Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Favorite Books of 2011

In no particular order (except for Daughter of Smoke and Bone which is my favorite this year), here is a list of my 10 favorite books of 2011:



1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
This book is so beautiful, magical, and fantastical. The writing, story, and characters were simply amazing. Karou is such a kick-ass character who loves her family so much. The love story between Karou and Akiva is so beautiful and sad. The ending makes me sad :(. I can't wait for the sequel!




2. Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Although I had to get used to the writing style, I love the story anyway. I'm in love with dystopian novels, and this one is amazing. Saba is a strong female character who's willing to do anything to save her twin brother who has been kidnapped. I also love Jack, the love interest :)




3. We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

I love Jenny Han's Summer trilogy, and this one is the last one. All through this trilogy, I've always been Team Conrad. So I didn't like how this book is about Belly's upcoming wedding to his brother Jeremiah. But things are resolved in the end although I would have loved to see more of the ending because it seemed rushed. I can't wait for the paperback to come out because it will have some of Conrad's letters to Belly!




4. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Another dystopian novel? Love, love, love. Tahereh Mafi's writing style is so beautiful, lyrical, and poetic. I wish I could love in her beautiful words. I love Adam in this book, who is so protective of Juliette. Warner is such a great villain, too! The ending seems a bit X-Men-ish, but I can't wait for the sequel, especially when Juliette discovers something about Warner.


5. Legend by Marie Lu

Dystopian novel again. I love the alternating POVs between June and Day, child prodigies in this dystopian world. June wants to capture Day who's believed to have killed her brother. Action? Check. Romance? Check check. Plus, Day's POV is printed in gold-colored ink! I can't wait for the sequel!




6. Red Glove by Holly Black

This book is a sequel to White Cat. I love the world Holly Black has created with the curse workers and cons. The love story between Cassel and Lila is sad, especially what happens in the end. I can't wait for Black Heart, the last book in the trilogy!






7. Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

This book is so fun, funny, and action-filled. Ellie is such a bad-ass female character who reminds me of Sailor Moon! She learns how to fight various creatures in the book with the help of Will. My heart thumps, thumps, thumps when I think of Will. Wellie! They are so yummy together, especially in the sequel Wings of the Wicked which I was lucky to win from Courtney back in the summer!



8. Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Dystopian. I love the writing in this book. It's so beautiful. The world Lauren DeStefano has created is horrific because the main character Rhine is kidnapped to be one of the wives of Linden. Rhine desperately wants to escape and be back with her twin brother. There's also a small romance with a servant of the house, Gabriel, but I feel that Gabriel is seen very little in this book. I'm currently reading an ARC of the sequel Fever and so far, lots of Gabriel!


9. The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan

Dystopian and zombies. This book is the last one in the The Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy. It's also my favorite of the trilogy. I love the female character Annah who's been through so much in her life, even physically scarred. Her romance with Catcher is so amazing because he doesn't care what she looks like.




10 . Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

This book is the last one in the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. The writing is so beautiful and sad and emotional. Grace and Sam. Sigh. They are so beautiful together. They have been through so much together.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Fairy Tale Friday #12: Jack the Giant Killer Trailer

Here's the movie trailer for Jack the Giant Killer:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's my birthday! I feel old now. Can I have cake?

*Card from Zylom's Delicious: Emily's True Love*

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Teaser: My Name Is Leo, But I'm a Cancer.

Here's a dialogue teaser from my WIP, Beautiful/Wild. This dialogue scene is the first time Arabella meets Leo who's on the other side of the fence. She's frightened to see a Prince Charming trainee because they aren't supposed to interact until they are 18, but she's curious at the same time.

Arabella: "Who are you?"
Leo: "I'm Leo."
Arabella: (apprehensive and silent)
Leo: "What? You don't like the name? I didn't name myself, you know, but I think I was named after the zodiac sign. Funny thing is that I'm not a Leo. I'm a Cancer, but then again, I'm glad I'm not named Cancer."
Arabella: (stifles a laugh) "Do you always talk this much?"
Leo: "Would you believe me if I say I don't?"
Arabella: "No."
Leo: "Then you're right. I always talk this much."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!



I should've posted this earlier, but at least there's still 5 minutes of Christmas left! :P

*Card from Zylom's Delicious: Emily's True Love*

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Fairy Tale Friday #11: Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve, people!

I know it's not Friday, but I had a hard time trying to come up with a post about the positive elements of fairy tales. I guess it's more interesting for me to look at the dark side of them!

