☄ Monday, August 22, 2016

Novel Newcomers: Interviews with Aimee (Hello Chick Lit) and Joan (Fiddler Blue)

Happy Monday!

This week on Novel Newcomers, I'm going to be featuring two bloggers: Aimee from Hello Chick Lit and Joan from Fiddler Blue. (Also, the questions have changed... Majorly... But in my defense I felt questionably inspired.)

Outside of blogging and reading, what other interests do you have?
Joan: I love traveling, especially to places with gorgeous scenery and beaches. I love walking in the woods, swimming in the ocean, and sleeping under the stars. I dabble with photography too, especially during my travels. Aside from nature and wildlife, I also enjoy visiting museums and galleries to learn more about history and art. I could spend hours in those places, really.
I love anime, Asian dramas, video games, and Zumba. I’ve never been sporty, but I’ve grown to love cycling these days and try to do it weekly.

Aimee: I'm a mom of 3 teens, wife to one and a writing working on completing my first novel. :) I also obsessively clean and love to fill my online shopping carts then never buy LOL

What is your most unusual accomplishment?
Joan: I think I did plenty of things during the past year that I never did before which struck me as unusual, lol. I’m a person who prefers routine and the familiar, but moving to a new country forced me out of my comfort zone. Cooking meals, baking cakes and pastries, driving a car, knitting scarves, and growing vegetables are some of the things I did that I’m quite proud of. I know they seem so mundane and ordinary but I never imagined myself doing them before!

Aimee: The fact that I have 3 thriving kiddos, ages 18, 17 & 12 and I've homeschooled them all. They're smart, funny and responsible!

What is your favorite food?
Joan: Ramen. Japanese cuisine is my weakness.

Aimee: Can coffee be a food? Even coffee flavored food. Yum!! I also love pasta salads, chocolate and bbq chicken! YUM

If bookish worlds were parallel to the current world, what kind of worlds would you like to see exist as a parallel to our world? (That probably didn’t made sense…)
Joan: Harry Potter, of course! It would be amazing to receive an invitation to attend Hogwarts.

Aimee: Right now I dream of a non-racist, non-judgmental world where everyone doesn't spout of crazy opinions and only care about themselves!! (too bad that seems like a 'bookish world')

What kinds of books would you like to see more of/about in the future of books?
Joan: I want NA books that will sweep me away with complicated world-building like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. I want a book that I can be completely immersed in. I want a book that challenges me and makes me think.

Aimee: I love Chick Lit & Rom/Com. I love the 'feel good' books, because when I escape into a book, I wanna feel like it's a vacation!

Name five countries you never see being featured in books that you would like to see more of (and possibly hope to visit).
Joan: Morocco, New Zealand, Tanzania or Kenya, Cambodia, just SEA in general lol.

Aimee: Romania, Iceland, Greenland, New Zeland & Brazil - I've never left the US and have so many places I'd love to go, but I've not read many books in these countries and would love to!

What books would you love to see on screen and does not have its rights sold already?

Aimee: There are SO many but I'll stick with these three...
Chelsey Krause - Can't Always Get What You Want - this so needs to be a movie!
Meredith Schorr - The Blogger Girl Series - this would make a fabulous TV show!
Anything Camilla Isley... love all of hers.

It’s always fun to have one song associated with a book or a character. What song would you associate with some of your most recent reads?
Joan: This is actually difficult for me, since I have limited music choices. Anyway, I love listening to instrumental music and I discovered this YT channel called Brunuhville which has a lot of beautiful fantasy-themed pieces. I think it will go well with books like Nevernight and The Republic of Thieves, which are the books I just recently finished.

Aimee: I'm going to admit, I'm old... I don't listen to a ton of music and when I do it's 'RatPack' music, Sinatra, Durante... you get it. So I put those songs spins on books all the time. It's like the soundtrack to my life. lol

Aimee is a blogger over at Hello Chick Lit. She can also be found on Twitter (@HelloChickLit).
Joan is a blogger over at Fiddler Blue. She can also be found on Twitter (@fiddlerblue).

