The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

This post contains affiliate links for products I recommend and review. If you make a purchase through these links, I will receive a small commission at no cost to yourself. 

Sorry for the extremely long hiatus, but I’ve been feeling extra overwhelmed lately. I’m stressed, tired, and constantly grumpy. All in all, I’m never in the mood to pick up a book. And, again, I don’t want to get into the habit of reading for the sake of posting. I don’t give books a fair shot when I’m in a horrible mood. Plus, I genuinely love reading and never want it to feel like a chore. 

Sadly, life’s just been a lot lately. I’m always finding myself more ready to go to bed than to pick up a book. Even the idea of turning a page seems like too much some days. The coronavirus lockdown is finally starting to wear me down and, given the recent uptick in cases in the United States, I’m not sure those feelings will go away. I live in New York and it seems like Governor Cuomo is getting ready to shut us back down. I understand why, but it’s not really making it any easier to deal with. It feels like the holidays might be very, very difficult for everyone. We’ll all get through it, but it’s hard to think about right now. 

But, at least for the day, I wanted to get back to normal. 

When I finally got to the last page of Catching Fire oh-so long ago, I started exploring the Amazon Kindle store for new reads. I knew I wanted a short break from The Hunger Games universe – even as short as a day or two. Even though that small break turned into a much longer one, I started it off right with an absolutely amazing book: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. 

And, yes, to be honest, I chose the book because I knew that, at the very least, the title being so similar to The Hunger Games would be super amusing. I live for small jokes. But even now, a little under a month after finishing The Inheritance Games, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. The characters were well done and entertaining, the storyline was easy to follow, and it was just a really, really good book. Even if you don’t read the rest of this review, you should immediately go purchase a copy of this book and stick your nose in it. It’s that good! 

Back of the Book ( Amazon | Goodreads )

A Cinderella story with deadly stakes and thrilling twists, perfect for fans of One of Us is Lying and Knives Out.

Avery Grambs has a plan for a better future: survive high school, win a scholarship, and get out. But her fortunes change in an instant when billionaire Tobias Hawthorne dies and leaves Avery virtually his entire fortune. The catch? Avery has no idea why–or even who Tobias Hawthorne is. To receive her inheritance, Avery must move into sprawling, secret passage-filled Hawthorne House, where every room bears the old man’s touch–and his love of puzzles, riddles, and codes.

Unfortunately for Avery, Hawthorne House is also occupied by the family that Tobias Hawthorne just dispossessed. This includes the four Hawthorne grandsons: dangerous, magnetic, brilliant boys who grew up with every expectation that one day, they would inherit billions. Heir apparent Grayson Hawthorne is convinced that Avery must be a con-woman, and he’s determined to take her down. His brother, Jameson, views her as their grandfather’s last hurrah: a twisted riddle, a puzzle to be solved. Caught in a world of wealth and privilege, with danger around every turn, Avery will have to play the game herself just to survive. 

MY TAKE ON IT

From the very first page of The Inheritance Games to the very last, I was hooked. I blame most of that feeling on Barne’s creation of a dynamic main character, Avery Grambs. Starting off the story with a description on how Avery lost her mother at a too-young age, the book quickly segwayed into a summary of Avery’s day to day life after the fact. From using chess games and parking lot poker winnings as a way to feed a homeless man in the park to a confrontation with her principal over suspiciously high chess scores, I was dying to get to know more about this character Barnes had created. How could Avery be so strong after everything she had lost? How did she ace the hardest exam in the school’s history not once, but twice? What was going on with this girl?

Avery was obviously a natural survivor and was extraordinarily intelligent. Anyone could see that from first glance. Her carefully calculated and seemingly constant assessments of risk appealed to me. Her strange combination of character traits made the idea of getting to know her practically irresistible. I didn’t want this book down until I understood Avery completely and the first one hundred pages flew by with barely a blink on my side of things. The idea of such a well-developed and engaging character blending into the background in her normal life befuddled me, but her lack of close connections made her all the more interesting to read about. 

All in all, Avery is a very, very well written main character. Perhaps one of the best I’ve ever read.

Combining the interest Avery held for me with the intrigue of the Hawthorne family fortune created a potent combination perfect for a good book. Why would the richest man in Texas leave everything to a complete and total stranger who lived states, and worlds, away? Considering that Avery spent most of her time living out of her car, it never seemed like the two would have the chance to cross paths. What about her caught the recently deceased Tobias Hawthorne’s eye? What games was he playing at? Did he even know her? Was this something she caused to occur? Was Avery up to something? Even as a reader privy to her every thought, I couldn’t be sure. 

