I'm not necessarily going to be discussing a single book in this book review post, but I am going to be addressing a topic that I think is interesting based on a book I recently read and reviewed on GoodReads. Since I'm in Colorado now, I have access to a series of books that weren't at the Arlington/DC libraries. Now, over the past five years I had read this series two times, and I'm starting my third time through. It's a paranormal-ish romance series, and like I said, I'm reading it for the third time. The concept is one that I enjoy despite how horribly it portrays human nature (or perhaps because it helps portray the racism, bigotry, and idiocy of current society in a way that is "safe" and might potentially get through to those of us who somehow can't quite connect the dots between things our current political landscape is allowing and things that happen in genocides), where humans have been kept as scientific subjects by a corporation working on "super soldiers"/medical improvements and been genetically enhanced in some way but the public found out, the people are rescued, and now the government is trying to figure out how to cover their butts since they were a major funder of the research. So now the former test-subjects have been given some/full autonomy while remaining US citizens and have their own places to live, but of course hate groups happen and say that these people don't have a right to exist. You can imagine what happens next, especially since these are romance. ;)
Stories/series like this have always been compelling to me. I started with Lora Leigh's Breeds series and then catapulted off into similar but slightly different series'. And many of them were well-written. Lora Leigh's writing is great (though it has grown a lot since the first book of the Breeds), and Cynthia Eden is no slough either. However, this series that I'm re-reading now, is a little different. Laurann Dohner's New Species series is one I used as a template for the explanation above. I enjoy the concept. And like I've mentioned a few times, this isn't my first rodeo through her books. But her writing technique...leaves something to be desired.
I think I noticed that in the first and second read-throughs, but it is more apparent now than I remember it being. Of course, writing and the response to writing is highly subjective (which is why many of the math people I know state they like math more), but there are still some objective ways to tell if a story is well written. For example, using passive voice isn't the greatest strategy for a novel. It sort of creates a disconnect between the character and what they are feeling/doing. Stating that "this occurrence made me feel terrified" is vastly different than stating "this occurrence terrified me." One is choppy and one is not. One "tells" the reader and one "shows" the reader. Do you remember which one your fifth grade composition teacher liked more? Because I do. Another example is dialogue and the use of contractions. Dialogue is super important for novels that have a lot of talking, and most romance novels have a lot of talking. But in modern times, contractions (i.e., isn't instead of is not, couldn't instead of could not, it's instead of it is, etc.,) are used frequently in speech. As such, dialogue in books that has sparse contractions doesn't read as smoothly. It doesn't mimic speech as we hear it in our every day lives and so it doesn't "sound" as good when we read it (even when we're not reading aloud). Contractions are so important that not including them can sometimes even change the intonation of characters for me, which can change the meaning of what they say. And if that changed meaning doesn't jive with what's happening in the story? Well, that means I have to stop, go back, re-read, and as a reader that's frustrating.
But somehow, despite the examples above being prevalent in the New Species series, I'm reading it for the third time in 5 years! And you know what? Even though I'm really noticing these writing issues, I'm not going to stop. I want to keep reading. I'm almost compelled to keep reading. Now, my personal opinion is that Laurann Dohner has crafted a world and characters well and because those are more important to me in terms of whether I like a book, I'll keep reading because of them. Which is great. But here's my conundrum. I like to leave reviews and ratings that are helpful to other people. I usually rate/write reviews on Goodreads. But how do I quantify books that aren't technically well-written but I keep coming back to? Many people don't read the actual reviews, so even if I go through and explain that a higher rating is because I've re-read the book so many times people may not know that's why I'm giving it four out of five stars. And if they trust my judgement and go only off my rating but see all the issues with the writing and stop, does that mean I've "failed" them with my review?
My personal opinion is that I'm going to give it a high rating because something about that book/series is good enough that I came back for more, but I'm not the only reviewer out there. What's your opinion on this? Would you give a high rating to a book you've re-read multiple times even if the writing technique is bad? Or do you base your ratings mostly on technique and don't care if you've read it multiple times if the writings bad? What do you wish other reviewers would do? Let me know in the comments!
Well, I'm posting a day late again. Although this seems to happen so frequently maybe I should just accept that I'll probably be posting on Mondays now? We'll see. Anywho (no that's not a typo, just another colloquialism I have sometimes), on to the post! Which will probably be relatively short. Maybe. We'll see.
