Monthly Archive: June 2015

On The Martian by Andy Weir

Picture coming soon. The book is missing and it’s very late.

I always did like some fiction with my science. This book is a wonderful science fiction book. It is full of science and snark and lots of f-bombs. It’s amazing. The movie is coming out soon, and I can’t wait to watch it. The Martian by Andy Weir was a blast to read, lots of blasts actually. The book follows the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut that just got stranded on Mars with no way of getting home until four years from now. His mission was supposed to last 31 days. It’s a scientific thriller. Watney’s got a lot of stuff on his side, but not nearly enough. I would have surely died. Absolutely. The book is one broken thing, that will surely kill you if you can’t fix it, after another. The science is great. Andy Wier did a ton of research on how to survive on the surface of Mars. As the absolute nerd that he is, he actually wrote out software to chart orbital mechanics and he did a bunch of math just to make everything a bit better. WARNING: spoilers ahead.

The math is great and Mark Watney is a really likable main character. Most of the book is spent following his adventures on the Red Planet, but he keeps it from being boring, with a bit of help from failing equipment. The science is great and I loved the story, but I felt the writing was a bit lacking at points. Some of the dialogue felt weak. At the end, when we see him really conversing with his crew, everyone seems a bit too snarky. The levels of sass from everyone just threw me off a little. The rest of the writing seems childish at times, which can be expected from a debut novel, but Weir has published other fiction works online before. It was a wonderful book, don’t get me wrong. I just didn’t jive with all of the writing.

Also, the inserts of third person omniscient on Mars, halfway through the book was weird. I was okay with the third person limited going on on Earth, but the third person on Mars was strange. The flash backs were okay. Their introduction was a bit of a jump, but I’m used to random flashbacks showing up. The random paragraphs following the life of that piece of canvas were weird and unexpected, but they did build tension. They did their job. They were just unexpected. The weirdest third person bits were the ones following Mark Watney himself. It was strange to see him from the outside and he was always referred to with strange nouns, like “the astronaut,” and such. It was a strange transition from his first person logs to the third person camera view. It didn’t help that the first view of Watney from this camera eye was about half way through the book. It took a while for this type of writing to show up which is what made it so weird. I’m not used to books that switch perspectives on characters. It would be like if the book suddenly transitioned to journal entries from the head of NASA. It would have been less weird if the switch in perspectives had been introduced earlier. I might’ve started the book in third person on Watney and showed the original MAV take-off in that perspective before switching to the log, but that would change the entire feel of the book, so maybe not the best idea. I really liked the book, the only criticisms I’m really able to make are writing wise, if that tells you anything.

It was a very interesting read and it reminded me a lot of a Michael Crichton novel. Lots of shit going wrong and nobody quite able to fix it for long. Also, all the guys at NASA reminded me of the control room guys from, like Jurassic Park, or the Andromeda Strain. There were lots of different personalities that grated against each other, but I mean that’s reasonable because they were trying to help an astronaut stranded on Mars. The book had its own feel, worry not. It just reminds me of Michael Crichton in retrospection. I finished the book like three days ago.

I don’t think I really connected with Watney they way I usually do with main characters. I’m not quite sure why. The story was compelling, just not riveting. I wasn’t as emotionally attached to him as I am to most characters. I enjoyed the book, and I’m very excited for the movie, but I definitely did not enjoy it as much as my dad did. It was great. I’m glad I read it. I just probably won’t read it again and recommend it to everyone I see.

That being said, you should go pick up a copy and read it. It’s got a lot of bad language and crazy science but that’s it. The Martian is a must read for science fiction lovers. It’s a phenomenon right now. The movie’s going to come out soon and I just know that everyone is going to be talking about it. So get the jump on them and read it now. You won’t regret it. The book is amazing, full of mad science and snarky comebacks to no one in particular, except freaking MArs for trying to kill Watney. Also, it has a wonderful cover. It’s so pretty. Scroll back up to the picture. Just look at how well organized and gorgeous that thing is. I just want to stroke it. (So,the picture doesn’t exist right now because I can’t find the book. I really need to get back in the habit of taking book selfies when I start reading a book, so I don’t have to search the house for it after I write the blog post on it. Oh well. Picture coming soon.)

Go get yourself a copy, read it and report back. If you’ve already read it, report on it below. Let’s talk science. We haven’t done that on here yet.

-Alora

(Not that we’ve talked anything on here, because no one actually comments on my posts, but spam websites. Please love me guys.) (Thank you to the courageous few that have commented in the past. I love you much.)

Growing Up is Weird

So this post is inspired by Carrie Fletcher’s video “My Past Selves.” It’s embedded above and I recommend you watch it before reading this, but this should still make sense without it if you don’t wanna.

In Carrie’s video she talks about how she tries to live for her past selves and she talks about suddenly realizing that you have grown up. (Technically Dodie talked about that in her video which inspired Carrie’s, but Carrie mentions it. This is a bit of a crazy chain of content.) Suddenly, you realize one day that you aren’t the person you used to be. I don’t think about my past selves in the way that either Dodie or Carrie do. I, honestly, don’t think about my past selves much. My memories make me as a person, but I don’t think about past me as a different person.

