Saturday, December 31, 2016

Ladies with Kick-Butt Class



In stories, some female characters in books tend to be portrayed as strong. They hold their own against the male characters, rivaling them in strength or wits. Others are strong for their personality, not merely their physical or mental strength. They stick out.

Sometimes, female characters can be both kick-butt awesome, and still be very much a lady like you might see in a Jane Austen novel. Female characters, heroines or supporting characters, don’t have to be all tough and take on a warrior role. They can be as much a warrior with a quiet spirit as they can be with attitude. It’s a unique kind of power all it own.

J.R.R. Tolkien has some of the most kick-butt lady characters I’ve ever read. They’re not competing with the men, fighting for equal footing, but they are still among the strongest characters I’ve seen. They’re tough women, but also ladylike. Elegant, respectful. This kind of character could be a unique twist on the female characters in our stories, and offer a different view.

In Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, I found several of these types of ladies. One of the more well-known is Luthien. Boy, let me tell you, that woman is kick-butt. She went face-to-face with Morgoth himself, showing zero fear. She sang to him, enchanting him to distract him from her husband, Beren. She chased Sauron out of his lair. She scared off Sauron, guys. But all the while, she still seemed very much a noble lady. Perhaps it was the style of Tolkien’s writing, but I suspect her character was quite ladylike.


Another Silmarillion lady is Melian, wife of Thingol and mother of Luthien. While she didn’t go off on adventures like her daughter, Melian is still pretty impressive. She can prophesy the future, and her magic was strong enough to keep enemies out of their lands. She’s also very wise, and even advised her husband on certain matters. But she didn’t try to challenge his authority. She conducted herself like a queen. And that made her pretty awesome.

Melian and Luthien seem to be the more quiet types of ladies in Tolkien’s world, but there are others who are a little more warrior-princess. And even these types can be excellent ladylike characters to use. They can grace the page, and they can also quickly assert themselves as a force to be reckoned with. But they also don’t seem to try and challenge any male authority over them.

Perhaps the more well-known lady of Middle Earth in this regard is Eowyn. She cared for her father, and seemed respectful of the men she encountered, but she also knows how to kick some serious butt. She took down the lord of the Nazguls. That kind of personality would make for a unique character in a story, and a fresh look at strong women characters.


So all three of these kinds of personalities would make for intriguing characters. Melian, Luthien, and Eowyn all are very strong ladies. They know their own minds, and they can be seriously intimidating when they want to be. But at the same time, all of them have a ladylike quality to them. They seem to suggest elegance and grace to go with their kick-butt moments. A female character like that could provide some interesting dynamics in a story. Instead of a sassy woman who knows how to hold her own against a man, who might rile the man up to push back, a woman who assumes the air of a lady, but also gives the impression that she won’t tolerate being messed with, could make for some interesting situations. The men (and other women) in the story may recognize that this person requires respect, and that’s probably a power all its own, without having to get up in anyone’s face.

This shouldn’t be the template for female characters, of course. They shouldn’t all be this way. Some should simply be ladies, perhaps with little to none of the kick-butt. Some should be the kind of girl to challenge the male characters. They all have their pros and cons. The type of lady I see in Tolkien’s work seemed like a unique character that I’ve not often seen in stories. A woman who isn’t vying for dominance, but does have a power of her own, while being a lady at the same time.

Having power and strength doesn’t always mean being tough and able to stand among the men. Sometimes, it’s quieter, like Melian’s. Or perhaps it’s a power in qualities that were likely cultured by a lady’s environment, like Luthien’s beauty and her singing voice, instead of skill with a sword or bow and arrow. A character who is an elegant lady with that kind of strength can provide a whole new layer of depth to a story, when she can control a situation without making a loud statement about her power.

(Images found via Pinterest.)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

An Imposter of Good


(There are spoilers for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. You’ve been warned.)

