Poetry: A Rusted Juxtaposition

She loves rust.

 

She is fascinated

By the juxtaposition

Of enduring strength

And conquered vulnerability

Contained inside a rusted can

That lies, forgotten, in desert bushes.

Or a barrel

Gunshot, like a movie prop

Red against the yellow-gray mountain.

Train tracks never fully laid

Leading ghosts across the desert.

The roofs of abandoned houses with sheet metal walls

Sagging but still standing, alone

As highway cars speed by.

 

Just think how old they have to be.

Just think how strong they have to be.

 

She laughs at the chemists

Who propose to demote rust

To the simple oxidation of iron

In the presence of water.

How can they be blind

To the magic

Of that burning red?

 

Just think of the years

That have crawled past these sun-burnt sentries.

Just imagine the stories

Scarred upon their rusted skin.

DSCN3348
from the Eureka Mine in Death Valley, CA

Book Review: The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings

I can’t decide what I think about this book. I read it quickly and it kept me entertained, but there was absolutely nothing special about it.

3/5 stars

More like a 3-minus, honestly.

cover murder complex

Amazon description:

Meadow Woodson, a sixteen-year-old girl who has been trained by her father to fight, to kill, and to survive in any situation, lives with her family on a houseboat in the futuristic Florida Everglades. The state is controlled by The Murder Complex, a secret organization that tracks the population with precision. The plot starts to thicken when Meadow meets Zephyr James, who is–although he doesn’t know it–one of the MC’s programmed assassins. Is their meeting a coincidence? Destiny? Or part of a terrifying strategy? And will Zephyr keep Meadow from discovering the haunting truth about her family? Action-packed, blood-soaked, and chilling, this is a dark and compelling debut novel by Lindsay Cummings.

The world-building of this book was interesting. Not jaw-droppingly unique, but the premise was enough to get me reading. I liked the dystopian world. It was simple but believable–you’ve got your powerful government, struggling citizens, and a disease that wiped out basically the entire world a few generations back. I liked that the world-building didn’t feel overly dystopian; I felt like the author at least tried to branch out of the stereotype in regards to the atmosphere of the book. Personally, the setting of this book felt like a combination of Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi and Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi.

The “Murder Complex” aspect of the book is unclear at the beginning and honestly is never really explained (even when, I think, it was supposed to be clear to the reader). I don’t want to spoil anything, but essentially a ton of people die every night (and the government is involved). This was the only part of the world building that really didn’t make sense to me–it just wasn’t logical how the citizenry responded to it, or when we learned more about it, the actual motivations and mechanisms behind it. Unfortunately, this was a major part of the world-building in regards to the plot.

I never really fell in love with either of the characters. Meadow was supposed to be this bad-ass, take-no-shit warrior, but there was no human element of her character to make her feel real. Even her relationship with her family–which was supposed to be a major portion of her psyche–felt flat and never pulled at my heart at all. I felt like Meadow was never anything other than a character who was given too many fight scenes and not enough development–by the end of the book, she was basically just killing everything that got in her way, but there were no emotional repercussions (more on that later).

Also, on a more petty note, her name really bothered me. “Meadow” made absolutely no sense for her–it just felt wrong for the character the author was trying to create. A few times, it actually distracted me from the story when someone called her by her name.

Zephyr was equally lack-luster, though perhaps a little more interesting. His place in the world as a ward of the government worked for his character, and I liked that he had a friend-based relationship with a girl (one of the wards he lived with) that didn’t involve romance. He was appropriately tormented over the people he had killed, and the times when the Murder Complex took over his body were some of the most intense scenes of the book. I cared about him more than I did any other character–though that by no means indicates that I had a strong emotional attachment to the guy.

The rest of the background were forgettable. I honestly didn’t like Meadow’s father, and didn’t care about her sister or brother. None of the characters felt well-rounded or real; they never came alive, which means I never gave a damn what happened to them.