Because I skipped high school, I’ve been thrown four years into the future and now I’m at a similar life stage to Carrie and Dodie, but I am not their age at all. I’m still a self-centered teenager. I’m only 17 and I still am wracked by crazy teenage hormones that are increasingly frustrating. I will be 22 at some point (I’m pretty sure Carrie and Dodie are either 21 or 22 , but I’m not sure. Sorry, girls, if I’m wrong), but I’m still 17 right now and I don’t have the same perspective as them, but I do have my own unique one. 😛

As you know, if you’ve been keeping up with me lately, I spent this past weekend at the beach with my family. I’m home now, but I got to spend a nice weekend with my family. My grandmother, bless her, said, before we left, that I’d “grown up while she wasn’t looking.” I didn’t want her to cry, or I’d cry, so I was a bit rude, well cheeky is probably a better word. If it makes her feel any better, I, myself, grew up without noticing either. I’m not totally grown up and I never will be, but I’m still pretty big. I can’t hide under the kitchen sink anymore. I can always reach the top shelf. I’m no longer completely and utterly terrified by the idea of sex. That was a big deal in middle school. I have boobs that don’t hurt a shitton when I run into something. I’m probably done growing, sadly. I’m stuck in the darkness of teenagerness, but I have to worry about adult things like going to work and applying to grad school. I have to pay for gas and I have an income. I’ve paid taxes three years in a row now. It’s scary. I suddenly stopped being a little kid that didn’t know not to do the monkey bars in gloves and now I’m graduating from college in the spring, at eighteen.

After that, I can do whatever I want. I’ll be an adult, with a bachelor’s degree and ready to conquer the world. I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately because of the massive number of opportunities I can choose from. It’s hard to prioritize the entire world. I know that I can do literally anything I want and honestly that’s making it hard to choose. However, I’ve realized that I don’t have to choose right now.

Instead of looking up at the huge number of stars in the sky, I need to focus on the rungs of my ladder. I can easily choose which ladder to climb: the one that makes me the happiest. I’m not just going to hope this takes me to the star I want, but I can’t focus on the stars right now. I need to focus on making it through each day. I can look forward later. Hopefully, this doesn’t backfire. I’m only 17. I’ve got time.

Maybe that’s what growing up is. Climbing the ladder one rung at a time. Hoping the entire time that when you look up, you’ll be somewhere good. Looking up or looking down for too long is dangerous, but if you keep on climbing, maybe you’ll make it. Somewhere. That sounds entirely too nerve wracking. Carrie, Dodie, how did you do it?

I guess climbing the ladder is what I’ve been doing these past seventeen years and I only just noticed it was there. The title of this blog is something Carrie says in her video and I agree. Growing up is weird. It something that happens incrementally until you realize it happened. Or you watch successful YouTubers realize it happened to them (I’m looking at you Carrie and Dodie) and then wonder when it will happen to you. I know roughly when that day will come. Probably a little over four years from now in 2019. That’s when I’ll be about their age. But then again. I don’t know. I could grow up faster then them.

Growing up is weird and scary, but it’s nice to see people who seem to have made it. Not just my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, but strangers who I’m half friends with because I watch their videos and read their great books about the “Teen Age.” Thanks for that one Carrie. If you’re reading this, thank you for everything you’ve produced so far and will continue to produce. I can say without a doubt, that you are helping me through my “Teen Age.”

I only have two and a half years before I turn twenty and I’m out of this crazy time, hopefully. That seems like forever and the blink of an eye at the same time. I don’t know how to exist as not a teenager. I don’t know how to do this thing you call being an adult. I’d like to stay a teenager forever. (Here’s a good video explaining why this is a bad idea.) I know I can’t, shouldn’t and won’t, but all those stars are scary. I guess I just have to remember to keep my eyes on the rungs.

I’ll watch the rungs and hope that if I just hold tight enough, I’ll make it out of here alive.

– Alora

On I Am Not a Slut by Leora Tanenbaum

Picture of the book, without me sadly.

Hello again,

I thoroughly enjoyed reading I Am Not a Slut by Leora Tanenbaum. It was a wonderful book on slut-shaming and slut-bashing in the modern day world. Also, it was a well thought out and well executed argument against using the word “slut,” in any context. I Am Not a Slut is the first real feminist book I’ve read. It was very interesting to listen to another person, who feels just as strongly about equality as I do, argue against the word “slut” and expose the sexual double standard in all it’s horrible glory. Tanenbaum truly did her research when writing this book. She cites interviews with women and girls of different ages and she cites scientific studies from different fields. Her arguments were well backed and she argued passionately without sounding preachy. There were a few parts of the book where I got thrown off by her strong voice and character and her passion for the subject. I had to remind myself that strongly opinionated women are not inherently bad or wrong and, had I been writing this book, I would have written just as passionately.

The book consists of nine chapters and three appendices. The first chapter compares modern day usage of the word “slut” to how it was used when Tanenbaum published the book Slut! in 1991. A lot has changed since then and the first chapter gives a good introduction to the book and introduces the reader to important concepts that are referenced later in the book. The chapters continue in a well organized manner, introducing more ideas and building on the previous chapters. I Am Not a Slut is a very interesting look at modern bullying and the way we use the word “slut” today.

