Wednesday, December 10, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Just a warning: there are some spoilers in this review that I did not tag, so read at your own risk.

(Also, I feel like I need to say that this review does not reflect what I think of the author herself or of other readers who enjoyed this series.  You are free to love what books you love!  I'm just not able to jump on this bandwagon. D:  Stay chill, my friends. :))

One sentence summary: Celaena Sardothien is now the King's Champion, and must keep up a daily charade of pretending to be his ally while simultaneously plotting to tear him apart; meanwhile she keeps discovering more secrets below the castle, secrets so deep that they could destroy the world.

I once mentioned that a book made me so frustrated that I actually threw my Kindle. Well, this is the book in question. And it was more of a toss. Onto my bed. But the fact remains that I was so flustered and even angered by the ending of this book that I was willing to make my beloved Kindle airborne.

I desperately wanted to love this book, just as I wanted to love the first in the series. Normally when a series becomes wildly popular, I either appreciate the hype or I can at least understand it, but with this series, I honestly just can't. I really do not understand why this series is so popular, and I really do not understand why people prefer this book to the first. I found this book to be worse.

Let me start with what I did like:

Celaena's breakdown: This actually happened in the fourth novella as well, which was why it turned out to be my favorite. Her breakdown provided a much-needed vulnerability to her character for the reader. It was very human of her, and for once she didn't seem so vomit-inducingly perfect. It also reminded us that she actually is an assassin and will always turn to bloodlust when confronted with such strong emotions.

The underground everything: I was glad to see that the underground passageways were still alive and well, considering they were my favorite part of the first book. The mysteries and discoveries and cool traps and doors and hallways, etc. I do have to admit that it's taking a bit of a weird turn, but I still like it.

Celaena actually killed people!: Yay. Because she is, you know, an assassin.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that I simply did not like any of the main characters or the overall plotline; considering these two aspects are what basically make a novel what it is, I may have been doomed to dislike this series from the beginning. Celaena is too perfect, Dorian is too boring and Chaol is too predictable. They all are so stuck in these personality traits that it's hard to see them as three dimensional characters. They are flat and, quite often, unlikeable. I honestly think that Mass has a lot of good ideas, but they're buried underneath her inability to create complex characters and her juvenile writing.

It's not that she's incapable of creating an interesting character, it's just that there's one aspect of them that's so heavily focused on that any other intended trait gets pushed to the side, making them seem like caricatures. Even Nehemia, perhaps the most interesting character, fell prey to this. Maas made her so noble that she seemed almost inhuman. And that's the issue with these characters - they don't feel real. If I'm constantly reminded of how two dimensional a character is, how am I supposed to get into the story?

I'm also extremely unimpressed with the reliance on the shock value, which this book had. I have been in Celaena's head, both as a first person narrator and as a third person narrator. There should be no reason for her hiding the fact that she's a Queen (which wasn't much of a shock) and that she's a faery (which was) from the reader. How could Celaena not once thought of those things? How, as a reader, am I expected to just passively accept this as valid instead of as a ploy to cover up a mediocre story? The thing is, had Maas no decided to pull this, I might have actually enjoyed the book. If she could have just revealed this earlier and relied on her writing to further explain it to the reader while hiding from the characters, she might have had the opportunity to create something fanastic. Instead, she went the cheap route which only served to highlight all of the other instances in the book that felt poorly written.

The ending felt so rushed and so disorganized that I felt like I needed to just buckle down and finish it in order to get it over with. After the original reveal, which is Celaena's faery power, I honestly started finding everything to be ridiculous. Maas seemed to have gone to such lengths to destroy the image of Celaena as a Mary Sue, and then she adds the superhero power onto her, putting the character right back where she started.

All in all, I am still a bit baffled as to why this series is as popular as it is, but I know that I'm very much in the minority on this. I cannot look past being emotionally manipulated by the author and I can't shake the "big reveals" as anything other than a cheap trick to cover up insecure writing.

Friday, December 5, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | Paradise Regained by John Milton

Paradise Regained, while not at the same level of rhetoric and literacy as Paradise Lost, does offer an interesting insight into Jesus' temptation in the wilderness. Milton uses language in order to assert Jesus as the Messiah, and Satan as an agent of evil, which is being used by God, to help that assertion. Paradise Regained is largely static. There is no real rise and fall of tension and there is no real climax, either. Rather, all of the stress is placed on the importance of language and silence.

