Book Show & Tell: Havenfall

Maddie Morrow is a girl who wants to escape from her life. The daughter of a murderer, her mother, the innocent women who wouldn’t admit the mystical truth behind her sons killing, now put on death row. So she escapes,  from life, from death, from everything, to become bland. Going behind her fathers back to live with her uncle at the Havenfall Inn, a magical interstitial between the 3 remaining realms: Fiordenkill, Byrn, and Haven, or, as we call it, Earth. Home.

One day she hopes to become the great Innkeeper of Havenfall, a diplomat between worlds and the holder of peace, representative of the neutral ground that is Earth, the only realm without magic of it’s own but ever in the company of the elemental Byrnisians and the magical blooded, healing Fiordens. It’s the only place Maddie can ever feel normal. But this summer solstice the Inn’s been put in perils way when the door to a sealed realm begins to crack and the beasts, the Solarians, start to seep out. With her uncle out of commission and the summit just beginning Maddie finds herself suddenly thrown into a world of mystery, terror, and innkeeping.

I personally really enjoyed Havenfall, it’s been on my TBR list for a long time and so finally getting to read it has been a breath of fresh air. Sara Holland is a great writer who understands how to create a complex set of characters that play off of each other in unique and meaningful ways, weaving them together into a grand mystery with twists, turns, and reveals that’ll leave you in awe at all the oh so carefully placed foreshadowing that sprinkles this novel like a cupcake but with murder and corruption.

As well the general concept of the whole thing, with multiple realms coming into great alliances under the pretext of an unsuspecting inn high in the mountains of Denver, Colorado being a great set-up for any kind of story. There were so many directions this story could’ve, and did go. It’s got a complex history that makes you want to keep reading, the magic is kept simple as the mystical nature of magic is expanded, and despite the inability to crossover into the other realms the little explanations and subtle descriptions we do get set your mind running. A great example of narrative world building done right.

Of course not everything is sunshine and rainbows, I found the prose lacking in many ways throughout the story, and occasionally the dialogue would become stilted as the pacing of certain events were seemingly mishandled and scenes that should’ve been more powerful were dropped down a few notches from what they should’ve been creating a less impactful experience over all.

And also, Maddie, our main character can be so stupid sometimes, as if the author had heard about plot armor, flipped it on it’s head and called it plot blindness. I could go off on a whole tangent exploring every little detail about why Maddie should’ve figured things out at certain times and how it actually would’ve made the story better, but I’d like to keep my sanity and keep my heart running at a steady rate.

But, overall, I give the story a middle 3 to 4 stars, a 3, possibly even a 2, if you really don’t like it’s flaws, but personally I found it fine, a quick, short, and good read. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes the idea of different realms or universes, and also if you enjoy Fablehaven, general mysteries, and novels filled to the brim with suspense and tension then you’ll most likely enjoy Havenfall. Magic, realms, and a girl with no greater goal in life than to put it all back together, Havenfall is a sprawling, fantastical, and thrilling mystery that unfolds right before your very eyes.

Oops, forgot to mention, there’s also a couple swear words, so watch out for that sh—

Eleanor & Park Playlist Blog

Eleanor & Park is all finished up and with it goes my emotional stability. It was a strong story with characters so well written that you’ll have to go through every person in the registrar named Eleanor and Park to convince me this isn’t non-fiction. But anyways, I felt that to finish this off I’d create a wrap-up playlist with my reading group to give this book a proper musical farewell.

This project was perfect for me because as an aspiring author and current writer music is one of my greatest sources of inspiration. I’m always looking for new interesting themes to match characters, general tones to try and put scenes together, and sometimes I’ll just go on shuffle and let my mind wander. So I think it goes without saying that as soon as this project was doled out I already had a small, but personally large (sharing music is hard), collection of songs to use. We only ended up using three of my assorted songs, some of which weren’t as important to me but group projects are always filled with compromises, and at least I got one hit out of three, right? Anyways, it doesn’t matter, the one main song I’d prepared for and managed to get in was an alt/indie pop song called Host by Alex Winston, and it’s my own daily rotation of music, so lucky me it actually worked out really well for describing Eleanor’s character.

