A Survey… For Me, Not You

Nobody panic! You do not have to fill out anything.

Actually, I’m joining the linkup hosted by Perpetual Page-Turner to answer all-the -questions-ever-thought about the books I read this year. If you enjoy such nerdiness as well, I suggest you head on over there and join the fray.

Bookishness…

Number Of Books You Read:

93. Ta-daa!

Number of Re-Reads:

Uh… all of them?

Okay, okay. You got me. They weren’t all rereads.

Genre You Read The Most From:

Fantasy, Christian, or Classic.

I don’t track these things too well?

1. Best Book You Read In 2016?

The Great Gatsby.

It was assigned for school and… and I liked it? Strange.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic. I feel bad even saying that because I’m positive that this man’s story has inspired thousands of people. He’s an awesome guy. But this book just didn’t impact me the way I expected and hoped it would.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?  

The Safe Lands trilogy.

I began this series once before and hated it. Quit the first book before I got halfway through. But then I thought… “I should’ve given it more of a chance.”

So I tried again. And loved it.

 4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?

I don’t do this much? Because I am surrounded by people who don’t read, so…

However, I’m constantly shoving the Hunger Games trilogy down willing and unwilling throats, so we’ll go with that.

5. Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel of 2016? Best Series Ender of 2016?

How is this one question?

Best series? The Song of Seare trilogy.

Best sequel? Beneath the Forsaken City or Outcasts.

Best finale? The Sword and the Song, by three miles at least.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2016?

Robin McKinley. Lynn Austin. F. Scott Fitzgerald.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Both Sunshine and Shadows were unusual reads for me.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

In Between by Jenny B. Jones. My first encounter with Jones was when I read her book There You’ll Find Me, an instant favorite. For some strange reason, In Between was free on my tablet and recognizing the author of Finley’s sass, I immediately gobbled it up.

9. Book You Read In 2016 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I would say “most of them” because I am Queen of Rereading, but one of my New Year’s resolutions was to read only books that are new to me – absolutely no rereading allowed.

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016?

Sunshine had a pretty cover.

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I also like these…

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11. Most memorable character of 2016?

Omar from the Safe Lands trilogy.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2016?

Fahrenheit 451 and Jacob Have I Loved were both gorgeous.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2016?

Either the Safe Lands trilogy or the Song of Seare trilogy. Both series unabashedly wrangle with some incredibly difficult topics. Have I ever mentioned how much I love that?

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read? 

The Great Gatsby. Fahrenheit 451. Jacob Have I Loved. Blue Like Jazz. Oliver Twist.

All of them, basically?

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2016?

Hope you plan to be here for awhile…

“For a moment it hurt. It hurt a lot, like it had the night after Dad had died, when the world that Mom and Ran and I lived in shattered into millions of sharp little pieces, and we were walking around on the slivers, so every step cut into us, and all we saw around was empty and broken. When we found out that people die when they shouldn’t. That stuff happens, and sometimes it happens to you.
That the world was nothing like I’d thought it was.”

Shadows, Robin McKinley

“Living is dreaming.”

Ben-Hur, Lew Wallace

I plan to write an entire post about the amazing quotes of North To Freedom, so I’ll leave you in suspense for those…

“Writers don’t make any money at all. We make about a dollar. It is terrible. But then again we don’t work either. We sit around in our underwear until noon then go downstairs and make coffee, fry some eggs, read the paper, read part of a book, smell the book, wonder if perhaps we ourselves should work on our book, smell the book again, throw the book across the room because we are quite jealous that any other person wrote a book, feel terribly guilty about throwing the schmuck’s book across the room because we secretly wonder if God in heaven noticed our evil jealousy, or worse, our laziness. We then lie across the couch facedown and mumble to God to forgive us because we are secretly afraid He is going to dry up all our words because we envied another man’s stupid words.”

Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller

Okay, that’s all. That last one sums me up perfectly, by the way.

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2016?

Scarlett was the longest book I read this year at 884 pages long. Goodreads refuses to tell me which book was the shortest.

17. Book That Shocked You The Most (Because of a plot twist, character death, left you hanging with your mouth wide open, etc.)

I was shocked by Deerskin and Rebels, both in a not-happy kind of way.

18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!) (OTP = one true pairing if you aren’t familiar)

Katniss and Gale. I mean Katniss and Peeta. I mean Katniss and Gale?

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

The relationship between the three brothers, Mason, Levi, and Omar in the Safe Lands trilogy. Also Maggie’s relationship with her best friend and her relationship with her younger brother. Jake’s relationship with Lois, his baby dragon. Conor’s relationship with Eoghan. Finley’s relationship with Sister Maria and Mrs. Sweeney. Sylvi’s relationship with Ebon.

What? I like non-romantic relationships.

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2016 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

In Between, by Jenny B. Jones. For aforementioned reasons.

21. Best Book You Read In 2016 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Ha. No. I do not read books this way. I do not know what peer pressure is.

No, I’m serious. I never read the books that are recommended to me. Not that I don’t love it when you make recommendations. I do. I’m just… terrible at actually reading them.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2016?

Con from Sunshine. And Guy from Fahrenheit 451.

23. Best 2016 debut you read?

I don’t think I read any books that were published in 2016 in 2016. Actually, I’m reasonably sure that most of the books I read in 2016 were written before 1971. Yep.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

The Hunger Games and the Safe Lands trilogy.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. His sense of humor is perfect.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2016?

Are you looking at me? I do not cry. Ever.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

If I say The Great Gatsby one more time you will hunt me down and steal all my books in my sleep, and, while that would ultimately be a good thing because I would retain my sanity, but I actually kind of want the books more than my sanity, so I will say…

The Great Gatsby.

Just kidding… Jacob Have I Loved. Happy now?

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

The Great Gatsby. Ouch. Consider soul officially crushed. Apparently I enjoy my soul being crushed, though…

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2016?

I’m gonna say Pegasus by Robin McKinley. It had zero romance, human-animal friendship, animals-who-acted-just-like-humans-but-weren’t, and essentially no plot.

In a word, unique.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

Deerskin. It was… awful. Never read this book. It is not okay.

 

Blogishness…

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016?

How am I to answer such a question?

I rediscovered Abbiee‘s blog that makes me want to eat waffles, go indie, and have gorgeous hair. I discovered Kenzie‘s blog of spunk and randomness. I rediscovered Christine‘s blog and got to know Christine who is like the big sister I never had. Except I have three big sisters, but whatever. I also met Anna who has become a dear friend. And Kit who is apparently my long-lost twin?