In one of the chapters, Tanenbaum talks about reclaiming the word and using to mean empowerment. She talks about how this usually only works in specific “in” groups. I have experienced this with the word “ho.” A group of my friends at school and I called each other hoes all the time because it wasn’t meant in a negative way. Tanenbaum says that when “slut” is used in a “friendly” way that it is actually meant to police the sexual expression of other women that are called sluts. I do not think that my friends and I calling each other “ho” was meant in that way. We self-identified as it and labeled each other and talked about it. Every time it came up we made sure to remind each other that “I support and encourage your ho activities.” I realize now that this probably wasn’t the best thing for us to call each other, but we didn’t do it all the time and we all understood that it was meant as a term of endearment and love.

When I got home, I was in the habit of calling my loved ones hoes and that go over very well with my parents. I got out of the habit of saying the word and I don’t know if I’ll ever get back in the habit of it, but I definitely understand what Tanenbaum meant when she said that “slut” would only be empowering inside the “in” group.

I learned quite a lot reading this book and I enjoyed it immensely. It was a very heavy book, with large themes and big, new ideas to wrap my head around. One of those was the idea that young women and girls dress in an over-sexualized way to get attention. I was skeptical at first, but I thought about it and I think I understand. We dress in a certain maybe “sexy” way because we know it looks good on us. Often I will wear an outfit because I’ve gotten a lot of complements on the shirt or the shorts or what not. I stopped wearing one of my favorite shirts for a few years because, once, in middle school, an acquaintance pointed out my underarm hair while I was wearing that shirt. I’ve gotten past that now, but I still don’t wear that shirt as often as I used to before that comment was made. My acquaintance didn’t mean it in a mean way either. She was just curious about why I didn’t shave my underarms, but, at that point in my life, I was still a bit insecure about my decision not to shave and every comment was embarrassing and not fun to experience.

Nowadays, I wear “sexy” clothes (i.e. crop tops and short shorts) because I know that I look good in them. Also, they are nice to wear when it’s hot, and I want to wear as little as possible. I’m not in middle school anymore, and even though I’m high school aged, I’m not in high school either. I don’t always dress to be sexy as Tanenbaum implies middle and high schoolers do. I often dress to impress and look my best, but sometimes I just want to wear clothes that I like, t-shirts and jeans. I think there are definitely some people that fit Tanenbaum’s model, but not all people all the time. However, I understand why she says we dress sexy to get attention because we do. People love getting nice complements and nice attention, and if you dress in a certain way you are more likely to get that attention. The problem appears when people assume certain types of clothing equal consent. Tanenbaum addresses this too.

She dedicated an entire chapter to making sure that people understand that any non-consensual activities with anyone, even someone labeled a slut, is rape. It was not a very happy chapter to read, but it was a necessary part of her argument and a necessary chapter to include. Sadly, too many people blame the victim of sexual assault for the assault and often it is because of her past sexual actions or the clothing she was wearing at the time of the event.

I Am Not a Slut is a wonderful book that thoroughly argues against the use of the word slut and for the demolition of the sexual double standard. It examines all sides of the usage of slut and shows the negatives and the some, if any, positives. Tanenbaum says that “slut” may be turned around to be empowering, but it would be almost, if not totally, impossible to make “slut” positive in today’s patriarchal society that promotes the sexual double standard between men and women. I would recommend this book to parents of teenagers or college students and to the college students and teenagers themselves. It is a thematically intense book and an interesting read. Whether or not you identify as a feminist, if you believe in equality of the sexes and the removal of the sexual double standard, then you would enjoy reading this book.

That’s all for this review. I didn’t expect it to get so long, but it happens sometimes. Especially since the book is on something I am very passionate about, feminism.

-Alora

Weekend at the Beach!

Hallo,

Today is my last day at the beach and I probably won’t be back until next summer. We’re only spending the weekend here but I get to see my cousin that I hadn’t seen in three years and I get to hang out with my grandparents and aunt.

Brittan, Mom, Zara, Maxwell and I drove down on Thursday. It took about nine hours. We left around 6:30 in the morning and drove all day. Well, Mom and Brittan drove. I just slept and hung out in the passenger seat. SCore! It as a long drive and we skipped lunch because the McDonald’s we usually eat at on this drive was closed for construction and we’d passed all the Chick-fi-la’s. So lunch was forgone. We got here (the beach) around 4PM and Zara and I went to the beach together. We played for about an hour and half until a thunderstorm forced us to leave. Those clouds were scary. I didn’t get sunburned on Thursday, buy yesterday was a different story.

The troupe of us, nuclear family, aunt and cousin, grandparents and family friend went down to the beach around 11:30. I didn’t leave until five that evening. Needless to say, I did not put on enough sunscreen and now I am covered in red skin that really freaking hurts. My back is badly burned and I burned the tops of my thighs, my arms and my chest. I love the new swim suit Mom bought me and now it is imprinted on my skin in the form on white lines among the red. I look very sad and it hurts just to wear a shirt. Sadly, I can’t walk around shirtless and I am forced to wear this accursed tank top. We had lots of fun at the beach boogie boarding and digging a huge hole in the sand. It was great.

Today we are going to do something. I don’t know. I woke up at 7:15 and sat down to read before everyone else got up. I started The Martian by Andy Weir at the beach yesterday and I finished it this morning. I now have two book blogs I need to do. I’ll get to them at some point. I ate breakfast and now everyone is sitting around the TV watching old family YouTube videos.