Something about all of this made me feel The Inheritance Games would be a lot like the game ‘Clue.’ This feeling was furthered by Avery’s arrival at the Hawthorne Home, an enormous mansion with plenty of room for strange and unexpected murders to take place. Some part of me still wonders if the game is what inspired Barnes to write the book. 

And yet, within the first few chapters in, I was mostly disabused of this notion. The actual Hawthorne family themselves seemed as if they enjoyed secrets, but were practically incapable of keeping them. I expected them to be cool and detached, and they were to a certain degree. Yet, they seemed unable to stop themselves from oversharing with Avery. They might be good at riddles, but they weren’t exactly tight lipped. I had a hard time imagining them being capable of hiding murder weapons for very long.

I was also surprised at how close the entire family was. Because of the large amounts of money involved, I found myself picturing a very distanced and professional family. I was picturing their life as more of a business arrangement than a familial one. Grayson, the “heir apparent,” seemed the closest to professional, but still came across as slightly too far from that goal. He may have had the natural Hawthorne desire to bribe, threaten, and buy people out, but didn’t necessarily seem mature enough to outplay anyone. At least from first glance. 

However, these sentiments weren’t exactly to the book’s detriment. I wasn’t disappointed or upset by them, just surprised. It shook me to think that I was so very wrong about this family. It made me feel like every presumption I made should be thrown out the window and I absolutely loved that. 

Plus, I grew to admire almost every character in this book. None of them were entirely what I expected. They kept surprising me in small and big ways. You never knew what to think or who to trust. For the first half of the book, I had a hard time even trusting Avery as a reliable narrator. I’ve read too many books where the main character ends up being the bad guy to ever trust a main character blindly again! 

All in all, I just fell in love with each twist and turn in this book. At times, my predictions were correct, but I was wrong often enough to keep my interest. I loved the main characters and I loved the fact that I trusted absolutely no one to be reliable even more. I love a story that keeps me guessing more than you’d think. 

And, again, I one hundred percent recommend that you IMMEDIATELY go buy a copy of this book NOW if you haven’t read. It was so good! 

Wool by Hugh Howey

The Daily Express described Wool as “one of dystopian fiction’s masterpieces alongside the likes of 1984 and Brave New World.” Personally, I wouldn’t go that far. 1984 and Brave New World both pushed the boundaries of dystopic fiction. They expressed new ideas, had amazing writing, and felt believable. I was completely immersed in their storylines from the very first page to the very last. Plus, their ideas were more concise. The authors knew exactly what they wanted to say and they said it with style, finesse. 

And, while I’m not saying Wool wasn’t a good book with some insanely thought provoking scenes and interesting background story… it just wasn’t enough to compare. Dystopic fictions are meant to push our boundaries. They’re meant to make us question our society and even ourselves. How bad will the world get if we let it? The world of Wool just wasn’t bad enough for me. The limits the characters pushed didn’t come across as shocking or awful. Comparing Wool to the classics just doesn’t work for me. 

It especially doesn’t work because Wool is just too upbeat to be one of the classics. Classic dystopic literature doesn’t come across as overwhelmingly positive. There aren’t happy endings. There aren’t even endings that are remotely close to happy. More often than not, whoever the corrupt villain is in the story wins. And I love that. I would classify anything outside of that as too disjointed and different to be classic dystopia. At most, I would say it’s modern dystopic fiction. 

Beyond that, Wool wasn’t as believable as other fics. It required a strong dispension of belief in order for you to really enjoy it. For example, I couldn’t believe that the long-lived mayor of the silo knew so little about how the actual silo ran. There are 144 floors and they really only knew the bare basics about most of them. How could they run a society that they know nothing about? It didn’t feel well thought out. 

It also felt like it was missing an element of mind control or propaganda. I understood a lot of the system on how the silo worked and ran was based on keeping people separated, but that, again, wasn’t enough for me. Most dystopic fiction requires some way to manage citizens. How do you keep them under your control? Keeping them separated will never have the same effect as forcing endless propaganda down their throat or establishing some style of firm control over them. Considering the resources IT was given, I was surprised that they hadn’t established a way to listen in to all of their citizens. Monitoring their emails and private communications obviously wasn’t enough. 

Not to say, again, that I didn’t enjoy the book. I enjoyed the characters and the storyline, again, was interesting enough. I just couldn’t believe the story. I wanted more from it than what I got. There are thankfully other books in the series. I started the second book today and I am sincerely hoping for more development. The bones of this book are good. I need more flesh. 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

The first book in the acclaimed, New York Times best-selling trilogy, Wool is the story of mankind clawing for survival. The world outside has grown toxic, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. The remnants of humanity live underground in a single silo. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they want: They are allowed to go outside. 