The romance was…weird. It never fully developed, but at the same time it was Instalove-y. It’s hard to explain, but it ended up being very disappointing, especially because the main reason I decided to pick up this book was for a dose of unadulterated YA romance.

The plot was fine. It kept me entertained and I read the book in one sitting, but there were no “oh my God” moments. A few of the reveals were good–did not see them coming–but it kinda of felt like the author had sacrificed continutity and logic to surprise the reader. I liked the plot twist (there is one important one), but was the plot moved on past it, I kept picking at the logistics behind the reveal, and I was never satisfied that what the author said happened actually made any sense. Even the fight scenes failed to get my heart racing–another major disappointment from a book that is based around murder.

My biggest problem with this book was the killing aspect. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not opposed to characters killing people, and I’m fine with reading violent books. But the violence in this book had no emotional connection. Meadow kills a ton of people and never struggles with an internal moral conflict. What could have been a fascinating book was made flat and forgettable by the simple fact that the violence lacked repercussions and moral dilemmas. It failed to affect the plot, and actually started to get creepy (the lack of discussion over the number of people who died).

While it probably sounds like I hated everything about this book, it still strikes me as a 3 (minus, like an C-minus). Honestly, I kept reading the book, which counts for something. There was nothing remarkable about the book but there was nothing horrible. People looking for a random YA dystopia to read could look into this one–it’s possible someone who likes the genre as a whole more than I do might get more pleasure out of this book. I doubt I’ll read the second book.

Top Ten Inspiring Quotes From 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.

I love this week’s topic! It’s so hard to choose my favorite book quotes, but here are some that I try to remember when I need inspiration, or a kick in the pants, or just something to give my conscience a voice.

1. Just because you’re funny, doesn’t mean you get to be cruel.

–Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

I tend to be a very sarcastic person, and I think I’ve made jokes to/about/around all of my friends that probably crossed a line. I remember the first time I read this quote, it really struck me, because the character it was being said to was the one I identified most with in the series. It was a powerful moment for me, one of those when the text really connects to your life.

2. Fly the plane, Maddie.

–Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

One of my favorite non-book quotes is Winston Churchill’s “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” This quote is in the same vein for me, and it is just so moving in the actual book.

3. Not “The Queen made me” but “I make the King.”

–A Conspiracy of Kings (The Queen’s Thief #4) by Megan Whalen Turner

I cut the quote short to avoid spoilers but you get the drift–it is the ultimate self-motivating quote, a reminder that you are in charge of your own actions.

4. I do not want to pass the time. I want to grab hold of it and leave my mark upon the world.

–The Sweet Far Thing (Gemma Doyle #3) by Libba Bray

I’m at a time in my live where it’s easy to say, “Just hold on and survive.” But I really want to make sure I keep doing the things I love and that I do things that actually affect the world around me for the better.

5. I think maybe everybody falls. I think maybe we all do. And I don’t think that’s the asking. I think the asking is whether we get back up again.”

–The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

6. I desperately want to grow old.

–Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This is the kind of quote–book, actually–that makes you appreciate everything in your life more. The power of this line is that it kicks the reader in the chest with the fear of not being able to grow old–and making them realize just how important a long life is.

7. “I didn’t know,” I start truthfully, “that it was the hard way when I started on it.”

–Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I like this quote because it’s a reminder that sometimes we accidentally get ourselves into messes that we didn’t intend, but that following them through can have really great results. Eventually.

8. They weren’t all true. But they all had the truth.

–The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3) by Brandon Sanderson

This quote is talking about different religions. It’s a very climactic moment in the series, but beyond that, it’s the kind of quote that makes you stop and wonder if all the wars of religion that have occurred throughout history were necessary in the slightest. And, of course, you come up with the answer of “no.” But it also gives you a powerful sense of what religion gives to people.

9. That isn’t your honor, Costis. That’s the public perception of your honor. It has nothing to do with anything important, except perhaps for manipulating fools who mistake honor for its bright, shiny trappings.

