To Err is to God: Reviewing The Hidden Oracle (Book One of The Trials of Apollo) by Rick Riordan

Hi everybody! I know what you’re thinking. “Whoa, two posts in such a short period of time! How is this even possible?” Well, to answer your question, I’ve been feeling more motivated than ever. I also saw The Lightning Thief: The Musical today and it was awesome. I’d highly recommend it. This leads me to my next point, which is that I have been a fan of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series since I was in grade school. I was reading the Heroes of Olympus series into college. For Christmas, my mom had given me the third book in Rick Riordan’s latest series because it had his autograph. Obviously, I had to actually start the series. Now, here is my review of the first novel in The Trials of Apollo.

Apollo once had everything. He was the god of the sun, music, poetry, archery, and many other things until Zeus cast him down from Olympus as punishment. Now a mortal teenager named Lester, Apollo must restore his Oracles to power and prevent a new wave of monsters from destroying the world. With the help of some unlikely demigods, Apollo must complete his quests in order to restore his place on Mount Olympus or die trying.

After reading this first book in his latest series, I realized how much I genuinely missed Riordan’s writing. The things in the novel that made me laugh at thirteen-years-old make me laugh now at twenty-two. Riordan incorporates his usual charm and sarcasm into his writing. Apollo is simultaneously very unlikable and very charming as a main character. Though the plot is still relatively similar to the other novels, Riordan knows how to throw in new elements to make it feel just as new as before. The novel has a tongue-and-cheek feel that could appeal to adults. The characters are still relatable to teens and middle-grade kids. (Don’t quote me on that, though. I could be wrong). Reading this novel, I realized how much I missed Camp Half-Blood and Camp Jupiter. While there are certainly novels that I can safely stow away in the memories of my childhood, this new Riordan series has brought me a fun and familiar nostalgia. If you are a current or former fan of the Percy Jackson series or a Greek mythology nerd, I am going to go ahead and highly recommend if you are looking for a fun adventure or looking to revisit your favorite YA/Middle-grade series.

I have crappy writing habits – and I’m okay with that

Hello everyone! As of this moment, I don’t have anything new to read and, unfortunately, I’m a cheapskate who doesn’t want to buy any books right now. I can hear the e-readers saying “But just get an e-book! They are so much cheaper!” Well, I’m old-fashioned and I can’t bring myself to invest in any electronic versions of books. Back to the subject, I want to talk about my personal writing habits that may make my fellow writers cringe to death or you might say “yeah same.” I’m also going to talk about the bad habits I’ve embraced and the ones I want to change.

My first crappy writing habit is that I don’t plan any of my stories ahead of actually writing them. I’ve seen all these “worksheet” type things on Pinterest that are meant to help you really get the details of your story straight and flesh out your characters. I’ve known people who have created entire maps for their fictional worlds. I am proud to say that I don’t do any of that. Sometimes, I can’t even pick my character’s name right away. I’ve changed pronouns midway through a story because I couldn’t decide on the character’s gender. Settings and time periods mean nothing to me until I feel like its important (which might not be until after the first chapter). Every time I tried to map out a story ahead of time, I ended up feeling discouraged because then I feel as though I’ve put too much work into something I don’t even like anymore. Feel free to call me lazy but I am proud of my spontaneous planning.

My second crappy writing habit is I can have a difficult time committing to my stories. I don’t even like some of the stuff I write. One of the most common piece of advice for writers is “The only obligation you have is to love your story.” Guess what? I don’t always like what I’ve written. I’ve thrown away entire stories just because I got fed up or even bored. On one hand, it is very liberating because I don’t have to commit to something I don’t have confidence in. On the other hand, it makes me feel bad because maybe I could have fixed it but I didn’t even want to look at it again. I’ve been doing my best to try to work on my stories, rather than just throw them away when I feel like it. I’ve been pretty good at it too. Some of my ideas just need a little more tweaking.