I’m gonna go cry stormily in a corner now because I like you all so much.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2016?

Well, this is easy. I only wrote one. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

How should I know? You guys can vote in the comments.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I don’t participate in most of those things… I am, after all, an introvert, so you can’t exactly expect me to betray my true self and be social, right? Right.

However. I do participate in Cait and Sky‘s monthly Beautiful People linkup, because I know Cait and, even though she is famous, she is not scary and I like her.

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016?

By far the best moment was when I realized that for the first time in two years of blogging, I had an audience.

Like, humans wanted to read my words? Totally unprecedented. I’m still in shock, to be perfectly honest.

6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?

I suppose that my biggest struggle is comparing myself to other bloggers. Like, “She started at the same time I did and has triple the followers and great hair! How does this happen?”

Stuff like that.

Otherwise, my experience has been fantastic. No rude or abusive comments, no trolling, no drama.

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

I don’t monitor views so much? Comments, on the other hand… Well, suffice it to say I rabidly stalk the comments.

I got 54 comments on my post about being nominated Sunshine Blogger. But the numbers might be a bit warped by the fact that Sarah and I started debating Hamilton in the comments?

Personally, I loved when I shared snippets for the first time and everyone said the sweetest things imaginable. That was fun. And made my face hurt from smiling too much.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

As some of you know, I moved my blog to WordPress in September. Before that I had been blogging at Blogger and I had essentially no following there.

So.

The thirty-something posts that I wrote to my nonexistent audience were moved over and immediately found their way into the deep dark recesses of the forgotten past. I wrote new posts, I got new followers… Nobody goes back to read the old ones.

Basically, any of those posts could qualify.

Honestly, I don’t mind. My writing style has become much more decided since then, so I shudder to think what drivel you would find should you read them…

Just don’t read them, okay?

And then there are other times when it would seem that my timing was off, or I got a little too nerdy for my own good.

Wanna make my day? Check out this bit of rambling about the Hobbit movie trilogy or this piece of nerdiness about the Lord of the Rings books.

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Um. That nearly every classic ever written is free on my tablet? I may or may not have squeaked excitedly like the small bookish mouse that I am to see so many books piling up on my virtual shelves.

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

Alas, I did not.

I set my goal on Goodreads for 200 books. This was kind of a wild guess? I had never tracked how many books I read in a year before and 200 seemed about right…

Whew! That was a lot of surveyishness. I am exhausted and must go sleep now.

Before I go: What was your favorite post of mine this year? What was the best book you read this year? Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? What are they? What was your best blogging moment this year? What book crushed your soul this year? What book made you cry? Did you discover any new authors? Go on, scream at me.

2016 Character Awards!

So Cait designed a lovely little Character Awards post that she invited us all to politely steal. Because impolitely stealing things isn’t nice.

So I did. Politely stole it, that is.

Now, feel warned. Cait’s questions are somewhat tailored to someone who reads more YA than I do. And so you may notice that my answers don’t always fit quite right… or that I bend the rules a bit. My apologies, Cait.

Personally, I do a great deal of rereading and I read a few classics and a bit of nonfiction. So obviously I had to… tweak things a bit.

Before we get to the, um, ceremony, you should know one last thing. I read 93 books this year. Aren’t you proud of me? I am thoroughly proud of me. You should be, too.

Okay, I’m actually a little disappointed? I set my goal on Goodreads for 200. I thought I could do it. I’ve never tracked how many books I read in a year before… 200 seemed quite reasonable.

Alas, either I overestimated how many books I can squeeze into one year… or I had a bad year in the Reading Department. I think it was the latter? This year was weird in the Reading Department… I had my first reading slump… and ended up hiding from certain scary books for months… books that may or may not be titled Don Quixote and The House of the Seven Gables…

I feel myself beginning to hyperventilate. Breathe, breathe, breathe…

Okay. What if we start the ceremony, yes?

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1. MOST RELATABLE CHARACTER

I’m gonna be that annoying person who can’t decide and say Wheeze from Jacob Have I Loved and Katie from In Between.

I related to Wheeze’s circumstances. Like Wheeze, I sometimes struggle with feeling like I will never step out of my siblings’ shadows. After all, there are a lot of them. And they are all so incredibly talented. It’s hard to feel… special.

Katie’s, on the other hand, were nothing like mine – but her personality was. We’re both dramatic and love good clothes and chocolate and accidentally memorize plays that we’re not actually in. Oops?
2. MOST PURE AND PRECIOUS ANIMAL COMPANION

Hix, one of the “shadows” from, well, Shadows, is adorable. As is Lois, the baby dragon Jake adopts in Dragonhaven.

I was also sorely tempted to mention the baby dragon in my novel, The Songless. However, as it is not technically published yet…
3. FIERCEST FIGHTER

Orual, from Till We Have Faces.

Ha! You thought I was going to say Katniss?
4. MOST AMAZING SIDEKICK

Jim, from Huckleberry Finn. Jim is a sweet guy. If you’re planning a raft trip, I seriously advise you to take Jim with you. It will just make your life so much better. I promise.
5. ONE YOU’RE SURPRISED YOU LOVED

Jemma, from the Safe Lands trilogy. Normally I do not like – nay, I detest – the Overly Sweet and Kind Soul of Goodness. But Jemma was refreshingly genuine and realistic.
6. BEST SASSMASTER

Without a doubt, Finley, from There You’ll Find Me.

“The least you could do is offer a little conversation.” Beckett dodged a pothole, keeping his eyes on the road.
“You want me to talk?”
“It would be the polite thing to do.”
“Okay. Let’s talk.”
“Any topic will be fine.”
“I’m going to sit here and silently think of one. Might take a while.”

Finley is my hero.
7. BEST ANTI-HERO AND MORALLY GREY GRAPE

Omar from the Safe Lands trilogy. I hope to get a review out soon, but Omar was the best part of this trilogy. I deeply appreciated that Williamson didn’t tack up a “Church-going Protagonists Only” sign up at the door. Omar is high on drugs for approximately half of this trilogy. But he’s still a good guy. He still believes. He just doesn’t act like it. Most of the time.
8. BEST WORST VILLAIN TO HATE

President Snow, always and forever.
9. TRULY ASTOUNDING WORST YA PARENTS

Katie’s foster parents from In Between. Not that they were that bad, but I certainly don’t recommend trying to win a difficult teenager’s heart the way they go about it.
10. TRULY ASTOUNDING BEST YA PARENTS

I don’t know that A Wrinkle In Time would traditionally be classified as YA… but I don’t read much in that genre, so bear with me. I’m going to say Meg’s parents. Though technically, only her mother is present for much of the story. Still. She is an awesome mom. I would like to abduct her and force her at gunpoint to adopt me.