When comparing Satan and Jesus' speeches, there is an immediate difference: Satan's speech is clouded in "persuasive rhetoric," whereas everything that Jesus says is plain and accessible. Jesus does not need fancy language in order to convey His message. Instead of trying to make Himself more confusing, the Messiah takes language back to its roots and uses it as Adam did (in a way that would be able to communicate with God directly) by keeping it as simple and as close to God as He can.

In his brilliant essay, "The Muting of Satan: Language and Redemption in Paradise Regained," Steven Goldsmith argues that the language Jesus is using is not the same as the language Satan is using. Rather than stay silent while Satan tempts Him, Jesus uses the fallen language in order to thwart Satan and beat him at his own game. In the process of using this language, Jesus is paving His way towards becoming the Messiah by silencing Satan so that His voice will be heard. Underneath all of Satan's fancy word plays lays absolutely nothing. He is the "linguistic anti-christ," who "has nothing to express."

Jesus finally asserts Himself as Messiah and readies Himself to be "all in all" with God towards the end of the poem:

"To whom thus Jesus: Also it is written,
Tempt not the Lord they God, he said and stood.
But Satan smitten with amazement fell."


At first glance, it is easy to see that Jesus and Satan are opposites: one is standing and the other is falling. However, the fact that Jesus "said and stood" is important. It parallels God's perfect speech during the creation of the world: "God said... and there was." This is the pinnacle of the poem - the point where Christ has officially triumphed over Satan and can now go public as Messiah. Satan is allowed to roam the fallen world and has even created a kingdom of his own in Hell and in the sky (according to Milton) where he perversely "blesses" people with wealth, glory, etc. Jesus has to enter the fallen world and first silence its biggest voice before He can redeem it.

"Queller of Satan, on thy glorious work
Now enter, and begin to save mankind."


According to Goldsmith, "the process of verification that is the purpose of Paradise Regained has been accomplished." By using language, Milton paralleled Jesus' own entrance into the world as Messiah by silencing Satan and glorifying Christ.

While I still believe this is not nearly as fascinating as Paradise Lost (and is also much shorter), it's still well worth the read if you've read the former. They really are two parts of a whole. Satan's temptation of Christ not only mimics his temptation of Eve, but it is also referenced throughout the entire poem whenever he feels foiled. This is the finale to Paradise Lost.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither follows the story of Rhine, who is living in a world where a disease has wiped out most of the human race, leaving only North America behind. Because of this disease, no one is able to live past the age of 20, if you're a woman, and 25, if you're a man. Rhine is forced into a marriage with two other girls for the sole purpose to produce babies, but she is finding that what she wants more than anything is freedom. Freedom from the disease. Freedom from her husband. Freedom from that mansion.

I know there are certain aspects of this book that have made people cringe. But, for me, the writing and the overall storyline made it well worth the four stars I gave. Let me start with the things that I noticed or others have pointed out to me.

In order of biggest inconsistency to least:

1. All of this snow that Florida can apparently create. As a resident of Florida, this made me cringe. Even if this were to take place in Northern Florida, it would be ridiculous. Perhaps there was some snowfall in Tallahassee back in 2010. I seem to remember news of it. But this was the type of snow that barely even made it to the ground because it was so cold. The snow that they talked about in Wither was somehow inches or more deep. All I could think of was, "What Florida is this?" My only reasoning was that maybe after the destruction of people (via virus), the state lines were re-done... but it was never explained to be so in the book. That bugged me.

2. Rhine never has sex. This did not make any sense. Now, I'm pretty laid back about sex in YA books. Sometimes it's unnecessary - actually, most of the time it's unnecessary. But in this case? Definitely necessary. You want me to believe that Rhine enters into a marriage which has the sole purpose to procreate and yet never has sex? I can see how DeStefano made Linden a weak man who wouldn't pressure her, but does anyone remember his father? This was not a man who cared enough about Linden, about anyone that he would sacrifice new life forms. If anything, he would have just killed Rhine, used her for scientific study, and then told Linden to move on. I don't care how anyone tries to justify this. Rhine would have been murdered or raped. The end.

3. North America is the SOLE survivor. Now, some readers may have already have read Fever and are shaking their heads at this because maybe this is explained in the second book. I took it as a projection of the character. North America is the only one they know to have survived. But if that is the case, why word it so? Why not simply say that instead of making a firm statement that North America is the only place with a population left.

