The Gift of the Magi

As 2017 winds down, it is time to post the final review of the year!! I hope you all had an absolutely wonderful Christmas (or whichever of the awesome year-end holidays you celebrate) and made some incredible memories. Personally, my Christmas was celebrated a couple of days early with my family and my in-laws and many great memories were made. I am also ecstatic to say that I received a most excellent new leather jacket and a new laptop that has come in wonderfully handy in working on my latest project, a fantasy novel like nothing I’ve ever attempted. But the details of that will come in a later post!

Today we are talking about the much beloved story “The Gift of the Magi.” This story has long held a special place in my heart and the hearts of many due to its strong moral suggestions and the selfless acts presented by our characters, Jim and Della. What instantly strikes me about the story is O. Henry’s nonchalant way of presenting a view that life is basically little more than a series of sniffles, sobs and smiles “with sniffles predominating.”

That statement is an incredibly powerful view of everyday life, and its cynicism makes the actions of the characters all that much more memorable and interesting. Jim and Della, of course, are near to celebrating Christmas, and both have sacrificed something very dear to them in order to help make the thing dear to the other more beautiful. I find it most enthralling that O. Henry makes Della of such a pure attitude that, when reflecting on the watch clasp, she does not say anything about the gift making James more presentable or proud – she instead says the item is “nearer to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.”

To me that is the worth the world. Even in their poverty – having to sell their precious items to give each other gifts – Della still sees the worth of humanity and love over the material world. She is not at all concerned with the way James looks with his leather watch clasp, but instead wants something that is worthy of being attached to Jim’s watch.

A similar mention of humanity’s worth over the material comes from Della describing her hair. It is said that, if given the chance, she would dangle her hair out the window in order to depreciate the Queen of Sheba’s jewels. I absolutely love this. O. Henry presents us with a pair of characters who live life with an immense appreciation for simplicity. Jim and Della literally sell their precious things – Jim’s watch and Della’s hair – in order to give the other a gift to celebrate the possessions they love.

An act like this – a selfless sacrifice made in order to benefit the happiness of another – is a gift that we should all be so lucky to offer someone in this lifetime. Indeed, the author finds the sacrifice such a high honor that he compares Jim and Della to the Wise Men who crossed great distances to bring gifts to the Christ child, the original magi. It is the acts of selflessness, of love, of sacrifice that give us all hope. O. Henry knew this centuries ago and we, as a literary people, have been reading about it ever since.

I don’t have any negative comments to make about this short work. I could dwell on the magic of sacrifice and love for hours, but I think the most important thing to say is that we, as a people, should remember to always find more value in humanity and love than in the material world. We should always find ways to express our love to each other selflessly and stop putting so much value on things. In the end, it’s more often the love we shared that we will be remembered by, not the things we had.

Anyway, that’s the last review of 2017, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you’ve enjoyed this year of my book club, and I look forward to revisiting the whole thing next year. As always, I’d love to have your suggestions for future reads. I hope you all have a great New Year’s Eve and Day, and be sure to go into 2018 with high hopes, plenty of love and a smile on your face!!

Bridge to Terabithia

Happy Banned Books Week! I’ve always been a huge fan of celebrating banned books, partly to stick it to the ridiculous censorship-loving administration, but mostly because I find that the books that people don’t want you to read can often offer you the most. This book is definitely a part of that list. I absolutely LOVE it. My first experience came from the movie, but I was immediately enthralled. For the last ten years I have adored the movie and the book. It is actually one of the inspirations behind my own decision to move forward with my desire to be an author.

One of the greatest things about this novel, for me, is the fact that it points to the total liberation of mankind via the imagination. Being written in the 70’s, it was kind of published in that time when kids were first being encouraged to let their imaginations guide them through portions of their lives, and this book captures the cusp of that idea. Jess’s family and fellow students represent those who feel imagination is not something to be given in to. Jess’s parents, consistently burdened with the challenge of feeding the children and running the farm in the fragile economy they live in, can be seen as the old style of shunning imagination and things that aren’t ‘real,’ where others – Leslie in particular – represent the new and liberating views of allowing imagination its place in life.

