Friday, February 27, 2015

Feature Follow Friday: Fantasy vs. Contemporary



Every Friday Parajunkee and Alison Can Read hosts Feature Follow Friday. It's a great way to get to know the blogging community and they ask fun questions!

This week's question is:

Do you like fantasy or realistic books? - Suggested by The Realm of Books.

So...I answered the wrong question this week. But, it's already out there! So I'll just be the weirdo black sheep of this weeks #FF

BOTH!! But if I'm being honest, I read a lot more speculative fiction (that's sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, steam-punk, etc)

I just like the fantastical elements. How much the stakes are raised. The fast pace, the cool gadgets, the magical powers, and the friendships/relationships that are created when you're not 100% normal. Because in reality, not fitting in is a total fact of life, and knowing that some (non) people who also happen to be warewolves or wizards or robots have our problems with life/relationships too makes us feel just a little better. Also, the romances in those books just make me swoon.

Now, I will devolve into a list of my faves from some of these genres:

Fantasy/Paranormal Romance - Daughter of Smoke and Bone


Light-ish Sci-Fi - Time Traveler's Wife

Middle-Grade Fantasy - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Middle-Grade Mythology Fantasy - Heroes of Olympus: The Son of Neptune

Epic Fantasy - Song of Ice and Fire

Sci-Fi/Space - Cinder

Dystopian Future - Darkest Minds


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Heroines



The Broke and the Bookish host a weekly meme of Top Ten Lists.

This week's question is:

Top Ten Favorite Heroines From Books (Or you could pick movies/tv)


Karou 

She is a character that people can respect. She is kept in the dark for the whole first book, but she doesn't let that stop her from going after what she thinks is right. My only complaint would be that she lets things get in the way of her own happiness, but in the middle of a huge generations-long war I can forgive her for that (since there are bigger things going on around her). She also knows that sometimes the best decisions are not the easy ones (like when she has to team up with some not-so-favorable allies. Finally, she is all about breaking down prejudice (to be fair Madrigal was more about this, but Karou starts to believe in this too). She believes in a better way to live and she's strong enough that she's able to convince people around her that she's right.


Cinder

Cinder is a cinderella character, but unlike Cinderella she doesn't just sit back and let things happen to her (either misfortune or good things). She actually takes control of her situation when she needs to. And as she learns that she has a duty to her people she doesn't cower (or if she does, she doesn't cower too long). She fights back. And even though she makes mistakes she keeps trying. That's worth a lot in my mind.


Eve Dallas

She is haunted by a pretty rough past, but she's also smart, strong, and brave. And she overcomes a lot as the series goes on. Her biggest downfall is her inability to trust/love (also because of her past), but what makes her strong is that she learns to face that and overcome all the things that were done to her when she was too young to fight back. Also, she's really good at figuring out mysteries and murder cases.


Tessa

She starts out pretty low. She is an orphan and she is kidnapped as soon as she lands in a foreign land. But the great thing about Tessa, is that despite her circumstances (or maybe because of them) she learns who she really is. As she becomes confident in being herself by the end. She keeps getting pushed down (by villains, by people who should love her, by uncontrollable forces), but she also keeps getting back up. And the best part of Tessa is that she truly cares and loves. Also, she doesn't just run into danger without thinking, she does get into sticky situations but she is not just running into bad situations and making them worse by not thinking things through.

  

River Tam & Zoe Washburn

Joss Whedon writes great ensemble casts. And he also writes pretty great female characters. I mean he came up with Buffy for goodness sakes. But I think the unsung heroes of the Firefly series are the girls. Because all of the female characters in the show could kick just as much butt as the boys. And I love that sense of equality. Also, River Tam is technically the most powerful of anyone on the show, so that makes her kind of awesome.


Arya

I loved Arya since I first read the books. And she's still pretty kick butt in the TV show. She survives, but she still has this sense of purpose that some of the other Stark children have lost. I think that she doesn't always know where she's going or what she needs, but she knows that she needs to keep moving. She knows that things aren't right and she decides to take action instead of hiding like some of the other characters do (*cough* Sansa *cough*).


