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September 2016 Affirmation of the Month: When Life Gives You Lemons

The concept of the proverb  “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” was first coined by Elbert Hubbard in 1915, but was first written in its current, recognizable form by Dale Carnegie in 1948. You can check out a full explanation of this fabulous proverb on wikipedia.

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August 2016 was filled will lemons and lemonade for me. This is the reason I’m writing about lemons and lemonade for my September 2016 affirmation of the month.

September 2016 Affirmation of the Month

When life gives me lemons…

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” means a lot to me. I like the good feelings the phrase implies, and it encourages me to be brave and problem solve in a positive way. This proverb also helps me to shift my attitude from feeling squashed to feeling empowered. I take it in a very similar way as my July 2016 affirmation of the month: “All of my actions, no matter how minor, result in spiritual growth.” These lemons are moments or challenges that build character and sometimes influence the course of my life.

August 2016 wasn’t all lemons, in fact early in the month some very nice things happened: I took an inspiring spiritual class, attended a wedding, and visited with family that I haven’t seen in three years. These were all the highlights of my month, which I keep in my memory as beacons of light during a dark storm.

But as you have probably noticed, if you are a regular reader of my blog, I posted a total number of zero times to my blog during the month of August and pretty much went MIA on my social networks. This decision is definitely a lemon that I haven’t quite figured out how to turn that into lemonade yet, but it was a conscious decision. I know I chose to accept this lemon and can only hope that I can use this lemon for something good.

One good thing about accepting this writing related lemon is that not blogging in August gave me the time and space I needed to focus on turning the bushels of baseball sized sour lemons that dropped into my life into a lemonade factory. This time and energy not only effected me but other people in my life in a positive way. With how much pressure those baseball sized lemons produced, I’m not confident that I could have produced anything worth reading anyway. I tried and the results were confused and unpublishable. Shrug. Such is life sometimes. I think that even this post has a little bit of scattered remnants of lemon peals.

As far as my writing goals are concerned, I’ll be revisiting them this month and deciding what direction to my blog should be going in and how to make writing for my blog more closely align with my novel writing goals. So, perhaps you will be reading more about that in the near future. Only time will tell.

But when life gives you lemons…

So when life gives you lemons, what do you do? Get angry? Drink it with alcohol? Paint your lemons gold? Plant a tree? Sell them? Keep them? Make your own lemonade? It’s actually quite interesting to think of all the variations people have thought up for this proverb over the last 100 years or so.

Or perhaps…

When life gives you lemons, you write about those lemons you got in your next story. 😉

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If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina:

July 2016 Affirmation June 2016 Affirmation May 2016 Affirmation

Photo Credits: Extra lemon quote photos were sourced from the following websites: readingaftermidnight.com and sweetopia.net.

 

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Wow! It’s been a long time since I’ve written a movie review. But believe it or not, Star Trek Beyond is only the third movie I’ve seen in the movie theater this year. That’s not so usual for me.

I haven’t quite come to terms with whether it’s worth it for me to write these movie reviews for a movie that’s not currently in the theaters. Perhaps if I see a good foreign or independent that didn’t make it big in the theaters I’ll write a review for that, but writing reviews for movies isn’t the same as writing reviews for books. Perhaps if I create a good structure for my reviews, similar to how I write my book reviews, you may see more of these.

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Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

My Emotional Reaction to Star Trek Beyond

I really enjoyed Star Trek Beyond! It was fun, smart, and action packed. Most of the characters got to grow in ways that I enjoyed. I especially liked how the screen writers incorporated Leonard Nimoy’s death (February 2015) into the storyline. That was true Star Trek fan dedication. And I enjoyed the thought-provoking plot, which raised many questions about humanity and what helps us change.

I’m A Trekkie

To set the record straight I’m a huge Star Trek fan. I’ve seen all of the episodes of the original Star Trek, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager at least once. Many episodes I’ve seen multiple times. I’ve seen all of the Star Trek movies (both great and terrible). I even read a handful of Star Trek novels when I was in high school. Unfortunately, Enterprise didn’t hold my interest beyond the pilot episode; it’s the only Star Trek show I couldn’t get into. Maybe some day I’ll get around to giving it a second chance.

The main reason I’m mentioning this is because my experience with Star Trek is extensive. As a Trekkie I have a certain expectation for what happens within the Star Trek universe. The conflicts that arise, the character expectations, and the laws of Star Trek physics are interpreted through my vast filter of Star Trek knowledge. I’m telling you this because I watch everything Star Trek through Trekkie glasses. Just as I watch and read everything Star Wars through my Jedi glasses. These glasses influence my opinions and critiques. Every aspect of a Star Trek story has to fit into the known Star Trek universe, and if something different comes along, it must be explained in terms of the given universe.

What I Liked about Star Trek Beyond

As I said, Star Trek Beyond is a smart, fun action/adventure. The story was a logical follow-up to Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness: the crew is on its five-year deep-space mission. The story was well planned and each scene was obviously saved for the pertinent plot and character information it conveyed.

Here are four aspects of the movie that I enjoyed most about Star Trek Beyond.

General Character Development

I really enjoyed where Star Trek Beyond brings Kirk, Spok, and McCoy. As a Trekkie, the relationship between Kirk, Spok, and McCoy is one of the key aspects that made the original Star Trek so great. The first two movies really focused on Kirk and Spok and I was so pleased to see that McCoy is being brought into the fold in Star Trek Beyond for those who aren’t so familiar with the trio dynamic.

I liked that McCoy got more screen time to show the audience his snarky sense of humor and to show where he fits into the friendship between Kirk and Spok.

I enjoyed Kirk’s maturity as a captain and the struggle he goes through to decide if he still wants to be a starship captain. I enjoyed Spok’s conflict that arose from Ambassador Spok’s demise and the tremendous responsibility and love that he feels toward his people. Should he leave Star Fleet to help his people? Should he sacrifice his relationship with Uhura because of that duty to his people? These are all really good conflicts.

Everyone else still orbits Kirk’s and Spok’s conflicts, but the overall conflict of survival is what really brings out the strengths and weaknesses of all of the members of the Enterprise crew.

I like that Uhura got to play another vital role in the story’s plot: were it not for her no one would have figured out the villain’s plan. This was due partly to circumstance, but also partly to her personal skills, a factor that in my opinion weighed in even more heavily. Nonetheless, I still feel like Uhura’s character has not reached its full potential beyond the love interest stereotype.

Nice Twist on the Villain

I can’t say much here without giving away the ending, but I liked the idea of the villain. The villain brings up a lot of important fundamental questions about the formation of the Federation and human nature (for the lack of a better term). Does humanity need continuous conflict in order to grow? They pose a very interesting question. To a certain extent it’s true. The villain is also a nice example of a fallen angel or could be a hint of why someone would become a fundamentalist. His conflicts are pertinent to today and give the audience the chance to think about some questions that they might not otherwise.

Broke the Red-shirt Rule

I loved that Star Trek Beyond broke the red-shirt rule.

There’s a joke amongst Trekkies that if a person in a red shirt goes on an mission, they are most likely going to die. If you sit and watch enough episodes of Star Trek, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

That didn’t happen in Star Trek Beyond. People of all shirt colors died on screen; there was no discrimination, except where the main characters were concerned — obviously.

Stunning Visuals

Living up to its name, Star Trek Beyond was an amazing movie to look at. Regardless of where the characters were set – on the Enterprise, on the amazing starbase Yorktown, or on the planet Altamid – I was captivated by the beautiful and realistic-feeling settings. The sweeping special effects shots gave me appreciation for people’s imaginations and computer skills. I was totally sucked in.

