Book Quote #9: The Ocean Between People

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“He talked about the ocean between people. And how the whole point of everything is to find a shore worth swimming to.”

― Becky Albertalli, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

I love this quote from Simon vs. I love Simon vs in general. There are just so many quotable phrases from this book.

On a side note, anyone else finding it hard to recommend books to their loved ones? My mom is looking for a good book to read. The thing is, she is a very traditionally-minded person who goes to a very traditionally-minded church. And, frankly, (I love you very much mom but) she has strong feelings about things like LGBT and mental health, and well, let’s face it, we never did have The Talk, to this day. Looking back on the books that I’ve read this year, they all have some combination of sex, LGBT characters, or characters who are contemplating or about to commit suicide. I really don’t know what to recommend to my mom…

How is your week going? Any favourite quotes? Does anyone share my struggle with recommending books to loved ones?

WIPpet Wednesday: Reason and Wisdom

Happy Hump Day everyone!

How is your week going? I am SUPER excited for the weekend, because I will be visiting the West Coast (Victoria, British Columbia.) This also means that I am very, very busy these days, since I will have to write and schedule my upcoming blog posts and also clean my house for my dog-sitter. (To my dearest WIPpet buddies: I may be late in reading your snippets this week but I promise that I will get to them eventually!)

As for Camp Nano… I was able to reach my goal of 50,000 words, but my novel is nowhere near done! I suppose my plan is to continue plugging on for the month of August… (while trying to fend off the other shiny ideas bouncing around my head with a silver sword)

WIPpet Wednesdays is a blog hop where writers can share a snippet from their WIP (Work in Progress). The only stipulation is that the excerpt is somehow related to the date.

Be sure to check out some of the other lovely WIPpet snippets here. Thank you Emily Wrayburn for hosting.

My current project is a new-adult contemporary novella titled Together We Will Live Forever (tentative.) Olivia is a neuroscience grad student and an aspiring artist. Matt works at the art gallery and lives with his daughter, Zelda.

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While visiting his family, Matt spends the Saturday texting Olivia:

Matt flips open his phone again. It flashes to life. Olivia’s most recent message is still on his screen.

“Night. :)”

His smile widens, and he feels warm. For a moment, he is that giddy high school boy again, that awkward boy who had a face full of dimples and pants that were too short for his lanky legs, who, despite all that, just talked to a cute girl. He hangs onto that feeling for as long as he can.

Everything is going well. Everything is going so well. He is happy, not numb, not sad, but happy.

But he isn’t the same boy.

Something is going to go wrong, he knows it in the bottom of his heart. It always does, just when things are going well. Because Olivia doesn’t know him, she thinks she does, she thinks that he is this funny and cool person, but he really isn’t. He’s just pretending to be. And one of these days, she is going to find out who he really is, a fraud. She’s going to see that he is ugly and weak, and that there really is nothing to love.

He lets it sink in, that coldness that seeps into the edge of warmth. It is reason and wisdom, it numbs and protects, it warns and comforts. It is the part of him that doesn’t want to hurt again.

WIPpet Math: Today is August 2 (8/02), 8 x 2 = 16, 1 + 6 = 7 paragraphs

How is your writing project coming along? Do you have a snippet to share? If you were a Camp Nanoer, what are your plans after Camp?

July Wrap-Up and August TBR

Hello everyone!

WOW, is it me or did July just fly by!? This has been a whirlwind of a month for me: I read some books and wrote some words, this blog reached 100 followers (yay!!), Camp Nano happened, and then there is the rest of life.

Books read: 5

Eliza and Her Monsters tells the story of Eliza, the artist of a famous webcomic who struggles with making friends in real life. This was a super fast read for me, and I loved the dialogue, the illustrations, and the focus on mental illness, though I was not too thrilled about the last 1/3 of the book. My review is here.

In Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda (Audiobook), all is going well for Simon, who is still not-so-openly gay, until he is blackmailed into being Martin’s wingman. This was such a fun and fast read, that I could NOT put down until the very end. Becky Albertalli is an AMAZING writer. I loved reading her dialogues and I loved that this book left me with something to chew on.

All the Bright Places (Audiobook) is another book that touches on mental health. It tells the story of Finch and Violet, two high school seniors who meet on the bell tower and become inseparable. I liked the story, but felt that the pacing dragged. I did not like the performance in the audiobook.

The Hate U Give (Audiobook) tells the story of Starr, who witnesses the shooting of her best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. I loved that this book discusses the sensitive topic of police brutality and I believe that this is an empowering book for anyone who has experienced discrimination.

