Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Poetry of Lang Leav

Sometimes, I want nothing more than to read poetry. It is an urge that arrives randomly and takes a fierce hold on my mind. Thing is, I'm picky with poetry and while I enjoy it, and have written and published it, I find it hard to find a book of poems I can completely fall in love with. 

Then there's Lang Leav. I should preface this to say that I am a book snob. I mean, I am a snob when it comes to the actual, physical property of a book. I love book covers that are pretty and catch my attention and I will, sometimes, judge a book entirely by its cover. I have also been known to buy multiple publications of a book simply because there are various covers that I like more. Lang Leav's two poetry books have sweet, simple, Instagram-worthy covers and I've seen them through various posts on Tumblr. The artwork is simple on the cover, a girl's face, that sits atop a swish of font for the books title.

When I crossed paths with Lullabies at my local Barnes and Noble, I decided to pick it up. I was on a book-buying ban but really, how often do I read poetry? I felt it was worth the (small) splurge. Plucking it off the shelf, I opened it to see if the poetry appealed to me.* I found the poetry quick but meaningful. It was a book I could read in a day but would likely linger over as I read and reread the poetry. I took the book home that day and spent the weekend with finger pressed to page, reading each line and returning to poems as I went.

Lullabies is something soft. They're whispers and dreams, elements of reality of wonderings that appealed to me and my present state of mind. I read the book just after completing my copyediting certification course. I was also considering graduate school and uncertain of my path for the future. I ended up taking note of multiple poems and sat the book aside. This is something I'll keep by my bedside or leave in our guest room for anyone who visits to pick up and read.

I was certain after making my way through Lullabies that I needed to get a copy of Leav's other book, Love. So off I went and once more, I was left lingering over different poems and saving others. I want some of the poetry to be involved in my (not being planned but for someday) wedding. The poetry spoke of all the highs and lows that come with love and the varying emotions that are tied to this emotion. Love isn't always simple and kind, guys. There's layers and Leav pointed that out in her beautiful, fluid writing.

Each book is marked by different sections with illustrations all done by Leav herself. They're as quiet and soft as the whispered words of the poems contained in both books.

There is a third book on the way by Leav and I honestly can't wait until it's published. I've found a poet who I truly adore and will likely follow for ages to come. How wonderful! At times, being a book snob and picking up a book solely because you like the cover can work out quite well.

*Most poetry that is published is likely good and appealing. However, I'm picky and if I do not "like" a book of poems, it's likely because of my pickiness and does not speak ill toward the actual poetry.

Last Week's Review: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater
Next Week's Review: Shadows On My Heart by Lucy Rebecca Buck

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Forever (Book 3 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls)

Despite my dislike of the first and second book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls saga, I pushed through to the third book. For me, it would be the final book. I knew there was a fourth book out there focusing solely on Isabel and Cole, but I wanted to end this escapade and not spend anymore money on the series. Forever is meant to be Sam and Grace's final say, it's their final book (at least at this moment, I don't know if Stiefvater plans to write more), so I figured I would finish out their story.

For me, Shiver was the love story; Linger was the filler book; Forever was the action-packed tale. We know all the characters at play, we've heard all of their names before, and now we're set for the final battle. It's like making it through a video game and meeting the boss. You know things are going to get real and you hope your main characters come out on top.

Grace is now a wolf while Sam remains a human. He could, after all, join Grace and be a wolf with her but is steadfast in not doing so. To me, this didn't sit well. There's so much emphasis on the love the two have that I feel he should, without a doubt, sacrifice his human comforts to be with Grace and it's selfish and cowardly for him to step back and go, "Nah, I'm ok. I miss Grace and all. My heart aches for her. But I'd rather stay here in my werewolf family's old house."