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The Four Things That Annoyed Me About Star Trek Beyond

Nothing annoys me more than things that take me out of my movie enjoyment. It’s actually a worse experience for me than when something takes me out of a novel. Is it because it’s more immediate? Is it because a movie is more visual? I’m not sure. But these four aspects of the movie dimmed my enjoyment of the film.

Action Scene Editing

Action scenes are hard. You have to give the audience enough information, keep them interested, and show story and character development all at the same time. Ok. That’s if you’re a good film maker. It seems to me that director Justin Lin did what many writers are encouraged to do. Make shorter sentences to make the scenes feel faster. In movie terms, cut the scenes shorter. This may work for a Fast and Furious movie that doesn’t require much brain power, but when you have to sit and watch every single second of an action scene in order to not harbor questions later in the movie, that’s not a good sign. I get the quandary – I really do. How much info is too little and how much is too much? But if my husband sneezed at the wrong moment and missed that key piece of action sequence and later leans over to ask what, how, or why, that’s not a very good editing job. (I also talked with several other people who expressed similar sentiments.)

I found this to be truer during the earlier action scenes in the movie. The third-act action scenes didn’t suffer from this effect as much as the earlier ones. During action scenes people need time to absorb what’s happening. The action scene shouldn’t be action just for action’s sake – it’s really a time for character and plot building (or resolution).

Is the Villain a New Alien?

I’m going to remind you again that I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek at least once. The moment I saw the villain I was convinced that I’d seen that species of alien in another Star Trek. Maybe the ridges on their faces were a bit sharper, but I knew that I had seen them before and couldn’t remember from where. It bothered me throughout the movie. My mother (also a Trekkie) said that she had the same experience.

I don’t mind seeing new aliens – in fact it’s expected when watching Star Trek – but when people say it’s new and it really doesn’t “feel” new… we have a problem. But you know, if you’re not a Trekkie, the villain looks like a pretty badass alien. I certainly wouldn’t want to mess with him.

The Villain’s Rejuvenation Powers

In order not to spoil the movie for you altogether, I’m going to simply state that the villain’s powers of rejuvenation really needed to be explained better. Just seeing the guy suck the life out of some random Enterprise crew members wasn’t enough for me. I’m a writer. I came up with at least 4 different reasons on the spot for why the villain did what he did and why the results were what they were. I’m sorry that sounds really vague, but I have to be in order for Justin Lin’s cheat to work for you.

I totally recognized the villain’s climax as a storytelling cheat, and it bothered me that I saw it. Worse yet, I couldn’t understand why the cheat was needed at all. I’m sure that Justin Lin thought the audience needed a more obvious or more impactful visual aid. But people who go to see a movie like Star Trek aren’t stupid; with all of the clues that were given about the villain we could have maintained the revelation whether we had questions about it or not.

Is Sulu Really Gay?

This is my gripe about people’s arbitrary use of #WeNeedDiverseBooks. I don’t have problems with LGBT characters. What I have a problem with is when authors “slip” in a LGBT character in order to make it “look” like they’re being inclusive. Really? That’s just insulting. It’s insulting to the people that are supposedly being “represented.”

My other gripe with this revelation is that it is an obvious indicator that the people who wrote the scrip for Star Trek Beyond were not Trekkies. (1) Sulu was never gay in any Star Trek universe — even the original Sulu actor, George Takei, doesn’t agree <http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/george-takei-reacts-gay-sulu-909154>. (2) This also shows that the writers have absolutely no clue what the rules of a parallel universe are. Just because a character is in a parallel universe doesn’t mean that their nature changes. Of course we can get into a long philosophical debate about this, but I won’t get into that here.

Again, I’m going to point out that my Trekkie glasses influence my personal opinion, but my professional opinion says that if you’re going to have an LGBT character in a story, you can’t just say, “Oh yeah, he’s gay” and then just drop it after that. That’s not a fair representation of a person’s character.

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WriterAlina’s Overall Star Trek Beyond Recommendation

After those points of contention, you might think that I hated Star Trek Beyond, but I didn’t. I enjoyed Star Trek’s many impossible escapes, smart characters, and poignant commentary about the meaning of the Federation. My gripes really only mean that the movie wasn’t perfect, and that is all right. It was still fun to watch, and I’ll absolutely be adding Star Trek Beyond to my movie collection when it comes out in Bluray and digital.

If you enjoy smart action/adventure, science fiction, and good character development, I highly recommend going to see Star Trek Beyond.

If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina:

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens_Theatrical_Poster The_Martian_2014 Interstellar_film_poster

 

Uprooted Book Review

I first came across Uprooted by Naomi Novik because it was one of the books that audible.com suggested that I might like based on my reviews and purchases. I was intrigued by the premise: a girl who doesn’t know that she has magic is taken by a man called the Dragon. It sounded interesting, so I put it on my audible wish list for later purchase. I come across so many intriguing stories that I don’t always purchase them immediately, unless I can buy the story for super cheap or borrow the book from a friend who doesn’t mind if it takes me a long time to return it. Months later I came across an article on FB that announced the winners of the 2016 Nebula Awards. For those of you who don’t know, the Nebula Award is a prestigious Science Fiction and Fantasy award that many authors hope to receive at least once in their career. When I saw that Uprooted by Naomi Novik won, I immediately purchased the audio and started listening to it.

I was not disappointed at all.

Uprooted Book Review

A WriterAlina Book Review

Uprooted

UprootedUprooted by Naomi Novik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Even though Uprooted is a story about a seventeen-year-old young woman, I wouldn’t categorize this as a typical young adult novel. In my opinion, this is a story for the more mature young adult audience for three reasons; the story isn’t heart-poundingly exciting; there isn’t a traditional love story; and the themes of the novel promote a more mature perspective. Personally, I would have loved this book as a teenager, but of course when I was a teen I was reading hard core SF/F like Lord of the Rings, Dune, Ender’s Game, and Mars by Ben Bova. I read more YA now than I ever did when I was a young adult.

Uprooted is a complex and subtle story about growing up, finding your place in the world, learning to follow your own nature, accepting change, and understanding and being who you are. The world of Uprooted is rich, the magical system well thought out, and the characters complex and contrary. The flow of the story takes a logical and inevitable path that surprises the reader if he’s willing to take the winding path instead of the straight one.

Quick Summary

This summary was taken from goodreads.com

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

The Story and It’s Delivery

Uprooted is told in Agnieszka’s first person perspective consistently throughout the story. I was surprised and awed by Ms. Novik’s ability to weave forward progressing plot elements with loads of world building and backstory at the beginning of this novel. The writer in me totally recognized the loads of setup that I was receiving as a reader, and yet it was so interesting and felt so relevant that I didn’t mind it. (I hope I can write so eloquently in the near future.)

Uprooted really benefits from the fact that it’s told solely in Agnieszka’s point-of-view because Agnieszka has her own perspective on what is happening to her and around her, and on why these things are happening. She proves to be a great unreliable narrator who misleads the reader until the character realizes what’s really going on around her. This may be a writing device, but I thought that it was executed well, creating various satisfying surprises throughout the story, especially at the beginning and at the end.