Choi In-Ha

In-Ha has a (made up) affliction called "Pinocchio syndrome" where she will hiccup every time she tells a lie (or is even keeping a secret knowingly). So she is a very blunt heroine. She doesn't get caught up in trying to hide her feelings. She just says what she thinks is right and she have a very strict moral compass. She is the perfect foil for the main character of the show, Choi Dal-po, who is keeping a whole world of secrets. Also, they have the best chemistry and fall very sweetly in love. Also also, I love Park Shin-hye who plays In-Ha,


Im Soo-Ah

Soo-Ah never wavers. She knows what she wants and who she loves. She's loyal and she's smart. She's also the middle of a love-triangle. But she doesn't waffle between the two love-interests. She very plainly loves Kwon Ji-Hyuk and makes that clear even when Yoo Seung-hoon doesn't want to listen. 


Claire Abshire

There is something quietly strong about Claire. She loved the same man since she was a child. She accepted his time traveling and waited for him, and she was so sure of him and herself the whole time. Even when Henry wavered, Claire stood strong. She was his rock and she gave him something steady in his life. She had to deal with the hardship of waiting and being left behind, but she never stopped loving him. I think that the book is very well-titled. Because even though it is Henry who deals with the time traveling, it is Claire who seems like the true hero in the book.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Feature Follow Friday: Do you Read More than One Book At A Time (spoiler: YES!)


Every Friday Parajunkee and Alison Can Read hosts Feature Follow Friday. It's a great way to get to know the blogging community and they ask fun questions!

This week's question is:

Do you read more than 1 book at a time, and if so, how, like a certain amount of pages per book before moving on to the next one in the queue?

Yes, I read multiple books at a time. Not because I get bored, and not because I'm on a mission (although I am taking part in a kajillion reading challenges here, here, and here). It's because I love books and I have self-diagnosed (aka, probably not real) ADD. I am currently reading:






Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Kat's K-Dramas: Korean Dramas for Beginners


Korean Dramas are awesome stories. They're great for lovers of YA because they have all of the love, drama, angst, and intrigue of a YA book. But it's all in Korean. Also, there are some fun story-telling tropes thrown in that are distinctly K-Drama.

K-Drama Basics:

1. Korean Dramas are only one season long - I know, this is horribly depressing when you find characters and a story that you just love. But I've come to realize that it's also super satisfying, you get a true ending and not that horrible fizzle out that (unfortunately) happens with some of our favorite English-language series. Some seasons are only 12 episodes, some are over 100 (saeguks run very long)

2. They have a lot of Korean Cultural references that non-eastern audiences might get confused about - like smashing a hard-boiled egg against your head to break the shell. Or asking someone their age and getting mad when younger people talk informally to you. Or public bath houses. These are just a few things that might be odd or weird to a western audience. But it's something you just have to go with and then one day you'll think it's totally normal.
3. Types: Melodramas/melo, Rom Com/Romance, Saeguk (historical drama), Makjang (intense melodrama)
4. Drinking Culture is...different...and also the same: People in Korea enjoy their drinking and the culture that surrounds it. For example, they will go to these little tents (rain or shine) and drink soju and eat fried food out of a food cart at tiny plastic tables that look like kid's tables while sitting on tiny plastic chairs. This is totally normal, young 20-somethings do this and older businessmen do this.
Also, there are things in the shows that help cater to safe drinking, like calling a hired driver who comes and drives you home in your own car because you're too drunk.
5. Western culture is shown in an...interesting way: This can be seen in the American scenes in Heirs. If it were up to me, I would fastforward through those, but it does add important plot stuff. So just roll with the awkward English and awkward/bad white actors.
6. Eating scenes (Mokbang) will make you crave food: Even if it's food you've never heard of before, you will want to eat it.
7. Idol = K-pop star
8. Aegyo = acting cute/adorable.
 
