Saturday, March 12, 2016

Senior Year Reflection

At school over the past few weeks, a couple of friends of mine have received letters they wrote to their future selves back at the start of high school. It was interesting to read though them and compare the voice of the 9th grader versions of my friends to the people I know now, if only to marvel at how much everyone has changed. I don't blog a lot about personal things on here - in fact, I don't write personal things very much in general, don't do any kind of diary keeping, although at times I wish I did. I feel changes a lot in myself. I'm nowhere near the 9th grade version of myself, and while I've certainly deteriorated in some respects, I've changed in ways that only come with time. I wish I could see how.

Now that my senior year is coming to a close, I'd like to reflect and return to this in a few years to see how I've changed. And of course I'm publishing it. I would lose it otherwise.

So, to my future self. 
Smile you dumbass. Maybe you're still pretty awesome.

This year I feel like my work load completely loosened up, although in retrospect, it didn't. I loosened up. I had very little semblance of time management this year, and although I had so much more time than I did any year of high school (I dropped a job, blogged way less frequently, only competed in speech once, etc. yikes I am embarrassed) I was a million times less productive. I can't remember the last time I just had a super-focused work day. I haven't zoned out distractions in a long time. And, to be honest, I don't feel very much happier because of it. It wasn't a proper vacation because I was always procrastinating and half worrying about assignments, and by the end of the year, I feel midway between frazzled and defeated. There's a certain order and peace of mind that comes with a regimented lifestyle, which is why I love making schedules and planning out workdays. I planned a lot this year. I very rarely followed through. Part of it has been this conviction just get to senior year and you can relax just get to senior year just get to senior year and take a breathe and perhaps I didn't know quite how to deal.

It's my second year at the highschool I go to, and this is the third time in my life I go to a school for only two years before I move away. And every singe time, the second year by far surpasses the first. Yes, I am excited for my first year of college, but I;m a tad more excited for my second year. That's when you really develop friends. That's when you find people you can trust and people you can always count on to laugh with you and people you know will accept you and just the right people. I don't know. Maybe it just gets better the third year. And the fourth. I wouldn't know. But this year, I've met some amazing people. People who've inspired and amazed me, who made me laugh and brought up my spirits, who talked me through things and rolled their eyes at the nuances of my life. To my future self, I wonder who you're still touch with. There are two people I really really hope you're still super close with. But so things go. I do wonder who you're still in touch with. And if you've gotten far from even those two individuals, call them up. Call them up and ask to go on a day trip or spend a few days together in a city and watch plays and eat. Try, at least. That;s the kind of person I hope you are.

Here, I'll tell you a little thing that made you really happy the other day. In effort to protect the privacy of individuals, let's just go by initials and call her AJ. You were supposed to room together at Cal before you ditched (are you still the kind of person that ditches? absolutely disgusting. I hope you've changed.) We were on the bus, and so I had turned around in my seat and laid my legs on top of her lap, and we were contemplating how we could, in theory, be really good roommates. Except, of course, we weren't going to the same place. "If you go in psychiatry, you have to go through med school. Maybe we can live together in an apartment for grad. Here, here, I'll tell you what. You go to Stanford med and I'll go there for a phD." "No, you can't stay in California for grad too. No, we have to move." "Ok fine. You go to Harvard and I'll go to MIT. Or, we can both go to UPenn. Their med school and their phD programs are both great. Either one. Your choice." And, yes, it's way too far off to even talk about things like that. But it's the silly magical kind of talk that gives me hope. That says, right now we can both look that far ahead. And there's nothing more I can ask for because nobody knows the future.

And now I have to go study for a bio and physics final and memorize my Shakespeare lines. This entry was written, true to habit, at the height of procrastination. And to my future self, I hope you still have hope. And I hope you're still happy.*

*I wrote this around May of 2015 but it never got published

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

East of Eden. Quotes. Cathy.

East of Eden, by John Steinbeck, is one of the books on my 'The 65' list of classics (see that here). It's one of the few books that's been recommended to me over and over again, from not literary-focused people, which is (obviously) how one judges the merit of a book. I'm kidding. But it really is phenomenal. I don't know how much of a review I can write, since, according to The New York Times, it's a '"masterpiece", but it's so quotable (stunning writing. Steinbeck is up there in my top three favorites, and I feel that he has such an astute understanding of human nature and human struggles), and because I love collecting quotes, here are some of my favorites from the first quarter (Legally, I think you may only share %10 of a copyrighted book, but since the book is more than 300 pages, making %10 about 30 pages, I think I'm fine).

(From Penguin Twentieth Century Classics, 1992 edition (intro by David Wyatt), library binding)

"You can boast about anything if it's all you have. Maybe the less you have, the more you are required to boast." (4)

"It is argued that because they believed thoroughly in a just, moral God that they could put their faith there and let the smaller insecurities take care of themselves" (12)

"No one could call him a liar. And this was mainly because the lie was in his head, and any truth coming from his mouth carried the color of the lie."(18)

"She stayed close enough to the truth so that one could never be sure. She knew two other methods also - either to interlard her lies with truth or tell a truth as though it were a lie. If one is accused of a lie and it turns out to be the truth, there is a backlog that will last a long time and protect a number of untruths."(74)

"In all such local tragedies time works like a damp brush on watercolor. The sharp edges blur, the ache goes out of it, the colors melt together, and from the many separated lines a solid gray emerges"(89)

"In human affairs of danger and delicacy successful conclusion is sharply limited by hurry. So often men trip by being in a rush."(240)

"'I don't very much believe in blood,' said Samuel. 'I think when a man finds good or bad in his children he is seeing only what he planted in them after they cleared the womb.'
'You can't make a race horse of a pig.'
'No,' said Samuel, 'but you can make a very fast pig.'"(282-263)

"I have wondered why it is that some people are less affected and torn by the verities of life and death than others. Una's death cut the earth from under Samuel's feet and opened his defended keep and let in old age. On the other hand Liza, who surely loved her family as deeply as did her husband, was not destroyed or warped. Her life continued evenly. She felt sorrow but she survived it."(290)

The story focuses on the theme of good overcoming evil, this idea of timshel, which is Hebrew for thou mayest. Evil is not fated to win, because man has the choice to overcome (and not follow in the footsteps of previous generations). Again, the idea of sins being carried down for father to son, and that man actually has the choice to overcome those sins. This is all exemplified through the story, but the parallels are really easy to see. According to the book jacket of the edition I have, this is a "modern retelling of the Genesis", and I do agree. Even though I've never read the Genesis. Go figure.

Goodreads blurb:

Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence.

