Book Review: Strange the Dreamer

Spoiler Free.

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Going into my last finals week (ever) I was looking to read something relaxing and fun. I wanted something low commitment but still interesting enough to give me a break after a long day of studying.

Strange the Dreamer is not the book I should’ve read.

Instead of casual and fun, I got a whirlwind of fascinating and moving storytelling. I couldn’t put it down once I got to around the hundredth page. Screw tests and essays, I had to find out the mysteries of the lost city of Weep. 

The characters are fantastic–in both senses of the word. Not only are they beautifully written, but they all have elements of fantasy that make them so interesting. Lazlo Strange is a wonderful character to follow throughout the novel, as is the other narrator (who shall remain a secret). He is every book nerd’s dream (no pun intended), and he is also just a kind soul. It feels a privilege to be part of his narrative. Just a nice guy who loves to read and wants to help in any way he can.

Laini Taylor has created a remarkable world full of dazzlingly real and complex characters. Lazlo is wonderful, but I especially liked the “god spawn”–children of the gods who have survived a horror and are entirely shaped by it. Taylor has crafted such a range of people that you spend the entire novel going back and forth, seeing both sides, and unsure what the solution should be.

By the end, I was crying. I was entirely immersed in the world and involved in the characters. And that ending. Wow. I stayed up into the night to finish it, and this review has taken so long because I needed to recover from how much the book moved me. The themes of inter-generational hate, how fear of a thing can be passed down through the ages. 

With this book, knowing less is better. You want to come into this world completely fresh, with no prior expectations besides to be amazed. It’s a wondrous work, and Taylor’s masterful writing allows you to fully submerge yourself in it. You struggle with the characters, you feel their pain and indecision. 

Strange the Dreamer ended up being the perfect book to launch me back into reading for fun, and I cannot suggest strongly enough that you read and experience it. Experience it and fall in love with it as I did. Please read this book. It is so important.

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Today…

Today, I had to work very hard to contain my rather unrestrainable wanderlust. Today, I had to be smart, and logical, and all those other boring things adults have to do. Today, I had to think about how to pay for dental insurance instead of where I would be drinking next.

Today, I adult-ed. And it was terrible.

I found the most amazing deal I think I’ll ever find. $375 for a roundtrip ticket to Paris, France, and hostel rooms for $25 per night. I had to beg my parents to convince me not to do it. I don’t exactly have money, but I have over $700–and that’s all I’d need for Paris. Who needs food when you’re literally in Paris? Certainly not me.

But I had rent to pay this summer. I have groceries to buy. I need gas to get to my internship and whatever job I end up with. I can’t just go to Paris.

So instead I started planning a trip to Canada. Granted, it’s not as exciting or exotic, but it’s also much cheaper and will hopefully satisfy my need for travel just the same…or just enough to get me through the summer until I have a job that will give me enough money to go somewhere new. I miss being able to go to another country for a weekend while I was studying abroad.

Kids, don’t grow up. Or if you do, do it nice and slowly.

How to last two weeks in your home town

 

Quite honestly, I have no help for you. None at all. I’m just sitting here in my hometown trying not to be drunk 24 hours a day. I graduated college four days ago, and I feel nothing except boredom.

I start my internship in exactly fourteen days, and they just can’t pass quickly enough.

Things that have changed since I started college:

  1. I part my hair in the middle.
  2. I drink a whole lot more.
  3. I kind of know a little bit more than when I started.

And that’s it. Tomorrow I will go to an exercise class that is something like kickboxing. It will take up approximately one hour of my life. I’m not sure what to do with the other 23.

Here’s a hint: freelancing is difficult. I read on The Financial Diet that I should have “side hustles”. I didn’t even know what that meant, at first. Now I feel pressure to have one, and nobody seems to be equally interested. Upwork.com is rather useless, and I can’t trust anyone enough to actually put in payment information. Wyznt.com is pretty reliable, but I also know for a fact that there are people much more knowledgeable than I am on there.

Who would seriously trust this graduated-alcoholic to tutor their child? I did well on my SAT’s but Jesus, I wouldn’t trust me with much.

