Recent Readings

Greetings followers!  For whatever reason, I am in the mood to rant about unoriginal books.  Perhaps this has something to do with the dissatisfaction I’ve found with the books I’ve read lately.  But don’t worry, I’m throwing a good book in the mix, too.  In any event, enjoy! (pics from Google images)

  1. The Beginning of Everything

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Summary: Ezra Faulkner starts his senior year as a tragedy.  He lost his status as star tennis player and popular jock in a car accident that injured his leg.  Then he meets Cassidy Thorpe, an enigmatic girl who introduces him to a world with more exitement and heartbreak than he could imagine.

Review: Having just finished this book, I can’t quite place my finger on what about it makes me feel dissatisfied.  I mean, Schneider does make some meaningful points.  Good points.  And overall, it’s a fairly readable book.  But it’s like she tries so hard to write a deep, thought-provoking book that it just falls flat.  She’s trying to be John Green, which is kind of lame because John Green already exists.  (Brilliant point, I know.)  If you like this book, I certainly don’t hold it against you.  Maybe the style just isn’t for me.  But if I could describe it in a word, it’d be “forced”.

2. Independent Study

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Summary: This is book two in the Hunger Games– erm no Divergent…. actually, The Testing Trilogy.  Basically, it’s a dystopian world in which you have to win the Hunger Games instead of getting a good SAT score to get into college.  (Which may not be such a big difference.)  While in college, the world starts to look like you’re being sorted into your faction and learning how to live there.

Review: Okay, my summary was much meaner than it needed to be.  Especially considering that it’s a fairly good series.  The characters are well developed and the plot kept me intersted.  Or at least in the first one.  By book two, either I got sick of the unoriginality or the writing got much worse.  The truth is, The Hunger Games has already been written, and it doesn’t need to be written again.

3. All Our Yesterdays

 

 

Summary: Em’s world is a disaster.  She’s time-traveled countless times, trying to stop a horrendous and seemingly unstoppable chain of events from occuring.  In a different time, Marina, a naieve high schooler, strives to win the affections of James, her childhood best friend and renowned prodigy.  Then, in one disasterous night, everything in her world starts to crumble.

Review: I promised to mention an original book, and this is it.  In fact, I’d venture to say this is one of the most orignal books I’ve read in the last year.  Action-packed, mind-boggling, and heartwrenching, All Our Yesterdays is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat from the opening sentence to the final page.  Not only does it have a fascinating plot, but the characters are endearing and memorable.

So what’s the moral?  Well, if you’re a writer out there, don’t try to immitate someone’s style or story.  Shakespeare has already existed.  Hemmingway has already existed.  Jane Austin has already existed.  The only thing you have to offer that isn’t already out there is your ideas.  Not that you shouldn’t be inspired by other writers, but… be yourself.

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Most Memorable Books Read in 2015

I think I’m going to take a wee break from Scotland and talk about another one of my favorite things: books!  As the year comes to a close, I think it’s natural to reflect upon everything that happens.  Is it weird that I sometimes remember things in reference to what book I was reading at the time?

That said, here are some of the books I enjoyed most this year.  Note: At the beginning of the summer, I wrote this post about the some of the best books I read last school year.  None of these books will be included.

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Short Summary: Charlie, a withdrawn, disturbed freshman in high school, writes letters to a nameless “friend” in whom he confides the pain and joys of finding his place in the world.

Review: This is the first book I remember finishing this year, and it’s stayed in my head ever since.  Charlie’s voice is truly unique; it has a rare personal and honest quality to it that I loved.  Although it has its flaws and contains a few graphic disturbing scenes, Perks is among the most touching stories I’ve read.

2. Catcher in the Rye

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Summary: Holden Caulfield, a neurotic, underachieving teenager is expelled from yet another school.  To deal with the situation and his inner turmoil, he aimlessly wanders New York City, trying to find himself.

Review: I think there are two kinds of people in this world: those who love Catcher and those who just don’t get it.  Although it took a school assignment to get me to pick up this book, I found I fall squarely in the former category.  On the surface, it looks like a long, babbling yarn, but if you look closer, Salinger has many deep insights to share.

3. Throne of Glass

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Summary: Seventeen-year-old Celeana Sardothien, the most feared assassin in the land, is freed from an infamous prison camp.  The crown prince promises her she will stay free under one condition: she will fight for him in a competition and win the position as an assassin for the king, the man she hates the most.

Review: The best thing about this book is Celeana.  She is overflowing with sass and confidence, which makes her an endearing character despite her sketchy past.  There’s also an interesting fantasy world and a good adventure plot, which makes the book an enjoyable read.  I also liked the second book, though book the third bogged me down a little.  I haven’t gotten the chance to read the fourth one, but I hope to soon!

