Fridays in Verse: City in a Garden

This one comes to us from 2008, and the pages of my college literary magazine.  My first real publication.  What a trip.  

I like sunshine on street corners
And the glare of urban blooms in crayon-box colors
Flashing defiance to gray grass and gunmetal grime,
            pulling cheap obscenities from lipsticked mouths,
                        pushing yellow-checked beasts into battle with neon-white men
                                    and jeering hands.   
I worship the windows,
Bejeweled in vault arches with blustery locks,
            the irises gilt Kremlin of Mint-greens and golds
                        and foul reds winking, victors flaunting starry warspoils of Eastern dominion,
                                    suffering only the name and Time’s fingers unbloodied,  
Closing steel lashes at dusk
on hard-booted feet making freckles in evening slush,
on teardrops sterilizing blacklung reservoirs in the corners of gutters,
                        sewers gaped to swallow trench-coats and cold-popping death notes 
and husks of old smoke-eyed dodgers flicking ash
across Capone’s eroding seeds.
I breath in the chill off the waters,
Gray-blue titans sunk deep into the iron earth
            running icy around the ankles of old White ghosts
                        and Technicolor giants rolling clenched hearts into clouds,
                                    weaving through monogrammed ribs black and gold like faded jazz
                                                and flowing sick-green in drunkards’ glass eyes. 
I bow to the gridlines,
The vast game of checkers hedged with glassy rows
            and pieces that spit on tiny scalding bodies spotting steam marble-prints,
                        spurt feverish Mozart and shoot steel rainbows on tar,
                                    erupt fizzing star-bombs and white-pebble pockmarks and cries of
Southern victory and Northern defeat,
flicker on off on like molten streams gurgling from the
To this Heart mine is owed,
The great gleaming God,
The steel tyrant,
            fervid dreams twice surpassed
                        but not broken,  
Coke-black shimmered with an old ages’ burnish like reflections of Fire,
                        of steel tubes belching lava from stone treetops,
                                    of the New World’s wonders and metal descendents,  
                                                of the wilds of the prairie and its green teeth attacking—
But the God beats back the hedges
and the prairie’s posh shears
                        and the city grows wild and tall,
                                    a giant with scraggly hair shored against the raging long grasses, 
And its crooked mouth smiles. 


Waiting On Wednesday: The City's Son by Tom Pollock

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine to feature yet-to-be-released books.

Tom Pollock 
Coming September 8th, 2012

Running from her traitorous best friend and her estranged father, graffiti artist Beth Bradley is looking for sanctuary. What she finds is Filius, the ragged and cocky crown prince of London’s mystical underworld. Filius opens Beth’s eyes to the city she’s never truly seen—where vast spiders crawl telephone wires seeking voices to steal, railwraiths escape their tethers, and statues conceal an ancient priesthood robed in bronze. But it all teeters on the brink of destruction. Amid rumors that Filius’s goddess mother will soon return from her 15-year exile, Reach, a malign god of urban decay, wants the young prince dead. Helping Filius raise an alleyway army to reclaim his skyscraper throne, Beth soon forgets her old life. But when her best friend is captured, Beth must choose between this wondrous existence and the life she left behind.  

Okay, I know I rant about mystery boy plots, but with a set-up this unique, I just couldn’t resist. (Never mind that the boy toy’s name reminds me of Flitwick.) First of all, I love urban fantasy that actually emphasizes the urban. Think the crazy car world of Diane Duane’s So You Want to Be a Wizard?. More modern than steampunk, not quite cyber fantasy. I have no idea what railwraiths are or why mega-spiders need to steal voices or what a skyscraper throne is, but I definitely want to find out. Beth also seems like a pretty badass character. Not gonna lie, as much as I can relate to the bookworm nerdy heroine, it’s nice to see some rougher kids in the market. Now let’s just hope that she doesn’t choose wonder-boy over her best friend and I’ll be even happier.


Short Story Review: Little Bernie's Map by Troy Aaron Ratliff

TITLE: Little Bernie’s Map
AUTHOR: Troy Aaron Ratliff
FORMAT: Kindle
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 3.5/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all stories I’ve ever read].
FOR: Sci-fi lovers. People who like creepy paranormal stories with a twist.

