Sunday, 30 December 2012

Out of One Year, Into Another

The end of 2012 is nigh. 2013 is just around the corner, and, with that, people will start putting together resolutions. Here's a list of mine, in no particular order:

1) Get more involved. What with schoolwork and writing, there's not a lot of extra time. But I want to make time to get involved with extracurriculars and volunteer work.

2) Finish Draft One of my current work-in-progress, Ice Roses. I'm 300 pages, 75,000 words into this draft. I have the hardest time finishing stories--I've written lots of short ones, but this will be the first full-length novel that I finish.

3) Start/maybe finish Draft One of Ethereal, my Beauty and the Beast retelling. People always say that when you finish one project, you should start another and ignore the first one for a while before revising. (I think that's Stephen King's advice). And that's exactly what I plan on doing. I have so many stories to write, so there will be no problem finding something else to work on!

4) Continue growing closer to God and living out my Christian faith. This is the hardest one. With faith, you're always growing out. I'm a very introverted person, so making an effort to go beyond myself and my tiny circle is always tough. Only by the strength of God!

5) Do the best I can at school, and try to figure out God's direction in my life. At this point, I want to study English and History at university, but understanding where that's going to get me later on is a difficulty. It's a constant struggle, because school is very expensive and half the time I wonder if I should just drop out and do something that will guarantee me a job. But you only have one life, and with God's help, I want to live it without fear and take some risks.

So there you have it--my New Year's Resolutions. Come on, 2013!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Book Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Blood Red Road (Dust Lands, #1)

This review is also posted on my account: The Writer of Dream Things.

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when four cloaked horsemen capture Lugh, Saba's world is shattered, and she embarks on a quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the outside world, Saba discovers she is a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba’s unrelenting search for Lugh stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization. 

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetic writing style, and an epic love story—making Moira Young is one of the most exciting new voices in teen fiction.

--image and description from

Blood Red Road threw me back to the feel of old Westerns--and I loved it. I thought the atmosphere of all the dust and the desert and the ghost towns was absolutely fantastic.

However, there were definitely things I thought could be improved.

For the most part, I loved the interaction between Saba, Emmi, and Lugh. Saba's feelings towards Emmi felt realistic given the situation, and I loved watching them grow closer throughout the book. But Emmi started grating on my nerves when she just wouldn't listen to Saba--not once--and it kept getting them into trouble. You'd think she'd learn.

I also loved how the action wasn't too gratuitous. For the most part, the book was fairly fast-paced; there was always something happening. However, some of the things, like Saba finding the Lugh's necklace in the Wrecker settlement right before it would have been buried forever, just came together a bit too neatly for Saba. 

Then, at times, the pacing of the book was just too slow. The beginning was really fun and I read through the first third very quickly. But once they reached Hopetown, my interest started to dwindle.

Which leads to my next point.

The characters. I think the reason I found the book slow at times is because other than Saba and Emmi, the rest of the characters just weren't fully developed. They were just names. When Saba makes friends with the Free Hawks, I wondered why. It's like I just blinked, and it happened. I just didn't connect to any of them, which made it hard when Epona and Ike died.

Which leads to my next issue. The romance.

The heartstone part threw me for a loop. As well, I felt that Jack and Saba didn't have enough time to develop their relationship. It was insta-love on his side, and... I don't know what it was on hers. I liked them, but it just bothered me how well they seemed to know each other after so little time. They didn't even talk that much either, but there was Saba claiming to know his true self. Excuse me, what the heck? Maybe I'm just too cynical...

Lastly, there were too many unexplained things. The stars, DeMalo, the entire background of their world. But I'm not too bummed out about this, because that's what sequels are for!

Note that I'm also not a fan of dystopias, but this one's western background reeled me in. Plus it's by a Canadian author! Woot! So for those looking for a book bursting with action and a sweltering-hot atmosphere, Blood Red Road might be for you!

4 stars!

Friday, 14 December 2012

Book Review: Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Heartless, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, has the honour of being my first book review on this blog.

