Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth and the Reader/Author Contract

I checked out Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth from the library. To be honest, I added myself to the wait list for the ebook on a whim and went back and forth several times as the countdown lowered. On the one hand, I loved Divergent. I still love Divergent. I will always love Divergent. It stands as a shining example of what YA dystopian fiction can be. The rest of the series though, stands as an example of what it should never, ever devolve into. In fact, I haven't read the third book in that series because I know what she did at the end and I know how angry it would make me and even though she wrote some lovely blog posts justifying her choices (which were legitimately hers to make as the author), she broke the reader/author contract that I subscribe to.

And that makes me wary with Carve the Mark.

I'm about half-way through and I seriously consider adding it to my DNF (did not finish) pile and moving on every time I reach for my kindle. I don't love any of the characters. Honestly, I don't even really like them. It's Tris and Four all over again, but this time in reverse, and we know how well that worked out last time and so...I can't--won't--get attached. Which makes the book an incredibly dull slog.

I'm not positive it wouldn't be a dull slog even if I could bring myself to care about either of the two main characters. But I'll never know, because I can't -- and I can't because I don't trust Ms. Roth.

Ultimately that's what it boils down to. I don't trust her to write a story that has a satisfying conclusion. Oh, sure, I'm nearly positive books 1 and 2 will be fine. But it lurks at the back of my mind that she'll murder us all in book 3 and claim artistic integrity like she did with the Divergent series. And while that may work for some people, it doesn't work for me. I want books where good wins over evil and the hero and heroine that you've thrown into love for two books end up happy together (honestly, if you don't want a happy ending romantically, then just keep romance out of your book. It's that easy.) I don't want tragedy in my fiction. I know there are people who do, and that's fine - to them I heartily recommend Roth's books, cause she'll break your heart six ways to Sunday every chance she gets.

Roth isn't the only author I feel this way about, she's just the only one I still try to take a chance on (but given Carve the Mark, that may be ending). Shelly Adina lost me with her Magnificent Devices series when I realized that every "book" was going to just stop, in the middle of the story, so you felt compelled to find out what happened. Cliffhanger after cliffhanger with nary a conclusion - not even a semi-conclusion to one or two story threads? Nope. Not for me, thanks. I like my stories to have beginnings, middles, and ends all right there in the same volume. Then there's Sara Ella's Unblemished series that honestly feels like it was written by a twelve year old and makes Stephanie Meyer seem like a writer of literary fiction (to be clear, I enjoy Meyer's books, even the Twilight books, but she's not a literary writer and that is just fine.) I don't know why people rave over Sara Ella because I find her books unreadable - full of love triangles where the best option is for every single one of them to take a breath, grow up, and realize that their relationships are dysfunctional bordering on abusive.

Maybe I'm just too old. If that's the case, then so be it. I like to read books where authors abide by the unwritten contract with their readers that good overcomes evil and love, if it's in the pages, lasts for a lifetime after the final chapter ends, and I'm grateful that there are plenty of authors who still seem to understand that there are people out here who want those stories.


Some TV Watching

There should be something to say that's more interesting. There should be, but there isn't. Life simply continues apace and I find myself less willing to share my thoughts...anywhere, to be honest. Not even really in person, though opportunities for that are few and far between.

Regardless, as such, I've been scouring for something to interest my eyeballs in the evenings and, as we ditched any sort of cable/satellite/what have you some years ago, my choices are Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Netflix has added some Jeopardy, did you know?

I love Jeopardy. It's been quite fun watching the handful of episodes they've made available. Even the kids enjoy it. (Fun fact: eldest boy was watching with me one evening and went, "Oh! I get it now!" Apparently they'd been playing Bible Jeopardy in Sunday school and kids were humming the theme song and while he thought it was catchy, he didn't really get that it was a 30 second timer.)

And then (behind the times, I realize) I discovered The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime. It. Is. Hilarious.

Normally I don't care about emmy wins or anything like that - but apparently season 1 got 8 and so far, I would say they're incredibly well earned. (Not kid friendly, this one, but still worth watching, IMHO.)

So there you go. How I've been rotting my brain in an attempt to keep out of the Swamps of Sadness. It...sort of works.


