The Toujou Blog Award

Thanks, Nevillegirl!


1. If tagged you must tag five others, giving each a quick sentence as to why you always read their posts, and tell them that you’ve tagged them.

2. If tagged you must post your five favorite words. I know, I know, most people do facts, but facts are hard to think of, so…

3. If and only if you want to/can be bothered to/have time to you can put up five questions for the people you’ve tagged. If and only if you want to/can be bothered to/have time to you can answer the five questions your tagger set. If you want to answer questions but your tagger left none, answer your own questions.

First off, I’d like to thank Nevillegirl again for her kind words: “Allegra writes really good book reviews and strange ramblings about random things.” To have my blog described as “strange” is the highest praise I could ask for.

Now, for my nominees.

John Hansen at The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer. John always writes informative, entertaining posts on the publishing industry, and besides that, he’s a great, encouraging writing friend–one of the only people who can put up with my morbidity.

Aloha at Embracing InsanityAloha doesn’t blog too often nowadays, but her posts are always witty and fun to read. I’ve been reading her posts religiously for about a year now.

Tayqlor at Novel JourneysShe writes lots of great book-related posts and is very well-read. I trust her taste.

Miriam Joy at Miriam Joy WritesMiriam’s posts are always well written and thought out, and she makes great commentary on the life of a young writer. She’s also a fellow fan of Doctor Who and Sherlock, which makes her automatically awesome. (Miriam: I know you already got the award, so you don’t have to go through the rigmarole again. Unless you really want to.)

Pherisphena Ladea at The Word Asylum. Pheris writes wonderful posts on a variety of topics and is also a good Twitter buddy of mine. She was the first to comfort me when Pottermore put me in Slytherin instead of Ravenclaw.

All right, now onward with my favorite words!

  1. Taphophilia. This word is derived from the Greek “taphos,” tomb, and means “a love of funerals, graves, and cemeteries.” I love words with “ph” in them, and taphophilia has two. It’s also relevant to my life and my writing.
  2. Zounds. Why would anyone say “wow” when there’s “zounds” instead?
  3. Petrichor. This word describes the smell after a rain in a dry region. I only know about it because of Doctor Who, but it’s stuck with me.
  4. Heir. I love how this one looks and sounds.
  5. Ennui. This fancy French-crossing-into-English word for boredom appears in Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies. And yes, if Gashlycrumb were an actual word, it would definitely be on this list.

Now to answer the questions that Nevillegirl left for me…

  1. Would you dress up in a gigantic chipmunk costume for a day, and why and why not? Yes, I would, because I love chipmunks’ natural color schemes and it’s always good to resist the norm.
  2. Who scared you most when you were little? The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz. I adored that movie and wanted to be just like Dorothy, but I always made my parents fast-forward past the parts with the witch. She terrified me.
  3. What do you think the color purple tastes like? Rich and decadent like a lava cake, but without the chocolate part. It would definitely be a sweet color, not a savory color.
  4. What kind of shark would you be, and why? I’d be a spined pygmy shark, because it uses bioluminescence to disguise itself from predators (as I tend to hide my true personality until I’m absolutely certain a person is trustworthy) and has no economic value and is not fished commercially (as I’m strange and useless and people tend to leave me alone).
  5. What is your favorite palindrome? Murder for a jar of red rum.

Now here are the questions I present to anyone choosing to act on their nominations.

  1. If you had a chance to start life over as a character in your favorite work of fiction, would you take it? Why or why not?
  2. What’s your most loved article of clothing?
  3. Would you be more likely to survive a zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion?
  4. What would your preferred undercover alias be?
  5. What’s your favorite month?

Looking Into the Future

Dystopia would appear to be the new go-to genre for young adult literature. There’s the standing classic, now present in film form, The Hunger Games, and some similar, moderately popular novels that came afterwards, such as Ally Condie’s Matched and Divergent by Veronica Roth, which I have yet to read. Across the Universe by Beth Revis is a less well-known gem of the genre, and one of my favorite books. Like any literary craze, there’s the good and the great, the bad and the worse.

