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Sunday, December 16, 2012

All is Calm, All is Bright

I just need to write some stuff, in light of what's been showing on the news lately.

To the parents, students, families, doctors, policemen, firemen and teachers of Newtown, Conn. I want to send my deepest, truest well wishes and shared sorrow after the tragedy that happened on Friday. I didn't even fully understand it until yesterday, the only thing I saw was the flag at my mom's school at half-mast and I wondered why.

Then I went online and saw the news.


Absolutely devastated by the news of the shooting in Connecticut this morning. My hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims, especially the eighteen children who are no longer with us.

I haven't watched much of it since, because if I do, I'm going to start crying and I won't be able to stop. I'm tearing up as I write this, thinking about it. I have little cousins, little nephews and nieces and two little kids I babysit. I love these children. To lose them in a way like this hits me so hard I can't think about it, so I try not to. Anyone who loves children should be sickened and grieved to the core that this happened. It is unfathomable to me that eighteen little boys and girls can't have Christmas this year, that their parents have undergone the worst December in years. It makes it worse for me because my mother is a teacher, I have cousins who are teachers, and we live in a city where violence is common and not unknown, especially at schools. This could happen here, but it didn't. Instead, it happened to a small town in Connecticut. I can't and I can imagine it, because I was blessed/cursed with an overactive imagination, and to even think about something like that happening in my own community makes me sick to my stomach.

Here are pictures from around the world, mourning with us. And a short piece from Longfellow, because it sums what I'm trying to articulate so much better than I ever could:

"And in despair, I bowed my head: 'There is no peace on earth,' I said, 'for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.' Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: 'God is not dead nor doth He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.'"

Here's to peace on earth, my friends. May those who search for it find it.

Over & Out,

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

When Book Lovers Go Mad

As the title suggests, every so often, there comes a time in my life when I go a little...crazy.

I don't scream or throw things. Or disrupt my life or anyone else's. No, when I go crazy, it's usually with...books. The library system is usually to blame for it. I go to the New Teen Materials section, as is my wont, and I just see all the books I want to read (but don't want to buy just yet) and I go a little...crazy.

Right now I've got five books lined up in my request queue, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, Fox & Phoenix by Beth Bernobich, Unspoken: the Lynburn Legacy by Sarah Rees Brennan and finally, The Brides of Rockroll Island by Margo Lanagan.

All in all, quite a load. I just can't help it, they're free books. Just for the taking (or reading)! What sort of book-loving girl like myself is supposed to resist that?

The  first one on my list is Maggie Stiefvater's latest release, one I'm looking forward to greatly. I wasn't too crazy about her The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, but I adored The Scorpio Races to an unhealthy degree. Sean Kendrick's kind of my favorite monster tamer, ever. Seraphina has dragons who can turn into humans, and the uneasy alliance between them and full-blooded humans. Any thing with dragons, I'm pretty good. Fox & Phoenix has cool Chinese steampunk setting mixed with magic, and a snarky first-person narrator (courtesy of Amazon first looks).  Most of the books I see in the library system that I want to read, I go to Amazon, check out any previews they can give me. That's how I sift through the unlikely ones. That's why I decided to get Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, a sassy take on the classic Gothic manor story line (yes, sassy and Gothic are joined together), and just from what I've seen, I think I'm going to adore it inordinately. How does the main character's best friend describe her? "Your soul is like the soul of a thousand monkeys on crack, all smushed together."

I was sold on that line alone. Seriously, it's awesome.

And finally, The Brides of Rockroll Island, a melancholy, darkly fairy-tale look on the selkie myths, a current fascination of mine. I've yet to find any really good modern interpretations of selkie legends, so I've got high hopes for this one.

And there you have it; my current reading list. Reviews are nigh. Stay tuned!

Over & Out,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Darn It All!

Taylor, why is everything you do so dang cute?

Now I need to go to Paris more than ever.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How A Book Interests Me

Now, I should come right out and say two things:

One: I am a creature of impulse and instinct. So far, when it comes to books, my gut has only failed me a couple of times. I'll get to that in a minute. For the most part, it's lead me to pretty straight to all kinds of wonderful books.

Two: I'll read almost anything. When I start a brand new book, one I've never read before, I look for a few essential elements.

1) A engaging lead character, with well-drawn secondary characters. It's the mark of a good writer who can handle a sizable cast and make every person distinct and clear-cut or have someone inexplicably fade into the background.

2) Some kind of interesting element that leads to the conflict.

3) A compelling and urgent conflict that leads the characters to a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.

Now, that being said, my book senses usually do not lead me wrong. I will invariably pick out something that satisfies one if not all of these criteria. Case in point: one of my dear friends Mary gave me a twenty-five dollar gift card to Amazon for my birthday. As a treat to myself, I bought two books that I really liked the look of and the reviews were overall positive and glowing. Defiance by C.J. Redwine and For the Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund.