One of my favorite parts about my groups selections is how upbeat the songs were while still keeping a semi-serious or at least meaningful tone or message. I feel like it really uncovered one of my favorite parts of the book and that was just it’s general style, it was quick, witty, and, to use a musical term, poppy, but at the very same time it was chock full of meaningful issues in need of discussion. It’s just such a good book, and it may not be everyone’s style, but if you even remotely think you might like it I’d say give it a try.

The Therapeutic Power of Music | New Hampshire Public Radio

Of course there were some downfalls to our playlist (you know, other than the fact that I only got 1 hit of 3), one of which was the over emphasis on the kind of fake boy band love songs.  I can understand why people like them, and why people like the bands, but a lot of the times they’re just not for me. I’m a boy, I only listen to really epic cool cool songs, very masculine and manly songs, like Soldier, Poet, King and Married Life from Up.

This story was so full of twists and turns, it had me acting bipolar half the time, stuck between joy, anger, stress, and yes, even awkwardness (quadpolar?). The moments of growth between Eleanor and Park, the developing story behind the devil that is Richie, running away, and the times that Eleanor and Park’s intimacy may have gone a little too far. It’s been a strange year, I’ve expressed physical emotions while reading, none of which have been crying yet, still looking for that book, but I’m glad I could find something like this. Almost felt like I was turning into a sociopath there for a second. So if you want to feel something or just read a really, really good book, pick up Eleanor & Park.

Why she wanna bit him so much doe?

Blog #6: Talking Pictures

Tap, tap, tap goes the window. Eleanor doesn understand. In fact she feels threatened, what would she do if the only non-Richie way out of the house was blocked by some burglar. Luckily it’s just Park, standing out in the freezing cold, like a dumbie. It’s dangerous over here, and he knows it, but he came anyway, he had to see her. Eleanor knows the risks but takes them anyways, Park receives a mouthed “School,” and Eleanor sneaks out quietly as she can.
Eleanor and Park don’t really have much time together at the beginning of their relationship, so they share snippets, little bits and pieces coming together into a whole. Now that whole is a bit awkward for other students and may be what we call in the biz (don’t ask what biz) unwanted PDA. On of these snippet zones is Eleanor’s locker, where Park goes to annoy her and love her all the same.
Makeover time! And luckily for me it’s not just the whipping off of the glasses, a terrible trope because when I take off my glasses all I see is a blurry blob. Are people attracted to blurry blobs. Answer unknown. But anyways, Mrs. Sheridan is determined to round out Eleanor’s blob, that is to say her face, and Eleanor hates every moment of it. Makeup just isn’t her thing, but maybe it’s good she’s finally getting some bonding time with Park’s mom. And anyhow, even if she doesn’t like makeup, there’s certainly one part of the couple that’ll make up for the other, and that’s park who starts wearing onyx eyeliner much to the chagrin of his father.

The story of Eleanor & Park is coming along greatly, and although some of the situations are getting actively uncomfortable for me to read I’m still finding some measure of joy in at least knowing that the development makes sense. First anger, second annoyance, tolerance, a bit of awkwardness, and then the initial connection which sparks into all kind of lovey dovey things like hand holding, kissing, and the growing desire to chomp down on skin. All signs of love. I’m loving it all, everything seems to be built up just right and with just enough character combined with reality that it feels like an escape while at the same time feeling like reality. It’s truly incredible and although I can’t exactly predict how everything will turn out but goshdernit I’m emotionally connected now, and I’ll see how it ends if it’s the last thing I do!

Blog Post #5: Social Justice Background

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowel includes many subtle themes of social justice inside it, some less relevant to the plot overall and some essential to it. We get a general load of bullying, an issue in and of itself, which occasionally results in the offhanded stereotypes against Park (who is part Korean) and gives Eleanor a lot to deal with even on top of the domestic abuse she faces at home (oh yeah, and that’s an issue too) giving her no real escape in the story other than with Park.

So let’s list that for you, a simple all in one place answer. What are the social justice issues Eleanor & Park deals with: bullying, stereotypes/racism, and domestic abuse.