Otherwise, I did do some research on what critics have said of the book, etc., and again and again, the character of Adam's wife, Cathy, comes up. She's said to be one of the novel's greatest weaknesses in that she so thoroughly embodies evil that she borders on being an unbelievable character. Not at any point in the book do we see any motive, and as Steinbeck puts it, we don't know what she is running to or what she's running toward. Yet when later asked of what he though of Cathy' character, Steinbeck said that he knew people like Cathy.

I agree with Steinbeck. It seems as if there is this seed of inherent evil in some people. Forget the background, forget the motive, forget the nature vs. nurture psychology. Some individuals are just bad. There are several accounts of twins or triplets growing up to be radically different personalities (there was a story some time ago about a criminal and his twin lawyer), and even taking into consideration that they probably didn't have the exact same experiences growing up, it seems to suggest that there is such thing as inherent character. 

Ah yes.

“Nothing is easier than to denounce the evildoer; nothing is more difficult than to understand him.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Spoiler: A new film adaptation of this book is being produced, and Jennifer Lawrence plays the character of Cathy. Oh no.

Friday, February 6, 2015


For the past few weeks, I've been dealing with an immense deal of anxiety. I'm jittery. Something's off. Restless, oh so restless, and there's something I need to do, but I don't know what it is, no, no, there are so, so many things I need to do and they're just hanging there, wisps, and whenever I try to grab on to them to disappear, but I can still see glimmers from the corner of my eye. I'm drowning, and the water's soaking through, and it's filling my lungs and stomach and weighing me down and dripping from my ears and from the corner of my mouth. It's salty, like tears. I'm drowning in the middle of a desert. And I'm utterly exhausted. There's so much confusion. There's a hubbub of voices and thoughts and worries, beating down, pounding, every one louder than the other, shrill screaming, grabbing at the threadbare cloth of my attention. They tug, and it stretches.

I project everything. I deal with every single little nuance in my life by projecting. I know I talk a lot, and goodness knows I get annoyed at myself for talking so much. I'm confident that I can find two people out there, who, put together, would remember more about my life than I do. I share stuff - that's just who I am. I imagine this entire post would be better suited for a private journal entry or a therapeutic conversation session with a friend (and if you're reading this Tiffany, you are the beloved therapeutic friend), and yet here it is, a blog post, for the entire world to see.

"Oh, you just don't understand me"

A lot of people say that phrase. And just through that, I imagine, we understand each other. Brought together through mutual isolation.
As Terence McKenna put it:
“The cultural enterprise is an effort to turn ourselves inside out. We want to put the body into the imagination, and we want the imagination to replace the laws of physics.” 

That strikes a chord with me. We, as humans, are so limited in our communication. There's stuff - more than just thoughts or ideas - in my mind, and I want to convey those to someone else. How easy it would be to truly turn ourselves inside out. We try, don't we? Facial expressions. Body language. Language and words and an enormously extensive vocabulary. We touch (and for anyone who knows me, this is why I love, love, love hugging others), intimate fleeting physical connections, but again and again, we fail. We fail to transmit.

Here I am, feeling absolutely down in the gutters, and on my Youtube newsfeed, the following video pops up. This one is by far one of my favorite nerdfighter episodes. I have so much to say it probably deserves its own post, but it lifted my spirits, if only a smidgen.

"You get successes, but you don't get success

"And most fantastically of all, we make ourselves"

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Festivities. Yes, Festivities. (A month too late, I might add)

You see, my mother is a vegetarian most days. But two days before Thanksgiving, she decides that family comes first - family must always come first, always - and adjustments must be made. But to buy just any turkey would be too big of a step, and so maybe it will be organic? Farm raised? Pesticide and preservative free? No, no, that's much too common. Kosher, then. She goes to Whole foods, but alas, there's a whole aisle of kosher turkeys. No, no, much too common. Halal, she decides. Ah, even Whole Foods doesn't carry halal turkeys. Yelp says there's a small shop close by, and so she drives over. The shop is small, musty, and smells of Indian spices. Cardamom? The man at the cash register is the only man in the store. When he sees her heading for the back meat department, he runs over and puts on his apron. "A turkey, please," she says. There are seven turkeys sitting behind the glass, and with a flourish, he presents them, as if beckoning her to choose. "I'm not sure which one. I'm a vegetarian." The man doesn't bat an eye. He's seen much worse than this lady, and so he merely picks up the center turkey, wraps it in paper, sticks the price sticker on, takes off his apron, and runs to the front cash register. My mother is now back in her car, redoing her bun. The wrapped turkey sits in the seat next to her, and together they start driving home. Half a mile from out house, my mother remembers the stuffing. Turkeys are always stuffed - how silly of her to forget. It must be the vegetarianism getting to her. She leaves the turkey in the passenger seat, and runs into Safeway. There are so many boxes of stuffing, row upon row, and once again, everything is much too common. Bottom shelf, to the right, she spots it: Vegan, 100% organic, garlic flavored stuffing. She figures the vegan stuffing and the turkey will cancel each other out (meat + vegan = vegetarian, simple math, she thinks), and her conscience is pleased that she'll be enjoying a vegetarian meal. The stuffing box shows a stuffed turkey surrounded by plates and plates of sides. She flies through the store, using the stuffing box as a template. Cranberry sauce. Pie. Mashed potatoes. Cream cheese. Garlic bread. Her cart is now full, and she is confidant that this is going to be the best meal of her life. Because family comes first. She gets back to the car and is overwhelmed by an odd stench. It seems to be coming - oh yes, it most certainly is coming from the turkey. It's still sitting in the passenger seat, and the brown paper it is wrapped in is now soaked through. It's as if the turkey is sweating. She touches it, and it's quite warm. Ah, she'll pop it in the freezer as soon as she gets home.

My father's at work, but he's not really there. His mind is on the sales. Amazon has some early deals out, and he's regularly uploading the page. Costco's website say they have a $500 Armani watch on sale in stores, and in half an hour, he's off from work. He just hopes he can get there before they're sold out because these black Friday deals are selling out like hotcakes if the Amazon deals are any indication. Score! He gets to Costco on time and gets the watch. He puts it on immediately, and it's a lot heavier than he expected. That's what comes with good value. He reads a few articles on how stores will be opening tomorrow -Thanksgiving - for early sales. There's a lot of controversy, and he sees that some people are even boycotting stores that open on Thanksgiving. He's not sure if he will boycott. Family comes first, the comments say. My wife's vegetarian, he thinks. I'll go catch the sales.

My brother gets off school at 3:30, and so I drive over to pick him up. I get there fifteen minutes early, and smirk at all the cars that drive around and around the parking lot, hoping that a spot will free up. Suckers. He comes running, holding an art project in his hand. It's a hand turkey, but he messed up and drew the turkey face on the pinky, instead of on the thumb. He opens the back door and dumps all his stuff on the seat, and then climbs in to sit next to me. He's too young to sit in the front, and we both know it, so I pretend to be disappointed. I figure since I'm already breaking one law, I might as well break another, and I speed on the way home. He catches it though, and points out that I certainly shouldn't be going over the speed limit if he's sitting up front - imagine how much the ticket would cost then, double infraction. Kid's smarter than I thought.