Aerin-from-The Hero and the Crown‘s parents were also truly fantastic. I will abduct them as well.
11. TOOT TOOT BEST SHIP OF THEM ALL

Jo and Laurie. Duh. And Julie and the nasty doctor from Fire By Night. I have a weakness for nasty doctors with addictions to alcohol and sarcasm. Also a little bit of Maggie and Takahiro, from Shadows.
12. THE MOST IN NEED OF PROTECTION

Honestly, I want to protect them all?

But for the sake of brevity, I will only name two. Frankenstein’s monster and Jay Gatsby. Frankenstein’s monster is too sweet to survive in our harsh world and Gatsby is far too naive.
13. MOST BORING AS A BARNACLE

Robinson Crusoe from Robinson Crusoe. I have not sufficient words to describe my hatred for this disgusting hero. And for good measure, let’s throw Ben-Hur in there, too. In a fight to the death, I predict that Crusoe would barricade himself in a corner with materials he brought with him and Judah would agree to marry all the women in the crowd who shouted catcalls.
14. BEST LITTLE ROYAL

There were not a great many royals in my readings this year, unfortunately, but I did like Rowena from The Reluctant Duchess.

Oh! I know. Jay Gatsby, from The Great Gatsby. He was adorable.
15. VERY SURPRISED YOU’RE STILL ALIVE

Um, Katniss? And Rae from Sunshine. Both of you should have been dead… yesterday. Or last month.
16. BEST AT HORRIBLE DECISION MAKING

Archer Keaton from the Dreamtreaders trilogy. Though I must argue that bad decision-making is one of the fundamental building-blocks of every story. Frustrating? Yes. Agonizing? Absolutely. But true.
17. CUTEST DORK

Aaron from Bridge To Terabithia and Anne from Anne of Green Gables. So adorkable.
18. CLEVEREST LITTLE HELLION

Huck Finn from Huckleberry Finn. He is a rather devious little boy, but also completely lovable. I shall adopt him.
19. MOST IN NEED OF A NAP

Conor from the Song of Seare trilogy. This poor guy! He is always so exhausted… and covered in blood… and wounds… and beginning to fray mentally…

He. Needeth. Sleep.

Now.
20. WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT YOU

Finnick and Annie from the Hunger Games trilogy. Anyone with me here? They are seriously the most adorable couple to ever grace the pages of a book and I want more. How did they meet?

Scream at me about: how many books you read this year, how many books you wanted to read this year, whether this was a weird Reading Year or not, which character you would most want to read more about, your favoritest ship, the character that you are the most surprised is still alive, and which villain you hate the most. Go ahead. Scream at me.

 

Top Ten Countdown: Books

Want to know which books are the best ever written?

Which ones you should absolutely make an effort to read at all costs before you die?

Out of the kindness of my heart, I have made a Top Ten for you!

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10. The Hobbit

 

Honestly, if J. R. R. Tolkien had not gone on to write The Lord of the Rings, I don’t know that I would have included this on my list.

But he did.

So let’s not depress ourselves with thoughts of a world without Frodo, alright?

My point is, I’m not sure if I added this to list solely because I love The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit is its adorable prelude, or because it can stand on its own.

Personally, I think it can. 

Yes, it’s simplistic. Childish, even.

After all, Tolkien wrote it for children.

But as some of you know, I am an advocate of teenagers and adults reading children’s literature. There are so many gems we would miss out on if we obeyed the dictates of labels like “YA” and “adult” and “children’s lit.”

I say read kid’s books. There’s almost always something in there for you.

The Hobbit is no exception.

Not only is it fun and lighthearted, but it is truly beautiful in its simplicity.

9. Go Set A Watchman

Yes, this made it on the list.

Even though I wrote an entire post on why I hated it after reading it the first time.

But, ultimately, I love Scout – or Jean Louise. I love Atticus. I love Jem. And Uncle Jack. I love Maycomb County. I love Harper Lee’s blunt prose and dry wit and looking at the world through her unique – almost cynical – lens.

8. Gone With The Wind

I feel almost embarrassed, putting this here. Like maybe it doesn’t quite belong?

For one thing, it’s a well-known romance. Not normally my thing.

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For another, it’s huge. Like The Lord of the Rings huge. Like Les Miserables huge. They paid those guys per-word, right? No wonder they’re a thousand-plus pages long.

Not to mention dense and, at times, quite boring. Gone With The Wind, that is. Be not offended, lovers of Lord of the Rings and Les Mis!

But it rocked my world. And for a book to do that, there has to be something special about it.

7. The Hunger Games Trilogy

I know, I know. This is a bit of a copout. I’m sorry.

I just… can’t separate these three books.

I love them as a whole.

The Hunger Games I loved by itself.

Catching Fire? Eh, notsomuch.

Mockingjay is… well, Mockingjay is a different matter altogether.

But all three? Together?

Perfection.

6. Little Women

What a beautiful picture of family, of childhood, of home, of friendship, of sisterhood, of love.

I come from a large family myself, so I can relate, on so many levels.

According to modern readers, Little Women breaks a great many rules. Like the one about infodumping. Remember that one?

They would probably say that it has no cohesive plot, that there is nothing holding the story together, and that it has no point. That Alcott rambles.

That might be true.

But I reject these criticisms.

This story is true, if nothing else. Alcott has captured the heart of a family in a way that I believe no one else ever has.

And if you can’t appreciate that, you’re not a critic worth having.

This heartwarmingly simple story rings true. And that is enough.

5. North To Freedom

More popularly known by the name I Am David, I saw the movie by the same name long before I knew that it was based on a book at all.

The movie is well crafted – and it features Jim Caviezel before he ceased to have some spark of life in him. So that’s certainly a win for everyone.

But I still maintain that a movie can never quite capture the essence of the book it is based upon.

And that’s okay. Books and movies that tell the same story can be appreciated as separate stories – and appreciated better than if we constantly compare the two.

However, I would hate to see anyone miss out on the amazing story that is the book, simply because they have watched the movie and so think that they have seen everything there is to see.

The book offers so much more.

4. Julie of the Wolves

Oddly enough, this is the only Jean Craighead George book that I like.

I read this book as a young girl – which, honestly, doesn’t mean that I recommend doing that; I read a great many books at a young age that little girls should not be reading – and have since read it over and over again as a teenager.

