I read 15 books in five days…

I read something like 15 books in five days. Not kidding. Somebody take me to a doctor.

The reasons: (1) I found the wonderful world of the eBook public library after rediscovering my library card (2) my internship was rather slow-moving last week (3) I made myself a summer 2014 to-read list of about 100 titles

Anyways, the 3 books a day thing is gonna stop for at least the rest of this week. My internship is starting to pick up, July NaNoWriMo is starting and I also read all the books I could find online. The eBook library isn’t very extensive. But…I am going home this weekend and will check out about a dozen physical library books to read.

The reviews will be up shortly!

 

 

The Daily Tangled Inkspill: Short Story Excerpt/Scene: Not Real

I was five the first time they told me I was Not Real. Hansel, who liked to play teacher back then, had been teaching me about ink. I knew all about paper: the textures, the million shades of white, the way my brothers glued it into perfectly still stacks within the leather covers.

“…and the day you start to see ink, I’ll teach you how to read.”

“Read?” I said excitedly. I’d seen Hansel and our older brothers hunched over the books for hours, immersed by what they called “reading.”

“But the day you see ink is the day you start to carry our burdens,” Hansel warned. “You must start slow…too many stories here, too much pain…You see, each book in the Library is the story of one individual, one entire life.”

“Do have a book, too?”

“Silly!” laughed Hansel. “We don’t have lives. We’re Not Real, Michael.”

 

The Daily Tangled Inkspill: Poem: The Wallflowers

Everyday I write something (a few lines of poetry, a paragraph from a story, a first sentence, a life quote, a thought) to sort out the tangled inkspills in my head. These are my Daily Tangled Inkspills.

We are a different species of flower,

Something strangled into the helices

Of our ancestors, our culture.

The experts explain the flight-or-fight reaction with big words

Tossed into a cauldron of anthropology

And biochemistry and history.

Our heartbeats threaten to swallow us whole,

And sometimes we want to shed the shabby names

On our birth certificates.

And just sometimes, we imagine being reborn from new seeds,

Handed head starts at germination,

And stamped with names that sound American.

The Daily Tangled Inkspill: Poem: Story of One Life

Everyday I write something (a few lines of poetry, a paragraph from a story, a first sentence, a life quote, a thought) to sort out the tangled inkspills in my head. These are my Daily Tangled Inkspills.

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Story of One Life

Everybody wants to be special.

Everybody is the main character in his own story,

Throwing copperstained wishes into fountains

And deciphering the invisible ink of the future.

I am one in one point three billion,

Standing on these foreign streets

Cobbled with ancient history and footprints and abandoned babies.

Dialects tangle together and I can’t tell them apart.

There are a million lost girls in this country.

There is too much history lingering everywhere,

In these dusty characters that change their limbs every century,

In rice paper and traditions and family lines.

Sometimes it overwhelms me.

My history began here too,

In this hospital’s building three, floor four.

With a Chinese name and a Chinese identity and a Chinese legacy.

Thankfully my mother wanted a daughter and I was not lost.

I almost grew up in this country.

Instead, I grew up in the whitebread Midwest,

And  I always wanted to be somebody else.

I imagined mandarin-colored freckles on my skin,

Ice cream colors dyed into blonde hair.

I imagined being born as somebody else,

A different main character in a different story,

Free of a cultural inheritance I could not always understand.

I imagined rebellions that never happened.

My story might have so many parallel endings.

I am one in seven billion.

In my story, I am buried inside the curves of ambition,

Sleeping inside an American dream,

Lighting dandelions on fire.

Years ago, my mother brushed the wilderness out of my hair

And told me there are no Prince Charmings.

She said, “You must be your own hero.”

And I also say, “I must be my own narrator.”

Everyday, I am writing the story of my life.