My mother's on the phone when we get home. It's on speaker, and it sounds like the woman from Best Buy customer service. Nasally voice and all. I sneak a look at the number, and it's 1-800-BUTTERBALL. No joke - butterball. My mother's really worried about the turkey. She's not sure how exactly to put it together. It's still smelly, even after she put it in the the freezer for two hours. The lady on the phone is nice, though, and is trying to figure out just how smelly the turkey is. "I'm a vegetarian. I don't know how turkeys are supposed to smell". The lady asks if the smell was like that from the moment she bought the turkey, and my mother explains that it only started smelling after she left it in the car. The lady is now suggesting that she buy another turkey, but she just looked up the Halal shop and it closed half an hour ago. She's not sure what to do, but there must be a family dinner. She sets everything on the table: the pie, the potatoes, everything she bought this morning. She figures she'll wait for her husband to some home, and see what he thinks of the turkey. Maybe it doesn't really smell bad. She hopes it doesn't smell bad. In fact, she's kind of sure that she became a vegetarian because meats always smelled bad, and no she's positive that the turkey is fine. The recipe online says the turkey should slow cook in the oven for about 12 hours, so she'll marinate it now, and stick it in the oven right before she goes to bed.

My father comes home a little early. He stations himself at the Mac, sets his cup of coffee in front of him, lays out all his credit cards on the computer table, and opens up the tabs to all of the online stores he expects good deals from. His iPhone is in his left hand, and he keeps on pressing the home button. He brings the phone up to his face, presses the home button, the screen lights up, he checks the time, and then he puts his arm down. He repeats the process every few seconds, and every time he brings his arm up, the watch on his wrist slides down a little, and when he puts it down, the watch slides back up. It's starting to irritate him, so he takes it off. It's now nine o'clock, but the sale prices aren't updated yet. Refresh. Refresh. Is he on the right page? Is he sure 12 AM EST is 9 PM PST? Refresh. Refresh. Nine o' one. The prices are updated. Nobody talk to my father.

As the turkey cooks, the smell wafts upstairs. The heating system is central, so the smell wafts through the air vents into my room before it can waft its way up the stairs. It smells bad. Really bad. I'm sure a turkey is supposed to smell relatively good, so I go downstairs to check if it smells any better at the source. The oven smells even worse. My mom is taking a nap in her room, so I turn to the butterball hotline. The lady says the turkey has gone bad, and that I should just throw it in the trash. It's even bad for compost. I take the turkey out of the oven and throw the whole thing in the bin, pan and all. My brother comes down, sees what I've done, attempts to clap me on the shoulder but instead smacks my tailbone, then sneaks out of the kitchen with a finger to his lip. Good kid.

My mother comes down to the kitchen. She wants to check on the turkey, but when she opens the oven, there's nothing there. She's not sure how to feel. Not quite dismayed, almost reluctantly glad that the turkey is gone. She'll decide what to cook tomorrow.

My brother wakes me up. There's a bad scent in the air, he says. I sniff, but I don't pick up anything. He rolls his eyes, and then throws my covers off me. I'm pissed, but I'm even more lazy to get up and chase him, so I close my eyes and attempt to fall asleep again. Well, I'm leaving, he says. I crack open an eye. Something bad is going to happen today, he says. Mom's not in a good mood, neither is dad, and we're not very helpful. Mom will probably try to use you as her Thanksgiving taste tester. Take me to the park. You see, the problem with this kid is that he's smart. He's going to be a lawyer one day, and everyone is going to hate him. I sigh and roll out of bed. He does have a point. I give him a light smack as I walk out, for waking me up.

Mother wakes up with a jolt. It's Thanksgiving. Her husband is snoring besides her, and so she pokes him, right on the hip bone. She figures since she's getting up early, 'for family', he might as well suffer with her. She vaguely remembers saying something like that in her wedding vows - in sickness or in death, in grief or in misery, they shall suffer together. She gives him another sharp jab, and this time she almost feels like it's her duty. He said the wedding vows, too, after all. He rolls around, and he almost falls off the bed, his right arm and right leg hanging off the edge. She gently nudges him, and smiles as he falls on the floor. Then she gets up. Thanksgiving, she says to him. Rise and shine, 1800-BUTTERBALL. And then she remembers there is no turkey. She rushes to the car as he's still getting up off the floor.

My brother plays on the swings. Then he runs to the slides. Back to the swings. Now it's the monkey-bars. Back to the slide. The playground is completely empty, and it's cold enough that his puffs make clouds in the air. I think I see my mother's car pass by, and it's the only car I see all morning. I sit and watch my brother run around until I can no longer feel my legs or arms, and then tell him it's time to go home. His nose is red and runny, and he says he can't feel his fingers. I put his hand inside my coat pocket as we start to cross the road, but just then, a car just like my mother's whizzes past, in the same direction we're going. I didn't see the driver, but I'm not risking going back to my mother before she's done cooking. Let's stay a little more, I say to my brother. I'll play with you. He removes his freezing fingers from my pocket, passes it over his nose, and then takes off running. Tag, you're it, he yells. I give him a ten second head start.

My mother finds my note on the table. At the park, it says. My father is asleep upstairs - he climbed back into bed right after she left. There were no turkey at Safeway. She went to Sprout's. She wet to Whole Foods. She even went to Lucky. At first, she asked for a Halal turkey. Then she asked for Kosher. At Lucky's, she was just looking for artificial turkey meat. All gone, they said. She was surprised people even bought artificial turkey meat. She asked to speak with the store manager, and he recommend buying a few cod fish fillets. Layer them on top of each other, rub a little glaze, but some turkey stuffing between the two layers, and it tastes exactly like turkey, he said. So she bought the cod fish fillets. She followed his suggestions, and used the breadcrumb stuffing. She had overestimated the time it took for cod to cook, and she had to take it out of the oven at 1 PM. She figured they would just have the Thanksgiving dinner for lunch, so she prepped the side dishes. At 2:30, the table was set. She called her husband down and they ate. Where are the kids, he asked. The thought flashed across her mind - family comes first - but she shook it away. She smiled at him, shrugged, and said, they didn't want food now. And then she ate her cod.

The kids came home late. The lights were all out. Someone was snoring upstairs. They trudged into the kitchen, looking for the turkey. There was nothing there. They looked in the fridge, and found something. It looked odd, and it smelled like fish. They each ate a bowl of cereal, and went upstairs to sleep. 