The raw beauty of this book is so gripping. Every emotion is a color, and the metaphors are breathtaking.

The way Miyax lives in harmony with nature is simply beautiful.

Can I be adopted by a wolf pack, please?

3. To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird, sadly, was not a book that I had the pleasure to grow up with.

I was vaguely aware that a book by such a title existed, but my knowledge did not extend much further than that.

Imagine my surprise and pleasure at meeting this amazing piece of literature.

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Actually, I thought the first chapter was boring and predicted hating the entire book.

Excuse while I go laugh maniacally at myself for a few moments.

Honestly, I don’t have sufficient words to accurately describe my feelings about this book.

It’s a classic for a reason, folks!

2. The Lord of the Rings

I think we can all agree that J. R. R. Tolkien was nothing short of a genius.

We may or may not be able to agree on whether he was not the most boring writer to have ever lived.

At nine years old, I struggled for six months to wade through The Lord of the Rings. So, at that time, I probably would’ve agreed with those of you who say that it’s too boring, too long, and you’d rather just watch the movie.

I would’ve rather watched the movie as well. It was the bitter disappointment of being told that I was not allowed that provided the impetus behind my reading it in the first place.

All these years later, I have read The Lord of the Rings over and over again and it has never been a waste of my time.

It is a truly beautiful book. Action, emotion, beauty, romance, history – it’s all there.


1. Till We Have Faces


I am not actually a fan of C. S. Lewis.

Now those of you who grew up reading The Chronicles of Narnia are disgusted with me.

And those of you who think he’s the boring author of books expounding upon Christianity  are beginning to think my opinion might be valid.

Not to mention that it is currently my favorite book.

Till We Have Faces is unlike anything else C. S. Lewis ever wrote. Obviously every author has a particular voice and there are moments that are clearly recognizable as classic Lewis.

But this is not a kid’s book. And certainly not nonfiction.

It’s actually a retelling. Of a Greek myth.

Pysche and Cupid, to be exact.

It would be better if you experienced for yourself, so I won’t say anything to try and convince you.

Discover it for yourself. Tell me what you think.

What is your favorite book? Have you read any of the books on this list? What did you think of them? Do you ever read kid’s books? Do you ever read books that are intended for an audience that you are not apart of?

The 12 Best Quotes of Anne of Green Gables

I first met Anne through an audio dramatization.

I have never been a fan of audiobooks, but audio dramatizations, when done well, can be a great way to expose yourself to literature. I was introduced to many of my now-favorites that way.

I must’ve listened to Anne of Green Gables a dozen times or more.

So it was nostalgic to finally read the book for the first time, many years later. By that time, I had seen the film trilogy as well.

Anne of Green Gables now represents a little piece of my childhood and I enjoy reading it now, as a teenager, as much as I did then, as a little girl.

Here are some of my favorite moments from the book.

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1. “It’s so easy to be wicked without knowing, isn’t it?”

It is, Anne. It is.

2. “But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?”

This was definitely my persuasion when I was five.

I do find it interesting that later on in the book Anne realizes the value of using short, easy-to-understand words.

3. “But the worst of imagining things is that the time comes when you have to stop and that hurts.”

Most of my favorite quotes from Anne of Green Gables are my favorites because they are amusing, but this one makes me sad.

I have a hard time accepting change. Accepting that children have to grow up and that one day we have to wake up and face the real world, that dreams don’t always come true and one of these days, we’ll have to stop pretending.

For me, that’s what this quote is about.

4. “But I’d rather look ridiculous when everybody else does than plain and sensible all by myself.”

 I love Anne’s unique way of coming right out and saying things the way they are. The funniest part is that she’s speaking in defense of trying to fit in, and yet, when she puts it that way, it sounds so utterly foolish.

I mean, don’t we all do this?

I certainly do. I just don’t articulate it – and if I did, I would try to make it sound justifiable. Anne doesn’t even attempt to justify it.

5. “She doesn’t know what to do with the people so she kills them to get rid of them.”

No, Diana does not murder anyone!

Except characters in stories.

I think my favorite part of this quote is that I’ve read books where this actually happens. I used to think that killing off one of your characters must be the hardest thing an author can do. Then I realized that killing your characters can be a way out. An easy way out.

6. “Reading stories is bad enough but writing them is worse.”


Obviously, I strongly disagree, because I do both.

Voraciously.

Voluminously.

I just love this quote because I couldn’t stop thinking, if Marilla was disgusted with Anne’s reading and writing habits, how much more disgusted she would be with me!

7. “If I was wicked, I meant to be wicked to some purpose.”

Can we just make this the worldwide mantra for villains everywhere? Please?

8. “The things you wanted so much when you were  a child don’t seem half so wonderful to you when you get them.”

I think, in some ways, that the “wanting” is the best part.

On the other hand, we can spend so much of our lives chase after something we think we want, only to realize that we aren’t satisfied when we get it.

It almost seems as if people are wired so that we aren’t truly happy without a goal to aim for.

9. “Young men are all very well in their place, but it doesn’t do to drag them into everything, does it?”

I know a few authors who could use to hear this message…


10. “I like people who make me love them. It saves me so much trouble making myself love them.”

Agreed.

Small children are particularly gifted at this.

11. “Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.”

Well, that’s one way to look at it!

We think there is such a huge gulf between winning and losing, but Anne has a point here. Failing is the closest anyone can get to winning.

12. “I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe the best does.”

As a bit of a pessimist myself, this way of thinking is so foreign to me. But I think it’s a good way to live your life.

It’s not as if we can change the outcome by knowing it could be bad.

Have you read Anne of Green Gables? What are some of your favorite quotes? Have you seen the movies? Do you think Megan Follows does a good job of portraying Anne? Which movie is your favorite? Have you read all eight books? Which is your favorite? Which is better – the books or the movies?

In other news… I have not yet finished writing my first Character Interview featuring both Makovu and Endelyn – which means you can still submit questions!

7 Thoughts On Go Set A Watchman

1. Makes me feel sick. I subconsciously mirror story characters I feel I can relate to. So if the main character is sick, I start to feel stifled, hot, and claustrophobic. Not fun.

2. Ruins To Kill A Mockingbird. I will never be able to read To Kill A Mockingbird the same way again. Kinda makes me regret reading Go Set A Watchman.

