Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yesterday

Although most of yesterday consisted of sci-fi awesomeness, in terms movies, TV, and conversation, I also did manage to grow closer to my goal, with mind-blowing results. At least, my mind. I haven't shown anyone else.

Editing started out with a list of things I wished to get done in an edited chapter 1. This grew into a list of things I wanted to get done in the entirety of draft IV, and then into a bunch of questions I realized I didn't know the answers too--questions about characters and plot. I found out what was (is) wrong with the first half of my book. Talk about my brain exploding.

Total time that could be called "actual" work on this worked out to 31 minutes. I continued to work and think about them for another 21, so take which figure better suits you--31 or 52. I'm rather ecstatic about editing now, and the hard work appeals to me. Imagine that. Why do we avoid what we love?

Following a lawn-mowing bit, I did manage to get a chapter critiqued as well, though I didn't write down the specific time, it was around 20 minutes. No more epic failure! For yesterday, anyhow. Probably won't get much done today, what with birthdays and all.

Amidst the aforementioned sci-fi awesomeness yesterday was the re-watching of an episode of the BBC Robin Hood. I should get a review up of that. Weird thing is, I can tell all the weird, quirky, and bad things about it as disclaimers, yet I still watch it. Personally, I find the show Doctor Who to be a lot better, yet I still enjoy it immensely. As I slowly re-watch more, I shall have to explain this phenomena in a review.

Until then, or a next post,

~Nai

Friday, July 30, 2010

Half is Better Than None...

Though I certainly could've done better! Yesterday I did get my 30 minutes of critiquing in, and enjoyed it immensely. Why I've been avoiding it is really beyond me. Well, actually, there is a bit of a lie in that--I haven't exactly been avoiding it, I've been doing other things, LESS important to me, in its stead, something I hope to amend as soon as I can.

Because of the fact that I've been updating the blogging world about my success and failures (mostly failures) this week, I have doubled the amount of posts per week that I had decided was a good amount, but have utterly abandoned my other blog. Whoops. Also, I've done precious little talk about Robin Hood. Dearie me.

Here's a tidbit. The day I was sick, as I mentioned, I watched a "History of Britain" thing that was three hours long and went from early British history to the death of King John. I, unfortunately, was not able to glean much more about the time period that I write my books in (approximately 1189-1208), but I did find a helpful fact: William the Conqueror's (I think that's his official title? Norman duke guy who invaded in 1066) father's name was...drumroll...Robert. So. Remember that post where I was complaining about names (here)? I now have a legitimate reason why Robin's mother would be so dismayed about her tow-headed Saxon son being named Robert (his Saxon father also renamed himself Robert...in the hopes of "fitting in" with the Norman nobles)! Hurrah for family strife! er...in books, I mean.

Today, I leave the house at about 12:30 and do not return until sometime tomorrow morning. I still plan on trying to get my goal today, however! I am actually itching for some editing time. Better write when I'm itching, eh?

Until next Tuesday (probably),
Nai

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood

What will Nai's first graphic novel be? Robin Hood, of course! Here is my review.

Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood
-A Graphic Novel-
Written by Tony Lee
Illustrated by Sam Hart
Colored by Artur Fujita

Published by Candlewick Press
Released 22nd of September, 2009
Unnumbered graphic novel pages - perhaps 200

Plot * * *
For a Robin Hood plot to be only fair is normal. In fact, one could call this “good” as far as Robin Hood plots go--it is, after all, not merely a bunch of fights smashed up against each other. It also doesn’t have an entirely clear goal, which is normal. The goal is: stay alive, keep your friends alive, and flaunt the robbing authority. There is a capture and big fight at the end, and then all is well, thanks to King Richard and Robin’s archery. It works.

