I Yet Live
~ What I Have Been Up To ~

Hello all, I thought I would pop on here to give a quick update about my life, since it is so gloriously commonplace, and reading about other people's lives is strangely soothing (ie. boring). Mostly, these sorts of posts are really an attempt to make myself sound FAR FAR too busy to have posted, so that maybe no one will realize that I was just lazy and forgetful. Anyhoo....

Blog Update: 
Yes I am still planning on finishing those reviews I promised (wasn't it smart of me to avoid setting any kind of deadline or time frame?) And no, I will not end this post by saying "I will do my best to post regularly in future". I shall save myself the trouble of failing. 

Me Update: 


If you have poked about much on this blog, you may have discovered that I am rather obsessed with Ancient Egypt, specifically the 18th dynasty. Well, at the end of July, my lovely mother took me to the Penn Museum, which has one of the largest collections of egyptian artifacts and the largest sphinx in the US. I also touched the sphinx. Just a light tap. I'm sorry museum. You aren't supposed to touch it, but I did. I made sure my hand was nice and clean first. Another thing I touched (again, very lightly with one very clean finger) was a statue that may have been touched by the main-ish character in my book. So that was cool. 

I also got to chat for a little bit with the conservationists in the artifact lab (their blog is most interesting: https://www.penn.museum/sites/artifactlab/) which was enlightening. The backdrop of this conversation was a skeleton just casually laying on a table nearby. 


Two days after returning from Philly, I headed off to the mountains of Colorado. I love mountains, and high up places, and cold places, and rainy places, and places with thin air, and walking, and cold mountain lakes, and hot tea on a freezing morning. And did I mention that I love mountains? Something about being able to just walk right up out of the world. 

At the end of August, I began working as a Nanny for a wonderful family. Four adorable children, and two awesome parents. I am practising for my ideal future. 


With September came drama rehearsals. And this time, I was a director (so fancy). I adapted a PG Wodehouse short story, cast some lovely people, and annoyed them for two months leading up to an excellent performance. More on that later.

On the 22nd of the month, my wonderful twin and I attended a Hobbit Day dance. We curled our lengthy locks, donned our hobbit garb, shed our silly shoes, and had a lovely time.


October was a rather exciting month. It began with a fun mother-daughter trip with myself and my mother, and my twin and her mother. A good time was had all round.
I began learning Irish (because commonly used languages are far less interesting to me), and towards the end of the month was awakened by the news that my brother had been in a car accident. All is well, he is well, but it definitely made for a crazy couple of weeks. And this all brings me to....


So far...

Most importantly, mah sistah had a baby. Takes the cake for best event of the year. With that said...on to drama.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been directing a play this year. I was also in a play (which happened to also be an adaptation of a story by Wodehouse), but that is much less interesting. Directing a play.....has been.....interesting. I knew going in that I would enjoy it, as long as I got the right cast. And I did get the right cast. The problem is, I am bad with people, and I am 90% certain that my cast kind of hated me in the beginning. To be fair, I was REALLY annoying. I was super picky, and I directed line by line. I stopped them constantly, and had them move a few inches in various directions. I micro-managed the angles at which furniture was placed on the stage. I was horrid. Would I do it differently in the future? Yes and no. There are a lot of things I would go back and change if I could, but that fact that I can't does not annoy me in the least. I should certainly have been a little more encouraging earlier on, but at the beginning, I didn't know yet that my cast was going to be so wonderful. I was pretty hard on them, and I don't think they 'thank me for it', but I also think they have come to understand my reasons, and they don't dislike me for it.  So yes, in future, I would change the WAY I managed it, but I would not be any less exacting. I will say I have learned a lot about how to interact with people. I am still bad at it, but I am slightly better than I was a few months ago. This month was performance month. And they did a frabjous job.

 The Author

The picture of the Sphinx is the property of the Penn Museum. All the other pictures are my own.


spoiler free

I have gone to see the Spider-man reboot. 
The best word I can think of to describe the movie is 'cute'. That doesn't make it sound very good, but I thought it was fine, as superhero movies go. These sorts of movies are supposed to be amusing, and I was amused. Though I was falling asleep on the way to the theater, the film managed to keep me awake. It's not yet another origin story, which is good. If you enjoy superhero movies as a rule, you should definitely see this one. I liked it more than certain other Marvel movies I could mention. 
Be forewarned, there is a moderate sprinkling of what I believe is called "toilet-humour" in this movie. 


