Sunday, April 11, 2021

Poem: Blue

Many people don’t like the idea of “jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.” But, as my dad once said in reference to his paratrooper days, “There’s no such thing as a perfectly good airplane.”

Personally, I have a fear of heights, but I’m also a bit of an adrenaline junkie. I enjoy high ropes courses and rock climbing, and I’ve even been parasailing and paragliding. Perhaps one day, I’ll get the chance to go skydiving. But it is not this day!

Once again, I borrowed this prompt from Julia Garcia’s blog Drops of Inspira. This time, I borrowed the prompt “the color blue” from February.

 


Blue

I’d almost forgotten
the sky was that color
                        once

back when I was a child
somersaulting in the grass
wondering what it would be like
                        to fall up

until I couldn’t take the thought anymore
and wandered to where
a servicemember stood
                        in his uniform

Do you know which one
is my dad?

I asked, watching the parachutes
drift down
                        like helicopter seeds

Kid, I wear glasses,
not binoculars.                

He had a point.
I shuffled back to the
bleachers and sat by Mom
until the last of the parachutes
                        deflated

now I wonder
if we’ll ever get a break
from this popcorn ceiling of gray
and what it must be like
                        to touch the blue

one day, perhaps,
I’ll find a clear day
to strap on a chute and board
a plane with the sole purpose
                        to find out

 

***

 

Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? If you had the chance to go skydiving, would you?


Similar poems: GoldPine Trees, and Goodbye Again

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Book Review: Elatsoe

In the last couple months, I made a wonderful discovery. Audiobooks! More specifically, I discovered Hoopla, an app available at my local library, which has a plethora of audiobooks. With work picking up again (I’m exhausted but enjoying it), audiobooks have been particularly nice.

My only warning, if you’re like me and want to read all the books at once, watch your number of checkouts. Hoopla only lets you use five checkouts a month.

That being said, Elatsoe was a delight to listen to! I’m particularly glad I listened to this one so that I could learn how to pronounce the name, eh-lat-SOE-ay. Though apparently the book contains illustrations, and I missed them!

 


Book: Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
Genre: Young Adult, fantasy, mystery, contemporary
My rating: 4.5/5 stars
Mini description: ghosts versus vampires

 

The dog doesn’t die in the end because the dog is already dead. Kirby is Ely’s ghost dog, whom she brought back after he died of old age. I’m not going to lie, I want a ghost dog, or even a ghost beardie! I’ve lost pets over the years, and it would be a delight to see them again, even if I couldn’t pet them.

Yet there are still limitations in this fantasy world. Animals may make great ghost companions, but human ghosts, as the story often reminds us, are terrible things. And the vampire curse, as it’s called, may have its advantages for the young but grows more difficult with age.

I particularly liked the way the story wove Native American mythology, particular Lipan Apache, with what is to me, familiar fantasy elements. The cultural aspects were also quite fascinating, and I appreciated reading about a perspective I don’t normally hear from.

Then there were the mystery elements to the story. Early on, readers get the who in the who-done-it. It’s the why that kept me guessing, and I hadn’t figured it out by the big reveal.

I also enjoyed the way the narrative contained stories within the main story. They weren’t just flashbacks but stories within themselves. I was incredibly pleased with the book as a whole.

In all, I gave Elatsoe 4.5/5 stars for an excellent narrative and characters. I only wish it were a little longer. I’d recommend the book to anybody interested in creative contemporary fantasy. I look forward to reading more of Darcie Little Badger’s work.

 

Interested in the book? Have you read it yet? You might also enjoy these fantasy novels: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, and The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow.

 

Let’s chat! Have you read Elatsoe yet, or has it made it to your TBR? What are some of your favorite contemporary fantasies?

 

***

 

Similar book reviews: The Ten Thousand Doors of January, Fawkes, and The Snow Child

Sunday, March 21, 2021

"Would You Rather?" Writer Tag

I enjoy coming up with absurd scenarios. Here’s one—pick a fictional character. Got them? Good, now imagine you’re stuck in an elevator with them for 5 or more hours. How dead are you? I usually pick ridiculous characters like Loki, so I’d probably be dead.

The following questions are some would you rather scenarios from the generic to the ridiculous. Enjoy!

 


Would you rather be outlining or writing?

Writing. I don’t really like outlining because I inevitably over-world build and then don’t include all the exciting details. And for whatever reason, outlining never feels like real work because, even though I’m a plotter, it doesn’t seem like I make any measurable progress. There’s no real moment when you have to stop, which drives me crazy.

 

Would you rather be writing or editing?

