Friday, December 28, 2012

The Cellist

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved music.

In this girl's school, all 2nd graders learned to play the violin. In 3rd grade, they could choose to continue in Orchestra, either as a violin or as another stringed instrument, or they could quit.

The girl HATED playing the violin. Due to a host of medical problems, it caused her physical pain to stand and hold the instrument under her chin and the bow upright. (It probably didn't help that she was rather tiny for her age and the violin, in comparison, was kind of huge.) However, she loved the sound it made, so in third grade she decided to switch to the cello.

Her primary reason for doing so? She could play it while sitting down.

It was obvious to anyone who saw her lugging the gigantic instrument around that she loved it dearly. The cello was taller than she was, and quite heavy, but she managed it cheerfully. When she sat to play, she was good.

Her schoolteacher noticed her skills, and suggested to the girl's parents that she should get a private teacher and also audition for the local youth symphony. The girl did, and got in. Most of the other kids were older, about sixth grade, but the girl was at about their level.

However, the orchestra was much more rigorous than her music class at school, and soon the girl had so many pieces to memorize that quality suffered on all of them. For you see, the girl rarely practised outside of school and rehearsal. She just didn't, for whatever reason.

Her teachers noticed the downswing in quality. They lamented about her potential greatness, if only she would practice.

By now, the girl was in fifth grade. The stress got to be too much for her, and she quit the Youth Orchestra. For a while after that, it was easier. Still, she didn't practice. Her schoolteacher began giving the class more difficult pieces, and the girl gave up. She quit cello in October of her sixth grade year.

She missed the Christmas concert. She watched her classmates perform, and realized that she would rather be onstage than in the audience. Less than three months later, she was back. She loved the cello, but the class was sometimes a drag. She gave it one last shot. The first month of seventh grade, she couldn't take it anymore. She told her teacher she was done with the cello for good.

She didn't look back. She took an extra art class and helped in the library instead. Everyone was shocked. She was good, why did she quit? The few adults who knew she never practiced wondered why she didn't just practice more.

It wasn't until her sophomore year of high school that the girl told her mother the truth: she couldn't read music.

Sightreading, such an important part of an instrumentalist's life, was impossible for her. She was good at the cello only because she had completely memorized the finger placements and bow movements for every single song she'd ever performed. Music was a foreign language to her, despite the fact that she'd been studying it for years. It was incomprehensible, and she didn't know why.

Her mother was shocked. (Actually, she was a little more impressed by her daughter's memorization capabilities now.) She understood now why so many more pieces in such a short amount of time meant so much more stress for her daughter. However, she still didn't understand how the girl's inabillity to read music related to the fact that she never practiced. The girl couldn't explain it, and it remains a mystery.

No longer a mystery, though, is why the girl couldn't read music. The girl's parents discovered that she had a learning disability called "dyscalculia," which can manifest in an inability to read music and problems properly judging distance, among others.

As you've no doubt figured out by now, that girl is me. We discovered that I had dyscalculia only last week.

I was actually quite surprised to find out that I had this problem. I thought that my inability to read music was just a personal failure, maybe just laziness. I'm glad that it isn't my fault, but I'm also sad because I will never be able to understand it, no matter how hard I try.

It's like being told to translate a paragraph, sentence by sentence, into English. I look at the first sentence. It's German. I start translating the first few words, and look back at the paragraph to double-check. The sentence is now in Arabic. It is endlessly frustrating.

I've figured out workarounds for some of the problems dyscalculia has caused me, but some I just have to accept.

This post has gotten super-long, so the second half of this will have to wait for another time. (I'll be talking about "disabilities" and why I don't like the word.)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Crayons of Love

A couple of months ago, I boyght a pack of bathtub crayons. I bought them so that during NaNoWriMo, I could write down all of the brilliant ideas I got in the shower. Well, I never used them for NaNo purposes. Instead, I use them mostly to write reminders to myself on the countertop in the bathroom.

Whenever I forget to put them away after I've written my reminder (which happens a lot), in the morning I'll find another note or picture next to mine. My mum comes in after I do, and whenever she sees the crayons, she'll write me a sweet little note. She's started doing this with my whiteboard markers on my mirror too, and unlike a lot of kids I know, I don't find it annoying.