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☄ Saturday, August 20, 2016

Moral Pendulums | Discussion

The other day, I was listening to a podcast called Writing Excuses and the topic of this discussion was “Your Character’s Moral Pendulum.” In the podcast, the Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, Howard Taylor, Brad Beauliu and Jaym Gates discuss whether they preferred reading (and writing) about characters with a clear moral pendulum, or whether characters who swing back and forth are more interesting. For me, I’m not sure which I prefer, but both are compelling reasons to read. Each serves a different purpose.

In the case of clear moral compasses, I’ve noticed these characters follow more traditional character arcs. For example, Harry Potter is the hero; Darth Vader is the villain; Gandalf is the mentor. These characters, of course, exemplify The Heroic Journey more fully and famously than any other stories. There’s a clear villain and hero. Good triumphs over evil and they all live happily ever after. There is something comforting and familiar about the good guys winning and the bad guys receiving their dues. It helps us keep faith that the world is a good place and that, although it may take a while sometimes, all the wrongs will be made right.

But in the case of characters half in and out of the shadows, the story is a little more complex. Draco Malfoy is one of the characters that come to my mind. Malfoy is the first antagonist Harry meets and I automatically didn’t like him. He was everything Harry wasn’t, knew it and flaunted it. Kids can be jerks, even and sometimes especially at the age of 11. But in the 6th book, we see Malfoy’s descent into desperation and depression. We see him hesitate to kill Dumbledore and we see that he might be a jerk sometimes, but he still is capable of being a good person. To me, he’s a much more interesting character to study than Harry solely because of that. In fact, Narcissa Malfoy is much more complex than Harry and Malfoy put together.

One of the reasons I like morally ambiguous characters so much is they seem so much more realistic. Back to Harry Potter, I identify much more with Narcissa Malfoy than I do with Harry, and definitely more with Han Solo than I do with Princess Leia (whether Han Solo is a hero or not still remains a mystery). To me, a character who’s morally ambiguous doesn’t always do or say what I would say or do. But a morally ambiguous character is more like anyone else in this world than hero’s or villain’s. Because chances are, there’s a little of both in us all.

All this is just my opinion though, what do you guys think? Which characters do you prefer to read/write about?


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Six Trivial Things That Almost Never Appear in Books

Once upon a time, during a partial work day in AP English, I read a book.

That book was called Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters, the first book in Margaret Dilloway's Momotaro series. I've yet to actually write that review, but see... things happened in the past few months and well... yeah.

In that book, one sentence popped out at me:
There's no adult here to tell us to comb our hair or brush our teeth.
And in that sentence, a random blog post idea bloomed, prompting me to kick aside the second part of [hopefully] useful Android apps to another week. It's also been awhile since I've written a fun, bookish post.... Okay, blogging in general if you don't count NN16. Also, said second part of Android apps post never actually got published.

Some of the most trivial things we do aren't actually mentioned in books, even vaguely, unless they're humorous or pertain to the heinous plot of said novel. The chances of the latter are more than likely slim.

No one ever mentions using the bathroom. Yes, yes, peeing and pooping is technically too much information (and totally should not be thrown around oh so casually as I just did, but I promise I don't usually throw that randomly around unless you're on the same level as Lupe), but the only book I remember that uses the words, "Oh, and I kind of need to pee..." is The Conduit by Stacey Rourke.

It was funny in the midst of a stressful time for the main character. Hence, use in moderation. Also, timing is everything.
But really... fictional characters have bladder controls of epic proportions.

The period. No, seriously. The period. All fictional girls go through puberty minus the period, unless said period is part of the plot. Which quite literally falls under TOO MUCH INFORMATION.
Then again, explaining the complexities of using a tampon is no doubt harder than the complexities of using a pad. The guys are getting uncomfortable at this point. *digs self in deeper hole*

Okay, moving on, folks. (This is precisely why I decided to start this post off with uncomfortable.)

Other hairstyles??? There has got to be other ways to depict hair out there than "ponytail" or "straight and sleek." I suppose ponytails are recommended when you're kicking butt, though.
Speaking of which... curly and wavy hair, wherefore art thou? Lupe, if you write a book, your main character better have someone who likes working with hair! (They also need to have something other than sleekishly straight hair.)

