Pre-Vacation Book Packing Struggles

I’m flying out for Japan on Tuesday which means at least 20+ hours of flying and 6+ hours of train rides.

This is the longest trip of my life and I am unspeakable excited. Not only am I going to Japan (I mean, JAPAN), but that’s approximately 30 hours of potential reading time ahead of me.

Ergo, I am faced with the exhilarating, yet frustrating task of packing books. I have decided to limit everything to my Kindle for space and luggage reasons. That narrows it down a little, but not much. My Kindle gets intermittent WiFi connection, so it’s not like I can download at will during the trip without a USB and laptop.

I have close to 600 eBooks and I’ve only read about a fourth of them. I feel terrible about this, especially because so many of them are from authors I know, who are waiting for reviews, and/or books I’ve wanted to give a go for weeks, months, years a long time!

I mean, there’s the second book in the Reign of Secrets series and I loved the first one. Then there’s the 7th book in Erica Steven’s The Captive  series or her Kindred series…those are badass, too. Not to mention Deathless, Snow White’s Revenge, Ironhand, Hand of Fire, Voices of Blood, The Blind Dragon, Blazed Union, Mortal Enchantment, and an ARC of AsylumAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! I will never be able to read them all!

There are so many options! So many books I’ve neglected for so long! I feel terrible!

Regardless, I’m sure I’ll work it out. I’m also not forgetting my own stories. You can bet I’ll be bringing a notebook and prepping for the release of the Fanged  prequel novella early June. More details will be following when I get back next month, but until then, feast your eyes on that cover!

Lovely, no? I can’t wait for you all to meet Fletcher! I fell in love writing him and I’m sure you will, too.

Now…I’m off to find travel toothpaste and make some final calls on what I’m loading into my Kindle. I also need to schedule some posts for while I’m gone. At least one…and I still have a Business Statistics final here at college. Ugh. But only a few more days before it’s me, my お祖母さん, and my Kindle in the Land of the Rising Sun. I can’t wait!

Tell me some of your pre-vacation book-packing dilemmas. How do you make the call which books to bring and which to not? 差王なら、皆さん!

Reading Bad Books in the Name of Representation

There is no inherent problem writing about a social/religious/relational/political issue in literature or—as I like to call it—activist fiction. Quite the opposite. I am a big believer in the power of art to influence society. Without the freedom of artists to call attention to issues big and small, there go most of history’s great revolutions.

That being said, there is a HUGE problem with BAD activist fiction and most of it is.

I’ve seen this happen in LGBTQ fiction, Christian fiction, and others.

I once encountered a story about a person becoming a Christian, but it was wholly bereft of character development and conflict. (FOR EXAMPLE: Christianity doesn’t magically cure mental illness. It does make the mental illness more manageable and has literally kept me alive, but no insta-cures!) Even when there was ABSOLUTELY NOTHING inaccurate in the theology presented, I can definitively say it was a horrible piece.

In another case, I read two lesbian romances in a writing workshop that were just as atrocious. One was about a woman who has an affair with an employee and the other was about a girl finally getting a commitment out of her girlfriend, both by the same author, both with the same problems.

The plots and climaxes were no where to be found, the other characters’ reactions to the couples’ relationships made NO SENSE, and plus some other little details just didn’t…add up.

And don’t get me started on all the women’s rights monologues that take up whole pages of certain Young Adult Fantasy novels. I mean, if you want to write feminist essays, write feminist essays, but don’t try to play them off as dialogue tossed in at random.

Why does this happen?

From what I’ve seen, people decide they want to write in an underrepresented niche, but don’t learn how to write first. They then surround themselves with people as passionate about the issue as they are which, while great, means these people are going to be a lot less likely to notice or point out problems. I’m also convinced that people supportive of the issue in general are less likely to point out problems because they don’t want to appear adversarial.

It gets to the point where people will focus on the representation and NOTHING ELSE when discussing certain books because, let’s face it, that’s the only redeemable quality. 

I am a feminist reader who wants to see more diversity in my books and also more Christianity, but you can be sure that the moment I see “feminist,” “Christian” or “diverse” in the blurb, I usually forego. Of course there are exceptions, but I’ve been burned too many times. I’m convinced half the time publishers are just filling diversity quotas.

I’ve read too many crappy stories in the name of representation.

I understand it takes time for genres and writers to find themselves and their voices, but life is too short to waste on bad books. Maybe in 5-10 years things will be better. The lesson for all the writers out there is to definitely use your writer-ly powers for good, but also learn story mechanics. PLEASE.

And, just as importantly, seek help from brutal (and I mean BRUTAL) editors.

Be sure to work on your craft as well as your cause.

But I assure you it can be done. To prove it, let me say good Christian fictiongood diverse fiction, and good feminist fiction do exist. Sometimes all at once. I have found these and more examples and they are amazing. You, see? It is possible!

The Romance Paradox

I like romance, but I don’t like romance. Do you see the problem? Well, I have also found the perfect solution.