I realize this blog is boring. Whatever. I’m still very tired from so much sun yesterday and my entire body hurts. I think I’ll start my review of I Am Not a Slut or I’ll hang out with my family. It’s a toss up. I may even start another book.

Try not to get sunburned.

-Alora

New Year’s/Summer Goals Update

There is a pretty long list of goals that I have shared with the internet. June is ending which means we are over half way through 2015 and I though I’d give y’all an update on my New Year’s Resolutions. I posted a video with my sister listing them on December 31st of last year which you can watch here if you want. I’ve also included an update on my summer goals that I blogged about a while back. This is going to be embarrasing…

Year-long Goals:

  • Produce a Webseries

    I have many different ideas for webseries, but I haven’t put the time or effort into creating one. I have the ideas, but I haven’t scripted anything or even filmed anything. Maybe I’ll do something in the fall. Maybe it won’t happen this year. I don’t know, man.

  • Stop Yelling So much

    This one I can gladly report some progress on. As a loud, talkative person, with large lungs, I have issues with volume, but I like to think I’ve gotten better at controlling it. I don’t know if my friends and family agree, but I think I’ve gotten better.

  • Visit London Youtube Space

    I wanted to visit the London YouTube Space when I was in the UK for to weeks, but I completely forgot while I was actually there. I visited so many museums and historical sites, but not the London YouTube Space. I don’t think I’m going back to the UK, in the rest of this year, so unless something magical happens, I won’t be going here this year. Maybe I can go to one of the YouTube Spaces in the US.

  • Go to an REU

    So I applied to a bunch of REU’s because this is my last possible summer to get into any, but I was rejected from all of them, sadly. But now I get to spend the summer making pizza’s instead of doing mathematical research. :(

  • Read 50 books

    This one I’m not doing so hot on. I’ve been trying very hard to catch up, but I’ve only read 5 books this month which is just barely over the number I’d need to read if I was on track with the challenge. I’ve read ten books in total. Very sad.

  • Write 200,000 words

    Oh look, another goal I am doing horrible on. In my video I said this was going to be easy, but I was very, very wrong. My year long word count is currently 30,241 which leaves another 169,759 for the writing.

  • Get 4.0 in the Spring of junior year and Fall of senior year.

    I got a 3.68 last semester. My career GPA is 3.9362. I don’t know how well fall semester of senior year is going to go. I have to start my thesis.

Summer Goals:

  • Catch up on 50 book challenge

    I have not being doing too well on this one as I mentioned above.

  • Write everyday

    This has not happened. I have been blogging a couple of days a week which kinda counts, but I’ve only worked on Complete Immersion the once when I posted the blog post on revision. I haven’t worked on it since then because I still don’t have a nice area to myself to work. My mom tried to set up a desk area for me, but I haven’t cleaned it up enough to use it yet.

  • Finish Complete Immersion

    I’m hoping to get this one done. I haven’t worked on it much, but Camp NaNoWriMo is fast approaching and I really need that motivation.

  • Catch up on word count goal

    So far this month, I have been doing pretty well, compared to the last months I’ve been writing. I’ve written 9,516 words this month which is only 7,151 off of the goal for the month, and honestly, if I put the time in, I could write seven thousand words in four days, but I don’t think I’ll be able to put the time in because I’m at the beach with my family right now.

  • Keep up with this blog

    I’ve been doing well on this goal. I haven’t gone a single week without posting since I started. I’ve gone five days without posting, but not a week, which is a great accomplishment for me.

I am looking forward to spending the rest of my weekend at the beach with my family and I will post a review of I Am Not a Slut by Leora Tanenbaum soon. How are your New Year’s Resolutions or current goals going? Mine aren’t going too well, but I’ll pick it up. Maybe.

-Alora

On Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (Sequel to Seraphina)

Picture of Shadow Scale.

That picture looked way better on my tiny phone screen.

So I was in awe of Seraphina. For one, it was an amazing debut novel. For two it was an amazing novel. For three it was full of great characters and a new take on dragons. Now my feelings for that book have been eclipsed by those for the sequel, Shadow Scale. The second book improved upon an already wonderful world with more amazing characters and a few wonderful plot twists. It was one of the best sequels I have read to date. In Shadow Scale, Seraphina, the main character, continued her journey of self discovery and made amazing, new friends along the way. Shadow Scale offers a partial dialogue on popular culture as well as an amazing fantasy story. I would expect such an amazing rich and realistic(-ish) world from a good science fiction novel, but Rachel Hartman has managed to create a wonderful fantasy novel with elements, like the pop culture dialogue that I would expect from a science fiction novel.

The main character, Seraphina is a well-rounded female character. She has a rich history, of which we only get to see snippets. Her actions are founded in her morals and past experiences, yet she is still learning and changing throughout the book. She observes the people around her and tries her hardest to respect them despite differences in beliefs and culture. Seraphina could’ve very easily been a Mary Sue, but she isn’t Rachel Hartman has fostered a wonderful cast of characters and Seraphina is just the one telling the story. The other characters in the world, whether they have 500 lines or 5 are just as rich and round.