The story takes an interesting turn at the half-way point, and this seems to be where most readers tend to fall into one of two camps. The first camp is intrigued by the turn of events, wondering where the author is planning on taking Agnieszka next, and is ultimately happily satisfied with the results. The second camp quickly loses interest because the story slows a bit, and the magical quality of the first half of the book is tempered with the reality of the world that Agnieszka lives in. As a result, readers in the second camp either stop reading or are dissatisfied because of the lack of magical wonder that penetrated the first half of the book. (This opinion derived from reading the polar book reviews and adding a little bit of my own interpretation after finishing Uprooted.) I absolutely fall into the camp of Uprooted fans and am of the opinion that this novel is a deeply mature fantasy. Agnieszka truly grows up and refuses to become a jaded wizard/witch, and I admire her for that.

Characters

All of the characters in Uprooted were quite varied and felt believable. Agnieszka and Sarkan, the Dragon, couldn’t have been two more different magic wielders and the supporting cast may have included some of your more typical roles of warriors, thinkers, and beauties, but they were not necessarily used in the stereotypical ways.

Agnieszka is a sprightly girl who loves her village and the corrupted forest that surrounds her home. She is the type of person who does anything in her power for those she cares about. She’s also stubborn and naive of the world outside her village (something that doesn’t bother her much), and she knows magic on such an intuitive level that she doesn’t even realize that she’s magical. During the course of the story she realizes that she has a rare intuitive understanding of magic, and she gains confidence in her natural inclination to do things differently than has been done before. Agnieszka is belittled and put down at every turn but she fights for what she believes is right and is eventually rewarded for her pain and suffering.

My favorite character, besides Agnieszka herself, was her best friend Kasia, who is shown to be talented, beautiful, and courageous (she is the one that the Dragon was expected to choose as his maidservant). However, difficulties arise for Kasia after Agnieszka is chosen by the Dragon. Because of her positive traits various events happen in her life to make her wish to be different from who she is. She is changed in ways that are unexpected and she learns to still be happy with her life.

Novik uses the characters both against themselves and against each other. It’s all very exciting. Love, hate, admiration, and jealousy – everything is used to challenge not only Agnieszka but those around her as well.

What I loved best about the character development is that throughout the course of the book everyone changed either physically, emotionally, mentally, or in all three ways, and it didn’t matter what age they were: the characters still changed. Even the centuries-old wizards were forced to change as a result of events that occurred in the story.

The second part I loved was the relationship that Agnieszka and the Dragon share and develop. It starts out as a relationship between gruff teacher and student, one that could be very off-putting for many readers because Sarkan is impatient, demeaning, and uncommunicative. Agnieszka is an intuitive witch, who feels her way through the workings of spells, whereas Sarkan is more of an intellectual wizard, who practices magic by following precise, repetitive, and repeatable instructions. But eventually their relationship transforms into one of equals as the two magic wielders realize that their strengths and weaknesses complement each other.

World Building

Uprooted is primarily based on Polish folklore and takes advantage of the Polish language to create a world that many westerners are unfamiliar with. The world is painted with every action that Agnieszka takes. The beginning of the novel is heavy in setting up Agnieszka’s world — telling the reader about Agnieszka’s village and home, about the deal the villagers have with the Dragon, about the relationship Agnieszka has with Kasia, and about everyone’s expectation that Kasia will be chosen by the Dragon and be taken away. But once the setup is established and the choosing comes, every other scene is active, and the reader continues to learn new details either by Agnieszka’s actions (such as what she finds and does at Sarkan’s tower) or what she learns from observing those around her.

*** Potential Spoiler Alert ***

A Word Or Two About Uprooted’s Romance

There is only one part of the story that I found a little… strange. And that was the “romance” between Agnieszka and Sarkan. I actually liked the concept of their romance and I liked how it was slow and tentative on both side. I fell in love with the descriptions of them sharing their magic and how that made Agnieszka feel more intimate with Sarkan. It seemed to me that there was a strong sexual charge associated with sharing their magic. This isn’t what I found strange, in fact I really liked the idea of this aspect of using magic. The part that I found out of place was Agnieszka’s searching Sarkan out during the respite of a major battle to have intimate relations with him. I’m not at all squeamish about reading about sex, but it felt gratuitous and out of place. Did Agnieszka feel that this was the final battle and that she wanted to continue the human race or did she want to have the experience before she died? These are legitimate desires, but as the reader I wasn’t clear why Agnieszka chose to do this and at this time.

It is true that the scene was well-written and that it gave the reader a stronger insight into both Agnieszka’s and Sarkan’s characters, but afterward I was still left wondering why this scene had to happen. Is it because sex is part of the Romance “formula?” I certainly hope not.

I felt that the story would have done just as well had the scene been cut out of the story.

This was really my only gripe about Uprooted.

*** Potential Spoiler Alert Ended ***

WriterAlina’s Recommendation

I totally recommend Uprooted by Naomi Novik to anyone who enjoys a fantasy novel that is well-written, well-planned, though slightly meandering feeling, and seeping with folklore. The story is like walking down a winding path through a forest where you can’t really see too far ahead, but you have an idea of where you are going. The coming of age aspect of the story is very well-executed and mature, and is a good example for those who want the courage to live their truth.

Your Thoughts

Have you ever read Uprooted by Naomi Novik or any of her other novels? I hear her other series is about dragons, but I haven’t read any of them. After reading Uprooted I’m interested in reading some of Ms. Novik’s other novels. I would love to hear your thoughts about Uprooted, fantasy in general, or anything else you find interesting. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina:

Mistborn The Final Empire Book Review

Memories of Ash Book Review

The Name of the Wind Book Review

UnEnchanted Book Review

I have mixed feelings about UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn. I started this novel expecting an interesting fairy tale retelling. The book certainly delivered that but in a way that I didn’t expect. I’m intrigued enough by the story that I’m interested to know what happens next, but it could be a very long time before that next book comes across my lap or through my headphones.

What I liked most about UnEnchanted is that this fairy tale retelling was told as a unique present-day, urban fantasy story instead of as a straight up fantasy or science fiction story, both of which seem to be the norm for most retellings these days. The book was very light and fun, though heavy on the melodrama and cheese.

UnEnchanted Book Review

A WriterAlina Book Review

UnEnchanted

UnEnchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale, #1)UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I will admit that I had an extremely difficult time suspending my disbelief of the circumstances, the actions, and immaturity of the first chapter of UnEnchanted. So many disastrously dramatic and cheesy things happened to and around the main character that I really had a hard time taking the story seriously. I kept telling myself that “this is probably meant to be funny.” By the end of the first chapter I was ready to stop the book (I was listening to it) and move on to the next story. But then I decided that the book should be quick to finish and that perhaps I could write an interesting book review for it.

I’m actually glad that I decided to finish the book because once I adjusted my expectations of the novel, it wasn’t as bad, and it turned out to be interesting in the end. The concept of UnEnchated is actually a brilliant one, and I commend the author for tackling such a fun idea. The execution, on the other hand, was a bit too over the top for me. I guess if I had walked into the story expecting that it’s supposed to be cheesy and funny and not really all that serious, I think I would have felt differently about UnEnchanted.

Quick Summary

This summary was taken from goodreads.com

Mina Grime is unlucky, unpopular and uncoordinated; until she saves her crush’s life on a field trip, changing her High School status from loser to hero overnight. But with her new found fame brings misfortune in the form of an old family curse come to light. For Mina is descended from the Brothers Grimm and has inherited all of their unfinished fairy tale business. Which includes trying to outwit a powerful Story from making her its next fairytale victim.

To break the fairy tale curse on her family and make these deadly occurrences stop, Mina must finish the tales until the very Grimm end.

The Story and It’s Delivery

UnEnchanted is told in the Mina’s third-person perspective. One thing I can say about the author is that she was pretty consistent about staying in Mina’s perspective and not doing a lot of head hopping, something that happens a lot with less experienced writers who write in the third-person perspective.