3. Has traits of a sequel… but isn’t. Know those books that come out a while after a bestseller, the ones that the author probably didn’t plan to write until he saw how successful the first one turned out? Or, even worse, the books written after the author of the bestseller is dead – because one would feel strange writing the unwanted sequel to their book while they were still living, I suppose – by some random idiot off the street looking for a little extra cash on the side? Go Set A Watchman almost has this feel but I can’t accuse it of either, as I know that it was written previous to To Kill A Mockingbird. Still, certain elements seem fishy. Killing off Jem, for instance. The sudden appearance of Hank, who was a lifelong friend of Jean Louise’s – but suspiciously never  made an appearance in To Kill A Mockingbird?

4. On parenting. Atticus is, like, the model parent. He never overreacts. Parents the world over could stand to learn a thing or two from Atticus when it comes to his parenting skill.

5. Is boring. Politics are not my thing, so, yeah, a lot of this book was way over my head.

6. Makes us realize all over again why we love Jem. He tells Scout he’ll look out for her. He helps Scout out of a certain… dilemma. Makes his football teammates dance with his little sister – “his quiet way of making sure she had a good time.” Sweet beyond words.

7. Is Jean Louise’s journey from child-like innocence to adulthood, To Kill A Mockingbird was Jem’s. To Kill A Mockingbird focuses on Scout’s childhood, while the glimpses into the past we get in Go Set A Watchman, point more towards Scout’s girlhood and adolescent, the tougher years for Jean Louise.

I don’t know what to say, honestly. Like I said, large portions of the book I found very boring because they were very political and I am so not smart enough to keep up with Jean Louise and Atticus’ arguments.

On the other hand, some parts of this book are in exactly the same vein as To Kill A Mockingbird, picking up right where it left off.

Part of me never wants to see the book again. The other part wants to run over to Barnes and Noble and get it to be the companion of my copy of To Kill A Mockingbird.

I am Scout. I idolized Atticus. He was my hero. He was perfect, in my mind. But only because Lee paints him that way! If she had only given us some kind of a hint… Go Set A Watchman wouldn’t be so devastating. But that was the point, I guess. To set you up for a fall. Entice you into thinking Atticus was one thing, only to shove your face in that fact that he was only a man, after all.

5 Thought-Provoking Themes In Gone With The Wind

1. Why Scarlett?

Honestly, I can’t figure out why Scarlett is the main character of this story. Scarlett represents moral depravity and emptiness. On one hand, I can sympathize – sort of – with Scarlett. Wouldn’t I do the same things under similar circumstances? Isn’t survival the goal? But then the question is, at what cost will survival come? And just how much of yourself are you willing to lose? On the other hand, her stubborn refusal to change her ways and her animal will to survive, make her particularly unappealing to me. Perhaps because I see a little too much of myself in her.

So why Scarlett? Why not Melanie? Even Mitchell admitted that Melanie was intended to be the heroine of the story. Or Rhett? Rhett presents a vastly more fascinating character study than does Scarlett. Though extremely similar there is one fundamental difference between Rhett and Scarlett. Both are immoral, yes. But Rhett is aware of his own fallen-ness, while Scarlett goes around in complete oblivion to her own sins. This makes Rhett somehow much more appealing to me. Pretty much everything you know about Rhett is inferred. In fact, I have a great many questions about Rhett that would very much like answering. Mitchell could’ve written a whole book about his backstory and I wouldn’t have complained!
2. Two Different Kinds Of Strength

A recurring theme of Gone With The Wind is the contrast between people who fall into one of two categories. Though Ashley, Rhett, and Scarlett, by all appearances, would seem to be the strongest, it is they who are reduced to nothing more than frightened children in the face of circumstances beyond their own control. Melanie is the one whose strength the others seek out in their pain, the one they run to for safety and security.
Melanie – and also Scarlett’s mother, though only briefly – represents strength of a different sort in this story. Scarlett hates Melanie because she does not understand her. She senses that Melanie is stronger than herself, but cannot understand this because she sees that Melanie is sickly, weak, and unattractive. This demonstrates a perplexing contradiction. Those who appear weak, may if fact be the strongest among us. In their physical weakness they develop an inner strength few else ever achieve. While, on the other hand, those who seem strong are only so on the outside.
3. Pursuing Happiness

I think the most prevalent theme in Gone With The Wind is Scarlett’s continuing search for happiness and fulfillment in her life, and her complete inability to change this all-consuming desire to find it. Her famous quote about “tomorrow,” which, according to common opinion, represents her refusal to give in even under crushing circumstances, meant something entirely different to me. It showed that she had not changed and was almost… dare I say it? – incapable of change. Which is kind of scary, if you think about it. It shows her refusal to face the fact that she has become a monster in her desperate will to survive. It’s really kind of disappointing, because it almost seems like, at the very end there, that she has changed. She finally sees that Rhett has been there all along and that they were meant to be together… and then to close the book in such a way – ugh! Totally dashed all my hopes for redemption for Scarlett. That is her outlook, however. That she will change – tomorrow. Be a better person – tomorrow. Think about it – tomorrow. And so she continues in her cycle of simply trying to survive, trying to find happiness… but never does. Like in her recurring dream, happiness is ever-receding before her. She can never grasp it, because she is searching for happiness in all the wrong places, demanding it from other people who can’t find it in themselves to give her.

4. Religious Background

While Gone With The Wind is not by any means a Christian book there is a lot of religious content. I suppose because at that time, individuals were so steeped in religion, from childhood on, that to be historically acurate and to honestly capture the flavor of the time, religion could not be left out. Scarlett has this twisted view of God. She views Him as a God of judgment and fiery wrath. God is someone she is afraid of. This seems to be at least partially due to her Catholic upbringing, and her own admission that in some ways, she viewed her mother as God, and worshiped her as such.

Rhett, on the other hand, though he claims to be an atheist, is shockingly insightful. When Scarlett, in a moment of weakness, confides to Rhett that she is afraid she will go to hell for the awful things she has done, he gently points out that those things were done in a desperate attempt to survive very hard times and asks her why she thinks “the Lord” wouldn’t be capable of understanding why she did them. “The Lord” is rather a familiar, almost a caressing, term for someone who says he doesn’t believe in God, to use. But again, with Rhett, all we can do is assume.

5. How To Kill Your Characters

One thing I particularly admired about Gone With The Wind is that Mitchell did not kill off any of her main characters. It would have been easy to. All of the main characters encountered situations in which she very easily could have made the decision to pull their plug. But she chose not to. Writers know that killing your characters is really the easy way out of any kind of difficulty – coming especially in handy when dealing with romantic relationships. Don’t know which guy of the two to choose? Kill one! Somebody in the way? Kill ’em!