Now, reader, go pick up Seraphina and then read Shadow Scale. I read a lot of fantasy and these are some of the best books I have read in a while. Thank you Katytastic for giving me the idea to buy Seraphina, and thank you Rachel Hartman for this transformative work of fantasy. I have not read a higher fantasy novel like it. These books will hopefully change the fantasy genre for the better. No more heternormativity and assumed pronouns!! I am far more excited now for your future works and only wonder if they will take place in this world or somewhere else entirely. Whatever happens, I know it will be amazing.

For those of you that have read Shadow Scale, I have some spoiler-filled fangirling that I need to get out of my system. I finished this book four days ago and am just now writing this. I have major pent-up feels.

Good day to everyone. Go away if you haven’t read the book. I do not want to spoil this amazingness for you.






SPOILERS!!! LEAVE NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T READ Shadow Scale


If you haven’t left yet it’s your own fault. Did anyone call that Camba was Master Smasher because I sure didn’t. Because she wasn’t in the garden, I just figured she was some human that had managed to become a large part of the temple. I was kinda confused. Then of course Seraphina was worried she had missed some of the ityasaari which was a terrifying concept. I was so excited when Seraphina learned that Camba was the real world version of the avatar she called Master Smasher. It made me so happy. I loved Seraphina’s time in Porphyry so much. Seraphina was exposed the idea of tons of different genders and terms. In Porphyry, you literally ask people what their pronouns are and it makes me so freaking happy. I got really excited about it when Abdo was teaching her more Porphyry, but I was even more excited when we learned about Camba’s past. Also, Porphyry is portrayed as the super-advanced nation that is trading across the ocean and has the most sophisticated government. That also made me happy. Seraphina was made to think about Goredd in all of its backwards customs. Gorred is what our society is supposed to be though. So then the reader is thinking about the backwards ways of our society. That is what I meant by a pop culture dialogue worthy of science fiction.

Although, the dragons’ tech is very sci-fi. Oooh, I just remembered another cultural dialogue: the relationship between the saar (big dragons) and the quigutl (little dragons). The saar use the quigutl devices, make huge science advances, and are percieved as better than the quigutl who are seen as dirty, stupid and lesser. The quigutl literally eat the waste dragons and, in Lavondaville, humans create. However, when Seraphina is as Lab four she befriends the quigutl, Mitha, who is a highly accomplished engineer, but the dragons still see him and his coworkers as lesser than themselves. That’s a poor/rich caste system if I’ve ever seen one.

I’ve decided that Glisselda is either asexual or demisexual. Because she is definitely in love with Seraphina, but she seems okay with the prospect of marrying Lucian and spending the rest of her life not being sexually involved with the woman she loves. She could definitely just be gay, but I feel like that would create difficulties among the three of them later on. Then again, though, they are very good friends that work hard to share everything with each other. Also, they are all definitely in a nice poly relationship, even if parts of it aren’t sexual. The three of them love each other and are planning on having meetings about everything. Good communication for the win! Also, Kiggs and Seraphina literally started making out in a closet and were like “Wait, we didn’t have a meeting about this. Also, we both love Glisselda too much.” Talk about self control! They are in a poly relationship and you can’t convince me otherwise.

Rachel Hartman, I love you a lot for just writing this books, but you left me without closure on Orma. I mean there is a bit of closure, but we don’t know if he and Seraphina will ever find his mind pearl. This is ridiculous. I mean, I understand why you did it as a writer, but as a fan, I am kinda frustrated. Why did you leave me without closing remarks from an Orma who remembers his niece? That would’ve been such a cute scene. Saints’ Dogs, Rachel Hartman! You can’t just do that to me. So much heartache. You and Beth Revis should compare notes. You both made me cry, but Beth made me cry because she killed EVERYONE, and you made me cry tears of love because of the great bonds of friendship between Abdo and Seraphina. *cries* I mean you both are great on your own, but just think on it. You two would make an unstoppable team.

Also, I have a niggling feeling that Prince Lucian Kiggs is actually a golden retriever, because everytime someone descibes him the use the word “doggedly.” I think Rachel Hartman is trying to tell us something. He is a blond, dogged investigator. I mean what am I supposed to think?

That’s it for this one. Make sure any comments with spoilers say as much. I left out a bunch of my favorite parts, but this is getting a bit long. What did you all think of the book?

-Alora

On All I Know Now by Carrie Fletcher

Picture of Me with the book minus the book jacket

Hello to all hopefuls and teenagers out there. (Other people can of course read this, but those are the people this book is aimed at.)

I just finished the UK version of All I Know Now: Wonderings and Reflections on Growing up Gracefully by the illustrious Carrie Hope Fletcher. It was an amazing read and I am so glad I picked it up when I was in London this past May. I have been a fan of Carrie and her videos for a while. I have been watching her grow and change since 2012 and I am so proud of her and the book she has written. Sadly, the US version does not come out until August, but you can preorder it here. The secondary title is a bit different as is the cover, but it should be just as good. Personally, I prefer the UK title and cover art, but that’s not the point of this blog post. Let’s talk about the actual content of the book.