9. Time Jump: sometimes a drama will fast forward a few months, a year, four years. This is normal, it happens a lot (sometimes in the middle of the drama sometimes as late as the last episode).
10. Piggyback rides are considered adorable and sweet: when a guy gives a girl a piggyback ride that means something.
11. School/work Culture is different (they test for everything): High schools have uniforms. Teachers are usually well-respected in Korean society. Testing scores are a huge deal and it is not abnormal to have the whole class's scores displayed for the world to see (in a drama). Also, they test for everything, even if you're not in school. They test people who are applying for jobs, they test people who want to see if they can be government workers/reporters/scientists/hair dressers. People are often studying to become something for like half of their life in Korea.
12. BROMANCE! Some of the best bromances I've ever seen have been in K-Dramas. Swoon.

Good Dramas for Beginners:

꽃보다 남자
Genre: Comedy, Rom/Com
Episodes: 25
Aired: 2009
Network: KBS

For Lovers of: Coming of Age, Cinderella Stories, Strong Heroines, Love Triangles, Chaebol (rich heirs with mean families), forbidden love, and teenage angst.

Summary: Hardworking Geum Jan-di (Ku Hye-sun) attends the exclusive Shinhwa High School by a scholarship. She finds her shallow, privileged classmates unbearable, especially the notorious F4. Rich, handsome, and arrogant, Gu Jun-pyo (Lee Min-ho), Yoon Ji-hoo (Kim Hyun-joong), So Yi-jeong (Kim Bum), and Song Woo-bin (Kim Joon) are the kings of the school and no one, not even the teachers, dare challenge them. No one, that is, except Jan-di.

Kat's Take: You guys, this is a classic. It has all of the K-Drama tropes (like when Jan Di loses her home and has to work side jobs to take care of her brother). Or the random comedy moments where the usually cool Jun Pyo has a freak out. Or the long, drawn out hugs that mean so much more than the hottest make-out scene in an American Drama (just trust me on this). It has all of the wide-eyed innocence of a first love story and some extra wide-eyed sweetness thrown in. Also, there is the required cast makeover about midway through and the flash forward in time (don't worry it's only a little bit as corny as it sounds). This show is super addicting and a great intro into all that is K-Drama.

Available on: NetflixDramaFeverViki


Eye Candy:
F4: Kim Beom, Lee Min Ho, Kim Hyun Joong, Kim Jun


왕관을 쓰려는자, 그무게를 견뎌라-상속자들
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Melodrama
Episodes: 20
Aired: 2013
Network: SBS

For Lovers of: Coming of Age, Cinderella Stories, Strong Heroines, Birth secrets (i.e. baby-daddy/baby-mama secrets), Chaebol (rich heirs with mean families), High School drama, forbidden love, and teenage angst.

Summary: The series follows a group of rich, privileged, and elite high school students as they are groomed to take over their families' business empires. These wealthy students seem to have everything under control, except their love lives. Kim Tan (Lee Min-ho) is a handsome and wealthy heir to a large Korean conglomerate who is sent to study abroad in the U.S. But in reality, it's a form of exile, as his elder half-brother back home, Kim Won (Choi Jin-hyuk) schemes to take over the family business. While in the States, Kim Tan bumps into Cha Eun-sang (Park Shin-hye), who has arrived from Korea in search of her older sister. Both Eun-sang and Kim Tan return to Korea, only to meet again. Slowly, he finds himself falling for her, later realizing that she's the daughter of his family's mute housekeeper.

Kat's Take: For the more modern take on the Chaebol (heir to the throne) tropes watch this show. It's like Gossip Girl (but like the first seasons not the bad last seasons). Also, the guys are hot, but also emotional at the same time. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Park Shin Hye, I love her as a heroine. And Krystal shines in one of her first roles in a drama. All in all, this show has some great drama and great angst. (Oh and GREAT romance!)