Alrighty then. Plot. It was fine. Exactly what you would expect. Kid feels like he could be doing more to help, kid gets in mess, kid feels discouraged, kid figures it out. (Is that a spoiler? I don't think so. Surely you didn't think a Marvel superhero movie was going to end with a dead main character?) 
What made this movie fun to watch was not the story, or the Villains, or the quirky sidekicks, or any of that. It was Tom Holland. From the moment I saw him in Captain America: Civil War, I knew he was going to be a good spidey. For one thing, he actually looks that part of a scrawny fifteen year old. He was 20 while they were filming, and is definitely one of those forever-young looking people. 
See, he looks like a twelve-year-old pretending to be a grown-up. Peter Parker being in awe of Tony Stark is very realistic. I imagine it wasn't hard for a young, inexperienced actor to act slightly nervous in the presence of Robert Downey Jr. Peter is supposed to be 15 in this movie, and it was quite believable. Holland nicely captured the energetic, slightly discoordinated nature of many fifteen year old boys. He even bothered to make his voice higher. And since he did most of his own stunts, his personality didn't disappear as soon as he put the mask on. 
There was one moment in particular that I really liked, I don't think I'm spoiling anything, but I might be, I don't know. Anyway. Peter was trapped under a pile of cement, and upon realizing that he couldn't get out by himself, he started crying (as in tears, not noise) and screaming for help. The reason I like this is that it is easy to forget how young he is. Yes he is a lovely brave superhero, but he is also a fifteen year old kid. In severe pain, and trapped, he freaks out, as anyone would, especially a younger chap. Lovely moment of realistic, human vulnerability. Nice touch, movie. 
Now then, other characters. With the exception of Aunt May and Stark, they were all slightly stereotypical movie high school people. The trusty, comedic-relief sidekick. The girl the main character has a crush on. The guy who makes fun of the main character, etc.

Tony Stark was...Tony Stark. Considering that all of the avengers movies and some of the Captain America ones are basically just Iron Man movies, I think Stark is decently well known. He is "mentoring" Peter, in the way that you would expect Tony to mentor: by ignoring him most of the time. And no, he does not at any point say the words "with great power comes great responsibility". Thank goodness. He is actually kind of a horrible role model, if you think about it. I mean....he did recruit a fifteen year old to help him fight incredibly dangerous superheros. Hardly responsible. He is always there enough to scold when Peter gets into scrapes, but not enough to notice beforehand. Not that I'm annoyed by it. It is VERY in keeping with the character of Tony Stark. (I still like you the best, Iron Man).
The villain was...predictable? I can't really talk about him without giving things away. Hmm. Nothing concerning him was in any way surprising to me. He was fine as a villain. Pretty much interchangeable with most other superhero villains. 

Aunt May..... wait, she was in this movie?? 

 The Author

You can find my other reviews at: writeornotwrite.blogspot.com/reviews

Megan Whalen Turner

The Queen of Attolia is the second book in the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. 

Did I say I would review the rest of this series? Yes. Did I say I would do it in a timely fashion..... no. 
I tried to write this without spoilers but I couldn't really think of much to talk about, so beware. I shall be stealing the blurby-whatsit from the back of the book (again).

The short version of this review is that I like this book. It is worth reading on its own, but is much more enjoyable if you have read The Thief

When his small mountainous country goes to war with the powerful nation of Attolia, Eugenides the thief is faced with his greatest challenge. He must steal a man, he must steal a queen, and he must steal peace. 
But his greatest triumph – as well as his greatest loss – can only come if he succeeds in capturing something the Queen of Attolia may have sacrificed long ago. 


I have already blabbed about how much I like the historical-fantasy-realistic feel of the book, in my review of The Thief. The Queen of Attolia puts you in the middle of a war, which means more details about the placement of cities and fortresses, and the strategic properties thereof. It is all quite interesting, and you can tell that Turner has really thought about where things would be built and why, and what sort of areas would be attacked first etc.. My copy didn't come with a map (I think more recent ones do) but I didn't really feel that I needed one. 


The plot is satisfyingly (english?) intricate, and well-paced. The military-strategy side of it is very interesting, at least to me. Easy to follow without being simplistic. The power-struggle (sort of) between Eddis, Attolia, and the Mede ambassador (Nahuseresh) was quite clever, and I was nicely confused during the first read. The Eugenides/Attolia thing was....not as good. Gen's side was okay. He found her beautiful, and through watching her realized that she wasn't just a murderous tyrant. But I never really bought her side. She kind of hate/respected him, and cut off his hand. She was cold and unpleasant, though human. All that is okay. I could even see how she could come to like him as a person, but her loving him never made sense to me. Even in the next book (King of Attolia) where you see more of their relationship, it seemed very off to me. It's all very well to laugh about "if I ever betrayed my spouse she would murder me in my sleep" but it doesn't help me like them together. Maybe that's just me. 


Gen: (stealing my comments from previous book review) I'm very fond of Gen. He is small, grumpy, and sarcastic. Very talented and clever, and kind of annoying (in a good way?). He is very childlike in a lot of ways, but also mature beyond his years. He grows up a lot in this book (not necessarily in the best of ways or under good circumstances) and his genius self really comes out. His plot to steal the queen is amusing. Amusing is probably not the best of words. But I laughed...so.... Clever people amuse me. Gen is very smart, but also young. That really comes out in this book. He is so untouchable, and yet so vulnerable. His love for Attolia is rather adorable, if slightly disturbing. 

Attolia: As a character, I like her. Her coldness, the horrible things she has done, her upbringing. It all fits together and makes sense. Her envy of Eddis's loyal courtiers and loving people. All this I like, but I still do not accept her loving Eugenides. By the next book, it is fine, but I remain unconvinced by her love in The Queen of Attolia. It is so sudden, and so random. Perhaps I balk at a love between two people who have pretty much never spoken to each other. Attolia has never interacted with Gen. She knows basically nothing about him as a person. They have no relationship. At one end of the book, she is severing his hand and sending him back to Eddis, thinking he will probably die from infections and sickness. Then at the other end, she loves him...but nothing really happened between them in that time. 

