Hello, hello!  We’ve reached the final Wednesday in February, so you know what that means.  It’s book review time!  Instead of grabbing an advanced reader copy of something, I decided to scroll through Amazon’s suggestions for me and pick a recent release.  This time, I went with The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin.  It was released on January 9th by G. P. Putnam’s Sons and has received fairly high praise from what I’ve seen.  I try not to look at reviews until I’ve formed my initial opinions, so I picked it up solely based on the cover and the blurb.  Let’s get on with the review.

I really like the tree, but there’s no tree in the story unless you look at it as a family tree or the tree of life or whatever.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin follows the Gold siblings on their journeys through life.  What’s so special about them?  Well, it all starts when they go to a seer who takes them into her apartment one by one and tells them the date of their deaths.  After that, the book is divided into four sections (one for each sibling) that reveals how they choose to live in spite of or because of having this information.

We start off with Simon, the youngest, who drops out of high school and moves to San Francisco in the late ’70s with his sister Klara, the only family member who knows he’s gay.  He leaves behind a life where he’s expected to take over the family business and take care of his mother after his father’s death, a life he knows will make him miserable.  He chooses to live the life he wants.  And despite the way he dies, he’s happy at the end.

From there, things get progressively more depressing.  Klara has always been the oddball of the family, wanting to be a magician and living in a world in her head where anything is possible, even overcoming death by dying.  Daniel let’s his rage fester until it drives him to hunt down the seer as someone to blame for all of the death he’s had to deal with.  And Varya spends so much time trying not to die that she forgets to live.

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A good summary of my thoughts as I read this book.

All in all, I really enjoyed the story and the characters.  My only complaints with the book come from more of a writerly point of view than a readerly one.  For instance, there was a ton of telling in this book.  Instead of showing me the places that were important to the characters, it was as if the author wanted to cram in as many place names as possible.  As someone who isn’t from New York or California, many of the places were unfamiliar to me and felt like filler.  Instead of telling me every single club Simon went to or Klara performed at, it would’ve been nice to get a more in-depth view of those two characters.  Their arcs felt really rushed whereas Daniel’s and Varya’s felt dragged out.

Another thing I noticed was that the story seemed to randomly change between present and past tense.  It didn’t detract from the story, but it was something I noticed.  I’d go back to try to figure out why the shifts occurred and, a lot of the time, I’d find no real reason for it.  Couple that with random changes in character points of view (Mom taking over a scene in Klara’s section, the niece taking over part of Varya’s section, etc.), and it made for some awkward reading moments.

Me trying to figure out the tense and POV.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the book and am happy I bought it.  It’s a quick read.  It only took me about six days to finish it (I’m a super slow reader).  Despite my issues with it, I thought it was a nice reading experience.

starstarstarstarstar outline

Overall, I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.  If you’re into slice of life stories or literary fiction with a hint of magical realism, I’d definitely recommend picking it up.

Seven Things I Believe: Then And Now

Howdy, howdy!  I was cleaning out the notes on my phone yesterday, when I came across something from one of my workshops at Stonecoast.  This particular group was led by the lovely Theodora Goss.  Just about every day, she would send us off with questions to think about and we’d discuss our answers the following day after we finished our critiques.  One day, she asked us to list seven things we believe.  There were no guidelines beyond this, so things went in a lot of different directions from what I remember.  Anyway, I thought I would share my old list and make a new one.

It’s just a pretty picture.

The old (2014) version, in no particular order:

1. I believe music keeps me sane while inspiring me.

2. I believe growing up and acting your age are scams created by people who are jealous of the young at heart.

3. I believe in priorities: food, sleep, and eye candy.

4. I believe life is too short to be serious all the time.

5. I believe family is more than blood.  It’s the people who love you and keep you around because of your flaws.

6. I believe coffee and booze were created to be mixed together.

7. I believe the angels punted my soul into the wrong body at birth.  I should’ve been Japanese.

I just found this, so I thought I’d put it here and save it for later.

As you can see, I wasn’t very good at the whole introspection thing back then.  Spoiler alert: I’m still not.  I still completely believe in all of those things, especially the boozy coffee one.  But I thought I would give it another go now that I’ve graduated and have no one to ask me these weird questions anymore.

Here’s the new (2018) version, also in no particular order:

1. I believe there is more than one way to be a professional writer.  As long as you get words on the page and out into the world, it doesn’t matter if you write every day or not.  Find your own rhythm.

2. I believe binge watching anime (or whatever makes you happy) is good for the soul and cleanses the mind.  Not every day, but once every couple of months, just to give yourself a break from reality.

3. I believe puppy kisses have magical powers to perk people up.

4. I believe it’s important to surround yourself with people who have different viewpoints/backgrounds than you.  Along with the understanding that we don’t always have to agree, but that we can have civil discussions if we put in a little effort.

5. I believe in a thing called love!  Please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers that song.

6. I believe it’s perfectly reasonable to buy a book just because the cover is pretty.

7. I believe in myself.  This is not something that even crossed my mind when I was originally asked to list things I believed.  Despite all the rejection and failure, I’m finally at a place where I can say that I believe in me.  I will succeed.  Eventually.  At something.