My biggest gripe was with the way that this story was told: with a heavy coats of cheese. The immature actions of the teens reminded me more of being in middle school rather than in high school. I don’t remember any boys in my high school days wanting to scare the girls because of a thunderstorm or a quarter of someone’s grade riding on a paper written about a field-trip to a baking factory. Yes, it was totally obvious to me that the author was trying to set up the story or create an ambiance, but all of these situations screamed “middle school” days.

There were glimmers of maturity in the novel, like when Mina talks to her mother about being strong enough to not run away from her destiny or the aspects of the story where Mina struggled with her attraction to the hottest boy in school. The way that Mina handled herself at the climax of the book was also much more mature than the rest of the novel would imply. This was part of the book’s saving grace.

The language used in the novel was pretty simple and straightforward. To a certain extent it was almost to simple – it gave me the impression that the author thinks that teens are a lot more immature than they actually are. But the nice thing is that there’s no sex, senseless violence, or foul language in the novel, leading me to the conclusion that this book is best read by younger readers.

Characters

To be sure the only character of any substance and who changes at all during the course of the story is Mina herself. Sure everyone else has their “quirks,” which many writers seem to think substitute for personality, but there wasn’t much there. Mina fits into the ordinary, self-effacing, “I-don’t-think-I’m-pretty” category of female character. She thinks she has bad luck but only says that because she doesn’t understand why certain strange things happen around her. Of course she finds out by the end that, when she needs to be, she can be strong and heroic.

None of the other characters really stand out by themselves. Mina’s best friends Nan is fun and acts confident, but she never really gets the chance to show Mina or the reader that she can actually be a reliable sidekick. That’s too bad, really, because Mina needs another strong character to follow her or even complement her. Not even Harry Potter faces all of his obstacles alone.

All of the boys in the story are paper thin as well, even though Brody is nice and concerned –painted as the perfect boyfriend. That’s all he’s got going for him though, which isn’t much, but to the character’s credit, he doesn’t get enough screen time to get much more. Jared (the other male sidekick) is good looking and mysterious, and Mina suspects that he’s a Fae. Unfortunately that’s not so much to work with as far as a character is concerned. Too bad.

World Building

It seems to me that Chanda Hahn spent a lot of time and effort trying to make the world feel like a modern 21st Century world. Honestly, I’m not sure if she succeeded to do much more than date the book. She talks a lot about kids talking and texting on cell phones and using Twitter. We don’t actually know where Mina’s family is living – just some random town – but apparently a small enough town that the high school still has “homeroom.”

There is a lot of discussion about people having tech and cell phones and about Mina’s lack thereof. But I’m not convinced that this is done for the right reasons (or at least reasons that are obvious to the audience). Could her lack of tech really only be because Mina’s family is poor? I can think of all kinds of reasons to not have tech if you’re cursed to live out stories by the Brother’s Grimm, but I want to know why Hahn made such a big deal that she had to mention it repeatedly through the novel.

WriterAlina’s Recommendation

UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn is advertised to teen readers, but I feel that it is sorely misplaced. This is a book for middle grade readers, not YA. The story is light, funny, and fairly straightforward and easy to follow. The main character has just the right amount of development to entertain a younger audience. I would recommend UnEnchanted to my 11 year-old niece before ever recommending it to a high school teen or anyone older.

Your Thoughts

Have you ever read UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn or any of Chana Hahn’s other self-published books? If you have a middle grade reader in your life, I hope that I inspired you to pick up UnEnchanted. I would love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment below.

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If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina:

Mermaids Sister Book Review

PrincessAcademy123

 

July 2016 Affirmation of the Month

July 2016 Affirmation

The July 2016 affirmation of the month is a profound affirmation for me: “All of my actions, no matter how minor, result in spiritual growth.” It sounds kind of grand and overwhelming, but ultimately it really isn’t. This affirmation inspires me to shift my thinking and to be more aware of the things that I do and don’t do. It helps me to remember that every moment of my life is an opportunity to learn something and/or grow in unexpected ways. Whether I have good or bad experiences there is a seed of spiritual growth attached to that experience. Each moment that passes is a golden opportunity.

July 2016 Affirmation

I realize this probably sounds a bit “woowoo-ish,” magical, whimsical, too abstract, or just plain out there, but to my philosophical mind, it’s not too big of a stretch to think that every moment, every action, or every decision I make is part of a grand matrix that has brought me to the place I am at this very moment.

And guess what? The choice you make right now (for example whether or not to finish reading this blog post) gives you the opportunity to move forward or backward in your contentment within yourself, in your life’s ambitions, or in your personal or spiritual growth. It’s interesting to think about isn’t it?

Some of the actions we take in our lives may make obvious, profound effects on us. Going to university, getting married, becoming an artist, or becoming a businessman are all examples of potentially profound life actions that push your personal growth in one direction or another. Some of our decisions may not appear to make such a long-term or impactful influence on your life. Do I brush my teeth in the morning or not? Do I wake up at 7 am or 8 am? Do I take these five minutes to brainstorm this blog post or do I play a game on my phone? But each and every one of these actions propels us and influences future actions and reactions. We all take steps forward and steps backward along life’s crooked path, but I find it scary and encouraging at the same time to reflect on the fact that all of my actions contribute to my path to self-discovery.

One of my life goals is to live an authentic life, one in which I allow my true self to shine and also to encourage those around me to do the same. Sometimes I stumble. Sometimes I’m the lighthouse in the rainy storm illuminating the rocky shore.

Ultimately, it’s important to notice what I do in my life. It’s not so important to simply understand why I do things, but just to notice what it is that I do. What are my actions? I can’t judge myself as good or bad. I only need to realize what my actions are and what the consequences of those actions are. Then I can make the decision whether to repeat the action again or not. Again, I may get caught in what I perceive as bad actions, but then I remind myself that this is all part of the lesson. I realize that I just need to keep walking and remember that “all of my actions, no matter how minor, result in my spiritual growth.”

What are your thoughts? Do you recognize your actions? Leave me a comment below and we can have a conversation about it. 😉

WA Write On SignatureIf you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina

March 2016 Affirmation May 2016 Affirmation June 2016 Affirmation

 

Fantastic Five Dialog Tag: 5 Dialogue Snippets from Identity (A Jention Chronicles Novel)

The Fantastic Five Dialog Tag is a catchy blog tag! Most blog tags are silly, but I enjoy the ones that have to do with writing.

Recently I’ve been brainstorming ways to share more of my creative writing with everyone and then the talented Hannah Heath tagged me with the Fantastic Five Dialog Tag. How Exciting is that? Thanks Hannah! You always share the most fun blog tags. You rock!

On a whim, the Fantastic Five Dialog Tag was created by another talented writer/blogger Nate Philbrick from You Write Fiction. He tagged Hannah and Hannah tagged me. Yay!

When you get a chance you should pop over to Hannah and Nate’s blogs. They both write about writing, have funny anecdotes, post the occasional book review, and post fun, writing related tags such as this one.

So here are the rules of the Fantastic Five Dialog Tag:

  1. Share five of your favorite out-of-context dialogue quotes from your work-in-progress
  2. Tag some friends (five seems to be the magic number) to share some of theirs

Simple right?

I think this is going to be fun. I hope you do too. 😉

Fantastic Five Dialog Tag

So here are five of my favorite out-of-context lines from my WIP Identity (A Jention Chronicles Novel), which is a YA Science Fiction novel about two girls who take very different approaches to dealing with having their bodies technologically altered.

Enjoy!

