Meh, Bleh: “Eleanor and Park” Review

Published June 29, 2015 by Maggie Williams

I think I’m broken. I really, really do. All of the books that people dub the best YA contemporary romance, I’m just kind of like, “Meh”. I adored “Fangirl”, I really did. It was relatable and funny on so many levels. And I had heard from so many people that this one was even better. I strongly disagree.

“Eleanor and Park” by Rainbow Rowell is a story of two teenagers in the 80s who are thrust into each other’s lives one day on the bus to school. Neither of them fit in, but they sort of unify in their outcast-ness and fall in love. The main obstacle in their relationship is Eleanor’s home life, which is truly horrible.

I liked this book in the beginning, in the build-up. It was adorable and made me all teary-eyed. But, for me, there just didn’t seem to be enough. Not enough knowledge about them as characters. Not enough time spent getting to know each other. Not enough in their relationship. Not enough in the plot. Not enough of an ending. The whole book just left me wanting more, but not in a good way. After finishing this book, I just felt sort of unsatisfied, which makes me really sad. I wanted to like this book like I liked “Fangirl”.

I think another of my main problems was that I didn’t connect with any of the characters. I didn’t understand them or love them on any deep levels. I normally don’t connect that much to characters in books, but this took that to a whole new level.

Like I said, I really liked the build-up. The build-up was just right. It was sweet and beautiful, and what I wanted the whole book to be like. But for some reason, it just wasn’t. I would probably give this book two out of five stars.

*Spoiler territory with some of my notes from when I was reading.*

Note 1: That’s so cute though. When they talk to each other, it’s like, “Whatever, bitch”, but then he goes home and he’s all making her mixtapes.

Note 2: I’m gonna puke it’s so cute.

Note 3: I understand zero of these 80s references.

Note 4: THAT HAND-HOLD THO. I’m literally getting all teary-eyed at two people holding hands.

Note 5: That was quick. Love already?

And that is where I stopped taking notes because I kind of stopped caring. I wanted it to get back to those cute moments so badly, but, in my opinion, it didn’t. The only other thing that I would add is that I was furious at Eleanor’s step-dad and her mother the entire time. I don’t know why her mother got to me so much in this particular case. In real life, I feel so deeply horrible for all the mothers who have to go through abuse like Eleanor’s mother. But something about this particular book just made me angry at her instead of sympathetic. And I felt like a terrible person for feeling that way the entire time. So yeah, the last two thirds of the book were not great for me.

What did you think of “Eleanor and Park”? Are you one of the many people who adore this novel?

Magic, Mischief, and Badass Queens: “The Queen of the Tearling” Review

Published June 28, 2015 by Maggie Williams

Holy moly, me oh my, this book. Erika Johansen’s “The Queen of the Tearling” is about nineteen-year-old Kelsea, who has lived in the forest with her foster parents her whole life. Why, you ask? Because she is the queen of this post-apocalyptic world that has reverted to Medieval times, and her uncle, along with a witch queen of a neighboring country are out for her blood. Kelsea needs to kick some ass and take some names in order to stay alive and fix her broken kingdom. Does that premise sound cool enough for you?

I can tell you, it was more than good enough for me. I really, really loved this book. Old-world politics are fascinating to me, and this book was full of that. And I mean really full of that. I’ve seen some other people say that they thought this book was slow, and that’s the only reason I could guess they would feel that way. But I thoroughly enjoy politics in my books, so it wasn’t even slightly boring to me. There was also plenty of action and badassery for my taste.

I also hugely enjoyed all of the characters- each of them was so complex and interesting. I absolutely love Kelsea in particular. I wasn’t aware until just a few minutes ago that this is actually and adult book, and not a YA book, so that could explain why I’m so refreshed. For some reason, almost every YA female protagonist feels like exactly the same character to me, but Kelsea was different. She’s nothing much to look at, she’s extremely temperamental and angry, and more than a little reckless sometimes. But driving that is an amazing heart, a need for justice for the little guy, and a surprisingly good ability to rule. Yes for this character a million times.

Also, can we talk about how sickeningly wonderful the Red Queen is? I mean, obviously she’s horrible, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where a female character is allowed to be quite this awful. It, too, is really refreshing in a way that I feel like I shouldn’t like, but I really do. For every ounce of Kelsea’s kick-ass heroine, the Red Queen is a sick-ass villain. Perfection.

The only real issue I had with this book was my confusion with the history. I’m not quite sure what has happened, or who any of the people who have gotten us to this place are. Not even just with Kelsea’s mother and father (whoever he may be), but also with the entire history of the Tearling. I feel like my questions will be answered in subsequent books, but I would have liked a little bit more in this first one.

Overall, I loved this book and I will definitely be picking up the next. Five out of five stars, loved it.

