2001: A Space Odyssey…Why?

Okay, I have to do this.  I just have to.  This isn’t a blog where I review movies, but in this case, I have to say something.  Though, admittedly, this is going to be less of a review and more of a rant. (Warning: spoilers ahead)

Why is this movie referenced so much?!  I watched this ridiculously long movie last night and just found it tedious and annoying, yet I see people continually reference the work with a degree of respect.  …Why?!  And, no, it’s not an era thing that makes me dislike it; I have watched Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green* all the way through, so I already knew going in to a ’60s film was going to be a bit slow.

However, this movie made no sense!  The first half hour (I kid you not) is wasted on a tribe of apes just being a tribe.  Then we go to space and there’s all this boring stuff with characters, whose names I don’t remember, talking about an epidemic space illness.  And is it ever resolved or addressed again?  No!!!  Then, after that, there’s the lead up to a space mission to investigate some sort of structure that was buried four million years ago and the nature of said mission is kept secret from the astronauts piloting the ship because…..?

I said it once, I’ll say it again: This movie made no sense!  And the parts that this movie is famous for (i.e. the parts that always get referenced) only happen in a thirty minute segment in the second half.  And those thirty minutes were the only interesting point of the movie.

This was so boring!  I guess the visuals and effects were pretty great, especially since they looked really convincing, but it felt more like they were showing off the majority of the time.  Honestly, after H.A.L. got disconnected, I stopped paying attention, so I have no idea how it even ended – especially since there was no dialogue!  You know, sometimes that works, but in this case, I wanted to scream at the screen for people to SAY SOMETHING!

To sum up, I didn’t like it.  I found it a completely dull waste of time.  Find me the Be Kind, Rewind version; it’ll probably be more entertaining.

*Just as an aside comment about Soylent Green, I don’t get the whole “It’s people!” thing.  I mean, what’s the big deal?  They’re recycling the corpses of an overpopulated world in order to feed those still living.  It’s not like people are actually being harvested; sure, they’re being lied to about what’s in soylent green, but so what?  If they’re hungry, what do they care?

The Bands of Mourning

The Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson continues to follow the adventures of Wax and Wayne.  As a sequel to Shadows of Self, this book proceeds with a storyline involving the conspiracies of a shadow organization that have been hinted at since the beginning of the series.  I can’t reveal too much of what the book is about since it would be far to spoilery, but I will say that part of the central focus is on finding an ancient relic, called Bands of Mourning, which can grant anyone all the mystical abilities possible in this world.

This book was fantastic.  It was funny, action-packed, not to mention extremely surprising.  There were quite a few big reveals and strong hints of future cross-overs with his other worlds – none of which I can talk about here since this is a spoiler-free review.  In a nutshell, I was blown away by all of it.

My favorite part, though, was the increased involvement of a character named Steris, who is the fiancee of Waxillium.  Originally it was an arrangement for the benefit of two noble houses, but the subplot of them actually falling in love with each other was really beautifully, and hilariously, written.  As a character, Steris started out rather dull (which Sanderson did on purpose) and she was the type of person who planned and prepared for every possible eventuality that she could predict.  Interestingly enough, her little obsession actually proves to be useful in the book since she provides a Mary Poppins level of supplies that aid in the other characters’ exploits.  Steris has quickly become my second favorite character in this series.

Sanderson’s writing continues to be phenomenal, artfully showing different character perspectives in order to convey what is important for the reader to know.  Once again he wraps up the story in such a way that leaves me excited for the release of the final installment.  Although there was one thing that quite nearly ruined the book for me (can’t say it here, because it’s a massive spoiler), I look forward to uncovering the secrets Sanderson has been hinting at in the fourth book.

For a more elaborate review, check out my YouTube video here!  Warning: video contains spoilers.

Whoops

Hey, remember that qualifying exam I talked about last week?  Yep, I failed it.  Ugh, and I studied so hard, too.  Oh, well, I’ll try and reapply for the job some other time; I’ll study better for the exam because I know I understand the concepts – it’s my degree for crying out loud!  One way or another, I’m going to get this job.

