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Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of...Inspiration

Music, in case some of you have not noticed, plays kind of a big part in my writing style. There are songs that have made me stand up straight and proclaim in shock, "Oh my gosh, that song is TOTALLY Sydney or Ayden!!" (Or Katriona/Silas, or Violet, or Liam.) The result is a very eclectic playlist for Halcyon House and other works (such as themes). Some of the songs that I've recently discovered that have made their way onto the Halcyon House playlist?

The following:

1) Jackson, Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
2) If I Were a Carpenter, Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
3) Long-Legged, Guitar-Pickin' Man, Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
4) If I Should Fall from Grace with God, The Pogues
5) Shake It Out, Florence + the Machine
6) No Light, No Light, Florence + the Machine
7) What the Water Gave Me, Florence + the Machine
8) Rolling in the Deep, Adele
9) Set Fire to the Rain, Adele
10) Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya, the Dropkick Murphys
11) Finnegan's Wake, my favorite version being by The Dubliners

The Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash songs relate to Ayden and Sydney (and in some cases, Liam and Lucia), If I Should Fall From Grace with God sort of became Liam's theme song (in some strange way I really can't even begin to comprehend; he just really seemed to like it and made that clear to me in no uncertain terms), No Light, No Light could double for Ayden's frustration with her strange relationship with Sydney or Sydney's previous relationship with Violet (who is still a lurker).

Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya gave me a better understanding of how a fiercely independent and driven Irish family like the McKennas clawed their way to survival.  Finnegan's Wake is sort of the traditional Irish ballad concerning that most Irish of preoccupations: whiskey. No, seriously. Half of the traditional Irish folk songs do seem to have a lot to do with whiskey...and the affects thereof. Also an excellent showcase of that famous black Irish humor, helping me apply it to Liam. Adele's songs are, of course, Ayden's impending explosion of frustration and anger at...well, the world in general at a certain part of the story, which we haven't gotten to yet. I'll keep you all posted.

Over & Out,

Monday, January 16, 2012

And Now, The Moment You've All Been Waiting For...

Because the poster is pretty cool, too.
Or at least, the moment I've been waiting for.

My overall review/reaction/thoughts on The Hunger Games. 

After the encouragement of my favorite high school teacher Miss Elise, I requested The Hunger Games on-line at my local library and promptly proceeded to read it straight through in one night. Because I can't stop when I have a book like that just waiting for me to read.

My thoughts?

(Spoilers if you have not read the books!! Proceed with caution, thanks.)

A) With apologies to my reader's tender ears--Katniss is an unintentional bad-ass. B) However, WHY is she so suspicious/mean to Peeta when it's (sort of freaking) obvious that he loves her? Give the poor boy the benefit of the doubt, dear. C) RUE. OH MY GOSH, RUE. Suzanne Collins, why would you do that???? D) Katniss and I would get along well together on the days I feel like taking someone's head off. Because I get like that sometimes.

In a more serious I was reading the book, I did identify Katniss more than I anticipated. She and I both have this fierce, overwhelming tie to our family, our responsibilities. The part that touched me the most was the beginning, when Katniss desperately volunteers as tribute to save her little sister. Now, I don't live in dystopian future in which I could sent to a reality TV show where I'm required to kill twenty-three other people to survive. But I kept asking myself, if my little sister was taken away as a death sentence, if my crazy, sweet, illogical Julianna was going away to be killed...would I stand up and take her place, though no one else would? And the answer came back every time...Yes. I would go.  I'd be running forward, screaming, to save my little sister.

I think the truest thing about Katniss is that she's not your run-of-the-mill, typical kick-ass warrior maid out to avenge her family. She's a young woman with some remarkable talents who's put in extraordinary circumstances and made a promise to the little sister she fiercely loves. She won't go into the arena and say, "Oh yeah guys, I got this."  She'll go in and do her duty, but her driving force is always, "I promised my sister I would come home. I need to get back to my family."

Obviously, Katniss is not perfect. She and I both have walls we put up around ourselves, walls we can't take down for fear of someone taking advantage of us. Katniss is also unaware of her qualities, her good parts, because she's so determined as to not appear weak or needy to those around her. Albeit, she's in bad circumstances. She's the only caretaker/provider in her home, since she feels she can't trust her mother to take care of Prim. In essence, she's completely unaware of herself, something I can (painfully) relate to. I've always been more aware of my faults, foibles and inability than the things I can do. Fortunately, I have people who tell me that I do have talents, that things I think aren't so special are important and useful. Katniss doesn't allow herself that luxury, because the way she lives just doesn't allow that.

And as to Peeta...sigh. The boy has rapidly become one of my favorite heroes, just because he puts up with Katniss's suspicion and distrust with good humor and patience. I kept getting the urge to hug him throughout the book.

