A Girly Review

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Picture taken from Pinterest

I’m not “girly.” Not at all. I mean…well, I do enjoy romantic comedies and books where the protagonists have love interests…but I’m not girly.

That being said, I have no explanation for why I enjoyed The Selection series so much. I was a total fangirl of Kiera Cass’ work. I picked up the first book in the series by accident and by the end of it, I was hooked. I basically poked the requisitions librarian where I worked during college to pre-order the other two books and then I hung out in the YA section and giggled over them with the teenage patrons.

It isn’t that Cass’ writing was spectacular. I did occasionally get annoyed at the repetition or the way she chose to describe something. It isn’t that there was a level of suspense in the first three books. Other people say they were on tenterhooks trying to figure out what would happen to the protagonists, but I was fairly confident about America’s fate. (I’m not referring to the country. That is actually the main girl’s name.) The storyline isn’t really all that complex, and yet it captivated me from the first chapter. I really had to wrack my brain for the reason why it was so appealing to me. I really think it was the way that Cass intertwined the selection and the lives of the protagonists with the turmoil that was prevalent in the kingdom. It was the contrast and the connections of these two storylines, causing me to giggle and gasp in turn, that kept me on the edge of my chair.

That’s why my ears immediately pricked up when I heard she was extending the series by another two books, but I didn’t run to the library. It took me over a year to actually check the next book out, but I am soooo glad I did! I almost finished it in one sitting. I’m probably not the only one who was a little hesitant to read the continuing story. Trust me. If you enjoyed the first three books, you need to continue the series.


Summary–no major spoilers

While the fate of the protagonists seemed clear to me in the first three books, Cass really stepped up the suspense in her fourth and fifth book.

The story jumps twenty or so years into the future and centers around America’s daughter and the heir to the throne, Eadlyn Schreave. The country has never had a female heir to the throne before. That coupled with the unrest between the recent removal of a strict social class system, means that the turmoil in the kingdom is still very much alive. In order to release some tension and turn the public eye away from these matters, Eadlyn’s father asks her to hold her own selection. This is a combination between The Bachelor and an arranged marriage where a group of boys from throughout the kingdom are given the chance to vie for the princess’ heart. While Eadlyn enters the selection with her head held high, she has serious doubts that she will find her true love. Her station demands that she finds a suitable husband, but her carefully walled off heart is pulling her in a million different directions? Will she choose her heart or her people, or perhaps both?


I give this series an enthusiastic 8.5 stars. I hesitate to give it more because of the reasons I mentioned earlier, but I feel I can give it no less.

Females of all ages will be able to find something in common with America Eadlyn. I think that Eadlyn’s story was especially compelling. Then again, it’s been awhile since I’ve read the first three books in the series and America’s story was compelling in different ways. In America, we see a girl pulled up from a lower caste and given the chance to see her world in a new light while being the voice of her family to those above her station. In Eadlyn, we see a girl shouldered with the burden of an entire kingdom since birth who has to allow herself to lower her walls to not just to her family or one boy, but to everyone in her life. And behind it all, we see the backdrop of an oppressed people who, even though they escape the clutches of a corrupt monarchy, must learn to grow themselves.

I have heard rumors that Cass’ story might be turned into a short television series for years. I’m still waiting eagerly to hear if this is true. I think her characters would pop off the screen! Love and betrayal, rebellion and death, teenagers and drama – what more could you want out of a YA dystopian romance comedy…series.

If I really like a story or an author, I find it easy to overlook what I would consider bad writing or annoying writing quirks. This is one of those cases. It feels an instinctive need to be “girly” without me actually having to go out and be “girly.” What more could you ask for?

Let me know what you think of The Selection series by Kiera Cass. I highly suggest that you finish this series if you haven’t already. I’m not sure if I’ve found them all yet. I’ll keep searching. In the end, you will be far from disappointed.

P.S.  In addition to the core five books, there are apparently also a handful of short stories that fill in the gaps between the different POVs and timelines. I’m not sure I’ve found them all yet, but I’ll keep looking.

A Trip to the Library

A day that includes a trip to the library is never ordinary…


You check the clock on my car for the 10th time. You still have an hour before the library closes. That should be enough time. Still…

You glare angrily at the red light. As if it feels the sting of my gaze, it flashes green.

Finally.

