literacy organizations or reading/writing volunteering

Just writing this post up in the hopes that some of you have been involved in literacy organizations or something similar. I've always wanted to get involved in volunteering activity that relates to reading/writing. Only thing is, not many of the literacy programs around here seem to want teenagers around.

It doesn't have to be a literacy program exactly, but some sort of volunteering experience/organization that deals a lot with writing and reading?

I'm thinking I may have to start something of my own if I come across another things that says "You must be 18!" :)

But I'd love to hear about your experiences!


hypothetical bookish situation #1: if dogs could read

So I'm browsing through cute pictures of dogs, very casually (I have an addiction, HELLPPPP-), when I come across this:

And then it occurs to me, in a flash of brainly ridiculousness brilliance.

What if dogs could read?

What if we taught them to read?

*le gasp*

And then I think: this is the perfect solution to well...everything.

  • it would open up a whole new demographic for the publishing industry. Henceforth, dogs eager for leisurely reading materials would flood the bookstores with demand...and more demand. No more would bookstores or the publishing industry be in danger due to lagging sales! There would now be an overabundance of customers. And don't say this isn't likely: have you seen the amount of pet treats/clothes/toys that dog-owners buy currently? The book industry would never be the same again!

  • it would shame regular (ahem, the majority of the population that doesn't read) people into reading. Can you imagine the SHAME, the MISERY, if little Spot had managed to get through dusty tomes like War & Peace and Crime and Punishment BEFORE you? Let's face it: it's embarrassing if your dog has read higher level books or more books than you have. Paralyzed by fear at this thought, regular people will also stampede their way into bookstores and libraries.

  • You could have all-night reading sessions with Spot! Imagine the fun! Instead of sitting down and watching TV with the dog at night, you could sit down with your dog and read together!

  • You would now be buying for two: you'll get even more money's worth out of your books if not only you, but your dog as well, read each book.

  • It would open the marketplace for new products...new businesses. SLOBBER-GUARD INC! (plastic coverings that will prevent dog slobber from getting on your book pages) DOG-GLASSES CO! (glasses for dogs who read a little too much for their own good) ODOR-GONE-SPRAY (ahem, to get rid of the excited mistakes your dog commits while browsing a place of books and realizing that the new S. Collins book is out!) & MUCH MORE!

  • You would never again have to worry about dogs chewing your books out. They'll have much more respect for the written word now, so the last thing they would do is eat your books. Conversely, if you really HATE a book, instead of the old throw-against-a-wall trick, your dog would happily gnaw on it for you.

  • Imagine the social aspect! Instead of your dogs mingling at dog parks, they would meet up at libraries or book stores, which would sell dog treats and food on the side. See, even more money for bookish places that need it! And instead of having to stand in a middle of a park while Spot met fought with fellow dogs, you could stand in the middle of a bookstore!

  • And..and! [here is where my hypothetical inspiration ran out]. You may think of your own improvements in society this would lead to, and talk about them in the comments, if you wish. :p
But anyways, can't you see the benefits? Wouldn't the world be a better place for books and the written word if dogs could read?


And now, I go to teach my dog the alphabet!

Join me, my friends!

(you know you want to).

And remember to stay tuned for the next installment of hypothetical situations: if books were made out of chocolate!


review: before i fall

Book Description:

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.

Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing

My Opinion:

Before I Fall is making me feel very guilty. I very rashly purchased it B&N a few days ago, despite vowing not to buy any more books for the rest of the year. I'd only read the first ten pages before I was hooked and couldn't bear to be parted from it. Add in the smorgasboard of glowing reviews that I'd already encountered, and this equals choco coveting a hardcover copy of a 480 page book. Next thing I know it's in my hands and in the cashier's hands and in a shiny bag and then again in my hands and I'm reading it. At 7 o'clock in the evening on a Wednesday night.

I was in some sort of reading daze and finished it a few hours later.


I think I may have been hypnotized. I blame it on the shiny cover! On the the oh-so-very hooky opening! On YOU PEOPLE! How dare you get me so excited about a book that I actually bought it? Hmm? HMM???? HOW CAN YOU LIVE WITH YOURSELVES?*

*calms down*

Well, I do have to say Before I Fall was a pretty good read. It follows in the footsteps of a few Hollywood films with the main character being trapped in at time loop that keeps repeating the same day. Quite an unfortunate one, really, since it's the day that Sam Kingston is supposed to die.

Now, I've heard a lot about how Sam is very unlikable at first.

But honestly, I didn't find her to be. Sure, she's spoiled and snotty and mean, but she's not very different from lots of girls I know. And I love my flawed characters, more than anything else** So when an author manages to realistically portray a flawed character, I pretty much want to give a standing ovation. Sam has reasons for being the way she is, and with the continual flashbacks and backstory weaved into this tale, I feel like I know her pretty well. Which is sort of great. Lauren Oliver is consistent with her detailed characterization--Sam's best friend Lindsay is particularly vivid and Sam's love interest is three dimensional as well. Oliver's characters are not always endearing, but they're realistic and that's what matters.

The way this story is structured allows for a lot of introspection, and a careful examination of the intricacies of decisions and characters' behavior. As Sam passes through the halls of her high school again and again, is confronted by different conflicts, and then attempts to save herself from her inevitable death, it provides a lot of room for character growth. Before I Fall has one of the most clear-cut character arcs I've come across in YA for a while: Sam makes definite, noticeable changes in herself from start to finish of the novel. What's more, as a reader, we're party to her growth every step of the way. In retrospect, Oliver did a wonderful job of illustrating how little things could change Sam's outlook so drastically. And it's lovely that she managed to render Sam's journey from self-centered mean girl to something more bearable so masterfully. And above all, Before I Fall is a cause-effect novel. It literally goes through 7 different scenarios that vary depending on what Sam says and does.

Unfortunately, this had the downside for me that after Day 2 or so of the same setting and very similar events, the story dragged for me. It dragged a little more as each day repeated. I think it was somewhere in the Day 5 range--two-thirds of the way through maybe--when I really tired of it. I almost put the novel down then because I honestly didn't want to carry on at that point. Still, I slogged through and although I felt myself enjoying the book less as it continued, Day 7 was a pretty beautiful summation of the whole story. I won't spoil the ending but I loved it--it's exactly the sort of type that I prefer over anything else.

I think part of the reason I didn't have as much patience for this book is that Sam kept talking. A lot. Not in dialogue, but her narrative went on just a little too long. I think--at 480 pages--this book could have stood for a bit of cutting and trimming to make it a little snappier, a little less redundant. I think that's the number one reason why I'm not completely in love with this book.

