Monday, October 17, 2016



Since school is getting to be a little much right now, I'm going to put Sometimes I'm a Story on hiatus for a little bit. Not to worry—I'll be back again next month (probably before Thanksgiving) with more discussions, ideas, and more.

Also, don't feel sad that I'm going away. I'm still going to be visiting blogs and sharing awkward stories on Twitter if you find you miss me.

See you in November!


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Do House Systems in Fiction Appeal to You?

Historic Milling Town of Falk
Flickr Credit: blmcalifornia
House systems make me suspicious.

I’m not against dividing students. In both my high school and university, colleges separate students so they take classes according to their desired career—STEM, business, healthcare/service, or arts. These allow students to specialize, which is a good thing in our world! Thus, I can understand why fictional schools or organizations have houses. Individuals have a personal “group” to whom they can be loyal. It forces team dynamics. It can be nice.

At the same time, at my schools we aren’t differentiated by uniforms with our house sigils. We aren’t always divided. The point is specialization, not group (read as: mob) loyalty that defines student relationships. We can even participate in more than one “house” if we want to! It happens in books, though. House systems manipulate kids. By blocking certain interactions or exchanges of information, these houses can lead to terrible, terrible things. So I thought I’d look at a few.

Harry Potter’s houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin, Ravenclaw
Percy Jackson’s cabins: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Ares, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Hephaestus, Aphrodite, Hermes, Dionysus [and more]
Shadow and Bone’s Grisha Orders: Corporalki, Etheralki, Materialki
H.I.V.E.’s streams: Alpha, Henchman, Political/Financial, Technical
39 Clues’ branches: Lucian, Ekaterina, Janus, Tomas, Madrigal

via Goodreads

Who is allowed to join this house?

HP| the virtuous—houses distinguish students by their value for bravery, honesty, cunning, or wit
PJO| the heirs—cabins distinguish campers by their godly parent
Grisha| the heirs—orders select students by their innate ability for the small science
H.I.V.E.| the skilled—streams divide students based on a propensity for leadership, tactical skill, social orders, and technology
39C| the heirs—branches claim talented members of a certain bloodline

via Goodreads

Do students take classes together?

HP| sometimes—younger students are more divided; older students with similar career goals intermix
PJO| yes—most activities are open to everyone, though cabins do dictate teams sometimes
Grisha| sometimes—Grisha specialize within the small science, but they might go over history, etc. in groups (we don’t really know)
H.I.V.E.| sometimes—all streams require some classes; older students take specialized classes
39C| no—family secrets must stay secret, so no intermixing is allowed (at first)

via Goodreads

Are students allowed to interact outside of class?

HP| sometimes—most of the time, yes, minus mealtimes; during an emergency or a dark wizard takeover, houses are kept separate
PJO| yes—everyone has friends outside their own cabin
Grisha| yes—everyone must team up for the war effort, after all
H.I.V.E.| yes—streams intermix in dormitory blocks, the dining room, and all other activities (the one time they separated the streams was to aid a mass murder plot and kill an entire stream)
39C| no—branches try to keep separate and when they meet it is usually to kill or betray each other

via Goodreads

What level of rivalry exists between the houses?

HP| a lot—through Quidditch and the point system there are major rivalries between G/S and H/R
PJO| some to a lot—there’s regular competition, and then there’s Greek mythology’s daddy issues made manifest on earth
Grisha| little—while there is a lot of individual competition, the orders are for the most part unified
H.I.V.E.| some—it’s mostly individual competition, but the Alpha and henchman streams do not get along
39C| a lot—they’ve been trying to kill each other for six centuries, and those wounds don’t heal easy

via Goodreads

Is there a class/moral association with any houses over the others?

