amy ewing

Recommendation and Review: "The Jewel" by Amy Ewing

11:16 PM

Hello avid readers and not-so-avid-readers!

Fan of The Hunger Games series? Also love Kiera Cass' Selection novels? I just finished a book that combines the sacrificial, dystopian aspects of The Hunger Games with the royalty pieces of The Selection, as well as incorporating strong female characters like those in both series.

This book has sat in a bag of books on my bedroom floor at home since the beginning of this summer, and I finally decided to read it over Thanksgiving break. I regret the decision to put it off for so long. Like, I really, really regret it.

Violet Lasting won't be Violet Lasting for long. Within days, mere hours of her life, she will be sent to The Jewel, where she will serve as a surrogate to a woman of royalty desiring to have a child. She's trained in Auguries, special powers that will enable her to make the baby grow faster, stronger, and even better looking. After being torn apart from her family, even the riches of the palace cannot calm Violet, known as #197 in her new home at the House of the Lake. Sure, the Dutchess of the Lake is better to her than most owners would be to their surrogates, but Violet cannot stand the idea of being seen as property. She hates that she has no choice in her present or future. When she stumbles into the man hired to tame the Dutchess' niece for marriage, she cannot help but fall in love with the him, who feels these the same was as her. However, the consequences of their relationship may be more than the two are willing to give up.

Review and Recommendation --

To be honest, this book played out a lot better than I thought it would. Ewing's writing is magnificent; I found it to be more appealing to me than usual science fiction and fantasy writing, which usually steers me toward the contemporary genre. Her writing is both poetically descriptive as well as informative and straight forward in spots where it must be. I don't mean to generalize the genre, but to boast her writing skills. In addition, this book was definitely what I would call a page turner. I never got bored with it, didn't want to put it down once. I read it in about a day and a half.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading young adult fiction, no matter what genre you prefer. However, considering violent and sexual scenes, I would not recommend it to those under the age of 12 or 13.

I give Amy Ewing 4/5 stars for The Jewel, the first in a trilogy that includes some short story e-books. I am currently reading The White Rose, the sequel to the first book, and it is no disappointment. I have a feeling this will become one of my new favorite series.

I hope this gives you a good idea as to whether or not this series would be a good one for you!

Have a wonderful week,


aminata forna

War: Real vs. Not Real - A Reflection on The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part Two

2:08 AM

Tonight I had the opportunity to see the premiere of the new The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part Two movie with a group of my college’s dorms. As I watched, I couldn’t help but take notes on my phone about the subject I’m writing on now (I apologize to those around me who had to deal with the occasional light on my phone. I felt like the annoying, rule-breaking cartoon shown at beginning of movies, depicted to tell people not to be rude in the theatre.)

Throughout the movie and in the books, characters Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark engage in a game called “Real or Not Real” in order to decipher the memories that have been falsely placed in Peeta’s mind by his captivators as opposed to those he has really experienced. The game evokes an emotional response for the reader as well as the characters.

There are many things that stand out to a reader or viewer of The Hunger Games, one of those is Katniss’ love interest(s). Watchers and readers of the series will argue – Gale versus Peeta. While I’m not against such debates and have actively engaged in them before, I feel that the novel offers bigger questions that need to be answered. I have no doubt that Suzanne Collins wrote the series with more in mind than a love triangle.

Collins wrote a series of young adult, dystopian novels about war, something that has been all too prevalent in the history of our world as well as its current state. The traces of reality in The Hunger Games are real and frightening to a reflective viewer. Perhaps what seems like a get-a-way novel for teens to dig their noses into and pass the time poses questions that our young people (and old) need to be asked:

How do we get to be these people who can justify the killing of another being? Is death redeemed by more death? Is there ever a reason to take a life? What is the goal in war? Power? Revenge? Is there such a thing as fighting for peace? Is any place really free after experiencing war? And can there be a return to normalcy, or a pre-war state, after crossing that life changing line?

If you watch, you see the effects of their war, of their constant fighting and turmoil. The characters deal with PTSD, loss, and grieving in so many ways. From the beginning to the end, they are not the same, and it is not for the better. The series is painfully upsetting, and upsetting merely to watch in a movie format; I couldn’t imagine experiencing it in real life. True, the novels are fiction, but I believe that in every piece of fiction there lie truths about the society that we live and breathe in. In this case, truths about war.