The father, in his dreams, was trying to buy a dog. It was on sale, a Black Friday special, and it came with a dog house and a year's supply of food. He bought it, but when he got home, he found it was a cat. He went back to the store, and the attendance clerk just shrugged. Cat, dog, animal, they're all the same, she said. He looked at the cat in his arms, but it was a fish. It was flopping around, trying to find water. It's called an Atlantic Cod, she said. In the back of his dream, he heard his daughter say good night. He heard his son say good night. Besides him, his wife turned around, and her elbow dug into his stomach.

*Disclaimer: 75% is made up and bears no resemblance to my family/any people I know. The other 25% is collective knowledge - stuff that I've seen happen in our family, or I have heard stories of, etc. Also, I'm sorry if anything in the story is offensive. I promise, for example, that I in no way am making fun of vegans/vegetarians/anyone. It's just my joke-style.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Infinite Sea

Yaay! Book review!!

Last year or so, I read The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey. I feel like I wrote a review, and so you can probably scroll down and find that, but I loved it. It was super hyped up, ads were everywhere, and there was some speculation on how much money went into promoting it. It paid off though (ha. excuse the pun), because the book, the writing, Yancey, everything was wonderful. And then, the sequel came out. It came out September 16th, and I only first saw it over November break (think November 25 or so (and, side note, that's also when I read it. Why this review took forever, well, time is the longest distance between two places my friends)). The only reason I saw it was because it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award. Bottom line, they didn't hype it up as much as the first book. It makes sense, because it is the second book in the series, but I was just so disappointed that it had been released without my knowledge...It was a fantastic book though, so that all makes up for it.

How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.
Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.
Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate. 

As for my thoughts. Compared to the first book, which I rated a 5/5 stars on Goodreads (although it was more like 50/5 stars in my head), this book is more like a 4/5 stars. I still gave it a 5 star rating on Goodreads, because it really is fantastic. Just a little bit less spectacular than the first. Often times what happens in the second book to a trilogy is that it acts as a bridge between the first and the third. Setting things up, building up tension, et cetera. The Infinite Sea was perhaps lacking in the constant action seen in the previous book, but so many questions were answered. I hate to refer to these books as 'alien' books because of the impression it gives off, but a lot of the alien origins, motives, more theoretical aspects were discussed. As in the 5th Wave, lots of wonderful literary devices used. Beautiful similes and metaphors, clever analogies, generally fun trinkets. 

Character wise, we see a lot of the back stories. Cassie takes a much more back seat position, and there's a lot of focus on Ringer. I really, really like Cassie, and not so much Ringer, and I was constantly waiting for the short Cassie-focused chapters. In fact, I would venture as far as to say I didn't like Ringer's character. And seeing how she nearly stars in this book, it speaks volumes that I still love this book.

Yancey is a magnificent writer. I love, love, love his style. He switches between philosophical and serious, gut wrenching, emotional, action packed...

Wonderful. I can't wait for more.

Friday, December 19, 2014


I went to the library today. The children's librarian was in the midst of checking in the books, and she was reading a picture book. Like, flat out, sitting there, flipping through a picture book. Thing is, when I would volunteer at the library, the other volunteers and I (3 people per shift, and we were always there together, so they weren't awkward strangers) would spend half our time reading the picture books. We'd take out little carts to the back room, fill them up, then sit 'for a break' and read a picture book. It got to the point where we were recommending books to each other ("oh, here, did you read this Fancy Nancy one?"). It was awesome.
My point is, y'all are missing out. Try some picture books once in a while. You'll find them to your liking.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lewis Carroll

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on the 65 classic books I wanted to read. (Seriously? You're looking for a link? A) I'm to lazy to link it here, and B) Just scroll down) And now I have 64 books left because I just finished Alice in Wonderland. 

You see, I was just going to read it on my kindle, since it's no longer under copyright, and anyone can download the book through Project Gutenburg. But then I came across this:

And I was all:

Guess what I just spent $28 on? Plus $5 shipping, of course. The book, The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition, is stunning. Hardcover, deep maroon color on the outside, and large print on the inside, in-depth annotations by Martin Gardner, and the original Tenniel illustrations. It's huge, the size of a textbook, but only about 300 pages thick. As is evident, I've turned to reviewing the book itself rather than the story, because they're called classics for a reason. You don't mess with them. The book is great quality, though. Sturdy, and looks expensive. 

But here's my two cents on the story. Annotated Alice includes both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and a short short chapter that was later omitted from the published Alice books. Both are delightful, nonsensical, and just so light. Wonderland, the way the dots don't connect, the sheer silliness, the puns and wordplay, the characters. Hilarious. Also, if you happen to be writing a paper on one of the Alice books, choose Through the Looking Glass. I feel like Alice in Wonderland has a lot more non-analyzable nonsense, whereas the other book, although just as nonsensical, has more depth from a school-paper standpoint. There's quite a bit of macabre humor, which I find hilarious, esspecially because my father has a penchant for macabre humor. The stories themselves sound so innocent, yet Carroll (which is his pen name, by the way) was a very odd man, and so through the entire book, I was thinking 'how could someone like him have written something like this?'. He used to really like little girls, hate boys, and was uncomfortable around older women. The Wikipedia page is particularly interesting, as there are quite a few theories. 

I'd also like to point out that the annotations by Gardner are awesomesauce. Its not like he's doing analysis or explaining any symbolism, but instead offers the background information to things. Some jokes are only funny if you know the back story, and he explains everything from how Cheshire cat same to be to who the drawing of Alice are based on. The introduction he wrote is also hilarious. First ever book introduction I've actually enjoyed reading.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Good Part

We've been reading Plato in English for the past three weeks, and so I feel like my posts are a lot more abstract than usual, and I haven't done a book review in ages (Side note, but oh, myyy, I received my copy of Annotated Alice a few weeks ago, which is positively splendid, but it's much too good for a review, and so I actually reading stuff, but it's just that I'm not posting. I'll do a short 'feelings' post later, though, because Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is one of the 65 - see this post.)
But to get a little theoretical, if you will, what makes parts of a song 'good'? There's this long article, which - gasp - is part of Stanford's Plato website, called The Philosophy of Music. It's incredibly long and even more dense, and so I've done the hard part and read through it. To paraphrase, there is a difference between the aesthetic and artistic value of the song, so first I should define what I mean by 'good'. Furthermore, to quote the page (key points bolded. Really, just read the bolded points. Everything else is for context):

