Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Okay. Normally I hate jumping on the bandwagon when I review books, but this time I'm just going to have to suck it up and do so.


I feel as if I have to begin this review by stating that I was absolutely not expecting Harry Potter, or anything like it. I knew better than that, and I was okay with it. I actually do think that J.K. Rowling is a talented story teller outside of the Harry Potter series...but I also think that this book was a rush job (which is sad to say considering the last Harry Potter book came out over 5 years ago, but what can you do). Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it wasn't a rush job, but rather the opposite - maybe too much time went into it?

Regardless, the fact of the matter is that The Casual Vacancy was, simply, Not Good. Not the worst book I've ever read, but I have to ask...did they just decide, "Oh, this is J.K. Rowling, she doesn't need an editor!" ??? Because the run-on sentences and comma splices in this novel were, in a word, rampant.

But even if you ignore the terrible editing job - or, dare I say it, the terrible writing (at least in the grammatical sense of that word) - in general I couldn't shake the feeling that Rowling was simply trying far too hard to be "edgy". Now, I love me some books with questionable content - most of my favorites deal with some pretty serious issues - but not one single character in The Casual Vacancy is likeable. I honestly didn't care what happened to any of them. At all. And this took the story to the point of being unrealistic, though I know that what Rowling was attempting was to make it completely realistic.

I think that the main issue with The Casual Vacancy is that Rowling peopled her novel with an entire [albeit small] town's worth of characters - far too many of whose points of view she tried to capture - and every one of them had ridiculously over-exaggerated negative qualities. Except for the [SPOILER ALERT] character who died in the very beginning, who was apparently [nearly, and also unbelievably] absolutely perfect. Oh, and a side note - while I noted above that far too many of the characters in The Casual Vacancy had point of view chapters, pages, paragraphs, whatever - personally I'm used to reading books with a lot of characters and didn't get tripped up by the number in this book. I only want to point that out because I feel that it's important to note that my disliking this novel and its characters had nothing to do with how many there were in general or with any sort of confusion over who was who on my part.

The thing is, I did want to like this novel. I'd heard not-so-great things about it, but I did my best to read it with an open mind. Unfortunately, in the end I just couldn't wrap my head around what exactly Rowling was trying to accomplish in writing it. It was drawn out, often very slow and boring, and I honestly did not care what happened to any of the characters. There are simply so many books out there that visit humanity's dark side and do it well...and The Casual Vacancy is not one of them. 1.5/5 stars.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Confessions

I confess...that I've finally gotten sucked in to reading The Hunger Games...after watching the movie this past weekend. I'm about 25% into the book, according to my Kindle, and while I can't seem to put it down I also can't figure out if I actually LIKE it, if that makes sense? Hmph.

I confess...that now that I've FINALLY started hitting the "official" daily goals for NaNoWriMo, I'm becoming even worse about making them than I was about making the higher goals I had to set for myself to *get* to this point :-/

I confess...that I'm a bit disappointed with myself in regards to Steve's Christmas presents this year. But what can I do? I can't really afford a "big surprise gift" like I've gotten him in past years :-/

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: NaNoWriMo Edition #3

 Well...this is the last Sunday that falls during NaNoWriMo! Of course, I think I'll do a final NaNoWriMo excerpt next weekend, as at this point it actually looks like I'll make - and maybe even break - 50,000 words! I wish I could say that meant that this work would actually be finished...buuuut I think I've got a story that will need at least 70,000 words to tell. Possibly Probably more. But for now, I hope you enjoy this six-sentence excerpt...oh, and by the way, it at least has a working title now ;) That being, The Way of Reckoning...

William didn’t know why he felt so resentful of Freddie just now. “We should just bring the girl home.”

“I think not.” The answer came so quickly that William knew Freddie must have been prepared to hear – if not from Will, then from someone – that they should give up on ransoming the girl. “Eventually we’ll get something from her. Or for her."
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Friday, November 23, 2012

The Making of a Dragon's Egg

So the other day someone in one of the Dragon*Con Facebook groups - for costuming, specifically - asked me how I made my dragon's egg. And I realized that I *still* hadn't posted the harrowing tale of the making of said dragon's egg here on my blog! (Oops.)