An Open Letter of Sorts

Over on the Faceplant (as Robbo calls it, which I have fully coopted), I saw several meme-slash-open letter type things along the lines of "If you have Thanksgiving with a Black family it's just about food and loved ones, not celebrating genocide in the name of exploration."

It was all I could do not to comment with a little reality for these friends of mine, because I would stake just about anything that there is not one white, green, or purple person out there who sat down on Thursday in front of their turkey and had even one tiny thought of celebrating the treatment of indigenous peoples 300 years ago. Thanksgiving? Yeah, it's about food and family for 99.999999% of Americans regardless of race.

It got me thinking (because the idea of the meme is the same as others on different topics I've been seeing of late) and I realized that if you're the sort of person who groups other people by a single characteristic over which they have little to no control, you're part of the problem, not the solution.

That's right. If you're writing Dear White/Fat/Thin/Pretty/Ugly/whatever People open letters? It's your heart that needs examining.

All of us are human beings, created in the very image of God and beloved by Him. That's where generalization ends. After that, our physical characteristics, likes and dislikes are varied and unique from one person to the next regardless of said physical characteristics, and to be willing to say "All 44 year old white females do X, Y and Z" takes an incredible level of conceit.

Yes, my life has been shaped by those characteristics, as has yours. I don't deny that. But that doesn't mean it has to define you. That's a choice we all make, based on our willingness to do the work required of being a grown up (with the understanding that there may be more work required in some situations than others and, no, it isn't fair, but do you want it or not?)

It seems to me, the world would be on its way to being a much better place if we'd all step back from the penchant for generalizing others, recognize everyone's individuality regardless of whatever groups they belong to, and instead simply choose to be kind.

And if you want to say, "Hey, at my house Thanksgiving is all about the turkey, what about you?" and then have an open, honest dialog about that, then hey, go for it. Otherwise? Check your heart.


Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.

Here at Sleepy Central, we'll be hosting both sides of the family (as usual - though in recent years, we'd moved the actual meal to Mom's as she wasn't able to leave the house. She could generally make it either to the dining room or the living room to be with everyone, but that was about it. I think, given that, the change of venue is a positive thing and will help soften the grief of the first holiday without Mom. At least a little. Or so I delude myself.)

It will be fascinating to see how the drama unfolds, as hubby's unmarried sister is expecting and was trying to keep it a secret, but the beans have been spilled and...yeah, nothing quite says Happy Thanksgiving like that sort of elephant in the room.

I plan to ignore it, mostly, unless she says something requiring a response. I'm happy to support whatever decision she makes (parent (married or single) or place) but I'm also not going to be the one to start that conversation. Things are generally awkward at best with her, so I'm going to do my best to simply not make it worse.

My boys I can't vouch for. Neither one has a particularly well developed filter.

Should be good times.

Or something.

That said, we aren't doing a turkey this year as I loathe it and I just couldn't bring myself to sit through another meal of gross. So, instead, we are having porchetta. The bonus is that this particular recipe sits the pork shoulder atop a mess of veggies and so I firmly consider the side dishes also done. Toss a few rolls in the oven, some pie for dessert, and done.

I guess we'll see how it goes over with everyone else, but if they don't like it, well, they're always welcome to volunteer to host.


Some Saturday Random

I'm not sure there are enough thoughts in my brain to even warrant a Saturday random post, but it's been long enough that there's just a tiny bit of guilt that says, "Psst. Go blog something." And so I will.

