Red Queen Book Review

redqueen

Mare grew up in the Stilts with other Red bloods, second class citizens to the evolutionarily superior Silver bloods, whose power and strength make it possible to subject Reds to a life of squalor and violence. Bound to a fate of conscription into war, Mare lost hope of a bright future for her family, until she discovers she’s not an ordinary Red Blood—she, too, has strange abilities. A Red rebellion rises while she’s thrust into a world of royalty and privilege, and she has to choose between safety, liberation, and finding out the truth about her new gilded life.

Although we’re told Mare grew thick skin after fending for herself in the streets, she’s constantly manipulated and ushered through out the book by the whims of others, rarely making decisions or taking action for herself. Save for a few fight scenes, she spends most of the story whining about the injustices of her world while doing very little about it, and the action she does take is very passive. However, the book is incredibly fast paced, with a great balance of action scenes and a well structured plot, making it impossible put down…until Mare’s passivity dulls the story.

This would have earned another star if the character development of her family and friends from the Stilts wasn’t so lackluster. We get a vague sense of who they are, but know very little about them and therefore feel little sympathy when tragedy strikes. She and her loved ones lack substance, which is particularly disappointing as her family serves as a primary motivation throughout the novel.

I got hooked from the moment I picked up the Red Queen, and felt myself losing interest as Mare’s actions, motivations, and background fell flat. There are so, so many amazing YA novels with kick-ass female characters, but unfortunately Red Queen wasn’t one of them.

2.5 stars

 

write today.

I’m currently working on a self portrait that required three days of pouring over old journals and sketchbooks full of 6 years of thoughts, observations, and dreams. I absorbed page after page of half written stories, hastily scribbled ideas, and long-winded attempts to craft a personal philosophy. The pages were filled with insecurity, questioned beliefs, and frustrations toward the people who wove in and out of my life.

It was an emotional experience, to say the least, emotions that I described to my friend as neither good nor bad: “They’re…just emotions.”

It’s enlightening to see how I’ve changed and stayed the same. The experience drew out an intimacy with myself that couldn’t be found anywhere else, a deeper understanding of who I am and who I’ve become.

With that, this is my request: Write every day.

I know it’s hard. If you’re at all like me, at the end of a long day all you want to do is plop down in front of Netflix and go brain dead until you fall asleep. But I implore you to try.

Years from now as you’re cleaning out your closets and drawers you’ll find those notebooks with year’s worth of memories. You might set aside a time to crack open those journals worn with age. Then surprise yourself with the way you eloquently described your day job. Fume and cry as you relive failed relationships or a family death. Smile when you realize you achieved your goals, and contemplate those that didn’t pan out.

Ask yourself: In what ways have I changed? Stayed the same? Where do I need to grow, and where do I go from here?

If you’re very consistent it will read like a coming of age novel. You’ll close those dusty journals feeling like you read an autobiography of someone else’s life—and in a way, you have. You’re no longer that person but who she was influenced who you are today.

Even if you only write a paragraph about the struggles of potty training your dog or how you still miss your ex, those words are valuable. Writing is a gateway drug to self discovery, and it’s just as intoxicating.

 

P.S. Keep an eye out for updates on this project, more thoughts on journaling, and a recap on my trip to Portland and experiences with west coast road trips!

Just Kids by Patti Smith book review

Just Kids was required reading for the school I’m transferring to this fall. I never would have picked it up otherwise, as the names Patti Smith and Robert Mappleforth did no more than ring a few bells. Now I look forward to having a conversation with the professor who assigned this, as Smith has become a welcome addition to my personal library.

I was immediately taken by Smith’s voice. Her writing is smooth, well paced, and conversational. It’s like a love letter to young artists, a grandmother offering her stories and advice to a reader she loves.

Smith does what all good memoirs do by crafting her story as a journey rather than an autobiography. I constantly found myself rooting for both her and Robert, and the knowledge that their relationship would grow increasingly complex kept me turning the page.