Basically, I’m in the middle of this slump. It’s a life slump, and I’m just biding my time until I move to Rochester to start my internship. There’s a lot of drinking, a lot of tanning, and a lot of almost losing my mind with boredom. I love my family, but all I want to do is go to bars and have “fun”, whatever that means. Too young for suburbia, I am. But I guess I can offer a few tips:

  1. Be drunk.

And I’m talking spend a ridiculous portion of the day drunk. As long as you have nowhere to be (and, let’s face it, you’re at home so you don’t have to be ANYWHERE) just keep drinking. Alcohol makes the most banal situations seem exciting. For example, today a mosquito bit me. You’d think I’d just been attacked by ISIS with how I reacted. Alcohol will make things interesting–I make no guarantees about whether it’ll be bad or good interesting.

  1. Eat a lot

That bikini body you’ve been working on for oodles and oodles of time? Say goodbye to it. In the few weeks that you’re home, you’ll start eating everything. I don’t even like greasy foods, but I swear I ate four pieces of pizza in one day. Mozzarella sticks that make my stomach feel sick after consuming? Whatever, bring them on. I’ll eat it and it’ll pass about fifteen minutes of the endless time of being home.

  1. Text a boy you found on a dating app

Is he a serial killer? Who can tell? But he’ll amuse the hell out of you for the two weeks you’re stuck in the hell called home. He’s probably doing fun things in the city while you sit and rot! Get him to tell you about it so you can live vicariously!

That’s all I have for you. Until next time.

 

I’ve been missing.

My deepest apologies for nearly a month without posting. I’ve been…busy. I swear, I’ve used the time wisely. How, you may ask?

I have an internship. An editorial internship. As in “related to what I want to do”! It’s unpaid, mostly because it’s an independent, non-profit publishing company that runs on grants, but I’ll be working retail and hopefully some side hustles throughout the three month period I’m interning. It’s a small company, about three people actually on-staff, but that means I’ll actually be functioning as one of their staff. I’ve been assured there will be no coffee-fetching!

Basically, this place uses their interns as extra employees, so I’ll be editing manuscripts, corresponding with authors and distributors, and everything in between. There are even some author events that I get to attend! I don’t know if anyone can tell, but I’m very excited about this opportunity.

I also have a lot of respect for the company itself. Their goal is not at all to make money—it’s to spread good literature and poetry. It’s definitely a company I’m proud to be a part of, with people that I am delighted to learn from.

Besides the internship, I also have my first non-school apartment! I found it all by myself after scouring over one hundred Craigslist postings and visiting four different locations. I also argued down the rent by about $30. I’m officially an adult.

However, to detract from my adult-ness, I will be depending on my parents for half my rent. There’s no way I could make enough working part-time to cover rent each month, so my parents have very kindly consented to split it with me. They’re incredibly wonderful people who want to make it as easy as possible for me to get my “start” without making me dependent on them. I think they’re also just excited this whole publishing idea has resulted in something tangible post-graduation.

The truth of the matter is that I’ll probably move back into my parent’s house at the end of the summer. Honestly, I’m not very upset about it. Although I still want to move to New York City and working at a large publishing house, I also want to be able to save my money and maybe even spend a little more time with those lovely parents of mine.

I’ve felt very ready to graduate and leave school lately. It definitely has something to do with the exciting future I now actually have, but I think it’s also because I’m just ready to move on. For a while, I was really panicking about leaving school. All I’d done for sixteen years was learn, write academic papers, and just be a student. Not that it wasn’t hard work (oh my goodness, it was) but it is a limited perspective. I was incredibly worried about taking on the unknown, as I’m sure many students are.

That friend that wasn’t excited to go to graduate school? She’s decided not to go for a year. She’s facing far more unknown than I am, but we were equally miserable about starting our Big Person lives. Now? Now I can’t wait for my new start. I want to meet new people outside of my very small college, I want to really perfect my writing and editing, and I want to be able to focus on things like this blog. I want to focus beyond when my next test is, or the next assignment is due.

I graduate in two weeks, and although I’m apprehensive, I am not scared. I’m excited. It’s the feeling in your stomach right before a roller coaster drops. The anticipation.

