Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I Spy with my little telescope, hidden in my boot.

This week, we're talking about spies (since we're, you know, reading James Bond.  The ultimate spy.)  What's the coolest thing about spies?  Why, their gadgets of course.  And while some of these might not be as cool as you imagine James Bond to have, they are all spy tools used in real life.

Dart Gun

Originally used by the KGB (as most everything was), it was a teeny tiny dart gun that could shoot over 250 feet.  The CIA got a hold of it, but reports say that no agents actually used this little devise.  Oh, and did I mention that it was tipped with poison?

Exploding Briefcase

No, this wasn't used to blow up a roomful of enemies (though, I suppose points in the plus column if it did.)  It was actually used by British spies to protect documents that fell into the wrong hands.  The carrier of the briefcase knew exactly how to open it.  So, if it got into the hands of the enemy, the idea was they would open it up incorrectly and the entire thing would explode, destroying all of the sensitive information and, let's face it, probably the bad guy trying to open it up.

Cigarette Case Gun

When you're a spy, it's all about being able to conceal things.  During WWII (which is when most of these things were invented), the Americans had a small, gold cigarette case for their spies, that shot not only bullets, but cyanide tipped bullets, ensuring that even if the spy missed the vital organs, the target would still die.

Olive Microphone

This little gadget was actually never put into production, but used to convince congress to err on the side of caution.  It was a tiny (fake) olive that held a short range microphone, easily able to be placed in someone's martini glass and record their every word.  After this, Congress really brought down some harsh bugging laws, making it much more difficult to record someone without their consent.

These are just a few spy gadgets that exist.  If you're interested in more, check out the Spy Museum if you ever happen to be in the DC area.  Have a favorite gadget?  Real or fake, let us know!  And stay stealthy.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Ian Fleming Bio

Fleming.  Ian Fleming.  Secret Agent Writer.  Ok, so Fleming's life probably wasn't as exciting as his character's, James Bond, but that doesn't mean it was a complete write-off.

Fleming came from a very well off family and was educated at the best universities, as so many of the rich are.  But Fleming put his talents to good use, writing the Bond series through the 1950s and 60s.  So where did he get his ideas for this sensational secret agent?

Well, the army, for one.  Fleming worked intelligence during the second world war for Britain (he was part of the planning process for Operation Mincemeat (a British disinformation plan in WWII) and Operation Golden Eye (an Allied plan to monitor Spain in case they were overtaken by Germany) plus the operation of two intelligence units) and much of the knowledge and experience that he gained there was translated into his Bond novels. Those novels were a HUGE success when the first one, Casino Royal, came out in 1952.

There were many people who advised Fleming not to come out with the work.  His then girlfriend told him that if he did decide to publish, he should do it under a pseudonym.  Fleming also sent a copy to William Plomer, a fellow author, who though the novel lacked suspense.  However, he sent a copy to the publishing house anyway and the rest is history.

This is how Fleming envisioned his Bond

Bond has especially taken root in modern culture.  The first Bond movie was in 1962, Dr. No, and starred Sean Connery (as did the subsequent four Bond movies.)  Connery is probably the most well-known Bond and the Bond movies made his career.  Since Connery, there have been five more Bonds, the most recent being Daniel Craig.

Connery as James Bond

Overall, the Bond novels completely have taken over spy culture.  Fleming created a highly recognizable name and a character that has last through the years.

Fun fact: He is also the man behind Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

By Its Cover: Burned by Ellen Hopkins

I like this cover because it's really the ultimate deception.  If I were to just take this cover, and not read the description at all, I would think it's about either a pyromaniac or some other form of things burning.  Because that's exactly what it's looks like: the letters are burned into the cover (which, by the way, I think looks AWESOME.)

However, if we read the book, we learn that it's completely a metaphorical "burn" that our main character (and many others) get.  So, I like it.  It's simple, but I think effective (and kind of falls in line with her other books.)

I love the cover of every single one of Hopkins' books that I've seen so far.

Just a few more examples there. All of her books have one-word names and this same neat aesthetic. They always fit the story well... except, in my opinion, with Burned.

When Cassy chose Burned as the Hopkins book we would review, I couldn't remember which one it was. I looked at the cover image in hopes of remembering, and it didn't help. I was thinking it was probably one of the drug ones, like Crank and Glass, because it was reminiscent of cigarettes, joints, crackpipes, etc. I was, of course, wrong. That could be all on me, though; it does still fit the story, just not in the way I was thinking.

(Edit to add, upon reading Cassy's thoughts: Exactly! What she said.)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Review Me Twice- Burned by Ellen Hopkins

This book... probably meant more to me than Alex.  Full disclosure: I was raised in a Mormon household with Mormon ideals (which, most of you know, but some of you don't.)  The first time that I read this book, I connected with Pattyn in a way that only someone in my position could.  I completely sympathized with her need to know more, to question her religion, her family, her upbringing.  I had all the same feelings and fears.

