What Makes A Good Character? (Tess’s Character Theory, part I) {APADO #13}

(you’re reading APADO, my wittle one-post-a-day-for-a-whole-month series that i somehow haven’t failed yet.)
(a bunch of disclaimers: i’m not a master author, in fact i legit just called myself a fauxthor™ and it’s true. however, i’ve received a lot of praise for the characters i come up with. i’m going to try to ride the line between hoarding the knowledge i have and puffing myself up bigger than a wacky arm-waving inflatable tubeman. let’s hope i don’t step into either too much.)
(and now i’m like “isn’t it a bad thing to doubt myself? but isn’t it also a bad idea to think you know more than you actually do?” hello anxiety, i haven’t missed you but here you are.)
(now let’s turn this into a series)

APADO 13

Characters are an integral part of fiction. Actually, they’re more than half of what storytellers worry about. They can make or break a story, and they often do – which is what we’re going to take a look at today.

Trigger warning: my preferences are weird. Even if you don’t agree with everything I say, please be nice about it.

I recently sat down and watched Interstellar.

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Let me first preface this by saying that I’m not a scientific person and only understood about 52% of this film’s dialogue. There was a lot of infodumping, which I’m not a fan of.

(quick, poorly-written plot rundown for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie: earth is dying and no one’s sure how to fix it. cooper, our main character, is alarmed that his daughter’s bedroom seems to be alive – there are morse code patterns in the dust in the floor, books falling off the shelf in morse code messages, etc. they say pretty much two things: a set of map coordinates and the word “stay”. visiting the map coordinates reveals the secret location of nasa’s last base and the main plot: earth is about to become really uninhabitable and cooper, due to his experience as a fighter pilot, will be needed to help execute one of the two plans. “plan a” is to relocate all of earth’s population to another planet. “plan b” is to leave the population to die and take 700 new embroyos to a new planet to start a new colony and save humanity. all the characters are on different sides of this ethical question. cooper and his team fly off into space to have a look at some planet prospects. long story short, nothing looks good and everything’s sad and we lose one of the crew members. they’re running out of fuel, too. in order to get to the last chance of a planet, cooper volunteers to go off into the black hole that’s messing with the time of everything and honestly i didn’t catch how all of this is working because infodumps. once in the blackhole (which somehow works as like a time sphere/way to communicate with the past and future?) cooper realizes that this was a horrible idea and he should never have come and tries to tell his past self to “stay” (books coming off the shelves and stuff). i have no idea what happened here. murph is grown up now and gets stuff going back on earth because he can also somehow communicate with her through this watch that he gave her. everyone evacuates, somehow they rescue cooper, cooper learns that his female friend went to start that embroyo colony on the last planet and that she’s all alone and vows to go rescue her. THE END.)

I was extremely disappointed at the end of it. I was expecting this movie to be amazing – it’s Christopher Nolan, for crying out loud. Though I will give it props for its amazing visual effects, terrific music, and interesting take on the “end-of-the-world” idea, it commits a sin that makes me never want to see it again: blank, thin characters.

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Now, I understand that I am not the target audience for this film (it’s very popular in the nerdy, scientific circles) but this is a problem that could have been fixed with just a little more time and a little less word salad.

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Yes, they have a few motivations and remotely memorable personalities, but they don’t seem to do anything. Things are happening all around them, and they react to them, but their reactions are the only thing they’re giving to the movie. The black hole, the space travel, the time discrepancies and the emergencies push out the characters and take over the plot.

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And we never answer the big ethical question this movie asks (save the living or start over?) because the characters don’t have enough screentime or enough depth to make a choice. They’re weak, passive, and almost forgettable.

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I could have loved this movie if the characters had been given more time of day. It was visually beautiful, sported terrific world-building, had a larger-than-life stake, and would have made an amazing point if they had gotten around to answering their ethical question. They didn’t answer the question because the characters were too weak to form a good opinion.

Interstellar was a frustrating movie because the characters weren’t allowed to lead the plot.

Now, an example of a horrible plot with terrific characters: Thor: The Dark World.

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(Please lower your stones.)

This is a hated movie. This is a weird movie. This is one of the “worst” Marvel movies in the entire franchise, and yet I enjoyed it way more than I should have. Its merit is with one thing and one thing only: the characters.