Now, in another much more serious most of you might be aware, The Hunger Games movie is coming out this March. Now that I've kept to my own principle and read the book, I'm going to make a serious effort to go and watch it. There is some deep-rooted irony here about Hollywood making a movie about a dystopian future where young men and women go on a reality TV show to kill each off one by one. I could also be supremely cynical and say that Hollywood is trying to capitalize on making another franchise out of a successful book series now that Harry Potter is over and The Twilight Saga is winding down. But I dislike being cynical, it disturbs my sleep. I was under the impression Suzanne Collins had more to say on the affects of war and violence on teenagers than our society's acceptance of violence in the media. But I think The Hunger Games is an excellently-written story, and more suited to a sweeping epic drama than other book series.

This is sort of what I wanted to say and think about when I was done reading the book: Is our current-day society becoming like Panem in Katniss's world? Where the rich entertain themselves by watching people kill and die, where the poor grit their teeth and suffer as the rich enjoy the pain and violence?

I don't know, honestly. I don't think so. I hope not. But we do take an awful pleasure in watching people get hurt or make fools out of themselves, don't we? I think of shows like Wipeout! or America's Funniest Home Videos. The ones that get the biggest laughs are the ones where people get hurt in spectacular ways. Me, I don't like that. I don't find any humor or amusement in seeing people fall, get whacked in the face, or hitting their heads or any other part of their bodies (I find groin jokes the least amusing). Maybe that makes me a big, fat, kill-joy prude with no sense of humor, but I don't care. I don't like seeing people get hurt.

With that said, I can only hope that we do pay heed to the warning of Katniss and District 12--There is no pleasure or satisfaction in pitting people against each other in violent contests. I think sometimes we forget the fact that someone's pain or agony isn't just entertainment, it's real. And I think we need to remember how to respect it.

As a final note...because I am completely shallow, the trailer is pretty dang cool, too. *sheepish grin*

Over & Out,

Monday, January 9, 2012

What My Brothers Taught Me

Some of you (most of you) know that I have two older brothers, Aaron and Adam. Aaron is thirteen months older than me, Adam is my twin brother and older by seven minutes. It's been a long-standing family joke that in my unwillingness to be born combined with my in-born challenging nature and desire for more space, I kicked him out of the womb.

They have both gone off to college now, Adam yesterday and Aaron today in the early morning.

The house is unnervingly, disturbingly, too bloody quiet without them. 

Aaron, Adam and I shared six years of childhood together before our youngest sister Julianna was born. Julianna increased our sibling shenanigans, but now we became the Flores Four, as opposed to the Flores Three. In the six years we shared, we had Jurassic Park (which is where Aaron got his dinosaur preoccupation), Babar King of the Elephants (which is where Aaron and I got our delusions of royalty), The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, The Princess Bride (which is where Adam and Aaron got most of their jokes), Bible stories, pretend games and at one point, a bed room. (They had a bunk bed and I had my own.)

I know most girls (well, none of my nearest and dearest friends) don't have the strange situation of being a combined younger sister and twin sister. I possess that singular distinction all on my own. And I know in most cases, most girls are not so tightly entwined as I am with my brothers. I know their moods like I know my own, they know my temper and preferences better than some of my own dearest girlfriends. I think it would be no stretch to say, that before I understood how wonderful having female friends could be, my brothers were my best friends.

They taught me about video games (though they both knew I didn't care), the names of dinosaurs (though I mispronounced them most of the time), and Monty Python sketches. They showed me how guys think and how they react and, yes, what mistakes not to make when it comes to matters of the heart. They kept my secrets and I kept theirs and we shared most of them together. Adam taught me how to laugh and patiently helped me through my math homework. Aaron taught me how to dream and write. Adam willingly played chauffeur for my outings to the library (though he can't stand them) and when we were driving together, he'd play his music, loud and scream-y and sometimes (most of the time) near incomprehensible, and explain to me why he liked it, what put it above the rest. Thanks to Adam, I know about Paramore, A Day to Remember, Pierce the Veil, La Dispute, and Thousand Foot Krutch.

They both have patiently endured my Taylor Swift, my hormonal mood swings and my decidedly strange sense of humor. They let me read aloud my favorite books to them, Howl's Moving Castle, Percy Jackson and Sammy Keyes. They have made me laugh, made me cry, broken my heart and mended it again, gave me strength and gave me patience and yelled "PWNED!!!!" when I did succeeded.

No girl in the world has such brothers as I do. No one could be as lucky and as blessed as I am.

Their return can not come fast enough.

Over & Out,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hopeless. Completely Hopeless

I. Can't. Stop. Watching. It.

It is just that awesome.

Can't freaking WAIT for December 14, 2012.

