Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

Let me first of all say, this is not in my usual genre range. I like YA novels; I like dystopian fiction. But the whole girly, pageant-like vibe is not something I’m interested in. It took a lot of arm yanking and three recommendations from people I trust before I even started watching Once Upon a Time. Because as my mom now says, “Let’s watch the fairy princess show!”

But for some reason, the cover caught my eye when I was walking through a bookstore. I’ll admit, I set it back down. I thought it looked interesting but was worried the author wouldn’t deliver. After all, I had never heard of her; honestly, that says much less about her than it does about me. Anyway, I told myself I’d look it up later to make sure it was clean (minimal swearing/sexual content etc). I forgot. Only when I was stalking a blog and found a raving review did I remember that I had thought it might be a good book.

Bought it the next time I was in the bookstore. Got razed by both husband and mother…”I can read a girly book if I want to! And besides, I bought this one too.” *points to a somewhat boyish spy thriller akin to Tom Clancy*

Well, I read it and loved it. While there was some minor sexual references, the book was mostly clean and the story was engaging. This tomboy is going to pick up the rest of the series…

Your Experience is Not My Experience

Today I’d like to discuss my experience on some matters relating to my time in graduate school. I’d like to say first and foremost that I am not ranting or complaining but genuinely curious about other people’s experiences and opinions.

Ever since I started grad school, I’ve heard various people joke about the workload. A common joke I hear is that about graduate students in big research schools are slave labor. That’s obviously not true; we choose to be here and we get paid to be here. But I’ve laughed along to this joke because yeah, sometimes it feels like I spend more time here than I do at home.

Take last month for example. I took 3 Sundays off. That’s it, 3 days out the entire month. I was trying to meet a deadline; crap happens. My house got a bit messy and my husband got a bit cranky. We dealt with it.

But what really confuses me, is when people get all huffy and upset about that joke. Trust me, with the demographics in physics, it has nothing to do with your race, gender, age, religion etc. It’s just a self-deprecating joke about being a workaholic. One time, another student scolded me saying it’s not true because we get paid. I amended myself and said “Fine, I’m an indentured servant.” I think he changed the subject or walked away.

The thing is: his experiences might not be like mine. I know of graduate students who work 9am-5pm weekdays only. They don’t come in on holidays and they don’t work weekends. I also know of the polar opposite: students that I’m not entirely convinced even rent an apartment. To the kids who work 40 hours a week and can graduate with your PhD in 6 years: awesome. But we’re not all in that boat. Some advisors expect more, some require more. Some students require more of themselves than the absolute minimum. That doesn’t make anyone better than someone else. It just makes us different.

Alright. What do you think? Is this an inappropriate joke? Are some people just too sensitive?

Book Review: The Calling by Rachelle Dekker

Yesterday, I finished the sequel to Rachelle Dekker’s debut novel. I was lagging behind on this one for awhile. I think because I was afraid it would not have the same impact on me that the first novel (The Choosing) accomplished. I was wrong.

I’ve described the premise before but here’s a quick recap: in a pseudo-post-apocalyptic America, the Authority rules with a heavy hand. Women who are not chosen by a young man during their selection ceremony are destined to become indentured servants; men who are imperfect for some reason (think birth defect or chronic stutter) become members of the militaristic police force. It’s the only way of life, until a mysterious man named Aaron begins planting seeds in the hearts of the citizens.

The first novel was written entirely from Carrington’s perspective. She fails to get chosen and tries her hardest to accept the fate that the Authority tells her is God’s Will for her life. The second novel is in Remko’s point of view. As he tries to lead a group of rebels outside the Authority city, he finds every step he takes leads them closer to capture and death. Wow, I thought my heart really empathized with Carrington; Remko, on the other hand, totally resonated with me. His struggle through regret and self-blame really hit me hard.

Even more, his journey to true freedom. I’m waiting expectantly for the last book in this series

Short Story: To Be Like Daddy

This week’s 100-word story was something I thought about and scribbled out last month. I tweaked it a little for another contest but also thought it might be relevant with Father’s day coming up. To me, it stands as a reminder that even good parents and people who don’t have kids (think aunts, uncles, tutors, babysitters, etc) can have unexpected impacts on children.
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Golden-red flames lick ever closer but I have to find Jerry. The heavy smoke overwhelms the yard and the smell of burnt logs sweeps through the house like an ashy tidal wave. I stumble through the pitch colored yard until I’m nearly garroted by the laundry line.

Finally, I find him hunkered under the porch with Yowl, the pillow-pet. He swipes away tears as I scoop him up. When I load him into his booster-seat, he whispers.

“Sorry, Mama.” He hands me a pack of matches and some crumpled cigarettes. “I just wanted to be like Daddy.”

Book Review: The Girl In Between by Laekan Zea Kemp

Ok, so here’s another eBook I picked up for free from Kindle. The premise: a girl, Bryn, with the rare disease KLS (where the sufferer falls into something like a deep sleep for long periods of time) finds herself strolling through her memories instead of being catatonic during her episodes. Everything is safe and familiar until a boy with amnesia washes up on the beach in her dreamland.

I think my interest in this was somewhat superficial. How does someone with a disease like that function on a day to day basis? How does it affect their relationships, schooling, and mental state?

I found the details really interesting, so I have to give the author props for hooking me on that. Also, somewhere kind of late in the game, the book explicitly mentions that Bryn is American but has Colombian heritage. Also, you later find out that the boy is Italian. So, props for having diverse main characters. But, I will mention that from the first pages of the book, I occasionally forgot and thought Bryn was British. I thought maybe that was just some of the author’s voice slipping in: an unknown author with a unique name could have any number of origin stories and “accents” that might bleed into their writing. Fine by me but maybe something the author should be aware of.

My main complaint with this novel was not the story itself. That was totally fascinating and I loved it. My problem was the large quantity of mature content. As a YA novel, it felt realistic in that there was a ton of vulgar language, conversations that were drug related or had sexual references. Yea, it’s the real world. Coworkers tell unsavory jokes, the guy at the supermarket swears profusely when his debit card malfunctions, TV ads…OK no more ranting…

When I’m reading, that’s the world I’m trying to escape. I don’t really want to escape into a world where it’s just as adult. Another good reason why I read a lot of Christian fiction. Regardless, I powered through the first novel only to reach the end at a totally unexpected part.

This is a strategy I’ve seen in a lot of eBook freebies. You get the reader hooked then end the novel in with just enough concluded that you can say “Finito!” but other parts of the narrative require the purchase of the sequel to keep you from throwing a tantrum. Well, I’m getting mighty sick of this strategy. Perhaps, I’m a bit sensitive because I recently read this blog post on authors leaving things “unresolved.” http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2016/05/i-intend-to-multiply-when-do-i-break.html

Or maybe I’m a bit naive and the author totally thought the narrative arc of the novel was complete but in my opinion there was too many loose ends. Will Bryn die because of the changes to her dreamland? Why did Roman get stuck there in the first place? What’s the deal with the shadows? What’s the deal with Bryn’s grandmother? These all seemed highly important right until the last page when none of them were resolved.

I was so mad (and annoyed by the mature content) I actually resolved NOT to buy the sequel. Unfortunately, Kindle recently updated and when I tried to scroll through to the page where it used to tell you the price of the next book in the series, I accidentally clicked on BuyNow for the next book. *rolls eyes in annoyance at technology*