Nahuseresh: The Mede ambassador, seeking to marry Attolia and gain control over her country. I like him (as a bad guy, not as a person). He ends up failing as a result of pride-induces blindness, but he isn't just portrayed as stupid. On the contrary, he is quite astute, diplomatic, and manipulative. Perfect ambassador material. He is the younger brother of the heir to the Mede empire, which makes him powerful but not powerful enough for his own desire. In this book, his plan is to control first Attolia, then Eddis and Sounis, and make them part of the Mede empire. All very loyal to his emperor, but a big part of his motive is a desire for personal power. If he succeeded, he would rule a decent size country, far enough away from Mede that he wouldn't be completely under his monarch's thumb. 

Objectionable Content

Um. Someone's hand gets chopped off? Is that objectionable? Perhaps for a very young child, that could be disturbing. Oh, there are a few uses of the word 'damn'. That isn't really objectionable, but I believe it is one of those things people expect to be warned about in reviews. 

In Conclusion

While I did not enjoy The Queen of Attolia as much as The Thief, I do like it. It is well written, with good characters and a good storyline. As I mentioned before, it is better read after The Thief, but it does stand on its own just fine. 
 The Author

You can find my other reviews at: writeornotwrite.blogspot.com/reviews

Special Book Darlings

It should be noted that most of the things I post start out with me talking to someone else, and suddenly realizing that I just spouted a blog post at them. Recently, I was talking to a friend, and started to point out particular books of mine, that have some particular sentimental value. And by particular books, I mean the physical copy that I own, not just the text of the book. If you have read some of my other posts, you will be VERY surprised to hear that no copy of LOTR that I own, has any particular sentimental value (aside from being LOTR). Fear not, I am still me, there is a Tolkien book on this list. 
I apologize for the lack of pictures. 
So without further ado, some of my treasures and why they are special. 


Let us start at the very beginning (a very good place to start) with the first book I ever actually owned (not counting some weird picture book someone gave me that I don't have any more). It is a collection of Louisa May Alcott's writing that includes Little Women, Little Men, and a bunch of short stories. Though well read, and missing the dust jacket, this book remains in excellent condition. It also happens to be the first book on my shelf, as a result of Louisa's last name. 


Continuing through the shelf, we arrive at Agatha Christie's Death Comes as the End. I think I have mentioned this before, but this is the book that made me want to go write. It is not particularly good, especially in comparison to some of Christie's other works, but for some reason it filled me with a rather overwhelming desire to write a book. I finished it, got a notebook, and wrote the word "Reniseb" in it. The rest is history. I think I was 11 or 12 at the time. Fun fact, I didn't actually own this book when I first read it. But later, it was put with a pile that was being cast out of the house, and I asked if I could keep it. MINE. MY OWN. MY PRECIOUS. 


Next up is a copy of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. My dad used to read aloud to myself and my siblings from this exact copy, when I was quite little. One of my clearest memories of our old house (we moved to my current abode in 2006) is sitting in the living room listening to Treasure Island. For some reason, us kidlets really liked that particular book, as I remember it being read aloud many times. It was also on it's way out to a far away land of books that other people were allowed to touch. Naturally, I rescued it, and it now sits on my bookshelf, safe and sound. The first page informs me that it was a Christmas gift to someone name Ethan in 1994, and later sold for $1.50. Despite that beautiful low price, it is actually a really nice edition, and in excellent condition. 


Now we come to something by Tolkien, an inevitable result for any post of mine relating to books (or anything else, really). This is a hardcover copy of The Hobbit, illustrated by Alan Lee. Our family required that LOTR be read before the movie was seen, but did not require that I read The Hobbit, before The Lord of the Rings. I confess, it was not love of LOTR that caused me to pick up the Hobbit from the coffee-table in the living room, all those years ago. I picked it up because it was pretty, and looked interesting. Like a lot of my books, it wasn't mine, but I stole it away. It was sort of a family owned book, that wasn't treated with the proper amount of care (in my opinion), so I spirited it up to my room, and proceeded to read it on repeat for a good long while. 

And now, for a couple of others that don't have much of a story behind them, but are special anyway:

Cheaper by the Dozen: gift from a dear friend who thought I ought to read it, since I want at least a dozen children. 

Pharaoh: Because it's a really good book, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, set in ancient egypt. It's a first edition (there was only ever the one), and I loves it very much. I would put Mara on here, but the copy that I first read isn't in my bookshelf, and this post is about my actual possessions, not just books that are important to me. I also paid too much for Pharaoh, having never read, because I trusted McGraw. I was not disappointed. Worth every penny. (It currently sells for twice what I paid, so I feel better about my purchase. Not that I would ever sell it.)