I’ll keep this blog updated more frequently now (hopefully), and I’ll try to share any internship/side hustle information I can. After all, the whole purpose of this blog in the first place was to share ideas, talk like a nerd about books, and hopefully get some help myself.

My deepest apologies for nearly a month without posting. I’ve been…busy. I swear, I’ve used the time wisely. How, you may ask?

I have an internship. An editorial internship. As in “related to what I want to do”! It’s unpaid, mostly because it’s an independent, non-profit publishing company that runs on grants, but I’ll be working retail and hopefully some side hustles throughout the three month period I’m interning. It’s a small company, about three people actually on-staff, but that means I’ll actually be functioning as one of their staff. I’ve been assured there will be no coffee-fetching!

Basically, this place uses their interns as extra employees, so I’ll be editing manuscripts, corresponding with authors and distributors, and everything in between. There are even some author events that I get to attend! I don’t know if anyone can tell, but I’m very excited about this opportunity.

I also have a lot of respect for the company itself. Their goal is not at all to make money—it’s to spread good literature and poetry. It’s definitely a company I’m proud to be a part of, with people that I am delighted to learn from.

Besides the internship, I also have my first non-school apartment! I found it all by myself after scouring over one hundred Craigslist postings and visiting four different locations. I also argued down the rent by about $30. I’m officially an adult.

However, to detract from my adult-ness, I will be depending on my parents for half my rent. There’s no way I could make enough working part-time to cover rent each month, so my parents have very kindly consented to split it with me. They’re incredibly wonderful people who want to make it as easy as possible for me to get my “start” without making me dependent on them. I think they’re also just excited this whole publishing idea has resulted in something tangible post-graduation.

The truth of the matter is that I’ll probably move back into my parent’s house at the end of the summer. Honestly, I’m not very upset about it. Although I still want to move to New York City and working at a large publishing house, I also want to be able to save my money and maybe even spend a little more time with those lovely parents of mine.

I’ve felt very ready to graduate and leave school lately. It definitely has something to do with the exciting future I now actually have, but I think it’s also because I’m just ready to move on. For a while, I was really panicking about leaving school. All I’d done for sixteen years was learn, write academic papers, and just be a student. Not that it wasn’t hard work (oh my goodness, it was) but it is a limited perspective. I was incredibly worried about taking on the unknown, as I’m sure many students are.

That friend that wasn’t excited to go to graduate school? She’s decided not to go for a year. She’s facing far more unknown than I am, but we were equally miserable about starting our Big Person lives. Now? Now I can’t wait for my new start. I want to meet new people outside of my very small college, I want to really perfect my writing and editing, and I want to be able to focus on things like this blog. I want to focus beyond when my next test is, or the next assignment is due.

I graduate in two weeks, and although I’m apprehensive, I am not scared. I’m excited. It’s the feeling in your stomach right before a roller coaster drops. The anticipation.

I’ll keep this blog updated more frequently now (hopefully), and I’ll try to share any internship/side hustle information I can. After all, the whole purpose of this blog in the first place was to share ideas, talk like a nerd about books, and hopefully get some help myself.

book review: Pachinko

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Book cover art
Pachinko is a game of chance. Rigged each morning so that only certain machines will win, the public comes en masse to try to win big. Very few win it all.

It’s an apt metaphor for the family Min Jin Lee has created with her beautifully-crafted book, Pachinko. The story of a Korean family who moves to Japan, it primarily follows Sunja as she navigates being a poor Korean, a single mother, and an even poorer Korean expatriate. The book switches narration often between characters, but always returns to Sunja. She is a young Korean girl who falls pregnant by a man who is already married. When a missionary proposes to her in exchange for saving his life, the couple go to Japan to work in a church. Unfortunately, Japan is not welcoming to those it has colonized. Sunja and her husband face endless bigotry as they try to make a living, as do Sunja’s two sons and, eventually, their sons.

Throughout the novel is a running theme of female strength. Not in an overt way, but instead in praise of the women who quietly run their entire family. Sunja’s mother has a motto: “a woman’s lot is to suffer”. Continually, the women in Pachinko are the ones keeping everything together, keeping the family afloat. When her brother-in-law forbids it, Sunja and her sister-in-law create and run a successful business to keep the family from starving. When the family must seek shelter during World War II, the women work for their keep on a farm safe from the bombs.

