Alienated: A Book review

So I just finished reading the book Alienated by Melissa Landers and the fact that a book about aliens sending foreign exchange students to earth was written by a woman named Landers has not escaped me.

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Alienated is YA romance, which is normally a genre I try to avoid but I read the first chapter while waiting for my brother to finish doing something in a book store and kind of liked the main character and the idea of a highly advance (but genetically identical to humans) trying to make an alliance with earth because they need us. On some level the premise of the story reminded me of Battlestar Galactica.

Here’s what I liked about the book:

1) Alienated was a NaNoWriMo book. It’s nice to know that a book written during National Novel Writing Month can actually make it. Obviously the creation of the book took more than 30 days (according to the acknowledgements section it took at least 5 drafts) but I like that it was a NaNoWriMo book. That means it was written by someone who loves writing and books and stories. To me that really means that this was the author’s story, a story that probably meant a lot to them while they were writing it. I would know, I try to do NaNoWriMo every year and I only finish when it is actually a story that I really care about.

2) The book is actually well written. A lot of YA fiction, especially YA romances are not well written and kind of glorify unhealthy relationships (I’m looking at you Twilight). Alienated is pretty well written it shows rather than tells, builds the world in an interesting way, and it has believable narratives between the two main characters. There are some books out there that are so poorly written that I cannot wade my way the way through them and sit there wondering how they got published. Alienated was not that way. Trust me it wasn’t Shakespeare and it was written for mid to late teens but in a good way.

3) Alienated deals with the entirety of the community shunning the heroine and her family based on ignorance and prejudice. People she had known for 18 years and who her father (a firefighter) had saved their lives not only turned their backs on her but literally threatened and tried to kill her. It was so realistic too. I believed that this was the way people would actually react to the situation presented. I also sat stunned on my couch for a few minutes halfway through the book saying “of course it’s a good idea to attack the highly advanced race of aliens trying to be our friends. People are stupid.”

Here’s what I didn’t like about the book:

1) There was a moment very early on in which the girl was talking about how beautiful the guy was for most of a paragraph and I was so irritated about it. Then it got over it until halfway through the book it happened again. This time from the male perspective talking about how beautiful the girl was. Ug. The worst. I can stand a second or two of the person describing the other character but I want to see how beautiful they are through their eyes without being told.

2) The sex escalated really suddenly. Really suddenly. It surprised me. Like a lot. I don’t even really have commentary on it I’m just saying it was a little of putting.

3) I didn’t get enough information to know if I was rooting for the alliance or not. It wasn’t a bad thing it was just that my only investment in the alliance completely hinged on my feelings about the two main characters.

Recommendation/Rating: 

I want to give the book 4 out of 5 stars but it might be more like 3.5 out of 5, it depends on what I’m judging it based on. I did enjoy it and would recommend it to my friends. If you like that genre or teen fiction, specifically aimed at 16, 17, and 18 years old girls, then I would recommend it. If you aren’t into that then you won’t want to read it.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.

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The Library Would be So Much Better If I Ran It.

I’m pretty harsh when it comes to my local library and I realize that I shouldn’t be quite so critical but seriously, seriously, the library would be so much better if I ran it.

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When it comes to libraries I was kind of spoiled growing up. The library in my town was really good. It was a big open building but was divided up into neatly organized sections, including very easy places to set books that you didn’t want anymore for reshelving. The librarians were also very good, I can’t remember even one time when someone told the librarian she was an idiot. If I was looking for a book and I knew the name of it and the author no librarian ever told me that the book didn’t exist (that actually happened here in Davis County)

Then of course there was college.

I had the nerve to major in English in college so of course I spent a lot of time inside the library (the fact that I worked there had nothing to do with it, honestly). I spent a lot of time both at the university library and  the public library that was only a few blocks away. Okay, it was a university library! I get it. University libraries are always good and well organized and they would never tell someone working on their degree in English that a book doesn’t exist. And the public library? The public library was in a town that had five colleges in it including Whitworth University and Gonzaga. They had to be good just in the spirit of competition.