4. Women dying before men. I suppose this was for plot purposes, but FYI, men die earlier than women. It's scientifically proven. It would have made more sense to have women die at age 25 and men at age 20.


Regardless, I still greatly enjoyed this book. DeStefano's prose was literally breathtaking. I read this in one sitting. She drew me in with her characterization and writing. I loved the character of Jenna and I could feel for the character of Linden. Oftentimes, I think that writing first person can greatly hinder a writer. This is because they are not able to explore any other characters than the one whose eyes the reader is seeing from. However, somehow DeStefano managed to make all of her characters seem so real and so vulnerable, even through Rhine's eyes. Because of this great characterization, I was able to look past more technical errors.

I also, personally, read books for the relationships and characterizations. I am a huge character reader dislike it when other characters are not fully developed. (Or if other characters all follow some kind of stereotype, etc). With DeStefano, the reader is able to understand a variety of personalities and view the story from different angles.

I purposely put the negative aspects first because I want people to understand how I could look past some blatant errors because of the beautiful writing and empathetic characterization. I would honestly recommend this to anyone. The pacing, the prose - it all made it worth it to me.

Friday, November 7, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juárez by Marjorie Agosín

Memory is the only witness that
Remembers the women of Juárez
Now statues,
Scattered bones,
Heads and little ears.


Haunting. Melodic. Tragic. Hearthbreaking. Necessary. These are the words I would use to describe this book of poetry.

Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juárez is a collection of poetry written by Marjorie Agosín about the missing women of Juárez. From 2008 to 2013 over 211 girls have gone missing, but the murders have been going on since the 90s. The most disturbing issue of all is that the government has done nothing about it. In the introduction to these poems, written by Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman, she writes that Mexico is a country with a "machista" culture that "often accuses women of provoking their abusers." With this kind of victim-blaming perpetuating the minds of those who are in charge, it's not surprising to see that there hasn't been much progress made towards stopping these murders.

She dreams about borders
A knife parts her in two
North and South
The body of a woman lies
In the middle of the night
In the middle of the day
In the middle of the light
On the border no one finds her
The desert petrifies her memory
The wind erases sounds
Everything is a darkness without sunlight.

She has crossed borders
And doesn't return home
Her mother wanders about crying
And looks for but does not find her

She crosses borders
Wakefulness and dream
Ashes and bonfires.


Agosín's goal was to give these women a voice. They have been permanently silences and are suffering a second death because of the negligence of the government. These murders have been going on for over 20 years with no change in the system or in the enforcement of the law. Agosín uses free verse, often conflating herself with the victims and reminding all women that in another time, in another place, or even tomorrow in your home, it could be you.

News Reports

The news report of Ciudad Juárez
Announces another death
The child says that it looks like the same woman
All of those women are the same, the father replies
The mother prepares the food
She sees herself in those women
The news report continues
They announce the winners of the soccer tournament
The child asks his mother why
They always kill the same woman
The mother's voice is strange
Like that of a little girl
And a well of silence
Forms on her sad mouth.


By using free verse, Agosín is able to give a voice to the traumatic experiences of the women who were murdered and the women who have been left behind. Sometimes I had to read a certain poem over and over until I understood it, and other times I read it over and over because it was just that powerful. Combining the Introduction, Poems and Afterword, there are only 143 pages in this book. (Which you can also cut in half because half of it is in Spanish on one side and English on the other, so if you're not bilingual, it will go even faster.)

This book has easily become one of my personal favorites. I really appreciate the accessibility of Agosín's style. Had she tried to make her poems more complicated, she may have run the risk of taking away from the violence. Instead, she made sure her poems were succinct, easy to understand and straight to the point - given the women of Juárez and the women who are terrified for their lives a powerful and booming voice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Okay, I've been meaning to post my reviews on both Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight for awhile.  As most of you know, I didn't enjoy either and am currently reading Heir of Fire.   I reviewed this book back in 2013, but I'm tweaking it a bit to make it more appropriate/verbalize my thoughts better.

One sentence summary: Throne of Glass is about an assassin named Celaena - who is now in a slave labor mine due to a betrayal - that is propositioned by the Prince of her Kingdom to fight in a tournament that will determine who the next King's Champion will be.