I have to say that Oliver's prose is as smooth as butter, and there is a lulling quality to it. Her writing style seems to purposefully deflect attention from itself, but that's part of the reason I'm so fascinated by it. Seldom have I come across words that flow so effortlessly together. And even when Oliver delivered descriptions with pretty words, I just sort of brushed by it and continued reading. Which never happens with me: usually I have a radar for interesting descriptions and sit and pause if I find one particularly striking in a novel. There is something about Oliver's style that strives to be unnoticeable, and at the same time her writing just sucks you in and doesn't let you leave--even if you want to. Which is precisely why I'm puzzling over it.

There's not anything particularly different about her prose style that I can tell, but there's something about it...


It's very strange. I won't deny it's good, but it's strange. It baffles me.

The dialogue falls into that category as well--spot-on for teenagers, not condescending in the least, and witty at times.Again, it blends into the narrative seamlessly.

I'm still puzzled but I'll just say it's well-written and leave it at that.***

Strong characterization, solid writing, and a compelling story makes me conclude that Before I Fall is a good read. I didn't enjoy it quite as much as others who raved about it--like I said, I'm not in love with it-- but I still would recommend it. Certainly a great start for Oliver, and it's already on the NYT Bestselling list. Which is especially lovely since it's a contemporary debut--not something we see too often.

Rating: I give it an 8/10. I wouldn't say go out and rush to buy it at the full $18****. If you can borrow it somehow though, definitely get your claws on it. *****

* REALLY, HOW CAN YOU? I have no self-control! None!
** I do, flaws are my favorite thing with characters.
*** I lied. Still thinking about it.
****Keep in mind I'm REALLY stingy. You might be a different type of person and it could be worth the buy for you.
***** Or maybe. *drops voice to a whisper* I should hold a giveaway.for the big 6-0--SHHH! Quiet. Surprise, ehh? ---- LALALALLALALA! WHAT, YOU SAY? You recently read the dictionary? HOW INTERESTING!AND LOOK! A MAN MADE OF CHOCOLATE!

new commenting system

*scratches head*

I'm hoping I installed this correctly. Anyways, I got this idea from the lovely Shweta from The Book Journal, since she recently installed a new commenting system and encouraged me to try it out as well. I love how this system will allow me to respond to comments individually, instead of me going in a whole long list at the end of the post that gets really messy and icky. Comments are one of my favorite parts of blogging, and I want to give each of them their due attention.

I think I'll go for a trial run of one to two weeks and see how it turns out.

If it gives me or you huge headaches/angst I'll just uninstall it. But this'll be an experiment of sorts :)

And if for some reason it's totally not working and you can't comment here, email me at chocowrites@gmail.com. Ooh and are there any glitches you notice, feel free to point them out. I'll do my best to fix it.

UPDATE: I installed this commenting system from IntenseDebate. Go check it out if you liking it. And I just enabled the commentluv feature, which will display your latest post if you fill it out. It's nice getting to be so interactive and also getting to spread link love :D


continuing a blogging revolution (or, a very random and rambling post)

I think I mentioned before that I really love the posts by Becky from The Bookette, McKenzie from The Book Owl, and Staysi from Lost in Ink. Still, go check out what those awesome bloggers have to say. They pretty much articulated exactly what I'm feeling about blogging now. And I'll add my voice to what I like to call a blogging revolution :)

Blogging is not as fun as it used to be when I feel pressured to post this many reviews or that many memes. It's not as fun when I have 1241948920 updates on my Google Reader, attempt to comment on everything, and end up feeling exhausted afterwards for doing--in effect--nothing.

And I think the posts by the other bloggers above me gave me the courage to say, "Blogging doesn't have to be this way" Because it doesn't. It's supposed to be a great experience. It's supposed to be an outlet for our (somewhat) unhealthy obsession with books. I am definitely not in blogging for getting free books. Aside from a few book tours, I've only once or twice been approached to review a book. And that's perfectly all right by me. I like going out to the library and the bookstore and picking out books to read.

[random tangent]

And most of all: I like thinking about the books I read. And even if my reviews seem to be more negative than they are positive, this just guarantees that when I do come across a a good book, or a great book, or A HOLY WOW I WANT TO READ THIS BOOK EVERY DAY FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE book, I appreciate it even more. That's a large part of reading: recognizing what you do and don't like. It's okay to not like something. And I'm totally getting off topic right now but I just wanted to say: Don't ever be afraid to write an honest review. Don't ever silence your own opinions. Don't ever be ashamed of your opinion. And most of all, don't ever let anyone make you feel ashamed for thinking about the books you read. For writing honest reviews. Because to me, that's the absolute most important quality of a book blog: that a book blogger is sharing their own, unadulterated opinion. Because that's really what a review is, isn't it?

Lately I've come across a lot of bloggers going, "I'm don't want to write negative reviews" or "I don't write discussion posts because I'm afraid people will disagree with me" or "I'm afraid to post this." It breaks my heart to hear this. But I'm not surprised: there's a tendency in life--not just blogging--for the majority to shoot down people with opinions they don't agree with. And it's perfectly understandable that bloggers are afraid but I wish it wasn't that way. I can't help feeling the WHOLE point is having people challenge your opinion.

Get your opinion out there. Learn to defend it. Learn how to accept other arguments and recognize that maybe you're not 100% correct.

It's healthy. It's part of life.

And I'm hoping that ALL of you bloggers will support other bloggers who want to get their opinions out there. Even if you don't agree at all.

It's important, that as bloggers, we're facilitating discussion on books. What we do and don't like. Isn't talking and thinking about books the whole point of book blogging?


[/random tangent]

But to get back on topic:

I have noticed that a lot of bloggers are feeling tired or discouraged or fed up. Last month I think I came across the most "I'm taking a break, be back sometime...or not." posts than I have in my whole blogging experience. I don't mean to generalize, but I think that while it's true that life gets in the way, sometimes it also just seems like there's no point in blogging anymore. I've been feeling a bit of that way myself lately. I've taken a break before: two weeks in December so I could survive finals week. I'll be taking a break sometime in April-May, just so this blog doesn't turn into a ranting ground about how much I HATE AP testing. (have I mentioned I hate it? I hatehatehate it so much *cries a little*).

Anyways, all of the bloggers I linked to above pointed out some of the things that I wish would change in the blogosphere. And with this post, I just wanted to reinforce the fact that I'm trying to make improvements on this blog and also improve myself as a blogger. Some of the upcoming changes you've already heard about: no more memes except for Captivating Thursday, and less commenting by me but hopefully more meaningful comments (i.e. quality over quantity).

But I also want to change something about myself as a blogger. I have no idea how approachable or friendly I come off to you guys.