In fact, next year, I'll really miss it.

So, Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate it, and if you don't, have a great week. Enjoy your family!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Hello NaNo!

Today is the first of November, and you know what that means to me? Today is Day 1 of the insanity that is NaNo.

What is NaNo? National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175-page) novel by 11:59:59 PM on November 30.
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.
In 2011, we had 256,618 participants and 36,843 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists. (From

I’ve participated in NaNo every year since eighth grade. I only won once – in tenth grade – but every year I come back to try again.

This year, I’m trying something new. In years past, each of my stories has been some variation on a quest narrative, with some sort of grandiose magic and talking animals and kings and queens and bizarre religions. This year, I’m trying my hand at a contemporary story, and I almost have a plan for it, which is not usual. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish by the end of the month, because that’s always my goal: a completed story.

I’ve never met my goal, not even on my “winning” year. That 51k monstrosity is just an outline. An OUTLINE. It has contradictions and characters who randomly pop into existence and sentence structure that is in French.

It’s weird.

As I sail off again into NaNoLand, I wish all of you undertaking this journey with me luck, and to those of you staying behind, please, have mercy.

Friday, October 19, 2012

On Slutshaming, High School and Why People Are Mean

This post was originally written as a comment for Brenna Yovanoff’s post entitled “The One About How Girls Treat Each Other (Sort Of).” If you want to better understand the story I reference in the 18th paragraph, read Brenna’s post first.

Paragraphs in italics are the questions asked by Brenna at the end of her post.

Have you or your friends ever run up against bullying or harassment? Did you feel like you didn’t know what to do? Or did you just do the first thing that came to mind? Did you do nothing? Something calculating? Mean? Something you wish you had done differently?

There was a near-fight in my Homeroom on Wednesday morning. This white kid – he’s probably a druggie, but in the very least, he’s meaner than a snake – came into homeroom this morning almost raging. He was terrifying. He’s a scary kid anyway, but this was truly frightening. (We’ll call him A.) Then a slacker-jock-disrespectful black boy came in the room (we’ll call him J) and A went BALLISTIC. He started bitching at J that the administration was being racist because while he, A, got detention for calling J a swearword, J, who did the same, got off scot-free because he’s black.

J started yelling (he has no volume other than yelling) at A across the room that he, J, didn’t get in trouble because he just called A a “bitch” after A called him a [insert the n-word here. Yes, he actually said it].

Our usually rowdy homeroom got really really scarily quiet. Our homeroom teacher, a really sweet, energetic, close-to-retirement-but-not-uncaring English teacher, who was on the phone, quickly hung up and tried to reason with the boys as they stalked towards each other. She’s had problems controlling both of them before, and she tried to talk to them for maybe ten seconds before she ran next door to get the coach who teaches History.

Thank God he came in when he did, because J and A were almost nose to nose, and I think they were about to slug it out. Coach came in and pulled the two out into the hall to hear their stories, and all of us in the room still breathed a collective sigh of relief.

It was very very scary.


I have run into bullying many times, but only realized it in retrospect. I have the wonderful combination of poor hearing, lack of understanding of sarcasm, and a thick thick skin, so if I’m bullied, I rarely notice. I notice when people are needlessly picking on others, and I try to stop them, but sometimes, I’m just stuck.

Like in my Economics class, there’s a boy, D, who I have known through Sunday School since kindergarten. I have never liked him because he’s cocky and annoying. However, a group of boys tease him mercilessly in this class. (About stupid things, but mostly about the fact that D’s family has lots of money, and D went to a private school before coming to our public HS. (These kids teasing him aren’t poor, for the most part. We live in a ridiculously, annoyingly affluent area.))