For a while there, I was really into Young Adult Paranormal Romance. The evidence is all over this blog and Goodreads, but I got tired of it pretty quick for the same reason I tired of chick flicks: there is one story. After a few (dozen) books, I recognized a definitive formula to all romance novels (they literally teach it at RWA conferences) and it just wasn’t for me.

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Thing is, I still like love stories. I have a certain level of romantic in me that refuses to be denied. Despite an affinity for military history, Machiavelli, and Clausewitz, I am still a girl. It’s just bloody hard to find a love story I like.

Have long adored hardcore action stories, but I never wanted to be the hero’s girlfriend, I wanted to be his lieutenant. The one who survives to the end, saves his sorry hide when he gets in a fix, then ends up taking his place to outwit the Lannisters, defend Troy, or drive the Narens from Lucel-Lor,  or lead the Rohirriam.

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The solution to wanting a surprising, action-filled storyline that examines a wide array of relationships besides romantic (but still includes romance!)? For me it was—what else?—Epic Fantasy. The Tyrants and Kings series by John Marco had the perfect level of romance. Same with the Shadowmarch books by Tad Williams, Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms and the Mistborn trilogy.

I highly recommend "The Jackal of Nar" by John Marco to anyone seeking the emotional equivalent of a wood chipper.

I especially appreciate how people in Epic Fantasy are a lot quicker to figure out when their romance isn’t worth causing the apocalypse—unlike people in some genres. *coughcough*

So if, like me, you crave complicated storylines, complex characters, and some swooning on top, allow me to suggest your local bookstore’s Epic Fantasy section. (In a wholly objective and unbiased manner, of course.)

Top book series I wish had Fandoms

These eight book series are among my All Time Favorites and I believe they are tragically underrated. I see the memes and fangirling for The Hunger Games and The Mortal Instruments, and I can’t help but feel jealous and think “I know of books that are even better!” (Purely my opinion, but I didn’t particularly love The Hunger Games trilogy or City of Bones.) So I cannot hold it in any longer. Here are the top book series I believe should have massive fandoms of screaming fangirls and/or fanboys staying up until 2:00 a.m. to finish the latest installments or mourning the series’ conclusions. This list has expanded since I wrote the post, so you can expect a part 2!

The Cat’s Eye Chronicles by T.L. Shreffler

I discovered this series awhile back and downloaded the first, but only read it until recently. While I thought the first chapter was a bit slow, I quickly became engrossed in the story, only stopping for trivial things like eating. I went and downloaded the second book straightaway and am now living in agony waiting for the fourth/fifth’s release.

The Captive

This was my inaugural foray into vampire love stories. The writing can be rusty in places, but the story is absolutely, positively, awesome and the romance…oh, the romance! I was so sad to see the series end and ecstatic to hear of the author planning a spinoff!

The Sunbolt Chronicles

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From what I have seen, anything by Intisar Khanani is incredible. Her original worlds with heroines who are strong, but still relatable and empathetic are unquestionably underrated. For clean, action-packed, magic-brimming fantasy, Khanani is your go-to source!

Moonlit

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Horses, ancient love, horses, age-old prophecies, sorcery, horses, and a gloriously bad villain, what more could you want? I was not expecting to enjoy this book nearly as much as I did and I was highly impressed with the author’s talent. Definitely one worthy of a fandom and I will be stalking the internet for the first word of the trilogy conclusion.

The Witches’ Sleep by Kaitlyn Deann

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I’m normally not a fan of dystopia-esque stories, but this teen author’s debut novel was the clear exception. Paranormal excitement and political intrigue mix together in perfect harmony for a story that should be read, read, read by as many people as possible.

The Squire’s Tales by Gerald Morris

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Gerald Morris’ ingenious reimagining of the Arthurian legends are among my absolute favorites. Though this is more of an MG series, I am a HUGE fan of these books and wish more people were familiar with them so I could be accompanied in my mad fangirling.

The Guardians of Vesturon by A.M. Hargrove

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Another wonderful romance series from a brilliant mind. Though they might not be for everyone, I find it impossible not to adore monotheistic, honor-conscious, chaste, swoon-worthy aliens and I can’t be the only one. Forget vampire or werewolf, if I had my pick, I’d take a Vesturion Guardian before you could say “shadar.”

 

The Time Quintet by Madeleine L’Engle

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This series has the singular honor of being the only one I have read beginning to end more than once. I believe Madeleine L’Engle was a true literary genius, on par with C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Her stories teach love, forgiveness, and courage in the most beautiful way and we can all learn from those lessons.

Favorite lines that WEREN’T in the movies

When books get turned into movies, things have to be changed. Books and movies are two separate types of entertainment and two separate types of media, so changes and alterations are inevitable. Unfortunately, this often means that juicy bits of the book get lost in the cracks. Here are some of my favorite lines from books that, sadly, didn’t make it into the movies.