The Bad Doctor: The Troubled Life and Times of Dr. Iwan James (Graphic Novel) is a gem that I found in the hospital library (aka. my workplace). This book immerses us in the life of Dr. Iwan James, a family doctor who tries his best to care for his patients every day, many of whom have mental health issues. The thing is, Dr. James struggles with a mental illness himself. I loved that this book shows us that doctors are humans too, and that, for better or for worse, they are affected by the patients they see.

Books reviewed: 4

As you can tell, I am a bit behind on my reviews. It is hard to keep up, since I read faster than I review! Here they are in descending order: (Click on the name to read the review)

Words written: 51480

Happy end of Camp Nano everyone!

Good news: I’ve written 51480 words, which surpasses my goal of 50000.

Bad news: I am nowhere near done my novel. The thing is, I have about the attention span of a goldfish, so when I am 3-4 weeks into a draft, I am ready to cram everything into the back of my drawer and work on something else. The problem is, I am only 50% through.

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So… I guess I gotta keep on plugging on into August. Anyone else feeling like this? How do you stay motivated through that middle-of-the-novel slump?

By the way, for those who are new to my novel: Together We Will Live Forever (tentative titled) tells the story of Olivia, a neuroscience grad student and an aspiring artist, and Matt, who works at the art gallery and lives with his daughter, Zelda.

Some snippets from this month:

Thoughts exchanged: 2

This month, I discovered the magic of discussion posts! They are LOTS of fun for me to write and I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments! These are the two discussion posts this month: (More to come!)

Around the blogosphere:

DNFing, by Melanie @ MNBernard Books. I absolutely LOVE this discussion topic which addresses questions that have been bouncing around in my head: When is it acceptable to DNF? Should we review books that we have DNFed? There are no right answers, of course, but it is super interesting to read other bloggers’ thoughts on this topic.

How To: Write a Great Blog Post, by Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books. This is another AMAZING post about book blogging by Marie. It is definitely a must-read for any newbies out there (like myself), or anyone who is looking for ideas to write better blog posts!

August TBR:

Guys, look what I got:

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Yes, it’s an actual, physical TBR. Since our discussion about eBooks vs Actual Books, I’ve decided to (gasp) go and peruse a book store and AwesomeBooks (an online store for used books). Of course, I couldn’t leave empty handed.

Some of y’all are super speedy readers, but I can only read 5-6 books per month. Here are my top priorities for August:

(I am listening to the audiobook version of When Dimple Met Rishi, which is why it is not in the picture above. And yes, Our Dark Duet has been on my TBR for a while, but I will read it this month, promise.)

How is the month of July for you? What are your favourite reads? What is on your TBR? For the writers out there: how do you deal with that mid-novel slump?

Review: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

31931941“There comes a point in every girl’s life where she reaches a crossroads: a night alone with her sweatpants and her favorite television show, or a party with real, live, breathing people.”

By day, Eliza is an awkward and unpopular senior at high school. By night, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the artist of Monstrous Sea, a webcomic with millions of readers. Her best friends are Max and Emmy from her online community, who she considers as more valuable than anyone she meets in real life. Other than Max and Emmy, no one knows who LadyConstellation is, and Eliza wants to keep it that way.

One day, a new student transfers to Eliza’s school. His name is Wallace, and he is Monstrous Sea’s most popular fanfiction writer. As Eliza gets to know Wallace, her perspective on the world begins to shift. The problem is that Wallace thinks that Eliza is just another Monstrous Sea fan, and Eliza doesn’t want that to change.

Young Adult / Contemporary / 385 pages

I’ve been hearing rave reviews about Eliza and Her Monsters, and I was so SO excited to read this one. My expectations were set very high in the beginning, and the book didn’t quite meet them. That’s not to say that it was bad. I liked it. It was all right. It just didn’t amaze me.

I loved the realistic portrayal of mental illness. Eliza is a character who shies away from social interaction. She is awkward and she doesn’t quite know how to interact with people outside of the online community. She prefers to be in her own room with a computer screen. Eliza’s anxiety is subtle in the beginning of the story. We sense it, but we think of it as part of her personality. But it creeps up on Eliza as the story advances, and Eliza is forced to confront her “monsters”. I like that the book speaks about mental health in a subtle manner. I also like that mental illness is not portrayed as something to be fixed, but rather something to be coped with.