Editing. Or rewriting. I don’t really like working on my rough draft because I’m consciously aware of how terrible it is while I’m writing it! I’m such a perfectionist. I prefer rewriting where I can go back and change everything or editing where I can really make that sentence shine, even though I sometimes reach that point where I’ve stared at a word long enough that it no longer looks correct.

See my informal Twitter poll. I was surprised (and yet not?) that so many people choose screaming.


 

Would you rather meet the antagonist or the protagonist of your current WIP?

My YA novel doesn’t technically have an antagonist, so my sci-fi novel it is! In that story, I’d rather meet my protagonist, Cory. Definitely protagonist. It would be nice to meet somebody who’s also staring out in their career journey as a linguist/investigator instead of somebody who would probably arrange my kidnapping. No, thank you.

 

Would you rather have a movie based off your book or write a book based off a movie?

Movie based off my book. Even though they have a reputation for being terrible, I still find the idea appealing, and it just grows an audience! That and I like the idea of originality and coming up with my own stories. There’s something about movie to book adaptations that I don’t care for, even though I haven’t quite figured out what it is yet.

 

If you became a super rich author, would you prefer to have your own private island or castle?

I’m going to go with castle. While I enjoy the beach, especially tropical ones, I’m more in love with the idea of secret passageways, creaky floorboards, and the howl of the wind on a cool autumn night. Even if it was just a ruined castle where I could camp out and have a wild garden, that would be awesome.

 

Last but not least, pick one of your fictional characters. Would they rather be stuck in the middle of a bank robbery or onboard a sinking ship?

Hmm, I’m going to go with Haebinna, the profiler from my sci-fi novel. The space colonies don’t really have cash in a system where most currency is digital, but imagining a similar scenario, Haebinna would probably go with the bank robbery. She deals with criminals at her job anyway. She’d probably psychoanalyze the robbers while coming up with a plan to stop them. Somebody would definitely get shot.

 

There you have it! Just a few fun scenarios. As for my fellow bloggers reading this, I tag you! Feel free to borrow the questions and add some of your own if you’d like to participate in a “Would You Rather” Writer’s Edition post. Happy writing!


Let’s chat! Readers, would you rather have lunch with one of your favorite authors or one of your favorite characters? Bloggers, for those who don’t want to write an entire post, feel free to answer any of the questions in the comments.

 

***

 

Similar posts: “Never Have I Ever” Writer Tag, Confessions of a Bookworm Tag, and The Bookish Q&A Tag

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Recommended Reading: Novels in Verse

As some of you may know, I recently attended WriteOnCon, an online writing conference, where I attended a wonderful session by Megan E. Freeman on writing novels in verse. For a while now, I’ve been in love with the style, as is evident from my previous post, 7 Reasons I Enjoy Novels in Verse, and I would like to some day write one of my own.

For now, though, I thought I’d share some of the ones I enjoyed in hopes of convincing more readers to fangirl/fanboy along with me. My recommendations are by no means extensive, and some readers may argue that some novels might have been better in prose rather than verse, but I enjoyed them for their form.

The following books are organized by authors’ last names.



1.   Audacity by Melanie Crowder (young adult; see book review)

You will lose,
I say
if you try to strike
on your own without us.
[...] It is only by standing together
—men and women—
that we can ever hope
to outlast them.

Personally, I find it easier to learn about historical events when I can connect with the people and their stories. This book focuses on the story of Clara Lemlich, who fought for women’s rights in the workplace. I may be making the book sound dull, but the story is far from it.


2.   Somewhere Among by Annie Donwerth-Chikamatsu (middle grade)

A story about American citizens set in a foreign country? Yes, please! Though I’m not Japanese and haven’t been to Asia just yet, I could still relate to the characters, especially when it comes to the difficulty of time zones. Not to mention the story is also historical fiction set during 2001—wait, did I just call something that happened in my lifetime “historical?” Please excuse me while I have an existential crisis.


3.   Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton (MG; see book review)

“On this clear and moonless night,
Mama and I wrap up in our winter clothes
and go outside to watch and listen.
The trees beyond our backyard form a torn-paper line
between the snow and this sky
filled with stars.”

Of all the novels in verse I’ve read, this one is one of the most memorable. A delightful story about Mimi, a young girl who dreams of becoming an astronaut and moves with her family to a new town. Not to mention the gorgeous imagery, which is one of the many reasons I love poetry.

 

4.   Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (MG)

“Would be simpler
if English
and life
were logical.”