And it's not like things are that great at Sam's home, either. He battles loneliness with annoyance while Cole is around. He's also suspected of the disappearance of Grace and a friend (who is there only briefly in the first book, becomes a wolf, and then isn't heard of much else until this book when she's used as a plot device). He works at a small bookstore which seems to be the only relatively nice thing about his human life, so I'm not really sure what he's sticking around for. I would've gone back to being a wolf if only to be near my loved one. 

But maybe I don't understand their love as well. Maybe the true level of their love is that Sam can be selfish and not become a wolf again, and Grace can be ok with that and accepting. Who knows.

Meanwhile, I'm at a loss of what time of year it is again. It sounds like everything within the first three books happened between fall and spring of one year but surely I'm wrong, that's far too quick! Nonetheless, Grace is able to turn back into her human form and with general ease. It just seems that so much of this is easy for her while it sounded like an utter torment for Sam. Eventually, she's able to hold onto her form for a long period of time while other new wolves seem incapable of turning back at all. 

So she's back with Sam and they're thrilled to be together. Still, we have Cole doing experiments on himself to see how he can cure werewolf-ism, and Isabel, who's fighting off a lot of passionate feelings directed toward our rock star werewolf. 

Then we're introduced to another character--Shelby. Now, Shelby was around in the first book as a wolf that was about the same age as Sam. She had picked Sam as her mate and was not taking no for an answer. But that was it, she was often tossed to the side and just used to push around a plot. Now in this book, we get to see a lot more of her in more than just her wolf form. Memories of her as a human often flash through Sam's mind and Stiefvater does a great job painting a picture that this girl is messed up. She's protective of Sam but also kind of going mad. She is more wolf than girl and the cause of one of the bigger problems Sam is facing -- being suspected of murdering one of Grace's friends.

And yet, there's countless evidence that a wolf killed the friend and cause various other issues. But people in this town don't seem to see sense and they still pin the blame on Sam. It's maddening. Aside from this all, the town also goes on a witch hunt for wolves. They decide they'll shoot them all down, eliminate the pack, and their worries will be brushed aside.

So that's the boss of this game. Can the pack of wolves be saved before they're destroyed? Thanks to a curious turn of events, one of the local cops approaches Sam and points out that he "knows their secret" and offers some land he has out of the area for the wolves to go to. Great, they found somewhere safe! Now to get all of the wolves there...

They hatch a plan that involves a lot of sacrifice on everyone's part. Grace plans to lead everyone with thoughts but unfortunately turns into a wolf due to a temperature drop. Sam is left to give up his humanity to become a wolf (which is something odd, he can choose to become a wolf but otherwise is not a wolf at all) and with Grace's aid, they lead the pack as Cole helps in human form--until he turns as well. Enter Isabel who tries to distract the hunting party and is partially successful.

By the end of the book, some wolves are dead, some are alive, the pack has been moved, Sam is no longer considered a murder suspect, Grace puts her parents in their place, and all is well. It was a neat enough wrap up of things as everyone seemed to be in their place. All in all, this was Sam's book, as we learned so much more about his internal thoughts and memories. We learned of how he was chosen, the story behind his upbringing, and get to peek further into his "family." So the majority of the book, I feel, was taken up by this back story that could have been explained earlier on. But whatever, better late than never.

So we're done, or so we think. In the very last moments Grace runs off to the woods to change into her wolf form and there's the serum that could potentially cure her left behind. It's hinted that she plans to take it, but you're left wondering if she does or doesn't and whether or not she survives.

There is a fourth book that was recently released. It focuses more on Isabel and Cole's story and apparently features call-ins from Grace (she lived!) and Sam. But for me, the series ends here. I got a decent ending to the couple we most focused on and they can go live out their slightly wolfish lives together in the back of my memory. Isabel and Cole? Have fun, but I won't be visiting you in your future books. I can't help it but be done with the whole thing.

