Poetry: longing

longing

“i scuff at sidewalk bottle caps,

mouthing your name as i pass shriveled milkweed stalks and snuffed-out cigarettes.
once, the clock hands pointed north. they mock me now with each degree elapsed,
each angle pointing to a slew of compass-rose regrets.

mouthing your name as i pass shriveled milkweed stalks and snuffed-out cigarettes,
i hear the second hand’s advance tally my silences like rosary beads,
each angle pointing to a slew of compass-rose regrets.
if only i could pull your name from this unmerciful stampede!

i hear the second hand’s advance tally my silences like rosary beads.
every dull tock measures out those quinine conversations, sly unripened smiles, and yet i know
if only i could pull your name from this unmerciful stampede,
the cobwebs binding me to mute labyrinths of time might let me go.

every dull tock measures out those quinine conversations, sly unripened smiles, and yet i know
your redwood hands could  be the ones to rescue me, and then
the cobwebs binding me to mute labyrinths of time might let me go…
oh, how can i speak when these dark flocks of raven-fears still cluster in my mind like minutemen?

your redwood hands could be the ones to rescue me, and then –

once, the clock hands pointed north. they mock me now with each degree elapsed.
oh, how can i speak when these dark flocks of raven-fears still cluster in my mind like minutemen?
i scuff at sidewalk bottle caps.”

This beautiful piece was written by am immensely talented young girl who goes by the name chasingcloudbursts on deviantart.com. Even though it’s not, strictly speaking, a perfect pantoum she is able to create, in poetic form, the feeling of longing. Each metaphor has a powerful effect, each line pushing the momentum of the piece. The result is something memorable, haunting, and very effective.

This is not the only gem of this author’s gallery. Links to full pieces are in the title.

Silence

Silence pressed down, heavy on her shoulders, like a thick blanket of snow smothering her with its chilly purity. She sat and closed her eyes, trying to fill the gaping hollow within her chest, searching for the memory of the living, burning chords that had once sealed it.

Trying her hand at prose, chasingcloudbursts delivers a story that is all at once beautiful in it’s descriptions and totally heartbreaking.

a plea for self-acceptance

my dear,
the swirls and coils of pen
along the margins
of your history notes
reflect
the constellations swimming
in your eyes.

The simple and consist descriptions create a subtle and memorable effect.

those quicksand eyes

i flew like icarus
on daisy featherwings
heedless of the serpent coils
of your gravity

Again, beautiful and simple imagery.

chasingcloudbursts is very good as simple, able to produce short pieces and long pieces with the same sort of effortless imagery and metaphor. Her words fall together like they are in just right right place. Find her full gallery here.

If you’d like me to feature your writing, send me a message here.

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Wild Seed by Octavia Butler

51ZwSFC2vpL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Plot Summary:

Doro is an entity who changes bodies like clothes, killing his hosts by reflex or design. He fears no one until he meets Anyanwu. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter who can absorb bullets and heal with a kiss and savage anyone who threatens her. She fears no one until she meets Doro. Together they weave a pattern of destiny unimaginable to mortals.

Genre: Science Fiction, Speculative fiction

Publication date: 1980

This is a truly unique book. Unlike the majority of the science fiction genre, Wild Seed deals with the biological. On top of that, it takes place in the past; between about 1740 and 1840. While the majority of the story takes place in America, the opening of the story takes place in Africa – the homeland of both Doro and Anyanwu. It deals with themes of control, gender roles and connects heavily to the ideas of Natural Selection and Evolution.

“When her enemies came to kill her, she knew more about surviving than they did about killing.”

When I first read the plot summary of this book, I was intrigued. I have always been a fan of speculative fiction and biological science fiction (Children of Men is one of my favorite movies), and this is extremely reflective in my own writing. I haven’t been able to much much biological science fiction out there (Peeps or Parasite Positive by Scott Westerfeld is a good one), but this one is definitely a gem. The writing style is simplistic; Butler is not attempting to bury her themes under piles of words. Rather, the events and the dialogue within the story are chosen carefully to get across her point. The result is a beautifully crafted story about many, many things.