“I am quite beautiful enough for us both, thank you very much!” ~ Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince by J.K. Rowling

This was simultaneously touching and funny. When Bill Weasley is permanently scarred from his encountered with Fenrir Greyback, Molly Weasley says “What a shame. He was so young. And was going to be married, too!” At this, Fleur de LaCour (did I spell that right?) makes it clear in no uncertain terms that she still wants to marry Bill, she thinks his scars mark him as brave, and they will be blissfully happy whether anybody likes it or not.

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“And you, Ferney, should get your ugly face off that fence before it gets hurt.” ~ The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

In the books, the pony Bill that appears in the first film is bought from a sour old fart in Bree who jeers and insults Strider and the hobbits as they leave. Sam, leading Bill, gives the bully fair warning before clocking him in the face with an apple.

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And he took her in his arms and kissed her under the sunlit sky, and he cared not that they stood high upon the walls in the sight of many. ~ The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

This passage is in reference to Faramir and Eowyn shortly after her acceptance of his marriage proposal. When I read this, I squeed and jumped up and down like any true fangirl. In the books, Faramir and Eowyn’s love story actually had more page time than Aragorn and Arwen’s, yet theirs was cut. More’s the pity.

“Good shot, Bill.” ~ The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

Bill makes a reappearance in the final book when the hobbits return to the Shire, which has been overtaken by Saruman and Grima and the hobbits must fight to reclaim their homeland. It just so happens that Bill’s former abusive master is in league with them and Bill is given the chance to mete out justice in the form of a kick to his ex-owner’s buttocks.

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“Starving.” ~ The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

The dwarves first encounter the elves of Mirkwood while the natives are holding a feast. When things go south, the rest of the company escapes whilst Thorin is captured. When Thorin is taken before Thranduil, his response to every one of the elf king’s questions is “starving.” Their original conversation goes like this:

Thranduil: Why did you and your folk three times try to attack my people at their merrymaking?

Thorin: We did not attack them. We came to beg, because we were starving.

Thranduil: Where are your friends now and what are they doing?

Thorin: I don’t know, but I expect starving in the forest.

Thranduil: What were you doing in the forest?

Thorin: Looking for food and drink, because we were starving.

Sometimes I do think movie versions are better than book versions (heresy, I know), but more often I find myself staunchly insisting the books were better. It truly is a pity these lines didn’t make it into the movies. But I guess the books don’t always want to share everything with their film counterparts.

Me and Book Series…in GIF

Me starting a new series:

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Me when I decide I’m a fan of a new series:

Me when I finish the first book:

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Me realizing the next book isn’t out yet:

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Me when they announce the official release date:

Me when, after moving it back four times, they announce the “official” release date:

Me being forced to wait:

Me when the sequel finally arrives:

Me when I start reading the sequel:

Me when I finish the sequel:

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And they lived happily after—just kidding, they’re all dead

The “happily ever after” ending, or HEA, is a relatively new invention in storytelling. If one had tried explaining the concept to a Greek poet, the well-meaning individual would have most likely been laughed out of the country. Shakespeare showed he had no problem with tragedies and let’s not even mention the great Russian authors.

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It has only been within the past two hundred years or so that the HEA became commonplace. While one could find non-tragedies before then, they were for the most part rare and lesser known than tales that ended in mass murder and general mayhem. Then came along the stories where the characters you loved survived to the end, got married, had babies, and lived to be surrounded by adoring children and grandchildren and old and fat and happy beyond imagining—the ultimate HEA.

But lately, I’ve seen the tragedy cropping up again just like a plague. Writers seem to be getting kicks out of killing off dearly beloved characters. From John Greene’s teary endings to George R.R. Martin’s the infamous slaughters, J.K. Rowling’s massacre to Suzanne Collins’ end-of-trilogy herd thinning, authors are going rogue.

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Sad endings can be beautiful in their own way. Poison Dance by Livia Blackburne was one of these. Rhiannon Paille’s The Ferryman and the Flame epic fantasy romance series is basically one tragedy after another and the reader becomes all the more emotionally involved for it. I concede that sometimes a tragedy at the end can be more powerful and in some cases more believable. My favorite movie of all time ends with pretty much everyone either dead or fleeing for their lives. Still, in general I prefer happy or bittersweet endings.

I don’t want everything to be sunshine, puppies, and daisies. There have been one or two series that I finished thinking “more people should have died” because I think that would have fit the tone of the stories better. But the books I fangirl over and have hope for an HEA—the ones that I preorder months in advance and keep me up late at night—those had better end with my OTP’s getting together and the bad guys getting their just desserts. So long as that happens, I am content. If not, I sink into a cesspool of emotions and rot there for days or weeks until I find something to distract me.

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Books are supposed to get your feelings into play and when feelings are involved, there’s bound to be sadness. I suppose I can’t call foul when an author breaks my heart or a story doesn’t turn out quite the way I want. Still, when a story is written well I end up caring about the characters, so of course I want them to find what they’re searching for in their lives. That might be too much to ask in some cases, but to authors everywhere I would like to point out that happy endings are good. Of course, they have to be believable, but there is nothing wrong with happiness!

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