4. The Red Queen

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Summary: In Mare Barrow’s world, there are two kinds of people: those with red blood, who have no magic, and the magical silver-bloods, who oppressively rule over the red-bloods.  When Mare publically discovers she possesses magic despite her red blood, she is forced to play the role of a long-lost silver-blood noble.

Review: The first time I tried to read this book, I didn’t really get into it, though I couldn’t figure out why.  The second time, I couldn’t set it down.  I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, wondering what would happen and who I could trust.  It’s a thriller that will make your head spin.

5. A Thousand Splendid Suns

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Summary: Mariam is an illegitimate child who is always treated like a burden.  Laila is a beautiful young girl whose father is determined to get her through school.  When war rages in their homeland of Afghanistan, jarring circumstances bring these women together, forcing them to set aside their differences and form the strongest of bonds.

Review: This book wins.  It’s probably the BEST book I read all year, and definitely one of the best books I’ve ever read.  Filled with shattering heartbreak, wartime horrors, and true unconditional love, Splendid Suns is a heartwarming story that will haunt me forever.

And last but not least, I remember reading some really awesome novels my creative writing classmates wrote this year!  I can’t write about them all because it would take an entire second post, but they definitely deserve a shout-out.

Quick note: The books listed here have content that will upset some people.  It’s too much to go into now, but just because I mention I like a book does not mean I morally agree with all of its content.

Write What You Know: Good Or Bad Advice?

One of my favorite things to talk about is writing.  I could daily give long (and probably rather annoying and repetitive) speeches on the subject, but since there are few people in this world who would be interested in such a monologue, I’ve decided to post my thoughts here, where I hope such people will find this and read it.

  (Source: Jantoo.com)

Here’s a piece of writing advice we’ve all heard at some point: write what you know.  Since writing has become a serious hobby for me, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering whether this is really good advice or not.  (That’s what everyone spends their free time thinking about, isn’t it?  No?  Just me?  Okay.)  If you write what you know, you will probably tend to do these three things: writing stories set in places you’re familiar with, writing about characters based on real people you know, and writing about emotions you feel/ issues you deal with.

One opinion  and another opinion

Obviously, not all writers stick to settings they’ve been to.  If that were the case, then we would be bereft of fantasy and science fiction, which would be a terrible tragedy indeed.  On the other hand, several writers have penned wonderful books set in their own hometown.  I don’t think it really matters whether writers choose to write in settings that they’ve visited or not, so long as they are familiar with them.  Regardless of what kind of writing you want to do, you have to know about your  setting.  If you write a book set in Portugal and get the name of the capital city wrong, then people who have actually been to Portugal will be disgusted and possibly throw your book aside.  If you write about a fantasy world and have no idea what it looks like, then you’ll run into several problems and weaken your story.  So in a way, writing what you know is good advice for setting.

If you truly stick to writing what you know, then all your characters will be based on real people.  This can be a little risky, as the models for your characters can catch on.  Again, this is something you can go either way on, and authors have been successful with both fictional and real characters.  Personally, I prefer to write about characters of my creation, although sometimes I may get inspiration from a character trait of a real person.  For example, if some one I know stands out as really caring, then I might try to work that aspect into one of my characters.

One thing that writers commonly do is base characters (especially protagonists) on themselves.  The advantage to this is that it can help you create a more complex character.  There probably aren’t many people you understand better than yourself, so it helps you understand your characters better if they’re like you.  The downside to this is that all your characters will start to sound the same.  You might be a great person, but your readers will get tired of reading several books populated with characters exactly like you.  Another risk (which becomes even riskier when you base your protagonists on yourself) is that you might be tempted to portray yourself without your flaws.  It’s hard to publish the ugly side of yourself  for everyone to see, and it will sound much more appealing to play up all your strengths instead, possibly even adding a few strengths you wish you had.  The problem with this is that you’ll end up with an obnoxiously perfect protagonist that your readers are more likely to want to throw up on than to admire or relate to.

So if you’re able to create characters based on yourself without avoiding these errors, then go for it.  Otherwise, I’d stay away from this.  When I create a major character, I always try to think of specific  things that make him/her similar and different from me.  I keep some similarities so that I can relate to them, and make some differences so that… well, I believe I’ve explained that.

So basically, don’t do this.

Now for the final part of my post: the emotions.  This is one area where I usually write what I know.  I do this because I’m afraid that if I write about an emotion or issue I’m too unfamiliar with, it will come out all wrong and people who have been through what I’m writing about won’t like it.  I also stick to feelings I know because I think my heart will be in it more and I’ll do a better job of making the reader feel the right emotion with me.  I’m not saying that’s the right way, I’m just saying that’s what I do.