The characters also have a wonderful interplay with each other and in the eyes of the readers. Doro, the oldest of the characters (he is more than four thousand years old) is too old and too powerful to be considered human anymore. He is generally viewed as the ‘bad guy’, but I look at him as more of a representation of control. He is certainly not a good person, but he is also a very complex kind of of character. The catalyst of the story is when Doro find Anyanmu. At more than 300 years old, she has had many children and many husbands and has had to watch all of them die. She has very high morals. Often viewed as the hero of the story, I view Anyanwu as a representation of nature, Doro being the force trying to control her. Coming between these two characters is Doro’s mortal son, Isaac. A good man, he loves both Doro and Anyanwu. And though they are both many times older than he, he serves as the humanizing center and the voice of reason between the two. He is the force that balances them. Together, they can be viewed to make many statements about control and colonial life.

As a whole, the book was wonderful. If you like biology or Toni Morrison (or both), you will probably really enjoy this book.

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre (pronounced like ‘air’ for those of you who are confused as I usually am) by Charlotte Bronte, my favorite of the Bronte sisters is one of my favorite books, and easily my favorite of the romantic persuasion.  

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When I was first assigned this book for an independent novel assignment in school, I had mixed feelings. I had heard it described as ‘romantic’, ‘boring’, ‘amazing’, and again, ‘romantic’. So I didn’t quite know what to think. Then, of course, there was the synopsis.

Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity.

She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman’s passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte’s innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

I like very dark stories, typically. So this book didn’t exactly pique my interest. However, when I actually read it, I changed my mind very quickly.

While this isn’t exactly promoted, the story of Jane Eyre is quite dark. When the story opens, your thrown into Jane’s torment straight away. The tragedy of Jane’s childhood was that she remembered a time when she was loved and had someone to love, and each time to finds this love it is torn away from her. Her parents, her Uncle Reed, her dearest (and only) childhood friend. These events build her up into the type of women the rich folk look for in a governess (a stay-at-home private tutor/babysitter). Her passion is treated as a sort of undertone. It does not control her, but it gives her a sort of outward spunk (for lack of a better word) uncommon in women of the time. Making Jane one of these most interesting characters I have ever read.

Then, of course, there is the love story. I am a closet-case sap, you see. And while I am very tired of stories where it feels like they quite literally fall into a sort of love like state with a person they’ve talked to once, their relationship was not as simple as the synopsis makes it seem. Jane insists on being his equal, his partner. Not his servant or what have you (even though she’ll only call him Mr. Rochester). She is not a character looking for love, and when she starts to have a crush she fights it. The whole thing happens as it should: gradually, then all at once. And since Charlotte Bronte is such a brilliant writer, we get to experience her pure joy, as it is the first time since she was a very young child that she had been happy. And, really, it’s not that dramatic. Everything that happens is set up in a way where, when it happens, you’re just thinking ‘Of course‘.

Also, this is a Gothic novel. It is dreary. The main characters are damaged (in fact, I believe they discuss this at some point) and there are ghosts and crazy people and fire. Monsters hiding in the shadows, even. Not like the boogieman, of course, but in the way where earlier in the book we are told a ghost story and we watch as it seems to play out (until logic takes hold, of course). But there are moments when the whole thing feels like a madhouse, when you think for a moment someone is going to die. And, perhaps, someone does.

There are maybe two sunshine happiness moments in the whole story. The first, the sequences in which Jane and Rochester declare their love for one another and run off to get married. The second is the ending. I mean, this book has one of the happiest ending in the history of ever. Especially taking into consideration the pasts of the characters and the whole rest of the book. When you get to the ending, it is very satisfying and slightly giggly.

I would recommend this book to people who are fans of classic literature with feminist views, strong female protagonists, romance, and gothic fiction.

If you enjoyed basically anything by Jane Austen, Lady Windemere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde, Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, or Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, you will probably enjoy Jane Eyre

If you have read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys and have yet to read Jane Eyre, I’ll have to kindly ask you what you’re doing with your life, because clearly you have done something incorrectly.

Basically, I love this book. Give it look. And if you didn’t love it, please tell me why below.

Have a nice day.

Best in YA Vol. 2

Hello again, dear readers. It’s supposed to be day 10 of the 30 day challenge, but I don’t really feel like I can go into that one. So instead, I’m going to talk about a couple of books I’m mentioned in previous posts. Enjoy!