With regard to the value of art in general, there are two central points on which there is some consensus. First, most philosophers take the value of artworks to be intrinsic to them, in the sense that the value of a work is tied essentially to the experience that the work affords. Thus, artworks are not (properly) valued merely instrumentally, as means to some end, but ‘for’ or ‘in’ themselves (Budd 1995, 1–16; S. Davies 1987, 198–200; Scruton 1997, 374–6; Levinson 1992, 15–17). The question that naturally arises next is what it is about the experience an artwork affords that makes it valuable. That pleasure is a non-negligible part of the answer to this question is the second point upon which there is some consensus (S. Davies 1987, 198–205; Levinson 1992; Kivy 1997b, 212–17). However, concomitant with this consensus is an acknowledgement that simple pleasure taken, say, in the pleasant sensuality of the musical sounds is too trivial to ground the great value we attribute to music. In looking for other sources, the puzzle that arises is that music is supposed to be an abstract art, par excellence. If this means that music is divorced from everything else that concerns us in the ‘real world’ (that is, extra-musical life), it is puzzling why we should find so valuable the experiences musical works afford. Like the questions about musical expressivity and understanding considered above, this puzzle is most evident with respect to ‘pure’ instrumental music, though solutions to it may be applicable to the purely musical elements of ‘impure’ musical works such as songs.
There are a couple of dimensions to most solutions of the puzzle of pure music's value. One is the extent to which it is agreed that music really is abstract. To the extent that one thinks that music is not unrelated to the real world, one will be able to argue that music's value is at least no more puzzling than the value of arts more obviously related to the real world, such as literature and representational painting and sculpture. The other dimension to most solutions of the puzzle of pure music's value is the extent to which one thinks the abstractness of music is the source of its value. Thus, two theorists might agree on the extent to which music is related to the real world (by being expressive, say), yet one locate its primary value in that expressivity while the other locates it in its abstract, purely musical features.
Unsurprisingly, perhaps, those who take the experience of music's expressiveness to be a more intimately emotional one (through being predicated on imaginative engagement with the music, say), tend to emphasize that experience as more central to musical understanding, and thus attribute a larger part of music's value to its expressivity. Those, on the other hand, whose theory of the experience of musical expressivity is more distanced (a matter of noticed resemblance, say), tend to place less weight on this element in their theories of musical value. At one extreme of this spectrum is the position that denies music to be expressive at all, and thus cannot attribute music's value to its expressivity (most notably Hanslick (1986); see also Zangwill 2004). Apart from this extreme position, most theorists agree that music's value is to be located in different kinds of experience, including the experience of purely musical features and expressive features; their disagreements are mostly about the relative weight of these different kinds of experiences in a complete account of musical value.
As with the debate between architectonicists and concatenationists, discussed above, the extent of the disagreement between various parties to this dispute is not clear. Those defending the value of music's expressivity tend to claim that its contribution to overall musical value is significant, but they stop short even of according it primary value, and do not argue against the value of purely musical elements of musical works (Ridley 1995, 192–6; Levinson 1982; 1992, 20–2; 1996b 124–5). They content themselves rather with pointing out the ways in which expressivity can be valuable. These include many of the features discussed above with respect to our interest in listening to music that arouses negative affective states in the listener. To recap, our emotional responses to music's expressivity can enable us to savor, understand, and even, to some extent, experience emotions in a ‘safe’ way. They can provide us with a cathartic release, and enable us to participate in a kind of communication with the composer or communion with other members of our musical culture (Levinson 1982; 1996b; Higgins 1991; S. Davies 1994, 271). Emphasizing this last point, Roger Scruton argues that music's value is quasi-moral, in that the kinds of music one responds to, or those valued in a particular culture, reflect the state of that individual's or culture's ‘soul’ (1997, 380–91; see also S. Davies 1994, 275–6.) Stephen Davies (1987, 207–12) has argued that there are beneficial consequences of an interest in music in general, such as heightened emotional and aural sensitivity, which are not properly valued as consequences of listening to individual pieces, but which lead us to value musical culture as a whole (just as we value kindness for its consequences in general, while rejecting instrumental motivations for kind acts) as inappropriate.
On the other hand, those who defend the value of purely musical features tend to argue that the value of those features is primary, and that the value of music's expressivity is overrated. Alan Goldman (1992), for instance, argues against the idea that music is particularly suited to the expression of emotion, claiming that representational arts such as painting and literature are better at this. Moreover, he disputes the grounds of the value of expressivity given above. For example, he denies that music can teach us much about the emotions, and that we can savor our negative emotional responses to expressive music. Similarly, after an extensive discussion of the nature of musical expressiveness, Malcolm Budd argues that such expressiveness cannot come close to explaining music's value (1995, 155–7). He points to the facts that much valuable music is not expressive and that the equal expressiveness of different pieces would be outweighed in a comparative evaluation by the differences between them in terms of their purely musical value.

In Katy Perry's Roar, there's the part where roar is sung as ro-o-o-o-o-or (oh, just listen to it. You'll know what I mean.) (How surprising, huh? Juxtaposition of a Stanford page on Plato, and Katy Perry's Roar. I must admit, I'm quite proud of myself.) A friend was listening to the song when she suddenly turned to me and said "That's my favorite part!". So more precisely, what makes a part of a song better than the other. I'm focusing merely on the pleasure part, the sensuality, because for the expressiveness of the piece to count, it must be viewed as a whole. In the case of Roar, it may be said that the tune is "catchy", and thus the question is what makes something "catchy". It's repetitive, easy to follow, a mediocre melody, range of notes, and kind of nitty-gritty things like that (read a little more about it here, which refers to a study done at Dartmouth on the topic.) 

But take a more melow tune. Devenire, by Ludovico Einaudi. There are swells in the song, faster paced parts, parts that evoke more hopeful feelings, and parts that are a bit darker. Say one prefers the more hopeful bits, where the song flows a dash faster, or is a bit smoother. Is it just a matter of personal taste? Or is it - going back to the Stanford excerpt, more of an experience, and it is the emotions created that are more catchy? What makes a part good?

Socrates usually ends up admitting that he has no idea how to define piety or justice or how to answer his original question, so I'll pull a socrates here and leave you hanging. I admit that I don't know the answer to the my question, and wrote this whole thing just to write. Also, the phrase pulling a socrates sounds clever, doesn't it? I might start using it.

