11 Great Young Adult Books

girl reading

I love reading books from all age groups. Children’s, teen, adult and anything in between. Here’s a list of some of my favorite teen/YA books. Some of these have been my favorites for a long time, while others are more recent reads that managed to have a big impact on me. Not in any particular order:

The Blue Mirror by Kathe Koja
Blue Mirror
The Blue Mirror might be extremely short but it leaves a big impact. An all around beautiful story with a good message. Very underrated.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
before i fall0
A ‘mean girl’ needs to redeem herself and she gets the chance to do so when she repeats the same day over and over until she gets it right. Well-written and amazing book.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl0
Rich characterization, good romance and a nice little exploration of fanfiction culture. It shows how much impact a fandom can have on someone’s life.

Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
Killing Mr. Griffin
Teenagers plan to kidnap their teacher, what an awesome premise. Duncan’s book is a quick and suspenseful read.

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger
duff0
A good book that makes you think about the labels often put on women. Not perfect, but still very much worth the read.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Delriuium
YA dystopia novels, they’re everywhere. But I feel this is one of the best, if not the best. Oliver does well with a premise (love being treated as a disease) that could have easily ended up being cheesy.

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Jennifer Donelly
Two girls from different time periods, their stories become intertwined. Revolution is a well-crafted and interesting read, despite the moody main character.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Tuck Everlasting
Such a great story…that deserves classic status!

Nevermore by Kelly Creagh
Nevermore
Despite the awful cover, this book is great and creative. Well worth the read.

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
The Chosen One
Quick and simple read but it’s still a good book. The best part of it is the main character, Kyra, who’s voice is emotionally powerful and realistic.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Book Theif
Let’s just say…Believe the hype. Believe the hype!

So those are my favorite YA novels, so far. SMILY

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A Married State by Katherine Philips (Poetry Analysis)

Philips

Since Katherine Philips was married it seems she’s qualified to warn people that it might not be all it’s cracked up to be. But the right message to take away from the poem is that a person should only get married if they actually want to. Not because of outside pressure (a big reason, why many feel they have to get married).

The poem gives a nice, short list of positive things that come with being unmarried: “No blustering husbands to create your fears / No pangs of childbirth to extort your tears / No children’s cries for to offend your ears.” Yes, there are plenty of positives and they are mainly freedom and having no obligation to others.

This poem shouldn’t be seen as completely anti-marriage. Instead, it’s more about exploring the other option which comes with some benefits. It’s up to the reader to decide which option is better for them.

What’s in the way of exploring the other option is mainly social shaming. Philips addresses this with the ending line, “There’s no such thing as leading apes in hell.”

And ‘leading apes in hell’ comes from Shakespeare’s play, The Taming of the Shrew. It was often used to describe the fate of unmarried women. Well, Philips addresses that this is nonsense. So with the final line she effectively and carelessly writes off the social shame put on unmarried individuals.

This poem could be encouraging rebellion, but only for those who have what it takes.

Favorite Books Read in 2015

2014

I’ve read plenty of books this year and here were the ones I thought were the best.  I like to read a wide variety, so yeah a lot of these books are complete opposites.  In no particular order:

Doll Bones by Holly Black
doll bones

Growing up and the lack of wanting to? That’s been done over and over again! True, but Black’s children’s book does so in a pretty unique way. Keep in mind, the creepy doll isn’t the major part of the book – instead, it’s more of a tool to help the protagonists.

The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
good soldier

This one didn’t have me sold when I first started reading it, but as the narrative progresses it began to draw me in. The story is told by a confused and rambling narrator but the novel is brilliantly crafted with many layers. Most of the characters aren’t likable at all – but they sure are fascinating.

Off Season by Jack Ketchum
off season

Cannibals, one of the greatest subjects in horror. Ketchum’s novel is one of the best examples of that subject done perfectly.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
school for good and evil

A book filled with plenty of adventure, magic, fun, drama and all that good stuff. It’s a children’s book but adults should really enjoy it too. Seriously, this should be on the same level as Harry Potter.

Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
sister carrie0

Let’s just say I read this with some others…and they hated it. Well, not me, I loved it. Dreiser’s prose might be terrible to some but it drew me into the amazing story.

The Killing Kind by Bryan Smith
killing kind

A fun, engrossing horror novel. On the back  of the book it’s compared to  the movies The Devil’s Rejects and Natural Born Killers. This is an accurate comparison. As a fan of those films (Well, more so Devil’s Rejects) this book was a nice treat. Road trip horror done right.

The End of Alice by A.M Homes
end of alice

Just an all around disturbing and weird book. Imagine Lolita and American Psycho combined.

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
song of solomon

The characters have some goofy names but the story is solid. Milkman’s quest to find his family history really captures the African American struggle in terms of genealogy and identity.

