Poetry: My Pet Hamster

HAMSTER
click for photo credit

Running in circles

On a wheel going pretty much

Nowhere

That squeaks every few revolutions

 

And it’s got

Little houses to hide in

To block out the world

 

And a big glass wall

That it sometimes runs into

Like it doesn’t really understand how cages work

 

Sometimes it squeezes itself

Into cardboard tubes

It does not fit into

An awkward éclair

Just for the heck of it

 

It’ll gnaw on a piece of week-old cardboard

That can’t taste good

But that’s how compulsive habits work, right

Can’t let it go, even when it knows it’s not getting anything good

From dwelling on it

 

And bedding at its feet

To bury its head in the sand

And create mazes of tunnels

Some collapsed, some dead ends

 

It’s crazy, basically

But in a way some people might call

Adorable?

 

I’ve been watching my pet hamster for an hour

But I’ve been thinking about

My mind.

Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes to Romance in Books

top ten tuesday

 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, they post a new Top Ten topic and other bloggers respond with their own lists. I take part in this meme when I have something to say for the topic and I remember what day it is.

5 (ish) Things I Like
  1. The moment when a super hot guy is introduced and you just know that he is the love interest. Sure, it’s a cliche moment, but it sucks me into a book.
  2. When characters fall in love so gradually that they don’t even realize it. This type of romance feels the most real, and the dynamic it creates between the characters is usually adorable. A great example of this is Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater.
  3. When one of the love interests has a secret that explains a giant portion of their personality and the other lover interest doesn’t know it, and then they accidentally push all the wrong buttons. I love the awkwardness the secret creates and the dramatic moment of understanding when it is revealed. Again, kind of cheesy, but I love it. A good example (though it’s not exactly a romance) is Celaena and Rowan’s relationship in Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas.
  4. When romances are told from the POV of both love interests. This helps to flesh out both of the characters, deepen the connection between them, and make the reader care. (I don’t care about your romance if I don’t know why you are in love.) The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas did this well.
  5. Adorable epilogues. I love getting a glimpse of the characters’ happy ending together. Eva Ibbotson’s books do this perfectly.
5 (ish) Thing I Hate
  1. Instalove. Specifically, when two people fall in love extremely quickly and for no obvious reason. I want to understand the mentality behind a couple’s relationship, and I need it to be more than he/she is hot.
  2. When romance dominates the plot of a fantasy/paranormal book. I’m fine with Chicklit books being dominated by romance (though it is nice when they aren’t), but if I pick up a fantasy or paranormal book, I want the romance to move the plot along, not to be the plot. The Sweet Evil trilogy by Wendy Higgins suffered from this.
  3. When a giant portion of the plot is dedicated to one character being heartbroken over the other love interest. Ugh, I hate it. I don’t care if they died or said they hate you or whatever, I don’t want to read about you mourning them for fifty-plus pages.
  4. Overdone love triangles. I’m not against love triangles on principle. Sometimes they really work. But when they take over the plot and the only things that happen in the story have to do with which guy the girl picks–count me out.
  5. When a mis-communication destroys a romance. It feels so pointless. What a cheap way to destroy a romance that you’ve spent x-amount of pages building. Meg Cabot’s Abandon Trilogy could have been one chapter long if the main characters talked to each other. I will say that Eva Ibbotson pulls mis-communications off, but that is only okay because her books have a very distinct plot style and are guaranteed happy endings.
  6. When love interests die. Unless it dramatically moves the plot forward or resolves a major issue, I cannot stand it when authors kill their love interests. What is the point? Unnecessary drama, if you ask me. Not everyone has to be George R.R. Martin or Joss Whedon (and even some of the people Joss killed off on Buffy pisses me off).

Poetry Collection: Bored During Exams

This is kind of a joke post, but here are the snippets of poetry I came up with after I finished the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam, phonetically KAY-SEE) this week. Basically, we couldn’t do anything (including read or drink water) until all everyone was done, so I was really bored. I doodled these poems in my test booklet, remembered them, and them embellished them a bit when I typed them here. For nicer poetry inspired by the event, you can go to yesterday’s post, Poetry: Standardized Life.