Let's get one thing straight - I made my Drogon egg (because duh, of course that's the one to make!) with fire and blood a lot of paint and glue. ;) To be honest there is probably a better way to do this that isn't quite as time-consuming, and I wish you luck in figuring out what that way is because this is the only way I could accomplish making my egg and having it look the way I wanted it to look. So without further ado...

This is the base that I started with. (Please excuse my chipped nailpolish and whatever is in the background of this picture, heh.) I'm honestly not sure if it's plastic or wood or what, but as you can probably tell by the ridiculous Pepto Bismol coloring, it's an Easter egg decoration. I purchased it at Michael's - on clearance - in April of this year. Like, about a week after Easter. You see, I knew that I was going to have a Daenerys costume for Dragon*Con, and I also knew that I needed to have a dragon's egg to go with it...I want to say I paid maybe $3 for this thing, and other than the color (something easily fixable) it was absolutely perfect - especially the size, and the fact that it weighed next to nothing :)

First things first though, that pink had to go. I used Krylon Indoor/Outdoor flat black spray paint to hide the Easter color of my egg...and then it was on to step two - the scales.

I started with three sheets of black craft foam, but of course I wanted a proper book!dragon's egg, which mean that (1) the egg needed to have some red in the scales, and (2) it also needed to have some sheen to it. So I painted two of the craft foam sheets - one with a couple coats of Americana acrylic paint in Alizarin Crimson, and the other with a couple coats of Americana acrylic paint in Cherry Red. Then I sealed that paint with Patricia Nimocks Clear Acrylic Sealer *Gloss* spray paint - and I used this sealer on the third piece of craft foam, the one that I left black, as well. Because it was a gloss finish sealer it gave the painted (and unpainted) foam that bit of sheen that I was looking for :)

Next, I cut out three scales in different sizes - the small ones were probably about 1/2 to 3/4 inch long and about the same width at the bottom; the big ones were probably close to 2 inches long and maybe 1 1/4 inches wide at the bottom. (Obviously the medium ones were in between that). I used these first few scales as pattern scales to cut out many, many more. This is where I wish I'd had some way to stamp the scales out of the foam, because WOW, was cutting them out one by one time consuming :-/

As for the shape of the scales...that's hard to describe, but hopefully you can see what I mean in my pictures of the finished egg - they all had straight bottoms and were tapered fairly evenly, coming to a point at the top - sort of like triangles, I suppose, but a little more "rounded" on the sides, if that makes sense.

Finally, it was hot glue gun time! Again, I wish there had been a better way to do this, but I had to work with what I'd already purchased...that's what I get for not actually starting to make the egg until a couple of days before Dragon*Con. Oops. So yeah, I hot-glued those scales on one by one, starting at the top of the egg and working my way down. I glued mostly smaller ones at the top, gradually began gluing the medium-sized ones, used the bigger ones around the widest part of the egg and then threw in some more small and medium ones in as "filler" scales where needed. Most of the scales overlapped each other in one (or more) places, to create the look that I wanted :)

About half-finished gluing on the can see the BLACK egg base a bit in this and the following picture.

^^^ Okay, there, you can see the shape of the scales I think? :)
Total cost? For the Easter egg base, the two cans of spray paint, two small bottles of acrylic paint, and three sheets of craft foam I probably spent something like $25 total. That was thanks to the egg being on clearance, the acrylic paint being on sale and of course one of those infamous Micheal's coupons for 20% off, though ;)

What really killed me was the amount of time involved. As I said, there has to be a faster way to deal with cutting out the scales and gluing them on, but I didn't have time for experimenting and figuring it out, so I made do. Of course, that led to about five hours spent making this thing, so in the end who knows what the best option would have been. But there you have it...the making of my dragon's egg!

Close up of the finished product.

