Alice Close Your Eyes by Averil Dean

The novel I’d be writing on this month would be Alice Close Your Eyes by Averil Dean. It is her debut novel. A novel dedicated to her mother. Which had made me a lot more… uncomfortable, guilty (?) than I had expected, to be honest.

Alright, when I picked this book up from the new arrivals shelf, I hadn’t checked to see which section it belonged to, and now I kind of regret it. I’d never repeat that mistake again, I swear. See, I’ve looked at the summary [on the back page], and then at the blurbs, and I thought, ‘Hey, a thriller story about a stalker stalking a stalker, wonder who’s really stalking who and how’s the stalking going around? It’d be an interesting read, at least, let’s do this book for this month!’

Okay, I haven’t actually paid too much attention to the details given. I scanned through, got the gist of it, and borrowed it. It really did look like a sort of crime novel that I would like, so I brought it home, and, even after my brother, having picked the book up before I did, told me that this book was really not something I should be touching, I hadn’t really listened to him.

And then I got around to actually reading the novel.

It’s not even that the book was badly written. Honestly, I don’t only kind of like the author’s writing style, I’m impressed with how candidly she’s written this book and how she’s managed to make this book succeed in evoking the response it was probably supposed to get from the readers.

It’s just that when I read a book, I read it for three things: writing style, plot [story-line] and characters. She passed the first two with flying colours, the plot was actually pretty good, if you could sit down and actually suffer through the book – what dragged this book down on my list was the characters.

The story itself – well, there’s a sex scene pretty much every two chapters or so (it’s only slightly, very slightly, exaggerated), and the way things had developed was just plain…disturbing. I’d let you develop the story with your imaginations from that.

I don’t mind that, really. In fact, I kind of like certain stories that has darker themes, and I accept (like) quite a wide range of stories. [I’d skip a really long rant I’ve previously typed out here about fanfictions, but yeah, it exposes you to a lot of weird stuff – if you think sodomy’s bad, try reading mPreg, ABO and the likes. But that’s not entirely the point, the point here is that I’m actually exceptionally openminded to these sort of things, so the fact that this story would make me feel uncomfortable reading it is a pretty good indication. It is, actually, a lot less twisted than quite a large portion of the stuff I read on a pretty regular basis.]

So, truthfully, it was the characters that ruined this story for me.

As Maryellen so kindly put it,

Alice Croft is one of the most complex characters that I have ever read. She got under my skin. You want to pity her; but she makes it hard. You want to hate her; but then you feel that twinge of pity. You want to choke the life out of her; but then you remember that she’s a character in a book and why in the world are you so invested in this damaged character anyway?

And that pretty much goes for Jack, too.

I kind of regret not having looked for more honest opinions on the internet before reading the book.

In a sense, I’ve always been more partial to a book with good, likeable characters than a book with an exceptional plot and well developed plot – perhaps it is a more personal preference, but I’ve always found myself quite attached to the characters, and if they turn me off, that’s it for me. I’m not touching the book again.

Fanfiction again. It’s unavoidable, really, with me, so I’d try to keep this short: the thing about fanfiction is that they work around a set of characters you already know and love. The fanworks develop on these characters, adding more facets to them, and they just make you fall in love even more with them, and that’s why a cast of characters that, while not necessarily good, aren’t exactly completely unlikeable either, has always been more important to me than simply the plot.

With brilliant characters, even if the actually novel falls short of the standards, at least I can be reassured that somewhere out there, there is someone who did make at least one acceptable piece of fanwork for this book, these characters, and sooner or later, the characters would build on themselves and I’d stop here.

I’d go on forever if I could.

But okay, that’s really where this story failed to draw me in. I’m quite fair to the characters, I give every character a pretty even chance, even those walking cliches. The cliches did become cliches for a reason, you know.

And most of the time, after going through the whole story, holding onto a tiny silver of hope, I’d always find at least one character that has something that I’d like enough to give a possible sequel, or other works by the same author, or even the book itself, another try.

This story failed in even that.

I have tried Fifty Shades of Grey, scanning through the first three, four chapters, a chapter somewhere in the centre, then straight to the end to see what happened, and honestly, I can’t say much about the characters or the sex.

I honestly don’t understand the hype for that sort of stories.