This next writing habit I’m going to talk about is probably the one I want to change the most. My third crappy writing habit is that I hate sharing my stories. I am horribly self-conscious about what I write and I panic at the thought of having to share my ideas. They sound great in my head but I find myself having a cringe attack when other people read them. As you can imagine, my Fiction Writing I class was absolute hell. But, that class kind of sucked regardless. Anyways, I am trying my best to become more confident about my writing. I am perfectly capable of handling critiques when it comes to my technical writing (i.e. essays) but when it comes to prose I can’t stand it. This one will take a while to break but I am determined to be confident.

What I’m trying to get at here is that there is no way to be a good writer. Every writer has their own style and process that they have honed over the years. You know what they say: it isn’t stupid if it works. You are a writer regardless of what you write, when you write, and how you write. Don’t be afraid to change, either. Keep going and I guarantee that you will find that one story that you fall in love with.

PS: I’ve found a really good writing app called Werdsmith. It’s free and it has been a really good writing tool for me. Check it out if you want.

A New Kind of Human, A New Kind of Murder: Reviewing Lock In by John Scalzi

Hi everyone! I am very excited to be ticking off another book off of my TBR list with another Scalzi novel. If you are interested, you can check out my review of his other novel Redshirts. This novel also ends my mystery novel kick but this one is a bit different as it falls more in the sci-fi category. You will see in a moment when I talk more about this novel. The terminology is a bit confusing so bear with me but I will do my best to explain everything. Anyways, here is my review of Lock In by John Scalzi.

A dangerous virus, named “Haden’s Syndrome,” swept the globe and caused sufferers to become “locked in.” They were completely aware and alive but couldn’t move or respond. A quarter of a century later, sufferers of Haden’s Syndrome (now just called Hadens) have found ways to function in the world through Integrators – humans who can help Hadens experience the world – or “threeps” – humanoid robots. Rookie FBI Agent Chris Shane (a Haden himself) and his veteran partner Leslie Vann are assigned to the case of an Integrator who appears to have murdered his Haden. As Shane and Vann follow the trails, they come to realize that this is a bigger mystery that involves Hadens and non-Hadens alike. The two find themselves in the middle of a conflict between the “old” human culture and the rising human subculture created by Haden’s Syndrome.

I want to say in advance that the terminology is a bit confusing at first. Scalzi was kind enough to create a little “cheat sheet” in the beginning of the novel in order to clarify his world building. It took me about four chapters before I became familiar with the slang but, after that, I could read the novel with ease. That’s also a good warning for any readers who may not be too familiar with science fiction and the world building in there. However, if you are an avid science fiction reader, then this novel should definitely go on your shelf as should any Scalzi novel. The world he creates is very intricate but cleverly crafted. Scalzi’s characters seem to thrive on their own in this strange world where one percent of the population must rely on other humans or robots in order to lead a normal existence. His main characters, Shane and Vann, have good chemistry and character development. As the story is told through Shane’s point of view, it gives the reader a better change to become familiar with the world of Haden’s. The dialogue is witty and realistic, with all of the new terms flowing seamlessly. There’s something a little cyber-punk about this novel that I enjoyed in particular. If you like murder and technology, then Lock In is the novel for you. Scalzi strikes again with his unique and hilarious writing along with his mashup of mystery and science fiction.

I want to try something and I need your help!

Hello everyone! So I’m here to pitch you an idea that might be crazy but also fun. In order to execute this idea I need your help. Now, let me give you my elevator pitch.

Pretty much all of us have read fan fiction at one point and maybe some you still read it. We all have to admit, though, that we’ve read some pretty bad fan fiction in the past. I want to review it. Here’s where I need your help. I want you to send me bad fan fiction and, on Fridays, I will post a review/analysis of the fan fiction that you send me. I will obviously only doing one per week but I will keep a stock pile of the other ones I don’t choose. I don’t even care which fandom it’s from. If it’s bad, I will read and review it. In order to give a proper review, I have devised a point system that I will use to score those fan fictions.

