Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Top 5 Books of All Time

This changes from time to time if I discover a truly remarkable book, but as of right now, these are my top 5 books.

I pick these books based on a 4-point criteria. The principles I consider are plot; characters; style; relatibility/what they mean to me & what I take away from them at the end.

Unfortunately, I have a very hard time ranking these from 1-5, so I'm not going to. Just know these are the top 5, in alphabetical order.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Plot - This story is amazing & even the smallest things end up being important. The story also doesn't drag along.
Characters - The characters in this book are very original, yet the main character Shadow is still easy to relate to. All the characters are very developed, no matter how small a part they play.
Style - I don't even know how to describe Gaiman's style, just that it would include every synonym for "amazing" I know. I would even look some new ones up. I think people would just have to read it to understand.
What it means to me & What I took away - I liked the way this book approached faith, without encroaching on any one person's beliefs. So I was still able to keep my devout belief in God, and in a strange way, actually made it stronger. Also, his style helped me with my own writing. Secondly, I think I gained a much broader idea of faith.

Devilish by Maureen Johnson
Plot - This story is great & moves along quickly. A modern "selling your soul" story, which tackles how to beat the deal someone you know enters into with a devil.
Characters - Johnson writes the best characters in my opinion, always unique but so real you probably know someone just like them. And the depth of the characters is amazing, makes them whole.
Style - Maureen Johnson is my favorite writer, so I had to include her in my top 5. Her style is witty, funny, and thought-provoking. I like to look at her style, in this book especially, as an example of amazing writing.
What it means to me & what I got from it - I think this is a great coming of age book, that shows the strength that friendship can reach. This is another book that helped with my own writing, as I said.

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
Plot - This is a story that never gets old, and is played out time and time again in real life. A person doing all he can to win back his true love that he lost to someone else? No one can say that hasn't happened to them or someone they know. But despite how often this story is played out, Fitzgerald manages to have something original and in my opinion, he's perfected that story.
Characters - These characters are real, original, and deep. And honestly, I fell in love with Gatsby. The rest were just like people I actually know.
Style - This book is a masterpiece. Fitzgerald has a style all his own that is on a whole other level above any other author I've ever read. And the objective stance of the narrator is fabulous, considering how involved he gets.
What it means/What I got - This book truly touched me deep down in a soul-wretching way. The ending really hurt me in a way no other book has been able to. That alone is enough to get this book into my top 5, everything else is what makes it my #1. The icing on the cake is that this book has readability. I feel like each time I unconver this book I find a new layer of meaning in it, and that I will never be able to get to the center of it.

Stravaganza: City of Masks by Mary Hoffman
Plot - I have always loved this books, it's one of the first books I ever fell in love with, and the plot is one of the reasons for it. I really like the idea of being transported to another world, but in a different way than most books have done it. And giving a cancer patient the chance to live a full life free of his pain is really touching.
Characters - The main character, Lucien/Luciano is the first character I ever fell in love with. I love his depth & sincerity. And Arianna is fantastic & relatible, as are all the rest.
Style - This was the first book I read from different view points. I think this is such a cool idea that really helps move the story along and give it new sides.
What it means/what I got - This book was the first book, and one of the very very few books to ever make me cry. It was able to reach into me and touch my heart. In fact, though I don't cry anymore, I still come very close everytime I read the end of this book. Also, I took that fabulous idea of different view points and applied it to my own writing, and I honestly believe that it has made a world of difference in my books.

Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll
Plot - What a cute imaginative story! This is a great story to share with anyone, especially children.
Characters - These are the most unique characters of any book I've ever read. Alice is very innocent, and the Red Queen overbearing, and the White Knight is helpful and imaginative. This book has a wide cast where every character is very different from any other.
Style - I think the most notable thing about the writing style in this book is the crossing of rivers. Every time Alice crossed a river to bring her into a new square Lewis put in a zigzag of astricks. It was the simplest way to show a change, and also looked like a river, in a way that the reader also jumps over the river.
What it meant/what I got - I had to include this book in my top 5 because it's the book that made me fall in love with reading. I re-read this book at least once a year and it never gets old. This book will always hold a special place in my heart. In fact, I was reading from my great-grandmother's leather-bound pocket edition, which was mint condition when I got it...and I read it so many times when I was younger that the cover fell off and the pages began to yellow and come out. I have a new copy now, but I refuse to get rid of my original.

