It’s a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird

Ok guys, this month’s book was an incredible classic, of course. I have been enamored with the book since the first time I picked it up more than a decade ago. There is such a powerful message in the pages, and it has so much weight, even more than half a century later. If we’re being honest, it’s probably just as if not more relevant than before, given the rampant bigotry and racism ruling society these days, but that’s a completely different discussion. Let’s dive in!

First and foremost, as a true son of the South, I love that this book is set right in the heart of the area where racism has perhaps done some of the worst damage. Reading a book that was written in such a simple, uncomplicated and conversational style – yet with such a pregnant message – that included vernacular I’m familiar with is definitely something that makes the book a joy to come back to again and again. Scout is the quintessential rough-and-tumble girl that we all knew growing up. As a matter of fact, if anything, we realize that it is this exact quality that helps her be so strong in the face of what is happening in her town and her home. Of course, we see in the sequel – which was actually written first – that she never changes from this persona, her innocence and strength deriving from the influence this attitude has on her approach to life.

Scout herself is one of the reasons this book is so great for readers of all age groups. She can be understood by everyone who reads the words running through her mind. I can honestly say I have’t met anyone who didn’t relate to Scout in at least some way. her strength in the face of the things that try to break her down and her determination that Tom Robinson deserves justice – as well as her general disdain mixed with a lack of understanding for discrimination of any kind – makes her a character that has survived as a near heroin in my mind. One of the best scenes with Scout comes when she is speaking to the group of angry men outside the courthouse. Scout is doing nothing more than being polite, but she manages to single-handedly diffuse the situation and bring these angry men to their senses, very likely saving Tom and her father without even trying.

The themes of equality and misunderstanding and the blatant condemnation of racism in this book still fascinate me. I see the racism in the world around me now, with people being told to leave the country based on the color of their skin, regardless of where they were born, and entire races and groups of people being torn down by hatred on a daily basis, and I realize that even now it isn’t as bad as it was then. When a black man can be condemned for a crime he obviously didn’t commit just because of the color of his skin and no one bats an eye is insane. Granted, similar things do happen now, there are at least more people standing against such behavior. Knowing that Harper Lee wrote this book speaking out against such unfair treatment of people makes my heart soar. While knowing that so many people haven’t listened hurts deeply.

The character of Atticus has always stood out as a good, strong man in my mind as well –  let’s not discuss the negative comments in “Go Set a Watchman.” I admire the way he taught his children about equality and fairness. Atticus, despite the generalization of the time the book was written, was an amazing father to his children and he instilled in them the hope of a new generation, the essence of equality, and the role of acceptance that men of his own generation so clearly never exhibited. I think this really was Lee’s own dissatisfaction with the world coming out in her writing. She understood humanity and equality and she wrote it with strength and confidence. She stood strong in the face of adversity and showed the world how wrong this behavior was.

I think the biggest question the book raises is whether Boo Radley or Scout is intended to be the greater example of innocence here. Boo, a man who seems to be mentally disabled, is the subject of so much rumor and speculation (which happens too often in Maycomb) and is, in turn, a feared sort of boogeyman figure to the kids. They taunt each other and dare each other to go touch the house or sneak into the garden. And we never see Boo retaliate in anger. In the end we see that Boo, despite being feared, has actually been leaving gifts for the kids, fixes Jem’s pants, and even saves Jem’s life. Regardless, I love the character. He stands for so much in my opinion, that I could could go on for hours about the misconceptions he is faced with and who I think he really is both in the novel and to the literature itself. In a sentence; Boo Radley is the withdrawn control, not joining society, therefore not being damaged by it.

I don’t think I have any real critiques of the book that stand out, other than the fact that I still hate Scout’s aunt and don’t really care much for Dill. I understand their overall contribution to the book, but they were more like annoyances to be dealt with than beneficial characters in my opinion. My biggest problem would be that racism did, in fact, prevail in the case of Tom Robinson, even though he was obviously innocent. The fact that he was shot for committing no crime at all, while an abusive man was let off free is a harsh reminder of the way the world was – and still is – an entirely unfair place. But that’s the point of the book, right? We have to expose the negative behavior so we can fix it.