*Now I’ll be getting into spoiler territory with some of the notes I took while I was reading, and also some predictions for the story, even though the second one is already out and most people are probably done speculating a lot of these things.*

Note 1: Kelsea has a good heart, but I know from watching Game of Thrones and Reign that she is making hella mistakes. Don’t piss off those nobels, Lady. You can’t have an entire court against you.

Note 2: Even in the Tearling, religion finds a way to weasel itself in where it doesn’t belong. GET OUT OF HERE.

Note 3: I hate when evil people think they’re doing good. The Red Queen would own up to her shit. She wouldn’t try to deny that she’s a terrible, power-hungry, murdering rapist. The Pope, on the other hand, is doing the horrible crap “for God”. He believes what he does is justified because he’s “God’s servant”. I hate him so much. I hate the church in this series more than I hate the Red Queen.

Note 4: Haberdashery is my new favorite word.

Note 5: Not gonna’ lie, I teared up a little when Andalie’s children found “the seven volumes of Rowling”. Even children in a post-apocalyptic Middle Ages are enjoying Harry Potter. Her books survived, and that makes my heart happy.

Note 6: I love how there’s no time for love interests. I sense that there will be in the future, but its absence from the first book establishes that it’s the least important thing about Kelsea. She’s a queen who seeks justice and safety for her people, not a young girl who only wants naive relationships. Refreshing like a cold glass of cucumber water.

Note 7: I love how the author doesn’t shy away from cussing or sex-related things. It has shocked me more than once in this book. (This made more sense when I still thought it was YA. I was actually kind of disappointed to learn that it wasn’t. It would have been so wonderfully progressive and “Fuck it, I’ll mention nipples” if it was a YA book.)

And, at last, some predictions. I feel like some steamy stuff between Kelsea and Pen is going to go down. Definite love triangle between Kelsea, Pen, and the Fetch. Speaking of the Fetch, I’ve got two things brewing on him. 1) He is Kelsea’s father (kind of unlikely, and I really hope he isn’t because that would be creepy, but why did the Regent know him?) 2) He is the blob monster from the Red Queen’s fire. Think about it- he seems to know everything, all the time. He’s kind of immortal. The Fetch says that he’s been “waiting for a Queen for a long time”, and the fire blob expresses the same sentiment to the Red Queen when he’s being all protective of Kelsea. Maybe it’s even both, who knows? Also, I for sure think that Andalie is the seer that the Red Queen keeps talking about missing so much.

So let me know- have you read this book, and what did you think of it? Have any interesting theories I should know about? I should probably read the second book before I get too far into the fan theories, huh? Wouldn’t want to accidentally get spoiled.

I Have No Idea What I’m Doing (Send Help) Part 1

Published June 27, 2015 by Maggie Williams

So, even though my post yesterday was about how unhelpful writing advice is to me, I’m still going to write this one about my writing process. I’m still kind of figuring it out, since I’m just writing my first novel, but so far it has worked out for me.

The Divine Idea:

As with most writers, the way I get my story ideas is completely random. One second I’m cooking microwave burritos for lunch, and the next I’m spouting out a line of dialogue like some sort of novel-writing demon has possessed me. Or I’m looking out the window on a long car ride, listening to Hozier’s album on a continuous loop, and describing the terrain around me from the point of view of a woman who is super high on a new designer drug. There’s really no rhyme or reason to it, but it is the closest thing to divine intervention that I have ever experienced.

To Outline Or Not To Outline:

There is a huge divide between those who outline and those who don’t. I, myself, am an outliner to the core. If I don’t outline, I end up forgetting my brilliant ideas, or writing two chapters where the main character literally just hangs around the house, describing each room in heavy detail. I do a general plot outline once I have the plot in mind (which might not be until a few chapters into writing), and then randomly scribble in any minor details I think of while I’m at work, in the shower, or binge-watching foreign children’s movies on Netflix.

The Only Bible I Ever Read:

I also use a book bible, in which I write down the rules of the world, character traits, continuity things, floor plans, bits of dialogue or description that come to me randomly, plot change ideas, and, yes, the aforementioned plot outline.

Chrono Vs. Skip In The Battle Of The Season:

There’s another divide between people who write chronologically and those who skip around. I’m a chronological writer, even though my imagination would prefer that I wasn’t. If I just skipped around when the mood struck me, I would never have a complete story. Let’s face it, some scenes are more fun to write than others. If I skipped to the fun scenes, I would never end up filling in the necessary bits for a complete novel. The scenes that I look forward to writing are the prize at the end of the tunnel. If I can get through the other stuff chronologically, I get to work on the big reveals, the romance, and the battle scenes.

Watch That Word Count:

Most people whose blogs I’ve read seem to work on a word-count basis. They have a goal for how many hundred or thousand words they want to write in a day. I work on a chapter-by-chapter basis, which is not something I would recommend. For whatever reason, when I write, I need to be able to finish an entire chapter in one sitting. When the mood strikes me, I can write for eight hours straight. The problem is that I end up using this method to procrastinate. “Oh, I don’t have time to write a 25-page chapter in one sitting? Might as well not write at all then.” I’m getting better at being able to write little by little, but I still prefer getting it done in big chunks.