And I’m sorry, even though I feel that comparing this story that Fifty Shades is an insult to the story and the author, the only way in which this story had exceeded the Fifty Shades series (trilogy?) was that the plot was great and the writing was awesome. Other than that? Not very different. [If you discount how this story is able to at least work the sex scenes very graphically and quite naturally (compared to other published novels), and not in the awkward way stories like ‘Brazen’ by Kelley Armstrong has handled it (Now that’s another story I truly find the quality to be lacking in, which just makes me feel sad for the future of the novel and storywriting industry if stories like these are considered ‘bestsellers’ and ‘recommended reads’) ]

Perhaps if this story had been a fanfiction, where the characters are ones I’ve always loved and known, I’d have found it a little more enjoyable, able to go along with the plot intricacies. Instead, I’ve been trying my best to love the characters and failing to even stop disliking them, throughout the story, so, this month’s book sadly fell short.

I’d stop here, I suppose, before I start going on about how the published works nowadays are actually falling short of the standards that the fan works are attaining and setting, and how it is a pity that people don’t seem to appreciate the fanworks, instead burying themselves in these pitiful excuses of ‘recommended reads’.

But if you’re truly a psychological erotica thriller fan, a fan of generally all around unlikeable characters who have frankly violent sex all the time, then go ahead and read this novel. You’d enjoy it. The writing, as I’ve said earlier, is really good, so you won’t be having problem with weird grammar and slang all over the place.

With this month’s novel, done, anyone with recommendations for what to read for next month?

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Born This Way

I’ve recently been listening to Glee covers of songs, and Born This Way by Lady Gaga was one of my favourite covers from them. I’d link that vid at the end of this. Without further ado, here’s the lyrics.


Born This Way
By: Lady Gaga

It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M
Just put your paws up
’cause you were born this way, baby

My mama told me when I was young
We are all born superstars
She rolled my hair and put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

“There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are”
She said, “‘Cause he made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up girl and you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t be a drag ‒ just be a queen
Don’t be a drag ‒ just be a queen
Don’t be a drag ‒ just be a queen
Don’t be!

Give yourself prudence
And love your friends
Subway kid, rejoice your truth
In the religion of the insecure
I must be myself, respect my youth

A different lover is not a sin
Believe capital H-I-M (Hey hey hey)
I love my life I love this record and
Mi amore vole fe yah (Love needs faith)

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Don’t be a drag, just be a queen
Whether you’re broke or evergreen
You’re black, white, beige, chola descent
You’re Lebanese, you’re orient
Whether life’s disabilities
Left you outcast, bullied, or teased
Rejoice and love yourself today
’cause baby you were born this way

No matter gay, straight, or bi,
Lesbian, transgendered life,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to survive.
No matter black, white or beige
Chola or orient made,
I’m on the right track baby,
I was born to be brave.

I’m beautiful in my way
‘Cause God makes no mistakes
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don’t hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you’re set
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
Baby I was born this way
Oh there ain’t no other way
Baby I was born this way
I’m on the right track, baby
I was born this way

I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I was born this way hey!
I’m on the right track baby
I was born this way hey!

[Fading away]
Same DNA, but born this way.
Same DNA, but born this way.


Born This Way 
[Glee Cast Version]

Vampires Can Suck It

Last week, we were going through blood and the circulatory system during Biology lessons. While I stared at the ceiling, unable to sleep yesterday night, I suddenly wondered how accurate the portrayal of vampires’ blood drinking habits are.

Okay, the basic rules and reasons for why vampires need to drink blood is because they are not alive, and, hence, are incapable of creating their own blood for themselves, right? So, discounting the fact that not being alive probably means that they wouldn’t need food or air or water, since they won’t be respiring, the red blood cells in the blood have the main function of transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Since red blood cells have a life expectancy of 120 days, vampires only actually need to feed once every 120 days. And if their livers don’t function, they can actually last longer, even if the red blood cells won’t be as effective at their job as they were before the ‘expiry date’. So, that means that the symptom for ‘bloodlust’, where the vampires crave blood, would only be that they are extremely exhausted as they do not have enough oxygen or other nutrients to allow their body cells to respire and function.

Actually, doesn’t that make vampires normal humans who can’t produce their own blood?

Well anyway, the other big problem would be blood type.