Leslie’s introduction into Jess’s life really allows him to open up and be who he is meant to be. She doesn’t act or think like the rest of the kids, or even the adults (with the exception of Ms. Edmunds) that he is used to, and that makes him feel more free than he ever imagined. When Jess and Leslie create Terabithia I truly resonated with his description of the mythical magic of the place. He allows Leslie to bring him into this magical realm, but he still has his doubts. Many times he says that he can’t do it without Leslie, or can’t think of it the same as her. His love for Leslie and Ms. Edmunds is what allows him to embrace the creative side of his own life. After Leslie’s death Jess is obviously devastated, particularly considering the fact that his day had been spent further embracing his own love of art and imagination.

I love the way Paterson brings Jess to reality while allowing him to avoid everything involving Leslie’s death. He adamantly denies that she is gone, so much so that after he runs away and is brought home he wakes up almost completely convinced that it was all a guilt-ridden nightmare because he didn’t invite her to the museum. When he is forced to confront the fact of her death he reacts in much the way a child would, destroying memories of her in anger. Once he calms down he begins to instantly doubt himself again. The inspiration and freedom that Leslie brought him threatens to leave. When considering Terabithia he is terrified that he won’t be able to make the magic happen without Leslie, even worries that the make-believe kingdom won’t be there if he goes without her.

The fact that he is able to make the magic happen is, to me, a testament to the amazing power of love and imagination and creativity. Jess is able to keep the magic he and Leslie created, is even able to be in touch with her memory as he reflects on his friendship with her. I love that. I feel like it is a huge representation of the strength we all possess, even in the midst of a tragedy that threatens everything we hold dear.

Another thing I loved about this book is the way Paterson makes Leslie and Ms. Edmunds strong female figures who refuse to fall into the social norms. The feminist themes that offer these two strong female characters a whole other kind of freedom were both embraced and feared when this book was published (and still are today). I find it very important that there is so much emphasis on Leslie and Ms. Edmunds breaking the norms and being their own women, without holding to social construct or listening to “girls can’t do that.” It is a huge testament to the nature of the piece and its deep running themes of freedom and exceptional behavior.

Of course, this is one of the things that has lead to the book being challenged. The language and the obviously difficult ending are two others. The fact that Paterson wrote such a strong and impactful book 40 years ago, that still stands the test of time today, says a lot about the topics and her own prowess as a writer. Putting my own hatred of literary censorship aside, I find these reasons to be abhorrent for shunning such an awesome work of literature. When children can pick up a book and see that their creativity and imagination should be embraced, find out that it is OK to be different, even see someone their own age faced with and learning how to handle death, that book is a treasure. To push it out of libraries, schools and off of reading lists is a real travesty and I shudder to think there are parents out there who think otherwise.

But I’ll get off my soapbox. I don’t have many faults with this book. I would like a little more explanation of why Jess’s father doesn’t show affection to him the way he does the girls. Granted, this was 40 years ago and many people, particularly in rural America, were still under the impression that showing too much love to boys made them ‘soft,’ I think that knowledge is lost on a lot of youth and they may come away with the impression that the father is just a jerk. Which is harmful to an overall interpretation of the text, I think.

Overall, this book will always have a huge place in my heart. Aside from being a piece of YA literature that truly has the means to empower kids, it is an easy-to-read work that is educational about real-life issues. I love it. I hope you all enjoyed it as well. But what are your thoughts? Do you agree with its challenged/banned status? Tell me your thoughts! And be sure to give me your ideas for the best horror novel we can cover in October!!

IT

Good Thursday to all of you! As fall approaches with heavy, dried and dying hands, so comes the release of the new “IT” movie adaptation. King has actually released his review of the film, in which he says he was “unprepared for how good it was.” This gives me immense hope for the film and its impending sequel. Being a diehard fan of all things King (I even stuck it out through most of the final season of the atrocious “Under the Dome” adaptation) I had to make sure we all had a chance to re-read the masterpiece that started the truly terrifying clown trend. I hope you all covered your boats in paraffin and remembered to thrust your fists against the post, because by the end of this, we’ll all be seeing the ghost!