Maybe I'm scary? I really hope not.

You know what?

I'm just any other teenage girl sitting in my pajamas as I type this, my right leg about to fall asleep, and wondering if I can possibly bake cookies today. I procrastinate all the time, and I'm thinking of throwing out my textbooks so I won't have to study and I REALLY wish my dog hadn't just sat on my sweater, cause now it's covered in fur and I am SO AGAINST wearing my dog.

Anyways, my point is:

I'm a real person.

I think sometimes we forget there's a blogger behind the blog. Especially when we're just churning out book review after book review, meme after meme.

There's very little room for personality when blogging is like that.

What I'm saying is, I'm going to make room. Because first and foremost, this is my blog . I want it to be a reflection of myself. I don't know if it is quite yet.

But I don't ever want to hold you guys at an arm-lengths away. And I don't want you guys to ever feel I'm some sort of distant machine hammering out post after post.

A lot of bloggers are striving to be closer to other bloggers and their followers, and I'm going to follow suit.

I feel bad because I feel like I don't support new bloggers enough. I'm not a new or an old blogger myself-- somewhere in between as I've been blogging for about 6-7 months.

We've all been new bloggers at some point.

So what I'm saying is this: if you're a new blogger, don't be afraid to approach me. Email me if you have questions about blogging or about books or about anything. Email me if you have suggestions. Email me just for fun.

And same goes for all my followers and fellow bloggers. Email me at chocowrites@gmail.com. Come talk to me on twitter. Come friend me on goodreads. EMAIL ME if you're about to write or post a rant/discussion and you're feeling worried about the reaction. I'll be there to cheer you on, no matter what.

And despite still being baffled by it, I have to say twitter is excellent because that way I can really chat with fellow bloggers.Get with the times and get a twitter and come talk! (I only got my twitter account a month or so ago and I resisted the whole time. But it really is fun!)

And I'll admit I'm TERRIBLE with checking my email and replying (The HORRORS OF SPAM! THE HORRORS! IT GROWS!) but from now on I'll be reforming myself in that regard as well.

But anyways, I'd love to make some more bloggy friends. I feel like that should be one of the biggest parts of book blogging, and unfortunately it doesn't seem like a huge priority in the blogosphere. It really should be. I love talking to bloggers. I love developing bloggy friendships. It's great.

And blogging is even more fun when we can support each other, talk to each other.

And that concludes my ramble-of-the-day :) Really, I think this is the most rambling/ random post I've ever done, haha.

*random dog pictures are part of my resolution to honor my now retired puppy profile picture :)


captivating thursday (3)

Captivating Thursday is a meme hosted by me that showcases beautiful things--whether it be photos, quotes, poetry, music, videos, or anything else that I happen upon.

First, I wanted to post a very wonderful video made by Amna the amazing just for CT. *huggles* A must-watch: the beautiful words! the ACCENT!

The Moment by Margaret Atwood (courtesy of poemhunter & recommended by Amna)

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can't breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

"A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended."

— Ian McEwan, Atonement

"I spin and weave and knit my words and visions until a life starts to take shape. "

--Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls

"What do you want from me?" he asks.

What I want from every person in my life, I want to tell him.

--Melina Marchetta, Jellicoe Road

Education for Leisure by Carol Ann Duffy (courtesy of williamhowardschool)

Today I am going to kill something. Anything.

I have had enough of being ignored and today
I am going to play God. It is an ordinary day,
a sort of grey with boredom stirring in the streets

I squash a fly against the window with my thumb.
we did that at school. Shakespeare. It was in
another language and now the fly is in another language.
I breathe out talent on the glass to write my name.

I am a genius. I could be anything at all, with half
the chance. But today I am going to change the world.
something’s world. The cat avoids me. The cat
knows I am a genius, and has hidden itself.

I pour the goldfish down the bog. I pull the chain.
I see that it is good. The budgie is panicking.
Once a fortnight, I walk the two miles into town
For signing on. They don’t appreciate my autograph.

There is nothing left to kill. I dial the radio
and tell the man he’s talking to a superstar.
he cuts me off. I get our bread-knife and go out.
the pavements glitter suddenly. I touch your arm.

Are you participating in Captivating Thursday? Link in the comments and I'll be sure to come check it out!

***Make sure to check out the amazing CT posts by these bloggers***

Raven from Love Letters to Forever

followup post on "why ya romance needs to change"

So I've finally got my thoughts to settle and I think I'm up to writing this followup post to the rant disguised as a discussion why ya romance needs to change that I posted yesterday.

First, I wanted to say that I'm completely amazed if not a bit overwhelmed by the amount of response I got from the post. I really didn't expect such a large reaction. This reaction indicates to me that YA romance is a topic that is in sore need of an active discussion, and I'm very happy to provide a place to do so. I enjoyed reading all of the comments--both ones that agreed and disagreed with my stance. What can I say? I love a good, intelligent discussion and thanks to everyone who contributed to it.

I want to mention a few things that I think got misconstrued and also clarify my stance on a thing or two. I didn't quite choose the best wording the first time around and I think this created some confusion.

1) I am in no way for book burnings or *actually* tearing books apart--I guess some of you thought I meant tear pages out?

I really have to clear this up because I am completely anti-censorship and I think some of my views on parent censorship are very strong (which I'll save for another post). The "book burning" reference at the beginning was an exaggeration, but I'll admit it was a bad choice of words. I always joke about "holding a book bonfire" for books I hate (mostly textbooks). I have been known to throw books against a wall but I do not condone book burnings in any way. Believe me, I am 100% against book burnings, which is only reinforced by the horror stories I've heard from my mom, who experienced book burnings first hand (again, I'll save this for another post). And when I said, "tear a book apart" I meant in a review, I'd tear it apart. It's a common phrase I use to indicate that I am picking a book apart in a negative review.

Bad word choices on my part, and I apologize for any confusion it caused. Really, I rather have kids reading Twilight than have someone banning it or setting it on fire. And I'd HATE for any of you to think I'm a pro-book burning/pro-book tearing apart/ pro-censorship bigot. Hopefully I didn't give that impression to too many of you! :)

2) I like paranormal as a genre in YA--even in it's current form. However, I can't support the trend shown in most popular books in paranormal romance (i.e. books where the main focus is the very hot [insert paranormal creature] love interest who falls in love with a normal girl) at this point in time. I really think that paranormal romance has the potential to be a great genre. But all the books that I've read from PR lately have exasperated me, so I'll be staying away from the mega-bestseller hits (i.e. Twilight, Hush Hush, Fallen) for the time being. I do think it's important to have negative reviews that do speak out against the twisted relationships in books such as those, so we'll see.

