Thursday, March 31, 2011

Reading Order

So I've been re-reading the Dragonrider of Pern books which brings forth an age old debate: in what order should a person read books.

For the most part its the age old chronological order versus publication order. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, let's use a movie example. Star Wars. If you were watching all the Star Wars movies would you watch them in order of episode (1,2,3,4,5,6) or release (4,5,6,1,2,3). Personally I'm a fan of the flashback order (4,5,1,2,3,6), so that you get sucked in with 4 and 5 and then when Darth Vader says he's Luke's father you can see how that came to be, as if its a flashback, before ending the series.

Some books can easily be read in both orders, since the published order is chronological, but that's not always true.

I'm a huge fan of chronological order, but I feel I'm in the minority. I have friends who swear that published order is the only way to read books. It's something I feel I have argued about and worried about a lot in recent years. Whenever I'm going to start a series, I have to look it up and figure out which book is first.

However, when I was younger I didn't worry about these things. I read the Star Wars in a completely random order, starting with The Young Jedi Knights, moving to The Thrawn Trilogy, and then whatever book my bookstore had in random. The same was true for the Dragonriders of Pern books. I read "The Smallest Dragonboy" in my seventh grade textbook, I then went to the library and got the only Dragonriders of Pern book there was: Moreta. Then I read the Harper Hall Trilogy. It was all very random. And yet none of this randomness bothered me. Strange how the times have changed.

So what about you? Are you a believer in chronological order, publication order, or random order?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


One time at Dragon*Con I waited in two author signing lines simultaneously. How I managed that is a story for another time. The important thing to this post is the two lines I was waiting in: Anne McCaffrey and Tamora Pierce. Anne McCaffrey's line was full of men and women ranging in ages across the spectrum. Tamora Pierce's line was full of weepy teenage girls. (I'm not exaggerating).

While I was standing in the Tamora Pierce line the girls kept saying how her books had changed their lives and how the characters were a part of them and how much they loved her. They expected me to be saying similar things, but the truth of the matter was that I was waiting in that line for my little sister. Sure, I have read all the Tortall books, but I read them as a college student who was trying to keep tabs on my high school sister's reading habits.

At some point, I had to explain to them my simultaneous waiting. They didn't know who Anne McCafffrey was. When they asked who she was I answered, "Anne McCaffrey is to me what Tamora Pierce is to you."

What did I mean by that? Well, I started reading The Dragonriders of Pern in my crazy seventh grade year when I started Harry Potter and Wheel of Time. "The Smallest Dragonboy" was a short story in my seventh grade text book and it mesmerized me. The idea of dragons as lifelong partners, the idea of Impression, and the fact that no matter what happened you would always have a dragon who loves was breathtaking and enthralling. I wanted a dragon of my own, I wanted to be Keevan, and I had to read more.

So I began to check out books from the library, and I fell in love with this world. Girls like reading Tamora Pierce books because they enjoy strong women who work to change society and do what they want--like becoming female knights--but still have strong relationships and lives. I adored Anne McCaffrey books for the same reason. Lessa and Menolly were two fictional women I could look to, women who were in a men's world and forced that world to change to accept them and let them be who they wanted to be (whether that be Dragonrider or Harper). And yet they didn't isolate themselves from others by doing it, they formed strong relationships of love and friendship--and with dragons, as the case may be.

When I was in middle school, I read Star Wars, Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, and the Dragonriders of Pern (as well as a few smaller books). Each served a purpose. Star Wars got me through the fifth, sixth, and early seventh grade, when I wasn't ready for PG-13 material, but had out read PG. Harry Potter connected me to my generation. The Wheel of Time introduced me to how epic stories could be. But lets face it, most of the cool stuff in Star Wars is done by guys. Harry Potter only had three books out, and the Wheel of Time for all its epicness takes place over the course of 2 and a half years. The Dragonriders of Pern were different. They should me how girls could be strong teenagers and grow into strong women with children of their own and later even grandchildren. In Pern I was connected to a world, to generations, to a people.

And I think most importantly it showed me everyone deserves a dragon, someone who will love them no matter what, someone who despite everything bad that happens will be there for you.