Pretty cool, no? I could go on and on about how much I adored these books, but for now, I'll stick to Defiance by C.J. Redwine. This is her first ever novel, and she's done a fantastic job. Rachel (pure coincidence, I tell you!) and Logan, our heroes, are intelligent, strong, and real. They react to the situations they're put in like real people would. They have strengths and weaknesses. In this world, there is a Cursed One, a huge, terrifying beast that comes to the surface without warning and summoned by vibrations in the ground. The best description is a dsytopian future, though that puts the book in one small genre and it stretches across many. Rachel's father goes missing on a courier mission, assumed dead, and she is assigned to her childhood friend Logan's care, the boy who broke her heart at fourteen. Rachel is independent and fiery, taught by her father who to defend herself in a world where women are assigned "Protectors" and forbidden to go anywhere without them. Logan is rational, logical, a genius inventor who can hold his own in a fight. They go through all the spectrum of emotions and take the reader with them. That's what good storytelling does. It's the first book in a trilogy, so I await with bated breath for the next few installments.

Now, on a trip to the library this weekend, I picked up a new book, Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White. It had a key element that I look for: an unusual, original element, the Victorian language of flowers, something I've always been fascinated with. I thought, Oh this could be interesting. And I checked it out.

I tore through Forget-Her-Not pretty quickly, but to be completely honest, I wasn't all that enthused. I found the main character Laurel flat and somewhat uninteresting, despite the sudden loss of her mother to cancer and the awakening of a strange new gift in a unfamiliar setting: a boarding school. She doesn't react very well in a crisis, and the main male lead, her love interest, got almost next to no face time. He just drifted in and out of the story without purpose. The secondary characters were also flat, one-dimensional. The bullying mean girl trying to take advantage of Laurel's gift, Laurel's snarky logical cousin, the back-and-forth friend who can't make up her mind to be on Laurel's side or not.  This is not the say the book doesn't have its good points. There's some lovely descriptions of flowers and the renewing, healing power of gardens. So there is that.

Keep in mind, this is just my opinion. I'm sure they are people out there who want to disagree with me. But I like to have a certain kind of standard when I read books, what I expect and what I want from a book that makes me happy. And if I find a book that does that, I'll be its friend for life.

Over & Out,

Friday, August 24, 2012

Marking the territory of this newly impassioned soul

A milestone, you say? You mean besides actually writing something for almost two months?

Yes, besides that. I know, I know, epic fail on my part. But for some strange reason, I'm better at doing this blog of mine while I'm in school, maybe because summer is when my brain decides that there's been enough work and it's time to take a break. School is when I'm productive and my brain is firing on all synapses. But yes--back to the milestone. It is pretty important, I promise. Today is my twenty-first birthday.

Ah, the big twenty-first. Truthfully, it feels no different than being twenty, only now, I can go out and buy alcohol or drink it if I wanted to! A somewhat useless privilege, since I have no intention of doing it, unless I'm cooking and I need to make, I don't know, tiramisu or something. Or creme brulee. What other dish requires alcohol in the recipe? That's all that comes to mind at the moment.

It's been a quiet day today. Both my brothers are back at school, my parents are at work and my sister is in school. So I've had the day to myself. Honestly, I'm enjoying it more than you might think. I got to make a chocolate cake, which is currently in the oven baking and filling the house with the smell, which is no bad thing. We may go out to dinner tonight, but I haven't decided where to go yet. So it's still up in the air.

I'd like to say a few things I've learned in the twenty-one years I've been on this earth.

First: I am a strange, unique creature, but not so unique there aren't others like me. But it's always a pleasure and surprised delight to find them.

Second: my family is my anchor. Always. All of them, not just my adored brothers or my beloved mother, but my father and my sister and my uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews and nieces and grandparents.

Third: I have great friends. Truly, really great friends. I'm never going take them for granted. How can I, when I didn't have them for so many years?

And (I think this is the last one, or the only one that comes to mind at the moment) fourth: I can never, ever take this life of mine for granted. I can't, because "do not resent growing older, it is a privilege denied to many."  This privilege is one of God's many gifts to me, so I will remember not to resent it.

Over & Out,

Friday, June 29, 2012

My Mind Just Exploded


I'm sorry, but...WHAT????


No, seriously. Why?


I just, I can't even. I CAN'T EVEN.

Ahem. I'm going to see this movie. There is no question. That is all.

Over & Out,

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hello! Rachel Here

With some pretty exciting news!

Besides me actually WRITING something after being gone for a month.

*hears the crickets chirp*

I was busy. And unmotivated. This is no excuse, but there it is. Alas.

So, my news!

My church's youth group always does a big trip during the summer. We call it an "X-Tour," and I've been going on them since 2007. That was my first ever X-Tour, and it was a pretty awesome one. We got to walk fifteen miles in Death Valley, whitewater raft on the Colorado River, horseback ride in Red Rock Canyon, Utah, hike the Narrows in Zion National Park, and a whole host of other awesome activities.

This year, 2012, marks the ten-year anniversary of the very first X-Tour. So this year is is X-Tour X, where not only current youth group members can come, but also alumni, namely my brothers and I! We're looking forward to it like nobody's business, let me tell you.

