My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Note: I received a free advanced copy of My Sister Rosa from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. And then I forgot to send it to my Kindle and eventually checked it out from my library nearly a year later. So yes, I’m completely failing at actually reading my NetGalley books before they’re published. Probably defeats the purpose of getting an advanced copy. Maybe one day I’ll get better at this.

Since I waited so long to actually getting around to reading it I’d had a chance to hear lots of good things about My Sister Rosa. And I’d already been really intrigued by it. A male Australian narrator with a younger sister who he’s pretty certain is a psychopath? It sounded interesting and kind of terrifying! Only, it wasn’t.

Che was a decent enough narrator. I liked seeing his inner thoughts and confusion and the mixed feelings of “I hate my family” and “I must protect my family at all costs.” That seemed normal in a less than normal household. But the writing style was slow and languid. I honestly felt like not much happened even once I hit the ending and everything was going on at once.

Yes, Rosa did some very bad things and more or less acted like a robot with no emotions of feelings most of the time but I didn’t feel the sense of horror that I was expecting. When a book description contains phrases like “what if the most terrifying person you know is your ten-year-old sister?” I expect to feel terrified. I figured the narrator was going to feel terrified and that would leak over to me. Instead Che, and I, just felt resigned. Like “well she’s crazy and even my family doesn’t see it so whatever.”

It was just not what I was expecting.

 

Late Poetry

April was National Poetry Month and so most of the library events I hosted were somewhat related to poetry. The book we started in April and finished in May was Paper Hearts, a novel told in verse. And during last month’s Teen Writing Club I had everyone work on poetry writing prompts with limericks, acrostic poems, or just short stories with plenty of rhyming words. Being all side tracked myself what with the recent addition of a puppy to my household I chose to go simple with some acrostic poems. Remember those things where you wrote your name down the side of a paper and then came up with a word or phrase that started with each letter of your name? Yep, acrostic poetry is like that.

Books are little pieces of

Imagination.

Built by writers and brought to

Life by readers.

Inside closed pages words rest.

Open the book and the words leap off the

Page,

Happiness ensues.

Inside

Literary

Excellence.


My new little puppy.

Young and wiggly all the time.

Can’t stop

Rolling around and falling

Over everything.

Friendly and hyper and

Tiresome.

Doggone It, Yet Another Excuse

It’s 2017 and the excuses just keep flowing.

Honestly, in the past month I’ve barely gotten anything written. There has been a distinct lack of blog posts, book reviews, and I haven’t touched my novels for months. Heck, I haven’t even written more than five hundred words for a fanfiction. And the reason for that is simple. And adorable.

Meet Mycroft.

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Yep, that would in fact be a puppers named after Mycroft Holmes. My fiance and I adopted him mid-April and he’s been taking over our lives. It’s really hard to get anything written when I’m always worried that someone is going to pee on the carpet. (I’ve had family dogs, even puppies, before and I’d forgotten how much they can pee! And when you’re on the second floor of an apartment building it can be hard to get the little one leashed and out before the tinkling starts. Bye-bye security deposit!)

Now, while a new puppy has made the whole reading and writing thing a little difficult it’s helped in other ways. When he’s being all calm he can help make my Instagram photos all cute.

Case in point:

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Yep, I’m not above exploiting my puppy to get likes and followers on social media. Sue me. (Actually please don’t, I don’t really have any money. I’m a librarian and I went to a private university.)

But one day I’m sure the puppers will calm down and learn to control his bladder. So, maybe, eventually, I can get back on track with my writing. In the meantime, I’ll just cuddle with this ball of fluff.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This book has been on my radar for quite some time but I finally got around to reading it now that the book has become a series on Netflix, a series which I am watching as I type up this review. And I have such mixed feelings about it.

The book touches on some very heavy subjects. Suicide. Sexual assault. Bullying. What it’s like to be the person who notices the bullying and a persons downward spiral and yet not feel comfortable saying anything about it. It’s all there. And it’s rough.