But then again, it is possible to have success in writing about characters in situations you’ve never dealt with.  For instance, John Green has never been a teenage girl dying of cancer, but The Fault in Our Stars was still a bestseller.  Though before writing this book, he did spend time with cancer patients.  (You don’t have to write what you know, but always do your research.)

Well, I think that’s all I have to say.  If you’ve made it through this ridiculously long blog post, then here’s a gold star for you:

Five Books to Add To Your Summer Reading List

A while ago I put up a blogging schedule, but I have done a terrible job keeping up with it.  Just terrible.  But anyway, I think I scheduled book reviews for Wednesdays.  Now it’s Thursday.  *hangs head*  So I decided to make a list of the best five books I read last school year because… why not?  Note: these aren’t put in any order, because that would be too hard.

First Up: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini*

Short summary: Amir and Hassan, two boys growing up in Afghanistan, are as close as brothers, yet class divides always hinder their friendship.  Tragedy tears them apart, and Amir flees the war-ravaged Afghanistan for the United States.  Though years later, something pushes him back to Afghanistan, giving him a chance to redeem his friendship with Hassan.

Why you should read it: This compelling, heartbreaking story is one you’ll never forget.  Several months after completing it, I still find myself thinking about the characters and the themes.  It also helped me better understand Afghani culture, religion, and history.  However, if you don’t like depressing books, then skip this one because it’s rather disturbing.

Number Two: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart*

Short summary: Cadence grows up with her beautiful, exceedingly rich, and seemingly perfect family.  Every summer, they have a reunion on their private island.  Then one summer, Cadence is in an accident, and everything in her life falls apart.  Everyone in her family remembers what happened except for her.

Why you should read it: Best plot twist I ever read.  It kind of gave me an obsession with putting plot twists in my own writing.  The writing style is unique, poetic, and haunting.  It’s the kind of book that blows your mind and makes you want to start from the beginning the moment after you turn the last page.

Number Three: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Short summary: This book is different from the other books on this list, as it’s more of a theology book than it is fiction.  It consists of letters from Screwtape, an experienced demon advising his nephew on how to torment his human subject.

Why you should read it: If the name C.S. Lewis isn’t enough to convince you to read this, then let me tell you, it’s a heavy read, but it’s well worth the work.  Each chapter is filled with mind-blowing new insights.  I’d even call it life-changing.

Number Four: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher*

Short summary: After his friend Hannah commits suicide, Clay receives a series of tapes she recorded.  She says that there are thirteen reasons why she killed herself, and each reason is connected to a person.  He’s one of those people.

Why you should read this: I thought that this was a unique idea for a book, and it really makes you think.  It shows how much of an impact you can have on a person’s life without knowing it.  And it’s really hard to put down.  I read it in about a day (around Christmas time, no less– not happy Christmas reading).

Last and most certainly not least: Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Short summary: Percy Jackson and his friends have to save the world.  Again.  (Not very detailed, I know, but if you’ve read the previous books, then you know what it’s going to be about.  If you haven’t, then you’ll be totally lost in this book.)

Why you should read it: It’s the final installment of the Heroes of Olympus series.  *sobs*  These books are my childhood.  It’s hilarious, action packed, and full of unforgettable characters.  A wonderful end to a wonderful series.

Hope you enjoyed reading that and maybe even found some books you’d like to read.  I plan to post some more book reviews on this blog, if I can ever get a hand of this schedule thing. 😛

* These books contain instances of strong language, violence, or other mature themes.  Some people are more offended by these things that others, so I felt like I should at least mention it.  If you would like to know more about the content in any of these books, then feel free to ask.

In Which My Jet Lagged Self Obsesses Over Harry Potter

Random life update: For those of you who don’t know, I spent all day yesterday– literally all  24 hours– traveling to America.  (And I am very proud to say I spent my time on the airplane watching documentaries and cat videos.  Like cool people do.)  This has left me jet lagged and in the mood to do random things to entertain myself.  So although this doesn’t fit into my blogging schedule, I decided to do a Harry Potter survey I found on Kayla’s blog.  Hope you’re amused (or at least don’t find me too weird).

1. IF YOU WENT TO HOGWARTS, WHICH HOUSE WOULD YOU BE SORTED INTO?

*using my best Sorting Hat voice* GRYFFINDOR!  Or so Pottermore says.

2. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO A HP MIDNIGHT RELEASE?

No.  *sighs*  I didn’t start reading the books until after all the movies came out…

3. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE DEATHLY HALLOWS?

’tis beautiful and amazing and brought me near to tears (and trust me, precious few books have done that)

4. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU RE-READ THE BOOKS?

ummm…. I ummm…. haven’t reread any of them from cover to cover.  *hides face as all of the long-time Harry Potter fans leave in disgust.*

But I have reread parts I like.