  • Dad has been slowly going through things and doing some of the unboxing/cleaning/purging activities that I know he'd been wanting to do for years but Mom had a hard time letting go of things. We can trace the psychology of it to growing up poorer than dirt with a mother who lived through the depression, so you really might need that scrap of cardboard to redo the seat of your chair some day. It's going much faster now and Dad sets things aside if he thinks I might want them (or my sister), but I appreciate that sometimes he' just recycles it and tells me (e.g. my 12th grade final report card. Because why would I want that? Why did Mom keep it to start with? Also, I got a B- and a C in the first two quarters of Calculus. Then I switched teachers to someone who actually taught and got As the last two.)
  • That first Calc teacher? She'd let kids teach the class for extra credit. Who needs extra credit? The kids who don't understand and are therefore not doing well on their homework and tests. Anyone else see the self-fulfilling issue here? I got a lot of grief for begging to switch classes mid-year, but I still thumb my nose at my guidance counselor. Because I was right, it was not me, it was the dorky teacher. Or not teacher as the case was.
  • One of the things Dad set aside was like a Nativity set. Except it was for Easter. It had a triumphal entry set of figures, then an empty tomb, and I think maybe Peter with a big garden arch. It was one of those things that just made me smile, because I can totally see Mom buying it and thinking of all the ways she'd use it with the boys. And as nice as that is, I don't need the thing because I know I am not going to use it (lily white Jesus anyone? I mean, I don't get that -- Jesus was from Israel, His skin was not lily white.)
  • Also included in yesterday's "haul" was a David and Goliath set of action figures. I hadn't planned to keep those, but little one glommed onto them and there have been several gory battles between David and Goliath over the last 12 hours. So I guess that's a win.
  • He also stabbed his brother in the eye with Goliath's spear. Less of a win.
  • There's a lovely chill in the air. It makes me want to get down my teapot and brew something up. So I might.
  • I'm rather disappointed with our maples this year. The only reason I don't curse their existence (we have 10 of them on our lot and they cause me abject misery every spring) is their usual fall show. This year, though, they went from green to mostly brown and on the lawn with no real yellow or red phase at all. Earn your keep, maples! (I suspect it's because of how wet the summer was? Except our neighbor's maple was a lovely, firey red for several weeks before dropping its leaves to blow into our yard.)
  • Tim's grandmother passed last Saturday. I have spent off moments for a week trying to think of one good memory I have of the woman. I have yet to come up with one. I'm glad he has some, but me and the boys? Not so much.
  • We'll still be trekking to the memorial service in December. His granddad passed earlier this year and this will be a joint service and we all have many lovely memories of him. So there's that.
  • I suspect Tim and I may end up remembered much the same way. Me as the one everyone hated and him as the one everyone wondered what he'd been thinking of when he married me. Ah well.


On Halloween

Happy Halloween.

It's fascinating to me this year how many of my Christian writer friends are posting article after article about how anyone who loves Jesus can't celebrate Halloween.

I sort of get it. I mean, obviously, there's a possibility for evil there. But realistically? It's putting on a costume and going around asking neighbors for candy. Period.

That's certainly all it is in our house, and I just don't think it's a slippery slope that leads to satanism. (See also: I don't believe reading Harry Potter will automatically get you involved in witchcraft.) Honestly, if my mom was ok with trick or treating, it's hard for me to think it's anything other than harmless. She was incredibly discerning.

But to each their own.

Eldest has decided he's not dressing up. I'm a tad sad about this. It seems early, although I don't think I went out after sixth grade, so it's only a year sooner. Still, he's excited about handing out candy with me (and also hoping to play some Halloween special thing in Fortnite. We'll see about that. I've made no promises.)

Youngest has his x-wing pilot suit and helmet ready to go and is chomping at the bit to be Poe Dameron for the evening (although I suspect he will wear his costume all day. Because he dresses up for at least part of most days, so really why should today be any different?)

The boys both carved their pumpkins by themselves this year. Another sort of sad event. I guess I'll have to get my own pumpkin next year, because I do love carving a silly face. Eldest went straight up triangles and square teeth. Youngest used a pattern, but it's still a pretty traditional pumpkin face. I think they'll be lovely additions to the front stoop.

Beyond that, I'm looking forward to seeing all the kiddos who come round. I bought way more candy than is sane - and none of it is peanut free (partly because I buy candy we like and that pretty much guarantees peanuts, and partly because I did mean to buy one small nut free bag but just straight up forgot.) Hopefully Tim will have time to peek in the shed for the Burger King King head, our traditional costume for door answering.


Swiftly Fly the Years

I just got back from buying eldest new shoes. His last pair, purchased in early July, had toes inexplicably poking out the front. As those shoes were the last size available before shopping in the straight up men's section, you can see the issue. (I mean please, he's 10!)

I should have suspected this nonsense was coming when, last week, he needed socks and was able to wear a pair of his dad's without trouble. Dad now being only three sizes up in foot land.

Youngest isn't seeming to get the "Whoa there, sparky" memo about growth either. He just moved into clothes that his brother (you know the one four years older?) wore last winter.

Crazy. Town.

Also, please stop it.