Deviations – Anma Natsu Review

Not all love triangles require choosing between two sides…

For seventeen-year-old Miho, the long war with her own mind is becoming too much to bear. Between the unending nightmares, PTSD, depression, and isolation, the mental skirmishes never end. Those sweet whispers of the dark wisps promise freedom from the pain, and it’s getting harder to say no.

When she witnesses a tragic accident, she catches the interest of her classmates Taka and Shinji, two boys with reputations for being casual playboys. But they let Miho see what no one else bothers to notice, like the regular abuse Shinji hides behind a sweet smile and easy-going laugh and Taka’s barely leashed rage and frustration over his inability to protect his best friend or even control his own destiny.

What starts as a hesitant friendship becomes a deep connection the three can’t ignore, but do they dare dream of happiness when the world around them seems bent on destroying them?

Why did I pick this up?: Mental health representation, positive representation of alternative relationships? Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

Good points: I really, honestly and truly loved this book at first. The characters are well-written, there’s some great mental health rep, and I could see this really beautiful relationship forming between the characters that kept me wanting to read on. I even spoke about it to friends when I was about half-way through to say how awesome it was and how excited I was to see polyamory representation.

Quibbles: Here’s where I start worrying. The moment I realise the title, ‘deviations’ is not just a casual title but a name that the characters refer to themselves as (‘deviants’), and a theme throughout the second half of the book. I won’t give away any details but I do like how it ended, I just… that word makes me really uncomfortable. Polyamory isn’t ‘deviant’. It’s just a relationship like any other. And for someone who, as far as I know is neither Japanese nor necessarily polyamorous to write about polyamory in Japanese society… it’s very difficult not to trip up. And I think calling polyamorous people ‘deviants’, no matter how it’s done, is a way of doing that. I also found that there were some very graphic sex scenes later on that may not be a turn off for some, but are for me! Not to mention some scenes that talked about the guys wanting to ‘force themselves’ on Miho, something I am SUPER uncomfortable with.

Overview (TL;DR): The book is really well written, but made me uncomfortable because the otherwise good representation was made darker by characters references to themselves as ‘deviant’ and some very sexual scenes.

-K Hart

A Wolf At The Table – Augusten Burroughs Review

Progress on Alternate: 64,181 words

Current Review:

If you have any history of trauma, don’t read this book. I say this with all of the loving kindness I can muster. Not because it’s badly written, but because it’s written TOO WELL. A Wolf At The Table is definitely the darkest of Augusten Burroughs’ books so far, and it’s… unsettling. It made me uncomfortable, and I’m usually relatively hardy with those sorts of things.

The whole book discusses his relationship with his father, a figure of terror for him both when he was younger and as an adult. And I can understand why. In those tales I read about a deeply disturbed and frightening man, and there was such a darkness to this writing, with none of the humour that many people come to expect from his books. It was just darkness.

This is the non-funny side of memoir. This is the life-wrenching, tear you apart, break your heart type of memoir. And every time I re-read it, I know I shouldn’t. I remember that it’s uncomfortable, dark, and scary. But then I re-read it anyway. And I still can’t exactly say why. Especially not, as I am right now, reading it because I can’t sleep at 2am in the morning. This is not the book you read before you sleep. But then, I wasn’t sure I was going to sleep anyway…

The thing about this book is, it’s SO well-written. And… I feel rather odd saying I like it. Or even love it. Because I don’t. I hate it. Intensely. It hurts. But at the same time some part of me keeps it on my shelf. Some part of me recognises good writing for what it is, and real feeling for what it is. And that part is the part that says it likes this. While the rest of me is cowering in a corner telling myself never to read the dratted thing again.

So yes, if you want to read something to help you understand that… that thing. That darkness, those feelings… this is the way to go. If you already understand them, or you have your own thoughts, your own darkness, step back. Possibly with a very fluffy cushion or beloved pet.

-K Hart

Running With Scissors – Augusten Burroughs Review

Progress on Alternate: 60,207 words

Current Review:

Running With Scissors is probably the most famous book Augusten Burroughs has written. It’s about his teenage years, in which his mother sent him to live with her psychiatrist. In amongst this mess there are crazy descriptions of the unusual Dr. Finch, bizarre moments with Augusten’s mother, but a real, genuine hope.

A lot of people read stuff like this to be able to look and say ‘look, isn’t this WILD?’. I’d advise, for anyone reading, don’t do that with this. Step back, look at yourself, and see some of the smaller things, things that are really being sad with arch humour that masks a lot of suffering. It takes a lot of guts to talk about these things, let alone let the world see them. This is something beyond saying ‘I grew up in this place’ or ‘I had a weird childhood’ or even ‘I experienced abuse’. It’s opening up the minutiae of awful experiences, the odd thoughts, the things that happened actually as they felt for you.