Princess Una of Parumvir has come of age and will soon marry. She dreams of a charming prince, but when her first suitor arrives, he's not what she'd hoped. Prince Aethelbald of mysterious Farthestshore has travelled a great distance to prove his love--and also to bring hushed warnings of danger. A dragon is rumored to be on the hunt and blazing a path of terror. 

Una, smitten instead with a more dashing prince, refuses Aethelbald's offer--and ignores his cautions with dire consequences. Soon the Dragon King himself is in Parumvir and Una, in giving her heart away unwisely, finds herself in his sights. Only those courageous enough to risk everything have a hope of fighting off this advancing evil. --Image and description from

I happened to stumble across this author somewhere online while looking up books. Good books are hard to find nowadays (but that is a whole other post), so I was delighted when I found a Christian author who wrote fantasy in the vein of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Perhaps I have been living under a rock, but there is little of that beauty found in today's fantasy and young adult literature.

So, after perusing various reviews on other blogs and, I took advantage of the opportunity for downloading the book for free onto my computer. I meant to follow the author's read-a-long on her blog and just read a chapter a day, but I found myself entranced by the story and needing to find out what happened next. I'm ashamed--but of course, not too ashamed--to say that my studying for finals became a trifle neglected. (Never fear, I have no intention of failing any of my courses).

Even now, the story and characters are stuck in my head. While I was supposed to be studying for an exam this afternoon, I ended up doodling a scene from the book instead. That is the power of an amazing book: it never leaves you, but sinks deep into your skin and, if you're an artist, it tingles in your fingers.

This book did that to me. It sunk deep down and waits in my hands, characters urging me to splash them across the pages.

Despite the story being a fairy-tale and an allegory, the characters still have depth. The main character is stubborn and naive and dreadfully annoying, but I loved her. Don't we all experience that kind of love? A relative whose flaws seem so magnified we can barely stand them, but somehow we are drawn to them anyways. That's what it felt like between Una, the main character, and I. She made many mistakes and she was a silly little chit of a girl most of the time, but by the end of the story she has matured so much that some scenes left me aching for her.

Being a sister myself, I loved the banter between Una and her younger brother, Felix. They came alive on the page and left me laughing so many times. The author does a splendid job taking old archetypes and breathing new life into them. Felix, the naive young prince, also grows and also takes steps back in his growth like any real person would. I am very excited to see how he progresses through the series.

I could go on and on about the host of characters--a cat with no eyes who is more than he seems, a mysterious lady with the prettiest name I've ever heard... and, of course, the main redeemer-character, a prince named... Aethelbald. Yes, you read that right.

A prince named Aethelbald, who seems too perfect and too nice to stand. Like Una, there were parts where I couldn't stand him. And this shows Ms. Stengl's genius. It is all on purpose. Usually I detest stereotypes, but there is a difference between authors using them with intention and authors that use them without realizing. Ms. Stengl uses the character of Aethelbald, and even Una, as representatives of Christ and the Church. While this may discomfort some--and it did me for a bit, I admit--in the end, it does make sense. In the Bible, Christ and the Church are often described as Bridegroom and Bride.

So, instead of rejecting this book as "full of stereotypes" or "unfocussed", one should use the extra-textual references (haha! a reference to my Introduction to English Literature class!) to better understand its message. The Biblical references enhance the story into a tale of redeeming love that no mortal prince can offer you, whether or not you're a princess.

And isn't that the best thing of all--that it points to something beyond itself? It is not a selfish narrative, but one which urges the reader to expand their knowledge, limits, and understanding. 'There is a whole other world to be found between the lines of a book--and a whole other world to be found within the moments of our lives.

5 stars!

In Which I Begin a Blog... And a Journey

It was after much consideration that I finally decided to start blogging. For too long I had watched other book bloggers and wondered what it might be like on the other side. Now I will take the plunge, and see where God leads!

It's a common adage to say life is a journey: well, so is writing. And for me, this is just another step--into the wide, wide world, and into the other world of words. I am excited for this journey, and I hope if you're reading this blog you will stick around. You never have to agree with what I say or believe--just be open-minded enough to give it some thought.

So, here goes....