It seems admirable to those observing from the outside. “Aw, everybody dies… And, and, it’s just so sad.” But we who know understand the ulterior motive.

Instead of killing main characters, Mitchell kills off characters that you are not particularly fond of, but that the main characters are fond of. This is brilliantly played because it allows us to observe the main character’s grieving process.

Another situation in which this is artfully done is in Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy. Neither Katniss, nor Gale, nor Peeta, die. And at least one could have been killed off by Collins without any real suspicion from the audience. Not to mention that it would’ve been convenient, as we have a love triangle here that could only benefit from one of the boys dying so that neither has to be heartbroken when Katniss doesn’t pick him. Instead, Collins chooses to kill off Prim, who Katniss loves fiercely, Finnick and Boggs, who she has grown to care about, Cinna, her only real friend in the Capitol, and nearly all the supporting casts in each of the three books.

So…

Most of us are familiar with the story and it’s easy to get caught up with the book as merely an entertaining and classic romance with familiar characters and a captivating plotline. But if you look past the familiarity, there are some aspects of this story that really get you thinking. One downside is that I found Gone With The Wind to be rather boring, but overall I think it is worth a read.

My Best Friends

I love books.

I consider them my friends.

Ever since I was tiny, I can’t remember a single thing I liked more than for my dad to read me stories. Consequently, all of them made me cry – sensitive little soul that I was. But I loved it, nonetheless.

I love the smell of paper, of faded ink, of leather,  the sound of whisper-thin pages fluttering, brushing the thick spines with my fingertips, the cracked, worn bindings, the thick moist sound of opening a thick tome, the satisfying thump of closing one, the awing silence of a vast library, the feeling of limitless information at your fingertips…

But there is a darker side, even to something so seemingly innocent.

Let’s face it. Books, stories, are a form of escape.

I could lose myself in the magic and wonder and mystery of a good book… and escape the hurt, the pain, of the world around me. I could run away into a world where everything was happy, and ended happily, the bad guys couldn’t touch me. I could escape into a dreamland that was magical, and safe, and controlled.

But I wonder, can that be right? 

I believe in facing your problems. And I always hated the idea that life was so hopeless that it needed escaping. I never thought it was right, or even acceptable, to try and drown yourself in…escapes, trying to numb the pain. But isn’t that what I am doing?

Some turn to alcohol, some to work, or drugs, sex, entertainment, pleasure, sleep, food, shopping… and the list goes on. I find this depressing because no matter how hard you try to escape, the pain will still be there when you get back.

Sometimes I find myself more concerned about what’s going on in a book than what’s happening all around me.

So, in the end, the people that populate my world… aren’t real people at all.

This worries me. It scares me. I don’t want to become an addict. Even if the form it takes looks harmless.

So do I give up my favorite pastime? And, if I’m honest, could I even if I decided that I should?

When does enjoying a good book cross the line of becoming wrong, a way to run away from my life, when does it start causing me to miss out on things, important things, things I will later regret missing? When does it become destructive, an addiction, something that could ruin my life? Will I awaken from my dreaming, and, like Rip Van Winkle, realize that the rest of the world has carried on without me, and left me behind?

These are questions that I cannot answer. And I don’t know if I will ever be able to.

Song Of Seare Trilogy: I Did Not See That Coming…

The Song of Seare trilogy follows a young man named Conor Mac Nir and his journey to overcome the evil threatening his world, and, on a more personal level, Conor’s journey as a man.

In the first book in the trilogy, The Oath of the Brotherhood, we meet Conor Mac Nir, a puny, scholarly boy who has powerful gifts as a musician. Conor does not really seem to fit in anywhere. When Conor’s foster father dies, Conor fakes his own death to cover his trail and joins the Firein, a group of monk-like “brothers” – the difference being that the otherwise monastic brotherhood are trained in the fighting arts as well as spiritual disciplines.

But Conor soon grows restless and wants to leave the brotherhood to do something about the darkness that has begun to threaten the outside world.

Finally, Conor leaves Ard Dhaimin, to join Calhoun Mac Cuilinn’s army. Calhoun is the older half-brother of Aine, a beautiful young girl Conor fell in love with in the short time he stayed with her family before joining the brotherhood.

Aine, in Conor’s absence, has developed her own unique gifts and has gained renown for her incredible healing abilities. When Aine is kidnapped, Conor risks everything to save her and the two are reunited and married aboard a ship that they hope will carry them to a new life.

This first book really sets the stage nicely for the other two books to come. It’s a little slow in the beginning but interest really soars when Conor joins the brotherhood and really becomes a hero worth cheering for.

I have to say, when a character is described as puny, it kind of gives you a mental picture of that character that is irreversible, even if the we are told that the character really beefs up later on in the story (which, of course, they always do, because where’s the attraction in a guy who does not have bulging biceps and a perfect six pack?). Fortunately for Laureano, this is not the case with Conor; his progression from wimpy boy to muscular man is slow enough and convincing enough that your not permanently stuck thinking of Conor as that toothpick-limbed guy we envision when we were first introduced to him.

In the second book in The Song of Seare Trilogy, Beneath the Forsaken City, Conor and Aine have been separated in a storm at sea and now must pursue separate journeys.

Conor is made a slave but is set free and escapes with one of his fellow captives, Prince Talfryn, there under cover to save Conor. As his honored guest, Conor remains with Talfryn while he awaits news of Aine.

But while there he comes up against unforeseen obstacles – things are not what they seem within the kingdom. Briallu, the only daughter of his friend, holds a strange attraction for Conor that he struggles to resist.

Aine makes her way to her native land, where her aunt is currently in power and magic of all kinds – such as Aine now wields with more power than ever – is held in extreme suspicion. While some welcome Aine back, or grow to love her, her aunt’s veiled dislike of her serves to make her even more lonely and distraught. Aine struggles desperately against doubt and confusion, and is bewildered when attempts on her life become disturbingly frequent and there seem to be veiled threats on every side. Aine no longer knows who she can trust.

Both of their paths eventually lead them both back to Seare, however, and Aine and Conor are finally reunited once more.

Beneath the Forsaken City builds well on the first book. Separating Conor and Aine the way she does is a masterful move on Laureano’s part – it allows readers a chance to get to know them as individuals, apart from one another, something we got to do in Oath of the Brotherhood with Conor, obviously, but not as much with Aine, and since her role is only increasing, it’s important that we really get behind Aine. This is the closest thing to a flaw that I foresee for this trilogy. That we won’t ever get to know Aine enough to ever like her. Honestly, when we first met her back in Oath of the Brotherhood, she never appealed to me. I like her better in this book, but the connection between her and the reader is not as strong as it should be – something Laureano will have to remedy quickly if she wishes to redeem Aine.