Side note: This is also pretty interesting, although not very enlightening. Might want to check it out, though.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Character Reputation

I was recently listening to a TED talk by John Wooden (which you can listen to here by the way), and he touches on the idea of character reputation. 'Your reputation is who you're perceived to be, your character is who you really are.' 
I did a small google search, and most of the articles were religiously focused, lots of Biblical references, and certainly not the perspective I was looking for. But it's such a nice quote, there really should be more content out there.
Anyhow, isn't our character what we strive to convey? Is not one of our biggest goals, as humans, to connect? We laugh and smile and frown and cry to connect with others. Because how do you know if anyone out here is truly feeling what you feel on the inside. Another great quote that essentially sums up what I'm thinking: “Our destiny is to become what we think, to have our thoughts become our bodies and our bodies become our thoughts.” - Terence McKenna 
But character is more than that. A character is the good and the bad. It's everything we're proud of and everything we regret. And in that sense, we will only portray what we want to be seen of our character. Is there something like a completely good character? No (character flaw, pun intended). But there's still a disconnect between what we want our reputation to be, and what it truly is. Because that lies beyond our grasp. And I think it's quite puzzling to think about, because even we cannot control who we are. How we are perceived is part of who we are, and it's totally up to others. But that makes this entire thing a loop-de-loop. Does your reputation effect who you are on the inside? Do we internalize the way we are portrayed, and as time goes on, turn into a middle person, where out reputation and character have merged, neither a distinct entity, each muddling the other? But what hurts me most is to think there are wonderful characters out there with horrible reputations, and the opposite holds true. Is not the best person he who can maintain his character, without either influencing his reputation nor being influenced by it, yet having them match up?
Then again, I just may be very tired, and it all may be very clear tomorrow morning.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


I've stumbled across this website. It's absolutely magnificent and I couldn't resist sharing. It's called The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, and although it started out as a tumblr page, it's now launching as a video series (all the better. Visuals make is so much more poignant I think). From their page:

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is a new web series by John Koenig. The author’s mission is to capture the aches, demons, vibes, joys and urges that roam the wilderness of the psychological interior. Each sorrow is bagged, tagged and tranquilized, then released gently back into the subconscious.

The writing is positively marvelous, and I feel it puts into words what many of us have trouble describing. And as much as I'd love to use the words in everyday life, it's not a legitimate source, and most of the words in that dictionary are not really words at all (something to think about, huh? What makes a word a word? The fact that it appears and is defined in various dictionaries? Or simply agreed upon by the general public? Selfie was added to the Oxford Dictionary sometime last year or so, only after it had been used in popular culture for quite some time, and yet the word dord (see the post a few weeks back with the video by Micheal Stevens) is a legitimate word but actually first appeared in Merriam-Webster dictionaries as a typographical mistake. It goes both ways I guess.)

Here's one of my favorites:


n. the unsettling awareness of your own heartbeat, whose tenuous muscular throbbing feels less like a metronome than a nervous ditty your heart is tapping to itself, the kind that people compulsively hum or sing while walking in complete darkness, as if to casually remind the outside world, I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Side Note Rant on Authors

Here's the predicament. Usually in books, and especially in YA, certain plot lines are popular at certain times. First it was the Greek and Roman gods stuff, then it was vampires, then paranormal in general, then it was dystopia, and now you also have the entire new NA category popping out, and it's always something that so in demand - and so in production - that it goes in and out - popular, unpopular - faster than runway fashion. And every time, there's that basic plot line the author must follow to write a book that will sell. Change the names, the genders, maybe the reverse the roles here and there, and add a small plot twist with so much foreshadowing it doesn't even count as a twist. Well, I am being kind of unfair here - some authors really do come up with something different and original - but those are few and far between. 
My point is, a lot of books out there are replicas. Also, with how easy it's become (relatively) to self publish a book, so much literature is being produced, just sitting out there.

Pause for a big disclaimer. There are a lot of awesome self publishing authors. Absolutely amazing. There are a lot of authors who are original and have written magnificent pieces of work. That's not who I'm talking about.

But then the question pops up: what constitutes good writing? And what constitutes a good book? Because there is absolute garbage out there that's popular. And people have the right to read what they want. How can you call a book bad if people enjoy it? People say Twilight is horrendous, while others love it. The idea that bad books should not be published is out there, and agreed upon, I feel. But everyone had different ideas of what should and shouldn't be allowed. There are those who say that self publishing is in general a producer of bad books, because clearly they were rejected by actual publishing companies. That's not necessarily true, and even if it were, I wouldn't call publishing companies very good judges of literature. I mean, some stuff out there is horrendous, but publishing companies want to make money. They'll publish anything people want to read, even if its absolute garbage. But who's to judge what is garbage

There's a lot of stuff out there. Just the sheer amount of information, ideas, just so much stuff. 

The question is, how do you get it all, but only the good stuff?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thoughts on Normality. And sprinkles of inspiration.

As a highschooler, it's very much about finding that balance between being perfectly normal, yet not really normal. 'Unique'. Lots of kids say stuff like 'I'm weird', 'I'm crazy', 'My friends and I are totally crazy' which I personally find annoying, because they're reveling in their totally normal craziness. Honestly, most people at my highschool are very much exactly the same. Most want good grades. Want to get into a good college. Want to have who to sit with during lunch and friends that can drive them places. Want to be semi popular, have good connections for when they don't do their homework, want to feel cool and smart and wanted and important. Want to occasionally break the rules, although from what I've seen, that usually consists of jay walking and breaking dress code. Commit petty crimes and feel like rebels.

Most are in a sport, or a club, participate extracurriculars like music or a part time job. 

The works.

And I'm exactly the same.

Everybody wants to feel unique. 'You are unique'. It's been stuffed down our throats - teachers, parents, mentors. Most adults want to convince us that we are totally, utterly unique. Each a special snowflake. But, c'mon, have you seen snowflakes? They all look the same, unless it's under a microscope. And it's working. Everybody believes they're weird, not quite normal, and now as we apply to college, we're all trying to convince the other side that we are all different.


I mean, I get it. I certainly don't dance or play an instrument. I'm not a varsity sports captain, and I'm not an avid gardener. And I know that a lot of people don't do the things I spend my time doing. When you think about it, there's a fine interplay between where the divide between individuals starts. I think of it somewhat like the tree of life. Humans and fungi are both Eukarya, but move down to kingdoms, and now humans and fungi are not the same.

Not very inspiring, is it? But that's my point! (Warning: here comes the inspirational part) If you're doing stuff to beat the competition, to look like a good candidate for colleges or jobs or whatever. If you're doing it to make money. If whatever you're doing is stressing you out so much you can't fall asleep or you're physically ill, then stop. Take a step back. Hop on a plane and look at how insignificant everything is. So utterly insignificant. Short tangent: I wanted to buy the pale blue dot photograph as a large poster to frame and hang in my room, but the cost plus shipping and handling came out to around $45. Reluctant to spend my own money, I asked my father if he would buy it instead (I know, I know). He looks at the poster (on my computer screen), looks at me, looks at my computer screen again, then looks at me. 'Is this a joke?' he asks. It might be worth mentioning that my father's eyesight has been getting worse, although he refuses to admit it. I explain to him that he's looking at a photograph of earth for hundreds of thousands of km away. He refuses to but the poster, saying he'll making it himself, by buying a black piece of poster paper and putting a speck of dust on it.
Anyhow, my point is just to calm down. Google 'jokes' and laugh a little. 
You're welcome.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Idea

My history teacher used to say he had too many ideas but too little time, so his ideas were ours to use, if we promised to buy him a yacht when we got rich off of his idea. This is something similar, except you cannot use my idea until after you get me the yacht.