Eliza is a complex, multi-faceted character that we can relate to. She is not perfect and she has flaws like the rest of us. She fears speaking to her classmates, which is fuelled by her low self-esteem. And her worst fear of all is to have her identity as LadyConstellation revealed to the world. Although Eliza cares about her friends and her fandom, Eliza doesn’t have the best relationship with her family. She doesn’t get along with her brothers because they don’t share any common interests. And she doesn’t think that her mom and dad understand her. Throughout the story, we watch Eliza grow as her perspective widens and her relationships begin to change.

Wallace is an interesting character, and he and Eliza share an amazing chemistry in the beginning of the book. Wallace is shy, and he finds it difficult to communicate when he is surrounded by many people. As he and Eliza get to know each other better, he slowly warms up to her. I loved reading the dialogue between these two characters. The lines are sharp and witty and I could feel the growing attraction between them. However, Wallace’s actions confuse me towards the last third of the book. I could not understand the motivation behind his words and his actions, and it seems almost like Wallace is a different character. This aspect of the main conflict in the story did not make sense to me.

Max and Emmy are fun characters to read about. Although they are Eliza’s trusted sidekicks and partners in crime, I love that they have their own lives to live. Eliza’s brothers are an annoyance to Eliza in the beginning of the story. As the story unfolds, we learn more about them and begin to see them as the individuals that they are. However, I am not as fond of the adults in this book: Eliza’s parents are quirky, but they quite never develop beyond that. There is one scene with Eliza’s parents and brothers that I dislike towards the end of the book, because it feels orchestrated and out of character for everyone.

This book is a fast and easy read. The characters drew me in and kept me interested enough to keep turning the pages. I loved the illustrations and I loved the two stories within the story (Monstrous Sea and the Children of Hypnos), both of which are very imaginative.

Bottom-line:

Eliza and Her Monsters is a good book. I love the witty dialogue and I can feel the chemistry between Eliza and Wallace. I love the subtle way that mental health is portrayed. However, I am do not understand the characters’ actions at the end of the book.

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Book Quote #8: Never Stop Doing Right

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“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”

– Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

This is an incredible quote from The Hate U Give that I think speaks for itself.

By the way, The Hate U Give is an AMAZING book that you have to read. I would love to post a review soon, but I am terribly behind on reviews! And life has been crazy!

The truth is, I haven’t been taking good care of my introverted self lately. There are so many things going on and I find it hard to say no! So, this week, I managed to cram in 5 pole classes, 1 crafting workshop, 1 dog walking date, 1 dinner event, and 1 wedding, all in addition to my 8-4 work day. The introvert inside of me is screaming: Where is the time to read? Where is the time to write? Part of me just wanna crawl into a corner in my room and lock the door for a while.

How is your week going? Are there any quotes that inspire you?

 

WIPpet Wednesday: The Camera

Happy Hump Day!

Look at what happened this weekend, in between the pet store and Costco. Gotta feed the dog, the stomach, AND the brain 🙂

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Some of you may know that I’ve been living off of eBooks for the longest time, so, believe it or not, these are some of the few actual books that I own. It was SUPER exciting to go to the bookstore and see all the books that you guys have been talking about. I was like a kid at a candy store 🙂 I miss that about bookstores and I will do that more often!

Without further ado, let’s get on to the feature presentation. Drumroll please!

WIPpet Wednesdays is a blog hop where writers can share a snippet from their WIP (Work in Progress). The only stipulation is that the excerpt is somehow related to the date.

Be sure to check out some of the other lovely WIPpet snippets here. Thank you Emily Wrayburn for hosting.

My current project is a new-adult contemporary novella titled Together We Will Live Forever (tentative.) Olivia is a neuroscience grad student and an aspiring artist. Matt works at the art gallery and lives with his daughter, Zelda.

In this scene, Olivia is at Matt’s apartment:

It is a camera. An actual camera. Not even one of those compact models that tourists carry. It has huge lenses and a detachable flash unit, like the kind that professionals use.

Olivia stands on her tiptoes and leans towards the shelves, reaching in with both her arms. She carefully removes the camera from its position on the shelf and brings it to eye level. It weighs heavy in her hands. And it is covered by a layer of dust.

“Hey Matt,” Olivia says. “You didn’t mention that you took photos. Now it’s totally unfair and you have four things you’re good at.”

She turns it on. Beep. The screen flashes to life.

On the display is a photo of a woman in a blue hospital gown. She is sitting on a bed with white sheets and grey railings. Beside the bed is a metal pole with bags of clear fluid hanging from it.