In my English class, we’re reading The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna. We haven’t finished yet, but we have read and discussed enough to see the similarities in questions that both authors ask. Forna’s novel takes place in Croatia, former Yugoslavia, and post-civil war. The civil war has had great damage on the society and the relationships that exist in the town. Forna questions whether human nature is inherently evil, due to all the war that occurs; she asks whether a perpetrator of violence can ever return to a pre-violence, pre-war situation; she asks at what point a society implodes, wonders if we are all too sensitized to war, and begs to know how we reconcile with the people we’ve hurt and the actions that we’ve done.

War is not a game, as it is played in The Hunger Games; It is not a book; It is not a movie, though it can be depicted and examined in these forms. As said in the new release, “No one ever wins the games.” Does anyone win a war? Are the benefits really greater than the cost of loved and cherished lives? Can we claim that “these things happen in war” after the killing of innocent women, men, and children? Is that the excuse?

I want to encourage those of you reading to reflect on the questions asked in The Hired Man and The Hunger Games. War is, by definition, deadly and filled with bloodshed. Before we seek revenge, before we fight, before we shoot, before we tear someone else’s world apart, we must ask both what life we are taking, and how our own lives will be taken, in a non-literal way, after we have done the deed. Can a person ever be the same again after an act of violence such as that? Is a life ever the same? I don’t believe that hate and vengeance are ever the answer. Reconciliation is something we must become more familiar with.

Unfortunately, time and time again we show ourselves that this is not possible. The character Plutarch writes a letter to Katniss in which he says, "But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction." We have a history for not learning from our mistakes. Is returning to normalcy possible after a state of war?

I ask these questions and expect no answers, though I will take suggestions if you have them. I have none. I don’t think I’ve been around long enough to know them, though I certainly think about them a lot.

In the end, Peeta and Katniss romantically pronounce their love as Real. What I took from their words was that, above all else, all we have is each other. Think about losing a loved one to war; maybe you already have. If so, you know that what is won in war is never greater than the lives lost. Never. This I know to be true, as well as the fact that war is capital R, Real. Those who want to destroy us do not place it in our minds, though it exists for the same reason, to destroy. It is real-life, present, and ready to take lives.

I’m not okay with that, are you?




agent

A Pile of Manuscripts with One Goal

11:35 PM

I'm a planning machine; I have a systematic brain that pumps out what she wants. If you're anything like me, one goal turns into another goal the minute the first one is completed. All of my life, my most colossal objective has been to write a novel. It was something that didn't seem achievable to me.

I didn't know that I could complete it in just one month (NaNoWriMo), or even less than that.


As the story would unfold, I did write a novel. It's not one that I ever plan on revisiting. However, I now had a new target in mind: write another. What could be better than having two novels under my belt at the age of 18-19?

I did. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. My entire life's autobiography would read only those eight words: I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I finished that novel, and now I'm in the process of writing another NaNoWriMo. Yet, it has only very recently occurred to me that at the young age of 19, I've written two and a half, almost three now that I'm nearly finished with my NaNoWriMo for this year, novels. Not many can say that. 

It also occurred to me that my goals need to change. Yes, I can write a novel; I've done it more than two times now. Simple. Piece of cake. What I need to do is edit the novel, to perfect it to my liking. So what's my current goal? Well, I'd like to finish my NaNoWriMo novel and then begin editing the novel that I wrote this summer. 

Editing is a grand journey. It's a picky, dissecting adventure. The world adventure probably isn't suiting...Anyway, It's hard to go back into your words and decide which ones are worthy still, which pieces of the plot just don't fit, no matter how much you love that scene. Nevertheless, I get excited every day about writing and editing. I'm going to pursue this dream.

Why am I telling you? It makes me accountable to my word. I find that sharing my goals with others gives me two times the drive to finish them. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing, but it works, and that's the only party my driven, goal-oriented brain cares about. 