5. WHOSE DEATH WAS THE SADDEST? *SPOILERS*

No one died.  I refuse to believe so.

But if you must know, Fred’s death was rather brutal.  And Sirius’s.

6. IF YOU WENT TO HOGWARTS, WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE A CAT, AN OWL, OR A RAT?

It’s a hard choice between owls and cats.  I might choose an owl because it’s more unusual.

7. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE MOVIE THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE?

I really liked the movie!  It stuck to the book fairly well, I think.

Fun fact: I actually saw this movie before watching any of the other movies or reading any of the books.  Please forgive me.  I was on a ten hour flight.

8. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE DEATHLY HALLOWS BEING SPLIT IN TWO?

I actually haven’t seen the Deathly Hallows yet.  If I do, then the whole thing would be over, and that is just too sad to think about.  😦  But I like the idea of it.  There’s just WAY too much in Deathly Hallows for one movie.

9. HAVE YOU READ THE TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD?

Yes yes!!!  Much better than the fairy tales you silly muggles read. 😛

10. WHEN DID YOU FIRST BECOME A POTTER FAN?

Ninth grade.  I was fourteen.  Which was three years ago.

I just realized I’ve been a Potter fan for longer than I thought….

11. FAVORITE FEMALE CHARACTER?

Oh so many good ones!!!!!!!

But I have to say Hermione.  Why?  Because I just relate to her so much.  I am Hermione.  I even have her hair.  (from the first movie, not any of the later ones)

12. FAVORITE MALE CHARACTER?

Fred/George!  Those are technically two, but they’re basically one.  *glares at J.K. Rowling, who apparently forgot this while writing Deathly Hallows*

13. FAVORITE PROFESSOR?

Professor McGonagall. Because of this:

“Is it true that you shouted at Professor Umbridge?”
“Yes.”
“You called her a liar?”
“Yes.”
“You told her He Who Must Not Be Named is back?”
“Yes.”
“Have a biscuit, Potter.”

14. FAVORITE DEATH EATER?

Bellatrix Lestrange.  Because in a weird way, she’s pretty awesome.  And because of Helena Bonham Carter.

15. FAVORITE MAGICAL CREATURE?

Blasted ended skrewts.  Just kidding. 😛  Probably dragons.

16. FAVORITE SPELL?

Avada kedavra, obviously.  I like to yell it at non Harry Potter fans and confuse them.

Okay, so I don’t actually do that.  Not usually anyway.

17. FAVORITE QUOTE?

Sooo many.  But my all time favorite is:

“I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

As well as:

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”

and

“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

and

“Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.”

18. FAVORITE MOVIE?

Hmmm… well, as I’ve mentioned, I haven’t seen either Deathly Hallows, and those would probably be my favorites.  I also haven’t seen the fourth one, because everyone told me it was bad.  My favorite was probably the fifth or the sixth one… not sure which.

19. FAVORITE HOGWARTS HOUSE?

Gryffindor!! The place where I belong. 

20. FAVORITE PLACE?

Hogwarts, of course.  As well as Fred and George’s joke shop.

21. FAVORITE WEASLEY?

ooooh hard one… Fred and George.  Because they’re hilarious.  And again I nominate them together because they’re supposed to be together. *second glare at J.K.*

22. FAVORITE COUPLE?

Ron and Hermione.  They’re perfect, and much better together than Harry and Hermione.  And also James and Lily.  I’m not sure why, but I really love them.

23. GRYFFINDOR OR SLYTHERIN?

I believe I’ve covered this already.

24. RAVENCLAW OR HUFFLEPUFF?

Ravenclaw!  Because they’re smart.  And because of the lovely Luna Lovegood.

25. FRED OR GEORGE?

I do not like this question.  It separates Fred and George, and you know how I feel about that.

26. GINNY OR LUNA?

I love them both, but Luna.  I just love her quirky personality.  And she’s much better in the movies than Ginny is.  Seriously some one needs to remind the script writers that Ginny actually has a personality, and an endearing one at that.

27. BUTTERBEER OF FIREWHISKEY?

Butterbeer.  I have an obsession with warm drinks and have always wanted to try it.

28. DIAGON ALLEY OR HOGSMEADE?

Hogsmeade.  So I can try Butterbeer.  And because it looks amazing.

29. BOOKS OR MOVIES?

Hmm… let me think…. (does this question even have to be asked?)

30. PHILOSOPHER’S STONE OR CHAMBER OF SECRETS?

Chamber of Secrets.  Mostly because of Gilderoy Lockhart.  I know he’s awful, but he was HILARIOUS.