Sometimes, it’s a little hard to tell the difference between good and evil. Evil can dress itself up as good and become appealing, or something a character desires. And when he lets it in, it can lay down roots, and it keeps on acting like it’s good, but it only makes things worse for the character the deeper it gets.

After watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and after a few discussions with friends, I’m seeing how this seems to be true in the movie. Credence is a boy abused by the woman who dares call herself his adopted mother. She beats him, so Credence finds a gentle hand in Graves. He finds a seemingly protective father figure, and he craves the gentle, caring touch Graves offers, and an offer to become a wizard. In exchange, he helps Graves locate the child with the obscurus.


However, Graves is not the kindly man he pretends to be. He’s greedy (he is the hunted Gelert Grindelwald, after all) and a liar. He gives Credence the love he needs, and dangles an additional reward just out of reach to ensure continued obedience. Graves recognizes this need in Credence and gives it to him, making Credence a tool he can use, without having any attachment at all. It’s a false face, and we can even see hints of how Graves has intruded upon Credence’s space, how he may not have built up the trust, but forced it upon Credence right away. The boy is briefly hesitant whenever Graves is about to touch him, as if he expects a blow, but Credence’s desire for it is so strong that he only sees the gentleness and fatherly affection he’s given.

And when Graves at last betrays Credence, and Credence’s powers lash out, Graves recognizes his mistake and tries to regain the lost trust. He apologizes, but now Credence can see beyond the mask. Graves is just like his adopted mother. Worse, even. Graves trampled on every promise he gave, every hope he gave Credence. Evil tainted whatever façade Graves had, and that stain can’t be easily removed.

In contrast, Newt takes an entirely different approach to Credence. He recognizes a frightened boy, and just as he would with any frightened creature, he approaches cautiously, giving Credence space if he needs it, but offering his friendship. Newt’s offer respects Credence’s space, and it’s genuine. Newt makes himself small, nonthreatening. He doesn’t thrust his presence upon Credence like Graves does and force his way into Credence’s trust. He asks Credence for permission to approach. He lets Credence make the first decision. Newt has only to speak quietly, calmly, and only make a move if Credence gives him the go ahead.

Granted, Newt never made it this far, but it still kind of shows how Newt lets Credence make the calls.

Evil can offer a character what he wants, sometimes with immediate results, and with a promise of something more later on. It can use his desires to make the character nothing but a tool for the villain to use for his own ends. Good doesn’t use a character and then throw him away. Given the chance, Newt would have done all in his power to help Credence, without asking for anything in return. He recognized Credence’s fear, his needs, and Newt immediately addressed them for Credence’s sake, not for his own. Tina follows the same approach, speaking gently, offering comfort and safety. Her own motherly approach offered the same thing Graves had offered, but this time, it’s real.

Good and evil can be the same way in other stories. Evil intrudes, but it dangles something the character desperately wants, so the intrusion and the motives behind it are veiled. It uses the character only for its own purposes. Good treats the character like a person, addressing the character’s needs. It has no veiled motives. Good is genuine. Evil is an imposter.

It was an interesting contrast in the movie, and I liked seeing then and later during discussions how it played out, how Graves seemed so gentle, but had ulterior motives and cared nothing for Credence, and how Newt exhibited genuine concern, and cared enough to ask Credence’s permission before doing anything around him, understanding how fragile Credence’s mental state was. It’s an interesting aspect to write about, a possible layer behind the characters that we write. Evil can tempt a character to do things they may not usually do, but disguises it as something noble or useful, or perhaps keeps their eyes on something desirable. Good, while it may not satisfy the desires of a character right away, can offer what they need, without any thought for selfish gain. These kinds of facets make the age-old Good vs. Evil struggle even more complex, and can make one think a little more when making a distinction between the two.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The "Smashing and Dashing" Character Awards

The end of the year is approaching. It’s been a bit crazy, but it’s been good. :3 I finished college this year, I became an aunt, and I got a ton of writing done (two Camp NaNos, and November NaNo, along with lots of other writerly projects).