I'm going to start off by saying I severely miscalculated packing time and cleaning time for my apartment. As such, I may not get my full deposit back but at this point all I can say is "Oh, well" because I made it to Colorado in one piece. Sure, not all my luggage did because I had no scale and was 5 and 6 pounds over the limit respectively on my checked bags. And yes, I'm pretty sure I accidentally tossed at least one nice mug in the trash as I was frantically trying to make my apartment appear mostly clean. But I made it! And I got to sleep all day Saturday and Sunday. I didn't, actually. I mostly read and watched movies with my family, but that's close enough to sleeping, right? ;)
Now, my safe arrival aside, I'm definitely going to have to get better at packing before attempting the trip to Scotland. I'll also be getting rid of quite a bit, I think. And resigning myself to the horrendously expensive costs of shipping some things internationally. Some things I won't bother with, such as my yarn collection. I'll be able to get supplies in the UK. I'm not going to be bringing more books than what will take up my plane ride. And I'm drastically reducing my wardrobe, especially since mid-80s seems to be the hottest Edinburgh has gotten this year. Of course, climate change is a thing, so that could change, but in that situation I'll just buy stuff while I'm there. Overall, my takeaways from my most recent move are going to be very helpful for my next move. Yay!
What's your least favorite part about moving? Is there such a thing as a favorite part? Let me know in the comments!
So for those of you who don't know yet, because I don't believe I've done much with them on this blog so far, I am an avid romance reader. As in, you'll see my Goodreads feed full of them, with a sprinkling of Fantasy and Science Fiction and YA and maybe a very small dash of non-fiction in the form of memoirs. I LOVE romance novels. That being said, my baseline rating on Goodreads is three stars. Which means I liked the book, but it wasn't necessarily phenomenal enough that I would get super animated when telling you about it unless it pertained to a conversation we were already having; that's reserved for four star books. And five star books are those that I suggest everyone read even if I know it's not their usual cup of tea. But I digress. Today, you all get to experience my love of romance novels because I'm going to review one for you: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren.
Now, Christina Lauren is actually two separate authors writing as one. They've written a lot of romances, and most of them that I've read I've enjoyed. And the book is written seamlessly enough that, as far as I personally can tell, you don't notice that there is more than one author. Christina Lauren's books are usually fun, snarky, and a nice break from the world, and The Unhoneymooners does not disappoint on that score. Like some of the other books I've read, this is an "enemies to lovers" contemporary romance, but there's also a little twist: turns out, the heroine's twin sister just married the hero's older brother.
In a non-romance novel, this wouldn't necessarily be a big deal. It may cause a little extra strife during holidays, but as long as no one actively tried to kill someone life would go on. But this is a romance novel. Which means that things do go wrong, and it results in the heroine and hero going on the honeymoon meant for their siblings. Our heroine has to pretend to be her sister, since the honeymoon is paid for by contest winnings and anyone other than the winner going is considered fraud. The hero is, of course, off the hook, since he has the same last name as his brother and the "designated guest" of the winner was only listed by last name. So these two new in-laws who hate each other now have to pretend to be married or the whole thing goes up in flame and she has to also pretend to be her sister. To up the stakes, as though they weren't high enough already, her new boss is there and his ex-girlfriend who broke his heart is there, both thinking that our heroine and hero are themselves and married, all while the resort staff think they're other people and married. In short, it's a mess.
But this is romance! So it all works out in the end. ;)
I enjoyed this book a lot. I don't normally go for "enemies to lovers," because sometimes it feels icky depending on how the author presents it. This particular arc was based on a misunderstanding and some duplicity on the part of the recently married husband (SPOILER: he's a jerk, and much stronger words too). While that's still a little problematic, it's not as worrying as some of the stories I've read that include power differentials between the characters that make it more like blackmail and/or harassment. If you're looking for a fun, snarky, and romantic read for the summer, I definitely suggest this book. Do be aware that there are explicit sexual scenes though.
What's a summer read you suggest? Let me know in the comments. And if you end up reading this book, let me know so we can talk about it.
