It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of author Taylor Stevens, as my review of her latest Vanessa Michael Munroe novel, The Doll, suggests.  The more she writes, the fatter my fandom gets.  Seriously, it’s like burgers for my mind.

But she’s more than the author of one of the most badass female characters to ever grace a page — she’s also a source of inspiration, advice, and encouragement for aspiring authors like myself thanks to her mailing list, where she shares her experiences with writing, getting published, dealing with agents and deadlines, taking praise and criticism, and answers questions about every part of her creative process.

For my first guest post, I’m excited to present Taylor Stevens and her views on gender equality, an essential component of the Vanessa Michael Munroe series and the struggles in my own life.

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Hi Gally,

When THE DOLL first published, a lot of the questions I received from bloggers and journalists centered around Munroe’s tendency to switch between genders. Eventually I was asked to write a blog about this part of her character and, as blogs often do, all that effort quickly got buried in the internet graveyard. So here we have, for posterity, my thoughts on gender.

* * *

Vanessa Michael Munroe, the lead character in The Informationist series, is very much a woman in a man’s world: a chameleon and an information hunter. Independent, lethal, and with a very dark streak, she’s not quite what one might expect of a missionary’s daughter. She hates killing, but she’s oh so very good at it. And Michael, as I prefer to call her—tall, lean and somewhat androgynous—spends a lot of time dressed as and operating as a young man.

I had no idea at the time of her creation that this gender ambiguity would draw so much attention or that it would set her apart from the handful of other strong women who inhabit an otherwise predominantly male genre. This aspect of her character was deliberate on my part, but not as any way to make a statement, nor with any intention of creating a feminist hero of sorts. It was done purely out of a sense of realism: operating as a male was the only way a woman with her skills would ever be able to do the job that she does in the countries that she does it.

We still hear about gender inequalities here in the United States, but they are minor compared to most other cultures. Long before I started writing I’d spent many years abroad, four of them in Africa. While living in Kenya I had to make a trip back to the U.S. and the most affordable route was hopscotching through the Middle East to Europe—which was how I found myself on a layover in Bahrain conversing with two American nurses who lived and worked in Saudi Arabia. They recounted for me the ordeal they went through as women. No matter that they were Americans, they still weren’t allowed to drive, could never go anywhere without a male escort, had to keep their heads covered at all times, and on and on the list of rules went. Their experiences would have been completely different had they been men. I also lived in Japan as a teenager and witnessed the level to which men dominated all aspects of politics and business in that very modern society. The concept of a woman trying to operate as an equal in a man’s world and how difficult this would actually be was a reality I’d been immersed in for years. Even a casual browsing through international news demonstrates daily how powerless and disrespected women are around the globe.

When creating the type of woman that Michael is, it didn’t seem a particularly bold move on my part to have her switch between male and female roles depending on what best suited her needs. Rather, it seemed the only logical way to write a woman whose career tasked her with entrenching in developing countries to figure out who held the true political clout, who to bribe, who to avoid and, if she was paid well enough, to do the bribing and make sure her employers’ name never saw print.

So then I’m asked, “Well why write a gender ambiguous character at all? Why not just write a male character?” and to me, that question is its own answer—that it’s even asked—that the implied acceptable alternative to writing a woman smart enough and capable enough to function as a man in a man’s world is to of course, write a man. In real life, women (who want to remain women) don’t have the option of just magically making themselves men. That right there explains exactly why Vanessa Michael Munroe is who she is. And she’s not alone in that. There are a number of women throughout history who have lived as soldiers, seamen, frontiersmen and male spies. Likely for the very same reasons.

It’s never made sense to me, not even when I was a teenager in the very male-dominated religious cult into which I’d been born, an environment where women were expected to be subservient helpers, that girls should be viewed less than boys simply because the other sperm won. Yes, it’s true that there are biological differences between the genders, and neurology has shown that male and female brains are wired differently. But even taking those factors into account I have always believed that people are people, and it is not the color of our skin, or the genitalia we possess, or the clothes that we wear, or cultural expectations that determine what we’re capable of or that make up the sum of who we are, but rather the things that we do, the choices we make, and the lives that we lead. For that reason, Vanessa Michael Munroe just made sense to me.

The best explanation of her strength comes from Cara Hoffman, author of So Much Pretty, when she wrote that Michael went “beyond stereotyped or reactive characters,” that she was a “hero first and gendered person last,” that she had a “gender-blind naturalness.” And yes, that is exactly who Michael is. She is a person. Who happens to be female. Who will do whatever it takes to get the job done. And if that means having to pass herself off as a man and kicking butt along the way, then that’s exactly how she’s going to do it.

* * *

–Taylor

☠ Gally

Guest post © Taylor Stevens 2014
Blog post © Gally Lines 02.04.14

http://lestismitethee.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/guest-post-taylor-stevens-why-not-just-create-a-male-character

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the TalibanI Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban Review by Gally Lines (5/5 stars)

LestISmiteThee.wordpress.com

Malala Yousafzai is nothing less than a hero.

I Am Malala is like The Diary of a Young Girl and Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood in that it not only narrates in her own words (translated) how she “Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban,” but what life is like in her country. I learned so much about Pakistan and more details about the Taliban, and contrary to some readers who were disappointed that most of the book is about her family’s life in Pakistan and not the shooting or her activism afterwards, I don’t think anyone can fully appreciate what she has and is doing for education around the world without knowing the extreme brutality, corruption, fear, and sexism she had to overcome in her own country and the undying support of her activist father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, despite death threats on him, his family, and his teachers.

“His sisters — my aunts — did not go to school at all, just like millions of girls in my country. Education had been a great gift for him. He believed that lack of education was the root of all of Pakistan’s problems. Ignorance allowed politicians to fool people and bad administrators to be re-elected. He believed schooling should be available for all, rich and poor, boys and girls. The school that my father dreamed of would have desks and a library, computers, bright posters on the walls and, most important, washrooms.”

Even if you’ve seen the articles, interviews (The Daily Show), news clips, and think you know the story of this brave teenager, reading Malala’s book is like seeing the world through new eyes. Never again will I complain and take for granted my days in public school and college.

View all my reviews

☠ Gally

Review © Gally Lines 11.11.13
Blog post © Gally Lines 11.12.13

http://lestismitethee.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/i-am-malala-the-girl-who-stood-up-for-education-and-was-shot-by-the-taliban-review

 

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

2013 has been an even better year than 2012 for us here in South Korea, and we’re looking forward to an awesome 2014 as we move back to America early next year!

But before that, I had an amazing time fulfilling one of my major goals while living in South Korea: visiting nearby Japan!

