Tags, Tags, Tags – and Gifs

So, I was wanting to write a post, but none of my drafts looked appealing. I started reading other people’s posts instead, and I found out the Victoria Grace @ Wanderer’s Pen had tagged me! Thanks a bunch 🙂

***UPDATE*** Aaaand, then, as usual, life happened . . .

*Cue Jaws Theme*

_Ahem_ Two Months Later . . .

Back to the tag – Victoria said that I could choose which tag I wanted to do, so I just decided to answer ALL the questions. So we have the “Secret Life of a Book Blogger” questions first, and Victoria’s questions from the “Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award” next. Savvy?

First, I am prepared to spill all my secrets *shifty eyes*

Secret Life of a Book Blogger

1. How long have you been a blogger? –
Let me look . . . err . . . and after much digging, I found my blog’s birthday!! It’s August 13th, 2012 (I always did like 13). And now that I found it, I’ll have to do a blogoversary post. So I’ve been blogging on and off for 3ish years, but I didn’t get serious about it until last year.
2. At what point do you think you’ll stop blogging? –
I guess I haven’t thought that far ahead? I don’t intend to quit blogging. Even if no one reads it, I’ll probably still be here. I’m like that.
3. What is the best thing about blogging? –
While it’s fun to share your thoughts with the world, it’s not nearly as cool as interacting with diverse people from all over the place. My favorite part is definitely following/commenting/conversing with all of you fabulous people.
4. What is the worst thing? What do you do to make it okay? –
The worst part – not having the time/energy to blog when you really want to!!! I’m still working on trying to make it okay, to be honest. But not worrying about it is helpful 🙂
5. How long does it take you to create/find pictures to use? –
Depends on the picture. I usually have a pretty clear image in mind that I want to use (see my extensive use of gifs). If I am creating an image, it takes me days to be happy with it, so I rarely do that.
6. Who is your book crush?

Tom Imura, obviously. (from Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry).

And forget the crush, I want to marry him.*
Tom is, to date, my only literary crush. As much as I love hordes of male characters, I am typically more inclined to want to be them than have a crush on them. (i.e., every man in LOTR.) And tbh, most of my favorite literary guys would be bad news (I’m looking at you, Howl, Mordred, Luthe, Hamlet, Peaceable Sherwood, etc, etc.). And I don’t have patience for that. Nope.
*sadly, even if he was real, I don’t think I’m Tom’s type, ;P
7. What author would you like to have on your blog? –
Robin McKinley. She was one of the first author’s to write books and characters that I fell in love with (outside of Tolkien. And I can’t interview him, for obvious reasons). Robin McKinley influenced me as a writer and reader, and I still love her books so much. It would be a huge honor to have her.
8. What do you wear when you write blog posts? –
 . . .
Because *everyone* dresses like G Dragon when they . . . wait, I’m pretty sure that NO ONE but GD dresses like GD . . .
 Whatever I wear normally. For example, today I’m wearing jeans, an anime costume shirt, and clogs. What I want to know is, does anyone actually change what they wear for blogging purposes??
9. How long does it take you to prepare? –

Prepare for what? Work? The Zombie Apocalypse? This year’s election (I don’t think I’ll ever be prepared for that)? The Olympics (Err, never).

I’ll stop being a smartaleck now – as this probably means a blog post. It really depends. I’ve written a post off the top of my head, and taken about ten minutes. Other posts have taken weeks. But my average is a couple of hours.

10. How do you feel about the book blogger community? –
I like them a lot! We’re all united by our love of books and reading, so we have a big plot of common ground. On the other hand, you read a lot of unique voices and experience people from all walks of life, and that is one of the best parts of the community.

And now – The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Rules (which I will sort-of ignore)

Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and link their website (click it)
2. Use the award logo on your post (see above)
3. Answer the 10 questions provided by the blogger who tagged you (following)
4. Nominate 10 bloggers (I did this last time, so I’m flouting the rules. )
5. Ask them 10 questions (I’ll leave 5 questions for anyone who is interested)
Now that the rules are out of the way, Victoria Grace’s fabulous (but difficult) questions:
1.) What is your favorite fandom?
Favorite because I like it, or the fandom itself?
Well, my favorite fandom (that I’d consider myself a part of) will always be Lord of the Rings. It’s the earliest one for me. If we’re talking about the fans themselves – err, still LOTR.
2.) If you were in an epic fantasy battle what weapon would you use? (Magic counts)
This is so hard!! Just ONE?? I want to use all the weapons 🙁
If I HAD to choose, a sword. I’m all about those classic lines and a sophistication.
3.) If you could be any fantasy or alien race besides human what would you be?
An ELF (a la Tolkien). This is the easiest answer of them all.
4.) What Divergent aptitude are you?
I just went and did the official test to help myself out, lol. And I quote:

“YOUR CHOICES DEMONSTRATE THE VIRTUES OF MORE THAN ONE FACTION, SCORING HIGHEST IN ERUDITE AND DAUNTLESS TRAITS”

Guess I’m Divergent. I’m not sure what I’d pick, to be honest. I’d probably decide that I wanted to be Factionless. That’s what I kept thinking when I was reading the book. Sure, you’re a total social outcast, but you’re on your own. Seriously.

5.) Japanese manga, American comic books, or graphic novels?
Manga! That is pretty much all I read (other than research books) when I have busy months (like June)
6.) Have you ever been out of your country? If so where have you been? If not where would you like to go?
I have been to Canada – but I really want to go EVERYWHERE. Especially Japan, Korea, Germany, Ireland, and New Zealand.
7.) What element would you like to control? Air, water, earth, or fire?
URGH – another hard question! All of them? I want to be master of all the elements . . . but if I had to choose . . . air. Distractible, fickle, packs a heckuva punch but it would really rather play a game. That sounds like me.
8.) Favorite video game, card game, or board game?
*continues griping offscreen* Probably board games. I love cooperative strategy games like Pandemic or Zombicide
9.) Favorite piece of jewelry (with a pic)?
Currently? I reaKIMG0357lly love earrings, and I got these super cute Mitoki ones in Chicago after the B.A.P concert (right side). The other ones are Bigbang earrings from that same store. I also love every piece of jewelry from the Fandom of the Month Club.
10.) Do you like your hair straight or curly?
When I straighten my hair, I look like Hugo Weaving (not that there’s anything wrong with what he looks like, for him). So I’ll pass.

So those were her varied and fun questions! Thanks Victoria!

Would you have answered the same as me, or opposite?

Oh – and before I forget – here are my extremely random questions, if you so desire:

1. In your opinion, what is the function of a rubber duck?
2. How far would you travel for a concert?
3. What is the strangest book you’ve ever read?
4. If you woke up tomorrow and were fluent in any language, what would you like it to be?
5. You are stranded in a warehouse that’s surrounded by enemies (zombies, rabid wolves, rival soldiers, rabid fans, take your pick) – what is the one fictional character you’d like to have at your side?

6 Reasons You Need to Read Memories of Ash by Intisar Khanani

First off – A huge thank you to Intisar Khanani for allowing me to read an advance copy of Memories of Ash! This was a free copy provided in exchange for an honest review – which in no way affected my review 🙂

 

Memories of Ash, the sequel to Sunbolt came out a couple days ago- have you ordered your copy yet? If you haven’t read Sunbolt, don’t worry – it’s quite short, and very good – so fix that first 🙂 You can also click through above to read my review of Sunbolt, and to get an idea of the story.