Mr. Popper's Penguins: It may be childish, but I am very fond of my copy of this (yes, I stole it from an out-going pile of books, hush) I adored this book when I was younger. It was beat up when I first read it, and it is basically falling apart now, but I wuv it. It was also among the first real books I read on my own. When I say "real books" it means that I am not including those weird things specially put together for kids learning how to read. Those are unpleasant and I hate them. I do not care that Bob ran. I can see that, from the picture. Find me something more interesting. (As a young child, I was fond of crawling across pipes, climbing trees, jumping off of top bunks, and cutting all my hair off on a whim. I didn't have patience for reading unless there was something interesting happening.) I maintain that this book about Penguins is still an amusing little read, and I shall definitely be passing it on to my own children. 
 The Author

Come chat about The Silmarillion with me: 

Megan Whalen Turner

Megan Whalen Turner has just released her book  Thick as Thieves, seven years after the last instalment of the Queen's Thief series. I have yet to read it (I shall do my best to remember to review it) but there are four other books to review while I wait. 

I'm going to try to steer clear of major spoilers, but I'm not very good at that, so tread carefully.  In the plot section, I have let loose what I believe to be a spoiler. 

If you don't want to read a long review: I liked it (unusual for me) and you should read it. The Queen's Thief is a series, but each book stands alone and does not leave you on an annoying cliffhanger. 

I'm feeling lazy, so I'm going to steal the blurb from the back of the book. 

"I can steal anything."
After Gen's bragging lands him in the king's prison, the chances of escape look slim. Then the king's scholar, that magus, needs the thief's skill for a seemingly impossible task – to steal a hidden treasure from another land. 
To the magus, Gen is just a tool. But gen is a trickster and a survivor with a plan of his own. 

First off, a YA book that isn't about a teenage girl is already promising. 


The book is technically fantasy, but very realistic fantasy. The place itself is made up, but with strong grecian influence. Turner's world building is impressive, and I quite like the mythology she made up for her world. Rather than just throwing about obscure sounding names, and vaguely referencing other countries, she provided different cultures with their own unique beliefs and interpretations of things. She wrote the stories of the gods, complete with different versions for people with different backgrounds. Instead of a bizarre and unlikely system of government, she went for something practical that actually made sense, and added to the historical feel of the book. I'm quite fond of it. I like my fantasy well thought out, full of background and history, practical, and VERY realistic. That doesn't mean there can't be elves and goblins, but they need to be realistic elves and goblins (ahem TOLKIEN). 


The plot is a simple plot, with complex sub-plots. Or rather, it is a simple plot, made complex by the characters. Everyone has hidden backstory and motives, and it messes with things. A plot twist is thrown in at the end, which I have heard people object to, but I rather like it myself. Allow me to explain, while trying not to spoil anything. The book is written in first person, from the POV of Gen, and he is hiding something from the reader. If you don't think that someone in first person is allowed to hide things from you, you may not like this book as much. I don't really care, as long as it is handled well. If you look back through the book, you were being told, all along. Certain things were never said outright, but it doesn't look as though Gen is deliberately hiding them. I like that, and it is actually pretty realistic. If someone was looking at the world through your thoughts, how often would they hear your name? I have run into the problem, when writing first person, of introducing my character's name and age, because it is weird if your character says things like "I, Reniseb, walked into the room. How fun to be 15." So if you have a book where none of the other characters know the person's name and origins, it is actually unlikely that you would find out, without forced exposition. 


Gen: I'm very fond of Gen. Like myself, he is small, grumpy, and sarcastic. (Although he doesn't like horses. Tsk tsk. I adore horses). He is very talented and clever, and kind of annoying (in a good way?). He is very childlike in a lot of ways, but also mature beyond his years. His arc, in this book, is excellent, and his character matches his backstory. I have read books where a character doesn't make any sense, given the backstory provided. For example, Someone who has had a life full of people being kind and loving, having major trust issues. A person's past shapes their present self, and if the two don't fit together, the character ends up rather weak and confusing. 

Magus: I have mixed feelings about the magus. In this first book, I like him, but in the next two, I feel like his character isn't exactly consistent. I dunno. I guess I like him. 

Sophos: To be honest, I really didn't like Sophos when I first read this book. In fact, I disliked him. He was too clueless and annoying. But during my first re-read, he grew on me. He is very young, after all, and had a rather sheltered upbringing, so it makes sense that he would be the way he is. Just give him a chance, readers. I think you will end up liking him. 

Everybody Else: All of the characters were complex, well-developed, realistic, and interesting. Particularly Pol and Ambiades. 

Objectionable Content

I can't really think of any, off the top of my head. With different gods, cultures, and languages, you end up with cursing that doesn't really have any connotations in our society. 

In Conclusion 

I'm quite fond of this book. It was well written, had good characters, good setting, and a good plot. It's a pretty short book, and does not take long to read. Engaging throughout. I really liked the way Turner integrated her mythological stories into the book (they also have bearing on the actual plot, which is cool). They were not at all forced. When people are camping in the middle of nowhere, what else are they going to do around the fire but tell stories? I would certainly recommend this to anyone who likes mythology and historical fiction, or thief-y mystery type things. 
 The Author
You can find my other reviews at: writeornotwrite.blogspot.com/reviews

Beautiful People: Parental Edition

I wanted to do Amenhotep III or Tiye, because they are my main characters, but Amenhotep's parenting is too weird to fit these questions, and Tiye's mom and dad are just plain strange. So Reniseb it is. (I may do this again with Tseskos, because I have been wanting to really delve into her childhood, but haven't gotten around to it yet). 