(quick plot rundown: there’s this creepy alien liquid virus called the aether, unleashed in some ancient battle, and it’s super gimmicky and the sole reason why this movie is weird. after the events of everything in all the movies leading up to this in the MCU, loki’s being imprisoned for invading earth, thor is trying to make peace in what’s going to be his new kingdom, and jane foster, his girlfriend, is really wishing he were around more often. there’s going to be a cool cosmic convergence thing happening, which will make people be able to travel between the nine realms and meet eachother, yay. a portal has already appeared in a warehouse. although jane and darcy don’t know where it leads to, it definitely takes things places. jane, without realizing it, follows a similar portal and gets infected with the aforementioned space virus, the aether…and it really doesn’t make sense. meanwhile, back on asgard, heimdall, everyone’s favorite gatekeeper/living nest camera tells thor that he can’t see where jane is anymore, prompting him to go to earth to find her. he finds her, she’s full of aether juice, and it’s not good. we learn that the aether is connected to this creepy pale dude named malekith who plans to take over the nine realms…or something. he wants the aether cuz it’s apparently able to be weaponized. he attacks asgard looking for it, because thor brought jane there, and frigga, thor’s mother, dies protecting her. malekith and his dudes are barely repulsed. thor has a plan, and it’s a hairbrained scheme, really, but it just might work and it’s all they can do. with the help of loki (who thor convinces to help him based on frigga’s death), the warriors three, sif (who’s causing tension because she’s romantically interested in thor), and jane, thor goes to try to find and stop malekith. which he sort of does. thor and loki trick him into getting the aether out of jane, but they fail to destroy it and loki dies (well, he doesn’t really, but we don’t know that yet). the aether isn’t in jane anymore (?) but it’s now roosting in malekith. the convergence is imminent. the warehouse portal apparently led to the place where they were, so thor and jane (minus loki and everyone else) go to earth to try to beat malekith, who’s planning to unleash the aether while the convergence thing is going on and so destroy all the worlds. they have a big fight, thor beats him up, he gets crushed by his own ship and dies, the aether is contained in an infinity stone and stashed away, problems have been solved and yay life is good until the next thor adventure, which i didn’t like but oh well. THE END.)

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Yes, we have a similar weird space-themed plot with confusing element (what exactly does the Aether do again?) and word salad. Yes, we have a movie almost devoid of anything good. It’s the exact opposite of Interstellar: the plot is horribly paced and confusing, yet… I liked it. And I certainly wasn’t the only one.

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It’s obvious now that the main difference between Interstellar and Thor: The Dark World lies in the characters. In T:TDW, the characters are actively driving the story, despite the Convergence-thing being out of their control. They’re going after the cosmic liquid space virus. They’re reluctantly teaming up.

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In fact, most of the conflict is character-centered, despite this movie’s overly-massive stakes. This doesn’t make it any less confusing, but it makes it infinitely more likable.

If the characters had been reactive, this movie would be utter trash. It still kind of is. But the characters bring it from a -70 to a 5/10.

The point:

yes, I just praised Thor: The Dark World and trashed Interstellar:

If your characters are flat, uncompelling, and make no choices of their own, they can take your A+ amazing plot and turn it into something without a soul.

If your characters are well-rounded, decisive, and bounce well off eachother, you can take something confusing and weird and make it mostly enjoyable (even if it’s still confusing and weird.)

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A story is only as good as the people who are making it happen. As an author, the very worst thing you can do is just make them react to what’s going on.

tl;dr: Good characters are proactive.

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

(what have i done?)

 

 

 

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The Personal Library Awards™ {APADO #2}

(yep we’re going from dead-serious to mostly-living-not-so-serious in 2.5 seconds)
(also I know that this is posted at the very end of day 2…I had camera complications and then the pictures still look horrible and I feel like I wasted a bunch of time and effort for nothing but EH)
(was this post even worth it?)
(yes. yes it was. *deep breaths*)

APADO 2

I’ve wanted to talk about my library for a while now. It’s three shelves of variety that I’ve collected and bought over the years – some fiction, some non-fiction, and some stuff that’s only remotely book-like that I don’t know where else to put.

I could just take some pictures, gush about how they look remotely aesthetic when they’re all sitting together, and call it a night. But I like to think I’m a little more creative than that. Because what are you supposed to do with that information besides immediately forgetting it?

So I decided to come up with some awards. And “some” turned into 25. And the awards turned into a challenge, should you choose to accept it. Turn down the lights, grab some popcorn, and let’s give it up for The Personal Library Awards™!

(okay it’s not actually trademarked, I just learned the alt code for a ™ and wanted to use it for effect.)

