Where’s The Key Alice? Work in Progress!

Today, I want to talk about my latest photomanipulation.  This post, of course, comes later than the creation I uploaded on DeviantART, simply because I haven’t had the time to write it up.  Life, as always, has been busy.  But lately, it’s been so much busier because asides from researching, I’ve been writing.  Oh yes.  I’ve been writing, and it’s taking such an immense amount of my concentration, I can’t even think beyond my day life (researching), and for the moment, night life (writing project: Golden Phoenix).  But sometime over the last month, I’d managed to find the time to do this:

Where's the Key Alice by N-arteest

My second greatest feat since I returned back to doing what a hobby artist does in her spare time: create, is Where’s the Key Alice?  

Creating something big, wonderful, and beautiful, takes a painstaking amount of time out of one’s day.  While I won’t say that what I make is beautiful, but I do feel extremely proud of my accomplishments.  Until, of course the next one, which makes the previous one seem like it needs a lot of work! Haha.

Every time I come back to creating something new, I find myself improved over time.  This is probably very normal, and is, like with most things, writing, reading, singing, dancing, probably influenced by the changes that have occurred in our lives, that gives us a new perspective on the world.  For me, I just got a little bit older, and hopefully, a little bit wiser.  Every day, though, I still fear the thought of losing yesterday (like the poem I wrote: Voices of Yesterday), of having my world become clear and focussed, rather than that beautiful rosy tint. I don’t, obviously, want to go back to being a child.  I like growing up.  But I don’t want to lose the endless daydreams of childhood, or the boundless abundance of hope that filled them.

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Time is such a precious commodity. I know I spend a lot of time thinking, I’m wasting time sitting here!  Eating is a waste of time!  Why am I wasting my time right now?  Every moment counts.

But some days.  We just need to sit back.  Relax.  It might be hard.  But there is a whole world in front of you.  And just maybe something will inspire you.  If you push yourself to the limit, you will go mad!  Or become so overstressed by the problems that are attacking you from left to right.  I would say get organised!  But maybe what you need is a little disorganisation?  Something to break up the chock-a-block routine you have going, and to completely disrupt your system until it’s in complete smithereens, and all you can do is think…I’ve had.  I’m going to take that damn break.  And maybe, like Forest Gump, you might want to run back and forth across the country, think things through, until sudden you stop, and realise.  That’s it.  I don’t need to think anymore.

Working on Where’s the Key Alice? became my spontaneous inspirational-drop-everything-else break.  Sure I had my research up in the day and I was researching and thinking and reading.  But I also had a jpg of my project up so I could stare at it and analyse what could be eliminated and what could be added.  At some points, I put it away and turned to my research, and found myself thinking…oh…now I didn’t think about that before.  And at night, I spent most of my time piecing and unpiecing, editing, and blending my gigantic mess, all the while, my writing project is open in the background, to glance at every so often, but with no pressure for me to really think about it.  Since there was no need.  Writing comes when it comes.  You don’t force it.  Otherwise you might want to get a pair of scissors and stab the screen for its corniness, or lameness.

So I focussed, with no real solid idea in mind, except that I was inspired while randomly looking for garden pics.  I came across this picture with a fairy girl hunched over a book, and beside her was a great sleeping dragon of some sort.  Overall the composition was very simple.  But I liked this idea of a secret garden.  A second scene to the first Which Way Alice which I really didn’t plan to make a sequel of.

Which Way Alice by N-arteest

Unfortunately, the hair on the two ‘Alices’ look different, because I was trying a different technique.  The feel between them is different too.  However, if I were to ever make it into a series (depending on whether I’m inspired or not), there’d definitely be an explanation! But now that they’re both done and next to each other, I feel like the second one, is the first scene, and the first is the second!

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And now, for the works in progress!  I think I should counted how many layers I used, but in the end, I lost track.  I do know there is at least 100!

So.  Part 1: The Background.  The background in my works is usually just piecing stock photos together, blending it into a much bigger scenery, one that’ll match my imagination.  Unlike with Which Way Alice? I didn’t change my design after I began it.  Right from the beginning, I was pretty set on my idea.  The question was, how do I do it?  when it comes to photomanipulation, the best thing is to have good stock.   It doesn’t have to have the best lighting, or even the best angle, so long as it fits your idea and you can manipulate it realistically.  Lighting you can edit later.

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Above, is the first part, and which I called ‘background’ when I was layering my image.  Since I use many pictures to create a bigger picture, many little elements blended to be one, there are alot of layers.  Coupled with the fact that I use clipped layers for each one to adjust the Colour Balance, it can get a little messy.  So I divide my picture into sections. For Where’s the Key Alice, I went from left to right, and grouped the sections according to an approximate third of the pic.  At the moment, there’s only the colour change applied.  2

The next part of the background, was the middle ground and I wanted waterfalls. I’ve always wanted to manipulate a photo to have an amazing waterfall!  But as you can see, I’m getting there!  Colour Balance again.  You want to have a nice even colour scheme overall.  Mine was aiming for a vivia entrancing, luxurious green for the flora, and a mysterious magical blue-green for the waterfall.

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And of course, a stone mini castle there at the edge of the waterfall.  I wanted to add as many pathways as possible too, since to me, mostly, I love pathways.  I love lots of meandering paths, and misleading doors, that bring up the questions of which way?  4

The Foreground.  Above, we have the last part of the picture.  Originally, I’d enlarged the floating island so that it was at the very forefront of the picture, however, since I wanted to show it floating, I had to shrink it.  Which may have been for the better, but I feel, here, I might have erred, since you can’t see the writing on the lamp post as clearly.  And most of that is important.  Important to the floating island, is the doorway seemingly to another world. This, I definitely, absolutely wanted to add, because the calm of the scenery inside the archway was to contrast against the beauty outside.