Hope you get a kick out of these 🙂

Limerick

 (I know the syllables are a bit off, sorry)

There once was a test so easy

Everyone finished it breezily

They were so bored

They gave up and snored

That was the day of the CAHSEE

bored
click to link to picture credit

Edgar Allan Poe Spoof from The Raven

Once upon a morning dreary, while I pondered, bored and bleary

Over many a dull and pointless question of forgotten math

While I nodded, nearly napping, wishing there would come a ringing,

As of the bell gently ringing, ringing for the test’s end

“Tis almost coming,” I muttered, “ringing for the test’s end–

Only this hour, then nothing more.”

 

Ah, distinctly I recall it was in the bleak test hall,

And each separate eraser shred wrought its ghost upon the floor.

Eagerly I wished the finish; – vainly I had sought to vanish

From the world of boredom – boredom at the test dubbed CAHSEE-

At the dull and basic test whom the state named CAHSEE –

Endless here for evermore.

 

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost Spoof

I used the formula less orthodox

and that made the sum the difference

Poetry: Standardized Life

scantron

Standardized tests

Desks in straight rows

Backpacks at the front of the room

No food or drink

 

Teachers turned into flight attendants

With carefully worded,

God-awful repetitive scripts:

You may not talk while test materials are distributed

And unauthorized electronic devices are prohibited during the testing session

 

You’ve got your Test Booklet and your Answer Document

And two hours to fill

Mind-numbing right when you need your brain alert

That song you heard on the radio driving to school

Stuck in your head

Number two pencils vie for the title of dullest

With “read this passage and answer questions 7 through 12”

 

Learned the procedure

(And the answers)

In elementary school

The bar set so low some people trip.

So used to running hurdles

That they forgot how they learned to walk.

 

Once again:

Unauthorized electronic devices are prohibited during the testing session

 

It’s hard to believe them

When they tell us to be more than our grades

To look at the world beyond AP textbooks and SAT prepbooks

When our ticket out of high school

Is a scantron and a two and a half page essay

 

This is not the place for personality

Or excess knowledge

Artistic ability or stylistic writing

Please just put your periods at the end of your sentences.

And commas in the usual places,

No surprises, thanks.

 

Now is not the time to show us how you shine

Please just bubble here

Print legibly

Fit yourself into this box

Do not concern yourself with outside of it

Jump through hoops here

Here

And here.

 

And remember

Unauthorized electronic devices are prohibited during the testing session.

Author’s note: I took the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam, phonetically KAY-SEE) this week. Four hours of boring, easy questions that determine whether I get to graduate high school. And yes, I’m only a sophomore (you have five more times to try the test if you fail the first time). We weren’t allowed to do anything (even read a book or drink water) until EVERYONE in our room was done testing. The inspiration for this poem came while I was bored, tired, and really frustrated at The System, waiting for the test to be over.

Book Review: All Fall Down (Embassy Row #1) by Ally Carter

I am an Ally Carter fangirl, so I was drop-dead excited when I found out she was starting a new series. This book was a great combination of her previous series with a new twist, but it is not my favorite of her books.

4/5 stars

cover all fall down

Grace Blakely is absolutely certain of three things:

1. She is not crazy.
2. Her mother was murdered.
3. Someday she is going to find the killer and make him pay.

As certain as Grace is about these facts, nobody else believes her — so there’s no one she can completely trust. Not her grandfather, a powerful ambassador. Not her new friends, who all live on Embassy Row. Not Alexei, the Russian boy next door, who is keeping his eye on Grace for reasons she neither likes nor understands.

Everybody wants Grace to put on a pretty dress and a pretty smile, blocking out all her unpretty thoughts. But they can’t control Grace — no more than Grace can control what she knows or what she needs to do. Her past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn’t stop it, Grace isn’t the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down.

This book was classic Ally Carter. Plot-wise, it was very similiar to the fifth Gallagher Girl (Out of Sight, Out of Time). Character-wise, it reminded me of her Heist Society series. Carter’s voice is constant and familiar throughout, though this book is more intense and less lough-out-loud than her previous series.

I love the setup of Embassy Row. The dynamic it created between the characters was great. On top of that, the fact that any disturbance between them could become an international incident added a drama to the series that the story would have suffered without.

