Nevernight

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff was such a good book that I ended up writing an essay on it for my second-year creative writing class. A quick look at the blurb and you immediately think “super cliche” (female assassin bent on vengeance, school of assassins, etc) and I thought this too when I first saw it, but I picked it up anyway because I loved the cover.

Honestly, my essay was probably garbage (it hasn’t been graded yet…) but I went into a lot of detail about the characterization of Mia Corvere, the protagonist, and her experiences. I thought the detail that went into her development was astounding (even more so that I was able to identify a lot of it) and that’s what sparked the idea for my essay.

I’d suggest the book to anyone who likes fantasy, specifically in the young adult/ grimdark subgenre. For most advanced readers you might see a lot of the plot mechanics clicking about as the story progresses, but I found the writing itself very good, so it’s still worth the read.

I hope someone else decides to pick it up. It’s definitely one of my new favourites. 🙂

~Erynn

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The Lesser Blessed

I’ve actually been dreading writing this post… because I really don’t know what to say about this book. It’s not that I didn’t like it, I thought it was kind of interesting, but I guess I can only expend so much energy thinking about a book before I just run out of ways to say things.

The Lesser Blessed is the last book I read for my creative writing class this semester. It took place in Northern Canada, I don’t remember the exact location, but somewhere in the Yukon. So, if you know anything about the Yukon, and anything about YA novels, you probably already have an idea of where this is going.

Rebellious children, drugs, lots of sex, fighting, bad parenting, and the like. Personally, I knew about all this being an issue in the North because that’s where my boyfriend and his family are from. But while they’ve experienced it first hand, I haven’t, so I still thought it was amazing to see knowledge like that confirmed through completely unrelated means.

Otherwise, I guess the book was pretty typical. A boy tries to figure out his life, as a young teen, in high school. The only real difference compared to other stories I’ve read is that the protagonist is Native American, and so many aspects of that are incorporated into the narrative through the language used by the character, as well as by their experiences.

~Erynn

 

Skim

So I’ve only got two books left to talk about for my creative writing classes, Skim being one of them. Unlike all the others, Skim is actually a graphic novel and not an actual novel. So even though the story of Skim wasn’t something I was super interested in, I did enjoy reading it simply because it’s a graphic novel and I’m a bit interested in writing those.

EDIT: I’m not sure what happened to the rest of this post, but I don’t really remember what I wrote, so I’m gonna leave it like this. 😛

~Erynn

Eleanor & Park

This was the second book I finished this semester for one of my creative writing classes. It’s probably my favourite of all the required readings I’ve had so far.

I read it for my second-year class, so it’s YA, but I actually thought it was pretty good. The story takes place sometime in the 80s, the protagonists being 15 or so. The girl, Eleanor, is pretty poor and also the weird new kid in town that nobody likes just because she’s new and weird.

She was pretty weird, honestly, but that was part of her charm. I really liked her character because she ends up being one of those people who isn’t weird on purpose, she’s just weird because of her circumstances, and I guess it kinda resonated with me. I’ve felt like that most of my life.

Anyway, like most YA, it’s a love story, and I thought the dynamics of that was pretty good. There was no love-at-first-sight nonsense, the girl isn’t some “secretly super attractive girl with low self-esteem” and no “super ridiculously hot dude who has a thousand different chicks all over him but he picks the weird girl for god knows why” thing in it, which I really really hate. Eleanor is some chubby redhead and Park is a short, rather feminine Asian. That might be as far as you get from that cliche.

My favourite thing about this, though, was that the two started feeling something for each other without speaking more than a couple of words to one another. And they basically fall in love over comic books. I thought that was super cute. I even recognized a bunch of the stuff they referenced! 🙂

I was a bit upset about the ending, though. It was realistic, but I found it a bit rushed, and that kind of ruined– for me, at least– what could have been an excellent ending. Oh well. There aren’t any perfect books, anyway.

~Erynn

How I Live Now

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff was the first novel I completed for one of my creative writing classes this semester. It’s a second-year course that switches the genre it focuses on ever time it runs. This time it’s teaching YA, which I guess is kind of convenient because one of my primary projects at the moment happens to be YA.

Anyway, onto the book. I really didn’t think I would like it at first because at the start the protagonist came off as a little annoying and the novel isn’t structured traditionally, so it was a little difficult to read at first. There’s no actual dialogue, it’s all just a part of the narrative– although it’s not too difficult to tell who’s talking once you get used to it.