However, my heart is still set on a non-metaphorical dragon that I can ride through the skies. If only fire lizards were real and we really could genetically engineer them into dragons. :)

Monday, March 28, 2011


Sorry about not posting last week! It was Spring Break. As a grad student, spring break doesn't really mean anything. For the most part we sit in the office and do work. However, since I worked through most of last Christmas all my Christmas doctor appointments (like the dentist and eye doctor) got pushed to spring break, so I had to go home for a little while. I expected to do work while I was there, but for some reason I find its impossible to do work in my parents house, even when I'm alone.

Anyway, posts will resume as normal this week!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Open Letter to Brandon Sanderson

Dear Brandon Sanderson,

I love your books, and I hate you for it.

It's ironic I suppose that in the Alcatraz books you clearly state that authors are evil, and I didn't believe it. But now I understand. You are evil.

You write books that are completely amazing, books that suck me in from page one, books that I can't put down--and that is the crux of the matter! I have things I need to do! I should be doing research. I should be doing homework. I should be doing a hundred other things, but instead, I'm re-reading the Mistborn Trilogy.

That's right. Re-reading. I've read these books before and yet even knowing what's going to happen, even knowing the characters and plots, I cannot put the books down. I reread The Final Empire in one day. I reread The Well of Ascension the next day. And now I'm rereading The Hero of Ages when I should be studying plasma physics and working on my control laws.

And it's not just Mistborn. Last August I said to myself "I need to reread something I've read before so I won't be distracted from my research on Kalman Filters. How about Elantris? It's been a while since I read that but I remember it clearly so it won't distract me."

Wrong. I read chapter one, and then chapter two, and suddenly I couldn't put it down. I had to keep reading. I had to stay in this world, even though I had read it before!

I know you seem like such a nice guy. At every signing I've been to, you were approachable and joking with us fans. But I know the truth, the truth you yourself revealed in the Alcatraz books. You are an evil, evil, evil man. You want to suck me away from my research. You want me to not finish my thesis. You want me to not graduate. I see it now. I understand.

You are evil.

And the worst part is that you're like an evil overlord, and I'm like a willing minion. You're the Lord Ruler, and I'm a Steel Inquisitor. Despite your evil ways, I follow. Despite the fact I know your books are destroying me, I read them. Because they're amazing. WHY? Why must you write such amazing books?

Oh, Brandon Sanderson, why do you torment me so? And not just with your amazing books, but with the anticipation of even more amazing books. I wait in eager anticipation for Alloy of the Law. I'm dying to read A Memory of Light. And I have no idea what your Rithmatist book is about but I can't wait to get my hands on it.

You're my favorite author, but I don't want to fail. So right now I'm just going to have to hate you. I'm going to have to lock away all my Brandon Sanderson books. And the only key will be my degree. Because its the only way I'll survive. It's the only way I'll actually keep my focus on my work.

Thanks a lot,
Mandy P.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Late Post

I know, I know. I'm a slacker. But today's post will either be really late or posted tomorrow.

My life is in full on crazy mode. I really need to do research and can't focus a lot of time on blogging. But I will blog at some point. I just have to remind myself to write blogs while I watch TV for an hour each night.

So I will post. Just either late or tomorrow.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

No Post Today

I have a test in my Plasma Physics class tomorrow, so I'm spending all day today studying things like the plasma criterion and solar physics. While this is definitely more exciting than studying for my statistics class, its still studying. I hate studying.

Since the test is at 2:00 pm tomorrow, I'm not sure whether I'll have a post tomorrow either. If I do, it'll be after the test.