31. SNAPE OR SLUGHORN?

SNAPE.  always ❤

32. LUPIN OR SIRIUS?

LUPIN.  I’ve always loved him.  *sobs and glares at J.K. Rowling once again*

(I sure do seem to glare at my favorite authors a lot)

33. HARRY/GINNY OR HARRY/HERMIONE?

Harry/Ginny forever.  I love it that Harry and Hermione are able to have a meaningful friendship without romance.  (Yes, it can happen)  And Harry and Ginny are kind of cute.

34. LAVENDER BROWN OR PARVATI PATIL?

I don’t have much of an opinion on the subject.  Maybe Lavender, because in book six she was so ridiculous that it was funny.

35. SEAMUS FINNIGAN OR DEAN THOMAS?

hmm… I really don’t have a preference.

36. KREACHER OR DOBBY?

I know Kreacher was misunderstood, but still he’s not my favorite.  Dobby on the other hand, is one of the most hilarious, cute, loveable, and hugable characters to exist.  *sighs*  So of course the lovely J.K. Rowling had to slaughter him.

(Guys, don’t get me wrong.  I actually love her.  But I might hate her a little sometimes.)

37. MUGGLEBORN OR PUREBLOOD?

I am muggleborn myself, so I may be slightly partial to them. 🙂

38. DAN OR RUPERT?

Emma.

39. BELLATRIX OR NARCISSA?

BELLATRIX.  Okay, my admiration for her is a little unhealthy.  Is unhealthy.

40. VOLDEMORT OR TOM RIDDLE?

The noseless bald villain who feasts on unicorns.  That’s not a very catchy name, but whatever.

One of my lifelong goals is to meet some one named Tom Riddle.  Ideally, he would have no idea he shared a name with the Dark Lord and wouldn’t understand why I referred to him as such.  This is an unrealistic dream, but I will keep hoping.

This will never not be funny

41. HEDWIG OR CROOKSHANKS?

Hedwig.  You get to know her a lot better.  Pity that she died in J.K. Rowling’s killing spree, otherwise known as The Deathly Hallows.  (and I think that was the first time I bothered to italicize that title)

So yeah, you can unfollow me if you’re freaked out by my nerdiness.  😛  And one last pic:

CW Awards

Soooo this week is our last creative writing class *sobs in the corner* and we’ll be having a mini awards ceremony. I’m compiling this list of details about my novella to force you to vote for me make it easier for you to remember what you *might* want to nominate me for.  (I’m not trying to be a narcissistic, but… it’s part of the assignment.)

Title: Subliminal

eh.  I’m not sure what I think of it.  In a way it fits with the mystery and messages in the novella (and it does sound like a sci fi tittle) but I’m not sure how great it is.  In other words, I would love to hear it if you have any better title ideas.

Female Lead: Rowan Atreus (sometimes called Lacey Gorse)

Female Supporting: Rowena Dare or Ella

Male Supporting: Caleb or Chase

Villain: the Aurorans

Setting: Auroran Learning Institute (ALI)

Best Quote: I’m really not sure what my best quote is, but here’s one.

“Recognize yourself?” Ella asks, lowering her book and looking over the scene with thoughtful dark eyes.

“No,” Lacey admits, choking on the word.  She is alone.  She doesn’t even have herself.

Ella sighs.  “That’s all right.  None of us really do.”

If you think another quote is better, then that’s fine.

Opening Line:

“Rowan Atreus wishes her heart would stop beating.”

Closing Line:

“And when it opens, she sees a light.”

Literary Device:  Everything is based on the Aurorans symbolizing society.  Which might make my novella an allegory, but I’m not sure because after finishing English, I sort of deleted the literary device file in my brain. 🙂  So basically my whole novella is a literary device.

Comedic moment:  Well, there was that time when… when… nope, there’s nothing.

Dramatic moment: Chapter ten. >:)  The WHOLE thing.

Suspense moment: I’m not sure… Perhaps when a certain character dies and leaves behind a surprising note.  (if you read my novella, then that hopefully made sense)  But there are plenty of others.

Genre: Fantasy/ Science Fiction

S9: I Open at the Close

A list of the beginning and closing lines of ten different novels.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling

Opening: “The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.”

Closing: “All was well.”

Notes: I chose this because, well, it’s Harry Potter.  Considering that it’s one of the bestselling series of all time, it’s a good one to learn from.  This book definitely has one of my favorite endings.

 

Artemis Fowl The Atlantis Complex, by Eoin Colfer

Opening: “Artemis was once an Irish boy who longed to know everything there was to know, so he read book after book until his brain swelled with astronomy, calculus, quantum physics, romantic poets, forensic science, and anthropology, among a hundred other subjects.”