Carrie is currently an actress in the West End production of Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theater in London, and being a total nerd, she organized her book like a play would be organized. (Nerd is used here in the most loving way possible.) In the book, there are eight “acts” that have about five chapters each inside of them. The title of each act gives the reader an idea of what the chapters enclosed in it will be focused on. For example, “Act 5: People: Imagining Them Complexly” contains six chapters all about imagining the people around you complexly. It was one of my favorite sections of the book. The book even has it’s own intermission or interval right after Act 4. It’s a page that says “Interval” at the top and has a sketch Carrie did of her in her Eponine costume. I’ve read some books with really cool organizational themes and this is one of the best.

There are 51 chapters, including the last one where she answers questions submitted by her audience, the hopefuls. The topics of the chapters range from how to handle bullying to being nice to your parents despite the fact that you are an angry and confused teenager to when to have sex with your significant other to getting along with your friends while you’re all in school to a bunch of other stuff important teenage issues. As a watcher of her videos, a few of the chapters were a bit redundant because I had already watched her video on the topic, but I read them all anyways because every idea in the book deserves a second encounter. The book is all about being nice to strangers, your enemies, you friends and your family. It’s also about getting on with your life in the happiest way you can. It’s also about taking care of yourself in all aspects of your life. It’s about so many things that I really can’t condense them all into one or even three sentences.

As the eldest child in a family of four kids, I hope one day to be able to give such good advice to my younger siblings. Also, I willingly accepted Carrie as an older sister years ago. She is like an older best friend and I honestly wish I could share as much about my life with her as she just shared with me through this book. I feel our relationship is too one-sided, but I’m not sure how to repay her for creating such wonderful content on her YouTube channel and in her writing. I’ll figure out a way someday. Carrie thank you for such wonderful advice in this book and over the years through your videos. I look forward to every video you post and I have since I found your channel. I’ve actually been back and watched the majority, if not all, of your older videos as well.

All I Know Now was a great read. At 17 I’m reaching the end of my Teen Age, so I felt some of the advice on bullying was a bit late in coming, but that’s not Carrie’s fault. She has created a wonderful book that I recommend every teenager read at some point in their lives. Some of the British slang is a bit crazy, but Carrie, at 22, is able to offer advice and help on living through your teenage years without sounding like she is preaching. She is only a few years out of this crazy hormonal cry-fest that being a teenager can be, but she is still able to offer a refreshing perspective on how to survive it. When she was in school, she went through some really bad experiences and she was a moody teenager too. She shares her relevant stories whether they are happy or not because she sincerely wants to help us out. I’m really glad I read this book and I hope I can convince my little siblings to read it at some point.

Thank you so much Carrie for being a great big sister and offering as much advice as possible. I look forward to more great videos and potentially more books from you. I will read them all.

Have you read All I Know Now? What did you think of it? Have you watched any of Carrie’s videos? Let’s talk about how amazing her book is in the comments alright?

-Alora

Harmful Stereotypes in the 1961 Movie The Parent Trap*

Good day all.

The other day I watched the 1961 The Parent Trap with my little brother and sister. As a child it was one of my favorite movies. Not many movies have twins as main characters, much less twins that hatch wild plans to get their parents back together. But when I was watching the movie this time, I was watching it with a more knowledgeable pair of eyes. I haven’t watched it in years and I have learned so much about the way society and the media often treat women since then. Even though I knew the plot, I saw the characters with fresh eyes and boy was I in for a shock. The characters all seem to be based largely on two molds. The character was either a woman, with all the specific traits that “come with being a woman” or the character was a man, with a the specific traits that “come with being a man.” I understand that previous sentence was ridiculous, please give me a moment to explain.

While watching the movie, I noticed that the majority of the women and girls in the movie have very similar traits. They often use others to get what they want, they scheme against each other, and they are very passive aggressive when approaching issues that they have with other people. With the exception of the camp counselors, all of the other named women in the movie exhibit the aforementioned traits, even the kids. When Sharon is pretending to be Susan out in California, she meets Vicky for the first time. Sharon can tell that Vicky is not a nice woman, but she pretends to like her and she pretends to be nice to her. To try and get rid of Vicky, Sharon makes up tons of other women that her dad has brought home over the years and messes with her head creating lies designed to hurt her as much as possible. This is not a healthy way to interact with a new person even if it is someone you don’t like. Sharon is thirteen and she thinks it is okay to lie to and manipulate the people you don’t like. Little girls aren’t born knowing how to manipulate people. She had to have learned it from the other women in her life. Namely her mother and her grandmother that also exhibit the same exact traits. Susan, however, has seems to have very little interaction with other women who are conniving and vicious. Rebena, the housekeeper could have taught her some things, but not the aggressive attack that she did on Sharon’s tent at camp. That prank was mean-hearted and thought up by Susan and her friends. I don’t understand how all of the girls we get to know at that camp are so mean and passive aggressive. It is completely unrealistic. Real life girls don’t act like that.

Then there is the “prank” that Susan, Sharon, and Maggie pull on Vicky. All three are involved because Maggie willing stays behind knowing that the girls are going to do something to get rid of Vicky. Maggie lets her thirteen-year-old daughters help her compete with another woman for their father’s affection. That is messed up on so many levels. Two thirteen-year-old girls willingly endanger another person just so that they can show their father that she is just out to steal his money, which they didn’t even try to tell him. None of the three ever talk openly with Mitch about their misgivings for Vicky. They just make snide remarks about how young she is and try to manipulate him into thinking their way. Even when they are talking to Mitch, they are still competing against Vicky. It’s sick.