Olivia zooms in on the woman’s face. She has long, blonde hair, like Zelda.

WIPpet Math: Today is July 26 (7/26). 168 words. 2 + 6 + 7 = 1 + 6 + 8

Camp Nano Update: Can you believe that there are less than 5 days left!? I am at 46441 words (out of 50000), which sounds like I’m almost there! But really, life is going to be crazy for the next couple of days, so I’ll be lucky if I can squeeze out a few words a day.

And recently, writing’s been feeling like this…

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How has your week been? For the Camp Nano-ers out there, are you ready for a sprint to the finish line? For the rest of you writers, how is your project coming along?

Let’s Chat: Stereotypes in Fiction

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Hello everyone!

Any bookstagrammers out there? If you are one, comment with your instagram username below and I will follow you 🙂

Today I want to talk about stereotypes. As readers of diverse fiction, stereotypes hold negative connotations. We crinkle our noses when characters become stereotypical, we roll our eyes, and we make a mental note to slam that character in our book review.

ster·e·o·type noun a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.

For example, there is that stereotype that Chinese kids are nerdy, good at math, and wear glasses. I mean, how clichéd is that? I want to blow a gasket and flip a table somewhere.

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Then I realized that I am a nerdy, nearsighted Chinese(-Canadian) person who is somewhat good at math.

So… am I… a stereotype?

Could it be that there is some truth to that stereotype? For example, when I think about it, there are reasons why I am nerdy, nearsighted, and good at math. And part of it does have to do with the fact that I am Chinese:

  1. I am nerdy: China values academic success. The “popular” kids in China are those who are smart and have high grades. A famous Taiwanese drama features a love interest who is the most popular boy in high school because he has an IQ of 200 and gets top grades in every class. Growing up, the most popular kids in my elementary school are the ones who have the best academic performance. I was taught at a young age to study hard, and I was rewarded for that.
  2. I am (somewhat) good at math: Math is emphasized in the curriculum in China. As a kid, I learned the multiplication table in grade 1. A lot of my friends took private lessons to learn abacus in preschool and kindergarten (I didn’t, which made me the runt of the math litter.) However, when I came to Canada, the multiplication table wasn’t taught until grade 3-4, and suddenly I was well ahead of everyone. It just seems that kids learn math earlier in China and they have more time to get better at it.
  3. I wear glasses: I had to Google this one, because I didn’t know whether or not it’s really true. Turns out that 86% of high school kids in Shanghai wear glasses, compared to 29% in Singapore and 3% in Sydney, Australia. Why is this? China has a super highly competitive academic system. Kids have to study their butts off at a young age and spend countless hours reading books (or looking at their computer screen), which increases nearsightedness.

But if that’s the case, how can stereotypes bear some truth, but still enrage people? I would still be super, duper angry if I were to ever see a Chinese character portrayed that way.

The issue comes when a character presents an oversimplified image or idea of a certain group of people. Everyone is unique, even if we do have some of the stereotypical qualities of the group that we belong to.

Some of us may appear to fit the stereotype at first glance, but when we delve deeper, there are unique qualities that make us who we are. I may be a nerdy and nearsighted Chinese person, but I also happen to enjoy crafting and pole dancing, and I can speak well in public situations if I put my mind to it. Other people defy stereotypes in general. Some of my Chinese-Canadian friends are terrible at math, or they are popular and love to party and socialize. And one of my Chinese-Canadian friends actually has 20/20 vision.

So perhaps, it is not when a character has certain stereotypical traits of a culture or a group that we dislike. And rather if the character only have these traits, and nothing else that distinguishes them as who they are.

But can character go too far to defy their stereotype? There are characters from the other extreme of the spectrum, in which they have no qualities of the particular culture or group they belong in. It is as if the author takes a Generic Supporting Character X and slaps on an ethnic label, just so the novel can be “diverse”. This irritates us as well.

You see what I mean? It is a fine, fine line between a stereotypical character and a character who is devoid of all characteristics that make them a member of a certain group or culture. We love it when characters break the mold, but we hate it when they break the mold too much.

As a writer, this actually makes it terrifying to write about anyone who is not in my ethnic group. What if I get it completely wrong? What if I offend without intending to?

Do you agree that there is some truth to some stereotypes? What do you think about stereotypes in fiction? Can a character go too far in defying cultural stereotypes?

PS. I refer to cultural stereotypes a lot in this post, because that is what is most relevant for me. But I do wonder if this applies to stereotypes in general: for example, gender stereotypes, or stereotypes about people of different sexual orientations.