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, Steve and I hosted Thanksgiving for my family today, so needless to say I'm exhausted. Full, too, but mostly exhausted :) I just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving to anyone who actually reads my blog ;) And since everyone else is saying what they're thankful for today, I also wanted to put it out there that I am very, very thankful for my family. We're not a perfect family unit by any means, but let's just say that recently there's been a lot of patience and understanding between us and it's just been really, really great.

Plus, my mom treated me to a pedicure yesterday.

And then I had an awesome date night with my sister Christy.

Yummm Painkillers at Cheddar's...

...and movie time!

Of course it was all topped off by a relaxing afternoon with Steve, my parents, Christy, and my niece CC today. I couldn't have asked for a better Thanksgiving holiday, and I hope that everyone else had an awesome one as well! Pin It

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Custom iPhone Case: Convention of Ice & Fire Style!

I cannot even begin to express how psyched I am for this. I'm a *huge* purveyor of super personalized phone cases...and since I got my iPhone 5 I've been sticking it out with this awful pink thing that I had to buy because they didn't have anything else in the store. This case is utterly PERFECT for me because anyone who loves the Song of Ice & Fire series will get it, plus as an organizer for the convention it's obviously something I'm super proud of XD

All About Us iPhone 5 2 Piece
Unique shower invitations and birth announcements by Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Confessions: All NaNo, all the time.

I confess...that I shouldn't even be posting Monday Confessions, because I *should* be working on my NaNoWriMo novel. Ugh...whoever thought it would be so hard to write just a couple of thousand words a day for about a month? :-/  

I confess...that speaking of NaNo, I totally meant to go to our local write-in on Saturday afternoon, but honestly, 12 PM was just too early for me that day. Oops?  

I confess...that I'm at times really proud of what I'm writing...but then I'll have days when I'm just super disappointed with it. And I don't mean just what I've written that day...I mean all of it. Period. I feel like my time would be better spent working on my big WIP and not this story that even *I* don't think is interesting enough to publish.

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: NaNoWriMo Edition #2

It's that time again...Six Sentence Sunday!

I'm not quite as pleased with my choice of blurbs this time around, but I wanted to kind of keep a pattern going of picking out these excerpts every so many pages, blah blah blah, etc. etc. :)

I wish I could tell you the title of my current project - the one I'm writing for NaNo, I mean - but I don't have one. Shoot, I wish I could come up with a decent synopsis for it!

Anyway, on to the sentences...

William did as he was told, wincing as the liquor burned its way over his tongue and down his throat. He could have used several more glasses of the stuff, nasty as it was, but he reminded himself yet again that he had a job to do. And you swore off that shit when Lillian came back to you. He tossed a coin at the barkeep and followed his guide out to the horses.
“Who else knows I’m here, or where we’re going just now?” William asked as Sam unhitched their mounts from the post outside of the saloon.
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Review: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

I think it's important to begin this review with the fact that apparently I wasn't *as* disappointed in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister as other Wicked lovers were.


I think it's also important for readers to remember that Confessions was written/published *before* Wicked. I'm blaming that for why his writing didn't draw me in the way it did in Wicked, why the story in Confessions seemed less developed (under-developed, really), and why the setting of Confessions - 17th century Holland - was just not vivid enough, did not come to life the way Oz seems to do in Wicked.

The little twist that is revealed at the very end is interesting, but also disjointing considering that it simply doesn't fit with, well, basically the entire rest of the book (from a narration point of view). Basically, if you are expecting anything like Wicked, you will be disappointed. If you read this with a more open mind, you will probably see it for what it is - an average (or perhaps *slightly* above average) novel. 2.5/5 stars
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Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Confessions: I'm too old for know what.

I confess...that I have *no* idea how some people who are participating in NaNoWriMo have already broken the 50,000 word mark. I'd love to say that I could have done that if I didn't have a job or a life or whatever, but shoot...I still doubt I could sit on my butt and concentrate enough to write 50,000 words in 10 or 11 days.