5Lighting!  And adding in all the details.  Like the lights, the glow of the lamps.  The faeries.  I brightened up the image using the burn and dodge tool, adding in shadows in some places, and then dodging others to be brighter.

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Stone angels were inserted for their significance.  Just like the other image (Which way Alice) there are exactly 3.  Death is also present.

And now, below, for the Close Ups! The first is of the left side of the picture, by the crystal fountain.  I did blend in sun rays, because I wanted the light shining through, blindingly and brilliantly.  Here as you can see, in the light of the crystal fountain, the shadow of death is waiting along the path.  Just another obstacle along the way.  I still think I probably overdid it with the crystal fountain, and also think I tried something too early too soon.  But hey, when you’re constantly honing your skills, it’s all about the trial and error!  The faeries are all different sizes though,I deliberately did like that because well, they’re magical beings, no need to be rational there!

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Sorry, my WIP kind of went astray and I didn’t talk about the techniques I used as much, but I’ve never really been very good at describing them.  After all, I’ve only just learnt half of the techniques I used for Where’s the Key Alice and Which Way Alice recently myself!  Plus, my method is really very simple, and learnt from tutorials online.  But if you want to know more, let me know!  I will try and whip one up!  Since I know, sometimes tutorials aren’t all that useful, because they’re bam, bam, bam, and unless you’re trialling and errorring, you don’t really know what they’re talking about.

Main Tools of Use:

  • Photoshop (I use C2 since that was the one version of photoshop I first fell in love with!  But I do want to upgrade to the latest since the newer update has a tool I really want to use!)
  • DeviantART stocks and resources (absolutely fabulous)
  • My brain (yes, I did use this, and though it’s obvious, I figure I’d add it in ;P)

I had a lot of fun making this.  And it’s now my laptop wallpaper.  It’s a completed thing, but my skills, like always, are a work in progress.  Everything in life is a work in progress. Nothing is ever truly finished!  When you put your mind to it, you can create something amazing that you didn’t think you could, and when you get older, you can look back and think, wow, I can’t believe I did that then, look what I can do now?  For me, that’s how I hope I’ll see the things I did this year, last year, back when I was 15, in 20 or 30 years time.

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**NOTE: All stocks used for “Where’s The Key Alice” are listed on DeviantART (Another link for you: HERE.  And wow.  I’m amazed.  It’s taken me a few hours to write this all up, and WordPress has autosaved it for me 84 times!  I don’t know why, but I find it quite impressive!

Storm and Silence. Robert Thier.


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Storm and Silence by Robert Thier

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Category: YA Historical Fiction

Thank you to the author for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

This was a hit on wattpad, and now, it’s being published as an ebook on the 19th of March!

Quick Review. 4.5 Stars

Gawdbloodyhell, if you love cold but secretly sweet though not bipolar male love interests, pick this up! If you love a female protagonist who’s kickass all the way through even in the toughest of moments (though she acts even when scared) and won’t let a man tell her she can’t do anything. Then pick this up! If you love Historical Romance, a female character who’s a feminist, suffragette (but not extremely hardcore feminist/suffragette, but rather, values the principles of feminism and acts on it), then YES you got it! If you’re a bit of a fan of gender bendering, humorous interactions between female protagonist and love interest, you got it. And most importantly, if you like action, this has plenty of it!

Highlights of the book (quick and briefly)

– Miss Lilly Linton and Mr Ambrose. They kept me up until the early hours of Saturday morning because I just wanted so much more of them!
– Pure/clean romance (but there is kissing! Actually quite a lot of kissing at one questionable moment, but it doesn’t go any further than that.)

If you want to know more, keep reading below (because although my quick review is gushing over it, there were several things that nagged at me. BUT definitely not enough for me to rate this down tooo much.)

 

Initial Thoughts Before Reading

I want to point out that, although I was intrigued by the premise. (Although even the premise is very brief and says little). And that cover! You know, I love a beautiful cover, and this one, is just, well, so very intriguing and simple! Though, it did make me frown. Why? Because the 19th century, in particularly the beginning of, is one of my favourite time periods ever. Storm and Silence is set about 20 years later than the Regency, located in the Victorian Era – another era I do love reading about, because hell yes, Queen! on the throne – and the cover just looks like a guy in a suit. Then again, because you can’t see the back of, and I’m not expert on clothes unless I’m looking at the actual thing, my head debated for a bit, before settling down on, OKAY it still passes as being somewhat accurate! And since my brain clearly agreed on that, we moved onto the next thing. Intrigued by premise and cover, I did in fact check out some of the previous reviews, reviews given by people who loved the book on Wattpad.

-.-

I won’t lie. Those reviews made me so gawdawfully suspicious. Everyone loved it! PRAISES FOR ALL. LOVE. LOVE. LOVE. THREE CHEERS.

Ugh. I hate books that have too many praises, and though I love reading people’s reviews (both positive and negative), sometimes it’s just so hard for me to believe them! (Hence why I go out and read the book for myself. Though usually, the higher the praise a book gets, the longer it takes for me to read it. But sometimes, I might just jump right in.)

And so YES. I started this book with all intentions of hating it. THAT and also, I started it because I’d already finished the book in my bag on my morning trip to uni, and had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO READ on my way home. And when one has absolutely nothing to read they’ll read anything.