These past few days most of the world has been dealing with a heat wave. And what a heat wave it has been. As someone who prefers cold to heat (not that I don't get cold easily, but I'd rather bundle up than have to deal with social codes regarding how much I can take off; not to mention it's easier to add more layers and become somewhat comfortable, but I digress), the temperatures lately have been what I imagine the classic Christian version of hell looks like. Because I'm sorry, there's no way hell has dry heat, no matter how many fires are burning. Humidity would make the whole thing that much worse, which means the traditional Christian version of hell is likely to have a boatload of humidifiers working overtime to keep up with all the fire. And I digress again. With temperatures in the high nineties and dew points in the seventies, it's not at all comfortable to venture outside for anything. Which is why it's the perfect weather to stay in and read. ;)
Which is why I finished four books over this weekend...This does not mean I also got everything else I needed to do this weekend done. The opposite in fact. I should have been packing up boxes. But reading! And I had the perfect excuse too! It's too hot and muggy and gross outside to do something productive outside or do errands, so I might as well stay in and read. Of course, this is going to make the coming week when I actually have to get everything but two suitcases worth of my apartment packed up and shipped out that much more stressful and void of reading. And when I'm freaking out about packing, and writing my sort of poetry performance for a Moishe House event, and writing my speech for my work, I will most definitely be kicking myself in the butt. But right now, I'm just happy that I've been able to read the books that I have this weekend. They were quick and easy reads, but definitely enjoyable. And barring one, Purity in Death by J.D. Robb, they didn't bring to mind the steaming heat outside.
So today's post is sort of just a testament to the fact that as a bookworm, I can find an excuse to sit down and read a book in pretty much any weather. Be it rainy, windy, snowy, or sunny, it's always the perfect day to read something. And that concludes today's post, because today I just enjoyed being myself and reading a good book.
Edit: I just saw the following picture on my FaceBook feed, and I believe it pretty much encapsulates this post...
Right, so I'm going to mention this only because I almost spit water all over my laptop when I heard of it, but it doesn't really have any bearing on the rest of the post so feel free to skip to the next paragraph if you wish. Can we just appreciate that the Christian group calling for Good Omens to be removed from the streaming service because it was, you know, not very reverent to their point of view, got the wrong platform? I mean, I find it incredibly unlikely that no one in that group double checked to make sure it was, in fact, Netflix that was producing and streaming this show that is apparently so terrible. I find the lack of competence in that whole deal disturbing. Of course, there likely was someone who saw they got it wrong and fixed it up pretty quickly, but the internet moves incredibly fast these days (I wonder if Crowley has any influence in this particular happenstance? ;) ) and unfortunately human beings are all too willing to rag on each other about small mistakes. The internet just makes it easier for us to do so. And yes, I am fully aware that I just did the same exact thing as the rest of humanity. It is something I have to work on still. Sometimes though, I just need that little bit of absurdity to lighten my day and stresses. Anyway. Onward!
I'm going to preface this post by stating that it has been about a year since I read the book Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and therefore I don't remember things as well as I might have if the "movie" (yes, I know it's a mini-series but close enough in this case) had been out when I finished reading it. This, coupled with the fact that Neil Gaiman himself wrote (or at least had a great deal of influence in the writing of, though I'm pretty sure the wrote the entirety of) the screenplay, means that I can't really pick out huge, glaring issues. Now, this does not mean that there weren't any big changes from the book to the mini-series, it's just that I didn't notice them. So while this post is supposedly a "Book Vs. Movie" post, it's more going to be a few paragraphs about how awesome the mini-series was and how I think everyone should read the book and watch the mini-series if possible. I do not, however, think you should purchase AmazonPrime simply to watch the mini-series. Surely it will be out at some point on DVD and you can watch it there, or you can potentially get one of those free trials and cancel before you have to pay, or maybe you know someone who has Prime for a completely different reason and you can have them help you access it. The point is, don't spend $110 a year for a single series. But you should still watch it if at all possible.
Here's why. Regardless of whether you believe in G-d or not, whether you're a part of an organized religion, or if you believe the stories/prophecies written in the book of Revelation in the Newer Testament of the Christian Bible, there are lessons (I tend to talk about those a lot here on this blog somehow, so I'm going to switch it up and call them themes for the rest of this post) that pretty much everyone could benefit from. If they're willing to listen. Now, these themes I'm going to speak of are the big ones that resonate with me. There's probably a whole lot more in the book/mini-series that other individuals can pick out. As such, communication is key. So if you think I missed something, let me know in the comments. Or if you want to talk about one of the themes I bring up, mention it in the comments. I'm always up for a lively discussion.
One: When there are only two sides there's usually a cluster-something-or-other.