On a second read, I still have a visceral response to this book, but I can see the flaws in it.  Even the things that are not flaws, but extremes.  Pattyn's situation is an extreme.  She lives in a very abusive family, with a disturbed father and a seriously messed up support system.  These are extremes, as is her bishop, who believes that all women should be kept in hand.  Also, Hopkins' political views come out in this book probably more than any of her others (which is fine, it's just a lot more obvious the second time that I read it.)

But... at the same time, it highlights things that are really there.  The Mormon culture is very stifling   As a woman, you have no power, no say, really.  And while they like to give you the impression that woman are important, you realize that's not really the case.  All the positions of power are held by males, the priesthood is only allowed to be held by males, and all the women are encouraged to marry early and breed often.  It's a culture that everything is a sin, from coffee, to tea, to sex, even caffeinated soda.  And if you're ever to venture away from this strict path, you're condemned to a heaven that's not as great as it could be.  Maybe not even a heaven that's heaven at all.  To be a teenager in that... to grow at all in that, is nearly impossible.

If you read this book, especially if you're Mormon, you need to realize that Hopkins wrote in extremes.  At no point does she indicated that every Mormon family is like this.  And, if you really pay attention, she's not even saying it's explicit to Mormons.  She's more making a comment that God isn't religion.  God is God, and isn't going to judge you based on the strict rules of religion.

I really love this book.  It was a book that resonated with me extremely and, even after a second read and realizing the flaws that the book has, I still really love it.  I love that this girl learns about love and God and I love that God isn't made out to be a bad guy!  But it's definitely not a book for everyone (as this comment on my goodreads reveals.  Fourth one down, if you can't figure it out.)

My Bottom Line 4 out of 5

PS.  I hope Alex now talks about her beautiful stanzas and wonderfully writing and unique way of telling a story because, well, I sure didn't. XD

Happy to oblige!

Free-form verse is a wonderful medium for the right story. And Ellen Hopkins puts the right stories in it.

Remember how I told you guys about altar poems and other types of visual poetry? Of course you do. Hopkins uses this method very well. Below is an example from Burned of how she arranges the words into shapes that fit the mood of that section of the story:

I like this example because, like so much of Hopkins' writing, it has layers. The shapes look kind of like hearts, right? And we're clearly discussing love here, so that's fitting. But it also looks like V shapes, which is commonly supposed to be reminiscent of women (remember in The DaVinci Code, when they're talking about "The Last Supper" and how the V shape is symbolic of the chalice, the womb, etc? Yeah, like that).

There's another one in this book where there are several teardrops, which is probably one of the most intricate visual poetry examples I've seen from Hopkins.

Whenever a Hopkins character is completely at their wits' end, or if their world is crashing down around them, or whatever their big conflict is, the verse gets very fractured. There are words all over the page, and it's really like their thoughts and feelings have been scattered and they need to piece everything back together again.

Also, she has this neat trick where individual words will be aligned differently from the other lines, pulling a new, related phrase out of the page. Like this one:

That one is actually from Perfect. But you see how there's the regular text ("Don't bother to say you love me. The word is indefinable. Joy to some...") and then there's what I've come to call the theme phrase for the page: "love is a deadly weapon." Amazing, right?

I love Hopkins' style, and I love the stories she tells with it. They feel very real, and I can fully understand them and relate to them despite the fact that I've never been abused, addicted to drugs, suicidal, a prostitute, or Mormon.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

History of Poetry

I'll be finishing up my month of Thursday posts about poetry with a little bit about the history of it.

Telling stories in poetic forms made them easier to remember, and therefore to pass on. If there are a bouncy meter and rhyming lines, it's catchy, and you'll be able to retell it closer to the original. (It's like how you can remember all the words to Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" but you'll be damned if you can remember all the polyatomic ions you're supposed to know for chemistry class.)

The oldest surviving epic poem is the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. It was written in cuneiform on clay tablets, then put on papyrus later (and, even later, high school English textbooks).

Other epic poems include Virgil's Aeneid, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and the Ramayana and Mahabharata from India.

Aristotle (probably thinking about poetry)

Aristotle starting picking apart the mechanics of poetry in Poetics, where he describes epic, comic, and tragic poetry, and lays out rules for how to create the best in each genre. Many people adjusted Aristotle's theories throughout the ages, but the gist of his work influenced poetry for ages, from the Middle East's Islamic Golden Age up through the Renaissance (and, to a lesser degree, still today).

What this all developed into was that poetry is meant to reach the same ideas as prose, but without requiring linear narrative or logic. (That doesn't mean that it doesn't make sense; it just means it's a freer form of literature than prose.)

Now, in modern poetry, we pay less attention to the formal structures and solid rules. Instead, we define a poet as someone who creates something using language as their materials, and poetry is what a poet creates. Simple as that.

It's easier to define what poetry isn't than to define what it is. Poetry is non-prose. If it's prose, it's prose. If it isn't prose, chances are pretty good it's poetry. (Unless it's not literature, like a grocery list or a tax form or an instruction manual.)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Favorite Poems

We're keeping in line with all the CRAZY poetry going on this week by telling you our favorite poems.  And while I was going to put this poem, by Hopkins, I felt that maybe that was just a little too much Hopkins in one week.

