Short Story: Independence Day

I know what you’re thinking…it’s the wrong holiday for the title of this story. It is Halloween after all.

Whatever. Just read the story. It all ties in, I promise.

Independence Day

graveyard tree

“Just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s cursed,” Annabel reminded the boys.

“Scared?” Edgar taunted.

Annabel raised her eyebrows, her arms crossed against her chest in the cooling night air. “Nothing happened when Jake tried it. Nothing happened when Susan tried it.”

“We’re special,” Alec promised with a wink.

The remaining tendrils of pale sunlight eased out of the graveyard, surrendering the rolling hills to the night. The temperature dropped, biting at the back of their necks, and a faint fog layer gathered in the air like smoke.

Edgar lit a candle and set it at the base of the tombstone. Yellow light threw itself against the aged rock, only to be swallowed by its perpetual blackness. Though they were hidden in the night, Annabel remembered the complex hieroglyphics carved across the stone, vaguely Egyptian in appearance, almost entirely worn away by countless years.

They were in the quiet, New England town of Spring Turning, founded in the seventeenth century. The cemetery was on the edge of the urban area, bordered by a maple forest, patiently waiting at the margin of civilization for permission to enter. Other gravesites marked grandparents’ passings with simple, tired phrases. Time was creeping into the cemetery, grass growing long near old plots, inscriptions beginning to fade after harsh winter storms, but the quaint, American spirit remained intact, to be boasted of in politicians’ speeches and nostalgic reflections.

This tombstone was different, inexplicable, sinister—wrong. Grass near the stone withered and died, and the dirt was underneath gray and icy year around. No one could even identify the language of the hieroglyphs, let alone translate the inscription, and no one claimed the grave. There was no record of the grave being dug. Local lore claimed the stone was the reason the cemetery existed; when the town was founded, the tombstone was already there, and the leaders decided to fill in the graveyard around it.

There was only one explanation: the tombstone was haunted.

The reckless, rebellious, thrill-seeking teenagers of Spring Turning had been trying to prove it for centuries. Ouija boards, tarot cards, scented candles, crystal balls, Bloody Mary chants and bastardized biblical verses had all been employed in the effort to make the tombstone do—anything, really.

They had failed.

The tombstone refused to provide the town’s youth with a distraction from the 120th Annual Apple Pie Day celebration or the monthly recitation of the Declaration of Independence by the mayor, dressed in full Revolutionary period-appropriate clothes.

If anything, nights spent in the cemetery were said to be relaxing and enjoyable, instead of terrifying.

Annabel sat down on the faintly wet grass and leaned against another tombstone belonging to someone’s Aunt Mary. “Oh, spirit of the tombstone, please come out and entertain Edgar so he doesn’t have to try to sneak into the girls’ locker room…again,” she dully intoned.

Edgar glared, lighting another candle, dripping the wax onto the top of the tombstone, muttering under his breath. Annabel’s mouth quirked. He was reciting the Declaration of Independence. Original.

Alec shook a can of red spray paint, pacing around the tombstone. “Should I do the circle, then the pentagon, or skip the circle, do you think?”

“Like it matters, for all the nothing that is happening,” Annabel said.

Alec sprayed paint next to her skirt and she shrieked, jumping up away from possible stains, cursing. Alec laughed and sprayed at her again, accidentally catching Edgar in the shoulder. He broke off his (spot-on) recitation to lunge at Alec. The boys chased each other, warring over the can, the candles and the ceremony forgotten.

But they had been enough.

From the forest, the spirits watched the youths scamper around. The tombstone glowed red, turning the fog a faint, bloody pink. The candles burned and the wax turned black, dripping down the stone and onto the gray dirt. From the dirt, another spirit appeared, at first barely indistinguishable from the mist, then more definite as it broke free and approached its comrades.

The teens fell in on themselves laughing, oblivious to the events unfolding around them, just as all the others before them were.

Have another Happy Independence Day, Spring Turning.

Thoughts on…Love Triangles

Welcome to a new feature of 52 Letters In the Alphabet called “Thoughts On…”

A while ago, I had a post called Thoughts on Prologues. Since then, I’ve realized that I would like to discuss a lot of other elements of novels and writing. This new feature is where I will share my thoughts about various writing and story telling elements. If any of you want to share your own thoughts, feel free to comment, or post on your own space and link back to it here.

Today’s is Thoughts On…Love Triangles

thoughts on 3

I’m a YA reader. I’ve encountered a ton of love triangles, and I’ve loved a lot of them. However, especially since beginning this blog and becoming more critical of the books I read, love triangles are feeling a bit overdone.