  • Bad Grammar/Poor Sentence Structure/Bad Spelling
  • Really Awful or Prolonged Scene Description
  • A Mary Sue Protagonist (or a self-insertion of the author) ‘
  • Bad and/or Convenient Plot Twist
  • Inconsistent Character Personalities
  • Cringey Romance
  • Awkward Dialogue
  • Bizarre Pairing/Ship (By this, I mean the pairing has to be two characters who have never interacted or have no logical reason to be together. My example for this would be, like, Voldemort and Hagrid. The ship just has to be as far from logical as possible and not solely based on your opinion of a ship you may not like)
  • Overall Believability (even if it’s far-fetched, does the plot still follow some kind of logical progression or all come together in the end?)
  • Melodramatic Emotions

I will be accepting fan fictions from any fandom, even if it is one that I am not familiar with. I am not here to shame any author but, you have to admit, sometimes their writing isn’t that good. I would really love to get this going and I would love if my followers were to join me on this. You can leave me a link to a bad fan fiction you find in this post or you can send it to me via email. The email should be on my contact page. If it is not, I will fix that.

Note: I’m looking for unintentionally bad fan fiction. I will not be accepting parodies or spoofs of bad fan fiction.

I hope all of you are as excited for this as I am because I think this could be so much fun. I’m really looking forward to your responses.

In Space, No One Can Hear You Steal: Reviewing Artemis by Andy Weir

You don’t even know how excited I was to finally get this book. I had been patiently waiting for the longest time for the release date. I don’t know how a bunch of you got a copy ahead of time but I’m glad that I can finally enjoy this novel with the rest of you. I’ve gushed over The Martian enough so it’s time to gush about another book. I will now give you my review of Artemis, Andy Weir’s second ever novel.

Life on the moon is great if you’re rich. If you’re not rich, then it sucks. Jazz Bashara has spent most of her life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, making a living meager living as a porter for the wealthy eccentric businesspeople. When one eccentric businessman offers her an opportunity to get rich quick, Jazz decides to take matters into her own hands in order to escape her crappy life. Soon, Jazz realizes that she is caught up in a much larger conspiracy that puts the entirety of Artemis at risk. Jazz must use her quick wit and tech knowledge in order to save her city and defeat the criminals who seek to control it.

Like I said before, I was so excited to finally read this novel and I was happy with what I had read. Weir incorporates his signature wit and humor into each character he created. It is not a fantastically futuristic book but it is founded in real science, much like The Martian was. I think what makes the setting more interesting is that it does have real science. I’m not a science person by any manes but I was fascinated with Weir’s realistic world he created. Jazz is a funny, sarcastic, and realistic heroine who definitely stands apart. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and highly recommend it for any of you sci-fi lovers out there. Andy Weir’s second novel is a fantastic and hilarious space thriller that will keep you turning the pages.

Spiraling Out of Control: Reviewing Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

So I’ve pretty much recovered from my cold just in time to run through a gauntlet of midterms starting on Monday. I decided to finish the book so I wouldn’t have any distractions while studying. I mean, I’ll find distraction anyway but my urge to finish this book will not be one of them. Just a note for all of you have not finished the book, I promise to not spoil it. In fact, all of my reviews have been spoiler free but I can happily do some spoiler discussions on my blog if you are interested. For now, I will give you my review of Turtles All the Way Down, John Green’s latest literary venture.

Aza Holmes is trapped in her own mind with her recurring thoughts of bacterial microbes. When a local billionaire, Russell Pickett, goes missing, she finds herself thrust into a world outside of her worries. Along with her best friend and famous Star Wars fan-fiction author, Daisy Ramirez, Aza sets out to find out what happened to Pickett and bring his son, Davis, closure. Green’s latest novel is a journey of self-relization, over-thinking, and coming to terms with the world on a micro and macro scale.