But what did you think? What are your thoughts on a book that has been so controversial over the years that it has even landed on banned book lists across the U.S.? I hope you’ll all weigh in on the discussion, and definitely let me know what your suggestions are for future reads! I love participation and comments. Share this far and wide and let’s have a big discussion!

I Still Can’t Breathe

Hey there friends and fans! About two years ago I had a small snippet of a story pop into my head and I wrote it down quickly, placing it both in a blog and on my Facebook page to get outside opinions.

At the time I wasn’t sure exactly where it had come from or what it meant, and I’ve returned to it on and off through the years. At this point I’m thinking it may be the inspiration for  a potentially non-supernatural serial killer story. I’ve dabbled a bit in standard fiction, and I always prefer including the supernatural and horror elements in my work, but I think this piece has promise. I wanted to share it again here, so you could check it out. I’d love to have anyone and everyone’s opinion on this short piece of writing. What do you think as you read it? What do you feel? Can you even breathe, because sometimes I can’t.  Anyway, here is the piece, please give me feedback!!

I can’t breathe. My heart is pounding, my legs are throbbing and I can’t breathe. I don’t know how long I’ve been running or how much longer I can keep it up, but I know I can’t stop. The sun has been down for what seems like forever and the faint light is still clinging to the autumn day. My lungs are on fire; my chest feels like it’s going to explode. It’s just when I think things can’t get any worse that I make a terrible decision. I glance behind me to see how close my pursuer is and my foot finds a hole I hadn’t expected to be there. I feel my ankle snap like a twig, the sound ringing out like a shot in the silence. I hit the ground, feel the wind rush out of me and grab my leg. I don’t even have enough breath to scream as I roll over, mouth open in a terrible grimace and find that my attacker is on me.

                I see now that he is brandishing a knife and realize instantly that he means to use it on me. In the faint light I notice the tell-tale stain of rust on the blade as it arcs toward me, catching the reflection of the tree line I’d intended to be my salvation just before it plunges into my chest and out of sight. My first thought, rather than of my life, is of such a poorly manicured knife and what sickness it could bring if used in a culinary fashion.  I don’t have time or energy to react to the man’s attack, and soon it’s too late.

                I feel the pressure first, like being in school and having the pencil in your pocket stab your skin when you sit down. Before I know it the pressure becomes a white hot poker of misery as split and severed nerve endings begin screaming in a hellish, tortured chorus, the warmth inside my chest spreading outwards as my blood flows from newly opened veins. My last thought is a realization that both allows and solidifies my outcome; I am dying. 

13 Reasons Why

I hope everyone took the time to read this awesome book by Jay Asher. I honestly felt it was more than just a novel; it was an experience. Asher uses Clay to take us on an insane journey through Hannah Baker’s life and, ultimately, death. I finished this book much quicker than I thought I would and I don’t think I’ve been quite so invested in a YA novel in a long time.

From the first page I could feel the pain and angst Clay was experiencing. The writing in this book was more or less what you would expect, coming from the perspective of a teenager.  It was very conversational and relatable. At first the feeling of trepidation was almost tangible. I could almost put myself in Clay’s shoes as he put that first tape in the player and heard Hannah’s voice come out of the speakers. The feeling of shock as he realized just what he was listening to is still with me.

I loved reading as Clay wrestled with whether or not to actually listen to the tapes. The idea that there could be literally anything on them, that he had absolutely no idea what effect he had had on Hannah’s life, was one of the most intense things in the book. With the turn of every tape, with every new detail Hannah expressed, Clay’s tension got greater and greater and I felt like I gripped the book tighter and tighter. Seeing the pain his friends and classmates caused and knowing what the result of that pain was made Clay all that much more tormented by the tapes.