I understand and appreciate the concept behind love triangles. They easily add conflict to a plot and help to lengthen the span of a romance over the course of a series, where a more simplistic romance might only last one book. Love triangles can be used to create character depth and growth and strengthen or weaken bonds between different parties in a plot. I get it–love triangles are useful, and definitely have a place in the world of novels, especially YA ones.

There are different approaches that authors take toward love triangles, and some of them work more than others. I want to discuss each individually, because they each affect a series with varying degrees of success.

The first and most blatant use of the love triangle concept is most commonly seen in paranormal series. In this utilization, the love triangle is introduced in the beginning of the book or series and tends to dominate the plot. For series, each book usually focuses on one of the guys gaining the girl’s attention. (I’m using the two-guys-one-girl format because that seems like the most common one in the YA world today.)

This is getting boring. I used to be satisfied with the thrill of the who-will-win???? question and the tense/awkward/impossibly sweet romantic moments. But as I’m becoming a more critical reader, and as the number of these love triangles that I’ve read has increased, the concept is becoming overdone. I want romance to be a subplot mechanism helping to move a larger, separate plot forward, and this use of love triangles usually makes the romance the entirety of the plot. This tends to sap books of the plot substance that could have made them captivating and memorable.

Books that fell prey to this syndrome include:

The Sweet Evil series by Wendy Higgins

The Shadow Falls series by C. C. Hunter

The Selection series by Kiera Cass (though I haven’t read The One yet so maybe I shouldn’t be talking)

The House of Night series P.C. and Kristen Cast (though those are like a love octagon to be honest)


The second way authors incorporate love triangles into their books happens most commonly with series, in which the author introduces a second love interest in the second (or third, or whatever) book. For me, this can go either way. Sometimes, the introduction of a second guy adds complexity to the novel, enlightens the protagonist to the importance of the first guy, and moves the plot forward without dominating it. Cash in The Unbound (The Archived, book 2) by Victoria Schwab really accomplished this in my opinion, as did the addition of Seb in the Angle Fire series by L.A. Weatherly.

However, the addition of a second guy can also ruin the series by taking what was the perfect, subtle romance and screwing it up. Honestly, I’m not a fan of OVER THE TOP ROMANTIC DRAMA in the books I read. A perfectly good series being monopolized by a sudden conflict between True Love and New Guy is freaking annoying and not what I want to read. Phoenix (book two in the Black City series) did this for me.


I’d like to point out that sometimes, love triangles just work. The Morelli vs Ranger conflict in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is so much fun to read. The more subtle Adrian vs Dimitri conflict in the Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead is one of my favorites–though, to be honest, that series is heavily influenced by the romantic plot elements. The conflict between Owen and Wesley in The Archived (book one this time) really enhanced areas of Mac’s character.

How do you you guys feel about love triangles? Can’t get enough? So over them? Which ones worked for you, and which ones flopped? Please comment!

 

Book Haul #2: Continuing Series and Starting New Ones

Hey guys! Surprise, surprise–I bought more books.

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1. Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3) by Sarah J. Mass

cover heir of midnight

Why I Bought It: I’m not posting a synopsis of this one, because I haven’t actually read the second book, Crown of Midnight, yet. My sister has. I read book one, and I am desperately avoiding spoilers for the rest of the series. Anyway, my sister wanted to read it, and I’m going to read the whole series one of these days.

2. Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle #3) by Maggie Stiefvater

cover blue lily lily blue

Amazon description:

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.

Mothers can disappear.

Visions can mislead.

Certainties can unravel.

Why I Bought It: I preordered this book about a million years ago and I can’t wait to read it. I love the Raven Cycle sooooo freakin’ much, and the ending of The Dream Thieves was a cliffhanger.

3. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

cover dorothy must die

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still a road of yellow brick—but even that’s crumbling.

What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas. I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I’ve been trained to fight. And I have a mission: Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart. Steal the Scarecrow’s brain. Take the Lion’s courage. And—Dorothy must die.

Why I Bought It: I’ve seen a lot of reviews for this book floating around, and it caught my attention. I love twisted versions of fairytales, and this definitely fits the bill. I’ve already started reading it, and while the writing isn’t anything amazing, the story has pulled me in. I’m excited to see where it (and the rest of the series) goes.

4. Invisible (The Twixt, book 2) by Dawn Metcalf

cover invisible

 

Amazon description:

Some things lie beneath the surface.

Invisible.

With the power to change everything.

Joy Malone wants it all—power, freedom and the boyfriend who loves her. Yet when an unstoppable assassin is hired to kill her, Joy learns that being the girl with the Sight comes with a price that might be too high to pay. Love will be tested, lives will be threatened, and everyone Joy knows and cares about will be affected by her decision to stand by Ink or to leave the Twixt forever.