Hannah, we find out just a few pages in, has committed suicide, but before she did she recorded tapes addressed to thirteen different people. These tapes, she says, lay out some of the reasons why she killed herself and each tape relates back to a certain person. Only it’s not just thirteen people and thirteen “reasons”. It’s how all of those people led to other situations and interactions and how everything piled onto this teenage girl over a relatively short-ish period of time.

The thing I found most troubling though are some of the negative reviews I’ve read since I finished the book earlier this afternoon. I’m not saying the book is perfect and I’m not saying that any of the characters, not even Clay or Hannah herself, were perfect but some of the negatives are just awful.

So many reviewers/people commenting on reviews said that the “reasons” Hannah gave for killing herself were unrealistic and wouldn’t have led a normal teenager to suicide. Oh really? You don’t find it realistic that a girl who was mocked, sexually assaulted, and felt unsafe at school, home, and in her own skin would ever kill herself? As if that doesn’t every day. And so many people also said that Hannah should have just gotten over it all. That’s the point. Some people can’t get over things. Some people have anxiety or depression and they can’t “just get over” hurtful things.

And yes, many of us readers have experienced worse and not killed ourselves but that’s just it. Everyone is different. Everyone reacts in different ways to bullying and losing our friends and getting caught up in sticky situations. Everyone has a different breaking point. In the story, Hannah had clearly reached hers.

And I also read several reviews where people said that if Hannah had actually wanted help then she would have asked for it instead of just dropping hints here and there. Once again, are you really surprised? We live in a world where people are told to “just suck it up.” We live in a world where mental illness is stigmatized. Asking for help is not always easy for a multitude of reasons.

Now maybe it was selfish and petty of Hannah to bring everyone else into it. Maybe some of them didn’t deserve to feel so awful, or feel that they caused her to want to kill herself. But on the other hand, it made a point of how we never know how others are feeling, how much of a ripple effect just a single hurtful comment can have. And that’s an important narrative to have.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Oh boy. Prepare yourselves for a long, not very complimentary review ahead.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones is another one of those books that I requested through NetGalley, and was approved to read it, months before it was published and yet I put off reading it until after it was already out for the general public. And from what I saw on Goodreads and Instagram (which I primarily use to follow people posting about books) everyone absolutely loved it.

Wintersong was a case of gorgeous cover combined with an interesting premise. Liesl, a young girl with a strong love of music, had grown up on stories of the Goblin King. (You should definitely think David Bowie from Labyrinth because it was very clear that’s where Jae-Jones was getting her influence from even before I saw the author’s website where she admitted that was the source of her inspiration.)

In this story the king must take a bride every so often in order to keep the world from experiencing eternal winter. Even though Liesl’s always been the one to pay the most attention to the old stories, it’s Liesl’s sister Kathe who taken to be that bride.

And so begins a little cat and mouse battle where Liesl offers herself in her sister’s place and then alternately finds herself wanting nothing more than to return to her family and wanting to stay with the Goblin King as his wife forever.

After all that hype I’d heard I was let down, primarily because of the characters. Liesl harps on and on about how she is not attractive, especially compared to her sister. She talks about how her sister shows off her figure too much and more or less slut shames her but once Liesl marries the King she throws herself at him, pressing herself against him and touching him even when he tells her no. This causes her to throw a literal “break all the shit in my bedroom because somehow that will help the situation” tantrum because he didn’t give her a proper wedding night. Then, later on, when she does something that almost gets her killed the King throws a tantrum and Liesl calls him out for being childish. Oh the irony.

But the worst thing of all? Once they finally have sex Liesl feels as though she’s been broken open and has finally discovered her true self and her music. It gives her the freedom to finally compose the perfect pieces of music that she’s always wanted to compose. No, let’s stop having female characters who only discover themselves through sex and their relationships with men. It’s not cool.