When I initially began reading Throne of Glass, I slogged through about 20% of it and was so unimpressed that I thought it would be a very rare DNF.  But I was determined.  So many people were raving about this that I kept convincing myself to read more.  When I realized there were novellas, I thought that I would try to read them in order to establish the universe more.  (This is already very telling of how weak I find the world building to be.  You should never have to read a novella because you can't make it through the novel.)

 After my four star review of The Assassin and the Empire, I was really hoping that returning to the actual book would be a more positive experience. The novellas cemented the world that Maas had created for me and I felt prepared to tackle the novel itself again; they also proved that she is a very capable storyteller. Unfortunately, I think the novel just can't compare to the atmosphere created by her shorter works.

The first thing that bothered me was the fact that the world worships a Goddess who has gods as her consorts, yet treats women as inferior. I cannot wrap my mind around this. Technically, women should be more powerful than they are because cultures and religion are almost one in the same: one always mimics the other. I started trying to justify it, thinking maybe it was one of those things where the gods were more important and the Goddess was more how we consider Mother Earth to be, but no, it's more important.  She seems to be the most important deity.  They have a High Priestess who runs church services... church services.  As I mentioned before, religion and culture are so intertwined that to have a woman be the leader of a religious aspect of the world, but not in a secular aspect truly makes no sense (and is normally the other way around). Also, the fact that she has consorts, which means that the gods are inferior to her... I see no reflection of this whatsoever in the cultural attitudes of the people.  This is a world-building mistake that I think most people will be able to get over, but it really bothered me. 


(An example of well-done inclusion of culture and religion is A Game of Thrones.  The religion changes the culture - or the culture changes the religion - depending on what the person believes in: the Great After, The Old Gods, R'hllor, The Seven, etc.)

The second thing to bother me was this: the lack of mention of Sam. After reading the novellas and learning about this character named Sam who played a very important role, this didn't make sense to me. I also had a problem with Dorian, the main love interest.  


Warning: There is a bit of a love triangle in this story.  
 Disclaimer: I didn't find it to be annoying. 

Even though I didn't find the love triangle itself annoying, I did find the interest in Dorian to be distracting from the story and an unnecessary story arc.  She immediately pounces on the opportunity to be in a relationship with him because he likes books and is handsome.  I expect a bit more caution from someone who is an assassin.

Speaking of being an assassin... why was there so little murder or assassinations in this novel?  There were so many passages telling me about how perfect Celaena was: she could play piano, she was beautiful, she was intelligent, she was witty, she was the best assassin ever... which makes me wonder what kind of second-rate assassins she must have been running with because, seriously, why the hell wasn't there any assassinations happening?  Show.  Don't tell.  I don't care how much you hit me over the head with Celaena's bad assery, if I never see it, it doesn't exist. 

I also had some trouble figuring out who was narrating. There were many times when it was a close third person narration of Dorian or Chaol, the other main male character, but then something would happen and the narration would say that the narrator didn't see it. If the narrator didn't see it, then how could the reader see it? I can think of a particular moment when it is Dorian who is narrating the chapter, but something happens behind his back that Chaol sees.  If Dorian didn't see it, how did I learn about it in that chapter?  Who is narrating that scene? I think part of the reasons Maas' novellas were so strong in their narration was that they were solely through Celaena's eyes. Switching between narrators can be done and I tend to like books more when there is more than one narrator, however the multiple narrations in this novel were executed poorly.
 

Creating an entirely new world is a struggle and I congratulate Maas for being able to come up with some really creative plot points and details.  I like that she includes other races, which is a rarity in YA books. I like that two girls can talk to each other and be friends without all the cliche girl-hate.  Thank you, Maas, for that!  It's very needed in the YA world.

I originally ended this on a different note, but I have deleted the ending of my original review because I'm not sure who I would recommend this to anymore.  I suppose all I can say is that most people seem to enjoy it, but I just can't bring myself to overlook what I find to be glaring holes in her world building and narration.

And now you know what I dislike about Throne of Glass.  I'll upload my Crown of Midnight review tomorrow, but that one will take a bit more re-working than this one did.  I was pretty angry after I finished that one...