First and foremost, this book is awesome. The length of the novel is something that often intimidates nearly everyone who looks at it, but once you dive in the pages seem to turn with a mind of their own. As always, I was instantly drawn in by King’s almost nonchalant description of the terrible goings on in Derry. I feel like he fills the pages with all of the tragedy and evil, but it isn’t forced and it doesn’t seem out of place like the villains in some horror works. From the first time we get a mention of Pennywise a sense of almost manic dread falls over the text. From the very beginning we see the clown as a symbol of everything evil which, when it has a mind to, can utterly destroy anyone and everyone it sees. Of course, it typically goes after children who tend to fear more, believe more and harder, and have a much higher energy force (as described in countless other King works).

The first hard murder we learn of, Georgie’s, brings us face to face with the leader of the Losers Club and throws us in the thick of childhood problems, love, and a sense of complete isolation from those who should be protecting the kids. This is one element I absolutely adore. King does an immense job of bringing these kids into the center of their own fears and making them face it all with only each other to turn to. No adult in this novel, save Officer Nell, can be remotely helpful when the kids are in need. In my mind, this is indicative of the sense of helplessness and isolation most kids feel even today as they go through puberty and coming-of-age, which is why so many of them slip into depression and begin to go to drastic measures both to gain attention of their elders and to feel like something they do matters.

Watching the devastation that rips through each of them, bringing them closer together and pitting them against this ageless, formless relic of a demon is something that never gets old for me. The idea that the extravagant minds and wills of seven fearful and angry children are enough to tear this ancient being from the fabric of the universe is something I find incredible. To me it’s a testament to what our minds are able to accomplish in reality. We can survive so much trauma, fear, and heartache and still come back with a vengeance. This is something King never has trouble describing.

The sense of companionship in this novel is one of my favorite elements, as well. Knowing that these children have bared their very souls to one another, and are consistently putting their lives in each other’s and Bill’s hands is amazing. King does a great job giving each of the children a reason to want personal revenge against It and he does it without making any of them seem petty. Some would argue that Bill’s initial motivation, to get revenge for Georgie’s death, is a bit immature – but they are 12. Come on, people! But seriously, it is such an awesome concept to get inside each of their heads and see what truly terrifies them. And the idea of a creature that can take the form of whatever you are most afraid of is something that has been around for millennia, but never becomes less terrifying.

I think the writing style in this novel is incredible as well. The various sections of the book go from a third-person omniscient point of view where we can see everything everyone is thinking based on what the narrator wants us to know to seeing Mike’s first-hand account of his own end of the tale in his journals. I think this is the first book I read where I got such varying and alternating points of view. Granted, I first read it in the third grade, so I’m sure that had something to do with that.  It has definitely inspired my own work and how I approach a novel. To see an author use this sort of method is very liberating after watching so many novels pass by in the third person. Of course, that doesn’t make them of any lesser quality, it is always a breath of fresh air to get a fresh take every now and then.

The thing that really makes this novel exquisite for me is the absolute terror the monster brings. Nothing is safe. From the man next door, to an abandoned refrigerator, from your kitchen sink to the 30 foot tall plastic statue in the center of town – anything can and will be a vessel for It to terrify and/or devour you. I love that. I love the absolute helplessness that fills this novel to the brim. No matter where you go or what you do, the only people you can be sure aren’t doing It’s work for for It are your six 12 year old friends. Nothing could bring our young heroes and heroin to a more exalted state while simultaneously dropping them into the deepest, darkest pit of despair than knowing that they have no one else to turn to to save themselves and their town. They are completely and utterly on their own – except for The Turtle.

This tie in to classic world mythos and King’s own other worlds is impeccable. The icing on the proverbial cake. The fact that The Turtle, this celestial force that vomited out the universe is not only exceedingly familiar with the ancient evil that lives under Derry, but that it is also doing as much as it is able (however little that may be) to help the kids defeat It is awesome.

Finally, the description in this novel, as with other King works, is perfect. I always feel like I can see everything he is writing about as if it’s playing out in my mind like the coolest 35mm projector in the world. And I LOVE it. When the end of the book rolls around I can seriously see the huge spider being torn apart from the inside out by this mental and existential Ritual of CHUD the Losers are forcing it into. I feel like I’m in the cavern with them while the acidic web (another King trope) is falling down around them. I am one with them as they collectively lose their memories and are released from the curse It laid on them. I love the conclusion, with Ben and Bev finally together, Audra getting her soul back (that’s how I think of it) and Mike finally able to move on as well. It is a truly novel resolution to the 30 years of pain and suspense these heroic individuals have been trapped in.