I know my friends have been patiently awaiting this big blog post since it’s taken me a while to organize these 126 badass photos and experiences, so relax and enjoy these glimpses of our lives from June through October :D

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.:South Korea:.

Found this sign while I was out jogging around our apartment complex one day XD

The best Chinese-style spicy chicken I’ve ever had — crispy outside, soft and juicy inside, served with hot peppers and green onions. It’s the signature dish at Chai Wok.

Claw machine with a funny but disturbing picture on it XD

A Korean fusion restaurant that mixes rice, kimchi, beef, corn, and cheese into a gooey delicious mess!

Relaxing outting to a Korean beach. When the tide receded, a pathway emerged to some rock formations. Some people went out to catch crabs.

Fantastic seafood restaurant with, of course, an Engrish menu.

Koreans seem to serve sweet pickles with every non-Korean meal. My friend Hyun-Joo says it’s because Koreans find Western food too salty, but most Westerners I know think Korean food is a little too sweet XD

Also, every Korean salad I have has a sort of yogurt dressing, typically fruit or honey mustard. This was refreshing kiwi!

Crab meat pasta

Our cats love shoe boxes :3

And it’s Raziel’s 6th birthday today too!

Nick got me another Korean Baskin Robbins birthday “cake” for my 26th birthday! Vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry sugar cookies surrounding vanilla, strawberry, and pistachio soft serve cubes piled on top of a big half-chocolate-chip-cookie-dough ice cream and half strawberry ice cream and topped with extra flavored chocolates!

☠☠☠

.:Tokyo:.

I’ve wanted to visit Japan ever since I moved to Korea in 2011, and I finally got to in October, the perfect time for Halloween goodies — my favorite holiday — and the launch of Pokemon XY!

Nick was busy with very important work so I decided to go by myself. I was worried about going to a foreign country alone without in-depth knowledge of the language and culture, but I’m very glad I did because it was safe, super fun, and empowering!

My entire solo Tokyo trip was planned using online info and maps. It was all easier and cheaper than I imagined! All I had to do was look up places I wanted to see, directions for how to get there via subway, book a flight and a hotel closest to the most places I wanted to visit, and learn some basic Japanese phrases. I also organized all my travel essentials into my backpack so I’d have an empty carry-on suitcase to bring all my Japanese merch home in ;D

The only Korean Air flights from Incheon to Haneda Airport arrive pretty late, so I was worried I wouldn’t make the last subway at 12:10am. But immigration was fast and they didn’t even check my luggage — much easier than having to go through so much security in post-9.11 America, even on domestic flights.

I arrived at Hotel Mystays Hamamatsucho quickly thanks to a comfortable and easily understood Japanese subway system — leagues better the Korean subway system — and remembering what the area looked like on Google’s Street View. The staff were very helpful and friendly, and the room was nice and quiet. There was even a great view of nearby Tokyo Tower!

I chilled out with some Japanese TV before going to sleep, but I was still so excited to go out and explore :D

Pokemon Center Tokyo, just around the corner of Hamamatsucho Station and Hotel Mystays Hamamatsucho!

Two things I <3 about Japan: it's not afraid to bust out the geek and the cute, even at the same time, as you will see all over this post!

Pokemon XY just came out worldwide so I was super excited to see all the new merch!

I got there early in case there was a line and to have a good look at the place in all it’s Pokeglory before it was inundating with fans.

There were five Japanese people in the line before me and they were really nice. They asked to friend me on their 3DS systems, took pics with me, and this Pikachu fan posed for me :3 The line soon filled up, though, and it was almost time to go in!

Behold Pokeheaven on Earth!

Signatures on the back of the entrance display.

The whole place was done up with new XY-themed designs!

Sooooo much Pokemerch to choose from! I really wish we had all this in America too T^T

I chose Fennekin as my starter, but so far my faves in Gen VI are Meowstics and Pancham. No Meowstic merch yet, so I got a Pancham plush and lots of various other goodies :D I also got a special Tokyo-themed Oshawott charm to match the Fukuoka charm Nick got me when he went to Japan earlier this year ^.^

I quickly realized Tokyo isn’t just cool like other major cities around the world, it’s also very clean, much more so than Seoul and arguably a lot of American cities. There was hardly any trash anywhere and the buildings didn’t look run-down or dirt-coated. There also weren’t any crazy drivers running red lights or driving on the sidewalk like in Korea.

Welcome to Aqua City! This and the Pokemon Center were my two favorite places on this trip :D

Nice interior; Godiva chocolate store on the left.

Every country has it’s own overall fashion. In America, it’s always blue jeans, particularly skinny jeans and tight-fitting clothes now. In Seoul, it’s plain American 90’s clothing with solid bright colors and misspelled English words that make no sense. In Japan, the fashion now is sorta American/European “old-fashioned” in a classy, cute way. Most of the clothing stores I saw had stuff like this.

All the Hello Kitty and pink you can stand.

Studio Ghibli, Despicable Me, and other merch like…

… Mario, Zelda, Animal Crossing, Monster Hunter, etc!

No idea what these characters are from, but they were so cute!

A ton of stores all over Tokyo had some kind of Halloween decoration, particular Jack-o’-lanterns ;D

GEEKGASM! I <3 the Capcom store, they had so much Monster Hunter, Phoenix Wright, Resident Evil, Mega Man, etc merch! I spent more money here than anywhere else XD

I was very tempted to go here XD

Instead, I tried to eat only Japanese food so I could get a real feel for their cuisine. Most Japanese food I saw and ate consisted of tempura, noodles, rice, veggies, and some kinda meat. I don’t know how they stay so skinny with all those carbs and fried foods, but it’s all the stuff I like too so I ate a lot ;D

Toys R Us in Japan and Korea are very similar and not much different than the American versions, but there was one big difference…

… they had more variety of Pokemon merch XD

Of course, there were gachapon machines too! I was glad to find Animal Crossing ones :D

Next stop: Venus Fort!

The area’s also known as Palette Town. Pokemon-reference, anyone? XD

There was a cool jazz b-boy band performing, and I saw some cosplayers but they didn’t want their picture taken.

Venus Fort was pretty fancy inside! It reminded me of Metapolis in Dongtan, Korea.

One of the well-known chains of cute stores is Kiddyland. They had lots of San-X merch; hardly any Sentimental Circus, but lots of Rilakkuma. There was also Kapibarasan merch…

… and a ton of gachapon and claw machines in the back, including more Animal Crossing!

Omw outta Aqua City, I passed by a gargantuan Gundam statue!

I got out at Takeshiba Station and walked back to Hamamatsucho Station, where I got a great view of Tokyo Tower during the day, though it’s also pretty at night seen from my hotel ^^

Giant Pokemon XY ad at Hamamatsucho Station.