Available on: DramaFeverViki


Eye Candy:
Lee Min Ho, Kim Woo Bin, Kang Min Hyuk, Choi Jin Hyuk


별에서 온 그대
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Melodrama
Episodes: 20
Aired: 2013
Network: SBS

For Lovers of: Science Fiction, secret Childhood connections, Love Triangles (kind of), Paranormal Romance, Mystery (murder-mystery), Main Heroine who started on top and has to start all over, secret identities, and forbidden love.

Summary: an alien who landed on Earth in the Joseon Dynasty and, 400 years later, falls in love with a top actress in the modern era.

Kat's Take: For something a little more sci-fi fantasy, you gotta watch this show. Kim Soo Hyun and Gianna Jun are AWESOME actors. Also, the love story is sweet and well developed. And it doesn't hurt that there is a big over-arching mystery during the whole series.

Available on: DramaFever, Viki


Eye Candy:
Kim Soo Hyun, Park Hae Jin, Shin Sung Rok, Ahn Jae Hyeon


드림하이
Genre: Musical, Romantic Comedy
Episodes: 16
Aired: 2011
Network: KBS

For Lovers of: Coming of Age, Strong Heroines, secret Childhood connections, Main Heroine who started on top and has to start all over, High School drama, musicals, teenagers with a dream, underdogs, K-Pop, and teenage angst.

Summary: Six students at Kirin High School have the dream of becoming K-pop idols. During their school years, they learn how to develop their singing, songwriting and dancing skills while undergoing personal growth. They also go through their love life and start to develop feelings for each other. Each one of the students has his or her own strengths and weaknesses, but they strive to debut with the support and guidance of each other.

Kat's Take: For people that love a high school musical, you can watch Dream High. It is corny in all the right places, sweet, and full of drama. It is the ultimate high school drama musical, cute boy, romance extravaganza. It was the dream child of J.Y. Park who is the CEO of JYP, one of the top entertainment companies in South Korea. He cast a bunch of well-known K-Pop Idols in the show so it is also a good introduction into the world of K-Pop and the cuteness that comes with it.

Available on: DramaFever, Viki


Eye Candy:
Kim Soo Hyun, Ok Taecyeon, Wooyoung

Monday, February 2, 2015

Flash Fiction Challenge: Vampires in Space-ace-ace

Chuck Wendig is nice enough to create some fun flash fiction challenges for us. I took part in one like a million years ago and I'm finally doing another. I have had some killer writer's block, so this has helped me kind of get my mind off of it. For this challenge we use a random number generator to give us a mash-up of two subgenres. I got 2) Space Opera and 19) Paranormal Romance. Or as I like to call it:

Vampires in Space-ace-ace



They retreated to space over a hundred years ago.

The world discovered vampires after space travel was already approved for civilian colonization. Perhaps that changed how we dealt with the "problem" of vampirism. 

I've read enough books and seen enough movies about what might have happened if it hadn't gone in that order. 

Short version: lots of blood, lots of conflict, not good.

So the governments of the world gave them a choice: allow for a free relocation to space or face annihilation from the big-ass bombs each country controlled. Now, looking back I'm pretty sure it was a bluff. I mean, what country would be willing to risk nuclear winter just to rid the Earth of a few hundred blood-suckers. However, that's neither here nor there because the vamps took the deal. And the Earth (and humanity) were free of them. 

That is, until we realized we'd pretty much run out of space for the humans that lived on the planet. And we needed to ask the very creatures we'd exiled to airless space if they would pretty-please give us just a bit for our very own. They graciously allowed it, but they had made up some rules of their own. Humans in space would be governed by the law of vampires, and since we were pretty much desperate we agreed.

That brings us to today. There are some pretty sharp lines drawn around different classes of humans. The ones rich enough to buy sanctuary on Earth. And those too poor and pathetic to keep one foot on solid ground, the ones destined to live out a life as glorified blood-bags for the vamps that rule space. 

People like poor ol' me. I know, I will now accept your words of pity.