Newest: The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart

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Straight out of 2016. This book was…okay. I don’t exactly regret it, but it wasn’t the best thing I have ever read. Which was kind of disappointing, because I bought it brand new and I sort of feel like I wasted my money? Oh well.

Oldest: Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes

This award is for my physically oldest book – this first-edition copy of my favorite hist-fict that I got in an antique shop. It’s from 1943. As in, this book is 75 years old. They don’t bind them like they used to.

Childhood Favorite: Album of Horses by Marguerite Henry

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Even when I was a little horse potato and knew nothing about them, I loved this book to death. It’s basically some nice paintings and some fun little anecdotal stories about the different breeeds of horses. And it was actually successful in extending my woefully poor attention span.

Most Loathsome: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Ugh. Okay, classics are usually the best. They’re usually rolemodels that inspire me to write stories as great as they are. I’m not going to go so far as to say that Great Expectations isn’t a great story, but I can’t stand it. It’s way too wordy, the characters are all jerkfaces with absolutely nothing to stand behind, and it has an unsettling tone I can’t put a finger on. It’s the last Charles Dickens novel I’ll finish (because yes, I finished it).

Most Obscure: At Agincourt by G. A. Henty

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I’m going to guess you’ve never heard of this book. That’s okay! I’m still not sure if I like the resolution of it, but it definitely kept me reading, even though the type in this edition is ribosomically tiny. Also I accidentally slammed the backseat of an SUV down on top of it and I actually cried about it.

Biggest Surprise: The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba

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Going into this, I was thinking I was going to yawn the whole way through. I ended up finishing it in one sitting and realized that I had actually been really riveted the whole time! Who knew windmills were so interesting.

Biggest Disappointment: Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Tarzan is my favorite Disney movie. So that means I’ll love the books, right? Correction: I would have loved the books if they weren’t so horribly cliched and just…ugh. I only keep this one around because its format is so gloriously beautiful. But the pretty cover is honestly the only good thing about it. ALL 800 PAGES OF IT. Okay, I’ll stop ranting.

Longest: Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson

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Non-fiction homemaking encyclopedia. It’s more interesting than you’d think and weighs in at 884 pages. Lots of information and useful stuff that I’ll probably need later.

Shortest: Felicity Learns A Lesson by Valerie Tripp

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yep, it’s the pleasant company edition ^w^

Fun fact: this book got me into AG dolls. It’s only 67 pages, but it certainly talks about a lot in that time frame – bullying, disloyalty, the Boston Tea Party, and not knowing what to do when your values are called into question. These American Girl books are seriously underrated.

Prettiest: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Firstly: this book’s a classic and if you haven’t read it, you should. Secondly: I’m in love with the way this book looks. The colors are so well coordinated and the beautiful design carries over into the pages, too. Yes, I do judge books by their covers. And I hate myself for it. But don’t we all?

Ugliest: The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

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I actually don’t think I finished this one? I think I forgot about it. Even though I’m not sure how I forgot the mustard yellow, bright orange, and strange circus animal motif. THERE AREN’T EVEN ANY CIRCUS ANIMALS IN THIS STORY. Who even designed this cover? It’s ancient, and I got it for free, so I can’t complain…but still.

Largest: The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams

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I can’t get over how amazing the information in this book is. I also can’t get over how physically big it is. It’s about nine by eleven inches and I think it must weigh five pounds. It feels like fifteen when I’m hauling it around, though.

Smallest: Pocket Horses by DK

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This is another book I lived by as a kid! And it’s really really small – about four by five inches. And apparently you can get it on Amazon for literally a dime? I can’t tell if that’s amazing or sad. Maybe it’s amazingly sad. I liked it.

Most Abused: CHA Composite Horsemanship Manual by the Certified Horsemanship Association

If you want to learn to ride, seek out and devour this book. It’s chock full of actually useful information, not just the stuff that sounds good on paper. I have used it so much that the pages are falling out of the binding.

Most Read: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I think I’ve read this one (both parts!) at least ten times. It doesn’t get old, though! I’m surprised I like this book so much, seeing as I’m not usually a fan of the genre, but I grew up on this one and still love it. No movie adaptation can beat it. =u=

First To Be Hypothetically Donated: The Complete Encyclopedia of Horses by Josee Hermsen

I’ll give this one credit that it’s trying to be a horse encyclopedia. That’s not an easy feat. But the editing in this book is really weird. Miscaptioned photos, poor grammar….I can’t even.