Lovely, he said sarcastically
National Bullying Prevention Month > Shaw Air Force Base > Display
A lot of these issues are easily traceable in the way that we don’t know how to trace them but have a general knowledge of how it would develop, this is because there is no actual record of the first ever occurrence of bullying, racism, or domestic abuse, all we have is that started at some point, and that point was a very, very, long time ago. Bullying has basically been an issue throughout all human history, that is if you count war as a heightened level of bullying, otherwise I’m still right because the concept of racism could also be linked to bullying, in fact all of the issues discussed in Eleanor & Park could in one way or another be an off shoot of bullying to a much higher degree, and in very different ways. Like how racism is bullying mixed with a little bit of fear and prejudice against a specific race, which started with the simple advent of close tribes defending against outside forces, and how domestic abuse is basically bullying but with your family, and not lighthearted bullying, more like a terrible power grab that’ll tear apart anything that gets in its way. Pretty sucky.
File:Dont Bullying.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
And given the general suckiness of these topics, and as well their relative timelessness, organizations, charities, and basically any person or idea that could hold influence started to pop up, spreading slowly like an under fueled fire that in more modern history was given a couple logs to chew on for a while. Of course the results are mixed in all cases, unintended consequences are always… well, a consequence of action, but it’s done with good intentions in most circumstances, and sometimes it’s not good intentions but rather anger, a collective feeling of injustice and a collective goal for change. It doesn’t matter the cause only that places trying to help exist, organizations like BLM, that although controversial has many points that should be considered, StopBullying, a government campaign created to raise awareness and provide resources on bullying, and confidential domestic violence hot lines that allow a way out for those in troubling situations. All of these places work in one way or another towards trying to create a better world, and sometimes that’s all the world needs. People trying.

And Rainbow Rowel is working her hardest to spread some level of awareness on these subjects in Eleanor & Park, most especially on the topic of domestic abuse, which heavily effects Eleanor’s life and characterization, and by proxy plays a big role in Park’s life as well. The authors created a situation where in which Eleanor needs an escape from both her home life and her school life, because they both suck and are riddled with bullies, she needs somewhere—or someone—to run to. Park. Park Sheridan is a Korean American boy (which is where most of the stereotypes and such come in) who’s willing to take in this strange new kid with puffy red hair and a slight bit of chub, and take her and show her that she can be loved, and she can be valued and held up as a first priority to someone. It’s truly a masterful creation where in which neither character has a want but a need, and I can’t wait to see where it leads.

And that’s not a joke, the book seriously interests me. I’ve never been particularly interested in issue driven novels, where in which the theme/message is placed above all, and often the creators behind these stories put the plot and narrative second to their scoldings, and as I’m sure most of you know, people don’t like being scolded. But of course over the past few years I’ve been delving deeper into classics (and Eleanor & Park) a lot of which are very heavy in their messaging, and I’ve been learning to enjoy it, like To Kill a Mockingbird, George Orwell’s 1984, and my most recent read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, with important messages on race, equality, and authoritarianism, and their all great on their own right but the one thing I’ve noticed between them all is the role of story. I’ve come to learn over my own studies of writing that story should be placed above all. Why? Because people learn from story, it’s subliminal and not as direct as a speech or seminar, but instills something in the heart, an idea that builds on others and creates a whole. And that is what these great thematic stories do, they always place the medium, the creativity, the story, above the theme, because otherwise no one would hear their pleas.

And now I’ve gotten all philosophical and “I’m 18 and this is deep.” Gershderngit! Anyways, I’ll rap up with this. Eleanor & Park isn’t exactly as culturally pressing as the examples I listed, but so far it’s one heck of a good book with an incredible story and a theme that doesn’t overcrowd it, so, once again, I can’t wait to see where it leads 🙂

Final Steelheart Blog

I finished Steelheart a couple weeks ago, and despite probably being about 1 AM I was wide awake the whole time. I wanted to take in every twist, every turn, EVER-EE-THING. It was off-putting how much I was interested in the novel at this point, given that only a couple readings prior I was thinking that things were starting to get a little dry and it really did feel like things weren’t going anywhere, but hoo-wee was I wrong! Explosions, suspense, thrills, death, sadness… AND EPIC BATTLES! Once I’d finished I couldn’t wait to recommend it to someone, and the next I went to the bookstore I bought the sequel without question.