All of that being said, I do have some questions. First and foremost, of course is one that has eluded even my own overly critical mind for more than a decade. If It only awakens once every 25-30 years, how can the guise of Pennywise, or Bob Gray, be seen and photographed numerous times in these periods of hibernation? Many of the photos and incidents that are described in the book take place while It should be asleep in its lair, including, if I remember correctly, the infamous shootout and the axe murder in the bar. Both times multiple people saw Pennywise in various locations. Granted, I don’t think King ever explicitly says “yeah, he’s always sleeping in these periods,” I feel it’s sort of implied.

The other main issue I had with the book was how fast the ending happened. I know some of you are probably groaning that I said a 1,000+ page novel was over too fast, but I feel like some of the lesser involved portions of the book could have been removed in order to give us that much more of a struggle in the end. Obviously a lot is happening, between changing perspectives and different characters and a universal voyage of consciousness with the ‘eater of worlds’ ( you didn’t think I’d make this without a Tim Curry nod, did you?), I would still like to see the final battle drawn out a little more. There was a bit of a race, which again I know was intentional, to get the battle over and find a victor in this decades long battle, but I would love a little more actual banter between the characters. I really want to see into the mind and heart of It, get more of an answer of what It is, where It came from, whether more of them exist, what It wants, etc… But, alas, I guess the remainder of that information will remain in King’s own head! Unless, of course, he can offer us a sequel… but that may be too hopeful even for me.

Anyway, what did you think? Are you a fan of “IT?” Did “IT” give you nightmares, or make you despise clowns in the worst way? What was favorite, or least favorite, part? Comment below, send me an email, whatever works best for you. Let me know your thoughts. And let’s share this far and wide in anticipation of the movie!!

Return to Wattpad!

Hey there friends and fans, I just wanted to post this update to let you all know that I have finally made my return to Wattpad! I haven’t been on the site for more than a year, but I blew the dust off yesterday and returned to my profile. I haven’t looked into working on my old stories just yet, but instead started a brand new piece! I’m very excited about the work and I would love for you all to read it! I don’t know if any of you are involved in Wattpad, but if you are I want to connect with you there, as well, so make sure you either follow me or post your username so I can follow you!

I know that Wattpad has produced some of the world’s bestsellers (looking at you Grey….) so I’m excited to see the levels of talent that exist on the site. Who do you all follow on there? Is there a writer who has blown your mind with their Wattpad works? Inquiring minds want to know!

Without further ado, I’m going to share my story description and my username (with a link) so you can all get connected!

My username is “DameanMathews” and my story is called “The Dollhouse.” It’s an idea I had earlier this year and I’m beyond excited to get to publish it in this way. It really reminds me of the old serial novels that people used to wait eagerly for each week. Very Dickens-esque… Anyway, here’s the decription;

After moving his family to a new town 500 miles from anyone they know a struggling father stumbles across the perfect gift for his depressed daughter. Shortly after the discovery strange things start happening in the McKinrow house. But it can’t be anything serious…. can it?

https://www.wattpad.com/user/DameanMathews

Share with me and share this post with anyone and everyone you know who uses Wattpad!

College changed my life

It has been two years to the day since I walked across the stage at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise and accepted my new position as a college alumnus. When I think about the fact that it has been that long it really blows my mind. In some ways it doesn’t feel like two years, but in others it does. So much has happened in my life since then, and it can all be attributed to the blessings of God and the experience I got in college. And to think, I was one of the people who considered a gap year (not that there’s anything wrong with doing that, of course)!

Since my college graduation I have worked in a library, I have been a newspaper reporter, and now I am a marketing representative for one of the best and coolest theatres on the planet! I have married my college sweetheart, and we are fast approaching our own two-year anniversary (of marriage that is. She’s been putting up with me for closer to five years, God bless her). I have taught a writing workshop to authors with decades more experience than myself, I have been published in local journals and have continued to be true to my own writing both on this blog and in my novels and short stories, while also starting my own online book club. Personally, I think those things are some pretty big accomplishments.