Monday, October 27, 2014

SEVEN DEADLY SINS BOOK TAG


I was tagged by the lovely Morrighan from Elysian Fields to do the Seven Deadly Sins Book Tag.  First off, thank you for the tag and to all of you reading, if you haven't seen her lovely blog, please be sure to do so.  This tag was created by the lovely Booktuber BookishlyMalyza and the gist is that you must answer seven questions about the Biblical seven deadly sins.

1. GREED: What is the most expensive book in your library and what is the most inexpensive?

Most expensive is technically my World Atlas because Atlas' cost an insane amount of money, but mine was a gift. I guess most expensive that I personally purchased might be... The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, I think.  The least expensive would be all of the books given to me as gifts because they were FREE!

2. WRATH: Which author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

I actually, weirdly enough, can't really think of one!   Maybe John Milton?  I think he wrote some pretty radical and influential stuff, but sometimes I wonder if he was just arguing for more rights and privileges for white males and ignoring anyone else.  I also have an issue with James Joyce because I just love his work, but I don't understand why he had to make himself so inaccessible.

3. GLUTTONY: What book have you deliciously devoured over and over again with no remorse whatsoever?

Oh, easy.  The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.  I don't know how many times I've read that bad boy. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is another one I read a lot in my younger years.

4. SLOTH: What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.  Although, to be fair, I'm not neglecting them out of laziness, but more because I'm bombarded with reading for university at the moment.

5. PRIDE: What book do you most talk about in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

I don't feel like I ever consciously talk about a book to make me sound like an intellectual reader?  I don't put much stock in that.

6. LUST: What attributes do you find most attractive in male or female characters?

In male characters: kindness, radical thinking, and a critical eye. 
In female characters: logic, passion, and a willingness to act.

7. ENVY: What books would you most like to receive as a gift?

You know those Penguin Clothbound Editions?  I would love to have all of them and I would proudly display them on my shelves and take them with me everywhere I go because perfection.

I think everyone has already done this tag- probably because I'm so crazy behind on tags- but I'm going to tag anyone who has the word "love" or "lover" in their username! (And anyone else who wants to do it, too.)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

#BeCritical From a Blogger's Perspective

Note to my blogger babes: A lot of my you may not keep up with the "BookTube World," which consists of people talking about books rather than writing about them, but I do and have for years.  Bear with me, blogger buddies, because this is a note to them.

I'm not a part of BookTube, which means you can take my opinion as you want.  I have no influence over BookTube and very rarely have an opinion on the workings of it, but I thought that because I am a blogger, I might be able to add an outside opinion to the discussion that might be of some worth.

The recent debacle regarding "critical" vs. "non-critical" reviews has, in my opinion, blown itself out of proportion.  Both sides of #BeCritical have made blanketed statements that I honestly find erroneous and I think there is a middle ground that both could also agree about, but seem to be missing due to some mistaken word choices and anger/defensiveness.

I watch a variety of BookTubers.  I watch people like TheBookTuber, JessetheReader, MaureenKeavy, VincentVanStop, LittleBookOwl, Elizziebooks, and CharleyReads - all of whom talk about YA most of the time.  I also watch RonLit, JVPurcell, BazPierce, LizLovesLit, ReadSusieRead, Katrina E, and Books and Pieces - all of whom primarily talk about literary texts.  (I also watch Ariel Bissett, but I don't know where to place her. [I watch a lot of other BookTubers as well, but I don't want this list to be astronomical.])

All of the above, however, are well worth checking out.

Before I start, there are two great videos for you to check out regarding both sides: Barry's Liveshow and CharleyReads' response video.  

I want to condense what I think to be the main point of both sides: 

#BeCritical's Side: If you want to be taken academically serious as a reviewer, then you need to write critical reviews.  If you do not, then you can't expect a review that hasn't thought critically about a book to be taken seriously by academics.  If you write reviews for fun or as a hobby, then you can write them however you like.  If you are being paid to talk about and review a book, then you need to take it seriously because it is not longer a hobby, it is a job.

Where I think they went wrong: The usage of the word "worthless" and saying that unless a reader can produce a critical or negative review then they have no place on BookTube was a bit too extreme.  They also failed to mention the difference between a paid reader and a reader who is reviewing for fun, at first, so it did come off as a blanketed statement and, of course, a lot of people took offense to that.

#DontBeADick's Side: (This is the hashtag I've seen floating around so I'm using it, ha.)  All opinion has merit and every opinion is valid because it is the voice of the consumer.  There will be different audiences for different types of reviewers.