Overall, how good is their relationship with their parents?
Her relationship with her father was fantastic. She was his pet, and he was her hero. Unfortunately, he is now dead. His position was sort of filled by her brother, but that is another story. Now her relationship with her mother is more complicated. Overall, it isn't great. Reni's mother had a boy for a first child, and that was all she wanted. A husband who loved her, and a son to dote upon, who could support them in their old age, and carry on the family line. Then a daughter showed up. Reniseb's mother does care about her, in an absent sort of way. After the death of Reni's father, her mother grew more absent, and completely ignored her. She barely speaks to her. Reniseb does not like her mother, is hurt by her apparent apathy, and is generally selfish, arrogant and obnoxious. 

Do they know both their biological parents? If not, how do they cope with this loss/absence, and how has it affected their life?
As I said, Reniseb did know her father, but not for very long. She knew her mother, in the sense that she has always lived with her, but there has never been any kind of closeness between them. She copes with the absence of her father by setting her brother up on a pedestal, and making him fill the role of friend, brother, and father all at the same time. Naturally, this young man (while VERY mature for his age) isn't quite up to that, and fails her pretty often, though he tries his best to be everything she wants. One of the main ways this has affected Reniseb, is to make her long for some sort of strong, heroic male figure in her life, preferably a romantic one. Hence falling in love with Ukani, because he "rescues" her. 

How did their parents meet?
Ah. Well. It isn't really romantic. It was an arranged marriage, and they happened to fall in love. They met when they were kids, were friendly acquaintances, were married as teenagers, and ended up happy. 

How would they feel if they were told “you’re turning out like your parent(s)”?
Reniseb would consider that that made her a selfish fortune-hunter. Which she is, in a way. So.... Reni, you aren't turning out like your mom, but you are turning out to be what you THINK your mother is. 
From Reniseb's point of view, her mother selfishly married for money, dragging Reni away from everything that she loved. The reality is that her mother gave up her home and life with her beloved son, to marry a man she didn't like, so that her children would have a better chance of success in the world. Yahmose wouldn't have to support a mother and sister, and Reniseb would have a step-father with money (increasing her chances of good marriage). 

What were your character’s parents doing when they were your character’s age?
Falling in love while trying to figure out how to parent a son. 

Is there something they adamantly disagree on?
The parents, or the parents and the child? Well, Reni's mum and dad disagree on the value of a daughter. Reni's mother considers her an unnecessary addition to the family, who serves no purpose (sort of true, in a way). Reni's father considers her an adorable treasure. I don't know that Reniseb and her mom have had the chance to adamantly disagree on anything. They never fight. Her mother doesn't really care enough to fight. She ignores Reniseb. If she says no to something, she doesn't enforce it, and it is up to Yahmose to keep an eye on Reniseb. They disagree on moving Reniseb from her brother's house, to the home of her mother's new husband. That is the only thing Reni's mom has ever forced her to do.  

What did the parent(s) find hardest about raising your character?
I'm starting to realize that Reni was perhaps not the best choice for this beautiful people. Um. Since Reni's mom didn't really raise her, let us say one of the things Yahmose found difficult. It is worth noting that Reniseb never really took the time to consider that Yahmose had also lost his father, and his best friend. Yahmose always struggled with bringing her up the way his father would have wanted, while also not making an enemy of her. He felt sorry for her, and wanted her to be happy, and was far too indulgent as a result of this. He was never able to deal with her obstinate nature, because he always ended up caving out of pity. 

What’s their most vivid memory with their parental figure(s)?
While her father was still alive, Reni's mother cared for her more. Not because she cared about Reni, but because she loved whatever her husband loved. Reniseb clings to her only happy memory of her mother, which was a day spent with both parents, and no Yahmose (he was off with friends). Her father was out of work that day, and the three of them spent the entire day wandering around the city, enjoying time together. Oh, most vivid, not happiest. Well, her most vivid memories of her mother would always be the most recent ones. 
Now her FATHER, on the other hand... tis rather sad actually. The thing she remembers MOST clearly is the only time she ever fought with her father. She doesn't remember what it was about (something stupid, she hated being told no, even if it was something she didn't really care about), she just remembers yelling at him, and his face being sad and disappointed. 

What was your character like as a baby/toddler?
As long as things were going her way, she was very sweet and kind-hearted. She was always willing to share, as long as she wasn't told she HAD to. She sang to herself, and investigated every nook and crannie she could find. She often hid in obscure corners (or boxes, if they were big enough) and had the household constantly worried that she would wander out into the streets and get lost. 

Why and how did the parents choose your character’s name?

Reniseb was the name of Reni's deceased paternal grandmother. Her mother didn't really care what she was named, so her father did the honors. 

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Come chat about The Silmarillion with me: 

Old friends

I think the worst thing about not writing for a long time is that you get out of touch with your book. You have to reacquaint yourself with your timelines, your plot, and your research, and just hope that you still like how it all looks. 

There is a moment of fear when you first sit down to write after a long absence, and you don't know what to do. You look at your last sentence, and realize that you have no idea what is going on, and you feel like the worst parent/writer in the world. 

Worry, because what if this isn't your book anymore. What if you don't like it. What if you no longer love these characters. What if you were away so long because the book just hasn't got your interest anymore. What if you can't just keep writing.