After the previous sheriff leaves the silo in a terrifying ritual, Juliette, a mechanic from the down deep, is suddenly and inexplicably promoted to the head of law enforcement. With newfound power and with little regard for the customs she is supposed to abide, Juliette uncovers hints of a sinister conspiracy. Tugging this thread may uncover the truth … or it could kill every last human alive.

Come Closer by Sara Gran

I’m a little late to this party, but that’s not outside the norm for me. Come Closer was written in 2006 by Sara Gran… But I was eight then and not exactly up for reading this crazy intense horror story. Thankfully, I’m a little older and have now corrected the fact that I hadn’t this book.

Because WOW. I devoured it. Come Closer is outstanding. 

The slow descent of Amanda’s mind really got to me. It was scary in the most perfect way – the way that makes you imagine everything that’s happening to her is happening to yourself. Could you be in the same shoes as Amanda? Could you do the horrible things she does? And is it really a demon behind it all? Or is Amanda’s own dark desires? Sara Gran is masterful in the way that she makes even the slowest, most tedious scenes ominous. I personally was completely hooked from the very first page to the very last. 

Plus, something about her writing style just really appealed to me. It was slowly paced and even a bit bare bones. Everything was stated simply as it was. But it helped the book instead of hurting it – a rare thing for this style of writing. I loved the subtlety to drama that occurred throughout each scene. I was always wondering what parts of Amanda were really her and what parts were being influenced by Namaah. Eventually, would the two bleed together into one? Could they ever coexist peacefully or would they always have a tug-and-pull relationship?

Beyond just wondering about the future for Amanda’s story, Come Closer also made me wonder about how much of it is real. Is this really a story of demonic possession or is it just a psychological thriller about a woman’s descent into insanity? Could it be focusing more on the human psyche than on the mythical? I’m dying to know how much was real and how much was fake. A lot of Amanda’s impulses seemed to have come from deep within herself. What if Namaah wasn’t even real? 

Looking at it from either perspective, Come Closer is an amazing book. It may have been an incredibly short novel, but each page held such incredible value. I definitely recommend reading it if you haven’t already. 

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

“What begins as a sly fable about frustrated desire evolves into a genuinely scary novel about possession and insanity. Hypnotic” (Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho).

A recurrent, unidentifiable noise in her apartment. A memo to her boss that’s replaced by obscene insults. Amanda—a successful architect in a happy marriage—finds her life going off kilter by degrees. She starts smoking again, and one night for no reason, without even the knowledge that she’s doing it, she burns her husband with a cigarette. At night she dreams of a beautiful woman with pointed teeth on the shore of a blood-red sea.

The new voice in Amanda’s head, the one that tells her to steal things and talk to strange men in bars, is strange and frightening, and Amanda struggles to wrest back control of her life. Is she possessed by a demon, or is she simply insane? Described as “a new kind of psychological thriller” by George Pelecanos and “this year’s scariest novel” by Time Out New York, Come Closer has become a modern classic “with a kick that will stay with the reader for days afterward” (The Dallas Morning News).

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid: Endless Questions

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit it: I can’t seem to get I’m Thinking of Ending Things out of my mind. The depth of Jake the janitor’s loneliness is really getting to me. I can’t imagine living my life so isolated from everyone else. It sounds impossible. And now I’m thinking about it every time I look at another person. Are they all alone? What can I do to help them?

I also can’t stop thinking about the nonstop creation of illusion and fantasy throughout the book. Iain Reid really warps your perception of reality. It makes you wonder what is real. Is anything in life real? During one part of the book, I remember him discussing that memories are just stories. The only thing that is ever real is what you’re currently living. Each second is the only real thing you have. Everything else is a fantasy. 

Unsurprisingly, a book like this made me ask myself a lot of questions both about it and about my own life. I don’t have the answers to all of them, but I can *maybe* answer some of them… at least for myself. Of course this book is open to so many interpretations that each scene can be taken a million different ways. 

Back of the Book Description

Jake and his girlfriend are on a drive to visit his parents at their remote farm. After dinner at the family home, things begin to get worryingly strange. And when he leaves her stranded in a snowstorm at an abandoned high school later that night, what follows is a chilling exploration of psychological frailty and the limitations of reality.

Iain Reid’s intense, suspenseful debut novel will have readers’ nerves jangling. A series of tiny clues sprinkled through the relentlessly paced narrative culminate in a haunting twist on the final page.