For more information about our tour (which begins June 20), click here. That will tell you everything you need to know about where we're going, what we're doing, and who we're doing it for.

And now, MY NEWS.

Our pastor, Ron Hunt, knows that my brothers and I are really looking forward to going on this X-Tour X, and us being older and wiser (well, marginally) we would also be in capacity of chaperons. But for yours truly, Ron had a different task in mind. He is, in fact, a follower of this little blog right here, and asked me if I would consent to be their resident blogger for this trip. This would be the first time there has ever been someone actually recording the impressions and day-to-day experiences while on the trip itself. So I won't be writing just for my own personal journalistic pleasure, I'll be writing for everyone, what they think and how they're feeling and how they're doing.

All in all, somewhat intimidating for a girl whose main pleasure is writing for herself.  To be perfectly honest with all, I am not accustomed to receiving compliments on my writing, unless they're from my own family who knows me and is honest with me. If some random Joe off the street says, "Hey, I read your blog and I like it!" I tend to get nervous. Very nervous. And somewhat unnerved. So this whole resident blogger thing will be putting me out of my comfort zone, and I await it with considerable trepidation.

But the thing that makes me feel like hiding under the bed is that those as-of-yet unwritten blogs of mine will be shared on other social networking sites, like Facebook or Twitter. They will be read by seven hundred other youth group leaders and pastors, looking for ideas and inspiration on what to do with their own youth ministry. Aaron tells me my writing it acceptable (his words are "brilliant," but he is deeply biased), but to have my pastor tell me my writing is good, good enough to be read by seven hundred followers, well, it's a bit of daunting prospect. As I said before, I wanted to hide under the nearest convenient bed when Ron mentioned that little piece of information. This might come as a shock to you all, but I am not used to other people reading my writing.  Unless it's something like this, then I'm okay with it. But this newest venture scares me, and I hate being scared. But I've been scared before and I will not let that deter me.

We of the Flores Family do not flinch.

 So now, all that remains is for me to write it out, send it out and hope it works. Strangely, this tactic has worked plenty of times before in the past, so I have hopes for it.

Be on the lookout, all of you, for my posts from the Wild Lands! I send them out with hope and fear and something like joy.

Over & Out,

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fairy-Tale Retold: Snow White as an Warrior Princess

Some of you already know I'm a sucker for retold fairy tales. That I love to see how different authors, artists, actors and directors put their stamp on such well-known stories. One of my favorite movies of all time is Ever After with Drew Barrymore (the movie all my girlfriends and I have memorized).

So whenever the movie industry decides to take a stab at retelling a famous fable, I'm always eager to see how it turns out. There hasn't been much of that lately, but I keep my eye out.

This is the year that out of all the fairy tale princesses, Snow White gets to be revamped and finally be made cool. She's got a starring role in ABC's drama Once Upon A Time, got retold in this year's earlier release Mirror, Mirror and now she's looking at a brand new tale, Snow White and the Huntsman, as the trailer above shows you.

Personally, I wasn't too crazy about the concept of Mirror, Mirror, but I absolutely love Mary Margaret/Snow White's character in Once Upon A Time, and as you might guess, I am super excited for the vision in this movie. I think I would watch for the sets and costumes alone, Charlize Theron looks beautiful, deadly and ferociously evil as Ravenna, the Evil Queen. She has bones on her royal gown! How more wonderfully evilly foreboding can you get? The whole "mirror, mirror on the wall" is excellently re-imagined. Kirsten Stewart's finally got the chance to kick butt and save herself this time around (though as far as I'm concerned, she's brilliant as Bella Swan; I can't imagine anyone else but her), riding into battle with armor, wielding a sword and leading the charge against Ravenna. Plus, they have flaming ballistas. You can't go wrong with that.

Another thing you can't go wrong with, Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman (I hope they're going to give him a name; we just can't call him "Huntsman" the whole movie)! I am not adverse to more Chris Hemsworth in the world, let me tell you. I am loving the world they're introducing here; Snow White's no warbly-voiced servant girl with a bob; she's trapped in the dudgeon ready to fight for her life when she gets the chance. The Huntsman is no mindless, softhearted Queen's lackey, he's a rough and ready brawler with an ax! And the Evil Queen...shiver-inducing and maybe a little unhinged. The only thing as scary as her is Disney's original version of the Evil Queen, tall crown, flowing purple cape and all.

Since I'm a swords-and-charges girl at heart, I am completely looking forward to the battle/fight scenes. I shall be in line to watch it first chance I get!

Over & Out,

Friday, April 20, 2012

More Pinning

Sometimes I see the stuff and Pinterest and I go, "Oh look, INSPIRATION!"

For what, I'm really not sure. But it's still there and super pretty. Here's some my favorite stuff.

This is just the stuff that I like. I'm not following any kind of theme here! 

I think the next time I go on a pinning rampage on here, I will. Follow a theme, I mean.

Over & Out,

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Songs of District 12--Daughter's Lament

I am a liar. Of immense proportions. Here I am, all, "This is going to be my LAST Hunger Games post. I don't have anything more to say on the subject."