It's like seeing someone who you used to be good friends with, before you grew apart and stopped talking. It's slightly awkward, and you realize that you remembered them as something different from what they are now. They surprise you with all the ways they have been changing, while you were half asleep or staring at a wall. 

Reading back through everything you have written so far, cringing and smiling, and every now and then forgetting that this was your own work. 

And relief, because yes, this is still yours. Yes, you still belong with this book. You still love these characters. And the greatest part of all, you realize, reading through it almost with the eye of a stranger, that it isn't that bad. There are typos, and errors, and things that you are going to change. Cringy moments (so many) and parts that make you wonder if you can ever write anything well. 

But overall, as you were reading, it felt like a book. A book that you would read. And when it stopped, you weren't bored or disgusted. You wanted more. You wanted to finish the story. 

So you start to write, oh so slowly. Stopping so often to go check something. Re-learn things you once knew by heart. Re-read all the random historical information you had gathered, and remember that you love it. 

Write in a frenzy for a couple days, and slowly peter off. But this time, you aren't stopping because you are beginning to be too busy. You're stopping because school is almost over. You need to finish it, and finish fast. Because you have a book to write. 

And for some reason, you feel that this time you won't lose touch again. And who knows. Maybe you will. Maybe you won't. Maybe this is just another summer of writing, followed by a year of guilty forgetfulness and the feeling of failure. 

But this draft is different. This is the only draft you have ever liked. This is the only draft that has felt like your book. Something you needed to write, and not some pathetic attempt at "writing" for the sake of saying you did. This is the only draft that you loved so much you couldn't bear the thought of ever giving it up. 

So maybe, just maybe, this time will be different. 

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Lexicon by Max Barry

First off, I do not recommend this book. There are some books where I am so fond of the writing/characters/story etc., that I am willing to sit through some profanity and immorality. But there were really no redeeming qualities in this case. It was a page turner, to be sure, but not in the "oh my I don't ever want to stop reading this" way. More of a "GAH IT'S ALMOST OVER SO CLOSE HAVE TO FINISH PLEASE END PLEASE END" kind of way. 

Spoilers ahead.
Now then, this is really just a rant, so it's very confusing and I have tried to sort of break it up but I don't know how well it worked. So um....don't waste your time on this book, it is terrible and lame. Its author did write a book called "syrup" so I had low expectations going in. I think perhaps a second read would better explain something, but I'm unwiling to endure it again.


An unusual school teaches it's students to use words to manipulate the minds of others. Emily Ruff is earning her bread with card tricks in the street, when she is recruited by the school. The graduates of this school take the names of dead poets. The headmistress is Charlotte Brontë, the man in charge of everything: Yeats. "Emily becomes the school's most talented prodigy, until she makes a catastrophic mistake: She falls in love."

Will Parke is kidnapped from an airport bathroom, by two men claiming he is 'the key to a secret war'. 

The premise is quite interesting, and that was what made me want to read it. When you say a word to someone, it triggers a neurological reaction in their mind. They translate it into meaning or memories or something and it effects a change, however slight, in them. The idea of this book (I think) is that you could highjack that, if you said the right words. At the school you learn how to quickly discover a person's 'segment' (a very specific personality type) and use the correct words to manipulate that person. Intriguing. 

Unfortunately, all of the parts I would have found interesting were just cut out of the book and replaced with sex, cursing, and profanity. Boring, to say the least. 
The initial idea that had attracted me (the power of words), turned out to be handled weakly and not given much time in the spotlight. Emily starts at the school having no idea what is going on, and you think that you will learn with her. But no. It just skips ahead to her understanding everything and all you get is "everything works just because". 

All of the explanations are weak and incomplete. 

The Broken Hill catastrophe: 
Towards the end of the book, you learn that the organization that runs the school was in posession of a bareword, and was testing it on people. The bareword is a piece of wood with a word written on it that makes anyone who sees it susceptible to command (there are so many things about it that don't make sense). Yeats compromises Emily/Virginia W to make her steal the bareword, go to Broken Hill, write the words "kill everyone" on a piece of paper, and stick it on the bareword. The people who saw it started to kill other people. People came to fight and help, and ALSO saw the word, and started killing people. That is the mysterious Broken Hill thing, that is spoken of throughout the book.

Inconsistencies and Foolishness: 
Wil/Harry is supposed to be immune to language manipulation, but somehow Emily comes up with the words to control him. There are a number of problems with the whole language thing but here are my main ones: 