Fantastic Five Dialog Tag Quotes

“This is the only way I can handle children. The only good child is an unconscious one.”

“What if something happens to me? What if I malfunction? I can’t fix myself. Who’s going to help me?”

“We saved them from being traitors like their parents. You may want to wipe their memories before waking them. You’ll be doing them all a favor. At least now they can be more constructive members of Kinarran society.”

“Hey! What about me? I’m not just a figment of your imagination. You’re surviving for two people now. Not just one. Don’t wimp out on me.”

“You are different. Your skin. Your hair. Your limbs. Your eyes. Your senses. Everything about you. A few of your organs were reconstituted using your DNA. Your brain is original… But it’s been technologically modified so I’m not sure if that actually counts as original or not. Your spirit though… Honestly, I think your spirit is the only part of who you were before that’s still here.”

Bonus quote and currently the last line of the novel:

“My name is Xanthe Maya Paine.”

I’m in the midst of my second revision of Identity; so I hope I don’t have to wipe out any of these fun quotes. But you never know what has to be cut until everything is written and put together properly. I hope you’re excited to know more about Identity.

Passing on the Fantastic Five Dialog Tag

Now to pass of the tag to some other amazing wordsmiths. All five of these wonderful ladies are worth reading regularly; they all have insightful, fun, and creative blogs. You should check them out.

Rae Elliott of Barely Hare Books

Sara Letourneau

E. E. Rawls

Gabrielle Massman of Write For The King

Miranda Kulig of Dreams and Dandelions

Note: your participation is totally voluntary. So no worries if you don’t want to participate.

Also, if you are not tagged and want to join the Fantastic Five Dialog Tag excitement, go for it! Just let me know in the comments if you participate so that I can check out your five dialogue quotes or if you don’t have a blog and want to share your Fantastic Five Dialog quotes feel free to do so in the comments as well.

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If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina:

Meaningful Diverse Characters-1 WriterAlina Character Sketches Xanthe 13 Reasons Why I Love Writing Landscape

Mistborn: The Final Empire Book Review

Wow! I’m so happy that I purchased Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson on audible.com and listened to it. This is another of those 4.5 out of 5 stories for me. (Again, I rarely give stories a 5 out of 5, but I may change my rating as I contemplate the story even more than I already have.)

In fact, like The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, I was so impressed that I listened to it twice back to back. On second listen, I often compared Mistborn: The Final Empire to Name of the Wind and wondered why I liked one or the other story and concluded that it’s impossible to make any real comparison. The Name of the Wind was like poetry in the written form and Mistborn was like watching a well written action/adventure movie in my head. The styles were totally different but I was sucked into each story with abandon and awe.

I aspire to write as well as these authors.

On to the review…

Mistborn The Final Empire Book Review

A WriterAlina Book Review

Mistborn: The Final Empire (Mistborn book 1)

MistbornMistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Mistborn: The Final Empire is the first book in the Mistborn trilogy, which then expands into a whole Mistborn universe of novels. It sets the stage for a very unique alchemic magical systems that promises interesting explorations. The Final Empire fantastically foreshadows the whole trilogy, while telling a standalone story at the same time. Many scenes, personal actions, and histories are woven into the story with double meanings that can be interpreted directly, but also taken as a potential story question for the future. I was highly impressed by Sanderson’s artful use of information manipulation, and I’m looking forward to listening to The Well of Souls to see if some of my guesses about the storyline are correct.

Quick Summary

This blurb comes from goodreads.com:

In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?

In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage — Allomancy, a magic of the metals.

The Story and It’s Delivery

Like the Game of Thrones, Mistborn: The Final Empire is written in the deep third person perspective of multiple characters: mostly Kelsier (the hero) and Vin (the heroine). The prologue begins with some random lord who we never see again, and toward the end Elend Venture’s (potential hero) perspective is thrown into the mix as well. But unlike the Game of Thrones, the perspective shifts happen within the chapters and follows where the story goes. What does that mean? The perspective shifts serve the direction that the story is taking versus the story serving the shift in perspective.

There’s a linearity to the storytelling of Mistborn: The Final Empire. There’s a certain flow that the author wants the reader to follow chronologically so that he gets the most of the story from beginning to end, and the reader lands in the perspective of the characters that are most important at that moment in the story’s timeline. There are a few flashbacks but they come in the form of journal entries at the beginning of the chapters, a clever move because these chapter headers serve multiple purposes: (1) to give the reader an idea what the chapter is about, (2) to give the reader a sense of history and character, and (3) to foreshadow what’s to come in future novels.

The story begins with a prologue from some random lord’s perspective, then shifts to the POV of Kelsier, who ignites the story’s inciting incident, shift again into another character’s POV, who poses another story question, and finally shifting to Vin’s POV. And on we go being led from scene to scene in the perspective that shows the reader the biggest story impact.

I think the way that Sanderson begins this novel is amusing because he completely breaks two rules that tons of writers say to never break: (1) never start your story with a prologue, and (2) never start a story with a person you only ever see once. But as Orson Scott Card claims, you can break the rules as long as it serves the story well. And in my opinion breaking these two rules definitely served Sanderson well. Even though we never see this random lord after the first scene is delivered in his perspective, seeing the scene this way does several things for the story: (1) this lord gives the reader an immediate explanation of the world and the people in it, showing the reader the hierarchy of the people, (2) it shows two of the important story problems, (3) it introduces the hero for the first time without the story being in his perspective, and (4) it sets the reader’s expectations to anticipate POV shifts throughout the story when the perspective shifts from the lord to Kelsier. It’s all quite brilliant actually.

One more thing I’d like to add about the delivery of Mistborn: The Final Empire has to do with the flow of the action. I have mixed feelings about the way the action was written. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely exciting and does its job painting a movie inside your head. The reason I have mixed feelings is that I was surprised at the extent of stage directions used in the telling. Each action scene is a choreographed dance of this person did this and that. Sometimes I thought it was a bit over directed but then I’d think “I imagined that quite vividly. What’s the problem?” I don’t know. This is one thing I’m experimenting with myself, and it seems that when I do it the words sound amateur, but somehow Sanderson’s words are developed. I recognize that there is something to learn here.

Characters

It’s obvious that a lot of time was put into developing and showing each of the characters of Mistborn: The Final Empire. Every person who makes an appearance has motivations and a part to play in understanding the overall story.

Kelsier is exciting, rash, and noble. He is open and yet still has his secrets. His character arc is subtle, but his goals are straight forward and honorable. He is an interesting paradox of selflessness and selfishness at the same time, making for an interesting character.

Vin is also an unorthodox heroine. She struggles with her feminine side because she was raised to be mistrustful and to disguise herself so that people would forget that she’s a girl. Her character arc is long because she has to go from being self-sufficient and mistrustful to working in a team where she has to sometimes trust someone else with her. She’s both a harsh and soft person who is discovering herself as the story progresses. Overall she is a compelling character, especially when she realizes that she wears masks and doesn’t really know who she truly is.

Each of the secondary characters has distinct attributes that distinguish him or her from everyone else — sometimes it’s appearance but mostly it’s a key personality trait that does the trick, such as being philosophical or refined, or being learned or uneducated.

World Building

The world building involved in Mistborn: The Final Empire is complex and intriguing. On the surface there is this Allomantic magic that the Mistings and Mistborn can perform and the energy transferring that the Terrismen perform, — both are cool and quite unique as magic goes. But there is more to Mistborn than the magic. There is the Lord Ruler and the realities, myths, and legends that surround him. There are the constant ash falls and mysterious mist and the creatures that inhabit it. There is the complex social system with the skaa at the bottom of the totem pole. Why are the skaa at the bottom? What is it about them that keeps them down? Are they really just waiting for the right inspiration to rebel and win?