Well, it turns out I do. Mainly:
I love this song. I think this fits District 12 perfectly. I love it so much that I think this is how The Hanging Tree song in the book might've sounded, if we had been given a tune. And I won't make anymore wild claims, like "This is last Hunger Games post! I promise." Well, now I make no such promises. I can't help when inspiration and enjoyment strike.

Over & Out,

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Off We Go, Into the Wild Blue Yonder

...for eleven days, that is.  I thought I'd pen down some thoughts before I, for all intents and purposes, disappear into the wild blue yonder.

I also promise that this will be my last Hunger Games themed post, because now that I've read the books and seen the movie, I can offer some insight on both.

Thoughts on the movie:
1) Jennifer Lawrence was flipping perfect as Katniss. She wasn't wooden, she wasn't a hard-core warrior maid, she was a young woman with remarkable talents put in extraordinary circumstances. She nailed Katniss's fierce survival instincts and love for her sister Prim.
2) On Prim, Willow Shields was also perfect--delicate and young and gentle enough so that we too, would volunteer in her place.
3) I want to marry Josh Hutcherson for being the perfect Peeta. No, really, he was amazing. Earnest, sincere and had the just the right touch of devotion to Katniss.
4) Amandla Stenburg as Rue was adorable and made me cry. I wept bitter tears in the theater during the lullaby scene and the riot in District 11.
5) "That is MA-HOG-ANY!" Oh, Effie, your cluelessness was pitch perfect. Thank you for creating memetatic mutation.

On another note, Gary Ross also did a brilliant job with one of the things I was most concerned about, the violence featured in the story. Thankfully, there were no drawn-out close ups of the bloodbath at the Cornucopia. Quick flashes of violence and then the image of the bodies laying about was much more effective and wrenching. The curly-headed boy...gah, in way, that was even more traumatizing than Rue's death, because it only sinks in later...that little boy had no chance of survival.

Now, onto something that's been bothering me for the last couple of weeks, as the hype for the movie got more and more widespread. There seems to be a kind of schism between those who like The Hunger Games and those who like The Twilight Saga. Well, I'm going to put in my two cents and then I won't talk about it anymore, because I'll have said my piece.


Okay, I'm done yelling for now. But, seriously people. It simply isn't fair to compare the two stories, despite the similarities on the surface, because THEY ARE NOT THE SAME STORY.  I read both series and you know what? I liked them both, for different reasons.  Yes, the Hunger Games deals with important themes like love, war, violence, devotion and loyalty. Yes, the Hunger Games is an excellently written story. We all know that. No one is denying it. But for crying out loud, what call is there to be mean about the supposed superiorities to The Twilight Saga? What call is there to be mean to Stephenie Meyer who, just like Suzanne Collins, was fortunate enough to create and write a world that's become so huge? So what if you don't like Stephenie Meyer and her characters and world she created? So what if you don't like the flipping Twilight movies? No one is asking you to watch them! No one is yelling, "Hunger Games suck, Twilight rules." Rather, the opposite is happening and I, for one, am tired of it.

Enough with the madness, people. Suzanne Collins and Stephenie Meyer let us live in their fantasy worlds and are kind enough the share them with us. Let's thank them for that, shall we? And move on.

Okay, then, I'm done with my rant. I promise you all, this my last Hunger Games themed post and until something truly earth-shattering happens (like the casting for Finnick Odair is released), I'll refrain from bending your ears until then.

Getting Off My Soapbox I Am Over & Out,

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Perils of Pinterest

Yes, I'm an addict. No, I am not ashamed.

Since I'm still on a Hunger Games kick, here some of the images from the site that I especially love, and what give (to me at least) better images for the story.

This song has officially taken over my life.

This scene made me break out in goosebumps.

I volunteer as tribute!

How I imagine Katniss in her armor and mockingjay bow.

Here's what SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED when Peeta was rescued.

How I think Katniss looked at the very end of it all.

More to come, stay tuned!

Over & Out,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

I Have Excellent Friends

My best friend Kirsten sent me this, with the simple subject line, "Thought of YOU! :)"
It's so nice to have friends who understand me.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Thoughts on The Girl On Fire from The Girl Who Reads

This week, I bought the Hunger Games trilogy at the book fair at my mom's school. I just finished all three books just last night.

And then I lay down on my bed and cried, something I have never done after reading a series. Reading The Hunger Games trilogy was like being in a war. You watched people you grew to like and love die terrible deaths, people are irreparably damaged and fractured, and in the end, it's hard to tell who's really won and if it was all worth it.

(The rest of this post is full of spoilers, so don't read if you haven't finished the series yet. Consider yourself warned.)

The Hunger Games was wrenching enough--reading about young men and women dying a variety of gruesome deaths isn't very pleasant, but watching Katniss and Peeta struggle to survive and maintain their humanity just adds to it all. Katniss's fierce drive to survive in the arena and protect her family, while being completely clueless about the secrets of her own heart is something I think anyone can relate to. We've all had intense, complicated situations that require all of our attention and energy, and we leave the inner workings of our  own hearts completely out of it, because it's just too much work to try and figure it out. In The Hunger Games, that's really what it's all about, survival.