Tokyo Station Character Street!

It was longer than I expected. I think was standing in the center so I took a pic of one side…

… and the other and couldn’t see the ends!

The official Rilakkuma store!

Dragon Quest promos

Kapibarasan store!

You can’t go to Japan without expecting to see something weird XD

Adorable raccoon! I’d never seen it before but…

… its name is Rascal and it has a line of merch dedicated to it!

Shonen Jump shop

Shop with traditional Japanese gifts and treats

This shop always had a line of women next to it. As far as I could tell, it was a cafe with sweets.

Pretty self-explanatory; eat sushi while standing!

*gasp* Gundam Cafe! :O

Shit yes I went in there!

They had Gundam-themed food platters and drinks, alcoholic and non! I ordered something sweet, blue, and alcoholic and bought Nick a green Haro tin with chocolate sweets inside :D They gave me a Gundam coaster to put the drink on but I saved it for Nick instead.

Tokyo Station Ramen Street!

According to the Tokyo Station site, Ikaruga is the most famous ramen restaurant here. I can’t help but think of the video game Ikaruga XD This was one of the very few places without an English menu so I just ordered something random.

Inside Ikaruga was almost like a little bar.

Apparently I ordered ramen with ham and cheese in it. The broth was thick, but mixing it all together melted the cheese to make it even thicker.

Late night snack time! I didn’t really know what this place was except that the menus outside looked good, but it was kind of like a small bar with four different food counters inside that you could order from.

I just pointed to what I wanted and the guy brought me a sweet alcoholic grapefruit drink and a platter of various tempura!

I also stopped by a convenience store and ordered my first steamed bun.

Inside had tasty sweet meat that reminded me of Korean bulgogi.

One time for breakfast I had two little pancakes stuffed with maple syrup and butter :D

Sunday mornings in Japan mean Pokémon Get☆TV (formerly Pokémon Smash!/Pokémon Sunday/Weekly Pokémon Broadcasting Station)! To think Pokemon is big enough to get it’s own variety show… jealous!

Crazy intricate origami, like an archangel holding a sword (red in the center)!

Mega Mewtwo Y origami.

Talkin’ ’bout Mega Evolutions.

She will beat your face with her baby.

I think they had special guest stars on the show to talk about their favorite Pokemon and take quizes.

Harajuku!

It was pouring down rain but it didn’t stop me from another 12-hour day of walking around and exploring ;]

LaForet is a famous shopping mall with as many different clothing styles as you can imagine. I was glad of the variety, especially after living in Korea for years where the fashion is literally all the same no matter what town, store, or mall.

One really great thing about my experience in Tokyo was everyone I asked for help happily obliged ^_^ Most signs had English translations and a lot of people spoke at least a little English, but even if there was a language gap, gesturing and being polite led to understanding.

As I was walking out of LaForet, I passed a girl who was wearing super cute stockings. I asked her where she got them, and she led me all the way down the road and a crowded clothing alley to the store. My shoes were so soaking wet, I could feel the water sucking at my feet every time I took a step, and I’m sure her shoes were the same, so it was extremely nice of her to take me!

I passed several Japanese-style Goth stores

Sign for a fancy restaurant down the walkway

Beware of EGL — Elegant Gothic Lolita. Super expensive and time-consuming style!

Crazy costume shop!

Another crepe shop.

Another Hello Kitty shop and more cute. The saw the guy with the blonde hair (wig?) a few times.

I stopped to eat here for lunch. It was a food court with several different food options.

I hadn’t had takoyaki yet, so I got this giant one with octopus, veggies, sauces, and fish flakes. It was a bit too mushy to enjoy, so I guess there’s a reason why takoyaki is typically small.

Another Godiva store, calling to me.

Fish and chips?! I broke my rule about only eating Japanese food while in Japan and went down to the pub.

Crispy, salty goodness! Japanese rugby was playing on the TVs.

Feast your eyes on some of my loot! I got so much I had to divide it all in a bunch of separate pics XD Here’s some of it in the next few pics ~

Pokemon Center Halloween 2013 clearfile and Pancham plush.

Super nice Monster Hunter 4 3DS XL pouch; Monster Hunter figure blind box in which I lucked out and got my favorite monster: Nargacuga; necklace with Fukuoka Oshawott, Tokyo Oshawott, and Tokyo Monster Hunter Melynx charms with my Halloween 2011 Oshawott charm; very comfy microfiber cat socks with little ears on the toes =^^=

Phoenix Wright shirt and Monster Hunter 4 2014 calendar. I’ve been a die-hard Monster Hunter fan since the original game on PS2!

OBJECTION!!! Jk XD I’ve also been an Ace Attorney fan since the first game and am excited to play Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney 5 — Dual Destinies!

Halloween 2013 Korilakkuma plush and Rilakkuma socks, screen-cleaning charms, and a 10th anniversary glowing gachapon prize

Rilakkuma Re-ment food sets and Animal Crossing gachapon prizes (K.K. Song hand towel and Nooklings keychain mirror)

Microfiber/minky Kiki’s Delivery Service blanket!

Oddly adorable Monster Hunter Khezu plush, Monster Hunter stickers, Kiki’s Delivery Service Gigi plush, Pokemon Center clearfile holder, and cute stockings I wouldn’t have found without the help of that really nice girl!

Nice view while flying back to Korea — I <3 soaring over the clouds!

Life is so sweet :3

Thanks for looking!

☠ Gally

Photos © Gally Lines 2013
Blog post © Gally Lines 10.31.13

http://lestismitethee.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/gally-in-tokyo/

Blood Song (Raven's Shadow, #1)Blood Song by Anthony Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blood Song Review by Gally Lines (5/5 stars)

LestISmiteThee.wordpress.com

Though I’ve read over a thousand books by now, I regard less than 50 stand-alones or series as favorites. And among my favorites, there’s only a handful that are so dear to me, the characters are like close friends, I get blissfully lost in their worlds for hours every time I read them, and I find it hard to finish them because I just don’t want the stories to ever end.

Blood Song by Anthony Ryan is one of these books.

It was so hard to put it down once I started reading, I blew through a hundred pages a night, when I only should’ve been reading for a few minutes before bed, until I realized the book was almost over. I dragged out the last hundred pages over a couple days because I longed to know more about the protagonist Vaelin al Sorna, the brothers of the Sixth Order, the One Who Waits, the Blood Song, everything in this new world. But all books must end, and I had to know what happened so I’m ready for the sequel as soon as it releases.

And to think I almost passed on this book! The synopsis made it sound overly religious with another protagonist with daddy issues, but the vast number of 4- and 5-star ratings convinced me to take a chance on it. I’m so glad I did because my preconceptions were wrong.