I guess I didn’t really like the first half of the book because it was 90% characterization, and since I didn’t really like the protagonist I didn’t care about any of her relationships with other characters. But once the plot started moving, the protagonist changed, she became more tolerable, and eventually, I became interested in her and the overall story. It was an unusual experience because most of the time when I don’t like a character up front, I don’t end up liking them at all.

The book was alright overall. It was a short read and I think with the help of the course I did learn a little from it, so that’s a plus. 🙂

~Erynn

The Crown

I really hate it when I like a mediocre book or series and then it ends up letting me down. The crown is the final book in the second part of The Selection series, where the protagonist’s daughter from the original series is kind of put in her mother’s position– she’s gotta pick a husband to quell the masses (somehow that’s a thing).

There was one character I was rooting for from the start, one who seemed really unlikely to win, but seemed to be having some good luck due to some circumstances in the story. It’s possible that there was some foreshadowing in the book before The Crown that I missed (or couldn’t remember because I read it so long ago), but the guy I was rooting for ended up not getting picked, and some other character that seemed to jump through the rankings out of the blue ended up winning instead.

Feels pretty unsatisfying to me. I don’t know, I guess maybe it was the right ending for the book, but the way it played out seemed cheap and ill-thought out. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t dedicated to keeping these posts spoiler-free because for a book like this I’d really like to rant on and on about what I think should have been done instead, but alas, that can’t really be done without mentioning details… and besides, I didn’t write it, so I feel pretty silly to want to actually go through the process of explaining how I think it should have been done.

Anyway, I was pretty disappointed, because the only thing worth reading the series for was the romance, and I liked how two characters had it going. Just didn’t work out how I wanted it, I guess. Oh well. Shit happens.

~Erynn

The Mortal Instruments

I finally got around to finishing this series at the end of 2016. I was pretty happy with this since the series had been going on for years, and I think I mostly lost interest a couple books before the last one because I started forgetting what happened earlier on in the series. Unfortunately, that’s just what happens when a series is long and you’re unwilling to go back and re-read the previous books.

I’m gonna try and make this short and sweet because my last couple of posts have been pretty long and I need a little brain break.

Alright, so… I thought the series was gonna end a couple books ago and I guess while it didn’t have to, that’s probably part of what lost me. I don’t remember what happened at all in the last couple books (besides the last one, which coincidentally I have read most recently), and while I think several cop-outs were used in ending the book, I felt like it was rounded enough to be a satisfying conclusion to the series.

One thing I really liked, though, was how since I read another series in the same world a while before I finished this one, I recognized a couple of characters that crossed over. That was cool, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that satisfaction before.

I’ll probably get around to reading the other books written in this world as time goes on, but in the meantime, I’m glad to have the series completed so I can move onto other things.

~Erynn

 

Updated Reading List for 2017

Hey, so I just wanted to quickly update my reading list for the year. Now that the new year has settled a bit and classes have started again, I’m starting to fall back into my routine, which will also include 5 or so blog posts per week.

For my 2017 reading list, honestly, a lot of it is the same as last year’s because I didn’t actually read much except for early on in the year and at the end during November and December. And a lot of what I did read ended up being unexpected stuff that wasn’t on my list in the first place. I have, however, started on the Lord of the Rings trilogy and I feel like once I make it through that a lot of other books will follow soon after.

Anyway, here’s the list:

1. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien (b1)

2. The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien (b2)

3. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien (b3)