Realistic

2114838The Last Exit to Normal by Michael Harmon

It’s true: After 17-year-old Ben’s father announces he’s gay and the family splits apart, Ben does everything he can to tick him off: skip school, smoke pot, skateboard nonstop, get arrested. But he never thinks he’ll end up yanked out of his city life and plunked down into a small Montana town with his dad and Edward, The Boyfriend. As if it’s not painful enough living in a hick town with spiked hair, a skateboard habit, and two dads, he soon realizes something’s not quite right with Billy, the boy next door. He’s hiding a secret about his family, and Ben is determined to uncover it and set things right. In an authentic, unaffected, and mordantly funny voice, Michael Harmon tells the wrenching story of an uprooted and uncomfortable teenaged guy trying to fix the lives around him–while figuring out his own.

I loved this book. I think about it constantly and try not to cry about the fact that I don’t own it. I mean, seriously. What’s up with that? Anyway, for me this actually wasn’t one of those super angsty books. You really see where Ben is coming from. And he’s so funny. There were moments in this book where I had to put it down because I just could not stop laughing. This was couple with the heart wrenching moments between Billy and Ben, as Ben finally found someone to connect with, since both their moms left them and never spoke to them again. Ben’s dad is an asshole. I can see where he’s coming from a lot of the time, but he always plays the ‘you hate me ’cause I’m gay’ card, which even causes Edward to roll his eyes. Edward is just lovely. Ben actually likes Edward more than his dad and refers to Edward as his momdad. Their conversations are also quite funny, as Edward can’t help but point out all the oxymorons. For example, one of my favorite parts in the book is when Ben goes, “I don’t hate fags.” Heh. Then, of course, there’s Edward’s mother. She’s tough. She cares, but you’ll never know. She’s always watching and will lock Ben out of the house if he doesn’t finish the yard work. She’s the best. Anyway, the book is hilarious and heart warming and go read it.

Supernatural

Suck it Up by Brian Meehl2842796

Are you up to your neck in bloodsucking vampire stories?

Tired of those tales about dentally enhanced dark lords?

Before I wrote this book I thought all vampires were night-stalking, fangpopping, bloodsucking fiends. Then I met Morning McCobb. He’s a vegan vampire who drinks a soy-blood substitute called Blood Lite. He believes staking should be a hate crime. And someday he hopes to march in a Vampire Pride Parade. He was also the first vampire to out himself and try to show people of mortality, like you and me, that vampires are just another minority with special needs. Trust me—this is like no other vampire book you’ll ever feed on.

So, as my buddy Morning says, “Pop the lid, and suck it up.”

I like this synopsis. It doesn’t tell you what the book is about, but I like it. Basically, Morning McCobb let’s the world know vampires are thing, some people don’t want it that way, and shit gets crazy. This book is wonderful. I just realized a couple weeks ago that there’s a sequel (Suck it up and Die) and freaked out. This is another book I need to own immediately. What I love about this book is how quirky it is. Morning is a scrawny geek. The comic book references in the book are fantastic (His favorite comic is Watchmen) and Portia, the love interest, is great. She’s a spitfire and like, you know, a person. Like, she doesn’t believe Morning is a vampire for the longest time. Their relationship all comes very naturally. It’s not one of those love at first sight deals, or the ‘I’m going to protect you’ type stuff (If Morning did go that route, Portia’s response would be something like ‘Fuck you, I can protect myself). For me, the greatest part of this is that Morning wants to be a firefighter. A vampire. Firefighter. Please read this.

Have a nice day.

North of Beautiful

This is really late. But we’re going to pretend it isn’t. Okay? Okay. Good. It’s Day 9 of the 30 Day Challenge: A book I thought I wouldn’t really like bu ended up loving. That book is North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley.

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It’s hard not to notice Terra Cooper. She’s tall, blond, and has an enviable body. But with one turn of her cheek, all people notice is her unmistakable “flawed” face. Terra secretly plans to leave her small, stifling town in the northwest and escape her controlling father. When an unexpected collision puts Terra directly in Jacob’s path, the handsome but quirky Goth boy immediately challenges her assumptions about herself and her life, and she is forced in yet another direction. With her carefully laid plans disrupted, will Terra be able to find her true path?

I picked this book up from the local library on a whim a couple years ago, mostly because the chapter titles were all references to maps, there is a reference to Helen of try in the first paragraph, and the story takes place north of Seattle. Got some mad love for Washington. (Side bar, here in Washington, we don’t call Washington D.C. Washington. It’s D.C. If they didn’t want the confusion they shouldn’t have made us a state). I wasn’t expecting much from this. But, the story is much more interesting than it seems.