  • You learn that you can discover someone's segment with a few simple questions (which is already weak and stupid, as far as I am concerned). But nothing is ever said about how this works. What sort of answers point to what. Then later in the book, Emily figures out someone's segment without saying a word to them (she does this multiple times). 
  • It says somewhere in the book that it is easier to resist compromise (being controlled by words) in a learned language. The only way this makes sense, is if the words have no power if there is no meaning in your mind that corresponds to them. In a language you knew nothing of, there would be no way to control you. Yet the words that are used to control the people are nonsense. They are written in the book, and they are gibberish. So there would be no meaning associated with them in anyone's head, and they would have no power. It would have been cool if they had connected the powerful words with some ancient language. Perhaps "the first language' or something like that, but it is gibberish. 
  • Emily teaches herself 'words' by saying syllables of nonsense to people to see if they react. That way she pieces together words on her own, without being taught. When she is trying to compromise the supposedly immune Wil/Harry to save his life (and make hime forget her), she just does that, and comes up with the words to control him. You have to use different words for different segments of people. So you could say that Wil/Harry is a segment that no one has ever discovered words for. BUT the bareword was able to control ALL segments, so that argument falls through, since it didn't work on Wil. Either way, this is stupid. 
  • Emily/Woolf goes through an elaborate process to make a copy of the bareword. She can't look at it all together (but if parts of spoken words work, so should parts of the bareword) so she takes pictures, and somehow manages to piece it together without ever looking at it all at once. A few things.... someone had to carve that word in the first place, and so someone way back when, had all that power and we just don't talk about it. If it is really just the markings themselves, and copies work just as well as copies of an actual word would, how is it that the 'organization' never even TRIED to make a copy? They have had this for a bit, and been testing it on people. Surely they would have thought of this.
  • Yeats makes Emily/Woolf release the word in Broken Hill as a test, I believe, or something like that. He wants to see it at work. He is crazy. But other than that, his character is never given any purpose or drive. He had already been testing on people, he knew what the bareword would do, and he could have had world domination by now if he'd wanted it. I found him to be unsatisfactory. The sort of villain who has no motivation, and the only explanation given for them is "they're evil, they're the bad guys, that's why". WEAK!
  • At the end there is a random memo thingy that is, I believe, a weak attempt to explain random things, but it is just digging itself in farther. It says that bilingual people have increased resistance to compromise. "We've theorized that when the brain is keyed into one language, words from another are more likely to be first-stage filtered as nonsense syllables-not actually processed as words, i.e., carriers of meaning". So "vartix velkor mannik wissick" is NOT likely to be processed as nonsense? There is also a scene where someone is being compromised in arabic, and the words are written in arabic. So each language has it's own random nonsense words. It's a wonder that babies are accidentally compromising people all the time. 
  • Ignoring all the problems with how the language thing works, and accepting that it JUST DOES, how on earth is anyone immune to it? There is no explanation for that, it is stupid, turns out to only be true when convenient, and is dumb. 
  • The memo also says "we believe a bareword belongs to a fundamental language of the human mind–the tongue in which the human animal speaks to itself at the basest level. The machine language." This SORT of holds up, but I'm not convinced. I don't know much about how the body works, but I'm pretty sure it communicates with itself using something more akin to electricity. Hence all the sci-fi in which people are mind controlled using something that plugs into their brain and messes with synapses or some such weirdness. The idea that hearing things could cause your brain to translate and react in a certain way was a cool premise that I was interested in. But if you see scratches on wood that correspond to no letters or words or anything like that, it would be received as an image, not a word. 
  • ALSO, if the bareword is a fundamental language of all humanity, having nothing to do with personality, language, upbringing or ANYTHING but the fact that they are a human animal, how is Wil/Harry immune to it? Is he not human? Turns out he actually CAN be controlled with regular 'words' by Emily, so that makes the bareword immunity even more ridiculous. 
  • When someone dies, anyone they have compromised is apparently free from their orders. This makes no sense. To compromise someone, you say the right words, and they are in your control. Whenever you want, supposedly, you can tell them what to do. You have highjacked their brain, it now believes that it wants what you want. But there is no upkeep required. You don't have to re-compromise the person every day. There is no connection between your minds that keeps them on track. So why would they be free if you died? The highjack is finished. It's too late. It's like saying that if you shoot someone in the head, they will be totally fine once you are dead. 


I'm not sure if this book was trying to be mysterious or not. Because if it was, it failed miserably. I figured out almost at once that the two different storylines were also in different times. 

So there is the story of Emily Ruff; her mentor, Eliot; and the love of her life, Harry. 
Then there is Wil Parke, his mysterious kidnapper Tom, and their powerful enemy, Virginia Woolf.

Tom is Eliot, and the whole Emily thing takes place BEFORE the Wil story. I thought that it was so obvious, it must have been intentionally so, but it's hard to be sure. 

Eliot, would of course be TS Eliot, so I was just looking for the only person whose name began with a T. Brontë is mentioned in the very beginning, so the minute I saw someone named Charlotte, I knew who that was. 
Wil Parke is, of course, Harry. This was a conclusion I came to because I didn't think the book had it in it to have very many developed characters. So I was looking around in the Emily storyline to see who Wil Parke could be, and when I saw Harry I thought "oh that's him". 
The way the book was being "oooooo so mysterious" about Virginia Woolf, had me convinced that she and Emily Ruff were the same person, almost at once. The fact that Yeats was the real bad guy took a little longer to figure out, but I never actually believed that it was Virginia/Emily. 

The only thing that really had me mildly interested was the Broken Hill catastrophe. You find out early on that Wil is the only survivor of Broken Hill. Eliot wants to find out how, and hopes to learn from him what happened at Broken Hill, and use him to retrieve the bareword. I actually had no idea what had happened until I was told. 