In the meantime, I still have no idea if I’ve been accepted into the masters program which is starting to worry me since I signed up to start in about two weeks.  :\  And on top of all that, I’m still pursuing my writing as much as I can, though the past week or so I haven’t because of all the studying I did.

So far, I’ve reached the seventeen page mark in my first draft in the span of one month, give or take.  I could beat myself up about it, saying I should’ve written more in that timeframe or I can be a reasonable human being and be proud of my accomplishment.  I choose: reasonable human being.  Seventeen pages is pretty good in my book because, let me tell you, before I was serious about writing, getting this far would’ve taken years, years, not weeks.  All in all, I’m pretty happy where I stand.

Oh, yeah, and I think I’m going to ditch the whole one story during weekdays and a different one on weekends thing.  After a month of not doing that, it seems I really am only capable of focusing (obsessing) on one story at a time.

Death Weavers

We have returned to the Outskirts in the mystical series called Five Kingdoms by Brandon Mull.  I’ve already provided some background in my review of the previous novel, Crystal Keepersso I’m not going to do too much expositional stuff.  Death Weavers is the penultimate book of the series, therefore the most climactic with the promise of a resolution around the corner.

This novel was far better than the preceding one which, being the midpoint of the whole story, had a very noticeable lull.  The storyline of Death Weavers was incredibly action packed and, as the title hints, a touch on the dark side.  In this book, we are introduced to the fourth kingdom Cole Randolph has encountered, Necronum, where the magic is akin to, you guessed it, necromancy.  What really made this book interesting is that most of what takes place occurs in the afterlife (or the first phase of it) rather than in the kingdom itself.  I’m going to leave it at that since anymore discussion on it would lead to spoilers, but I really enjoyed how Mull flushed the setting out in this particular book.

I do, however, still have a bit of a hang up with Cole.  I know he’s just a kid, he makes mistakes, but he still seems so plain.  As the story progresses, particularly in Death Weavers, we can see Cole growing as a hero somewhat; I’m…just not entirely convinced.  Have to say, I think this is one of the weakest main characters Mull has created.  Not in strength or ability (he has plenty of that), more so in how his character is portrayed.  There’s just something about Cole that makes him seem less…solid.

Like I said in my previous review, I find Mull’s style, while still good, severely toned down compared to his earlier works.  The dialogue was still a little clunky and I found myself annoyed several times by Cole’s curiosity.  Instead of asking important questions, he would waste time making small talk!  It wasn’t nearly prominent here as it was in Crystal Keepers, thank goodness, yet it was present enough to bother me when I saw it.  Overall, Death Weavers started out strong, stayed strong, and ended strong, much like the first two books in Five Kingdoms.  I’m so excited to read the final installment.

For a closer look at what made me like this book, check out my YouTube video here!  Warning: video contains spoilers.

The Perfect Opportunity?

Last week, I received an e-mail from someone on Indeed.com and they asked me to apply for a job opportunity as a tutor for MCAT biology.  (…That earth-shattering shriek you just heard was my squeal of excitement.)  It looks absolutely perfect for me!

For one, it pays more than either of my other jobs, even though it would still be part time.  Second, there’s actually opportunity to advance through the company instead of being stuck at a dead end.  Third, I’ll be using my degree in biology!  Like for real, not just having a job that requires a fill-in-the-blank bachelor’s.  And finally, I would still be involved in healthcare by helping future doctors get into the medical school.  This is amazing!

I’ve already finished the first part of the application, so I’m studying up on material in order to pass the qualifying exam.  …The retake, that is.  I already failed the first time, and the second chance is also my last chance, but a 47% without studying ain’t bad.  Anyway, I’ve been in the throes of studying for the last few days and I think I’ll be ready for the retake in the next day or two.

Fingers crossed I pass and do well on the rest of the application process!  And among all of that, I do still intend to pursue the master’s I’ve been talking about, too, though I haven’t heard back from the school yet if I’ve been accepted.  I’m really looking forward to it, so I hope everything works out.