Yeah.  That song by that guy.

There you go.  Seven things I believed back then and seven more from now.  What are seven things you believe?  Feel free to leave your list here or on my social media pages!

Love Is All You Need

Howdy, howdy!  Happy Valentine’s day!  Or Singles Awareness day, or VD day, or Chocolate Appreciation day, or Wednesday, or whatever.  Since it’s a special, lovey-dovey day and I’m sitting over here all single, I thought I would take a moment to treat myself.  I know I’ve said it before, but self-care really is important.  And I’ve kind of been neglecting myself lately.  Sure, I’ve been playing my mindless games, but Sunday was the first time I’ve watched anime in at least a month, probably closer to two.  I can’t even remember the last time I read manga.  Honestly, I’ve just been a bit blah towards everything lately.  I need to change that.

Sounds like a good plan to me.

So, after I write my words, I think I’m going to take the day off from my usual routine.  I won’t worry about reading the things I’m supposed to be reading.  I might even put writing on the novel to the side and write a random flash fiction piece or something.  Instead of worrying about my goals, I’ll write whatever I feel like writing.  But I’m coming up to a good part on the novel, so it’ll probably be that (I’m boring, I know).  Then, who knows where the day will take me.

I might rewatch some Ouran High School Host Club.  That’s about as close to romantic as I get, and it’s mostly because I adore the twins.  There’s also Yuri on Ice.  I could probably rewatch all of those episodes if I don’t procrastinate on my writing.  Maybe I’ll just find something completely new to binge watch.  On the other hand, I still haven’t finished rewatching Cardcaptor Sakura, which means I haven’t had a chance to watch the new episodes either.  I was super excited when I first heard about the new episodes, but I even got blah over that.  Shame on me.

I totally squee-ed a little the first time I saw this, so I’m not too far down the blah road.

Then again, I might not watch any anime.  I might decide to read some manga instead.  I’m so far behind on it all that no matter what I choose to read, I’ll have to start over again.  I could always just stick with some old favorites.  It has been a few years since I reread Angel Sanctuary.  That’s always super fun.  There are a couple of other titles I’ve been thinking about recently too, so I might try them again.  Who knows?

This gets all the d’awwws!  By Paluumin.

The point is, I’m actually starting to miss some of the things that used to entertain me.  What better day to get back to some old loves than Valentine’s day?  What are your plans for the day?  I know it’s a Wednesday, so many of you are probably working, but do you have any tiny (or huge) plans to pamper yourself or your loved one(s)?  Feel free to comment here or on my social media pages.  Even if you don’t like the holiday, I hope you have a wonderful day full of all kinds of good things!

Goals Vs. Allergies: The Struggle Is Real

Howdy, howdy!  Welcome to February.  Today, I want to share my goals for the month, but I also want to talk about allergies.  Down here in Texas, the trees are getting ready for spring by spewing pollen everywhere.  Depending on which way the wind’s blowing and which trees are shaking off their dust, this can create a miserable environment for people with allergies.  People like me.  Which, in turn, makes completing goals hard.  So, along with my goals, I’ll talk about how I work them around the worst of my allergy days.

Pretty picture.

So, here are my goals:

1. Finish DS1’s shitty first draft.  Writing in general is super hard when your head feels like it’s going to explode and your mucus can’t decide if it wants to hole up in your sinuses or pour all over your face (spoiler: it decides to do both).  Sure, you can take a bunch of allergy meds and hope they don’t knock you out before you get your words done, but we both know that won’t work.  Instead, I try to make sure I work as much as possible on the days I feel okay, so that I don’t feel too guilty for slacking on the days I feel like crap.  That’s really all we can do to get the writing goals done during allergy season.

2. Submit stuff 8 times (2 every Monday).  This is the kind of thing I do regardless of whether allergies are kicking my ass or not.  My cover letter is already written and my manuscript is properly formatted.  All I have to do is double check submission guidelines, make any formatting tweaks, and send stuff out.  It doesn’t take much energy or time, so if I’m feeling really bad, I can put it off until the initial medication drowsiness has faded.

Just add some snot and drool and it’s close enough.

3. Write 1 flash piece OR short story.  For those days you feel good enough to write but don’t have the brain function to focus on your novel.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes I just need something quick to distract me from all the plot lines I have to keep straight in the novels.  Especially when my brain already feels fuzzy from allergies.

4. Read 2 books.  I tend to save reading for the days when I just can’t bring myself to write, but feel like I should be doing something productive.  If  it gets too hard to focus, I can always switch to Netflix.

5. Make time for people/leaving the house.  I’m always bad at this whether allergies are involved or not.  But I do have a tendency to say yes to leaving the house (running errands with Dad) when I don’t feel up to writing.  It makes me feel productive in a different way and I don’t have to worry about the allergies making my words come out weird.

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It really is.

Those are my goals for February.  I figure it’s easier to stick to a few just in case my allergies get evil.  What are some of your goals this month?  How do you work around your allergies?  Or do you prefer to push through them?