4. The Maze Runner – James Dashner (b1)

5. The Scorch Trials – James Dashner (b2)

6. The Death Cure – James Dashner (b3)

7. The Kill Order – James Dashner (b3.1)

8. The Broken Eye – Brent Weeks (b3)

9. The Crown Tower – Michael J. Sullivan (b1)

10. The Rose and Thorn – Michael J. Sullivan (b2)

11. The Death of Dulgath – Michael J. Sullivan (b3)

12. Hollow World – Michael J. Sullivan

13. The Pirate King  – R.A. Salvatore (b2)

14. The Ghost King – R.A. Salvatore (b3)

15. Gauntlgrym – R.A. Salvatore (b1)

16. Neverwinter – R.A. Salvatore (b2)

17. Charon’s Claw – R.A. Salvatore (b3)

18. The Last Threshold – R.A. Salvatore (b4)

19. The Gray Wolf Throne – Cinda Williams Chima (b1)

20. The Demon King – Cinda Williams Chima (b2)

21. The Exiled Queen – Cinda Williams Chima (b3)

22. The Crimson Crown – Cinda Williams Chima (b4)

23. The Bane Chronicles – Cassandra Clare

24. A Blight of Mages – Karen Miller (b0)

25. Innocent Mage – Karen Miller (b1)

26. Awakened Mage – Karen Miller (b2)

27. Lioness Rampant – Tamora Pierce (b4)

28. Deadhouse Gates – Steven Erikson (b2)

29. Empire in Black and Gold – Adrian Tchaikovsky (b1)

30. Blood Ties – Pamela Freeman (b1)

31. Deep Water – Pamela Freeman (b2)

32. Full Circle – Pamela Freeman (b3)

33. Shogun – James Clavell

34. Bulfinch’s Mythology – Thomas Bulfinch

35. The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss (b1)

36. The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss (b2)

37. The Ask and the Answer – Patrick Ness (b2)

38. Monsters of Men – Patrick Ness (b3)

39. Spotless – Camilla Monk (b1)

40. Chasing Ruby – Camilla Monk (b2)

41. Sword Art Online – Fairy Dance (Part 1) – Reki Kawahara (b3)

42. Sword Art Online – Fairy Dance (Part 2) – Reki Kawahara (b4)

43. A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J. Maas (b1)

44. Hamilton: The Revolution – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

45. Nevernight – Jay Kristoff

46. Truthwitch – Susan Dennard (b1)

47. Windwitch – Susan Dennard (b2)

48. The Painted Girls – Cathy Marie Buchanan

49. The Dark Days Club – Alison Goodman

50. The Siren – Kiera Cass

My goal is only 25 books this year, but I’m keen on staying dedicated to reading regularly this year, so hopefully I’ll be able to clear this list and then some. It’s been a while since I’ve purged over 50 books in a year, so here’s to hoping I can do it!

I’ll be writing a couple posts over the next few weeks about some of the books I read in 2016. I decided against writing up all of them because that’s a lot of work and I read lots of them months ago. There are also a lot of other things I want to write about first. So any books I do post about will be ones that I found particularly memorable.

Here’s to 2017.

~Erynn

Learning Japanese

I never wanted to learn a second language.

Nothing against other languages or cultures or anything. I suppose it just stems from the terrible, mandatory French classes from middle/high school. More often than not the teachers were awful, and there was a new one each year. Never knew what to expect.

It’s more than that, though. I’m pretty dyslexic and one of the things I really, really suck at because of it is grammar. I’m mostly okay with English because it’s what I use every day and grammar check is a thing, but I still struggle with some of the basics, and that definitely carries over into learning a new language. It was the main reason French was hell for me, and it’s no different with Japanese.

So– why, Erynn, do you put yourself through such hell if you don’t even want to learn a second language?

The answer is simple: Because to get an Arts degree of any type, a second language is mandatory. Pretty shitty. I mean, for most people it’s probably not a big deal… They could just take French, and it’s no big deal because they probably learned something in high school and can bullshit their way through half the course, anyway.

I have a friend, who is probably an exception to anything regarding languages. She knows French, Spanish, English, and is currently taking Japanese with me. Oh and she’s a science student, which I’m pretty sure does not have a second language requirement. I kinda wish I could learn languages so frivolously, I think it would be fun to learn a dozen languages and travel the world and actually be able to communicate with people who don’t know a word of English.

Japanese ended up being my second language choice, surprisingly enough. See, because I’m going to school specifically for creative writing, I’m trying to make sure every moment I spend there benefits my writing in some way. Learning a second language has a LOT of potential to help my writing simply because the diversity of language I could use in the text. I actually really really wanted to learn Greek and Latin so I could pull some shenanigans with writing magical spells and such, but unfortunately it was not offered at UBCO, at least this year.

So Japanese it was. A good second choice, I feel, because Japanese is a beautiful, visual language with a relatively simple pronunciation system. That was one thing I really hated about French, too. Everything sounded fucking different, and I could never remember how to associate the various sounds with whatever combinations there were.

I started learning Japanese in the summer before classes started. Because of my previous interest in anime and manga and the like, I already had the pronunciation down, and even a few words under my belt. I started with learning hiragana and katakana, which are two of the three writing systems in Japanese, but they are more like a phonetic alphabet than anything else.

So those are stuff like…. ねこ (neko = cat) and ともだち (tomodachi = friend) for hiragana, and stuff like… サラダ (sarada = salad) and エリン (erin = Erynn) for katakana. Hiragana is used to spell words that are native to the Japanese, whereas katakana is used for foreign words, hence my example being my name.

In addition to taking the Japanese classes, I’ve been using two online self-teaching websites called TextFugu and WaniKani. Their focuses are much different from what I learn in class, but I find that they are excellent for reinforcing what I learn outside of those lessons. TextFugu seems to be more focused on grammar and vocabulary, so it’s somewhat similar to what I learn in class, which is a more generalized approach that gets all the basics down. WaniKani, though, focuses exclusively on kanji radicals, kanji, and kanji vocabulary, because it’s kanji that makes learning Japanese a bitch.

