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A Few Helps Humbly Requested

My foray into LinkedIn has been discouraging. I'd really hoped that some of the services I've offered folks might get me some recs or endorsements, but that hasn't been going as well as I'd hoped.

If anyone feels I've done well with writing/editing, reiki, spiritual readings, doula-ing, child/in-home care, or organizing groups/activities, I'd really appreciate sharing that on the site. And if not – please tell me how I can improve! I've tried hard to do so over the years, especially with birth/education, since I felt like maybe I was too hesitant during my first couple of births. I'd particularly like feedback on reiki/shamanic practices and writing, since those are skills I can do from home. Also, I'm kind of hoping that slowly networking and making connections might help me find an agent when the time comes.

Speaking of writing, that brings me to my next point: TIME TRAVEL. I'm trying to decide whether I want to add the possibility of time travel into my science fantasy WIP (work in progress). For those who don't recall, the short version of the plot is MAGIC ON A SPACESHIP. A strange “anomaly” occurs, giving different powers to various people. Some people's powers are stronger than others...and some folks down the line who come from, say, two particularly powerful parents (or a whole lineage of them) might have even stronger powers than what first pops up.

It occurred to me that if I ever want to explore time-travelly stories in this world, I'll have to introduce the concept early on. I've been working through the Outlander series, so it's been on my mind. Even if I have someone from, say, my short story's era – I have one short story set about 4,000 yrs in the future – who can time travel, then s/he would still have to show up now (the idea being that they can't go past the anomaly point itself, or perhaps one other major plot point, being stuck only to the “magical” era). Time travel is not that far-out of an idea, since I have folks who can teleport/travel through space. If space-time is related, especially in a book set in space, perhaps the time option should be there.

So, two questions in that regard: Should I go for it? I have a lot of magical powers already, but if I don't include it now, I can't include it in the milieu at all. I do know some of my futuristic setting, so having someone from that time frame would not be difficult to add in. I also have [Spoiler alert for people who want to read it]two 'immortal' characters who will be on the ship until a planet is found. 'Immortal' being in quotes because there may be a way to kill them in the future, but for all intents and purposes of this plot point, they can't die. So they would know said character(s) in his/her/their own time, and see them off-and-on throughout the years. This would also pretty much let them know that there's no “fixing” the issue.

So my second question is: Can you recommend any good time travel stories? I'm well into the Outlander series, though taking a much-needed break from it. I'm pretty sure I've already read The Time Traveler's Wife. Do you know of any others that are handled with great skill and which I should definitely read if I'm considering the trope? Shows/movies would be happily received as well, but I'm mostly wanting books to research.

Thanks for any help you might give!

Annual Cull Coming

Time for my yearly social media cull! I've already done my Goodreads, & next up is LJ. May even do facebook despite the fact that I quit months ago.

Mostly, I'll be deleting anyone whom I don't recall talking/typing to for a year or more. I have tons of friends kept because I desperately wish we were friends like we used to be a decade or more ago. In my efforts to move healthily forward, that's likely not doing me any favors.

However, since my memory problems are worsening every day (see my recent post, I Am 35, Losing My Memory (Mind?), and Scared), I worry that I'll inadvertently delete the wrong people. Especially since I have many FB friends who haven't posted here in so long that I may not have a real name 'note' attached to them.

So if you're still reading &/or I delete you somewhere on total accident because we're still very awesome together, please don't hesitate to let me know!

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Josh: In the Beginning

I remember when I first realized that Josh liked me more than I had credited, and it's one of my favorite memories.

I'd known Josh off-and-on for several years already. More off than on, because I rarely saw him, and when I did, I'm not sure he ever actually spoke to me. He dated one of my good friends through high school, and I'd see him at her house sometimes, but I seem to only remember him occasionally laughing &/or shaking his head at us.