Characters * * *
Though not developed overly deeply, they strike the reader (or me) as very much belonging to the Robin Hood world. Marian is likeable and just a tad sassy. Robin is arrogant, rash, courageous, and smitten (of course). Little John is more then just a lumbering giant, which I enjoyed very much--he was already an outlaw before Robin got into trouble and has depth to him. King Richard is portrayed too well, but that’s the fault of most Robin Hood books. The villains--Guy and the Sheriff--are both bad, but as I think back, I still have trouble distinguishing between them--not because of the characters themselves, but because of the art in this graphic novel. There is a lot of dark lines and shadows, and it is a bit of a chore to keep the characters straight at all. Guy is the real baddie of this story, however, and it is rather nice to see him die.

Golden Arrow * * * *
Though I didn’t have a “love” reaction after finishing this graphic novel, as I look back through it, I realize how very Robin Hood it was. Sure, it was typical and pretty predictable as a result, but I had a rousing good time reading it, and I can definitely say it fit the bill when it comes to being Robin Hood enough for me, as well as having its own little twists.

“Fluently!” * * * *
As the graphic novel was mostly dialogue, the dialogue had to be good to keep me reading. And it was. Quotable and amusing. I read it on a drive to my grandparents, and I laughed out loud and kept showing my sister quotes as I read, so that counts in its favor. One thing that drags down the rating a bit is that there is some language that it could’ve well done without, and makes me guard the book against my siblings, unfortunately. It gave the dialogue a bit of a gritty edge which brought down the enjoyment a tad.

Others * *
There weren’t many “other” elements, beyond the aforementioned language. There was a strange part near the beginning with “spirits” in the forest...apparently Robin’s father and Will Stutely (an outlaw met and executed in the beginning of the book), but it is thankfully over soon.
Also, Robin claims a few times that “God is on his side”--and it comes across as some kind of joke, whether the author meant that or not.
Another small element is Robin’s back-story...which was really confusing for me to read, and is a bit odd (he apparently grew to hate his father, because his father said he would...?). It adds some depth to the character of Robin, but it doesn’t feel quite real.
Another thing that bothered me a bit were some of the illustrations...there was a bit of blood splattering and that bothered me, but I seem to be hyper-sensitive to such things, so it probably won’t bother most people at all.
All of these are thankfully small things. The biggest concern I have in recommending it is the language.
One positive bonus: An afterword of sorts (called "Who is Robin Hood?") is written by Allen Wright of wonderful www.boldoutlaw.com!

Overall Thoughts and Rating * * *
I’m not a graphic novel/anime/manga person, but I was able to enjoy this quite thoroughly anyway. It’s not a “must read” but if you have time, it is certainly worth picking up.

~Nai

Image from Amazon.com - I am not sure who owns it.

Wow.

Epic Fail no. 2

July 28th:
Editing: 0
Critiquing: 0

My excuse this time? Poor planning coupled with unexpected interruptions. It seems that when I decide that I have time to burn, it becomes very obvious later that I did not have that time in the least. After wasting nearly an hour on the internet (perhaps more) I felt sicker then I had when I started. Then I had an impromptu meeting with my parents to talk about school, which rather depressed me. After that, I felt sick enough that I went to my room and took a nap. Afterwords, I did get some Geometry and college info-filling-out done, but another unexpected thing occurred after supper, when I assumed I could "catch up" and get my goal in--and it was time to go driving.

Stinks, doesn't it? Mostly my fault, though. Today, as always, I'll try to do better, realizing that I can't really, on my own. My specific schedule today: Bible, talk to friend, blogs, editing, critiquing. After that, the practice PSAT test. Whoopdeedo. (No, that is not a word.)

Also, keep on a lookout out for my review of the first graphic novel I've read--Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood.

~Nai

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Interruptions

If someone were to ask about the weaknesses of "my family's homeschool" I'd have to say this: math and a consistent schedule.

This easily trickles over to my ability to stick to a schedule, I should think. But the other thing that annoys me about schedules? They're constantly interrupted. Much like the fact that I get "frozen" when I get behind on things, I tend to freeze once my schedule gets off/behind by about an hour. "Oh shoot, not going to work, here's hope for tomorrow." Sometimes, though, the whole day is interrupted.

Like yesterday.

