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Submergence by J.M. Ledgard

20170315_110806.jpgThis one is a Literary Disco read, and I’m writing my review before I listen to the podcast. There will be some note comparisons throughout this post.

I jumped in without having read any summary of it, but here’s mine: Submergence is a narrative of a man in British intelligence and a European woman scientist both thousands of miles apart and remembering their chance encounter with each other while contemplating many mysteries of the universe and life itself.

I was submerged (see what I did there?).

While I like a story where the characters have a goal, and there are actions toward that goal, this narrative was still a good, thought-provoking read, and I could not put it down. It’s plot-less said Todd from Literary Disco, that’s it. Reflective facts are all over this book, but there is no moving plot.

Its flash backs and flash forwards between each character’s respective locations reminded me of the TV shows Once Upon a Time and Lost, and I love those. I didn’t love this book, but liked reading it.

The matter-of-fact sentences regarding their actions reminded me of The Stranger. “He did this.”

“She moved here and did this.” Also reminded me of my own dull writing (not to self: fix it!).

However, that is not how the whole book reads. The words were descriptive in their imagery, and Ledgard made such good use of sensory words. I could smell and see the gross conditions of the prison a character is trapped in; I would not eat and read this novel at the same time. While it was more of a reflection rather than an action filled story with a clear goal, I was still immersed in the world of these characters as they reflected on their lives and the lives beyond their’s.

I enjoyed James’ narrative as a prisoner of war because it gave me some insights on extremism and the environment of a war zone in third world countries.

I enjoyed that Danny was a strong and self-confident female character, but she was a snob, and she admits it, and I’ll be honest, that annoyed me. She went on about her work to James, but when he talked about something, she didn’t even pretend to care about his subject.

Rider from Literary Disco makes a good point, and I agree that the characters are difficult to relate to because they are wealthy people, so I didn’t really care what happened to them. I was reading more for the oceanographic insights.

Good intellectual book, but don’t expect a conclusive ending. According to Todd on Literary Disco, someone died, and I must have completely missed something which will tell you more than this written review can I guess. I was submerged, but apparently I did not even care enough about the characters to realize someone died.

I am fascinated by the ocean, so if you’re like me, it’s not a bad read. Some of the facts about the ocean and the environment read more like a textbook which could be bad or good depending who you are. Like I said, I am fascinated by the ocean, so it did not bother me much.

It bothered me a little that there were no chapters, and that’s just a personal preference. I like my stopping points to be on new pages. There are stopping points; just separated by squiggly lines in the middle of the page. It gets a little confusing keeping track of the narratives, especially when I spread out my reading across a few days.

I did enjoy this little comment on Americans, and I myself am guilty of being proud of some of my accomplishments and parading a “badge” of my profession (mainly free t-shirts).

“The Americans were more congratulatory… There was a pressure on American boats to purchase ugly expedition T-shirts… as if a badge was needed to prove that you had touched the ocean and partaken in your own profession” (139).

And I leave you here with that. Next read, next project, I don’t know. Until next time.

 

 

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Unfortunately Fortunate

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I have finally completely finished A Series of Unfortunate Events: a feat I have attempted many times since I fell in love with the very first book as a child. Such misery and darkness, it was great!  A feat the first time because it was a book on my teacher’s shelf that I could not take home with me. A feat the second because I still did not have the books and was borrowing them from the library one at a time, and then I got distracted.

I still can’t believe they are children’s books, but that they are, which made it easy to read on the job. If you’re looking for something that can easily be read while surrounded by distractions like on a bus or in a meeting, this is the series for you. Even if you’re not surrounded by distractions, read the series. But as the author warns you throughout the pages, it is full of misery, and he is right. I nearly cried, so be prepared when jumping into these books. It’s not all sad though, there’s humor in it, and I love it! Yes, the author talks to you sometimes, so take that into consideration. I like a lot of books where either the narrator or the character talks to the reader.

As you can see from the photo above, I do not have the complete collection, and I didn’t when I started re-re-reading it. My boyfriend has a… Kindle, and I… began the re-reading on that. I know, it hurts me, but you think I could afford to buy all thirteen books? I even tried to get the books on the cheap at Half Price Books (as you can tell). We scoured Half Price Books all over the city, and they seem to only go up to the tenth book (conspiracy! or it’s gained popularity because of Netflix). I read what I found, and the rest, I begrudgingly read on the Kindle.