Where I think they went wrong:  They failed to realize that #BeCritical's main argument is for those who are wanting to reach a specific kind of audience and for those who are being paid to review. Also, the conflating of the words "critical" and "negative."  There are fantastic critical reviews that are positive, and I recommend anyone check out Wendy Darling on Goodreads for an example of this.

The truth is, both sides are agreeing on the same thing: that if you review as a hobby and for fun, then you can review however you want.  #BeCritical went on to establish their point that if a person is reviewing as a hobby then they do not have to write critical reviews or be a critical reader.  However, if that person is being paid, then that changes everything.

The truth is that it was revealed that the BOOKSPLOSION members get paid a lot of money to showcase the books that they read each month.  Now, some of these members, like JessetheReader, I have to applaud - because he has been very transparent.  Whenever I watch a video of his, he always mentions whether or not it's being sponsored and I have to say that I really admire him for doing that, especially in light of recent revelations.  I cannot say the same for other BOOKSPLOSION members who have never (at least that I've seen) mentioned that their videos are being sponsored and that they're being paid to review.

The truth is that as soon as you accept money to do something, it is no longer a hobby, it is a job.  As a job, it should be treated more seriously.  You have a responsibility to your viewers to be as honest and open as possible.  You should say that your videos are being sponsored and the opinion that you give on a book should be thought about before saying anything because it is now your job.  BookTubers were never meant to be simple booksellers, which is what seems to be happening with this lack of transparency in sponsorship. 

Personally, I feel a bit offended that there are these big BookTubers who are being paid to mention a certain book in at least two of their videos and then never mention that they're being paid.  I find it offensive that they seem to be quite flippant about the responsibility that they have towards their work.  As a viewer, it feels dishonest and, dare I say, a little disgusting when I compare it to the Book Blogging Community.

When a book blogger receives an ARC from a publisher or something like Netgalley, they always say that they received the copy for free.  Our number one goal is honesty, both in how we receive something and in how we state our views on it.  I can't even imagine a book blogger being paid to review something.  And, as a whole, we tend to take our reviews seriously because we want to really explain why we liked or disliked a book. 

By attacking each other over the idea of critical reviews and misunderstanding each other's points, I think that the BookTube community is missing the vital issue at hand: that there are people being paid to review and receiving free books that are not mentioning it and are not being transparent.  That is very problematic. 

There does not need to be a schism in your community.  You do not all need to get along, but I think you agree on more than you think.

As I said, I'm a blogger, so you can take this with a grain of salt.  Just thought I'd throw my two cents in as an observer.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

What #HaleNo and #BloggerBlackout Really Mean

I feel the need to have a space where these two hashtags can be explained in as an accessible way as possible.  I'm not perfect and my explanation of them may not be everyone's explanation of them, but I ask you to please take a moment to read my subjective interpretation.  If you've anything to add, please do so in the comments and I will be happy to include them in this post.  I'd love for this to be a community explanation.

#HaleNo is a hashtag that represents blogger's taking a stance against the recent insanity to do with Kathleen Hale stalking a blogger to her home, and now also has to do with Richard Brittain, an author who stalked a reviewer and committed physical harm against her.  It is a peaceful protest against that sort of behavior in the community.  Also, this needs to be made clear: We also do not support the recent doxxing of Kathleen Hale and many bloggers reported that incident.  I just wanted that to be heard.

#Bloggerblackout is a movement that has been ignited due to the recent events.  In short, it's a movement where bloggers are choosing not to review until October 27th (although I have heard that some are prolonging their blackout) in order to get back in touch with their roots.  The truth is, blogging is for the bloggers and the reviews are for the readers.  I think it's great when bloggers and authors and publishers form beautiful relationships.  I really think that's a wonderful aspect of blogging, but I don't think it's ever been intended to be the main aspect.  Please respect that bloggers are trying to remember why they began blogging in the first place and to rekindle their love for it.

The reason why I didn't participate in the #Bloggerblackout is because I do not do ARC reviews in general.  At least, not yet.  I've been reviewing much older books.  However, I do 100% support the #Bloggerblackout for however long the bloggers want to maintain it.

I hope this explains a few things.

Friday, October 24, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins

To summarize this book in one sentence: The Yellow Wallpaper is about a woman's descent into the harrowing grasp of Post Partum Depression while her husband and sister-in-law ignore her growing issues out of ignorance, blind righteousness and fear.

