Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ariel Review and the Glory that is NaNo!

I'm trying yet again to be more regular in my bloggery. Since basically my writing life amounts to nothing, however, I think I'll be doing more book reviews. I like reading. Reading makes life better. And it doesn't even kill brain cells! It's a win, no matter what anybody says. READING = WIN. Period! Rawr!


So, I recently heard about this really good fantasy called Elegy Beach. I believe it was from Ilona Andrews' awesome blog, but I could be wrong, but considering the number of possible places I heard about this book from, I'm assuming this is the case. Anyway, I looked into Elegy Beach, and discovered it's actually an extremely late sequel (as in, published a heck of a lot later) to a book called Ariel. I checked my library site, and lo and behold! They had it on the shelves. And the darn thing sounded so interesting I just had to pick it up. So I did. And I read it.

And I cried.

A lot.

Ariel is bloody amazing. I loved it. I love urban fantasy, but genre was probably the lowest consideration; I enjoyed the writing, I enjoyed narrator Pete's voice, I enjoyed the world... I was really interested in the way author Steven Boyett handled his worldbuilding. There's a lot more I'd have liked to know about this strange world in which magic came into being at 4:30 in the afternoon one day and stayed. (However, I'm glad there wasn't more on it in the actual book, because otherwise the story would have suffered. Oh, the sad paradox of epic worlds...)

Basic premise? Five years ago, the world kind of switched over to magic. Tech doesn't work, guns don't work, apparently bikes don't work (though wind-up watches do). Pete Garey survived this switch, called the Change, and was on his own for three years, until he met Ariel--an honest-to-holy-hell-that-horse-has-a-horn unicorn. Who talks. And cusses. And is all around more human than half the human characters I've read in fantasy. Unicorns are rare, their horns have crazy magic, and there's a necromancer in New York City who is willing to do a heck of a lot for Ariel's horn.

(My only nit through the book was, why the heck was our antagonist called a necromancer? I don't remember him actually doing anything to warrant that title. Still. That's not a lot of nits.)

So, I just realized I pretty much suck at good reviews, too, but I can say this: this book made me cry. A lot. And, well, that doesn't always say a lot, because I cry easily, but... lately I've been somewhat less prone to crying at every little thing, so there's some slight merit in that fact, yes?

Ariel is one of those awesome books where the end is just... at once horrible and so bloody fitting. This book could not have ended any other way without ruining its integrity. (Doesn't change the fact that I desperately wished it could have ended some other way, but ignoring that...) And it's not a straight-up "good" or "bad" ending, which I really like. It's the bittersweet kind of ending you get with all really good coming-of-age stories.

I probably completely failed to do any sort of justice to this book. Suffice to say: five stars. Five billion stars. This ranks up on my list with the Kate Daniels series, which says a lot. So: five freaking stars. Great book, great world, great characters, great writing...

Well. Okay. On occasion, the writing got pretty stilted with the "I did this. I did that. I turned around and did the hula." type of monotony it's so easy to fall into with first-person narration, but it didn't happen often or obnoxiously enough to detract from the story.

Okay, fine, so I had two nits. Sue me.

In other news, who else is excited for NaNo? Anyone? I'm psyched. I'm re-attempting my NaNovel from last year, with HUGE changes (I think I mentioned this before), and my main goal for NaNo is to teach myself how to write out of order, because that's one of the reasons I find it difficult to continue with works in progress: I want to write a Really Awesome Scene(tm), but I can't make myself write out of order, and then I get bogged down in transition and forget that I actually *do* love this project. Which is a sad, sad thing. (That was a sentence fragment. Pretty pathetic one, at that...)

Anyway. For those not in the know: National Novel Writing Month is a frenzied, super-exciting, brain-slushing, epic... thing... and I can't think of a noun that would work in this case, so moving on. In November, thousands upon thousands below thousands (because I'm Just That Original(tm)) people attempt to write 50,000 words of some sort of novel in 30 days. (That's 1667 words a day, also known as 1337 words plus 330.) By the end, most participants are unable to form a proper sentence and their typos are breeding to make tiny typos which go on to mature in record time and make little baby typos of their own, and pretty soon the entire novel is pure gibberish, but that's totally okay because WORDS!

...and my roommate has gone off somewhere, so now I get to record my Japanese homework. This is me, being happy about this wonderful turn of events. ...yay.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Long-Late Tribute

I am very late in receiving this news.

I am a long-time off-and-on member of the Absolute Write forums, the single most wonderful site ever to occupy a URL. Just as in non-virtual life, on a forum, you make friends, and you look up to a lot of members you may not know personally, but you know they're excellent people.

You never think they'll end up not being there.

I have never had a friend or family member die. Today, months late, I've discovered that two members of AW have passed away this past year, and I can no longer claim that happy ignorance.

I hope I'm not sounding sappy. This is... hard. I didn't know either member incredibly well, but both were well-loved in the AW community, and I've had interactions with both.

MacAllister, our wonderful admin, shared the news of AW's own CactusWendy's impending end with the board in April of this year. On the twenty-eighth, she passed away, surrounded by family. Wendy had this wonderful habit of greeting all the board newbies with this beautiful, personal question: "How do you like your popcorn?" She was a beader, as well, though she came to know the joy of the art very close to the end of her life. She was an amazing, kind person, and really brightened the community. I did not know her as well as I wish I could have.

Last month, we lost Steve Sarber, username smsarber. He used to post regularly on the Weekend Progress Report thread. He's one of the people I knew the best on AW. He struggled for a long, long time with a lot of health problems, but he always came back, until this August. I remember being absolutely shocked when I learned he was only in his 30s--with all the health issues, I had thought he was much older. He passed away at far too young an age, and left his dearly beloved family behind. He was always so upbeat and positive. Over the years, I received about half a dozen reps from him, all consisting of a single, whacky smiley. All made my day, and make my day every time I take a look at them. He really cared about everyone, even when he was going through all his own crazy ridiculousness. He always came back to AW, even when he wasn't feeling all that well.

I will always remember him as the guy who repped me a smiley urinating a smiley into the snow. Weird, but it made me laugh and cringe at the same time. He had a talent for brightening people's days. He was a great writer, a great AWer, and a great person.

So farewell, CactusWendy, and farewell, smsarber. I'm sorry my tribute comes late, but know it isn't any less heartfelt for it. I'm glad I knew you both.