That kind of put me at a loss though, because I'm not a poetry fan.  Like, at all.  I mean, I REALLY dislike poetry.  I dislike reading it, writing it, listening to it.  I think there are way too many people who write poems that become greats and I think they're dumb (the poems, not the people.  Though, respectively, I guess the people could be dumb too).  I think everyone thinks Wordsworth is awesome... I just think he's long-winded and overly excited about nature.

So what's a girl to do?  Why, tell you about a hilarious haiku, obviously.  So here it is, my favorite poem:

Haikus are easy
But sometimes they don't make sense

Awesome, isn't it?  I don't think it has an official "author", but you can buy it on a t-shirt.

(And I have that t-shirt!)

I don't hate poetry, like Cassy. In fact, I quite like it. That's why I've been telling you about it all month on Thursdays!

I think the first time I admitted that I liked a poem was when I read "The Raven," by Edgar Allan Poe. I like the rhyme. I like the meter. I like the subject matter. I like the word choices, the alliteration, the assonance... it's a beautifully crafted poem, and I like it.

I read more of Poe and discovered that I also liked "The Casque of Amontillado," and "The Tell-Tale Heart," and I liked his short stories too, particularly "Hop-Frog."

But "The Raven" is still the poem I think of when asked to choose a favorite poem. It sounds like a cop-out answer, because it's one of the few poems people can remember from high school, but I love it, unabashedly.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Companions

We're all about Ellen this week (Ellen Hopkins, not Ellen DeGeneres, though they're both pretty freakin' awesome.)

                       The Wrong Ellen                            The Right Ellen

Lots of the books we love come with supplementary reading material that can be GREAT in terms of helping you understand the text.  They give you background information, a more accurate portrayal of the world building, and even some tidbits about the author and their inspiration.  They're kind of like movie guides for books.

Our very own Scott Westerfeld is notorious for putting out companion books.  In fact, there's TWO of them for the Uglies series.  Bogus to Bubbly tell you all about the Uglies world, from the meaning of the slang that everyone uses, to the finer points of hover-boarding.  He also has Mind Rain, which actually isn't anything of his composition (he only does the intro), but contains other author's thoughts on the book.  It's especially interesting because you have so many different views about the book.

A third, recent, bonus companion is a graphic novel he's put out called Shay's Story, telling everything from's Shay's point of view, including some stuff before the book that we don't really know that much about.

Westerfeld also has put out The Manual of Aeronautics, a companion book to the Leviathan world.  The best part about this sister book?  Keith Thompson, who does all the awesome illustrations for Leviathan, also does the illustrations for this book.

Rowling also has put out a number of companion books for the Harry Potter series.  Quidditch Through the Ages and The Tales of Beetle the Bard are probably the two most popular books from that series, but she's put out a few more.  The best part about these books?  They're all books that she mentions in the Harry Potter series somewhere, books her characters are reading.

Ellen Hopkins has a great book out as a companion book to her Crank series.  It's called Flirtin' with the Monster.  It's full of essays from people who have read her books and how the books have effected their lives.  There's even a court judge who says what an eye-opener the books have been and how it effected his judging.  But these were not the most moving parts of it.

Hopkins, along with her family, write their own essays about their experiences   Hopkins talks about how her daughter's drug abuse was handled. Kristina's (Cristal's) stepfather talks about how it all effected his trust, even "Kristina" weighs in, telling her side of the story, of the meth addiction.

Probably the most heartfelt and chilling essay was by Cristal's ten year old son.

These are just a few companion books, but there are TONS out there.  What are some of your favorite?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Ellen Hopkins Bio

I am SO happy to be introducing everyone to Ellen Hopkins this week.  She's an amazing writer and inspiring and even her life is inspiring.

Hopkins was adopted at birth by two wonderful people, Albert and Valeria Wagner.  Though they were an older coupld, they worked hard for their money and, Hopkins says, instilled the best values in her.  They always encouraged her writing, which was published for the first time at the age of nine (she wrote a haiku.)

But if anyone knows anything about Hopkin's writing, her life has been anything but easy.  She had two children from her first marriage, Jason and Cristal (Cristal being who the Crank series is based on.)  She entered into what she defines as a "rebound", which ended up being an extremely abusive relationship.  When she finally removed herself from it, the abusive boyfriend kidnapped their daughter, Kelly, for three years (though, happily, the recovery was finally made.)

They adopted Orion (Cristal's son) in 1996, when he was just a baby, though he is a teenager now.

Hopkins met her birth mother, who is also a writer, about ten years after she met her now-husband, John Hopkins.  She lives with him in Nevada, though they both grew up in California.

Hopkins is most known for her YA book, Crank being probably her most successful novel to date.  However, she also writes adult literature.  Triangles is one that I can vouch for that is very good.  All of her novels are poems that tell a story.  A compelling, intricate and wonderful story.

She also doesn't shy away from the hard topics.  Most of her novels, for youth, deal with drugs, sex and even sucides and how teens deal with these things (or, how they don't deal with them as the case may be.)