The five most important aspects to me in any fantasy are the story, eloquence, characters, world-building, and magic system. Blood Song lacks nothing, keeping me on edge with an unpredictable, emotional, complex coming-of-age story with fully-developed, believable, and even likable characters.

What separates Blood Song from other great fantasy — especially A Song of Ice and Fire — are two aspects: the strong, intelligent, selfless, likable protagonist Vaelin, and that the story has heart. It’s been so long since I’ve read a fantasy with a really likable protagonist who struggles with what he must become, or a dark, painful world where hope actually exists and is forged not just through blood and justice, but through brotherhood and love.

As a fan of the works of George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Patrick Rothfuss, and other amazing fantasy, I can’t stress enough how much I adore this book. I actually think Blood Song is my favorite among them all, and Anthony Ryan has more than proven himself worthy to stand beside these giants of fantasy.

Anthony Ryan Upcoming4.me Guest Post – The Story Behind Blood Song

View all my reviews

☠ Gally

Review © Gally Lines 07.29.13
Blog post © Gally Lines 07.29.13

http://lestismitethee.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/blood-song-review/

The Rithmatist (Rithmatist #1)The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Rithmatist Review by Gally Lines (4/5 stars)

LestISmiteThee.wordpress.com

I’ve no idea how Brandon Sanderson manages to write so many great fantasy books so quickly without sacrificing quality, but The Rithmatist is another hit, this time in the young adult and steampunk/gearpunk sub-genres.

As expected of Sanderson, the world-building and magic system are well-done. In the tradition of steampunk — or gearpunk, as Sanderson calls it, since power comes from cranking gears instead of steam — the story takes place in a past parallel universe.

The United Isles of America, or USA and Canada in our world, consist of 60 commonwealth islands and a handful of Rithmatic universities with varying political and religious beliefs. The JoSeun empire, or Korea, conquered much of what we know as Asia and Europe, but people all over the world attend the universities, both Rithmatists in training and ordinary students to get their degrees.

At the age of eight, one in a thousand children become Rithmatists in an inception ceremony, then they study Rithmatics until they can replace fallen Rithmatists at The Tower in the isle of Nebrask. Rithmatists must excel at mathematics, strategy, speed, drawing, and even creativity to fight and defend using chalk glyphs and creatures. To fail is to be eaten alive by the mysterious two-dimensional wild chalklings, or perhaps suffer a worse fate. It’s an interesting, unique, and ever-evolving magic system I’ve never seen before and one that’ll appeal to artists who like books too.

Though some historical documents exist, no one quite knows how Rithmatics and chalklings came to be. Joel, the 16-year-old protagonist, can’t resist learning everything about Rithmatics even though he isn’t a Rithmatist. Poor with an overworked mother and deceased chalk-making father, looked down upon by rich, prestigious students and Rithmatists alike at Armedius Academy, and his dream of being a Rithmatist long gone, he seeks solace in books.

Joel’s what sets this novel apart from Harry Potter and all the other magical or supernatural young adult series — a teenager with no special abilities except his desire to learn and be useful. I appreciate that despite his hardships, he’s intelligent, kind, and helpful to others instead of an angsty, whining, and entitled brat.

All the characters are developed in this 372-page story, from Joel’s amusing and mercurial Rithmatist friend, Melody, and affable but unconfident Rithmatist mentor, Professor Fitch, to arrogant and supposed hero, Professor Nalizar, and dutiful Tower veteran, Inspector Harding.

The book also features illustrations by Ben McSweeney, which definitely helps the reader visualize various glyphs and chalklings. Some appear a bit pixelated, but the written descriptions would’ve been much more confusing without the drawings.

I would’ve liked a wider cast of characters and to delve deeper into the Tower, universities, and the other Isles, but The Rithmatist does not suffer without these, instead solidly introducing this new series. I’m eagerly looking forward to the sequel.

Special thanks yet again to VJBooks.com, where I bought my signed first edition/first printing hardcover.

View all my reviews

☠ Gally

Review © Gally Lines 07.19.13
Blog post © Gally Lines 07.19.13

http://lestismitethee.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/the-rithmatist-review/

The Doll (Vanessa Michael Munroe, #3)The Doll by Taylor Stevens

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Doll (Vanessa Michael Munroe, #3) Review by Gally Lines (5/5 stars)

LestISmiteThee.wordpress.com

Guest Post: Taylor Stevens – Why Not Just Create a Male Character?

Special thanks to Murder By The Book in Houston, TX for hosting Taylor Stevens! Got my signed first edition/first printing hardcover of The Doll in the mail, and they let me send my first edition/first printing hardcovers of The Informationist and The Innocent to be signed too! They also put covers on all my books :]

Full disclosure: I haven’t read many thrillers, but I’m a Taylor Stevens fan. She’s both a source of quality reading and inspiration to me, from the impulse buy of The Informationist on release day to the Goodreads and email responses I receive from her with advice and encouragement for my own writing.

Despite my admiration for her and other authors, my reviews are my honest opinion; I’m not afraid to call it like I see it, positive or negative. Of over 700 books I’ve rated on Goodreads, only a handful have received a full 5-star rating (though 4.5-star ratings are marked as 5-star, rounding up since Goodreads doesn’t allow half-stars and some books got 0.5-star ratings).

All that being said, The Doll is Taylor Stevens’s best novel yet and worthy of all five stars.

From page one to 335, it is the definition of fast-paced, heart-pumping, adrenaline-surging thriller — no wasted words, only action at bullet-speed with a fully developed, emotional, ethically challenging story. Reading it’s akin to watching the Bourne Supremacy in my head.

“Lumani had never managed a failed delivery because, in the end, no matter how skilled or how hard they fought back, pressure applied in the right places caused even the strongest men to fracture.
But this one? He’d watched her. Studied her. Observed what maybe even Uncle, the reader of people, had missed. This one was already fractured, and the lines between her broken pieces were not fissures but scar material stronger than whatever had once filled those spaces.”

The Doll does a fantastic job of moving Munroe’s character forward from The Informationist and The Innocent. She’s badly damaged but unbroken, wild and unpredictable but gaining control over her bloodlust, scarred but still able to be gentle and empathetic, and she understands that despite the torture and apathy she’s suffered under humanity, to feel nothing for others is to become a monster, no better than the ones who commit or let happen horrible acts on others.

“‘The pain on the inside is what keeps you human,’ she said. ‘Never forget that.'”