Reminiscent of Michael Faber’s Under the Skin, Stephen King’s Misery and the novels of José Saramago, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an astonishing and highly original literary thriller that grabs you from the start—and never lets go.

Questions I Had While Reading I’m Thinking of Ending Things  (SPOILER ALERT)

  • What is the young woman thinking of ending? The title makes it sound like she wants to end her life. Her description makes it seem like she only wants to end her relationship with Jake. The in-between sections discuss suicide. Is the book covering multiple types of endings?
  • Why does the swing set look new? Why is it in the middle of nowhere? Why was this detail included?
  • Why does the caller keep calling the young woman? Why does the caller never speak when she answers? Why does the caller only leave cryptic voicemails?
  • Is it better to be alone or with someone?
  • Who is Jake’s brother? Is he real? Why does Jake feel the need to make up a brother? Does he blame his ‘brother’ for his failures in life?
  • Why do the farmers just leave the lambs where they are? Why did they not use the lambs for food?
  • Why does Reid include the maggot-filled pigs in his story? Why do they seem to have such a large impact on Jake?
  • Why are there scratches on the basement door?
  • Why does the girl in Dairy Queen feel scared for the young woman?
  • Who is Steph? Why does Jake say her name in the car while kissing the young woman? Why does she get a name and the young woman doesn’t?
  • Who is Ms. Veal? Why was she included in the story? Did she really poison the young woman’s mother?
  • Why does the janitor keep listening to ‘Hey, Good Lookin?,
  • Why is the young woman so scared of the janitor? Why does she feel like she has to fight him? Why does she think he is holding her captive?
  • Why did Jake choose such a brutal way to die? In the movie, he went outside and died of hypothermia. Why did he stab himself to death in the book?

What is the young woman thinking of ending? The title makes it sound like she wants to end her life. Her description makes it seem like she only wants to end her relationship with Jake. The in-between sections discuss suicide. Is the book covering multiple types of endings?

As we all find out in the end of the book, the young woman is just a figment of Jake the janitor’s imagination. She isn’t real in the same way that the rest of us are. But, in my opinion, she is real in a different, still important way. She is real to Jake. 

In his fantasy world, the young woman is simply thinking about ending her relationship with Jake. She doesn’t feel like they have good chemistry and, based on the book’s descriptions of their interactions, I would have to agree with her. Their relationship is awkward. It is almost always at odds with both of their personalities. 

I blame most of that awkwardness on Jake the janitor. He has a hard time imagining reasons why anyone would want to be with him. He cannot imagine a universe where someone would have loved him and remained in love with him. His fantasy world is a thought exercise meant to determine if he was always meant to spend his life alone and always meant to end his life by suicide. In the end, he and all of his fictitious characters agree that he should kill himself. 

Yet, I still think that I’m Thinking of Ending Things wasn’t just tackling the problem of suicide. I think in a lot of ways it covered the end of life in general. The first clue to this was in the extensive and horrible description of the end of the pigs life. It was dismal and gory and disgusting. They suffered for days before dying. The second clue was that Reid made it very apparent that Jake’s parents were getting closer to the end of their own lives. They were also both suffering from the ailments of old age. The conclusion the book seems to draw is that you will suffer until your life ends. It’s a somewhat horrible conclusion, but it seems extremely concrete when you look back at the book as a whole. It is bleak, but profound.

Why does the swing set look new? Why is it in the middle of nowhere? Why was this detail included?

When young Jake and the young woman are travelling to his parents’ farm, the young woman notices a brand new swing set next to a decrepit barn. She notices it in both the book and the movie. It is startlingly out of place and she comments on how it confuses her. What is the point in having a new swingset next to an old, abandoned building?

I’ll be honest with you, this detail still confuses me. It is such a small detail and yet it has enough meaning that it was included in both versions of this story. I also have differing takes on what it could *possibly* represent. 

On one hand, I think it might be the first clue that the young woman and Jake aren’t tangible. Their world isn’t real. They live in the fantasy world of a lonely old man’s decaying mind. The swing set is included as a sign that the real world and Jake’s fantasy are blurring together. Perhaps the barn had burned down ten years ago and since been replaced with a new building. Jake the janitor knows there is a new swing set there and includes it in his fictitious world without replacing the burnt down building. It adds an element of surrealism to the story, blurring the lines between the real and the unreal.

On the other hand, I think it might just be meant to add to the ever present dread of the story. The young woman is meant to come across as unsettled and confused. She is quite literally trapped inside the janitor’s mind. Everything is constantly changing and unusual. The first clue to this neverending anxiety and confusion is the oddly placed swing set. It is there just to add to her initial and ongoing sense of confusion. 