A basic overview on blood type would be that your blood type is determined by the antigens present on the surface of your red blood cell, and the antibodies in your blood plasma. There are two types of antigens and two types of antibodies, and the combination of which antigen you have will determine your blood type.

Blood Type       Antigen       Antibody
.     O                   N.A.            A&B
.     A                     A                  B
.     B                     B                  A
.    AB                 A&B             N.A.

So, above is the chart of which blood type has which antigens and antibodies. A basic summary of what happens when you transfuse the wrong blood type: the antibodies present in the plasma of the person receiving the transfusion would bind to the antigen on the red blood cell of the blood they are receiving, causing the blood to clot, and, at the same time, the antibodies present in the blood being transfused would bind to the antigens on the blood in the person who is receiving to the transfusion, and the end result is a lot of blood clots that would kill the person because the blood vessels are all clogged up.

.        O       A       B       AB    [Donor]
O       ||        /         /         /
A       ||        ||        /         /
B       ||        /         ||        /
AB      ||       ||        ||        ||
[Receiver]

|| indicates that the blood won’t clot.
/ indicates that the blood would clot.

From the chart above, you can see that the AB blood type is the universal receiver, while the O blood type is the universal donor. Where’s the +/- ? Well, that I’ll leave out for this, we’ll just deal with the four main blood groups first.

Okay, now that we have all the pesky little knowledge needed out of the way, let’s go back to vampires. Actually, now that you know all this, can’t you see what the problem is? A vampire cannot simply go around biting people and taking their blood, because taking the wrong person’s blood will kill them. I’m thinking of the way this works as vampires basically receiving blood transfusions from normal people via biting them and swallowing their blood, so, much like during blood transfusions, if, say, vampire John Doe is of blood type A, and he got unlucky, chancing upon a victim that just so happened to be in the 3% of blood type AB running around the place, his blood would clot up and he would die.

So those stories where the vampires run around willy nilly and catch victims off the streets and just drink from them without checking their medicinal records? Well, the vampires are extremely, extremely lucky that everyone they’ve been drinking from has a blood type that won’t kill them.

Which brings us to another problem: vampires can’t produce their own blood. Thus, what would their blood type be? Well, my theory is that their original blood type would be dependent on either their blood type before they died, i.e. the blood survived the time during which they were dead, or it depends on the blood type of the first person they draw blood from.

But their blood type would change, since they cannot maintain the production of the blood cells and blood plasma to keep the blood type consistently whatever type it is. They depend on their prey for blood, after all, so wouldn’t the blood type simply change to become the blood type of the person whose blood they had last ingested?

In which case, they’d have to be constantly aware of their own blood type and use it to find the potential ‘donors’. And that just makes it so much of a hassle, being a vampire, doesn’t it?

And I’ll just stop here tonight, since, well.

Hope you had fun reading this!

Betrayal

One lie can ruin a thousand truths

Betrayal is a theme that runs in stories, from ancient Shakespeare plays like Macbeth to the stories written for this generation now, stories like Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin, cropping up as subplots in majority of other stories. Personally, I like these type of stories, when nicely written, they are beautiful to read.

Brilliantly heartbreaking, sometimes, when reading from the perspective of the one who has been betrayed, even though some stories from the betrayer’s perspectives can be good, too.

The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies.

Which is totally true. Enemies come at you from the front, perhaps from the shadows around you, but they are the ones you have never quite let your guard down around. They aren’t the ones you’ve probably shared laughter and tears with. They aren’t the ones who had mattered in your life.

And there’s:

Sometimes, the person you’d take a bullet for ends up being the one who pulled that trigger.

This is my favourite of all times, first and foremost because it makes for an amazing story. Just looking at this, I’d be imagining a character all jaded and cynical, having been betrayed this way already. And that spawns so many ideas, which is why this quote is great.

Ghoulish Treasure

The stories about those who let their curiosity best them? Everyone knows how they end. Thus, as someone who’s neither brave, nor an idiot, he’d avoided the basements and the attics.

Only, there was this chessboard on that comfortable rug besides the fireplace. And, when he was playing against himself, there was a rumble as the whole fireplace moved. And, well.

Okay, he let curiosity win.

And, honestly? He’d expected stairs to a secret stash. Of wine, perhaps.

