Monday, September 22, 2014

Quick Pulse Check

I haven't been active on the blog or on my Examiner book review channel, or even on twitter and Facebook. I wish I could say this is because I'm busy with "real life." Graduate school and a part-time job are time-consuming, yes, but the main reason is because I was sidelined by illness. When I get sick, my body goes into full-on pouty brat mode and refuses to get better or do anything. And everything is so hard to do that I find myself slacking not only on online stuff and writing, but on my homework, reading, job performance, and various other functions. Basically, everything that requires effort.

I had tonsilitis, lost my voice, got it back in raspy form again, am still coughing a lot, had an asthma attack last Tuesday, and a migraine on Wednesday (probably partly due to coughing so much) and I hurt all over and *insert paragraphs of whining here.*

I don't really want this blog to become my diary, so I'll leave off there, with the promise that as soon as I feel better I'll be back.

In the meantime, I stumbled across an interesting post: Divergent Tastes in Books? by Chuck Wendig of The post challenge is to list a book you love that everyone else seems to hate, and a book you hate that everyone else seems to love. Here are mine:

Image source: This book has also been banned before...

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne: This was the book in high school that everyone had to read and hated. I chose it as free reading from the library and I really liked it. I think most people hate it because it's not plot-driven, their teachers made them read it, and most modern American high school students probably can't relate to the culture the book is about or what it meant in that culture for a woman to commit adultery with a preacher.

Image source: Wikipedia.

Paper Towns by John Green. Actually, most of what I've read by John Green. I feel bad -- I really like his YouTube personality and I've tried really hard to like his books. But I am forced to conclude that they're sentimental drivel. Most that I've read use the mysterious unattainable girl as a prop in the male character's coming of age story cliche. And John Green never can seem to resist explaining the moral at the end in an unnecessary three pages or so. I hate books that do that. He's funny -- he does humor very well. It's when he tries to get all deep and philosophical that it ends up sounding forced, moralistic, and sentimental.

What do you think? Have you read either of those books? Are there books you love that others hate, and vice versa?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review: Mind Games by Kiersten White

A little while ago, I wrote a post inspired by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag, begun by Ellen Oh (@elloecho). Today's review is Mind Games by Kiersten White, which I chose for its depiction of disabled protagonists.

Both main characters have superpowers, but I didn't think it was handled in an insulting way to disabled people. If you think otherwise, please feel free to share in the comments.

What it is

Mind Games is a science fiction/paranormal-ish novel about seers, empaths, and mind readers who are controlled by a Big Bad Corporation that uses their psychic talents to its own benefit. Fia is a unique psychic who has the gift of intuition; her gut feelings and instincts are always right. Annie, her sister, is a seer who is blind. Bid Bad Corporation holds Annie hostage to get Fia to spy, steal, and assassinate for them. Meanwhile, they train Annie to spy on Fia, since no other seer can predict her actions.

I didn't like this all that much but hey

Actually, this wasn't my favorite book. Parts were quite good and I loved some of it. Overall, I didn't get a very good sense of the heart of the conflict and I wasn't a huge fan of the plot or even the concept. Its strength was the sister relationship. Annie and Fia, who alternate viewpoint chapters, are well-written.  

Part of the conflict is how each sister views the other as a liability that needs to be protected because of their disability. For Annie, this is amplified by being Fia's older sister and needing to look out for her. When their parents were alive, Fia got the rather negative message that it was her job to protect her blind sister (despite being a child who was in no way equipped for this). Both are willing to do extreme, horrible things for the other. Their relationship is a complex, toxic mix of love and resentment. As hostages, they to some extent see each other as obstacles to their freedom.


The trope of the blind seer is a tired one, but Mind Games skirted some of those problems when Annie goes blind at age four, long before developing any psychic powers. When she gets her psychic ability, it isn't portrayed as a substitute or compensation for her disability. She is neither the Best Ever at being blind or the Best Ever at being a seer. In fact, she sometimes struggles to interpret her visions because sight is not her primary sense. 


Fia is suicidally depressed with impulsive, self-destructive tendencies. I enjoyed Mind Games's portrayal of her depression because it showed someone who is depressed in an angry way, and I haven't seen that very often. Many people with depression cycle through angry and depressive periods, as does Fia. 

I don't think Fia's mental illness is handled as well as Annie's blindness, and this is also where the plot starts to fall apart. The bad guys have empaths and mind readers, but can't treat Fia or see the warning signs. They don't care about the mental or physical health of their most valuable asset and the only known person with this ability. The Big Bad Guys spend all this time manipulating and cozying up to Annie, but let Fia become a suicidal, angry person who hates them all. 

They are in fact withholding care from both sisters in order to better control them, but it goes too far to make sense. "Our spy/assassin-in-training does a murder-suicide attempt? Here are some pills and a long vacation without any mental health professionals, adults, or bodyguards! Oh, and we'll send along the (superhot) heir to the company, AND Fia's romantic rival! NOTHING COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG."

This entire plot could have been solved if Fia had taken Hot Heir (pun intended) hostage for her sister's freedom. Which they gave her ample opportunity and motive to do. But I suppose if they had done the logical thing, there wouldn't be  plot. 

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Best Part of #NaNoWriMo

It's September 1st and still far too early to be thinking about NaNoWriMo, yet I find it on my mind as I wait for November. I'd like to attempt it this year, even if I don't finish the 50k goal.
Why? While I do like racking up the word count, the best thing about National Novel Writing Month has been the writing community. I love hanging out on the forums. It's a place to post questions, answer questions, pick and choose ideas, and chat. I've found critique partners and some other interesting people there as well. 

There's a whole writing community that I never would have found if I hadn't done NaNo, and my writing would be the poorer for it. NaNoWriMo is helping me get over my intense fear of sharing my writing. I used to be exceptionally paranoid even among other writers I knew when it came to sharing my writing. This is helping.

It hasn't been entirely positive, and the forums can be an extremely distracting place. However, the "Word Wars, Prompts, and Sprints" and the "Adoptables" forums have been extremely, AMAZINGLY helpful in getting new ideas, forcing myself to write, and beating my own personal procrastination monster.

Every year around this time, I see a flurry of posts on NaNoWriMo -- why you should do it, why you shouldn't, etc. Most people do the plug about how it forces you to speed-write 50k in a month, which helps you focus on discipline and ignore perfectionism. It does do those things -- but I've never seen or heard anyone to recommend it for the writing community. 

So I will! :) The best part of NaNoWriMo is that all the other people on the forums can be extremely useful, helpful, and fun. Of course you have your nasty people, too, but the moderators generally do a good job. (I can recall only one time I was really and genuinely offended by a moderator's response to my concern.) And the best thing about the forums is that they don't close when November ends. There's a small but dedicated group of people who hang out on the forums all year long.

Have you done NaNo? Have you "won" NaNo? Did you use the forums at all?

A stroke of luck?

My class was cancelled today. This means I don't have to turn in work that is probably -- definitely -- below standard. I also get more ...