Closing: “’You certainly should,’” said Butler, and lumbered down the corridor, stepping around a pool of turnip soup.

Notes: I love this series.  The first sentence does a wonderful job capturing Artemis’s character and grabbing the reader’s attention, while the closing demonstrates the books’ quirky sense of humor.

We Were Liars, E. Lockhart

Opening: “Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.”

Closing: “I endure.”

Notes: Both the beginning and end to this book are so brilliant that I could probably rant about it for pages.  Since the writing style uses a lot of short, brief sentences, the lines themselves don’t appear extraordinary, but they’re powerful in their context.  The beginning does a good job introducing the setting and conflict, and the end emotionally shows how this affects the main character.

The Name of This Book is Secret, Pseudonymous Bosch

Opening: “Warning: Do not read beyond this page!”

Closing: “With greatest admiration and respect, P.B.”

Notes: I loved this series when I was younger.  I just had to include it because the opening line is hilarious.  And yes, the author continues to interact with the reader like that through the whole series.

Airman, Eoin Colfer

Opening: “Conor Broekhart was born to fly; or, more accurately, he was born flying.”

Closing: “’But men like us are different.  We are visionaries.’”

Notes: The opening line catches the reader’s attention from the start, and the closing provides a sentimental and satisfying conclusion.  I love how both show how Conor, the main character, is different in a positive way.

I Am Malala, Malala Yousafzai

Opening: “I come from a country which was created at midnight.  When I almost died it was just after midday.”

Closing: “My world has changed but I have not.”

Notes: To make this list a little more diverse, I chose a quote from a memoir.  Although I don’t usually read this genre, the beginning grabbed my attention, and I love how the closing line shows where Malala is today.

Franny Parker, Hannah Roberts McKinnon

Opening: “When Grandma Rae Parker stole me away to the preacher on the morning of my kidnapped christening, she told him, ‘Bless this one just a mite bit more, if you will, dear reverend.  She may be a Parker, but she’s got her mother’s look in her eye.’”

Closing: “And I grew.”

Notes: I didn’t expect to add this book, but when I was searching my shelf for good examples, I had to smile at these lines.  The beginning is wonderfully quirky and endearing, while the end is sweet and sentimental.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Opening: “First the colors.  Then the humans.  That’s usually how I see things.  Or at least, how I try.”

Closing: “A LAST NOTE FROM YOU NARRORATOR: I am haunted by humans.”

Notes: As some of you already know, this is one of my favorite books of all time.  The same goes for its opening and closing lines.  In fact, the closing just might be my favorite of all time.  I love the irony that Death, which usually haunts humans, reveals that humans haunt it.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

Opening: “Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death.”

Closing: “I do, Augustus.  I do.”

Notes: Before I read the first sentence, I wasn’t really planning on reading this book, but it drew me in.  The last lines are also very well done.  They pull together the novel, point to the theme, and reflect a marriage vow.  Though you do have to look at it in context to see all of that.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis

Opening: “There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.”

Closing: “The other is that back in our own world everyone soon started saying how Eustace had improved, and how “You’d never know him for the same boy”: everyone except Aunt Alberta, who said he had become very commonplace and tiresome and it must have been the influence of those Pevensie children.”

Notes: Out of all of these, this one just might win the grand prize.  Aside from the humor, I love how both sentences develop Eustace.  The first introduces him as the brat he begins as, and the second shows how his adventures over the course of the book changed him into a better person.

Novel Project Story Analysis– Subliminal

It’s happening!  It’s happening!  The novel project is happening!  

Unfortunately, I will not make it to class tomorrow.  *goes in the corner and sobs hysterically*  But I would really love to hear your opinion on this.  Please tell me any thoughts you have!

Title: Subliminal

Author: Eira Conall

Genre: Dystopian

Audience: Young Adult

 

Characters

Rowan Atreus/ Lacey Gorse— Due to her dirty blonde hair, brown eyes, and average height, nothing about this mid-teen girl’s appearance really stands out.  At the beginning of the novel, Rowan is thrown into a prison cell where she loses all her memories.  A few days later, she is released and put into the Auroran Learning Institute (ALI), where she is given the name Lacey Gorse.  Confused and disoriented, Lacey struggles to uncover the truth of her past while trying to learn the rules of surviving ALI.

Rowena Dare—Tall, dark haired and blue-eyed, this girl is impossible not to notice and even harder to say no to.  Although she is a few years older than Lacey, she takes immediate interest in her.  Rowena strongly discourages Lacey from doing anything to recover her memories, adamantly reassuring her that there is nothing in her past worth remembering.