He’d definitely anticipated neither a ghoul guarding treasure chests in a flour pantry, nor accidentally torching the place.

Or burning with it.

(100 Words)


Prompt: Ghoulish Treasure

Follow-Up/Companion to: Lost , Hang-10

Photograph

Actually, I’ve never really liked Ed Sheeran’s songs. I’m not quite sure why, but his songs just make me uncomfortable at best, with only three exceptions – A-Team, I See Fire and Photograph. So, this week’s song would be Photograph.

I thought that it was titled ‘Wait for me to come home’, actually, since, while it was the song I’ve heard many times on the radio, I’ve only ever managed to get the last stanza, which is the only reason I give this song a chance. And, to be honest, after listening to the whole song, I can safely say that the part I love would only start with the second “So you can keep me” all the way to the end, but that part of the song is so high on my favourites list that I think the song, in general, still deserves to be here.

It’s a song about waiting (from the parts I listen to), waiting for that special someone to come home, to return. Waiting, with only a photograph in a necklace, kept next to your heart, in your pocket, worn and well-loved.


Photograph
By: Ed Sheeran

Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know

When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive

We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts are never broken
Times forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone

Wait for me to come home

Loving can heal
Loving can mend your soul
And it’s the only thing that I know (know)

I swear it will get easier
Remember that with every piece of ya
And it’s the only thing we take with us when we die

We keep this love in this photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Our hearts were never broken
Times forever frozen still

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone

And if you hurt me
That’s okay, baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go

Wait for me to come home

Wait for me to come home

Wait for me to come home

Wait for me to come home

Oh you can fit me
Inside the necklace you got when you were 16
Next to your heartbeat
Where I should be
Keep it deep within your soul

And if you hurt me
Well, that’s okay, baby, only words bleed
Inside these pages you just hold me
And I won’t ever let you go

When I’m away
I will remember how you kissed me
Under the lamppost
Back on 6th street
Hearing you whisper through the phone,

“Wait for me to come home.”

University of Louisville Cardinal Singers

So, I’ve shoved the Sunday update to Saturday last week because it would be hectic, and I wasn’t wrong. In fact, yesterday, I only reached home at 10pm, and while that’s early for some (most) of you out there, it’s actually pretty late for me. But the concert that I went to was truly worth staying up for.

See, yesterday, I went on a school outing with the others in my CCA (Co-Curricular Activity), choir, to watch a concert put together by the University of Louisville Cardinal Singers( who would be referred to as the Cardinal Singers for the rest of this piece, because their name’s too long), and my mind was blown.

Okay, they have 35 people in their choir, excluding the conductor, which already makes them bigger than my school’s choir at its current record-breaking 28 (29?) people, but they’re so evenly-split, and their repertoire was huge. Frankly ginormous, I swear.

And their voices were heavenly. Their synchronization, the way all their voices really blend together so well, the tension in the air when they draw out a note, the way they could make you feel a ripple just with their voices… And the fact that there’s at least about seven of them that’s not in the least bit involved with music. One of them’s studying medicine and there’s another one studying to be an elementary school teacher, actually.

I truly admire them now.

I’ve actually only joined the choir at the start of this year, the first time I’m actually in the choir, my love for music prompting me to finally take up that challenge and sacrifice a huge chunk of the free time being in the school’s journalism club had given me. This is also the first time I’ve attended a concert, so, perhaps there’s others out there who are better, but the Cardinal Singers? One of them alone has the volume and the talent that is probably about three times that of our whole choir put together. In fact, they only need four, one from each of SATB, and they’d still do about five times better than our school’s whole choir.

And watching them made me realise just how mediocre we are.

Our choir subsists on a total of that pitiful amount of people (with an extra large intake this year), and the choir’s split into 10% bass, 20% tenor, about 30% alto and the remaining 40% sopranos. This is a very rough aggregate, but it’s true that we only have 4 basses. On a good day. Occasionally, because three of the basses are graduating next year and are very busy this year, we’d only have one bass, who’d be drowned out by everyone else despite trying his best.

Honestly speaking? I’m proud of our school’s choir, proud of the fact that even though we’re all pretty bad individually (with the exception of about three soloists), as a group, we somehow have the ability to carry a song well enough to get a round of polite applause from the school when we perform. But the Cardinal Singers? According to their professor, they breeze through songs, about a song a session, whereas it takes us almost a year to get one song finalised and performance-worthy.