One doesn’t have to read the first two Vanessa Michael Munroe thrillers to enjoy The Doll, but I highly encourage it. The Informationist and The Innocent build Munroe’s deadly character and violent background while showing how she operates beyond all limits no matter where she is in the world, who she hunts, or who wants her dead, while The Doll builds up Miles Bradford as an intelligent man beyond a mercenary, worthy as Monroe’s partner and lover.

“One foot in front of the other, more aimless than direct, Bradford left the waiting room for the outside world. Called for a taxi and then dialed Munroe again, desperate for her voice, for one ray of light in the darkness, afraid of what he might say if she did answer, afraid of himself and the inner deadening that pointed to a danger far more lethal than any rage he’d felt.”

I wasn’t really attached to Bradford in The Informationist and The Innocent so I was caught off-guard when the first few chapters of The Doll were through his eyes, but the fresh perspective brought home the impact greed and pain and death can have even halfway across the world, and how capable he and Munroe are at dealing with the worst of humanity. My favorite aspect of The Doll is that it features lovers kicking ass up and down the globe instead of the overly cliche guy-saves-girl trope.

“Why are you dressed as a man?” Neeva said. “Why do you act like…” She paused. “Why do you act like… like one of them?” Her voice rose, challenging and accusatory. “Them,” she said again. “Where women aren’t human, aren’t people, just things–objects. Them.” She jabbed a thumb toward the rear window, where surely one of the Doll Maker’s men followed unseen. “Oh, they’ll show you a real man. They’ll turn you into a real woman. They’ll fuck you hard, you’ll want it, but what you want never actually matters because everything is about their own ego. Them.” Neeva stopped for air; a long, greedy inhale. “Why?” she said. “Why would you–a woman”–she spat out the word–“you who should know what it feels like to be called a cunt and a bitch and a whore just because you voiced an opinion, to be told you’re fat or ugly as a way to make your argument worthless, that you’re stuck-up, repressed, and in denial of your true feelings when you find them repulsive. Why would you be one of them? What’s wrong with you?”

I also appreciate the character of Neeva Eckridge, the Hollywood daughter of rich parents made just as frightened, helpless, and alone as anyone else would be if they were snatched up into the sex trade. I identified with her stubbornness in a male-dominated world, and through her eyes, I imagined the suffering of real-life sex slaves with no Munroe on their side.

In fact, all the characters — from the eccentric Doll-Maker and his marionette Lumani to Capstone personnel — were developed and believable. I’m also glad the slippery loose end of Kate Breeden from The Informationist slithered back into Munroe’s life, offering a chance for closure to both Munroe and readers of her first novel.

And oh, was the ending so satisfying. One of my biggest frustrations is devoting the time to read a book and having the ending crush any developments or good feelings about the book, but Stevens knows how to close the deal.

Since Munroe’s debut in The Informationist, she’s been compared to Lisbeth Salander of The Millennium Trilogy, another of my favorite characters and book series. But I’ve always felt the comparison was unfair to both characters because they’re completely different from each other in fundamental ways. Both women are badass, have trust issues, can collect information on people, and have been raped, but the similarities end there. Munroe was raised in the jungles of Africa by strict missionaries, then trained by sadists to be a ruthless killer; Lisbeth was raised in Sweden by her prostitute mother, had an abusive father, keeps to herself, but doesn’t murder anyone outright. Munroe gathers intel by being a chameleon, disguising herself as a local man or woman and absorbing local languages; Lisbeth’s a hacker and visits local libraries and archives, memorizing details with her photographic memory, but doesn’t bother trying to blend in or socialize with anyone. No matter what you thought of Lisbeth or The Millennium Trilogy, don’t pass up the Vanessa Michael Munroe novels; they’re definitely not the same.

The Doll has everything I could’ve hope for and is easily one of the best novels of 2013.

[My favorite The Doll quotes]

View all my reviews

☠ Gally

Review © Gally Lines 07.15.13
Blog post © Gally Lines 07.15.13

http://lestismitethee.wordpress.com/2013/07/15/the-doll-vanessa-michael-munroe-3-review

Knights of Sidonia, Volume 1Knights of Sidonia, Volume 1 by Tsutomu Nihei

My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

Knights of Sidonia, Volumes 1-2 Review by Gally Lines (1.5/5 stars each)

There’s so much disappointing about Tsutomu Nihei’s latest manga series, Knights of Sidonia, I’m face-palming just trying to decide where to begin to write this review.

The first thing I noticed was the art was less detailed than his previous manga series, Blame! and Biomega. Some may say it’s cleaner, but considering his style is known to be heavy, gritty, and cyberpunk-inspired — similar to the excellent original Battle Angel Alita series — it just felt too light. The characters also looked too similar to each other, especially the faces, which makes it hard to form an attachment when you’re constantly wondering, “Who’s that?” So by the time one of them dies, I didn’t even know who it was, nor did I really care.

Second, Nihei just cannot write a good story. The appeal of Nihei’s work is the sheer weirdness of his monster-saturated apocalyptic worlds and his aforementioned established art style, not so much the story, but Knights of Sidonia is just plain bad because it seems like his attempt to create a sort of twisted Macross or Evangelion for mainstream appeal instead of sticking with the less popular niche genre of cyberpunk. He could bring his work to a whole other level if he’d collaborate with a writer and draw his interpretation of the story, as many manga writers and artists do.

Though the first volume of Knights of Sidonia probably has more dialogue than all the volumes of Blame! combined or Biomega combined, too much is yet again left unexplained — a huge flaw consistent throughout his work that leaves many readers unfulfilled. And not just unexplained — implausible, unbelievable, ridiculous. I’m not going to accept that the people on Sidonia, a ship that’s been floating in space for a thousand years after the solar system was obliterated, somehow have enough resources of things that no longer exist in the universe to make tons of giant mecha, specialized weapons, wooden pagodas, and fancy kimonos. And I’m not going to accept that, like too many other cliche Japanese manga, a bunch of angsty, hormonal, stick-figure teenagers are going to save what’s left of humanity. Oh yeah, and they’re all magically Japanese — not a single person or name from another culture even though some of them have light-colored eyes and hair.

Which leads me to the third major flaw of Knights of Sidonia: unabashed “fan service” (as another reviewer put it), which is just a nicer way of saying sexism and misogyny. Beyond the ludicrous notion of traditional Japanese culture surviving in space for a millennium to satisfy nationalists and otakus, there are scenes suggesting females getting aroused by catheters in their space suits, monsters taking the form of naked females, the grisly murder of women with nudity, and yeah, only female nudity with no male nudity or brutality whatsoever. If that isn’t enough, there’s Nihei’s attempt at humor through yet more sexist cliches in Japanese manga, such as a male stumbling into a female’s “locker room” and a male getting his face accidentally pushed into a female’s crotch.