3) I am in no way trying to dictate to authors what sort of books they should write, or what sort of books publishers should publish. Rather, I was trying to get readers (and maybe some writers/authors) to think about YA romance and then do something about it if they don't like the current state of it.

Let me say this, though: I am all for creative license, and writing whatever the heck you want. Furthermore, I'm not trying to dictate what sort of morals/ non-morals an author should include in a book. I think the paragraph I had that started off with "So it is..." didn't communicate very well my stance on morals in YA.

  • I don't think YA authors must only write about happy sunshine books & healthy relationships.
  • I have absolutely nothing against YA books with alcohol/swearing/drugs/sexuality/ abusive relationships etc, the so called "edgy" elements of YA. I don't even find those elements to be edgy because they're the truth of what young adults are exposed to/ involved in. Pretending those things don't exist and excluding them from YA literature is a disservice to teens.
  • The only thing I ask is that when including "bad romance" or "bad decisions" is that the outcomes of these decisions are truthful and realistic.
  • I don't find the lust= love message to be truthful or realistic.
  • I don't like weak female characters who depend on overbearing men and engage in obsessive relationships. I suppose it's a truth since this may happen in real life; however, I don't believe that it's okay to portray it as the "ideal" teenage relationship. I don't think it's okay to conclude these books with the sentiment that the teens who participate in these relationships will live happily-ever-after fantasy lives with their soul mates.
To summarize, one of the problems I have with bad romance in YA is that it pretends to be something it's not. I'm asking that people stop calling the twisted relationship dynamics "true love" or stalkerish behavior "hot" or Twilight & co books "the ultimate love story."

Because that is not right, it's not correct, and I will not compromise my stance on this. When authors portray lust as love, it's a fallacy. When they romanticize it as something that all woman should want, when they assume that it's a good romance, when they call it good escapism, it's a travesty.

If you're going to write a book about a girl who falls in love with a hot paranormal guy based off of his looks (and vice versa) I don't think you have the right to call it "love" or "romantic." Own up to it: it's a story about lust, pure and simple. It's a story about bad romance. Don't try to disguise it as something else. And if you enjoy writing it or reading it, that's your personal preference and I'm not going to tell you what to like or not like. You have to decide that on your own.

My overall point: we need to stop glorifying lust and calling it love. Abusive relationships aren't "true love". Some YA romance in it's current form shouldn't be called romance. And if you don't like the romance in YA, do something about it. Don't support bad romance.

What I meant by the moralistic issues that I wrote about in my original post is that I have a problem when sick relationships are portrayed as beautiful, healthy relationships. I have a problem when that's majority of what I'm getting from YA romance. You--as an adult, or as an older teen-- might be able to differentiate between good and bad romance, but many younger people can't. I know when I read Twilight in 8th grade, at the age of 12 or 13, at first I found nothing wrong with Edward and Bella's relationship. I didn't know it was wrong. I hear the same story all the time--older teens didn't mind Twilight as a preteen and have since come to their senses. Most haven't. I'm in high school and I can't tell you how many girls I know who wish an Edward would walk into their lives and bite them and stalk them. It's disturbing. A lot of them call their boyfriends "Edward" and like to pretend they're Bella. And it's not just the movie, either. A lot of the girls only like the Edward in the book and like Jacob in the movie (once again, these preferences are based off of guys' looks). The Twilight bandwagon that became popular afterward are only spreading the lust equals love untruth that is so pervasive throughout YA. They're feeding a trend that I find very destructive.

As I mentioned previously, it's only in the last year or so that I've been noticing the trend in YA books. I wasn't equipped to understand and differentiate between healthy/unhealthy romantic relationships at 12 or 13. At 12 or 13 I believed pretty much everything I read in books and didn't question anything. I was impressionable. I still am at 16, but hopefully now I have a more critical viewpoint when I read books. I really do need to reread books I only read last year, or a few years ago. It's likely I have completely different views on how female protagonists are portrayed and how the romantic relationships are portrayed.

Funny how a few years changes everything, isn't it?

I still wish unhealthy relationships and stalkerish bad boys weren't considered good escapism. I think it's more a problem conducive of society that so many women enjoy reading books that degrade the ideal of love and romanticize passive female protagonists and domineering male characters that push women around. As some of you mentioned, it's a reflection on society and the author's unconscious beliefs that they perhaps didn't mean to include in their stories. Still, it's there, and I've decided I won't support it.

Since you all say that you're able to easily differentiate between good and bad romance, weak and strong female protagonists, good and bad messages, lovely and disgusting love interests, why not use that differentiation?

Why not support good romance over bad romance by reading and purchasing books with good romance?

Why not express exactly what you find wrong with bad romance? If you're a reviewer and you find the relationship dynamics in a book to be disturbing, point it out. Don't let it slip by.

Why not talk about what you find right or wrong with YA romance?

Maybe, if we all did that, books that glorify bad romance wouldn't be quite so pervasive in YA literature. We do need to talk about YA romance and not ignore things that bother us about books. We can't just shut up and take it--after all, we're the readers and the consumers and the ones who decide what's selling in the marketplace. Approach your reading with a critical eye--it's really the not-thinking about what's going on in a book you're reading that allows you to enjoy something that you'd otherwise find problems with. Think about the books you're reading. Talk about the books you're reading.

I'm still hoping that YA romance will change.

Discussion time!

Note: I'm perfectly alright with writing a follow-follow up post if necessary. It seems that the subject of YA romance needs a lot more discussion. And I do recognize that my views on the subject are pretty strong--they're my own personal interpretations on the matter and you may completely agree with me, completely disagree with me, or fall somewhere in between those extremes. I'm just glad that I can express my views on the matter and hope you will as well.

review: gone

Book Description:
Janie thought she knew what her future held. And she thought she’d made her peace with it. But she can’t handle dragging Cabel down with her.

She knows he will stay with her, despite what she sees in his dreams. He’s amazing. And she’s a train wreck. Janie sees only one way to give him the life he deserves: She has to disappear. And it’s going to kill them both.

Then a stranger enters her life — and everything unravels. The future Janie once faced now has an ominous twist, and her choices are more dire than she’d ever thought possible. She alone must decide between the lesser of two evils. And time is running out....
My Opinion:

I was pretty eager to read Gone, having enjoyed both Wake and Fade due to McMann's powerful and unique way with prose. That said, I read this book with a critical eye since I've encountered nothing but negative reviews around the blogosphere.

Like its predecessors, Gone is a very quick read and has an atypical plot arc. Fans who expected a final book heavy on crime-fighting and high school drama will be disappointed. What we do get is a book that is much more reflective, that examines Janie's character and decisions, and focuses on internal conflicts. Personally, I don't mind this change from the action-action of the previous two books--I quite enjoy novels with a more contemplative element to them.