Catching Fire was like being on a roller coaster, the stakes going higher and higher and the whole time you're thinking, "It can't get any worse. It possibly can't get any just got worse." And it just keeps going. Katniss and Peeta are put through the wringer emotionally, mentally and physically. They're put through a perverse "Victory Tour" of the the twelve Districts, with President Snow looming over them, breathing out threats and murder. In order to survive, Katniss and Peeta are forced to pretend (to a certain extent) being desperately in love, to keep their families and District 12 safe. They're falsely engaged, and then forced back into the arena with past Hunger Games victors. Before, Katniss had only one goal in the arena--stay alive and come back home. Now, it's reversed: make sure Peeta survives, no matter the cost. While all Peeta wants is for Katniss to live. And then, just when you think we've reached the very top and they can't get put through any more without being irrevocably damaged...the roller coaster starts going down at terrifying, breakneck speed. With bombs attached. Shrapnel goes flying in every direction. And us, the reader, is desperately trying to figure out how to come through it all without being emotionally scarred from everything that's going on.

Mockingjay is the limit, the absolute limit. You come away feeling like you just watched your loved ones die in a war. Peeta is captured, Gale is being consumed by vengeance against the Capitol, and it wouldn't surprise me if Katniss could be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. She's the face of the rebellion, the titular Mockingjay, but she hides in remote places and tries not to think about all the damage she's gone through. She has screaming night terrors with all people who've died, the loved ones that are lost coming back to haunt her.

But as before, Katniss eventually finds one driving force--rescuing Peeta. If that means becoming a pawn for the rebels when she's just got through being a pawn for the Capitol, becoming the Mockingjay, then so be it. She's not much of a savior, our Katniss--she's a terrible actress and she can't follow orders to save her life (literally). She gets too attached to who her superiors call "the wrong people" and no one, as Haymitch says, should let her make the plans. But through sheer grit and fight and indomitable will, Katniss overcomes. She lives. Is she damaged? Yes. Has she lost almost all the things she's cared about? Without a doubt. But does she go on, does she survive the unthinkable? Always. Katniss can't do anything the easy way; the girl has fire in her and she's a fighter born. We love her for that and we too mourn the dead: Cinna, Finnick, Boggs and Prim. And though we've cried and mourned and howled in protest for the terrible things we and Katniss have had to go through, these lines makes it all worth the suffering:

"That what I need to survive is not Gale's fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that.
"So after, when he whispers, 'You love me. Real or nor real?'
"I tell him, 'Real.'"
~Katniss Everdeen, Mockingjay, page 388.

My soul was lifted for that alone.

Over & Out,

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jane Austen in Middle-Earth

So I tried my hand at writing a "deleted scene," of sorts, between Ayden and Violet and seemed like a good idea at the time, but now it's just not working for me.

Ayden: I don't know why you're so unhappy with the deleted fight scene.

Me: Because it's too... violent. And just...not you.

Ayden: So you'll let Violet hit me, but I can't hit her back?

Me: You curbed-stomped her in that deleted scene! Isn't that enough?

Ayden: No.

(Long silence)

Me: *sighs* Okay, okay. The reason why I don't like that fight scene is because I want it to be very clearly defined who's in the wrong here. You striking out and provoking Violet doesn't fit your character.

Ayden: What do you mean it doesn't fit my character? I am the character! You think I don't know what fits me and what doesn't?

Me: You hitting Violet and beating her in physical fight muddies the waters. You're the heroine. You're in the right of it (at least for now). Plus, there's just too much fall-out from the aftermath. It makes everything so much more complicated than has to be, especially between you and Sydney. Also, what said in the last entry still stands--you are not the only character in the story. You can't just decide to do something and not let it have consequences. And for me, looking at that fight scene, the consequences for you would be terrible. Believe me, I wanted to put that fight scene in there. I wanted to see you take Violet down as much as you do. But it doesn't fit. It just doesn't. Would you put Jane Austen in Middle-Earth?

Ayden: ...No.

Me: Well, there you are. Me making you win a brutal cat-fight between you and Violet is like putting Jane Austen in Middle-Earth. It just doesn't work.

Ayden: ....Do I still get to hit her? Just once?

Me: *even longer sigh* I'll see what I can do.

Ayden: You better.

It's all about compromise.

Over & Out,

Saturday, February 4, 2012

I'm Hiding Under the Table

Ayden: I can't believe you.

Me: The ban on characters talking still stands!

Ayden: I don't care! Why is she here??

Me: You know perfectly well why.

Ayden: I don't want her here. And no one else does, either! You know what I was about to do! Why should we have to suffer her?

Me: Ayden, this may come as a shock to you, but you are not the only person in this story. There are other people who need resolution and closure too. I'm sorry that I had introduce Violet, but--

Violet: Did I hear my name?

