Getting Back Into Poetry

Getting Back Into Poetry

A long time ago, used to write poetry. I stopped sometime in high school after I got into writing novels and screenplays. Today, I tried writing poetry for the first time in a while. A few haikus. And in Japanese, too. ^^

If you’re unfamiliar with the format of a haiku, it’s basically a short poem that’s five syllables one line, followed by seven syllables the second line, followed by five syllables in the third line. And that’s it.

I wrote these in Japanese, but I wanted to share these here anyway because I thought they were pretty good. 🙂 The romanized Japanese is in italics next to the poem. Below each poem is a short explanation as to the meaning.

浜辺 Hamabe

浪の泡 Nami no awa
足跡が消し Ashiato ga keshi
平和な海 Heiwa na umi

This poem’s title is “Hamabe,” or “Shoreline.” It feels like a more serious haiku. The meaning is “The bubbles on the waves, footprints are erased, a peaceful beach.” This haiku actually wrote itself backwards, as the line “Ashiato ga keshi” came to me suddenly during my second-period class today. So I rushed back to the staff room ASAP and wrote it down, and it turned into this haiku.

学校 Gakkou

寒廊下 Kanrouka
子供の海がKodomo no umi ga
体操着 Taisougi

This is a sillier haiku. Its title is “Gakkou,” or “School.” The first line, “Kanrouka” is written with the characters for “cold” and “hallway,” but it’s not a proper word. It means “cold hallway.” (of course) The second line and third lines together mean “The sea of children is gym clothes.”

In Japanese elementary schools, the kids don’t have a uniform, but during the morning classes, they’ll wear their taisougi (gym clothes), so walking through the hallways in the mornings during passing periods, you’ll just see a sea of kids in blue gym clothes.

近所 Kinjo

広い谷 Hiroi tani
夕焼けの空 Yuuyake no sora
我が近所 Waga kinjo

This one, entitled “Kinjo” or “Neighborhood,” and I wrote it with an image of the sun setting over the valley that is just below my house. “The wide valley, the sky and the sunset, my neighborhood.”

ペ-ジ Pe-ji

白い紙 Shiroi kami
一文字染める Hitomoji someru
黒印 Kuro shirushi

This one is called “Page.” I wrote it after envisioning the following: “A white page, a single letter dyes it, a black mark.”

英語の授業 Eigo no jugyou

児童声 Jidou koe
授業中皆 Jugyouchuu mina
うるさいよ (ー ー;) Urusai yo

This one is called “English class.” I actually wrote it during class–the students were all being loud and noisy and I was waiting for them to be quiet so we could finish, and I scribbled this one in the margins of my textbook . xD

“Kids’ voices during class. Everyone, shut up. (ー ー;)”

Hope you enjoyed! 乙女

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Above the Flames Book Review

Above the Flames Book Review

I’ve become a very discerning reader in the past few years.

That being said, it’s time for another book review. This review is not for my reading challenge, but rather for Xpresso Book Tours.

Xpresso Book Tours

Above the Flames, Book One in The Flames Trilogy by Cassandra Fear.

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Above the Flames book cover

My first thought upon seeing the book cover was that it’s a very catchy cover. If I were picking this up in a library or a bookstore, I’d be tempted to look at the description on the back cover or even read the first few pages to see if it’s any good.

The premise behind this book is that Jasmine is just your normal, everyday teenager, who just happens to be able to shoot flames from her hands at will. On her sixteenth birthday, her father is killed and her mother throws her out of the house to live with her grandparents. Two years pass, and on her eighteenth birthday, all Hell breaks loose. (literally) Demons from Hell come to invade Earth and kidnap her, and she becomes embroiled in the fight between Heaven and Hell, all the while fighting to keep her attraction for her fallen angel rescuer Amon in check. A paranormal urban fantasy with some romantic undertones.

The full synopsis is as follows:

Jasmine’s sixteenth birthday was the worst ever…

All in one day, her dad died, she met a demon, and her mother rejected her existence forever. After all, the demon who killed her dad was there to take her, and all because of her stupid powers—the ability to conjure blue flames.

Two years later, she’s happy. But happy never lasts…

After moving to Idaho to live with her grandparents, Jasmine has a new life. Almost nobody knows about her powers, and she’s just a normal teenager with normal problems. Then comes her eighteenth birthday—and the earthquake that changes her world forever.

An army of demons rise from Hell. And Jasmine is right in the middle of the battle…

When demons claw their way to Earth, Jasmine is surrounded by hundreds of fire-eyed beasts. Worse, she is captured by a big-shot demon named Bael. He’s a tricky foe with a chip on his shoulder—and the desire to make Jasmine use her powers for evil.

