Dec 31, 2011

Reading: Top 5 Books of 2011

I haven't had a whole lot of time to read this year (because of a killer college semester), but somehow, I did manage to stuff quite a few books into these last few weeks of the year (though I unfortunately wasn't able to get all the most popular ones). So, without further ado (seeing as how New Years is tomorrow), here are my top five reads of 2011!

5.) The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa- Though its ending was predictable, I really liked the plot of this book. It had my favorite characters from the entire series, all journeying toward the equivalent of the edge of the Earth, and finding some pretty awesome and terrifying things along the way. Good way to top off a decent series, I thought.

4.) Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr- I've always liked Marr's depiction of faeries, and while (yet again) I found the ending contrived, I found the novel as a whole a great ending to the Wicked Lovely series. All the characters' conflicts seem to explode at once into this fantastical all out war zone that existed right beneath ignorant eyes of the human world.

3.) City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare- I was hesitant at first to read this, if only because an "extension" of what was originally supposed to be a trilogy rarely works out well. But I found that Clare did a damn good job with it. The story makes sense, is dramatic, and picks up right where the trilogy left off without a single hitch. I especially like this book's focus on Simon, as he's been one of my favorite characters throughout, and I'm highly interested in seeing where the last two books of The Mortal Instruments takes him.

2.) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- Ha, this didn't come out in 2011, but I, unfortunately, just got around to reading the series. I wasn't sure what to expect, and the first person, present tense through me for a loop, but I think that it does indeed hold up to its hype, and I'm very excited for the March-release movie. I'm currently reading the second installment of the series, Catching Fire.

1.) Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare- Had I finished more of the books in my current to-read stack (like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Daughter of Smoke and Bone), Clare probably wouldn't have had two entries on the list. But even then, Clockwork Prince would likely have still been number one. There is really no getting past how far Clare has come since City of Bones. This book is a dramatic wonder, and despite the fact that there's only one real battle scene in the entire novel, it still came off as one of the most exciting stories of the year. The writing, the plot, the character dynamics...everything has been ramped up in this book, and I've never been more exasperated by a book-release wait time than I am for the final installment of The Infernal Devices.

Dec 29, 2011

Poetry: The Writing Year

Written for the New Year Couplet prompt at dVerse

I stumbled from a cliff of words
Fell through a lost plot event herd
Tumbled over a scrapped climax
Rolled past a character that got the axe
Flew down toward the grammar hell
That burned my interrobang yells
Floated toward a comma cloud
That beat my page with thunder loud
Flew high so near the sentence sun
That scorched run-ons til they were done
Drifted into that empty space
Where em-dashes gave up the chase
Careened into the black abyss 
Where characterization goes amiss
Got sucked into the genre void
Wherein my label was destroyed
Thrown out into a field of thoughts
The brainstorm field where I first caught
The ideas that then filled my page
With wondrous loves and endless rage
I blinked and spied my lonely pen
Realized I would have to start again
Tossed my page off the scrapping pier
And strode to a new writing year

Dec 22, 2011

Poetry: On Writing

For the contrast challenge at dVerse

Down a dark and empty road
I glimpsed upon a beam of light
Drawn toward its hidden code
I garnered knowledge of my life
Drudging with a hollow mode
I gladly skipped toward the sight
Dragged nearer to a heavy load
I guessed at chance that I could fight

Depressed until my back was bowed
I gasped and ran far from the light
Distrustful of its dark abode
I grabbed the weapon of most might
Deranged by all my nightmare's goads
I grappled with my altered sight
Dislodged the evil from its node
I grasped the highest of the heights

Depths beyond where I long rode
I garnered hope to solve my plight
Darkness followed seeds I sowed
I guessed that this was just for spite
Despite its will but to corrode
I gained the needed knowledge slight
Determined still, toward I strode
I glorified my strength to write

Dec 20, 2011

Poetry: The Dream

My eyes were cast upon a sun
That existed in no worldly time
A frozen sun of wonderlands
Perfectly etched into my mind

But this sun shattered in my eyes
It split into a thousand shards
And each contained a wonderland
That stretched a billion-million yards

These wonderlands that I did see
Held the lonesome weight of mystery
This mystery, it plagued my mind
Until I myself was lost in time

This time of mine trudged ever slow
Toward the white rapids that flow
Into the river of a thousand roads
That leads me on where no one knows