My Top Books of 2007

Alright, I've read 105 books, comics, & manga this year and I've gone through them again to try and decide what my top books are. This is really hard because I read so many great books this year. I don't think there were any I didn't like.

In order of when I read them, because I doubt I could rank these. I'm including first reads only.

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney -- My little brother was reading this and forgot it at home one day, and I picked it up. I couldn't put it down until I finished it. This book was hilarious! And the way Kinney wrote it, half journal-half comic, was inspiring and made the story move along easier. I highly recommend this book to people of all ages.

  • Young Adult
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix by JK Rowling -- This is my favorite book of the entire Harry Potter series, which I read at the very beginning of the year. The plot of this book is fabulous and the entire scene in the Department of Mysteries was amazing. Do not judge this book by its movie because the movie doesn't even begin to compare in my opinion.

  • Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier -- The fabulous first book in the Magic or Madness series which poses an interesting choice: use your magic and die young, or ignore your power and go insane. It's really cool to see the story told by three different and unique characters from two different continents.

  • Twilight, New Moon, & Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer -- I usually don't go for the "vampire in love with a mortal" books, but my friends finally got me to read this series & I really like it. I'm not really a fan of the main character, but its the action & vampires & werewolves that keep me going. New Moon is definately my favorite, and shows Meyer's unique style the best of the three.

  • Magic's Child by Justine Larbalestier -- the amazing last book in the Magic or Madness trilogy. I loved the ending of this series, very interesting! But I won't spoil anything, you'll have to read it for yourself.

  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson -- I love Maureen's books first off, and this is one of my favorites. I love the odd coming-of-age adventure, it keeps you interested the whole way through. The ending was unexpected, and splendidly done. And Maureen's characters are always the best part of her books.

  • Devilish by Maureen Johnson -- My favorite of Maureen's books. This book is very adventurous & interesting. Johnson's style of writing in this book amazes me. I wrote down one of the scenes in my notebook to look back on it every now and again as an example of great writing.

  • Feed by MT Anderson -- I love this book. These characters seem real, because they talk like teens, even if it would be offensive to some readers. The story is fantastic and I love Anderson's style. Absolutely love it.

  • Extras by Scott Westerfeld -- The sequel to Westerfeld's Uglies series. This one happens after the events in Specials, in a new area, with a new character. Honestly this is my favorite in the entire series. I think it was the change of main character, because I never really liked Tally, whereas I really like Aya. And this book gets extra points from me because the whole face-rank system is interesting & satorical.

  • Adult
  • The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare -- A classic play that I ended up falling in love with, despite my preconceptions of it. It was hilarious and amusing with its odd take on a love story. Seeing this play performed shortly after I read it was great too.

  • The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger -- This book blew me away, seriously. I'm glad to finally find a book that represents time travel as non-changing, because I'm tired of "let's go back in time & change it" stories. The disjointed way of telling this story works so well for this book & the characters are fabulous.

  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison -- This book is so different from anything else I usually read. Honestly, it disturbed me most of the time, but the funny thing is, that's why I liked it. It was real, unlike most books out these days--even the nonfiction stories. Morrison doesn't worry about what's acceptable or not, she just writes what's real and holds nothing back.

  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman -- I love this book. So much. I took a chance on this book, taking advice from one of the leaders of a local book club. Another book that doesn't hold back. The story stayed interesting every bit of the way, and nothing written wasn't important, no matter how small it seemed at first. And Gaiman's style and characters are astounding.
  • Reading List July-December 2007