Really, if you want more information on her, you should visit her website.  It's wonderfully well done.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

By Its Cover - Cinder by Marissa Meyer

So, there's not a lot of ambiguity in this cover.  I knew before I read it that it was a retelling of the Cinderella story.  I also knew that Cinderella was going to be a cyborg.  So the cover is very appropriate: Ghost of a cyborg leg with a red, glass slipper, the most iconic thing from Cinderella.

Honestly, I think the cover is great.  It's interesting and, if you didn't know what the book was about, you could probably gather it from the shoe, cyborg leg and title, Cinder.  I like books that give you a straight forward look at their books with the cover.

On one level, I agree entirely with Cassy that it is very clear what this book is about.

On another level - the kind you get from glancing at the book as you walk past the shelf - it feels completely different. The color scheme is everywhere right now in teen fiction (perhaps partially due to the popularity of the Twilight series) and fonts like that are also everywhere, covering the entire gamut of supernatural, sci-fi, and fantasy.

Despite the fact that the color scheme, the lighting, and the fonts are just everywhere, this is still a unique cover. Instantly recognizable, very clear (like Cassy said), and nice to look at.

The sequel, Scarlet, looks like this:

So they go together quite nicely. (Is it just me, or does it look like we're wandering into Little Red Riding Hood territory with this one? Hmm...)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review Me Twice - Cinder by Marissa Meyer

So, here's a secret that you may or may not have known:  I LOVE fairy tales   I love what they were supposed to be, how they came about, their history, their transition into children's literature and I love retellings of them.  I love to see how people re-purpose the tales to fit their own imaginations (because, really, that's kind of the POINT of fairy tales: to be bent to fit your specific needs, but still conveying the same general message.)

Meyer has taken a fun, interesting and exciting new twist on the Cinderella fairy tale   Cinderella as a cyborg? Yes, please.  Taking place in the future (but not too distant future)?  I'm totally all for that.  Meyer is an excellent writer.  I think her pacing is one of the best I've seen in awhile.  She knows just when to drop you information, just when to hold it back and just when to drop it all and run with it.

The characters were interesting and fleshed out.  The world she created was also great for what she needed. She managed to make it like our world, but not, which allows the reader to be engulfed in it easily, without a lot of confusion about what's going on.

I like that Cinder is a little tomboyish.  She's not the dainty girl that needs to be saved by the handsome prince.  She's her own, independent girl, who's going to do what she's going to do.

My only, ONLY, hang-up with this book, is that it's extremely predictable.  There's some major stuff that you figure out pretty early on.  And it's stuff that you're not necessarily supposed to figure out.

I can't wait to read the next book in the series.  It's going to be fabulous.

My Bottom Line 5 Out of 5

I loved this book. I like the characters, I like the plot, I like the implications for the future books, I like the setting, I like the science, I like everything.

Usually, Cassy is the one to say that something was really obvious the whole time; I don't always pick up on things like overly heavy foreshadowing, because I'm not looking for it. (In fact, I might actually block it out on purpose; I don't like figuring out the big twists and surprises before I get to them, so I don't try to guess.) But the Big Twist in this one is not much of a twist, because it really is very obvious.

And I've been thinking about that for a while now. Sometimes, I think the author doesn't intend for the Big Twist to be a Big Twist... at least, not for you, the reader. I think sometimes, you're supposed to know about it and the character is the one who is supposed to be surprised. It's like the author has given you a little gift of knowledge that is unknown to the main character. I think this happens when the character's reaction to something is more important than the information itself, which is a case I think can be made for Cinder.

At any rate, I will definitely be reading the sequel and eagerly anticipating the other two books.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

NaPoWriMo: Rhyme

Time to talk about rhyme! Not every type of poem has to rhyme, but many do, and there are several ways to accomplish it.

There are names for where a rhyme appears in the piece. The most common type of rhyme is
tail rhyme, which is when you're looking at the last words/syllables in each line of the poem.

This is how you determine the rhyme scheme of a poem: tail rhyme. Here is the first stanza of "The Raven":

And be mentioned, nevermore.
Ha, just kidding, I'll totally talk about "The Raven" again.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

The words at the end of each line are: weary, lore, tapping, door, door, and more. You give the first line an A. If the second line rhymes with it, you also give it an A. but "lore" does not rhyme with "weary," so it gets a B. The next line ("tapping") doesn't rhyme with either A or B, so it gets C. "Door" rhymes with "lore," so it is assigned an A in both the fourth and fifth lines. The sixth line, "more," also rhymes with "lore" and "door," so it also gets an A. So this stanza's rhyme scheme is ABCAAA. The letters' assignments last throughout the poem. The next stanza's end words are: December, floor, borrow, Lenore, Lenore, evermore. Since "December" doesn't rhyme with A, B, or C, it gets D. The second stanza is DAEAAA. And so on.

There is also internal rhyme. This is all over the place in "The Raven." Let's look at the third and fourth lines of the first stanza:

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.

I've underlined the instances of internal rhyme; words from the interior of the line rhyme with the end word.

