love

Timeout

I need to take a minute to write some of this down. I am feeling rather overwhelmed at the moment and need to get it off my chest.

As many of you know, I am currently around 600 miles away from my family. Something that has been made infinitely harder by the fact that I have recently decided to move back to New England to be with them this summer. Another thing that has made my time away even harder recently has been the engagements of not one but both of my sisters. It has come to my attention that I am one of those people that can’t be without their family, especially not for long periods of time. And with all the family joy spilling over, it’s becoming even more difficult.

wedding bellsAnd currently, my little sister is trying on wedding dresses.

I wish I could be there so badly and it absolutely sucks that I cannot. Instead, I’m stuck in what I’ve come to think of as my dungeon, also known as my bedroom, attempting to do the mountains of homework that are required of me to pass the four grad classes that I am taking this semester. (For the record, three is the recommended maximum amount of classes.) But my concentration has been totally shot all day, especially now that I am receiving pictures and wondering how much better everything looks in person.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m miserable because she is getting married and I am not. On the contrary, I am very happy for her, for both of my sisters. But not being able to be there is one of the hardest things. It’s one thing to miss the snow and the weather, it’s another entirely to miss out on events that I would love to be there for.

I’ve tried all my normal avenues of distraction: my favorite tv show, a book, homework, music loud enough to shatter an eardrum. So far, nothing has worked. I’m hoping if I tell you about it, that might help. Or you might have some other suggestions.

Although I guess I should give that book thing another try since I know you’re expecting a review this week 😉

I guess that’s all I can say and just hope that it gets easier.

Magnets

Eyes lock

instantly closing

the distance.

A pull

in my gut,

magnets aligned.

I couldn’t

resist, nor

did I want to.

A long fall,

no landing

in sight.

Drifting and

spinning to

you and me.

Hearts unitetwo hearts

lust binds

life sighs.

Happiness here

love there

holding true.

Fill in

the cracks

for you

As you

prove that

this is real.

This one

will make

or break.

Either we

both commit

or both crash.

Original Work Friday: Battlefield

holding hands

Two people stand alone together, facing, in a field. Perhaps this is the first time they have met, perhaps it is not.

They are here because they have convinced themselves ready and able to make this commitment. Whether they actually are, remains to be seen.

They came to be here after searching for an opponent worthy of meeting in this place. They have approached others and discarded them like a sweater that did not fit properly, was too itchy, or the wrong shade of blue. Each has been waiting innumerable years to be able to come alive in this situation. Certainly they have been in similar locations and circumstances but never quite like this. This is something real, something true, something bonding.

This place, it is not something to be easily thrown away or easily kept. Staying upright can be as much of a challenge as looking the opponent in the eye at times. There are unexpected events, flowers cropping up, rocks becoming overturned, secret powers revealed and wonders to be beheld if only each can remain on equal footing.

When these two people are first viewed, each is equally unarmed. Although either might be wearing armor, that is natural defense and not a cause for alarm, only a boundary for the other to work around in this quest.

As each stands there contemplating the other, several futures race ahead of them before the eyes of fate but unseen by the players. Every move they make from now on will affect an outcome that they are not yet aware of. Eventually one or the other might catch a glimpse and alter the course to the greater good or steer harder towards it endeavoring to win for themselves.

The longer they stand there, the more they study one another, size up the opposition, the more battle ready each becomes. They stand gracefully, at first an appropriate distance apart, before ever so slowly inching closer. And the closer each moves to the other, the more intimate the battlefield becomes. They more knowledge each gains.

The weapons appear in many forms. From the sharpest of swords and rapiers, to throwing stars, bows and arrows, dull knifes, axes and hatchets, there are maces and bludgeons and strange things not able to be described. There are also needles and bouncy balls, there are pillows and potted plants, handcuffs, and skillets.

From the time these two begin gathering weapons and disaster strikes, one of these outcomes becomes inevitable. For enduring battle is more than just standing in a field.

First, the years trudge on with nothing significant happening, the players remaining close, possibly touching, but not fully encased in one another. Until out of nowhere, a storm brews but they take no notice. A large gust of wind comes and finding the players unprepared, sweeps both off their feet. One is knocked out and the other remains conscious. And so it continues.

Once both are alive and well again, a sort of infection occurs in the one who was unharmed by the storm, a sort of resentment against having to lay quietly while the other rested in preparation. And so they begin to use the weapons against one another.