    July 2007
  • The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

  • Civil War: Fantastic Four #541 by Michael Straczynski

  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

  • Harry Potter and the Deathy Hallows by JK Rowling

  • X-Factor #21 by Peter David

  • X-Factor #22 by Peter David

  • X-Men Endangered Species by Mike Carey

  • Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #21 by Peter David

  • August 2007
  • Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

  • The Next Adventures of Guy by Norm Cowie

  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles Vol 13 by CLAMP

  • Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles Vol 14 by CLAMP

  • Devilish by Maureen Johnson

  • Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #23 by Peter David

  • Marvel Adventures Hulk #2

  • Gambit: House of Cards

  • X-Men #200 by Mike Carey

  • Uncanny X-Men #488 by Brubaker

  • New X-Men #40 by Christopher Yost

  • X-Factor #23 by Peter David

  • X-Men #202 by Mike Carey

  • September 2007
  • Blue is for Nightmares by Laurie Faria Stolarz

  • Feed by MT Anderson

  • Fruits Basket Vol 17 by Natsuki Takaya

  • Ouran Host Club Vol 9 by Bisco Hatori

  • October 2007
  • So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld

  • Extras by Scott Westerfeld

  • Thursday Next: A First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde

  • Piratica II: Return to Parrot Island by Tanith Lee

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

  • Generation X: Genogoths by J Steven York

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

  • X-Factor #24 by Peter David

  • X-Factor #25 by Peter David

  • Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

  • November 2007
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

  • December 2007
  • Fruits Basket Vol 18 by Natsuki Tayaka

  • New X-Men #44 by Craig Kyle & Chris Yost

  • Fall in Love Like a Comic by Chitose Yagami

  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman

  • Runaways Vol 1 by Brian K Vaughan

  • Colossus: Bloodline

  • Spider-Man: Breakout
  • Friday, December 28, 2007

    Chicago Ranked 36th Most Literate City

    For the last 10 years Central Connecticut State University has ranked America's largest cities in terms of most literate. This is done using six factors: number of booksellers; education; Internet Resources; Library Resources; Newspaper Circulation; and Periodical publications.

    The top 10 are as follows:
    Minneapolis, MN
    Seattle, WA (last year's #1)
    St. Paul, MN
    Denver, CO
    Washington, DC
    St. Louis, MO
    San Francisco, CA
    Atlanta, GA
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Boston, MA

    Living in the South Chicago Suburbs, I was curious how well Chicago ranked and was dismayed when I found it at number 40, falling from 39 last year, but rising from 46 in 2005. Overall 69 cities were ranked, so 40 puts Chicago in the bottom half. With Chicago being the 3rd most populated city in the US this puts are literacy rate low. In 2000 there were 78 libraries within the city limits of Chicago and 596 public schools (elementary & secondary). 28.2% of Chicagoans above age 25 have not received a high school diploma.

    I've checked many different sources and all the data I received from each one disappointed me. What could we do to raise our rankings? What could we do to keep kids in school? What could we do to promote reading?
  • Support the schools. The better the school, the more likely a student is to stay through high school and the higher standard of learning the school provides.

  • Support local libraries. Some people see libraries as outdated because they don't have the funds available to keep up with the technological growth.

  • Support organizations such as First Read that help children learn to read and provide them with the resources necessary.

  • Or the simplest thing anyone can do:
  • Read to children.
  • As a parent, the best way to encourage education is to read to your child. Teach them how to read, how to improve their skills, and make it interesting. Also children do what they see their parents do. If a child sees a parent reading, they'll want to read. But if they see their parent do nothing but watch tv, they might not take the initiative to do anything else.
    You can also read to your younger siblings or cousins or neighbors. You could volunteer at your local library or elementary school. Just read to them.

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    Never Underestimate Nerds in Large Groups

    On Monday 17 December 2007 at 12:00 (EST) the "Power Project for Awesome" hit the net, or more specifically, YouTube. What was this project? It was a fabulous idea thought up and made possible by John & Hank Green, the brothers of Brotherhood 2.0, in which they asked all of their NerdFighters (their fans) to make a video on YouTube, all with the same thumbnail center image. In these videos the brothers asked us, the video-making NerdFighters, to promote a charity. Then, over the course of the next 24 hours the NerdFighters took the web, commenting, rating, favoriting, and subscribing to these hundreds of videos in order to get them onto the Most Discussed Page on YouTube. This way, all the videos on that page would have the same thumbnail and would also help the cause to decrease WorldSuck. And it worked.

    This project was one of the best uses for the internet and social networking I've ever seen. It combined viral marketing with charity in a way to decrease WorldSuck by increasing the amount of awesome the NerdFighters daily put out. John and Hank have really come upon something great here and have banded together over 4000 people worldwide and have not let them hanging. The project started out with two brothers making videos and grew to a movement. These two did not forget to be awesome.