And I’d truly like to get to their level some day, but it doesn’t seem very likely to be happening anytime soon.

Their songs were so good it’s hard to find a favourite, but if forced to choose, I’d say it’s between Butterfly (arr. 2001), and Wade in de Water (arr. 1998). I’d link you to a youtube video, but I can honestly say that none of them does actually sitting there, watching the concert, any justice. When you’re there, you’d really feel the music, whereas from the video, the music just doesn’t sound the same at all.

I think that’s it, for now.

Bye.

Hang-10

Settling into his car, he fought the urge to return and retrieve the keys to the castle, to reclaim his post as the sole guardian. That the sorcerer, the replacement the voice had chosen, had the audacity to arrive with the Minotaur and that other creature, had not helped.

He did succeed eventually by reminding himself, repeatedly, that this was just an overdue holiday. To the beach, as suggested helpfully by it.

When the amnesiac duo washed ashore, though, mindful of the voice’s presence, he had to bite back the curse.

A vacation.

Hah.

He really should have known better.

(100 Words)


Prompt: Hang 10?

Follow-Up/Companion to: Lost 

Roads

The road to success is always under construction

The thing is, we’re always working so hard to succeed, but it’s so hard to see the results sometime. Well, when you’re feeling demotivated, look at this quote! Remind yourself that the road to success is always under construction, so you’d better work hard to find the shortcuts and reroutes around this road such that you could bypass the obstacle. And know that eventually, you’d reach the destination. Maybe it’s not what you had in mind, but you’d have at least gotten somewhere, wouldn’t you, as long as you had started on the road and hadn’t stopped.

And, on the theme of roads, here’s another exceptionally famous one:

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)

The song for this week would be Backstreet Boys’ Quit Playing Games (With My Heart). Backstreet Boys officially formed in 1993, and they’re an American boy band, not disbanded yet. That makes their career more than 20 years now, which is good news!

This week’s song is picked not because it’s my favourite from Backstreet Boys, it’s just because this song hits my feels right now, with all the fanfictions I’ve been reading. As a result, I’m saving all my other favourites, like Straight Through My Heart and I’ll Never Break Your Heart, for later.

So, here are the lyrics!


Quit Playing Games (With My Heart)
By: Backstreet Boys

Baby, oh~

Even in my heart, I see
You’re not bein’ true to me.
Deep within my soul, I feel
Nothing’s like it used to be.

Sometimes I wish I could,
Turn back time,
Impossible as it may seem.
But I wish I could, so bad,
Baby~

Quit playin’ games with my heart (with my heart)
Before you tear us apart (my heart)
Quit playin’ games with my heart.
I should’ve known from the start
You know you’ve gotta stop (from my heart)
You’re tearing us apart (my heart)
Quit playin’ games with my heart (my heart)

I live my life, the way,
To keep you coming back to me.
Everything I do, is for you.
So what is it that you can’t see.

Sometimes I wish I could,
Turn back time,
Impossible as it may seem.
But I wish I could, so bad,
Baby~
You better quit playin’ games with my heart

Quit playin’ games with my heart (with my heart)
Before you tear us apart (my heart)
Quit playin’ games with my heart.
I should’ve known from the start
You know you’ve gotta stop (from my heart)
You’re tearing us apart (my heart)
Quit playin’ games with my heart (my heart)

Quit playing games!
Baby, baby the love that we had was so strong,
Don’t leave me hangin’ here forever
Oh baby, baby this is not alright,
Let’s stop this tonight

Baby, oh~
Quit playin’ games~
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na baby,
Na na na na na

Sometimes I wish I could,
Turn back time,
Impossible as it may seem
But I wish I could so bad,
Baby~
Quit playin’ games with my heart

Quit playin’ games with my heart (with my heart)
Before you tear us apart (my heart)
Quit playin’ games with my heart.
I should’ve known from the start
You know you’ve gotta stop (from my heart)
You’re tearing us apart (my heart)
Quit playin’ games with my heart (my heart)

Quit playin’ games with my heart
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na baby
Na na na na na na~

Quit playin’ games with my heart
Na na na na na na (with my heart)
Na na na na na baby (my heart)

(my heart)