It’s really hard to say that either of those are the right interpretation in regards to the swingset. A nihilistic part of me always wants to insist that symbolism isn’t even real to begin with and everything in every book is meant to be taken literally. Of course, this book is absolutely littered with symbolism so that can’t be it. What do you think the swing represents? 

Why does the caller keep calling the young woman? Why does the caller never speak when she answers? Why does the caller only leave cryptic voicemails?

The caller scares the heck out of me, to be honest. Every time they call the young woman, I get a little bit nervous. It is deeply unsettling and terrifying to be constantly contacted by a person you can’t identify. Their cryptic messages come across as intimidating. It is obvious that whoever is calling is not mentally stable. Their message is as follows:

There’s only one question to resolve. I’m scared. I feel a little crazy. I’m not lucid. The assumptions are right. I can feel my fear growing. Now is the time for the answer. Just one question. One question to answer.

In the end, it ends up that the entire story was a figment of Jake’s imagination. The caller was his subconscious. What was the question he was struggling to answer? It was his endless debate as to whether he should commit suicide or not. 

However, I don’t really understand why the caller never said this to the young woman herself. The caller only left voicemails with this message and hung up whenever she actually answered. Perhaps part of Jake the janitor’s goal was to protect this specific persona (his fictitious girlfriend) from the more harmful sides of himself. He didn’t want to worry her. He felt some sort of tenderness for the section of the mind where she lived. I’m unsure. What do you think?

Is it better to be alone or with someone?

I’m Thinking of Ending Things very clearly presented the dangers of long term loneliness. Jake the janitor was plagued with mental instability. Many of the scenes depicted the damage being alone had done to his fragile mind. He is unable to socialize, hates himself, and cannot form healthy relationships. At the end of his life, he can barely communicate and spends more time in his fantasy world than in the real world. He’s unstable. 

But I think it also subtly presents the risks of being with someone else as well. The instability of relationships seem to be what Jake the janitor felt such a deep fear of. He was anxious in regards to how other people perceived him. Not knowing what was in their minds bothered him. And that’s a very real danger in relationships. You can never know the truth of another person. There will always be doubt. It’s hard to say it’s truly better to be with people than alone when you never know if they’re going to leave you. For people like Jake, the comfort of solitude, and the mental dangers presented with that, may be better than the risk of loving someone and losing them. 

Of course, for myself, I don’t necessarily want to be alone all the time. I would rather risk losing someone than never have them to begin with. Mankind is meant to be social. It’s written into us. Imagining going years without a real conversation sounds like a fate worse than death to me. I’m Thinking of Ending Things has a particular depth to it where it’s capable of making both fates sound scary. 

Who is Jake’s brother? Is he real? Why does Jake feel the need to make up a brother? Does he blame his ‘brother’ for his failures in life?

At the end of I’m Thinking of Ending Things, it’s disclosed that the young woman’s story is just a figment of Jake the janitor’s imagination. He is imagining the perspective of a possible romantic interest that he hadn’t taken the risk with when he was younger. He imagines her growing bored with him and breaking up with him. Similarly, he imagines a better version of himself (young Jake) and a fictitious brother that possesses all of his negative traits. 

When the young woman asks young Jake about his brother, his brother possesses all of the same problems that Jake the janitor has. He is deeply antisocial, had a failed academic career, and followed young Jake around. At times, he even pretended to be young Jake, stealing and wearing his clothes. It is revealed that all of these characters are in the mind of Jake the janitor. The young woman is what Jake the janitor wishes he could have had, young Jake is a more ideal version of the janitor, and the brother represents all of the negative parts of Jake the janitor’s life. He blames his fictitious brother for his own shortcomings. 

In my opinion, Jake the janitor creates all of these various personas because of the trauma of loneliness. Being separated from everyone else in the world has had a horrible impact on his mental state. Jake the janitor is deeply depressed and suffers from mental illness. He may even have multiple personality disorders. He has split himself into these three characters (the young woman, young Jake, and the brother) in order to protect his own fragile mind. 

Why do the farmers just leave the lambs where they are? Why did they not use the lambs for food?

Coming from a farming community, it came across as really odd to me that the mother and father didn’t eat the lambs. It didn’t seem like they died because of disease or anything during the movie and the book didn’t go into a lot of detail. Jake just said they would probably burn the bodies. Maybe the lambs were just supposed to add to the creepiness of the story, but that feels reductive for a book where all of the wheels in my mind seem to be turning all at once. Is there some deeper meaning? If so, I can’t really figure it out.