The day I first met a vampire I wasn't even supposed to be outside of the station. It wasn't my day for cleaning the boosters, but of course I am just so damn nice that I let my so-called best-friend Nicci talk me into taking her shift. Not that I hated cleaning the boosters on the space-stay that two-thousand-ninety-two sad excuses for humans called home. I actually enjoyed the view. I could almost make out the glow of the sun on the other side of the Earth. However, leaving the metal tin-box meant venturing into their territory. No one much liked being outside, it made you an easier target for the scavenger vamps.

So when I saw the dark shape floating towards me I knew I was in for a world of hurt. At first I thought (or maybe hoped) that my eyes were just playing tricks on me. I'd never seen one up close. I guess I expected them to look like the old Earth vids they sometimes played on movie nights. Vampire movies aren't the most popular, but I'm pretty sure I saw every last one we had on the ship.

Anyway, the first time I saw a real-live vamp he was floating by the ship. If Earth was down, then he was drifting by on his back. Like he was taking a leisurely backstroke swim through space. I knew better than to be fooled by the peaceful smile on his face. His closed eyes didn't mean he didn't know I was mere feet away. It just meant he was deciding when to strike.

Even though none of them require oxygen and could survive well enough without a suit in space, the only vamps that went for a float alone were scavengers. The blood-thirsty ones that couldn't wait for the bloodletting day that came once every month.

I braced myself, holding the scrub brush in front of me like a laser canon. I knew it wouldn't do me any good. But it still felt better to have something gripped in my hand. My heavy breathing fogged up the glass face-plate of my suit, but since I couldn't very well take off my helmet I was left with a hazy view of six feet of undead flesh and muscle floating within grabbing (and eating) reach of me. I might have lived my whole life submitting to the monthly blood draws for the vamps, but that didn't mean I wanted one biting into my neck. Plus there was the added downside that his fangs would tear right through my space suit and suck all the oxygen out of my tank.

His mouth moved, but in the vacuum of space I couldn't hear a damn word that left his lips. I wondered if he was just mocking me.

He opened his eyes and finally looked at me. He reached out and I swung the brush up, knocking at his hand. It looked like he laughed as he pushed it away to float into the black of space. I swore to myself, I was going to definitely get penalized for losing a piece of the space-stay's equipment. If I lived long enough to get penalized.

As I started to bring my hands up to push him away, hoping the force would cause him to float out far enough that I could make a clean get-away, I saw more dark shapes start to appear. Great, a gang of scavenger vamps. I might as well have a neon sign that said "dinner is served" on my chest.

That's when something strange happened. He seemed to tense, and he put pressure on my chest, enough that I ended up crouched against the hull of the ship. My boots were suctioned to the side so I was bent backwards at the knees like a sideways L. He buried his face against my cloth-covered neck and I braced myself for the feel of his piercing teeth. For the sound of oxygen rushing from my suit.

It didn't come.

Instead he laid against me as I just made out the bodies of the other vamps floating past us.

I counted as they drifted by: one, two, five, eight, nine.

Nine other vamps who could possibly make me their next meal. Nine other vamps who might decide not to wait until the next government sanctioned meal day. Nine vamps who ruled this black abyss called space since they didn't need stupid things like oxygen or warmth.

It was a while before my heart rate slowed enough for me to concentrate on anything else. I realized that his arms were wrapped around me, his hands a light pressure on my back. His face was pressed against my neck, but I realized his lips moved, like he was whispering unheard words to me. When more than ten minutes had passed I pushed against him and he moved easily away. Too easily, he could have held on if he wished, he was much stronger than me.

I frowned as he helped me so I stood upright again. I wanted to ask him what he wanted, but I knew he wouldn't be able to hear me. It didn't seem to matter to him, his lips were still moving. His own personal monologue as he took my hand and started guiding me back towards the entrance to the ship. He stepped aside and looked at me expectantly.