There is a lot of telling in Sanderson’s explanations of the world, but ironically I didn’t care very much about that because I found his creation unique enough that I wanted to know as much about what occupied his world as possible. I wanted to know about skaa, noblemen, obligators, Mistings, Mistborn, Terrismen and the Lord Ruler. What are their connections? What is Allomancy? Why do some people have the ability to use it and others not? What are the different powers that the Allomancers manipulate? What is the difference between Allomancy and Feruchemy? Is one better than the other? Most of these questions are answered in one way or another, some in an obvious manner and others a little more subtly.

What interests me most as a writer is Sanderson’s ability to weave the introduction of his world and the answers to these questions into the action of the story. Again, this is a technique worth study from a writing perspective.

A Word Or Two About The Art of Foreshadowing

I loved the fact that much of the information that is given throughout this story could be interpreted in multiple ways. Some of those interpretations apply to the story at hand and others could have implications for future stories. One of the best parts of listening to this story a second time was catching all of the foreshadowing that I grasped only unconsciously during the first listen. Part of what I find so masterful about Sanderson’s writing is his use of double meaning within his foreshadowing. He uses the world rules and ideas for multiple uses, he gives just enough information to make you think that you know where the action, the character, or the story itself is going, but then you realize that there is more than what you guessed.

**** Potential Spoiler Alert ****

For example there is a substance called atium that is considered the most precious of metals by the Lord Ruler and Mistborn. Kelsier is convinced that if he destroys the atium mines, he will significantly cripple the Lord Ruler and the Empire. It is known that the Lord Ruler keeps almost 90% of the atium for himself and only allows a small percentage to be distributed among the noble houses for their Mistborn to use in their Allomancy. Of course Kelsier is right that destroying the atium will cripple the Empire, but there is also the implication that the Lord Ruler isn’t actually using the atium for himself but for another purpose that is unknown to the reader. Of course I’m guessing that this other purpose will be revealed as the next novel’s story problem. But the point is that this idea, and the resulting scenes, hold multiple consequences that aren’t immediately foreseen by the reader.

**** End Spoiler Alert ****

This is a sign of a skillful author, who knows where he’s going with his story.

WriterAlina’s Recommendation

If you like complex world building, unique magic, engaging characters, and lots of action then you’ll enjoy Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.

Your Thoughts

Have you ever read any of the Mistborn series or any of Brandon Sanderson’s other novels? I’m going to dive into book 2 pretty soon. How about you? I would love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment below.

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If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina:

The Name of the Wind Book Review 

Dragonflight ADiscoveryOfWitches

Stitching Snow Book Review

I had a hard time rating Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis in my mind, yet alone giving you a smooth, comprehensive critique of the story. I’m giving it a official 4 out of 5 because in most systems I can’t really input 3.5 out of 5. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it more than any of the books that I’ve given a 3 out of 5 to, but didn’t exactly love it as much as many that I’ve given a 4 out of 5 rating to.

To be honest, I can’t pinpoint the exact reasons for why I didn’t like it as much as other books I’ve read lately. I mean there are a lot of good reason for why I was attracted to reading this book in the first place. First off it’s a creative space opera retelling of Snow White. As I’ve stated before I enjoy fairy tale retellings, especially if there is a unique twist in the storytelling. Secondly the heroine is techie. If you haven’t noticed yet, I have a soft spot for heroines who shine a positive light on girls/women who are smart, not scared by math, science, or technology, and willing to get their hands dirty (one of the reasons I enjoy Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles). Thirdly… well I think the first two reasons should be enough to pick up a book and read it. Don’t you?

Stitching Snow Book Review

A WriterAlina Book Review

Stitching Snow

Stitching SnowStitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So why did I have such a hard time rating this book? The story was fun and had some interesting twists and turns, and even covered some ground not tread often by adventure stories. The writing was good, the storytelling had all the right points. There was even some interesting point-of-view experimentation; it was jarring at first, but I thought the attempt was fairly successful. I thought the character development was pretty good; even if I did find the heroine a bit more abrasive that I’d like, but that’s one of the things that makes her stand out. The world building felt pretty thought out, all to the point of vernacular that became a little annoying after a while. There were way too many “sniff” references, too many uses of the word “unhinged,” and “aye” why do we want the heroine to sound like a pirate — especially since she’s the only one to says it?

Yeah… I guess I’ll have to just go into more detail about my various internal conflicts over the story.

A Quick Summary

This summary was taken from goodreads.com:

Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

The Story and It’s Delivery

Stitching Snow is told in Essie’s the first person perspective and really starts out with a bang. Essie is introduced to us as a fighter, not an elegant fighter like a boxer or a fencer but a “no holds barred” street fighter. If I were a teenager, I’d find this pretty damn coo! But I’m not. And my first thought is how does this seventeen-year-old girl fight and beat down grown men who are generally described as being twice her size? There’s absolutely no explanation for it, I just have to trust in the Force and believe that she miraculously taught herself how to fight and win. Ok. I’m going to overlook this because the girl is smart enough to have a tag along of seven autonomous robots that she programmed herself. That’s pretty cool and I can believe that over being a self trained fighter.

You find out quickly that Essie is alone and has been for eight or nine years now (which means that she’s been on her own since she was nine or ten years old – but apparently she’s had help in various forms in the interim). She’s self-sufficient, clever, misses her dead mother, but is running from a past that is too obviously hidden from the reader (even though this is a first person perspective story). “Things I don’t want to think about.” is a writing trick I will allow to pass for the sake of story tension, but it rankles me that I recognize that it’s a trick. I already know the shadow of what Essie’s running away from (this is Snow White after all), but I’m willing to bite and see if the shadow will become fully formed by the end of the story.

The plot unfolds in exciting and interesting ways, which kept me interested and at least bits of Essie’s past become revealed bit by bit as the story proceeded.

Characters

The character development in Stitching Snow was quite good. I felt that the hero and heroine really had distinct, believable personalities and most of the supporting cast had enough personality to distinguish most of them from one another. Their love story was even believable.

I have only two real criticisms of Essie’s character

  1. Essie’s careless use of “I’m going to kill him” felt fake and annoying. No really, I recognized that she saying she wants to kill Dane wasn’t intended as just some turn of phrase, Essie was supposed to mean it. But it always came across as something for Essie to say to vent her anger, which in the end made her sound petty instead of strong willed or rebellious. But you know her character arch is to learn to trust people, so I guess it’s all right.
  2. Where did the name Essie come from anyway? Why does she call herself Essie? This is never explained. She has two other “real” names that she avoids using. She constantly thinks of herself as Essie. Why? Especially if she knows both of her real names (another writing trick for the sake of tension). Of course this is my own deal. I find a character’s identity important and if a character chooses an name for him or herself it says something about them as a character.

Moving on… I was a little let down that the 7 robots (the seven dwarf replacement) didn’t actually make that much of an impact in the story, but at least one robot was highlighted in the story. Dimwit, appropriately named in the beginning, ended up be essential and quite a unique character as robot go. Its quirky character shown through its strange communication pattern and its somewhat sporadic logic. I often had the through, “let Dimwit do something important” and I have to admit that I was not disappointed.

I had a problem with the fact that many of the secondary characters (almost all of them in fact) all spoke condescendingly. It was a little off putting, which brought me out of the story. So is everyone supposed to be Essie’s enemy? I guess I could identify with that as a teen, but I can certainly say that most adults were no condescending toward me when I was a teen. (Of course whenever I ever did feel that someone was condescending to me I either ignored them, with some choice colorful thoughts pointed at them, or called them out on it, but that was me as a teen.)

