Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Bookworm: Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

Crossposted from Goodreads.

"Expectation. That is the true soul of art. If you can give a man more than he expects, then he will laud you his entire life. If you can create an air of anticipation and feed it properly, you will succeed.

Conversely, if you gain a reputation for being too good, too skilled... beware. The better art will be in their heads, and if you give them an ounce less than they imagined, suddenly you have failed.

It is those words, spoken by a true mystery tucked away on the final three or so pages of the Words of Radiance that truly resonated at the very end.

Because, and without attempting to be presumptive of Brandon Sanderson's meaning behind those words, it was the task that we fantasy readers have set upon him after his tremendous first book of this series, given that it was held up in the same light as many already established legends in the genre.

And yet, that quote does more than just speak about the author's enormous task. The art of expectation and at its heart, the truth and lies of human perspective, really was a theme that wove itself quite profoundly throughout the story, though it took sincerely deep retrospection on my part to realize how deeply ingrained it was. Every character, from the good to the bad to the ones you wanted to strangled, from even the biggest names to the most menial of characters either struggled with this art, toyed with it, or tried to seize control of it. 

But that is human and a trial that is seen everywhere in fiction and non. But it is in the execution of it that made it artful. And while I cannot say what or how such battles resolved itself, if resolved at all without spoiling too much, I can say that their results were decidedly mixed.

Book two contained just as much world-building and character-establishing as the first book, proving the adage at least in Sanderson's written world that the more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know.

But while the increase in complexity added a fascinating depth to the world and its central characters, it also really dampened the pacing of the story, particularly throughout the middle, where much of it was mostly establishing new relations and thickening plots, lacking much satisfactory progression. I admit that I found myself growing increasingly impatient and frustrated with the pacing, and made a bad habit of skipping ahead from time to time to ease it.

It is a trait that I noticed in his first book, one that was repeated in this one and I can't help but wonder if it is a common thread of his in his stories - in that he will spend an extraordinary amount of time creating a slow build mixed in with many infuriating clues but no resolution, before unleashing chaos in the final three-quarters of the book.

And when I say chaos, I mean a chaos that can be matched only a few times in fantasy literature. Think the Battle of Pelennor's Fields combined with the fist-pumping sensation experienced at the end of the Battle of Helm's Deep. And even that can't match the scope of the chaos.

That foreshadowing is common in every book, but the way Sanderson builds expectation is perhaps too effective to the point where impatience is inevitable.

And yet, here I am complaining about pacing when in truth, Sanderson's story moves. That is to say he didn't spend three, or four or in one really significant case... TWELVE massive books talking and talking and waiting on a big world-changing event. 

No, Sanderson got to his point swiftly and in some ways, way too soon for where society is in preparing for it. But is that not life, when a tragedy often comes sooner than you hope and when you are least prepared for it?

And we are more than unprepared, for truly the future is now uncertain now that what was foreshadowed had come to pass. We are now totally at the mercy of fate, because there is nothing that is now known for sure in this world. 

Granted, Sanderson doesn't have the shock value of A Song of Ice and Fire and in some ways doesn't play the game of gritty realism. But in the same breath it isn't playing said game because it is playing its own.

Despite some of my honest annoyances, including one gigantic spoiler that involves an unnecessary attraction at this point of the story in my opinion, Brandon Sanderson did not fail in the expectations that were given Book two of The Stormlight Archives.

He certainly lived up to my expectations. And he did it entirely too well, to the point that I'm already growing impatient for Book three.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Latest obsession: Ruche @ shopruche.com

When I shop, particularly online shop, I try to do it with a certain aesthetic in mind within a certain price point. 

Classic. Easily mixed and matched. And elegant.

Mostly because I find that if I simply aimlessly shop online, I end up with an enormous amount of buyer's remorse. 

This is particularly true for when I'm shifting around in the uber-trendy but often annoying fashion world of Forever 21 - of which I tend to spend way too much time window shopping in. While enough of their designs do fit into my mental aesthetic (particularly their Love21 line) and the price is really really good, more often than not I find that the fabric and construction can be shoddy and therefore an uncomfortable piece to wear.