Yes, this is a roundabout way to say that I got nothing done on my goal yesterday, the first day, which is always the day I like to make the strongest showing. In fact, all I did yesterday was sleep, watch stuff on Britain's history, watch Hamlet, and eat. Why? I was sick. Blegh. Should I have done editing and critiquing? I don't know. I didn't take any pain killer until last night when I couldn't get to sleep--when we get sick at my house, we just rest. I feel much better today, so it probably worked.

But, as promised (I think--at least as intended...), here's my report. Minutes critiquing: 0. Minutes editing: 0.

I am planning on not being discouraged by this poor start. With a Kleenex and glass of water, I shall prevail not only against the written word, but the math as well!

I need a music flourish there. Ah well.

Until the next report!

~Nai

Friday, July 23, 2010

Frozen

Firstly, the lateness of this blog post isn't really applicable to the topic I'm about to talk about, since the reason for it is the arrival of cousins. That said, this can work into the blog world as well...but as you have no idea what I'm talking about at all yet, I'll shut up and actually begin.

I've realized something about myself. Sort of recently, though I've sort of known it for awhile, too. When there is a lot of stuff to do, and I know that I don't really have much a chance about getting it all done, I don't tend to just tackle it and see how much I can get done--I freeze. Sometimes I spend time on the internet, trying to forget all the stuff I have to do. More often, at least these days, I just sit. Or read something I'm not really interested in reading. Anything to avoid thinking about all the stuff I need to do and can't possibly get done.

As you can imagine, this puts me further behind then ever, and makes me want to "freeze" even more.

It gets even worse when I feel that the thing that I want to do--that I've told people I'd do, even--isn't really worth the time. Because I have too much other stuff to do. Writing and critiquing both fall under these labels (I believe blogging will as well, once I reach the school year--even in some cases, right now). I feel almost guilty when I do them because I should be doing other things...so I freeze and don't do anything at all. Because I want to write but feel guilty. And I need to do Biology but I don't want to and I'm scared of the fact that I've only got half the textbook done and it's almost August.

You'd think it'd be easier to break out of this cycle, because it's rather silly. I HAVE TOO MUCH TO DO does not equal DON'T DO ANYTHING. Sure, I might never be able to "catch up" (who does?) but I'd get way more done and be a lot more satisfied at the end of my day, I'm certain.

So. This is something of a more TheoEc (my other blog) post, but we'll go with putting it here, because this tendency has really hurt my writing, especially editing Forest of Lies--because of the sheer amount of work I need to do. I'm going to start a goal.

Officially, I'll begin on Tuesday, because of cousins in town and a college visit. I'm going to try and just get 30 minutes of editing and 30 minutes of critiquing done a day. I won't force myself to do more, but I imagine I will end up doing more. I'll chronicle how that goes in here. Perhaps I'll make a similar goal for my other blog.

See, now who can say writing this post was a waste of time? Perhaps not much fun to read for my readers, but now I've got something to shoot for and perhaps a few people who'll pester me because I put this on the internet.

No freezing allowed.

~Nai

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hawksmaid

Before I begin, I’ll say this: to avoid out-right spoilers, I’ll be somewhat vague on what the book contains, so perhaps I’ll be a little confusing at points. All the same, if you read the book after reading this, you’ll know more then the average person picking it up, and more then I knew. Also, I have not edited this (I know, you'd think I would've with how long it has taken). I may at some point, but here's the "rough draft" for the time being.

Here, again, is my rating system at the moment:
* = poor
* * = fair
* * * = good
* * * * = very good
* * * * * = above and beyond

Hawksmaid: The Untold Story of Robin Hood and Maid Marian
by Kathryn Lasky

Published in 2010 by HarperCollins
292 pages


Plot * * *
Hawksmaid’s weakest plot point is the fact that if you’d stopped me in the middle of the story (and if I’d had no prior Robin Hood experience), I wouldn’t quite be able to tell you what the main thing the characters wanted was. The last event that happens seems like it would’ve been more interesting if I’d seen the characters striving that direction for a quite a few more pages then I did. At the same time, I read most of the book in one day, so there was apparently something page-turning about it, especially in the second half.
Another weak point was a sort of “duex et machina” at the end. It was interesting, but it annoyed me, and was only enabled by the fantasy-like touches Lasky chose to add to the story. It almost seemed the whole fantasy subplot was added to get the author (or her characters) out of a fix at the end. Also, the person set up as the heroine does not really defeat the villain, though she does an admirable job of resisting the villain.
My main conclusion is that the plot is so that you won’t be tearing your hair out as you go along, and most readers won’t really analyze it: it works. I think it could work better, but it’s fair as it is.