That is the trouble with reserved, sweet characters. While the writer may just think of them as quiet or shy, or just kindhearted and compassionate, they come across to the reader as boring and dull, lacking life and personality. Such characters give us very little reason to get behind them, to laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry, because we don’t really know what would make them laugh or cry. They have remained so aloof and distant, hiding behind that facade of reserve or kindness, that We The Reader don’t really know them at all.

In the last book in the Song of Seare Trilogy, The Sword and the Song, Aine and Conor are reunited in Ard Dhaimin and the future is looking bright for them. The couple is expecting their first child, they are happy, and Ard Dhaimin has become a refuge for many fleeing the darkness and danger that has become rampant in Seare.

But it soons becomes apparent that everything is not as perfect as it seems. Eoghan, Conor’s closest friend, is the fulfillment of the prophecy, and as such, he should be taking leadership of the Firein. But Eoghan is hesitant to step up, which causes friction between Conor and him. Eoghan reached out to Conor when he first arrived friendless in Ard Dhaimin, Eoghan mentored and trained Conor until he became a better swordsman than Eoghan himself, Eoghan risked severe punishment to leave Ard Dhaimin and help Conor, saving his life, and Eoghan saved Aine’s life when she returned to Seare after struggling with doubt and defeat in her homeland. So the bond between the two men is still strong… but it’s strength is being tested. Especially as it becomes more and more obvious to everyone, Conor, Aine, and Eoghan himself, that Eoghan is falling for Aine – the pregnant wife of his best friend.

Conor has thought of a way to protect Seare and fight back against the Red Druid, Diarmuid – but it requires leaving Ard Dhaimin.

He gets back in plenty of time to witness the birth of his child – but almost as soon as he returns, he has to leave again.

On an even longer journey this time.

Conor’s mission is almost complete when Diarmuid attacks Ard Dhaimin. His goal is to kidnap Aine’s soon-to-be born, specially gifted child. Because of Aine’s growing powers, she is able to communicate mentally with Conor – but he is experiencing difficulty as well: he has been badly wounded, and help cannot reach him. In an unexpected twist, Conor’s foster sister who has been living in Ard Dhaimin, once a confederate of Diarmuid, turns on him suddenly, killing him. But it is too late for Conor.

With his last words, he names the son he wanted to desperately to witness the birth of, the son he so desperately wanted to be a good father to, the son he will now never meet… his son is born only minutes later.

Wow. I did not even see this ending coming.

It is superb. I was so close to tears.

I’ve read a lot of books, a lot of endings, a lot of good endings, even. But I don’t know that I’ve ever read an ending quite like this one. It is unique and so oddly moving.

I think because it really is very surprising. Conor is so very afraid that if he dies, Aine and Eoghan will be together and forget him, that you never think that that will actually happen! You just assume that because they want it so much, because Conor and Aine deserve it so much after all they have been through, all the separation and pain and doubting each other and not knowing if the other is even alive, and feeling unworthy of the other’s love, you just naturally assume that they will get that happy ending… You want them to have that happy ending.

You want Conor so see his son. You want them to be able to be a family. And so it is really depressing when Conor dies when he is so close to achieving this dream.

This last book really highlights Conor’s strength as a character. He has become the hero. And that is something I find rather fascinating: Conor didn’t start out the hero that you were hoping for – he becomes that hero.

You really begin to see his depth in this last book, his brokenness and disappointment with himself, his frustration and anger as he starts to really snap and kind of lose his grip on sanity. (I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a completely sane hero anyway.)

Aine, though, actually regressed, in my opinion. She effectively loses all the ground she gained in the second book.

Overall, this last book was not only by far the best but was a great way to end the series; Laureano got better with each succeeding book.

Wuthering Heights… Is Haunting

Wuthering Heights is the story of Cathy Bradshaw, a willful young woman who destroys everyone around her, and Heathcliff, an orphan boy who falls in love with Cathy. When she rejects Heathcliff, he becomes determined to win her back, and, when she is dead, destroy her family – leaving us to wonder: what kind of love is it that destroys that which it loves?

This was a disturbing read on a number of levels for me. Obviously, Heathcliff’s almost demonic obsession with Cathy gets a little weird, but even aside from that, it bothers me that I don’t really want to like this book – there are so many things about it that drive me crazy – but some small part of me is fascinated despite myself.

The whole book has this weird, dark tone that I find strangely appealing, and I do like the story itself, but anything good I can say about this book has to be canceled out by a number of huge issues that I can find no way around.

1. Point Of View

Point of view is crucial. Most writers are aware of this fact, and all of them must recognize how crucial it is, or fail at their craft.

Perspective can be confusing in Wuthering Heights because there are literally layers of it. The story is actually being told from the perspective of a completely random character we know nothing about, a young tenant of Heathcliff’s. However, it isn’t terribly obvious that the story is being told from his perspective, because most of the story is told from the perspective of the Bradshaw family’s maid, Nelly. Nelly is telling Cathy and Heathcliff’s story to the young man. So, in other words, most of the story is in the form of dialogue. Or monologue, rather.

Bronte made, in my opinion, a peculiar decision when she had Nelly tell the story. Though Nelly was deeply invested in the inner workings of this family and familiar with Cathy’s story because she witnessed most of it, she still does not seem the right person to tell this story.

I’m sure that there are those who would strongly disagree with that assessment. Some people may view Nelly’s being the narrator the best thing Wuthering Heights has going for it. I’m sorry to say that this is probably my biggest issue with it.

If the story was written entirely from Nelly’s perspective, the inconsequential little servant girl watching from the fringes, and was telling it as it occurred, it might just have been a brilliant move – it would have worked well with the tone of the rest of the story, flowed well to have the distant observer, someone on the outside, telling the story. But having Nelly tell the story as an old woman was a big mistake.

2. Let Me Tell You A Story

Nelly is orally passing the story on to a young man staying at the house she takes care of, which makes it seem like Nelly is just casually telling it as nothing more than common hearsay or gossip. This “story” is something she was apart of, she is relating the most painful events of her life. And she is doing it in the calmest manner possible! I’d like to see a little emotional investment or something!