My eyes were cast upon a moon
That existed in no earthly rhyme
A burning moon of crimson hells
Painfully etched into my mind

But this moon crumbled in my eyes
It split into a thousand stones
And each contained a crimson hell
That all the universe bemoaned

These crimson hells I saw again
Held the lonesome weight of Earthly sin
This Earthly sin, it plagued my soul
Until I was lost to all I know

This ignorance, it dragged me down
Toward the darkness in the ground
Toward that which exists beyond
From which no mortal can abscond

My eyes were cast upon a light
That existed in no human mind
A filling light of knowledge pure
Meant for the perfect of my kind

But this knowledge slipped away
It fluttered off into the night
It left my fingers cold and sore
And told me I had lost this fight

This knowledge pure, it was my test
Meant to be won by just the best
But best means perfect in its terms
And humanity is what perfect spurns

So knowledge did not take me high
Instead it left me low and dry
Dying of thirst, to me it seemed
For all the knowledge within dreams

Dec 19, 2011

Review: "The Iron Fey" Series by Julie Kagawa

Available on Amazon for $9.99
Warning: This review may contain spoilers.

I'm going to something that I rarely do: review an entire series. I've seen Kagawa's books floating around for a while now, but I didn't get around to buying them (all four) until yesterday. And I'm rather split on whether they were good purchases or not. But before I make any conclusions, lets go through the pros and the cons.

The series begins with The Iron King, which introduces us the series' protagonist, Meghan Chase, and Kagawa's interpretation of the land of Faery, or the "Nevernever." I have to admit, I almost stopped reading this just a few pages in. The stereotypical female worries and complaints and the cliche teen angst almost drove me right over the edge.

Thankfully, I decided to stick to it and kept reading. By the end, I was convinced that was a good decision. Kagawa's writing eventually evens out, and while the whole Scott Waldren thing annoyed me throughout, I felt that her development of Meghan was handled expertly.

Available on Amazon for $9.99
As the series continues into the The Iron Daughter and The Iron Queen, however, I felt myself begin to lose interest in Meghan's story. I knew where it would end up early on, and I felt like it became more of a "fulfilling one's destiny" plot line than anything else. I found myself drawn to the other characters more than the protagonist, and I was far more concerned with the conflict between Puck and Ash than I was with Meghan's various conflicts.

Her portrayal of the Summer and Winter courts was, on the other hand, fabulous, and their respective monarchs were--while having the expected personalities--quite refreshing characters. Their continual presence throughout the entire series provides a sort of balancing force that prevents the books from losing any steam along the way.

As for the other characters, my feelings are...well, split. I loved the portrayal of Puck (in fact, I loved the portrayal of the known fey in general; I feel Kagawa pulled it off quite well). His presence was a highlight throughout every book, and his witty dialogue really kept me going. His place as a member of the main love triangle was also a shining point. His internal struggles revealed him to be a well-developed, complex character.

Available on Amazon for $9.99
Grimalkin comes in as a close second to Puck on my favorites' list. While his perpetual disappearing acts began to get old by The Iron Knight (the last book), his stinging sarcasm never did. He balanced out the others characters quite nicely. The only real down side to Grimalkin was that I feel he served as a plot device too often. Basically, the entire series revolves around Grimalkin showing the characters exactly what to do and where to go with (with a snarky attitude).

The only character I have a real problem with is Ash. I tried to like him, really I did (and I do like many things about him), but I felt his part was just too predictable. In The Iron Daughter, I had his entire role completely figured out from the beginning. And it's only compounded in The Iron Knight. The entirety of the latter is told from Ash's POV (which, of course, makes it more of an outlier extra book added to what would otherwise be a decent trilogy, as the first three are from Meghan's POV), and there were a lot of parts that just had me rolling my eyes.

The appearance of Ariella, Ash's lost love, however, threw me for a bit, and I was interested to see where Kagawa would take it. Unfortunately, that too was entirely predictable, and from about the middle of the book onward, you know exactly what's going to happen to her.

Available on Amazon for $9.99
I think one of my favorite things about the series is the iron fey themselves. They're an odd bunch, and characters like Ironhorse, Glitch, Tertius, and the pack rats really add some interesting flavor to the series. The depiction of the Iron Kingdom was quite impressive as well. Acid rain that's really acid. A giant city, abandoned at the beginning of time by an extinct race of giant fey. Huge contraptions and buildings made of broken technology. The contrast to the other "natural" kingdoms and obvious (as I assume it is intended to be), but even then, it is quite stark and poignant, a reminder of how humanity has changed.