A few more minutes and you pull into the library’s parking lot. Book bag – check. Library card – check. List of books – check. As you push open the doors, a burst of cool air hits you square in the face. You stop and admire the feeling of being back in my favorite place. The sound of pages turning and keyboards clacking fills the air. A deep breath reveals the smell of old books. You trail my hand appreciatively down book spines as you pass shelf after shelf.

A few books catch your eye and you stop to pick them up, admiring their covers. There’s a glossy new copy of Calculus for Dummies that might help you pass the midterms, and a thick book that’s full of Western short stories, and a book with a red bird on the cover that is, regrettably, written in another language. But they don’t hold your interest, so you place them back on the shelf and walk on.

You amble along in no particular hurry until you finally reach your favorite section in the library. A dozen new books are waiting for you to pick them up from an aisle rack. After careful examination, you choose a promising looking novel by a familiar author.

Three books. You promised yourself that you would only pick up three books this time. That would last you the whole week. As you walk down the aisle, you pull your list out of your back pocket. The first five books have already been checked out. You furrow your brow in frustration and hop up on the ladder. There’s one. You pluck it gently from the top shelf and hop down.

You find another book on the next shelf. That makes three. With a wistful glance back at the shelves you didn’t get a chance to investigate, you take your little pile of books over to an armchair and open the top one. You only meant to read the first few pages, ten minutes tops. T0e next thing you know a library worker is tapping you on the shoulder and telling you that the library is about to close.

You glance up at the wall clock. You’ve been reading for half an hour. Oh no. You’ll be late for dinner.

“Just a minute.”

The library worker humphs as you rush over to the catalog computer. There are a few books that you want to reserve. You’re in such a hurry that you don’t see the message that pops up on the screen. Two books are waiting for you at the front desk. You are genuinely surprised when the librarian at the check-out counter adds them to your pile.

You really should put a few books back. You were only supposed to check out three…But perhaps a couple more books wouldn’t hurt. 

“Thanks!”

You carefully place the books in your bag and rush out the door. The sun is already starting to drop in the sky. You pause as the door closes behind you, blinking heavily against the loss of silence and air conditioning, but you clasp your bag tighter and smile. You’re taking five new worlds home with you.

And you’ll be back next week.

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A Nerdy New Year’s Resolution

Someone asked me last week if I had made a New Year’s resolution to read a certain number of books in 2017.

I said, “No, why would I? I like reading.”

Apparently, that was the wrong answer.

Looking back, I realize that I’ve always associated New Year’s resolutions with negative things, like breaking a certain habit or going on a diet. It has to be something difficult that you don’t want to do. Right? So why did I get a blank stare in response to my earlier statement.

Maybe it’s time for me to finally make my own New Year’s Resolution. And maybe it doesn’t have to be something that I don’t want to do. Maybe I can just try to push myself a little.

So what do y’all think? Should I set a resolution to read a certain number of books or write a certain number of pages next year? If so, what number do you thnk would challenge me? What is your nerdy goal for next year?

Thanks! And Happy almost New Year! 🙂

 

Who’s In Charge?

I’m going to have to “pick on” another one of my literary buddies. We are both just too opinionated about books. You see, he likes to talk about how old novels, Sci-Fi novels in particular, are the best and standards keep going down, because authors have started to cater to what readers want instead of trying to get across any deep, profound messages.

He has a good point. Popular literature has changed over the years, and that has to do largely with public tastes and current events. However, I think he is too quick to completely dismiss modern literature.

We’ve had countless conversations like this one. More than a few times, these conversations have hit a dead end with this question: Do authors impress messages on their readers, or is it the other way around?

This is an important question that I’ve about many times throughout my  life as a book lover. 

I think I can sum up my answer by how I responded to a post I recently read on Facebook. Apparently, someone was trying to blow everyone else’s minds with the fact that our government is similar to the government in the young adult dystopian series, The Hunger Games. They were shocked that people couldn’t see that focusing on the love triangle more than the harsh treatment that the main characters are faced with mirrors the attitude of the capitol dwellers.

One one hand, I’m impressed that someone is looking at it from that angle. On the other hand, I’ve always thought that was kind of the point of the book. The series takes some of the dangerous trends in today’s society a step farther to show everyone a society in peril. The author did that. However, if readers don’t pick up on that message and really take it to heart, then it doesn’t have real meaning. Authors bring their books, and their messages, to life, but it is readers who set the spark free and keep the story alive.

So I guess my answer to the above question has always been: Yes, to both. 🙂 It’s a crucial partnership. And I believe that’s true for every literary work, classic or modern.

What do y’all think?