They also take his backpack, and either hide it or turtle it. (Do you know what turtling is? It’s where they flip your whole backpack inside out and then zip it back up with your stuff inside.) I don’t like D, but he just wants to belong, and the others torture him for it. Sometimes my sense of justice wins out and I tell them to stop, but I’m “just a girl” – and their leader’s enemy since fourth grade, to boot. Then their teasing focuses on me until I stare their a**hole leader dead in the eyes until he’s so uncomfortable that he walks away. But I can’t always come to D’s rescue. He’s eighteen freaking years old; he should know how to defend himself. And always being the rescuer – of everyone – is KILLING me. I can’t handle the stress here.

Also, anyone who has any thoughts about the unsettling tendency for girls to attack each other in ways that revolve around the having or not-having of sex, please feel free to share in the comments, because these thoughts—I want to hear them.

Obviously you’re aware of this, but it bears repeating: Teen girls are mean. I try not to judge people (and I definitely don’t torture them) about whether or not they’ve done stuff, just because *I* don’t want to be judged for that either. And most of the time, out loud, I succeed. But in my head, oh God in my head I’m so mean about this. Probably this is due to the fact that my friend group is comprised mostly of brilliant, slightly (read: really) off-the-wall girls who aren’t exactly what most boys want in high school. So we don’t generally get dates, let alone have sex.

But I know girls who have, and I don’t really treat them differently. I just think of them differently. I wonder, were they prepared for it? Do they think it was worth it? And, the question I never ask, because it’s shameful: Was it fun? (Also, I’m such a nosy-butt pragmatist that I want to ask technical questions, like, who bought the condoms, how did you hide that from your parents, where did you do it, WHEN did you do it, etc. etc.)(I also do this to people when I find out they’ve been kissed for the first time by their Significant Other. “I’m CURIOUS,” I tell them. “Is that really such a crime?” I want to know as many different takes on the same thing as possible. If I’m going to write, I need to know what it’s like to date in high school, because it’s looking like that will never happen for me.)(Also, I just want to know EVERYTHING, just to know it.)

Girls attack each other out of jealousy and out of fear. People won’t attack you if you can redirect them to a new target. Also, there’s this worrying trend of addressing people by slurs and renaming it as a term of endearment. I got called a slut and a whore in art today, not in malice. It’s just how one of my classmates (female) talks. We, as girls, are told by our parents to be responsible about having sex. We are told by our school that having sex in high school and before marriage is immoral (I live in Alabama). My Health class didn’t even COVER sex or STDs. All we talked about was stalking and schizophrenia. And we are told by the characters on TV that having sex at our age is normal. If you aren’t having sex, well then, you’re behind.

But in the halls… oh, in the halls, if you’re a girl and you’ve had sex without being in a super-long relationship – and sometimes even then! – you are dirty. You are worthless. You are Going to Hell. If you’re a boy and you’ve done the same, you’re awesome, you’re cool, you’re expected to move on. The double standard is ridiculous, and sad. Sex is normal and natural, and who the hell cares as long as you and your partner are responsible about it and prepared for it?

Also, this pervasive idea that the boy should (will?) save the girl—what is that? Because believe me, Delilah needed very little saving, but it still took Eerie wandering over to defuse the situation, which even now gives me this very frustrated feeling about who is allowed to be In Charge of Things.

Evolutionarily, males are wired to protect their harem. And if it’s a rogue female stirring up trouble, it’s her male’s job to get her under control. If she doesn’t have a male, she needs one as protection from being absorbed into a harem controlled by a male who wants to punish her for her transgressions.

Ugh, just TYPING that makes me sick.

Both genders, all people, want to be in control of their lives. It’s a struggle all people must go through. And part of that is control (of some sort) over your partner. Whether that manifests itself as a protective instinct, possessiveness, trust, or whatever depends on the people involved. If your partner is attacked, that is, by an extension, an attack on you, and you want to make sure that you and your partner are not attacked again. A singleton attack is far more dangerous than a partnered attack, because then the two will want to protect each other. The appearance of Eerie in Brenna’s story showed Jackal and Twitch that SOMEONE valued Delilah, and if they hurt her, they would have to deal with Eerie and his cohort as well, which presumably was a more threatening gang than Brenna, Little Sister Yovanoff, Delilah, and Gypsy were.

And also, I want to believe that none of what I just described in this post ever even happens anymore, but I don’t really think that’s true. So, I want to hear from you guys. About all of it.