Today, I will be discussing the Christmas related tales from Hans Christian Andersen, the author of fairy tales such as "The Little Mermaid," "The Snow Queen," "The Princess and the Pea," and "The Ugly Duckling." Andersen has several stories set during the winter holiday season, but they are not very festive. They tend to be sad. These stories include "The Little Match Girl," "The Snowman," and "The Fir Tree."


"The Little Match Girl"


Okay, "The Little Match Girl" is one of my favorite fairy tales. It makes me emotional every time I read this tale. It's set on New Years Eve where a poor little girl goes out onto the streets, trying to sell matches to make money for her family. It's snowing and freezing, but she doesn't go home. She needs to make money or her dad would punish her. She decides to take shelter between two houses, and to keep herself warm, she lights a match. She hallucinates and sees a stove which warms her up. (Hallucinations come with hypothermia.) Then the light goes out. She lights another match and sees a holiday feast. Then another and sees a Christmas tree. Then another and sees her grandmother who had passed away previously. The little girl loves her and wants to be with her. When the match goes out, she lights the rest of the matches in a single batch, and her grandmother takes the little girl's hand. The little girl is happy as they fly into the sky--heaven.

It sounds like a happy event. But it's also sad. The next morning, her frozen body is found, but there's a smile on her face. She is dead, but her soul is set free.

See how it's emotional for me? The little girl no longer suffers because she's in heaven now, but it's sad that she must die in order to do so.


"The Snowman"


In "The Snowman," a snowman falls in love with a stove inside the house. He pines for this stove and loves it whenever the house door opens, sending some warmth out towards him. Then one day, the snowman collapses and melts. A stove poker is found within him, and it shows why the snowman had been in love with the stove. The stove poker belongs with the stove.

It's so sad for the outcome of the snowman. Dead. The snowman's love for the stove has been impossible from the start. He would only melt in the stove's presence if they are closer together. With the presence of the stove poker is shown, it makes sense why the snowman would be in love with something that would kill him.


"The Fir Tree"


In "The Fir Tree," a young fir tree is growing up in the woods. He feels so small (a hare hops over him like it's nothing and children call him a baby) and unimportant (bigger trees are chopped down to be made into ship masts.) Then one day, he is cut down and brought into a home. He is happy when he is decorated as a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. Children come in, eat candy, and open presents while they listen to a man tell the story of "Humpty Dumpty." The fir tree loves the moment and expects it to happen again the next night. But it doesn't. Instead, he's taken into the attic. He feels sad and lonely until the mice come out. He then tells them the story of "Humpty Dumpty." But when the rats come and puts down the story, the mice leave, never to return again. (Peer pressure, most likely.) In the spring, the withered tree is taken out into the yard, chopped up, and burned. The end.

Yes, another sad tale of the fir tree. He gets to experience Christmas in its young life, but that's it. He's only good enough for a Christmas tree that lasts for a short time while the other trees in the woods get to be majestic ship masts that may last longer.


So...
Yeah...

The moral of the post? Don't read these stories on Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Powerful...Magnificent...Beyonce...

So yeah, my posts have been...very dark.

Here's something funny to keep my blog light this week! It's a clip from the show DREW CAREY'S IMPROV-A-GANZA. It's so funny that I've already seen it so many times! It's a skit where two audience members provide sound effects for the two performers, Jeff (in the suit) and Ryan.

You should hear what sounds Jeff's muscles make!

Monday, December 19, 2011

EPIC FAIL Giveaway Winner!

Hi, everyone. My winner for Claire LaZebnik's EPIC FAIL is...

BURGANDY ICE



If you didn't win, don't worry. I still have my "Happy Birthday Giveaway" still going on here: http://chenyanchang.blogspot.com/2011/12/happy-birthday-giveaway.html!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fairy Tale Friday #10: Cannibalism

In my previous Fairy Tale Friday post about Creepy Villains, I wrote about the witch who likes to eat children in "Hansel and Gretel." That led me to thinking about cannibalism as a separate topic. Since I have talked about the witch in "Hansel and Gretel" and my theories of her cannibalistic ways, I won't talk about her character again. If you want, you may read what I wrote here: http://chenyanchang.blogspot.com/2011/12/fairy-tale-friday-9-creepy-villains.html.

I will discuss cannibalism in other fairy tales.

First of all, Cannibalism is so wrong. People eating people. It's psychotic. Mad, even. Anyone remember the "Don't Come Around Here No More" music video by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers? The whole tea party, hosted by the Mad Hatter, eats Alice like a piece of cake!