Memories of Ash picks up immediately where Sunbolt left off – so some minor spoilers for Sunbolt follow in the synopsis (pinched from Goodreads):

In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

Since I don’t want to spoil the book for anyone I’ll follow the same format as I did with reviewing Sunbolt, and give you 6 reasons why you need to read Memories of Ash, ASAP.

6 Reasons to Read Memories of Ash

  1. The World and Characters.

    If you love fantasy, you know that a fascinating world and colorful characters are extremely important. In the Eleven Kingdoms of Sunbolt and Memories of Ash, Khanani has created a world so vivid and interesting that you won’t want to leave. Her worldbuilding is fabulous, with so many (effortlessly) diverse and multifaceted cultures and places. In Memories of Ash, the Mage School and the magical wastelands (both mentioned in Sunbolt) are the primary new locations explored, and there are a handful of new characters introduced as well. As with Sunbolt, the characters are varied and well-developed, with Hitomi always at center stage (as she should be). Val isn’t forgotten either, and the ramifications of their alliance (friendship) are further explored and complicate the story.*

    2. Hitomi. 

    I know I used her as one of my reasons for reading Sunbolt, but I’ll shamelessly repeat myself: Hitomi is just the sort of strong heroine that we need more of. She isn’t fearless or invincible, but she’ll go to (believably crazy) lengths to save the people she cares about. In spite of this, she won’t trample people or intentionally cause harm (which creates a few moral quandaries to spice up the plot). She’s moral herself, but she isn’t judgemental, and she is both a likable and relatable young woman. And of course, Memories of Ash just made me love her more.

    3. Consistency rules. 

    When I started Memories of Ash (hereafter known as MoA), I was immediately plunged back into the world of Sunbolt. Khanani’s characters, facts, magic systems, locations, and details are so seamless that you don’t feel disconnected at all. With fantasy, this is pivotal to the reader’s experience of the book.  Characters from Sunbolt mixed with new characters, and at the center, Arch Mage Blackflame seems to have an even more complicated scheme than we all realized

    4. The Writing. 

    This is another point I’ve brought up – but Intisar Khanani’s prose is fluid and beautiful to read. She blends humor, intrigue, and just the perfect amount of description. Her plotting and pace are wonderful, with a good mixture of adventure, action, and a few twists. I could immediately visualize all of the different locations, though the descriptions were never long.

    5. Thorny Morality Questions: Met head-on.

    Have you ever watched an adventure film or read a book and thought “where are the consequences?,” or, “do they even care about collateral damage?” Well, morality (interestingly enough) comes up rather often through the course of Memories of Ash. Hitomi is confronted with several pivotal decisions that make her put her own freedom/safety/happiness up against the lives and livelihood of others. And she doesn’t just make these decisions by flipping a coin or shrugging it off with a “ends justify the means” mentality. It’s refreshing to see a character dealing with the real fallout of their decisions, and Hitomi’s struggles just made me more invested in her.

6. It’s BOOK SIZED.

Did you love Sunbolt, but wish it was longer (I did!)? Memories of Ash is book-length, which takes away my only complaint from Sunbolt. A longer novel was definitely worth the wait, as it allowed Khanani to further develop and enrich the fascinating world and characters.

Did I convince you yet? Then what are you waiting for?! Go purchase a copy (you can download it through Kobo, Nook, or Amazon, or ask your local bookstore to order you a physical copy!**)

Have you read/do you plan to read Memories of Ash and/or Sunbolt? Scroll down for more info and a GIVEAWAY!

Footnotes:

*Don’t you just love complicated relationships (in fiction)? And Hitomi and Val’s whole connection is so interesting to me. I can’t wait to read more about Breathers (yeah, I’ll keep bringing this up . . .)

**I’ll be ordering physical copies for the store I work at!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Info:

Title: Memories of Ash

Series: The Sunbolt Chronicles, Book Two

Author: Intisar Khanani (http://booksbyintisar.com)

Cover Designer: Jenny Zemanek (http://www.seedlingsonline.com/index2.php#!/HOME)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Release Date: May 30, 2016

Publisher: Purple Monkey Press

Price: US $3.99 (eBook), US $TBD (paperback)

Author Bio:

Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, featuring the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles.

 

 

Beautiful People: May Edition – “Meet” Mollie (Red as Blood)

So I’m back from BEA ’16 and Chicago (*sniffles* Chicago . . .*), with loads of books and not nearly enough pictures.

*(I never want to leave, but I always do, just like the hero at the end of a western . . .) Err, or rather, like someone who has to go to work on Monday . . .

I fully intend to finish my lowdown on BEA, just not right now. Right now, I’ve been working through my character profiles for Red as Blood, and it’s time to further my character development with this month’s Beautiful People.

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If you don’t know – BP is a monthly writing meme hosted by Sky at Further Up and Further In and Cait @ Paper Fury. Click the links for their fabulous blogs and info on how to join!

Just like Sherlock needs a Watson to humanize him, and the Doctor needs a Companion for almost the same reason, a larger-than-life main character needs someone more relatable and “average” to ground them. Sull, the protagonist of my WIP, Red as Blood, might be a conflicted, angsty teen, but I know that I gave him a rather outrageous story (read more about it here) that few people can (hopefully) relate to in the details.

Enter Mollie. 

If you read my intro to the Seven Sisters of Henpecked Bar and Grill, you know that Mollie is the youngest (and tallest) “sister,” and that she’s not really content with where she is in life. Just in case you didn’t read her bio, here it is again:

Mollie was raised by warrior priests, and fell in with the seven sisters after events that she doesn't like to talk about. However, she is artistic and dreams of opening a shop or gallery in a big, fashionable city. Though she is a passable fighter, her heart isn’t in it, and she ran away from her army-school-temple as a teenager. Mollie’s real name- Machlah – was hard for her superiors to pronounce. Mollie stuck, but she’s sore about it (why doesn’t she get a fun nickname?)

As the youngest, the tallest, and a half-blooded outcast, Mollie immediately sympathizes with Sull. However, he isn’t looking for an annoying surrogate older sister. Still, she’s enamored with the life he left, or what little hints he drops, and she is determined to be his friend. And what Mollie wants, Mollie usually gets.

Age:  23                      Race: Half human/half alien

In my mind, Mollie looks a lot like a younger version of Morena Baccarin in The Red Tent:

  1. How often do they smile? Would they smile at a stranger?

Mollie smiles quite a bit. She’s naturally easygoing, and a daydreamer, so she’s usually smiling at a thought she had.

She would always smile at a stranger – even if she didn’t work at a restaurant. To Mollie, strangers represent different and exciting, so she’s happy to see them and hear about their adventures.

2. What is the cruelest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

Mollie is used to being the target of bigoted jokes about her mixed alien and human heritage. Though she looks human enough (her eyes are red-gold and she has triangular pupils, and her skin has a gold flush to it, along with scale patches), everyone (where she came from) knew her story and how her parent’s left her with monks rather than raise her and bear the shame. So the cruellest things she’s been told are probably not worth repeating, but they almost always are directed at her heritage.