When it’s you, you don’t want to say anything for fear of being labeled a bitch. But if you say nothing, you’re a wimp (or worse words). There is truly no way to win. People will judge you whatever you say or do, and you just have to go on your way.

(Many thanks to Emily for proofing this post for me.)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Origin by Jessica Khoury

I was so excited to read Origin that I pre-ordered it. I'd never read anything of Jessica Khoury's before (this is her debut), and I took a leap of faith. However, that leap paid off.

I got to meet Jessica at this year's Decatur Book Festival in Decatur, Georgia. (Decatur is a suburb of Atlanta.) Unfortunately, the book festival took place the weekend before Origin's pub date. But due to the staff of Little Shop of Stories, there were early copies available to festival attendees.

After a quick negotiation with my mother regarding cost, she allowed me to buy one of the early copies, and I started reading it before Jessica's panel began. Each of the authors on the panel could have easily had their own event, so it felt like it was only a few minutes later when we were queuing up for the signing portion.

I got to talk to Jessica very briefly about how I was liking Origin thus far, and after she signed my book, she posed for a picture. (Also, at the risk of sounding totally creepy, her little sisters were hanging around, and they are ADORABLE.)
From left: me, Z, and Sister, with Jessica in front of us.

I finished Origin the next day, and I was AMAZED at how much I loved it. (I think half the reason I love it so much is because there are no sequels.) Pia was such a good representation of a teenager -- despite the fact that she's more than human -- and besides that, she was smart and powerful and emotionally strong.

Most of what I predicted while reading Origin didn't happen, and for that I was glad.I've mentioned before how much I like to be surprised while reading, which definitely happened during my reading of this book.

It's so hard for me to satisfactorily tell people why I love Origin, without throwing major spoilers all over the place, but I think it boils down to these three points:
  • Pia is a fully realized, fallible, flawed narrator.
  • Origin tells its own story -- it's a standalone, and relies on nothing else. It has to be complete, or it falls apart.
  • The plot has dribbles of both sci-fi and fantasy, without being so enmeshed in either as to alienate casual readers.
I wish I had thought to get an extra copy signed so I could do a giveaway... but I didn't. So I'll just have to tell you (very VERY enthusiastically) to go buy your own copy or check it out of your local library. Oh, and follow Jessica on Pinterest, because she has awesome pins. (That's actually how I found out about her book, but that's another story.)

Description from jacket flap:

The jungle hides a girl who cannot die.

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home--and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia's origin--a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.
Origin is a beautifully told, shocking new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever, no matter the cost.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Why Trilogies Are Not My Favorite

You guys, I really don't like trilogies. I make an effort to finish every series I start, but if it's a trilogy, odds are, I'll never finish all three.I can finish five-book series, even if I have to wait each year for a new one. I can finish duets, sextets, septologies, but not trilogies.

Recently, I was trying to figure out why this is true, and though I didn't come to a definitive answer, I think it has something to do with the fact that trilogies are very formulaic. I don't like reading a series when I can already peg the twist while reading book 1. I read to be surprised, and trilogies rarely surprise me, often because they're set up for maximum delivery of punches and execution of archetypes.

I guess it's not trilogies that I don't like, just the ones I've read recently. I want more books out there to be maximum-impact standalones. (I'll talk about this more on Thursday.)

I don't like it when I can guess the twists. I need to be kept intrigued and off-guard the whole time I'm reading, otherwise I'll become incredibly bored. I need a book that takes the tropes and twists them so ingeniously that the hints are there -- they're just so well-hidden as to be unnoticeable.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Things I Learned From Doctor Who, Part 1

So, I just started watching Doctor Who. After previously trying to watch from the beginning of the reboot (Ninth Doctor, series one, episode one)  and failing to become enraptured, I gave up. However, I have a lot of friends who watch it, so I decided to give it one last shot, only this time starting from the first episode of the Eleventh Doctor.

And I was sucked in. So, corresponding to the episodes (in series five, with a few deviations backwards to learn some extra background things) in which I learned these things, here is what I have learned from Doctor Who.