The selfish and arrogant part of my brain almost wants to say “well, Damean, that’s because you’re awesome,” but how “awesome” would I be if I hadn’t gone to college? How many of those experiences never would have happened if I hadn’t decided to take six more years of my life for education?

I have been writing for most of my life, of course, but even that has changed because of college. Looking back at the original ideas and versions of some of my work I sometimes actually laugh at how immature my voice was. Because of my college education I have been exposed to centuries of incredible literature and writing methods. I have had mentors work with me on my academic papers and my personal writing, which has changed the way I see things in many ways. I have been given the chance to write for multiple newspapers and experience a completely different style of writing that has enhanced how I view and handle my personal work. In turn, because of my time as a reporter, I have had some awesome experiences and have been able to relay some heartwarming, as well as tragic, news to thousands of people.

On the employment front I have to openly admit that, in high school, I was qualified to do only a handful of things, including write and run a cash register. Now, I have written more, gone more into the retail element by running departments and managing employees, and I have entered the professional work front with some really awesome jobs. Because of the experience I received at UVa-Wise I was able to work as a library specialist at a local community college, I was able to share breaking and interesting news to thousands for a year as a county reporter, and now I’m working at the longest-running professional theatre in the nation! That thought still blows my mind. I grew up just an hour away from Barter Theatre and it was always an amazing thing to just come and witness, and now I’m a part of the team here. And I would never have been able to do it without my education and experience.

The point here is that, for all those graduating high school and thinking about your futures, college is often the best choice you can make. I remember how I felt graduating high school, though. I wanted to take a year off and ‘see the world’. Granted, my version of the world, without a good paying job, didn’t extend much farther than the middle of Tennessee, North Carolina or the other states surrounding my own. I made a choice, though. I chose, despite my own desire to rely on myself and my writing for a while, to go to college and get a degree and put my fate in the hands of the higher education system. And it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Because of my time in college I met some amazing people, and my life has been forever improved.

I know that a lot of the time it seems like 13 years of school is enough (14 if you did pre-k), but believe me when I say it’s the extra 2, 4, 6 or 7 (or more) years that really make the difference. You might think you have your life planned when you walk out of prom and prepare to get that cap and gown and start your post-public education state of life, but don’t be fooled. The world has changed quite a bit. It used to be very possible to walk into a local company and get an internship or apprenticeship with little more than a high school degree and a give ’em Hell attitude. Not anymore. Higher education is something most businesses require now. Without a college degree, the doors of the employment world kind of close tight.

So, as many of you graduate college, be thankful for that experience. If you’re going into the job market or going on to grad school, take the time to consider just what difference your choice made for you. What experiences have you had that wouldn’t have been possible without college? And for those of you who are in that limbo state of deciding to wing it or go to college in the first place; really think about it. The idea of taking the world in your own hands and trying to forge a path with a high-school diploma and a dream might seem great, but it won’t be easy. Not that college is a piece of cake, but that’s a different story. If you’re on the fence, the best advice I can give is this; take the summer. Put in some applications, take your three free months and experience something new. Think about you. Do what makes you happy. Go somewhere new, spend time with friends, let go of school for a while. And when you finally feel like you again, when your brain isn’t cowering in the corner of your skull at the thought of having more knowledge crammed into it, think about what kind of life you want. Decide who you want to be and what you want to do. Figure out what is going to make you feel the most satisfied in life. Then figure out what it’s going to take to make that happen. The answer just might surprise you.

Have a good week, a good weekend, a good summer and a good life. Congrats to all those graduates out there. Let’s all raise our glasses to those who survived high school, college, university, and grad school. There were most certainly times when you thought you wouldn’t make it – but you did. Congratulations. Now enjoy your life and do what makes you you!

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 my wife was asked to read it 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!

Don’t waste it

I’m the kind of person who looks at the world and wants to find the next great adventure. The entire world is out there for us to enjoy. That’s why it’s here. We have been given this incredible gift – really countless gifts if you look at it the right way – and more often than not we end up wasting it.