Do fictional people even brush their hair? Lo and behold, the very thing that sparked this post in the first place. If no one brushes their hair, shouldn't we get a bunch of knots in the rare instances someone does?

No one actually brushes their teeth. Or anything hygienic, anyways. It's like all the major characters come out with sparkling white teeth – no braces needed, no cavities, no tooth decay...
So their breath automatically smells minty, citrusy, berry... which equates to melting make-out sessions when main character heroine and hunky hot guy or vice versa meet lip to lip for the first time (and every time afterward). That one is an exaggeration.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let down your hair... The lack of hair cutting isn't surprising because 300 pages of a novel might really be a week in that particular fictional world.... plus, we're so busy saving the world, nobody technically has time to go to the barber shop. I guess that explains why the hair is always in a ponytail. We wouldn't want hair to get in the way of saving the world... do we?

That said, over to you guys. See any trivial things that almost never appear in books? Any thoughts on this particular list (if I haven't scared anyone away with embarrassment)?

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☄ Friday, August 19, 2016

Fangirl Friday: Harry Potter Short Stories + This Week's Releases in YA

Seems like everyone just started to go back to school and sadly this is my last week of summer vacation before I start college this monday (Sophia: SUCKS TO SUCK. THIS CHICK STARTS ONE WEEK LATER). It's sad, but I'm just excited to go and see what college is REALLY about. AND no. I'm commuting not staying inside a small dorm with some other person. I like my space, thank you VERY MUCH.

But let's talk about Harry Potter and how I still have YET to read this saga. (DON'T JUDGE ME! I'M WORKING ON IT!)

Apparently J.K Rowling is going to release 3 Harry Potter Short Stories as ebooks on September 6!
Great news for you Harry Potter fans out there!

Each of these ebooks will be sold for $2.99 each. What a deal!
I'm sure many of you will pre-order these and just binge read them before the whole internet spoils them for you. I know the feeling.

I'm going to start listing three books that I think are interesting that have been released each week. That way you guys have an idea what new books are out there for you to read! I'm sure our reading lists will never end at this rate,

So all of these books listed below were released on August 16!

Title: Vicarious
By: Paula Stokes
Winter Kim and her sister, Rose, have always been inseparable. Together, the two of them survived growing up in a Korean orphanage and being trafficked into the United States.

Now they work as digital stunt girls for Rose’s ex-boyfriend, Gideon, engaging in dangerous and enticing activities while recording their neural impulses for his Vicarious Sensory Experiences, or ViSEs. Whether it’s bungee jumping, shark diving, or grinding up against celebrities at the city’s hottest dance clubs, Gideon can make it happen for you, for a price.

When Rose disappears and a ViSE recording of her murder is delivered to Gideon, Winter won’t rest until she finds her sister’s killer. But when the clues she uncovers conflict with the neural recordings her sister made, Winter isn’t sure what to believe. To find out what happened to Rose, she’ll have to untangle what’s real from what only seems real, risking her life in the process.

Title: The Flame Never Dies (The Stars Never Rise #2)
By: Rachel Vincent
ONE SPARK WILL RISE. Nina Kane was born to be an exorcist. And since uncovering the horrifying truth—that the war against demons is far from over—seventeen-year-old Nina and her pregnant younger sister, Mellie, have been on the run, incinerating the remains of the demon horde as they go.

In the badlands, Nina, Mellie, and Finn, the fugitive and rogue exorcist who saved her life, find allies in a group of freedom fighters. They also face a new threat: Pandemonia, a city full of demons. But this fresh new hell is the least of Nina’s worries. The well of souls ran dry more than a century ago, drained by the demons secretly living among humans, and without a donor soul, Mellie’s child will die within hours of its birth.

Nina isn’t about to let that happen . . . even if it means she has to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Title: Poisoned Blade (Court of Fives #2)
By: Kate Elliott 
In this thrilling sequel to World Fantasy Award finalist Kate Elliott's captivating young adult debut, a girl immersed in high-stakes competition holds the fate of a kingdom in her hands. 
Now a Challenger, Jessamy is moving up the ranks of the Fives--the complex athletic contest favored by the lowliest Commoners and the loftiest Patrons alike. Pitted against far more formidable adversaries, success is Jes's only option, as her prize money is essential to keeping her hidden family alive. She leaps at the chance to tour the countryside and face more competitors, but then a fatal attack on her traveling party puts Jes at the center of the war that Lord Kalliarkos--the prince she still loves--is fighting against their country's enemies. With a sinister overlord watching her every move and Kal's life on the line, Jes must now become more than a Fives champion.... She must become a warrior.