Brandon Sanderson’s work, as previously stated, was incredible, but I just wish I knew so much more. I want to know all about the Epics, and truly understand the true extent of Reckoner operations, and to be honest I just want more cool superpowers and how they interact with the world. But I really appreciated Brandon Sanderson’s effort to show the human side of things, which is an especially interesting perspective when the world around you is crumbling to dust as a pair of Epic’s tear apart everything you’ve ever known and loved. And also it brings up a theme that I often really appreciate in my books and that is the undermining of authority  and power (h*ck yea, angsty teen rebellion time). It does a great job at bringing to light this idea that even in a world of “greater men” the little guy can still make a big difference, and all they have to do is stand-up and fight for what they believe, becoming a form of hero themselves in the process. But of course in a world ruled by villains there’s still 100 miles to go, but we can walk it, step by grueling step.

Awesome book, probably a bit less awesome of podcast, but still ☞(¬‿¬)☞ pretty cool. I worked with Cooper Radke to create our podcast final on the theme of revenge in Steelheart, which was only about 3 minutes long, but that’s fine, we got across all we wanted to. We started with the creation of a script, taking a couple jokes, a couple jests, and intermixing that with some criticism and praise, then bam—banana smoothie, wait no, wrong blog… then bam—fully written script. The rest was simple, record, upload, then sit back, relax, and fall into existential crisis. Living the dream.

Book Show & Tell: Unwind

Unwind is caps lock AWESOME, you know maybe a bit morbid and dark, but AWESOME! This is my second time reading a Neal Shusterman piece, and I am loving his work, and as far as I can tell they’ve all been incredible concept pieces that really take into consideration the “what-ifs,” and ramifications of how a society was built whether it be around AI, immortality, or, in this case, an ideological war.

The military was fracturing, and the people had to choose between the best of two evils, you were either Pro-Life or you were Pro-Choice, the in between was nothing but a bombing ground for the ever encroaching armies. They fought with a voracity and malice the likes of which the world had never seen, a disastrous war where everyone though they were right. And it would’ve torn the world apart were it not for the Bill of Life, a compromise between the two factions that made the abortion of a child under illegal, but in return they allowed a sort of retroactive abortion.

Parents of children between the ages of 13 and 18 could choose to unwind their child. Unwinding is the process of taking a living human being and separating them, removing limbs, eyes, blood, even brain tissue, and then doling them out to the needy public like organ transplants. The concept was that the child would still be alive, but spread in a “divided state” where perhaps they could one day achieve greatness. Or at least that’s how they justify it.

Shusterman’s story is the story of 3 kids set to be unwound, 16 year-old Connor running away from his home, 15 year-old Risa, a victim of circumstance who comes to joing Connor, and the unfortunate 13 year-old tithe, Lev, brainwashed his whole life to believe in the purity of being unwound only discovering the truth after being kidnapped by the two aforementioned teens. We follow their journey piece-by-piece, experiencing fast-paced action, suspense, tension, and thrills taking in every piece of world building, characterization, incredible dialogue, and just basic plot structure breathing it in as if it was the last we’d ever read. I cannot recommend this book more, 5 stars

Now disregard that last sentence because I’m gonna tell who I would actually recommend it to.

If you like:

  • Neal Shusterman’s writing style
  • Big worldbuilding projects
  • A splash of morbidity and dark humor
  • Philosophical and ideological debates
  • Dystopians or Sci-fi
  • And awesome books in general

then you’ll like this book, and if you dislike any of the points listed above then maybe don’t read it, it’s up to you. I personally really enjoyed the book, even through some of the tougher moments, and if you truly are interested on any level I would 100% recommend you to pick it up.