Her choice is balanced on a scalpel’s edge and the consequences will be more life-altering than anyone can guess.

Why I Bought It: I loved the first book in this series, Indelible. It was completely unique and kind of reminded me of a YA Alice in Wonderland. I honestly don’t remember much of the plot, but I remember really enjoying it, so I’m excited to reread book one and continue the series.

Book Review: The Unbound by Victoria Schwab (The Archived, book 2)

I loved this book even more than The Archived (the first book in the series)! Plot, characters, writing style–everything was incredible.

5/5 stars

Series: The Archived, book 2

As always, this review won’t have spoilers for The Unbound, but it will have spoilers for The Archived (book 1), so if you haven’t read that book yet, beware! (My review for book one is here.)

The Archived, book 2
The Archived, book 2

Amazon description of The Unbound:

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she’s struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn’t easy — not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she’s really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace,and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She’s sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she’ll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

From the first pages, I loved this book. For one thing, we get to see Mac at a preppy private school, and if you’ve read book one, you know why this is equal parts hilarious and terrifying. The school introduces new characters (namely Cash, who I loved) and helped to broaden Mac’s character.

Then there is the actual plot. It could have been way too dramatic, but somehow, it wasn’t. I honestly didn’t think I’d like this book that much, because it contains two of my least favorite plot devices: the main character losing her mind and the main character being framed for murder. But Schwab pulled it off–and I LOVED IT. The plot’s pacing was great, starting off subtle and then building and building, never lulling or slowing down. Throughout the book, the trials of the plot exposed Mac’s character even more, building off of components we only caught glimpses of in book one.

And Wesley. Wesley is still hot in this book. I can’t say much about his involvement in the plot (spoilers), but it was great. The dynamic between the two Keepers developed well during this plot. The romance remained subtle, as it had in book one, but still emotionally powerful. Even with the addition of Cash (I might be remembering his name wrong–please don’t hurt me), who could have dominated the plot with LOVE TRIANGLE-ness, the romance remained second to the major plot of the book, something I really appreciate from a YA author, especially one who has crafted such a powerful plot to begin with.

The writing is still amazing. Schwab did a fantastic job writing Mac’s voice as she physically and mentally fell apart. The flashback scenes, no longer about Da, still added to the plot, and quantifiably linked books one and two. What strikes me about Schwab’s writing is that she knows exactly what to add to her plot to test her characters. She has a powerful understanding of each of her character’s minds, and knows how to affect them–whether she is making them hopeful, or crushing their spirits.

To anyone who read book one and is wondering if they should read the second one, the answer is YES. I left The Unbound on my TBR shelf for at least six months before I got around to reading it, and I can’t believe I was that stupid. It is even better than The Archived, which was amazing as well.

 

Book Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

This was a reread, and I definitely enjoyed the book more the second time around. Or, at least, my memories of the book were not positive, but my rereading experience was.

4.5/5 stars

Series: The Archived, book 1

 

Goodreads description of The Archived

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what she once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

This book is great. Such an original concept, and then Schwab executed her vision extremely well.

The characters were amazing. Mac is a successfully painted “strong” female, without falling prey to tropes of that image. She’s independent and fierce, probably to a fault, but I love her. Really, I’m just in love with her type of character–and Schwab painted her masterfully.

Wesley is great. Adds a whole new dynamic to the story and really helps broaden Mac’s character. Can’t say more without spoilers, but READ THE BOOK because Wesley is honestly seriously hot and a good character on top. Not gonna lie.

For me, the most amazing part of the book is the way it deals with grief. Mac has lost her grandfather Da (her mentor in the Archive) and her little brother Ben in the last year, and the pain over both losses heavily affects the plot. However, unlike most books that deal with family death, the sense of loss doesn’t dominate the book. It is heavily entwined but it is not a book about loss. It is a book with a separate, dramatic plot that manages to talk about death and loss surprisingly profoundly. I really appreciated that, because contemporary books dominated by A Dramatic Death In the Past aren’t my cup of tea.

The plot of this book was executed well. The pacing was good, and the plot had a distinct air of foreboding. The reveals are powerful, even when I was rereading it and remembered them.

The story is also written incredibly well. Mac’s voice is clear and relateable. The flashbacks to her time with Da were interspersed into the plot at key moments. They were some of the saddest parts of the book, and I remember tearing up the first time I read the last one (those of you who have read it will know what I’m talking about–so freaking sad!).