There is also something called a holorhyme. This is when two entire lines rhyme with each other. These usually serve better in humor, like acknowledging that 'Scuse me, while I kiss the sky from Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" sounds like, 'Scuse me, while I kiss this guy.

Fun fact: the first page of Google Image results for "purple haze"
do not include pictures of this man or his work.
Perfect rhyme happens when your rhyming words match in sound and also where the final stressed syllable falls in them. Perfect rhymes can be masculine, feminine, or dactylic, depending on where the final stressed syllable is found.

There are many other types of rhyme besides perfect rhyme, though.

There are also "eye rhymes" which look like they should rhyme but don't (like "cough" and "bough") and "mind rhymes" which trick you into think about a different word that rhymes with what's actually there by pairing it with certain other words, like if you said "neat" and "sour," your mind would make you think of "sweet" instead of "neat," because they rhyme, and you're used to hearing the phrase "sweet and sour." Trickery!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Favorite Poems We've Written

It's the middle of NaPoWriMo! If you're participating, send us a link to wherever you're posting your poems! (Email us at reviewmetwice [at] gmail [dot] com, tweet us @ReviewMeTwice, post it on our wall on Facebook, or comment here on the blog with it!)

To encourage you, we're sharing our favorite poems that we have written ourselves.

Mine is from this year's NaPoWriMo, Day 2. It's a villanelle, which is something I had never attempted before. It's weird and mysterious and a little ominous. It was originally posted here, with a brief explanation of the structure of a villanelle.

(If you want to check out the rest of my NaPoWriMo poems, visit Grammar Amateur.)

The Secret

The secret is very old;
It's known by all and said by none:
The secret mustn't be told.

It has waited in the dark and cold,
And will wait until its wait is done.
The secret is very old.

Those who know it must withhold,
To protect it, many lies are spun:
The secret mustn't be told.

The secret is more precious than gold,
But its treasure cannot be won.
The secret is very old.

Complete destruction is foretold;
The telling has begun:
The secret mustn't be told.

There is nobody left to scold;
The secret is undone.
The secret is very old;
The secret mustn't be told.

Once upon a time, Cassy had to take a poetry class... and she hated it, just like she knew that she would, because she hates poetry.

Ok, so it wasn't a total bust.  I did end up enjoying it more than I thought that I would, but poetry is not really my thing.  In fact, while perusing old poems from that class for this post (trying to find the one that I wanted), I realized how TERRIBLE at poetry I am.  Seriously, readers, it's terrible.

But, there was one exercise where we had to write in iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets (like a sonnet, but we weren't restricted to 14 lines.)  The prompt was "talking your way out of something" and what resulted, well, wasn't half bad.  It might even make you laugh.

Instantly Ready Self-justification

I swear, a minute ago it was here
You have absolutely nothing to fear
Because I would never not do last night’s work
Though usually a writing major’s perk
Is that we have no work to take back
To your rooms once we put our books in our pack
But let me look this one last time
For the assignment we had to umm… rhyme?
Yes!  Now I remember where it went
See this time last month my mother had sent
Me an envelope with my tax forms in it
Since I never pay attention to this shit
I bet I sent my rhymes to the IRS!
It’s amazing how much they can be a pest
(Three weeks and where is my tax return?
The situation is enough to make my blood burn.)
However I am straying from my topic
My grade, you see, you can not dock it!
I am not saying an animal chowed down
On my homework in the Long Island Sound
Nor am I handing you a doctor’s note
Saying it’s not done ‘cuz of a sore throat.
I swear that it’s the God honest truth
That is unless you recognize my spoof.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Cinderella Story

***Here at Review Me Twice, Alex and I just want to express our condolences with those in Boston.  Our hearts and thoughts are with them during this time.***

We're big fans of Fairy Tales here at Review Me Twice (as we showed you when we did that post about fairy tales).  This week, we're reading Cinder by Marissa Meyer, a fun, unique take on the Cinderella story.  It's a story that we all know and love, but where did it come from?

Probably the two most famous Cinderella stories are Perrault's (that chauvinistic jerk we all know and love), and the Brother's Grimm (the slightly less masochistic jerks we love.)

You can find a pretty good copy of Perrault's version here.  It's what we typically think of when we think the Cinderella story.  An evil stepmother, two evil stepsisters, and everyone getting their comeuppance at the end.  It's actually a fairly tame version of the story, but propagates the idea the women are only worth how beautiful they are.

Why do animals always come to help princesses?

The Brother's Grimm had their own version, and was much bloodier than Perrault's.  The sisters cut of their body parts to fit their foot in the shoe, and then had their eyes pecked out to pay for their wickedness.  However, their was no Fairy Godmother in this version.  In both Perrault and the Grimm's version, the step mother is conspicuously left out of the equation.  They focus more on the evil sisters that she has.

One of the earliest known versions is Rhodopis, an Egyptian Cinderella.  Like the Grimms, her salvation is given to her by animals, as opposed to a Fairy Godmother.  But, she was ill-treated by her peers and had slippers that the Pharaoh found her with, so it's very obviously a Cinderella story.