So hope you guys have a good weekend and I'll post again regular-like next week.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Book Review: The Wise Man's Fear

Title: The Wise Man's Fear
Author: Patrick Rothfuss
Genre: Fantasy (epic)
Length: like 1,000 pages*

Quality Rating: 9
Content Rating: R

Read First: The Name of the Wind

Patrick Rothfuss' books are somehow indescribable. I've had several conversations with friends that went something like this:

Person 1: The Name of the Wind is awesome. I can't wait until Book 2.
Person 2: I know! Right! SOOO awesome.
Person 3: What's so awesome about it?
Person 1: Uh.....I...Uh.....I don't know.
Person 2: Kvothe is just so like relate-able....
Person 1: Because you've experienced your whole family being massacred? You're an arcanist? You play an instrument?
Person 2: Um. No. He's just like-able ok.
Person 3: So its the plot? The plot is great? Right?
Person 2: Totally.
Person 1: Actually, it was kind of predictable.
Person 3: So you're telling me this is a predictable plot with a like-able character?
Person 1: No. It's like really really really really awesome.
Person 3: Why???
Person 2: Just go read it and you'll see.

The awesomeness that is The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear is really kind of indescribable. In fact Brandon Sanderson catches the feeling of being unable to describe why these books are awesome in his review of The Wise Man's Fear:
"Why do I recommend it?

Because it's awesome.

Why is it awesome?

This often stops me. Why IS Pat's writing awesome?"

Brandon Sanderson goes on to explain reasons that make these books amazing and you should really read the whole post. But in short these books are amazing because they are beautiful, and I couldn't agree more.

Yes, the story is predictable. Yes, Kvothe is somewhat a reckless, hot headed, messed up kid. But I find myself sucked in because the writing is just amazing.

How can amazing writing rejuvenate a story I feel like I've heard before? Well, that's fairly simple.

It's like an artist doing a cover of another song.

I've heard Elton John's Your Song. It's nice. I like it. But when I heard Ewan McGregor sing it in Moulin Rouge, I felt like I was hearing it for the first time. It felt like a new song.

And that's sort of what Patrick Rothfuss does. He takes a couple of old plots and melts them together into a beautiful cover that is so much better than the original.

Patrick Rothfuss is an artist, and his books are beautiful works of art.

As for the content rating, I went back and forth on this one between PG-13 and R. There is sex, but its not descriptive. I could have easily rationalized it down to a PG-13. I'm sure there are a lot of jokes and innuendos I just didn't get in the book at all, so since I didn't get them, I think younger readers won't be scarred by them. What put me over the edge to R though is the violence--the violence Kvothe himself commits. If it was a movie, this violence would definitely up it into R. So just keep that in mind. It's a beautifully written book and everything (whether its sex, violence, or Kvothe taking a nap) is done tastefully, but its there and this book has its dark moments. Kvothe is getting older, and this book reflects that.

*So I don't have this book sitting in front of me while writing this review, so I'll update this number later. But 1,000 isn't an exaggeration. I seem to remember the book ending somewhere near page 980.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Yesterday's post mentioned on of the recent YA controversies; however, it is far from the only controversy in the field of Young Adult Literature. It seems almost every other week people are arguing about something: Boy Books, the B***** List, Feminism, Violence, Sex, and sooo much more. It seems you can't mention a popular YA book without some controversy popping up.

Why? Why is YA so ridiculously controversial? MG rarely has this problem, with the exception of some misled people thinking Harry Potter is of the devil. Adult books have controversy but the controversy is never about whether its ok for adult books to discuss topics or whether something is appropriate or too much. So why is the controversy all in YA?

Well I think the real answer to this is that MG is determinedly PG or low PG-13. Adult books have free range to be anything from G to NC-17. But YA books....oh YA books. Some are cleanly G. Some are NC-17. Most I would argue are safely PG-13. And they are aimed at teenagers, which is a group of people as widely diverse as any can be.

We want to keep our kids safe. We want to teach them good things. But kids don't always live in a safe world. They don't always do good things. Where is the line in portraying the world as it is and portraying the lessons and world views we want teens to have? Where is the line in wanting to keep our kids safe and wanting to censor them?

My parents never limited what I read. My parents really had no idea what I was reading, not because they were bad parents, but because they couldn't. I just read too much. But on the other hand, I didn't read YA books (by choice) as a teen. I solidly and steadily read adult books--most of which were safely PG-13. But my little sister read A LOT of YA books as a teen, and I tried my best to read them all--to keep up with what she was reading, and I have to say I was stunned by the messages I felt YA was giving, messages that I didn't feel were in adult books--messages that I felt were detrimental and hurtful to a female teenager's mind.