The power hungry King and Queen of Windsong were also a bit too two-dimensional. Sure the king’s incompetence was explained and there were some scenes when Essie questioned her father’s motives, but he his character was still a bit distant. In the end it didn’t really matter because the story wasn’t about him and it was exciting enough that I didn’t need to explore his character much farther than was necessary. I think if his character would have been explored more his controversial “flaw” would have had to be psychologically analyzed, which would have most likely pulled the story down and into a direction it didn’t need to go. (If this doesn’t make sense read the spoiler alert below.)

World Building

I had mixed feeling about the world building. It was obvious that a lot of thought went into the world building of Stitching Snow (and I’m assuming it reaches into Lewis’s followup novels).

I enjoyed the implication that the humans in Stitching Snow are distant future relatives of Earthlings and found Lewis’s description of such a very clever indication without actually naming Earth itself.

Lewis relied heavily on vernacular vocabulary in the speech of the characters and the descriptions of the surroundings to give the reader the impression of Stitching Snow’s world building. Her most effective use of vernacular was related to the concept of “stitching.”

The tech used in the world of Stitching Snow is pretty much the same as what we know here on Earth with the exception of the fact that there are more virtual reality venues and tech. What interested me most was that Essie didn’t just write code, solder parts together, splice wires, or engineer round pegs into square holes, she “stitched” things together. This was a way to explain what Essie did without really explaining it. It was genius and irritating all that the same time. This use of the word stitching also made a clever tie-in to the novel’s title and gave it a figurative meaning of stitching Princess Snow back together.

Unfortunately the other vernacular vocabulary used wasn’t so clever and turned into “well there’s the author using that word again.” Everything was either a “sniff away” or “three sniffs away” and every other person or situation is “unhinged.” I guess I’ve been hounded by my critique partners enough now that when I see a word or phrase used one too many times in a story I find it bothersome. Why can’t you change it up? I hear them say and now I’m saying it myself. Is this something I need to unlearn? Of course it’s good to repeat words when it’s for effect, but I’m not sure if this is one of those times.

So is this effective world building? Yes and no. It’s good to have these things and say them occasionally, but to say everything is unhinged at least three or four times within each of the last five to six chapters of your story is a bit much.

A Word Or Two About Experimental Narrative

There was only one aspect of the storytelling that I felt was a bit jarring. Remember that this is a first person perspective novel. Imagine that you’re experiencing the story through Essie’s POV and you’re in a high tension scene — a really high tension scene, you know something bad is going to happen to her, something you don’t really want to see. And then suddenly the author decided to “show” you that Essie has a special ability that has only been hinted at in context with people that have nothing to do with Essie. Suddenly the tension screams to a halt when all of a sudden the reader is in someone else’s POV. Really? Where did that come from?

To paraphrase the author was “showing” that Essie has the ability to slip into another person’s mind: to hear that person’s thoughts, to feel their emotions, and influence what thoughts come to the surface for that person. As I said, this concept was all theoretically discussed in an earlier scene as people with mind control and nothing more. It was a clever foreshadow, but when it came to the actual demonstration it was a bumpy ride.

So because the story is in first person we go from Essie being the POV character to Essie being the second character in first person.

Yeah. I thought that was a little funny too.

But cool concept right? (The writer nurd inside me is geeking out about it.) Nothing like just throwing the reader into the fire. At first I was like “WTF?” and then “what a clever device. I’ve never seen that done before.” Has anyone else ever done this and I’m just behind the times?

As I said this shift in POV was a clever little device but I still felt a little strange about the shift every time it happened in the story. The alternate perspective always felt a bit too mechanical versus me feeling that I was actually in someone else’s head. But I have to admit I certainly thought that this would be a worthwhile writing experiment to play around with.

A Word Or Two About Tackling Heavy Material in An Adventure Story

****Spoiler Alert****

Another reason I want to give Stitching Snow a 4 out of 5 is the smooth way that Lewis handled the dangerous subject of child rape. Lewis never out right “tells” or even “shows” that Essie was raped by her father, but the descriptions are strong enough to overtly hint to that being the case. Once I realized that Essie’s father raped her (probably multiple times) as a child, her character really came together for me. Her hard edges, overcompensations, and fascination and drive to beat down men totally make sense and rings true in the end.

Lewis used Essie’s reactions to various situations within to show the reader the result of her abusive childhood instead of outright telling the reader what had happened to her. The brilliance of this approach is that the reader could imagine the extend of Essie’s abuse instead of telling the reader what to think and feel. And I thought that was exceptional.

****Spoiler Alert Ended****

WriterAlina’s Recommendation

I realize that was a long winded expiration of my mixed feelings over Stitching Snow. But really overall, I would definitely recommend reading Stitching Snow. It’s a little more serious than the Lunar Chronicles, but it’s just as alive and teaming with possibilities. The nice thing too is that the book felt like a stand alone novel, which means you won’t be left hanging. I actually look forward to seeing what else R. C. Lewis has in store for this new universe that she’s created and I will definitely be adding her second book Spinning Starlight to my to-read list (even if it may take a while for me to get around to reading it).

If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, space opera, techie heroines, and heroes with heart then you will most likely enjoy Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis.

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts about R. C. Lewis’s stories? I hope I inspired you to pick up Stitching Snow. I would love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment below.

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If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina:

Cinder AcrossTheUniverse TheColorsOfSpace

 

 

June 2016 Affirmation of the Month by WriterAlina

The June 2016 affirmation of the month is an important, mind changing affirmation for me. It may seem pretty obvious to everyone else, but this is something that I’ve been struggling with for years now. It’s not that I don’t take my writing seriously, but I find that I don’t take it seriously enough — at least not seriously enough for everyone else around me to also take it seriously. So as a result, I need to empower myself to treat my writing as a small business. If I don’t treat my writing as a business no one will.

June 2016 Affirmation

June 2016 Affirmation

I admit that I probably could have broken down the June 2016 affirmation into something a little more bite sized, but in the end, I really needed an affirmation that would pack a big punch. Simply stating that “I am willing to treat my writing as a business.” wasn’t enough, I needed to at least vaguely define what that meant too. Remember these affirmations are all about rewiring my subconscious mind and empower myself to become more than I was before.

If I start treating my writing as a business this means that I am acknowledging that I want to make money through my writing and that also means that I need to create intellectual property in order to do that. (Hmm… I wrote a lot of thats in this sentence. LOL. Anyway, you get the point…) Then I have to make sure I promote that intellectual property. If no one ever finds out I’ve created or published something how will I ever 1) give anyone the opportunity to read what I have to offer, 2) generate any positive change in the world, or 3) well hello, make a living? And last but not least, how will I do any of these things if I don’t invest time everyday to the endeavor?

Intellectual Property

What is intellectual property?

Well, I define intellectual property as pretty much anything that I write for publication whether that be physical paper or electronic: novels, novellas, short stories, unique blog posts (like this one), or any kind of article that relates to writing or my stories. For sure my intellectual property could expand to more than just that like science commentary, education commentary, or even life commentary, but for now I’m sticking to writing and storytelling.

Self Promotion

Self promotion is probably the most difficult aspect of embracing my writing business. If only all I had to do was put my work “out there” and not have to worry about self promotion I’d be happy. But that’s not the way life or business works. Ever. I still have to come up with a workable plan for how to do this. I of course have my FB page and twitter and pintrest, but social networks really only go so far. Self promotion also includes touting my work to my friends and family (which you’d think I’d do anyway, but I’m very guarded and don’t always do this).