    The impact of this project--not just the Power Project for Awesome--but Brotherhood 2.0 in general--is unbelievable and I doubt we've even seen the full extent of its affect yet. In the beginning, John and Hank were fun to watch and gave us entertainment, then they gathered a following which grouped every weekday in the comment threads on the videos (both on YouTube & And then it grew to a large, awesome community with the creation of the Brotherhood 2.0 forum, My Pants. In My Pants (that joke never gets old) the NerdFighters were able to connect with each other and talk about ways to decrease WorldSuck and generally spread around the awesome. But the Power Project was a whole other level of awesome. It took a great idea and great people and combined them with an even greater cause. All it took was a mailing list and a few thousand devoted NerdFighters. YouTube didn't know what hit them.

    It all goes to show you, don't underestimate the power of nerds (or rather, NerdFighters) in large groups.

    Brotherhood 2.0 is winding down to its last days now, ending on the 31st of December 2007 with the end of the year. It's been a good run, but all good things must come to an end. We will miss the daily videos, but I don't see the end of the NerdFighter movement anywhere in sight. These are the kinds of things that last. Trekkies will never give up their costumes and stop going to conventions and the NerdFighters will never stop their fight against WorldSuck.

    Thank you, John and Hank Green, for giving us something special.

    And now, I will link to my favorite videos involved in this project, as well as more articles & information on it.
    Hank Green's explanation of the project
    John Green's video on the project
    Power Project for Awesome: italktosnakes, cause: First Book
    Power Project for Awesome: skystreak22 in which they show us a computer from 1985, cause: Hearts & Horses
    Power Project for Awesome: ransriggs, causes: one laptop for child; Reading is Fundamental
    Power Project for Awesome: SongsfromaHat which features an awesome song, cause: Mr. Holland's Opus
    Power Project for Awesome: Charlieissocoollike, cause: Teenage Cancer Trust
    Power Project for Awesome: Johnnysmooth, cause: SOS Children's Villiage (we share this cause)
    Power Project for Awesome: Namlhots in which Tom donates a kidney, causes: Red Cross & Locks of Love (we share this cause)
    Power Project for Awesome: ObsessiveJez, hey that's me!, causes: Locks of Love & SOS Children's Villiage (part project/part Insomniac Theatre, my infrequent vlog)
    All of the videos involved in the Power Project for Awesome
    Brotherhood 2.0
    The Brotherhood 2.0 channel on YouTube
    The My Pants Forum

    Thursday, December 13, 2007


    I will not be posting about the controversy with The Golden Compass. I really, really want to, but I made a promise that I wouldn't because I get very upset about it.

    But in short, I think it's stupid and ironic and without justification.

    (but you are free to ask me to defend my stance via email or MSN messenger)

    For anyone who wants to read about this on-going debate, I suggest you check out this thread on Scott Westerfeld's blog & his own commentary here. I will be printing out a copy of Scott's argument & giving it to my aunt the next time I see her.

    NaNoWriMo Participant Interviews Part 3: Casye

    And now we come to the third and final installment of this year's NaNoWriMo participant interviews (unless any are out there who want to be me). Up to bat now is Casye who in my opinion is a spectacular writer. Unfortunately she did not finish her NaNo this year because she was too busy with her work in Children of Eden (which I can't wait to see btw), but she did find the time to answer my questions.

    It's very hard to keep writing when you realize how bad it is, but the best thing to do is ignore it and continue. Remind yourself that you have no deadline for editing, just one for word count.

    Like I always say: November is for writing, December is for editing (and/or burning)

    My advice to other writers is write about what you love. If you pick something that you think will make millions of dollars, but you don't absolutely adore it, you're gonna go nowhere. I advise people to write what they really want to say and the things that they have always thought privately, but have been too afraid to say so outloud. Don't be afraid! Say exactly what you feel in novel form. It can even be social commentary.

    I love that piece of advice, it's very true. This is probably why our research papers are so boring...

    You can read the full interview with Casye here or go back and read the previous interviews with Anita and Jessica.

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    NaNoWriMo Participant Interviews, Part 2: Anita

    Here is the second interview, in which I talk to published author Anita about her first year participating in NaNoWriMo. She tells us about pushing yourself to write and about how she managed to write an entire children's novel in a month.