It was really good that my first impression was low. Because if it was high, then I might have found it harder to like.

Or maybe, this book really is just that likeable :P? Because I know, by the end of the book, I was crying for more. Craving, dying, wanting. So glad Thier is an author on Wattpad, and that I have Wattpad, and I can follow and read the sequel!

First Impressions Comparison

– I was reminded of A Spy in the House – the Agency series with the whole mystery angle.
– I was also reminded a little of A School for Unusual Girls, with the whole smart girl thing. Though Lilly is smart in her own little way.
– And Newt’s Emerald, for the gender bending, cross dressing! And also, the mystery aspect again, and the desperate need to recover something.
– Andddd A Matter of Magic, again, for a bit of the crossdressing, but also, the older, more authoritative figure, and the younger, assistant relationship (but mind, the age difference is around 5-ish/6-ish years).
– AND it has all the intense chemistry of any good slow burn romance book.
– OH I had like a Pride & Prejudice feel here, only less classic! Rather simply the values that each character has reminds me of P+P. But other than it’s nothing like the classic!

P L O T

The premise is a bit short in details about the plot. But yes, it does highlight one important aspect of the book. Lilly Linton wants freedom. And in a time when women’s rights are somewhat oppressed, Lilly and her small band of friends take part in small protests for women’s rights. Since this is set in the late 1830s of the Victorian Era, and before any serious suffrage movements take place. At the very beginning of the book, we see Lilly dressed up as a guy heading towards the polling booth. On the way, she helps out a gentleman businessman, who then offers her a job. If it weren’t for her tiny mistake at the polling booths, well, her potential new Employer, according to his card, Mr Ambrose, wouldn’t have found out she was a girl.

Even so, she turns up at his office as he had requested, and even though she’s dressed as a woman, she makes her way to meet him (to the surprise of everyone in the office). Of course, Mr Ambrose, a man of his time, and averse to the idea of a woman working, yet true and honourable to his word as a businessman, he allows Lilly to accept the job, on the condition that she dresses as a man – just like she had been when they first met.

But Mr Ambrose, thinking he knew better, didn’t expect her to return as such, finds himself a crossdressing female as his private secretary.

Throughout the whole book, Lilly fights him constantly about her right to work, and since she does her job impeccably, Mr Ambrose, true to his word as a businessman, cannot make her go. So, in turn, he does everything he can to get rid of her.

In the process, an important file goes missing, and Lilly finds herself unable to keep out of Mr Ambrose’s business, proving herself to be very resourceful and useful in the process, which of course, makes it harder and harder for Mr Ambrose to get rid of her. A lot of this plot focusses on this file and leads to the major cliffhanger at the end.

Action is a significant portion of the novel, and so is the romance between Lilly and Mr Ambrose. Though, mind you, it’s slow burn (my favourite type!) yet with plenty of chemistry and humorous encounters. This book, while categorized as historical romance, does not simply focus on these two people. Lilly does have her own problems, and must deal with it, in a dress, and with a fan, and must also be at work on time.

Some parts of this story lag a bit, specially when Lilly comes across her younger sister and her secret assignation with her lover. These scenes to me, felt a bit like a parody, like a caricature of forbidden loves, but at the same time, no less sweet. Admittedly, I just kept rolling my eyes at their interactions, mostly because the conversations were so silly! Bordering on satirical (which is also something I think this whole book does about that time period, but here’s why I also compare it to Heyer, since she wrote serious but humorous romances so the characters fall in love and yet do it humourously along the way). My favourite parts of this subplot however, was the ball scene towards the end.

C H A R A C T E R S

Lilly Linton, one of six daughters who are left with their aunt when her parents died. She’s nineteen, and couldn’t care less about balls, dances, and chauvinistic males. She’s more interested in wearing pants, fighting for rights as a woman, and a way out of her Aunt’s good gracious, to lift the burden, but also, so that she doesn’t ever have to marry anyone!What I love about her. She has a really interesting personality. Lots of humorous thoughts in her head, and doesn’t know how to really be a girl either. Even though in the company of men, she’s pretty feminine, except when she’s in full guy mode and allowed to swear up a storm and act like a guy. She’s clever, and resourceful, and refuses to give up her principles. She’s not invincible though. She doesn’t mind pushing her aunt to her limits, but so long as she plays towards her aunt’s desires (for her to go out and throw herself at gentleman to get married to), then she can be as free as a bird (well sort of free). When she’s in a dangerous situation, she gets scared and angry, but knows how to keep her head and follow orders (well not orders that tell her to stay away, but orders during the most intense moments). ON THE DOWNSIDE, Lilly’s stubbornness and inability to stay away from danger, throwing herself into tough situations might be dislikeable to some. However, I liked her enough because her character was justified and when she made a decision she stuck with it and acted as brave as possible, and not at all like a stupid-damsel-in-distress.

Mr Ambrose. His interactions with Lilly are the highlight of this book! I LOVE him. Well, rather, what I love, is how he was created. Indeed, he is somewhat your romantic love interest, the broody kind I mean. BUT BETTER. Broody typical love interests are always like, well, cavemen, broody and somewhat depressing. Mr Ambrose, is a sensible, logical, non-joking male, who knows how to use sarcasm (or rather he tells truths in a sarcastic way), likes to order people around, a miser who loves threatening Lilly by telling her that all the expenses are coming out of her wage, dresses well but plainly, is considered the richest man in all of England, has a somewhat shady background everyone is always speculating on, and though he acts like he only cares about Lilly because he needs a well working secretary, he does actually care about her, even though he never explicitly shows it because he’s always putting work first. You’ll understand what I mean when you read it! And work, as a man in his line of business, gets dangerous. Usually when it gets dangerous, he sends Lilly home, but she always manages to end up right at his side in the midst of danger, simply because she’s not the kind who takes well to be being ordered away simply because ‘she’s a girl’. Mr Ambrose though, usually after trying his best to send her away, allows her to stay. He does, respect her enough to let her stay, simply because he knows she won’t go away anyway.