While each knows the weaknesses of the other, the one who begins the fight does so with the intention of vengeance and hurt. The one who receives the fight, retaliates without being positive that this is the correct outcome, but they must duel if they are to survive.

Sometimes it can start with something as small as a needle, a pinprick of blood drawn and the lust of battle takes full force. The use of the mace and the sword, the sharp stars and the lances grow until it cannot be contained by either side. There is no thought but blood and pain.

If it is not reigned in, it will rage on until each player has worn themselves out or forced the other to their knees. There is no victory here, only death. Shards of glass and bits of self lay scattered in the grass. Weeping can be heard but neither knows if it is themselves or their opponent.

One might eventually have the strength to get up and walk away. Or they might both remain forever in that desolate place, trapped, broken, and alone in their mutual despair of imprisonment.

If the first then perhaps the fates granted them this endeavor.

The opponents become close, each trying to best the other without the use of weapons first. They use skills of the body to seduce, to overwhelm, to overcome. But they are equals without being equal to each other.

The more they learn about the other and in turn, themselves, the more they realize that they are standing in what they thought was the right field but turned out to be the wrong field. They are not battling with the one they were meant to.

This can be confusing and one or the other might try to convince that this is the right place. If this goes on for long enough, there can be an earthquake which will awake each to the truth. While they protect each other from harm, it is not for the right reasons.

They fight and become angered, agitated and afraid. Each is unsure of how to proceed. They cut into the other without knowing why, but not truly wanting to cause permanent harm.

But eventually each will agree upon the right conclusion. The shallow wounds are not worth the price of the occasional shelter or frenzy. This set of players chooses to walk away from one another and this battle ends in a draw called friendship.

If not the first or second, then the final becomes the inevitable conclusion.

The players continue to creep towards one another, ever exerting the right amount of caution and curiosity until they are touching. A light touch to simmer the blood, to heal, to learn, to evolve. Eventually they are drawn up so close they it is hard to distinguish between one and the next.

The years pass and the weapons remain present but relatively unnoticed. The two remain pressed together. Suddenly a great thunderstorm approaches, seeing this, the couple breaks apart and decides on a plan of action.

There is no shelter, nothing to prevent the storm from breaking, so they strip off the armor, discard all attached weapons and sit together, huddled on the ground for warmth and wait it out. There is thunder and lightning, all manner of terrifying things that come howling, but still the pair do not separate.

Tempers can be short when forced into such situations and though each might pinch or prick the other at times, it is not enough to cause any lasting damage, nothing irreparable.

When next the sun finally arises, days or years later, each is tired and sore but alive. They take again to each other in mutual affection, thankful that at least the other made it through intact.

They once again noticed the discarded weapons and do not think much of them except in jest. They toss the bouncy ball at one another, playfully lob the pillows, and put the handcuffs to a better use than torture.

Here the stay in this field together, seeing it not as a prison but as an oasis. They continue to have occasional strife and first blood but the war never has a chance to begin when the two are ensconced in so much mutual respect, desire, and affection that has endured such a rough storm.

Book Review: Uses for Boys

boysIf you read my posts on why books matter and slut-shaming, then you have an idea of how I feel about the topic and where I found this book. I love finding articles that can direct me to meaningful books with a message that is worth reading. And Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt is an interesting read that has some valuable life lessons on love, family, and just being a teenage girl.

The book follows the journey of Anna and her sexual awakening, so to speak. And no, it has nothing to do with handcuffs or an older, sexy man. Instead it is about how she first came to notice boys, sex, and relationships, and how that impact who she became in the course of the novel.

Anna’s story starts when she was just a little girl, living alone with her single mom who is a serial monogamist. As the narration continues we experience Anna’s first grope and slut-shaming, as well as the loss of her virginity and her first love. She jumps from guy to guy, much like her mother, and it is a perspective that is rare and a little understated.

The stream of consciousness type writing is unique, endearing, and brutally honest. Anna admits things to herself that she would never admit to another person. She often has conversations with herself in the guise of other people. At the end of the day, she is a girl without parents and looking for love in any form.