When I see people recommend novels in verse, I tend to see this one recommended all the time. Not to mention, it’s a Newbery Honor Winner, so of course it gets a lot of attention. But it’s sooo good, so I won’t complain. The story focuses on Há, a young immigrant who moves to America from Vietnam with her family, and how she struggles to learn how to adjust to a new country and the complexities of the English language.

 

5.   Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough (YA)

This book was probably the most intense, so much so that I almost didn’t finish it, but it was ultimately worth the read, at least for me. The story focuses on a poetic interpretation of the life of Artemisia Gentileschi, a historic Italian painter, whose work often emphasizes empowering women. I learned a lot about history, injustice, and overcoming.

 

6.   Saving Red by Sonya Sones (YA)

This book was the first novel in verse I ever read, and it got me hooked on the style. After all, what’s not to like about the way stories combine with imagery? You can’t have purple prose if it’s not in prose. When I first started reading novels in verse, I found I also liked the style because the chapters were so short, and before I knew it, I’d finished more than I might have if the chapters had been long.

 

This April, I plan on reading a novel in verse a day (during weekdays only because let’s face it, work is hard). I gave up social media for lent, but after Easter, you can follow me on Instagram to see exactly what I’m reading.

Here are just some of the novels in verse on my To-Be-Read list:

  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
  • Bull by David Elliot
  • Alone by Megan E. Freeman (top of the list!)
  • Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes
  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
  • Butterfly Yellow by Thanhhá Lai

 

Let’s chat! Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned? When’s the last time you read a novel in verse? Have any favorites?

 

***

 

Similar posts: Self-Publishing Poetry: A Glimpse into the Making of Dandelion Symphony, 7 Things I Learned from Writing Poetry, and 7 Reasons I Enjoy Novels in Verse

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Poem: Snow Day

My current home lies where the robins migrate for winter, so we don’t get a lot of snow. For a while, I was afraid that I wouldn’t get to see any in person before the season ended.

Then it came.

Of course, I was delighted, and enjoyed several walks throughout the day between reading and feeding my new bearded dragon, Xephyr “Peaches.” He can’t replace Thorin, but Xeph is adorable in his own way. He’s a little acrobat who wants to climb up everything.

I also got a chance to reflect in solitude on my first walk. Which was quite the contrast from my time living in England, when my family was a channel and half a continent away. During my one snow day in Nottingham, I went outside and watched with longing as families walked together. Now, five years later, with family closer by not always present, I don’t mind walking by myself. In fact, I quite enjoy it.


 

Snow Day


hollow
the way sound reverberates
in canyon

falling
between patches
of blue and gray

glass
covering a thousand
stretching branches

drifting
crystals beneath
a dozen robins

crunch
past the deer prints
on the road

biting
wind until I pull
my scarf back up

slip
back into the
numbing warmth inside

aching
back from hunching
over a book

drip
icicles hang
and shatter on the ground

 

***

 

Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? Did you get snow this winter? Do you prefer walking with people or by yourself?

 

Similar poems: Ode to Winter, The First Snow, and Weird Winter Weather

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Book Review: Ahab

 “‘… have you ever stopped to think that perhaps these noble intentions I see in other are truly there, they just need to be drawn out? Would we all not be better versions of ourselves if others held us to higher standards?’”

 

Wow. Just wow. I enjoyed this story way more than I expected!

A long, long time ago in a country far, far away, I read the source book, Melville’s Moby-Dick. Can I just say that I enjoyed this retelling for different reasons? While Moby-Dick focusses on whaling in the 19th century and the impact it had on society, the economy, and nature as a whole, Ahab explores the potential future of the 26th century after a devastating war between humankind and sentient machines (the whales, or MICs as their called).

 


Book: Ahab by E.B. Dawson
Genre: Sci-fi, space opera, retelling
My rating: 4/5 stars
Mini description: whales in space, space whales!

Told from both the perspective of Ahab and his first mate James Starbuck, Ahab was a delightfully complex story. I particularly enjoyed the dual perspective and the juxtaposition of Ahab’s stubbornness and determination next to Starbuck’s idealism and loyalty. Though not as nearly as long as its source book, I found the book to be the perfect length. And the font size was legible!

I particularly liked how Dawson incorporates sailing with space travel. While the former is tried and true, the latter is relatively new, so there’s no saying what exactly it will look like in the future.

Even though the story takes place in the 26th century, it’s reminiscent of the 1800’s, which is both interesting and frustrating. From a story-telling standpoint, I though the details of the society were really cool, but from a woman’s perspective, a society that doesn’t advocate women’s rights is super frustrating, even if some of the characters stand up for them.