The first time I legitimately remember him speaking to me personally was probably 3-4 yrs after we first met. I was freshly back from my one year away at college, and I was staying under a bridge due to abuses at home which, being over 18, I was no longer legally required to put up with. His girlfriend, L, had been told my our mutual friend about my circumstances, and she and Josh showed up at the bridge and said, “T,” [what everyone called me in high school], “what the hell are you doing? Get in the truck. You're coming to live with us.” I found out years later that it was actually Josh, not my friend, who insisted upon this.

I lived with them as roommate for about a year, maybe year and a half, until L decided to blow up at me and kick me out one day out of the blue. I was homeless again, which really sucked, but I managed to get a “free if you move” 1970s mobile home...which probably sucked worse than sleeping under bridges or on school buses. I had a place though, even if it was so disgusting that only two rooms were livable, and there was no electricity or water. A kerosene heater, camper toilet, and water jugs I could fill at work made it good enough for me.

Eventually things blew up between Josh and L, and they broke up...without telling any of us for three months (so she said; Josh tells me now it was actually a year!). They even still lived together. So what a surprise it was when he hit on me! Because I had always known him as 'my friend's boyfriend', I had literally never even looked at him that way. Once I finally learned they'd broken up, and some time ago, I gave it some thought and decided Josh could maybe be fun. I'd heard some very good things that I was curious about, to be perfectly honest, and we were both single and at the time celibate. L had actually encouraged such a thing once before, so I knew she wouldn't mind. I liked and trusted him. I thought he put the moves on me specifically mainly out of convenience, since I was still over visiting quite a lot. We'd become good friends by then. Why not?

L eventually moved out, and a few months later Josh was forced to do the same. He had no place to live, so I invited him to stay at my hovel until he found a place. With only two livable rooms, we of course shared my bedroom. Again, I thought it was merely a convenience thing for him.

Until one night. I guess it was a bit romantic, since I had to light by candles anyway, but I sat at the head of my bed and he sat at the foot playing his guitar. We'd lived together long enough before, hung out in between, and I'd heard him play guitar a million times. He's so cute about it – he plays well, but the man can't sing. He does it with such passion and abandon though, happily rocking out. It's fantastic! This time was different, though. I can't put my finger on what, exactly, made it different, but this time it was obvious that he wasn't just playing for himself, for the joy of it. Josh was playing for me.

I'd never had a guy play guitar and sing for me before. I still can't say what was so different about it; maybe it was just the charge in the air or the way he looked at me. I don't know. I just remember thinking, “Whoa! This...might not be 'convenience' for him after all. He might actually like me in that like-like way.”

Not much later, we were at one of his friend's houses, and Josh pulled me on his lap, smiling at me and kissing me right in front of his buddy. In his seven years of dating L, I'm not sure I ever saw him do that. He was always quiet, in the corner, observing, and not prone to great public displays of passion. That day I dropped the “might” and realized that I shouldn't sell myself so short. He seemed to legitimately like me – a lot – and I realized and finally admitted to myself that, surprisingly enough, there was a very good chance I was falling in love with him.

Luckily, I was right on both accounts.

The Fiery Cross, by Diana Gabaldon

The Fiery Cross, by Diana Gabaldon, doesn't really fit in my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge, but I'm dedicated to finishing the series. Maybe.


The Fiery Cross


Short version: Better writing than most of the books so far, but hardly any plot – which is extremely disappointing in a 1450 pg book! How to best summarize this book? Claire & co. do mundane things, and because they are Claire & co., we're supposed to enjoy it. I think. One important plot point actually happens...and it was one I despise and think completely unnecessary.

It took me nearly a month to read (didn't grab me like some of the others), and I was sick for a large portion, so my recollection is not pristine. I don't think there was an actual rape in this book (finally!), but a previous rape was still the major focus of the book. However, all the 'plotting' surrounding this situation comes to naught. Repeatedly. So...what's the point again?

I guess she did clarify one thing I bashed in a previous review – here she says Claire never told Jaime about a certain someone trying to kill her. I find it incredibly hard to believe that she didn't, and I thought she did, but I'm not about to reread to see. I think DG banks on that.

