Top Ten Tuesday: It’s Not Me, It’s You

 

toptentuesday

The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Ten Characters You Just Didn’t Click With.

JAMMF01-620x320

1. Jamie Fraser- Outlander

Oh Jamie Fraser, I expected more from you.

I wanted to like him. Look, I am shallow. I fully embrace my shallowness. So yes, hot Scot? Bring it.

But the book version of Jamie was really kind of disturbing to me. Who is this wife-beater and what happened to the charming, romantic hero?

2. Corin and Tam- Moth & Spark

I wanted to like this book, but I couldn’t even make it halfway through. These characters were as boring as a blank page, and I’m pretty sure the hadn’t even met by the time I stopped reading but would still have had zero chemistry.

3. Calliope Reaper-Jones- Death’s Daughter

This is less a character I “didn’t click with” and more a character who would “incite me to homicide,” but nonetheless. This incarnation of, well…Death’s daughter, was one of the most actively vile narrative voices I have had the displeasure of reading.

4. Adelice- Crewel

A character who is so perfectly, naturally talented that she has to “pretend” to be a clumsy loser to save her family in a totally contrived dystopian world. And of course two boys are in love with her. And of course she’s the only person who can stop…well, whatever the conspiracy was. Yet I couldn’t tell you a single one of her “memorable” traits.

5. Yelena- Poison Study

Another perfectly amazing and talented YA heroine who is blander than paste and doesn’t ever seem to do anything to live up to her reputation.

6. Alina Starkov- Shadow and Bone

Oh, and Alina makes three. Some YA heroines are just really boring to me, I guess.

7. Harry Dresden- Storm Front/Fool Moon

I gave Harry Dresden two tries, but he just didn’t appeal to me. I gave the books decent reviews at the time, but I didn’t keep up with them and it’s probably because I didn’t feel much of anything for the main character.

8. Nina Borg- The Boy in the Suitcase

Looking for a new crime/thriller series, I came across Lene Kaaberbol’s Nina Borg. There was nothing bad about this book, really, but I just never connected with the character and didn’t stick with her.

9. Gale Hawthorne- The Hunger Games

Perhaps I am rewriting my reading history with my experience of the movies. Liam Hemsworth’s Gale is just so…boring. But really, what purpose does Gale serve in these books outside of the love triangle? I’m sure I’d be Team Peeta with or without him.

10. Dana- Kindred

Everyone loves Kindred, but I was disappointed by it. So much so that I’ve never read anything else by Butler. I thought the writing was weak and I did not like or empathize with the main character at all.

Boy, this is kind of a downer of a post, huh?

6 Comments

Filed under Book Talk

Short Story Sunday: “Mirror Skinned”

sss

First line: “My first alien was a Cetitharian.”

Mirror Skinned” by Kelly Sandoval, published by Flash Fiction Online.

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Story Sunday

Can’t I just hide under the covers?: On anxiety, depression, the news cycle, and self-care

anigif_optimized-17261-1419893413-20

I’ve been an anxious person my whole life. I’m a worrier, born and bred. I don’t like to say I “suffer” from anxiety, because to me it is part and parcel of what makes me me. My mom is a worrier. My grandma was a worrier. It’s in my bones.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun to recognize when my anxiety has gone over the top. I like to say that if you can at least recognize your crazy, that’s half the battle. I have a tendency to jump three steps ahead of any problem–so instead of worrying about finding a job in a new city, I might instead worry about oh god, how much will it cost to move, and will I be able to find a doctor, and what if I miss my medicine and die? I once made a friend drive to my house while I was on a trip to quadruple check that I had actually locked the front door–she did, but forgot to tell me, so I spent a week literally tearing out my hair and thinking I was being robbed. But knowing these things, and knowing how crazy they are, doesn’t make it any easier to conquer them.

The reason I’m telling you all this, other than I just needed to get it all off my chest, is that I’ve been going a pretty low slump recently. I’ve dealt with depression in the past, and while it’s not necessarily tied to my anxiety issues, whooo boy…this episode has been a doozy. I am slowly starting to get better, but for a few weeks there I had trouble just getting out of bed. I’d forgotten what it feels like to get that low. And it really, really sucked.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-26922-1388766313-12

 

I think in part it was triggered by the fact that I have recently done two really scary things. One was for work and one was for my writing, and they immediately brought up all of my inferiority complexes at once.

The other big part was the news cycle.