One of the most important things the book really brought to light is the real and true effect that our actions can have on others. To hear the description of how the actions of Hannah’s classmates lead her to make the decision she did was really astonishing. As someone who (believe it or not) is just over half a decade out of my teens, I remember things like what Hannah described happening in my school. Casual discussions of who was the most attractive, who was into whom, rumors of which girls (and guys) did what and with whom – those especially – were everywhere in high school. Unfortunately, some of it even lasted through to college, but that’s a whole different story. Really seeing what effect those things can have on someone is hopefully eye-opening to anyone who feels they need to do such things.

As Clay got to his own story, the feeling of relief he felt at knowing that his own page in Hannah’s story was actually a relatively good one was seriously heart wrenching. Seeing the words on the page was almost like watching a movie. For the most part with large portions of this book it was always like watching a film that words couldn’t compare to. I know that’s an odd way to put it, but hopefully some of you understand.

The last bit of the book was insanely powerful. Clay kept listening to the tapes despite the intense pain he was feeling over the matter. He talks so much of how he felt he could love Hannah, may even have loved her before she killed herself. The biggest thing that hurt him with this tale is knowing her whole story, knowing what else had happened to her. Seeing him continually wonder if there was something he could have done to save her, seeing him practically begging the universe for a second chance for her, was heart-breaking. Anyone who has lost someone – to suicide or not – knows this feeling. I think the stage of life you are in has something to do with just how hard it hits you, as well. While I was in high school I actually lost someone who was very special to me, and I took it very hard. Although it was not a suicide I wondered why it happened, what more could have been done to prevent it and if similar situations could end differently.

I think the main point this book brought forward to me is the way people process what happens to them, what is said about them, what we can do to change that and how wide our circle of impact really is. So many people are effected by anything and everything we say or do, and I feel like we really don’t consider that most of the time.

With this book, I don’t think I really had many complaints. Given that it was a YA novel, told from a first person point of view, there were things that you had to attune yourself to with the tone of the writing and the voice of the author, but it definitely didn’t take away from the story. I guess my biggest complaint would be that, for a good portion of the book, I was hoping it would be revealed that Hannah hadn’t actually killed herself. I hoped that on the last tape she would explain that, despite the problems she’d faced, the pain others had caused, the rumors they’d told and the suffering she’d experienced she was going to rise above. I hoped to hear her say she had asked her parents to take her to another town, that she had decided to run away, that her death had somehow been a hoax, but it didn’t happen. Her final words affirmed her plans and ended the 13th part of her story, leading to that mentally taxing scene with Clay falling asleep listening to the static of the other side of the final tape.

Basically, this book was enlightening, incredible and educational. I think anyone and everyone would benefit from reading this awesome work. I chose this book because one of my high school English teachers asked me to look into it and it has been on my radar for a while. It’s a book that her students have been interested in, but she was worried that it may glorify suicide and cause problems. If anyone is worried about this, I’m glad to say I don’t feel like it glorifies suicide in any way. I think the book serves as a warning for our behavior and the pain and problems it can cause. In addition to being a warning for us to monitor our behavior, I think it also serves as a bit of a warning to anyone who  may be considering suicide. It shows the reader that suicide, like rumors and other painful things, has an effect on everyone around us. Although the pain of life may be over for one who commits suicide, the hole we create by not being there is still very much a problem for those we leave behind.

Finally, Asher tells the story without really using the word suicide very much. I thought this was a good thing. It made the act as well as the word seem almost taboo. While telling the story, he shines a light on some of the common signs exhibited by those considering suicide. He even mentions a list of signs of suicidal thinking, which can be found online here; http://bit.ly/2mrmpWD among other places.

I couldn’t do a post like this without saying I can’t stress enough that if you are considering suicide, you have to find the light in life. As someone who has been there, I can definitely say that, if you look, you’ll find many more reasons to live than you could ever find to die. Suicide is final. It is not a way out. It is not good. It can’t solve the problems, it can only cause so many more…

Anyway, that’s a post unto itself as well. I hope you all enjoyed this book as much as I did, and I really look forward to reading your thoughts on it. My announcement for the next book in the book club will be posted on or around Tuesday. Leave me suggestions in the comments or send them to me in a message. I want to know what you guys want to read and discuss! Share this as far and wide as you can to get a lot of eyes on it. There are a lot of people who could benefit from reading this book, and hearing that it’s not a terrible representation of the issue might help them get motivated. Thanks for reading with me, and I look forward to seeing what’s next!