The point is that I never had a problem at any of those libraries.

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So fast forward to my life after college and wander around my local library and you’ll understand why I am usually unhappy after going there. I  like libraries but that one is irritating and I honestly think it would be a lot better if I ran it but then again I think most things would be better if I ran them.

I would start by either dividing all of the adult fiction books into genres or incorporating them all into one big dewey decimal system. Currently the library is divided into paperbacks (which are divided by genre) and hardbacks (which are not divided by genre.) I can’t find anything. Even knowing the decimal system as I do I have to check 6 different places to find one thing. (The young adult section is even worse because its backwards.) There’s no need for this.

Honestly I probably would divide it into genres because I liked that about the Spokane library and I liked that I could go into the fantasy section and just browse for a good slasher novel like Conan the Barbarian.

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(“Daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise.” Belle knows what to look for in a good fantasy novel.)

I would also ditch the no food or drink policy, maybe even add a little coffee stand to the foyer. The librarian cannot seriously believe that when I take the book home I am not going to drink my coffee by it. I might say that all beverages must be in a sealed container but I would allow people to bring their drinks in. A little coffee stand would be good for business. All of the proceeds could go to buying more books, you guys want more books don’t you?

The most important change I would make to the library system is extended hours. I do not see why I can go out on Saturday night at 10, eat drink and be merry but I can’t go to the library and pick out a book. What nonsense is this? I’m up, I’m free. If I want to go to the library I should be allowed to.

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I also don’t see why the library is closed on national holidays like Memorial day. If I have finished my book and want a new one I don’t care if it is a “holiday” I should be able to get my book. I have time on national holidays and I want to go get books.

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There are other changes and programs that could be added to the library to make it better. I don’t know why the local library can’t do them.

Maybe I should just get my Masters in Library Science and just take over the library system. Or turn into a Disney character. None of them have problems with their local libraries.

What would I know if I didn’t know this?

(First of all I’d like to mention that my computer’s hard drive is apparently going bad so I am trying to not use my computer so much, in case it crashes. I only write this blog on my computer rather than on my phone or any of that nonsense. I’m just saying this as an excuse for why I haven’t written anything in a while and why I might disappear suddenly. If I do vanish into thin air please don’t worry I’m not dead just my computer.)

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Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

Every time I go off on “facts” about something nerdy like the Marvel Universe or why someone’s theory about a Disney movie is wrong I stop and question myself. I really question myself. What would I know if I didn’t know this? Actually, I wonder that a little less now that my dad and I have established that it would be state capitols. I don’t know the state capitols any more, at least not all of them.

This morning my mom and I were having a discussion about the movie Dave. If you are unfamiliar with it don’t worry too much. It’s an older movie now (1993).

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Dave is a movie about the president having a severe stroke so the president’s advisers find a look alike to be him for a few weeks, seeing as the president is incapable of doing president things at the time. My mom and I were discussing what happens in that sort of situation and trying to remember which of the presidents in American history was only an acting president for a while then became president. We couldn’t come up with which president it was or if it even happened at all (and clearly I am feeling too lazy to actually look it up). Believe it or not I did get an a in American history I was in high school.

I turned to my mom and said, “you know, I don’t know my presidential history anymore but I can tell you exactly who Doctor Strange is and why Anna and Elsa’s parents are not also Tarzan’s parents.” Which is true. I can go on for hours about Disney fan theories and why they are geographically or historically wrong but if I have to remember my own countries history we are all going to be screwed. Which sent me off on a tangent all about some of those things.

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(By the way, if you believe that Anna and Elsa’s parents are also Tarzan’s parents you are so wrong that is physically hurts me. They don’t even look enough alike to justify that theory).

My mom does not spend nearly as much time on the internet as I do (and that is probably a good thing) so I had to first explain the bizarre fan theory connecting Anna and Elsa’s parents to Tarzan’s parents followed by every reason it is wrong; geographically, historically, theoretically. For the sake of time I am not going to explain that now just know that I am right and look back periodically for all the reasons because I will eventually write all about it.