Well, I actually have things to say, besides starting 2012 off with my overwhelming fan-girling joy. No, really. I did! Stop looking at me suspiciously!!

You're still looking.


Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes, things I wanted to say. What were they?

Oh yes, reviews! Because I promised. I keep my promises. Because Oi'm a good girl, Oi am!! (Bonus points to anyone who guesses the quote correctly.)

This is a first, two different books by the same author! A new favorite recently discovered by impulse (as usual),Laini Taylor. If you haven't heard of her, go pick up her stuff, because the lady can write. Really, truly write, like, create whole worlds and atmospheres in only a few paragraphs. Both of what she's written have been National Book Award finalists. I've been checking up on her website pretty regularly, so I've been seeing how her process works, and ya know, I like what I see. Quite a bit.

So, first review! Daughter of Smoke and Bone, her first full-length novel, first book of a trilogy. The story takes place in Prague, a welcome and refreshing change from New York, London, or Paris, your typical "cool-character" stomping grounds. Our heroine is Karou, blue-haired, multi-tattooed, multilingual art student, with ninety-three sketchbooks filled with beings she calls chimaera. She's endlessly surprisingly, completely mysterious, and at her core, very lonely. See, the chimaera in her book? They're real. They raised her from infancy. She's sworn never to talk about them to ordinary humans, for obvious reasons. Karou has no idea where she's come  from, who her parents are, and why the chimaera raised her at all. Brimstone, the taciturn, enigmatic leader of the group, refuses to tell her.

The greatest mystery of Karou's life? Brimstone's collection of...teeth. He has contacts over the world, hunters, scientists, human traffickers (urgh), who provide him with this unexpected commodity, human and animal both. What is the collateral?

Brimstone pays them in wishes. 

Got your attention yet?

This book must be savored, slowly, like hot chocolate on a winter's night. Or the best piece of tiramisu you've ever had. You can't just rush into it. It brims over with fairy tales, glitter, wishes, flight, angels and monsters, marionettes, and a surprise ending you will never see coming. Take my word for it. And oh, yeah, the mysterious hot boy who is by now requirement for YA literature? His name's Akiva and I want to marry him now. Not even joking. If I was a totally awesome, blue-haired girl like Karou, I'd be set. 

Second review! Lips Touch: Three Times, which is like a novella, but not quite. There are three separate stories, nothing in common with each other, except for one thing: They each feature a first kiss. The first story, Goblin Fruit, is about Kizzy, who hates her decidedly weird life, her weird family with their crazy superstitions, her still half-grown body that doesn't cooperate with her. Kizzy's a girl who makes me think of me, of all the girls who want. Not for any one thing, mind you, but for everything. To be beautiful, to be desired, loved, thrilling, inscrutable, dangerous and all around amazing. I still am that girl to a certain extent, but I've better channeled it now, into my writing. Kizzy's been warned all her life to beware of the goblins, who will tempt striving young woman with out-of-season fresh fruit and drive a girl out of her mind desire for their unnatural taste. But Kizzy doesn't listen and Jack Husk, the beautiful new boy at school who pays unexpected attention to her, just might be her first kiss...if he's not the death of her first.

The second story, Spicy Little Curses Such as These, takes place in British Raj, where readers get a look into another culture's version of Hell. Estella, called "the old bitch" by her countrymen, is the Ambassador to Hell. She bargains regularly with a demon, trading children's souls for the ones of wicked men and women. But the demon isn't satisfied. To make life harder for Estella, he insists on adding curses to their negotiations.  The worst one is when he curses a newborn baby girl with the most beautiful voice ever to come from human lips. Anyone who hears it will fall down dead on the spot. Anamique, the cursed girl, lives her life in self-imposed silence, until the handsome former soldier (fresh from the horror of World War I) James Dorsey falls in love with her and Anamique returns his love. It's a train wreck waiting to happen, and yet...Anamique, though silent, prevails and overcomes. She's easily the most intriguing character I've run across in a while.

The third and final story, Hatchling, is not be read lightly. It deals with some pretty adult issues, tangled up in a fantasy story with touches from the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism thrown in. Èsme lives a fairy-tale life with her mother, Mab. They know no one, they live alone with each other, and Èsme knows no other life but that. Until one day she wakes up to the howling of wolves...and her left eye suddenly turns ice-blue. Mab panics at the sight of it, and snatches her daughter away, running from the Druj, soulless, immortal shape-shifters. It's not unlike the changeling stories from European folklore, but much darker. Read it with caution, and carefully, or you'll miss key plot points. I missed parts of it myself when I first read it. 

Now, this possibly the longest blog entry I've written yet! If you've come this far, let me congratulate you...and hope you pick up the books I took so much time to review! You won't regret it.

Over & Out,