Ayden: YOU!  Get. Out.

Me: Oh boy.

And that leads to today's entry title. Why I'm currently hiding under the dining room table where I do most of my work, trying to avoid the verbal shrapnel that's about go flying. Ayden has...taken a strong, definite, certainly not discreet stand on her opinion of Violet D'Ambrosia's entering the narrative at this point. And Violet...well, she's not being very forthcoming. I can't get a read on her (oh the irony) and she's not likely to be offering enlightenment any time soon. You know how a cat will hide and then come as if it's their idea all along, not like you've been calling them for the past five minutes? Violet's like that. Only worse, because cats can't talk.  And also aren't manipulative, malevolent, chaotic and just plain underhanded. Or at least, not all cats.

Violet: You give me such wonderful compliments.

Ayden: YOU...!

Me: Still hiding.

Over & Out,

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of...Inspiration

Music, in case some of you have not noticed, plays kind of a big part in my writing style. There are songs that have made me stand up straight and proclaim in shock, "Oh my gosh, that song is TOTALLY Sydney or Ayden!!" (Or Katriona/Silas, or Violet, or Liam.) The result is a very eclectic playlist for Halcyon House and other works (such as themes). Some of the songs that I've recently discovered that have made their way onto the Halcyon House playlist?

The following:

1) Jackson, Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
2) If I Were a Carpenter, Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
3) Long-Legged, Guitar-Pickin' Man, Johnny Cash & June Carter Cash
4) If I Should Fall from Grace with God, The Pogues
5) Shake It Out, Florence + the Machine
6) No Light, No Light, Florence + the Machine
7) What the Water Gave Me, Florence + the Machine
8) Rolling in the Deep, Adele
9) Set Fire to the Rain, Adele
10) Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya, the Dropkick Murphys
11) Finnegan's Wake, my favorite version being by The Dubliners

The Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash songs relate to Ayden and Sydney (and in some cases, Liam and Lucia), If I Should Fall From Grace with God sort of became Liam's theme song (in some strange way I really can't even begin to comprehend; he just really seemed to like it and made that clear to me in no uncertain terms), No Light, No Light could double for Ayden's frustration with her strange relationship with Sydney or Sydney's previous relationship with Violet (who is still a lurker).

Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ya gave me a better understanding of how a fiercely independent and driven Irish family like the McKennas clawed their way to survival.  Finnegan's Wake is sort of the traditional Irish ballad concerning that most Irish of preoccupations: whiskey. No, seriously. Half of the traditional Irish folk songs do seem to have a lot to do with whiskey...and the affects thereof. Also an excellent showcase of that famous black Irish humor, helping me apply it to Liam. Adele's songs are, of course, Ayden's impending explosion of frustration and anger at...well, the world in general at a certain part of the story, which we haven't gotten to yet. I'll keep you all posted.

Over & Out,

Monday, January 16, 2012

And Now, The Moment You've All Been Waiting For...

Because the poster is pretty cool, too.
Or at least, the moment I've been waiting for.

My overall review/reaction/thoughts on The Hunger Games. 

After the encouragement of my favorite high school teacher Miss Elise, I requested The Hunger Games on-line at my local library and promptly proceeded to read it straight through in one night. Because I can't stop when I have a book like that just waiting for me to read.

My thoughts?

(Spoilers if you have not read the books!! Proceed with caution, thanks.)

A) With apologies to my reader's tender ears--Katniss is an unintentional bad-ass. B) However, WHY is she so suspicious/mean to Peeta when it's (sort of freaking) obvious that he loves her? Give the poor boy the benefit of the doubt, dear. C) RUE. OH MY GOSH, RUE. Suzanne Collins, why would you do that???? D) Katniss and I would get along well together on the days I feel like taking someone's head off. Because I get like that sometimes.

In a more serious I was reading the book, I did identify Katniss more than I anticipated. She and I both have this fierce, overwhelming tie to our family, our responsibilities. The part that touched me the most was the beginning, when Katniss desperately volunteers as tribute to save her little sister. Now, I don't live in dystopian future in which I could sent to a reality TV show where I'm required to kill twenty-three other people to survive. But I kept asking myself, if my little sister was taken away as a death sentence, if my crazy, sweet, illogical Julianna was going away to be killed...would I stand up and take her place, though no one else would? And the answer came back every time...Yes. I would go.  I'd be running forward, screaming, to save my little sister.

I think the truest thing about Katniss is that she's not your run-of-the-mill, typical kick-ass warrior maid out to avenge her family. She's a young woman with some remarkable talents who's put in extraordinary circumstances and made a promise to the little sister she fiercely loves. She won't go into the arena and say, "Oh yeah guys, I got this."  She'll go in and do her duty, but her driving force is always, "I promised my sister I would come home. I need to get back to my family."