Last To Be Hypothetically Donated: Freehand Figure Drawing For Illustrators by David H. Ross

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This book is amazing. Enlightening. Game-changing, if you’re an artist. And there is SO MUCH information in it, I think it’ll probably take a lifetime to learn it all. I need it. *protectively shields it*

Funniest: The Watsons Go To Birmingham: 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

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I don’t want to admit it, but I read Christopher Paul Curtis’ books when I want to laugh my head off. Yes, they have themes and plots, but honestly the humor in them trumps everything else.

Most Boring: Wings by Tom D. Crouch

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I bought this book at a Goodwill just because the cover was pretty. (Back on this again…) It looks great, but it’s pretty much a four hundred page research paper on flight. Not that I don’t like research papers, I just lost interest. Maybe I’ll pick it back up again. In ten years.

Most Useful: Scouting for Girls by The GSA

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Yep, the original. Survival tactics, star maps, instructions for cooking a three-course dinner. And doesn’t everyone need to know how to cut perfect stars from cloth? (I still can’t seem to get it to work…)

Least Useful: A Healthy Horse: The Natural Way by Catherine Bird

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I inherited this book and it’s 150 pages of herbal remedies? Yeah it’s not really useful to me, seeing as I don’t own a horse. It’s also kind of fruity – I always expect to see yoga poses suggested to enhance the cures, even though it doesn’t touch on that. Can horses even do yoga? Hm.

Most Powerful: The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare

I had to split this award. I had to. I couldn’t decide which was more important: The Giver‘s thoughts on the worth of human life, or The Bronze Bow‘s emphasis on the power of hate – and forgiveness. Both are excellent and you should go read them the first chance you get (if you haven’t already).

Most Frustrating: When London Burned by G. A. Henty

This is a reprint of a very old book. I have nothing against it plot-wise – actually it was pretty solid…once I got through the forest of typographical errors. Did they even give it a read-through? IT’S AWFUL AND IT DISTURBS ME.

Honorable Mention: Wolves At Our Door by Jim and Jamie Dutcher

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Wolves At Our Door is a memoir about a couple who lived near a pack of wolves in order to make a documentary about them. The end result is much more interesting than it sounds and than I expected. Definitely one of my favorite true stories.

and…

Favorite: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Annnnnd….time for my favorite book. I always come back to Treasure Island. Something about the aesthetic, or the story, or the characters just keeps dragging me in. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it – or dreaming about being on the open seas, with all the danger and glory and….gahhh. I love this book. Fight me.

*applause*

Did I just decide which of my books was my favorite? Wow.

I’m really glad I decided to do it this way instead of just listing them off. These twenty-five aren’t my entire collection, but they’re a good sampling of it. (We didn’t even get to Counting by 7s…!)

I had a lot of fun making this post, and I hope you do too.

That is, if you accept my challenge.

I would love to see your own versions of The Personal Library Awards™!

I don’t really consider myself a “bookish” person, so I’d be interested in what spins you guys would put on this idea. Would you add awards? Take some away? And, of course, which of your books would win the awards? Honestly, I’d love it if some of you more competent book bloggers would take this idea and run with it!

Do you dare to undertake a round of The Personal Library Awards™?

Sayonara for now,

{Tess}

 

 

Zielle’s Questions & ‘Stuf’

This is that post that comes in between all of everyone’s exciting posts that no one will probably read because everyone else is making much more awesome posts. Oh well, here goes.

Zielle gave me some questions as part of her “Guest Interviews” thang, and so that’s the first order of business. Who doesn’t love to answer questions about oneself?

Zielle: What brought you to name your blog ‘Steeplechase’?

Tess: Oh wow, these questions are personalized! Epic. I had always loved the word, and I thought it reflected the random nature of my blog without being “Tessie’s Random Crazy Stuff Blog!!”

Zielle: How was your blog born? Who/what inspired you to start one?

Tess: Well, I had already made an AG doll blog (still running, btdubs), but I found a bunch of posts that weren’t AG related were falling through the cracks, so I bucked up and made a PB. And now I love it.

Zielle: What quote do you live by if any?

Tess: Literally anything that Winston Churchill said. In particular:

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”


“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”


“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”


“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
(used in the literal sense of the word, btw)

Okay, that wasn’t one quote. That was five. Bad Tess. *spanks hand*

Zielle: Who are some bloggers you look up to or who inspire you?