Last Week's Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater
Next Week's Review: Poetry of Lang Leav

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Linger (Book 2 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls)

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I would not have read The Raven Cycle (TRC) had I read The Wolves of Mercy Falls first. The writing is much more developed in TRC but certainly lacking in this series. And yet, I wanted to see if it got better. There's definite growth in Stiefvater's writing from Shiver to The Raven Boys, so maybe there was growth in her writing in the Shiver series as well. So, despite my distaste of Shiver, I dove into Linger when I was finished.

Linger happens shortly after the end of Shiver. Exactly how long after, I'm not entirely sure. It's cold, it's warm, it's back and forth. But we know this: Sam is now human. He lived through the "cure" given to him in the previous book (as indicated by the end of it) and the cure seemed to stick. So he's human and Grace is thrilled and together they sneak about and keep his nightly sleepovers a secret from her parents. Typical teen stuff. 

But Grace is getting sick, slowly but surely, and she tries desperately to keep it from Sam. At first, I was sure she was turning into a wolf herself (although why she hadn't when she was a child and had been attacked was still not clear). She followed all the typical symptoms as listed in the previous book. And yet... she didn't turn. 

We're also faced with two new characters. Cole, a suicidal rock star werewolf, and Isabel, the former wench of the school that Grace didn't get along with in the previous book. 

We switched around with points of view again and my head was left spinning. Again, the separate voices weren't all that different from one another and I couldn't keep up. 

I did enjoy Cole and Isabel a little. They both are kind of awful and selfish, but they both are people who get things done which is a great difference from Sam who is too afraid to act upon anything, and Grace who was too sick to care. 

Also enter Grace's parents. They were pretty much absent from the first book and well known for their lack of care when it comes to what their daughter is up to. Now, however, they switch their parenting into hyper drive. From uncaring parents to the extreme, the 180 leaves the reader frustrated at the whole thing. Her parents freak when they find out that Sam has been hanging around without their knowledge, they ban Grace from seeing her, and while at times parents will do this to their teenage daughter--it's such an extreme, such a 180 from how they were in the previous book, that it's hard to swallow. The majority of the time I wanted to hit her parents and was applauding the verbal throwbacks Grace was giving them. It was super frustrating, because they were making Sam out to look like the monster (you know, more than just being a former werewolf) when he can barely do anything without second guessing himself. How aggravating.

Grace continues to get more sickly and eventually, she ends up in the hospital. She's not just sick, she's dying. So the entire book, which felt meandering at times, has led to this point. Grace is dying and Cole is the one who declares a possible cure: make her into a werewolf.

How will this work now when she was bitten before without turning into a wolf? Well lucky for us, Cole is not just a rock star but the son of a famous scientist and he has this all figured out. He figures that when Grace was a child, after she was bit, she was almost (accidentally) baked alive in a car (her father forgot her in because he's father of the year, obviously) and that "burned out" the wolf. But the wolf only lasts for ten years or so before it dies, which is now. But if they just make her become a wolf by biting her again, she should recover and be ok.

So they do that and bam, she's a wolf! She's running off to the trees and all is right with the world! Oh, except that Sam has been cured of being a wolf, never wants to be a wolf again, and now Grace's parents think he's gone and killed her or something (stupidest assumption but we'll get into that later during the next review of the third book: Forever.)

Last Week's Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Next Week's Review: Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Thursday, June 11, 2015

My Reading Nook -- Anney

My Reading Nook, a feature from Soon Remembered Tales, gives readers a chance to show off their favorite place to read.

What's your reading nook?

This is the grove at Bowers Park in Bowers, Pennsylvania. It is within walking distance from my apartment. Local residents walk their dogs and themselves here - from sun up to sun down, at all times of the year. In the summer, Mennonites play baseball at the nearby field. There's also a food court with picnic benches, open every evening all summer. In September, the Bowers Chili Pepper fest happens - which houses live music and local foods. Despite this, on a regular day, the park is always calm and quiet.

Why is this nook special?