This music video creeped me out when I was younger! A tea party supposed to be a delightful event. Instead of being a guest, Alice becomes the dessert!

When people think about cannibalism in fairy tales, the Evil Queen in "Snow White" comes up.


"Snow White"



In the story, the Evil Queen wants Snow White killed because of her stepdaughter's beauty. She orders the Huntsman to bring back Snow White's heart. (In another version, the lungs and liver.) Instead of killing the girl, the Huntsman kills the boar. The Evil Queen eats what she believes to be Snow White's heart.

The queen is evil AND cannibalistic. Why would she eat a human heart? It's possible that she's eating Snow White's life, taking it for her own. Or she's eating Snow White's beauty, also taking it for her own.

(Heart represents life and love.)
(Lungs represents breath of life.)
(Liver represents love in the medieval times.)

In my Creepy Villains post in regards to the witch, I did mention Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed, the woman who was accused of killing hundreds of girls and bathing in their blood. The legend has it that she's soaking in their blood to retain her youth and beauty. I can imagine the Evil Queen in this position, wanting to kill any girl more beautiful than her and bathe in their blood.

Ooh, that's creepy!
I'm really creeping myself out!


"Sun, Moon, and Talia"



In Giambattista Basile's version of "Sleeping Beauty," the king's wife is not a cannibal but she tries to make her husband one. The wife finds out that the king is having an affair with Talia (Sleeping Beauty). This affair produces two children: Sun and Moon. So the wife orders her cook to kill the children and serve them to the king. The cook serves lambs instead. The wife is all giddy as she watches her husband eat what she believes to be the bastard children.

Why does the wife want her husband to eat his children? They aren't the wife's children with the king. She doesn't want them around obviously. Maybe she doesn't want them to inherit anything. And why must she feed them to the king? Maybe she wants the children to go back into him since he's the one to produce them.

This event reminds me of the Greek myth where Kronos eats his children as soon as they are born so they won't overthrow him as the king. Maybe the wife in "Sun, Moon, and Talia" doesn't want the bastard children to become the future leaders because she wants her own children to be the next in line. (In the story, she doesn't have any children yet.)


"The Juniper Tree"



The new wife doesn't want her stepson to inherit everything. She wants her own daughter to. So she beheads her stepson and tricks her daughter into thinking that she killed him herself. Then the wife turns the stepson into stew (or blood pudding) and serves it to her husband. The husband actually eats his son.

In this tale, the wife, once again, tries to feed the husband's birth child to him. Here, she doesn't want the stepson to inherit everything. To prevent that, the child is killed and eaten. Kronos reminder again.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fairy Tale Friday #9: Creepy Villains

This post was inspired by the recent episode of NBC's Grimm about the Pied Piper. I remember reading up on this story earlier this year because my brother wanted to know if the phrase "pay the piper" is related to the story. According to Wikipedia, the phrase means, "to face the inevitable consequences of one's actions" which makes sense for the story "Pied Piper of Hamelin" where the villagers refuse to pay the piper when he got rid of their rat problem. Tsk, tsk, villagers.

In fairy tales, there are always villains that mess with the protagonists. They want to prevent happily ever afters. The stepmother in "Cinderella" doesn't want her stepdaughter to be happy over her own daughters. The Evil Queen in "Snow White" wants her stepdaughter killed because of her beauty. The Wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood" wants to eat the little girl in red--he's a wolf after all.

But then there are the really creepy villains where they do more than prevent happy endings. They are kidnappers (possibly sexual predators), murderers, and cannibals.

"Pied Piper of Hamelin"


The town of Hamelin has a rat problem. The Pied Piper offers his services and expects payment for his efforts which the people agree to. After he plays his musical pipe to lure the rats into the river to drown, the townspeople renege on their end and refuse to pay him. In revenge, the Pied Piper lures the children of the town away, never to be seen again. And he gets away with it because nothing happens to him at the end of the story.

What makes the Pied Piper creepy is that he is a man who uses his colorful clothing and an musical instrument to convince the children to follow him. It's like a stranger offering candy to a little kid to get into his car. He has pedophilia written all over him. There is supposedly a version where he has "his wicked way" with the children, according to Wikipedia. Beyond creepy.