Supporting characters mention: KARIM. YES. This guy who is Mr Ambrose bodyguard. HE IS AWESOME. Every time he pops up, he’s nearly the comic relief, even when Lilly and Mr Ambrose are at each other’s next in the most humourous way as possible without downgrading the importance of their arguments. I give Karim a special mention, because he plays an important throughout the book as Mr Ambrose’s bodyguard and trusted person. He does, after all, give Lilly the nickname that Mr Ambrose calls her rarely when he’s in a good mood. AND He’s terrified of Lilly simply because she’s a firecracker female!

S E T T I N G

1830s England, about the time when Victoria is crowned Queen, and the industrial revolution is blooming. My knowledge of this era is scattered, though I knew enough to be pleased with the accuracies. (Except I frowned a bit in confusion about the women suffrage movement, but after some research, I realized that the details in the book were still pretty accurate, since the proper movement didn’t begin until around the 1870s for the UK, but before that, there were smaller, little protests from the middle to upper class. And the notes that Thier added helped sort out the confusion in my head.)

W R I T I N G

Witty. It has it’s personal flair – Robert Thier flair. And by god. I can’t believe it. He can actually write from a female perspective EXCELLENTLY. Generally I don’t like genders writing for the opposite gender mainly because the guys come out extra whiny, or not convincingly enough male. And the females become overly obsessed with shoes and dresses and all, mainly over over exaggerated female stereotypes. However, Thier doesn’t do that. He gives Lilly’s principles, values, morals, habits, likes and dislikes, and writes a very convincing female tomboy without sounding like a man writing a female. Loved it. (And while Lilly freaks out over her feelings for Mr Ambrose, she usually has her head on straight and focussed on the task.)

Also, written in first person, and definitely all through the book a very characteristic YA style. More colloquial than historical in terms of language BUT there is enough era sensitive language used for the book to feel like it is set during the time it is supposed to!

He doesn’t waste too much time on description, but thankfully there is enough detail to give a full picture.
But the best part, is that he interweaves plenty of wittiness to love, and I find it absolutely humorous. Although the review copy I received had a few spelling errors and (of which will probably be filtered out before it’s actually published), I found the writing style likeable. There’s a cliffhanger at the end of nearly every chapter (hence why I ended up staying up to the ridiculous hour of 4am simply because I wanted to finish this AND STILL COULDN’T; if I wasn’t so rational, I would have kept going until 9am and forgoed sleep, but unfortunately, my eyes were just inadequately falling asleep on me!)

OH BUT WARNING. As much as I love scenes where the guy shoves a girl up against a wall (whether to intimidate, make a point, or just be a brute – I usually don’t really like the last option), this does happen a little too often in Storm & Silence, and while it’s not annoying (okay maybe a little) since it is a pretty intense scene each time, even though it’s absolutely pure each time! it does become a little bit repetitive. I think I counted 4 scenes? But well, like I said, the scenes are intense, and so much sparkly, steamy, clean & pure chemistry sparking between Lilly and Mr Ambrose, and it’s usually when they’re arguing! (And also another warning, depending on how you like your historicals, this one borders a bit onto the types where there’s more physical touching (for now I can only think of the Her Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers and The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen as examples of such and less of the distant intense chemistry of Heyer’s historical romances.)

O V E R A L L

I really enjoyed this. I did. Reading it, I was somewhat reminded of Georgette Heyer’s regencies (yes I know, I say this often, but if you follow my reviews, then y’all know well enough how much I love her books, and how they’re like my ultimate historicals) with outrageous scenarios (well in Heyer’s novels, this doesn’t always happen but still), a headstrong, somewhat feisty female protagonist, and a swoony busy love interest. (Still, Silence and Storm cannot really be compared to Heyer, because Heyer is a gem from another century, and her uniqueness makes her Queen Overlord of Historical Regency Romances. But what Thier has in common is his ability to thread his own flair and style into his story.) Either I was really craving a romance like this at this moment, and this just came by a the right time, or this book really is as good as its ratings, whichever, I think this is a pretty good book and I would definitely suggest it!

You know after finishing the review, I feel like I didn’t put in enough cons….but there were some, it’s just that my enjoyment overrode any negative feelings I might have had about the cons! I suppose if I were to pick some cons, it would be that although Silence and Storm felt like a whole and complete novel, sometimes I felt like it could be revisited and edited a bit more, and yet…while I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, it sure as hell is an interesting story (the highlight, the slowly blooming romance of Lilly and Mr Ambrose).

So if anything above catches your eye, give this book a chance. I can’t guarantee you’ll love it, but I sure as did. So maybe you won’t like, but hopefully you will since I do and don’t know how I read through this YA historical romance all at once and wanted more. Sometimes I think, wow there was a lot of silliness happening but then my brain morphs and justifies the scenes with the seriousness of the situation!

P.s. have I mentioned somewhere, this is one of the first ebooks I don’t have a problem with reading on the kindle phone app? I usually don’t like ebooks because I always feel like I’m reading some kind of draft, but well, this time, it didn’t feel like that at all! (except for the typos of course.)