The Resurrectionist by Wrath James White
resurrectionist

Good premise, gory, brutal and an overall gem of a horror novel. I like that their seems to be more sympathy and characterization given to the victims of the novel, something a lot of horror books and movies don’t do.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
walk two moons

Funny, sad and basically a perfect children’s novel. It captures the reader’s attention right from the start and as the story unfolds they’ll want to learn more and more.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
a little princess

The narrative’s constant praising of Sara annoyed me at first. However, building her up so high just made her fall into poverty more interesting. It was a true test of character she succeeded in. By the end, I was rooting for her.

Well those were the best books I’ve read in 2015. I guess I should note that just because I read these in 2015, that doesn’t mean they were released in 2015, of course. 🙂 

Underrated Movies: Manic (2001)

manic

Manic follows a teenage boy named Lyle (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). He gets sent to a psychiatric hospital for brutally beating another teen with a baseball bat.

What’s Good About It? Manic is a very emotional and powerful film. Lyle’s interaction with the other teens in the psych ward are the best part and each of the characters are memorable. His struggle to control his aggression gives the film a very tense feeling, as do the other teens in the ward who all have their own respective issues.

Perhaps, the best thing about this film is it’s realness. Teens like this are very real and the movie seeks to provide an understanding of them without being preachy or corny. And it also shows the many places where their problems can stem from with the diverse personalities an issues of the characters.

It also so doesn’t provide the audience with a happy ending, instead it offers an ambiguous one. Which goes back to it’s realness. It’s not a feel-good movie, in fact, the majority of the film carries an unrelenting feeling of depression. But this is needed, to create a vivid and truthful portrait of those like Lyle and the other characters.

The main people Lyle interacts with are: Tracy who has nightmares do to a traumatic event, Sara an artist with anger issues, Kenny the victim of molestation, Chad who’s bipolar and unstable, and Michael an antagonist of the movie who’s pretty much a sociopath. The actors play their characters well, capturing the emotion and anger the film wants to present. All of them are captivating in their own way.

Sara, is the character that seemed to have the most potential to get better and leave the ward, and she does. But with the others it isn’t so clear. Michael is representative of those more hopeless cases, someone that’s almost completely gone – you can’t tell him anything. With Kenny and Chad it’s unlikely they could ever be the same, especially. Tracy and Lyle’s potential are the most ambiguous.

The ending could be showing how real-life people in Lyle’s situation often get caught in a cycle – and how they’re not sure where to go.

The Poetess’s Hasty Resolution by Margaret Cavendish (Poetry Analysis)

Margaret Cavendish (1623-1673)

Cavendish’s poem rings a great truth for every aspiring writer. Most wish to receive praise for their work – “I writ so fast, I thought if I lived long, / A pyramid of fame to build thereon.” Yes, this is what most writers want and that is to be remembered and appreciated for their work in some way. But sadly, there’s a strong chance they will be forgotten as time goes on.

“Besides the world hath such a weight / Of useless books, as it is over fraught.” These lines are especially powerful since it reveals one of the many obstacles a writer must face. Which is that there are many authors in the world, but only a few will remain relevant past their time.

Cavendish is describing having thoughts of doubt in this poem. But in reality she was really a confident person. She had to be, since she was heavily mocked by critics and other writers during her time.

By the end of the poem her confidence is brought back, “Take pity, and my drooping spirits raise, / Wipe off my tears with handkerchiefs of praise.” Cavendish is able to push away her doubt and continue to write.

Since she had such a large output of work, it seems the fears described in the poem didn’t hold her back too much.

Unfortunately though, Cavendish isn’t very well known in modern times. But she was complimented by Virginia Woolf in the 1920s.

But her poem isn’t just one of personal fears, it’s a theme that is universal. Not just for writers, but anyone who creates. There’s always the fear that what they’re doing isn’t good enough.

However, it isn’t all gloomy. Cavendish kept on writing despite all the ridicule she received. And that’s very inspiring.

Medieval Selfies

Very cool post 🙂

medievalbooks

Self-portraits of medieval book artisans are as exciting as they are rare. In the age before the modern camera there were limited means to show others what you looked like. In the very late medieval period, when the Renaissance spirit was already felt in the air, some painters made self-portraits or included themselves in paintings commissioned by others. Stunningly, the medieval painter Jan van Eyck showed himself in the portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his fiance: he is staring at you from the mirror that is hanging behind the couple. For those who still didn’t get it, he painted above it Johannes de eyck fuit hic, Jan van Eyck was here” (Fig. 1, more here). He added the date 1434 to the picture, making it a particularly early selfie.

Jan van Eyck, Giovanni Arnolfini and his fiance, 1434 (right) and mirror detail (left) Fig. 1 – Jan van Eyck, Giovanni Arnolfini and fiance (right)  and mirror detail (left)

As far as producers of books is concerned, there were only two kinds…

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Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser: An Analysis

sister carrie

A young woman named Caroline Meeber (Carrie) moves to Chicago where she first lives the working class life. She continuously yearns for material things and more high class living. She is soon involved with two wealthy men and later becomes an actress.

“With her sister she was much alone, a lone figure in a tossing,thoughtless sea.” Here is the last sentence of the first chapter. It gives a good overview of Carrie’s situation when she first arrives to Chicago to live with her sister Minnie. Minnie and her husband, Sven Hanson, want Carrie to pay rent every week. And so she has to go looking for work which turns out to be a very grueling task. Many employers are turning her down due to lack of experience.