3. Interruptions

Because Nelly is supposedly telling the story to this guy – who is a completely useless character, by the way – and the story is too involved to tell all at once, she actually takes several breaks from telling it.

During these pauses, we temporarily return to present time, which is thoroughly frustrating because we were just starting to actually be interested in this story and we really couldn’t care any less about some random guy having a cold, or taking a nap, or a walk, or whatever!

This phenomenon is also extremely distracting. All the jerks back to present time are jarring. Random Dude and Older Nelly don’t fit into this story.

For those of you who would argue that these pauses build up suspense, you’re wrong. They don’t. They simply kill all the momentum the story was gaining.You can’t mix present and past like that – unless the past comes to us in the form of flashbacks, which it does not in Wuthering Heights.

4. One Good Memory

Another thing about Nelly: how has she remembered all this so perfectly? She recounts her story in vivid detail, including people’s exact words. I know of very few people, especially elderly women, who have that perfect of a memory concerning things that happened when she was in her teens and twenties.

5. Nelly: Both Sides

Nelly is the impartial mediator between Heathcliff and Cathy in this story. She doesn’t actually like either Cathy or Heathcliff, and while her cold indifference to both of them isn’t exactly admirable, it does allow her to coolly observe the whole thing without bias. So maybe she is the person to tell this story after all. Even when Heathcliff despises everyone else, he regards Nelly with something like fondness. Even when Cathy stubbornly refuses to submit to anyone else, she is swayed by Nelly’s opinion. Nelly plays, albeit reluctantly, both sides. She serves alternately as Heathcliff or Cathy’s partner in crime; she is traitorous – and brilliant.

In the end, all of these distractions take away from the haunting beauty of Cathy and Heathcliff’s story. It just goes to show that the details are everything and that little mistakes can ruin the whole story. I like the story, I just don’t like how it’s told.

The Bridge To Terabithia: An Instant Favorite

“She had tricked him. She had made him leave his old self behind and come into her world, and then before he was really at home in it but too late to go back, she had left him stranded there – like an astronaut wandering about on the moon. Alone.”

Bridge To Terabithia is the story of Jess Aarons, a ten-year-old boy growing up in a difficult time and environment. He is surrounded by hard questions, poverty, a painful family situation. Then Leslie shows up. Leslie shows Jess a new way to look at the world around him. But then, tragically, Leslie dies. At first, Jess is in shock; he simply cannot believe that the person who brought so much beauty to his life is actually gone. When he finally comes to terms, though, with the fact that she is gone, he realizes just what Leslie has done for him.

Katherine Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins was wry and amusing and perhaps even poignant at times, but it lacked believability. Her less-known work, The Master Puppeteer is difficult and unappealing. Bridge To Terabithia is emotional, raw, and tough. I like that.

Paterson deals with complicated topics in her books. I do not recommend this. In fact, I think it’s a bad idea and something that authors should, as a rule, try to stay away from. Mishandling a delicate topic is probably the single most destructive thing an author could do. Topics like the ones she writes about – relational issues between family members and people’s distorted views of God and religion being two such topics that appear in both Bridge To Terabithia and Jacob Have I Loved – mean either the instant death or instant celebrity of a novel: handle them the wrong way and failure is unavoidable. Paterson, however, has the rare gift of handling difficult topics with skill. I think this is particularly evident in Bridge To Terabithia.

Bridge To Terabithia is a small book – only about two hundred pages long – and took me roughly two hours to read, but while there were, as always, a few things about Paterson’s writing style that annoyed me, this book has a big impact and was deeply personal for me.

This book breaks my heart. Jess is really only a child, and yet he acts much older. Even more shocking is how old May Belle, who is just six, acts. Their life is difficult, the same way it is difficult for all the families in their community. Life has forced them to leave childhood behind far earlier than they should have to.

Jess is a talented child, but he feels the tacit disapproval of the adults in his life, which leads him to believe he is weird and that being an artist is not acceptable for a boy. This causes him to hide his talent and his real feelings, because he desperately craves approval – especially his father’s. The adults in Jess’ life are so scarred themselves that they cannot care for Jess properly. Hurting parents hurt their children, without wanting or meaning to, and this is especially true of Jess. When Jess’ father pays him any attention at all, it is in the form of criticism and harshness and too-high expectations. But Jess would never tell this to anyone, because he feels that it is his duty to hide his parents’ misdeeds.

Aside from his six-year-old little sister, May Belle, Jess despises his sisters. His two older sisters for their demanding self-centeredness, and his four-year-old sister for her timidity. Jess is disgusted to find that he emulates the behaviors he so despises in his sisters, but finds himself unable to stop.

Perhaps because of these painful circumstances, Jess has a distorted view of nearly everything around him. His parents, siblings, friendship, school, God, and his own value are all colored by how well his most basic needs for love and acceptance are met. Jess has exactly one positive adult influence in his life: his young, free-spirited music teacher, the only person who encourages Jess to draw, and is therefore the object of all his young, unrealistic passion.

Though Leslie seems like the hero of this story, Leslie is the one who takes Jess away from May Belle, causing her to become lonely and resentful of her older brother. And if Leslie hadn’t died, the barriers between Jess and his father would never have finally broken down, allowing them to connect in a way that Jess had been needing his whole life. His father is able to comfort Jess, holding him while he cries. Leslie’s death also makes Jess realize that he has been unreasonable and judgmental about other people. Mrs. Meyers, a teacher he had thought of as hypocritical and hard, he realizes, is a kind, caring woman with her own story of hurt to share.

Jess is painfully aware of the stark contrast between he and Leslie: she is bright and vivacious and he is slow and fearful. Leslie makes Jess feel inferior – cowardly and stupid, but Jess is, in some ways, superior to Leslie. While Leslie is vengeful and vindictive, Jess realizes that people are hurting, wants to help them, and does not like to hurt people.

The 2007 movie based on the book fell, in my opinion, epically short of the ideal. AnaSophia Robb highlights all of Leslie’s friendly sweetness and imagination without any of the anger or selfishness or loneliness that comes through so clearly in the book. Both Robb and Josh Hutcherson, who plays Jess with only mediocre success, are simply too old to play ten-year-old kids. They look to be in their early teens, skewing the whole perspective of the story.

I was never a fan of the movie, but I knew that other people who had read, and liked, the book were upset with how the movie turned out. At that point, I had never read the book, but was very familiar with the story through the movie. So it was good to finally read the book and immerse myself in the story as it was originally intended to be. Always read the book!

I highly recommend Bridge To Terabithia. It’s one of those books everyone should read.