I would try to talk to my sister about these books--try to give her better books to read, better YA books with awesome messages, but she didn't want anything to do with a book I recommended to her--she still doesn't.

And therein lies the crux of all YA controversies.

We're trying to protect people who don't want to be protected.

And so YA is always going to have controversy. Parents are always going to try to shelter their kids. Teens are always going to push back on those protections.

Anyway, I mention all this because in the coming weeks I might do a few posts on some of the controversies out there and my often strange feelings about them. I've mentioned this before but I was a really strange, logical, rational teenager. This often causes me to have really strange opinions on things because when I look back at the olden days when I was in teen at the turn of the century (that's right I get to say that), I remember how coolly logical my thoughts were. But I recognize now that most females under twenty aren't like that (at the time it frankly baffled me).

So I hope you don't mind as in the next few weeks we explore the random opinions of this crazy writer. And if you have any controversies you would like my two cents on please leave them in the comments. Though lets please keep them at least loosely related to books.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fear & Book Reviews

Despite the fact that I've been Internet connected since I was fifteen years old, I'm actually fairly new to the whole author(aspiring or published)/agent/publishing online community. Seriously, before I started reading Stuff Christians Like, I didn't read blogs. Never had any interest in them. And I really didn't know anything about the publishing industry at all. I discovered SCL and started doing research my third year in college, which is the year I also started blogging, just for fun and mainly just for my friends.

Generally, the more I know the more I realize I don't know anything (thank you Socrates), but as I read writerly blogs, I discover something else. The more I know the more terrified I become.

Mainly in the context of book reviews.

For almost two full years, I have been blogging book reviews. Sure they haven't always been regular, but I started this blog with the intent that I would review every book I read, in a short concise way. Why? Mainly because I firmly believe books should be rated and wanted to put ratings out there for other people. But also because I read more than any of my other friends, and a lot of them do come to me for recommendations. So I figured why not put them all in one easy to access place?

My reviews are generally positive. They're not always enthusiastic for every book, but I firmly believe that every published book has merit--or else it wouldn't be published. This book is some writers baby, and I respect that.

But I sometimes post bad reviews. Sometimes I'm frankly not just unimpressed but horrified by what I read. However, in all of my time of blogging, I can only remember posting one really awful probably slightly mean review. From what I hear, I don't really think Mr. Goodkind cares about my opinion anyway. However, I recently read one book that frankly horrified me, and though I don't think the review I prepared is mean, its definitely negative.

And I'm now afraid to post it.

Why? Well for the past couple of months I've begun to realize that there is a not so subtle message coming from people in the publishing world (be they agents or authors). Only publish good reviews. Never publish a negative review if you want to be an aspiring author. Only publish reviews of books you truly love.

As I say, this really hasn't been a problem for me. I mean look at my reviews from last week. They were like love letters to Cassandra Clare. But I had planned to post this bad review today, and I double checked it to make sure it was critical and not snarky and figured that would be enough. After all, this is a little known blog, its semi-anonymous, and its really just for my friends. I don't want them to accidentally pick up this awful book and then ask me why I didn't warn them.

Then something crazy exploded in the blogosphere. Truly insane, really. The discussion has been labeled as YA Mafia, and for a good recap, go here to YA Highway.

Basically the underlying message of the discussion was: don't post negative reviews or it may come back to really bite you.

So now my heart is filled with fear. I've never really considered myself a YA writer, but my current WIP is YA. And I totally get networking and not wanting to burn bridges; however, I am also really outspoken about my beliefs.

Let's put it this way. If I ever met Terry Goodkind, I would be unfailingly polite and I would honestly tell him everything I loved about his books. (Like every straight female whose read Sword of Truth, I can't help but like Richard Rahl). However, if asked I wouldn't lie to him about what I didn't like: the plot. His characterization and ability to make you love a character is stunning. But I found the plot very lacking.

I'm not looking for conflict, so if I met the author of the bad review I want to post, I would never without prompting tirade against them and their books. In fact, I'm afraid of conflict. But if it came up in conversation, if they asked me, I would not lie to them. And isn't the point of reviewing saying what you liked and didn't like about a book?