Kenning Chase—This confident, strong, popular boy prefers to go by his last name, Chase.  Although ALI has no official leaders, people clearly look up to him.  Similarly to Rowena, Chase believes the best thing Lacey can do is try to forget her past and find a new life at ALI.

Ella—A quirky, clever Asian girl, Ella becomes Lacey’s roommate.  Usually found with a book, she claims she doesn’t care in the slightest what people think of her.  Which is fortunate, considering most think her to be rather odd.  Although she doesn’t speak much, she always has something important to say.

The Aurorans— They’re the mysterious people group behind Auroran Learning Institute.  Although they do teach classes and occasionally step in to establish order, they’re mostly absent.  Perhaps even invisible.  Yet it doesn’t take long for Lacey to discover the Aurorans keep much stricter control than it would appear.

Point of View

The story will be told by a third person omniscient narrator in present tense.

(I don’t think I’ve ever read a book in third person present tense, so I wanted to try it.  If it sounds weird I might drop it.)

Setting

Everything takes place a few hundred years from the present, but the exact date won’t be important.  Most of the action happens in Auroran Learning Institute (ALI).

Plot Outline

In the distant future, a mysterious group of people found the Auroran Learning Institute (ALI), a home they give to the twenty percent most talented young people.  Rowan Atreus, an imprisoned girl with amnesia, finds herself placed here and is renamed Lacey Gorse.  Those around her tell her to put aside her past and embrace her life at ALI, where she’s free to become who she wants.  Yet as she searches for clues to her past, she uncovers dark truths that make her question how free ALI really is, who she is, and everything she thinks she knows.

Conflict

Character vs. society

This is probably the most key conflict, since every character experiences it in some way.  The Aurorans leave subtle clues as to how everyone should act, what should interest them, and who they should be.  The clues and pressures vary from character to character, as does the characters’ reactions.

Character vs. himself

Again, this is one all of the main characters will face as they decide who they are and who to become.

Character vs. character

Lacey wants to recover her memories, but Rowena tries to stop her.  This is a more minor conflict.

Theme

What pressures does society put on us and what lies does it tell us?

What is true freedom?

How do we know the truth about a person?

What are we enslaved to?

How do we measure our own worth?

Literary Devices

Allusion—Rowan’s last name, Atreus, is also the name of a cursed family from Greek mythology.  This hints that her family history was not a happy one.

Bildungsroman—Getting fancy here.  This is a literary device where the protagonist grows throughout the entire story, usually starting with being removed or chased away from his/her home.  After being removed from her home and placed in ALI, Rowan will undergo a process of growth throughout the book.

Irony— All of the inhabitants of ALI are told they’re free and can become who they want to be while they are actually receiving constant instructions on who to be.

Feedback

Write a paragraph of your opinion of this story and why. Rate it as 1-5 stars, 5 being the best.

I do not know how I came to create this monstrosity, this insanity.  An idea came into my mind, and I’ve been molding it, throwing in my mind, heart, and life experiences until it came to this.  At times it feels as if it writes itself, at times I struggle with the smallest details.  Through all this, I’ve come to care deeply for it.  With all my heart, I hope that in the end you’ll love it and rate it five stars, and that I will, too.  You might not like it or find it strange, and please tell me your honest opinion.  But by the end, my hope is that it will change our lives.

Sandbox1- The Book Thief Story Analysis

The Novel Project is coming!!!  That means that Journals and CWs will be replaced with Sandbox and chapters of my novel.  🙂  To practice outlining a novel, we each outlined a well-known work.  I chose The Book Thief because it is one of my most favoritest books ever.  (If you have not read it, I am throwing a copy at you right now.)

Title: The Book Thief

Author: Markus Zusak

Genre: Historical fiction

Audience: Young adult

 

 

Characters

List the characters in the story and give a thorough description of each one (3-4 sentences). Consider physical, emotional, relational, social status, and occupational characteristics.

Death—Contrary to the popular belief, it isn’t sadistic, violent, or cruel.  Actually, it has a caring heart.  It doesn’t enjoy its job, which is tiring and never ending.  In general, Death tries to ignore the humans, but it can’t help becoming interested in Liesel Meminger.  So interested that it narrates her story.

Liesel Meminger— This blonde haired, brown-eyed German girl is the central character of the story.  When she’s nine years old, her mother decides she can’t care for her anymore and hands her over to the foster system.  Her little brother dies on the way.  Despite her tragic history, she manages to start a new life in Molching, Germany with her foster parents, the Hubermans.  She develops a passion for words, which leads her to steal books.

Rudy Steiner—With his lemon colored hair and gangly blue eyes, Rudy is the perfect Aryan, but he doesn’t really care.  In fact, he once painted himself black to look like the Olympian runner Jesse Owens.  He’s Liesel’s next door neighbor, and they become the best of friends.  Although he insults her all the time, he’s desperately in love with Liesel and would do anything for her.