3. What is the kindest thing they’ve ever been told? And what was their reaction?

When Doctor Pierce (her mentor and employer) told Mollie that she (Mollie) wasn’t defined by her success or failure, and that her art was valid even if only she (Mollie) believed in it, this was something Mollie had never heard. Doctor Pierce is not lavish with praise or unnecessary words, but her encouragement gave Mollie courage to continue pursuing art in the most unlikeliest places.

4. What is one strong memory that has stuck with your character from childhood? Why is it so powerful and lasting?

Mollie was raised by warrior monks. They were strict, ascetic, and firm but well-meaning with their wards. Mollie will never forget when trying to brighten up the drab brown robes with some colored fabric scraps that she sewed on to make flowers. The monks called her to the front of morning meeting and gave her a lecture on vanity in front of everyone. Next, they tore off the flowers and cut her long hair (another sign of her vanity), and she was relegated to latrine duty for a month. They weren’t trying to be cruel (she understands this now), but at the time she was just crushed.

In a way, this almost made things worse – Mollie kept her artistic tendencies secret, and she refuses to cut her hair for any reason.

5. What book (a real actual published book!) do you think your character would benefit from reading?

Probably something practical, like 48 Days to the Work You Love. But I think Mollie would get a kick out of (and be encouraged by) Little Women.

6.Have they ever been seriously injured? How severely? How did they react?

Not really. The worst injuries Mollie has ever sustained were minor fractures and sprains from combat training with the monks and their wards. She’s stubborn and has a high level of pain tolerance, so she rarely shows a reaction – especially if people are watching her.

7. Do they like and get along with their neighbours?

Mollie is generally pretty agreeable. However, if she doesn’t like you, she really doesn’t like you. That being said, she gets along well with most everyone she knows.

8. On a scale from 1 to 10 (1 being easy and 10 being difficult) how easy are they to get along with?

2 – see above.

9. If they could travel anywhere in the world, where would they go?

She wants to go to Ithir (also known as Earth-that-Was), the homeworld of the original humans. She also wants to go to New Milan – which is the fashion epicenter of the galaxy. (And where Sull spent a lot of time)

10. Who was the last person they held hands with?

Despite their asceticism, the monks actually encouraged familial bonding between their wards, as well as kind touches and comforting gestures. Mollie held her fellow wards’ hands all the time, but she grew hesitant to touch others after she left. Being a huggy person herself, she doesn’t understand the premium some people put on personal space. The last person Mollie “held hands” with was probably her mother figure-Doctor Pierce-when the latter rescued her from an ignominious fate and told her to run.

So there you go 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading more about Mollie and Red as Blood. Thanks for reading! (And if you participated in BP, please leave a link so I can check it out)

Beautiful People: More About Sull (Forgot to post in April)

There was no Beautiful People for April, so I borrowed one of the earlier ones . . . and promptly forgot to post it. So we’ll just pretend it’s still April. Humor me.

Beautiful People is a monthly writing meme hosted and originated by Cait @ Paper Fury and Sky @ Further Up and Further In

Since I haven’t seen an official BP this month, I decided to nab one of the older ones that ran before I even participated. (Sara Letourneau did this first, and I happily borrowed her idea ;P).

Anyhow, I’m continuing my current trend and featuring my WIP, Red as Blood. I introduced the MC, Sull, in this post, and some of his “supporting cast” hereRed as Blood is a genderbent Snow White story inspired by vintage scifi, Greek Mythology, the high fashion scene, the food service industry, and my love of Korean and Japanese pop culture. *Yes – you read that right – and no, I’m not completely mad, just a little bit strange*

“What do you mean you’re not mad?”

Again, make sure to look back at the previous BP if you want to know more about Sull before we start.

Beautiful People April Freebie: Meet Sull, Part II

1) What is their full name and is there a story behind why they got it?

His *actual* name is Yu Baek Seol (유 백설 – with his surname listed first)

Baek Seol is *basically* the Korean equivalent of Snow White the fairy tale character/heroine of that story. It’s how you see it written out in Korean retellings of Snow White. “Sull” is how that last part is heard by The Sisters.

Story behind the name – Basically, Sull’s mother was obsessed with the story of Snow White, and she wanted a beautiful daughter who was “red as blood, black as ebony, and white as snow.” Sull is all of those things – but he’s a boy. His mother died soon after birthing him, and it never occurred to anyone to give him a different name. So there you go.

2) How old are they, and when were they born?

When the story begins, it’s just after Sull’s sixteenth birthday. Some of the story takes place in flashbacks of the previous year. As for when he was born, I don’t have a timeline figured out (exactly) for the world of Red as Blood, but it’s set centuries after an apocalyptic event took out (most) life on earth (for more on this, see The Last Coffee Shop). But I do know that he was born about 7 years after the TLCS ends.

3) Describe their physical appearance. (Bonus questions: 1. What is their race/nationality/ethnicity? 2. Do you have a picture of them? If so, include it!)

Since Red as Blood is set centuries after an apocalyptic event, all human survivors have dispersed through the galaxy, and become more or less one race/people, especially as defined by the aliens who far outnumber them. So I use “Earth terms” loosely here 😛

That being said, I had a very clear picture of Sull in my head all along (and his parents). His father is of Japanese, Korean, and European descent, and his mother is of Korean and European descent.

As for his appearance, he’s very slight, but with extremely pretty (read: girlish) features – long lashes, silky hair, perfect skin, full lips, etc.

From the beginning, Sull has always looked like a younger combination of Luhan (Chinese singer) and G-Dragon (Korean rapper/singer/songwriter Kwon Ji-yong) to me. So . . . in other words, Sull also resembles L from Death Note. Confused? Well, you know I have pictures (especially if you follow me on Pinterest) – here are three representative ones.

This picture is very Sull to me, lol

+

This is the best genderbent Snow White photo EVER (oh wait, no, that’s just Luhan . . .)

=

No idea who the artist is, but “L” belongs to Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata.

4) Describe your character’s personality first in one word, and then elaborate with a few sentences.

 Lost 
1. unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts.
synonyms: off course, off track, disoriented, having lost one’s bearings, going around in circles, adrift, at sea, astray

2. denoting something that has been taken away or cannot be recovered.
synonyms: bygone, past, former, one-time, previous, old, olden, departed, vanished, forgotten, consigned to oblivion, extinct, dead, gone

“Lost” might be an obvious choice. Sull isn’t physically lost at the start of the novel, though he is definitely trying to lose himself. Both definitions above are perfect.

5) What theme song(s) fit their personality and story arc?