Poetry About Books…Nothing Could Sound Sweeter

People have tried to ask me to write poetry before…None as persistent as one of my college writing professors. She did get me to write down a few. I’m not going to share those with you – you will thank me for that later – but I do remember reading a lot of beautiful poetry in that classroom.

Of course, the ones that stayed with the most are the ones about books and writing. So here are a few of my favorites:

There is no Frigate like a Book By Emily Dickinson

There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry.
This Traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll;
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human Soul!

I Opened a Book By Julia Donaldson

I opened a book and in I strode.
Now nobody can find me.
I’ve left my chair, my house, my road,
My town and my world behind me.

I’m wearing the cloak, I’ve slipped on the ring,
I’ve swallowed the magic potion.
I’ve fought with a dragon, dined with a king,
And dived in a bottomless ocean.

I opened a book and made some friends.
I shared their tears and laughter
And followed their road with its bumps and bends
To the happily ever after.

I finished my book and out I came.
The cloak can no longer hide me.
My chair and my house are just the same,
But I have a book inside me.

Good Books By Edgar Guest

Good books are friendly things to own.
If you are busy they will wait.
They will not call you on the phone
Or wake you if the hour is late.
They stand together row by row,
Upon the low shelf or the high.
But if you’re lonesome this you know:
You have a friend or two nearby.

The fellowship of books is real.
They’re never noisy when you’re still.
They won’t disturb you at your meal.
They’ll comfort you when you are ill.
The lonesome hours they’ll always share.
When slighted they will not complain.
And though for them you’ve ceased to care
Your constant friends they’ll still remain.

Good books your faults will never see
Or tell about them round the town.
If you would have their company
You merely have to take them down.
They’ll help you pass the time away,
They’ll counsel give if that you need.
He has true friends for night and day
Who has a few good books to read.

Partial submission by Louise Carson

I thought of mailing you a paper-clip
then thought again
for surely you must have some
in a similar small green tray
or palm-sized round jar (on its lid
a scene of camels, desert, sun)
or in a drawer, a chain
of collected shining metal wealth.

So I removed the strangely precious thing
and mailed these poems
loose
in a brown envelope of pain.
When you receive them,
you can add your own.

As you can probably tell, because I’ve told you so, I didn’t write these. I just wanted to make that clear. I think there is something so beautiful about poetry that I will never be able to capture in prose. It’s a cross between a song and a story. I have a deep admiration for all poets. I feel that although we do not speak the same language, we might speak a similar one, and so if you need a friendly ear just give me a ring and say, “Jolly Good Day!” and I will say “Hello!” and we can be writing friends.

🙂 Yep, that’s as close to anything as “poetic language” as you’ll probably get from me. 

Are there any poets out there who wouldn’t mind sharing some of their favorite poetry?

Editing with Caution

Have any of you ever had problems when collaborating on writing projects? How do you aproach them?

I know we all have memories of that class that always involved group projects, or that one person who made you do all the work. I was that person who just didn’t belong in groups. I firmly believed that I workd better flying solo, and I still do.

No, I’m not talking about school assignments.  

When do you draw the line for right vs. wrong on creative writing projects. I’ve taken writing classes, writing workshops, and I even went to a writing camp one summer. You think I would have gottn used to things like this. It’s not that I don’t like hearing what other people have to say. It’s just…it’s my creation. My world. If you’re a writer, you’ll understand.

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Image Credit: http://www.gocollege.com

Now I’m on the other side. I have attained my dream job – editing books – and I’m still wracked with nerves every time I contact authors. I usually say something like this more than once: “I want to help you bring your book to the next level.”

And I do. I want to colalborate with authors, but it’s hard not to worry that I come across as sounding very un-humble like ( 😉 ). I try my hardest to look at works objectively, but not at the expense of becoming a teacher. I remember getting pages back covered in red ink. I don’t want to be that person. (Apparently, my computer feels the same way. It has decided that my edits will show up in blue, not red.) 

I’m not sure what answers I would get back if I asked my fellow workers if this feeling eases. I’d like to think that they’d tell me that, with practice, I’ll be able to breathe easier. Only time will tell, I suppose. 

But I don’t really expect that my thoughts will change much. It’ll take some confidence, some experience, but more than anything, it will take trust on both sides. Being asked to collaborate with someone else on their book feels almost like walking on sacred ground – one must proceed with care. I intend to do just that.

In the meantime, I thought it didn’t hurt to ask … Does anyone have any experience with collaboration?