I'm third generation Irish, as well as a casual student of Druidism. For Druids, tree groves are sacred places, cathedrals made of trees. Druids meet and worship in groves. Over time, I've come to find groves to be sacred spiritual places, places of learning and reverence. So that's why I like to write, read, and pray there. I naturally gravitate to trees, when needing to unwind after a long day. Oak trees are especially perfect to lean against and read. Their heat and strength radiates up and down my spine as I lean against them, reading and thinking. There's also a secure boundary in a grove of trees. People rarely walk through a grove. So in this place, I get to enjoy the leisure of the park-goers, while safe in my little cozy space. Ants and spiders run around the grass and twigs around me. All is peaceful. 

Where else do you read?

This is my office, my study, my library. I love to be surrounded by my books when I read, and Christmas lights! My aunt made the quilt for me, about five years ago. The couch is an old futon that used to be my bed. It's larger than a regular couch, so I can sit on it with my whole body folded underneath me. In the mornings, while I eat breakfast and drink tea, I sit here and enjoy the early morning with a bit of light reading.

Interested in sharing your own reading nook? Take a look at the My Reading Nook tab for more information!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Shiver (Book 1 of The Wolves of Mercy Falls)

Oh boy.

I hated this book when I was a bookseller. We were in the middle of the Twilight craze then this book appeared and seemed to be joining the fray. It received mixed reviews: Twilight lovers either loved it or they hated it because it was "as if Jacob won" (because women are something to be won, apparently); other readers seemed to generally despise it. A few of my friends read the book and hated it with a passion I had never seen and I found I wasn't very interested. 

Then I read The Raven Cycle and was so blown away by the author's writing style that I looked into her other work...

... and was completely shocked that she had also penned The Wolves of Mercy Falls. Okay, okay, maybe I got it all wrong. Maybe the books weren't as bad as I had previously thought. The Raven Cycle has completely blown my mind. It's art. So maybe, I was just tied up in the hatred of all things remotely related to Twilight and I took it out on these books. Maybe.

When I began reading Shiver it was pretty straight forward. I wasn't at all confused about what was happening with the characters and found the plot to be reasonably easy. It was an interesting plot though: a girl (Grace) who was attacked by wolves and then later on developed a soft spot for them, specifically "her" wolf who seemed to always take notice of her. Her wolf becomes a boy (Sam) and no one knows exactly how it happened, but they fall in love quickly while they are tangled up in a web of drama that always follows werewolves around.

The idea is interesting enough so I give props for that. I don't feel it's as original as The Raven Boys but there's nothing wrong with writing about classic monsters (hell, I do the same thing). What got me was the sort of unbelievable reactions the characters have. Here we have a girl who was literally attacked by a pack of wolves... and yet she isn't frightened by them, she loves them, and her friends who know of her fascination with the wolves don't seem to point out how weird it is. Personally, I'm terrified of loud barking dogs and I was never attacked by one; the people I know who have gotten bitten by dogs, however, live on with a fear. So for me, this was somewhat unbelievable. While the "reasoning" is given later on, I feel it's not very clearly pointed out and it's far too late of an excuse.

We also have this oddball connection between Grace and Sam. It's mere moments after they meet, really meet, like person to person rather than wolf to person, that they seem to be completely in love with one another. They're only teens and I struggle to believe this mentality. Grace's parents (I can't recall if this begins to develop in this book or the next) are rightly suspicious of their daughter being so "in love" with a guy she just met.

Wolves typically will have one mate, I believe, so if it was owned up to that it would make more sense to me. That Sam found his mate and that is why he's so in love. But there's a lot of lacking explanation in these books and that's what's frustrating.

Grace also lives in a world that is hard to believe. Her parents are basically absent and do not, at all, behave like parents to her. They're very off-hands and it's hard for me to comprehend. I know parents like this exist, but I've never experienced it myself. Grace's parents are so oblivious that it always came as a surprise when another extreme of their absentee parenting style was put on display.