What comes after editing? I've been looking into it. Probably querying to agents. It sounds both snobby (I'm Brooke and I'm going to be sending my book to agents to get published.), naive, and unbelievable that I've even come to a place where I can see myself reaching this step. The unknown part, the part I'm not sure will ever happen, is publishing. I know that I can write a query letter and send it off to agents that I find in books and online. That's not the hard part. It's the part that's out of my control: getting the agent to take me under them and then have them get me a publishing deal. 

Your goals are only as big as you make them. I once thought I could never write a novel. I didn't know that all I had to do was, excuse me Nike, for stealing your phrase, do it. Now I'm doing it. I know that what's beyond my control isn't worth worrying about. Writing is what I love to do, and I would love to make other people happy with it as well some day. For now, it's what gets me excited and happy about going to each new day, and that's all that matters. I'm following my dreams. 

Gosh it feels good to say that.


book review

"Carry On" by Rainbow Rowell Review/Recommendation

1:43 PM

Searching for a fantasy book that is equally warm, fuzzy, and hysterical? I'm writing to tell you about Rainbow Rowell's new novel, Carry On. It fits all of the above to a T.

What's interesting about this novel, is that the cast of characters actually exists in her last young adult novel, Fangirl. Rowell decided after finishing Fangirl that she had to tell these character's stories. And boy, did she ever. The plot was originally a fanfiction of various existing published fantasy series.

Simon Snow is back for his last year at Watford, a magikal school in the midst of a Normal world. Upon return, he expects many things - delicious scones, reuniting with his girlfriend and best friend, Agatha and Penny, and, of course, his horrible, vampire roommate, Tyrannus Basilton "Baz" Pitch.
Simon hates Baz with all he has, despises him to the point of obsession. When Baz fails to come back to Watford that year, Simon wonders what plan he has up his sleeve.

There are dark forces in the magikal world. The Insidious Humdrum, a villain leaving behind areas void of magik whenever he attacks,  took Simon and Penny the year before. To their shock, the Humdrum looks exactly like the one chosen to defeat him, Simon. Back at school this year, the Mage (the head of the school and the magikal world) thinks Simon should go away for the year to be in hiding. That's the last thing Simon wants to do. He needs to stay at Watford to enjoy his last year and find out where Baz is and what he's up to.

In a story that is equally funny as it is mysterious, Rowell captivates her readers. I have loved reading every single one of her novels, and was hesitant that this was her first fantasy genre book. To my pleasure, it was just as good, if not better, than her previous books. The plot-twists and backstories are well thought out, the characters are diverse and likable, and the world of her creation is one you wish you lived in.

I give Rainbow Rowell 5/5 stars for Carry On.

I recommend this book to Harry Potter lovers, those who enjoyed any of Rowell's other YA books, fans of light fantasy, and just any teen in general. I do warn that the book contains bisexual characters and a few descriptions could be considered graphic depending on what the reader has been exposed to in the past.

Thanks for reading,


Writing

Allow me to explain myself -

12:08 AM


A lack of inspiration, a drought of heart, a missing soul. These all adequately describe the way I felt toward toward my writing on the page, in a word document, and on this blog from around June to Recently.

I felt lost in my writing pursuits and honestly couldn't find the words for any type of writing I tried - blogs, short stories, camp NaNoWriMo, journaling, anything. 

Recently I've reflected on that, thinking about why I went through this period of painful writing. Writing should never be painful if you love it. I didn't know what happened or where it came from, and it left me feeling inadequate and underachieved in the one thing I truly love - literature and the written word. 

I went through a weird period where I broke up with my boyfriend of three years and moved to my grandparents to work at a bookstore pretty much full time this summer. When I say it like that, it sounds like I went through a quarter-life crisis. It was an amazing experience, I was constantly around readers and sometimes writers, yet I struggled with this aspect of my life outside the store. 

This past month of October, and now into November, my writing has been stronger than ever. I've been encouraged by many around me, including professors, my step dad, mom, peers, and, most importantly, myself. 

For a while I lost track of my dream. Well, I'm back. My blog might be a bit more bookish, but the same amount reflective and a little bit girly. 

I appreciate if you've read this. 

In the words of Adele: Hello, it's me. How are you?  It's so typical of me to talk about myself. 

Lots of love,

Brooke 

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