This search for work is one way Carrie gets tossed around. Many in the city are cruel and indifferent towards her. She eventually does get a job at a factory, where her job is to poke holes in shoes. This life doesn’t bring Carrie any happiness – she is far too materialistic and craves for more. Such a life isn’t easy, constantly working in order to survive. One’s entire existence nearly becomes based around labor and money as they struggle to rise above. However, many simply do not rise above their social class – like Minnie and her husband. And they often can’t due to the nearly unchangeable social structure.

And Carrie’s drive for material things is strong. She feels she needs the best clothing, trinkets, etc. “Carrie was an apt student of fortune’s superficialities. Seeing a thing she would immediately set to inquiring how she would look, properly related to it…Fine clothes to her were a vast persuasion; they spoke tenderly and Jesuitically for themselves.”

How can Carrie rise in order to gain the things she wants? By getting involved with wealthy men. The first man who she gets romantic with is a traveling salesman named Charles Drouet. He takes her in and provides her with what she desires. But it later becomes clear that Drouet doesn’t want to get serious with Carrie (as in marriage). Soon she gets drawn to Drouet’s friend, George Hurstwood, a wealthy manager. Hurstwood does seem to fall in love with Carrie – the problem is he’s married with two children.

The difference between Hurstwood and Drouet’s feelings for Carrie are interesting. Drouet is not a serious man, as a traveling salesman he goes from place to place indifferently. This is also how he is in his relationships with women: “The truth is, that this goodly drummer [another word for salesman] carried the doom of all enduring relationships in his own lightsome manner and unstable fancy.”

Hurstwood, on the other hand, is different. He has a much more intense desire for Carrie. “As for Hurstwood he was alive with thoughts and feelings concerning Carrie. He had no definite plans regarding her, but he was determined to make her confess and affection for him.” What is Carrie’s appeal to Hurstwood? Well, his marriage with his wife isn’t exactly happy and he doesn’t care much for his children either.

What seems to attract to Carrie is her naivety and the general thrill of sneaking around with her. She revives a sense of youth in his life. “Such anxiety and enthusiasm had not affected him for years. He was youth again in feeling – a cavalier in action.” This seems like a rather typical feeling for those that have affairs.

And then there’s Carrie herself. She doesn’t have much feeling, in fact, she’s almost cold. She goes with whoever is offering her the best option and she adapts. To the two men, she is an object and prize. A role which she pretty much accepts. “The manager looked at his lovely prize, so beautiful, so winsome, so difficult to be won, and made strange resolutions.”

Carrie’s adaptation is how she grows and survives in the world. Her biggest flaw is her inability to love and she constantly craves material things in order to fill that void within her. How Carrie feels about Hurstwood: “True love she had never felt for him. She would have known as much if she could have analyzed her feelings, but this thing which she now felt aroused by his great feeling broke down the barriers between them.” She doesn’t feel any real love for Hurstwood – she just likes what he’s able to provide at the moment. His appeal is the excitement he currently brings but she doesn’t care for him as a person. But Hurstwood’s affection for Carrie is pretty superficial as well. He likes the feeling she gives him in the moment but once that’s gone his desire for her will dwindle.

Hurstwood and Carrie do end up together. Once Hurstwood steals a large some of money from a safe at work and tricks Carrie into moving out of Chicago with him. Once they’re in New York, Hurstwood’s fall begins. He is soon unable to find work and is eventually reduced to poverty.

“Of course, as his own self-respect vanished, it perished for him in Carrie.” Once he can’t offer her anything, Carrie basically becomes disgusted with the man. And Hurstwood no longer seems to have that same desire for her. Hurstwood is unable to adapt to his changing surroundings while Carrie does. That’s why she’s the survivor out of the two of them. She’s able to become an actress, mostly because of her looks alone.

As said before Carrie is a cold, nearly unfeeling person and that’s exactly why she’s able to survive in the world. Here’s a short passage that sums up the type of person Carrie is: “Being of a passive and receptive nature, Carrie accepted the situation. Her state seemed satisfactory enough.” Because she doesn’t get strong emotional attachments to others, she’s able to gradually rise in almost any situation. This idea of survival, in this case, is a part of naturalist thinking. Something that Dreiser was heavily involved in.

As someone unable to adapt to his situation, Hurstwood dies near the end. To be specific, he commits suicide. His fall from a wealthy manager to homeless man is significant. It was pretty easy for him to make it in Chicago, but once he’s thrust into a new environment (New York), he fails. Formerly being a part of the elite, he is completely unable to cope with poverty. This is the story with many who have had their wealth stripped away.

But Carrie’s ending isn’t really happy either Sure, she survives and becomes an actress with plenty of money. But she’s never going to experience real happiness or love: “In your rocking-chair, by your window, shall you dream such happiness as you may never feel.” This is the final line of the book and it describes Carrie’s fate – a constant search for fulfillment that she will never reach.