Preparing for dystopia

The world has certainly kept turning since January 20. But that’s really the only way we can say it. Global citizens have watched, many in unabashed horror, as the new leader of the free world has stomped on countless toes and attempted to create little more than an industrial, alienating wasteland of our once-great country. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the U.S.. I still see that, as a citizen of the United States I have countless opportunities to see and explore the world in ways others may not, and I fully respect the great country I live in. But the danger is here nonetheless.

Just in the last month we have heard about how certain people should be banned (but not banned) from the country, we’ve heard that actually counting the heads of those present to get a number is clearly a dated practice that doesn’t mean anything, we’ve heard how large a threat grizzly bears pose to the public school system, and we’ve realized that some people think an industrial pipeline is more important than preserving the resting place of the dead. And that’s just the drop of the hat.

I have kept my over-sized nose out of the discussions of politics that are rampant on every form of news and social media available, but I do want to share my very real concern for how much worse things may realistically end up getting before they get better.

Just today I’ve been seeing the news of an overturned regulation that now allows coal mines in my region to once more dump their waste into streams. This particular practice has led to filthy, sulfurous, uninhabitable water for a good portion of my area. The repercussions of this practice have only recently started to see a reversal. I honestly fear what problems may start to arise from these things alone. I look to the future and, sometimes, I find myself unable to see little more than a ruined, smoking hole in the ground that is not unlike the disaster showed us at the climax of countless apocalyptic movies. But, (and on a much less serious note)it would appear Mother Nature has also picked up on the problem and is working to rectify the situation.

Thousands of people in my region have been hit by a severe strain of the flu this week, leading to around a dozen counties in my neck of the woods going so far as to cancel school for multiple days in an attempt to slow the spread of the illness. I hope I’m not the only one who sees the truth here. We are now entering the real-life culmination of the events in Stephen King’s “The Stand” – and our new president is Randall Flagg.

What other explanation is there? He walks out, looking somehow less than human, feeding off of human suffering and strife, turning as many people as possible against one another, while the rest of the people around him are fighting a severe version of the flu that medicine doesn’t seem to be able to help. Schools are closing, streets are filling with people shouting for change and help, hospitals are being overrun …. My only question now is; where is Mother Abigail when we need her? Who else is going to throw down the Walkin’ Dude and bring us back to a moderate form of social peace? Or, if that can’t happen, where is Roland, who will stop the fall of the tower and bring order back to the realms. Shout out to those of you get the interconnected references of a King fiend here.

In all seriousness, though. There are some administrative decisions being made by “those in charge” that are going to continue to cause problems for those of us who, like Atlas, are left holding up the rest of the world. Wow, that was pathetically conceited and hopelessly deep. I’m in a league of my own today, huh? Basically I just wanted to share that the world is slipping into rough shape, but that we can still survive and use humor to get through life. Most importantly, we can compare the real-life horror story that surrounds us to literature and find true peace to comfort us as the world burns!

I’ve shared my own ideas of the lack of existence of true democracy many times, so none of you really need to hear that again, I’m sure. So the question of the day must be; what book are you reading now? What fictional world are you pushing your consciousness into in order to escape the harsh mundane reality of everyday life? And, more importantly, what’s next?! I hope all is well for everyone here, and I hope I’ve at least brought a smile to a few faces. Keep reading, writing, watching movies and enjoying the world while we have the chance. My review of Thirteen Reasons Why will go up next week and then I’ll be ton the lookout for the next big review, so send me your ideas and let me know what we should read. Have a good February, a good weekend, and make sure to take advantage of any half-priced candy you see!

 

*Image rights remain with the creator.

Book number four, and special announcement

Hey everyone! It’s that time again! I’m really getting back into being able to have book discussions with those willing to participate. I’ve gotten a lot of satisfaction out of these last few months and I hope things will start to pick up even more and we’ll get more interaction soon. Regardless, the time has come to pick up this month’s book.