There are a lot of female characters in this series, which is a plus, but I also feel many of them fit almost too perfectly into character traits. They're stereotypical and not that surprising. Their actions are actions that I shrug off and go, "well, I saw that coming."

Another issue with the book: we flip back and forth between characters, at one time reading from Grace's POV and then from Sam's, and I honestly couldn't see the difference. Typically I try to finish a chapter before I put a book down but that often doesn't happen. I run out of time to read and I'm in the middle of a chapter so it is where it is when I get back to it. When I would return to this book I would most times be thrown by who was talking unless it was blatantly obvious. I'd have to flip back to the back of the page, or read a little while, before understanding the POV.

Also, while Grace is interesting enough and certainly strong willed, Sam was made out to appear very weak. It's great to have men who aren't necessarily all bravery and muscles, but Sam was almost too far in the other direction. So often I wanted to shake him by the shoulders and just yell at him, tell him to stop his crap and do what he has to do. He wasn't a timid, teenage boy. He wasn't shy. He also spoke like a grandmother. It was just all so... weird. There are ways to take his likes and the goals of being a timid creature and achieve making a character without it seeming so forced.

Then. The ending. The ending frustrated me. In a rush, they try to find a cure for Sam and they think they successfully have. They administer the cure and then... that's it. You're left hanging and Sam is no where to be found until he just appears in Grace's backyard like a surprise. It had the heartfelt end but there was so little explanation (in this book or beyond) of what happened during all that time that passed from when he was given the cure to walking on two legs into the backyard.

Honestly, had I read Shiver first... I wouldn't have even given The Raven Cycle a go. I was that dissatisfied with it. Stiefvater's writing from this series to the other is completely different. She writes poetically, it seems, no matter what and both books have that poetry, but her character development and plot points are so much better in The Raven Cycle than in Shiver.

Last Week's Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
Next Week's Review: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Monday, June 8, 2015

A Month in Reviews -- May

This morning I realized I never wrote a monthly wrap up for May. I sat there, stunned for a moment, because I couldn't quite believe May was already over. Looking at the posts from the past month I kept thinking, "didn't I just post that?" Winter never passes by half as quickly as I would like but summer months seem to go by in a flash. Looking forward at this month of June, I can't help but wish most of it away to more exciting things toward the end of the month, but I'm sure come the end of the month I'll think June passed by just as quickly.

The spring-like temperatures rushed away and quickly we were in the summer humidity that makes up the DMV area. Gross, humid, but still pretty gorgeous because of all the leaves and flowers that had returned to the area.

May meant vacation for me; a mini vacation, if you will. For the past three years I've traveled during Memorial Day weekend. After a long stretch where three day weekends do not exist, Memorial Day finally arrives and I'm typically burnt out by work and in desperate need of a break. One year I went to New Orleans but the past two years I've visited my grandmother in Florida.

Visiting my grandmother is a combination of doing nothing and doing everything. It's very relaxed at my grandmother's home. I sit outside under the fans and read or splash around in the pool. I eat quietly with my grandmother and sip coffee, or we go out to dinner at a little fast food joint. But always, there is a day or two where I do something. Last year we visited the beach and Busch Gardens, this year we went to Universal Orlando and a different beach. 

I am not a ride person. I do not like thrill rides and my idea of fun is basically a carousel, but the appeal of going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter was too much to pass up. So while we may have gone to Universal which is a huge theme park that can take up your entire day, we spent it solely in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and got nearly a full day out of the experience.

I'll talk more about that in a future Wanderlust Wednesday entry, but let me say that it was an absolute blast and I simply cannot wait to go back again someday in the future.

My grandmother also gifted me with something that absolutely blew my friggen mind: a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird from 1960 (the year it was published). I've been vying for a hardcover copy of the book for ages so that I would have it on hand to pair with Harper Lee's newest book that's coming out next month, but to have a copy that was my grandmother's means so much more.