While one might note a tendency to name drop, Smith doesn’t waste time glorifying the likes of Dali and Dylan. Rather, she depicts individuals who played a role in her and Robert’s artistic life, eloquently crafting their personas. She doesn’t waste time on extraneous detail, which keeps this at a nice, consumable 200 pages.

This coming of age story has a huge, beating heart. Smith threw her whole self into the gentle prose and authentic voice, recalling a transformative path of two groundbreaking artists. I blazed through every word and observation as if I were watching a film, and emerged not only with the intimate knowledge of a superbly wise and insightful artist, but with the motivation to become a better artist, through and through.

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And the cover? To die for.

change and fear of the unknown.

I’ve been mulling over this huge, inevitable change for months. From the moment I set foot in Cambridge, my decision to transfer transformed from concept to reality. Every doubt that abstraction never considered assailed my brain the second orientation ended and tears burned my eyes.

First thought—why the hell am I crying? This school is awesome. I earned a good scholarship. I’ve already made a couple of friends. Heck, I know people in the area who are excited I’ll be around. I’ve always wanted to live on the east coast. My parents are enthusiastically supporting me. Yet I’m fighting tears in the corner of a busy Starbucks thirty minutes before we walk across town for dinner and twenty-four hours before our flight home.

My outlook transformed from nervous anticipation to crippling self-doubt. I mulled over everything wrong with this decision. I dreamt up every possible alternative to moving 3,000 miles away—I could go back to my old school. I could stay at home, get a job, and think about what I *truly* want in life. I could move in with my boyfriend in a lukewarm town as not to endure the trials of a long distance relationship.

In the end, I understood what was bound to happen. I already registered for classes, signed up for housing, and started using my school email. It would be sudden and unfounded to reverse everything I had spent months working toward.

That logic kept me moving forward. I broke the news to friends, packed, and planned for the move. This didn’t curb the doubts, however, and even though every single one was perfectly legitimate, I knew their driving force was fear of the unknown.

How on earth do you deal with this kind of fear?

Recognize that nothing is set in stone. Maybe I’ll miss the west coast more than I anticipated. I can always move back after a semester. Or grit my teeth and bear two years, because in the grand scheme of things two years is a very short amount of time. Allowing yourself the power to change your mind without worrying about what others will think is the ultimate comfort in making big decisions, because few things are irreversible.

If relationships are meant to be, they will be. This cliché fatedestiny talk can sound superfluous, but it brings me comfort. Plus, it’s true. One of my biggest fears was that me and my boyfriend couldn’t handle long distance.

Here’s the thing: If our combined time, effort, and endurance isn’t enough to keep us together, then maybe it’s not meant to be. Not being afraid to admit that was the first step. Conversely, being apart has the potential to bring us closer together. We live in a culture that dooms LDRs, but I’m personally friends with four couples who’s long distance relationships ended in marriage. It’s all about perspective.

Keep busy. This became my mantra. I’m the type of person who can lay in bed all day just thinking. This can be good—I have a vivid imagination and lots of ideas. More often than not, it’s destructive. I end up spending valuable energy on unproductive thoughts—guilt, self-doubt, the toils of humanity. Energy that could be spent learning a new skill, talking to my loved ones, or exploring someplace new. Even though these thoughts are inevitable, you can spend less time entertaining them and more time constructing a better version of yourself.

Conversely, solitude. Solitude is distinct from loneliness.  Loneliness is bitter, dark and distant. Solitude is intentional time alone to better understand yourself and others. I rarely spent time alone during my first few years of college, between work, relationships, and my reluctance to say “no”. As a result, I struggled socially and academically and had a hard time figuring out who I was independent of others. Allowing myself intentional time alone kickstarted the motivation to transfer schools.

Your happiness is just as important as other’s. I was so distraught in how my decision would impact my friends and family that I started to think it would be better if I did what was best for them over what would ultimately be most fulfilling for me.

Unless you have binding obligations to others, making life altering decisions with your needs in the forefront is not selfish. This was the hardest truth for me to swallow, but I know the people who truly care about me will always support my decisions, whether or not it benefits them, and I would do the same.