We live in a world of twenty-four-hour news and facebook and twitter. People are always rushing for content and it isn’t even really hard to find. And this summer we have been inundated with racist cops and child molesters, Donald Trump and sad puppies and people dying in prison when they shouldn’t have been there in the first place and people getting shot just for walking out their door. Millions of people just watched footage of people being murdered, for Christ’s sake. (I, thankfully, did not. I left the internet for the day.)

This kind of stuff really wears me down. Sometimes it feels like there’s just no point in living on this planet anymore, and people are terrible as a species, and the world is doomed.

tumblr_ms7lxjH6Bw1qcx7o0o4_250

I’ve come to believe that self-care is really, really important. I don’t care what kind of relationships you have, how perfect they are, no one is going to get you like you do. So you have to take care of yourself. These are the things in my self-care arsenal, the things that really help me when I’m at my lowest.

Period movies

Anything with a sweeping score, old-fashioned costumes, preferably lots of hoity-toity British accents and long, lingering shots of the moors and stuff. Last week I was having some trouble moving. About all I had energy for was flipping aimlessly around Hulu. And then I came across Northanger Abbey, so I watched it and laughed for the first time in a month.

Fluffy books

Often romance, sometimes fantasy. I need something that I know will end happily, and make me laugh along the way.

Turning off the internet

A big part of my stress comes from being constantly plugged in. I hate cell phones–and I notice that on my most anxious days I invariably leave mine at home by “accident.” And the internet is just this cycle of noise that can be so hard to escape. I’ve recently been trying to turn it off every weekend. I haven’t made it a full 48 hours yet, but it’s a goal I’m working up to. The things I miss are never that crucial, and it’s nice to be quiet for a while.

13

Listening to my favorite albums all the way through- and dancing like a fool. 

When I was young, I used to spend hours sitting in front of my stereo doing nothing but listening. But then streaming music happened, and everything is singles singles singles, shuffle shuffle shuffle. So now if I need some time to decompress, I put on one of my favorite albums and listen to it the whole way through. It really kind of centers me and calms me down. If that fails I put on a punk song and jump up and down like a five year old.

Home shopping

This is my weirdest one. But when I was sick, and I had a lot more trouble sleeping, I started watching the home shopping channels. And it almost puts me in a meditative state. It’s like–I don’t have to turn on the news, no one is making me, I can just sit here and listen to people pontificate about a fifty dollar cheese plate like it’s the greatest thing in the universe.

I think what most of these have in common is that they all, to a degree, take me away from myself. So that for a minute or an hour or whatever I am not a weird, lonely, thirty-year-old woman who can’t bear to leave her bed but I am in some completely different space. I am away from myself. And when I get back, I can stand it a little while longer.

So I realize that these things are subjective. But I also know that bookish people seem to be, as a rule, a fairly introverted and anxious bunch. So what are some of your self-care methods for dealing with negativity in your life? Food? Pictures of puppies? Movies?

Whatever it is, remember to love yourself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Top Ten Tuesday: Class time

toptentuesday

The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is  Top Ten Books That Would Be On Your Syllabus If You Taught X 101.

There are a lot of different ways you could go with this. In fact, I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone’s lists this week. I think I’m going to host a pretend Creative Writing course this week. Talent can’t be taught, of course, but there are certain books that can provide instruction, inspiration, and guidelines. So these are some books I would share with a writing class were I actually a successful writer myself.

For the first half of the class, some excellent technical and theory books:

Wonderbook_Case_r2.indd1. E. M. Forster- Aspects of the Novel

This slim book has some of the most inspiring writing advice I’ve ever come across.

2. The Elements of Style/The Elements of Grammar

You have to know the rules before you break them. You have to know the rules before you break them. Say it again, as many times as you need to get it through your head. You have to know the rules before you break them. 

3. Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter- What If?: Writing Exercises For Fiction Writers

This is the first prompt/exercise book I was ever exposed to, and it has a ton of great starting points for stories

4. Christopher Booker- The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories

A bit of a heavy academic tome, but once you learn that all stories come from the same place, it kind of takes the pressure off, in a way. Great for general book nerds, too!

5. Jeff Vandermeer- Wonderbook

There is so much going on on every page of this book that it personally gives me a bit of sensory overload. But it’s a great way to kickstart creativity.