Obviously, Katniss is not perfect. She and I both have walls we put up around ourselves, walls we can't take down for fear of someone taking advantage of us. Katniss is also unaware of her qualities, her good parts, because she's so determined as to not appear weak or needy to those around her. Albeit, she's in bad circumstances. She's the only caretaker/provider in her home, since she feels she can't trust her mother to take care of Prim. In essence, she's completely unaware of herself, something I can (painfully) relate to. I've always been more aware of my faults, foibles and inability than the things I can do. Fortunately, I have people who tell me that I do have talents, that things I think aren't so special are important and useful. Katniss doesn't allow herself that luxury, because the way she lives just doesn't allow that.

And as to Peeta...sigh. The boy has rapidly become one of my favorite heroes, just because he puts up with Katniss's suspicion and distrust with good humor and patience. I kept getting the urge to hug him throughout the book.

Now, in another much more serious most of you might be aware, The Hunger Games movie is coming out this March. Now that I've kept to my own principle and read the book, I'm going to make a serious effort to go and watch it. There is some deep-rooted irony here about Hollywood making a movie about a dystopian future where young men and women go on a reality TV show to kill each off one by one. I could also be supremely cynical and say that Hollywood is trying to capitalize on making another franchise out of a successful book series now that Harry Potter is over and The Twilight Saga is winding down. But I dislike being cynical, it disturbs my sleep. I was under the impression Suzanne Collins had more to say on the affects of war and violence on teenagers than our society's acceptance of violence in the media. But I think The Hunger Games is an excellently-written story, and more suited to a sweeping epic drama than other book series.

This is sort of what I wanted to say and think about when I was done reading the book: Is our current-day society becoming like Panem in Katniss's world? Where the rich entertain themselves by watching people kill and die, where the poor grit their teeth and suffer as the rich enjoy the pain and violence?

I don't know, honestly. I don't think so. I hope not. But we do take an awful pleasure in watching people get hurt or make fools out of themselves, don't we? I think of shows like Wipeout! or America's Funniest Home Videos. The ones that get the biggest laughs are the ones where people get hurt in spectacular ways. Me, I don't like that. I don't find any humor or amusement in seeing people fall, get whacked in the face, or hitting their heads or any other part of their bodies (I find groin jokes the least amusing). Maybe that makes me a big, fat, kill-joy prude with no sense of humor, but I don't care. I don't like seeing people get hurt.

With that said, I can only hope that we do pay heed to the warning of Katniss and District 12--There is no pleasure or satisfaction in pitting people against each other in violent contests. I think sometimes we forget the fact that someone's pain or agony isn't just entertainment, it's real. And I think we need to remember how to respect it.

As a final note...because I am completely shallow, the trailer is pretty dang cool, too. *sheepish grin*

Over & Out,

Monday, January 9, 2012

What My Brothers Taught Me

Some of you (most of you) know that I have two older brothers, Aaron and Adam. Aaron is thirteen months older than me, Adam is my twin brother and older by seven minutes. It's been a long-standing family joke that in my unwillingness to be born combined with my in-born challenging nature and desire for more space, I kicked him out of the womb.

They have both gone off to college now, Adam yesterday and Aaron today in the early morning.

The house is unnervingly, disturbingly, too bloody quiet without them. 

Aaron, Adam and I shared six years of childhood together before our youngest sister Julianna was born. Julianna increased our sibling shenanigans, but now we became the Flores Four, as opposed to the Flores Three. In the six years we shared, we had Jurassic Park (which is where Aaron got his dinosaur preoccupation), Babar King of the Elephants (which is where Aaron and I got our delusions of royalty), The Many Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh, The Princess Bride (which is where Adam and Aaron got most of their jokes), Bible stories, pretend games and at one point, a bed room. (They had a bunk bed and I had my own.)

I know most girls (well, none of my nearest and dearest friends) don't have the strange situation of being a combined younger sister and twin sister. I possess that singular distinction all on my own. And I know in most cases, most girls are not so tightly entwined as I am with my brothers. I know their moods like I know my own, they know my temper and preferences better than some of my own dearest girlfriends. I think it would be no stretch to say, that before I understood how wonderful having female friends could be, my brothers were my best friends.

They taught me about video games (though they both knew I didn't care), the names of dinosaurs (though I mispronounced them most of the time), and Monty Python sketches. They showed me how guys think and how they react and, yes, what mistakes not to make when it comes to matters of the heart. They kept my secrets and I kept theirs and we shared most of them together. Adam taught me how to laugh and patiently helped me through my math homework. Aaron taught me how to dream and write. Adam willingly played chauffeur for my outings to the library (though he can't stand them) and when we were driving together, he'd play his music, loud and scream-y and sometimes (most of the time) near incomprehensible, and explain to me why he liked it, what put it above the rest. Thanks to Adam, I know about Paramore, A Day to Remember, Pierce the Veil, La Dispute, and Thousand Foot Krutch.

They both have patiently endured my Taylor Swift, my hormonal mood swings and my decidedly strange sense of humor. They let me read aloud my favorite books to them, Howl's Moving Castle, Percy Jackson and Sammy Keyes. They have made me laugh, made me cry, broken my heart and mended it again, gave me strength and gave me patience and yelled "PWNED!!!!" when I did succeeded.