The swapping between viewpoints was a bit clearer this time, though Bree seems to have changed dramatically, and not for the better. There were some incredibly unbelievable points, like a very wounded buffalo continuing to stand still and complacent while people scream, someone touches him, and then finally kills him. Also, Jemmy develops at an extremely slow and unhealthy rate (until the last chapter), not talking or walking until well past eighteen months, and doctor Claire assures Bree that it's plenty normal. It's not. He's a generic infant well into toddlerhood, and he doesn't begin to speak or get around until she finally decides he could potentially be important-ish at the very end.

Roger also changes quite a bit, though more towards his initial self that I really liked. Then she dumps on him, lights him on fire, pisses on the ashes, and dumps on him again. There are a lot of missions that literally amount to nothing, just to have them wander around pretending like things are happening. They're not. We almost think something is finally going to happen...but it, too, does not.

It's basically a hedonistic revelry in her own characters, almost seeming like an unending fanfic, complete with plenty of sex, some new fetishes, and absolutely no plot. I like the characters, but I like them way more when they're accomplishing things. Obvious 'middle book' that does not seem to be a complete novel on its own, despite being the length of seven novels. It has better writing though, so it's not completely boring until you close the book and think, “So what, exactly, happened? Was there any point to this one besides sales and contractual obligations?”

I still miss the good Fergus.

Whole30 (No, really!)

I'll be doing Whole30 (hopefully really-truly) again starting September 5. The whole Whole30 'family' will be doing it together, so much like NaNoWriMo, this is the perfect time to get tons of support, great feedback, and motivation. I've tried it twice again this year and failed both times, but I really hope to finish strong this time. I've always had such great health benefits when I do the program, and I know it's an easy & sure way for me to drop a bunch of weight, which I sorely need right now.

Does anyone want to be Whole30 buddies? It's a strict program, but I really can't sing its praises enough. I'm always iffy on the re-introduction phase, as I tend to have a big problem with binging when I'm not on such a strict plan, but I'm going to really try to get it right this time.

Yes, it's a strict plan – but worth it. On Whole30, for 30 days, you have to avoid:


  • Sugar of any kind, real or artificial

  • Alcohol

  • Grains

  • Dairy

  • Legumes (green beans, sugar snap peas, and snow peas are allowed)

  • MSG/carageenan/sulfites

  • Paleo versions of 'baked' goods/junk food, even if made with compliant ingredients

  • Scales



Now, some people go super-strict and turn into the Whole30 police, but Melissa (who started the program), has clarified some of that here:

The official “Can I Have” guide

and

Whole30 Rules vs. Recommendations

Silk unsweetened almond milk IS compliant! So is Kroger brand – Simply Truth/Simply Nature, or something like that? You don't actually have to make those kinds of things from scratch anymore.

Anyway, if you are interested, here is the Meal Template. I've already started pre-making some food, because there's definitely a lot more cooking involved than what I'm used to. I also want to make sure I have proper pre- and post-workout meals made up ahead of time, so I'm not just grabbing a boiled egg and really sucking at that part. I have been trying to workout more, so doing it right is imperative to me.

It does get pricey with some of the specialty items, especially for me since I have to drive 2 hrs to a good health food store. I have some of my pricier items set away already – compliant deli roast beef (which I can only find at Kroger – have to pick up some compliant dinner sausages too), compliant canned tuna, lots of frozen fish & shrimp, giant bag of compliant almonds (Blue Diamond, if you're interested. Finding nuts that AREN'T roasted in peanut or soy oil is surprisingly difficult), coconut oil (I do need more), cans/jars of olives. I just need to pick up ghee and a large jar of green olives and avocados. I can't do coconut or coconut milk, so having a good supply of healthy fats that I enjoy is really important. I'd really love to either take a road trip across the IL border to the nearest Pederson's store I could find or maybe order some stuff online, so I can get a larger supply of compliant meats that I usually have to do without, like BACON, kielbasas, etc.