Sull actually has quite a playlist going. But 삐딱하게(CROOKED) by G-Dragon (again) is Sull’s theme song (and one of the major inspirations for his character as we first encounter him). The sound and feel of the song, the lyrics, and to be honest, the video (link below), all screamed Sull at me. It actually took me awhile to get around to watching the video, and it just solidified what I already suspected – this song is the perfect one song summary, so at least read the lyrics 🙂

(*disclaimer* None of these images, lyrics, etc, belong to me. They are being used as emphasis only, and I am making zero money from this post)

G-Dragon – 삐딱하게(CROOKED) w/English Subs
Lyrics and translation here (popgasa.com)
(Chorus/Refrain)
Nothing ever lasts forever
In the end, you changed
There is no reason, no sincerity
Take away such a thing as love
Tonight, I’ll be crooked
Leave me alone
I was alone anyway
I have no one, everything is meaningless
Take away the sugar-coated comfort
Tonight, I’ll be crooked

I scream and get dizzy
 I vent out of boredom to other couples
 I start fights for no reason like a town gangster
 Sometimes, I purposely shake my leg, crookedly
 The main characters of the movie called this world is you and me
 A lonely island, lost and wandering
 The empty streets are filled with those who are alone
 Unlike my heart, the weather is so damn nice

I used to believe in you alone and I was happy
 But like a joke, I am left alone
 You used to promise me with your pinky finger
 But in the end

(Chorus)

(Bridge)
I’ll put on thick eyeliner, use a whole can of hairspray
 Leather pants, leather jacket with a frown
 I want to hide my pain and become even more crooked
 So you can feel sorry, I’ll spit toward the sky
 You’re scared of my crude words and my rough eyes
 But actually, I’m afraid, I want to go back but I have nowhere to go
 I want to love but no one to love, what am I supposed to do?
 I can’t turn it back

I used to believe in you alone and I was happy
 But like a joke, I am left alone
 You used to promise me with your pinky finger
 But in the end

(Chorus)

Will you not say anything for me tonight?
 I didn’t know being alone would be this hard (I miss you)
 Will you be my friend tonight?
 On this good day, this beautiful day, this day where I miss you
 Tonight, I’ll be crooked

That last bit is pretty darn heartbreaking.

Sull is so full of pent-up anger, but inside, he’s extremely lonely and confused. I’m walking a fine line between a frustrating/annoying character and a really sad one here, and I think that “Crooked” sums him up so well.

As for Sull’s arc, I’ll throw in a few more pivotal songs with lyric snippets to give you the idea (and more links, if you dare . . .):
Red – So Far Away
Lyrics found here: metrolyrics.com
I am right here with you
I couldn't more close
Pretending that I'm in this moment
When I'm only a ghost

I listen to the words you're saying
Words I'm fighting to believe
It's like I'm living from a distance
When you're out of reach



Read more: Red - So Far Away Lyrics | MetroLyrics

If you listen to the song, listen closely to the cry in singer Michael Barnes’ voice. That’s Sull – right there.

MINO – 겁 (Fear) Feat. Taeyang

Translation and Full Lyrics found here: colorcodedlyrics.com

 -- When I didn’t wanna see anything
The reason I forced my eyes to open wide
Is because I was just scared
It’s because I was suddenly scared
When I didn’t wanna say anything
The reason I raised my voice
There is no other reason
It’s because I’m afraid, I’m afraid --

It’s worth clicking through and reading all the lyrics to this song, because it was the other closest contender for the ultimate Sull song.

The Click Five – Don’t Let Me Go

Full lyrics found here: metrolyrics.com

. . . You try so hard to hide your scars
 Always on your guard

Chorus
 Don't, don't let me go
 Don't make me hold on when you're not
 Don't, don't turn away
 What can I say so you won't
 No don't, don't let me go...

This is one that you should definitely listen to for the idea. Again, it’s the way Kyle sings it that is the clincher. It’s such a soft, sad, yet convicted sounding melody, you know?

Linkin Park – Leave Out All the Rest

Full lyrics found here: metrolyrics.com

. . .Don't be afraid
 I've taken my beating
 I've shared what I made

I'm strong on the surface
 Not all the way through
 I've never been perfect
 But neither have you

So if you're asking me
 I want you to know

When my time comes
 Forget the wrong that I've done
 Help me leave behind some
 Reasons to be missed

Don't resent me
 And when you're feeling empty
 Keep me in your memory
 Leave out all the rest, leave out all the rest

If you were listening to the radio seven years ago, there’s a good chance you heard this plaintive yet powerful song. Actually, if you were listening to the radio seven years ago, and had more rock leanings, you might have heard half the songs on this playlist . . .

6) Which one of the seven deadly sins describes your character?

Wrath. Despite his calm, sullen, don’t-talk-to-me demeanor, Sull is filled with rage and hatred against the people and things that happened to him.

7) If they were an element (fire, water, earth, air), which one would they be?

Air. Changeable, unable to be chased or pinned down, unreliable, shapeless and formless yet taking up space. Getting the picture?

8) What is their favourite word?

Err, Free food? Sull doesn’t like many things, but he does like food. And yeah, I know that’s two words^^

9) Who’s one person they really miss? (It could be someone who’s passed away, or someone they’re not close to anymore, or someone who’s moved away.)

Sull’s father. Despite the fact that he also despises the man, he misses the relationship they never had, and what might have been. Also, despite what Sull has been through, he loves his father very, very deep down.

10) What sights, sounds, and smells remind them of that person?

Sights: Clothes, fabrics, rich colors

Sounds: Cameras, shouts, loud music

Smells: Perfumes, essences, and rich, spicy smells.

 

Ask a Writer: Villains vs. Antagonists vs. Antiheroes – What’s the Difference and Does it Matter?

Villains vs Antagonists vs Antiheroes

Copyright – Walt Disney
(More of an Essay than a Blog Post, so be Warned, :P)

As I’ve been rereading The Last Coffee Shop for the first time since I finished the initial draft, I quickly realized something interesting: There is no outright/major villain character in TLCS. Instead, it’s about the heroine dealing with lots of ambiguous antagonists and a hostile world. This is a first for me, as I usually have a distinct villain character, and I love to write them.

And speaking of writing great villains, I read several excellent posts on the subject a month ago, and it set the mental wheels turning. Tracey @ Adventure Awaits had a guest blog post on the 4 Elements of a Good Villain, Victoria Grace @ Wanderer’s Pen wrote two great posts – one on writing good Antiheroes and one on the importance of writing Good Vs Evil. Also, I recently read V. E. Schwab’s Vicious!

All of these posts made for great reading and discussions, and set me thinking – Antihero, Villain, Antagonist – all of those terms are used, sometimes interchangeably, out on the internet. And there are endless debates on the actually “villainy” of plenty of characters, from Loki (Marvel Universe) to Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal) to Saruman the White (Lord of the Rings). And in all of these discussions, there is a lot of confusion. So what’s a writer to do? Well, the best place to start is the dictionary!

I love words and definitions, so we’ll let Merriam Webster take this. According to the dictionary:

Villain:

1:  villein

2:  an uncouth person :  boor

3:  a deliberate scoundrel or criminal

4:  a character in a story or play who opposes the hero

5:  one blamed for a particular evil or difficulty

It’s actually not the most precise word, is it? Going on our modern definition of “villain,” or someone who does “wrong” things and opposes the story’s hero, a better word might be “malefactor.”

Malefactor:

1:  one who commits an offense against the law; especially :  felon

2:  one who does ill toward another

Middle English malefactour, from Latin malefactor, from malefacere- to do evil

A Malefactor – or someone who intentionally causes harm or evil, is what we’re usually meaning when we use the word “villain.”

Examples would be Sauron (LOTR), Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars), Voldemort (HP), Iago (Othello), or the Joker (Batman). These characters may or may not be nuanced, they may be tragic and even sympathetic, but at their root, they cause intentional evil to those around them. In other words, a true villain is a god unto themselves, a person who believes in no higher or more moral/spiritual authority than themselves and their own desires.

And I don’t mean believe in the “I believe chairs are real,” sense. I mean believe in the “believe/am convicted that this entity or idea outside of myself is greater/higher than me, and should be regarded when I make decisions.”

So what is an antagonist?