1. Sometimes Netflix cannot handle the awesomeness that is the Doctor. One of my Doctor Who- loving friends was over when I decided to watch this episode, and she decided to stay with me while I watched it. She warned me that it was an awesome episode, but slightly terrifying. I didn't watch large swaths of it (Well, I watched the TV, but over my glasses, which essentially amounts to not seeing it at all) and when the music stopped, I had my face hidden COMPLETELY in my hands. I refused to look when I was told to, but eventually acquiesced. The screen was showing an error message.

2. Space Whales ROCK That's pretty much my only contribution to this episode. I want a space whale plushie or something. Surely they exist.

3. Daleks are really cool-looking and not scary at all.

4. River Song is SO INCREDIBLY AWESOME. Both of my parents came in a different points in this episode, and both of them sat down to watch awhile with me once they realized that Alex Kingston was in it. (My parents were ER freaks, back in the day.)

5.  Weeping Angels are more psychologically scary than REALLY scary. I kept psyching myself out, but they really aren't scary.

6. Helen McCrory looks an awful lot like Madeleine Stowe. 

7. Rory is kind of awesome. He's the most boring of the three main characters, but he has some kind of weird awesomeness.

8. I hate violent people. I hate people who resort to violence. I completely agree with the Doctor's policy of nonviolence.

9. No spoilers, but I'm so sad. This is so depressing.Those cracks are so cool. I love how Doctor Who loops things into a cohesive overall plot while still making it stand alone.

10 (series 3) Carey Mulligan looks an awful lot like Larisa Oleynik (who played Bianca in 10 Things I Hate About You). Also, I love complicated time-travel-y things.

10. Suicide makes me so incredibly sad. This marks the first episode over which I've cried, though I doubt it will be the last.

11. I love the Doctor's head bump thing. It's like bumping two iPhones together to exchange contact information.

12. River's hallucinogenic lipstick is so convenient and awesome.

13. I freaking love Rory. Can I have one of him when I grow up?

Hopefully this is a series of lists that will return as I make my way up to the current season of Doctor Who, and back through all of the old seasons. (Well, as many as are available on NEtflix, through friends, and at the local library.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Five Things I Should Already Know, But Don't

1.How to properly manage my time. Basically this boils down to prioritising. I know 
logically what I should be doing (my math homework) instead of what I am doing 
(reading or messing about online) but I can't seem to make myself do the right 
thing. All it does is cause me more pain in the long run. Have I learned this 
over the nearly thirteen years I've been in school? Logically, yes. 
Realistically, no. 

2. How to focus and tune out distractions. My school gave all the students their 
own laptop computers this year, and although it seems like a fantastic tool (according 
to administrators) it has been a pain in the ass for my teachers to navigate. It's an 
endless source of distraction for me, even when I just have my book website up. 
Yes, I am distracted that easily! I get distracted STARING at my screensaver. 
3.  How to be nice. Isn't this something everyone's supposed to learn in kindergarten?
Obviously I was absent that day or something, because I have a major meanness
problem. Most of the time, I'm mean whenI'm attempting to be funny. (Note to self: 
stop trying to be funny.)  I just don't know where to draw the line. This inability to judge
how polite my statements are is wreaking havoc in my friend group and in my relationships
with my family members.  
4. How to understand when someone is kidding. Closely related to my "being mean 
instead of funny" problem. I seriously cannot take a joke. If someone tries to kid with
me, I usually end up blankly and awkwardly staring at them until one of us looks away.
Also, I laugh at things that aren't meant to be funny, and don't laugh at anything my supposedly
"hilarious" friend says. 

5. How to do something I don't want to do. (Especially in a timely manner.) I waffled 
over whether or not this should be lumped in with numbers 1 and 2, but I ultimately decided
that this is a totally separate issue. If I don't want to do something, I don't do it. It doesn't matter
 if it's a homework assignment or practicing a cello piece for composition, if I don't want to do it,
 it doesn't get done. My mom constantly tells me that it is this fault that is my fatal one. She says 
that I'll never survive in the real world if I only do what I want to do. My argument back is that all 
I have to do is figure out my own intrinsic motivation in order to do unwanted things. But I know 
that that is pretty close to being a lost cause. The sooner I figure this one out, the better.
I'm almost eighteen, and I still have a lot of life ahead of me in which to
learn these things. But at the same time, it's very frustrating that I don't 
already know them. I'm hoping that by admitting to myself that I have
a problem, I'm on my way to solving it.  