Let me slip in another book onto this epic list!

Title: Detached
By: Christina Kilbourne
Released: August 13, 2016
Anna has always been so level-headed, so easy-going, so talented and funny. How could anyone have guessed she wanted to die?

Anna is not like other people. For one thing, she’s been an accomplished artist since she was a preschooler. For another, she’s always felt like she didn’t belong: not with other kids, not with her family, not in her body. It isn’t until her grandparents are killed in a tragic accident, however, that Anna starts to feel untethered. She begins to wonder what it would be like if she didn’t exist and the thought of escaping the aimless drifting is the only thing that brings her comfort.

When Anna overdoses on prescription pain killers the doctors realize she has been suffering from depression and start looking for a way to help her out of the desperate black hole she never thought she would escape. It’s then that rock bottom comes into sight and the journey back to normal begins.
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☄ Thursday, August 18, 2016

Throwback Thursday: Looking for Alaska Book Review

So, I have been in a bit of a slump after I had finished high school. Normally I'd read books on my iPad, and the iPad that I was using was a rental from the school. Don't get me wrong, I have my own iPad, but its a bit of an older model that I have grown not being used to. So, for the summer, I've just been digging through the stacks of physical books that I have and came across Looking For Alaska by John Green.

For those who don't know what Looking for Alaska is, here's the book's summary via Goodreads.

99561Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (Fran├žois Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

 I have to be honest here, when it comes to John Green's works, it all depends on who you are. A lot of his works involve a bunch of edgy teenagers with fancy words. Some people may find these edgy teenagers to be annoying or childish. Other people may become attached to these edgy teenagers, read some tragedy in the book and cry. A lot.

I remember when I first read the book for the first time, it was around the time that I started listening to The Arctic Monkeys. I'm not going to lie, the theme of the book and the genre of the band have a lot of similar ties. It kinda made me want to go buy a leather jacket, put on some shades and become an edgy teenager myself. 

But enough with the edge. I know you guys are more interested on hearing my opinion on the book. I will admit, the book will not have fireworks and constant plot twists. It's an okay book. Despite it being an okay book, I'd still recommend it, simply because I enjoyed reading it. Some people got emotional over it because of [insert spoilers here], but being the heartless she-demon that I am, it didn't make me cry. I will admit that I was shocked when [insert spoilers here] but that was pretty much the only emotion I felt.

I bet I can tell what you're thinking. "Mari, if you're saying that its an okay book, full of edgy teenagers, why would I spend some time giving the book a try?" Well, my dear reader, like I said, everybody has different opinions over the book. It never hurts to try to see whether you'll love it or hate it. Sometimes it will make you think, or maybe all the fancy words John Green uses might give you a headache, but will make you think that you're sophisticated for reading such hefty wording (at least I know that happened to me.)

A lot of John Green's books involve edgy teenagers and pretty much the story of life not being fair. Each story is different, each character (despite how much edge they possess) has their little quirks and differences. I guess, at least for me, it's all about finding out what happened and learn why.

My overall review would be 3 out of 5 owls. Why? Because teenagers think they're invincible.
That's all I have for this week. I look forward to posting my next *magical* hinthinthint review next week. With that being said, stay edgy my friends.

- Mari

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☄ Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books With X Setting

Tomorrow is the first day of school for me, and as I was planning on what to do for this post, I knew I had to do something school related because of that. I saw that the topic for Top Ten Tuesday on August 16th (today) is Top Ten Books With X Setting. I thought it was perfect because I could use a school setting!

Top Ten Books With a School-like Setting
*Please note this list is in no particular order. If it was, I'd end up ditching the numbers.*

1. The Harry Potter Series - Hogwarts. Do I have to say more? Although Hogwarts isn't the only setting, it's one of the main settings and it is a school so...