For the second half of my class, I would turn to actual fiction. If you want to write good fiction, you should be able to tear it apart and see what makes it tick. Now “good fiction” and “sale-able fiction” can be different things for different people. And obviously each writer brings their own likes and dislikes to the table, and is looking for different things in a class. But shut up, it’s my hypothetical writing class, so I’m going to teach you the fiction I want to teach you.

6. Robert Penn Warren- Short Story Masterpieces

It’s overwhelmingly white and male and midcentury. Read it anyway. Useful for: learning how to craft a short story.

7. The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov

Useful for: drowning in beautiful language, learning to be playful with form.

8. George R. R. Martin- A Game of Thrones (just, and I cannot stress this enough, just book one. My hypothetical class has no time for discussion on bloated series that overstay their welcome.)

Useful for: learning how to juggle multiple narrative perspectives. Who knows what, when do they know it, what does the reader know, and do they really know what they know, or anything at all? Also useful for: creating character and subverting tropes.

9. Jane Austen: Sense and Sensibility

Useful for: writing comedy, character and relationships, turning a small family drama into a centerpiece of action.

10. Daphne du Maurier: Rebecca

Useful for: learning unreliable narrators, creating an atmosphere (in this case one of suspicion and dread), writing some fucking excellent prose.

Because my hypothetical writing class is also endless, and because I’m so very cool, we would also watch the entire runs of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Battlestar Galactica, because those three shows taught me new ways to look at stories and storytelling that I’d never even conceived of.

What do you think is essential study for aspiring writers?

9 Comments

Filed under Book Talk

Short Story Sunday: “Ghost Champagne”

sss

First line: “You know what I wish?”

Ghost Champagne” by Charlie Jane Anders, published by Uncanny. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Story Sunday

Top Ten Tuesday: Shut Up and Take My Money

toptentuesday

The topic of this Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is Top Ten Auto-buy Authors.

The only thing that most of these writers have in common is that their books make me happy. Once an author makes my auto-buy list, they’re there until I stop trusting them; I don’t even need plot summaries to plop down the cash. Authors *have* been booted from the list in the past, but these have pretty stable for the past two or three years (Tessa Dare is the newest author that I’ve read and fallen in love with on this list).

1. David Mitchell

2. Tana French

3. N. K. Jemisin

4. Courtney Milan

5. Rainbow Rowell

6. Gillian Flynn

7. Tessa Dare

8. Mary Robinette Kowal

9. Elizabeth Hoyt

10. Karen Russell

9 Comments

Filed under Book Talk

Short Story Sunday: “Going Endo”

sss

First line(s): “They say the reason it’s mostly fems who go endo is because of the whole penetration thing, like us sirs can’t handle the wet interface, but once on leave I got my face pulped in a blood-brawl at Decker’s Draughts & Dopamine, and since the autosurgeon took five whole hours putting my jaw back together I woke up with a supersize catheter stuffed up my cock. Going endo can’t be worse than that, I don’t think.”

Going Endo” by Rich Larson, published by Apex.

2 Comments

Filed under Short Story Sunday

The TBR Pile Challenge

One of my goals for 2015 is to get some of my TBR pile pared down. It’s not easy. I am constantly putting limits on how many new books I’m allowed to buy, and then breaking them. Then I just look at the overburdened shelf and sigh, because how am I ever going to read so many books?

So in an effort to get some books off my shelves (and my ereader), I’m going to try Roof Beam Reader’s TBR Pile Challenge. I’ll be reading and reviewing these throughout 2015, and linking back here.

 

My 2015 TBR Pile Challenge List:

1 Carol Rifka Brunt- Tell the Wolves I’m Home (2012)
2 Scott Lynch- The Lies of Locke Lamora (2006)
3 Jhumpa Lahiri- The Lowland (2013)
4 Charles Belfoure- The Paris Architect (2013)
5 Diana Gabaldon- Outlander (1991)
6 Elizabeth Wein- Code Name Verity (2012)
7 Annabel Lyon- The Sweet Girl (2013)
8 Kristin Cashore- Graceling (2008)
9 Wendy Webb- The Fate of Mercy Alban (2013)
10 Justin Cronin- The Summer Guest (2004)
11 Laura Moriarty- While I’m Falling (2009)
12 Wilkie Collins- The Moonstone (1868)

Alternates
1. Alissa Nutting- Tampa (2013)
2. Kelly Braffet- Save Yourself (2013)

My Progress: 8 of 12 completed/ 8 of 12 reviewed. 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Reading Challenge

Review: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

12875258Title: Tell the Wolves I’m Home

Author: Carol Rifka Brunt

Rating: 5 stars

Tell the Wolves I’m Home is, to date, the only book I ever bought on the strength of a single book review. (It’s this one, if you’re curious.)  I bought it, but then it got pushed further and further down my TBR. And then I got sick. And that, I think, almost made me put this book on the shelf indefinitely. Because after six weeks in the hospital and months of feeling weak and pushed to my limits, I did not want to read about anyone sick or dying.