However, there's not much to talk about plotwise: while Janie and Cabel are off vacationing she receives a panicked call from her friend about her mother and rushes home. As it turns out, alcoholic mother Dorothea isn't the one in trouble--rather, its Janie's father who's suddenly reappeared. Only thing is, he's in critical condition in the ICU and is currently in a coma.

From them on, much of the book consists of visits to the hospital and Janie alternatively pushing Cabel away and then roping him in. We do get the much-needed answers to what kind of person her father was, but I have to say Janie's brooding contributed to a much whinier tone in this book. Janie doesn't exhibit her characteristic strength of mind for the majority of the time. But I really did enjoy the terming of Janie's so called "Morton Fork" in which the two decisions she faces will result in equally terrible things. This philosophical aspect adds to the depth of this story, and ultimately I have to say I enjoyed the portrayal of a teenage girl faced with a life-altering choice.

I loved the ending. I'm in the minority here, but there's something I love about open endings. The more open, the better*--but I'm completely biased here in my preferences.

Gone was a bittersweet read that didn't quite live up to Wake or Fade. I can understand why many readers will be disappointed by the seemingly nonexistent plot and open ending, but I don't think this book was that bad. All in all, the Wake Trilogy is a respectable series for YA. Really, the reason I liked this series in the first place was the writing style--3rd person present tense and heavy on fragments--and Gone definitely delivers on that aspect.

My Rating: 7/10. I would recommend Wake, and once reading that book I don't doubt most would finish up on the series all the way to Gone. And this book gives a sufficient conclusion.

* Cliffhanger endings are another matter entirely. Hate those.


some blog updates

A blog update post is long overdue! So I'll just go over some changes happening around this blog so you won't be going 1) whaaaaaaa? or 2) OH NOES! CHOCO HAS BEEN ABDUCTED BY ALIENS!

1) Instead of the cute beagle puppy I've utilized* for pretty much the entirety of my blogging career as my profile picture, I now have a variation of my header as my picture. Which you will see when I comment on your blogs :) I think I will compensate for this by posting completely random pics of puppies at opportune moments.


2) I've been reading some lovely posts around the blogosphere, such as the one by Becky from The Bookette, which articulated a lot of things I'm feeling about blogging lately myself.

As you may have noticed, I've stopped doing In My Mailbox, and haven't done Waiting on Wednesday for quite some time. It's because when I participate in these memes, I feel obligated to post. For me, this obligation takes away from a lot of the individuality and spontaneity of blogging since posting the same thing every week gets a bit tedious. So I'm really seeking a departure from posting memes. This is just my own opinion on the matter and I hope those of you who do participate in memes are enjoying it! I think memes are great, they're just not for me. I'll still be doing Captivating Thursday though, since I'm not ready to give up scavenge-hunting for beauty and then concocting a post every week :)

3) You may have felt my absence commenting-wise lately, and I apologize for that. But once again I've been inspired by other bloggers' posts: the Book Owl, and The Bookette. I've decided that quality is better than quantity. From now on, I'll be leaving less comments but I hope that they will be longer and more insightful and at times make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. I don't tell bloggers I love their blogs often enough--I sort of take it for granted that I follow so many amazing blogs. So I hope the quality of my commenting will improve.

4) The inner child within me--OKAY, SO I'M HAVING A MID-TEEN CRISIS---is demanding that I return back to reading more middle grade fiction. So once I clear my backlog of YA reviews (which is enormous so this probably won't happen for a long time) I'm going to be reviewing lots more middle grade books. Because to be honest, I prefer middle grade** over YA and I think MG deserves more attention.

5) Holy wowzers about the response to my "why ya romance needs to change" post. I'm a bit baffled by what happened today, and currently hoping my thoughts will settle enough that I'll be able to write a (somewhat coherent) follow up post in a little bit.

6) I STILL haven't fulfilled my New Year Resolution to have an author over for an interview. I will overcome my interviewing fear and if I don't have an author interview posted up in the next month or so, you may hit me over the head with a chocolate bar. Or something. If any authors see this and are interested in an interview, please email me at chocowrites@gmail.com . I'd love to have you.

7) I am now affiliates*** with Jenn from Books at Midnight! It happened a while ago and like the forgetful person I am, it totally slipped my mind to post about it. But anyways, Jenn's blog is absolutely fantastic. Also, she's holding a 500 followers giveaway so go check that out. Now.

*Oh dear, that sounds so clinical..."utilized." He/she was a great avi while it lasted. *sobs a little*

**I was thinking about it, and BEFORE I started this blog, 90% of what I read was middle grade fiction. Now it's more like 100% YA. And I miss middle grade, I really do.

***Nope, I don't have a good definition of what an affiliate actually
is. I'm a bit confuzzled about it myself.


why ya romance needs to change

Well, it's about time. I've had the idea for this post for a while now, but never felt the time was right to actually--write it.

But finally I've had enough. If I read another YA book with a twisted relationship dynamic, I may well scream a bit, tear out my hair, and then invite everyone to a book burning. And that statement is a testament to how frustrated, annoyed, and exasperated I am by 80% of the romance I encounter in YA today.

Let's face it: YA isn't YA without romance. It's really, really hard for me to think of a single YA book that doesn't deal with romance. Which is okay, I guess, since teenagers are all hyped up on hormones or whatever. FYI: there are some teenagers who don't date or have crazy all-consuming crushes. I guess it's a minority though, and really, I have nothing against romance if it's done well. The problem is, most romance in YA is so botched and distorted it's not even recognizable as romance any more. It's very thin, it's very flimsy, and in case anyone doesn't know yet: LUST DOES NOT EQUAL LOVE.

Just thought I'd get that down.

So where'd this all start?

I really have no idea. I don't know if lust=love is a fallacy that's been perpetuated throughout the whole history (which is admittedly pretty short) of YA literature. But let's just start with Twilight. It's as good a starting point as ever because it facilitated the boom in YA we're experiencing right now, and everybody's heard about the basic gist of the story: passive female main character lets a domineering male character stalk her in the name of true love.

I really don't get to rant about Twilight enough, so excuse me while I do for a bit:

Not only is Edward abusive, the basis of their love is that Bella thinks he’s the most attractive marble pedophile on earth and he wants to eat her like a chocolate chip cookie. I really do think the appeal of Twilight is that millions of girls worldwide can buy into this situation, insert themselves into Bella’s story so they can imagine a "perfect" love interest that lusts after them and fulfills all their fantasies.