It’s a little sad, a little funny, and a little wise. The book is well-written and sucks you into the plot so that you’ve read 20 pages before you realize you’ve read one. I can’t describe if I liked this book or not; it was certainly interesting and made me think. So below is my overall ranking.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

Personal rating total: 84

  • Writing style – 8
  • Plot – 8
  • Dialogue – 6
  • Personality of Main Character(s) – 10
  • Love story – 8
  • Invokes emotion – 8
  • Synopsis accuracy – 8
  • Consistent level of interest – 10
  • Stays on topic – 8
  • Accuracy of genre/genre blending – 10

Is it just me…

disney hair twilight matcheddivergent

…or has the idea of love and romance been completely leveled by YA novels that everyone is delving into?

Not to say that I don’t appreciate, and in some cases LOVE them, but I think we need to take a minute to discuss the impact that these books might be having the delicate psyche of our pre-teens, teens, and young adults.

Much like the theory/meme about Disney and how it creates unrealistic hair expectations, I think most YA novels these days are showing young people who find “the one” or who find love at a very young age (Young compared to the average age of marriage in today’s society, which is in the late-20s for men and women in the US), which isn’t realistic. These characters are being handed a serious romantic encounter when they are in their mid-to-late teens (RE: Twilight, Divergent, Matched, City of Bones, The Fault in Our Stars, Shiver, Delirium, The Selection). And while it can be said that the majority of them handle it well (and in most cases have absentee or brainwashed parents that can’t or don’t complain), isn’t that sending a message worth discussing to the readers of these novels?

Has this idea of serious young love become popular because it is a lovely fairy tale that we wish would be true in the real world? That everyone could find their perfect mate and live happily ever after (and not have a sky-rocketing divorce rate). Or is it because YA authors are trying to become so far removed from the societal norm and change the views on love and romance? Or that normal societal rules don’t exist in a post-apocalyptic world? (I’ll be discussing love triangles in a later post.)

And what is the effect on the youth of today? While teen pregnancy rates have declined consistently in the last 20 years, how are young people viewing sex, love, and marriage? How is the media, not just television and movies but also books, impacting these ideas? Why do popular songs talk about women like objects and movies show a couple tripping into a relationship? Has romance gone the way of the handwritten letter and the cassette tape? An idealized notion that few partake in anymore. Are guys being told that they no longer have to try to woo a woman because there is always another waiting to take her place or they are somehow interchangeable? Are girls being told that they have to dress, act, look, think a certain way in order to keep a man? In these books, there is often a little romance, a lot of love, and heaps of “accepting the person for who they are”, but what does that really translate into when we take it out of the context of danger and death? I think that the medium of books goes a long way into trying to present the ideas of love and romance in a better light than many other parts of society, but still leaves something to be desired.

As a writer myself, these thoughts have called into question several plot lines, including my own, that I now have to re-read in a new context. I don’t think it’s a good idea to portray young people in such serious relationships that last for the duration of their lives. After all, isn’t one of the benefits of being young that you can date a bunch or even a few different people before deciding what type of person would be best suited to you? I know that I definitely enjoyed dating around when I was younger, and if I find the time to continue doing so then I certainly will. But as an adult, I know who I am and what I stand for, what I want and a general idea of where I’m headed with my life. Something that I definitely didn’t have figured out when I was 16, despite the protests that I probably gave to the contrary. And okay, most of these characters live in an alternate reality or desperate time or are portrayed as being more adult or grown up than their peers. But didn’t we all think we were more mature that we actually were at one point?

So here’s my advice for all the young people: stay a kid as long as you can. As someone who has recently entered the real world, i.e. paying for everything with my own money, working a 9-5 job, and constantly being exhausted, enjoy your youth. Have fun! Go on an adventure! Be with your friends (real or imaginary) and don’t be so focused on love, sports, video games, grades, or even bullies. Tell yourself every day that you are awesome. And better yet, mean it. Be a person that you would like to be friends with. And be the best version of yourself that you can. Because who are you are today is most likely who you will grow up to become and we need people who know their worth and help others to find theirs. You don’t have to have life figured out when you are 15 or even 19, and trust me, you probably don’t. High school and college are the times to discover who you are and what you are interested in; don’t waste those years, embrace them.

Teen Topic Tuesday: Sex in YA Novels

YA novels

I’ve noticed that YA novels differ greatly with discussing the topic of sex. I find that fascinating given the profusion of sex in our current society. Are some authors trying to avoid the topic because it is too embedded into our culture or because they are creating worlds so outside the current norm that sex wouldn’t even be on the table? And yet, other books have sex as a main focus, usually more fantasy or “real life” driven novels. What are those authors saying about sex and society?