Why does Reid include the maggot-filled pigs in his story? Why do they seem to have such a large impact on Jake?

The death of the pigs seemed to have a huge impact on young Jake and Jake the janitor. They both seemed extremely perturbed by it. From what I can tell, I would assume that the horror of the pigs’ deaths is a memory from childhood. The fear of dying in such a sickening way seems deeply ingrained in Jake. He is disgusted by it. 

And, of course, they become more than a horrible memory and instead seem to be the biggest symbol for Jake’s take on life. He seems to think that everyone lives and dies the same way as the pigs do: they suffer, full of maggots and pain, until they die. He believes he is quite literally a pig infested with maggots. He is constantly asking himself when his maggots will leave him. When will he finally get to die?

Why are there scratches on the basement door?

The movie and the book both feature oddly placed scratches on the basement door. In the book, they come across as less intimidating. Jake explains them away as scratches from when his family had a dog. In the movie, they’re placed too high up to be from a dog. This makes me believe that they’re meant to be something else even in the written version of the story. So why are they there?

Once again, I think they might just be to add to the overall ominous vibe of the story. Reid wanted to avoid everything coming across as simply awkward instead of scary so he added creepy details to the farm house. It might be nothing more than that.

But it could be more. I have a couple of theories. One of them is that I think that spending too long in the basement would have clued the young woman in to the fact that her very existence is fictional. She isn’t real. The scratches on the door and young Jake trying to dissuade her from entering the basement could be Jake the janitor trying to prevent that part of himself from learning the truth. None of this is real. He has never had a romantic relationship. He doesn’t want this persona to know these things and, instead, wants to watch the scene unfolding in his mind without reality interfering. 

I also think that the truth behind the basement door could be far darker than that. As I’ve mentioned previously, Jake has a bleak outlook on life. He believes that everyone is a maggot-filled pig waiting to die, particularly himself. What I haven’t really gotten into yet is how stunted and fractured his relationship with his parents came across. In both adaptations, his conversations with them are awkward and stunted. He cares for them deeply, but they come across as judgemental and dismissive. Considering how his life played out, spending their last years with them, it can be inferred that their relationship may broach codependency.

If you combine that with the fact that I believe Jake suffers from mental illness and has problems forming healthy relationships or even interacting with people, I think he may have been abused on behalf of his parents. Trauma at a young age can have drastic consequences for the future of a child. Dissociative Identity Disorder fractures, such as the one he seems to be suffering from, often only happen at a young age. It can be assumed that the initial trauma he endured was in the basement. Perhaps that it is also why he fears the boiler room at the school. He could be warning the young woman to avoid the basement because he has a deeply rooted fear of what happens in that room. 

Why does the girl in Dairy Queen feel scared for the young woman?

When young Jake and the young woman are travelling back home from visiting his parents, they stop at a Dairy Queen to get some lemonade. In the movie, they stop as well for ice cream. In both adaptations, they encounter three young girls.  I believe all of the girls are meant to resemble young women the janitor sees while working at the school; that’s why they seem familiar to the young woman.  Two of them are giggling and pointing at Jake. They seem cruel and beautiful, but harmless. One girl, however, has darker hair and comes across as scared for the young woman. In both adaptations, she gives the young woman a cryptic warning to be careful.

In my opinion, the girl isn’t really nervous on behalf of the young woman. She’s scared for Jake. The real Jake. She’s warning him of the dangers of exploring his mind in this way. Perhaps she’s a part of his subconscious, trying to prevent him from commiting suicide. 

Who is Steph? Why does Jake say her name in the car while kissing the young woman? Why does she get a name and the young woman doesn’t?

Jake mentioning Steph in passing particularly confuses me. I can’t imagine him ever having experienced a romantic relationship with a woman so it’s hard for me to assume that she was a previous girlfriend in Jake’s real world. Perhaps she was, but it doesn’t sit right with me. He doesn’t come across as someone with any romantic experience. 

However, I do firmly believe that Steph is someone real from Jake’s life. Most of this feeling is due to the fact that, unlike the young woman, Steph is given a name. It could just be that he had a crush on someone named Steph and never did anything about it. 

Who is Ms. Veal? Why was she included in the story? Did she really poison the young woman’s mother?

The inclusion of Ms. Veal confuses me. Is she real or is she something Jake the janitor added to the young woman’s story to spice up his fantasy world? He was, after all, writing all of this down in a notebook. She could have just been an element to the story.