Huh, what?

There's a reason why Edward is the most popular character, the source of much shrill squealing and fangirling. Because when you read Twilight, Edward is your boyfriend, he's stalking you, and he's sparkling right at YOU, not Mary-sue Bella.

Which is disturbing, I'd say. Does this mean that girls find stalkerish, disgusting men (under the mask of good looks) attractive?

Here would be the best time to check out the article I linked to in my previous post: Bad Romance (or, YA & Rape Culture) which really is a powerful essay that will make you think. I can't applaud the author enough--she basically laid out the chief points why some YA romance in it's current form is despicable. To quote "The complication is that so often, in Twilight, Swoon, Hush, Hush, Vampire Academy, and countless romances dating back to Pride & Prejuidice and Pamela, we're asked to accept that the outward facade of "I dislike you immensely" masks a subtle underlying attraction."

The author points out that we live in a society that grooms rape culture.

And YA, quite arguably, is at the forefront of this grooming. Do you not see all the girls walking around with Twilight clutched to their bosoms?

But it's not just the rape culture. It's the message in a lot of YA books (demonstrated through relationships) that's so, so wrong.

Usually, I hate to single out books and authors, but I think it has to be done. So here it goes; I'll boil down the basic message of a few YA books that are popular.

  • Willow by Julie Hoban: When everything in your life sucks, find a guy you can cling to and then sleep with him. Then everything will be ALL better.
  • Evermore by Alyson Noel: If a guy is horrible to you, fall in love with him. If your relationship is going badly, go become an alcoholic and get suspended from school.
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: Let a guy push you around all the time, watch you when you sleep, and stalk you. It's all good romance. Also, fall into depression and then jump off a cliff if he breaks up with you.
  • Fallen by Lauren Kate: So what if a guy is a complete, utter jerk that treats you like dirt? If he's hot, he's your true love.
  • Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick: Sexual harassment is love. Also, the guy who's trying his very hardest to kill you? SOUL MATE!
Get this: all those books are selling incredibly well. I remember there was one week on the NYT bestselling list for YA that had Twilight, Fallen, Beautiful Creatures, and Hush Hush in the top ten at the same time.

Paranormal romance is taking over the world. And I may be offending some of you PR readers/writers but I can't think of a single--not a single-- paranormal romance I've read in the last year or so that doesn't exemplify bad romance. I can't think of one that was actually--good.

I'm done with PR now. Really. This may be a generalization, but from what I observe, authors are really just churning out one book after the other that follows the plotline of: ordinary- (possibly Mary-Sue)-girl-falls-in-love-with-[insert paranormal creature] boy-who-is -smoking-hot-and-their-love-has-no-basis *CUE CREEPY BEHAVIOR*

Um, who decided this was okay?

We did.

This is turning into a never-ending cycle, in which authors write books with twisted relationship dynamics---> the novel rockets to the bestseller list as readers go crazy over it ---> publishers are open to even more books with similar plotlines ---> authors hence write more of these books ---> readers buy MORE of these books.

Oh dear. And it does look like there's more and more books like this every year.

Because I'm just NOW noticing--within the last year or so--that love, as a whole, in young adult literature is based off of the looks of the love interest: teen girls are buying books in volume where the most noticeable characteristics of the love interest is their shocking good looks, smoldering eyes, and tendency to chase after girls either in a manner reminiscent of a psychopathic serial killer or a hopeless puppy, depending.

In Paranormal Romance there's a lot of stalkerish bad boys. In contemporary, as my friend Emilia pointed out to me once, there's the whole "Sarah Dessen syndrome" in which a girl has problems and the only one who can help her is a boy, who is ALWAYS right--about everything.

And from all the books I'm reading, I'm getting this from YA romance:
1) Girls should judge guys off of their looks
2) Lust equals love
3) It doesn't matter if a guy is rude to you, it just means he likes you
4) At the tender age of 16, 17, 18, your boyfriend is your undying, forever, and ever SOUL MATE.
6) If you're a girl with problems, make sure to find a guy who will solve them for you
7) Guys in a relationship should push you around
8)etc. etc. [insert bad messages about relationships here, I'm sure some book in YA will glorify them at some point]

We all know that young adult finds it’s main demographic with girls, and as I believe strongly in the power of books influencing the reader, I have to wonder what girls are getting out of these books. Nothing good, it looks like.

And you have to remember, preteens, young kids are reading these books.

But wait, you say! It's just a book! It's just fiction!

So it is. But I swear that every single book I've read has affected me in some way. And why, oh why, must the message in YA books be so disgraceful when it doesn't have to be? Who in the world thinks bad romance is a good thing? I really don't see the reasoning behind saying that these books are "just for fun" or "guilty pleasures." There's absolutely no excuse to be reading these sorts of books, to be buying them, to be praising them. There's absolutely no reason why we should have a whole freaking genre of fiction (YA) dedicated to romanticizing weak female heroines, stalkerish love interests, and sick relationships.

When I was growing up, I remember I was watching kick-butt shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena. I remember reading books like Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce and Sabriel by Garth Nix. These mediums all had strong female characters that I could look up to, that I could learn from.

What are kids a few years younger than me being exposed to? Twilight & co of crappy romances.

Sure, there's books like The Hunger Games, ( as Tere pointed out in comments) where the main character Katniss is kicking butt and her relationship with her love interest(s) is a healthy one. Of course there's a lot of YA books that are doing romance right. That are empowering strong female characters.

But right now, the overbearing trend throughout YA romance is a disturbing one. And it's not one I can support, either. I'm not standing for it, which is why-- if I come across bad romance in any of the books I pick up from now on--I'm going to make sure to dedicate a large part of my review to it. I won't ever be going: "I found the love interest to be stalkerish/I found the relationship between the two to be disturbing/etc." and still recommend a book ("But overall it was a good book"). Nope. None of that.

I don't care how hot the love interest is, how much tension there is between the main character and the love interest, how gripping a read it is. I'm putting my foot down: if there's even a whiff of bad romance in a book, I will make sure to tear it apart. And I'm urging everyone one of you book reviewers and readers to do the same.

But discussion time: What do you think about YA romance?

Edited to add:
1)You should definitely check out lovely Para's post: hush, hush, the designated love interest and gender relations in YA
2) Emilia adds that the original "Sarah Dessen Syndrome" terming can be found here: Clowns are never wrong, or Time to Let Go


you really, really need to read this article

I don't usually do this (i.e., dedicate whole posts to linking).

But I wanted to link you all to pure, absolute brilliance. The article below will make you think about what you're reading in YA (hopefully). It sure made me think. I'll be posting my own opinions on YA romance etc. later on (a bit of a delay as I need my thoughts to percolate a little longer).