Let’s have some examples because that’s always fun!

hp1-7 Harry Potter: no sex…there isn’t even kissing until the 5th book, and then after that, everyone is kind of busy trying to survive but still.

The Hunger Games: okay, so Katniss is pretty busy trying to survive the Hunger Games and then once she gets back, there is a whole love triangle thing happening that doesn’t really get resolved until the final book.

The Giver: Well Jonas is supposed to be 12 in the books but he is like 16 in the movies, so I can understand this one. Plus his society doesn’t believe in love…

Revolution 19: Robots and death but no sex.

The Selection: Sex before marriage is illegal, especially if you’re going to be the future queen, so obviously America doesn’t risk that.

Legend series: Unfortunately, no. (damnit, June)

matchedMatched: Definitely not, just another depressing love triangle that makes me want to strangle someone, usually the female lead

Maze Runner: No sex, which makes sense in the first book since only one girl shows up…but later events, could have fit in there somewhere (*spoiler* would have been an interesting twist when the girls gang up on the guys)

The Mortal Instruments: *spoiler* Plenty of opportunity but considering they think they are siblings for the better part of the series, that would just be weird

The 5th Wave: Okay, apocalypse and she basically ends up alone, this one I get

Doomed: Nope, no sex. Even though 17 year old Pandora is on the road with two very attractive young men

cinderThe Lunar Chronicles: No sex so far (fingers crossed for Wolf and Scarlet!!)

Delirium: I can’t remember but I don’t think the main characters actually have sex

Tiger Saga: Unfortunately, there is another distracting love triangle and the whole guys turning into tigers for the better part of the day thing that makes sex nearly impossible, though there is lots of tension at various points

Seven Realms series: Once again, lots of tension but no sex. Plus there is a lot of fighting for your life type action so it kind of makes sense.

 

 

twilightThe Twilight series: *spoiler* There is visible waiting until after marriage, cough, Edward, cough, so it doesn’t happen until the 4th book.

The Fault in Our Stars: *spoiler* Sex at the end of the book, which makes sense to me

matchedDivergent: *spoiler* Abnegation has a thing about being touchy-feely and it’s implied that Four and Tris have sex but no detail is given

The Wolves of Mercy Falls: *spoiler* If I remember correctly, Grace and Sam progress to that stage in the second book but in a very sweet way. Plus they’ve already been sharing her bed for months beforehand so yea, ’bout time.

House of Night: *spoiler* There is definitely sex in this book. And in particular it’s how Zoey ends up in a sticky situation that rocks her world.

 

Well now looking back, I can see that the idea of sex is usually lost in extreme post-apocalyptic societies. But isn’t it interesting that in a world that holds sex appeal in such high esteem, how often our YA novels skim over the topic completely?

If sex isn’t being talked about in a way that our teens can relate to, then isn’t the point of including it kind of lost? I like series that both include and don’t include sex, especially ones where surviving is more important than living, but isn’t it also important to talk about procreation? In particular, in post-apocalyptic settings where life and death are a matter of every day living? Because obviously the people there are still having children. (Unless you are Katniss who swears she never will.)

And while sex might not be the most important topic, I think it’s one that gets a lot of press and media exposure but not necessarily one that teens are talking about in safe or healthy ways. Especially with the typically assigned gender roles about “the s word” and what it means to “be a real man”.

I know that I have sexual tension, innuendo, and scenes in the novel that I’ve written and I’m happy with that decision. I think it’s important to represent real people (read: imperfect people), regardless of whether it is a fantasy world or not. So let me ask my fellow writers, what are your thoughts on this topic? Why do you choose to include or not include sex in your writing?

I think novels can have a powerful impact on the psyche of the growing mind and in doing so, shouldn’t we take the time to address the issue that are most pressing on those minds? Sex is a part of life, a part of becoming an adult (and being one), whether you choose to participate, abstain, or wait. I think it’s important to leave our readers with a positive impression of sex, not a negative one, that should be the goal. I know it’s the one I strive for.

Why Books Matter

For those who don’t read or don’t believe that a book can make a difference, I say tut, tut. Since becoming an adult, and even in my formative years to becoming one, I have been greatly exposed to the power of the written word.

Some of my favorite memories as a kid are when my dad would take my sisters and me to the library. Shelf upon shelf filled with beautiful, colorful books that were just waiting to be plucked and read. He often had to limit his rambunctious daughters to 5 books, or maybe that was just me. Either way, I always went home a happy camper.