Louise McKendrick, the girls’ only pictured grandmother is less passive aggressive than the girls, but she is more controlling. This is not to say that a woman who is in charge of herself and those around her is bad. Louise controls her family in a way that seems almost abusive. She dictates the schedule of her daughter, her granddaughter and her husband. When Susan comes home as “Sharon with short hair,” everyone in the house, without fail, says “wait until your grandmother sees you.” Her grandmother proceeds to shame her for cutting her hair short by saying she should pick one and be a girl or a boy, not both. That in itself is transphobic, especially against non-binary people that are agender or bigender or any gender that isn’t strictly “boy” or strictly “girl.” Not to mention the fact that she is shaming her granddaughter for cutting her hair in a way that makes her happy which is definitely emotional abuse. Louise does not interact with her family in a healthy way and she also portrays the stereotype of a conniving, controlling woman just like the other women in this movie.

Mitch and the other guys in the movie are made to fit a different mold. All of the men in this story, without fail, exhibit some very similar character traits. The bumble through their lives letting the women in them run their lives completely. Most of them have little to no idea what is going on around them and they pretend to not understand the passive aggressive interactions the women in their lives are having. In this case, the best example is Mitch just wandering around, chasing after Sharon, who he thinks is Susan, trying to tell her that he is going to marry Vicky. He just bumbles around not really listening to Sharon all the time. Their conversation starts on the golf course where he listens to her very well and tries to give her “the talk,” because that’s what he thought she was talking about. That miscommunication is not entirely his fault because Sharon isn’t really understanding what he is getting at either since neither of them are using clear language. However, later, Sharon kinda freaks out after he says he is marrying Vicky and he just says she’s gone hysterical and doesn’t even try to listen to her. He allows Vicky to go take care of her and disappears for a while. I understand that he may not understand how much Vicky and Sharon hate each other at this point because he hasn’t been in the room when they have been mean to each other, but there are definitely points later in the movie when he is and can’t seem to grasp the complexities of their communication. Also, he should know how to deal with a freaking out teenager by now. It’s not a new thing. I should know. I used to and still do randomly freak out all the time. If Mitch was really the great father he was portrayed as, he would understand how to talk to and listen to his own daughter, even if he didn’t think it was the right daughter.

The farm hand, Hecky, also doesn’t seem to understand tension between Vicky and the other women in the family. During the camping trip he realizes or is told that the girls don’t like Vicky and helps them harass her and stay out of trouble with their father. At the beginning of the movie, the camp leader of the boys camp is portrayed as a bumbling idiot. He walks up to the pedestal with his napkin still in his shirt, like he is completely unaware of his surroundings. Then he speaks slowly and in a way that makes him sound either very drunk, or unintelligent. Later, when Sharon and Susan knock over the table of food. He catches a cake, then throws it aside to catch the punch bowl which spills all over him. I feel bad for the poor guy, he was written to look stupid and be the butt of silly jokes.

As I have shown, despite some minor exceptions and differences, the women of The Parent Trap are all extremely similar and the men are as well. This similarity in characters is just lazy writing and completely inexcusable. There is no reason all of the women in a movie, no matter their age should be conniving, often mean-spirited manipulators. Just as there is no reason that all of the men in a movie should be portrayed as bumbling idiots that are letting women run their lives because they don’t know how to do it themselves and despite being around them for most of their lives, the men do not understand how to interact with people that aren’t male. This is not to say that there aren’t moments where actual differences in the characters present themselves. Maggie is shown to have a temper, Vicky is just out to steal Mitch’s fortune, etc. These do happen throughout the movie, but they are few and far between. I left out more sexist scenes and bits of dialogue than defining character bits. I still like this movie, but I needed to highlight the stereotypes and sexism present in the film. An important part of consuming media is being able to think critically about it and since this movie was one of my favorites as a child, I wanted to analyze it now that I am almost an adult. I am sad to find so many issues in the film since it is one of my favorites, but we must learn from our mistakes and make better movies in the future.

Have you seen the 1961 version of The Parent Trap? What did you think of it? Did I leave something important out of my analysis? Do you think I’m entirely wrong? Let’s have a discussion.

-Alora

*I would like to make a note that I am looking at this from a very modern perspective, so it is possible that women did interact with each other this way in the 60’s, but I still think the writers were lazy with characterization.

The Hell of Revision

A picture of the writing space I used today.
Hello friends.

Writing a novel is difficult, but I think the far more difficult task is revising the first draft into something readable. Just revising it, so that someone who hasn’t had three different versions of the plot explained to them will know what is going on. That is what I spent two hours working on today.

For those of you that do not know, in July of 2013, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. I wrote 50 thousand words of a novel in a month. It was amazing. Since then I have been on and off revising that novel. I have often gone months between revisions which makes the act of revision very difficult. As of right now, I am on the fourth draft, but the book is nowhere near done. I’ve entitled it Complete Immersion and there is a counter in my “Currently” widget on the right that I am using to keep track of the number of words it has. You can use it to check up on how my novel’s going.