And the repetition. The Goblin King is actually a title. The Goblin King has been many people over the years and his name is not one he wants others to know. So Liesl calls him The/My Goblin King or, Der Erlkonig, or, when he has a certain look in his eye, my austere young man because that’s not annoying at all. Liesl’s brother is also given three or four names/nicknames/titles. She also gives herself different names.

Oh and remember when I said Liesl was musically talented? Well, if you’re not musically talented (which I am not) you might get confused. Every so often she sits down to compose or play and we’re left with pages and pages of musical terms all written as though we should understand her moods with how she’s the music is flowing but, with no musical talents at all, I did not understand.

So to summarize this novel this was full of problematic plot lines and annoying characters.

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Stealing Snow is mostly a retelling of The Snow Queen with a touch of Snow White added in. Sounds interesting, right? I sure thought so even though I’d been warned that this book wasn’t all that great. And man do I wish had listened to everyone who had warned me not to bother.

Stealing Snow Started out with our main character, seventeen year old Snow, locked up in a psychiatric hospital where she’s been ever since an accident that happened when she was five. There we meet a group of teenagers who don’t necessarily seem crazy, just quirky (including Snow herself.)

Now for a spoilery aside. Read the next paragraph at your own risk!

 

Many people took away stars because they were upset that Snow was placed in an asylum and designated crazy but clearly was not actually insane. But I thought it was made pretty obvious later on that her mother had her hospitalized and medicated so that her powers would stay hidden and that, if she happened to discover she had powers, she’d just think she was losing her mind even more.

Okay, from the hospital things happen and Snow finds herself following not one but two boys through a portal to Algid where, surprise surprise, she finds out that she’s a princess with magical powers and she has a prophecy which has been told about her! She’s destined to either take the throne from her father or do something to make him even more powerful.

And so begins her magical training, not that she needed much because she was super talented. And she also has to deal with the romantic affections of not one but three guys because apparently the sheltered, conflicted girl is super awesome? Oh and she also likes all of them back even though she just met two of them and she feels bad whenever she flirts with one. So lots of drama there of course.

And an additional gripe which I found beyond annoying. While in the mental hospital Snow always watched a certain soap opera with her orderly. This soap opera then gets brought up constantly through the novel. To an annoying and illogical degree. “Oh, in the show the main lady was able to do this so surely I can too.” “In the show she acted like this so I can too.” Ugh.

Basically the characters fell flat and there were too many annoying things that I just did not like this book. I did not like the world building and I did not care about the characters at all.

 

Looong Fanfiction

The vast majority of my fanfiction ideas have started as dreams. Picture this scenario…you binge watch or read something from a particular fandom, be it reruns on Netflix, the books themselves, comic book forms of said books or shows, or even just reading fanfiction. And then you start dreaming about how those stories could be. Sometimes the idea is fleeting but sometimes it’s so interesting that you have the dream more than once. At this point it’s a good idea for you to pick up a pen and a notebook and start writing down ideas.

Now, once I have an idea for a fanfiction, one of two things will happen. The first is far less likely but far more preferable. And that’s that the idea is a long thought out one but I already know the start, the middle, and the end and I just have to fill in the blanks with dialogue and connecting scenes. But sometimes it’s not that easy. And that’s where I’ve been stuck on my fanfiction for the last few months.

Just like when I used to write fiction pieces for short story assignments in school, sometimes I have a brilliant idea and I know where I want to start and some of the middle pieces but I have no idea how I want to finish it. When working on novels that can sometimes be a good thing. Did you write two hundred pages but only need one fifty? Well that’s great because you’ll likely need to edit that many pages out, or more, out anyways!

But with fanfiction writing too much can be an issue. I like lengthy fanfiction to a point. I just don’t want the fanfiction to be the same length as the novel it was based on. That seems weird and a little like I’m insulting the work itself? I don’t really know how to explain it. So I try to rein myself in. Sometimes it just doesn’t work.