This particular book was suggested by one of my former teachers and a woman whom I have the utmost respect for. Mrs. Presley, of Tazewell high School, made this suggestion because some of her students have asked to cover the book. The piece in question, another YA novel, is the 2007 work “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. This is a book that has kind of been on the back of my radar since it was part of the curriculum for a  YA college course a few years ago. I really look forward to diving into the piece, but I have to admit that it may not be for everyone.

The book details the aftermath of a girl who committed suicide. She left 13 tapes for those who are responsible for or contributed to her suicide. For those of you who may face emotional pain, it may not be the best book to read, but I think it can be handled if it is read with care. Either way, I look very forward to this book and the discussion that will follow!

In other news; I don’t know if anyone noticed, but this blog is officially over 100 posts! That is just awesome. I’ve been blogging for around four years in total (of course, not all of those posts exist here). Of course, it has been touch and go at times, and some months were better than others, but it’s been something I’ve worked hard at improving. In light of the great news of the blog’s development, I decided that it was high time for an extra special giveaway!

For those of you who may not have seen the news before, I have been working on revamping my existing collection with updated stories, and perhaps some new material. The plan after that is to put the newly remade piece on a different platform and finally get it put in print! This is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time. Unfortunately I am also somewhat terrified of this prospect and have found reason after reason to put it off. But I’m done with that. I’m ready to get my work out to a new audience and see what else awaits!

In case you’re wondering why I brought this up again, it’s pretty simple. I want to give away that print book! Right now I’m planning to give away at least one signed copy of the book. All you have to do to enter the giveaway is like, comment on or share this post. The comment can be anything from giving me a book suggestion or telling me what you’ve thought about the blog in your time checking it out. Feel free to give me any and all suggestions on anything and everything you want. Everyone who does this will be entered to win an exclusive autographed first edition copy of this collection once it’s in print. I plan to run this contest until March 1, so we’ll have plenty of people to choose from!

Share this post far and wide to help me get the word out on both the book and the giveaway, ladies and gents! I look  forward to keeping everything going, and here’s to another 100!

The 5th Wave

The first thing I have to say about this book is that it was incredible. Simply fantastic. In my opinion, if you’re ever tired of reading standard literature, contemporary adult fiction or anything of the sort, pick up a YA novel. Young adult is one genre type that I always try to keep up with, and it always keeps me on my toes. Personally I’m a little sad that I didn’t decide to just do the entire trilogy with this review, but I don’t think any of us have time to read that much in one month!

Diving right in, I think the style of this book is very familiar and interesting. It falls in with the usual tropes associated with YA novels, and it is very easy to relate to. The fact that Yancey basically plays alongside the fourth wall the entire time is something that I enjoyed, although I have to admit if I thought too much about the style it could get a bit confusing. If Cassie is writing in her journal about writing in her journal about Evan reading her journal, we tend to get a bit bogged down by the details.  Of course, as with some things in YA novels, it may be easiest to just take this at face value and not overthink it.

Yancey does a good job, I think, delving into the psyche of people – particularly teenagers and children – who are facing a disaster like this. To see the descent into distrust and near madness of these kids is very revealing of Yancey’s view of humanity. It’s one thing to talk about one 16 year old girl and her opinions, but to see multiple viewpoints from multiple ages and multiple walks of life suggests that the nature of humanity is to both feel fear and fight back whenever possible. Humanity’s willingness and ability to fight back in the face of this disaster definitely provides hope for the possibility of disaster (not that this is necessarily the future). The Others tried to turn kids on the rest of the world, but the children of the world were able to overcome and fight back – at least some of them were. To me, this is Yancey making a statement about the strength of humanity, which I feel is important in a YA novel.