Yes, there is a specific word you can insert there that makes it sound much shorter and sweeter, but as many of you know, cursing is not something my mother approves of and while I do not mind others cursing in my presence I try and keep my own to a minimum so I don't shock her when I visit. Anyway. There are two big sides in the book/mini-series. Heaven and Hell. And the two main agents of these sides have been left far to long in the world and neither quite agrees with their side anymore. But there are only two. So they have to make a choice even when both choices result in Armageddon which they would rather avoid. Sound familiar?
Two choices, especially ones that are supposedly black and white, usually result in not so great things. Spectrums seem to be a better choice overall. Why do you think there's the stereotype about two Jews and three opinions? Because choosing between two things ends up being not much of a choice at all. You tend to choose "the lesser of two evils" because there isn't an actual good answer. Now, that's not saying that there's always a "good" answer, a choice that is "correct." But having more options means that even if all the answers are somewhat "bad/wrong," you can still end up with one that's "better than all the rest and actually somewhat positive" rather than "the best we can do and it still sucks." I'm not going to get into the issue of too many choices here. But I much prefer the Dungeons and Dragons version of possibilities (Lawful Good, Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Neutral, Neutral Neutral, Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil, and Chaotic Evil) better than a cut and dried "you're either with us or against us" motto. More than two options allows for redemption and openness to other people more than "good and evil" does. But that's just my opinion.
Two: It's never too late.
This is important. Spoiler alert for those who haven't read or watched, but Adam starts Armageddon. It's coming. The four horsemen are here, nuclear war seems inevitable, and both sides are ready to battle. And then it stops. Yes, there's more detail to it than that, but that's the gist of it. They were able to stop it, to avert disaster, to make things, well, maybe not right but at least relatively normal again. All it took was never giving up, a bit of ingenuity, and a solid team. If Adam's friends hadn't been there to help him, and fight for him, things would have ended up differently. So make connections with people and don't give up on the world just because some grown-ups messed it up. That's a reason to fix it, not destroy it.
Three (last one for this post, I promise): Stand with your chosen family.
Most people have heard the phrase blood is thicker than water. And then some people mention that a less condenced version of the phrase is that blood of the covenant is thicker than water of the womb. And then you start getting into which quote was the original one, and did it originate in this German text in the 1300s or was it this Arabic text in 1400 and so on and so forth. Also, Wikipedia wormholes exist and they are incredibly dangerous. Should we blame (or thank depending on your opinion) Crowley for that too? Anyway. The point of the phrase above could be that your loyalty to your blood family should be stronger than the water in the river of friendship. Or alternatively, that the loyalty you have for your friends of choice, honed through the trials of blood, should be stronger than the water in the womb you share with your family. My perspective: get rid of the concept of blood and water. They confuse things. In many cases, yes, I believe that family is very important and protecting your family is important too. But, not everyone has a family like mine. And even in mine, I can see where in some cases it was better for someone to choose people outside of the "blood" to give loyalty to. A person shouldn't be forced to choose one side simply because they share biological material.
So my thought is that while there are people we are biologically related to who might be considered our family, family is also a choice of the individual. I consider my closest biological relatives to be my family, and I consider many of the further out biological relatives to be my family too, along with their spouses and children and in-laws. But there are also friends, non-biologically related to me friends, who I consider part of my family. Friends who I have as much loyalty to as I do to my biologically related family. Friends like Crowley and Aziraphale. Friends like Adam, Pepper, Wensleydale and Brian. Chosen family. Family they stood with regardless of what they were up against. And yes, you could bring up the fact that Pepper and Wensleydale and Brian and Dog were going to "abandon" Adam, but that's another discussion that would make this post even longer than it already is, so I'm going to leap over that rabbit hole and continue on. You can choose who you consider family, and you stand by those chosen ones. This does not mean that you can't hold them accountable to their actions. But it does mean you stand with them even as they face consequences. Stand by them, and you might just help us all avoid Armageddon.
So that was a super long post, and it could have been way longer. But I'll stop here. If you have thoughts, additions, corrections, etc., just post them in the comments. Like I said, I'm always up for a good discussion.
There are lot's of different types of readers out there. And about as many different types of categorizing them as there are stars in the sky. Genre, style, author, number of books read at a time, when they read, why they read, etc. But today's post is going to focus on a specific type of reader (though it can overlap a bit with the why they read and number of books read at a time categories).This reader is often on a spectrum, though it is usually skewed one way or the other with maybe a hint of mid-line. And that type is, drum-roll please, the re-reader.