Amon is a fallen angel with an attitude—and everything to lose.

Successfully escaping the underworld undetected, Amon is on a quest to regain God’s grace when he rescues Jasmine from the clutches of a particularly nasty demon he knows all too well. The attraction between him and the not-entirely-human captive is instantaneous. Heavenly sparks fly, but ideas of romance will have to wait. First they have to stop the demon race from wiping out the mortal realm. Humanity’s fate rests in their hands.

Can two troubled angels rise above the flames to ensure a future for mankind? Or will Jasmine and Amon’s souls be bound together—in hell?

In this review, I will be evaluating the book based on several aspects: plot, pacing, description, point of view, characterization, dialogue, spelling and grammar, believability, and final thoughts, such as whether or not I would recommend it to friends and family and if I would be tempted to buy and read Book Two when it comes out.

So has this book passed the “Corinne” test?

Let’s look first at the plot. Without going into spoiler territory, the plot is quite enjoyable. It follows a logical progression, with believable situations, and is easy to follow. And at the end of the book, I have to admit that I was satisfied at the resolution. In addition, the pacing of the book isn’t too rushed and doesn’t drag. My only problem with the plot of this novel is that multiple times, the angels say “Rewards were set for the demons in this war,” but they don’t say by whom, or for what reason. And considering that the main plot of this novel is the war between the angels and demons, I think it’s pretty important that we know who set the rewards and why.

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Although I do assume that this might be something that will be touched upon further in book two, so I’m not deducting any points for that. It was just something I noticed as I read.

The book also wins full points for description and point of view. Occasionally, I found myself asking whether or not a character knew something they shouldn’t – for example, one scene in Amon’s point of view has him describing Jasmine’s eyes as “coffee-colored,” and I wasn’t really clear on whether or not he’d know what coffee is. But these are very, very minor.

My problems come with character development. I had trouble connecting emotionally with the main character, Jasmine. Most of the time she seemed like a one-dimensional character, always obsessed with making either Amon or Beau, her boyfriend, fall in love or stay in love with her. We never really got to see much of her aside from that, until the very end, when she is kidnapped by the demons and gets a chance to react to situations without it affecting how Amon or Beau view her.

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One saving grace of this book is that there are multiple POV characters besides Jasmine, including Amon, the fallen-angel-turned-love-interest, and he is a good character to read – very believable, very interesting, and quite sympathetic. I had no problems becoming and staying emotionally connected to him. My only problem with the demons – the main villains of this novel – was that we had two different demons, Belze and Bael, and I kept getting them confused; Belze was Bael’s direct subordinate, and so they had a lot of scenes together, and I had trouble telling them apart sometimes because both of them had names starting with “B.”

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Another problem I had with characterization was that occasionally, I wasn’t able to believe some characters’ motivations and reactions. For example, a subplot was introduced in terms of Jasmine’s mother, who never loved her daughter because Jasmine was adopted and not her biological child and she apparently “wasn’t cut out to be a mother.” Yet she still signed the papers and raised the kid for sixteen years, and she had a choice long ago not to become a mother. And Jasmine, upon hearing this revelation, gets incredibly angry at her mother for not telling her this earlier, which I also had trouble believing, because if that’s so, wouldn’t she also get angry with her (deceased) father for not telling her that earlier?

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The fallen angels’ dialogue and the demons’ dialogue is believable and seems to fit with their characters, but Jasmine’s dialogue didn’t feel like a real teenager was speaking the lines. In the first ten or so chapters, she sounded too mature for a teenage girl, until her dialogue kind of fixed itself later on in the novel. But she was also really annoying, too – she kept saying “fan-fricking-tastic,” when teenagers don’t even say that anymore. This hasn’t really been a popular phrase since the turn of the century, and it didn’t make her sound like a real teenager.

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My biggest problem with this novel was, by far, the spelling and grammar errors.

Comma splices, incorrect verb forms, misspelled words, missing “had” in a sentence so that it was in the simple past (She was) rather than the past perfect (She had been) that messed up the timing of the entire scene, etc.

This book really could have used a good editor to catch all these typos. Each time I found a typo, I was drawn out of the story because then I had to figure out what the sentence was actually supposed to mean. My overarching thought through this entire book was “This book really could have used a good editor.”

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If anyone’s curious, I counted 32 individual typos in this book. That means I got drawn out of the story 32 times not by my own choosing. And the prose reads a little bit stilted, not smooth and flowing as it should.

Moving on: is this book believable? Did the author successfully get me to suspend my disbelief and make me think that these characters and their situation was real, and could maybe happen in reality? Yes, for the most part.
Would I recommend this book to friends and family? Yes, if it was edited properly and given a re-release with all the typos fixed.