Kanji are Chinese characters that have more or less been assimilated into the Japanese language. So that makes kanji complicated because not only do they have Japanese readings, they have Chinese readings, both of which are used when speaking, writing, and reading Japanese. That means that a single kanji can have more than two readings, depending on the context, and considering there’s over 1000 basic kanji that need to be memorized for you to “know” the language, that’s a lot of shit you’ve gotta memorize.

I haven’t had too much trouble with kanji so far, but I know I’ve barely touched the subject. I’m careful about what kanji I learn outside of what I need to know for my classes because I don’t want to get in over my head with learning stuff I don’t need to know just yet. That runs a significant risk of me getting overwhelmed, which is a big no-no that I’d very much like to avoid– and have thus far.

I think my writing and reading are superb. Except for grammar, which I sometimes need to think about, but I’ve learned a couple tricks that help with memorizing what is used where. So there’s that.

My listening and speaking, however, need some work. I was doing well enough until November where the transit strike here in Kelowna stopped me from attending class as much as I would have liked, and that was where I was getting the much-needed speaking and listening practice. My listening is absolute trash.  I get so caught up on listening to one part of the sentence that I forget the rest of what was said. That ends up with a confused Erynn since it’s usually the beginning of the sentence that I remember, and in Japanese, it’s the ending of a sentence that determines what a statement or question actually means.

Speaking isn’t so bad, I’ve got a large enough vocabulary to make basic sentences and ask questions and the like. Sometimes it takes me some time to think about what I want to say and what order all the words go in, but my pronunciation is generally top-notch. When I don’t know how to say something, though, all my Japanese gets thrown out the window and I think in English mode. This really sucks because I have a unique way of speaking and it doesn’t translate so well into Japanese while I have a very limited vocabulary. I’m working on it, though, so hopefully by the end of the school year, I’ll be able to work around what I want to say in English and find a way to say it in Japanese without resorting to using English instead.

So that’s that, I suppose. I’m really enjoying the learning curve that comes with Japanese, and I hope to stick it through to the end and eventually become fluent. I’ve got a couple reasons for that, but I’ll talk about that another day. 🙂

Oh yeah, happy holidays everyone. Hope you have a pleasant break with your family and friends, or have had a good time on your lonesome if that’s your thing.

~Erynn

 

A Natural History of Dragons

I honestly thought I made a post about this book months ago, probably in February or something when I read it, but I guess I didn’t because this post was sitting in my ‘drafts’ section, blank. Ugh.

So I’ve got this really bad habit of buying books and then letting them sit around for a long time before touching them, but that didn’t happen with this book because I bought it for a purpose. You know, as an aspiring author, a thousand and one references are needed on a thousand and one different subjects in order to make a thousand and one different things make sense inside a single novel. And you know, more than half of those references get put on the shelf to be read when they’re actually needed. But I picked up this book and was like “hey, dragons, why not?” and so I read it.

It was not what I expected. It was better.

So I guess I was expecting something like lots of diagrams and a bit of lore based on the dragons present in this world, but that has to be the stupidest assumption I’ve ever made about a book. It clearly says ‘memoir’ on the cover, and considering the size and shape of the book, it’s most definitely a novel, not a picture book. Regardless, my retardation aside, it was quite a lovely read.

It had a Victorian era feel to it and I’m a fan of that for whatever reason– don’t ask me to explain it because I don’t even know why; I just do. I especially liked how it was a unique, female perspective from a fantasy version of the era– I’ve never read anything like that before. I suppose females had little say in important matters back then, even–or arguably, especially– the wealthy.

This story had a bit of that, but the protagonist– whatever her name was– only accepted it to a degree. I think for a novel set in this time, that’s pretty typical, almost cliche. But I don’t know, I guess the way this character’s motivations weren’t necessarily wrapped around her lack of freedom, more so she needed freedom as a consequence of her motivations and interests, was a different take on it. Or at least it felt like it.

It was also… heartbreaking. I can’t say too much about why without revealing critical plot points, but the story was unexpected and magical in a way that you don’t often find in stories that lack magic (at least I’m pretty sure there wasn’t any magic– gimme a break I read it almost a year ago). But I guess as someone who sympathizes with animals regardless of their nature, maybe some people wouldn’t necessarily agree with that view.

I say that the novel is definitely worth a read to anyone interested in fantasy on the lower end of the magical scale. I haven’t read the sequels yet to have an opinion to share on those, but I do look forward to reading them sometime in the near future.

~Erynn