It’s not clinical, or detached, though parts of it are undoubtedly sensationalised. But there’s a reality there.

Despite common opinion, although I like this book I DON’T think it’s Augusten Burroughs’ best work. But that doesn’t stop it from being good, or being interesting. It just means he’s written things that spoke to me, touched me more than this did. And perhaps that’s me. Perhaps that’s because I as a person am so distant from the experiences he had that I COULDN’T feel the same way as I did reading things I’m more familiar with.

-K Hart

This Is How – Augusten Burroughs Review

Progress on Alternate: 51,023 words

Current Review:

This is how I decide I am willing to read a self-help book.

Because I hate them. I honestly, truly, hate them. With their ‘everything will be okay’ and ‘just breathe’ messages. I hate trite, cutesy methods and drawing tables and reciting mantras. The truth is, I am not always okay. No one is always okay. That’s not how life works. And for some of us, we’re ‘not okay’ quite a lot.

And standing looking in a mirror reciting positive affirmations isn’t going to help us.

I said in my last review that I liked Augusten Burroughs because he was honest. Because he brought out bits of the world that other people can be too afraid to look at. This Is How does the same. With self-help. There aren’t any statements like ‘this will be okay’ or ‘learn how to be your better self’. It’s about dealing, surviving, and just getting the hell over it.

Everyone needs this.

Because This Is How to live your life. And one of the most beautiful things anyone could say to me, personally, right now is right here in this book:

You are allowed to be alive. You are allowed to be somebody different. And you are allowed to not say good-bye or explain a single thing to anyone, ever.

It’s something that’s so easy to forget. You don’t have to justify who you are to other people.

It’s about not feeling afraid. And being able to walk away from a wreck without leaving your mind behind, trapped in it. It’s blunt, brutal and honest. It’s uncomfortable. It’s about not needing other people’s permission to live your life. It’s painful, and descriptive, and sometimes downright frightening. It’s not wishy-washy, or pandering to your needs to make you feel better. It’s telling you if you want something fixed, you get up and fix it. It’s about recognising yourself, and when you’re living in a way that is hurting yourself, and when you should be dragging yourself out of that hole. And for that reason, it has the honour of being, as far as I know, for the last few years, the only self-help book on my bookshelf (recently ousted from that position, but the sentiment stands).

And it is what I consider it: the self-help book for people who can’t stand self-help books.

-K Hart

Jane Austen’s Emma, and Reading What You Love

Progress on Alternate: 29,020

So hey, this isn’t so much a review. The book I’ve just finished reading is Jane Austen’s Emma, and to be quite frank I’ve been trying to get myself to enjoy Austen for a long time. To understand the appeal of her as a writer. I know many people who adore her novels, but no matter how many times I read them I feel they’re not quite for me.

The book has its good points. We get to watch as our heroine tragically misinterprets event after event, and get a snapshot of the era from the book. However to me it’s so much about intrigue, about socialising, about who desires whom, that I just can’t bring myself to get so excited.

And it just made me think about the amount of times these books have been recommended to me as somehow intellectually superior to the sorts of books I so often love. I mean, I am a walking contradiction. I love Byron, Wilde, Swinburne, Baudelaire, some Dickens… I love social commentary like Evelyn Waugh… I love the Beat Generation… Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg. But I also love what a lot of people like to call ‘trash fiction’, and I love my genre fiction. I like Devon Monk, Lev Grossman, Kevin Hearne, Patrick Rothfuss, George R R Martin, Rob Thurman. I love Tamora Pierce, and enjoy Cassandra Clare (something that often surprises people).

The point is, I CAN love all of those. I don’t have to like Austen to be a wonderful literary reader, I can like what I like. I won’t stop trying to see the beauty in the things other people like, or even reading them, but there is such meaning and purpose in genre fiction that I firmly believe that those who like it are just the same as those who like reading other works… and often, people like me like both!

People read about things that strike a chord with them. I read things that speak to the human emotion in me, or things that simply take me to another world. I read about magic and wonder, about worlds within this one that I can never experience. I read about things that will take me away from this world. But I also read a lot about mental illness. About addiction. About pain. About lives that hurt and wound the owner. About people who think differently, about people learning to deal with that. I read about sarcastic heroes and heroines, morally-grey anti-hero types, people who feel like outsiders, odd or unusual. I read real life stories, that speak to my heart. And I think everyone should take that stance. Read whatever it is that speaks to something in you. Whether that something is a need to escape, or a feeling you’re having right then and there. Words have power. Let them work their magic.

-K Hart

Alternate, The Spirit Rebellion, Book Reviews… god this title is getting long

Still here. Still around. I apologise profoundly for that.

I’ve recently been put in a position where I really need things to occupy my mind. So, in true writer fashion, I am working solidly on this nightmare of a novel.