None of these complaints is something I thought I’d ever put in a review of Nihei’s work. I enjoyed Blame! and Biomega even if they started strong and slowly degenerated into a confusing mass of strange. But he hasn’t just dropped the ball with Knights of Sidonia — he’s lost his game.
View all my reviews

☠ Gally

Review © Gally Lines 06.02.13
Blog post © Gally Lines 06.02.13

http://lestismitethee.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/knights-of-sidonia-volume-1-2-review

I tend to keep my blog and my book reviews on Goodreads separate unless one directly relates to the other, but considering we’re planning a trip to Japan this year and the vast popularity of this book, I want to share it here too.

☠☠☠

1Q84 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Irretrievably Lost: 1Q84 Review by Gally Lines (3/5 stars)

Part 1 (4/5 stars)

At last, I’m reading 1Q84, the piece that set my sights on Haruki Murakami. If you’ve been to a bookstore, cafe, airport, subway, or looked for books online over the past year or two, chances are you’ve come across this even if you’ve never heard of Murakami before. As I mentioned in my review of Kafka on the Shore, I became interested in reading this when I read the blurb, but many mixed reviews online suggested starting with a shorter Murakami novel instead. I’ve read three and have finally come to this.

As some other reviewers noted, 1Q84 is a long and slow work at over 900 pages (originally published as three Japanese books), especially considering most of his other novels are in the 200-400 page range. The pace and some other details remind me of Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which I read just before this. If you couldn’t get through those 600 pages (again, a compilation of three books), then 1Q84 will not be any easier. I think both books are in need of further editing to take out many unnecessary details, such as when characters eat or take showers.

The book features alternating chapters between two protagonists: tough, fit, damaged but unbroken Aomame — the first female main character I’ve read by Murakami — and burly writer, cram school teacher, and math aficionado Tengo — the usual “every-man” main character in Murakami’s novels. This chapter structure is similar to the first two Murakami books I read, Kafka on the Shore and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. So far, it feels like he reuses many elements in his previous works, which means it remains consistent with what you expect from his novels but some details seem overlapping, such as the overused “every-man” protagonist, paragraphs on Japan’s war in Manchuria and other bits from Wind-Up Bird, and all the references to music, movies, and other books like in Hard-Boiled Wonderland.

Thankfully, the pace quickens and plots thicken after about 100 pages when Aomame’s deadly abilities surface, Tengo gets mixed up in fraud over the young, enigmatic budding story-teller Fuka-Eri, justice and vengeance and murder become intertwined for abused women, and a doppelganger moon and strange Little People appear.

In my previous reviews for Murakami books, I said I wasn’t impressed with how women were portrayed, but he has really stepped up with 1Q84. He raises issues like domestic abuse, rape, and victim-blaming through the backgrounds and dialogue of some these female characters. There’s still some unevenness when it comes to sexuality — he still focuses way more on female bodies than male bodies, and he’ll probably never have a gay scene despite all the lesbian scenes — but having so many strong and fragile female characters alike, plus a gay man, is refreshing.

A minor complaint other readers may snicker at is, will the characters ever eat a heavy meal? I’m tired of reading how every meal for every character is a light meal of this and that. How about we ignore the meal and just get on with it, shall we? I’ve got 600 more pages to go!

Part 2 (3.5/5 stars)

Part 2 of 1Q84 evokes two conflicting feelings for me in many aspects of the story.

On one hand, Aomame’s chapters are even more exciting than they were in Part 1; I devoured the first half of Part 2 as she confronts Leader and the life-or-death choices in this “other world” she was seized into. On the other hand, Tengo’s chapters are just as slow and boring as Part 1 and it feels like the story only progresses in tiny steps every other chapter or so. There are too many moments when he just eats, sleeps, waits for phone calls, or wanders around until something happens to him because he is definitely not a man of action. When I got to his night of the thunderstorm, I was put off by the book and slowed down to only reading it about every other day. There’s just something fundamentally wrong about a 30-year-old having sex with a 17-year-old, whether she’s a dohta or not (I had a similar complaint about Kafka on the Shore).

On one hand, Murakami outright explains the mystery of the Little People and dohtas, which was very unexpected because in all his other books I’ve read, there is little to no explanation of various story elements so readers can piece it together themselves. I think this makes 1Q84 the most easily understood and accessible of Murakami’s books, though not the best, because it’s not quite as metaphysical. On the other hand, there’s too frequent slow introspection by the characters iterating and reiterating facts and discoveries about the world of 1Q84, which the reader can piece together long before the characters do. And yet for all this reflection, Tengo doesn’t realize until the end of Part 2 he’s in his/Fuka-Eri’s own Air Chrysalis story, and doesn’t realize at all just how identical Air Chrysalis is to Fuka-Eri’s past, which was revealed by the Professor in Part 1.

I also felt the Air Chrysalis novella should’ve been included in the beginning of Part 2 because its story plays such a heavy role in the story of 1Q84. Instead, the reader gets Aomame’s summary, which includes when she stops to think about it. Again, the reader does not have to piece these stories together themselves, which takes away from the fun of Murakami’s novel.

An interesting note is the appearance of slimy Mr. “Bull River” Ushikawa in the beginning of Part 2. He shows up a few times in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which also takes place in 1984. This makes me wonder if 1Q84 is an alternate world of the 1984 of Wind-Up Bird.

All that being said, I found Part 2 almost as enjoyable as Part 1 with all its strangeness and emotions. I’m eager to finish the third and final part of 1Q84, especially after the cliff-hangers!

Part 3 (1.5/5 stars)

Let me say flat-out: I’m very disappointed with the final part of 1Q84. In a nutshell, Murakami just threw away Aoamame’s and Tengo’s personalities and developments from the first two parts of the book.

First off, Part 3 is just as slow and aimless as Part 3 of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Whereas Part 1 and 2 had clear objectives for the characters to strive towards, such as getting to Leader and turning Air Chrysalis into a bestseller, Part 3 involves a lot of sitting around while Aomame hopes to see Tengo out her window and Tengo waits for his father to die. The only character actually doing anything is Ushikawa, who tries to hunt down Aomame through Tengo on the orders of Sakigake, which the Little People control.

But the inclusion of Ushikawa’s own chapters disrupts the flow established by Part 1 and Part 2, where there are only alternating chapters between Aomame’s and Tengo’s perspectives. Ushikawa’s chapters don’t really even serve a purpose other than possibly recapping everything that happened in Part 1 and 2 as he digs into the backgrounds of Aomame and Tengo. It makes sense that Sakigake and the Little People would want to get to Aomame and Tengo, but Ushikawa could have been in the background of their chapters, just as Tamaru, the dowager, Fuka-Eri, and Komatsu were. I found myself skipping over whole paragraphs of his chapters about what he was eating or information he found out about Aomame and Tengo that I’ve already read multiple times. These chapters could have been left out all-together and I would’ve missed nothing.