I also got a lot of reading done. I’ve still got some books I’d like to get done (they’re due back at the library by the end of the month. o.o), but I’m happy with all I did get done. I’ve read 41 books thus far, and I’ve enjoyed nearly all of them.

Buuuut instead of rambling about how they were so good and stuff, I found a really fun tag created by Cait over at Paperfury: An awards tag for book characters. B) I thought it would be fun to do, and fangirl a little over the characters I read about over the year. :3


1. MOST RELATABLE CHARACTER
Hmm… Menolly from The Dragonsong trilogy, or Anne Smith from Persuasion. I could relate to their struggles in some areas, and I saw part of me in them.

2. MOST PURE AND PRECIOUS ANIMAL COMPANION
Huan the Hound in The Silmarillion. He was so loyal to Beren and Luthien. X3

3. FIERCEST FIGHTER
Tulkas from The Silmarillion and Mott from The False Prince trilogy. B) Mott is just epic all around, and he knows how to handle Sage when he’s being snarky and annoying. XD Tulkas is awesome too. :3 He’s one of the Valar, and when he fights, he’s always laughing. He’s that awesome. B) Also maybe Chaol Westfall from the Throne of Glass series… I would pay a lot to see those three fight. XD


4. MOST AMAZING SIDEKICK
Mm, I’ll probably have to go with Hearth and Blitz from Magnus Chase: The Sword of Summer. They were an amusing duo, but they know their stuff when it comes down to it. And while they both have their own troubling pasts, they do what they have to do to keep Magnus safe.

Also Hearth is just a precious elf, okay?

5. ONE YOU’RE SURPRISED YOU LOVED
I think Celaena from the Throne of Glass series. Most of my favorite characters have been guys, with very few females. I’m still trying to figure out why (I have theories, but not a lot to back it up at present). But Celaena I really liked soon after meeting her. She’s not moody most of the time, or withdrawn (or she wasn’t in book 1). She likes talking, likes dresses (and can still kick some major butt), and likes candy. She’s a precious child who is currently very broken (I’m on book 3), but I loved how in the first book she seemed so likeable and friendly, despite being an assassin. She seemed like somebody I would actually enjoy hanging out with. I’m hoping in the next books I see more of that again. :3


6. BEST SASSMASTER
Wow there wasn’t even any contest here. XD Prince Jaron (also known as Sage) from the Ascendance Trilogy. He sassed everyone, even when he probably shouldn’t, and his sarcasm and snark made me smile every time. XD He is sassmaster of the year. Fight me.

7. BEST ANTI-HERO AND MORALLY GREY GRAPE
Probably Delilah Bard from A Darker Shade of Magic. She’s a thief, but she ends up helping Kel, so…?

I can’t think of other good examples from this year. XD

8. BEST WORST VILLAIN TO HATE
I think Cinder’s stepmom Adri from Cinder wins this award. At first I wasn’t sure, but then I remembered a deed that woman did that was just CRUEL and she is scum. >_> She’s not the main villain, but I think she kinda topped Levana with what she did. >_>

9. TRULY ASTOUNDING WORST YA PARENTS
Adri from Cinder (look at her, winning these kinds of awards!) and Chaol’s father from The Throne of Glass series. Adri is basically the evil stepmother from Cinderella, so she’s pretty nasty (if you didn’t gather that from number 8). She spoils her biological daughters, but she treats Cinder like a servant.

But boy, does Chaol’s father come pretty close. He essentially disowned his own son when Chaol wanted to stay at the castle instead of be his father’s heir. And now his father blackmails him whenever Chaol needs help.

