same man who owns Corr and employs Sean to work the stables and ride once a year in the Scorpio Races. Mutt is jealous of Sean and hates him. 

Sean doesn't care for Mutt and never devotes much time or thought to him beyond the immediacy of the moment (i.e. insults, confrontations, etc.)—so we never learn anything about the long years of their relationship prior to the beginning of the book.  Much can be extrapolated from their social and economic positions and their antagonism during the story, but there's no narrative exploration or even hinting at what incidents might bridge the chasm between jealousy and hatred.  I just wanted a little more depth because otherwise it's the same old story.  Well written, perhaps, but the same.

2ND QUIBBLE - Mutt and his dad - we don’t ever get to read about them either, not even so much as a single thought from Sean on their father-son relationship.  This is understandable because this is Sean's story (and Puck's) and not Mutt's. But in a book otherwise so well-written, it’s a pity that not even a half-paragraph here or a single line there could be spared to round out an otherwise basic antagonist.  It didn't need much to make it even better.

Don't get me wrong. Mutt is written very well for the antagonist that he is, but that's all that he is. Any depth is left up to the reader to interpret.*

3RD QUIBBLE - Sean doesn't grow at all except for the subtle growth of his relationship with Puck. He does have an epiphany or two, but by the end of the book I didn't feel that he'd changed that much from the beginning. While Puck faces adversity and develops the strength and confidence to overcome them, Sean remains pretty much a static figure in comparison.

Sean and Corr is very much the quintessential story of the Boy and His Horse. Unlike that archetypical tale, we don't get to see them develop their bond or learn to work together. That's already happened and we are not privy to those scenes. Maybe if this had just been the story of Sean and Corr alone we would have seen all that, but as it is the book isn't big enough to encompass all that and be balanced with Puck's story too.**

4TH QUIBBLE - The ending. Sean's ending was beautiful and fitting, but Puck's was just a bit pat. Plausible, and in-character, but pat. Krispy agrees that everything's a bit too neatly wrapped up on her side. I would have liked just a little more looming reality but faced with renewed spirit and determination, as opposed to just the spirit and determination alone. It's like what Finn tells Puck when he makes her hot chocolate: A little salt makes the hot chocolate taste all the sweeter.

(c) Ken Reardon / freezeframefoto - click for more.

Conclusion: We both enjoyed THE SCORPIO RACES. After all, we wrote this freaking essay about it. So you should check it out, expecting a slow atmospheric story about ties that bind.  And not chariots.

*Forthcoming in the future: an in-depth analytical discussion between Krispy and Alz on Mutt Malvern. Krispy busted out some text-supported literary analysis well worth a 9 on an AP essay in our emails about Mutt, which says something about The Scorpio Races that it can lend itself to such a critical eye.

**Essay on Sean Kendrick too. There is something very fitting about the subtle change in Sean that I find appealing and satisfying that I don't have quibbles with, whereas Alz does.

EDIT TO ADD: Sophia is holding a fabulous giveaway with two prizes: a signed book and a 25-page WIP critique from both of us here at A Nudge!  Hurry! Enter now!


2011 in Review

We're putting off our 2012 Resolutions until next week. Yeah, not-procrastinating is always a work-in-progress goal. Anyway, since most of our December posts were "Best of" and "YA Superlative posts," we're going to take today to give a quick recap of our 2011.

We realized while putting this post together that A LOT happened to us this year! Here's the rundown.


We helped launch the Godspeed (for Beth Revis' Across the Universe), and Penguin very nicely sent us a signed copy of AtU for our troubles!


I went on 2 trips: Chicago (for work, my first time there!) & San Francisco (for fun, Girls' trip!).
Right after Snowpocalypse. I've never been so cold in my life (Californian here). Actually, Germany in winter was pretty freaking cold.

Alz introduced her amazing doodle skills when it comes to YA Key Scenes. Ms. Lydia Kang fell in love with them.


We met the hilarious and multi-talented SOPHIA CHANG in REAL LIFE after we realized we live in the same area thanks to talking about the closing of local Borders stores (sadness).

She did a Guest Post on Music here and Alz did a Guest Post on MFAs in Creative Writing there.

The Sister and I started Doctor Who, and then promptly marathoned from Eccleston to Tennant to Smith. Not all in this month but over the next few. Ten is our Doctor. Always. (So much David Tennant love!)

Also of note, Alz and I started our current joint-project.


I discovered that my friends and the sister and I are all very competitive Easter Egg Hunters. We also started watching Game of Thrones, which Alz still needs to finish watching.

The sister and I bought SHEEPY, who is now an inextricable part of our lives. He takes after the sister, which means I think he's slightly evil.

The sister and I probably watched the 1st season of BBC's Sherlock around this time.


We celebrated Asian/Pacific- American Heritage Month all month long with books, food, and picture posts. We had our first vlog - me and Sophia!