I’m sure it’s clear that I loved this book. I’m actually reading the second book, The Unbound, right now, and it’s even better than book one. I’ll have a review for that one sometime soon.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the darker end of YA, strong female protagonists, a good romance, or inherently sad stories.

A New Top Shelf and Things I Learned This Week

Hey guys!

Remember my Top Shelf page where I list my ultimate favorite books and why I love them so much. Well last weekend, my sister and I went a little crazy and completely reorganized our bookshelves in our bedroom, so my Top Shelf page changed. I’ve updated it, so go check it out.

Also, some random thoughts from this week:

I wrote a bit in between homework. Hopefully I’ll post that story soon, as well as some other works in progress.

I tried to write limericks for a school extra credit project. I thought it would be fun. How hard can it be? Really, freaking hard. I gave up and did something else, and now have immense respect for people who can write limericks.

I’m actually getting somewhere with editing my novel, Devil May Care. I haven’t touched it in months, and that hasn’t really changed, but I’m getting back in the habit of thinking about it. I’m playing with new plot ideas, and I’ve had some break-throughs with character personalities and other things recently, which is really boosting my confidence. Like this thing might ever actually get to a place where I could let it see the light of day.

I’m rereading The Archived by Victoria Scwab. It is a lot better than i remembered, and I’ll have a review for it soon.

Also, I brought back the What I’m Reading Now sidebar on my page, so you guys can see what I’m reading before I review it. You can’t see it if you just read my posts in your wordpress Reader, but if you actually go onto my site, it will be there.


I hope all of you have had better weeks than I had. Mine was really long and tiring. Hopeful for next week 🙂

 

Book Review: Finger Lickin’ Fifteen by Janet Evanovich

My favorite Stephanie Plum book so far. Totally blew the other recent books in the series out of the water with depth of plot and character development.

(By the way, I didn’t just skip book #14. I had actually read it when I posted my review of 7-13, just forgot that I had finished it. Awkward, but what I said in that review works for book 14, so I’m not going to review it separately.)

5/5 stars

Note: This review will contain spoilers for this book and the previous books in the series. Usually, I don’t include any spoilers about the book I’m review’s plot, but this time I am because I NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT. I don’t feel like I can discuss the parts of this book I loved without going into detail about certain plot events. Ergo, if you haven’t read up this point in the series and are planning to (which you should be, because it’s awesome), stop reading.

cover finger lickin fifteen

Amazon description of Finger Lickin’ Fifteen:

Stephanie Plum is working overtime tracking felons for the bonds office at night and snooping for security expert Carlos Manoso, aka Ranger, during the day. Can she hunt down two killers, a traitor, and five skips, keep her grandmother out of the sauce, and solve Ranger’s problems and not jump his bones?

This book really highlighted the emotional connections Stephanie has with both Ranger and Morelli. In this book, she is “off again” with Morelli, after an argument about peanut butter blew out of proportion. Unlike previous “off again” sessions, the two seem genuinely pissed at each other, and at the circumstances that keep bringing them back into each other’s worlds.

When they did eventually gravitate back together, it was in really touching scenes (that were often then get shattered by her working for Ranger). Morelli’s reactions to thinking she is sleeping with Ranger tugged at my heartstrings. For the first time in a while, I felt like we as readers got proof of Morelli’s emotional connection to Stephanie, not just his sex drive.

In the same way, this book quantified Ranger’s appreciation for Stephanie as a person, not just a sexy body or entertaining snafu. His security company has been severely compromised by a series of break-ins, most probably the work of an inside man. Ranger hires Stephanie to investigate his employees and give him her opinions on the case. Throughout the book, he asks her to look at crime scenes and reports to get her perspective. This reveals that Ranger honestly respects Stephanie’s admittedly kind of hit-and-miss ability to solve crazy mysteries. For me, this fundamentally redefined their relationship, making me respect the possibility of a Ranger-Stephanie coupling more.

To be clear, I’m still convinced Stephanie and Morelli are meant to be together. They’re perfect. They have twoo wuv. They are OTP. The extent to which I need their ship to sail is up there with Captain Swan on OUAT and Spuffy on Buffy.

Please forgive that tangent into fandom geekiness. I’m aware that wasn’t really English. Apologies.

I also loved the plot of this book. The cooking competition was a classic Stephanie and Lula trainwreck, and it was hilarious to read. Plus, it actually tied into the title of the book, which is a freaking novelty for this series.

I loved this book, and I can’t wait to read more of the series, once it comes in the mail. This book renewed my faith in the series, which was running the danger of becoming simplistic and repetitive (though it was still hilarious and addicting, I’m not going to lie).