The world is a funny place with funny people and some things just happen for no reason at all. Still, every family deserves a vacation, a break, even when times are tough and backs are against the wall. Daniel, a recently out-of-work family man, is returning home with his wife and child from a lovely prescheduled vacation before they must face the harsh reality back home. What they would never have expected was the surreal nightmare they would experience on their journey back.

Overall, I loved the concept. The execution is where I experienced a few bumps. I tend to judge short stories more harshly than novels, because they’re so compact that every word really counts. To explain myself clearly, I’ll break it down by halves.

First half: Ratliff has a wickedly sharp sense of his character. Daniel’s nervous, hopeful demeanor ekes out of every page. I felt instantly connected to him, so much that I forgot the whole deal with the map for a time. Some of the writing drags a little in too much description or too much metaphor; however, generally there’s little to distract you from Daniel’s worried internal monologue.

Second half: Which is the problem. I had no idea what this story would be like going into it. I don’t mind a surprise ending, but the best surprises are carefully set-up. A clever reader can feel the tension building, even if they don’t know why they feel anxious. The map was introduced a little too late into the tale. What’s more, we have a case of telling, rather than showing. Sometimes that style can work. Here, just when the horror was becoming clear, Ratliff yanked us out of Daniel’s head and simply described the action as though in a newspaper, as though it had already happened. I wanted to see what was going on through the eyes of the narrator with whom I’d grown comfortable. Feel the horror as Daniel felt it. I think I’d have enjoyed the last part much more if Ratliff had showed us what was happening as it was happening.

However, the concept itself was brilliant. In another draft, I think it could make the pages of Asimov’s. I can’t give anything away, else I spoil it for you. Suffice to say, I had to flip back a page or two to make sure that what I had surmised was correct, because it was just so darn clever. Ratliff has a wondrous imagination. I look forward to reading more of his work and to watching him grow as a storyteller.

I received this short story free from the author in exchange for an honest review. My opinions stated here in no way relate to the cost of the story or anything but my own appraisal of the work.


Fridays in Verse: Oh coffee, my coffee

Back in 2009, my friend and I were sitting in the student center, talking about coffee.  What it lead to was this.  Yes.  This is what nerds do when they're bored. Towards the end it changes subjects to the most melodramatic Horatio Cane.

O broth transcendent of tellurian bean
Ambrosial to the forerunners of morn
That runnest happy into this canteen,
Thou aidest me thy glory to adorn!
Thy tawny substance doth the tongue enthrall
And mind to vigilance drag forcibly
When mixed with milk, cream, sugar, naught at all;
Each day do many scrounge thy purity.
Not without strife, although, is this affair -
Nor any worth indulging in the night.
Of how thy very virtue doth ensnare
Imbibers innocent, hast thou no sight?
The more this evening we our sleep postpone,
The more the next to wakefulness are prone. 

-          - M.B.       

So fine thy praises of this sacred drink
That had it never prior passed my lips,
Nor stung my nose, nor with its burning sips
Restored my sense, then should no more I think
But of its scent; its phantom taste would sink
My soul to hell; crude tea should scant eclipse
Perpetual fatigue all sleep outstrips
And tip my arid brain to Hades’ brink. 
But terrene seeds a fool might hoard as gold,
In time will prove quicksilver that no stone
Can turn—thy sole repast this potion soon. 
Perhaps thou ne’er hast born the grudge I hold
Nor sufferest thou thy love and hate be one,
But these the fiends for those who wake ‘fore noon! 

-          - C.J. 

Methinks thine allegation crafted crude
That we, whose ferries from the land of sleep
In wake of thine make berth, have not accrued
As many woes as thee, or torments deep.
Indeed, a glance beneath this falsehood's veil
Doth truth eternal to the wise disclose:
No man's acquainted more with Fate's assail
Than who clear through the morning hours may doze.
For as he doth his eyelids ope, and view
How daylight's half-elapsed, he marketh well
That sleepers-in must both the morn's work do
And work that e'er the afternoon befell.
When early-risers to their beds retire,
Their kin from academic stress perspire.