So basically, I have no idea what to do about this book review. I wrote it. I planned to publish it here today. But what if, one day, that author sees I wrote a bad review and then decides to shot block me somehow? Because despite the YA community's reassurances that there is no mafia, everyone still cautioned that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all, because it may actually hurt you.

What do you guys think? If you're one of my friends who reads this blog because you know me personally, what are your feelings on me posting negative reviews? If you don't know me in "real life" but follow this blog--what's your opinion on negative reviews? Have you been following the YA Mafia insanity? What are your feelings on it?

And I guess the underlying question is: should I post the negative review?

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Book Review: City of Glass

Title: City of Glass
Author: Cassandra Clare
Genre: Urban Fantasy (YA)
Length: 541

Quality Rating: 9
Content Rating: PG-13

Read First: City of Bones, City of Ashes

I thought this was the conclusion to a trilogy, and it both is and isn't. It's sort of like the Wayfarer Redemption Series where there are two distinct trilogies that are very closely tied. At least, that's my understand. Regardless, after finishing this book, I can't wait for the next book to come out this April. I'm dying to read it.

This book simply continued the awesomeness of the first two, bringing together all the hinted at subplots and problems into an epic finale. And let's add a double twist to the love story. My my. I have to say I didn't see this double twist coming at all! (It's not often that happens).

But since I don't want to give away spoilers but I do want to talk about how awesome this book is, I'm going to talk about something a little vague that I think Ms. Clare did an awesome job with: background romantic subplots.

In most books you have your POV characters who fall in love. You get that romance up close and personal, so you get invested in it. But Ms. Clare went above and beyond that. She made me invested in the romantic story lines of background non-POV characters. I longed for the background hints of Alec's romance (I won't say with who so that there are no spoilers). Every time his name was mentioned in conjunction with his love interest, I perked and read voraciously. When his love interest resolved in the end, I was happier than I could imagine--especially considering its a secondary subplot.

I can think of few other authors who managed to convey a deep and real relationship without using those characters POV. David Eddings comes to mind. In his series, he usually only has one or two POV characters and yet all of his characters seem to have romances going on in the background--romances that you can follow without their POV. I love that. It shows a mastery of story telling that I'm not sure I've come close to mastering.

So read The Mortal Instruments and become invested in all of the characters, not just the POV ones.

This book is also rated PG-13 for violence, death, demons, vampires, and sexual situations.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Critiques and Descent

If you're a writer and you don't frequent the blog Miss Snark's First Victim, you don't know what you're missing. It's a great blog for aspiring and established writers to get critiques and see how agents view those crucial first 250 words of your novel.

This week, Authoress--the hostess--is doing a critique called "Drop the Needle" where writers could enter any 250 words from their story as long as it goes along with the theme she presets. This week's theme is revelations.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, for the first time, I was brave enough to try to enter one of her critiques and I got in! Woohoo! And I didn't just send in 250 words from any old story. I sent in 250 words from Descent, the novel whose inspiration I discussed in an earlier post today.

So if you're a friend and want a taste of the new Descent, go check it out my entry. If you're a writer, head over to Miss Snark's First Vicitm and join in the critiquing.

On a slight different note, if you're one of my non-writer friends, please don't offer a critique or comment unless you feel you're opinion is really valid. I don't want a rush of friends on my post saying "I love Mandy! I love everything she writes! Woohoo!". Serious critiques people. That's what Miss Snark's First Victim is about. Serious, helpful, but not snarky, critiques.

When Inspiration Hits

One of my current WIPs (WIP = work in progress) is something that is near and dear to my heart. I thought of the original idea that eventually grew into this story when I was a sophomore in high school. In many ways it was a reaction to Harry Potter, so yes, it involves wizards, but now it has gained a life of its own, and is a story that I think is worth telling and needs to be told.

So if this idea has been around so long, why haven't I written it? I've tried several times. I've started it so many ways. But every time I'll write three chapters and then falter. I can't go on. I'm no longer hearing it, feeling it. Somehow, what I'm writing is not true to the vision I feel in my heart.