Editing Everest:

Currently, I am about 25% finished editing my first novel, so I’m not 100% set in my editing ways yet. So far it’s gone something like this: Oh my god, the manuscript is finished. Editing is the easy part, it won’t take long… Okaaay, it’s taking longer than I thought… Oh… Oh no. Everything sucks! What made me think I could be writer, this whole story is awful! I need to reassess my whole life! Should I be a doctor? I should probably be a doctor, right?… Wait, I’m the author. I can change this plot. *Excitedly rewrites entire plot outline.* Now I’m inspired and it’ll be finished like that… *Crickets.* *Slow, painful editing.* *Single alpha reader reads chapter by edited chapter and gives me encouraging advice…* Will this thing never be done?!… *More crickets…* So you have that to look forward to.

So there it is- my writing process thus far. Please feel free to look on in pride because your process is superior and more efficient in every way.

Blocking Out Advice

Published June 26, 2015 by Maggie Williams

Occasionally, I like to feel like I’m not the only person muddling through this thing we call novel-writing. I search terms like “writing” or “editing” and go traipsing around through blog post after blog post of advice on how to write the perfect novel. It’s fun for a while, but then it goes to a dark place. I’m sitting there, reading the fifth post in a row about characterization when it dawns on me- the way I do things is nothing like how these writers do things.

And then I start to panic. I read through more posts, quickly realizing that every single other writer in the universe has a better grasp on writing than I do. Everyone’s more put together, more focused, less procrastinate-y, and they all have better stories than I do. I’m never going to make it as a writer because these people understand the craft better than I do and have a monopoly on writing successful books. I should probably just give up now.

And that is why I don’t read writing craft books, and why I try to stay away from most forms of writing advice. Eloquent quotes from famous authors are about as much as I can handle in that department without having a total meltdown. Trying to do major things differently from my natural process causes a huge crisis for me. It’s way less stressful for me to ignore everything but the story at my fingertips. Trust me, I really don’t need any more distractions than I already have.

Marriage Equality, At Last

Published June 26, 2015 by Maggie Williams

This is a moment for the history books. My grandchildren will be learning about this like I learned about the Civil Rights Movement. They’ll look back and go, “I can’t believe people were so stupid”. I can’t believe it either, grand kids.

But that isn’t what this is about. This is a victory for every decent human in the United States. At long last, after decades of struggling, love and equality has won. As a person who is typically not very patriotic, I am immensely proud of my country in this moment. I’m proud to stand with so many brave and amazing people on the right side of history.

So, you could say that the Supreme Court ruling news was a good thing to wake up to.

Why Do I Even Try?

Published June 25, 2015 by Maggie Williams

I am never, ever good with meeting my literary goals. I should probably just stop setting them. Whenever I make a specific promise to myself- “I’ll read this book this month”, “I’ll edit this chapter this week”- I always end up failing miserably at it. And it’s not that the goals are unattainable in any way. In fact, some of them might even be a little too reasonable. I can just never do what I say I’m going to do when it comes to reading or writing.

That’s not to say that I’m completely stagnant in either. This past week, I have written and edited a bunch of stuff. It’s just that none of it was what I said I was going to write or edit. I’m like some sort of stubborn child- I do the opposite of whatever I tell myself to do. Setting specific goals with writing works really well for some people, but I’ve found that it has absolutely zero sway in whether I write or not. It only ever manages to make me feel like crap when I don’t meet my goals.

Am I the only person who has this problem with setting goals? How do you dictate which projects you’re going to work on? Which methods work best for you?

Brain Puke

Published June 22, 2015 by Maggie Williams

Do you ever feel like there’s something in your mind, just waiting to get out? And no, I’m not talking about a voice that wants you to murder people or lick things that are purple. I’m talking about those times when you’re just generally restless. You can’t seem to move enough, sing passionately enough to your favorite songs, or create something perfectly erratic and beautiful in the way you want.

On the inside you’re twitchy and itchy to create, but on the outside you’re weirdly calm. A storm of pictures and colors and words has been unleashed in your brain, but your hands don’t want to cooperate with bringing it into the world. Sorry, ma’am, the doctor is out today. You’ll just have to give birth to your brain child some other day.

That’s me right now. My creative thoughts are creeping around in my head, trying to find a doorway that will let them into the world. No story or painting or even blogged description of this occurrence seems to be the right way to let this story out. I don’t even know what the story is. It’s like when you’re feeling sick to your stomach and you know that if you could just throw up already, you would feel better, but your stomach is like, “Nah, man, not today”. Like that except prettier. I just need to brain puke.


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