Antagonist:

one that contends with or opposes another :  adversary, opponent

From antagonize – Greek antagōnizesthai, from anti- +agōnizesthai to struggle, from agōn contest — more at agony

Rather different from a “villain,” isn’t it? Basically, an antagonist is someone who struggles against or opposes someone.

If we’re rewriting Star Wars with Darth Vader as the main character, then Luke and Obi Wan Kenobi are both antagonists. They contend with Vader, and directly oppose his point of view. So while an antagonist can be a villain, not every antagonist is evil.

Which brings us to antiheroes.

Antihero:

a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities

That’s a little vague, so let’s look at the root words – anti, or “against” from Middle English < Latin < Greek, prefix meaning “opposite”

Add this to hero – “man of superhuman strength or physical courage,” from Greek heros demi-god”, originally defender, protector,” from PIE root *ser- to watch over,protect (cf. Latin servare “to save, deliver, preserve, protect;” see observe).

So an antihero would basically be anyone who does the opposite of the “heroic” actions, or who (like our definition above), lacks the classical attributes of a hero (such as courage, selflessness, integrity, honesty, etc.)

However, in modern literature, this term also encompasses any nonstandard hero (including some characters that might be more properly categorized as villains). An antihero is always the hero/protagonist of their own story, which makes them the exact opposite of an antagonist. However, like antagonists, antiheroes are not necessarily evil.

Okay, now that we’ve looked at the technical differences between these terms, what makes a good villain, antagonist, or antihero? Let’s look at some examples.

In Star Wars, Emperor Palpatine may “believe” in the Jedi, the “Light Side of the Force,” and that those things are real – but he sees them as invalid. For him, whether the Jedi’s morals are right or wrong is unimportant – he is ruled only by himself and his perception of The Force. This makes him a classic villain, or malefactor – someone who sets himself up as the only right, and tramples others in his path.

Granted, Palpatine isn’t the most memorable or chilling villain, so here’s a second example. Wilson Fisk (Netflix Daredevil series) is one of the most terrifying and effective villains I’ve ever encountered. But what makes him such a good villain? Well, for starters, he’s a character, and his story is extremely important to the overall narrative.

(Disclaimer: the scene below is appropriate for all ages, but note that Daredevil is a mature show that isn’t suitable for all audiences)

https://youtu.be/ocm_f6VDI2E?t=2s

The voiceover is from an article that reporter Ben Urich was writing about Fisk, challenging Fisk to “step into the light,” and answer for his crimes. But there are a few serious problems.

For starters, Fisk has left no clues behind that will point to him. The atrocities he’s committed, and the terrible people he’s worked with, can’t be traced to him. Also, Fisk believes 100% that he’s right at this part in the narrative. He views himself as a hero, and Matt Murdock (Daredevil) as a villain who would destroy Hell’s Kitchen.

Fisk is convicted about the crime and decay of the city, he loves his girlfriend Vanessa deeply, he has an artistic soul, and his backstory is both tragic and sympathetic. But none of this excuses his behavior. He uses all sorts of criminals and gangs to do his work, keeping his hands “clean,” and there is no moral line he will not cross in his pursuit of his goal. To Fisk, as long as he wins, and reshapes Hell’s Kitchen in his own fashion, he will do anything.

That becomes a major difference between him and Matt, and a defining characteristic of the series. While Daredevil has doubts, trials, moral lines, and dilemmas, Fisk does not. He is a self-proclaimed deity in all but name, and he answers to no one but himself, regardless of who suffers the consequences. By the end of the series, Fisk is a true malefactor – or one who both commits crimes against and hurts others, in pursuit of his own desires.

When you’re writing a villain, whether he/she is the protagonist of your novel, or opposing the hero, you need to make sure that they’re as completely developed as the main character.

If you watched the Daredevil clip above, you’ll notice something very important to a truly terrifying villain: Fisk twists the truth and speaks it back, with an uncanny resemblance to what Ben (the reporter) was saying about him. Fisk is an “angel of light” villain, or someone who sounds/looks/seems good, but has depths of depravity/wickedness that aren’t visible at first. Fisk says all the right things, and in the public eye, does all the right things. He seems like a good man. But there’s a lot more to his character.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you’re developing your villain’s character:

  1. What do they want most, and how far will they go to get it?
  2. Why do they want it?
  3. How do they view the people around them?
  4. How do their goals influence how they treat the people around them?
  5. What truly puts them in conflict with the hero/protagonist?
  6. Does your character masquerade as (or believe he/she is) one of the good guys? Did they start with good intentions?
  7. Who is their ultimate authority?

Let’s move on to antagonists.

Antagonists are supporting characters that oppose the protagonist and move the story along, usually prodding the main character into action with their alternate viewpoints.

All of the villains mentioned above are antagonists as well, because they oppose the protagonists. Still, there are plenty of antagonists that are either morally superior to the protagonist, or at the very least, not evil. Some examples include the detective L (Death Note), the fairies in the Artemis Fowl series, both Captain America and Iron Man in the Civil War comic arc (Marvel), or Buzz Lightyear in the movie Toy Story.

In The Last Coffee Shop, my protagonist Mads is taken hostage by Luc the bounty hunter, who is the primary antagonist of the book. However clouded Luc’s motives are, he means no harm to Mads – he just gets in the way of her plans. And that’s another major function of the antagonist. They often provide frustration of the MC’s plans or prospects (like Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice).

Still, whether an antagonist is an outright villain or not depends on the story.  In many books and movies, a character who is an antagonist or villain will have a redemptive, positive character arc that results in their joining the hero’s side/making the correct decision. Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender), Itachi Uchiha (Naruto), or the original T 101 Terminator (Terminator), are all examples of this type of character. And speaking of Naruto, Pain-Nagato is a classic antagonist that fulfills both of these definitions.

(SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers for Naruto Shippuden Season 8, or Chapters 413-453 of the manga from here on)

When you first meet Pain, he’s a godlike figure determined to fix the world by removing all ninja from it. This will kill a lot of people, but presumably stop all wars by doing so. Pain’s motives are good – he wants world peace – but his execution is terrible.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Naruto, I’ll give you some context. Pain-Nagato has been the major antagonist (though the characters didn’t know this) for a loooong time now, sending people after Naruto and wreaking general havoc. However, the action finally comes to a head in a climactic confrontation between Pain-Nagato and the Konoha ninja. By this point in the story, Naruto has lost his mentor/father figure Jiraya (the Pervy Sage mentioned in the clip), and many of his friends to Pain-Nagato and his goons. So Naruto has reasons for revenge, but it’s very interesting how this plays out. Pain-Nagato and Naruto have a one-on-one conversation, and we see if all of Pain’s antagonism will cause Naruto to “fall” by choosing revenge and the normal “ninja route,”or will Naruto be able to find a different path?

Watch this pivotal scene from Naruto Shippuden, and you’ll see what I mean:

https://youtu.be/YfnI-6o9nFk

“Words of forgiveness come easy. Love does not.” Man, I love that line. But that’s beside the point – do you see how Pain-Nagato baits and plays Naruto, riling him (Naruto) up and egging him on?

(NARUTO SPOILERS END HERE :P)

A good antagonist always causes the Protagonist to move forward in the plot. Whether that means a “fall from grace” or a character progression really depends on the story. But a fully fledged antagonist has their own motives and complete character arc as well – and they are affected by the MC’s arc. (For example, in Naruto, Naruto’s final words and actions not only impact Pain-Nagato, but everyone around them).