What if there was a book called 'Behind the Yard-Sale'. It would be satirical, humorous fiction. You know all those stories in the news where people get rich off of stuff they find at a yard sale? Exaggerating a little, the book would be a collection of how those moments effect both sides. A collection of short stories, or maybe various stories that all tie back in together. For example, one of the stories could be about the guy who bought a baseball card from a yard sale for $5, and then found out it was the first ever printed baseball card and sold it for $5 million. What about the people who sold him the card? Maybe that yard sale was their last ditch effort to scrape together enough money to avoid the foreclosure of their house. Maybe the parents didn't know that the card made it's way to the yard sale, and it in fact belonged to their son you prized that card the most (in a typical Toy-Story-esque fashion), and they had a huge argument at the dinner table that evening after the son found out that his parents had sold his favorite card, so the parents were already feeling guilty, and then one week later they hear that that same card was actually worth 1 million. Then what? You never hear anything about the people behind the yard sale in the news.

And editors/agents/publishers/whoever-makes-stuff-happen-besides-the-author, if you're interested, contact me.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The 65

My goal: To read 50 book during this academic year. School started August 27, 2014 and I graduate June 12, 2015 God be willing. So, I have however many days there are from August 27 to June 12 to read 50 books. Sounds like a lofty goal, but this summer, I read a total of only 10 books over the course of almost 90 days, and so it's like I'm catching up. 

My other goal: What makes this slightly crazy in my opinion is that I want to review every one of those 50 books. And not a full length, 1000 word kind of review, but just general feelings about the book, little bit of analysis, stuff like that, so that the reviews are more like little pebbles I leave behind that huge boulders I struggle to reach.

The 50:
I need to read the classics. I know I need to do it, get some mental stimulation going, and it coincides well with school stuff. Also, I've been so out of sync with new/upcoming releases, what's hot and what's not, and with school looking hectic, I don't think I'll really have enough time to catch up. And yes, I haven't read any of these (not even Hamlet, which, according to state standard or something, I'm supposed to have read freshman year). Except for Adventures in Wonderland. But I'd love to reread that. And if you count, this list actually has 65 books in total, which gives me 15 books that I can pick up and give up on. The more the merrier.

Go tell it on the Mountain, Baldwin
Wuthering Heights,  Bronte
Seize the Day, Bellow
Great Expectations, Dickens
Jane Eyre, Bronte

Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky
King Lear, Shakespeare
Heart of Darkness, Conrad
Billy Budd, Melville

The Awakening, Chopin
Catch-22, Heller
The Old Man and the Sea, Hemmingway
East of Eden, Steinback
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Carrol
The Turn of the Screw, James
Babbit, Lewis
Light in August, Faulkner
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce
Ceremony, Silko
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Thurston
As I Lay Dying, Faulkner
Candide, Voltaire
Othello, Shakespeare
Song of Solomon, Morrison
Anna Karenina, Tolstoy

Bless Me, Ultima, Anaya

The Glass Menagerie, Williams
Jude the Obscure, Hardy
The Jungle, Sinclair
Lord Jim, Conrad
Native Son, Wright
A Passage to India, Forster
Beloved, Morrison
The Color Purple, Walker

Cry, The Beloved Country, Paton
A Doll's House, Ibsen
An Enemy of the People, Ibsen
Ethan Frome, Wharton
Hedda Gabler, Ibsen
Obasan, Kogawa
Portrait of a Lady, James

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Stoppard
The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner
A Streetcar Named Desire, Williams

The Tempest, Shakespeare
Waiting for Godot, Beckett
All the King's Men, Warren
All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy
Frankenstein, Shelley
Gulliver's Travels, Swift
Hamlet, Shakespeare
Jude the Obscure, Hardy
Madame Bovary, Flaubert
The Mayor of Casterbridge, Hardy
Medea, Euripides
The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare
Moll Flanders, Defoe
Mrs. Dalloway, Wolfe
Murder in the Cathedral, Eliot
Pride and Prejudice, Austin
Sula, Morrison
Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Hardy
The Turn of the Screw, James
Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?, Albee
Wide Sargasso Sea, Rhys

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

General catching up

I feel like it's been quite some time since I've posted a book review, or anything for that matter, on here. I am working on a book review at the moment, but it's just that I've been so unbelievably busy, summer has gone by in a flash, it's almost time to start applying to colleges, school's starting and my schedule is somewhat intense, and I've hit a record low for number of books read this summer. Three months and I've only read about ten in total. 

I'm currently reading Lonesome Dove - definitely not the typical kind of book I'd pick up, but it was recommended to me, and it's absolutely sublime. Also, because it's a western, the weather/setting is  really dry and hot (it's described in frightening detail), and reading it during the summer made me feel thankful of the heat I'm in. Also, I'm kind of worried about ever having to move to Texas. I think I'll write a post on that soon.

In other news, The Giver movie came out, which I've heard is really inaccurate to the book, and honestly, to me The Giver is timeless in the way it's written and not something that can be just up and converted into a movie. I might watch the movie and reread the book and compare the two. 

The VMA's were just a few days ago, which got me thinking of Goodreads Choice Awards, and I've read so little books this year that I can't think of more than 5 books published this year good enough I would nominate. I'm thinking to make a back to school resolution to read 100 books before teh school year is over, and maybe review all of them. I'd have to make a list of all the books I want to read first. In fact, that sounds like a brilliant idea. I'll work on compiling a list of books I plan to read during this school year and post it as soon as I'm done. After that, I'll review the books as I finish them. 

This is actually the best idea I've had in months!!!! Goodness gracious, I'm so excited.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The New Princess Bride

Know this book?

I raved about how this was the best book ever in one of my posts. (Oh, that reminds me - I need to watch the movie. Lots of people say it's better than the book. I'm left wondering how something could be more extraordinary that that book.)

I just finished reading a book that left me with the same feel-good vibe as that book. And the best part - it has a Happily Ever After. (I love happily ever afters. Which is why I hate movies like Inception and books like Before I Fall.) So? What book was it, that had me literally dancing as I finished the last pages? (And yes, literally dancing. Well, not literally, literally, but I was almost on the verge of tapping a tune with my hand. Except, of course, that hand was too busy turning the pages.)

Before I continue, I have to make something clear. This book, that I'm about to talk about (see how sly I think I am? Avoiding mentioning the title?) is in no way better, or even close to being as good as The Princess Bride. All I'm saying is that it's an awesome fairy-tale for girls who are way past the age of reading fairy tales. And for guys, I guess, who like princess stories.