Tess: I look up to anyone who’s been blogging longer than I have – Madi and Hayley in particular. As for inspiration, my inspiration comes from all of my followers, all of the people I follow, any random visitors that stop by – in short, every blogger is an inspiration to me.

Zielle: What are some of your blogging goals for the year 2018?

Tess: Finish what I start XD. I have five random drafts in my folder right now and I need to get better at that. Make a two-minute animation for you guys to enjoy. I also want to get to one hundred followers. But that’s just a selfish wish. I don’t even have 50 :P.

Zielle: Are you just naturally good at drawing, or did you have to learn?

Tess: *thinks*
Big Important Drawing Rule One: There is no such thing as natural talent. There is such thing as extensive practice. I’ve been actively drawing since I could scribble. My mom always nurtured me by providing clean paper to draw on and good tools to draw with.

Big Important Drawing Rule Two: Copy. Hold it! There’s a difference between copying and plagiarism. Go to Google, search what you want to draw, and pull up an image. Now draw it as best you can. Think about what it would look like as a coloring page. Also, try to draw from life as much as possible. If you can’t draw from life, then watch someone else draw what you want to draw. Steer clear of ‘drawing tutorials’, though, because those will teach you how to draw that thing in the creator’s style. Not good. You want your own style.

Big Important Drawing Rule Three: Be unique. Do things your way, not someone else’s. That’s the only way your drawings will look like YOU.

Big Important Drawing Rule Four: Block. If you want to be able to draw something from every angle, learn to block. Go look it up. Art Ala Carte is a great Youtube channel for learning how to block.

Big Important Drawing Rule Five: Don’t buy expensive stuff until you’re sure you’re serious.

(This was an essay. Sorry. :P)

Zielle: How many times have you flown in a plane? (#random)

Tess: Only once. I didn’t get a window seat though. So that kind of stunk.

Zielle: Do you stall reading until you’re in bed, or do you read whenever you can?

Tess: It all depends on what I’m reading. If a book is meh or average or not really that interesting, I wait till bed. But if it’s so enthralling that I can’t wait to see what happens next and can’t put it down, then I read it whenever I can (including while getting dressed).

Zielle: How old were you when you wrote your first story? (if you’re okay sharing)

Tess: I was nine. I wrote out a story about bunnies that now, remembering it, sounds mysteriously like Alice in Wonderland…even though I hadn’t read it at the time. I sadly don’t have it anymore. 😦

Zielle: Do you have a book in progress that I can beta read and devour???!! ;P

Tess: Almost. Once I make my Julynowrimo Brother Robin cohesive (not perfect, mind you), you’ll be the first on the list of beta readers!

In speaking of which, I am hiring beta readers! I need some useful crit on the aforementioned story.

Beta Reader Information

– The story is fifty thousand words long and falls under the heading of sci-fi histfict.
– The content is appropriate for ages 8+. There is mention of death, some people in love, and an injury, which is not described in great detail. (EDIT: There is also mention of alchoholic beverages. Not a horrible lot but they are present. This is 1876, guys.)
– The story is a DRAFT. It is not my best work. It is not even close to my best work. It’s complete rubbish, drivel and garbage. But I don’t want to waste a bunch of time editing and fixing a story that will need more fixing later.
– I’ll be sending out the story in December of this year, after I’ve made it cohesive (going back and fixing things that don’t make sense.
– I really don’t want grammar criticism. I’ll fix that m’self, thanks. If something’s not clear, then tell me, but if I use the wrong form of ‘there’, don’t correct me, please.

I’m looking for at least five readers, so jump on it!

And now…the ‘stuf’…the reason why I haven’t been blogging…there’s so much interesting stuff to do and so little time! I’ve gotten some new things that I can’t wait to show you guys.

Books!

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One trip to Barnes and Noble later…I got some books! The money was worth it.

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Wreck This Journal. Guys. This is so so so so so awesome! I’m not going to show any pages until I’m done. Then I’ll do a #rekt tour!

And F nish Th s B  k. I am not going to say anything about this one. You have to go get it yourself. Not being lazy, it’s just that you have to see it to believe it.

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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle is a crazy book that takes itself really seriously. Like it’s completely normal to shave yourself with a broken bottle, Doctor! But it’s a ton of fun and really lighthearted in comparison to a lot of fiction.

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The best part, though, is that my collection of aesthetically pleasing Sterling edition classics is growing!

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Ahhhhh….the spectrum….it’s so……

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SATISFYING.