For an antagonist to have impact – their choices have to be nearly equal or equal to the importance of those of the MC.

And this brings us to our last definition – The Antihero.

I won’t drone on as long about this character type (and you should definitely read Victoria’s excellent post), because most people are familiar with them. However, I will use two of my favorite examples: Light Yagami (Kira) from Death Note, and Dean Winchester from Supernatural.

These two young men couldn’t be more different, but they’re both antiheroes and (one of the) main protagonists of their respective series. We’ll start with Light.

Light is introduced as a morally upstanding, scholarly, brilliant student. He’s a model son, and he’s very sure of right and wrong. But when he finds the Death Note*, Light suddenly has power to change the world.

 *(The Death Note is a notebook that belongs to a "death god." If it falls into the human world, it belongs to the person who finds it, and any name they write in the note will cause the death of the named person)

Light, with his strong morals, feels that he is the perfect person to hold life and death in his hands, and he quickly begins to “execute” criminals by writing their names in the note.

Now you or I might see problems right off, but hang with me for a minute. Surprisingly, Light makes some very convincing arguments, and he has a lot of charisma. You find yourself hoping he won’t get caught almost as much as you hope he will get caught! However, this kind of godlike power quickly goes to Light’s head.

Image not mine – quotes from Death Note – found here

As detectives close in (particularly the sketchy, eccentric “L”), Light gets more and more corrupted and indiscriminate about the people he kills. And every time he takes a life, he become more immune to his actions. After all, he doesn’t have to actually deal with doing the deed himself. It’s all very neat and removed. So ultimately, though Light believes in right and wrong, and that evil should be punished, he is the ultimate moral authority on his own actions. But he’s still the protagonist of the series, making him an antihero (or a non-conventional hero). You’ll have to read the manga or watch the anime to see what happens, but it’s a very cleverly constructed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Dean Winchester, on the other hand, could not be more different from Light. Dean is rough-edged, violent, under educated, and frequently boorish. He has low tastes, and he is perfectly happy with himself (at least early on). He’s as far from the classic “hero mold” as you can get without having an outright malefactor. So what makes him an antihero? Despite all of the above, Dean frequently makes the moral choice when the going gets tough.

Image not mine, found here

If there is a child in danger, Dean will risk his life for them. If saving his brother means losing his own life, he’ll do it in a heartbeat. If stopping innocent deaths means doing something horrible like crawling into a ghoul nest or luring monsters to himself, Dean will do it with little hesitation. Even if he makes bad choices, or does terrible things, he is usually driven by his love for his brother (or his friends), and his desire to save others.

In a nutshell: regardless of Dean’s inclinations or motives, when he has to choose between doing the right (non self-serving) thing or walking away, he eventually chooses the right (harder) choice. This is what makes him an antihero – a non-conventional hero who does the right thing when it counts.

The one thing that villains, antagonists, and antiheroes all have in common is a strong, driving motivation, and a completely developed character.

While they may cross over into the same thing, they are distinct, different words. And ultimately, when crafting any character, you have to ensure that they have a complete arc that is pivotal to the story.

This is probably redundant, but I believe you can’t ask it enough: what does your opposing side/force/character want from the world, and how does that put them in the way of your protagonist?

As long as your characters are well-rounded characters first, with motives, stories, and consistency, then it doesn’t matter which role they play. I’m sure you’ll pull them off well 🙂

So what do you think makes a good villain, antagonist, or antihero? Do you think it’s important that we use precise language, or do you not really care about definitions? What are some of your favorite examples of these types of characters?

TTT: Top 10 Books I Love but I Just Haven’t Talked About As Much (with quotes!)

toptentuesday
Copyright : The Broke and the Bookish

I know for myself (and probably most of you) that there are tons of books I’ve read that I absolutely loved – I just don’t talk about them as much. So naturally, I had to participate in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday (if you don’t know what that is, click here) hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. So let’s get started.

lets-get-down-to-business-gif
Mulan = one of the best movies ever.

Top 10 Books I Love (I Just Don’t Talk About Them Much)

  1. The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine (first read in 2001)

9780060293154
This is the cover I have

I love Ella Enchanted, but I actually prefer The Two Princesses of Bamarre. I discovered it in a tiny Northern Michigan bookstore when we were on vacation (15 years ago, *cough, cough*). At the age of twelve, I was obsessed with fantasy and still high off of reading through The Lord of the Rings by myself a couple of times (my dad read it to us when we were little). I was also at that stage when you’ve fallen in love with something (in my case, the feeling that LOTR gave me), and you read ravenously, just trying to find that feeling. This is also around when I discovered Robin McKinley and Patricia Wrede, who have remained lifelong favorites as well. Anyhow, this is a story about the bond between two sisters – one who starts out as the classic “hero,” and the other, who becomes a hero. And it was way before Frozen. ;P

“I put my fingers around the unmarked ring of the spyglass and twisted. The scene became clear. 
Oh no! A hairy brown spider clung to a vine! I couldn't go there!
I'd go to the desert to find a dragon. I began to reset the spyglass, but then I stopped myself. A spider was worse than a dragon?
No.
My first monsters would be spiders, then.” 

2. Dragon’s Milk (The Dragon Chronicles) by Susan Fletcher

“The wild creatures of the earth are as milk for the human spirit; to destroy them is to starve our souls.”

I love these covers <3

While Susan Fletcher is better known for Shadow Spinner (another one of my all time favorites), her Dragon Chronicles were some of the books I reread repeatedly growing up. It’s somewhere between MG and YA, as  I recall. The heroine, Kaeldra, is a gawky, awkward girl who gets thrust into a difficult situation – she basically becomes orphaned Draclings (baby dragons) nanny, in a world where dragons are misunderstood and hated. There are two sequels that take place in the same world, and I remember liking them just as much.

3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

“We have our clothes, some more splendid than others,—this is our credit; but when a man dies he has only his skin;”

Over a thousand gripping pages (really!), The Count of Monte Cristo is an epic adventure and revenge drama with complex characters and intricate morality. Edmond Dantes is wrongfully imprisoned, and he swears to get the ultimate revenge on the man who put him there. Will Edmond follow his path to the end, or will his convictions and his fear of Heaven stop him before it’s too late? You’ll have to read it to find out. And if you saw that movie, it left out, well, almost the entire book. Another one of my all-time favorite novels, and a definite influence on my writing. On an interesting side note, the nonfiction book The Black Count (about Dumas’ father-an inspiration for a lot of the Count’s adventures) is also well worth the read.

“There are men who have suffered and who have not only gone on living, but even built a new fortune on the ruins of their former happiness. From the depths into which their enemies have plunged them, they have risen again with such vigor and glory that they have dominated their former conquerors and cast them down in their turn.”

4. The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip

One of the most beautifully written, lyrical fantasies I have ever read. It’s my favorite one of McKillip’s novels, and the one that made me track down her other novels. Sixteen year-old Sybel is given a baby to raise, even though her only companions up to that point were a fantastical menagerie of creatures. This book is gorgeous, magical, and if you haven’t read it, you should. A strong female lead, enduring themes, and amazing prose – this is one of those “so close to perfect it hurts” novels.