"Oh, sorry," I muttered before I realized only I could hear myself. I punched in my code and the hatch opened.

It wasn't until we were back inside of the airlock that I realized what I had done. I had let a vampire into the ship. I had let a blood-thirsty beast enter our safe home. Except, he didn't seem all that beastly to me.

I watched him as he pressed the controls, easily knowing which to press to close the outer doors, to let oxygen flood the small space, to open the inner doors. I hadn't gotten a clear look at him outside. The outer lights of the ship weren't that strong, so I'd only really seen a shadow of a shape.

His dark hair fell around his face in clumps, like he hadn't brushed it in days. He was tall, with a lanky build. His eyes were dark, black. They tilted at the edges, but that might have been the playful smile that sat on his face. A face covered with some kind of space dirt and specks of red that I seriously suspected was blood. It was a far cry from the clean-cut, suave vampires I'd seen in old movies.

Still he was gorgeous. You know how some guys hate to be called beautiful, well that's what he was. But all vampires are some kind of beautiful, so it wasn't too surprising to me. You think there would be at least one ugly vampire, but nope, all beautiful. 

I watched him so long that I hadn't even moved to take off my suit until he walked back towards me and pulled my helmet off himself. With a swoosh, I could smell the stale air of the airlock, and I could finally hear his voice. It was different then I expected, there was a slight twang to his words. Definitely different than the cultured British vampires I'd seen in the movies.

"...and it's not like I wanted to. It's just that I couldn't help myself. I guess it must be all that floating around with only myself to talk to," he said as he placed my helmet into the storage closet with all the other gear.

I opened my mouth to ask all of the questions clouding my head. What the hell was he talking about? Why didn't he take a bite out of me out there? Why wasn't he sucking out all my blood and leaving me to die a slow and painful death? Where the hell had he come from? Instead I said, "Uhhhh...what?"

He turned back towards me and gave a crooked grin. I'm not proud that it made my heart skip a little beat. "Sorry, like I was saying. You're the first person I've seen in like a week. I mean, not counting those assholes back there. But since they're just a bunch of scavengers I didn't really count them as proper company. Sometimes space makes vamps a little insane. You know?"

"No." I shook my head. "I really don't."

He paused and understanding seemed to dawn on him. "Am I..." he trailed off a moment as he studied my face. "Am I the first vamp you've ever met?"

My mouth felt dry so I just nodded.

"Ah, I see," he said. "Well. I'm Shin."

"Jian," I said.

"Nice to meet you," he said.

"Really?" I asked, surprised.

He gave a rich laugh that caused my head to spin a little. "I like you Jian. I think we're going to be great friends."

"Didn't your parents ever teach you not to play with your food?" The words were out of my mouth before I could stop myself. Sometimes I'm really an idiot.

But Shin didn't laugh, or sneer, or have any of the normal reactions I would have expected. He just tilted his head as he studied me closer.

"I think you'll be perfect," he said, nodding.

"Perfect?" I asked, images of him sautéing me in a giant skillet popped into my  head.

"Yes, I think you'll be perfect to help me spread the word."

"Yea, you've lost me. I am still trying to figure out if you're planning to eat me right now," I said without thinking. See? I'm an idiot.

"We have more important things to discuss than your delicious blood."

Yup, there it is, I thought, bracing myself.

"There's a war that's about to start. A war that is bigger than you might think. And I need your help to get the humans on board. Because we'll have to get vamps and blood-bags on the same side if any of us are going to survive."

I swallowed to wet my suddenly dry throat. I had a feeling I had made a bad decision taking Nicci's shift. A very very bad decision.

"Come on," Shin said, grabbing my hand and pulling me towards the hall leading towards the rest of the ship. I still had on my bulky space-suit and I almost tripped over my own feet as he dragged me along. "We need to go talk to the captain. We have no time to waste." He looked back with a wink. "Partner."

And that's how I met my first vampire. Now how we caused an intergalactic human-vampire war is a whole other story. That will take much longer for me to tell you.