A moment of illumination

I thought I loved this series, but then again, it’s been a while since I picked it back up. So when I did, I found my whole experience could be summed in the following paragraph:

I saw him.

And he saw me.

He stood at the end of the aisle in his true form, shining as bright as a diamond. He didn’t look any different than the rest of the Luxen, but every ounce of my being knew it was him. The very cells that made me who I was snapped alive and cried out for him. He still was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. Tall and shining like a thousand suns, edges shimmering a faint red. (29)

He’s beautiful. I get it. He’s also your one true love, perfect for its general audience, meaning any teenager learning how to cope with their feelings. He’s a heroic, overly-protective male protagonist who will do anything for his girlfriend, and even though she’s not weak, this does fit the standard fairy tale with him saving her most of the time. This book continues along the lines of its previous rang, each character obsessed with the beauty of the other. Both barely out of high school. Both thinking only of sex, which surprisingly this book has a lot of. Not with an excess of details but with a copious number of appearances, more than I expected for a YA book. At least it does present the discussion of safe sex. Multiple times, the protagonists have pointed out the necessity of condoms. SPOILER. Don’t want to end up like Beth, do we?

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book, I did. But, I found it so less rounded than I have other books. The only other compliment I found, besides each other’s hotness, was the following paragraph here:

“You’ve got a big heart, Kitten.” His lips cruised over mine as he spoke. “That’s what I love about you most. Well, that and I am a really big fan of your sweet body, but your heart? Yeah, that completes the package of you, wraps it up with a nice little bow. It makes you perfect to me.” (281)

Well I’m glad she has a heart. At least now I’m no longer standing in a puddle; my feet are getting wet. But remember back at the beginning where she tried to save that little girl, getting herself captured and nearly killed? She hardly spends a moment mourning her passing, having a quick recollection that ‘the Luxen were probably too fast for her.’ I still don’t feel like she has a lot of compassion. More than she has morals. And is willing to go to any lengths to keep her husband happy. (Btw, they’re married.)

No. What I really enjoyed about this book, and what made this one stand out from all its siblings, was the following statement.

“We’re connected-all of us. From the moment they came, we’ve been inside one another’s heads. I’m not sure how it works. It’s never been like this before. Maybe it’s because there are so many of us here, but when I’m in my true form, there’s no hiding from it. It’s not too bad…now. There are things they don’t know, that we’ve been able to keep from them, but I’m not sure how much longer that’s going to work.” (75)

I thought this was the most interesting part of the series and this book. Jennifer Armentrout has not only created a unique species, one created from energy and light, but a species opposite of ours, having no individuality once their species has congregated on Earth. With so many present, they behave as a hive, sharing each other’s thoughts and feelings, not having any of their own. Which in itself is interesting. It would mean our instant destruction since they could coordinate attacks perfectly, and we would be too slow, humanity taking too long for consensus. I also thought it was cool that this weakness (or strength) could be combated by having a human-lover, since being attracted to our individuality meant they earned some of their own. I really appreciated this facet. It also would’ve been nice to explore this theme a little more, since the concept of individuality opens up the theme of choice, but alas, this book is for teenagers. But at least it discusses the topic of safe sex.

Armentrout, Jennifer L. Opposition. Fort Collins, CO: Entangled Publishing, 2014. Print.

Avoiding Nitty Gritty Details

There’s one book I want to talk about called Dark Matter, and right off the bat, I’m going to go ahead and point out the obvious. Yes. I agree with the general reviews on GoodReads. This book is a fast-paced science fiction thriller, and although it’s a science fiction, it doesn’t go into nitty gritty details and leaves out most of the fancy vernacular, making it accessible for most general audiences. That being said, it wasn’t my favorite book. I found it very dramatic, overly suspenseful, but although it didn’t appeal to me, I still liked it and read it in one go. But there’s one thing I want to focus on: the brilliantly constructed multi-universe theory.

This scientific theory says there’s basically an unlimited number of possible universes. Find more information here. And Dark Matter takes this idea and runs with it. SPOILER. When we meet the character Jason, he’s stuck on the idea that his life is ordinary. He’s not questioning on whether he made the right decision, because he loves his wife and son, but he’s wondering what it would’ve been like if he had followed his research. What if he had followed his dreams and become the celebrated genius that his friend had earned instead?

What if?

This book follows this idea, this theme you could say, and questions what if the multiverse theory was true? And, that is what Blake Crouch does well. We get to see a number of different universes that divert at different points on the timeline of creation, including what if humans hadn’t existed? What if the world had collapsed becoming unlivable to all of mankind? What if mankind had succeeded, creating the most technology-forward world yet? This is a brilliant exploration of originality, where Crouch shows that he has mastered the art of dreaming, where his dreams have led to the creation of a thousand worlds, even if they only exist inside his own head.

If you find yourself not a fan of science-fiction and want to give it a shot, here’s where to start. Pick up a copy of Dark Matter, and color yourself intrigued.

Courch, Blake. Dark Matter. New York, NY: Crown, 2016.

Greens are good for you

I have never been a fan of bitter greens, but then again, I have pretty sensitive taste buds. Even so, that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying the book Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. I just finished this one up a few days ago, and I have to say, while the story didn’t hit home at the end, there are two reasons for why I still strongly enjoyed this book: the inception story-telling and the character similarities between Selena Leonelli, Margherita, and Charlotte-Rose.

This story starts with Charlotte-Rose arriving at a covenant, depressed and wishing she was back at the Versailles palace with the king, unsure of how she had gotten herself kicked out of court to the nunnery. She struggles giving up her pleasures from the palace, like her dresses and quills, and progressively loses the strength of her personality to the constant onslaught of obedience and subservience. It isn’t until she finds Soeur Seraphina, untils she’s rejuvinated with the story of Margherita.