Another element I liked about the book is how it’s not so straightforward with its answers. The ending actually left me wondering if that was all, yet the more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

So I actually feel kinda bad for giving the book 4 stars instead of 5, and the only reason for that is because some parts of the story felt unnecessary. At one point, Ishmael shows up, which I found to be really cool how Dawson worked him in, until he’s never mentioned again. Was the only purpose of the chapter for the brief cameo? Plot-wise, his appearance doesn’t make much sense.

In all, I gave Ahab 4/5 stars for excellent character development and story telling albeit some unnecessary plot points. I would recommend the book to those who have and have not read Moby-Dick and are interesting in space opera. I look forward to reading more of Dawson’s work.

 

Interested in the book? Have you read it yet? You might also enjoy these classic retellings: The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen (Turandot, Italian opera), The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant (Les Miserables, French classic), The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (The Snow Maiden, Russian fairytale).

 

Let’s chat! Have you read Ahab yet, or has it made it to your TBR? Have you read the original Moby-Dick? What are some of your favorite classic retellings?

 

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Similar book reviews: The Court of Miracles, Strange Waters, and The Beast of Talesend

Sunday, February 21, 2021

5 Concepts I Want More of in Young Adult Fiction

Ah, young adult fiction, that wonderful category that’s not quite a genre but has plenty of stories that practically anybody should find something they like. For me, it tends to be bittersweet contemporaries and well-developed fantasy and sci-fi stories. A couple years ago, I wrote a post about why I like the category, but today I’m going to talk about some aspects I want to see more of!

Though I no longer fit into the bookish young adult category (13-18 year old’s), I read a lot of YA fiction. That being said, I still have some opinions, and to make sure I wasn’t completely crazy, I talked with some young adults to see what they thought as well.

 


1) Novels with Art

*cough* pictures *cough*

Sure, we’ve got graphic novels, which are amazing. Then there’s some stellar cover designs, awesome maps that usually accompany fantasy, and even books with art that readers can buy separately. But I want to see more novels featuring art within the chapters themselves. Let’s be honest, I don’t really set aside money to buy art as well as books, so can we just put it inside the books? Please?

 

A few examples:

  • How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (arguably middle grade)

 

2) More Friendships

“Building up a friendship throughout an entire book instead of romance. Friendships can exist too.” –my sister, 17

Yes! Friendship is such a wonderful thing. It’s kind of frustrating how middle grade has more emphasis on friendship than young adult does.

 

A few examples:

  • A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole
  • The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

 


3) Military Brats

As a kid, I loved travel stories and the tropes with the new kid, so more often than not, I found myself leaning toward fantasy because it’s one of those genres where the characters are constantly on the move. When it comes to military stories, most of them focus on the grownups, the military personnel and their spouses, which is cool, but they have kids too!

I never really found any stories that told what it was like to be a military brat until I was out of college, and even then, it’s only been the one:

  • Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles



4) Contemporaries set outside America

Last year, I wrote a blog post on a bookish trip across the US, and I had a brilliant idea to write a post about books in Europe and… found very little. I mean, sure, I’ve amassed three books so far, and I have more to read yet, but there are so many books set in America.

When books aren’t set in the states, they tend to be historical fiction or fantasy. Yes, one of my own WIPs is a contemporary fantasy set in Germany, but I really struggle with writing realistic fiction. I want to read more realistic fiction though. There’s so much more to this world than just the States!

 

Just a few I’ve read so far (only one by an American author):

  • Beneath Wandering Stars by Ashlee Cowles (Germany and Spain. Can I list the same book twice? Eh, why not.)
  • The Boy Who Steals Houses by C. G. Drews (Australia)
  • A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Ōima (Japan)

 

5) And More!

“It would be great to see more strictly good characters and strictly bad characters instead of having a majority be gray characters.” –Zoë

I’m glad I’m not the only one. While I enjoy well-developed characters, sometimes, it can be confusing who to root for when everybody is morally gray. I like admirable characters!

 

“[I] would like to see more the villain’s POV more. Because it’s nice to have both sides of the story.” –Anonymous

Ooooh, yes! I think the Renegades trilogy does this really well, delving into the villain’s POV, so that you start wondering who’s supposed to be the protagonist/antagonist. I know this point seems to contrast the previous one, but who’s to say we can’t have more of both?

 

***

 

Let’s chat! What are some concepts you want to see more of in YA? Have any recommendations for the above categories?

 

Similar posts: 6 YA Novels that Changed My Perspective, 7 Reasons I Enjoy YA Novels, and Recommended Reading: Military Brat Edition