Catch-22

No, this is not another post about my troubles in job hunting.  This is a book review.  Yes, you read that right.  This is a book review of a United Statesian classic by Joseph Heller.  Catch-22 is not a novel I’d usually be inclined to read, but my curiosity about the origins of the phrase led me to it and, after completing the book, I think I finally fully understand the saying along with why it’s stuck around.

First, a little background.  Catch-22 was published in 1961 when World War II was still fairly fresh in people’s minds.  The (entirely fictional) novel revolves around a U.S. bombardier during World War II named Yossarian who just wants to go home after completing his requisite number of missions, which his commanding officer only continues to increase throughout the book.  He could ask to be relieved of duty, but here is where Catch-22 comes in: one is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous missions, but if he asks to be relieved of duty, then he is proven to be of sound mind and, thus, ineligible of being relieved (remind you of anything?).  There is but one word to sum up this book: Fantastic!

This was a phenomenal read.  In essence, the book was filled to the brim with ridiculous catch-22s that were both hilarious in their blatant contradictions and disturbing in their effectiveness to keep corrupt men in power and good men disadvantaged (I’m specifying men here because the women weren’t particularly important – not surprising considering the era this takes place in).  The main character was absolutely hysterical in his desperation to get out of combat duty, yet, at the same time, incredibly relatable.  (However, I must admit, I’m not entirely certain if Yossarian is extremely intelligent or completely crazy.)  Although it was continually pointed out how selfish and unpatriotic it was for him to try getting out of the war effort, I couldn’t help but be on his side.  He did his part, he performed his duty, it’s not his fault his superiors continue to unjustly increase the number of missions he has to do.  He deserves to go home!

Heller’s wit was on par as were the dark moments in his novel.  Because it is a war story, it only makes sense that there are intense battle scenes described and Heller did a stunning job of writing them.  I felt the fear, the chaotic confusion, of war in his writing.  I couldn’t put the book down at moments like these because of how invested I was in seeing how everyone fared by the end of it all.  There were a number of times I found myself on the verge of tears due to the horror described.

Then there is the writing style which, I must admit, is fairly atypical, which is probably why I liked it  😉  Catch-22 wasn’t entirely chronological.  Instead, it sort of focused on a different character with each chapter while still keeping Yossarian the central thread.  The transitions from character to character, usually by means of reiterating lines of dialogue, could have been disorienting, but Heller handled it so well that it merely aided in the flow of the story.

Though the message Heller is sending with his novel, much like the various catch-22s in the book itself, is a bit mixed, it is also very poignant: the only way out of an inescapable predicament is to pick the option that isn’t an option (that’s what I got from it anyway, but I’m sure there’s a wide variety of other interpretations.  I just picked the one I found most inspiring.)  Overall, Catch-22 is an incredible read which I am glad has been considered a classic for the last fifty years.

For more glowing commentary on this book, check out my YouTube video here!  Warning: video contains spoilers.

I Could Use a Little Help

Alright, according to an author I admire and respect (Brandon Sanderson), one of the best ways to introduce yourselves to editors and agents is by going to conventions and one he’s mentioned constantly is Worldcon. Based on my research, this convention seems like the place to be – mostly because it looks like tons of fun. Anyway, I really want to go to the one next year in San Jose…

…but I have no idea how to even start planning. First of all, I’ve never planned a trip like this before; sure, I’ve traveled a ton, yet I was never the one who worked with all the logistics (that’s my mom’s job). Also, I’m as close to broke as I can be while still being marginally comfortable, so I know I’ll have to budget for it somehow, though I’m not sure how to go about it (I have started a rough estimate as best I can). On top of all that, at the moment, I’m pretty much planning on going solo; I’ll ask a friend if she wants to tag along and that should help make thungs cheaper, but there’s no guarantee it will work out for her (or even if she’s interested). 