I confess...that we were supposed to get a good start on cleaning and organizing our house this past weekend, and while we got *a* start...I wouldn't say it was a good one. We suck at this. :-/  

I confess...that I have to bring my car to get an oil changed in just a few minutes, and I just *really* don't want to do so. Ugh. Pin It

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: NaNoWriMo Edition

In doing random searches of writers' blogs, I came across a sort of meme in which several of them participate[d]. The meme is "Six Sentence Sunday", and it allows you to choose six sentences from your current WIP - any six sentences - and post them in your blog. On Sundays...obviously ;)

So, it being NaNoWriMo, I thought this would be a good way to put out some small samples of what I'm working on. I honestly don't even know how to summarize it, other than to say it's historical fiction taking place mostly in the American West, circa 1910 :)

This first six sentence excerpt is from page three of this as-of-yet untitled WIP. I just took the first six-sentence chunk that actually made some semblance of sense when removed from the whole. ( <-- And would you *look* at all that alliteration right there? haha)

Well, they’d certainly shut him up good. William merely nodded in response, wanting more than anything to buy himself time that he knew they wouldn’t give. Sure enough, naught but a few moments passed before Edward Bradley stepped out of the shadows, arms folded over his chest as he glared menacingly at William. “Well then, what’s your answer? You gonna stay here and rot, or do we have a deal?”
But there was one more thing William had to ask, much as he hated to say the words, hated to admit that this outcome was even possible.

Phew, I never realized how little and yet somehow how much can be said in six sentences. I guess I even left y'all with a bit of a cliffhanger there ;) And hopefully I'll remember to post for Six Sentence Sunday at least the next few weekends, until NaNoWriMo is over...
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Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Review: Rules of Gentility by Janet Mullany

First things first: this novel really is a great quick, light read.


Now, I have to be honest - the story is pretty predictable and it's clear that many of the characters are empty "stock" characters. The author was apparently going for a Bridget Jones Diary meets Jane Austen/regency romance tale, and while in general I'll say she mostly succeeded, at the same time I'm a history buff and definitely found myself cringing at the number of things that happened throughout this novel that never would have happened in regency period England.

That said, though I was worried that the first-person, present-tense form would be awkward, it was actually refreshing and handled very well. I do think the ending was a bit awkward and rushed, but as I said in the very first sentence of this review ^^^, this book is a great light, quick read. Other reviewers (particularly on Amazon) mentioned that it's great for those who like chick lit or romance novels...personally, I'm not a big reader of either of those genres and the things I enjoyed about this book seem to be the things that those who gave it bad ratings did not like. Take that as you will. For my part, I think this novel rates a solid 3.5/5 stars for being witty - in a wry sort of way - and just generally fun.
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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Writer's Block Wednesday: Post-Election Thoughts

Mehhhhh. Part of me doesn't want to write this entry, and another part of me really, really does. The thing is, I'm not going to talk about Obama vs. Romney or Democrats vs. Republicans. I'm not going to complain about who won or who lost, I'm not going to gloat about who won or who lost, and I'm not going to poke fun at or talk down to anyone because of their beliefs. That's just not the kind of person I am - even if I disagree with you, I believe that everyone has a right to their opinion, and I simply don't feel like arguing or debating about stuff like this.

What I *do* want to say is the following:

(a) Can we get rid of the Electoral College already? It was put in place by a government who basically didn't trust Americans to elect their own leader by popular vote, in a time when COUNTING that popular vote accurately was next to impossible. We haven't needed it for quite some time, and to be completely honest I'm of the opinion that no, every vote does NOT count - so long as the electoral college is in place.