I'm working on meal plans so I can freeze a lot of stuff, since I tend to 'fall off the wagon' when I'm hungry, in a hurry, & have no time for (or just don't feel like) cooking. I've got a big tupperware of veggie soup put away, which I think I'll keep for quick breakfasts. All I have to do is add a couple boiled eggs or a chunk of leftover meat. I bought a 2 ½ dozen pack of eggs, which I will make frittatas & boiled eggs with (and likely omelets, when I can force myself to cook in the mornings). And now that potatoes are compliant, I think I'll do up some shepherd's pie to freeze in individual servings. I'll look up some good Whole30 recipes once I do the stuff I already know how. I'll also buy a whole chicken, which I usually do in the crockpot to have easy pre-cooked meat, and then I'll make a bone broth from the carcass. And I need to find some rabbit again, as I always seem to crave it during Whole30. I get tired of the same ol', so I like switching it up. I also plan to attempt making salmon patties with maybe almond flour or flax seed or something. Wish me luck on that one.

I'm really looking forward to this! I've been feeling pretty bad about myself for a while, both health-wise and just with how I look these days. I'm eager to fix it, and I'm very eager to feel better.

I have none of the books – and this round starts on Sept. 5 to coincide with the release of Melissa's next book – but all of the necessary info is offered for free online! That's one reason why I love this program so much. I do hope to augment this by buying a few books when I get paid next month, mainly because I want to financially support the program that has given me so much, but also because it'd be great for me to have hard copies since I've been working so hard at staying mostly offline. But I will definitely be checking in for accountability and to help encourage anyone who joins me!

Home

I remember when Missouri finally felt like home.

As I mentioned in my last post, we moved around a lot when I was a kid. Probably roughly once a year. There were a few times we stayed in one place for two years, and I would always get stir-crazy after a year.

The longest I ever lived in one place was the eight year stretch that Josh and I lived in Leicester, NC (and, honestly, I don't remember the last year; I always seem to think we only lived there seven years, but no, it was eight). I did get stir-crazy after a year, but soon we fell pregnant and things changed dramatically anyway. I liked having a home for my children. We had the best yard in our trailer park. It wasn't where I'd always wanted to live by any stretch, and it was 'far' enough out that few people ever visited us (I scoff about that now...), but the home was ours if not the land, and we were happy.

Everything suddenly seemed weird when we moved to MO. I didn't notice it when we first moved, being busy carting things and overflowing with excitement. Our dear friend Tracy kept the girls while we did most of the major move, and then we went back to NC to drop off the truck and pick up the kids. It was night when we arrived, and they were of course out of it as they were roused, but I beamed and threw my arms out, promising, “This is home!”

And everything shifted. I looked up at the night sky and got the most intense sense of vertigo that I'd ever felt. The sky was wrong. I felt like I was falling, and I may have even had to grab Josh to steady myself. It was all so foreign, so alien. It wasn't right.

I'd never lived in one place long enough to get so very used to it, but now that I had, it was so odd. I now lived under the wrong sky. I'd never realized how accustomed I'd grown to our Leicester sky, but I realized now – and I remember the times Josh and I stood in our driveway with our arms around each other, watching meteor showers, and I remembered all the times I sat outside doing so many reiki ceremonies. That night sky had become an anchoring part of me without ever realizing it.

Shocked as I was in that moment, I felt like a woman drowning. I flailed around, seeking some familiar sight. I looked for my “itsy-bitsy-teeny-tiny-tornado” that had always been my anchor point back in NC. I'd always thought of it as such growing up, and I gave it my own silly kid-name without ever knowing what it was, but I suspect it's probably the Pleiades. I grew increasingly concerned when I couldn't find it, and I spun around on my sidewalk and then in my yard until I found it. Far off in the whole wrong place! It was so heavy and noticeable, this weird sky change.