Or vice versa she was a real person that Jake the janitor interacted with during his lifetime. As I mentioned before, one of my theories I developed while reading this book is that Jake was abused at a young age. Perhaps instead of his parents being the abuser, Ms. Veal was. She had an ominous air about her. 

However, I don’t think she really poisoned anyone. That seems too far even for this book. In either theory, the perception of Ms. Veal was through the eyes of a child. Whether it was the young woman or the real Jake, they probably just thought that she poisoned their mother because of the coincidence of their mother getting sick after Ms. Veal’s visit. 

All in all, I think this is one of the more confusing details in the book. Ms. Veal is only mentioned for such a short period of time and only has negative traits. I don’t really understand her. I might read I’m Thinking of Ending Things again just to see if I can comprehend all of these small details. It seems like she is important. I just don’t understand how important. What do you think?

Why does the janitor keep listening to ‘Hey, Good Lookin?’

I don’t think that the song choice means anything in particular. I think listening to the same song on repeat was just another attempt on Jake’s part to drown out reality. I sometimes listen to the same song over and over again when I’m upset. It may just be one of his coping mechanisms. Of course, it may be something more than that. Maybe the lyrics have some deep meaning that I’m missing.

Why is the young woman so scared of the janitor? Why does she feel like she has to fight him? Why does she think he is holding her captive?

There is a very frantic energy to the end of I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Part of that is probably due to the fact that all of Jake the janitor’s various personas are colliding. He is forcing them into agreement that he should commit suicide. However, because of how real these various personas are, I think that the young woman’s fear is a very real thing. She is legitimately frightened and confused by everything going on. Jake has kept her mostly in the shadows about the reality of her situation. She feels like she has to fight him because she doesn’t understand that he is her. She feels like he is holding her captive because she is quite literally trapped in his mind. 

Why did Jake choose such a brutal way to die? In the movie, he went outside and died of hypothermia. Why did he stab himself to death in the book?

I really don’t know. The manner in which Jake committed suicide is horrible, even for suicide. However, there is some poetry that he left himself somewhere where he would be easy to find. Everyone would know that he killed himself. Perhaps his choice of location, at least, was due to the fact that he wanted people to interact with him in death if they could never do so during his life. It’s hard to understand why Jake the janitor did this in such a brutal way.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Ch. 23 – 25)

The end of the 74th annual Hunger Games is near. Can you imagine the excitement brewing in the Capitol? This season of doom, death, and destruction have been revolutionary. Never before seen love affairs and drama! The parties they must have been throwing… I can’t even imagine.

And what a strange world they live in to revel in these games to the degree in which they do. They love the Hunger Games. They adore their victors. They want more blood, more drama, more death. It seems like pleasing them is impossible.

What I’ve always wondered is why pleasing them is the only priority in Panem. Taking care of the districts is meaningless. Providing worthwhile advancements is boring. Instead, the government focuses on keeping people entertained. Wild parties and dramatic television shows. It’s obscene.

However, is it similar to how we live today? I’m a US citizen and our politics are starting to feel more like reality tv shows every day. A lot of people are satiated by the drama and ridiculousness of our current system. They live for dramatic clashes and bold statements more than they do real policy reform. Most people know more about celebrities than they do their own laws. It’s the same type of problem as the ones people face in the Hunger Games, just on a different scale. I’m not sure which system is worse.

Back of the Book (Amazon.com)

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to death before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Still, if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Chapter Twenty-Three

I wish Suzanne Collins would talk more about the class distinctions in the districts, particularly in District 12. I don’t one hundred percent understand the difference between the people of the Seam and people who live in the town square. It seems almost silly that the citizens of District 12 perceive each other as different when both groups of people are suffering under Panem’s rule.

Both struggle to take care of themselves. Both have limited access to food. Both are subjugated by the wants and desires of the Capitol. Both groups are at risk of being selected as tributes.

Why would Peeta’s parents really care if he fell for Katniss? She’s in a very similar boat to him.

Part of that makes me wonder if the mayor’s job is to reinforce divides in District 12. It is readily apparent that the Gamemakers are supposed to reinforce divides between districts. It would make sense to continue that trend on a more local scale. Does the mayor try to plant seeds of distrust between people of the same district? I bet he does. If you’re more worried about the extra food your neighbor has, you’ll be less worried about what your government officials are doing.

I also bet that Panem purposefully provides too little food to feed everyone. There may be enough to go around. They just might not want everyone to have access to it. This would help build small scale resentments between people who have enough to eat and those who are starving.

That sense of disconnect is probably furthered by the construction of the Victor’s Village. Only victors of the Hunger Games get to live in those homes. No one else can purchase one to live in. Victors live lives that are rich and luxurious compared to the lives of nearly everyone else in the districts.