I’m a bit biased because I’ve been a John Green fan since high school but I have to say that this book struck a cord with me that the other books have not. Aza is a chronic over thinker and so am I. Though she deals with OCD whereas I deal with anxiety, I still understood where she was coming from. Green uses his signature wit and philosophy to create a narrative about dealing with the uncontrollable. He isn’t afraid to tackle any kind of illness, mental or physical, and how it affects teens. The plot summary on the book makes it sound like a road trip kind of story but it’s more of an internal journey about finding how to cope with your problems, knowing that they may never leave you. That may sound depressing but I promise that the novel is way more hopeful than that. John Green fans will certainly not be disappointed by his latest endeavors and new readers will understand Green more through this novel. Turtles All the Way Down is a step forward in teen literature in its own honest and remarkable way.

Current Favorites: Podcast Edition

Hello All! I had some time this weekend in between studying and reading to share with you all some of my favorite podcasts. I’m a little bit of a podcast junkie so I hope to introduce some podcasts for those who are interested and those who already love podcasts. These aren’t any particular genre or style. These podcasts are simply ones that I love to listen to.

Welcome to Night Vale – This is probably the most well-known current podcast. Set in the mysterious and weird desert town, Welcome to Night Vale is the local radio show hosted by the enigmatic Cecil Baldwin. The story is perfectly bizarre and profound. This podcast also showcases indie artists as part of the “weather report.” It may not make sense right now, but you will be sucked into the abyss once you give this podcast a listen.

welcome to night vale

The Nerdist – Chris Hardwick hosts this interview series where he sits down with celebrities from all over the entertainment industry and they talk about everything. Hardwick manages to make an interview sound more like a fun conversation between friends (who just happen to be A-list celebrities).

the nerdist

Ear Biscuits – If you are a fan of YouTube then you have probably heard of Rhett and Link, the hosts of Good Mythical Morning. In this podcast, they sit down and talk about everything from conspiracies, to being cool, and even vasectomies. It’s a humorous and enjoyable listen for anyone looking for comedy.

ear biscuits

How Did This Get Made? – Did you ever want to know how some of the most terrible movies to grace cinema were made? This podcast is for you. Paul Scheer, June Diane Raphael, and Jason Mantzoukas sit down with celebrity guests to review and dissect the bizarre, the humorously bad, and the poorly acted. This podcast is perfect for movie buffs.

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Lore – For fans of creepy history and urban legends, I present to you this particular podcast. The narrator (with a soothing voice, I might add) doesn’t look to spook but to merely explore these dark and gruesome parts of history. This podcast is great for the fall season.

lore

The NoSleep Podcast – In the same vein as Lore, this podcast incorporates various narrators to read submitted scary stories. It is not for the faint of heart but horror fans are sure to love this one to.

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Stuff You Missed in History Class – Time to give one for the history buffs. This podcast explores the lesser known figures of history who deserve recognition and lesser known historical events. The hosts do put an emphasis on women who have been disregarded by history, which I feel we can appreciate now. This podcast is informative and will keep you wanting to learn more.

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The Writers Panel – I have a feeling a lot of you will be interested in this one. This podcast is a series of panels where writers from across entertainment discuss their craft. They do not limit it to just novelists but they interview screen writers, non-fiction writers, comic writers, and many more. Any writer is sure to be enamored with this podcast.

the writers panel

Stuff You Should Know – Have you ever wondered how the CIA works? Why do people stutter? What about fever dreams? This podcast covers a whole variety of diverse topics as the hosts delve into explaining how everything works. The never-ending topics will keep you saying, “Wow, I didn’t know that!”

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Small Town Murder – Dark comedy is not meant for everyone but if you do have a slightly twisted sense of humor, then I recommend this one. Two comedians explore some of the strangest murders to happen in middle of nowhere-type places. The hosts keep a sense of levity while still providing an informative look at some graphic crimes. It sounds a little weird when I explain it but once you listen to it, you will understand what I mean.

small town murder

 

This is my list for now. I will put out a part two once I listen to a few more podcasts. I hope you listen to these because I would love to discuss these with my followers. Let me know what you think and thank you for reading this.