HP| moral—the books characterize Slytherin as evil, period; they are Hogwarts’ general enemies
PJO| class and moral—certain houses bring great esteem (Zeus, Poseidon, etc.) while others are considered less (Hermes); some houses have dubious morality because of their values (Ares) and others because of their occupants (children of the Big Three)
Grisha| class—the Darkling and Sun Summoner are at the top of the pyramid, certain orders have more respect than others, and some individuals are considered less by their profession (like Genya)
H.I.V.E.| class—Alphas and Political/Financial students are expected to become the world’s next leaders; henchmen have comparatively little esteem or wealth to look forward to
39C| moral—some branches have a more sinister nature, Madrigals are perceived as good, and everyone is good compared to the Vespers

I don’t know if I think one of these is the “best” of them all. Ultimately, I have a lot of problems with the house system—it’s because of houses that so much injustice occurs in Harry Potter’s world, and a magical serum justifies centuries of murder between the Cahill family branches.

I mean, I think The 39 Clues branches are the worst. That’s something I’m willing to say. They are the most divisive and unjust, so. Yeah. That does it for me. And if I wanted to choose somewhere for myself, it would be H.I.V.E. Dr. Nero has structured his school like, well, a real school. And I like that best.

Which house system appeals to you the most?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Infinity Dreams Tag

Though you may know Alexa from Summer Snowflakes, she also posts for a book review blog called Verbosity Reviews, and on it she tagged me for the Infinity Dreams Award! And though you may know Victoria from Endless Oceans of My Mind… I don’t think she has  another blog. She ALSO tagged me for the Infinity Dreams Award! Thanks, ladies!
  • thank the blogger who nominated you
  • list 11 facts about yourself
  • answer your nominator’s questions
  • nominate 11 bloggers and set questions for them

I have brown hair. | I have hazel eyes. | But my eyes used to be blue. | I wear black glasses. | My ears are pierced. | My earrings are usually the turquoise. | I have other earrings, too. | I have some red and purple and skull ones in my room. | I have a rounder head than my sisters. | I have the nose from my dad’s side of the family. | You’re welcome, police sketch artists. 

Alexa’s Questions

1. If you could pick one character to portray you in the movie of your life, who would that person be? | Franz Argentblum. We are different in appearance but alike in spirit.

2. Pick one character from any movie, show, or book, and pick a candy to describe them. What candy would they be? | Ron Weasley would be Reese’s Peanut Butter cups because I’m allergic.

3. What’s your favorite album? | All Things Bright and Beautiful by Owl City

4. What’s your favorite soundtrack? | That for Firefly.

5. Do you use character reference pictures? | No, that’s always felt immoral to me.

6. Do you prefer a lot of descriptions in stories or just a taste of setting so your imagine can build up the rest? | Tastes of a setting spark my imagination better than the hellish info-dump.

7. If you had to choose and could only have one or the other, would you choose a brilliant plot and awful characters or brilliant charries and an awful plot? | Brilliant characters, awful plot. I’m a charaholic.

8. Do you feel like your personality type changes when you write? | Nope… I’m pretty standardly me when I’m writing.

9. Do you adore discovering MBTI types? | Rarely. They are less fun for real people and more fun for fictional characters because then they don't hurt anybody.

10. Since I’m on a roll, what’s your MBTI type? | ISTJ.

11. What’s your favorite gif/meme/pinterest post? | Simba.


Victoria’s Questions

1. Who is your favorite superhero and why? | Captain America or Thor—they just have the best values in the MCU, I think.

2. If you had a whole day to yourself to do whatever you wanted, what would you do? | College, homework, many television shows. Pretty much what I do every day.

3. What was your favorite book of 2015? | Good news—I actually narrowed it down to my top 15!

4. If you could live anywhere outside of your country, where would you live? | Key word being could. I could live anywhere. But I don’t want to.

5. Is there a specific piece of clothing you wear all the time/often? | Yes. All of my clothes. All the time.

6. Which genre do you write in the most? | Speculative—different kinds of fantasy, mostly.

7. What’s your favorite way to spend your evenings? | Watching Castle or Supernatural or Elementary or Leverage or Firefly or any of my favorite TV shows.

8. Which accomplishment are you most proud of? | I hate getting this question because the concept of accomplishments is dumb.

9. If you could travel back in time, when and where would you go? | Probably to the year I was born or something. Maybe the year my parents were born. Stalking my family members/baby me sounds like the most amusing way to do it.