This story starts out seemingly harmless enough. A woman and her husband move to the countryside so that she can recover from a mysterious ailment. Her husband seems to be careful, even overprotective - "He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction."- but with good intentions. The narrator wants to stay in the downstairs bedroom, but her husband insists on her staying in the ex-nursey with the horrendous yellow wallpaper.

As the story progresses, she becomes more and more fascinated, and frightened, by the wallpaper: "There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will." As she continues her narration, the reader quickly discovers that there is something, very, very wrong. However, it is only the reader who notices this. All those around her seem to casually overlook her issues and they continue to grow and consume her.

Being trapped inside the head of a woman who is spiraling out of control is a terrifying experience. Her obsession with the wallpaper grows, she begins to see in it a woman who "wanted to get out", she becomes an insomniac, falls into paranoia and yet nobody does anything about it. The frustration I felt towards everyone around her, everyone who was seeing the effects of her PPD firsthand was something unlike I've ever felt while reading.

 Towards the end, she conflates herself with the woman she sees in the wallpaper, signaling her final break:  

"I've got out at least," said I, "in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!"

 I was honestly surprised by how chilling this was. I knew, going into it, that it was about PPD and I knew that it was a disturbing read, but I didn't expect it to affect me as strongly as it did. The honest truth is that PPD is still a very ignored problem among new and older mothers. We still live in a world where a woman suffering from PPD is forced to have more and more children and never get any help - which ultimately leads to her being jailed for trying to drown them, but her husband getting off with a simple slap on the wrist for ignoring her mental issues. The Yellow Wallpaper while written over a hundred years ago, holds a message that is still very relevant and important today.

Highly recommended. 82 accessible pages and maybe an hour of your time that will be well spent.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

An Open Letter to The Guardian


Dear The Guardian writers and editors,

Maybe, considering I'm writing in regards to Kathleen Hale's recent piece on catfishes and negative book reviews, you think I should turn my attention to her.  But I don't think I can add much to what some other fantastic bloggers have already said in their Twitter feed and in their letters.  Instead, I want to talk to you.  

When you post an article like Ms. Hale's and allow a woman who stalked and harassed a book blogger to be painted in a heroic light, it's a problem.  When you sugarcoat the word "stalk" and replace it with "confront," it's a problem.  When you allow this woman to place herself on a pedestal, to gather sympathy for her wrongdoings, and ignore the fact that what she did was dangerous and illegal, it's a serious problem.

In 2006, over 3.4 million people reported incidents of being stalked.  And in these cases, over 130,000 people were fired or asked to leave their work place due to said stalking.  (Source.) Perhaps you can argue that this isn't the case between the blogger and Ms. Hale because the blogger hasn't been fired, but this blogger was called at her work place.  She was harassed on her work phone.  Ms. Hale brought her work place into this as soon as she made that first phone call.  

But wait, you'll argue, nothing bad came of it.  The blogger was not injured.  There were no threats made, no guns drawn.  Not all stalking starts off violent.  In fact, 70-80% of stalkers are just "obsessive stalkers" and do nothing violent at all... at first.  However, by giving her your approval, you have basically just given the green light to Ms. Hale that her behavior is okay.  And many stalkers do become violent after a time. (Source.)

You gave Kathleen Hale a platform. You allowed her to say what the blogger's real occupation is.  You allowed her to reveal personal information about this blogger that should have never been on the internet to begin with.  This blogger used a fake identity, but so what?  After this article, do you wonder why?  Can you blame her for being careful about her safety?  Can you blame her for using an alias?  But here's the kicker: after going to such lengths to portray herself as someone else, she was still stalked and harassed.  

The issue of this piece isn't the blogger's online alias, it's Ms. Hale's chilling and deeply disturbing behavior.

Kathleen Hale invaded that blogger's privacy in a way that is unforgivable.  She showed up at her house and placed herself into the blogger's personal life when she should have never had that information to begin with.  

Shame on you for allowing an article to be published.  Shame on you for defending a woman who is a predator.  Shame on you for allowing this predator to paint herself as the victim, and the perpetuate the myth that she was somehow actually victimized.

Ms. Hale is not a hero.  She is not a victim.  She is a predator.  

I am just so entirely disappointed in you.

Sincerely,

Julia