One thing that I’ve always wanted to do with my life is travel. I absolutely love getting out in the world and seeing things that I don’t normally see. Recently my wife and I decided we were going to get up and take a trip to Atlanta, Georgia. For some people that might not seem like much, but for us it was a very different world. Neither of us had ever been to Georgia, so it was just like opening up a brand new experience overall.

For us the trip was about five and a half hours each way, and it was an opportunity to see some very interesting things. Leaving from Virginia early in the morning, we unfortunately ran into fog, but that didn’t hinder our experiences at all. Even though we only did two things in Atlanta it was a wonderfully eye-opening time. I couldn’t help but feel an old spark rising back inside of myself, and it excites me beyond all reason.

When I was younger I had plans to travel the whole world. I planned to leave for California with one of my friends and just drive (or walk; we also discussed hiking) until we reached the other coast. I still remember the things we discussed, and I honestly still plan to do most of the things I always wanted to. The experience of traveling to a new place is incredibly invigorating to me. The sense of walking in a new place, looking at new sights, breathing new air… it’s all just awesome. The experience of going to a place you’ve never gone before is worth so much more than just sitting at home.

That brings me to the point of this blog. How many of you are drawn to travel the way I am? We can all say that we love to travel, but how much do we actually embrace it? How often do we make an effort to break our routine and try something new? Almost never. Humans are so much more content not getting into the world and wasting their time with electronics and other such things. Granted, as a product of my generation I have to admit that I love those things, too, but we have become way too reliant on them. We waste so much of our lives not seeing the world at all.

Life is hard, I get that. I think we all do once we reach adulthood. We get up and go to work through the week and by the time our weekend rolls around we are so tired and ready for a break that we tend to just sit around the house telling ourselves that we are resting and relaxing. But at what cost? Is it really worth it to just spend our down time not experiencing new things? Life should NOT consist of living to work and working to live. If we don’t get to actually enjoy our lives, what’s the point?

All of us are only given a certain amount of time in life. We have both the advantage and disadvantage of not knowing how long our time is. We could live for decades more, or we might not make it to next week. The question you really have to ask yourself is whether or not you want to waste it. Is it worth spending your life doing nothing but working and holding down your couch? Do you want to be on your death bed looking back at things and regretting the chances you didn’t take, the adventures you didn’t go  on, the life you didn’t live?

No. None of us want that. As a matter of fact, that is one thing that I truly fear. I don’t want to know that I cost myself  a good day, a new experience, a new country, or making a new friend. In my early adult life I have found myself occasionally falling into the routine of taking my weekends to rest and missing out on going to new places – or even just enjoying the place I live in. I mean, I live in the Appalachian Mountains. How hard is it to find something to enjoy? But things are changing. I have made the decision to make sure that I enjoy my life as much as possible, even if that just means taking more time to read and write and go sit on the porch at night rather than watch TV or play a video game.

Now I understand that some people have anxiety or other issues that keep them from being able to enjoy some of the things I’m talking about here. I also understand that some people’s idea of new things rests in watching new shows and movies, playing new games, etc.. One of my favorite ways to enjoy life is by reading, so believe me, I know what it’s like. Everyone definitely deserves to choose what makes them happy and then pursue it. That’s part of what I’m saying. If your idea of happiness is just relaxing in your home rather than going to new places, then by all means – take the initiative and enjoy it!

This world has more things to offer than we can ever hope to achieve. The real question you have to ask yourself is; how much do I want to do? What is one thing you’ve always wanted to do, one place you’ve always wanted to go, one experience you’ve always wanted to have? Well what’s stopping you?! YOU ARE! Make an effort to get out there and try something new.

So, as you go out (or stay in) and turn over this new leaf, make sure you share what you did (or plan to do) and how it goes! Tell me in the comments below or send me a message elsewhere I really want to know what changes you guys make and how it changes your life!

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!

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens

This book is simply a classic. Of all of the stories in literary history, this is one that almost everyone knows about in some fashion. Even people who have never read it may have watched one of the dozens of movie adaptations that have been made over the years. Dickens, while not necessarily intending to, created one of the most called upon and cherished Christmas tales in the history of the holiday. The story of Ebenezer Scrooge finding his humanity and embracing the true meaning and love of Christmas is a tale that has never died and has only grown in popularity. Let’s jump right in!