So…suggestions? Any locals out there who can tell me how to get around without renting a car or busting my wallet? I also know I should probably pack my own food instead of depending on what’s at the convention, yet I’m not sure what I should plan on bringing, especially since I plan on camping out in the cheapest hotel I can find (I’m also a picky eater). 

Any tips and tricks you can offer to help me out in getting to/budgeting for this convention would be super helpful. Thanks to all of you!

The Riyria Revelations

I’m sorry.  I said I would continue with The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan at least through the fourth book, but, alas, I couldn’t do it.  In fact, I couldn’t even make it through chapter two.  So, I looked up a plot summary of the series as a whole and…well, let’s just say, I’m glad I ditched the series.

I don’t know what happens in the fourth book nor do I care.  The writing continued to be absolutely grating, the characters consistently inconsistent, and the plot entirely predictable as well as cliche.  When I looked up the plot as a whole (which I will not reveal here in order to respect those who might actually end up enjoying this series) I found out that a twist I had predicted was one hundred percent accurate.  Not only that, but I had, in a nutshell, said that I would be seriously miffed if this twist was where the series was going.

From what I’ve gathered from the plot summary, the series would have continued to make no sense, become more cliche, and probably would have sent me to the insane asylum had I continued.  But let’s take a look at what made me give up the series as a whole.  In context, this was Hadrian discussing…I don’t even remember – something…with Royce’s significant other who is a female.  It was one line which Hadrian said: “I’ve known a lot of women, but I’ve met only two I admire.”

Talk about sexist!  There are a few things wrong with this line:

  1. It’s out of character for Hadrian.  He has been portrayed as a character who, despite being a bit of a flirt, has respect for women.  Or at least that’s what I thought until this point.
  2. Why the hell do you have to specify women?  That makes it sound like you admire all men, but women? – nooo, how could you possibly admire a woman?  This line could have been written with the word “people” instead of “women” – is that so hard?  Now it’s more generic and not overtly sexist.
  3. Really?  There’s only two women in this vast world who has earned your admiration?  You’ve never met another woman worthy of your oh-so-high standards?  What does that say about how he views the female species as a whole?  Even if he had been more generic with this line and hadn’t specified women, I still would have trouble coping with this piece of dialogue.

Am I being nit-picky?  Possibly.  Am I making too big a deal out of one line?  Probably.  However, this was the absolute last straw for me and this series.  All the cliches, predictably, and, paradoxically, inconsistencies along with increasing amounts of sexism led up to this point where my irritation all but exploded.

Yet, the most heartbreaking thing?  Sullivan has potential.  I can sense the raw talent behind his words, yet that failed to entice me enough to continue.  Now I’m not exactly one to talk since I’m unpublished and nowhere near an expert in the craft, but Sullivan strikes me as a writer who fails to take the steps necessary to make his work truly shine.  I know it’s rather presumptuous of me to say, but that’s just the kind of impression Sullivan leaves on me.  So, I’ll have to part ways with this series.

For a more elaborate rant on this series as a whole, check out my YouTube video here.  Warning: video contains spoilers.

Making A Writing Schedule

I’ve been struggling a lot with this.  I know myself pretty well, so having a set time everyday and forcing myself to do something doesn’t always work for me.  To-do lists seem to help, though; instead of telling myself I’ll get something done at this time, I say I’ll get this done today and, lo and behold, it gets done.  So, I’m trying a similar writing schedule out on myself.

I’ve decided that I will write at least two pages a day during the week for my primary project (this is the first draft of the novel I want to introduce myself to the world with) while focusing on my secondary project (the series I mentioned before) during the weekends.  …It’s half-working.  I’ve been doing pretty well with the weekday stuff (except for last night when I got a massive headache out of nowhere), but I’ve yet to really shift gears during the weekend to work on the second project.

Yet the most difficult thing of all?  Getting started.  I know all you writers out there can relate to this, too.  Passionate as we are about the craft, actually sitting our butts down and doing it is tough!  Almost everyday I put it off…and put it off…and put it off some more until I finally just suck it up and put pen to paper.  And once I get started, it’s really hard to stop…until I hit a wall, but that’s a different story.

