NeriSiren. Postcards from La-La Land. Cyberspace: WordPress, 2010 – 2019.
Rating: Countless features, content, and insights inspired by badass blogging friends (see a few of my favorites/original inspirations here). Numberless insightful and uplifting comments that keep me writing and adding to my sky-scraping TBR pile (special shout-out to Top Commenters Larkynn, Lily, Jeanne, Angélique, and Sarah Maree!). Ten out of ten priceless years of bookish conversation and literary tomfoolery.
Recommended if you like: Twisted fairy tales; nostalgic outbursts; unabashed geekery; uninhibited childlike wonder; LGBTQIA pride; mermaids and selkies; random references to David Bowie, Sherlock, and 90s Australian fantasy shows; occasional snark and sass; and an overall obsession with the narrative word.
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I’ve organized this Review into five categories: Milestones, Brightest Stars, Dimmest Stars, That Time I…, and Tentative 2020 Plans.
- “Fun with fairy tales: two graphic novels” — October 14, 2010. This was my
introductory La-La Land post, and of course I started with twisted fairy tales. Originally penned in my deviantArt journal, these were more blurbs than fully fleshed-out reflections, but I’m still quite proud of my turns of phrase (like my use of “medley” to describe Castle Waiting Vol. 1…get it? 😉 ). And it’s fitting, somehow, that the first book I reviewed is the one I return to most often when I need a good literary sanctuary.
- “Guiding Stones and Surprising Schools” — December 3, 2011. This was the first time a publisher sent me free books in exchange for an honest review (the other times were when I was writing for the Insatiable Booksluts blog). Canadian publisher Owl Kids e-mailed me a catalog and asked me to choose which titles intrigued me the most. I spent that December reviewing books on Inuit standing stones and unusual schools from around the world, fun gross-out facts and other life lessons, and fantasy adventures involving tongue-twisting kid knights and oddly mild-mannered Arctic pirates.
- “Now THAT’S how you make a book-based movie!!” — December 17, 2013. When I
realized this was my 100th post, I quickly expanded what was going to be a mere rave review of the Catching Fire movie into a list of my favorite/least favorite book-to-movie adaptations (with the caveat that among the “worsts” are movies I might still re-watch for nostalgia’s sake…or for a good laugh). Looking back? My gods, was I in Deep Fangirl Mode over Jennifer Lawrence. Any more gushing and I might’ve sprouted an orange wig like Effie’s!
- “Annie on My Mind” — April 27, 2014. This wasn’t the first time I reviewed an LGBT-friendly book here (that was Keeper, by Kathi Appelt), but it was the first time I read a queer-focused novel, knowing I would relate to the protagonist personally (I’m not counting short stories or novellas, or else Seanan McGuire’s In Sea-Salt Tears would’ve gotten this space).
Honestly, I had my first hint that I might be bisexual back in high school, but (a) I didn’t know there was a word for that, so I was kind of confused that I was having a crush on a girl and also still liked guys, and (b) I was attending a small-town Catholic high school where the word “lesbian” was considered a slur or at least very indecent, so there was very little opportunity to positively explore my feelings, so I pretty much suppressed them and forgot about the issue until about a decade later.
By that time, I’d been hearing and reading a lot more positivity about being gay or bi, so it only took me another month of denial before I finally was like: Yeah, no, not a phase. These feelings are legit. Let’s find out more! As I say in the review, I initially chose Annie because it was supposed to be Groundbreaking and Important, but I didn’t expect to fall for it the way I fell for any of my other favorite books. Now I consider it one of my desert island books (see below).
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The following are my Top 5 absolute favorite (as of today) books reviewed here — absoluteness as measured either by the number of “stars” I gave the book, or by the number of times I’ve re-read the book, or by the speed at which I bought myself a copy after borrowing it from the library. Meaning, they’re not all 5-star books, but they’re the most likely to make the cut if I was planning to be stranded on a desert island anytime soon.
Click each cover for the full review.
Next to Jean Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear, this is the most re-read book on my shelf. I turn to it when I need something soothing, something funny, something with happy endings and clear come-uppances. It’s not perfect; it has a few stereotypes, particularly in its portrayal of the Roma. But it does its best, and it always puts me in a more optimistic mood about the world. Plus, I love the Inception-like format of stories within stories.
A beautiful female/female romance with characters I completely relate to beyond their sexuality. For example, I love how sentimental Annie is, and how uninhibited her imagination is — like, how she’ll just randomly start LARPing in the middle of a museum. Also, (SPOILER alert) one of the reasons Annie is so iconic is that it’s the first queer teen novel with a positive ending.
Magical realism and an almost meta focus on the act of storytelling kept me grinning like a Cheshire cat the whole way through. Plus, as someone who deals with depression and anxiety, I really appreciate the book’s message about the power of gratitude — not just for virtue’s sake, but as a healthy way to bring myself out of my darker, more painful moments. When you give thanks for the things that are going right in your life, you may be able to see solutions to your problems more clearly. My original review didn’t do this book justice.
More magical realism, plus oceanic folklore, girl power, and the ability to set off my Ocean Girl Radar. It reads like a modern myth or legend, with the larger-than-life characters of Kahu and the whale, as well as ritual repetition. But it also has these cheeky moments that remind you you’re reading a very human story filtered through an individual perspective.
If “Sets Off My Ocean Girl Radar” is my favorite oddly-specific genre of literature, then “Queer Selkie Romance” is my second-favorite. Yes, it has its cheesy moments and I have to put my suspension-of-disbelief goggles on a slightly higher setting for certain plot points, but it’s so lovely and uplifting and unique, and I recommend it to everyone who’s into less mainstream mer-stories.