Adios, or something ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Post #4: The Unwind Dystology

I will be reading the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman for my own personal series project, I’ve been meaning to get the series for a while but I’m always drawn to some other book first, thinking ‘I’ll get to it next time,‘ but now I’ve officially started, and IT’S AWESOME! You’ll see my post on the first book in the series (Unwind) later, but I was first drawn to it by A) the fact that it had been recommended to me multiple times, B) it sounded pretty neat, and C) I wanted to see if Neal Shusterman was a one shot wonder or not, and boy is it clear now that he’s not (though it is still within the realm of possibility that he’s only a two shot wonder, better read everything he’s written just in case). But after reading the first book I’m drawn in even more by the worldbuilding, the characters, and… well, it’s still pretty neat!Anyways, I’ll be trying to finish the four book tetralogy by the end of April, starting with the 2nd book (Unwholly) as soon as I can and planning to finish by mid March. Then I’ll read the 3rd book (Unsouled) by at most the start of April. After that I’ll leave myself some breathing room with the full month of April to finish the 4th book (Undivided). And from there I’ll probably be left null and empty as I search for the next series to fill the void in my soul 🙂

Post #3: Bookish Comforts

Image result for bookshelfBooks have always been a comfort to me, even when I’m in a phase where I’m not reading them as much, it’s always good to know that they’ll be waiting for me when I come back. And the collection is forever expanding, with the joys of book store visits and online delivery bringing me my pristine collections of mysticism, science, and adventure. Scouring every aisle. Searching every shelf. So much to choose from, and so little time.I love the feeling of a great initial hook, something that get’s you excited to turn those pages and see what’s next, I love finishing a book and knowing that my itch for more can be satisfied by the next book, the next story, the next adventure. Oh yeah, I also like pretty covers, especially when they match 🙂
I’ve always been drawn back to one of my favorite books, the Arc of a Scythe Trilogy, where I’ve read the first book probably about a bazillion times and found something new every time. I love the world, the characters, the plot, and yes, even the villain. It’s so unique and yet so familiar, and perhaps one day my comfort book will change, but for today I find the greatest solace within the confines of Neal Shusterman’s Scythe.
The perfect reading day for me would be a quiet one, I’m at home, in my room, and on my bed in the most comfortable reading position I can imagine (it shall remain in my imagination because I haven’t found it yet). I’m not twitchy, getting impatient at the book and just wanting to reach a page goal, but I’m actually enjoying it, pushing beyond even what I thought I could do. I’m imagining it vividly, I can see the characters, identify their features and voices, everything is clear and streamline. The light outside is overcast, my lamp is on, my sheets are drawn, and I’m happy.
Image result for bed room

Post #2: Absolute Power

Fog Night Darkness - Free photo on Pixabay

Chicago’s gone to the gutter. Whole worlds going that way it seems, right on down into the lair of the rats. Rats, that’s what we should call them, not Epics, gives them too much credit, makes them seem… well, epic. The 7-Eleven glowed in the night, it’s rays beaming through the foggy mist like opulent beams spreading out into a beacon of hope. A beacon of hope with gas prices double what they used to be and window’s smudged to calamity.

“ID please,” said a disinterested worker, a bullet hole sitting precariously above her head.

“Here,” I handed her the card, glancing up at the wound, strange how their still doing ID’s, annoy the wrong person and your bones just might explode. You never know these days, no one can control these slontzes, the only thing they’ll listen to is power, raw, unrelenting, power.

She barely glanced over the card before handing it back, “That’ll be 13.99,” prices have been getting jacked up over the past year, either more people are looking for a distraction, or the corporates are starting to take stock. Probably a bit of both, everybody’s just waiting for the fall.

I grabbed my pack before the worker could count the cash. She stuttered to stop me, but stayed her tongue, even someone as disinterested as her knew where we were headed. Subservience. I hated it, seething as I reached back to pull up my hood before I realized I had none. I clenched my hands in a fist and shook it at nothing in particular, it was my own fault picking the leather jacket today. People didn’t like coming out at night, not if they could avoid it, word was getting around that a couple Epics—Rats, had gotten into town, no one wanted to risk it. But I needed to clear my mind sometimes, maybe I’d enjoy a drive, I wouldn’t know, my families never been able to afford a car, so I chose to walk instead.