    A few snipets from the interview:
    After my NaNoWriMo experience, I would say to any other writers wishing to give it a go – just be true to yourself and not worry about what everybody else is doing. I knew I was never going to write 50,000 words, as I was writing a children’s book. It was never destined to be that long. Once I realised and came to terms with this, it was a lot easier to just write.

    I had come to a grinding halt, with doubts about my story and characters and even more concerns about the word count not rising as fast as desired. That was when I plotted the story and got on with it. I don’t like letting people down.

    Thank you, Anita, so much for your input! Congratulations on your finished piece and good luck during the editing process. I think the best thing someone can do in this challenge is end up with something completed, despite its word count. You did a fabulous job your first year!

    You can read the full interview with Anita here or read the first interview, with highschooler & winner Jessica here.

    Hopefully I will hear from our third participant, Casye, soon & can post her interview as well.

    NaNoWriMo Participant Interviews, Part 1: Jessica

    November was a hectic month for 101,729 people in 2007. Not because Thanksgiving was coming and the local grocery was sold out of turkeys. Not because of doorbusters on Black Friday. The entire month was hectic for those people because those thousands were all writers participating in NaNoWriMo. I myself participated in NaNo last year, but was unable to join in the fun this year because I had a book to finish & working on something you started before November was not allowed. So I sat along the sidelines and cheered my friends and thousands I didn't know, on to victory! Many finished, many did not, but they all had a fun time while they laboriously pushed towards that golden 50,000th word in their new novel.

    When the excitement ended, I took the opportunity to interview a few of those participants on their rushed writing experience, asking about hard deadlines, pushing yourself to write, and writing tips.

    First off, we have Jessica. 2007 was her fourth year for NaNoWriMo and her first time to finish!

    You can read the full interview here.

    Here's a few highlights from this interview:
    What was the hardest part about getting yourself to write?
    We all have lives, friends, and just things we want to be doing. Not only do we have things we want to be doing, but things we have to do... like essays or family gatherings. I love being out of the house, so sitting down at my computer can be a pain...A new setting helped a lot.

    My best advice to other people, especially NaNo-ers and other people who have a limited time to write something would be to just have fun. If it's not fun anymore, move on to another fun part. Get advice from friends, even if you never use it, it could inspire a great idea, the missing piece for your story.

    Everyday, just write 10 words. They don't have to be good, or interesting, or anything much at all. Just ten words. Just put in a little effort every day. If you're stuck those ten words might get you unstuck, or at least for that day you know that you would have tried.

    Jess had more to say about how to defeat the dreaded writer's block, characters not cooperating, and how her story has no end yet. You can read all of it here.

    Congratulations on that and on getting over 50,000 words this year! Thank you for answering my questions, Jess, and I wish you the best of luck with your trilogy. I hope to be able to read the first part soon!

    Sunday, December 02, 2007

    MIA lately, sorry//More on gifts

    I've been a little MIA lately on the internets, I appologize. I posted here once and it was kind of a downer post on Christmas. Truth be told, I love Christmas, I just don't like buying gifts.

    Why don't I like buying gifts? I'm going to blame my father for this one, my father & people like him.
    See, my dad, gets up bright & early on Black Friday for all the great sales. And what does he do? He buys everything he wants for himself. How are the rest of us supposed to get him something when he's already gone and bought it all for himself? Not to mention he's hard to shop for to begin with.

    I need his gift by Friday because that's when I celebrate Christmas with my dad this year. I think when I go shopping at the mall with my friend today I'm going to go into Sears or somewhere & go up to some normal looking dad kid of guy and ask him "If you were my dad, what would you want?"

    Because I am not afraid to ask those kinds of questions. I think I proved that today when I asked anyone around me (including my sister) what kind of ornament they would want to receive from their boyfriend's daughter. I ended up with two very nice silver ornaments...and the lady next to me ended up with a rustic Moose I said I liked but wouldn't buy for my dad's tree. So, we helped each other. Communication is the key.

    I will be catching up on blogs & all that this week, so please excuse my lateness on anything!

    Also, I'm doing a little survey thing for people who participated in NaNoWriMo this year or any past years. Just a few questions for my blog here about writing, pushing yourself to write, & deadlines. If you want to help me out, please email me at lyokofans at yahoo dot com


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