Today was the first time I’ve worked on Complete Immersion since I’ve been home for the summer, and it was extremely difficult to get anything done. Getting a good momentum was almost impossible and it only lasted a few minutes. My desk is in Maxwell’s room right now, and he is using it, but last night I asked him if I could borrow it for a few hours to get some writing done. He agreed and cleared me a space. After I got home from work, I proceeded to lock myself in there for two hours. It was rough. I only revised two pages. I have seen writing compared to pulling teeth and that analogy would definitely apply to today’s revisions. It was hell.

But. I am going to get back in the habit of revising a little bit everyday and it should get easier. Tomorrow I will revise for another two hours, maybe more. I will get this novel into a good shape this summer.

Now that I have complained about my revisions, I want to talk about how I revise. When I first started to revise Complete Immersion, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I’ve kinda figured it out, maybe. Idk, but I am going to talk about it. Please discuss how you revise/edit in the comments and we can have a good old fashioned discussion.

When I revise, I read through the story from start to finish and change whatever pieces I don’t like. Then, when I get to the end, I start over from the beginning. I make sure everything sounds good. I fix dialogue. I check facts. I reconcile character actions with their backstories. I usually end up completely rewriting half of what I already had, because the idea was good but the execution was poor. I wrote Complete Immersion without much planning, so a bunch of my revising time is spent “planning.” I map out locations and write down new character details. I have a binder that I keep beside my computer while I write that has maps, basic character info, character notes, plot notes and just a bunch of thoughts on the story. I reference it and some documents on my computer often. They help keep me on track. That way, I won’t end up with too many plot holes and character inconsistencies when I reach the end of the story.

With each revision, the story gets better and better. In between revisions, I learn so much more about writing and writing well. Also, like everything, writing gets better with practice. Revision gets easier with practice too. (Well, so far it has.) Oh, and here is a biggie. Show don’t tell. Everybody and their mom throws this phrase around, but I don’t think I truly understood it before I wrote Complete Immersion and then began revising it. Now however, I definitely understand and I like to think I am better at it. In my mind, showing gives the reader a stronger sense of being in the story, almost like they were watching a movie. Whereas telling almost feels like a dream. You know stuff is happening, but you can’t quite make it all out. I think it is harder to feel fully involved and invested in the story.

Other than that, revision is mostly grunt work, which is why I am still revising two years after I wrote first wrote the story. Actually, it’s been almost two years to the day since I started Complete Immersion. This July is Camp NaNoWriMo 2015!!!! (I wrote Complete Immersion in July 2013.) I am super excited. I think I’m going to set up a word count per revised page system and use Camp NaNoWriMo to inspire myself to revise, revise, revise.

Now, I must go. Good luck on any revisions that you may be working on. Please share your difficulties in the comments and we can commiserate. Also, check out Camp NaNoWriMo. It is a month of writing where you can pick any word count and work together with other campers to hit your goal. Your words could be working towards a novel, a play, a revision of a novel, a dissertation, anything. It is super fun and I have made a lot of friends through participating. I am definitely planning on participating this year.

I hope to see you all at camp! 😀

-Alora

On Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

pic of me reading Seraphina

It’s book review time again! As I mentioned in my summer goals post, I want to read 2.5 books a week. That means a lot more book reviews. This morning I finished Seraphina by Rachel Hartman and then promptly went out to Barnes and Noble to get the sequel. That leaves out the fact that I stayed up until 2AM reading last night. The book was absolutely wonderful. Going in all I knew was that it was set in a kingdom where dragons could take on human form and there was a tentative peace between the two of them. Also, I knew that the main character, Seraphina, had a huge secret. I’m not going to tell you what the secret is, just that it’s a biggie.

Seraphina is an absolutely wonderful character. She has the wonderful depth and development I expect from great authors and Rachel Hartman is definitely one of them. Seraphina won the William C. Morris Debut Award and for a good freaking reason. This book was gold. Before I read this book, I had two favorite book series that majorly featured dragons: The Inheritance Cycle and The Last Dragon Chronicles. I grew up on those two series, and now I get to add another to my list. Our main character, Seraphina Dombegh, exists in a wonderfully rich world. Not every detail was explained, but they were still there. The book was one of those books that need to be read like four times to understand everything. I am positive that I missed foreshadowing and important details. There was just so much to take in. Reading the book was like entering Seraphina’s world.

Also, the writing was amazing and Rachel Hartman created a hugely rich world. I am just repeating myself at this point because I cannot figure out a better way to explain how amazing this book is. Let me think for a moment…

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Okay. Let me try again. In Seraphina, Rachel Hartman constructed a detailed world, with interesting, realistic, and lovable characters who drove a fresh, engaging plot forward every step of the way. Seraphina is a confident young woman who, despite her huge, life-endangering secret, manages to help others and try to make her world a better place. She doesn’t just sit by and let the plot pass around her. She takes action and tries to help others. Seraphina is a good role model for young girls and at the same time she is a flawed and well rounded character and person.

The book does not fall into typical fantasy tropes for plot, characters or even setting. Obviously there are dragons and a kingdom, but the world is so much more detailed and rich than that. The book is amazing and awe-inspiring. Rachel Hartman has captured my heart and head with Seraphina and it’s amazing prose, character, plot, setting, everything. The book was more than wonderful and I cannot wait to read the sequel and see what else Rachel Hartman has to offer. I look forward to more books from her.

If you’ve read Seraphina, let me know what you think down below. If not, go get a copy. You won’t regret it.

-Alora