Hans Huberman—He paints for a living and plays the accordion.  Kind, honorable, and gentle in every way, Hans is a wonderful foster father for Liesel.  He’ll wake up in the middle of every night to comfort her from her nightmares, and although he himself is barely literate, he does everything he can to teach her to read.

Rosa Huberman—She’s a squat woman who bears a resemblance to a wardrobe.  She loves Liesel just as much as Hans, just that she has a strange way of showing it.  Actually, yelling cuss words seems to be her love language.  Despite her harshness, Rosa Huberman is definitely someone you want around.  She’s strong and can make it out of any crisis.

Max Vandenburg—This swampy-eyed, feather-haired Jewish fist fighter has no one to turn to but the Hubermans.  Hans once promised his father that he would do anything to help him, and now his life depends on that promise.  Thankfully, the Hubermans are willing to risk their lives to take in the sickly, desperate Jew.  He moves into their basement and slowly but surely forms a strong bond with Liesel.

Ilsa Herman—A frail, shivering woman who is the wife of the mayor of Molching.  Although she usually doesn’t speak to anyone, she grows attached to Liesel.  Eventually, she becomes an important part of the girl’s life.

 

Point of View

Write a sentence explaining who tells the story.

The story is told in past tense first person, from the perspective of Death.

 

Setting

Write a sentence stating the time and place. If nothing is mentioned, give your best estimate.

It takes place in Molching, Germany during World War II.

 

Plot Outline

Write a paragraph synopsis of the story (6-8 sentences). Include a summary of the characters, setting, conflict, and theme. This should read like a blurb on the back of a book.

It’s 1939 in Nazi Germany.  Next to her brother’s graveside, Liesel sees something she can’t resist: a forgotten copy of The Gravesdigger’s Handbook.  It’s the first book she steals, but it isn’t the last.  As Liesel starts her new life with her foster family, the Hubermans, she develops a love of books and a friendship with her neighbor, Rudy Steiner.  But the times are difficult, especially when the Hubermans hide a Jew in their basement.  Soon enough, Liesel sees all the suffering war has to offer.  She experiences the best and the worst of humanity, the power of words, and heartache beyond measure.

Conflict

What type of conflict do you see in the story? Give specific examples. Distinguish between major and minor conflicts.

man vs. man

There are several man vs. man conflicts, perhaps the most major being between Liesel and Ilsa.  Through this conflict, Liesel learns about redeeming friendships and harmful words.

man vs. environment

This is probably the most major conflict, as all of the main characters struggle against the environment in some way.  Nazi Germany was a place full of peril, poverty, and prejudice, making it a difficult place to live for anyone, especially if that person was Jewish (like Max) or harbored a secret hatred of Hitler (like Liesel).

man vs. himself

(minor) Max often faces conflict with himself.  He doesn’t want to leave his family to look for the Hubermans, but at least that way one of them lives.  He doesn’t want to be a burden for the Hubermans, but what else can he do?

man vs. animal

This conflict doesn’t really occur in the book, as there are no animal characters.

 

Theme

State the main theme(s) or message of the story in universal terms that apply to everyone, regardless of age, race, or gender (1 complete sentence). Look for at least two themes.

Words have power for both terrible and great things.  Words brought Hitler to power, but words also can be used to heal.

“I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”

Similarly, humans have capacity for both great good and great evil.

“Proof again of the contradictory human being.  So much good, so much evil.  Just add water.”

Literary Devices

List at least three different examples of literary devices used in the story.

http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/lit_terms/

Anthropomorphism- The story is told from the perspective of Death, so it is given human-like qualities and emotions.  You could argue that this is personification, but I think it falls more closely under the category of anthropomorphism.

Example: “By the way—I like this human idea of the grim reaper.  I like the scythe.  It amuses me.”

Authorial intrusion- This is one of the most distinct features of the book.  Death often speaks to the reader and many times interrupts the story to give an observation or definition.

Example: “A DEFINITION NOT FOUND IN THE DICTIONARY— Not leaving: an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children.”

Simile—There are more of these than you can blink your eyes at, but here’s a really good one.

“Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.”

Feedback

Write a paragraph of your opinion of this story and why. Rate it as 1-5 stars, 5 being the best.

SEVEN OUT OF FIVE STARS This is the best standalone book I have ever read and the book that has brought me closest to tears.  From the very first page, I fell in love with the poignant, lyrical writing and its endearing, unforgettable characters.  The Book Thief is moving, profound, and life changing.  Needless to say, I love it and cannot recommend it enough.

(Warning: If you have ever cried in a book, you will sob hysterically in this one.)