Cinder falls into this line very well, but puts an incredibly modern twist on it (Cinderella is a cyborg!).  We still get the main elements, however, missing "slipper", evil stepmother, and the stepsisters.  

What other fairy tales do you know that have great modern twists?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Author Bio: Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer (under no circumstances to be confused with Stephanie) is a 29-year-old YA novelist, and author of this week's review book: Cinder

From her website, www.marissameyer.com

She has always - since her first understanding that "author" is a job - wanted to write. As a teen, she wrote dozens of Sailor Moon fanfics (which you can still find at fanfiction.net, under her nom de plume, Alicia Blade).

She attended Pacific Lutheran University and got a Bachelor's in Creative Writing and Children's Literature. She got a Master's in Publishing at Pace University, then worked as an editor, typesetter, and proofreader.

Cinder was her first novel, and the first of the Lunar Chronicles series. It's sort-of-sci-fi-sort-of-fantasy, drawing on the groundwork of Cinderella (which you will hear more about tomorrow!). Scarlet is the second in the series, and is out as of February. Cress is expected in 2014, and Winter in 2015.

She keeps a blog HERE, and posts fairly regularly.

We love a good up-and-coming author here at RMT!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

By Its Cover: The Casual Vacancy

This cover is easily recognizable. One of our friends (who happens to read this blog all the time, hi Anna!) got this as a gift at a party this past winter. I was across the room and couldn't make out the words on the cover, but I immediately knew what it was because of the colors and the giant black X.

I've been telling people all week that we're reviewing this book, and if I just saying, "I'm reading The Casual Vacancy" most of them give me a blank stare, like "Am I supposed to know what that is?" But if I have the book in hand and hold it up to show them what I'm reading, they say something like, "Oh, the book she wrote after Harry Potter."

So it's immediately familiar, partially because of its simplicity, partially because of its boldness and brightness, and partially because of the enormous amount of publicity it got for being Rowling's first adult, non-HP book.

I already knew, before reading the book, that there was an election involved somehow, so the cover made perfect sense. So my opinion of it didn't really change; there's still an election involved, so it still makes sense.

I agree with Alex about how recognizable the cover is.  It's bold and in your fact and, even if it wasn't highly publicized because it's by Rowling, you'd notice this book sitting on the shelf (primary colors FTW, people.)

I did not know before I picked the book up that it was about an election, but once you read the inside flap you know.  However, the cover reads VERY 1920s speak-easy to me, which, I think is very appropriate.  The 20s were a time when everyone was experimenting, everything was shady and dangerous and scandalous.  And the point of this book is that it's about everyone's scandals.  So I think the cover is very fitting.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Review Me Twice - The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

This week, A Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling!  Her first non- Harry Potter book.

This book is incredibly different than Harry Potter.  It's very adult and involved and, well, there's also the fact that it has nothing to do with magic.  Rowling has a lot to live up to in this first, Non-HP book.

In all honesty, I liked HP better.  But... well, I grew up with it.  Harry was my age when they came out, I was the target audience of the books and it's a little like watching a good friend move away when the series ended.  Nothing she ever writes is going to be HP.

Rowling can still WRITE though.  Her characters are intricate and the situations are intense until everything finally comes to it's climax (which... with the exception of one thing, you can kind of see coming from a mile away.  And her vocabulary is magical.  obstreperous, paradoxically, pusillanimous: these are just a few of the words that show  up in her book.  I mean, these are AWESOME words.

This book is made to show the ignorance of people, how quickly things can get out of hand and how nothing is really secret.  Especially in today's era, you're never just talking to one person anymore and secrets are no longer kept.  Rowling does an amazing job of showing this.

Things I didn't like about the book?  It was very slow going.  This book is a slow burn until everything finally explodes.  And that made it kind of hard to get into.  Also, there were just so many characters.  I am usually pretty good about keeping track of people, but even I had to write down all the people just so I would know who is who.  There are fifteen characters who play significant roles, and I didn't even include people who were significant, but they don't really talk.

Honestly, I think it was more that it just wasn't my kind of book.  It didn't really resonate with me and I don't think it had the kind of staying power that HP did.  But then again, what does?

My Bottom Line 3 out of 5

This is a really long book. Like, Game of Thrones long. (According to my library's catalog, the paperback of GoT is 694 pages long, and the hardback of Casual Vacancy is 503. So, not quite.)

Cassy is absolutely right about how it's really slow for a long time. I still enjoyed the slow part, though, and I think it's because there are enough characters to keep track of that it doesn't feel terribly slow, but not so many characters that you get lost. And Rowling weaves the characters together to make them easier to keep track of.

This isn't the type of story I would normally pick up off the shelf (small-town politics and drama in a place where everybody knows everybody and an ill-timed death creates problems regarding who will fill the man's seat on the council? YAWN, right?) but I actually enjoyed it. I'm going to guess that's a testament to Rowling's incredible writing skill, that she could get me really interested in something like that.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

NaPoWriMo: Meter

Last week, I promised to tell you about meter in poetry, and I know you're all just going to find this riveting, so let's get to it!

(Wrong types of meter.)

English poems are divided into feet, which are groups of stressed and unstressed syllables.