-          - M.B.       

What torments thou dost vision for thy slow-
Arising kind hath shape of light ‘round air
Entwined; for peer at first and dazzling show
The words which dredged a second glance despair. 
For at one time do thine and mine affairs
Assail our minds; what hours you toil, I keep;
Yet when canst thou admit those hours rare
When while thou workst, I lay my head in sleep? 
And morns when payments of thy freedom reap
Thy body, mine new-corpsed doth heavy fall
Upon my chair, while hours of lectures sweep
From me my time; my thoughts to slumber all. 
In time of work, our labors ne’er be twain;
‘Tis while you rest that I my suff’ring gain. 

-          - C.J. 

An acme higher now achieveth he
Who from his heav'nly post the vernal morn
Marketh than when a sonnet last was borne
Through wires electrical from me to thee.
This woe forgiven, now resume may we
Tradition, full a month ago forlorn -
Each one the other's tablet to adorn
With quadridecilinear prosody.
Befitteth it poetical pursuits
As this, howe'er, a subject firm to hold;
Where once the liquor caffeinated stood
Must yet some other case (not vain disputes)
Abide. Whatever topic doth unfold,
Embrace with smart antistrophe I should.

- M.B.        

Pretended wit, you must agree, cannot
Aspire to touch the sharpened quipper’s ear
For as a scribble in a David’s spot
A fool’s pun won’t the guise of brilliance wear.  
But to the bardic wit, you say, not all
Can reach.  For some ‘tis drama where they’ll shine
But both Melpomene and sweet Thalia fail
And grate thy list’ners with each purple line.  
Not lone, you claim, but crutched by stronger rocks
Perhaps a quartz to diamond might aspire
But ringed by setting dull and dry as talc
Of you and yours the shrewder eyes will tire. 
Horatio, you must not fail to see,
For these must claim the lowest place of three.  

- C.J. 



Waiting on Wednesday: Beyond by Graham McNamee

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine to feature yet-to-be-released books.

Graham McNamee 
Coming September 11th, 2012

Jane is not your typical teen. She and her best friend Lexi call themselves the Creep Sisters. Only Lexi knows why Jane is different from anyone else: Her own shadow seems to pull her into near-fatal accidents. Jane is determined to find out why these terrifying things happen, and to overcome her shadow enemy. Her sleuthing with Lexi connects her own horrors to the secret history of a serial killer.  

“Serial killer” was all I really needed to take another look. You don’t find a lot of serial killers trawling the YA cover blurbs. Mostly they hang out with Preston, Child, and Patterson. So naturally I had to snap this one up. Sadly, I won’t be reviewing the lovely pretty galley, but I can wait for this like the rest of the peons. Jane’s shadow pulls her into accidents? Well, that’s definitely more interesting than your typical ghost and ghouls. Creep Sisters? Sounds like people I’d have loved to hang out with in high school. Sign me up.

Possibly the best part? No mention of spooky sexy lover boy. Pretty hard to find these days. Now, I love a good romantic subplot as much as the next closeted hopeless romantic—but seriously, guys. Not every story has to revolve around a sparkly hottie. And our bold heroines are starting to turn into nothing more than manic pixie dream girls. But that’s enough whining out of me. Basically, I’m looking forward to some badass girls taking down a creepy crawly serial killer. Take a look for yourself!

By the by, I'll be abroad for a conference until July 1st. So if you leave me any comments or tweets and I don't respond...well, I'm off gallivanting around the UK.  Cheers!  


Fridays in Verse: The lost art

Since I've decided to do themes, this set contains poems in some way related to art.

A sonnet I don't actually hate from 2008. I really didn't mean for that to rhyme. I swear. 

I am no God, no Raphael returned
To splatter out another chapel’s mask,
No desert king erecting stone to bask
In golden death, no storied martyr burned. 
In my hands, stone to man was never turned,
Nor cities walled, nor did a hallowed cask
My blood contain.  No artist begged the task
To rend’ my form, by me no trophies earned. 
What of my name?  Will it to dust as I
Am made, or be a footnote on a tomb?
Will pages pulped in dirt be my remain?
At least with gods I share one sympathy
For though in swifter course my relics’ doom,
In ages’ rough hands even stone will wane.  