*wipes brow*

Art Stufs

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Alright, I broke down and bought a sketchbook. I haven’t drawn anything in it yet, but that will change as soon as I finish this post. 🙂 I also got some new pencils, as I wore my others down to nubs…

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And they are also fun to photograph. This is the 6B (not like anyone cares).

And now….

…the grand finale…

…the thing you’ve been waiting for…

…please welcome…

…the newest member of my entourage…

…the one who will help me realize my dreams…

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This is Cedric! He is a Monoprice 10″ x 6.25″ Drawing Tablet and is a real amazing guy (though he can be tempermental). Don’t tell him I said that, though. I got some old Flash MX2004 and am making some babystep animations. But that topic’s for another post.

What’s your favorite thing to do (besides blogging)? Did you sign up to beta read?

Sayanora,

Tess

Book Review: Mara, Daughter of the Nile

Wow. Two posts in two days! I’m on a roll!

I apologise for the scrambly review yesterday – I was a bit too excited to care whether I used too many exclamation points or not. Now, I am sane (though no less adoring of that film) and ready to review the novel I have just finished reading – Mara, Daughter of the Nile.

Precautionary statement: This review will likely contain spoilers. For a total surprise, skip this post altogether.

Book Reviewsteeplechaseblog.wordpress.com

Specifications:

Author: Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Published: 1953
Pages: 279
MSRP: $6.99

Not a bad price for an extremely compelling historical novel.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile is set in Ancient Egypt, during the rule of Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BC). In it, Mara, a slave girl yearning for her freedom, is employed by one of Hatshepsut’s agents to get information on the queen’s half-brother, Thutmose, who may or may not be trying to take the throne. But as she is carrying out her missions for Lord Nahareh, another lord approaches her. His name is Lord Sheftu, and he is an agent for Thutmose. He wants to restore whom he believes is the proper ruler onto the throne of the Black Land, who is none other than Thutmose. All Mara wants is her freedom and possibly some gold, so she accepts the offer, realising a bit too late that she is now a double-spy caught in what could become a fierce revolution. She also realises that she loves Lord Sheftu, despite his cold attitude toward her. When her duplicity is discovered, Mara must make the choice – help the cause she originally was supporting, or help Sheftu and all the rebel friends she has met.

(my description)

The thing that made this read special was the extremely descriptive writing. I felt ported immediately into a time I hadn’t known more than sterotypes about just from the way the words flew off the pages at me. An example of the author’s writing:

The innkeeper closed the door behind them, his broad face wreathed in smiles. He was a hulk of a man, vast of girth and guileless of countenance, dressed in a rumpled shenti and huge copper ear hoops. He pattered ahead of them, the earrings bouncing and his paunch preceding him, through a tiny entryway and into a large square room which was smoky with torchlight and smelled of beer and roasting meat.

Not only do I see a pudgy, sweatily good-natured man, I also see a dark, stale, loud room with plenty of ill-to-do characters guffawing within. I felt like I was in the story, not just reading about it, and the author definitely knows the techniques of foreshadowing and contrasting.

Pushing past the blaringly obvious hist-fict genre, I’d say this story is 50% romance and 50% adventure. There’s enough action scattered between the romantic scenes to make the story thrilling and gritty, yet enough romance and intrigue balancing out the excitement to give it direction.

The characters are likeable when they ought to be and abhorrable when they need to be. In the same way that I loved Nekokh, the cynical riverman who ended up being my favourite character, I hated Sahure, the wily juggler who was meant to be disliked. I loved Innani, the Syrian princess that fit in with the Egyptians as much as a bird fits in with fish.

Content: There is a lot of historical drinking (after all, it’s not like noblemen drink water), numerous mentions of false gods (this is Egypt) and likewise using their names as exclamations or expletives. I don’t think it’s appropriate for children, persay, but tweens and older should be able to 1) fully understand the plot and dialouge, and 2) understand that anything that seems funny nowadays is cultural. Plus, the reading level is pretty high.

From a religious standpoint, this book is a useful tool for understanding Egypt from a Biblical perspective. The most blaring example of this is in what Egyptians thought about darkness. They mention several times in this book that “the darkness is laden with evil spirits” (not an exact quote). Think about the plague of Darkness for a minute…

I think my favourite chapter was chapter 18, which is undoubtedly the most exciting chapter. You know I’m a thrill-seeker…;P

Overall, I give this book a 9.5/10. The best word to describe it is intriguing, I think.

The verdict:

YEA!

{Tess}