“What do you think love is- a thing to startle from the heart like a bird at every shout or blow? You can fly from me, high as you choose into your darkness, but you will see me always beneath you, no matter how far away, with my face turned to you. My heart is in your heart. I gave it to you with my name that night and you are its guardian, to treasure it, or let it whither and die. I do not understand you. I am angry with you. I am hurt and helpless, but nothing will fill the ache of the hollowness in me where your name would echo if I lost you.”

5. Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis

“Holy places are dark places. It is life and strength, not knowledge and words, that we get in them. Holy wisdom is not clear and thin like water, but thick and dark like blood.”

“I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”

I might have mentioned this book in passing, but I haven’t sung its praises enough. This was the last work Lewis completed, but it started out as one of his earliest projects. Most people know how C. S. Lewis loved Greek Myths and classic literature. Till We Have Faces is the story of Cupid and Psyche told from Psyche’s sister Orual’s perspective. But it isn’t a simple retelling – it’s a complex, dense, thought-provoking, and deeply philosophical novel that thoroughly explores the nature of love itself. Till We Have Faces is nothing you would expect if you’re only familiar with The Chronicles of Narnia – it’s more akin to The Four Loves, or C.S. Lewis’s essays on the power of myths and legends. If I could just take a handful of books to a deserted island, this would be one of them.

“Oh, I can see it happening, age after age, and growing worse the more you reveal your beauty: the son turning his back on the mother and the bride on her groom, stolen away by this everlasting calling, calling, calling of the gods. Taken where we can't follow. It would be far better for us if you were foul and ravening. We'd rather you drank their blood than stole their hearts. We'd rather they were ours and dead than yours and made immortal.” 

6. Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer

“Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.”

Twelve. Millionaire. Genius. Criminal. Artemis Fowl is all of those things. And Eoin Colfer sells it with the writing equivalent of a cheeky grin and a magician’s sleight of hand. One of my favorite middle grade series ever, Artemis Fowl is laugh out loud funny. The characters are hilarious, the plots are crazy, and at the center are the epic odd couple of Artemis and his loyal butler, Butler. Yes – Butler. Butler is the other best thing about these books.

“That was horrible. Horrible. That poor little guy."
Pex was unrepentant. "Yeah, well, he asked for it. Calling us ... all those things."
But---buried alive! That's like in that horror movie. Y'know -- the one with all the horror."
I think I saw that one. With all the words going up on the screen at the end?"
Yeah, that was it. Tell you the truth, those words kinda ruined it for me.”

7. The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf (The Squire’s Tales #3) by Gerald Morris

“I said you lie, knave!” shouted Beaumains, drawing his sword. “And for telling such craven falsehoods, you must die!”
The knight looked plaintively at Roger. “What’s wrong with this fellow?”
He was dropped on his head when he was a baby,” answered Roger.”

This book is hysterical – even if you haven’t read the Arthurian original that it reinterprets (The Kitchen Knight). I loved every book in this series, but this one is a definite stand out. It takes Arthurian story constructs and constants, and turns them completely on their heads, all while keeping the basic story intact. With its witty, sharp-tongued heroine, a dash of faeries, crazy characters, and of course, the aforementioned sense of humor, this is another book I’ve read repeatedly.

8Sorcery & Cecelia: or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede & Caroline Stevermer

“I am determined to have the headache Thursday, if I have to hit myself with a rock to do it.”

Manners, Magic, and Mayhem

The concept behind this book is positively brilliant: two writers decided to write letters to each other, assuming the characters of Regency girls with magical aptitude. Their letters became this delightful light fantasy novel that mixes Jane Austen with Diana Wynne Jones’ style magic and hilarity. The sequel, The Grand Tour is equally funny, and highly recommended.

“She probably enjoys cutting up everyone's happiness. Not to mention cutting up other parts of people; given her penchant for poisoning people and turning them into beech trees, I fail to see how she has reached thirty without leaving a trail of bodies behind her.” 

9. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

While I’ve mentioned my affection for Pearl’s writing, I doubt I’ve praised this book enough. Dante’s Inferno is a favorite of mine, and this historical novel surrounds the translation of the Inferno made by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Oh, and there’s murder most foul, as well.* But who doesn’t like to watch a group of middle-aged writers solve a murder, all while being terribly literary?

“The force of Dante's poetry resonated most in those who did not confess the Catholic faith, for believers would inevitably have quibbles with Dante's theology. But for those most distant theologically, Dante's faith was so perfect, so unyielding, that a reader found himself compelled by the poetry to take it all to heart.”

10. The Kestrel (Westmark Trilogy #2) by Lloyd Alexander

The dedication in this book: “To those who know they are only human, but strive to be nothing less.”

Lloyd Alexander is another author I’ve touched on at times – with his excellent Prydain Chronicles being one of my favorite MG fantasy series ever. I’ve also named off Westmark in passing. But The Kestrel is one of the first, and best YA novels (that I have read) to deal with the trauma of war and fighting (especially for causes you believe in). Theo, the young printer’s devil from the first book, convincingly transforms into the Kestrel, a fearsome warrior and bogeyman to haunt the enemies dreams. Humanity, hatred, fear, rage- this book covers it all, in a surprisingly slim package. There are touches of Les Miserables and A Tale of Two Cities (two more of my all-time favorite novels), but it’s an easier read. Not convinced? Read this excellent review and see if it changes your mind.

Well, if nothing else, I’ve learned that I need a shelf just for silly fantasy novels (I hadn’t realized what a great favorite they were of mine until I started working on this list!)

Have you read any of these books, or do you intend to?

What are some favorite books that you don’t mention enough?

Lovely Books: 10 Literary Couples I Was Actually Invested In (With Fanart!) (February 15th, 2016)

THIS POST ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON MY OTHER BLOG – on February 15th, 2016

Image Source: Adventure Awaits/Tracey Dyck

Well, I’m behind on reading and reviewing, so I tossed it all out the window and decided to join Tracey Dyck’s new February link-up: Lovely Books (Adventure Awaits)

This is a new link-up that goes live the Saturday of every month. Rules (very few rules) can be found here. Since Lovely Books is all about loving on books with other bloggers and bookworms, I knew I had to join in. I totally missed the first one, but the second one was, you guessed it, Valentine's Day themed.

In unintentional rebellion, I’m doing it for President’s Day.*

Looking good, George.
But, yes, favorite literary couples. I'm slightly embarrassed that I did a total mind blank on this at first. I love books and characters, but I never get that invested in romantic plots. That being said, there are some couples in fiction that were so awesome, I felt my heart clenching in concern for them.** That's some mighty fine writing, my friends. (I intentionally ruled out all manga/comic book couples, because that was easier and required less mental straining)***

Warning: Some of these might be a little spoilery (but I find that figuring out romantic plotlines is one of the easiest to do, so probably not).