Now as I said, this isn't exactly clear cut. My style in this category definitely isn't exactly one or the other, but it tends towards one type, which is sort of the point. I get a lot of people mentioning re-reading books, which I understand. Every so often there's a series that I love so much I know I'm going to want to re-read them. Books by Sarah J. Maas and Diana Gabaldon come to mind. But I don't re-read most books that I come across. I'll read a book, like say, The Hobbit, and think it's a great book and really enjoy it. But I'm not going to re-read it. While the number of books I'll re-read is still growing (that happens when you read a large number of books a year) I feel like it isn't as high as some people I know, which is why I consider it a style of reader. Either you love to re-read or you don't.
In my case, re-reading is often directly tied to whether I purchase books. If I think I'm going to re-read it, or if I find myself re-reading it, I might decide to purchase it and add it to my library. Otherwise, I'll get it from the library. Because while there's many a bookworm meme out there complaining about Marie Kondo (remember, she said ideally have less than 30 books), I get her point. Now, I haven't watched her show or read her book, so I might be missing something, but I believe her point was that books can cause a great deal of clutter and unless you care about the books as more than just a symbol of status you should get rid of them if you want a clean house. Or, you know, you could invest in more bookshelves, but that can be expensive and not exactly feasible if you already have a lot and are still overloaded. Owning books for the sake of owning books isn't necessarily a good thing. But if you're using those books over and over and over and you take notes and find the little gems that pop out at you every time you read it again, then yeah. Keep that book in your collection.
Which brings me back to the reader. And whether you re-read or not. I tend not to. There are some books that I do re-read. And a whole lot more that I don't. If someone wants to discuss them with me I'll probably re-read them. Or if I'm in the right mood and all the other books I want to read are unavailable at the library for some reason I might pick up something for a second time, but on the whole I am not a re-reader. This does not mean I don't have a large collection of books. I do. Most of them were free ones that i picked up at conferences. Which is great, except I'm moving and I know that most of them are not going to be ones that I want to keep enough to move them with me. Which means I have some hefty reading to do before I leave. And potentially some giving away before I've read them but keeping the titles/authors so that I can read them eventually.
I feel like my point got a little lost up there though, so here it is. I don't re-read that often. But I know some friends that do. Most of the time it's because of similar reasons to me (most people I know don't re-read books that they don't like) but I feel like sometimes the threshold for deciding to re-read books is different for each individual. So you might have one person who re-reads way more books than someone else because that threshold for "liking enough to want to re-read" is lower.
Where do you think you fall on this spectrum? Are you an avid re-reader or is your threshold pretty high? Let me know in the comments.
So, I meant to write this post last week, but time got away from me. It's a sneaky little thing, time. And I missed yesterday's normal posting time too. That was more procrastination and working on another project (one that might get me at least partial funding for my PhD so I consider it a worthy sacrifice), but still. I apologize for the lapse in posts. Regardless, today's post is a book review about Lost Boy by Christina Henry, which was amazing and I really want to suggest everyone read it!
Now, the premise of Lost Boy is that Captain Hook used to be one of Peter Pan's lost boys and this book is the true story of what happened to make him Peter Pan's worst enemy. It's a dark tale, to be sure, and one that involves quite a bit of gore. In some ways, it reads a bit like Lord of the Flies on steroids with giant spiders. If you can say one thing about this book, it's that it isn't your Disney Peter Pan (which, honestly, you can say about most stories that became Disney movies).
Lost Boy is a book that explores what truly makes a monster, a villain, a boy, and a man; and it does so through the eyes of the first of Peter's lost boys: Captain Hook, nee James. While the narrator, James, is not exactly reliable, readers get the sense that he's at least more reliable than Peter is. After all, even in the Disney version of the story, Peter's pretty much a jerk most of the time. Peter Pan is narcissism and privilege personified, and it shows really well in Lost Boy.
*****Spoiler paragraphs. Skip ahead until you read the book. And you really should read the book.*****
In Lost Boy, a key component of the book is about how all the boys love Peter, and while they stay young he seems to love them back. Mostly. James is really the one who takes care of them though. And cares if they die. Because that's the part you forget about with Disney and even the original story. These boys fight pirates. They have no care for personal hygiene until Wendy comes along. And they live in a tree in the middle of a forest where there are creatures like crocodiles and bears and tigers. Not to mention, in Lost Boy there are the addition of the Many Eyed. Translation, gigantic spiders that eat meat. It's not really a safe place where you can stay young forever. It's a place where, generally, you're still young when you die. And the boys that do grow up are then sent off to the pirate camp and they die too, because when Peter goes raiding he doesn't just steal trinkets.