An unfortunate event happened on my travels that led to something fortunate. While I packed physical books on my trip, one day, I only took the Kindle out with me with the intention of reading The Series of Unfortunate Events on the bus. But it was not there. I don’t know what happened. I fell asleep watching Netflix on it; maybe I accidentally deleted it all in my sleep. I still don’t know what happened, but I knew then that I was right to begrudgingly succumb to the technology.

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Despite my grudge against the Kindle erasing the books I wanted to read, I did fortunately, find something else to read that did not get deleted: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which was funny but something I would much rather read in book form in a quiet space. I found out later that it is only book one of a series (I seem to get myself trapped in series a lot). I finished the first book, and it definitely is not a stand-alone, but it made me laugh and distracted me from the fact that my reading of Unfortunate Series was interrupted again. Once I finish the Hitchhiker’s series, that will need its own post.

Final thoughts on the Kindle:

Pros (UGH!):

  • Travel (even though I still pack physical books)
  • Readable in low light like when you’re on a plane and don’t want to disturb your sleeping neighbor or when the lights at work suck
  • It’s easy to disguise the fact that I am reading on the job because I don’t have to hold it, and I can easily tell corporate that whatever is on the screen is for work

Cons:

  • Technology is finicky: Like when the Unfortunate Series disappeared from the system
  • Staring at the screen even when it’s unlit hurts my eyes
  • It is not a book!
  • And I cannot count the pages left in a chapter

Since I’ve decided to put more commitment into this blog, I made stickers! My Treats and Sweets Fundraiser for Pet Partners is still going on, so click here and donate at least five bucks, and I will send you one of these bad boys! It’s got a dog on it; everyone loves dogs! Help me help therapy animals!

Blog Stickers

Speaking of Commitment, My Current Projects:

  • I’ve been submersed in books written by other people because my own writing is such a mess that I don’t even know how to turn it into a coherent story. Do you ever let your place just get so messy because you’re working 24 hour shifts, and when you finally have a second to look at it, you don’t want to, and by the time you decide you should clean it, it’s already time to go back to work? That’s how I feel about my writing right now.
  • I finally thought to search the public library to get a hold of Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps. I can’t say for sure, but my current plan is to write about that in my next post which will delve into my personal life a bit which includes my writing.

Comment below to let me know if anyone is out there reading my stuff. Tell me (nicely) what you dislike about how and what I write or what I am doing right here. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but I want this blog to be something.

Help me blog better!

Projects Overload

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My most important project right now: raising money for Pet Partners, a nation wide non-profit organization that trains and registers therapy animals and their humans. The idea is to “sell” baked goods to raise money for these animals, but I’ve been doing more of a “donate and get your prize when we both have time to schedule a pick up.”

Cupcakes (baked by and approved by me) are involved for those of you local to San Antonio or are able to make the trip at some point during this fundraiser. Find “Jess’s Treats and Sweets Fundraiser” on Facebook for updates and more details on donor goodies for those not local. To donate online, go to the website pictured above.

Next up, since I am now in the business of supporting others, I have been forced to join (correction: graciously invited to join) a podcast where we talk about all kinds of nerdy stuff, and then we get off topic and make all kinds of inappropriate jokes; it’s a wonderful time! totpodIf you listen to this podcast AND found your way to this blog or vice-versa, I will mail you a TOTPOD (Thinking Outside The POD) sticker! Just leave a comment or message me here. 

You can hear the sound of my voice here among those who graciously let me join their group. You can also follow us on Twitter @totpod which we are planning to use more often! Keeping up with this weekly podcast and talk of being more prevalent on social media has inspired me to also better keep up with this blog so that I can shamelessly plug it into the podcast. Brilliant!

The plan for Doggy Paddling Through Words: I want to update biweekly because weekly is too much for something like this, and I can’t read that fast. I’ve been reminiscent of my college film club days lately, so the plan is every other Thursday starting now. I figure I’ll alternate between book reviews and updates on my personal projects.

This makes my New Year’s resolution of disconnecting moot because how do I get this blog out there without cross promotion across all social media? And the podcast demanded I reactivate my Twitter, so I can cross promote for them as well. I should clarify, this podcast consists of my boyfriend and his two friends who have become good friends of mine, so I kid when I say things like “forced” and “demand.” The podcast is a lot of fun. Anyway, how else is an introvert supposed to gain a following for this blog if I don’t stay connected to the world without leaving my home?

So in honor of my (now moot) resolution, I went through and deactivated a lot of my online accounts. What I didn’t delete/reactivated: here’s my plug.