Margherita, a young seven-year old girl with hair like fire, is at first excited when a strange lady comes up and hands her a beautiful golden necklace, but it isn’t until she goes home to her mother that the true story is revealed.

Now two stories deep and going into a third, Margherita’s mother, Pascalina, tells of how she was orphaned and helped by a beautiful witch, one who had a beautiful garden, the first one Pascalina had seen since arriving into the Italian city. SPOILER. This is the same witch, who gives Pascalina a spell to make a beautiful, homely man fall in love with her; who steals her daughter Margherita from her family; who then forces Margherita into a tower, in order to keep herself young; and who is saved by Margherita due to the girl’s own serenity and forgiveness.

Overall, this book goes three layers deep. And although it certainly adds additional parallel stories,  it never once feels contrived. SPOILER. I think it helps that the main character telling the story, Soeur Seraphina, turns out to be the one and the same Selena Leonelli, the witch who had cursed Margherita and been saved by her as well. I also think it helps that she ends up being such a brilliant mirror for Charlotte-Rose as well.SPOILERS.

 Charlotte-Rose- the woman  Margherita – the girl  Selena – the witch
  •  Proud Huguenot, worshiped an illegal religion
  • Independent woman
  • Mother ‘stolen’ and sent to a nunnery, where she died
  • Locked away against her will by her guardian Marquis de Maulevrier at the age of twelve
  • Escaped being beaten through imagination
  • Embarrassed/shamed by first lover
  • Seduced second lover with black magic
  • Lost third lover to his father’s honor
  • The garden at the convent like her mother’s garden
  • Successfully born due to parsley, so parsley birthmark
  • Stolen away from her mother at 7-years old by the witch, then donated to a nunnery
  • Loves to sing
  • Locked away in a tower at the age of twelve
  • Cuts her wrists for the witch, donating blood for longevity
  • Attracted her rescuer through singing
  • Rescued by Lucio de Medici, nephew of the Grand Duke
  • Baptised Maria the Whore’s Brat
  • Renamed Selena Leonelli by the witch Sibillia, whom she served
  • Learned magic and played courtesan to cast vengence and to be independent from men
  • Worshipped the illegal religion of witchery
  • Rejected by Tiziano
  • Used red-headed girls to keep her longevity, but wanted the girls to love her
  • Became a nun at the convent to be good

Notice how the characters have so many things in common. Both Charlotte and Selena are independent women, both unwilling to be so reliant on men. Both have experienced men’s rejection a number of times, but while Selena used magic to earn her freedom and Margherita used her singing, Charlotte used her power of words.

And while I’m thinking about it, this book also has a lot of symbolism regarding time. When I define all the characters, I see the grandmother, the woman, and the girl. Each at a different stage in their life. While Margherita’s innocence saved her, something commonly associated with young children and girls, it was Charlotte’s and Selena’s corruption that doomed them. It wasn’t until Selena had grown older that her wisdom could be shared, in order to save others from their own corruption, the same corruption that had unwittingly stolen Charlotte-Rose to the nunnery in the first place.

Overall, by the end of this book, you won’t be overwhelmed by a strong ending, and you won’t be compelled to read it in one-sitting, but I’d like to argue it is just as good as all of Forsyth’s other books. It’s definitely worth the read.

PS. Another reason I like this book, and Forsyth’s books in general is that it’s a historical fiction piece that tells the story of how the real Mademoiselle Charlotte-Rose de la Force created the story of Rapunzel, how she might’ve heard/retold it from the first version Petrosinella, ‘Little Parsley.’

Forsyth, Kate. Bitter Greens. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books, 2012. Print.

5 Levels of Editing

So I’ve finished another book, and now I’m stuck with my neck craning back, aching, a wall looming before me, and I just can’t bring myself to figure out: What is the key to editing? Being a perfectionist, there seems to be so much looming before me, but I feel like if I break it down, then it doesn’t seem that bad anymore. So tad-dah! Here’s the 5 levels of editing:

5levelsofediting

1. Plot’s ARC

This is the broadest, most general pass I do while editing. Here I’m looking across my entire story, examining it for an arc, explained earlier here. I want to make sure it has all the general pieces of a story, specifically a climax, and I want to make sure it smoothly increases and decreases in tension. Bobby shouldn’t be dying before readers know he’s fallen down the stairs, or that he’s fallen down the stairs because he has a loose peg leg, which his brother unwittingly loosened for him after a fight over their favorite game.

2. Chapter Editing

At this point, I’m no longer looking at the entire book but each chapter, and there’s a few things I’m checking for:

  • Looking for a purpose/conflict so that the story moves itself ahead
    • If the chapter is missing one or the other, I need to change it so it has both
  • Checking for realistic dialogue
  • Editing transitions between chapters so that you don’t lose focus/tension

3. Paragraph Editing

Here are stylistic changes, which means adding more character reflection or imagery. My goal is that every chapter comes alive and that can’t happen unless you’re connected to the characters (through internal reflection) or until you can see the story (which means more detailed imagery, using as many senses as possible). Currently, I’m not here, but later I’m going to find my ideal paragraph and use that as a standard to measure up against the rest of my writing.

4. Line Editing

Here focus is narrowed until you’re looking at individual lines. Your always asking yourself, is there a better way to say this? Is it awkward? A good test at this point is to start reading your whole story aloud. Read it to a partner or friend. What can sound good in your head can sound really awkward aloud, and usually your mouth is already fixing the sentence for you. Try it.

5. Word Editing (aka proof-reading)

This is more like copy-editing as this point with CUPS, ensuring you have good spelling. Changing your word choice when you think of a better word. Etc. At this point, you should be feeling happy with the story, and if not, you need to go back and rethink at what point are you not happy? Maybe there’s something you need to fix.