So, in order to make MYSELF stay on track, I’m also going to be writing about the writing process right here. Stay tuned if you want real writing talk, basically. As far as I know (despite the fact that I am as always a confused technophobe), you can see my progress on my wordcount here: Alternate

If you’re into that, go for it. Maybe yell at me if I get behind.

The other thing is that I want to talk more, now I have an abundance of time on my hands, about what I’m reading. So, right now, I am about to delve into the second book in Rachel Aaron’s Eli Monpress series, The Spirit Rebellion. This is a re-read, but I realised to my utter horror I have never reviewed it before. So eventually, I shall be doing that!

This blog needs a purpose. It needed clearing out, the dust shifting, and the old references removed. I apologise to anyone who now finds particular posts missing. But I think it’s time this thing had a clear path. And dammit I’m going to give it one.

-K Hart

 

 

The New Year is coming!

2016.

Good lord.

I’m not even sure where half of my time is going these days. It should be on working, and writing, but hey. I’ve done a lot of that, too.

I’ve got some pretty important New Year’s Targets. They’re not going to be Resolutions, because barely anyone keeps their New Year’s Resolutions.

First one is, I want Alternate finished. It’s finished now, to some extent, but I want it to be at a place where I feel like it’s done. Like I’m happy for it to be seen by people.

Second, I want to get something else written. One of the many backlog of stories that need finishing or editing in my large file.

Third, I want to let nothing stop me from writing, and writing well, this coming year.

And fourth, I want to start doing some book reviews up here. I read so much, but talk about each book so little. It’s about time I started.

Not sure if I can keep all of these, but hey. It’s worth a try, right?

-K Hart

In which K Hart appears to have died…

Machines beeping… a heart rate increased to just above the point of death. Slowly, an author begins to move her fingers at the keyboard again.

I’m back.

For many people, that will be an intense disappointment (oh god not her again, I hear you say). For some, with any luck, there will be a small moment where you sit up eagerly and scroll through this post.

Who am I kidding? For most, you won’t have even realised I was gone!

But I’m back, regardless. 52,000 words into a novel I’ve been writing and re-writing for the last year. Halfway deranged. Mostly awake. Words are actually coming out of my… uhh… fingers. I did good.

AND GUESS WHAT?

… I have Twitter.

I can’t work it. But I got it. Because hey, that’s just how I roll. So if any of you folks want to come out there and follow me on that thing, go do the thing! Also: GO OVER THERE AND RECOMMEND BOOKS TO ME.

KayeIsNotHere

No joke. Tell me about your books. Tell me about your sister’s novel, the book you read in high school that one time. Tell me about what you’re reading now. Shove me towards things that are awesome and make you happy. Especially if they have awesome characters and cool stuff in them. Or you know, even if they don’t. I won’t judge you… much.

If you’re coming at this from my Twitter – damn, you’re fast! Hey, I don’t know you, but come check this nonsense out!

The other thing is… my Facebook is coming back. So yeah, I did all of the internet things today. Look at me go! Confused technophobe is branching out! All systems are go!

So you know, you can go over there too. Or if you’re reading this from the link I’m about to put up on there… uhh… well done you for sticking with me for what? Six months of silence and sod all information? You rock.

longfullandemptywithwords

So yeah. Look at me. I’m so cool I can actually internet now. Next step, FINISH THE DRATTED BOOK.

– K Hart

I have not fallen off the edge of the earth. I repeat: I have NOT fallen off the edge of the earth.

Yes, so… it’s been a while.

Luckily that’s for good reasons. I’m currently working on two major projects. One, the novel referred to as ‘Falling’, which is genre work. A kind of modern, urban fantasy style piece about angels. I am re-writing this, with the hope that by the end of this year I will have it finished and ready to approach literary agents.

The other piece is better seen on the Tumblr account (I posted a link in the last blog post I made) that was made especially for it, where I have been talking with a lovely community of people about Dissociative Identity Disorder. I’ve been given an amazing amount of support for this novel, and it’s really helping me to get to work with it. I aim to create a novel that creates an accurate image of what it is like for people to live with this disorder. This novel, ‘Alternate’, is still being written in its first draft, but it’s moving full speed ahead and, I hope, will be at at least 40,000 words by the end of the year.

As a result, if I am away for a long time, and there appears to be a focus on the Tumblr blog, this is because I am hard at work.

No falling off the edge of the earth, I promise.

– K Hart

I have a Tumblr blog, too… Oh and I’m writing about Dissociative Identity Disorder (among other things…)

http://longfullandemptywithwords.tumblr.com/

Go be nosy!

Yes, I already have this blog. Yes, I write on here. At the minute, the Tumblr blog is specifically for the work I’m doing on DID, because what I want more than anything is for people to get involved. People to start talking about a subject that often stays on the sidelines. That, it seems, is easier over there.

Have fun… Pretend I’m actually doing this social media thing right, won’t you?