It’s become clear to me over the course of 1Q84 that Aomame and Tengo end up becoming what they are haunted by.

Aomame spends Part 1 and 2 hunting down men who hurt women, strengthening herself because of how helpless she felt in her childhood, and sharing the pain of her friends at the hands of men. Then this logical, calculating one-woman-hit-squad somehow just accepts immaculate conception with a man she hasn’t seen in 20 years without freaking out, thinking she had a mental breakdown, or trying to remember if she was drugged, raped, and impregnated against her will? She suddenly believes in God and Little people and somehow cooly accepts that all things are possible in 1Q84.

I understand her deep desire for Tengo but the rest of this is just not her character. No one asked her permission to enter 1Q84 but she does her damnedest to get out in Part 1 and 2; no one asked her permission to become pregnant but suddenly she’s cool with it because she somehow “knows” Tengo’s the father. She spends her whole life trying not to be the victim and yet somehow becomes one in the end without realizing it. Worse yet is the stupid stereotypical “we have a baby now so we have to be together and everything will be good” ending. If she loves Tengo as much as she believes, she doesn’t need a baby to seek out Tengo. It would have been so much better it was just the two of them starting anew in a new world.

On the other side of this issue, Tengo is haunted by the memory of the man his mother ran off with. As an infant, he felt threatened by him “stealing” his mother and destroying the normal family life he could’ve had, and yet he willingly becomes that man as an adult by participating in an affair. Also, in Part 3, Tengo is described as a man of “leadership” and “a master of putting the pieces of puzzle” together, and yet he’s been the complete opposite the whole book (see my review of Part 1 and 2).

Finally, Murakami didn’t just lose sight of his characters. If Part 1 and 2 could use some editing to take out useless details, Part 3 is in dire need of it. I’ve never skipped over so many unnecessary sentences and paragraphs in a book before. I don’t care what the characters are eating, or when they took a nap, or what their neighbors looked like. Part 3 felt like a rough draft, and 1Q84 as a whole should’ve been 600 pages at most, not a feet-dragging 900.

Overall, 1Q84 had a strong start with a great female protagonist, but the story, characters, and even the magic of previous Murakami novels ever so slowly became “irretrievably lost,” resulting in his most disappointing novel yet. Skip this and stick with Kafka on the Shore.


[My favorite 1Q84 quotes]

View all my reviews

☠ Gally

Review © Gally Lines 05.16.13
Blog post © Gally Lines 05.16.13

http://lestismitethee.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/irretrievably-lost-1q84-review/

Edit: Junichi Masuda retweeted my blog post! :D  Cool!

Gally Lines Gally Lines
@LestISmiteThee
in South Korea: Tim Burton, Pokemon Festival 2013, WWFMX ~ wp.me/pQJKz-OR #geocaching#wwfm @Pokemon @Junichi_Masuda@GoGeocaching
06:23 PM – 05 May 13
Retweeted by

増田順一@GAME FREAK inc. 増田順一@GAME FREAK inc. @Junichi_Masuda
To 49108 followers.

 

☠☠☠

.:Move No. 16 – Another Year In Korea:.

My 16th move in January was the shortest and fastest one yet, just across town to the nicest apartment complex in the area: Lotte Castle. Now we have ondul (Korean-style heated hardwood floors), sunny veranda areas for each of our three bedrooms, heated bidet toilets, two-story underground parking garage to avoid cold/hot/wet weather when going to the car, quick access to the subway, local markets, cafes and pastry shops, and more!

One new thing to get used to was the recycling schedule and having to buy official city trash bags, but it’s all easy.

One of the restaurants near us is Pomodoro, which specializes in Italian food, which I <3! The owner was very nice and hand-prepared our food with his soux chef. We had fresh coffee, a basket of pumpernickel, waffle, and other style breads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar dip, a salad with pineapples slizces and dressing…

… creamy carbonara, and refreshingly light but filling spaghetti aglio e olio! This was my first time having this dish and it was fantastic!

The big AK Plaza subway shopping center near us has lots of stores and restaurants. One particular dish in a restaurant display case did not look so appetizing; it says “German style sausage omurice” but it just looks like poop on omurice XD

Cute Valentine’s Baskin Robbins cake. Korean Baskin Robbins has really cute and tasy stuff!

There’s also a big stationary store with San-X merch, like Rilakkuma and Kutusita Nyanko! This is by far the creepiest description of Rilakkuma though… XD

Just one of the many, many driving hazards of Korea. What was this guy thinking? And since Korean police don’t do anything about anything, no wonder they have such a high road fatality rate.

Nick took this adorable pic of our cats as he was leaving for work one morning. They love to snuggle with us and each other all the time ^_^

Another cute early-morning pic :3

Caught Starbuck sleeping in a cute position after I washed the sheets. They’re so good about adapting to new environments no matter where in the world we go.

Bread loaf Buckets! I love when they sit or lie down with their paws under them XD

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.:Tim Burton Exhibition, Seoul Museum of Art:.
I remember reading about the New York Tim Burton exhibit in college and have always wanted to go, and I finally got to this year in Seoul!

Old Korean palace entrance on our way to the Seoul Museum of Art. The guards were dressed as traditional imperial guards with waldo (?) weapons (Korean-style naginatas).

Before checking out the exhibit, we ate lunch at a place that was like a Korean Cracker Barrel with knick-knacks and yarn for sale everywhere. They had tasty pizza made of flattened biscuit dough and mozzarella drizzled with balsamic vinegar…

… and a zesty spaghetti aglio e olio! After enjoying this dish twice in different restaurants, it’s quickly becoming a new favorite food.

Welcome…

… to the Tim Burton Exhibit…

… at the Seoul Museum of Art!

This giant blow-up character greeted everyone who came into the museum, along with signs warning guests not to take pictures inside the exhibit rooms.


The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my favorite movies and is surprisingly popular in Korea where dark/Gothic media doesn’t really exist.

The exhibit spanned two massive floors with giant black rooms filled with drawings from Burton’s days as an art student and onwards, sculptures, movie props (including full body suits for Edward Scissorhands and Batman), and movie screenings.

Attendees got to keep their ticket stubs and tour guides, and there were also gift shops with Tim Burton art books, postcards, figurines, and more.

☠☠☠

.:Pokemon Festival 2013 (04-05 May 2013):.