Just for fun, an incredibly emo poem from 2007. Bask in the glory of its angst! 

Paint me an eternity
Of sorrow and desire,
Of eyes that drowned in salt and sweat,
And hearts that drank of fire,
And bitter wine that's lost its taste
From arsenic and gold,
And rope a'frayed 'round demon's necks
And needles wet with blood.

Paint me anger hot like stars
And twisted yellow fears
Dipped on a palette chill with greed
And silver-soaked by tears.
And add the oil skimmed from sin
Kept curdling in the mind
And turpentine from mem'ries lost
And joy from love divined.

Paint me fields of scarlet flesh
With silver bullet stars
Ringed by fatal lovers' kiss
And lonely souls afar,
And childhood hope ripped from its moors
And swallowed by disease,
And laughing secrets tucked away,
And lies borne on the breeze.

Paint me an eternity
Of darkness and despair.
Paint me beauty robbed by time
And silver-dusted hair.
Paint me passion driven mad
And dreamer's thoughts deprave.
Paint all the pain in bitt'rest strain
But paint me not the grave.

As long as we're going back in time (and in the history of my angsty therapy poetry), something I wrote in 2006...in Theology, I believe. 

Is there solace in words?
Can they light a soul
Or mend a broken heart,
Or stem the flow of blood—
Cleanse the wound
Before it begins to smart
From the salt of time?
Can a rhyme reach into the depths of Hell
And pull from the flames that twisted corpse?
Can words its agony tell?
Can letters be the balm
For a fallen angel’s scar?
Can they mend the broken wings
Or collect the broken shards
Of a shattered star?
Is there any real comfort
In penning this despair—
In opening the blistered heart
To the prying eyes
And acid lips
That might read its sorrows there?
Is there any absolution
In these fickle bursts of breath?
Do they but herald the soul’s death?
Are words the savior, the saint,
The salve to cure Perdition’s taint,
Or are they but the remain
Of a spirit already lost—
A helpless wretch, in the fire tossed?
Do words any solace give,
Or are they merely shells,
Expressing hells
That a dead soul might live? 


Waiting on Wednesday: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine to feature yet-to-be-released books.

Sarah Rees Brennan 
Coming September 11th, 2012

Kami Glass is in love with someone she's never met—a boy she's talked to in her head since she was born. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. Her life seems to be in order, until disturbing events begin to occur. There has been screaming in the woods and the manor overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years. . . . The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. Now Kami can see that the town she has known and loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets—and a murderer. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is real, and definitely and deliciously dangerous.  

I don’t usually go for romances, as I’ve mentioned so many times that you’re all probably ready to hit me over the head with a bat right now. Doesn’t mean I don’t like romance, or the romantic. I just prefer it to be embedded into a larger plot rather than stealing the focus of the entire novel. I say “stealing” because unless it’s a lovely slow-building relationship with a variety of plot twists thrown in, I get bored. Sorry, all you smut-lovers. Find another blog.

Anyhoo, I just couldn’t resist the premise of this book. In love with a boy in her head? Murder? Strange Gaiman-esque setting? I’ll have fries with that. It promises to have a taste of the gothic and enough tongue-in-cheek paranormal-y goodness to make me twitch with literary joy. Or so I could glean from the description. Look back towards the end of the year for my review, because I’m buying this one as soon as it hits the press. In print. Because print makes me happy.

Oh, and did I mention that the cover is gorgeous? Simple, gothic, very cleanly designed. Oh yeah, and not a picture of a random angsty model in a dress. That always scores points.


ARC Review: Quarantine: The Loners by Lex Thomas

Apparently it’s been forever since I’ve posted a review. Good job, me. I guess that’s what happens when you combine (a) the rare and elusive social life beast and (b) two straight weeks of spreadsheet DOOM. Yes, that deserved capitals. Anyhoo . . . 