According to Wikipedia,
Also, some experts on pedophilia, such as Ken Lanning of the FBI, in writing about the seduction of children by some pedophiles, have used the term the "Pied Piper effect" to describe a "unique ability to identify with children."
With all the news today about various sexual abuse cases that involve minors, it's just so sad and devastating to see. (I went to Penn State for 2 years as an undergrad before transferring to NYU and most of my friends have graduated from Penn State, so the situation is so freaking sad and heartbreaking.) Pied Piper and these sexual predators are seen as authority figures who the children may be in awe of, but then these adults take advantage of the situation.


"Bluebeard"


I have previously talked about Bluebeard as an Ugly Husband, but this time, I'm talking about him as a Creepy Villain. This man seems to collect wives like trophies (figuratively and literally) and murder them. To make it even creepier, he keeps their corpses and body parts in a bloody chamber where the next wife is able to find. From the story, we don't really know why he kills his wives and why he keeps the evidence. Is it some sort of obsession? Is it to prove his worth? Well, we know why he wants to kill his current wife. She was too curious and broke her promise by opening the forbidden room. Maybe the previous wives did the same. But what about the first wife? What did she do? Bluebeard is an ugly man who's able to marry a beautiful woman after another. Instead of being satisfied with having a beautiful wife, he kills her. Is it some sort of power? Is it a game for him?


The Blind Witch in "Hansel and Gretel"


The old, blind witch lures Hansel and Gretel into her candy house with promises of food and beds. Instead of that, she locks Hansel in a cage and makes Gretel her slave. (I still don't get why the children couldn't escape earlier in the story since the witch is blind.) The witch eats children, and it's assumed that she's done this previously because Hansel finds a bone in the cage. A cannibal! She's a creepy woman who likes the taste of children's flesh. Why? Is it like people eating veal, baby cows? The flesh is soft and fat and delicate, not so tough on the old woman's weak teeth.

Maybe there's an idea that the old woman wants the taste of being young again by consuming children--like the Fountain of Youth in cannibal form. It reminds me of the legend/folklore around Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed who was accused of killing hundreds of girls and bathing in their blood to keep her youth and beauty.

Eventually, the witch is killed when Gretel tricks her into going into the oven. (Yes, the girl saves the day!)

(Maybe I should write about a cannibalism post since there is some in "Snow White" and "Sun, Moon, and Talia.")

* * *

Okay, these recent "Fairy Tale Friday" posts haven't been very uplifting! When it gets closer to Christmas, I'll try to have a lighter post. Unless I am cruel and decide to write about sad endings (which is a topic I want to explore eventually!).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Happy Birthday GIVEAWAY - CLOSED

Guess what, people? My birthday is exactly 3 weeks away on December 28th. I won't tell you my age b/c I feel so old. But to celebrate my upcoming birthday, I want to give out presents! Yes, I'm GIVING out presents! I must be crazy, right? (Maybe my senile-ness is starting early :P)


If you can't tell already, I love fairy tales. Dystopians, too. Hence, my WIP is a combination of both.

So what does this have to do with my giveaway?
One person will get to win 2 books of their choice (1 fairy tale-related, 1 dystopian) - under $25
One person will win 1 fairy tale-related book of their choice - under $12.
One person will win 1 dystopian book of their choice - under $12.
A total of 4 books given away.
A total of 3 lucky winners.

Here are some fairy tale examples if you have trouble coming up with one:


Here are some dystopian examples if you have trouble coming up with one:


If you have trouble coming up with a fairy tale-related book, I can be lenient and let you pick something that can be mythology-related like:


To enter, answer this question: "What is your favorite fairy tale or dystopian novel and why?" Remember to include your email address so I can contact you if you win.

But wait.

Do you want more entries?
Then you can.
How?

I have a weekly post called "Fairy Tale Friday" which I blog about anything fairy tale related. For every meaningful comment you leave on these posts, you get an extra entry. Just remember to come back to THIS post and comment on which one you left a meaningful comment on. So far, I have 8 "Fairy Tale Friday" posts so you can get 8 extra entries. I will continue to post more so you can come back next time and comment.

Anyone (US and International) can enter as long as Book Depository ships to you.
Deadline: December 28th, 12pm EST

Have fun!

Monday, December 5, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Epic Fail

Because I had an epic fail of NaNoWriMo, I plan to give away my copy of Epic Fail by Claire LaZebnik. (Get it? :P) It's a cute retelling of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen set in high school.


According to Goodreads:

Will Elise’s love life be an epic win or an epic fail?