Keep Calm and Play Music: Alice’s NaNoWriMo Playlist

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  1. Back to the Basics by Lana Del Rey
  2. Bella by Angus and Julia Stone
  3. Campus by Vampire Weekend
  4. Devil’s Tears by Angus and Julia Stone
  5. Drove Me Wild by Tegan and Sara
  6. Just A Boy by Angus and Julia Stone
  7. Lose Your Mind by Kodaline
  8. The Memory Machine by Julia Stone
  9. Ribs by Lorde
  10. Sunset by The xx
  11. Team by Lorde
  12. That Girl by Catcall
  13. The Way It Was by The Killers
  14. 400 Lux by Lorde

This is just a general playlist of songs I’m currently listening to on iTunes. There’s currently a lot of Angus and Julia Stone since I just found them last week!

As the month goes on, I’ll be uploading theme-specific playlists. Eventually I’ll make a soundtrack for my novel, Stilts! I’ve heard that’s a really fun thing to do — make a playlist for your novel!

Book Review: Amandine by Adele Griffin (4/5)

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Ordinary, overweight and lonely Delia meets Amandine on the last day of her first week at her new high school. Amandine is an artist, actress and ballerina — She’s exciting, extraordinary and bold. She’s nothing like anyone in their small town. But this innocent-seeming girl is also dark, controlling and dangerous. And she tells lies. Terrified of loneliness, 14-year-old Delia clings to Amandine. Before she knows it, Amandine has sucked her into a toxic friendship.

Adele Griffin is most definitely a great storyteller. She’s captured the inner workings of the adolescent mind, as well as the ineffectual communication between Delia and her parents. I sympathized with Delia from the start. There’s many layers to her insecurities, her character and her good heart.

More than anything, I understand her loneliness. Better a less-than-friendly friend than no friends. I was like Delia, terrified of loneliness. And unfortunately, toxic friendships are very common among adolescent girls. In middle school, I myself might have befriended an Amandine or two of my own — though not quite this extreme.

Amandine was a nice read. The ending is a bit rushed — I feel like there could have been more exploration of Delia’s inner demons. Nonetheless, the novel ends on a positive note (though it’s too much “telling” rather than “showing” for my tastes) and I feel sure that Delia will be just fine. She will grow into her own person. She’ll brave the wobbly years of adolescence… After all, fourteen doesn’t last forever.

***ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review

 

 

Book Review: The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (4/5)

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The Wicked Girls is the story of two 11-year-old English girls who made a mistake one summer day. Annabel Oldacre and Jade Walker met that one day and killed a four-year-old girl. For the next 25 years, they lose contact and face the consequences of that mistake.

This thriller builds on a very gripping premise — it’s bold, fresh and shattering. Rehabilitated, hated and tortured, Annabel and Jade grow up into different lives. One becomes Amber, a cleaning manager who is something of a pushover with her employees and her boyfriend, Vic. The other becomes Kristy, a successful journalist with a caring husband and two kids. When Kristy the journalist comes to Amber’s town to investigate a string of murders, the two women’s lives collide.

And they know then how fragile these new identities they’ve created are. How the media could shatter and break everything they’ve tried to rebuild. How they can never run from their past.

To say the least, The Wicked Girls is gripping and emotional. Readers feel a great deal of sympathy for these two women. At the same time, I wish there had been more exploration of their emotions — it would have made the book even more deeper and heart-wrenching. I feel like a couple serious issues may have slipped away in the pacing of the thriller/mystery. The mystery, for me, was not really a mystery. I guessed/hunched right away at the twist.

This novel is something new and ventures thoughts onto a road not taken… It raises questions about children who commit crimes. Obviously Amber and Kristy are searching for redemption; in the end, I think they receive it, albeit in a different and bittersweet form. Life is never as sweet as fairy tales.

***ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for my review

 

Book Review: The People in the Trees: A Novel by Hanya Yanagihara (4.5/5)

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I’ve also been putting off this review for a while….

The People in the Trees is an anthropological thriller infused with adventure, discovery, science, the ethics of science and — most of all — deeply stirring moral questions. In 1950, anthropologist Paul Tallent calls for a young doctor to accompany him on his expedition to the isolated island Ivu’ivu. The med school sends the student at the bottom of the class, Norton Perina — brilliant, lazy, ambitious and arrogant. Little do they know, this expedition will change Perina’s life and touch the world.