I don’t know why getting started is so hard to do, especially since it’s so enjoyable once the momentum picks up.  Maybe it’s from unconscious* self-doubt or the fear of losing the story as you’re writing it (I really hope what I just said makes sense), but either way, determination to actually get what’s in my head on to paper seems to be the way around it.  That and the reactions I got when some of my coworkers read the opening scene is pretty inspiring.  So, until this current writing strategy doesn’t work anymore, I’m going to keep using it.

*Quick aside: why on earth is “unconscious” spelled with an s?  You don’t even pronounce the letter when you say the word.  Seriously, how is it that “sc” makes the “ch” sound?  English makes no sense!

Nyphron Rising

From the very beginning of the series called The Riyria Revelations, I have been reviewing each book.  As I said in my previous post on Sullivan’s work, Avempartha, I would continue reading the series for the time being.  So, I acquired the second volume of this series,  Rise of Empire.  Just like before, the second volume is a combination of two books: book three and book four.  Since they were originally two books, I will proceed with writing two separate reviews once again.  As of this post, I have not begun the fourth installment.  (Warning: because of the nature of this review, there may be some minor spoilers if you have not yet read the first volume.)

And without further ado, let’s talk about Nyphron Rising.  From the get go, Sullivan was setting up a larger plot arc which involved the church (called the Church of Nyphron) finding the descendant of an ancient emperor/demigod and restoring the old empire from nearly a thousand years ago.  Of course that’s only on the surface and in actuality they want to kill this heir and take the empire for themselves.  …Weird, but okay, I’ll run with it.  By the end of Avempartha the church finds itself with a nice little figurehead they claim is the heir and begin their empire, hence the title of the volume, while still looking for the real thing so they can kill him/her.

Nyphron Rising continues following Royce and Hadrian as well as their increasing involvement with the major conspiracy.  In this book, they have even begun working for one particular side as spies, not thieves, instead of selling their services to the highest bidder.  Princess Arista, previously a side character, even comes in to take center stage of this book.  The storyline of this novel focuses mainly on Hadrian, who, it turns out, is more involved in the grandiose schemes of ancient men than he previously thought.  …And the cliches don’t stop there!

This third installment was soooo annoying!  Along with being predictable, the book was riddled with cliches, backstory in the form of intrusive tangents, and ludicrously convenient plot points.  There was even a twist that was so blatantly obvious, I saw it coming from chapter five in a seventeen chapter book.  On top of that, the characters were contradictory to how they were written both within this installment and the previous two.  I swear that Hadrian is the only one who has remained in character the entire series.

However, my particular beef is with the women.  …Where to begin?  I honestly can’t decide if Sullivan is sexist or just really, really bad at writing women.  Let’s take Arista.  She continuously waffles between being a twenty-six year old toddler and a strong, intelligent woman who also happens to be a novice to magic from the beginning of the series.  She’s good at magic, then she can’t figure out a spell; she claims to not be a witch or says she’ll never practice magic again, but then does it in the very next page; she acts/thinks like a spoiled little princess, then behaves as if she’s the kind of person that takes everything in stride.  Make up your mind!!

If that weren’t enough,  Sullivan’s attempts at romance are awkward and forced mostly because they come out of nowhere.  (The only chemistry I’ve ever sensed is between Hadrian and Royce, but that’s a bromance not a romance…probably.)  And his attempts at wit fall flat on its face, leaving a giant bloody mess on the floor.  I also think he should have spent a little more time researching since I have doubted the authenticity of many situations of his novel.

Despite all that, this is still better than the second book of the series.  His writing style improved somewhat and even moved away from headhopping-like style to a form of third person omniscient I’m more familiar with – the type that has perspectives change from chapter to chapter.  Whether or not I finish this series depends a whole lot on the fourth book, so we’ll see what happens.

For more details on what bugged me about this novel, check out my YouTube video here.  Warning: video contains spoilers.