Let’s talk about Terra. She’s insecure. She has a perfect body, and she’ll be the first admit it, but she has this  body because she works hard to get it. And she works hard to get it because she had such extreme dysmorphia for her face, she is obsessive about making everything else perfect. What’s wrong with her face? She has a port wine stain. This is when I started getting interested, by the way. Her port wine stain, a birth mark, covers about half of her face. It’s smooth (some stains are not so smooth) but it’s dark. She’s grown up hearing people tell her how pretty she will be if the laser treatments work.  The laser treatments never work, so she still wears a pound of heavy make up every day to cover it. Terra’s boyfriend, not Jacob, is no help. He’s just your average white guy. He’s embarrassed by Terra’s face too, but she’s never met anyone who wasn’t so she assume it’s normal. And she’s embarrassed by her face, so she doesn’t expect him to be okay with it at first. But their relationship doesn’t actually have any substance anyway. Then there’s her father. ‘controlling’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. He’s abusive to her and her mother. I’m pretty sure it’s exclusively emotional abuse, but that’s still terrible. He’s as asshole.

There there are big chunks of the plot the synopsis doesn’t even mention. First, Terra is an artist. She makes collages, and she’s pretty talented. She doesn’t think she is, and doesn’t like to show people her work, but she that’s a huge part of the story and a huge part of who she is. Then there’s China. China is a huge part of the story. Terra’s dad is a cartographer (hence, her name and all other map references in the book). He found a map that suggested the Chinese actually found America first, but it was proved to be a fake and he let it ‘ruin’ his career. So he hates China. There is a map of every part of the world hanging in their house, but he deliberately left out China. And part of the book takes place in China.

Which leads me to Jacob. Jacob is one of my favorite characters in a  book ever. His story line is really interesting, and he’s just a really cool character. That ‘unexpected collision’ is meant quite literally. Terra and her mother are driving home from another unsuccessful laser treatment in Seattle (which they didn’t tell Terra’s dad about). Leavenworth gets quite icy during the winter, so when they go to stop for coffee Terra ends up swerving, almost hitting a guy, and running into a Range Rover. Terrible day so far, but this is where Jacob comes in. Jacob is a boy who was adopted from China when he was very young. Which is super rare. He has a scar on his face (from a clef lip correction surgery, we later find out) and becomes the first person in existence who appears not to notice Terra’s port wine stain. The car belongs to his mom, a really nice blonde lady who is the very image of an independent woman who don’t need no man (which is shocking for women who live in an abusive house).

Anyway, Jacob is the best. He’s someone who’s been stared at his whole life, so he’s come up with this really great philosophy. He knows people are going to stare, she he decides why they’re going to stare. Going to a small town? Dress like a goth. He sees most clothes as costumes. I like that.

Anyway. The story is wonderful, the execution is great, and i felt slightly bad for doubting it after I read it. But you can’t blame me. The synopsis was terrible.

What about you guys? Have a book you thought you wouldn’t like, but loved?

Best YA Fiction

I’m supposed to be posted for the 30 Day Challenge, but I’ve gone rogue again. A book that makes me laugh? Most of my favorite books have made me laugh. Either from the sheer pleasure of reading them or because I actually find them funny. So instead, I’ve just compiled a list of some of my favorite young adult books. Enjoy!

Realistic

TwistedTwisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background—average student, average looks, average dysfunctional family. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who just so happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy—and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in the school, in his family, and in the world.

It’s actually been quite some time since I’ve revisited this book. When you read the synopsis, it kind of has a ‘been there, done that’ sort of feel. However, the book tackles actual issues and is written in such a way where Tyler seems like an actual person. He has wants and fears and insecurities and issues. And his issues are pretty real issues that go a bit deeper the normal drama. There is emotional abuse, bullying, a bit of substance abuse and a bit of suicide. The book tackles them as serious issues quite gracefully. And I don’t think I could write this without mentioning Tyler’s best friend, Yoda. There is an actual character in this story called Yoda. Which is reflective of the fact that he and Tyler are total geeks. Somehow, I haven’t read many books that feature actual geeks and paint them as people rather than ‘actual geeks’ (recommendations?). This easily my favorite YA realistic fiction book of all time. (Okay, actually it ties with another book – I’ll be writing a blog about it soon).

Supernatural

Honestly, I don't really like the cover.

Honestly, I don’t really like the cover.