And I remember the exact instance when I came home one evening, probably 3 or more years later, and the world shifted again, at least for my mind. I was hurrying in to join the family, probably had an armload of groceries or something, and I noticed the sky out of the corner of my eye – and everything stopped. I cartoon-scooted to a stop myself, surprised by the sudden stillness in time, and just tilted my head back to look up at the sky that suddenly looked so right.

I'd been out all day and was so glad to be home, but I thought of 'home' as my family. That evening, I realized this place, our Grateful Stead, had really and truly become home for me. I can't remember the day, the season, or even the year this happened, but I remember that very distinct moment when the world stopped me and told me my home was here. When nothing seemed off, awkward, foreign, or far away anymore. The house, the four acres of yard I work so hard to keep up with, my family within...and this gorgeous, sparkling view from above. All were right, comfy, and safe.

I hope I never forget that moment. I don't think I've ever had such a strong feeling of home as I did that night.
I've always been a bit 'scatter-brained', but my memory has gotten consistently worse since my mom's death in 2008. I remember that entire week so very vividly...and then maybe a handful of moments from the next few years. I started having blood pressure issues after having Maya in 2011, and while they're under control now (off the meds, even!), I still wonder if I didn't have a stroke a few years back when I lost all of my words one afternoon. For considering myself something of a writer, that was especially scary. If there's one thing I've always had, it's words.

At this point, I reckon that I can't remember at least half of my life, probably way more, and new memories seem very hard to make. Since I used to have a damn near perfect memory as a child, this is particularly frustrating for me. Most of my memories are from age 2-8, especially the years I lived in Illinois near my family. I know my clinging to that huge batch of memories is due to my abusive upbringing. My mom met my stepdad when I was eight, and I used to long for and obsess over the time when our lives were so free and happy. And yet while I did block out most of the abuse except for the really bad ones (in theory...more on that later) that stick out, I used to have a good recollection of the happy times I had as a kid. I don't have many of those anymore, and since I especially yearn for memories of my Momma, that hurts. While I know logically that we moved around a lot, and I lived -here- and -here- in third grade, -here- in fourth and fifth, -there- in sixth, etc., I maybe have one or two actual memories per year anymore.

I do remember a lot more from my late teens and twenties, when I was finally living on my own. This is why I figured it was probably abuse related and not a physical cause like stroke. There's one particular instance when I was given a good dose of morphine in the hospital, was taken home by Josh, and then lost my shit as I relived a very scary repressed memory, this one involving my mom rather than stepdad. What really freaked me out about that particular time was that once I remembered it, I knew it clearly & realized that it had only happened 3 or 4 years earlier. The fact that it was so recent and I just la-de-da'd around the two people who did know about it, and I hadn't, really freaked me out. I wondered how much more of those things I had lost and how bad they were (I always thought I had more emotional/mental abuse than physical, but what if I'd just pushed the worst physical ones away?), but I actually didn't want to know. Incidentally, I also list that I'm allergic to morphine now on my medical records, because I will never get near that stuff again.

Not that I didn't do my share of drugs at some point. I won't lie about that; I'd always been such a goody-goody my whole life (definite self-preservation), so I'd fully enjoyed my 'party year'. It had only been a year, maybe year and a half, and I knew a lot of people who did that for many years without seeming to have any memory issues. Now, I did some really good stuff and a couple really bad ones before becoming a bit more discerning. Perhaps it's that spunion phase catching up with me a half century earlier than expected.

My mom had started fretting a bit about her own memory before she died. I seem to recall her grumbling about possible early-onset dementia and buying less snacks and exercising more. I believe she's the one who first mentioned crosswords being helpful, and she started doing those at night. I don't know if she had actual medical problems or was just worried about aging, because to me, she had always seemed overly concerned with how she was aging. There's a lot I wish I could ask her about her and my grandma & great-grandma's medical histories. I know a bit, but I think maybe not enough.