After finishing explaining I turned to my mom and said something about Teddy Roosevelt and why I thought he was the president we were thinking of (he was actually the vice president to start with and then announced at the end of his first real term that he considered it his second term and wouldn’t run again which he totally did later when he decided he no longer liked his buddy Taft and ran against him, splitting the party and losing the election for both of them).It got me thinking. I couldn’t remember the circumstances of Teddy Roosevelt’s first term in office or the State Capitol of Rhode Island, which could be considered important, but I can remember the circumstances of the death of a fictional king and queen and where their shipwreck should be. This is not a failing in our school system or with my generation. This is a personal failing. I have deemed certain fictional information and what it may represent in the world and in the thought processes of the world at the time of publication. I like to pepper my fictional realities with actual facts like the years in which some fairy tales should take place and the countries of origin but that information is all secondary to whatever it is that I am trying to prove or disprove.

Personally I blame my degree.

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You see, I graduated from a pretty good college with a degree in English. For four years my whole life was about pointing out fictional moments to show what they represent in reality (just because it is fiction does not mean it isn’t real). Now that changes the way I look at everything and I have forgotten my state capitols but I do remember that Hermione Granger is discriminated against as a muggle born student simply because the restrictions on underage magic can only detect when a spell is performed around a student and not whether or not it is performed by a student and therefore students with wizard parents should automatically have an advantage. They can perform magic and have their parents say it was them  where as Hermione is the only person in her home able to perform magic and any spell performed was obviously her.

Is this a bad thing? I can use fiction to reach conclusions about reality. So I think it isn’t but it is a weird a thing.

The Best Eyebrows in the Business

When I was in junior high my friend Hailey decided to give me a makeover right down to plucking my eyebrows. Three plucks into it I pushed her hand away and said get away from me right now. People say beauty is pain. If it is then I would rather not be beautiful because I do not do pointless pain. From that day on I was decided that I did not care what was trendy. I liked my eyebrows the way they were and they could stay whether or not they were giant caterpillars hanging out over my eyes. And for a while I got made fun of by various people for the fact that I did not pluck my eyebrows (young girls can be cruel). My eyebrows were not badly shaped just kind of thick and in the late 90’s and early 2000’s eyebrows were supposed to be sculpted and thin.

I only tell that story because last night I was watching TV (it’s wild card weekend, according to my dad it is the best weekend of football in the whole year) and a make-up commercial came on. The commercial was for some sort of product that makes your eyebrows look thicker. THICKER! I hope you will all forgive me for the confusion that I feel when it comes to celebrating thicker eyebrows but in my short life (no, in the short period of time between me being old enough to wear make-up and now) culture has shifted from wanting almost no eyebrows at all to celebrating woman with thick eyebrows as a thing of beauty. In searching for the product I saw advertised I found a beauty blog explaining how to get thicker eyebrows.

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Thicker darker eyebrows are now desired. Something that I, oddly enough, was teased for as a young teenager. Our ideas of beauty are so arbitrary that it actually hurts my brain. It hurts my brain even more to think about how quickly those standards can change. Sure, the day Hailey tried to pluck my eyebrows was probably in 2002 or 2003 (which would be more than 10 years ago) but when you think about the entire history of the world that span of time is nothing. 100 years is a blink of an eye to an elf.

15 years ago my ideas of beauty were being formed as well as my ideas of what other people thought were the epitome of beauty. So last January my friend Erin taught me how to do my make up. While were at the store I turned to her and said “I’ll do whatever you say but I am not going to mess with my eyebrows. I like my eyebrows just the way they are,” and I was surprised to hear her compliment them. She told me that she liked my eyebrows, they were nice and full. What? I thought that thin, neatly plucked eyebrows were still the standard and that people hated my eyebrows. The standard of beauty changed so fast that it gave me make-up whiplash. It really did.

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I don’t really know what I’m saying or trying to say about the world. I’m just confused by the whole world and by our standards of beauty. I’m just pleased that I like the way I look no matter what society tells me and wish that we lived in a world where no one else thought they had the right to dictate what makes me or anyone else feel beautiful.

Just a thought.