TITLE: Quarantine: The Loners
AUTHOR: Lex Thomas
PAGES: 416
FORMAT: Kindle Netgalley copy
ISBN: 978-1606843291
BUY IT: Amazon
RATING: 4/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all stories I’ve ever read].
FOR: Sci-fi lovers. People looking for something like The Lord of the Flies crossed with 28 Days. People looking for a clever new disaster story that’s zombie-free.

Get your copy July 10, 2012  

It was just another ordinary day at McKinley High—until a massive explosion devastated the school. When loner David Thorpe tried to help his English teacher to safety, the teacher convulsed and died right in front of him. And that was just the beginning. A year later, McKinley has descended into chaos. All the students are infected with a virus that makes them deadly to adults. The school is under military quarantine. The teachers are gone. Violent gangs have formed based on high school social cliques. Without a gang, you’re as good as dead. And David has no gang. It’s just him and his little brother, Will, against the whole school. In this frighteningly dark and captivating novel, Lex Thomas locks readers inside a school where kids don’t fight to be popular, they fight to stay alive.

I present to you, a delightful ARC I received from our friends at Egmont. I really liked it. Half of it, anyway. The first bit was alright, but I felt like I was reading two different stories. After a slow start, the plot raced forward at breakneck speed into a fascinating novel with a very novel look at dystopia.

Let’s break it down. The first half was almost entirely set-up. It suffered a bit from a lack of the old “show, don’t tell” adage. We started fine with our introduction to David and Will. Then disaster hit immediately. Good sign. We get rolling in an instant. However, suddenly we jumped forward into a montage-style “Months passed and all these things were happening and this was how the school became.” Instead of living through the formation of the clique gangs, the barter system, the drops, the first breach of the military—all really vibrant elements of a well-conceived alternate world—we read about it as though in a newspaper article. After the fact. As a result, I found myself dragging through much of the first half. Not to mention, we’re in David’s head entirely until maybe a third of the way in. Then we begin to jump in and out of whoever’s head is most convenient. A little sloppy on the literary side, in my opinion. Stick to point-of-view changes from the start, or stick to one voice.

Cut to Act Two. Suddenly, we’re not looking at the past anymore. David is in the midst of caring for Will and himself, with the threat of his enemy Sam always looming. He’s forming his own gang. He’s taking us on a tour through the workings of a system ruled by guerilla warfare, blackmail, and fear mongering, where athletes rule the school and a palm-sized shard of mirror could buy you a month’s worth of food. Captivating! Interesting! I was engrossed in the struggle between David and Sam, Will’s feelings of inadequacy, Lucy’s idiotic girlishness (yes, I hated her). I came to know the gang members and to root for them in their scrapes. David bothered me, but I think this added to the story. He was self-centered, he was big-headed, and we were supposed to watch him fall by these flaws. And overcome them.

I quibble again only over the ending. I won’t spoil it. Suffice to say, the twist with David was fantastically evil on the part of Thomas. No unearned happy endings here! However, the ending with Will and Lucy left me blinking like a dumb doll. It was too abrupt and not in a jarring, horror-movie, must-read-next-book-NOW sort of way. I just felt cheated. Like I needed one more scene, or one less.

I wish the first bit could have been ironed out prior to publication. Perhaps it will be. Overall, I’ll say that if you don’t mind the slow beginning, the last half of the book is well worth the read.

(I received a free galley from the publisher. My review and the opinions therein are in no way influenced by the price of this copy or any factors besides my own thoughts upon reading the book.) 


Fridays in Verse: Take me to hell

I like writing poems about the failed promise of the afterlife. Sue me. I also like to steal the rhyme scheme of Yeats' poem "The Mask" which is my favorite of all time, and you should all go read it now because it's beautiful and dark.  Go.  Read it.  Now.

This first one comes to us all the way from 2009.  

If you would seek Avalon, turn back
Seek shelter in the raging storm
Your eyes may burn, your skeleton crack
But though your body grind to ash
Untried your soul won’t come to harm.
The lasting wound is not the gash
Of sword or brand, recalls offense
Once earned, concealed, where mental lashes
Find no balm, but that they burn
At every touch, destroying sense.
Gold Eden promises to turn
Mind’s ache to joy, and heal both brain
And body—if you merely spurn
Your life and limb, choose loneliness,
Embrace despair, for later gain. 
Destroy yourself, for heaven’s bliss
If sure your loss will earn your fate
For Earth’s content in vain you’ll miss
To find Forever made of glass
Where piety trades cruel real for naught,
Unconscious tomb for ivory gate.  