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Would I be tempted to buy Book Two when it comes out? Perhaps. My biggest complaint with this book is that it wasn’t edited properly and there were a lot of sentence-level errors that prevented me from being completely absorbed into the story. But if Book Two was edited properly, then yes, I might be tempted to find it in the library or bookstore and read the first few chapters to see if it was any good.

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This last aspect is something that I would only consider for a book that is part of a series, which this one is. (Book One in a trilogy). Does this book accomplish what it set out to do? Does it present an overall arching plot that will sustain three entire books yet give us some sort of satisfying conclusion at the end of this one? My answer is yes, it does. A rather satisfying ending, tying up some loose ends to the overall arching plot yet leaving us with a bigger question: Will Lucifer be able to take over Earth and turn it into his new Hell, or will the angels be able to stop him from achieving his goal?

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So after all is said and done, what is my overall rating of this work?
I’d say that Above the Flames by Cassandra Fear gets a solid four out of five star rating from me. An enjoyable novel with just enough plot twists to keep you guessing, whose biggest fault is all the spelling and grammar errors that should have been caught by her editor before publication that drew me out of the story. But aside from that, a fun read.

About the Author

Cassandra Fear lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids and two dogs. Hiking, taking care of her fish tank, and reading are her favorite hobbies. She loves chocolate, hates driving in the snow, and could eat macaroni and cheese every day. In her spare time, she loves to write, and has always dreamed of becoming an author. Her dreams will become reality with her first book, Above the Flames.

And guess what? Limitless Publishing is giving away a free signed copy of Above the Flames to one lucky winner! The giveaway ends May 12, so sign up below. All the links on this page will open in a new tab, because I’m all about convenience.:)

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Click here to follow me on Facebook!

Click here to follow me on Twitter to keep up with my latest activities!

And don’t forget to check out some of my other posts.

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The Twenty-One Stages of Writing a Novel, Told In Memes

My review of Eve: The Awakening by Jenna Moreci

That’s all for today. Thank you to all who stopped by my blog to celebrate my friend Cassie’s book release. Don’t forget to like this post, share it on social media, follow my blog for more awesome book reviews, and leave a comment below telling me what you thought of Above the Flames!

Can’t get enough of Above the Flames? Well, why not follow the entire blog tour? Follow the link below to find information as to other blogs that are reviewing the book, interviewing the author, or hosting a guest post by Cassandra herself!

Blog Tour for Above the Flames

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you later! May your swords stay sharp! 乙女

Busy busy Japan prep!

T-minus 105 days until liftoff!

105 is a big number, but it’s going to go down very soon. I wanted to just write another post and process some thoughts and things that have been going through my mind.

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Today is a big day, technically, because it’s the deadline for the first round of documents for the JET program: the reply form, which says that you accept the job, the photocopy of your passport (so they can make sure you have citizenship) and the photocopy of the application for an FBI background check. (In order to be eligible for the program, you have to get a background check through the FBI, which can take a few months, but they want a photocopy of the request form in order to prove that you will have the background check before departure.)

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So far, most of my Japan prep has been mentally processing the fact that I’m going to be leaving the country and living on my own for the first time, and it’s incredibly scary yet exhilarating at the same time. And I’m still staying in my old childhood bedroom where I’ve lived for the past thirteen years since we moved into this house,  and I’ve accumulated a lot of things, so I’ve begun to sort out my room. My parents have said that they want to rent out my room once I move out, but I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

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I’ve begun sorting out my stuff by going through all my old handwritten drafts of novels and the various notebooks and loose leaf papers I’ve got laying around and just typing up the relevant stuff on my computer so I can either put the notebooks into storage with the rest of my things or throw them away, and that way I won’t have to waste space in my luggage by taking them with me, and I’ll still be able to access what I wrote so that I can continue to work on those drafts.

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I’ve also started selecting things that I will definitely take to Japan with me, things that I would like to take with me if I have room in my luggage, and things that I won’t take with me and will either put into storage or sell or give away. So far, the stuff that’s going to Japan with me is a meager pile: my spare glasses, my passport, the yen that I have left from the last time I went to Japan (which is worth about $25 USD), a notebook my brother gave me that I will use as a diary when I arrive, and some various other odds and ends, like an outlet converter, a Japanese Wii game that I bought on a whim last time I went to Japan, forgetting that Nintendo likes to region-lock their consoles, meaning I’d have to buy a Japanese Wii when I get over there, etc.