  • @jesswiththedogs on Instagram, lots of pictures of my dogs among other awesome things.
  • @jesswriting on Twitter which I’ve only used to distract myself during NaNoWriMo season. My boyfriend gave me a great idea for this NaNo season though, follow and stay tuned! Until then, I want to tweet clever things.
  • My personal blog on Tumblr, where I ramble about things in my life other than writing though also not kept up with very well. But my latest post is a comparison between dogs’ lives on opposite ends of the world.
  • I also kept my Youtube channel full of my stupid little films I did in college. I can tell you I don’t have much planned for this (I am thinking about it though), but I do want to do more films, so if someone has an idea or needs my help, I am all ears.
  • I also have this fairly obscure one called Listography. It is literally what is sounds like. I’ve made lists of things just for myself to remember, but if you wish to see my life in lists, here it is.
  • If you wish, you can even find me on NaNoWriMo: I am jess.szeto.

Speaking of NaNoWriMo, I am revisiting another old NaNo project about three different women and how their lives are connected. This one’s from 2015. That is a terrible log line, but that’s all I got right now, but here’s the cast I made up via Google images.

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And here’s a project I did finish but only the first draft: a TV job board/card game because I don’t get enough frustration at the job itself! I call it TV RPG: a card game. The cards are completed as far as what they do goes, but they still need to be tweaked and illustrated.

Next blog post should be about the unfortunate incident that led to the fortunate incident of me reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Sweet and Unfortunate Series

Sweet Valley High and A Series of Unfortunate Events (now an original Netflix series).

“Nostalgia’s a bitch.” – Damon from The Vampire Diaries (Yes, I love that show). 

The first part of this is a Literary Disco read. Episode 3 to be exact. If you click “Literary Disco” a few words back, it’ll take you straight to that episode. Sweet Valley High. I’m writing this review before listening to the podcast myself, so my initial review is honest and my own.

I never read Sweet Valley High as a kid, so I picked one up, chosen by the Literary Disco gang: “Double Love.” I always saw it on the shelves, but it never appealed to me, judging from the covers (something I always do).

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Reading this book was like watching a tame episode of Gossip Girl, and I will not lie; Gossip Girl is one of my guilty pleasures. Sweet Valley High: Double Love was an annoying read for me though (I am in my twenties reading a book for kids) because it was written at a middle school reading level, but when it comes to stories about girls back stabbing each other, I’d prefer to watch it on TV than read about it.

I did not finish the book, and I can’t say if I would have enjoyed it if I picked up the book as a kid. But I think the fact that I remember these books and made the decision back then not to pick them up answers that.

However, I did have an interest in reading Madison Finn by Laura Dower which is a similar genre: girl making her way through middle or high school wanting to fit in. I was drawn to the cartoon cover, and the summary on the back kept my interest. It sounded like a story I could relate to. I also remember enjoying the Mary-Kate and Ashley book series. Sweet Valley High was just not a cup of tea I wanted to try I suppose.

While we’re being nostalgic, as I kid, I also enjoyed Magic Tree House and A Series of Unfortunate Events. I am not re-reading Magic Tree House, but I am working on reading the whole Unfortunate Events series for the third time (if I remember right).

  1. When I picked it up as a kid.
  2. When I started doing the summer reading program a few years back.
  3. And now around the news of it’s arrival on Netflix.

I am on Book the Ninth, The Carnivorous Carnival, and unlike Sweet Valley High, I enjoyed this series as a kid, and I still enjoy it now, and that is a good quality in a book: timelessness. There are thirteen books total, and I am determined to finish the series because I don’t think I did as a child.

I got to say though, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a big fuss about the content of this series that is in the Juvenile section of the public library. Not young adult but juvenile (children’s books). It contains death, child abuse, and committing of many heinous crimes. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great story, and I am not complaining, but I wonder how ten year old me could read such a dark series.

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I watched the Netflix series which only covers the first four books in one season. Wes Anderson had nothing to do with it, but it does remind me of his works; it’s quirky. I was reluctant to like anything that tries to remake things from my childhood because I know that the executives know that I will watch for nostalgia’s sake, and that’s how they’ll get their money.

With this hesitation, I wasn’t sure if I was a fan of the actor playing Lemony Snicket (the author’s name on the book series) reading me the books that I had recently already read myself. Upon more watching, I realized that Netflix actually stayed true to the book, so I am a fan of the Lemony Snicket character in the Netflix series.