Oh hey, this was also from 2009 and on the same subtext. 

Come sweetly, soft, and do tread lightly, dear.
Cruel thorns will tear your brow, your feet, your hair,
Sly rocks your ankles twist; no longer near
The sun, but frozen brambles, trees stripped bare,
Mud-choked the stream where even serpents fear
To sift.  Not e’en the frown of winter wear
The mountains’ mouths, but fleshless faces’ leer
O’er changeless plains, shaved of the seasons’ hair. 
These Nature’s bones, too long less hands to rear
Too-tender seeds, the phantom portraits bear
From careless youth, when dyads danced to hear
Spring’s feet approach out Hades’ new-shut lair. 
Lay down with me where late the stern frontier
By our hand smiled, ‘til absence wrought despair
To wilt our Eden, change our bed to bier. 
Our home we scorned to tend, your fate we share!
Our glass eyes other keepers bid beware,
That untilled soil can naught but tombs prepare. 
But let them know that we were happy here.  

The third was written last Saturday.  

The river runs in darkness where the spirits sleep.
You skirt the bank with feeble heart
Who baubled offerings scantly reap
Or faintly start. 

No tiptoe can but fail surmount a steely peak
Without a slip. Fear not the chill
Of Charon’s hand, for him you seek
Then warm you will.

Forget Elysia and still your craven’s call.
Your footsteps scrawled this dusky trail
That whisked you crawling to your fall.
Alone, we fail. 


Excerpt: A Scene from "Letters"

To preface: "Letters" is the working title for a novel I'm in the process of writing. Something pretentious and quasi-literary, nothing like Dark Moon or any of the others you'll find in the tabs above.  Something I started the night I saw Jonathan Safran Foer talk about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Which you should read.  Because it's everything right with the literary world.  Ramble ramble.  Anyhoo, I've got this novel that's a series of letters and letters within letters and here's a snippet.  Enjoy!

- - -

Laura didn’t see either of those letters.  Maybe if she had just glanced to the side, she would have found one and the surprise that had led her here would have made sense.  It had been chilling her all week.  Her PO box was hers, her own, a receptacle outside of the space of her daily life.  A private place where she could send everything she wanted to hide from.  Bills.  Her father’s drugstore greeting cards.  Penny saver ads.  Things too corrupt for her personal home mailbox.  Things too secret.  Home was for newspaper clippings from Gram and Christmas cards from her old college friends.  She didn’t need to hide from them.  They weren’t coming looking for her.  But someone had found her, someone who didn’t even know who she was, except that he knew her address.  Or she.  She supposed a she could have a girlfriend too.  But she got the feeling it was a he.  Something about the craggy penmanship like little pictographs instead of letters, like the wedge writing that the Babylonians used.  Actually it was all the Sumerians and the Babylonians only adopted it for their language, Akkadian.  You would know that, and you would tell me that I wasn’t quite right, and explain the real answer while I blushed self-consciously for failing to impress you.

But you wouldn’t care and you’d smile, like the blonde boy smiled at Laura as he walked past and she made a point of ignoring him, lopsided and otherworldly.  She didn’t know that he had written the letter, invaded her personal secret box.  If she had, she never would have stayed in her chair when he found her at the coffee shop, reading Everything Is Illuminated with her knees trapped between her chest and the table.


Waiting On Wednesday: Wake by Amanda Hocking

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a feature hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine to feature yet-to-be-released books.

(Just realized that I posted this yesterday. Which was Tuesday. Grad school makes time wonky.) 

Amanda Hocking 
Coming August 7th, 2012

Gorgeous. Fearless. Dangerous. They're the kind of girls you envy; the kind of girls you want to hate. Strangers in town for the summer, Penn, Lexi and Thea have caught everyone's attention—but it’s Gemma who’s attracted theirs. She’s the one they’ve chosen to be part of their group. Gemma seems to have it all—she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door. He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back. Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever. She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove. They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different. Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price. And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves—or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.  