View all my reviews

Random Music Moment #154

This is positively awful!   I abhor this piece of music!  (Scuse my language, I’ve been reading a book set in the Victorian Era).

But jokes aside, I do dislike (not really, I love it too much to hate it, then again I love it so much I hate it?) this piece of fabulous music to a certain degree because I found it while I was looking for study music to study with!  Instead, I became captivated with this song, and wanted nothing more than to  share it!

There something very hauntingly epic about this, and while it did little to egg me on in concentration, it did steal my attention and hold me captive for the duration of the song.

Blood Red Roses by C21 FX 

 

Quarterly Book Club Updates!

Quarterly Reads 3

 

Hi all!  It’s about time there’s a Quarterly Book Club update on my blog somewhere about what’s been happening on QBC.  It’s alot that’s for sure!  This month has so far been spent updating and rolling out new things!

What Sam and I have done:

  • Updated the groups, making the discussions one folder (as the polls indicated)
  • Are currently in the works with a new site so that those book lovers who aren’t on goodreads, but want to join us, can join in as well!
  • AND we have finally finished rolling out the new Yearly Challenges.  The old ones are still in place, but we also have new ones!  All of which will give participants the chance to either experience something different, something new, or revisit something old. Here they are!

Yearly Challenges!

**NEW**

Headless Challenge

Series Reread Challenge

Novellas Challenge

Seasons Challenge

Song Challenge

Published in 2015 Challenge

Series Challenge

Broship Challenge

Diversity Challenge

Star Wars Challenge

 

Sam, over at A History of Books and I, are very excited about all these new challenges.  In particular, somewhat very excited about the Star Wars challenge!  I know I am!  Still on my The Force Awakens high, I was even making comparisons with the Lunar Chronicles! We are also excited to try again the challenges from last year we may or may not have done so well!  But the new challenges this time round, are a diverse collection that will give participants, we hope, a variety!  From trying something new, to finally getting round to those series that you meant to read, to rereading old favourites!   Click on the links for more info!  Feel free to join us too!  Take part in these challenges that Sam and I are hosting for the Quarterly Book Club, and tell us how you go too!

The Quarterly Book Club is designed for the busy reader, with Quarterly reading challenges as well as Yearly challenges for flexibility. It’s also a place for personal reading challenges, book discussions, and essentially sharing your book tastes with others of similar tastes. Although we mainly focus on YA novels, that does not mean that we don’t read Adult or Middle Grade novels.
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Brought to you and hosted by Sam @ A History of Books and Nina @Words that Flow Like Water
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Hopefully we’ll see you there :) Sam and I will be posting the challenges that we do over on the group here on wordpress and post any book related posts in our group.  We Hope You Can Join Us!!!  We really would love to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Weighs Us Down.

We don’t always mean

What we say

When we say it

More like yell it

As it explodes from our mouths

In a fit of something

That was built on anger,

Or annoyance

Or stress

Or self-loathing.

We love you

We like you

We want to be your friend

Your lover

Your something.

But

We shake

And hate

How we feel afterwards

As our fingers tremble

And disgust fills us

As we wonder

Do we hate?

Do we love?

Is it the limit we have reached?

That makes us say

‘Sometimes I just hate

That part of you…’

And turn our backs

To walk away,

To stride through that door,

And slam it in your face,

To silently

And vengefully

Promise to ourselves

To never turn back.

So why do we go back

Over and over,

After we expressed

What had long been held

Tightly within

And our other selves

Revealed,

The side of darkness

Of curling envy

Of dreaded pain

Of self disgust…

Our words are true,

And emotion filled

Ripping away

The face that you always see.

We are not two faced,

Though it might seem that we,

We are just so calm

That sometimes you forget

That we are human too.

Don’t compare us to bullies

Or domestic abusers,

We are just your friend,

And sometimes,

We want to be heard too.

Sometimes,

It’s not about you,

Even though

We lashed out at you.

Sometimes,

Our shoulders are too heavy,

With things unrelated to you,

Sometimes,

We just don’t know how

To express

What weighs us down the most.

We don’t ask for it,

But we want,

What you want,

And we want

Someone to see

What we really mean;

Look between the words

Of burning fire,

And put out the source

Give back our smiles

And take away

Just a little of

What was us down.

 

 

The Lunar Chronicles. Marissa Meyer.

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Yes.  Yes I am.  I am suggesting this whole series as is, rather than writing up four separate reviews (I do have four reviews on my GR acct — >  Nina (Words and Water) ) because this WHOLE series has had me up in angst knots for the past couple of weeks.  If I hadn’t been purposefully dragging out each reading session just so that it wouldn’t have ended so soon, I would have gobbled up each book immediately, one per day.

First Off.  This series is amazing.  It fully deserves its 5 Stars.  But my rating will be 4.8 Stars.  

Thank you Sam! for recommending me this series.  Seriously, you hit the nail on the head!  

Check out Sam’s blog, over at A History of Books!

W H A T  I  L O V E D:

What I love about this series is that it’s pretty original!  Granted it was really hard for me to move onto a new series since right before this, I was on a Star Wars high, and I still kind of am! So I ended up drawing a lot of parallels between Star Wars and the Lunar Chronicles, which, is by no means a bad thing.  For while they are similar, they are so very different, and two very different series!  Here’s a quick list of what to love about this series in case it’s too much of a pain to read through his whole page :P

  1. The Action – heck yes, plenty of things happening!
  2. The Romance – there are romances!  And the good thing is, is that it doesn’t take over the plot, nor are the main problems at hand forgotten either.  There’s a good balance of both.  Not instalove.  Plenty of development.  And SURPRISE though we satisfactory endings at each book, it’s not perfect – their relationships spill over and continue to develop in the next installment
  3. Political tension – on a basic but well developed YA level.  So it’s acceptable and I found little fault with it.
  4. Tension in general – because it deals with cyborgs, shells, Lunars, there’s a lot of tension and discrimination going on, so your characters do suffer and be strong!
  5. Diverse characters – in personality, and also character!
  6. If you love Star Wars, and looking for a similar YA story to go with hat craze, then pick this up.  Yes.  Pick it up  now!