–The King of Attolia (Queen’s Theif #3) by Megan Whalen Turner

Being respected is a very large portion of my sense of self. Besides being absolutely in love with this book, this quote is a simple reminder that flashy awards aren’t always the best outcome.

10. I CAN DO ANYTHING I WANT!

–The King of Attolia (Queen’s Theif #3) by Megan Whalen Turner

Because, sometimes, I need a reminder of this. Not in a “break the law” sort of way, but just in a “I can be me” way.

 

How Becoming a Book Blogger Has Changed Me as a Reader

For those of you who don’t know, 52 Letters turned one last week! After a year of reading and reviewing books, I thought I’d take a day and reflect on how being a book reviewer has changed me as a reader–for the better, and for the worse.

It’s made me a more aware reader.

By “aware” I mean that I’m paying more attention to the mechanics of stories: plot, character development, writing style, pacing. These are things I understood but never really though of while I was reading before I started reviewing. Now, when I read a book, I’m already thinking through what I’ll say in the review, which means I’m paying attention to these aspects.

This is a good thing when the book is good. I get to sit back in awe of the author’s writing ability, I get to really understand what about the book makes it exceptional.

Unfortunately, it also makes me aware of when a book is bad. This can make it a lot harder to finish reading a book, or to feel motivated to use spare time to read more of it.

Possibly, it’s made me a more self-conscious reader.

I don’t want to say that YES–I AM SELF-CONSCIOUS ABOUT THE BOOKS I READ, now that I know other people will know I’m reading them. I think I still have enough self-confidence to read the books I want to read, and then to share them with the blogging community.

However, before I was a book blogger, I unabashedly indulged my cravings for trashy, plot-less YA romances–especially those of the paranormal kind. I knew they weren’t well written, but I enjoyed them. Nowadays, I feel like I have to find something about the books I read that quantifies why they were good (once again, plot/characters/writing ability), and I feel weird saying that what I liked about a book had very little to do with complexities such as those. On the one hand, since I’m becoming more aware of what I’m reading anyway, I know I wouldn’t enjoy those books as much if I went back to them, but I also know that there is a part of me that just doesn’t want to put it into print.

I’m more aware of new books.

I don’t have a Goodreads account, never have, don’t really plan to. I’ve always been more of a “walk into a bookstore and stare at the shelves until I see something I like” reader. As a result, I never really paid attention to whether a book was new or not, whether there was hype surrounding it or not. Since joining the book blogger community, I’ve been exposed to the hype, and I can tell which books are new and making waves based on other people’s reviews.

It’s slightly overwhelming, the idea of actually keeping up with all the new books that come out. I still like reading books based more on if they strike my fancy than if I’ve seen other people rave about them. Still, I like that I have this new awareness, and I like that now when I walk into a bookstore, I can see books and go “oh, I know you” simply because other people reviewed their ARCs.

It’s made me a more diverse reader.

Recently, I’ve been pushing myself to stray outside of my fantasy/contemporary YA comfort zone. Reading challenges helped with this a lot–which I never would have learned about if I hadn’t started this blog. But beyond simply trying to meet a quota, being a book blogger has made me want to be a more rounded reader. I’m actually reading nonfiction (something I never would have believed if you told me that a year ago) and revisiting middle grade books. Seeing books that other people review, I’m exposed to books that I never would have looked at in a bookstore, which pushes me to go out and read them.

Most of all, it keeps me reading.

I’m in high school, and if I’m being honest with myself, I know that I probably would have put reading on a (far) back burner if I didn’t have this blog. Needing to have reviews to post keeps me reading, and I’m glad that I have a kick-in-the-pants to actually keep me reading. I love reading, but it’s easier to come home from school and watch Netflix than pick up another book. 52 Letters reminds me of what I like to do–discover new worlds and characters and then fangirl over them–and keeps me doing it. Of all the ways that being a book reviewer has affected my life, this one is the most important for me.