Throughout the book James feels himself growing in small spurts, but doesn't really know why. That is, until Peter threatens boys more innocent than usual and James remembers how he really came to Neverland. James loses his love for Peter and suddenly he's a grown man. A man who's cursed to never leave even though everything he's wanted to save has now been destroyed by this selfish boy who seems more monstrous by the day. I'm not sure I can put the lesson here into words. Maybe it's personal for all of us. But I think it's very powerful and important. Growing up means letting go of things. It means recognizing that we aren't the center of the universe and that what we do hurts others. Growing up is painful (though hopefully not as painful as what James went through). But staying young forever, staying with Peter...it's not a viable option. I know I wish for those carefree days of childhood again sometimes. No bills. No obligations. But then, I'm privileged. I had time to be a child. Many children don't. So I think the important lesson this book gave me is actually about memory. Remember your childhood. Remember your mistakes. Remember that you are fallible and that is okay. But always try and become better than you were. Otherwise you get stuck in a cycle where you're either Peter or Captain Hook. And neither one of them has a charmed life.
So in conclusion (and yes, do read the book so you can read my "insightful" interpretations of its lessons in the above two paragraphs), I suggest reading the book. It is, I think, a carrier of many lessons wrapped up in a package that turns a story we loved as children on its head. It is dark. It is horrifying. And it is so good! I literally read it in a single day. It's a short read and it's a quick one. The characters grab you, the language is fantastic, and the setting is appropriately idyllic and disturbing. It is a great read for lovers of fractured fairy tales, YA books, and people who actually enjoyed Lord of the Flies. If you do read it, let me know what you think in the comments.
Today's post will be super short because I'm at a conference for work and am totally wiped by the end of the day. Also, I'm leaving tomorrow and still have to pack everything up into my bag. Thankfully, I have a little bit of time in between the Rock and Roll Aerobics class and my first session to finish the packing portion of my day. But, since I'm at this conference, I figured today's post would be a "Day in the Life" about my conference so far.
Diversity in Literature is a big buzzword phrase nowadays, as well it should be. Society as a whole has come to the conclusion that diversity is good, and whitewashing is bad. Representation matters. A lot of times the argument for diversity is played out in terms of jobs, schooling, and movies/TV shows. There have been a lot of newer TV shows and movies that have brought the idea of representation to the forefront (looking at you Always Be My Maybe by Netflix), but sometimes we forget to talk about representation in books too. After all, you can use your imagination and make the characters in books look like whatever you want them to look like in your head right? To some extent, yes (depending on whether or not the author puts a lot of effort into describing his/her/their characters). But then you also get those rather disturbing arguments about how Hermione Granger is/isn't black. And you realize that unless it is explicitly stated that a character is/isn't a specific race/ethnicity you'll get jerks saying that it doesn't matter what you imagine in your head, the representation isn't there. So it's actually still pretty important for representation to be clearly, irrevocably, stated by the authors, even if descriptions are relatively open-ended. This is especially true in certain genres, such as romance.
I love romance novels. I've read a lot of romance novels in many genres and will likely continue reading them throughout my life. But sometimes there's a representation problem. For example, a lot of historical romances are about white, hetero-normative, neuro-normative, usually skinny/muscular, Christian heroines/heroes. This is one reason why I'm writing a historical novel with a Jewish heroine. I want to see myself represented in the books I love to read. If you look at contemporary romances or paranormal romances there's a bit more variety usually. But it can still be difficult to find books that aren't hetero-normative, neuro-normative, and full of skinny/muscular forms of beauty. There are also a lot of white people. Thankfully for the genre, a lot of new authors are writing books that increase representation. Helen Hoang is one of them.