(b) I'm supremely tired of the two party system. For the first time this year I voted outside of my registered party *and* outside of the Republican and Democrat parties, and I was more proud of this vote - a vote that I knew was, in the eyes of so many, being "thrown away" - than I've ever been of any vote I've cast before it. I voted before work, wore my sticker at work all day, then when I got home and changed into comfy clothes I took my sticker off my work shirt and put it on my sweatshirt. See:

The thing is, I think if every person actually did the proper research and voted based on the candidate who fit the majority of their own specific beliefs, we wouldn't have seen an election that garnered something like 60 million-ish votes for Obama, 57 million-ish votes for Romney, just over 1 million votes for Gary Johnson, and then of course even less for Jill Stein, Virgil Goode, etc. I'm sorry but (wait, no I'm not) the thing is, people blindly vote Democrat and Republican far too often. Oh, they know the basic issues - who is going to tax the upper middle class and upper class more, who is for or against abortion/gay marriage/etc., who is more likely to extend our presence in the Middle East and who is more likely to cut it back. But the thing is, there are *so* many nuances to these and basically every other issue that our country faces/considers...I can't really get into specifics without voicing my own political beliefs, which I do not want to do here because this is not any sort of political blog (nor do I want it to be), but I'm telling you, do a bit of research and see where you *really* stand. Please.

In the end, there are very few (if any, heh) politicians who really truly care about the greater good. They are politicians for a reason, folks, and they're all just doing whatever they need to do in hopes of getting elected or re-elected. Plus they're mostly owned by lobbyists and big corporations anyway. But to put it very, very simply - if we weren't so stuck in a two-party system, it would be much, much harder for said lobbyists and big corporations to do what they do. And would probably in the end make our democracy a lot more stable than it is at the moment or than it has been for the past, shoot, 11 years or so.

...and now I step off my soap box. This is the only political-type post I've ever made here, and it will likely be the only one I make here for quite some time. Possibly ever. Because as much as I rail against the electoral college and the two-party system, I do understand that the chances of there being any major changes to these things in my lifetime are, well, pretty slim.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Post-Vacation Monday Confessions

I confess...that I'm 4 days behind on NaNoWriMo thanks to having been on vacation since last Tuesday night. Oops?

I confess...that it was freezing cold in my house this morning, and I didn't want to get out of bed. I don't think it helped that both of my dogs obviously missed me and therefore were being quite cozy and keeping me warm ;)

I confess...that I spend my four nights in New Orleans listening to some of the most amazing music, and I only wish that I had the money to buy a house or apartment there so that I could go back on a regular basis. Seriously - Galactic at Tipitina's on 10/31, the Tornado Brass Band at Preservation Hall on 11/1, Dr. Bones & the Hep Cats at the Bombay Club on 11/2, and on 11/3 John Boutte at d.b.a., and what I suppose were sort of "house" bands at the Sing Sing Club and Fritzel's, as well. Four nights of perfection, honestly. Pin It

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ice & Fire Con Update!

Well, originally there was a slight ticket price for Ice & Fire Con scheduled to happen on November 1st, but as tickets had only been on sale for a little over a month us organizers decided it would be best to push that back a bit...therefore, ticket prices are still set at $45/$60/$75 through the end of November!

That said, due to a flurry of ticket sales in the past few days, we now have only *3* Dragon tickets available :) Of course, once those tickets are gone they are gone - but people who buy Stag or Iron tickets will have the ability to (at a later date) add the Friday night dinner to their ticket. The price for that will be an additional $15, which sets the Iron ticket price at $60 and the Stag ticket price at $75. However, Dragon ticket holders will still have a few perks that Stag and Iron tickets won't have - those being priority seating at the Saturday night feast and Friday night pub dinner, and a larger convention gift bag :) And even adding the Friday night dinner on is a first come, first serve thing once we open the option for people to do so. But the 21 Stag tickets that we have left do at least include the Saturday night feast!

Now, as I write this, so far as I know there are still two rooms available for booking IN the castle (the Empress Matilda and King Arthur suites), and three cottages still open as well (Cinderella's, Woodcutter's, and Clock Tower).

We're also starting to narrow down the schedule for the convention, which is exciting to me because it's the type of thing I enjoy and also sort of excel in ;) I definitely can't wait to start narrowing down the number of panel discussions and their subjects!

Anyway, I suppose I should try to fight my writer's block and work on my story for difficult when all that I can really think about is this convention ;) Pin It