Poetry: Aha Moment

Suddenly, she cannot sleep

Tossing and turning

An uncomfortable search for comfort

Restless thoughts stumble

Into the shadowed land of

Profound

 

They say if you cannot sleep

You are awake in someone else’s

Dreams

And she wonders who would be dreaming

Of her.

She tosses and turns

And wonders if the ancients

Ever thought to have a god of sleep

To go with light and love and life

 

The next night

Just like the last

10:00, studying

Tea kettle shrieks

Automatic motions shush it

Reach for a tea bag

Drop, pour, stir.

 

Pause.

 

She reaches for the box of tea

Inspects each side

And realizes—

 

She had only assumed the tea

Was decaf.

Poetry: All These Things I’ve Loved

I’ve loved all these things:

Friends, games, luxuries like

Cool morning hikes and play dates

Cannonballs into frigid pools

In spring

Afternoons spent curled up, reading

And long family dinners

Watching the sun set—

 

All these things I’ve loved

Dropped

Like superfluous luggage

 

“It’s the journey that matters,

Not the destination”

They promise

 

Well, goddamn

Because I think this journey is killing me

I don’t know where I’m going

(One foot in front of the other in front of the other)

But by the time I get there

I might be no one at all

Top Ten Characters I’d Like to Check In With

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.

I love this prompt a lot. We all have those series that we just can’t believe ended, and epilogues are never enough of a (hopefully happy) ending. Here are some of the characters that I want to check in on and see how they’re doing in their lives once their stories ended. Admittedly, most of these are couples who I want to see have good, peaceful times together (rather than life and death and trauma). And for most of these, I want entire novels, not just a quick “check in.”

1. Viola and Todd from Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy

The ending of these books KILLED ME! There is no way to describe how much I NEED TO KNOW what happens next.

2. Everyone from Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

cover beauty queens

This book actually had a great epilogue that gave the reader a window into each of the characters’ later lives, but I want more! I need another book–another series! I love these girls so much.

3. Puck and Sean (and Corr) from Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater

cover scorpio races

There is a great line which foreshadows the ending of this book, said by the American visitor to the island, that goes something like (forgive my awful memory), “Next year, you’ll have a barn of your own and Puck in your bed and I’ll buy from you instead of Malvern”–and I need this to be true. I need to see it happen. They are the cutest couple ever, but you don’t see a lot of them actually being together, especially in the aftermath of the climax of the book.

4. Anna, Lola, and Isla (and their BFs) from the Anna and the French Kiss series by Stephanie Perkins

(Side note: can we decide on a title for this series? I have no idea what to call it…) I fell in love with these characters and loved the glimpses of each of them you caught in the others’ books, but, of course, I want more stories of all of them reuniting and being amazing together.

5. Gemma in the Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray

Gemma is one of my favorite protagonists, and the ending of A Sweet Far Thing was traumatic and hopeful at the same time, and I’d love to see where Gemma ends up.

6. Del and Livia from Going Underground by Susan Vaught

cover going underground

This couple is so perfectly sweet, I think checking in on them would just make me smile.

7. Harry, Ron, and Hermione from Harry Potter by JK Rowling

This goes without saying. More HP books would only improve the universe, and I would love to spend more time with this amazing trio.

8. The characters in Every Day by David Levithan

cover every day

The ending of this book was strange but sweet, impossibly perfect actually, and I think it would be fascinating to see how their relationship progressed past the last pages. (I know that this one is vague, but the ending is very specific and I don’t want to spoil anything…)

9. Persis and Justen from Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

cover across a star swept sea

This book is based entirely on the dramatic irony of Persis’s secret identity as the Wild Poppy. The reveal only happens at the very end of the book, and I’m dying to see the full repercussions of her secret being exposed. (Basically, I just need all the people who underestimated her to have to eat their words…)

10. Everyone in Peace, Love and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle

cover peace love and baby ducks

This book is emotionally tense, with the relationships between most of the characters deteriorating before the climax. Hopefully, checking in on these characters would show some of them growing back into the closeness that they had the beginning of the story, and gaining confidence that they lacked throughout the book.