Pokemon of Korea presents Pokemon Festival 2013! I’m a huge Pokemon fan so I was very excited to attend such a big event (for free!) that only seems to ever happen in Japan, and meet up once again with my Korean friend, Hyun-Joo, who is also big into Pokemon!

Entrance to the Festival lined with Pokemon gachapon machines, which can be found all over Korea. The Festival was on the third floor of a convention center with other events going on downstairs. We arrived early to beat most of the crowds and I got to take some nice pics before tons of people and really long waiting lines appeared.

Teasers for the “Pokemon Town Shopping Mall!”

One of the “Pokemon Town Shopping Mall” shops. Pokemon Story was a two-store chain in Seoul and Busan that sold Pokemon merch from the Pokemon Center stores in Japan, but it shut down late 2012 for some reason. Luckily, some of their stock of Pokedolls, Canvas plushes, and more were available once again at the Festival.

The second “Pokemon Town Shopping Mall” shop with lots of Korean and Japanese Pokemon goods. But wait, what’s that big ball?

WHAAAAAAAAAA?!?!?!!! TOMY SHINY GEN V STARTER PLUSHES!!! An extremely limited and coveted quantity of 1000 Tomy shiny starter plushes were given as lottery prizes only at Pokemon Center stores in Japan in 2012! If you can manage to find someone selling one online, they go for about $400 each! The fact that Pokemon of Korea got 300 of them to give out as prizes is astounding and got me soooo excited!

SO CUTE! I wanted an Oshawott so badly because he’s one of my favorites! Chances of winning were slim though. You got a one ticket for every 10,000 won (~$9.90) you spent at the second “Pokemon Town Shopping Mall” shop. Every ticket let you draw one paper slip out of the big plastic ball that blew them around inside so you couldn’t read them. The vast majority of these paper slips were not winning so spending more money increased your chances. I bet people who bought a 3DS or 3DS XL system at the Festival probably won at least once; there was no limit to how many times you could draw as long as you spent the money. I got three tickets and didn’t win anything T^T I was so bummed, but at least I got some neat Pokemerch from the store and adorable plush gifts from Hyun-Joo!

On the other side of the entrance where the giant Pokeball is were special sections for Wi-Fi game distributions where you could get special Pokemon in the games, like Eeveelutions, Dragonite, etc., and Pokemon anime previews!

Section for the new Genesect movie

Deoxys event station

Section for special N anime with a big blow-up Charizard

Big blow-up Lucario! He’s one of my favorites too so I had to take a picture next to him :D

Big blow-up Black Kyurem (and White Kyurem on the other side) standing guard over…

… the South Korean TCG Pokemon World Championships 2013! Though Hyun-Joo and I were definitely among the few adult attendees — let alone female adults — there for ourselves and not for kids, we saw one Korean man with a business suit, glasses, and balding hair challenging fellow adult TCG competitors in the Master class tournament!

Entrance to the kids’ playground and activity area. Paid tickets were required for this half of the Festival but not the rest. If you paid for a ticket, you got a special clearfile and an activity pamphlet so you could collect stickers all over this area. If you found a whole set, you got a special prize.

Big blow-up Groudoun, Snivy, Tepig, and more way in the back.

A cooking class to make Pikachu-shaped cookies. Some turned out better than others XD

There was a big stage that said “Pokemon Musical,” just like in Black and White, where they played anime previews and…

… musical performances where you could sing and dance along with the Pokemon on the screen. I wanted to hug that big fat fuzzy Pikachu!

So much fun was had with my husband Nick and my good friend Hyun-Joo, but the highlight of the whole day was when…

… HYUN-JOO WON TWO SHINY STARTER PLUSHES AND GAVE ME ONE!!!!! She had 29 tickets and managed to grab two winning slips in the plastic ball. They let winners choose which starters they wanted so we both got cute, fuzzy, SHINY Oshawott plushes! WOOT!!! I am so happy and lucky to have Hyun-Joo as my friend!

☠☠☠

.:World Wide Flash Mob X (04 May 2013):.

I hosted my first Geocaching event, WWFM X (South Korea)! There were 556 flash mob events in 42 countries this year! Special congrats to EARTHQUAKE5683 for making our event their 4000th find!

☠ Gally

Photos © Gally Lines 2013
Blog post © Gally Lines 05.05.13

http://lestismitethee.wordpress.com/2013/05/05/gally-in-south-korea-tim-burton-pokemon-festival-2013-wwfm-x

Cloud Atlas: A NovelCloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Juche (or Chaebol) Should Fear It: Cloud Atlas Review by Gally Lines (4/5 stars)

This guy can write.

I’m blown away at how well this book is written. Clearly, David Mitchell can write in any genre in any time as any gender and even make them all connect — a true composer of a symphony of words.

I admit some of the vocabulary in the early pages had me keeping my tablet browser open on dictionary.com while I read and some of the Romanization and terminology in Sonmi’s story were off based on my and my husband’s knowledge of North and South Korea. Most notably, the use of the term Juche, a complicated term that essentially means the cult of North Korean culture, indicates North Korea took over most of eastern Asia after the “Skirmish” because South Korea would never use this term. How North Korea convinced everyone that capitalism, not its polar opposite of communism which it so strongly believes in, is the salvation of the world, I have no idea. Either that or Mitchell mistakenly used “Juche” instead of the term Chaebol, which is honestly a lot more credible and believable because the handful of families who own all the major corporations in South Korea actually do have a heavy influence in its politics. Also, Chaebol is a term used for a group of people while Juche is an extreme philosophy bordering on radical religion, but Juche is used in the book for a group of people.

You have an idea of what the book is about if you read the blurb so I won’t summarize the characters and their intertwining stories. What I will say is that while I found half of the stories slow and somewhat uninteresting — Ewing, Frobisher, and Cavendish — some parts were absolutely amazing — Rey, Zachry, and especially Sonmi. But this is my own bias since I mostly read fantasy, sci-fi, and the occasional thriller; I want to read a whole book just about Sonmi. Nonetheless, every character is fully developed and believable, and noticing all the differences in the writing styles, time periods, and how each character influenced another along the jet stream of time is a priceless experience.

I also like how there are multiple ways to read the book: as the author intended, reading in the order of the page numbers; reading each character’s entire story and working forward in time; backwards in time; etc.

This book isn’t for everyone, but if you stick with it even if some parts go over your head, you might find some stories you like and realize the experience as a whole is unique, dynamic, and the characters stay with you.

Now I’m curious to see how the movie was done….

[My favorite Cloud Atlas quotes]

View all my reviews

☠ Gally

Review © Gally Lines 01.11.13
Blog post © Gally Lines 01.11.13

http://lestismitethee.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/the-juche-or-chaebol-should-fear-it-a-cloud-atlas-review/