ETA: This formatting is KILLING me. Does anyone have any advice on how to fix it?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

An Essay on the Hunger Games Trilogy

I'll start out with my most inflammatory statement: I hate the Hunger Games Trilogy. Well, okay, not the trilogy, but the people who love it so much that they've read all three books a million times and already know the movie by heart.

Now, I truly truly enjoyed both The Hunger Games and Mocckingjay, (Catching Fire, not so much,) but I can't reread them now. They changed my life, for which I am grateful, but they also left deep scars.

I first picked up The Hunger Games in October 2008, at my local library. Earlier that year (like in March? I think) I had read and loved Suzanne Collins's Gregor the Overlander series. So when I saw the words "Suzanne Collins" on a book in the YA section, I literally ran across the entire library and grabbed it off its prominent location on the face-out display shelf. (I might have looked a little like Gollum. But I was thirteen!) I tore through the book in about a day, I don't remember exactly how long.

I loved it. I loved Katniss, even though I could never have done most of the things she did. I loved Prim and Rue and Peeta. I admired Suzanne's vivid writing. (But secretly, I longed for giant bats to appear.) I loved that book from the first line to the last. "Dreading the moment I would have to let go," I remember thinking. "What a terrific ending! That is the best standalone I've read in SO LONG!"

And then my eyes drifted further down the page. END OF BOOK ONE, it proclaimed.

I was heartbroken. Now I knew that Suzanne was going to break my heart over a totally new set of characters. I'd already cried over Rue, and I knew what kind of body count was coming based on the back flap ("effect of war on children") and Code of Claw. (Note to other fans of the Underland Chronicles: It took me two and a half years to get over the ending to CoC. It was ROUGH.)

However, I loved the book, and I was going to read all three books, no matter how heartwrenching they were.

Fast-forward almost two years. I've changed from a sheltered eighth-grader into a tenth-grader with a year of public high school under her belt. My reading tastes had changed drastically, but The Hunger Games still held a special spot in my heart. I was so angry that Mockingjay was going to be released after we returned to school, and that I would have to wait an entire school day to get home and read it after a trip to the store.

Mockingjay broke my heart and turned me into a conscientious objector. Through it, I realized the horrors of war, and the uncertainty of life after. I cried for almost two straight days after reading it. (Maybe it's Mockingjay that started my downward spiral that year? I never thought of that angle...)

I have still never reread any of the books since.

However, I still went to the midnight opening of the movie. I watched it, and was horrified by it. I think the filmmakers did a terrific job of making the movie a warning about, instead of a glorification of, violence. My classmates did not see it this way. They all still think the movie was amazing, that it wasn't disturbing at all. They do not understand why Mockingjay horrified me.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's okay to love the Hunger Games Trilogy. It is okay to watch the movie, as long as you understand its real message. It is not okay to treat it as a glorification of violence. It is not okay to treat it as a trivial piece of literature. It is not okay to be blind as to why some people would rather not read it. 

And finally, it is not okay to be Team anything in terms of this book. It was not made for that, and to proclaim yourself Team Peeta or Team Gale is to demean the impact of this brave, brave work.

I raise my glass to you, Suzanne Collins, and I WILL read whatever you write in the future. I'm just not guaranteeing that I'll reread it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Trying to Find My Blogging Style

Some people -- some wonderfully blessed people -- are full of good ideas.
 They're the first person you go to when spitballing for an event, when trying
 to come up with a good essay hook, when you have no idea what to buy for
 your new closet. My sister is one of these people (when she's in a good mood).

I, however, am not really one of these lucky few. I am so much better at
adapting existing ideas than I am creating new ones. (This, I think, is my main
failing when trying to finish a story.)