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Continuously, these women work for the bare minimum of livening, but they do it for their families. All in a country that, quite honestly, hates them. Sunja’s sons deal with bullying and discrimination at school, leading to another theme about identity. Noa, for example, spends most of his childhood wishing he was Japanese and feeling conflicted about his Korean ancestry.

Pachkino tells the story of one family, but it is a representation of each Korean family that was told Japan would bring them success only to be severely disappointed, and still clawed their way back up from the bottom. It is an underdog story, but the stakes are so much higher. Min Jin Lee has made a fantastic, moving, and important book.

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Author Min Jin Lee

let’s talk about damaging books

Like all thirteen-year-olds, I loved Twilight. I thought Bella and Edward were the be-all-end-all of love stories. I read those books ferociously and argued with anyone who tried to tell me they weren’t the next great American series.

Then I got older.

Aside from the fact that the books are written so poorly a monkey could’ve made them, they’re hurtful to the young girls who read them. And I’m not being sexist (marched for women’s rights and everything in January), it’s just statistics. Young girls picked up those books faster than a new LipSmackers lip gloss. Overwhelmingly, these were young girls going through a difficult and confusing time in their lives, looking for something to escape into and idealize. I know several people who, as they’ve grown, have realized just how much these books messed them up.

The character of Bella. She’s blank. I’ve heard it often said that the reason so many girls loved her character was because she didn’t have one. She was this amorphous blob that any young girl could put her own personality onto Bella and feel understood. Here’s why that’s a problem: you start to think you’re her.

As a twelve-year-old, I was feeling weird and shy, generally of the “look at me and I’ll spontaneously explode” variety. I didn’t think I was particularly pretty or funny, although I had some moments, and I loved to read. I had brown hair, brown eyes, pale skin, you know the drill. Bella not only looked like my physically, but she acted like me. Nervous, uncomfortable with attention, she’s every preteen girl. Not only that, but everyone wants to date her and be her friend. She comes to a new school and in a matter of days has three boys falling over her, and that’s not including Edward or JACOB.

I’m sure Stephanie Meyer didn’t mean for this to happen, but she included Bella’s weight in her description.

The problem here is that when you’re specifically writing to younger girls, you have to be careful what you include. For instance, that horrific mess of a book, Beautiful Disaster, shows a textbook abusive relationship as something to yearn for. Although Meyers does the same thing, she also creates damaging beauty expectations for girls.

For instance, I and at least one other person I know started dieting to reach the weight of 110 pounds—Bella’s weight. Because if we could look like her, people would want to be our friends, too…right? Boys would want to date us, we’d be popular and universally liked. As a preteen, that feels like the most important thing; being accepted. At a time when your limbs feel like rubber and your face looks like an angry over-heated bagel, someone giving the perception that a certain character with very specific body measurements sticks in your head. I would have made myself grow to five foot four, if it were possible. Alas, I’d have to stick with not eating to get the goal Bella weight.

Now, let’s get into that abusive relationship.

It’s played off like he’s just protecting her, and of course he has to! How is she supposed to deal with rogue vampires and werewolves? It calls for extreme measures.

Like removing parts from her car so she can’t see her friend. Or WATCHING HER SLEEP by breaking into her home for months before they’ve even had a real conversation. It’s downright disturbing. It’s the stuff you see in thriller films, where the love interest is secretly a freaking psycho.

But, young me thought this was the epitome of love. That was what I was searching for in everyday life. The impression those books and characters made on me was so strong, it was actually damaging to my development. I was withdrawn and moody because that was how Bella was, and apparently people liked that. I was starving myself to get to what I thought was the perfect weight. I was completely changing my personality to fit what I thought people wanted, getting my cues from Twilight.

I think authors often forget the affect literature can have on the audience, especially the unintended audience. But, at the same time, I’m really not sure how they’re supposed to consider that. At what point does it become censorship, or a limitation of freedom of the press? Where is the line between protecting kids and smothering them? How are they supposed to account for a very young girl taking too much out of a book? And does the blame lay entirely with the author, who simply wrote a story, or does it lay with the culture in general? I’m inclined to lean towards the latter.