I haven't read very many romances that are about Asian characters. I also haven't read very many romances about non-neuro-normative people, though they are out there and can be quite good. This is one reason I loved Helen Hoang's novel The Kiss Quotient. I'm currently reading the second novel she wrote, The Bride Test, and it's holding up very well too but I'm focusing on The Kiss Quotient in this post. Without giving too much away, The Kiss Quotient is the story of Stella, a thirty year old woman with Asperger's, a syndrome on the Autism spectrum, and Michael, an escort who is part Vietnamese (his mother is Vietnamese and his father is of Swedish origin and is all around a bad person). They meet when Stella hires Michael to teach her how to become proficient at sex. Stella's experiences so far have been lackluster to say the least, and horrific if we're being accurate. She thinks she needs practice, because she wants to have a relationship, she just doesn't know how to get there without thinking of pilot fish cleaning a sharks teeth when she's French kissing. So she hires a professional.
Michael has a lot on his shoulders. He hates escorting but has to do it to help his family pay the bills. But he likes Stella, and he can't afford to turn down the offer she gives him in order to help her. So he agrees to help her through the lesson plans she's created and then let her go to find the man she wants. But things get sticky.
I'll leave the synopsis at that, but suffice to say, this was a super fun read and I loved it. Helen Hoang is funny. I laughed out loud so many times. But she's also real. In both The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test there are times when I had a sort of epiphany. I'm white, which means that try as I might I won't ever really understand exactly what it is that minorities go through. I'm also neuro-normative (at least I think I am, I've never gotten tested), so I will never understand exactly what it is that non-neuro-normative people go through. How they have to deal with overstimulation, or obsessions, or compulsions, etc. But Helen Hoang brought those experiences to me through her writing. I won't ever understand exactly what it would be like, but I have a better understanding of it now than I did before. And I still got to enjoy a fun, sexy, hilarious book about love and all the issues that come with it.
In short, read The Kiss Quotient. Then read The Bride Test. Then read The Heart Principle. And start adding books with diverse characters into your repertoire. It's worth it, and it will help make the world a better place. (And if you need help finding some, just ask me; I'm always willing to give out book recommendations).
I'm pretty sure most of you who are reading this blog know I'm a writer of more than just blogs. I've currently got three stories in the works: a steampunk-esque re-telling of Snow White, historical romance, and a high fantasy. Now, the historical romance is in draft number two, but the other two stories I'm still working on. And one of the reasons for this is that I get writers block and derail my story. And by derail my story, I mean that in an effort to at least keep writing I write boring and strange things. Rather than using broad strokes to at least get to the next tunnel, I pull out a microscope and start analyzing mineral content in the tunnel I'm currently in. What's even worse is I realize this is something I do, but haven't yet figured out how to stop that habit.
I've been trying to work on my high fantasy novel this weekend, and came to the realization that about 15 pages of work (minimum) need to be re-written or cut out entirely. I'm likely going to have to go through major re-writes of the entire book, but right now all I want to do is finish a first draft so that I at least have something to go off of for the re-write. I have hopes for this story. I know where I want it to go, but I don't know how to get it there. And while some days I can call myself a writer with the knowledge that that is what I am most days I wonder if I really can call myself a writer. I see and read all these amazing books and worry that I can't even finish this story even though I know what I want to happen, so how could I ever publish it? I worry that when I tell my friends about this book I'm writing and my goals for it it's really all just a lie because how can I say that my writing is good enough to get where I want it to go?
Now intellectually, logically, I know that I can write well and that the more I write the better I will get. There are books, podcasts, shows, etc., that can all help me increase my skills. And practice makes better (the best paper is the published paper, the perfect one never gets there). But sometimes it can be hard to remember that. I believe in what I have to say through my writing. I think it's important. And to some extent, regardless of whether someone actually purchases a book I published (though that would be one of the most amazing things in my life) it would be enough to get a book through the process. To know I've made it that far.
So I've taken those 15 pages out, saved them in a blooper document in case there's some piece of dialogue I ever want to use somewhere else, and have decided that I'm going to write a minimum of 100 words per day (whether it is planning for the rest of the book or continuing where I left off the day before). I'm going to give myself rewards (i.e., stickers or something similar) for when I do so. And hopefully by August I'll have a first draft and can start tearing it all apart. It will take a lot more work, but I can do this.
Thanks for reading my self-pep-talk. If you ever need any encouragement for anything let me know and I'll write a pep-talk for you too.
The author is a librarian who reads "too much" (is there such a thing?) and talks just as much. As an aspiring author she gets bogged down by grammar rules when she just wants to forget them to make a sentence flow, but never seems to be able to. She appreciates thoughtful comments and constructive criticism, but internet trolls beware, she's read enough fantasy novels to know how to defeat the monsters.