And last but not least, I was accepted into graduate school! More on that here but gosh, I am so excited. I did some school shopping and was completely in heaven. I love buying fresh school supplies.

Book Reviews:

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Other Posts:

Natural Bridge Park and Historic Hotel
Laura's reading nook

Must Reads from the Web:

What 'Wild' Has Wrought
47 Books Every College Grad Should Read
CdA School Committee Proposes Restricting Steinbeck Book
Happy (belated) Mother's Day

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Big Basin Redwoods State Park

What: Big Basin Redwoods State Park
Where: 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA
When: October 2014

California had suffered from a drought that left the hillsides yellow and brown. The shade was cool but stepping into the sun left one sweating and hot. It was October and our third day in California. I had always heard about sequoias and redwoods, how large and otherworldly they were, and compared to the trees of the East Coast, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into when we piled into a car and drove away from San Jose toward Boulder Creek.

We zipped along the winding roads of California and said goodbye to the more populated area of San Jose and traded it in for the thick woods near Big Basin. The homes became more spaced out, smaller and older, and the temperature dropped as we climbed higher and escaped the full blaze of the sunshine.

Boulder Creek was a blink and you'll miss it town that reminded me of something from a movie. If a town were to be a former gold rush town, upgraded to the present day, this would be it. Apparently it has a logging history dating back to 1874.

It was here I had my first taste of how serious the dry-spell was in California. While getting gas, we caught the scent of woodsmoke and overheard a conversation between Californians--was the smoke from nearby? Yes, yes, it was, but just a part of a BBQ joint down the street, it wasn't wild.

The fear of forest fires were so prominent in California. We've had "fire watches" on the East Coast and occasionally a brush fire, but we've never had fires like what I've seen on TV. The sky view of forests and homes ablaze in the dryer climate as we hear reports of the wind's direction always has been something far away and removed. But being present in California and seeing the destruction of the fires in Yosemite and hearing the nervous chatter of locals was eye opening.

We made it to the entrance of the park and parked before exploring the visitor center and all the fun trinkets they had to sell. Rocks, pieces of wood, artwork, t-shirts, camping supplies. I would love to camp there one day! It was cool enough to warrant a light sweater and nearby were picnic tables if you'd be interested in catching a quick meal before heading out to the trails. But first, I had to stand in a fairy ring of redwoods. I know you aren't supposed to stand in fairy rings but I've always blatantly have ignored the rule. I think the fairies welcome me, although I was a bit uncertain about West Coast fairies, but they seemed ok with me being around.

In the fairy ring, looking up.

The entrance of the park certainly had the most information to see. Massive trees that dwarfed everything nearby, tree stumps with details indicating when different events happened during the lifetime of the tree, and bathrooms! With the most freezing cold water I've ever experienced and a lack of paper towels, but it's still better than squatting in the woods or using a portapotty. We hung out for a bit in that area, gathering some snacks and the likes before heading out into the woods. Of course, it's highly advisable that if you are going to go hiking you bring a little baggy to store your garbage in. DON'T toss any of your garbage out into the woods! Be kind to the trees, they've been here longer than any of us.

After gathering our snacks we headed out on the trails. There are a couple with varying degrees of difficulty and distance. I wish I was a skilled trail blazer and had the appropriate wardrobe for it, as I would have gone much further than I did, but the trail we opted for was smooth and easy. The trees are so high and covered in fir-like leaves, so we were in the shade all along. It was varying temps, I wanted to wear a sweater but with walking I was warm enough to generally stroll in my tank top without worry.

Everywhere you look, there are trees with scorch marks on them. Their outside shells, or the hollowed insides, are all but charcoal. Brittle and black to the touch. Forest fires from years ago still showed their destructive force on these trees. Even looking up feet above our heads where parts of the trees' old bark still was exposed you would see the burns. One neat thing was the pattern the burns created on the bark. Ripples, like water, stretching on wood up and overhead. It was like nature's artwork and the park was its museum.