I tried to light up one of my cigs forgetting that the condensed air around me would never allow it. I stuffed it back into the pack and continued on down towards my rank bunk of an apartment. This part of Chicago was built like a trap, with rising steel forming brick complexes and skyscrapers that deteriorate in a month and cost just enough to keep their subjects from ever saving a drop of money. No way out, and a million ways in.

Smoke was billowing out a nearby alleyway, seemed someone found out how to light a cig in the drizzle. I would’ve ignored it, kept on walking just to sleep on a pile of blankets I called my bed, but something set me off, a sizzling pop, like a fire being constantly lit and put out again. I turned my head for a second trying to catch a glance at whatever it was down that alleyway. A metal stairway was in my way, but I made out two figures, a woman, her actions hidden by shadow, and a gun held by a hand glowing and popping off like a smoldering ash. A Rat, in the flesh.

I should’ve just left it, let the woman die and appear on the news the next day as just one of a thousand casualties done by an Epic, but I couldn’t. Slinking down the alleyway I heard her whimpering cries as she tore frantically through her purse trying to find something.

“I know you still got that necklace honey,” said the Epic, his voice bathed in the arrogance of superiority, “all you gotta do is give it to me now.”

He cocked the gun and the woman began crying in loud uncontrollable sobs, “I swear I put it in hear, please, j-just let me go.”

“Can’t do that little honey,” he pressed his hand against her shoulder and the eerie sent of burnt flesh rose into the air as the woman held her mouth shut and screamed, “it’s a personal affair.” He slammed her to the floor, sending the contents of her bag all over the alleyway.

“Please,” she cried, the gun being lowered to her head.

“Sorry honey, but Fyrette’s not intereste—” I slammed into his side, burning the side of my jacket and sending him staggardly into a puddle of collected rain and city sludge.

“Leave her alone,” was all I could muster, it was weak, and this Fyrette guy knew it. He gave a wicked smile that burned like charcoal freshly shoveled into a furnace.

“You got any gold mister,” he asked, waving his gun around nonchalantly, I stumbled on my words, but the answer was no, “Well, that’s just to bad isn’t it.”

He raised the gun to my chest, and shot fire, burning bullets glowing red got like a cast iron brand. I closed my eyes expecting the worst, I should’ve never come down here, this woman was a lost cause, we all were. Nothing could control these people, nothing ever would.

Clunk, clunk, clunk, the three bullets rang uselessly against my chest and dropped to the ground. I opened my eyes not believing it, and it was obvious Fyrette didn’t either, but his surprise quickly turned to rage as he lunged forward to grab my face. I punched him straight in the gut and heard an audible shatter as he flew back into the sludge from whence he came, dropping his gun at my feet. I didn’t know what to think, I couldn’t be one of them, one of the Rats. I reached down and picked up the red hot caliber, feeling nothing. I was just another piece, they would hate me, they would fear me. I aimed. I feared me. I shot.

They would kill me. I turned to the woman scrambling on the floor, she was a witness, she saw what I was. Her grace didn’t say it, but her eyes knew I was monster. Sooner or later I would be ousted, killed by the very community I’d become a part of. I aimed, I shot.

Weakness was not an option.


Post 1: Introduction

Hi, I’m Jacob, the kid who wears glasses and sits near the back of the class. You know, the one with a haircut stuck on the cusp of order? Anyways, that’s unimportant, what is important is that I CAN READ! I know, pretty cool right? It’s actually pretty easy, learned how to do it a while ago, just started sounding out letters putting together words and BAM! Reading. Pretty epic, I, alphabet, alphabet letter, blank, block, board, child, color, colored, colorful, education | PikistI would say most, if not all, of my current reading habits originated from my childhood. Exhibit A: I really liked dinosaurs, and now I really like dragons, coincidence, I THINK NOT! I grew up reading stuff like the Magic Tree House series and (little known, probably never heard of it) Harry Potter (of which my favorite was book 4, you’re welcome for the recommendation). So I guess you could say I’m a bit of a YA fantasy nerd… but don’t… that’s not my name. My name’s Jacob 🙂

Dragon Stencil Art | Free SVG

…and I like dragons.