The meta jokes Netflix threw in are pretty funny, too. They also added in what I thought was a spoiler, but I made the wrong assumption. This particular non-spoiler is not in any of the books I’ve read so far, but it does make sense for them to add it as well as extra Count Olaf scenes that aren’t really in the books either. It’s a good series for a general audience even if they hadn’t read any of the books which is a good and smart thing.

I basically hate how much I love the Netflix series. And the books still get my paw of approval (see what I did there since this blog is, “Doggy Paddling Through Words?”).

Next time, I’ll tell you of an unfortunate event on my travels that caused the fortunate event of me reading Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Spoiler Filled Review of Arrival

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The movie and the short story make you think, but it is a good story, and I loved both. The movie I think, stayed pretty true to the original story. This post may sound more like a book report.

The short story was much like The Martian (book) though, where I skimmed through the scientific terms without fully understanding all of it.

Arrival the movie was based on a short story called, “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang. I watched the movie before I knew there was a short story, and I just finished reading the short story, so I’m going to do a movie/story review here.

It is about the “arrival” of aliens. Also, a story about the character and her daughter. It is not an alien action movie. It is a story of language and time and space. It makes you think. And language and how it affects our way of thinking is so fascinating to me because I am bilingual, and my brain can’t count, but it can switch between two languages in seconds.

I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I would be able to follow the short story had I not seen the movie and known exactly what was happening.

When almond shaped ships land all over the world, a linguistic professor is asked to help with the communication of these aliens they call “heptapods.”

***SPOILERS HERE***

There are linguists and physicists involved, and they are trying to figure out why the aliens have arrived on Earth by learning the alien language through a looking glass that separates the humans from the aliens. They pool data from all over the world because these “ships” landed all over.

Suspension of disbelief did not hold up for me at first because I don’t think realistically it would have taken them so little time to figure out the alien language. I say, “at first,” because I suppose it could be learned quickly since they’re pooling their data with so many other scientists. I also realize it probably seems even quicker since it was a short story and Hollywood’s accounting for people’s short attention spans, so there was a lot of flash forwarding in time.

This is not just about aliens. It is also about the linguist’s daughter. In both the movie and the short story, there is a back and forth between the alien story line and her time with her daughter. I don’t mind it because it all ties together.

The movie did something different. In both platforms, the character has the ability to see the timeline of her life which I believe she gained from her interaction with the aliens. In the movie, she used it to bring everyone back on board with trying to figure out the alien language together and peacefully. This part I did not like because then I wondered if she pulled from the future to figure this out, then how did she originally figure it out without knowing the future?

Upon a lot of thinking and reading the short story though, I think the aliens do not see time like the humans do. Their time line is not linear, so since she was so immersed in their language after learning it, she started to see time as they did which I guess is what gave her the power to “see the future.” Since she was seeing time like the aliens, then it wasn’t the “future” but part of the simultaneous timeline. Confused? See!

The movie still bugs me in that she relied on “seeing the future” to solve her “present” problem with getting all the nations on board with continuing their alien research. The short story merely told the story, and there was nothing really solved. This bugs me less because I see it as a story of how she was able to see the timeline all at once.

At least I think I have the answer I want.

A Broken Promise, Writing, Christmas!, and Future Endeavors

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I know, I know, I promised a review on the Suck It Up sequel, but I have yet to finish that book, and I’m not sure I will. While I am curious how it will end and the premise is interesting, the story is going slow, and the words are dry. The main character is heartbroken, and I do not feel it. I may get to a review if I do finish it, but I’m going to go ahead and say it may not happen, so don’t hold your breath.

As pattern predicted, I did not win this year’s NaNoWriMo. Final score: 33,577. Not bad, and my story is not completely throw-away. Even if most of it is trash, I did come out with stronger writing muscles, so I started a restructuring of my first NaNo winner story from 2013, so I’m hoping to find an ending to that one soon.

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Now that NaNoWriMo is over, I have the time to think about my other November project which is writing what I am thankful for. Usually I do 30 days of thanks in November, but this year, I decided to put 100% of my focus on my novel. I was hoping to get my thankful list done December 1st, but naturally, I’ve procrastinated. I am still working on it, but hopefully soon, it will end up on my Tumblr page which I will post when I have something to show.

From one artistic hole to another, it’s Christmas, and I started this tradition of painting ornaments thanks to Pinterest and my mom’s old art supplies.