In the meanwhile READ THE ARTICLE. It'll take all of a few minutes and if you read YA, it's a must.

Bad Romance (or, YA & Rape Culture)

And thanks to the lovely Para for linking me to this article :)

review: magic under glass

a little note beforehand: I've seemed to forgotten that this is a book REVIEW blog.
i.e. lack of reviews this month (or in general on this blog).
Apologies and get ready for some reviews this week!

Book Description:
Nimira is a foreign music-hall girl forced to dance for mere pennies. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing with a piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new and better life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets are beginning to stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry's involvement with a league of sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. Then Nimira discovers the spirit of a fairy gentleman named Erris is trapped inside the clockwork automaton, waiting for someone to break his curse. The two fall into a love that seems hopeless, and breaking the curse becomes a race against time, as not just their love, but the fate of the entire magical world may be in peril.

My Opinion:

Magic Under Glass is already infamous after the cover controversy that made it the center of attention in the book blogosphere. Suddenly this book was in our collective consciousness, and this is part of the reason why I promptly pushed it to the top of my reading pile when I picked up a copy.

And I think this book is great.

Let's ignore the controversy now, since the cover certainly shouldn't be the main focus of any book. Jacklyn Dolamore deserves attention for writing a lovely book in its own right, not for being the author who had a disaster as a cover.

In Dolamore's fantasy world there's a little bit of everything: sorcery, fairies, automatons, and quite a bit of political intrigue. Dolamore manages to put all these elements together and create a lush setting reminiscent of 19th century England, with a bit of steampunk and gothic romance mixed in. The resulting combination is a world worthy of praise.

Nimira is the heroine of this tale: a classic victim of the riches-to-rags good/bad luck that permeates fantasy tales. All the same, her predicament is an interesting one: and her dancing skills land her a job with the enigmatic (and oh-so-handsome) sorcerer Hollin Parry.

For a good part of the book, Magic Under Glass closely follows the plotline of Jane Eyre: under-appreciated girl is hired by mysterious, rich man who whisks her away to his manor only to fall deeply in love with her. Then cue drama when a mad woman rushes into her room in the middle of the night. This symmetry of plotline only furthers the resonance of Nimira's plight: and the magical elements added in another layer, another dimension, that just made this book all the more enjoyable.

From the very first I was enchanted by Dolamore's prose: it's evocative and finely tuned and quite beautiful. Lovely descriptions abound, and I felt Nimira's world to be quite solid. There were scenes and lulls in the book with beautiful words and exquisite sentences. For a debut novelist, the writing style is exemplary. Sure, it's not perfect, but when an author weaves a tapestry of description such as the one in Magic Under Glass, it's just lovely to behold.

The romance was quite a large part of the book: and it's nice to see it done right for once in YA.* The love triangle is a bit confusing at first since I wasn't sure who was best for Nimira, but who she ultimately ends up with is--in my opinion--the right choice. The automaton-who-is-really-a-fairy-prince is very sweet, and as Nimira strives to break his curse its a heartbreaking quest worthy of this book. Hollin Parry's conflict between choosing good over evil is well-drawn; however the evil sorcerer Smollings is a bit vague for my tastes. The characters are perhaps not as fully realized as I could have hoped for, but their performance is still good.

The finely tuned plot is both exciting and intriguing. I turned pages feverishly as Nimira sorts out her feelings for Hollins, falls in love with one of the two suitors vying for her affections, attempts to break a curse, and then tries to prevent tragedy from happening. She came off as a suitably strong heroine and I didn't dislike her.**

My chief complaint is that this book sort of fell apart towards the end: the last few scenes were lacking in the detail I expected and the ending was more like a cliffhanger, "haha-the second-book-isn't-out-yet-too-bad." It was at this point where I really saw the author's hand, since the characters were thrown a (quite random) conflict at them just to provide the premise of the second book. The ending left me confused, but after a bit I realized that the beginning and middle are strong enough that I'll be looking forward to the next installment eagerly.

When a novel manages to wrestle your attention away and then keep firm grasp of it, I can't help thinking there's something marvelous about it. Magic Under Glass did just that, and this book is a wonderful edition to YA fantasy and a promising start for Dolamore.

I give it a 8.5/10. If you like Libba Bray or Tamora Pierce definitely pick this one up.

*In my opinion 8/10 of every book in YA completely butchers romance--commentary on this coming up later today.

**which is very, very rare for me in YA nowadays.


a tour of my bookshelves

I forget who it was, but someone asked me to snap a few pictures of my bookshelves a while ago. At the time, I declined because my "bookshelves" consisted of large piles of books scattered around my *very* messy room. But I've just installed two pretty bookshelves so I thought I'd show off my book collection. And since my camera isn't working at the moment, I decided to do a video (taken from my ipod so sorry if the quality/dimensions are weird). I guess this is a vlog? I dunno. This is the first time I've taken a video. First time I've uploaded a video. First time I've had an EXCUSE to be talking to myself. lol.

If you'd like to hear me mumble and ramble about books I own, watch the vid :) Advance apologies for grammar weirdness that spews out of my mouth--I'm not as articulate verbally, haha. And YES I am disorganized, that's why some of my books are missing.

Ooh and I feel so legit. I spent a few hours organizing everything by author alphabetically this morning and now it's like a library! Haha. It really seems like I have A LOT of books but I don't buy that many anymore. Some of them I pilfered from my sises as well. Okay, who am I kidding? I'm a book glutton. :p

*vid snipped*

My fave part is the discombobulated hand that appears at ominous intervals. And the "as many as many...umm..many" at the end. loloololol. Hope you enjoyed!


captivating thursday (2)

Captivating Thursday is a meme hosted by me that showcases beautiful things--whether it be photos, quotes, poetry, music, videos, or anything else that I happen upon.

"She looked up at him and her face was pale and austere in the uplight and her eyes lost in their darkly shadowed hollows save only for the glint of them and he could see her throat move in the light and he saw in her face and in her figure something he'd not seen before and the name of that thing was sorrow."

— Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

"I think we ought to live happily ever after."

— Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle

"Sunk in the grass of an empty lot on a spring Saturday, I split the stems of milkweed and thought about ants and peach pits and death and where the world went when I closed my eyes."

— Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye

"When you're young, you think everything you do is disposable. You move from now to now, crumpling time up in your hands, tossing it away. You're your own speeding car. You think you can get rid of things, and people too - leave them behind. You don't yet know about the habit they have, of coming back.

Time in dreams is frozen. You can never get away from where you've been."

-Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin.

"People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it's quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spot blues. Murky darkness."

--Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

The Garden by Ezra Pound (courtesy of famouspoetsandpoems.com)

Like a skien of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington Gardens,
And she is dying piece-meal
of a sort of emotional anaemia.

And round about there is a rabble
Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the very poor.
They shall inherit the earth.

In her is the end of breeding.
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive.
She would like some one to speak to her,
And is almost afraid that I
will commit that indiscretion.

Are you participating in Captivating Thursday? Link here :)


recommend me a book to read!

I thought it'd be cool if I opened up the comments for you guys to recommend me books that you love. What book made you laugh or cry or jump up and down because it was just so AMAZING?

I'll try to keep up with the comments on whether I've read the books yet and what I'm TBR-ing.



new meme hosted by moi: captivating thursday (1)

So I decided I'm starting a new meme, which I've knighted Sir Captivating Thursday of the Week. Only kidding :) Captivating Thursday it is (and yes I suck at alliteration and titling so no snazzy-cool-meme-rhyming title, haha).

The idea is this: since I post beautiful (if random) things on this blog when I can, I thought I'd elevate it into a real meme. I love posting pictures, quotes, and music and getting to share things that sing to my soul. I'd also like to start posting including poetry and art and videos or anything that I've come across that I think is captivating or beautiful. Pretty loose guidelines, eh? And since everyone has such different ideas of beauty, it'll be lovely too see what you guys come up if you decide to participate :)

Here's the official description:

Captivating Thursday is a meme hosted by me that showcases beautiful things--whether it be photos, quotes, poetry, music, videos, or anything else that I happen upon.

Here it goes:

“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”

— Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

"The past is never dead. It's not even past."

-William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

"My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees — my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath — a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff — he's always, always in my mind — not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself — but as my own being."

-Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

"How frail the human heart must be - a mirrored pool of thought. "

-Sylvia Plath

"Morning in the Burned House" by Margaret Atwood (courtesy of poemhunter)

In the burned house I am eating breakfast.
You understand: there is no house, there is no breakfast,
yet here I am.

The spoon which was melted scrapes against
the bowl which was melted also.
No one else is around.

Where have they gone to, brother and sister,
mother and father? Off along the shore,
perhaps. Their clothes are still on the hangers,

their dishes piled beside the sink,
which is beside the woodstove
with its grate and sooty kettle,

every detail clear,
tin cup and rippled mirror.
The day is bright and songless,

the lake is blue, the forest watchful.
In the east a bank of cloud
rises up silently like dark bread.

I can see the swirls in the oilcloth,
I can see the flaws in the glass,
those flares where the sun hits them.

I can't see my own arms and legs
or know if this is a trap or blessing,
finding myself back here, where everything

in this house has long been over,
kettle and mirror, spoon and bowl,
including my own body,

including the body I had then,
including the body I have now
as I sit at this morning table, alone and happy,

bare child's feet on the scorched floorboards
(I can almost see)
in my burning clothes, the thin green shorts

and grubby yellow T-shirt
holding my cindery, non-existent,
radiant flesh. Incandescent.

Are you participating in this meme? Link your post here :)


favorite books list (friday favorites) + important update/question

So do you guys remember friday favorites?

Probably not, since the last friday favorite book review I posted was in December. This is mostly because I'm intimidated (sometimes* I feel like I'm not doing a favorite book of mine justice). But whatever the reason, I've decided I MUST get back into it. The whole point of the feature on my blog was hopefully to get some of you guys reading some of my favorite, most treasured books that I've reread constantly over the years. Even if my reviews aren't up to par, posting a review is better than no review.

Since I recently compiled a must-read book recommendation list for a friend, I decided I'd post it here and then proceed to *attempt* to review every book on this list. I've already done some, yay!

links are to the book reviews I have done.

RCS= review coming soon

Also, I'm"retiring" extremely positive reviews that I've done since starting blogging and making a new label "new favorites" for favorites that are--well--new, and haven't stood the test of year(s) yet.

Here it goes:


YA literary:

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: Okay, I reviewed this one and absolutely did NOT do it justice. I can't even express my love for this book coherently, and my review is noticeably devoid of the emotion I feel for this book. In any case, if there's a single ONE of you out there who hasn't read it, I will go on a blogging strike in protest until everyone has. It's just that amazing.**
  • Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: RCS
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson: This book really grew on me. I liked it the first time I read it (and wrote my review shortly after) and now I LOVE it. So the review has a lot more of a cooler reaction than I really feel. I think I may have to revise and repost it and make it into a NF.
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green: RCS

YA contemporary:

Children's fantasy:

  • Chrestomanci series (particularly Charmed Life) by Diana Wynne Jones: RCS
  • Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones***: another one of my reviews that doesn't give this book justice. I love it so much that it hurts. Really. I sort of worship DWJ. I've run out of compliments, so don't be surprised if a lot of her books turn up on friday favorites.
  • The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas: RCS
  • Erec Rex: Dragon's Eye by Kaza Kingsley: RCS
  • The Windsinger Trilogy by William Nicholson: RCS
-I may do reviews on The Lightning Thief, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Children of the Lamp, etc if I feel up to it.

YA Fantasy:

  • Sabriel by Garth Nix: RCS
  • Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix: RCS
  • Wild Magic (The Immortals Quartet) by Tamora Pierce: RCS
  • The Darkangel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce: RCS
  • Graceling by Kristin Cashore: RCS
  • Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce: RCS
  • The Squire's Tales series by Gerald Morris: RCS
-refraining from HP because I doubt anyone needs a review on that awesomeness :)****

Adult Literature:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: RCS
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov: RCS
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: RCS
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood: RCS
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan: RCS
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathon Foer: RCS

Assorted Other favorites:

  • Enders Game by Orson Scott Card: RCS
-refraining from Hunger Games because I don't think anyone needs a review on it, haha.

-I may do short mini reviews of a few really old child favorites (Francess Burnett, Roald Dahl, Edward Eager, etc).

Also, tune in on Thursday--I'll be posting a new meme****** then, hosted by yours truly!

But getting back on topic (this is a really patchwork post) do we have any favorites in common? I <3 style="font-size:78%;">*heh. More like all the times.

** AMAZINGAMAZINGAMAZING! If I could force everyone in the whole WORLD to read it I would.

***Lemme guess. You've never heard of Diana Wynne Jones? BLASPHEMY! I love DWJ with all my reading heart and it breaks my heart into little pieces when I hear that most of you have never read any books by her. GO FULFILL YOUR LIFE IMMEDIATELY! (start with Howl's).

**** I <3>Odd.

****** Well, I'm already overusing the footnotes. So. *hint hint* it has something to do with beauty :)