The sister and I saw THOR, which we thought would suck like a vacuum sucks dust, but we were wrong. So wrong. We were also wrong about no one going to the movies on Mother's Day weekend. We got our butts handed to us by a theater full of Dads and small children. Well played, geeky Dads, well played. Uh, also I apparently like villains?

This one, specifically.
(And Tom Hiddleston is so very charming.)


We participated in a bunch of blogfests. Sophia and I vlogged again. I finally met some long-time online writer-buddies, Merc and Spartezda.

Aaaand...I bought my first car.


The month of HARRY POTTER. The end of an era. We dressed up, went to the midnight showing, and indulged in a lot of nostalgia. I also met blogger-writer Anne at the HP midnight showing!

The sister and I went to Disneyland a lot (the new Star Tours, omg). I found blogger Linda, who I thought was like my online doppleganger...and then we realized we actually had mutual friends in REAL LIFE and went to the same university. SMALL WORLD.

Alz started adding doodles to her reviews.


We did Camp NaNoWriMo, Alz created the YA Love Triangle terms for boys, and Alz drew a very amusing comic of me.

How do you prefer your YA male love interests?

Oh, and I turned 25. Whut.

Sophia & I celebrated together - August b-days!


I got hipster hair and then flew off to New York City for the Sister's birthday! I even vlogged about it.


Alz reviewed Wings with possibly the BEST DOODLES EVER.

Hi, I'm Laurel.

We were in the Narley Ninja feature on ali cross' blog.

I also dressed up as Laurel for Halloween.


We did NaNoWriMo, and Sophia and I vlogged our answers to Lori's MeMe. There was that amazing episode of The Simpsons with Neil Gaiman; the Sister discovered he's British.

Alz hit her Quarter Century Mark!


There was a crazy "wind event" in SoCal. Particularly our bit of SoCal.

The sister shared her favorite music from 2011 - Part 1 and Part 2. Then we participated in the YA Superlatives Blogfest where we picked our favorite books and characters of 2011!

On New Year's Eve, we danced like loons and then my cousin made us pies with the personal pie-maker we bought her.

SO that's our 2011 in a nutshell! A lot more happened than we thought. This was also the year the Sister and I became geekier (we didn't think it was possible), what with the sci-fi and the comic book franchises. She and I also picked up a couple more Brit celeb crushes [Tom Hiddleston (love him so much right now), David Tennant (our Doctor), Benedict Cumberbatch (for his fantastic, fascinating, and funny turn as Sherlock), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones - Robb Stark), and I have to include Ewan McGregor - despite his being a long-time crush of ours - just because he is forever flawless]!

Here at A Nudge, we met many more amazing bloggers (in real life and online) in 2011! Some of you we've chatted, emailed, and tweeted with for so long, it feels like much more than a year. We hope to have more fun with you in 2012. :)

We'll have a book review on Wednesday. A positive one! I would even say one full of GUSHING and SQUEEING. Mostly from me, but Alz will back me up. Really.

What did you accomplish last year? More than you thought? (Definitely the case for us!)



Happy New Year, peeps!  It's 2012!  This is Alz sneak-blogging under Krispy's username because Krispy wants to play Bejeweled Blitz and read The Pledge by Kimberly Derting.  We'll have a more substantial post to come on Friday, but in the meantime Krispy says, "I am forever food-coma-ing from the holidays and can't handle too much thinking."  I don't think she realizes how much I like to transcribe her words verbatim into our blog posts when she's not paying attention.  Mwahaha.

So instead we're just going to post doodles of how we ended 2011.

I read a boatload of books.  Literally a book a day for the past two-ish weeks.  And still going strong!  Reviews forthcoming--and some of them will actually be positive!  Others will be negative.  Very negative.

The Lost Hero, Cinders, Shatter Me, Divergent, The Son of Neptune, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Dragon's Keep, The Scorpio Races, Bones of Faerie, The Replacement, Blood Red Road, So Shelly, Prophecy of the Sisters

Krispy ended the year with her best read of the year, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.  Ending the year with the best book of the year is awesome.  Way awesome.

Almost as awesome as a Tardis mug full of cream-vodka-spiked Sunkist.
Krispy and I rang in the new year with her sister and their cousin, the latter of whom graced us with homemade peach pies from her brand new mini pie-maker.

The crusts were burned and two of the four pies turned into volcanoes fountaining peach lava,
but they were all delectably delicious.

Lastly, here is a gift from both Krispy and her sister Krunchy--a gift, as Krispy says, from the universe in the form of one Jason Mraz. This is his amazing new song, "I Won't Give Up."

So we ended 2011 on a positive note and so far the new year is off to a positive note too.  At this rate we shall have a melody as beautiful as Mraz's and 2012 will be a beautiful song indeed!  How did you herald in the new year?