There is also fanart. So enjoy! (All art is credited when possible and belongs to the artist. It is not being used for any profit/marketing/or anything other than promoting awesome artists)

1. Howl and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle

Unfortunately, I have no idea who the artist is! 🙁 I want to credit them. Source: Tumblr
It's a testament to the late Diana Wynne Jones' writing that she made us all fall in love with someone as awful as Howl. He's a spoiled brat of a wizard, albeit a brilliant one, and his antics are too funny. On the other hand, I think Sophie is one of the great unsung heroines of literature. She's smart, sensible, and forced to spend most of the book in the (fitting) guise of an old woman. Howl really doesn't deserve her - though I defy you to not want them to end up together. This a charming fantasy that resembles Beauty and the Beast, if the Beast was attractive in looks but not behavior, and the Beauty had a beautiful spirit but was a little old woman on the outside. A must read.
Sophie proving her love – movie version

2. Eugenides (the Thief) and Irene (the Queen of Attolia)

Attolia + Attolis by annmarieri on Deviantart
In Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series, the story of how Irene comes to respect Gen as a man and an equal is an impressive, mature look at love and relationships. And these books aren't  romances at all. They're based around a fantasy world that resembles Ancient Greece and Rome, full of intrigue, deception and lethal scheming. In the center of it all is Eugenides, the titular Thief, whose charm, wit, and quick fingers get him in and out of loads of trouble. When he starts falling in love with the powerful, proud, and disdainful Queen of Attolia, things get messy, and deadly, fast. Just read it, I don't want to give too much away.
Via Natroze on Tumblr – so funny!

3. Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing.

Love this – poster from Ali de Souza’s 2011 production
Much Ado is one of the deepest, and yet most entertaining, comedies from the Bard. If you get the chance to see it live, take it, as it's hilarious to see the action. Beatrice and Benedick are the bachelors, the confirmed singles who have sworn of love, marriage, and everything in between. Their relationship is realistic and funny, contrasted with the "love at first sight" of Hero and Claudio. My second favorite couple in Shakespeare is the Macbeths - who put the bad in badass and are scary as all get out. They're also hopelessly devoted to each other. Take that, Romeo and Juliet.
She has such a way with words, you know.

4. Sabriel and “Touchstone”  from Sabriel. 

 

 

Image Copyright: Laura Tolton

 

Image Copyright: Laura Tolton
Another pair from a book that isn't really romantic. Garth Nix's Sabriel is awesome. Sabriel is the Abhorsen, a sort of reverse necromancer that puts the dead back, as opposed to calling them up. When she's forced to take on the responsibilities of her father (the current Abhorsen), Sabriel must leave the safety of school to confront all the powers of darkness. She's a feminine, authentic girl who is  way cooler than anyone you've met, yet identifiable. She's also strong, very strong, in a quiet way that never screams "I can do anything a man can do!" Her relationship with Touchstone is believable, touching, and humorous. READ THIS BOOK. (Artist Laura Tolton has an amazing gallery with more Abhorsen related works - check it out.)

5. Kate and Christopher, from The Perilous Gard, by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

Christopher Heron by Whimsical Cow on Deviantart.com

Another book I’ve read that no one else seems to have heard of. And it’s their loss, because The Perilous Gard is one of the best YA novels ever. Really.

Kate Sutton by WhimsicalCow on Deviantart.com
It's set in 1558, and the historical accuracy makes this the most believable novel I've read about the Fae. Kate is the heroine, exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to the Perilous Gard of the title. It's an unwelcoming place, full of secretive inhabitants, including the handsome, rude, and mysterious Christopher Heron. Their relationship has a bit of the Jane Eyre-Mr. Rochester dynamic, but without all the creepiness (Christopher just acts like the type of guy who'd hide a wife in the attic, but he isn't). And there is a sad lack of fan art for this book! However, Jenn Rothwell's (Whimsical Cow) illustrations are perfect.

6. Gemma and KartikThe Sweet Far Thing (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy #3) by Libba Bray

Image Copyright Sam Schechter
I read this book a long time ago (whenever it first came out), but to be honest, the only thing I really remember is the ending - and Gemma and Kartik's characters. I always liked these two fine, but I didn't really care about their romance until, gulp, it was threatened by death and destruction and mayhem. I'll warn you, they don't get a "happy ending." But it's a beautiful finale that really proved how much they meant to each other. In other words, we had real, self-sacrificial love, that made sense, in a YA novel. Not kidding. And yes, fine, they had good chemistry and a convincing relationship too. At least, as far as I remember . . .
Dragon Fire by Leanna Crossan

7. Aerin and Luthe from The Hero and the Crown

Robin McKinley really likes her bittersweet endings. A lot. The Hero and the Crown is no exception. Somehow, her characters seem to make more adult decisions than most YA protagonists. Which means that these two do not end up together - because it would be irresponsible. Cue my twelve-year-old tears.

Yes, I really did cry for them when I was twelve. I just wanted them to be okay, you know? It doesn't affect me like this anymore (I'm all "hooray for people making the right choice instead of the romantic one"), but I still like them together. After fifteen years, it would be a shame if they weren't on this list.

There is basically zero fan art, or art at all, of either Aerin or Luthe. Sadly.

8. Luthien and Beren from the Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

Beren, Luthien, and Huan by Steamey on Deviantart.com

Tolkien wasn’t known for romance, but is there anything more romantic than disguising as monsters to infiltrate “worse than Mordor” to steal a mystical gem from a guy who makes Sauron cower?

I didn’t think so.

Beren and Lúthien against Carcaroth by Justin Gerard
In fact, Luthien and Beren are so hardcore that they die and come back to life, mainly because Luthien is so stubborn that she refuses to lose her man after everything they've been through. It's pretty epic.(I love all of Tolkien's couples, but Luthien and Beren are definitely my favorite!). On a side note, I could probably fill about five posts with all the quality fanart of these two, so narrowing it down to just a couple pictures was hard.
Cinder by chrysalisgrey on deviantart.com

9. Kai and Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Prince Kaito, Cinder, and Iko by Mari945
I admit that I was rooting for them just because I loved both of their characters separately.

Kai's evolution from a slightly silly prince into a seriously impressive Emperor was one of the highlights of the series. And Cinder is the sort of character I love the minute they're introduced. Practical, no-nonsense, not afraid to laugh at herself, headstrong, determined, you get it. I can relate (and I'll add that I wouldn't say no to Kai either . . .).Cute fanart aboundeth for these two.

10. Morwen and Telemain from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

Forest Scene by chibi-oneechan on Deviant.com
(I couldn't find art I liked of these two, but I did find some gorgeous forest art that reminds me of the entire series)

If you know who Morwen and Telemain are, can we be friends? I love this quirky little fantasy series, and the whole Morwen + Telemain thing is a definite highlight. Granted, the fact that they like each other isn't confirmed until very late in the series, and it is a side thing, but it was obvious.

They're hilarious every time they interact - the ultimate odd couple in denial. She's a sensible witch with a lot of opinionated cats, and he's an absent-minded magician (not a wizard) who relies on endless theories and experiments instead of raw power. Classic.

So there you have it: 10 of My Favorite Fictional Couples

True. Love.
The trick to getting me invested is making me care so deeply about the character that I want what they want.
A good author can make you feel a little heady during a romantic scene. A great author can make your heart ache with the characters, make you want their “happy ending” for them so badly that you confuse it with your own feelings. And a brilliant author will do all of the above without you realizing it happened until it’s too late 😉

What was the last fictional couple you got invested in? Why did you care (or not care) about a fictional relationship? Do you tend to anticipate the romantic bits, or are you like me, and distracted by swordfights? Have you read any of these books? Why not?

 Footnotes:
*George and Martha approved
 **Confession time: I actually have a fictional couples themed Pinterest board.
 ***Winter Soldier + Black Widow <3