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Cheerleader Isobel Lanley is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due – so unfair – on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tongued, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, she can’t help but give this enigmatic boy with the piercing eyes another look.  Soon, Isobel finds herself making excuses to be with Varen. Steadily pulled away from her friends and her possessive boyfriend, Isobel ventures deeper and deeper into the dream world Varen has created through the pages of his notebook, a realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life.  As her world begins to unravel around her, Isobel discovers that dreams, like words, hold more power than she ever imagined, and that the most frightening realities are those of the mind. Now she must find a way to reach Varen before he is consumed by the shadows of his own nightmares.

Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical about this one. I mean, I put it on my Christmas list because my brain saw Edgar Allan Poe and shut off (also, the second and third paragraphs are extremely intriguing). It was the whole ‘cheerleader and goth boy’ thing that had be worried. Another rich bitch who’s forced to work with the goth kid and then she falls into social oblivion and realized how much of a bitch she was being? Eh. But, thankfully, that’s not at all what happened. Isobel is actually a legitimately nice person and an actual cheerleader (with tumbling and stuff). And she doesn’t dump her football playing boyfriend to run off with Varen, she dumps him because he’s a jackass. She’s actually a really good character who takes reasonable action and makes reasonable mistakes. And the other two main characters, Gwen And Varen, are slightly amazing. Basically, this book works because the story is fantastic, the characters are like actual people, the main characters each bring something different to the table (and I enjoy all three of them) and it’s written well. So yeah. Another favorite.

It’s also worth noting that this is a romance book, but it is not a ‘love at first sight’ story. There’s actual development to their relationship. Starting from crush, going into mutual like and trust and going from there. I love that.

Some Honorable Mentions

I really like all these books too.

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And a couple of good series (I know Hex Hall is a series but I haven’t read the other books yet)2800905

My other favorites, which I’ve already blogged about, are The Fault in Our Stars (blog linked above) and the Chaos Walking trilogy.

What are some of your favorite YA books?

The Best Book I Read Last Year

Before I really go into, I’d like to make clear my definition of ‘last year’. it means something different to different people. For me, I’m going to go with last school year. Admittedly, I didn’t read that many books last year, but one really did stand out to me.

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

This book…is wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It was slightly adorable at times, gut wrenching, heart warming, angering and just plain painful at times. And it was worth it. Here, have a synopsis:

In 1969, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It had been boarded up for decades, but now the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese American, remember a young Japanese American girl from his childhood in the 1940s – Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors. Now, forty years later, Henry explores the hotel’s basement for the Okabe family’s belongings and for a long-lost object whose value he cannot even begin to measure. His search will take him on a journey to revisit the sacrifices he has made for family, for love, for country.

This book switches between the 40s and 1986 until we’re up to speed on both stories, and they come together in a wonderful final stretch. The thing that really got me about this novel is the perspectives it presents.

I have always been very interested in WWII. I’ve done a lot of independent research about the war away from home and some (but less) about the war at home and I’ve found that something the consistently brushed over in school was the treatment of minorities during the time – especially pertaining to Japanese internment. Most of WWII related books I’ve seen are related to the holocaust (concentration camps, a Jewish family on the run). I’m not negating the devastating significance of the holocaust, but WWII was more than that.

This book goes into perspectives which are often missed. I had never even thought about how the war might have effected the Americans of Chinese (or otherwise Asian) descent. The main character wears a button for a big chunk of the book reading ‘I am Chinese’ for fear of being mistaken for being Japanese, since no one could tell the difference (not that they tried). The book also goes into the jazz scene of the era. It’s definitely worth noting that Henry’s best friend is a (black) sax-man named Sheldon. Then of course there’s Keiko, Japanese ancestry but American nationality. Through these perspectives, we get a lot of cultural and racial identity and the treatment of such identities within several cultures.

But, like all my favorite books, it’s about much more.

It’s about hope and loss, friendship and family. I could say it’s about jazz music saving a nation, but that might come off as a bit biased (and maybe a bit of a stretch).

It really is a lovely read. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in compelling characters, a good story, any of the themes listed above, WWII, and especially someone who likes to consider the troubles of racial and culture identity (we’ve all been there, am I right?).

Just a side note, I love the title so much. It’s a title with a meaning that is probably slightly apparent in the synopsis alone. I love it.

Anyway, yeah. Great book for a book list. Give it a look!