We took our time for the walk and had the most fun with trees that had died (sorry trees!) but left behind the shells of their formal selves. They looked like chimneys and despite still lacking the leaves or tops of the trees, they were overwhelmingly huge. I think, if I was a child, I would have had a hard time staying on the requested paths and keeping off of trees. Even still, people were jumping the lines and climbing around trees, but I'd rather remain the cautious rule-follower.

And hugging trees is pretty much an ok thing to do (so long as they aren't roped off). Of course I had to hug trees that were larger than me. It was like hugging a grandpa, a very solid, splintery, sometimes covered in spiders, grandpa.

After heading down the first path, we decided to investigate another that was much less traveled by with tighter, smaller walkways and bridges that went over dry creek beds. This area was much more quiet. The silence of the woods was at times maddening until we heard the low groan of a airplane far off in the sky. While the first path had a lot of families on it, this was was much more solitary. So much so, that we spotted a few signs of bears from the area. Personally, when I see a sign of a bear in an area that I am not familiar with, I head back from whence I came. I've interacted with wild bears before and it has never been a pleasant experience. The beau, however, wanted to adventure more.

And lucky we did! We saw a lot of really neat trees and the woods spread out a little more and rolled into gentle hills. We were able to see the trees from different vantage points and even get introduced to our first banana slug. They are huge and very bright, if one is near you, you won't miss it.

This was a morning activity for us, something to check out while we were in the area, and I'm so pleased we got to have a good taste of the park. But, if I ever find myself back in Northern California with plenty of time to spare, I would prepare for a proper hike, complete with the appropriate clothing and devices necessary for a hike, and maybe if I am daring enough--even camp overnight.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Book 3 of The Raven Cycle)

When I first decided to start reading The Raven Cycle, it was after I had spotted Blue Lily, Lily Blue at my local bookstore. The cover entranced me and the story line caught my interest. I discovered it was the third book so I switched gears and focused on the first book (thanks to the recommendation of a book seller). It wasn't long before I reached this third publication though, I read the first two quickly and made it to the third, but I paused. The fourth book wasn't due out for months (now longer due to a recent announcement) and I knew that once this book was finished, I would have to wait ages for the following publication. Do I read it and get caught up then wait ages? Or do I drag out the reading, with hope of time passing a little more quickly, so there wouldn't be as much of a wait until I had the fourth book in my hands. 

Ultimately, I couldn't wait. I tore into Blue Lily, Lily Blue and ate it up, so now I'm here with you, waiting for the fourth book to be published. 

Blue Lily, Lily Blue may be one of my favorite books. I feel I am quite familiar with all of the characters now and quite comfortable with them, so my full focus was on the plot, which is great because at this point, "shit's getting real."

Blue's mother is missing, two characters die, the person who hired a hit man in the previous book is now too close for comfort, there are hidden dangers, and the team is closer than ever to finding our Welsh king.

Now that our characters are more set up, their personalities more defined, I feel this book takes the opportunity to not only move the plot along but to develop deeper relationships between the characters. We see the spark of romance and are reminded that Blue will likely lose the first person she loves. There's also the hint of something much more between other friends but we have yet to receive confirmation on those suspicions.

There's a lot going on with Noah, our resident ghost, in that he seems to be finding it harder to keep his form. Despite that Adam has fixed the lines, Noah will at times turn more "ghostly" than before and is a little more terrifying than I ever thought he was capable of. We're also introduced to Jessie who has no capability to be shocked, or so it seems. This man was a favorite character of mine for this book and I feel Maggie portrayed him in a very clear way. It was easy for me to picture his home, the country, the hillside, and all of the other details. His relationship with Blue and his interactions with Noah were so easy to comprehend that I felt like this was a true scene taken from life.