Thanks to my required summer reading, I’ve started delving into pre-Hunger Games YA dystopia. I’m currently reading Feed by M.T. Anderson, and, while I’m only about halfway through, I think it’s safe to say that it’s an excellent contribution to the body of futuristic literature. It manages to be an entertaining satire as well as a chilling commentary on our society and where it could be headed. Out of all the other YA dystopias I’ve read, Feed reminds me most of Across the Universe–or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Across the Universe reminds me of Feed, since Feed came first. Both volumes center of fairly ordinary teenagers, feature a good deal of futuristic slang for  the reader to pick up on, and seem to have a focus on fighting societal expectations and norms.

Actually, the rebellion against society theme is a common trait among most of the dystopias I’ve read. This combined with the general fixation on the future shows that, as a people, we’re afraid of turning into a homogenized society. We’re expressing our fears and ideas through our literature, and also using it as a warning. If we spread a spirit of individualism now, such a future could be avoided.

What are some of your favorite dystopian novels? Do you think that we should be paying attention to the lessons they teach?


An Adventure of a Spookier Kind

I love old cemeteries–anyone who’s followed me here or on Twitter for a decent amount of time should know that. They’re steeped with history and hundreds of human lives; they’re places that make me think. I have one local cemetery that I tend to frequent, and, while I’m quite fond of it, I decided it was time to move on from the same headstones, paths, and trees. The second nearest cemetery to my house is about a half hour’s walk, but it’s well worth it, even in this accursed summer heat.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of this trip, but for visualization purposes, imagine a much larger, more secluded version of this cemetery, plus an actual mausoleum and multiple crypts. I arrived at the cemetery somewhat unsure of what I was looking for–and therefore automatically getting a lot more than I bargained for. I was fairly certain that the mausoleum would be locked or rusted shut from age, but I still had a glimmer of hope buried deep down that said, Maybe you’ll be able to go inside. Truth be told, I don’t really know what to expect from such a place and had hoped to learn something. The idea of pushing boundaries for the greater benefit of my writing was still weighing heavily on my mind.

I did rush straight to the mausoleum and found that the door, while movable, was most definitely locked. It was a small letdown, but I tried not to let it dampen my overall attitude for a chipper day spent reading about dead people on location. I attempted to peek through the mausoleum’s windows but was too short (and still am too short, unless I’ve grown several feet in the past few days, which is highly improbable and something I would have noticed).

After admiring the impregnable mausoleum for a few minutes more, I moved on the general burial areas. I took some field notes that will likely be of little interest to the reader, but I’ll include them just in case. Pardon the grammar of these selections.

Tempe is a beautiful name.

Oliver and Bennie, no surname or dates provided. Likely died young.

Crypt with door rusted thoroughly shut, name above door questionable. Carving weathered.

Keep getting the “watched” feeling. Shudder. This is fun.

Will definitely be returning later–Halloween?

Poor Willber (sic). What a terrible time to have your name misspelled.

Definitely feeling watched. All I can see are crows.

Just saw a white shape out of the corner of my eye. Disappeared when looked at directly. Must be getting paranoid?

What is that sound. Sounds like the TARDIS crossed with horror flick ghost noises.

K. I’m getting freaked out now.

I think I was indeed getting paranoid and misinterpreting perfectly normal local cemetery occurrences as events with a somewhat supernatural bent to them. I probably should have just left at that point, but my incessant taphophilia pushed me onward to continue my exploration. I was taking notes on the varied headstone iconography when the strange noise described above persisted. I decided that the spooky atmosphere was either messing with my mind or something really was going on, so I exited the cemetery with all due haste and and briskly walked home.

Sorry, folks. I have no real ghostly encounters to describe. A true adventurer would have stayed in the cemetery, but I’m no lion-heart. I’ll still think about going back on Halloween.

A Second Attempt

I’m pleased to report that my grand summer plans have completely failed so far. After a few days of editing my novel, I came to the conclusion that another total rewrite was in order, and, despondent from that realization, fell into a writing slump. However, I’m not yet ready to give up on finishing this rewrite before school starts again.  It isn’t quite August yet–there is hope.

Remember last November when I held, in lieu of NaNoWriMo, my own personal Novel Rewrite Finishing Month? I’m going to try the same thing this August. I have a few more days of July with which to review what I have done already and plan where I’m going with the rest of the book. Finishing this rewrite quickly will give me something to work with editing-wise throughout the school year.

As another attempt to start fresh writing-wise, I’m thinking about actually undertaking NaNoWriMo this year. Almost everyone here is a seasoned NaNoWriMo participant–what are your thoughts on the benefit of this exercise? Is there anything in particular I should know before getting into it?