T H E  P L O T

The whole series is centred on avoiding an alliance with Queen Levana and Luna.  It involves a lost Princess whom Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter (the titular characters) all assist at one point or another along with their love interests, into regaining the throne of Luna. There is a servant girl (of sorts), a lost princess, a farm girl, a wolf thing, a hacker rapunzel, a scoundrel (of sorts), a Prince, a guard, crazy doctor, bioelectricity, a horrid Stepmother, a bitchy older stepsister, and a nicer younger stepsister. In addition, Meyer throws us cyborgs, a plague, aliens from the moon (well sort of aliens), an Evil Queen, the most adorable little android that certainly belongs on my list of favourite fictional androids (R2D2 is no. 1 and BB-8 is no.2), and a futuristic world.

Each installment of the series is a re-envisioning of a classic fairytale set in this futuristic world.  As you may have guessed except for winter, these tales are: Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White.  But this retelling is nothing like the original fairy tales.

Each story is carefully interwoven with only elements of the original fairy tales, into the greater plot regarding a princess, a throne, and a conflict between Earth and the Moon.  There is also biowarfare threatening to kill all Earthens, and an Evil Queen who happens to have the antidote in exchange for being an Empress on Earth.

Classic revolutionary story.  Classic villain story.  Classic fantasy story!  And also, probably classic hero story too.

I think that Marissa Meyer is perhaps one of my favourite YA Fantasy (Sci-fi) novelists right now.  Since she did a brilliant job with the Lunar Chronicles, that, right about now, I’m having a hard time finding anything else to match it.  

“Imagine there was a cure, but finding it would cost you everything. It would completely ruin your life. What would you do?”

– Cinder

C H A R A C T E R S

The main protagonist in Cinder is of course, Cinder. Now, I feel like whoever wrote her, gave her the personality of a Cancer. She has the most ridiculous mood swings. One moment she’s upset, the next she’s raging on someone’s arse, the next, she’s all demure and saying no to the Prince. In truth, I wasn’t all too happy or satisfied with Cinder’s personality, and didn’t like her very much to begin with (NOW while reading Scarlet, I seem to really like her personality!) But she did grow on me. And the ending of Cinder cemented her personality in my head a bit more, gave the girl a little bit more ground for her swinging moods. And I guess it was that one epic ‘Noooooo’ scene at the end of Cinder that really swung her back to my list of okay-maybe-I-do-like-this-character list. And no, I’m not going to tell you what ‘Noooooo’ is referring to. Go read it yourself and be wowed by it. Since truly, that scene has made it to my list of Top Favourite Epic Moments in YA Fantasy Fiction. As a Cyborg, with a metal leg and hand, Cinder is a very pitiful character in the story, like I usually think Cinderella is (though Cinderella is usually more cheerful, good and kind about cleaning and working, whereas Cinder is simply humble, but not afraid to rebel against her stepmum), but as things unravel, and she meets Kai, Cinder grows. Now I didn’t really like Cinder much in the first book, but she grew on me for the others, and I liked her a lot more.  There’s a reason why I didn’t like her, but that’s explained in the book, which makes her more relatable in the others!

“I don’t know. I don’t actually remember anything from before the surgery.”

His eyebrows rose, his blue eyes sucking in all the light of the room. “The cybernetic opetation?”

“No, the sex change.”

The doctor’s smile faltered.

“I’m joking.”

– Cinder

Prince Kaito is the love interest. Setting aside all else, let’s gush over Prince Kai for the moment. As a young prince, he’s the best. I LOVE HIM as a love interest. He’s cute, and he’s nice. He’s the kind of cool guy combination without the asshole part. Or the broody part (he does brood a bit, but he isn’t the typically brooder, since he is a prince and his father is dying). Kai is the nice kind of love interest. He takes an interest in Cinder, and is polite to her. But the thing is, he doesn’t know she’s a cyborg. Kai really develops in Winter, but it was a bit of a struggle to watch him deal with politics during Scarlet and Cress.

“…but I’m trying to be inconspicuous.”
Cinder considered telling him it wasn’t working but thought better of it. The lack of a throng of screaming girls surrounding her booth was probably evidence that it was working better than she suspected. Instead of looking like a royal heartthrob, he just looked crazy.

– Cinder

Scarlet — I actually really liked Scarlet. She’s pretty out there like Cinder, action first then think later, but unlike Cinder who’s more prone to blaming herself, Scarlet is a little firecracker. She’s definitely true to the stereotypical red head, all hot and fiery, and not afraid at all. Yet, she is also very grounded in the fact that there are some events beyond her abilities and she should be scared. And so there are a few screamy moments, but never once, not once does Scarlet really let it get to her. She bites back even when she’s scared, but she never does anything stupid. When she knows she’s helpless against her enemy, she holds back and waits-ish.

