Monthly Archives: April 2012

Sirengate: My Two Cents

I’ve not wanted to say anything about Sirengate (which, despite happening in January, has only come to light recently) because, although it saddens me, it doesn’t affect me directly. I don’t follow the Story Siren (because I don’t enjoy her reviews) and I’ve kept to a small section of the book blogging world (Goodreads) until recently.

But now I’m breaking my silence, for what it’s worth. Not much, I know, but still.

Not to talk about the Story Siren. Well, not directly. More to talk about her fanbase.

Let me clarify: there are people who have lost respect for the Story Siren and have dropped all ties. There are people who have forgiven her for her transgression and moved on. And there’s a third group, who have taken it upon themselves to attack the original victims of the Siren’s crime. The people who run the blogs she plagiarised. The victims whose words she copied, knowing full well what plagiarism is.

I’m clarifying again, because it took me a few moments to realise myself: the plagiarist’s fans are sending hate mail to the victims of the plagiarism.

I don’t know what the hate mail is saying, but I can guess. It’ll be along the same lines as Cassandra Clare’s fans when they conveniently forget her fanfiction was deleted off Fanfiction.net for plagiarism. Clare never confessed to her plagiarism, spinning a story that it was a game between her friends. The Story Siren has spun another story that takes the blame off her: that she didn’t realise, that it was a mistake or wasn’t deliberate, that she was confused, that she’s sorry and she doesn’t expect anyone to understand.

The similarities between the two events are somewhat similar, but the overwhelming similarity is how the fans who love her have reacted.

I’m not saying the Siren’s a criminal, but it’s similar to the family of a thief going to arms against the police when the thief is arrested. Someone has been wronged, and it’s not the Siren.

I don’t agree with going after the Siren with pitchforks, because everyone screws up every now and then. I don’t want this swept under the rug. But I certainly must condemn the fan reaction and backlash against the innocent bloggers who ‘dared’ to reveal the plagiarism. They didn’t even name her. It was the book bloggers who revealed who the plagiarist was.

It makes me terribly sad, and a little angry.

Since when has popularity been a replacement for integrity?

Review: Wither (Chemical Gardens #1) by Lauren DeStefano

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian
Pages: 358 pages (hardcover)
Release Date: March 22nd 2011
Source: Via the author in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Blurb (from Amazon.co.uk)

What if you knew exactly when you would die?

Thanks to modern science, every human being has become a ticking genetic time bomb – males only live to age twenty-five and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape – to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding an antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she trusts, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.

Review (full review posted on Goodreads.com)

Contrary to just about everyone else, I don’t like this cover.

I like the model and her hair and makeup and dress, and I like the set decoration. What I don’t like is those stupid big circles around Rhine’s ring and the bird in the cage. DeStefano started out as a literary writer, and the stupid circles linking Rhine’s marriage to the caged bird is way too obvious for the subtleties of literary novels. I hate those circles. They ruin a gorgeous cover.

Wither is a very atmospheric book, a stifling Gothic tale of a young beauty trapped in a big house with an older gentleman. What makes this different to other Gothic novels is that Rhine is in a polygamous marriage that is linked to slight dodgy worldbuilding in that all women die at age 20 and all men at age 25. So young girls are stolen off the streets and forced into marriages, prostitution, or shot. That part makes no sense to me and is why the book loses half a star. I don’t know DeStefano’s logic in this but surely girls would be a valuable commodity in this weird future, so why on earth would anyone shoot them for not being pretty enough? A breeder is a breeder, a womb is a womb. I can understand the girls being reduced to baby factories but I can’t quite wrap my head around them being disposable. After all, that’s the point of the polygamous marriage. Stick five women and one man together and tell them to breed and in a year you’ll end up with five babies. Stick one women and five men together and in one year you’ll only have one baby. So with the culture revolving around polygamous marriage – namely unwilling polygamous marriage – I just can’t quite understand why rejected girls would be shot.