For me, it's gone far beyond simple forgetfulness anymore. I literally cannot remember anything if I don't write it down, and I have a great many notebooks and often forget where I put which one. There were a couple of times that I ran late picking up the kids from summer camp because I actually forgot. My kids are my world, and they're what I'm able to focus on the most. Plus, you know, it's not like the house isn't incredibly, vastly, noticeably different when the three of them aren't here. While those two times were just embarrassing, I've recently had some scarier instances of driving down the road and not knowing where I'm going. Usually it's just, “Whoops, what am I doing again?”, but I turned the wrong way once and had to check the time to figure out where I was supposed to be going, confirm I actually was headed elsewhere, and turn myself back the right way. The galling part is that I wasn't on “driver auto-pilot” or going by some kind of daydreaming muscle memory, because I'd actually turned the opposite way from where I usually turn. And I wasn't quite sure why I wasn't home.

So, yeah, it's gotten scarier. The doctor whom I thought I really liked & who would help me through both physical and mental health issues actually ended up turning super-crappy and willfully made both worse. I'm still fuming over our last few encounters, which are some of those so charged as to be vividly recalled, but she's left the practice and good riddance. I swapped to two other health centers (still in the same network) and don't mind the extra drive to get people who will actually help me. I now see a nurse-practitioner, which Josh seemed to initially be doubtful about after my experience with Dr. Evil. He doesn't like doctors anyway. I pointed out that nurses are the ones who actually do things, so I was optimistic. And so far, so good! Within our first meeting, I had my necessary meds back and an appointment for a CT scan. Which came back normal. I do have an appointment for an MRI, but they can't get me in before late November.

I've been trying to research and do things on my own to get better. I've picked up some word searches, though no crosswords yet. And I haven't done them yet, but I will. I'm attempting to start a 'memory palace'. I know we're supposed to use a place that we know well, but I have an actual castle that I'm trying to learn exceptionally well for my novel, so I'm trying to memorize that. I know my entry area fairly well but only recently sat down to design a whole, huge, crazy magical castle and grounds. I need to learn the insides and outsides of it...but my notebook isn't where I usually put it, and I can't recall where else I might have put it. I'm working on that, too. I'm also trying to eat better, eat more fish or take fish oil, exercise more, learn new skills, cut back on caffeine, have a screen-free hour before bed (that's still on the missier side of hit-or-miss), read more books again, be fully present during conversations, consciously try to make memories of wonderful moments, get out with friends (also more miss than hit, but at least I'm trying), manage my depression better, and get more organized. Yes, I had to check my list because I couldn't remember all of it. These things are supposed to help. I was doing a couple apps for a while, but I didn't really keep up with them. I guess I should start again, if I can make room for them on my cheapo phone.

I've also decided that I'm going to attempt to remember my happiest, favorite memories and log them here. It bothers me that it's so hard to make new memories of my beautiful family. This is the happy part of my life, with a family I love. I don't know why I'm struggling so hard now, when I did so well during the bad time! I don't want to lose these great moments, so I'm going to revisit them and start a new 'Memories' tag here on lj (different from the memories feature on our profile pages). I will read them and read them and read them so that I don't lose them. And if I do keep losing them anyway, or losing myself, which I am greatly fearing these days, I'll still have them here to revisit.

Drums of Autumn, by Diana Gabaldon

The Drums of Autumn, by Diana Gabaldon, is another TBR book for my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge.


Drums of Autumn


I'm astounded at the gushing praise. This is the worst book of the series yet. I wish I'd never picked up book 2 (which I loved) and got sucked in. I'm already invested in finding out what happens, fighting at first the grotesqueness of Gabaldon's continuous rape anthology (4 for 4 – called it, and this one wholly unneeded and ruining the whole premise/book, imo) and now just general crap writing. WHAT HAPPENED? And how inconvenient to discuss without major spoilers!

I give it two stars only because there was still some glimmer of good writing in there. A passage or two caught my throat or made me tear up. The rest...well, I was tearing up all right, but mostly in rage and incomprehension. And this one should have been a good one!