My overall feelings on this series are very conflicted. On the one hand, there are many characters I adore, and a lot of them are very well developed. In general, the plot isn't so predictable that it becomes boring, but there are parts I saw coming from a mile away.

Would I recommend this series?

Yes, I would. It is predictable in many places, and there are a few cliches. But in general, the characters are well thought out, the action is continuous and interesting and unexpected, and the plot as a whole is very original.

The Iron King Rating: B-
The Iron Daughter Rating: B
The Iron Queen Rating: B+ 
The Iron Knight Rating: B+

Overall Series Rating: B

Dec 16, 2011

Story Dam Prompt: Mr. White's Letter to Santa

Dear Mr. Santa Claus:

    My name is Gregori White, CEO of Toys 4 You, and I have a proposition that I believe you will find most agreeable. Do you toil in and out all year, desperately trying to make enough toys for the boys and girls of the world? Do you find your resources--paint, wood, metal, Christmas cheer--horribly scarce at the most crucial of times? Do you find yourself having sleepless nights, swarming in paperwork and tinsel?

    Well, I have a solution.

Dec 14, 2011

Review: "Clockwork Prince" by Cassandra Clare

Warning: This review may contain spoilers. 

Holy crap. This has been sitting in my room, in an Amazon box, waiting for me to get home from college and tear it open for a week. And it was so worth all the longing and impatience.
Clockwork Prince, Infernal Devices #2
Available on Amazon for $11.09

My first impressions?

This is a thousand times better than the first book of the Infernal Devices series (Clockwork Angel). I mean, it was just that good.

I've been a fan of Clare for a while now. She doesn't take herself too seriously, slipping in as much sarcasm and humor as writer-ly possible. And I like that in an author. It makes her characterization far more natural, in my opinion.

But this? This is taking it to a whole new level.

Dec 10, 2011

Poetry: Creativity

I ponder the ineptitude of a single blade of grass
To do much more than flutter in the drifts of blusters past
I ponder the inability of the small to do the large
Then I realize that the singular is not what is in charge

I ponder the creation of a trillion blades of grass
That flutter like a fury in the blusters of the past
I ponder my ability to lie within them, staring high
As each blades cuts my face with a sensation of the sky

I ponder the enormity of the earth, the sun, the stars
That shift upon their axes, drifting in an endless tar
I ponder the existence of that single grain of sand
How a number countless by my mind can make it ever grand

I ponder the sheer ignorance of the people on the Earth
Who go about their days as if their lives are not a search
I ponder the ideas of life with meaning and without
And as each answers rolls me by, I then begin to doubt

I ponder the meaning of it all, the grass, the Earth, the stars
And I begin to think of worlds beyond them, a never-ending far
I ponder how these worlds begin their journeys in my mind
And I realize that throughout my life, they have always been mine

I ponder the adeptness of my mind to craft a space
Where a million shards of something great can be so wholly traced
I ponder this great something, this universe of false and fact
Wherein my ideas can curve and stretch into faces so intact

I ponder then these faces that emerge from the dark depths
That fight monsters human, other, more with skills beyond adept
I ponder their emotions that are so far beyond my own
And I wonder how these people live, who inhabit my mental home

I ponder then the reality outside the realm within my mind
And I come to believe that this was destined to all exist in time
I ponder both my skill and curse to see both false and real
And without concern for me or my, I leave it unconcealed

I ponder the inability of the many to see my seeing way
And I wonder how humanity came to be so dull and gray
I ponder how my single life, the grain of sand I am
Can lift the world back up again, with creativity in hand

Posted to dVerse

Dec 5, 2011

Novel: The Bombardiers (Excerpts Part 2)!

Hey, guys. Sorry I vanished on you all. It's finals time, you know? Had to write a paper and then get all my notes organized and write everything down. Ugh! I hate finals. Anyway, I thought I'd stop by today for some more excerpts from The Bombardiers.

Do remember, these excerpts are from my first draft, so expect lots of typos and a shaky style and way too much introspection. I'll fix that stuff the second time around. xD

Warning: Some of the content is rather graphic. And there's some strong language. You have been warned!