This is a bit of a weird WOW (look above, all you geeks who just read “Warcraft”) in that I don’t particularly like Amanda Hocking’s books. Back when her stardom first spiked, I was curious. I read Trylle. I read a good number of My Blood Approves. I couldn’t really fathom why she was being hailed as the second coming of YA fantasy.

Before you all chuck copies of Switched at my head, this isn’t a crack at her. She’s a hard worker who has a good grasp of characterization and a lot of potential. Yet I say “potential” because for me, she wasn’t quite there yet. The first page of Switched contained the word “th0ink.” The plots were quite slow in places and a bit deus ex machina in others. Don’t get me started on the speech where Finn tells Wendy she must be a troll because she doesn’t like shoes and has wild hair.

I digress. For me, Hocking’s early work had a lot of potential that just wasn’t polished enough. I worry a bit with Wake having a main character who screams too-perfect, but I’ve seen Hocking’s other main characters. I have faith that she’ll steer Gemma out of Mary Sue territory. What I’m very interested to see is whether, with a professional editing team, Hocking will surpass her earlier self-published efforts with a more polished, professional-looking book. I wish her the best. And I’m sure, regardless of what I think, it’ll make bank anyway.


Poetry: When the tides

I really should have posted this yesterday since it was much more relevant to what was making me feel so blah. I suppose I must have repressed it. Anyway, enjoy your extra dose of rough angsty hate poetry! Relive your teenage years in style. 

When the tides they arise
In the mist of your eyes
With the freckles that glint like the sea
Well what shall we do then
For just now and again
I’d defy my own head, though it knows that you’re dead
And live only in dreams, whatsoever I see.
But the worst of it all
Is no tomb, shroud or pall,
For you walk in the sun, fading only to me.  


Fridays in Verse: Saturday edition

Yes, I know it's Saturday. I was just too busy / emotionally harrowed to post yesterday. So here you have it. To keep with the theme, how about a few bitter love poems? Because emo poetry isn't just for teenagers anymore.  In case you hadn't noticed, I like to pretend that I live in the 1600s.  It's fun and dusty there.

Never trust a blue-eyed boy in matters
Of love, or trifles of that kind.
Not least if you have hopes to live.
For blue eyes sparkle with the strength of blood,
And with such ease can they take your tender heart for food. 
The theft I’ll grant; the lie I can’t forgive.  

With what wound can a man inflict himself and call it sense?
What fiery brand would wreak a welt and then a smile?
What madness this?
To say but a word and it’s obvious
A rose, a kiss
With all the thorns
All love is just a masochist. 

Heart, sewer of the soul,
heaps high with the muck of emotion,
oozing dream-curdled and love-soiled
and thickened with bile hacked from raw throats. 
What fool dares dip his hand
into that pool of phlegm and tears
to grasp its hidden nectar? 
Even so steadfast an ivory cage
cannot restrain the filth
that froths and overspills its bounds,
breathes its insidious stench between rose petals
into a withered ear.
No, scarce near does the very creator heft his mighty instruments,
for even he cannot beget a solvent to scour
the sediment of Memory,
the sludge of Time. 

 What scorn hath not met me, with sting intact,
Needs list me well, for he hath toothless rake
That twill no more a fatal shriek attract
Than fangless beast a knighted gauntlet shake. 
Fair thousand steps have tracked mine withered vault
With spiders’ lines.  Shrunk hand the battle-sword
Will fail to clasp.  Slack jaw no more assaults
The ‘boldened brow as yet a whispered word. 
‘Twould gain thee credit to disturb my bile
Or in my battered heart a blaze ignite
As ‘twould to win a simple’s mind with guile
Or from a blind man thieve his remnant sight. 
A prizeless quest, to grant me one more strife: 
For you, shall be no gain.  For me, no life.   

Now go wash the doom and gloom out of your brain.  I swear, there'll be more with the happy soon.  Or at least sarcastic humor.