But when I found Ruche, a vintage-inspired store on the internet this spring, I felt like I hit the jackpot. Because it's perfect in its elegance and classic style that reminds me so much of the English countryside that I could almost picture Elizabeth Bennet wearing these!

Now granted, the price point of their items are in a higher bracket than F21's, falling more into the range of Dynamite and Jacob (but not quite as high as Club Monaco). But it was absolute treasure trove of pieces that fit into my mental aesthetic, from skirts to dresses to tops. Styles that I love to death but struggle constantly to find at a price I can afford it at.

And these are absolutely affordable.

Luckily, when I did find it, I already had a small list of things I wanted and was able to focus on those pieces - lace shirts and tanks to wear under blazers, of which I purchased two pieces (a tank top and a peplum top) and a lace inlaid dress for a nice night out, which I ended up settling on a beautiful steel blue lace sheath dress all in small.

Not only were they shipped in extremely quickly (and free once you exceed $75 dollars, which on this site really isn't hard to do due to the heightened price point) and hassle-free, but the fabric they were made of are amazingly soft and of a high quality! I couldn't believe how well made they were.

I couldn't believe how cute they were and can't wait to wear them with my existing clothing collection! (Hopefully with pictures)

Now knowing all this, I am having an extremely hard time not going absolutely insane with the site. And I don't mean a little insane either - we're talking HUNDREDS of dollars being spent on pieces that I've found since the initial discovery - from pencil skirts to dresses to jewelry.

I love it. But I can already hear my bank account sobbing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Seeking style inspiration: Kate Middleton

Everyone doesn't need a style icon in life. Most people go through life without one and do just fine when it comes to dressing themselves actually. 

But I'm not one of those people. I'm actually someone who are just the right blend of clueless, tomboy and lazy that without some help and positive reinforcement, would leave home looking a bit like a walking fashion disaster on most days. 

So for the last few years, and moreso since I got a proper job in a place that can be best described as professionally super casual, I've been desperately seeking a style icon in which to both stabilize my wardrobe from funky and random trends that doesn't actually go together to a good foundation of go-to staples that will make getting dressed in five minutes (a frankly frequent and terribly bad habit of mine) a little less stressful.

Why a few years? Because finding the right style icon is actually hard. And I went through the full gamut of ideas from Lauren Conrad to Alexa Chung for the right balance of casual and professional and never quite found something I felt suited my tastes or turned out to be a touch too trendy.

Until recently when I realized that there was one person I kept referring back to in my wardrobe and particularly shoe choices: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. AKA Kate Middleton.

How did a tomboy end up settling on a princess as a style icon and inspiration?

Well let's start with the fact that I found her casual wardrobe of jeans and a button to be both really cute but also really put together and comfortable looking - perfect for working days. And I loved how she recycled pieces like a real live person, unlike television characters and enough actual celebrities who never seem to wear the same piece more than once.

And all her design choices aren't super trendy or reliant on the times - she chooses solid staples that will last through ages - from striped shirts to navy blazers to black pumps, she makes it easy to mix and match pieces for every occasion and they are pieces that will last you years regardless of fashion's fickle mind.

But what of her actual princess event attire? The ones in skirts, dresses and shoes that honestly is a little too dressy for life at my office? 

Well first, I learned not to look at the dresses (although I love love LOVE her preference for lace inlaid dresses) but the accessories, outerwear and make-up. 

While her hats are out of the question, her jackets makes me wish I could actually afford a Burberry jacket (HAH!) and are easy to emulate using other brands (Although realistically, people don't need more than three or four winter coats) . The shoes she wears as well as transitions really smartly with other more casual outfits.

And her make-up and hair is always super easy to handle and manageable.

Already I can see my closet make that slow transition to her easy, mix-and-match British sensibility that she has. It's a new feeling to embrace, in addition to getting my head around the value of layering, but I can't say I don't really like how my style has matured of late.