You will most likely see more affirmations specifically designed to encourage me that it’s all right to self promote.

Investing Time

Again, you’d think that investing time is totally obvious and to a certain extent it is.

I journal every day for 10 minutes, as I’ve explained in Awakening Your Creative Spirit: Journaling Stream of Consciousness. But I’ve come to realize in the last two months that even though journaling helps jump start my creativity it doesn’t help me add to my intellectual property and that is what I need to cultivate.

Starting in June 2016 I am committing to spending a minimum of 1 hour every day writing intellectual property. Even though this blog post is a minor drop in the pond, this counts toward that goal. The idea is that If I commit that 1 hour a day I can generate momentum that will propel me through writing my stories and eventually publishing them so that you, my amazing readers, can enjoy the thought provoking fiction that I have to offer.

Treat Your Writing Like a Business

I hope this post encourages you to treat your writing like a business if you don’t already. Are there any encouraging activities that you do or ways of thinking that you have that help you achieve your writing goals? I’d like to read about that. 🙂 Looking forward to hearing from you.

WA Write On Signature

If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina:

March 2016 Affirmation Awakening Your Creative Spirit_ Journaling Stream of Consciousness 3 May 2016 Affirmation

The Red Tent Book Review

I enjoyed The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. This novel was first published in 1997 and while reading it I got a strong sense of storytelling similar to that of The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley (1982) and Hellen of Troy by Margaret George (2006). Overall the story was quite imaginative and I enjoyed this liberal twist on a story that only receives a small blip in the Old Testament.

The Red Tent Book Review

A WriterAlina Book Review

The Red Tent

The Red TentThe Red Tent by Anita Diamant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One thing you have to remember while reading The Red Tent is that this story is a re-imagining of the story of Jacob’s only daughter Dinah, which is a story that only receives a paragraph or two in the Old Testament. The Red Tent is divided into three parts: 1) the story of how Leah and Rachael became Jacob’s wives and the time before Dinah was born, 2) Dinah’s life before her marriage, and 3) what happened in her life after her tragic marriage.

Quick Summary

This blurb comes from goodreads.com:

Her name is Dinah. In the bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.

The Story and It’s Delivery

Some of the stories told in The Red Tent are familiar because it closely follows Jacob’s well known story from the bible. But each tale has a more female perspective since this is truly the story of the women around Jacob and not about Jacob himself.

Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent is told from the storytelling perspective of the dead Dinah, who is reflecting on her life and the legacy that was left behind after her death. Diamant addresses in the first pages of the book, through Dinah’s narrative, that her story may not entirely be the same as the one we are all familiar with. This is a nice reminder for the reader that if you are looking for an “accurate” bible retelling, you should probably look elsewhere.

Diamant’s prose were well crafted and the storytelling well justified; there was only one time when I questioned how Dinah could have been able to tell the story of an event that she was not present for, but I convinced myself that it’s implied that she was somehow told of the events afterward. I loved the details of the women’s life among Jacob, though I must admit that I had to remind myself on several occasions that this was a time when it was primarily the men who worshiped the one God, women were free to worship the various faces of the Goddess (even though the bible would sometimes imply otherwise). So it was fascinating to learn about the gods and goddesses that Dinah’s mothers worshiped and how it affected their daily lives. This is among the many aspects of the world building that enriched the storytelling and character development.

Due to the style of the story there is a lot more “telling” rather than “showing,” which makes sense since the story is being told is a storytelling style, like you’re listening to your grandmother telling tales about her past so long ago. A lot more story ground could be traveled due to this style, but at the same time I felt more separate from the characters than I would had the story been told differently. Though I was happy that there was a distinct flavor to each of the women within the story… but more about that next.

Characters

Anita Diamant’s story was an interesting combination of intimate and distant, for half of the characters (primarily the female characters) felt tangible and alive whereas the other half of the cast (primarily the male characters) felt flat and one dimensional (unfortunately I can’t even say they were 2 dimensional because the men played such a distant roll in so much of the story that there wasn’t much to hold onto when they came up other than Dinah’s feelings about them).

Because this is a woman’s story, every woman that comes into the story is distinct and different with their own perspectives and ways of speaking. The nice thing about the narrative is that Dinah often takes on the manors of speech of her various mothers when she’s telling their individual stories, which makes if feel like the audience can be closer to that character. Each woman has their pride and modesty, what they’re proud of and what they’re ashamed of; some of these traits are relayed stronger than others because Dinah spends a lot of time describing her four mothers Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah. These woman felt tangible and alive, most of the female characters leaped off the page.

Unfortunately, because of the times and the separation of men and women as part of the culture, there was little interaction with the male characters of the story. Jacob was the most well rounded of all the male characters and even he fell flat as if he were a Ken doll walking across stage. The second most interesting male character was Joseph, who we only really see as a boy who played with his sister and a briefly tormented soul as he travels to visit his dying father. Everyone else, including Dinah’s first lover/husband, are paper props that are even more minor than the extras who fill crowded street in a movie. Rather disappointing if you ask me, but when you consider this is a story primarily about women… I guess I could let it pass.

World Building

I actually found the world building in The Red Tent to be quite believable. As I mentioned before this is a time when very few people believed in the one God and worshiped various gods and goddesses. Each set of peoples were shown to respect one god or other and the way of life was explained and demonstrated through the actions of the characters.

The aspect that I enjoyed the most was the concept of the red tent and what it meant to Dinah and her family and what it meant to those who were not part of her family. This is an aspect of life that’s not often addressed in stories. In many cultures a woman’s cycle is a time of separation and sacredness (something that we don’t really think about in today’s modern age). And this ritual of togetherness is a central aspect that I felt brought the story together (which was the intention). Even though there was no red tent in part three of the novel, it was implied that Dinah wished there was one.

I also enjoyed the fact that there was an emphasis on a woman’s usefulness and how there was more than just cooking and having babies, though there were plenty of characters who made that their specialty. Women cooked, gathered, cared for children, wove cloths and linens, practiced midwifery, danced and sang, and served the gods in various capacities.

A Word or Two About Historical Fiction and the Bible

The Red Tent is a work of historical fiction, it’s telling is accurate to the way of living at the time of the story being told. But if you are looking for an “accurate” account of Dinah’s story from the Old Testament then you’ll have to look elsewhere. (Personally I don’t believe there is any such thing, but that’s just my opinion.) Like The Mists of Avalon, or any fairy tale retelling for that matter, The Red Tent is an embellished story that uses a well known story as its base. So there are a few areas in which the author takes creative license, but that’s the point of fiction.

I found Diamant’s story intriguing, engaging, and plausible. The feminine details were strong and wraps the reader in the lives of the women the story tells about. And that’s what I enjoyed.

Side Note about The Red Tent

Apparently Lifetime made a mini-series of The Red Tent that aired in 2014. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll certainly be looking into it. I’m sure if you have a Netflix subscription you can watch it, but since I don’t I’ll have to figure out another way. IMDB gave it a 7.3 out of 10 so it can’t be all that bad.

WriterAlina’s Recommendation

Anyway, if you enjoy historical fiction and don’t mind creative license when it comes to biblical stories, then I think that Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent is worth your time.

Your Thoughts

What are your thoughts about historical fiction based off of biblical stories? What makes creative license acceptable for you? Have you read The Red Tent? What did you think about it? I’d love to hear from you; feel free to leave a comment below.

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If you enjoyed this post maybe you’ll be interested in one of the following posts by WriterAlina:

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