10. Briefly describe a usual day for you. | wake up-Internet-homework-homework-homework-Internet-dinner-write-TV-read-sleep again.

11. Who is your favorite fictional character? | If Franz is not available because I already said him, Carlisle Cullen or MCU’s Loki.

I’m not tagging anybody this round, but you’re welcome to steal any of the above questions if you so choose!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Thursentary: Translated Books

via Goodreads
Reading books that have been translated into English has always been a weird experience for me.

I don’t read translated books a lot. Most of the time I read books written by English-speaking writers. Some of them are native speakers, and some are fluent in their second language, but that is the norm. This is my comfort zone.

I start to get antsy when a book that was written in an entirely different language has been translated to English. Translators have a tricky task ahead of them—Ana Castillo said it like this: “as a writer as well as a translator I do believe that translated words are not different names for the same thing. They're different names for different things” (source). Essentially, a language represents the people it is talking about and the person who is talking, and you have to try to capture that with an entirely different set of words.

Some stuff translates better than others. Also, some stuff doesn’t. Let me tell you about my strongest memories of translated books:

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke | The only Funke book I ever finished was Dragon Rider. Thief Lord and Inkheart were too boring, even though the latter is especially popular. I WANTED TO LIKE IT. I did. But I got bored all the times I tried to read Inkheart. Few people understood why I didn’t enjoy the book, so most of the time I just told them, “I think it probably sounds better in German.”

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder | This was not a bad book—it’s intellectual, challenging, and has a decent story. But the language of the book was a little difficult for me, and some of the plot points… Not to spoil anything, but Sophie has a birthday party. I think she turns thirteen or fourteen. Anyway, it’s a kids-and-parents party, and two of the kids go and have sex in the bushes and maybe get pregnant and literally no one cares. Part of that is like, the point of such a philosophical book, but part of me believes that scene made more sense to Gaarder when he wrote the book.

Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? by Katrine Marçal | Full disclosure: this is my current read. I’m only partway through so far, but it’s easy to notice a few stylistic writing differences. A good part appears in the form of fragmented sentences. It’s common for the writer to say something important. And then add on a sentence like this, when she really probably should have used a comma or started a new complete sentence. Also, the logic system they use is different. It’s hard to describe, but I feel like the system involves saying a lot of things and then looping back and elaborating on the details as many times as is necessary. I… am getting used to it. Ish.

I’m not sure if I have a definitive opinion on translations. On the one hand, they’re special because they can help you share in something that somebody said in another language. You communicate in a way that would not have been possible otherwise. But translations are tricky! There are some impossible differences to reconcile, and I know it makes me less satisfied sometimes. But that’s okay. It’s good to stretch your brain sometimes.

Have you read any books translated from another language?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Book Sacrifice Tag

Flickr Credit: Forsaken Fotos
Liz over at Out of Coffee, Out of Mind was a cool person and tagged me for the Book Sacrifice Tag! Thanks, Liz!

Also, just because I would sacrifice these books doesn’t mean that they are terrible or you shouldn’t like them. DO WHAT YOU WANT. Let’s just not sacrifice each other over our opinions.

via Goodreads
an over-hyped book | situation: You are in a bookstore when zombies attack. Over the loudspeaker, you hear the military informing you that over-hyped books are the zombies' only weakness. What over-hyped book will you chuck at the zombies? (And remember, no body shots. Head shots only. Come on, you’ve seen The Walking Dead—you know how this works.)

I felt like Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter was a huge disappointment. And I’d heard such good things about it! Of my friends on Goodreads, all of them gave it 3-5 stars, which means all of them at least liked it. BUT THERE WAS LITERALLY NO EXTERNAL PROBLEM IN CAMMIE’S LIFE AND SHE WAS COMPLETELY PASSIVE THE ENTIRE NOVEL. Ugh, this was just a painful read.

via Goodreads
a sequel | situation: You are caught in a torrential downpour, and you’re probably the type who melts when you get wet. What sequel are you willing to use as an umbrella to protect yourself?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne. NOOP. Noop noop noop. There’s so much to say but the worst part was definitely the screwy characterization of Severus Snape. That was unacceptable to me. Better his dialogue melts than me.

via Goodreads
a classic | situation: You’re in English class and your professor won’t stop going on about a classic that "revolutionized literature." Personally, you think that classic is garbage, and you decide to express your opposing opinion by hurling it at his head. What classic is that?

Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Forgive me if I don’t find the overwhelming male-ness of the novel interesting or true or worthwhile. Say what you will about human morality—though I also believe a different group of boys could easily have created a very different novel. I just hate it.

via Goodreads
a least favorite book | situation: You’re hanging out at a bookstore (where else would you be?) when global warming somehow manages to turn the world into a frozen wasteland. Naturally, your only hope of survival is to burn a book. Which book would you not regret tossing onto the fire?

The worst novel I have ever read is Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. I have seen all the James Bond movies, including all three Casino Royales, so I was hoping the book might be good. No, it was boring and dumb. I will sum it up so you do not have to read it: James Bond is a spy. It is spy beach day! Yay! James Bond has sex. James Bond gambles! More sex! Then James Bond goes for a drive. Then, suddenly, there is international conflict and James Bond and his girlfriend are tortured! But then James Bond saves the day and more sex happens. The end. Blah.

So, I could tell you more strong feelings about books I didn’t like but you’re probably done now, as am I. I don’t plan to tag anyone, but please, steal this from me if you feel so inclined.

All right, let us here it. What is a book that you would sacrifice, and why?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Is Commenting Back Still a Thing?

Any Questions?
Flickr Credit: Matthias Ripp
I started blogging because of the fad.

Blogs were cool—I think there were various articles suggesting they would be good for your business, maybe your life. I didn’t know about those until later. I just made one because my friends were making them, too. For a lot of people, the formula went something like, post twice, forget for a month, try again, and then delete the thing.

That didn’t happen to me. I think I thought it would be good blogging practice if I posted often, so despite the fact that I was doing this alone, I stuck to it. I didn’t understand why people thought it was fun, but I still did it anyway.

Then I found the book blogging community and realized the entertainment and social factor were not myths. I wanted to comment on other people’s blogs, and, surprisingly, they wanted to comment back on mine.

I know that at least some of my traffic came from a project created by Readers in WonderlandBloggers Commenting Back. It’s about as simple as it sounds. When someone comments on your blog, you go and comment on theirs. Personally, I never really participated. My general philosophy is if you don’t have anything [nice] to say, don’t say nothing at all. I have my mean commenter side, but if I feel stupid compared to other people commenting or have no opinion then I don’t force myself to force a comment. Those are pretty painful.

Anyway, back to the thing: commenting back. I remember seeing people displaying the banner and feeling very curious about it. Bloggers who wrote good comments seemed to make them popular and good at making new friends. They got themselves out there. From what I’ve observed, that seems less of a thing now. Why is that, I wonder?

Blogging is less big now. Many people have realized that blogs are not the next Facebook, and nobody blogs forever. To me, this suggests there are fewer people blogging than a couple years ago and fewer people making blogs. That would contribute to the commenting back downsize.

Also, new bloggers might not know. It is always great to see new faces in the blogosphere, but they might not come in with a working knowledge of what was going on three years ago. Which is fine—how would such people know? But, it also means that people aren’t necessarily jumping on the “commenting back” bandwagon anymore.

Finally, I bet it’s tiresome. I actually struggled to find a Bloggers Commenting Back banner on blogs where I knew I’d seen it before. Some people have taken it down. But I have no judgment. Blogging is hard, and commenting back is harder. People lose the time and ability to comment back as they once had, and especially since a lot of book bloggers are in this gig for free, commenting back is an even greater toll on their time. There isn’t always enough compensation to make commenting back worth it, and I think that’s okay to admit. Like I’ve said before, you as a person are more important than your blog.

I guess I’m curious, though—has the “Bloggers Commenting Back” movement ended for good? Have bloggers lost interest? Do they only comment on blogs they really enjoy? Do they still comment back, but without identifying themselves by the banner? I don’t know. Perhaps you do.

Is commenting back a priority on your blog?