They make truly horrible parents, guys. >_>

10. TRULY ASTOUNDING BEST YA PARENTS
Out of the books read this year, that award easily goes to Captain Raymond and his wife, Violet, from the Elsie DInsmore series. No doubt. Also possibly Elsie Dinsmore. They’re Christian parents, and they raise their children to fear and love God. Their faith inspires their children, and they are just about the most well-behaved kids in the history of ever. XD Or the history of my reading in 2016. ;)

11. TOOT TOOT BEST SHIP OF THEM ALL
Beren and Luthien from The Silmarillion. X3 Toegther they’re kinda kick-butt. They took on Sauron, for crying out loud! And they’re basically the most faithful couple ever and I will protect them.


12. THE MOST IN NEED OF PROTECTION
Oh wow, I think we’re gonna have a crowd here…

Dorian (Throne of Glass).
Kel (A Darker Shade of Magic).
Hearth (Magnus Chase: The Sword of Summer).
Piemur (Dragondrums).

Because they’re all precious and they’re all struggling with things and just I want to hug them all and protect them from the danger of their worlds, okay?

13. MOST BORING AS A BARNACLE
Uhh… currently, I can’t think of any from past books I’ve read, but in my current read, Heir of Fire (The Throne of Glass series), I’d have to say the Blackbeak witch heir Manon? I have very little interest in her character, only what’s going on around her. She’s just… not that exciting for me. She was creepier when I first saw her, but right now she’s just kind of meh.

14. BEST LITTLE ROYAL
Doriannnn. :3 :3 I liked him from the start to be honest. XD He’s a precious boy, though a bit of flirt. He’s friendly, and I like how he’s always there for somebody if they need a friendly ear or shoulder to lean on, even when he’s got problems he needs to work out. :3

15. VERY SURPRISED YOU’RE STILL ALIVE
Will there be irony when I say Sam Miracle?

Yes. The answer is yes.

I can’t really think of anybody I’m legit surprised that they’re not dead, so I give this award out of humor. ;) Sam Miracle is from Outlaws of Time, and he has already died.

A lot.

It’s complicated, but there you go. XD


16. BEST AT HORRIBLE DECISION MAKING
I don’t know if there’s anybody I read who made really awful decisions… of course lots of characters have made poor decisions, but I don’t know if there’s anyone in particular who was the best at it.

But if I have to pick somebody… Magnus Chase, I think. I mean, come on, he dies within the first few chapters. XD ;) He comes back and had zero idea of what was happening, but still. I’d say that counts as being the best at making bad choices. ;)

17. CUTEST DORK
Colin from Storm Siren. Seriously, this boy was so adorable I loved him right off. XD His personality caught me off guard, but that just made me love him more. He’s flirty, and he’s just a big cuddly dork. XD XD

18. CLEVEREST LITTLE HELLION
I think Prince Jaron/Sage wins this one. He literally drives everyone insane, friend and foe. He’s a complete imp, but whatever he plans, it often works out. And after all he faked his own death/disappearance and managed to get into a competition to become his own imposter. How can this kid NOT be clever? XD

19. MOST IN NEED OF A NAP
Milo from The Phantom Tollbooth. This precious child goes through so much that rarely ever makes any amount of sense, but he just rolls with it and makes it all work. It’s all so crazy, the kid needs a nap. XD

20. WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT YOU
Is it cheating if I say Jaron again?

Do I care if it’s cheating?

So yeah, I would read about Jaron forever and not even be sorry. XD He’s a precious boy, and I love his sarcasm, and how he’s fiercely protective of his country and the people he loves. I would love to read more adventures with him in them. :3

Which would also mean I get Mott too, so that’s a bonus. B)


Images found via Pinterest.


What about you??? Who do you think should win these awards? What character do you think is the cutest dork of 2016? ;)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sunshine Blogger Award Tag!




I’m back with another tag! :D I have been tagged by Katelyn for the Sunshine Blogger Award! :3 This looks really fun, so let’s dive in. B) Thanks for the tag, Katelyn! :D

Ze Rules:
·       Thank the person who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
·       Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
·       Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
·       List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

Ze Questions:
1.) What’s your favorite movie?
Wahh, umm… I don’t know. Big Hero 6, perhaps. Or the Giver. Or Saving Mr. Banks.