While on the expedition, Tallent, Perina and Esme — the assistant Perina detests — discover immortal life amongst the island people. Perina selfishly smuggles back a turtle he suspects of containing the ingredients for immortality and soon wins the Nobel Prize for discovering Selene Syndrome.

But immortality is not all it seems… And it is as quickly lost as it’s found. The concept of immortality is very interesting. And it’s been talked of a lot in recent years; it’s builds on the theory of telomeres being the key to cancer and aging. In the meantime, Perina’s personal life collides with his professional identity. Is a great man still a great man even if he is not good?

The People in the Trees is absolutely shattering. It twists your emotions, plays on your sympathy for the main character, Perina. In the end, I just think Perina was such a broken person — with possibly sociopathic tendencies. It’s really a sad story for all involved, especially the children Perina adopted.

The message I’m taking from the book is: life is not just about the material things. Life is not about who lives the longest. Life is not always about what’s on the surface. There’s things underneath, there’s deep things. Life is about emotional fulfillment, growing into your potential. Perina was very wrong about so many things…but one thing I’ve got to point out (without ruining the story) is how he provided for his children. Sure, he rescued them from a third world society. Sure, he fed and clothed and paid for their college educations. But that’s not enough to raise a child. Perina never thought about his children’s emotional wellbeing and fulfillment. He placed things quite low on Maslow’s hierarchy. Mostly, he didn’t think about what he could do for his children. He only thought about what they could do for him. What emotional hole they could fill in his empty and unfulfilled life.

As an added bonus, Yanagihara’s writing style flows beautifully. No other author could have described the landscapes of Ivu’Ivu quite as well. Yanagihara is a master of the writing style. Every word, every phrase, every sentence…just feels so beautiful, so delicate.

***eBook provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review

Visit my blog for more reviews of up and coming books: http://rememberingwonderland.wordpress.com

Book Review: Trash Can Days: A Middle School Saga by Teddy Steinkellner (3.5/5)

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I have been putting off reviewing this book for two months now…for no particular reason. It’s time I post this review!

Trash Can Days features a multiple-first-person-POV writing style. The entries include diary excerpts, online chats and emails. I imagine they may have different fonts in the actual novel that will illustrate this scattered storytelling style quite well!

There are four main characters in Trash Can Days: eighth grader Hannah, her seventh grader brother Jake, their friend Danny and seventh grader Dorothy Wu. Each of them struggle with unique problems — thus, the beauty of the multiple POV’s. You can only understand these problems if you see them from each middle schooler’s eyes. Popular Hannah struggles with friendships and boyfriends. Jake finds Danny drifting apart from him. Danny feels torn between his Mexican identity and being Jake’s friend.

And then there’s Dorothy Wu. Oh, Dorothy. If there’s one character in every book that you must love, it’s Dorothy. She’s weird, lonely, brilliant and admirable. She’s not afraid to be herself. And that’s something you can’t say about every 12-year-old Asian-American girl, pressured by society, parents and peers. I greatly admire Teddy Steinkellner’s ability to infuse such personality into the character of Dorothy. In fact, I think the reason I enjoyed the book was for Dorothy’s moments!

That being said, Trash Can Days was not phenomenal. It has moments of emotion and catharsis for each of the four main characters, but the story feels disjointed at times and the ending doesn’t seem quite as fulfilling as one might expect. There’s also violence and language in this book. It wouldn’t be suitable for elementary school children. But the social situations, peer pressure, bullying and social outcasting (of Dorothy Wu) is, sadly, a somewhat realistic portrayal of what my middle school was like.

Trash Can Days’ target audience is a bit vague. It’s definitely not YA…Yes, it’s still middle grade. Personally, I will probably not be re-reading Trash Can Days, though I did screenshot some of Dorothy Wu’s funniest words. (I’m reading this on Kindle on my phone.) And I wouldn’t recommend this to the children in my life (who are all elementary-school-aged). In conclusion, I think middle schoolers and high schoolers would find Trash Can Days enjoyable.

***eBook provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review

Read more of my book reviews here on my blog: Remembering Wonderland!