When it comes to blogging, this problem of mine is why I don't post as often as
I'd like. I would love to be the kind of blogger whose every post isn't about
why she sucks at blogging, but that appears to be what I'm doing. I try to come
up with clever little stories, but they usually end up falling flat. I've tried
imitating the other bloggers I follow, but that format obviously isn't working
for me. I have to figure out my own way of blogging, but it needs to be a way that doesn't just
consist of a post every three weeks labelled with the tag "why I sometimes suck
at blogging".

I had this weird learning curve when I joined twitter last year, too. For a
while, I tried overly hard to be witty and retweetable. That made being on
twitter not too much fun. (Also, it meant I didn't have a lot of followers or people who would talk to me.) When I stopped trying to be Maureen Johnson, and just
started being me, twitter became more fun for me. It also meant I started
posting a lot... Which, depending on who you ask, may not be a good thing. But
more posts here WOULD be a good thing, right?

Let's hope.

ETA: Sorry for the wonky formatting. Not sure why that happened...?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Being Brilliant is Exhausting

You know those days when you have a fantastic idea (for ANYTHING) and instead of writing it down, you say/think, "Oh, I'll remember it later," but then you forget your brilliant idea?

I'm having one of those days.

I had this really good idea for a blog post, and since I haven't updated the last two Saturdays (oops), I figured I owed my readers something awesome. But then I forgot the idea. However, in forgetting,  realized something.

I haven't updated because I feel like whatever ideas I have aren't sufficiently awesome. And that is a really dumb thought. Okay, yeah, an awesome post would be nice every once in a while, but if every single post I publish is sheer brilliance (which it won't be, let me be VERY clear about that) people will really expect that whenever they visit my blog.

I don't have the time to be brilliant in all of my posts. Being brilliant is exhausting. I'm just a teenager. I should be posting about the random things that I like, be it books or movies or shoes or food or ideas. By posting about the things I like, whether or not the post is highbrow or wonderfully worded, I'll find other people who like the same things I do.

According to Maureen Johnson, that connection is the whole purpose of the internet. (I was going to link to the post where she said that, but then I couldn't find it and then I got sucked into the awesome that is her tumblr, and... yeah.)

I'm just going to hit post before I really regret writing this.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I'd been hearing good things about Shadow and Bone for a while before I got a chance to read it. Initially, I got it confused with Robin Wasserman's Book of Blood and Shadow, for reasons that aren't inherently clear. I thought it might be a little like BoBaS and Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone: set in Prauge, featuring a student, and so on. Well, Shadow and Bone is not at all like either of these, which isn't a bad thing.

It does take a bit to fully get into the swing of the story, but it was well worth the wait. I loved all of the different directions the story took, both geographically and in terms of plot.

I quickly figured out that Shadow and Bone is set in a sort of pseudo-Russia, and I really liked trying to connect the fantastical locations to their real-world counterparts. (I also knew at a glance that the map in the front was drawn by Keith Thompson. Oh, how I love his work!) The title is very apt, though I didn't fully realize that until the very end.

The cover is different from most other books out right now, and I really like it. I love the font, and the colors have a symbolic meaning to the story. I love how the palace seems menacing, like beady red eyes are staring at you. The interior font for the chapter titles and the opening sentences is the Artemis Fowl font, which was seriously weird, but it didn't excessively distract me. Basically, this book is really pretty.

For some reason, it seriously bugged me that the Darkling didn't have his own name, just a title, but I need to ponder more thoroughly to figure out why that is. I loved that Alina was a total nobody, and I seriously, seriously loved that she was inclined to be merciful. (I often find that my issue with heroines is that if they're even remotely brave/powerful, they kill easily. Not so with Alina.)

Leigh Bardugo's writing style was very easy to read, and she glossed over the boring parts, which I appreciated. (Days upon days of slogging through snow, condensed into a few sentences! Yay!) I really enjoyed the way the prologue and epilogue were written in a slightly different style, and I think because of that, they really helped settle the story more firmly.

Shadow and Bone reminded me of the ambiance of Tony Abbot's Kringle combined with the intrigue of Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief. I can't wait for the next book!

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.
(Summary from Goodreads.)

Leigh's website is