“She sighed, annoyed at her restlessness. “So,” she said, disrupting Wolf in another backward glance.
“Who would win in a fight—you or a pack of wolves?”
He frowned at her, all seriousness. “Depends,” he said, slowly, like he was trying to figure out her motive for asking. “How big is the pack?”
“I don’t know, what’s normal? Six?”
“I could win against six,” he said. “Any more than that and it could be a close call.”
Scarlet smirked. “You’re not in danger of low self-esteem, at least.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing at all.” She kicked a stone from their path. “How about you and … a lion?”
“A cat? Don’t insult me.”
She laughed, the sound sharp and surprising. “How about a bear?”
“Why, do you see one out there?”
“Not yet, but I want to be prepared in case I have to rescue you.”
The smile she’d been waiting for warmed his face, a glint of white teeth flashing. “I’m not sure. I’ve never had to fight a bear before.”

 – Scarlet

Omg Wolf. You know I knew he was shifty from the start. Isn’t the Wolf always shifty? But man, when the twist came out, it definitely was not what I expected. If I expected one thing about his character, that wasn’t it. And I was shocked! Wolf has replaced Kai on my list of awesome male characters in the Lunar Chronicles. But really, I think after reading Cress, my list is going to change again. I suppose it can’t be helped, not with the way Meyer works her romances, her plot, and her characters! Wolf throughout the remaining books becomes very protective of Scarlet, and just when I thought he would be under the Thaumaturges’ control again, he actually surprised me!

“Don’t come any closer!” Scarlet yelled. The chicken clucked and dawdled away. “I will shoot, you know.”
“I know.” A flicker of kindness passed over him and he pointed at his temple. “You’ll want to aim for the head. That usually makes for a fatal shot. Or, if you’re feeling shaky, the torso. It’s a larger target.”
“Your head looks pretty big from here.”

– Scarlet

Cress is an absolute darling. What I love about her, and all the other character’s in Meyer’s book is that she is both a weak and strong character. She has clearly defined weaknesses and strengths. Just like Cinder. Just like Scarlet. It might seem very narrow, but I think I like this kind of characterisation better than what other books sometimes do–which is create a female protagonist is so mary sue it makes me want to punch them. None of the heroines of the Lunar Chronicles are like that though, and it’s WONDERFUL. Cress is, as I said, an absolute darling. Trapped in a satellite, a pawn of the Queen, via the Thaumaturge Sybil Mira, for seven years, she has been their secret hacker, programmer, eyes in the sky, gifted with knowing everything there is to know about everyone and everything, except being properly Lunar. Since she is, after all, a Shell. Cress is not like Cinder who is determined to do something, and rather spontaneous, or like Scarlet who’s a little firecracker, as hot as her hair, and more than ready to spit in the face of adversity even if it hurts, than to give in if she can help it. Cress is a softy. She’s shy and a scaredy cat. She also, has a wild imagination. It’s this Imagination of hers that gets her through the toughest of moments. And also, makes her mistake some things.

“Captain?”
“Yeah?”
“Do you think it was destiny that brought us together?”
He squinted and, after a thoughtful moment, shook his head. “No. I’m pretty sure it was Cinder.” 

– Cress

Thorne. Oh Thorne. We meet Thorne in Scarlet and he’s isn’t really the world’s most enthusiastic companion when travelling with Cinder, but he’s moderately helpful.  But of course, we don’t see much of him until Cress.  He’s a much more complex character than he seems, and he’s not like the angst or broody kind either, which thankfully is perfect. He’s actually a really good guy. Arrogant, but not bad over all. Charming, hell yes. Sarcastic, absolutely. Loved him. Love him with Cress, even though the end of the book doesn’t really give us a full resolution on Cress and Thorne, but I liked that! Since they just kind of met after all, and it doesn’t matter that they’ve passed through the whole book together, what I loved is that Cress has just the perfect amount of sweetness to balance Thorne’s arrogant, charming, sarcastic ways. It just makes me go awww.

“Cress?”
“It’s beautiful out there.”
A hesitation, before, “Could you be more specific?”
“The sky is gorgeous, intense blue color.” She pressed her fingers to the glass and traced the wavy hills on the horizon.
“Oh, good. You’ve really narrowed it down for me.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just…” She tried to stamp down the rush of emotion. “I think we’re in a desert.”
“Cactuses and tumbleweeds?”
“No just a lot of sand. It’s kind of orangish-gold, with hints of pink, and I can see tiny clouds of it floating above the ground, like…like smoke.”
“Piles up in lots of hills?”
“Yes, exactly! And it’s beautiful.”
Thorne snorted. “If this is how you feel about a desert, I can’t wait until you see your first real tree. Your mind will explode.”

– Cress

Winter.  Oh my, Winter.  First, I loveeee that she has dark skin and beautiful.  I love that she’s a little nuts from Lunar sickness.  She is, in her own somewhat twisted way, adorable.  Her sickness from the lack of bioelectric manipulation, is the kind that gives her hallucinations and sends her mind faraway.  She mutters a lot and says a lot of random things that of course make her look crazy.  But at the centre of her heart, Winter is a sweet girl who is also quite intelligent and more than happy to help her long lost cousin and others.

“They are going to laugh at you and mock you and then they are going to—”
“Eat me.Yes. I understand.”
“You don’t seem to be grasping the meaning behind the words. This isn’t a metaphor. I’m talking about huge teeth and digestive systems.”
“Fat and bones and marrow and meat,” Winter sang. “We only wanted a snack to eat.”
Scarlet grunted. “You can be so disturbing.”

– Winter

Jacin is a bit of jerk in Cress but he grew on me in Winter.  Seeing him interact with Winter, it was really endearing.  He really cares about her, and would do anything to protect her, and also, members of his family.  He is the huntsman by the way, that you often see in the Snow White story, and Levana is her stepmother. But he doesn’t really top my list, and I wish I got more of an insight into his character.  Between the action and the romance and the revolution, there wasn’t much time for developing Jacin.

