Tuesday, March 17, 2015


I’ve been doing some math recently and it hasn’t been pretty. Over the last few months blogging time has been beating out writing time by roughly three to one. That is not good. I love blogging a lot more then I thought I would, but that doesn’t stop it from being time consuming. I think it might be time to reevaluate.

It’s not that I’m quitting forever. Obviously that wouldn’t help me much! It’s just that a combination of bad health, limited time, and boredom (from the blog posts) have meant that these four posts a takes me a week or two to write. I keep hoping the next month will be different but it never is. It’s killing me to admit that I can’t do it all. Even as I write this post I’m rethinking posting it. After all, blogs are vital to a hopeful writer like me. But so is free writing time.

I’ll probably still pop in every now and again with ideas that catch my fancy, but it won’t be anything regular like it has been. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be able to bring my focus back here in a way that doesn’t cause problems with the things I started this blog to promote- my books.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jennavier Recommends: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara

Once upon a time an elderly professor asked me what I liked to read. I was eleven, so the only book I kept track of was the one I was reading at the time. It was an overwrought preteen drama about the Civil War so I told him I liked Civil War books. Since my mom was his employee he benevolently decided to get my siblings and I gifts. For me he got The Killer Angels.

I was hideously disappointed. My sister, who was an adorable toddler with endless curls, got finches. I got an indecipherable book. Four years after the finches were dead I gave the book another shot. I muddled through it, resulting in a generally favorable impression, but didn't really get it. So the fact that I held onto it for the next decade or so makes no sense at all.

I might be a book hoarder, but even I have my limits. When yet another move loomed I culled my hoard. But before I finally got rid of The Killer Angels I decided to give it read it one more time out of sentimental value. And you'll never guess what happened. It was AWESOME!

Michael Sharra has a way of making Gettysburg vital and real. I was invested in the characters, the people, that lived and died there. I understood what was at stake better then I ever had in class. Shaara was meticulous about historical details. While no work of fiction is a substitute for actually being there I felt like I was being told about it from the very people who had lived it. I also love the perspective they had on war. After coming of age in the War on Terror I have little ability to understand other types of conflict. Using some of its major players as vehicles Shaara gave me the ability to understand what the war meant to those people, and how it changed the fabric of the country they left behind.

It helps that in between reads I grew up, took a lot of history classes, and visited Gettysburg. But as a self-described hater of military historical I'm tough to impress. Gettysburg is definitely something worth reading. I'm hanging on to my copy.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

In Favor of Trigger Warnings

Whether trigger warnings are necessary, helpful, or obnoxious seems to be a question that the internet can’t stop arguing about. I'm going to add my own two cents. At the risk of oversimplification there seems to be two thoughts. One champions freedom of expression and thinks that trigger warnings are curbing free speech and making us all sissies. The other is an idea of kinder thinking that wants to empathize with and protect victims by telling everyone else what to do.

I’ve read a lot of the arguments. I can’t say that I have the definitive word on the subject (who does?) but I do have a perspective.

I appreciate trigger warnings. Before you start arguing with me let me explain. A trigger warning is unlikely to make me not read an article/comic/tweet. I was a victim of sexual violence. Earlier in my recovery process I had to be careful about what I read. These days that’s less of the case. However a trigger warning allows me to get my mental armor into place.

The internet reaches everywhere. I may be reading your campus expose in the middle of my day when I’m prepared for just about anything, but I’m just as likely to be reading it over a bowl of cereal in my pajamas. I’m sure you can guess when I have the strongest mental defenses in place.

The worry for me is not that I’ll be offended, but that I’ll be blindsided by something that makes me remember my experiences in a moment when I think I’m safe. It’s not just that the remembering is painful, but that it leaves me in the mentality of a victim until I can shake it. It’s not a pleasant experience and it makes me less likely to try new things. A trigger warning in the front removes that risk for me. It gives me the time to prepare myself for what’s coming in a way that doesn’t instigate a relapse. It’s something that I’ve always seen as polite in this new age of internet sharing. More then that, it’s a kindness to those of us who have to live with something ugly from the past on a regular basis.

I can see how this could go wrong. How everyone would avoid things that make them uncomfortable and thus stunt themselves. On the other hand is it really our business to decide what people should or should not avoid? Some people only watch soap operas or Fox News. Trust me, they are already censoring themselves. For those of us still brave enough to explore the words of the internet a few warning signs are much appreciated.

P.S. What about other trigger warnings? I like them on book/movie reviews because it helps steer clear of novels with gratuitous rape, although if the book/movie sounds good enough I’ll read/watch it anyways. There’s a different problem with these, namely that I’ll empathize too strongly with the victims and be victimized myself when the book/movie fails to handle these events in a meaningful way.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Jennavier Recommends: The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang

I should not exist. But I do.

http://hybridchronicles.katzhangwriter.com/ONCE_WE_WERE.htmlEva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

http://hybridchronicles.katzhangwriter.com/ECHOES_OF_US.htmlI don't say this very often so listen up. I think Kat Zhang might be one of the most original and talented authors writing in YA today. I should have hated this book is because it left me on tenterhooks for so freaking long! There's only so much suspense I can handle people!!! Despite having what should be the most unbelievable premise What's Left of Me rockets along with a lot of questions, a little answers, and a really great heroine.

One of the things I love about this trilogy is how smart Addy and Eva are even while being strait up teenagers. I mean that they make mistakes, they react badly, but at the same time they are willing to grow and adapt in truly courageous ways.

I thought the romances were really well done. They didn't take up a lot of space but what they did have was both sweet and believable.

http://hybridchronicles.katzhangwriter.com/WHATS_LEFT_OF_ME.htmlOne of my big complaints about many series that feature teenagers is that the heroine doesn't have the necessary skills to succeed. Addie and Eva might not seem like they do, but when the time comes they are in a place where they can make the most of what they have. It was satisfying to watch Eva really take on the bad guys instead of being helpless!

The ending was both believable and satisfying. While it did strain the bonds of credulity a little it still worked within the story. The possibilities functioned, is the only say I can think to say it.

I can't wait to see what Kat Zahn writes next!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Jennavier Recomends: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It's a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship's Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn't be better...until Andrew begins to pick up on the facts that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces; (2) the ship's captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations; and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues' understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is...and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

I really, really loved Redshirts. It was funny, clever, and nerdy as all get out. Every time I thought I had a lock on it I was surprised. I got completely lost in this book. It helps that it's short in that department! I couldn't put it down until I read it through. I was delighted every time I found another clever bit, and they came thick and fast.

One of the things that is so fun about Redshirts is how Scalzi plays with television tropes. It goes deeper the further you look. The whole book is based on skewering bad TV shows. Like what's up with the group dynamic? Oh yeah, four guys and one girl, and the girls the beat 'em up character. There’s no very little by way of description because it wouldn’t be in a script. There's a thousand more examples just like those. There were a few times I wish Scalzi would have filled something out more but he stuck to his concept. I can't say I blame him. It felt like I could have been watching an episode of a favorite show.

I really should mention the codas at the end. They were only barely necessary and dragged the fast moving plot down to a crawl. If you're reading this book I would suggest giving them a shot and then skipping them if they don't work for you.

P.S. A few sequels has come out to the books I've recommended so I updated their entries. Promise of Blood had a sequel that was less the  amazing and turned me off that series. Sarah Rees Brennan finished the last book in her Lynburg legacy trilogy and it was amazing! You can check my original recommendation for the series out here.