It’s an effed up world but it’s a two-player game!: Reviewing Be More Chill by Ned Vizzini

I’ve mentioned before that I haven’t read a lot of YA literature in recent years. I guess it’s because I’m in college now so I’m more than happy to forget about high school nonsense, even in fictional worlds. However, after listening to the musical of the same name that was based off of this novel, I knew I immediately had to tell everybody about this particular novel. I stole it from my sister for now so I can bring you a review of Be More Chill. 

Jeremy Heere is just another high school student struggling to get through the drama of it all with his best friend, Michael Mell, by his side. One day, Jeremy decides to change his life in order to ask out the beautiful Christine Caniglia on a date. That’s when he is introduced to the squip, a pill-sized supercomputer that can make him into the coolest guy in high school. Soon, Jeremy comes to face the disastrous consequences of giving complete control of his life to the malicious squip.

Vizinni perfectly mixes the realities of high school with a touch of science fiction absurdity. Be More Chill has a great balance of quirky humor and touching moments that emulates the struggles anyone who has been to high school can understand. It’s a fast-paced read with plenty of quirky characters who get you invested immediately. If you’re already a fan of the musical, you will love this novel. If you already love this novel, I highly recommend the musical of the same name. Be More Chill is the perfect read for YA lit lovers and/or high school students looking for a relatable novel.

Breaking It Down: Reviewing Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People who Love Books and Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose

I don’t know about anyone else but I didn’t have very good creative writing classes in my school career. I did competitive writing in grade school in a competition called Power of the Pen, which is a regional thing in America. I didn’t have anything available to me in high school and the classes I took in college were tedious. This hasn’t squashed my passion for creative writing but it has dampened my confidence in being able to execute my ideas on a technical level. I was browsing around the bookstore when Prose’s book caught my eye. Normally, I don’t gravitate towards non-fiction but I was certainly interested in this. I am happy to say that it was the right choice to take home.

Francine Prose, a prolific author with a fitting name, takes a realistic and informative look at the art of fiction writing. Like most authors, she learned from reading other famed authors and studying their techniques. Starting with a chapter just focusing on words and building up to the full story, Prose teaches you how she and other authors craft their stories in ways that are succinct and impactful while still being unique. She also reflects on her time as a teacher and how she found her way in the literary world. With an honest and friendly voice, Prose provides a helpful and detailed way to improve your writing and reading skills.

The first thing I enjoyed about this book is that it doesn’t feel like its too technical or condescending. I’ve taken literary theory classes and those made my head ache. Prose, however, provides an honest look at how to better improve writing and reading skills. As fun as fiction is, it is still a pain to master and Prose understands that completely. This book is a great learning tool for writers and readers alike. It dissects famous short stories in a way that shows why they are so effective. This has already taught me more than I have learned in actual classes.

Houston, I Have Many Problems: Reviewing The Martian by Andy Weir

Andy Weir basically lived a Cinderella story for writers. His self-published book was noticed by Hollywood and turned into Oscar-nominated movie by the legendary director, Ridley Scott. His debut novel started out as curiosity that snowballed into a best-selling book. It stands on its own for its simple premise and new take on a survival story. I also may have mentioned the movie in my article about movie adaptations and, in case I didn’t mention it, I definitely recommend the movie as well.

It began with a freak dust storm on the surface of Mars. Mark Watney was lost in the dust and his crew had no choice but to leave him behind, thinking he was dead. When Watney awakes and is still very alive, he must do whatever he can to survive on the infamous red planet until the people of Earth realizes that he is still alive. With his engineering expertise, botany knowledge, and a quick sense of humor, Watney records his epic struggle to stay alive as the only human on Mars.

I’ve never been a science fanatic so I was a little wary when I first started reading this novel but I soon realized that this math and science was not out of my reach. Weir uses Watney’s sarcastic and knowledgable voice to explain how he utilizes his resources to endure the surface of Mars in a way that anyone can understand. It’s a funny and exhilarating narrative that takes the classic survival story to the next level. Though it is not necessarily a science fiction novel, The Martian is still a suspenseful journey nonetheless that will have you turning the pages to desperately find out Watney’s fate.