Grace as a main character was okay. I sympathized with her plight–everyone believes she is crazy because she says her mother was murdered when the official story is that it was a tragic accident. She has spent the last three years since her mother’s death looking for the Scarred Man who shot her, and it has gotten her in loads of trouble. She is impulsive and reckless and broken–I liked her enough, but I wasn’t in love with her. She also has some serious PTSD to deal with.

Unfortunately, I don’t really like reading characters who have PTSD. It can come off as too much, and the story gets stuck inside the main character’s head instead of actually playing out. This story didn’t suffer from this too much–the plot continued even as Grace’s mental state deteriorated–but it was still a thorn in my side in regards to the entire book. In some ways, it seemed like her PTSD got in the way of her having a personality–everything revolved around the trauma, which was the point, I guess, but was still disappointing for the first book in a series. I want to know who the main character is, and then see her fall apart. Starting the book with her broken kept me from really connecting to her.

The other characters were an entertaining group of kids from various embassies. I liked them, but they weren’t incredibly complex. There is kind of a love triangle, but it doesn’t develop enough to become overwhelming. As the series progresses, I expect it will either solidify or one of the guys will be relegated to friend status (that has happened in the rest of Carter’s series).

The one part of this book that breaks from Carter’s other books is that none of the characters are badasses. In the Gallagher Girl series, all of the characters go to a school for spies and are naturally really good at what they do. In the Heist Society series, all the characters are trained as thieves.

None of the characters in All Fall Down are incredibly good at sneaking around or investigating international intrigue. While the plot of this book resembles the rest of Carters’, this detail makes All Fall Down unique and removes some of the semi-ridiculous air that surrounds her previous series.

The plot is simple but holds the reader’s attention. There were appropriate twists and turns and the ending completely shocked me. However, the story never achieved the addictive, magical quality of Carter’s other works.

All in all, All Fall Down is definitely worth reading, but fans of Ally Carter might be somewhat disappointed that this book doesn’t match up to standards set by her previous books.

Top Ten Sequels I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Read

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week, they post a new Top Ten topic and other bloggers respond with their own lists. I take part in this meme when I have something to say for the topic and I remember what day it is.

Today’s topic was supposed to be Top Ten Books I Can’t Believe I Haven’t Read From X Genre, but I didn’t feel like there was any genre that I specifically read enough to talk about that, so I’m taking it from a different angle and highlighting books where I read the first book in the series, enjoyed it, but never picked up the second book (or the third)…YET!

 1. Through the Zombie Glass (White Rabbit Chronicles #2) by Gena Showalter

cover through the zombie glass

2. Rebel (Reboot #2) by Amy Tin

cover rebel

3. The Immortal Crown (Age of X #2) by Richelle Mead

cover the immortal crown

4. The Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin #3) by

cover mortal heart

5. Sisterhood Everlasting (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) by Ann Brashares

cover sisterhood everlasting

6. Fire with Fire (Burn for Burn #2) by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

cover fire with fire

7. Deep Betrayal (Lies Beneath #2) by Anne Greenwood Brown

cover deep betrayal

8. Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

cover scarlet

9. Shades of Earth (Across the Universe #3) by Beth Revis

cover shades of earth

10. Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tehereh Mafi

cover ignite me

For most of these books, I loved the first book, bought the second book…and then never read it. Part of this is my ridiculous need to read the entirety of a series if I am going to read a later book, basically if book two comes out, I have to reread book one before I read book two. This gets in the way of reading other things, and well, I have a lot of sequels I haven’t gotten to.

Someday, right?

Which ones of these have you read? Which do you recommend?

Book Review: The Harlot by the Side of the Road (Forbidden Tales of the Bible) by Jonathan Kirsch

This book was not what I expected–it was 100 times more insightful and complex than I expected.

4.5/5 stars

Genre: nonfiction, biblical analysis

cover the harlot by the side of the road

 Sex. Violence. Scandal. These are words we rarely associate with the sacred text of the Bible. Yet in this brilliant book, Jonathan Kirsch recounts shocking tales that have been suppressed by religious authorities throughout history. Kirsch places each story within the political and social context of its time, delves into the latest biblical scholarship to explain why each one was originally censored, and shows how these ancient narratives hold valuable lessons for all of us.