At Coral Tree Prep in Los Angeles, who your parents are can make or break you. Case in point:

As the son of Hollywood royalty, Derek Edwards is pretty much prince of the school—not that he deigns to acknowledge many of his loyal subjects.

As the daughter of the new principal, Elise Benton isn’t exactly on everyone’s must-sit-next-to-at-lunch list.

When Elise’s beautiful sister catches the eye of the prince’s best friend, Elise gets to spend a lot of time with Derek, making her the envy of every girl on campus. Except she refuses to fall for any of his rare smiles and instead warms up to his enemy, the surprisingly charming social outcast Webster Grant. But in this hilarious tale of fitting in and flirting, not all snubs are undeserved, not all celebrity brats are bratty, and pride and prejudice can get in the way of true love for only so long.

To win this book, answer this question: "What has been your favorite retelling, whether it's a book or a movie?" Remember to include your email address! I'll randomly pick a winner.

Giveaway ends Monday, December 19, 2011 at 12pm EST.
US only.

(Also, I'm planning on another giveaway coming up later this week that would last until my birthday on the 28th. Details next time!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fairy Tale Friday #8: Ugly Husbands

Two days late. Ugh. Sorry.

In Hollywood and Famous People Land, you see beautiful women dating not-so-attractive men. Unattractive or aging rock stars tend to get beautiful, young women. Why is that? Part of the reason might be that these men's fame is more attractive than their appearances. But if there's true love involved, then appearances really do not matter.

Example:

In fairy tales, there are beautiful women with ugly men whether the guys are beautiful or ugly on the inside.

Look at "Beauty and the Beast."


Belle (meaning "beautiful) ends up falling in love with the Beast's personality and inner beauty as they spend time together in his home. She's definitely not shallow. Of course, how she ends up in the situation is not so lovely. She becomes his prisoner because her father stole one of his roses. (Although he doesn't treat her badly at all.)

And you might say that it's Stockholm Syndrome. She falls in love with her captor. It's possible. There are cases in history where captives sympathize with their captors. Still, there's romance between them, and her love for him breaks the spell.

At the end of the fairy tale, he turns back into a handsome prince which may or may not please the readers. Two beautiful people living happily ever after.

In any case, this (previously) ugly guy has a beautiful inside. He has a heart or learns to have a heart.

Who doesn't have a heart?

This guy.


That's Bluebeard.

He's a wealthy man who has an ugly blue beard, and the local women are terrified of him. So how does he end up with several wives in his past? It must be how he got his most recent wife. He hosts a banquet which must've really showed off his wealth because the girl marries him. She may not be attracted to his looks, but cha-ching, she's set for life.

Or so she thinks.

So she overlooks his scary appearance, but she can't look over his bloody chamber with the bodies of his past wives. Ugly guy. Fine. Murderous guy. Not fine.

By the end of the story, her brothers kill the guy (because Bluebeard was going to kill her). Since Bluebeard had no heirs, the widow inherits all his wealth.

Here, Bluebeard is an ugly guy with an ugly inside. Heart? None, whatsoever.

Let's move on to this guy.


Or you may recognize him as this guy:


You're probably thinking, "Hey, Cupid isn't ugly. He's the son of Venus, the goddess of love." And you're right. He's not ugly. But when Psyche marries him, she doesn't know what he looks like. He's the only person who wants to marry her because a curse by his mother forces Psyche to be single. (His mother is jealous of the human girl's beauty). The reason he doesn't reveal his appearance to her is because he doesn't want her to know yet that he's Cupid. So he makes her promise not to see his appearance until a certain time.

Things are going so well until Psyche's jealous sisters interfere. What if he's a terrible serpent who will eat her and her unborn child? Curiosity kills the cat. She HAS to know if her husband is a monster. She lights a candle, sees him in bed, and falls in love with his appearance. Because she breaks her promise, Cupid has to go away.

Stuff and stuff happens (don't they always), but by the end, Cupid and Psyche get back together and Psyche becomes immortal. Two beautiful people living happily ever after.

(By the way, it was hard to find an appropriate image of "Cupid and Psyche" because they are naked in many of them!)

* * *

Not-so-beautiful guys like the Beast are still beautiful inside while other not-so-beautiful guys like Bluebeard are really just ugly guys. The beautiful women who marry them had no idea what they were getting into. Imprisoned, greedy, or cursed, they still chose to marry the guy. Something other than appearance attracted the women to these men. In the end, all the stories worked out for the women and they lived happily ever after. One man in particular, Bluebeard, doesn't live at all.

Thursday, December 1, 2011