Despite the hit it takes on my wallet from time to time. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Assorted goodies of a creative mind

With my book reviewing world on hold due to the reading of Words of Radiance, and my video gaming habits on a bit of a hiatus in order to clear my brain, I've transitioned into a bit of fanfiction writing as a means to waste time and divulge various plot bunnies that bounce around my head.

My work in fanfiction is sporadic at best, non-existent at its worst and in large and long intervals. Most of the time it's just getting well and plain stuck, other times it's me spending far too much time researching and getting bored of the subject matter because I soon feel as if I'm in over my head.

And I'm nit-picky too. I like my stories to be canon and believable. I like my characters to be true to the characterization they come from. And I like my stories to be accurate.

I did manage to spit out a quick 1700 word drabble on Olaf from Frozen in the last few days, but other than that, the other works have been mostly slow moving, with at least one epic on the move.

And I'm doing my best to at least get the work completely written before going ahead and publishing it. Which is how most writers actually operate anyway given that you don't hand out chapters when the book isn't even complete.

But I'll be honest, I'd make a terrible author. Not without some kind of absurd deadline breathing down on me anyway.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lazy Saturdays

From Pinterest
So today I spent far too much time on Pinterest looking for casual yet cut outfits I could wear to work tonight for no other reason than the fact that I felt like procrastinating.

(Granted, in a change of things, I made my bed, folded a load of clean laundry and separated another dirty load in which to run on my next trip. So it wasn't as if I was completely idle today - like most weekends where I'd be tied ceremoniously to my computer gaming)

Casual because I work in a really relaxed space where showing up in a dress is left to those that work in front of the camera and not behind. And because it's Saturday and there's no reason for me to be dressed uncomfortably on a weekend.

Especially when one is dealing with an allergy attack that has her body partially breaking out in really itchy and uncomfortable hives.

(News flash: I am allergic to everything.)

The outfit on the left is what inspired me for today's outfit but with a few different elements to reflect what I actually have in my closet.

Like for instance, nothing in the world presently will ever justify the purchase of UGGS to me.

Despite my best attempts, I haven't quite nailed down Sunday's casual outfit. Well I narrowed it down enough that I'm going to be using my denim shirt but that's about it. We'll see what my mood is tomorrow, although I wouldn't put it past my own lazy self to just eschew the planning and just go to my standard blue jeans and sweater combo. Because that's easy and can be assembled in less than 10 minutes.

Because life can be too busy to waste time sometimes.

Friday, March 7, 2014

There and back again: A blogging tale by an inconsistent blogger

So I have about five minutes between doing laundry and reading Words of Radiance to type out a quick thought on blogging and why I suck at it.

(By the way, Words of Radiance and its author Brandon Sanderson are phenomenal. I've been describing the series as "the next Game of Thrones" to a lot of my illiterate friends. Seriously, if you like fantasy books, you'll thank me for recommending this)

First, it's the fact that I create a gimmick for it and quickly tire of the topic and premise. The second is simply that when you hit a point that it feels like work and not something I enjoy is when I just stop wholesale from doing it because I find other things I'd rather do.

Like reading.

Albeit, I missed writing regularly and getting my creative juices flowing once more. So here I am, back again and attempting to re-invent myself through the blog that I felt best reflected my life and what I'm up to.

But I'm going to drop the gimmicks and the themes and the planning when it comes to running a blog and just let it reflect me and my insane lack of being able to focus on one specific topic from month to month. Because it is tiresome after X number of months.

From this point out, I would rather focus on what's on my mind, what topic "grinds my gears" so to speak and what interests me. Like right now, I'm really into reading a wide variety of books, the movie Frozen and worrying about finances despite wanting to buy pretty things.

Can you tell I just dropped a large amount of money on things I don't need, money that I should realistically be saving and/or putting towards various debts of mine? Needless to say I'm not the best money manager.

I think my five minutes are up. We'll see how long this lasts this time around. :)