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I haven’t even received my placement information yet, so I don’t know what grade level(s) I’ll be teaching or where in Japan I will be living, so I still have a while to get everything sorted out, which is good because I still have a lot of my room to sort out. I also have three bags in my closet full of old manga that I no longer enjoy reading, some DVDs I never intend on watching again, various books that I don’t intend to read again, textbooks left over from my undergrad days, some old video games that have lost their appeal, etc. Things that I don’t want anymore that I intend to sell. I already took three bags down to Goodwill of stuff that I don’t want anymore but couldn’t get any money off of, like old clothes and toys.

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And it just feels really weird because I’ll have to leave my home and my family and my dog and my friends and everything I’ve ever known. And while I’ve always wanted to move to Japan and thought that I would be mentally prepared for it when the day finally came, now I’m expecting that I’ll definitely have some bouts of homesickness once I’m over there. And yet I know that in six or seven months, once I’ve been in Japan for a while and gotten integrated into my new community and made a life for myself over there, I’ll look back on these earlier blog posts and laugh at myself.

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I’d like to finish off this blog post with an inspiring quote from one of my favorite movies.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.

From The Princess Diaries 1 and 2.

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As always, thank you for reading my long and rambly post. Leave a comment below: if you were moving to a foreign country and could only take one thing with you (everything else you own would be put into storage in your home country and you couldn’t ship anything to yourself once you were there) what would you choose to bring?

May your swords stay sharp! 乙女

Got accepted onto the JET program!

Got accepted onto the JET program!

I got an e-mail yesterday from the JET program notifying me of my acceptance onto the program.

For those who don’t know, the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) program is a very competitive program that sends foreigners from over twenty countries to Japan for a one-year contract teaching English. It’s an initiative run by the Japanese government itself, and is not only the most well-known, but also the most competitive. And I got in.

I’m still kind of in shock about this because I thought this day would never come. I applied last year for the JET program but was rejected at the first stage of screening – the paper application phase. For a week or so, I became a shut-in, and then, when I applied to Interac (another program similar to JET, but a for-profit one rather than a government initiative) later that year and was also rejected, I became severely depressed and thought I’d never get to go to Japan. I even started to think that maybe my entire college degree was just a big waste of money – I had majored in Japanese in college, but found myself wondering why I had done that if I wasn’t ever going to get to use what I had learned.

But now I have been accepted onto JET. And now my life will get even crazier, what with all the documents and things I’ll need to submit to get my visa, and then packing, and everything else… So I thought I would maybe start a series of posts on my blog specifically related to the JET program, including my preparations, thoughts before leaving, and then during my time in Japan, so that I’ll have a written record and can look back and reflect on it.

My first step after getting this e-mail is submitting more documents – accepting my offer of employment, submitting a background check through the FBI, and getting a doctor’s appointment scheduled – JET won’t let me leave for Japan until they know my GP has approved it. Basically, I just need to get a checkup and make sure I don’t have some kind of incurable disease or something that would make it impossible for me to fulfill a one-year contract, get my doctor to sign the Certificate of Health (which is basically a fancier version of a permission slip) and submit that.

I still don’t know where in Japan I’m going to be sent, or what grade level(s) I’m going to teach. I don’t find that out until sometime in May. But for starters, the San Francisco JETs are having a get-together this weekend, and I might end up going to that.

My official departure date is July 29, so there’s still about four months until I leave. For the next four months, in addition to my regular posts about my reading challenge, I’ll occasionally be making posts about my preparations for JET and my thoughts and feelings as I get read to move to and live in a foreign country for the first time in my life. Wish me luck! 乙女

The Twenty-One Stages of Writing a Novel

I’m not going to really put any sort of introduction here. I’m just going to let the post speak for itself. These are the 21 stages of writing a novel, as told in memes.

Stage One: The Idea

Stage Two: Outlining

Stage Three: Starting to Write

Stage Four: Frustration

Stage Five: Snacks

Stage Six: Despair

Stage Seven: Being Constantly Interrupted From Your Writing by Family, Friends, and Pets

Stage Eight: Finishing the First Draft

Stage Nine: Recruiting Beta Readers

Stage Ten: Awaiting Feedback From Said Beta Readers

Stage Eleven: Reviewing Feedback From Beta Readers

Stage Twelve: Coming to Terms With the Flaws In Your Writing (aka Realizing That Your Beta Readers Are Absolutely Right)

Stage Thirteen: Organizing Revisions

Stage Fourteen: More Snacks

Stage Fifteen: Finishing Revisions

Stage Sixteen: Drafting the Query Letter

Stage Seventeen: Receiving Rejections From Queried Agents

Stage Eighteen: Even More Snacks (To Dull the Pain Of Rejection)

Stage Nineteen: Finally Landing That Publishing Deal

Stage Twenty: Public Acclaim For Your Novel

Stage Twenty-One: And It Begins Again

Happy Tuesday, everyone! 乙女