Timeline weirdness: So. Most of the book is okay in terms of time. Emily and Wil are intercut, but Emily is pre-catastrophe and Wil is post. Then there are some flashbacks, which are very confusing, but whatever. 
And then, towards the end, it just goes all over the place. Emily has reached the point right before everyone in Broken Hill dies, and then suddenly there are other POVs introduced, and their time settings are ambiguous and then there is Eliot doing things in the Emily timeline while in the Wil timeline, he is having flashbacks to the Emily timeline. I had no idea when anything was happening. Looking back through it, I think that Mr. Barry was also confused about the timelines. 

MORE plot holes and unexplained stupidness: 
The flow of the book was choppy, had plenty of plot holes, and random unexplained scenes that seemed to serve no purpose. 

  • It begins with Wil waking up to discover that there is a needle in his eye, and Eliot is doing something to him. Then suddenly he is in an airport, getting off a plane to go to his girlfriend, but his eye still hurts. He is then kidnapped by Eliot (again?). The first scene is NEVER explained. How was Wil captured the first time? How did he then escape, to get off a plane and have no memory of the event? What was the point of sticking a needle in his eye (if you are probing someone's brain, that is not the way to do it). And then for no particular reason, Eliot can mysteriously read his mind. 
  • It is near-impossible that NO ONE but Wil/Harry survived Broken Hill. If you are on the edge of town with your family, and people start killing everyone, maybe dad goes to try and help, but his family is told to get in the car and leave. Plenty of people died who HADN'T seen the kill order, so they were in the same position as Wil/Harry, who had seen it but not been affected by it. There is no reason why he should have been the only one to make it out. 
  • We also learn that Emily/Virginia Woolf saw a reflection of the bareword, and so while it didn't completely take over her brain, she has a kill order in her head, and a need to obey it. She focuses this on killing Yeats. He takes control of her (in an incredibly stupid scene), and the idea is that if he dies, she will have nowhere to focus her 'kill everyone' order and won't be able to control herself. So at the end of the book, when she is reunited with Wil/Harry, she tells him she loves him, and then compromises him (remember, she learned how earlier) and tells him to kill her, because with Yeats dead, she is too dangerous. Cut to them being together, she isn't dead, and isn't trying to kill anyone. No explanation. Nothing. 
  • Yeats realizes that Eliot isn't really on his side, but doesn't compromise him. He thinks Eliot powerful and useful, but lets him go. Why?
  • At some point, Eliot decides that Wil/Harry really doesn't remember who he is and says "She made you forget".  Which doesn't make sense, because Eliot still firmly believed that Wil was immune, and that was the main reason he wanted him. So if he thought that Wil could be made to forget, why would he keep him?

There were many many many more things like this.


Emily Ruff/Virginia Woolf: 
In my opinion, this book would have been MUCH better if Emily HAD turned out bad. Because for the brief moment between figuring out who she was, and coming to the conclusion that she wasn't actually a villain, I thought to myself "oh wow, I'm really interested to see her journey from good to villain." But the route that was taken was "everything bad she ever did was because Yeats was controlling her (having used the power of words, which is a power that leaves you wondering "why doesn't Yeats have EVERYONE under his control, he only has to talk to them once and they are good to go?). So Emily seemed liked she was going to have a cool character arc, and ended up with nothing. 

This guy was definitely the most developed and believable character. I almost liked him. His journey, from 'stickler for the rules' to 'people are going to die I have to do something' was interesting. His feelings about Emily, who he had grown to care about (as a daughter, nothing weird), and how he dealt with that while believing that she had turned. I did not, however, like him enough to care when he died.

Harry Wilson/Wil Park: 
So, I get that Wil has forgotten who he was. He doesn't know that he is Wil, he doesn't know that he was in love with Emily. But his entire personality is completely different from that of Harry. Which is odd, considering that they are the same person. I sort of liked Harry, and I didn't like Wil at all. And his relationship with Emily was weird, because he knew nothing about her, she couldn't reveal her actual self to him, lied to him a lot, and somehow they had a healthy-ish relationship for a long time? And then later, as Wil, when he remembers loving Emily, he just doesn't seem to care that she lied to him and isn't really the person he thought she was....oh yeah, and killed an entire town. Against her wil (har har) but I feel like that would be a little hard to get over.

The Villain: 
As I said, he is just sort of there. Has no backstory, motivation, compelling traits...anything. I didn't even hate him, I mostly just forgot about him, and when he was mentioned I was completely indifferent. With a good villain, I am anxious for them to be stopped, put in jail, killed etc. But I just didn't care. There was no feeling of triumph when Emily broke free from his control. No 'oh no' went through my mind when he first compromised her. There was no sense of foreboding when I realized that he was going to do something. I didn't think "oh he is so creepy", though I guess maybe he was. 

Everyone else:
Everyone else felt like a random stick figure or plot device, I don't recall any other people in this book.  


The entire book. 
F*** is used basically every page. The entire book was riddled with gratuitous immorality, profanity, blasphemy, cursing, stupidity, plot holes, senselessness, bad writing, lame characters, un-compelling backstory. It is also a quick read, because there is such a lack of actual content and a poorly executed plot. 

I believe I made a couple terrible puns out of the silly spelling of Wil's name. It was kind of irresistible.
Also what about Cecilia? It seemed as though Wil actually loved her (or maybe he was compromised as immunity only counts half of the time). She is my favourite character.

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