Characters * *
There’s nothing particularly astonishing about the characters of this story, but they work all right. I think Matty’s (main character) focus on being “one of the boys” is a bit overplayed and annoying; the time spent on that would be better spent on getting to know her for herself better. However, her normal relationships with the boys, and especially the fact that she sees them grow up, feel natural and unforced.
Fynn, Lasky’s Robin Hood, was quite well done, but I think he was “undervalued.” Of course, this is a major RH fan speaking, but I think Matty’s part became a bit too large--the band didn’t seem to know what to do without her, yet they often would’ve been functioning without her...the author was as intent on her being one of the boys as she was, it seems, though it sometimes seemed she didn’t really do as much as she was credited for as the “master strategist” and things. I suppose I didn’t see her strategize enough to make me believe that.
I got off Fynn and onto Matty. I enjoyed Fynn. The reader first sees him at about thirteen or fourteen; at that point, he’s already stealing small things from the better off. This is done very well, not as “oh, she’s setting it up because he becomes Robin later...” but, “haha, he’s been doing this forever.” I bought Fynn.
His band is a tad nondescript, especially when we’re told that it grows but never see new characters. The boys that we see grow up are fun, but not very distinguishable.
Matty’s family--I’d call her family her father and the servant Meg--is also a bit nondescript. They feel superfluous, and it works better when her father is gone, though one has to wonder what Meg’s doing during all this running around Matty does between Sherwood and Nottingham and the like.
The villain of this story (IS she the villain?) is a bit strange. Of course, there are the typical baddies of Prince John, the Sheriff, a Bishop, etc. They, however, are fairly distant from the good guys. The one that emerges as the main one is the Abbess, and for the longest time I was cringing waiting for her to be revealed as supernatural or fantasy or something...she was really set up that way. She was also set up as more important then she seemed. Really, she was set against Matty and not Matty’s goals. I imagine she wouldn’t have cared a whit about King Richard if Matty hadn’t. Considering the very little contact they had until the end, this felt strange. It was more personal revenge then something truly meaningful. And, as I mentioned before, Matty didn’t really defeat her in the end. If her entire goal was to keep King Richard from being helped, then Matty WOULD have. But it wasn’t.
The Abbess, the band, and small other quirks is what brings this down to two stars. Fynn and Matty deserved a better supporting cast, I think. Personally, I’d rather have seen more of Fynn too, but I’m not sure if that would’ve been necessary to make the characters better so I’ll not say it would.

Golden Arrow * * *
This book did feel like a Robin Hood book. It had the normal elements, and some interesting and different takes that made it its own. This section is a bit harder to describe then others (either that, or I’m running out of steam), so I won’t go on to long. One thing I would’ve changed was the jarring change from “Fynn” and “Matty” to “Robin” and “Marian.” If it had happened sooner, instead of page 135, I wouldn’t have minded. As it was, though, they were Fynn and Matty. I liked Fynn and Matty. I didn’t need the traditional titles tacked on to understand that they were “Robin” and “Marian.” It felt weird, especially in dialogue, to suddenly switch over. (Also, there wasn’t much point in doing it for the “merry men” as they just became more indistinguishable.)

“Fluently!” * *
Unfortunately, this book was lacking in clever dialogue, but I think that came more from the real lack of dialogue in general: most of what was in there was clever, though not laugh-out-loud. The characters were clever enough for banter, but I didn’t get as much as I would’ve liked. A lot of the prose was narration.