(Wrong type of feet.)

The types of feet are defined by the number and order of stressed and unstressed syllables. (In the chart below, U means an unstressed syllable and S means a stressed syllable.)

Once you figure out what kind of feet you're using, you count how many are in each line to figure out the type of meter.

So when people talk about iambic pentameter, what do they mean? That each line of the poem contains five sets of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable (five iambs, or iambic feet, per line).

So if you have a poem with four sets of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable followed by another unstressed syllable, what do you have?

Besides a headache.

Amphibrachic tetrameter, of course!

This sort of thing is only important if you're writing the types of poems that require certain meters (like a villanelle or a sonnet), or if you're aiming to write in a consistent meter for some other reason. Personally, I find it very difficult to restrict myself with a set type of meter. So if you're like me, just go nuts with your syllables and feet and such.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Favorite Harry Potter Book

Since we're talking about J K Rowling and her (non-Harry-Potter) book The Casual Vacancy this week, we are telling you about our favorite Harry Potter book!

This is not an easy choice to make. I had to go about it by deciding why each one wasn't my favorite until I had one left that I liked more than the others.

Chamber of Secrets (2) was the first to go. Gilderoy Lockhart is my least favorite of the DADA teachers (he's the one I forget when listing them all). I don't like the flying car in the beginning. When I first read it (actually, until I read Deathly Hallows) I didn't like Dobby very much. Just an all-around "meh" (as compared to the other books, not in general... it's still a great book).

Half-Blood Prince (6) is the next off the list. I can't really identify what I don't love about it, but if I were standing in front of my bookshelf deciding to read a Harry Potter book, this wouldn't be one I picked up.

The next one gone is Sorcerer's Stone (1). It's the one I've read the most, and it's beloved because it started it all, but it doesn't capture the essence of what I love about Harry Potter. It's like defining myself based on who I was in middle school instead of who I am now, if that makes sense.

Order of the Phoenix (5) goes next. I think this stems from having Cho as a love interest. (Don't get me wrong, it was great for the story; it's just not one of the best parts.) I love to hate Umbridge, and the whole Dumbledore's Army thing is great. Plus, the Department of Mysteries at the end is wonderful.

The next one to be eliminated is Deathly Hallows (7). Part of it is probably because I've read this one the least, and part of it has to do with putting Harry in the Jesus role. Sure, I don't think I took half a breath the whole time I was reading it for the first time, but now that I can step back and analyze it all, this is not my favorite. It is my favorite movie (yes, I claim two movies as my favorite), because it's epic and beautiful and sad in just the right way, and Part One has my favorite scene ever (Hermione and Harry dancing in the tent).

And the last one to go is Goblet of Fire (4). I like the World Cup at the beginning, and the introduction to Death Eaters and the Dark Mark. I like Moody (but I like him more after Deathly Hallows). I don't like Dumbledore's absence, or Harry's isolation. But the movie... if you don't get a little choked up every time you hear Mr. Diggory scream, "MY BOY!!!" then your soul is more fractured than Voldemort's.

Which leaves us with... Prisoner of Azkaban (3)! Lupin is my favorite DADA teacher, and I liked the introduction of the dementors, the boggart, Buckbeak, and the Marauder's Map and the tie-in with Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, & Prongs. I'm torn on the Time-Turner (I have great suspension of disbelief, and I like how it was used, but still... why does it never come up again?) and I don't like Hermione being shunned for so long, but that's okay.

Unlike Alex, I know EXACTLY which book is my most favorite HP book.  Coincidentally, it's also Prisoner of Azkaban, but for entirely different reasons (in fact, the reason I love it is the reason I hate book 5.)

I love Sirius Black.  LOVE him.  I think he's such a great character and such a beacon of hope for Harry and he's the first REAL connection that we have to Harry's past.  Yes, we hear about Harry's parents from Dumbledore and other peripheral characters, but Black was James's best friend.  We learn things through Black that we would have never heard otherwise.

And it's also so heartbreaking!  We learn the truth behind Harry's parent's death.  We finally figure out what happened and the story and all the things that were just faint whisperings to us until this book.

And of course, I like it for some of the reasons that Alex does.  I really like Lupin and he is easily the best dark arts teacher.  I like that it's the first year Hagrid teaches.  And I like that it's the first book that the trio doesn't get along.  They have problems, just like normal friends.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Point of View

I know I've been talking a ton about writing techniques lately, but I thought that with Camp NaNoWriMo going on, along with NaPoWriMo, that all the topics I've been approaching are things that could probably help you out.

That being said, today I'm going to talk about Point of View in narration.  There are four major types of POV: First person (I went to the store), second person (You are going to the store), Third person limited (We went to the store), and third person omniscient (Natalie went to the store, but Jed didn't want to.)

Not quite the Point of View I was talking about...

That's not to say there aren't other types of POVs, but those are the main ones, the ones that people usually use when they're writing stories.

Point of View can be used in a lot of interesting ways.  First person narration, for example.  If you've ever read Fight Club (or see the movie), it's all done in first person narration.  But the interesting thing about it, is because of that, we never actually learn the name of our main protagonist.  We hear ALL about Tyler Durden, but the person who is actually TELLING the story, never gets a name.