2.) A song that made an impact on you.
Ooh… “Whom Shall I Fear” by Chris Tomlin. Or “Every Giant Will Fall” by Rend Collective.

3.) Math or creative writing.
Creative writing. Math is my mortal enemy.

4.) Do you have any pets? If so, what are they? If not, what kind of pet would you choose?
My family has a male Welsh Corgi named Hurley, and a female cat named Cornbread. :3 We also have laying hens. :3

5.) The last book you read.
Storm Siren by Mary Weber.

6.) What’s your favorite TV show?
Ooh… Falling Skies, I think. I really enjoyed that show. X3 My favorite show that’s currently airing would be Poldark. :D

7.) If you could forget a book and read it over again for the first time, which one would you choose?
Ooh… Harry Potter, actually. Last I read it was ages ago, so I don’t remember much anyway, and I don’t know if I really got into them. It would be interesting to see if I got reallybinvested in them now. :D

8.) Do you prefer cold weather or warm weather?
Cold, I think. I like being able to get cozy. :3

9.) What’s your favorite color?
Darkish teal.

10.) What’s your favorite artist/band?
Currently, I’d have to say Rend Collective. :D They are really fun to listen to. :3

11.) What’s your favorite genre in books?
Fantasy. :D All sorts of fantasy. :3

Who I Shall Tag:
-Zac T. Austin
-Nichole
-Jeneca
-K.T. Ivanrest
-Gabriela Paige
-Kel Giese
-I don’t know who else to tag. o.O So if you wanna do it, *boops you* consider yourself tagged! B)

Ze Questions for Those Tagged:
1.) Would you rather be a dragon or a basilisk?
2.) Rain or sunshine?
3.) First protagonist you remember creating? (if you’re not a witer, first protagonist you loved to read?)
4.) Favorite ice-cream flavor?
5.) Last song you sang in the car?
6.) Favorite word?
7.) It’s a lazy day and you’ve gotten all of your school/work done. What do you do?
8.) It’s the end of the world, and you have time to grab only one weapon to fight off the undead. What do you grab?
9.) What do you look forward to most on Christmas?
10.) Disney or Pixar?
11.) You’ve just received a million dollars. What do you buy?

Onward then, my tagged minions! Spread sunshine throughout the blogging realms!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Book Review: The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)




When Milo finds an odd, “build it yourself” tollbooth in his home, he’s not entirely prepared for the adventure it takes him on (although he handles himself exceptionally well!), or the people he meets. Nor is he entirely prepared for the princess-saving quest he volunteers for.

The Phantom Tollbooth is the whimsy and nonsensical charm and color of Alice in Wonderland, but it has a plot and a direction. A lot of the time the adventures Milo has, or the people he meets, makes a total of zero sense. Sometimes you sit back and just go, “what did I just read?”

But it works. The color and charm of the story makes the nonsense make sense (now who’s not making sense??). Milo explores the world and begins to see that something is amiss, and he goes off on a quest to fix it, while seeing unique lands and people all over in the meanwhile.

All of the characters are different from each other, and they all have their own quirks and charms that may or may not make sense, but Milo (and readers) just kind of learn to go with it. It’s quite adorable to meet so many different characters. No two are really alike, so you get something new each time.

But my favorite part of the book was the play on words that filled the pages. Nearly everywhere the author played tricks with words and what they meant, and every time it was funny and made me grin. It’s exceptionally clever, and provides another layer of whimsy to the world Milo explores.


***

There was nothing major to note, really, that could be considered questionable. There may have been very minor instances of violence, but I don’t recall anything that would make readers uneasy. Demons do play a part in this book, as the villains, however (but even they aren’t written to be too twisted/evil).