No girl in the world has such brothers as I do. No one could be as lucky and as blessed as I am.

Their return can not come fast enough.

Over & Out,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hopeless. Completely Hopeless

I. Can't. Stop. Watching. It.

It is just that awesome.

Can't freaking WAIT for December 14, 2012.

Well, I actually have things to say, besides starting 2012 off with my overwhelming fan-girling joy. No, really. I did! Stop looking at me suspiciously!!

You're still looking.


Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes, things I wanted to say. What were they?

Oh yes, reviews! Because I promised. I keep my promises. Because Oi'm a good girl, Oi am!! (Bonus points to anyone who guesses the quote correctly.)

This is a first, two different books by the same author! A new favorite recently discovered by impulse (as usual),Laini Taylor. If you haven't heard of her, go pick up her stuff, because the lady can write. Really, truly write, like, create whole worlds and atmospheres in only a few paragraphs. Both of what she's written have been National Book Award finalists. I've been checking up on her website pretty regularly, so I've been seeing how her process works, and ya know, I like what I see. Quite a bit.

So, first review! Daughter of Smoke and Bone, her first full-length novel, first book of a trilogy. The story takes place in Prague, a welcome and refreshing change from New York, London, or Paris, your typical "cool-character" stomping grounds. Our heroine is Karou, blue-haired, multi-tattooed, multilingual art student, with ninety-three sketchbooks filled with beings she calls chimaera. She's endlessly surprisingly, completely mysterious, and at her core, very lonely. See, the chimaera in her book? They're real. They raised her from infancy. She's sworn never to talk about them to ordinary humans, for obvious reasons. Karou has no idea where she's come  from, who her parents are, and why the chimaera raised her at all. Brimstone, the taciturn, enigmatic leader of the group, refuses to tell her.

The greatest mystery of Karou's life? Brimstone's collection of...teeth. He has contacts over the world, hunters, scientists, human traffickers (urgh), who provide him with this unexpected commodity, human and animal both. What is the collateral?

Brimstone pays them in wishes. 

Got your attention yet?

This book must be savored, slowly, like hot chocolate on a winter's night. Or the best piece of tiramisu you've ever had. You can't just rush into it. It brims over with fairy tales, glitter, wishes, flight, angels and monsters, marionettes, and a surprise ending you will never see coming. Take my word for it. And oh, yeah, the mysterious hot boy who is by now requirement for YA literature? His name's Akiva and I want to marry him now. Not even joking. If I was a totally awesome, blue-haired girl like Karou, I'd be set. 

Second review! Lips Touch: Three Times, which is like a novella, but not quite. There are three separate stories, nothing in common with each other, except for one thing: They each feature a first kiss. The first story, Goblin Fruit, is about Kizzy, who hates her decidedly weird life, her weird family with their crazy superstitions, her still half-grown body that doesn't cooperate with her. Kizzy's a girl who makes me think of me, of all the girls who want. Not for any one thing, mind you, but for everything. To be beautiful, to be desired, loved, thrilling, inscrutable, dangerous and all around amazing. I still am that girl to a certain extent, but I've better channeled it now, into my writing. Kizzy's been warned all her life to beware of the goblins, who will tempt striving young woman with out-of-season fresh fruit and drive a girl out of her mind desire for their unnatural taste. But Kizzy doesn't listen and Jack Husk, the beautiful new boy at school who pays unexpected attention to her, just might be her first kiss...if he's not the death of her first.

The second story, Spicy Little Curses Such as These, takes place in British Raj, where readers get a look into another culture's version of Hell. Estella, called "the old bitch" by her countrymen, is the Ambassador to Hell. She bargains regularly with a demon, trading children's souls for the ones of wicked men and women. But the demon isn't satisfied. To make life harder for Estella, he insists on adding curses to their negotiations.  The worst one is when he curses a newborn baby girl with the most beautiful voice ever to come from human lips. Anyone who hears it will fall down dead on the spot. Anamique, the cursed girl, lives her life in self-imposed silence, until the handsome former soldier (fresh from the horror of World War I) James Dorsey falls in love with her and Anamique returns his love. It's a train wreck waiting to happen, and yet...Anamique, though silent, prevails and overcomes. She's easily the most intriguing character I've run across in a while.

The third and final story, Hatchling, is not be read lightly. It deals with some pretty adult issues, tangled up in a fantasy story with touches from the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism thrown in. Èsme lives a fairy-tale life with her mother, Mab. They know no one, they live alone with each other, and Èsme knows no other life but that. Until one day she wakes up to the howling of wolves...and her left eye suddenly turns ice-blue. Mab panics at the sight of it, and snatches her daughter away, running from the Druj, soulless, immortal shape-shifters. It's not unlike the changeling stories from European folklore, but much darker. Read it with caution, and carefully, or you'll miss key plot points. I missed parts of it myself when I first read it. 

Now, this possibly the longest blog entry I've written yet! If you've come this far, let me congratulate you...and hope you pick up the books I took so much time to review! You won't regret it.

Over & Out,