Recently I've really struggled with it. I'd written six chapters, but I reached a wall. Not a wall of writer's block, I knew what should come next in this draft and know how to write it. No, this wall was a feeling that the story was failing, not staying true to what it should be.

In many ways this is the darkest story I've ever tried to write. It's a story of evil and its development, of how it slowly takes over. But my draft wasn't giving that feeling, that ambiance. It seemed too lighthearted, not enough darkness.

I thought of combining it with another WIP, trying to force them to come together to get that feel. But the characters wouldn't agree, they wouldn't mesh. It felt forced on every level.

So the story went on the back burner. I turned to another one while letting the juices of that story stew.

Then in class on Thursday, inspiration struck. I really can't describe it any other way.

I remembered the first line of one of my early drafts. I remembered the emotions I was trying to convey. And suddenly it was like I was hearing a voice speaking to me in my head. It was Chris, my main character, telling me his story.

I began writing in class, disregarding the lecture on statistics. I raced home, sat at my computer, and wrote for 4 hours. At the end of it, I had nearly 10,000 words. Ten thousand words that for the first time seem to get how this story is supposed to be.

Is it perfect? No. It'll all need revision of course, once I finish the story. But I think I've captured the voice, the mood, the feeling of darkness.

For the first time, I am confident that this start is one I can take to the finish with confidence. All I want to do is write in it.

This time Chris's story will be told and I'm thrilled.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Book Review: City of Ashes

Title: City of Ashes
Author: Cassandra Clare
Genre: Urban Fantasy (YA)
Length: 453

Quality Rating: 9
Content Rating: PG-13

Read First: City of Bones

This second book in The Mortal Instruments is not a disappointment. I don't want to release any spoilers, but let's just say that the romantic plot twist from the first book is a present problem in this second book.

It's really hard to say anything about this book without completely spoiling the first book, because this book deals with the repercussions and revelations of the first book. And what I love about this particular set of YA books, as opposed to YA books in general, is how it deals family relationships. It seems to be a general rule that YA books deal only with friendship and romantic relationships, while familial relationships are the domain of MG relationships--as if family problems disappear when you hit 14. But that's not true, and Cassandra Clare deals with that. She deals with how if anything familiar relationships get more complicated when you become a teenager. How you're striving for approval and love--not just from the opposite sex (or the same as the case may be) but from your parents. And family relations are definitely a theme hidden within the awesome action of this book.

If you loved City of Bones, you'll love City of Ashes.

This book is PG-13 for the same reasons as the first: violence, sexual situations, comas, demons, and death.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Ode to Borders

If you follow the publishing industry or books much, then you know that Borders has recently declared bankruptcy. This greatly distresses me because I love Borders. In fact, I adore Borders. So today I present my ode to Borders, written in multiple stanzas of haiku:

Rows and rows of books
and books. Glistening covers
that beckon my eye.

I pick an aisle
and walk trailing my hand on
spines, feeling titles.

I look over the
tops of shelves and see genres.
So many choices.

Need assistance? No
Thank you. I can find my way.
I’m glad they offer.

I find my section.
Science Fiction/Fantasy.
Old friends, maybe new.

order just seems right. I know
my way to fav’rites.

Ender’s Game? Brandon
Sanderson? They have them all.
I breathe in the joy.

Yes, these are my friends:
Ender and Vin. But new ones
await. What to choose?

I peruse with joy
to the smell of coffee and
new books. I love it.

Please, Borders, don’t die.
You mean so much to me. Not
just books. But more too.

Evening meetings with
my mentor, studying God’s
Word while drinking tea.

Hours with my friends
talking about books we love
and ones we want too.

I discovered new
books on your shelves. New friends I
took home to join mine.

Please, Borders, don't die
or I'll loose my escape from

One day I hope to
see my own books on your shelves
discovering friends.

I hear the news, but
I won't lose hope. I have faith
Borders will still live.

I will buy books from
you. I will buy coffee too.
You will live for me.

Please, Borders, don't die.
I need books to love so please,
please, Borders, don't die.