“New Spring” by Robert Jordan

Cover of New Spring novel
Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Spring, the prequel of The Wheel of Time series, seems to be the shortest book in the pack but that doesn’t mean it’s quick reading. Shortly after completing The Shadow Rising, I rushed to the bookstore to pick up New Spring. I was too curious about the history in the series to wait until later or until I completed the series to read the prequel. So much had occurred prior to the first four books and I wanted the details on those events. What were Moiraine and Lan up to before finding the boys in Two Rivers? What was going on with the Seanchans and were the Forsaken loose and prowling about then too? What was Padan Fain doing before he became a peddler in Two Rivers? The Aes Sedais mentioned something of Padan Fain’s past in The Eye of the World but I want more details.

I thought the prequel would provide a broad view of key characters, noting their activities prior to book one but such was not the case. Instead, the prequel focused on Moiraine and Lan, mostly Moiraine; however, it is Lan who begins the story. The Aiel Wars are winding down and ends when the Aiel oddly retreat. Lan is relieved of his duties as commander of his unit and has plans to return north but his plans are upset with he learns that his carneira, some old lady he banged back in the day, wants to raise support and crown him as king of Malkier. So he travels to Chochin to face her. Really, Lan’s story didn’t do much except to give us a smidgen of the Aiel War and to remind us who Lan is, the last of the Malkier kings, and how he is, grave, loyal, honorable.

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“The Shadow Rising” by Robert Jordan

Cover of "The Shadow Rising (The Wheel of...
Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore. (Cover via Amazon)

The Shadow Rising was too damn long. Although it is a good read, the length turned me off and soured my enjoyment of the story. This might seem like unnecessary ranting since I’ve completed the first three books in the series, which are all hefty, and read the prequel of the series shortly after completing The Shadow Rising. But for some silly reason I thought (or convinced myself) that by the fourth book Jordan would realize how unnecessary it is to make his books so long for no reason. I should have known better. The length of the series should have been an indicator that Jordan never realized that he was going overboard with length.

Despite that, this installment of the Wheel of Time series was great in that we learn more about this fantasy world as we see it begin to change. We see a bit more of the Aiel and learn their history; we realize how corrupt the White Tower is, or rather, how divided it is; and we see Perrin become the leader he is destined to be. We pick up with everyone (Rand, Perrin, Mat, Moiraine, Lan, Nynaeve, Elayne, Egwene, Faile, Loial, Thom) in Tear. Rand has Callandor and is trying to control his power while staving off Moiraine’s influence, rule Tear, and keep some of the Forsaken at bay. Mat wants to leave Tear but can’t because of Rand’s pull as a ta’veren. Perrin wants to return to Two Rivers to help his people, who are being attacked by White Cloaks and trollocs, but wants to protect Faile as well. So, for the while, they dawdle.

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Amazing Posts I Found Online: Make-up, Statue, Cup

I found these amazing posts while perusing the web, reading blogs, or skimming through the many newsletters I’ve subscribed to.

A make-up artist paints album covers on her face:

grizzly_rsd_1397887604_crop_550x729
Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear; make-up by Natalie Sharp

I found this one on Flavorwire. It’s pretty cool. I’m unfamiliar with the albums featured but I am amazed by the artist’s skills. Her name is Natalie Sharp and she’s very talented. Visit her website to see more of her work.

Continue reading “Amazing Posts I Found Online: Make-up, Statue, Cup”

“Beautiful Creatures” by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Cover of "Beautiful Creatures"
Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore.

It took me a while to work up an interest in this book. I first watched the movie and because I enjoyed it so much, I decided to read the book. Unfortunately, when I first attempted to read it, I put it down almost immediately. I enjoyed the prologue but when the story began, I found the voice too dry to bear. But after reading The JK Review’s review of the novel and movie, I decided to give it another try and be patient. It paid off.

Quick summary:

I read this book a while back so the details of the story are a bit foggy but here is the gist of what I do remember. Beautiful Creatures is told from the perspective of Ethan Wate, a teenager in his junior year of high school. He resides in Gaitlin, a small town in the South Carolina, which he hates because he finds it too backwards. He can’t wait to escape its borders and explore the wider world. In the meantime, he escapes through books. He is an avid reader on account of his late mother being a librarian. When the story begins, he’s been having weird dreams of a girl and hearing a strange song on his iPod in the mornings. Soon the girl he sees in his dreams turns up at his school. She is the new girl in town—Lena Duchannes, niece of the town’s shut in.

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some insight on how bad moments influence our identity, from Andrew Solomon

Andrew Solomon TED quote

“We don’t seek the painful experiences that hew our identities, but we seek our identities in the wake of painful experiences.”

“Forge meaning and build identity: Forging meaning is about changing yourself; building identity is about changing the world.”

“We cannot bear a pointless torment, but we can endure great pain if we believe that it’s purposeful.”

“Ease makes less of an impression on us than struggle.”

“We could have been ourselves without our delights, but not without the misfortunes that drive our search for meaning.”

“Identity itself should be not a smug label or a gold medal but a revolution.”

Andrew Solomon, from his TED Talk, “How the Worst Moments In Our Lives Make Us Who We Are.” Solomon is a writer on politics, culture, and psychology. He is a regular contributor to NPR, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and other publications. His book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 2001 and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2002.

Click here for more quotes.

Foster’s Laws on Reading

Cover of "How to Read Novels Like a Profe...
Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore. (Cover via Amazon.)

I love to read books on writing but I love even more to read books on books. For the past few months I’ve read Thomas C. Foster’s How to Read Novels Like a Professor, Kevin Smokler’s Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School, and attempted to read How Novels Work by John Mullan.