I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the Brianna/Roger passages and anxiously looked forward to them – kept me up at night, even. My excited all-nighter soon turned to horror at the literary trainwreck I could not unsee.

Every single character quickly careened so far OOC that I was confused as to who was saying what and whose passage I was reading – because POV switches are separated by passages, not necessarily chapters. This was not helped at all by shoddy editing. Rather than keeping one character's dialogue in a paragraph together, as is usually the case, we would often start with a quote, follow with some description or inner monologue, and the next paragraph appears to start a new person speaking, but no, it was constantly just a continuation of the previous speaker, with no dialogue tags or obvious clarity. I was constantly rereading, which sucks when a book is nearly 1k pages. For instance:

~


“Say, I sure feel like doing something totally stupid and completely out of character.” I contemplated the weight of that statement, gazing at everybody's gleaming russet/amber/orange/roan hair. What would it be like, to lose myself so completely that readers are unsure if this is even the same series?

“How about we get naked and ride yon cedar to the moon? I hear it's great fishing this time of year. We could maybe polka. No? Here, a bit of whiskey. How about tango? Foxtrot?” Jaime blinked at me in surprise, not because what I said was so astounding, but because he'd thought this had been his paragraph until this very second.

~


Plus, characters were actually using the verbatim dialogue of each other. I wasn't sure is this was purposeful, to try to highlight how much we're all alike/not so different after all, or if she just didn't realize that (possibly hyperbole, but likely not) sixteen characters shared the same line, three folks from different cultures share a few others, and that would-be lovers using Daddy's pick-up lines is really skeevy and detracts from everyone's sexiness. Side characters were so similar as to be indistinguishable most of the time.

This whole book suffers from my worst nemesis and greatest fear – Middle Book Syndrome. You know the one; the entire plot focuses on Giant, Obvious, Idiotically OOC Misunderstandings, plural. Had anybody actually talked to each other, well, I reckon the story would have been more enjoyable even at only 12 pages.

Claire and Jaime didn't sound nor act like themselves, except for the ever-passionate love-making. Roger sounded more like Jaime than Jaime did, and Brianna was happy as Ma to yell and stomp her feet at any man, only everything she did (right down to foot stomping) was exceptionally toddlerish, ill-thought, and, yes, dangerous. Everybody makes bad decisions that they never would have in the other books (or even the beginning of this one, really), and I spent most the time yelling, “Och, ye wee idiot! That shite was as obvious 782 pages ago as it is now!” Even the good parts were ruined by our competent, strong, intelligent heroes and heroines...being totally not.

Verra disappointing. But the story...I have to know. It's a good premise with characters that, until now, I'd felt very invested in. Including Fergus, who not only didn't get much screen-time but was relegated to side character indistinguishable from any other if not for his hook. If only I could go back and warn her: More Fergus, less rape, and don't forget who everyone is. Oh, and try to make it sound less like the mountains of NC are just a quick jaunt from Wilmington for everybody, especially by wagon and no roads. Double-especially when making jokes about Europeans just not understanding how vast America is!

Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon, is a 'To Be Read' book for my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge, and I'm also counting it as the 'book with a love triangle' in my yet-unfinished 50 Book Challenge. This thing is over 1000 pages and should definitely count where I can.


Voyager


I have mixed feelings about this. I'd felt kind of 'meh' about Outlander (liked the story more than the execution) but was blown away by Dragonfly in Amber. I really wanted to love Voyager. I ended up liking it despite myself.

There may be mild spoilers, but nothing too major. Some is necessary content warning, imo.

I'm okay with a whole lot of writers' license and even a great dash of craziness in fiction. I don't usually care for the 'One True Love' trope, but this one works – and adds depth to a great speculative story, focusing on a love so strong it can transcend time and more. Not my usual thing, but I like it here. I like magic, so I have no problem with the juxtaposition of penicillin and scientific inquiry with voudoun and magical inquiry. I've seen a fair bit of craziness myself, and fiction can go ahead and go long with it.