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
― C.S. Lewis


Delilah is a bit of a loner who prefers spending her time in the school library with her head in a book—one book in particular. Between the Lines may be a fairy tale, but it feels real. Prince Oliver is brave, adventurous, and loving. He really speaks to Delilah.
And then one day Oliver actually speaks to her. Turns out, Oliver is more than a one-dimensional storybook prince. He’s a restless teen who feels trapped by his literary existence and hates that his entire life is predetermined. He’s sure there’s more for him out there in the real world, and Delilah might just be his key to freedom.
Delilah and Oliver work together to attempt to get Oliver out of his book, a challenging task that forces them to examine their perceptions of fate, the world, and their places in it. And as their attraction to each other grows along the way, a romance blossoms that is anything but a fairy tale.

I'd rate this book a 3. Leaves me feeling very...conflicted. The plot is very straightforward. Rising action, climax, falling action, and only one "twist", some unpredicted turn of plot, that barely counts as a twist. There isn't much action action, just a lot feelings, lots of talking, and lots and lots of talking about feelings. It lacked the actual stuff - like eating a delicious meal that leaves you just as hungry as you were before. And there were little inconsistencies, like buzzing flies that keep coming back. Quite annoying, to say the least. But the story was sweet, and I couldn't help but root for Oliver and hope he pop out of the book in three dimensions. What I really enjoyed about the story was that it had illustrations - in full color. Somehow, a fairy tale never feels like a fairy tale until it's accompanied by pictures. Another thing that caught my attention was the alternating point of view. You have Delilah, telling her story about wanting a prince from a children's fairy tale, and then you have two Oliver chapters. One tells the actual story - so what was written in the picture book that started the whole problem. The other Oliver is the actual Oliver characters that wants to come out of the book. Very very well done, this multiple points of view thing going on.

If you like fairy tales, or are looking to read a light (whipped cream light), fun book, do try this. But if you're looking for something with more substance, full of action and whatever else you're looking for, go try someplace else. I'm sorry. Not really, actually.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Q & A with Author Regan Claire!

Beautiful book cover, no?  

A little insight into the world of Regan Claire, author of Gathering Water; interview below. Enjoy!

Is there any specific moment you got the idea for Gathering Water, or did it just slowly build up?

Well, my original version of Gathering Water was much different. Different characters, different backgrounds, actually the only similarity is the setting, and the Elemental magic and even THAT is different! When I first started writing what would one day mutate into GW, I was still a teenager and really missing home (The Outer Banks of North Carolina). So, I came up with a story that would take me back there. Some books have their beginnings with a strong character whispering in your head, or a unique concept you want to flesh out… Gathering Water started with a place. The story would have been completely different if it were set anywhere else, it’s as much of a character in my book as anything else… So, I guess there wasn’t a specific moment I got the idea for it. At its core, it’s a book that was started out of longing, and it takes years for something like that to build up!

Who inspires you most?

So, this one is easy. My two daughters are my inspiration. More specifically, it’s my oldest daughter. She has already proved herself to be so strong, and always so happy despite the challenges she goes through daily. Both girls inspire me daily to be a better woman, and a better mother; to be the role model that they deserve.

What kind of research did you do for Gathering Water (if any)?

Oh, I love research. Well, it’s a love/hate relationship. I did quite a bit, trying to stay true to my setting and my characters. I researched behaviors of foster children, and some of the things many of them have gone through before reaching maturity. I made sure my childhood memories were correct and spent a lot of time on Google Maps, finding the perfect neighborhood for Della’s house to be in. I asked questions to surfers in the area, and locals to make sure there weren’t any dialect issues. That part was easier for me, because I still have family there who are very invested in the history and culture of their home. I also spent a lot of time researching various symbols. Then there was the legends of the region, a little of ancient Greek culture and stories of Atlantis, and the Fae of Western Europe… Um… There’s more, I’m sure of it, but that’s the stuff that pops up the most!

Your favorite books?

Goodness, I have so many! Let’s see… Harry Potter will always get a mention from me. I feel like I grew up with that boy, and read those books so many times the binding is VERY well-worn. I’m in love with most of Anne Rice’s books, since she was the first author that really opened my eyes to how beautiful books can be. I really love Urban Fantasy as a genre, and YA Fantasy. Anything that retells, or re-spins any fairy tale/lore/legend is guaranteed a read from me.

Tell me a little about yourself as a person?

I’m a little strange, but I think that’s true of most people. I tend to procrastinate more than I should, have grand dreams of one day living in a castle… that’s right, a castle… and Love to eat. That’s “Love” with a capitol “L.” I’m incredibly passionate about a TON of subjects, so much that my nickname in my writing group, The Rebel Writers, is Soapbox. But I think that type of thing is normal for any mother, and especially any mother that is an artist. It takes passion to create, right? I’m shy, but only sometimes. Random times. Actually, I’m more shy (shyer?) around people I’m acquainted with, and am totally outgoing and chatterboxy with complete strangers.

What do you enjoy most about being an author or what do you find most difficult?

The best? Well, being able to go to work in my sweatpants and a bowl of cereal in my lap is pretty awesome, but I LOVE the feeling you have after you’ve sat down to write. It’s like therapy, and chocolate, and somehow a marathon, all at the same time. Sometimes you feel a little drunk afterwards, and sometimes incredibly drained… but either way, it seems to even me out. If I’m angry, or depressed, or just feeling bleh, writing always turns me back into the happy person I truly am. The worst? It doesn’t look like I’m actually working, and I’m home… and I always have this tremendous guilt bubble up and try to convince me that laundry would be a better use of my time. I suppose the flexible hours are really the best, and worst thing about being an author. Because there is no ‘set time’. No clocking in. You really have to hold yourself accountable, and then hope that everyone else in the house understands enough to leave you alone. Haha.

If you could say one thing to a large group of people, what would it be?

Follow your dreams. But more than that. Have the courage to dream big. Dream in such a way that can change the world for the better (even if it’s only YOUR world)… then follow those dreams.

Gathering Water Synopsis:

Della Doe Deare isn't like most people. Most people begin their life on the day they enter the world; the day they're born. Della, well, hers began on the day she turned eighteen. After all, it was the day she first heard her real name, and that of her mothers. With nothing but a couple of duffel bags and a folder full of questions, she travels home to coastal North Carolina to claim the house she inherited from a grandmother she never knew. She has two goals: discover why her mother ran away from home all those years ago, and avoid the family that had left her to rot in an inept foster care system. Hard to do when the family she's been trying to avoid is dragging her into an unimaginable world... a world on the brink of war, and both sides want her dead. All Della ever wanted was to know who she was, but the journey to self-discovery might just lead to her destruction.