Obviously, this is not the type of book I usually read. A nonfiction analysis of the bible’s darkest corners is not in my usual YA vein. My grandfather recommended the book to me, and though I didn’t really know what I was getting into–I am so glad that I read this book.

I’m an atheist, so I came into this book with certain preconceptions. A few years ago, I spent a lot of time on Reddit’s r/atheism page, and I expected this book to have the same superior, mocking quality (though with more footnotes).

This book was refreshingly un-obnoxious. The author is a religious man who found himself unsure of how to read the darker side of biblical stories to his young son. The book explores seven biblical stories. First, Kirsch retells each story with the flair of a modern author (direct quotes from the bible are included throughout each story). Then, Kirsch dedicates a chapter to exploring the historical connotations of the story, the secret meanings that scholars have read into the story, and other parts of the bible that tie in to provide further understanding. The analysis is frank and complex. It does not seek to apologize for or explain away the brutality of the stories, nor does it condemn the bible or the people who follow it for containing such stories.

This book fascinated me. I know the rough outlines of the bible, but this book opened up entire new worlds of understanding. The historical context Kirsch offers about the biblical authors and the way the stories have been dealt with by scholars throughout the centuries was amazing. The writing during the story chapters is gorgeous. The writing during the analytically chapters is clean, scholarly, but not without personality. It was fun to read without being rude to believers or insensitive to the horrors of the stories.

But it was the last chapter that made this book for me. Up until the last chapter, “God’s Novel Has Suspense,” Kirsch had not offered a theme, a message. He had calmly reported the horrific stories, analyzed them and the way they have been dealt with throughout history, and left it at that. No judgement, which was refreshing (AKA not obnoxiously atheistic or preachy), but I needed Kirsch to tell me how he could write this book and still be religious.

The last chapter did this. I don’t want to spoil the message, but it was powerful. It impressed me with its humanity and its applicability. It basically did the impossible for me: explained how you can read, understand, and study these select moments in the bible and come out of it with a positive spin on religion.

I was impressed, to say the least.

I would put a trigger alert out there for rape, mass murder, mob violence…

Beyond that, I would recommend this book to…everyone. If you are religious, this book will explore your faith and teach you things you never knew about your holy book, without mocking you for believing it. It will challenge your faith, of course, but it will also help you return to it when it is over. If you are atheistic or not Judaio-Christian-Islamic, this book will give you insight into the bible that you would probably never get anywhere else. Historically, it is an incredible commentary on censorship throughout the ages.

This book was well done. I don’t know what else to say. It really needs to be read, because the message of tolerance and understanding that runs through it would definitely make the world a safer place if more people knew it.

January Wrap-Up

January wrap up

Wow–I can’t believe January is over. That was fast.

Personally, this was a good month. I now remember to write ’15 on the top of my papers for school. I survived the start of second semester. I’m having a good time. February will be kind of stressful in the beginning, but for the most part, my life is pretty awesome right now.

On this blog, I had 19 posts. I’m really proud of that, though I wish I’d read more books.

Book Reviews

I reviewed Crown of Midnight, The Assassin’s Blade, and Heir of Fire, all part of the Throne of Glass series. Loved them, of course.

I also read The Harlot by the Side of the Road by Jonathan Kirsch and All Fall Down by Ally Carter (reviews for these coming).

Poetry and Writing

I published three poems: Scarred, Being Polite, and Tragedy.

In the writing world, I Played With Character Descriptions by writing little blurbs about each of my friends. I also gave you some insight into my writing world with Beautiful People–Author Edition and with a ramble on Falling into a Rhythm with writing the second draft of my WIP.

Random Posts

I gave you my Thoughts On First Lines, Talked About Identity, and ranted about expectations in school for my 150th post. I got a ton of books for Christmas and my birthday. And I started 2015 Reading Challenges…which I haven’t made much headway on yet (whoops).

I took part in two top ten Tuesdays: Top Ten Books I Can’t Stop Rereading and Top Ten 2014 Releases I Meant to Read But Didn’t Get To.

I received the Beautiful Blog Award and the One Lovely Blog Award. Thank you to the people who nominated me–and everyone who has read posts on this blog. You guys are amazing 🙂

What about you guys? How was your January? What are you planning for February?