Friday, February 21, 2020

VISION IN SILVER


Review of VISION IN SILVER by ANNE BISHOP
(third in THE OTHERS series)

Spoiler alert warning: don’t read this review if you don’t want any spoilers of the first two books.

Tensions between the Others and the humans continue to escalate as retaliations beget retaliations. Human activists lead the charge riling up the public and garnering sympathy for the HFL (Humans First and Last) movement. The Others are content to ignore human grumblings…until malcontent turns dangerous. When humans hurt, antagonize, and mistreat the Others, they don’t realize how far their harmful actions ripple. Humans think of the Others as a few semi-human beings living on the periphery of human society. They’ve forgotten about what lives deeper in the wilderness. They’ve forgotten what happens when the Others decide humans are no longer useful.  

Simon, a wolf shapeshifter, and Meg, the blood prophet, might be the key to saving humankind. Simon leads the local Courtyard, a liminal area between human and Other society where the worlds merge and blend a little. That’s the case with Simon’s Courtyard perhaps more so than others. After befriending Meg when she escaped those taking advantage of her prophetic gifts and sought asylum in the Courtyard, Simon gradually accepted more and more humans into their world: new employees, friends of Meg, some of the local human police. Humans and Others might mingle in other parts of the world, but nowhere do they understand and value each other to the degree found in Simon’s community. Which is why, when HFL groups lash out at Others with increasing violence, higher authorities want Simon’s input on whether any humans deserve to live.

I’m avoiding mentions of the main plot thread of this novel for spoiler reasons, but I will say that Bishop is one of the few authors who consistently writes books I can’t put down. Avid readers can become jaded readers – you’ve seen it all – but Bishop always brings forth my childlike wonder at the sheer magic of good storytelling.
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Friday, February 14, 2020

RUINED


Review of RUINED by AMY TINTERA
(first in the RUINED trilogy)

Emelina Flores was the useless daughter of a powerful and ruthless queen. I don’t mean useless in the typical sense. I mean useless as in not a Ruined, this world’s term for those with formidable telekinetic abilities. Emelina’s parents and sister were notoriously remarkable Ruined. Until the day a rival kingdom organized an uprising, killing Emelina’s parents and kidnapping her sister.

They overlooked Emelina, the “useless” one. Mistake. Driven by a bitter craving for vengeance, Emelina has organized a return uprising. In fact, she intends to return every cruel favor by killing the entire royal family responsible for her own kingdom’s destruction. The book opens with Emelina murdering the young prince’s betrothed on her way to the castle. Emelina will take her place, marry the prince, and, once the pieces of her strategy align, she and the remaining Ruined will destroy an entire family and kingdom like they destroyed hers.

What Emelina didn’t see coming is how…reasonable the prince is. His father might be a cruel tyrant, but in the prince Emelina sees the potential for a different future. Of course, her vicious plan is too far gone to stop now, and she really can’t afford these developing feelings for a husband who won’t live much longer.

It’s no secret that YA fantasy has been a glutted market the past few years. You can read dozens of plot synopses that sound so similar, it’s difficult to select which books will make your cut. It comes down to quality, which you can’t assess for yourself until you read it, but for me RUINED stood out in the crowd. The book features a strong but flawed heroine, well-plotted politics, a convincing star-crossed romance, many other compelling characters, and satisfying social subtext. Simply put, this story has depth. How I love a good story with depth.

While a few details later in the book tied up a little too neatly, I felt invested enough in the characters that I eagerly suspended my disbelief and let myself enjoy the riveting story. The ending also hits that very satisfying balance between closure and plot threads left open for the next book. I can’t wait to read the second book in the trilogy and I’ve already looked into what else Tintera has written.
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Friday, February 7, 2020

The Artist’s Way Program: Week 12


The Artist’s Way Program: Week 12, Recovering a Sense of Faith

This is a series of blog posts following my experiences doing Julia Cameron’s 12-week Artist’s Way program. If this series is new to you, feel free to read the original book review first.

Week 12, the last week of the program, focuses on “recovering a sense of faith.” In other words, we’ve spent the first eleven weeks breaking down and analyzing creativity, but as our last step Cameron wants us to accept that there’s still something mysterious about art, that creativity requires a degree of trust, both in yourself and the world. I think the artist dates are particularly relevant to this. They give your imagination the freedom to play and explore, essentially exercising your creativity.

My favorite assignment this week was “mend any mending.” As it sounds, Cameron encourages you to step away from the creative and fix whatever’s broken. I like that this encourages the importance of taking a step back, a reminder that creativity isn’t all about the final product but also a state of mind. Neglected to do lists only serve as creative distractions.

I love my morning pages now. While my original plan was to stop them for a week after the program and assess whether I miss them, I feel confident enough that I would miss them to skip the stopping step altogether. I like that every day starts the same way. I like that “the same way” is something easy and relaxing rather than immediately diving into work like I did before. I like the daily, mindful self-reflection and analysis, as well as the outlet for releasing all those nagging concerns bouncing around in my mind. I still sometimes struggle filling three pages, but at the end of it I always feels refreshed and unburdened. A great way to start work and a great way to start the day.

My artist dates, on the other hand, I knew from Week 1 that I would want to continue. No changes there! I have a long list of ideas. We all fall into routines, stuffed with obligations and repeating chores until there’s little time left. I love that my artist dates provide some fun variation to every week as well as an emphasis on the value of taking some time for myself, not even as a yearly fluke but on a regular basis.

Honestly, approaching THE ARTIST’S WAY from an outsider perspective, I found it gives off cultish vibes, probably a combination of the invented pseudo-psychology lingo and the program’s many loyal, overly gushing fans. My point is that I don’t want to call myself a “convert,” because it only reinforces the cult vibe, but—hey, let’s be honest—that’s what I am! I did start the program with a healthy, open mind, but I also brought my bucketful of cynicisms, too. Not every single article or assignment was for me, but I nevertheless consider this program a glowing example of good self-therapy. Like any therapy, you will get out of it what you put into it. That said, THE ARTIST’S WAY is a wonderfully developed and insightful starting point for deep self-reflection centered around that illusive concept of creativity.
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