2. The Secret School - This book was one of my favorites around 4ish years ago (I'm still pretty young!). I still love it now, though. This is a MG but I had to add it to the list.

3. The School for Good and Evil series - I honestly don't know if this is MG or YA, but either way, this series is amazing! I love it and Soman Chainani as a great author.

4.  The Finishing School series - Okay, I confess I haven't read this series before, but I heard it's really great. Also, I own the first and second book and I hope to read it soon

5. Percy Jackson and the Olympians - I guess Camp Half-Blood isn't really a school, but it's kinda sortaish like a school? Fine, I couldn't really think of anything else and a camp is kinda similar to a school (not).

6. The Black Mage series - If you've never heard of this series/read it before, then you're in for a treat. I seriously love this series and will always love it. Plus, the last book, Last Stand, and the novella, Nonheir, come out (hopefully) in a few months!!

7. The Magisterium series - I've only read the first book in this series, but it was pretty good. I seriously need to catch up and read the second book.

8. The Spy School series - I haven't read this series yet (and it's MG) but it's gotten great reviews on Goodreads and it seems like a pretty cool series.

9. The Mysterious Benedict Society series - I read this series in third or fourth grade (3, 4 years ago?) and seriously loved it! I don't completely remember what it was about, but I know I loved it and maybe someday I could do a reread of it.

10. The Princess Academy series - I haven't read the third book, but my favorite in this series is the first book. Also, Shannon Hale has written one of my favorite series, The Books of Bayern.

What do you think of this list? Have you read any of these books? What are some of your favorite books with this setting? Let me know in the comments below (or not, I guess. Up to you).
- Anelise

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☄ Monday, August 15, 2016

Initial Impressions: Henry James Complete Stories: 1864-1874

For my first post on this Monday:

I ordered a number of used copies of the Library of America (LOA.org website)'s collection of the 19th century American author Henry James' Complete Stories and Novels.  Two arrived on Thursday and several are scheduled to arrive today (Friday)  and more this week .My post today will give my initial impressions of the books I received in the mail. At least the first one, which I have started reading.

I know for many of you, the kinds of books I read are probably not the length you are used to.  I started reading adult-length books around the time I was 10 years old (in middle school). However, I feel that some diversity is always good.  So from time to time I will talk about classic books (the kinds you are made to read in high school literature classes) and other adult reading level books. I hope this does not bother any of the readers of the blog here? :)

This first book is the Complete Stories of Henry James 1864-1874.  James was born here in the United States in 1843 in New York City.  He was the second child to be born to his parents Henry Sr. and Elizabeth (his brother, William, later became a well-known philosopher).  These stories were published as a young man, the first when he was just 25.

The first three stories in this book are as varied as the man himself.  The first one, A Tragedy of Error, was submitted without signature to the Continental Monthly magazine in April of 1864.  It is a story about a woman who hires a hitman to eliminate her husband, so she can spend time with her lover.  But as the title indicates, this goes all wrong. It is a decent story for a first written attempt at a published story.  It was likely written as an experiment for his first attempt, but got published anyway.

The second one is an American Civil War tale.  Called "The Story of a Year", it's the tale of a man who leaves his family to go fight in the Civil War and returns home severely wounded.  I like this story better than the first one.  While it doesn't actually have any combat scenes (as a guy of my age would like), this is probably due to the fact that James himself was declared unfit to fight in the war due to a back injury he suffered some years before.  The characters in this tale are more definitely written and shaped, they feel more like human beings than mere characterizations.

The story I'm reading right now is called "A Day of Days".  This one might appeal to the ladies who read the blog, at least the ones old enough to understand what romance is and what it feels like.  James wrote for both male and female audiences, although apparently it was women who read most of his short story fiction. I haven't finished the story yet, but it does seem like a romantic tale to me. Which I am okay with - I have a cousin who writes mystery as well as romantic novels!

James wrote some 200 short stories - more than any modern day author would care to write, I'd think.  He continued writing short stories (as well as his many novels) up until his death in 1916.  He became a British citizen the year before he died, but is buried in Massachusetts here in the US.

These books are my first introduction to James' fiction - I also have two volumes of his literary criticism. It remains to be seen how much I will like him as an author of fiction.

Until next time -


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