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I do take small donations if you’d like me to paint you one. The donation is just so I can make a little extra cash for the holidays, and I call it a “donation” to avoid copyright issues (I do not own any of the characters I paint). Just contact me. Above are just a few that I’ve painted last year and the year before. You can see more on the Facebook page. Just search for “The Ornament Office.”

My Future Endeavors:

  • I thought about expanding this blog, but I am not sure I have enough material to keep it up. I would add movies and new TV shows, maybe even music albums from artists I regularly listen to like Childish Gambino who came out with a new non-rap album, and I have mixed feelings about it (you can find it on Spotify).

    Then I think, I don’t watch too many movies too often. I only watch one or two new TV shows because I hate waiting for new seasons to come out. Probably not going to happen. I did watch Arrival and then found out it was based on a short story, so I may do a review on the short story and the movie all in one post.

  • I may or may not have given up trying to make money blogging because it seems to involve a lot of tedious work, and if it doesn’t fall in my lap, I don’t want it.
  • I had a strange dream about some co-workers, and it was a disappointing ending before my alarm woke me up, but I found the whole thing interesting enough to try to concoct a short story out of it. Maybe you, my readers, if you exist, will get to read it someday, hopefully soon.

Until next time.

House of Leaves and NaNoWriMo

First, House of Leaves.

This book has left me with so many emotions on so many different dimensions, I don’t know if I would recommend it or not. I believe it has a cult following, and I don’t know where I could fit in in that cult.

The book starts off normal enough: an introduction of characters and story. Then the book starts to look like this or some other form of distorted text format.

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I got through it, but here’s your warning with what you’d be getting yourself into if you pick up this book. I know they had it on some of the front tables at Barnes and Noble for a while. Go in, pick it up, flip through it.

What’s it about? The character is going through a chest of writing material which leads him on another research endeavor to learn about the writer of said material. Interesting because the book is basically a compilation of the found written material with occasional footnotes from the character as well as from this book’s editor. The found writing is essentially an analysis of a film made by a man about a mysterious hallway that seems to distort in his new family home. There’s a mystery there. Is the house really distorting itself?

It does get confusing with all the footnotes and the levels of story. You got the found film research which I as a member of my college film club enjoy. Then you have the character who found the papers making his own notes and telling you his life story along the way because the notes he found are haunting him; he’s obsessed. And while you’re reading the film research, you get the story of the filmmaker and his family; they’re falling apart because the house seems to be falling apart. I had fun reading it. It was like a puzzle trying to read from main text to footnote back to the right place in the main text, and I like puzzles.

Just don’t expect a solid resolution to any of the stories. If I remember right, there was an answer to the mysteries of the house, but I found it to be not as great an answer as I had hoped. But by all means, buy the book, borrow it from your public library. I enjoyed reading it, and it’ll be a feat of a book to have read. It’s a fun life story/speculation type of story.

All the layers in the story probably help with the word count. Speaking of…

PART TWO

It’s that time of year again – NaNoWriMo!

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There’s still a month to go, but October is my panic month. The month where I dump my box of writing all over my living room floor in hopes that one will float up and tell me, “This is the story you must write. Pick me!” Before I made a mess of the living room that I am soon to move out of, I did a smaller scale of that like just going through my computer notes and some select idea notebooks. Before that I was playing around with a fresh idea that I hadn’t thought of before:

An app that kills, but no one knows that’s what it is doing. I brainstormed a lot of ways to go about it, but I haven’t committed to any of it, so I basically have nothing, but the best way I can explain it is this: What if Pokemon GO was programmed to make people walk into traffic? We assumed this person was being dumb, yes, but what if the game sent signals to the brain, so that this person couldn’t not walk into traffic even if they had saw that’s what they were doing? Anyway, it involved a lot of tech knowledge that I do not have because I am the worst millenial ever. I suppose this story would be the time to embrace my millenialism and learn all about relying on new technologies. While I have not committed to this app story, I have not completely discarded it.

I think I found my 2016 story though. This one metaphorically floated up and talked to me. It’s a mix of my 2013 and 2015 NaNo novels: Super powers and dissociative identity disorder but unrelated to those novels. I haven’t come up with my synopsis yet, so that’s all you get. It is likely this is the story I am committing to, but I am still leaving the door open for another project should one pop up between now and the kick off.

Reading wise, I am still at the beginning of the sequel to Suck it Up, entitled Suck It Up and Die. The story is moving along slowly, and my will to read has been overshadowed by my need to write, so I’m not sure if you’ll hear from me before NaNoWriMo officially ends unless I use this blog to procrastinate.

Until then, Folks!