Some people complain that having the United States as the only country left in the world and the polar ice caps melted as not working either, but I’m of the opinion that Rhine is an unreliable narrator. We as the audience can only know what Rhine knows, and if she’s been taught something – say, that the United States is the only country left in the world as the others have been destroyed by wars – then that’s what she’s going to tell us. Doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. So I’m of the belief that Rhine’s wrong.

Apart from the weird worldbuilding, the actual story itself is breathtaking. Like I said, it’s an atmospheric Gothic polygamous marriage tale, and it’s very powerful. It actually caught me by surprise, especially something that happened to one of Rhine’s sister wives. I won’t spoil it, because I found it so emotional that even though I was annoyed that I had to go do normal stuff like eat and sleep and work which interrupted my precious reading time, I willingly put the book down and dissolved into noisy sobs in my partner’s arms. I just… I can’t even. I didn’t even like the character and here I found a huge emotional response.

That’s how I judge books. I judge them on how they make me feel. I feel that Wither was amazing, but the worldbuilding needs half a star knocked off. It made me cry. It make me laugh. I loved the pace and the plot and Rhine’s character. She has a very minor flaw that makes her speshul, but apart from that she’s a caring, manipulative, awesome heroine. She never gives up on what she wants, she never loses sight of it and she goes through a lot to reach her goal. She doesn’t need saving, she has goals that extend beyond becoming someone’s girlfriend. She’s realistic and probably one of my favourite heroines. I loved living in Rhine’s head while all those new relationships developed.

I was very pleased when I read the end and I’m very much looking forward to reading the sequel, Fever.

Things I Am Irrationally Afraid Of

I was talking the other day to a close friend and telling her that I like to face my fears. I moved to the other side of the world to be with the Viking even though it scared me. I’ve enquired about donating blood because I’m afraid of needles (but I can’t give because my partner is English – he can’t donate in Australia either). I write about the most horrific things I can think about because it scares me, and in doing so I hope it horrifies and frightens my readers.

But there are a few things I am still irrationally afraid of and I can’t do anything about it.

One of them is spiders. I’m scared of them. Always have been. A few years ago I was the only person in my house late at night and a huntsman appeared on the wall. I talked myself into attempting to move it, got the broom and everything, preparing to take it outside; but in the end it moved about an inch and I nearly screamed. Then I tried to take a photo so I could tell my friends on Facebook how brave I was… and failed at that as well. I even tried to convince myself that she wasn’t ugly but her many eyes were in fact beautiful… I failed at that as well. In the end she ran into my room and I had to wait until my brother came home before I could go to bed.

I’m a wimp when it comes to insects as well. I don’t like wasps or millipedes or cockroaches. I hate bees and grasshoppers. I even avoid dislike moths. Just about the only insect I can stand is the butterfly, but even then I don’t want them touching me.

So that’s one irrational fear I have. I’d add a photo but I don’t even like looking at pictures of insects. I’ve thought about facing my fear of spiders by doing that ‘stick your hand into a tank full of spiders thing’ but I think I might faint if I did that.

I do have a second one. I’m not even sure where it started. I think it started one Halloween (which isn’t really celebrated in Australia) when I was quite young, about eight or nine, and someone told me that if you said ‘Candyman’ three times into a mirror in a dark room, a man akin to Freddie Krueger would appear over your shoulder. Or maybe try to kill you. That idea is possibly based on a film, possibly called ‘Candyman.’ I wouldn’t know because I don’t watch horror films.

I know I scared myself when I had glow in the dark braces at age fourteen and smiled at myself in a dark mirror. All I saw was a skull. I didn’t recognise myself.

I’ve been afraid of dark mirrors ever since. At night time, if I need to go into the bathroom I will always either turn on the light, or avoid looking at the mirror. This was particularly strange when we lived in the UK and had a big wardrobe with full-length mirrors on it.

I don’t know what’s going to happen if I glimpse myself in a dark mirror. Maybe I won’t recognise myself and I’ll scare myself. I seem to be good at doing that.

Do you have any irrational fears?

Do you have fears that you’ve faced and overcome?

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