If you’re familiar with my posts, then it’s no surprise that I read Foster’s How to Read Novels Like a Professor. His first book, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, was a delightful read and I closed its covers having digested various tips to enrich my reading. How to Read Novels Like a Professor was just as enjoyable. Foster’s quips on the novels he discusses were entertaining. And what a lot of novels he covers! He hardly discriminates, including both contemporary classics like Harry Potter and those of old like Don Quixote. You will end this book with a long list of books to include in a reading challenge, such as the Classics Club’s reading challenge.

Foster’s book is not only for readers and students (student-readers). I highly recommend this book to writers as well. Reading relates to writing so as Foster discusses how to read better he essentially discusses how to write as well. He covers plot, character, dialogue, and all the obvious parts of a story and then some, such as the history of the novel. He discusses how its form came about and how the novel has changed over time. Reading his book is like taking his class. I’ve never taken his classes before (he is a professor of English at University of Michigan, Flint) but because of the wealth of topics covered and how he conveys them, it’s like taking a class with a very friendly professor who knows how to relate potential boring information while keeping the pupil’s interests high.

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“The Yellow Wall-Paper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman

Cover of "The Yellow Wallpaper and Other ...
Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore. (Cover via Amazon)

An unsettling story, to say the least. I decided to read this story because of how often I’ve heard of it. I was particularly intrigued because I was told that the narrator is highly unreliable and unstable and such narrators always pique my interest. Of course, my constant misgiving regarding the classics made me assume that it would be a boring read but I resolved to plow through it no matter what. I wanted to know what happens.

I read “The Yellow Wall-Paper” in the Penguin Classics copy of Gillman’s selected writing. It includes an introduction written by Denise D. Knight, professor of English at SUNY Cortland. I’m glad I read the introduction before reading the story because it provided some perspective. Usually, I skip introductions because they tend to give the story away and take all the fun out of puzzling it out for myself. But in this case—where the story is a tad confusing and might be hard to digest if you haven’t the patience for such a narrative—it’s good to read the introduction and get some information on the author’s background and what moved her to write such an unsettling tale.

I like Gillman. I like to assume that anyone who considers herself a feminist would like her too. I think of myself as a semi-feminist. Gillman advocated for equality in the household. She didn’t believe that the woman’s sole purpose should be that of wife and mother. A woman could be more than that or none of them, if she chose. Basically, a woman should have the free will to choose who she wants to be and how she wants to be identified. Gillman believed that society’s insistence on gender roles—man as provider and protector; woman as nurturer and domesticated—limits humanity’s ability. I wonder what she would say of the world now. “The Yellow Wall-Paper” is drawn from her own experience. She suffered from depression in her 20s after giving birth to a daughter and was prescribed bed rest, basically she was told not to do anything but lie around all day. Of course, this didn’t help her depression but made her worse. It wasn’t until she stopped with such treatments that she became better.

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“The House of Hades” by Rick Riordan

Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore.
Available on Amazon and at you local bookstore.

And so we’re back with Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. This time, we’re racing along with the heroes, trying to get to the House of Hades in Greece to close the doors of death! Many obstacles stand in our way and things can go horribly wrong at any minute. Percy and Annabeth are stuck in Tartarus for the while, trying to navigate the underworld and stay alive as they plod on towards the doors of death. If they are not careful, they can be vanquished at any time by one of the numerous monsters that pop up all over the place since Tartarus is their turf.

Then there are the other demigods aboard Argo II. They all have their issues and insecurities and love interests. They’ve battled mountain giants/gods, weird-looking cow monsters, pesky dwarfs, and frigid opponents. Still, they always find the time to say how much they admire/love/care for each other, seeming to never get pissed off at each other’s fuck-ups while they continue on this stressful journey.

And then there’s Nico, off in a corner, lonely, tortured by unrequited love. Poor kid. Back in the states, the demigod camps are gearing up for battle because that’s what they do. They have nothing better to think about as Gaea threatens to end the world. Apparently, it’s better to eliminate each other now so Gaea can easily cross that task off her list.

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A Legend Has Passed: Maya Angelou

I was surprised when I heard of Maya Angelou‘s passing and a bit shaken as well. Maya Angelou, one of the coolest writers ever died on Wednesday, May 28, 2014. Earlier that day, I was reading a passage on Angelou in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey while commuting to work. After reading, I reflected on what I knew of Angelou’s life and thought to myself, “She sure lived a long and eventful life.” So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived at work and learned that she passed.

I was introduced to Angelou by my mother’s bookshelf. She had a copy of Angelou’s I Know Why a Caged Bird Sings and I attempted to read it when I was younger since the adults spoke of it so much. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I was able to finish it. In high school, I was introduced to Angelou’s poems and she quickly became one of my favorite poets (I don’t have many). I love the rhythm of her poems and I enjoy reading them aloud, listening to my voice ride the poem’s flow.

My favorite poems by her are “Phenomenal Woman” and “Million Man March”. “Phenomenal Woman” is a poem brimming with confidence. Whenever I read it, I unconsciously straighten my back and thrust my way into the world, confident in my femininity. “Million Man March” is a powerful one. It reminds us of our dark history and reading it aloud, I can almost hear the slaves’ dragging feet and the pull of chains. It nudges us, the Black race, to keep pushing forward, no matter what may be thrown at us. It, too, gives me confidence.

I admire Angelou. She will be sorely missed. My fondest memory of her was when she spontaneously broke out into a rap on Arsenio Hall‘s show. I’ve included a clip of it above. Moments such as these, and, more importantly, her activism, are what endear Maya Angelou to many of varied backgrounds.

May her soul now rest in peace.