First of all, this book is obviously written in that impeccably detailed and British style that Dickens is known for. The picture of a dreary, foggy, yet remarkably beautiful London  Christmas brings us right into the picture. When reading this book I feel myself walking around in this world, being a third (fourth??) party observer that even Ebenezer and his spirit guides don’t sense, much like the visages of Scrooge’s life don’t sense him watching them. Doesn’t that kind of set the stage for an unending spiral of who’s watching whom? But that’s a different story.

Dickens describes Scrooge as a miserly old man, coining a description that has since become synonymous with anyone unwilling to look  on favor at his fellow man. Scrooge is only happy sitting in his frigid counting house keeping count of his money, only happy as he gains more and more to add to his purse. Never one to spend money, Scrooge is described as being so cold that “no warmth could warm or wintry weather chill him.” I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds like a man I would never want to meet. Scrooge’s reaction to being told Merry Christmas is one of the most familiar phrases coined in classic literature. Bah Humbug. The harsh nature of Scrooge’s character runs so deep when we first meet him, that he refuses to believe in Marley’s ghost as it stands right in front of him.

Watching Scrooge’s transformation in this short novel may one of the most rewarding parts of the piece. We see his heart soften as he experiences the truth of his life, the truth of Christmas. He is immersed in the true spirit of Christmas from his past and gets to see the happiness of those people he thinks have nothing to celebrate before being bombarded by the possibility of what awaits him should he not change his ways. The truth of the story is almost biblical in nature in that it gives Scrooge a look at the damnation that awaits if he does allow peace, love and compassion into his heart.

The lesson that money is evil is one of the largest messages Dickens put forth here in an attempt to show people that material desires can not bring you happiness. Scrooge must come to terms with that fact in the book, and he does in a great way. He overcomes everything that he has built, everything he has destroyed and he is well on his way on Christmas Day.

The style of this book is one that stands out among a lot of other, for me. Dickens writes very candidly about the occurrences here and he takes the time to do it in an incredible way. Dickens does an awesome job of tackling this somewhat risky subject matter in a way that captures the minds and hearts of countless generations. One of the things that I’m most drawn to is the sheer conversational manner of the piece and the way that Dickens breaks the fourth wall. Granted, at this time I don’t even think there necessarily was such a thing as the fourth wall.

The linguistic stylings of the book, of course, are classic Dickens and follow closely to his other works. One thing that I really love to consider about the book is the idea that it can be classified as a gothic novel. Ooohhh… I just felt the chill of countless literary minds screaming at me in disagreement. But take a look at the material. Some of the things that makes a work a gothic novel are a haunted or ghost/monster visited house or castle, romance or love, madness, ghosts, and the classic one-dimensional character. For most of these I really don’t even have to give an explanation. Obviously there are ghosts. That’s one of the main points of the work. Scrooge’s very large mansion (in which he only occupies one part) is visited by four of these ghosts. Scrooge himself experiences a wide variety of love and madness throughout the novel. He goes from being an angry old man, to falling in love with life and Christmas, to being considered mad by it. This can also be attributed to The Sublime Sickness (which is a term I coined and an entirely different topic) but is the reason for the story. This change does kind of lead us away from considering Scrooge as one-dimensional and static, but we’ll put that aside for the rest of the qualifications.

Regardless of whether or not you think it is a gothic novel, what do you think of this book? Is it something that you read (or watch) every year? Or was this the first time you’d actually read the tale of Scrooge’s trial (yes, I just moderately compared this to a Herculean tale, and that can definitely spark something in the comments – hint hint). I look very forward to hearing what you all think about this book, and I would love to know if you plan on making it or keeping it a part of your Christmas celebrations!

Finally, I’m hoping to get a lot of suggestions for my January book, which will start a whole new year of writing efforts. Expect that post after the first, of course. Make your suggestions in the comments or shoot me a message on any form of social media or via email. I hope you all enjoyed this book the way I did, and I hope you all had a great Christmas (or any and every holiday you celebrate!) and Happy New Year! Here’s to a great 2017 and a great year of awesome books and book discussion. As always, share this with anyone who will appreciate it and read on!