I didn’t read as much for pleasure in middle school and high school, not because it wasn’t “cool” but because I was a tri-sport athlete and sometimes just had enough trouble keeping up with my schoolwork. I did manage to read Harry Potter and I’m sure some other books but not nearly as much as I did when I went to college and discovered the joys of ILL (Inter-Library Loan).

And now, I don’t live anywhere without locating the nearest library and upon moving to my most recent location, I had a library card within two weeks. And I am loving every minute of being a part of that community. So this post was partly inspired by memory and partly by another posting. A fellow blogger, Hey, Library Girl!, posted an article about things she had read this week that inspired her and one of them really spoke to me as well.

The article was posted on the School Library Journal and is entitled “How Librarians Can Help Fight the Culture of Slut-Shaming”. Writer Karen Jensen talks about how YA books are discussing sex, sexuality, and the “s” word more and more and how librarians (and other influencers) can use these messages to broach the subject in their communities.

Often times, society is so enraptured with sex that we don’t take the time to think about why it impacts us in the way that it does. Different lessons are taught to different genders and now more than ever, there are kids who are being trapped in the middle or bullied because they are different from their peers.

The two quotes from the article below really emphasize  why it is important to discuss these topics with our youth:

“We sexualize girls at a young age, and we objectify women in order to sell everything from hamburgers to sports cards. Yet, we stigmatize women who take control of their sexuality, especially if they adopt the same practices men are often lauded for.”

“…the flip side to slut-shaming is our equally destructive view of male sexuality. Starting young, many men are told that virility is a primary characteristic of manhood…choosing to wait, or being slow to become interested, will lead teens to be labeled gays, geeks, or something else.”

Neither side is a good one to be on and our judgmental nature only serves to further alienate people and point out the differences rather than the similarities. Sex, like many other things, is a sensitive topic. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored or tossed to the wayside, important lessons coming from inappropriate or misinformed sources.

People everywhere are hard at work to change the culture of labeling that has becoming the norm in today’s world. And sex is just another front that the battle needs to be fought on, one that is becoming increasingly important, especially in the face of issues like the Nicki Minaj album cover conundrum.

Top Ten Tuesday

top ten tuesday

The blog “The Broke and the Bookish” posted this topic as this week’s Top Ten Tuesday: top ten authors that we own the most books of. So I’m doing my own version.

16-Sherrilyn Kenyon I own all except for the newest Chronicles of Nick book and over half of the Dark-Hunter series (I have read all except for Styxx, which is next on my list)

9-Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega series here, both of which are amazing. I can’t wait for the next Anna/Charles book to erupt onto the scene and I really need to buy the latest two Mercy books.

8-Rick Riordan Percy Jackson and the Olympians (all), Heroes of Olympus (first one but I’ve read the others), The Kane Chronicles (read the first, own the second too), love the mix of myth and reality.

7-C.S. Lewis All Chronicles of Narnia. Nuff said.

7-Anne Bishop If you haven’t read the Black Jewels trilogy, get off your computer and go buy it. Or at least log onto Amazon and download it. The realm is spectacular with BAMFs all over the place.

5-Heather Killough-Walden Sexy werewolves that give in to their nature (not just fight it like superficial d-bags? Uh, yes, please!

4-George R.R. Martin A Song of Fire and Ice, obviously. Have yet to buy the latest one, but I did read the library version!

4-Cinda Williams Chima The Seven Realms series is amazing. I think I read the entire thing in the span of a week, ordered them all from Amazon and devoured. If I ever have the chance to reread them, I will!

3-Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games series. One is paperback…it really bothers me.

3-Quinteria Ramey An interesting set called The Forever Trilogy, don’t really remember what it was about except that it sort of involved an angels/devils theme.

I’ve come to the sad realization that there are so many books that I don’t own but want to, mostly Harry Potter. Yea, I definitely need to buy my own set of Harry Potter books. And there are lots of series that are partially finished, I also need to fix that.

What I’m Reading

currently reading 7.19

I noticed that I haven’t posted my current reading list in almost a few weeks so I decided today was as good a time as any. I am attempting to read “The Book Thief” for the second time and hoping that it can capture my interest more easily this time around. I have also yet to finish Holidays On Ice because it creates stitches of laughter at work that it often becomes inappropriate. A couple of new great finds from the library grace this list as well.

What are you reading?