On the Nature of Change

“Times change. People change. But no matter what happens in life, no matter how far away you move, I’ve found, there’s always something to remind you of what’s gone and past.”

That’s the opening line of a story I wrote a while ago. I’m not sure how much I agree with it anymore–or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part, hoping that the past really can be dead and gone, put out of our minds forever. It’s not as if there’s anything traumatic in my past, but we all have our personal battles, do we not? If you’ll forgive me for remaining ever-cryptic, that’s as far as I’ll go. In this case, details are superfluous and won’t add anything to what I’m trying to say. I do want to bury the past, or better yet, burn it. I want to be a different person with a different take on life, but I’m just not sure how.

Change can be unsettling. We get used to certain patterns of life, come to expect things to be a particular way, and when that changes, it can be like cold water in the face. It’s jarring, certainly, and rarely welcome–but sometimes it’s necessary refreshment. Falling into stale habits is never good, especially for creative types.  Without new experiences and changes, inspiration runs dry.

I’m not very good at expressing myself emotionally, and I never pretend to be. How I feel at this point in my life is difficult for me to describe. I want to hold on to some aspects of the old me, and yet I want a metamorphosis of sorts. I used to always have my nose in a book or be scribbling away on loose notebook paper. I would eat lunch with my teachers so I wouldn’t have to deal with noisy cafeterias or my peers. I scorned television and movies, and the only music I knew about was the kind my parents listened to. I was almost completely devoted to the written word. I feel like it’s a betrayal to say it, but reading and writing just don’t overshadow everything else in my life anymore. I’ve opened up to different media of self-expression and entertainment, and I’ve opened up to people.

Part of me wants that old life back. I’ve lost a lot of good things I used to have–commitment, a long attention span, reservation, being self-possessed–but I’ve also managed to get rid of bad things: closed-mindedness, severe phobia of social interaction, and a good degree of arrogance. I’ve learned that I’m not the most intelligent person in the room and probably never will be. I’ve realized that I’m not the only one who has problems, and sometimes others need help and sympathy a lot more than I do. Although I’m still getting there, I’m more comfortable with who I am than I used to be and try to spend less time navel-gazing. I know more about myself–most prominently, that there’s a lot more I still need to learn.

Change is bittersweet. Good things come and go with the bad; wonderful experiences fade into the past as new frontiers appear on the horizon. Not every change will please us, and sometimes things will seem downright hopeless. Don’t give up. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my entire life experience, it’s that things always look better in the morning.

Review: Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck

Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck

January 2011, Splinter

YA fantasy/romance

The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world.
But that’s exactly what happened.
Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.
Tiger’s Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.

I read this book as a quick intermission from Susanna Clark’s formidable volume Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I was hoping for a break from all the small print and extensive footnotes–which I got. Unfortunately, Tiger’s Curse, while a refreshingly easy read, is not one of the better books I’ve read. Colleen Houck has set up an interesting back-story for this novel, but the plot quickly falls into predictable patterns and the characters fail to support the story.

Houck has clearly put in a lot of effort to research the culture and mythology of India for this novel, and I applaud her for that. The novel is full of rich description that really helps to set the scene and draw the reader in. I was fascinated by the abounding references to classical Indian mythology throughout the book–I would say that this is the strongest point of Tiger’s Curse.

However, I found myself predicting plot points early on and was surprised by very little. I was never fully invested in the central characters; in fact, quite the opposite. From Kelsey’s initial introduction, I decided I didn’t like her, and that opinion never changed. The male lead I found to be a sickeningly perfect romantic hero. As for the romantic story-line itself, I was painfully reminded of the Twilight Saga.

Contrary to the blurb’s claim, after finishing this book, I have no desire to move on with the series. Overall, I don’t recommend Tiger’s Curse, but if you’re looking for a quick, fairly generic YA fantasy/romance, this fits the bill.

Rating: 1.5 Stars


Time is just getting away from me. This isn’t my proper Saturday post, only a brief update on a change in posting schedule. Since Tuesdays and Saturdays don’t always work out for me, I’ve decided to loosen up a bit. There will be posts at least twice a week: one during the weekend, and one towards the middle of the week. The actual post for this weekend should be up tomorrow.