Eventually I decided to add it to my TBR Pile Challenge (this is book number eight!) It’s a newer book, but it felt like it had been sitting on my shelf for years, and I felt guilty ignoring such a beautiful book, even if I wasn’t ready for it.

This. Book. Is. Incredible.

I have read some amazing books in 2015. Tell the Wolves I’m Home is probably going to top them all. You should all go read it immediately. It is so, so very good.

It’s 1986, and June Elbus is a weird kid who feels stuck in her brilliant, beautiful older sister’s shadow. She’s average and unremarkable, and the only person who makes her feel special is her uncle, Finn. When Finn dies of AIDS, June embarks on an unconventional friendship with his lover, Toby, and learns things about Finn, her mother, and her sister that change how she views them.

The language of this book is gorgeous. I wanted to wrap myself up in the words and just never leave. And the characters were some of the most fully human people I think I’ve ever read. Everything about June felt like me. Like she was literally me, transposed to a teenager in the 1980s. I haven’t had my heart hurt so much by a character in such a long time, and it was brilliant and beautiful as much as it was painful.

This is a book about death and grief. There’s no sentimental, easy endings. But it’s not a morbid book, or even a particularly depressing one. It’s about growing up, and seeing your parents as human beings, and learning how to communicate and how to love. I am so glad that I finally read it.

5 Comments

Filed under Book Review

Full Fathom Five Read Along: Week Four

16148208

Well, we’ve come to the end of the road in our Full Fathom Five Read Along. I have to say, I really think this book has been my favorite of the series so far. I just really enjoyed the way everything resolved, the way the characters developed and interacted, and all the cool new bits of worldbuilding.

On to the questions!

1. So Jace was in fact responsible for the rogue Penitent, and for what was happening to the ‘idols’… And my guess last week regarding his reasons (that it was bad for business) wasn’t far off the mark… What did you make of his confrontation with Kai and his justifications?

Jace is out of his mind. It seems fairly obvious that the people who adhere most to the status quo in this world are the most dangerous, and the people who want to destroy everything in revolt are only runners-up in crazy. The whole time in his office with Kai I was like, run girl, run, but even then I didn’t expect him to shove her in a Penitent like that.

Don’t trust the quiet ones.

2. Mako’s involvement in the subsequent events was a bit of a surprise. Or was it? Did you expect the old man to be involved at all, much less the way he was?

Mako’s identity and involvement were a complete mystery to me until the moment they weren’t. I didn’t pay much attention to Mako, really, until there was one little moment in the text where I stopped and was like. “Wait. He isn’t–? Is he–? Oh, duh, OF COURSE HE IS.” It was really well done by Gladstone, I thought, a very natural feeling development that rewarded the reader instead of making them feel dumb.

3. Izza steals a goddess! What are your thoughts on the way her story ends (or begins, as the case may be)?

I really, really loved the way Izza’s story resolved. Really the way all the characters resolved: seeing finally how Cat and Teo fit into the puzzle, how Kai came to terms with things. At first I was dubious with having a teenage MC, but it worked really well with the way she grew up over the course of the book.

4. We leave the story with Kavekana “waiting for the world to come”… Do you think this particular ending is for the best, or would you have preferred to see the island remain apart, and peaceful?

It’s ambiguous and messy and absolutely the right ending. Idylls like Kavekana are all surface and paper-thin, and you can’t sustain that over the long run. It’s not going to be an easy road for their society, but it’s the only road forward. I feel like Gladstone has set up this world where in the very recent past everything was shaped by the gods, and now everything is controlled by commerce/The Deathless Kings/secularism, and in both cases humans get stuck in the middle, and he’s saying that they have to forge their own paths as much as possible.

Thanks to everyone who hosted/joined in on this read along. It was lots of fun! I’m not sure of the next one I’ll be able to participate in, or when I’ll actually be able to get to the next Craft Sequence book, Last First Snow (The TBR. It is so huge. It is crushing me.), but I thoroughly enjoyed this one :D

2 Comments

Filed under Book Talk