Jacin said nothing else. Neither did she. After the first ring was completed, she leaned her head against his thigh, making herself more comfortable as she picked out a sunburst orange. Overhead, Jacin sighed, and she felt the faintest brush of fingertips against her hair. A hint, a suggestion of togetherness, before he became a statue once more.

– Winter

And I must give an honourable mention to Iko! Who is part of the main cast, and is an android! My favourite supporting character is Iko! An android with some faulty personality. If R2D2 could talk, I bet he’d be like that haha. But again, they’re incomparable, and I did love Iko so much. She’s sarcastic and very human for an android, which makes her such a wonderful addition to the cast.

“My point is that I am going to figure this out, like I always do. First, we’re going to find a way to get into Artemisia. We’re going to find Cress and rescue Cinder and Wolf. We’re going to overthrow Levana, and by the stars above, we are going to make Cinder a queen so she can pay us a lot of money from her royal coffers and we can all retire very rich and very alive, got it?”

Winter started to clap. “Brilliant speech. Such gumption and bravado.”

“And yet strangely lacking in any sort of actual strategy,” said Scarlet.

“Oh, good, I’m glad you noticed that too,” said Iko. “I was worried my processor might be glitching.”

And Lastly, Queen Levana of Luna is the Antagonist of the whole series, and she is quite cruel!!  However, in the main series, I feel like she was very 2D, and could have done with a bit more developing. BUT!! I haven’t read the novellas, or the short story–in particular Fairest yet, so I can’t comment!!

Other supporting characters:  Torin is a great advisor to Kai, Dr Erland was a bit nutty but good and true in the end, Thaumaturge Sybil so glad she got what she deserved, and there are so many other great and wonderful side characters!  I can’t list them all, but read this series and you’ll surely agree!

S E T T I N G

Set in New Beijing, a futuristic city that’s the centre of the Eastern Commonwealth, developed after World War 4 (or something like that). You get the point. It’s a sci-fi futuristic story. There are cyborgs people living on the Moon which is referred to as Luna, and the inhabitants, Lunars who possessed bio-electric manipulation abilities.

Some things that bug me about the setting, is a) the lack of description on what the characters look like and also the development of human evolution. Four world wars, how many years have really passed before the fourth war (I know there has been 126 years after the fourth war or so), and what do the Earthens look like? Blended races? See for me, Kai had a distinct Asian look (hooray Asians!) but Cinder was more blurred (I would love it more if she was Asian-looking) since her ancestry is not as clear cut either. That’s the first thing. B) I am a linguist, someone who studies language, and I hate it so, so, so, so, so, so, so, much that the language aspect has been glossed over!!! Why? Tell me why? YES Meyer includes the kinship terms that are common and necessary in Chinese when referring to one another, but that’s it. It’s very simple. TOO SIMPLE. And I want to rage about it! But I won’t. Because after all, I’ve only ever found ONE futuristic/post-apocalyptic/sci-fi series that really develops the linguistic side of things in a believable way.

I do feel that the labelling of the political divisions bugs me a lot. I still can’t get the term ‘Eastern Commonwealth’ through my head. I mean logically it’s correct, but it just doesn’t sound right. I mean, really, Commonwealth is obviously commonly associated with the British Empire. And Britain and things like China/other Asian countries don’t really mesh well in my head. Then again, has Meyer mentioned who is part of the Eastern Commonwealth? I’d love to know.

Anyway, enough of me picking at the world a bit more—I’m sorry, I can’t help it, it reminds me so much of the world of the Selection which I didn’t really like at all, and at least the world of the Lunar Chronicles is a little bit better.  Other than those three points, I do find that I like the set up of the series a lot. There’s something very unique about it. And Meyer did a good job developing it. Sticking us in a world where cyborgs are considered worse than the worst human criminals, and everyone is terrified of Lunars, and there’s a plague killing everyone too.

W R I T I N G

Good. I like her writing. It doesn’t overly delve into emotion, but there is enough to make you feel for each character. She has written in 3rd person, and the story alternates among a number of perspectives. I like her style, simply because she makes the whole story very exciting!  But I think her dialogues should be praised. I love reading those!  So sarcastic and witty.  And really highlight the various personalities of the characters.

O V E R A L L

I picked up Scarlet straight after Cinder. I think if you’re the kind of reader who likes action, fantasy, bit of romance, and enough plot twists to keep you going, pick this up. Like now. If you like characters with really intense emotions and determination, then pick this up. Immediately! If you like worlds of not too complicated sci-fi. You got it. You know the drill. Pick this up. I picked this up because it was recommended. While I didn’t love some things, there was enough of this book, enough justification in the ending to make me want to pick up the next.

Scarlet ended up with such a big bang, even bigger than the first book, and I was blown away. So blown away I didn’t hesitate to pick up Cress, which when I was reading it, I wondered if the sun in Aus was causing me to melt, or if it was the book lol.

By the way, if you didn’t really like Throne of Glass as a High Fantasy YA series, then don’t give up yet! Try the Lunar Chronicles. This, actually, might be one of a few which I would actually recommend and suggest as a science fiction, high fantasy YA read. It just has all the elements(only at a YA level) of an adult equivalent. Action, a bit of romance, intense epic plot about an evil queen and the girl who will defeat her.

M Y  R E V I E W S  O N  G O O D R E A D S

Cinder

Scarlet

Cress

Winter