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Aaaand here are my Top 3 least favorite (lowest “starred”) books.
I thought I was being so clever and insightful with my Gender Relations posts. Basically, I reviewed two books with very different portrayals of feminism — one of which I felt was an Eyeroll-Worthy Collection of Tropes and Stereotypes (and plot holes and inconsistencies), while the other was Obviously More Nuanced by Comparison.
I think I was mostly having fun practicing my new-found snark powers on the former, and then feeling really smart when I pointed out how much more 3D the characters seemed in the latter, and how they didn’t suffer from convenient amnesia, and how the message was more realistically ambiguous.
Drown, by Esther Dalseno.
A few more edits and this could have been a very intriguingly dark Little Mermaid tale with its own fictional mythology and something that feels like magical realism (if you can call it that in a story already set in a fantastic world). But all the inconsistencies, proofreading errors, and racist comments about “sea gypsies” really threw off my reading groove.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne.
Merlin’s beard, I was so bewildered by this “eighth Harry Potter book” that I rode off the rails with my rambling rant. The Tl;dr version is: this book was unbelievably Out of Character. Harry forgets everything he learned about the unreliability of prophecies and fortune telling, Hermione doesn’t notice some very important books are out of place, Cedric turns evil in an alternate timeline because he didn’t win a contest, and apparently the good ship Ron/Hermione is solely dependent on Ron acting like a jealous prat in Goblet of Fire. I’m pretty sure the only reason J. K. Rowling’s name is among the authors is because they quoted part of her Epilogue from Deathly Hallows in the opening scene.
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That Time I…
Some of my proudest moments, most fun moments, and most head-shakey moments as a blogger.
- That Time I Participated in a Blog Tour.
“The Emoticon Generation” – April 10, 2013. While the book in question wasn’t Juv/YA, it did have a few stories involving young adults and the overall concept was intriguingly sci-fi, so I agreed to give it a read. This might’ve also been my first experience with highly speculative fiction. Overall, it was a fun thought experiment, despite the annoying typos and occasional plot holes and the lack of Strong Female Characters.
- That Time I Challenged Myself to Finish ALL THE BOOKS.
“I hereby challenge myself to finish ALL THE BOOKS!!!” — July 9, 2013. In the words of Tony Stark: Not a great plan. I honestly thought I could cut myself off from buying or borrowing ANY new books until I finished ALLLLL the ones I already owned. I know. I didn’t last a month before I started making exceptions. I’m surprised I lasted 4.5 more before I “de-strictified” (i.e. gave up on) the challenge.
- That Time I Video-Chatted With Two Other Book Bloggers About Feminism in YA vs. Adult Lit.
“Video Chat: is YA actually better at feminism than adult lit?” — March 30, 2014. Two Insatiable Booksluts contributors and I discussed the seemingly greater prevalence of Strong Female Characters in YA books than in adult-targeted books. We talked fairy tales, sexual awakening stories, and used the phrase “straight white male” a lot. I also gushed about Disney’s Frozen.
- That Summer I Spent Searching for Selkies in Galway and Celebrating Lithuanian Independence in Vilnius
“The Greatest Independence Day Party Ever” — July 18, 2018. This is my favorite Literary Travel memory so far. Last year was the 100th anniversary of Lithuania’s first independence day, and to celebrate, my family and I planned a summer trip to Vilnius for the Centennial Song & Dance Festival.
We also decided to make a few side-trips before the festival, so I convinced them to squeeze in one of my bucket list items by spending a few days on Ireland’s west coast. It was a chance to do some research for a story I’m working on, but also just a chance to look for selkies in one of their origin lands ;-D The results were quite delightful!
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Tentative 2020 Plans
Looking into the next decade, I foresee a lot more work on my own novels, but I definitely want to keep up with Postcards at least once every other month. Ideally, I’d like to diversify my posts, offering more news and views rather than just reviews — I definitely hope to have more Out of Book Experiences (and maybe come up with a better name for that segment…thoughts?) — but, then again, that TBR pile isn’t going to complete itself…
In the near future, I’m planning reviews of Seanan McGuire’s The Unkindest Tide and Emily Whitman’s The Turning (along with a separate reflection on Juv/YA selkie lore) as well as Walter Moers’ The City of Dreaming Books.
Farther ahead, I think it would be fun to revisit some of the Juv/YA classics I was assigned in school (i.e. back in the 90s) and see how their messages hold up today.
And I eventually want to write that ode to my favorite Scottish literary neo-hippie band.
But, ambitions aside, I’m going to be a lot more generous and patient with myself in the next decade. I’ve had a tendency to panic when life got overwhelming, and to think that if I couldn’t keep up with Postcards on a regular schedule, I had to drop the project completely to keep from stringing my followers along. Now I know that I have to give myself more of a break, and to give my readers more credit.
I’m going to treat this project the way I treat reading itself: something I do because and how and when I want to, not should. It’s a hobby that keeps my writing skills fresh and helps me figure out what stories inspire me the most, what writers I want to emulate, where I want to fit in the Juv/YA community. And if there are times when writing posts feels more stressful than inspiring, I’ll give myself the grace to take a break without assuming it’s a total shut-down, and without apologizing for it.
So! What are your hopes and dreams for the next decade? What are your bookish goals for 2020? What kinds of self-care rituals help you most around the Holidays?
Christmas yoga clipart from Owips.