Some books trick you.  Gregory Maguire wrote a book, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, where we believe that the narration (which is third limited) is coming from one person, only to find out in the last chapter that the book was really from the POV of a completely different character.

Second person POV is rarely used, especially when it comes to books in English.  It's something that becomes a little more common in other languages.  That doesn't mean that authors don't do it however.  Here are just a few books that are in the second person that you may recognize: Oh, The Places You'll Go by Dr. Seuss (even the TITLE is in the second person); The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien (which, if you haven't read, you should because it's spectacular); Diary by Chuck Palahniuk (the same person who wrote Fight Club)

Third person POV is the one that is probably used most often.  Whether it be omniscient or not, it's the one that a lot of authors default to (especially new authors.)  If you are just starting out in the world of writing, this is the POV that I suggest.  Third person gives you a freedom that the other two don't.  Third limited will limited you (obviously, it's in the name) to being where the main character is, but it can give you a lot of other freedoms.  For instance, describing the things around the character, which isn't as easy to do in POV like first and second.

Honorable mention is third person limited, but with POV character shifts.  Probably the most notable book that does this is Game of Thrones.  Each chapter the reader sees only what's happening to that particular character.  However, each chapter is from the POV of a different character, giving us an odd Third Omniscient POV.  J.K. Rowling does the same thing in our book this week, A Casual Vacancy.

Know any books that do cool things with POV?  Let us know!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Author Bio: J K Rowling

This week we get to talk about J K Rowling, because we're going to review The Casual Vacancy on Friday!

The J stands for Joanne, and the K is made up, because she doesn't have a middle name. She published as J K Rowling because her publishers didn't think kids would want to read a book by a woman. (And this was the NINETIES.  Clearly, we've come far. /sarcasm  I don't understand that mentality.  There are TONS of books, with women's names on them, that sell incredibly well.)

All the best writers always look like they're keeping a secret from you

She was born in July 1965, and grew up in Chepstow, England. She wrote fantasy stories as a child (which obviously paid off later in life). Her home life was difficult as an adolescent, and she loosely based Hermione on herself (in the sense of her bookishness and know-it-all-ness).

She received her degree in French and Classics from Exeter University. She taught English as a second language in Portugal for a time. That's where she met Jorge Arantes in a bar (they bonded over a mutual fondness for Jane Austen) and they married in 1992. Their daughter was born in July 1993. Rowling divorced her husband that November (he was abusive). She and her daughter moved to Scotland to live with her sister.

She felt like a huge failure at the time, but she found this to be liberating. All she had left were the things that really mattered: her daughter, a typewriter, and a Big Idea (the idea for Harry Potter had sprung into her mind, fully developed, on a plane ride). She says "rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life." That is, of course, through the rosy lens of hindsight. At the time, she was diagnosed with depression (which inspired the dementors) and - as everyone remembers from the early days of the Harry Potter craze - she was on welfare.

She remarried on December 26, 2001. She now has three daughters.

She finished writing Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's (or Philosopher's) Stone in 1995 on a manual typewriter. It appealed to the young daughter of a publishing house chairman (she immediately demanded the second chapter after reading the first). Although she had been encouraged to take another job - because who makes money in children's books? - she was given a grant from the Scottish Arts Council to allow her to continue writing.

The rest is history. The first book was an enormous hit, and she produced the others at regular intervals, finishing with Deathly Hallows, and providing the supplementary Tales of Beedle the Bard in 2008. The books have all been adapted to film (extremely successful film, at that, smashing box office records to bits). In June 2011, the Pottermore website was launched (and is currently at 18,000 words of extra content to supplement the books and films). Rowling is so beloved, her work was included in the London Olympics opening ceremony, with a giant, inflated Voldemort (alongside other English literary characters). Rowling herself participated in the ceremony by reading some lines from Peter Pan.

After the raging success of Harry Potter, she was naturally asked about further publications. She doesn't plan on any more Harry Potter books, but she does intend to publish an encyclopedia of the Harry Potter world. Instead, she published a (very long) novel for adults: The Casual Vacancy.

Rowling was the first person identified by Forbes as having become a US-dollar billionaire from writing books. She is the second richest female entertainer in the world (following Oprah Winfrey, and let's face it, no one is ever going to make more money than that woman). Forbes removed her from their lists due to the high tax rates in England and her large charitable donations.

Rowling is well-known for her extreme generosity as a great philanthropist. She set up a trust called Volant. One of the projects it feeds is anti-poverty/children's welfare (because of her time on welfare as a single mother while writing the first HP book). It also supports multiple sclerosis research, because that is what her mother suffered from before her death in 1990 (the inspiration from which Rowling attributes much of the success of Harry Potter).

Personally, I think Rowling is a great inspiration for writers everywhere.  She came from nothing and ended up with everything, and she did it without becoming a total jerk.  I think that she's a prime example of how writing can be successful, if you really stick with it (and maybe add a little bit of luck.)