Ronan continues to propel himself into a more sympathetic character. We discover some of his deepest secrets and a softer, more caring side. We have more opportunities to visit the home he grew up in and he is, to me, less of a jerk and more amusing than before. I enjoyed his scenes, I enjoyed him, and I'm happy when he's mentioned (this is a complete 180 from my feelings toward him during the first book).

Adam also develops more, although I feel his development stems more from the settlement of his gifts and how his new-found ties to Cabeswater has altered him. He grows to understand more of himself and also allows himself to learn to trust. He begins the slow process of realizing that love and appreciation from friends does not equal being hit or abused, it doesn't mean he owes them anything to have their love. It's really lovely to watch this take form.

Blue is still herself, although we're able to see her break down a little as she worries about her mother. She also continues to be our brave girl, never held back by her size or the people she is with. She's inspiration in that way. At times, I feel she overreacts, but if that's the only qualm I have with her it's a pretty big deal.

Gansey is also fascinating in this book and really opens up. Prior to this, we know that he has a character, he has levels, he has opinions and likes and dislikes, but in this book he is open in that he exposes his fears and emotions more readily for all to see--including Blue. She has a love and dislike of him, she flips back and forth between crushing on him and judging him, but in a rushing moment she's able to realize (as are the readers) that Gansey isn't all stoic facial expressions, political smiles, and boat shoes. We see his fears and that he is not untouchable. I already believed he truly loved his friends and would do anything for them, to the very end, but this book made me realize that maybe they had to save him.

By the end of the book, I feel like we're at that point in a TV series where we just saw the episode before the season finale. So much is going on, the excitement is heightened, you know you're almost to the big battle and you're not quite sure how it'll turn out.

I felt the end of this book came at me in a rush. So much happened and then... it was over. But maybe it is because it's that "episode before the season finale." The following book is it, it wraps up the tale, so we're there along with the raven boys and Blue, holding our breaths before we're propelled forward.

Last Week's Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Next Week's Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Monday, June 1, 2015

Big News

Soon Remembered Tales began with a sense of desperation. I had graduated with a bachelor's in English a few months beforehand and when autumn arrived, and without school to go with it, I was left feeling out of sorts. Since Kindergarten, I began school in the fall. But at 22, I wasn't heading back to classes for the first time in my life. I missed it and I felt like my brain was shriveling up. Already I had forgotten so much! So this blog was born--a way for me to note my emotions while reading.

But I still wanted to learn more. I had dreams of going to college again, of getting my master's degree and maybe, one day, my doctorate. However, such dreams were set aside while I made less than $100 a week (barely enough to afford the bills I had) and no career experience. It was a "maybe one day" dream that I wasn't sure would ever happen.

Over the past two years, I worked toward getting a copyediting certification through UC San Diego. It was a course that could have been done in a year, but I spaced it out due to a lot of job changes and events that happened in my life. Once it was done, however, I thought "what next?"

A number of my friends were starting to go back to school--those of us who did not try for a master's immediately after getting a bachelor's--and I began to poke around and look for a program that appealed to me.

After a lot of deliberation and narrowing down what I wanted in a school, I applied to Southern New Hampshire University's master's in English and creative writing program. It's entirely online, which is exactly what I was looking for! While I would love to go to a brick and mortar campus (I love the feel of college campuses), I can't afford to do that right now. The schools in my area are spread apart and with not a lot of free time to begin with, I can't afford the time needed to commute to and from campus. I also do not intend to remain in the Washington, DC area, so having a school I can "take with me" as I move from place to place is ideal.

I was accepted and began the process of preparing for class. My concentration will be in fiction and I can't wait! I begin in July and will take one course at a time--I don't think I could handle more than that!

What does this mean for Soon Remembered Tales?

I still hope to write and update the blog. I'm not sure what the workload will be for each class nor how much free time I'll have to pleasure read, but I have a ton of posts set up for the rest of this year and plan on fleshing it out even more before class begins. 

So the site is continuing on! Frequency of posts may change slightly, but so far, so good! Wish me luck.