But there were so many things that would have been deal-breakers if the story itself wasn't so good – and of course Jamie. I'm not in love with him so much as I think his dialogue is brilliant from a writing point of view. And I usually hate heavy-handed written dialect, so that's a huge accomplishment for me and nearly worth a whole star in and of itself. I love so many elements, some to my surprise...but the stuff that didn't work, man, it was bad.

Most benign was the long and awkward rebuttal – I mean, conversation – about why good authors often need and produce hugely-long works wherein each word is absolutely vital to the storyline. I can grudgingly admit that this is true, if extremely rare, but it definitely doesn't apply here. There was a whole 'surprise twist' plot that seemed totally out of character for every single person involved, though I saw later why that particular choice was made. I could have given her a pass for all that if this had wowed like Dragonfly, and if she hadn't added about 800 pages of sheer WTF-ery.

Much, much (oh so very much) worse were the many, many instances of racial stereotype and exploitation. Not 'real and gritty' exploitation of the times, but what this author wrote for her story. Perhaps for talk or publicity? Or is she really okay exploiting these concepts so easily herself? The rapiness of each novel is bad enough (and people should be warned that it is indeed each novel so far), but a whole character and his several storylines were like a giant parody, but I don't think they were meant to be. Definitely not vital – or what aspects might have been vital could have been done much, much more respectfully. If she wanted to show the realness of the times, she could have broken out of that 'yellow Chinaman/mindless n---r' mentality herself, yet she revels in it instead, and the story seriously suffers for it. Show the slave market if you must to show Claire's righteous indignation and how it may be more complicated than it seems, but there's a way to do that and a way not to, and this is about ten klicks past 'way not to'.

I wished I could have stopped reading, but the story does have me by now, especially since the show is so good. I'm sad and disgusted that I do end up giving her a pass, because I'm still itching to press on to the next book and find out what happens. I like the books, the good parts are so well done, and I want to really love them, but there's legitimate criticism around this book that I sincerely hope she listened to in the next. I'll even happily deal with thousands of pages and let her preen all she wants if they can stop being filled with unnecessary disrespect and continuous rape.
Decoding Your Dog: Explaining Common Dog Behaviors and How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones, by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, is my 'collection of essays' book for my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge.


Decoding Your Dog


This was nowhere near as awesome as I had hoped. A lot of it was really basic stuff, but I guess that's helpful for people who have never had a dog before. My biggest issue is that it was just so repetitive. Not just the 'basic rehash' portion at the end of the chapters, and not entirely the fact that chapters were written by different experts (that particular repetitiveness – a word they felt compelled to define, btw – should have been fixed by the editors)...most chapters themselves were constantly repeating the same thing. Had it been more succinct, it might have been a third as long.

Granted, the book itself can be boiled down to “More exercise/routine”, “Feed from a puzzle toy”, “Rule out medical issues”, and “Hire a veterinary behaviorists”. The latter isn't surprising given who wrote it, but they are definitely needed in some cases. Still, I had hoped for more understanding of dog behavior myself, which this book didn't really provide.

I did learn a lot about different medical issues that could be the culprit for issues we may initially believe are behavior issues. There are a few tips for troubleshooting problems that I may use in the future.

They mention “swatting” as punishment early on, and I initially thought they were suggesting such a thing. I nearly stopped reading there. It was later in the book where they started discussing how physical punishment has most often made things worse and should be avoided. All in all, I think these are some good essays by experts, but the editors should have done a much better job. The title is misleading, imo,as this didn't really teach much about 'decoding' behaviors. The 'prevent & change' portion of the subtitle is right on, I guess. For new pet owners (who have never read a single dog book before) or people looking to troubleshoot issues, this would be great. For people wanting to learn more about animal behavior and communication, I feel this misses the mark.

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