Others * * *
A yet unmentioned point of the book is what gives it its title, Hawksmaid: Matty’s hawks. Her father teaches her falconry after her mother dies, and the hawks are very important to Matty. I really liked this quite original aspect of the story (I could’ve done without the little “hawk facts” before the chapters started--they felt out of place), though I think it was dragged down by another aspect--
Fantasy. Matty can “speak” hawk. I can buy that, decently well. It didn’t come up to often. The end (already mentioned), however, is strange and jolting, and feels very out of place. Like I said, the fantasy feels a little bit like it was added for fixing the end. It also is suddenly a lot more of fantasy then the little hints at the beginning.
Romance. No one’s surprised, eh? The romance feels generally natural...thought I think it begins a little too soon. It also isn’t enough to warrant the subtitle of “The Untold Story of Robin Hood and Maid Marian”--it’s not focused enough on their relationship for that. At least, I don’t thinks so.
History. Most of the history in here feels fine, and matches up fairly well, though I can’t see the world terribly well. However, it pulled me out of the story even more at the end because I knew that Richard’s ransom wasn’t paid like the story said. That on top of everything else that made the ending awkward really sent me out of the book on a bad note.

Overall Thoughts and Rating I'm stuck...* * or * * *
Whew! You’ve made it to the end. (Or skipped to the end...I don’t blame you.) I really could have gone on in almost every section, but I began holding back. I’d say Hawksmaid is certainly good reading for the Robin Hood-inclined and the Robin Hood fanatics. On its own though? Not really. I don’t plan on reading it again. Of course, I’m an overly picky reader who’d rather read Hamlet a thousand times then a thousand new books. It wouldn’t surprise me if the average person would enjoy it, and it certainly has its good points.
So, how to the end the review? I guess I’ll go out with:
I wanted to see more of Fynn.

Surprise, surprise.

~Nai

I copied the book image from amazon.com

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I'm still here!

Sorry if any of you really are waiting with bated breath for my review; I hope to have it posted today or tomorrow. My ideal blog schedule will include posting here on Tuesdays and Thursdays, perhaps more if I get incredibly inspired.

So this is just a short note to say no, I have not dropped off of the face of the earth. I got my post on my other blog posted today instead of yesterday when I intended, and, well, this puts me behind a bit. Fear not! I shall get this sorted out eventually.

I hope.

Anyway, small news tidbit: I am now the proud owner of season 2 of BBC's Robin Hood TV show! This makes me enormously happy.

~Nai

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Home and Reading!

I'm back from illustrious Iowa, and I will soon have some sort of schedule about posts and whatnot so that they can appear more regularly.

Anyhow, upon returning home, I discovered that my library had purchased a new version of the Robin Hood story--published in 2010! Oh, the excitement, the glory! (Does glory fit?) Having read it, it seems fit that I review it. Also, it seems fit that I set up a system for reviews, for I highly doubt this will be my last. As of yet, I have the system, not the review, so you will have to wait with bated breath for that chronicle. For now, here is my proposed system of reviewing (which I will also post in a page):

Books (and movies, and TV shows) will be rated on a 5-star scale:

* = poor
* * = fair
* * * = good
* * * * = very good
* * * * * = above and beyond

In 5 categories:

Plot
Rating based mostly on originality or interesting twists.

Characters
Originality--but “bonus points” if the characters still “feels” right, as well as original.

Golden Arrow
Does this book--originality, characters, everything aside--feel like Robin Hood? Of course, this is very much concerned with the reviewer’s personal belief in what does feel like Robin Hood.

“Fluently!”
I decided long ago that one of my favorite parts of Robin Hood was the humor--especially in dialogue. How does this book stack up?

Others
A bit harder to “rate,” but in this section I’ll touch on any elements of the particular book that stuck out to me, and made the reading more interesting/more confusing/less enjoyable, etc.

And finally:

Overall Thoughts and Rating
Self-explanatory, I do believe.

--

In each rated category, I will write in more detail about why the book/movie/TV show got that rating, and about the performance of the book in general in that area. I hope not to digress too much, but I'm a long-winded writer, so we shall see.

Until the review of Hawksmaid,

Nai
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