One of the most interesting things for me was the small insight we got into Evan’s thoughts. He finds himself cruel no matter what decision he makes. If he helps the Others, he is cruel to humans. If he helps the humans, he becomes a traitor to “his people.” To me that is the real issue with the aliens depositing their sleeper agents into the minds of humans. In order for the aliens to be truly adapted to humans, they have to develop and sleep in humans- but this also obviously produces a margin for “errors,” like Evan. By spending so many years inside of a human, asleep but absorbing, it’s very easy to see that aliens could absorb too much and become more human than intended. Maybe that is a statement in itself. Humanity is a virus. You try to infest us, and we end up infesting you. It’s the gift of a curse to those who try to invade. That’s the story inside the story that I think Yancey may have tried to slip in there. The greater story might tend to cover this for some, but for me it was a shining idea in an already brightly told tale. It makes me wonder just how many other of these sleeper agents have defected and become human enough to turn against the aliens. Evan does say that he was on a side that was against the invasion. Will the rest of this faction show up in later books? Will they help the remaining humans? It raises so many questions!

All that being said, there were things that I had problems with. First and foremost on this list is the stereotypical sexism of the book. Cassie consistently talks about being in love. She literally at one point says that she wants to have Ben Parish’s babies. She’s 16. Come on, now. I get that she might have a crush on the guy, maybe even want to sleep with him, but in the midst of an alien apocalypse she literally says she wants to have his babies. I find problems with that. In addition to this she ends up falling for Evan. Yes, it’s great he saved her. He nursed her back to health. I get that that sort of things is a bit of a standard clichéd idea in many books and movies, but I feel it’s misplaced here. Evan is Cassie’s second love interest (even though she never made a move on Ben or anything), and she goes nuts over him. To me this makes it seem way too much like a ‘damsel in distress’ type of story.

Hearing Cassie repeatedly talk about boys in such a stereotypical manner kind of takes away from the story, in my opinion. And the scene where Evan finds Cassie and Ben with Sam has the distinct possibility of almost turning into a love triangle. I’m very glad that didn’t happen.

Personally I wanted to get more of an insight into the aliens and their journey and purpose. Of course, with any luck that will come in one of the other two books. I’m hoping to learn the full truth of what happens to Evan and learn more about the reality behind the invasion and the nature of the Others.

What did you think of the book? What did you like or not like? What elements did you have problems with? Is there anything in particular that threw you off or put you off about the book? Overall the book was awesome and I look forward to eventually reading the other two parts. I hope you all enjoyed this book like I did, and I hope you enjoyed the review! What book would you like to cover next? Is there a specific genre you would like to see represented? Let me know in the comments. I really want to see lots of feedback! Jump in on the discussion and share away!

New Page!

Hey everybody! I just wanted to pop in and say that I hope the first week of The 5th Wave is going well. So far I really enjoy the book and I’m taking plenty of notes about things I would like to discuss!

I also wanted to let you all know that I have developed a new Facebook page that is open for discussion from anyone on any book at all, not just limited to this particular book club’s monthly title.

As a literature lover, I am infatuated with discussing my passions, and I LOVE finding people who feel the same. I hope you’ll all jump over to the page and join it if you have Facebook. If not, feel free to contact me at any time with any lit discussion you’d like to have!

Here is the link to the page; https://www.facebook.com/litloverstalk/

Please help me share it far and wide so we can get some really good, wide open discussion!

Book Number 3

Happy New Year, everybody! I hope the holidays treated you all very nicely and I hope 2017 is starting out awesome. I’ve really enjoyed the first two books in the book club so far and I look forward to continuing the project in 2017. I hope to get the club spread farther than ever as we go on this year. That will definitely be helped by getting a lot more interaction with comments and spreading the word!

All that being said, without further ado, the big announcement for the first of 2017 is nigh! For this month I think we’ll tackle a little YA fiction and run with a New York Times bestseller; The 5th Wave.

This book, published a few years ago by Rick Yancey, tells the story of an alien invasion that pits man against man, woman against woman and children against children. Mankind suffers multiple waves of alien attack that leaves the species crippled and isolated.

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while and I look forward to getting to cover it! I hope you’ll all join in and discuss it with me!

Look for my review to be posted on the 28th. Keep me posted on your progress on social media and right here!