In District 12, only one of the dozen homes in the Victor’s Village is occupied and it’s Haymitch’s. Do others treat him poorly because he is provided for for the rest of his life? Or are they proud of him for being the only person from District 12 to ever win the Hunger Games? I don’t know if people in the districts embrace their victors in the same way people of the Capitol do.

I also don’t know what districts do if they have more than a dozen victors. In District 12, there is only twelve homes. Do other districts construct more if they have more victors? Or do they usually have less than twelve? It seems like some of the career districts would have many victors.

However, it does seem like people do have some sense of endearment towards Haymitch. That could only be the people of the Capitol though. They seem to find his odd traits almost cute. Even his alcoholism is a source of amusement for them. They don’t ever bother to think of the implications it has. They don’t comprehend his suffering.

Part of that could be due to the fact that Panem never airs the game he won. He outsmarted the Gamemakers. Maybe if Panem knew how intelligent Haymitch is they would read more into his dependence on alcohol. It wouldn’t seem as endearing if they knew that the mind the alcohol is damaging is so valuable. Or maybe it would be anyways. The people of Panem seem to love destruction. They love it even more when it doesn’t really impact themselves.

And some of them may remember a time when Haymitch was different. He’s been a mentor for a long time. Katniss even wondered if he tried in the beginning. Did he ever attempt to help his tributes? Years of watching child after child die as he tried to help them could have been what drove him to drink. The actual memories of his games could have just been a side note.

I can’t really imagine that level of personal responsibility. How he must have blamed himself every time one of his tributes died. I wonder if victors from other districts take turns mentoring. Maybe only the most recent victors have to act like a mentor. The strain of being a mentor year after year sounds unbearable. The games are real to mentors in a way that they are not to stylists. They have lived through it before and the tributes that the Capitol disregards are actual people to them. 

I don’t know how other mentors bear the pain. When Thresh dies, what does his mentor do? Are they interviewed? Is their sorrow broadcast for the nation to witness? I wonder if the Capitol makes light of his death or if they manage to summon at least a drop of respect for the fallen child. I wonder if they even show Katniss’s reaction to his death. Would they want Panem to understand that there is sadness in Thresh’s death?

Probably not. 

They probably also wouldn’t broadcast Peeta’s description of his life. They love to widen the divide between the various citizens of Panem. Letting poorer people know that even the shopkeepers struggle with food at times won’t help them with that. But how quickly can they prevent these conversations from being shared? Do they have the games on a delayed release?

Personally, I don’t think that they do. I think part of the appeal of the games is watching everything as it happens. For example, everyone would want to see Foxface die as it occurs. Speaking of that, the way she dies is so counterintuitive to her character traits that it’s almost ironic. She dies stealing berries from Peeta. Neither of them knew that the berries were poisonous. How do you think her sponsors reacted?

The clever girl dies because she wasn’t clever enough. 

Chapter Twenty-Four

It kind of blows me away, however, that Peeta thought it was alright to pick any old berry out in the woods. I grew up in a rural community kind of similar to the environment of District 12. We were always taught never to pick any type of fruit that we didn’t recognize. Berries could be poisonous. Some types of nuts can burn your skin. Certain fruits are sticky and covered in sap during different times of the year. Our parents never wanted us to touch anything we didn’t recognize for fear of the clean up process.

I get that Peeta grew up in the marketplace, but still. You’d think his parents would have taught him what berries to steer clear of. I don’t doubt that there’s some nightlock growing somewhere within the district that children should be wary of. 

Sometimes it’s crazy to think that even small decisions like what berries to eat can be life or death decisions.

It’s also crazy that these are children being forced to make life or death decisions. Later in the chapter, when they have to decide how to interact with Cato now that they’re the last remaining tributes, I’m blown away by their decision making process. How can you be so calm in the face of death? I would be panicking. 

But perhaps they’ve adjusted to the insanity of the games. I read somewhere once that humankind can adjust to anything if you give them enough time. The minds of children and teenagers are particularly malleable. Maybe they are at an age where they are better equipped to handle the Hunger Games than their elders would be. 

Chapter Twenty-Five

Human wolf hybrid muttations. In any other universe, the monsters of The Hunger Games would be ridiculous. In this series, they’re terrifying. The idea of looking into the eyes of fallen tributes in the form of murderous wolves is scary. It’s the stuff of horror movies.

It’s also an excellent form of mental torture. These are the eyes of the victims of the Hunger Games. Some of them are inspired by individuals that the surviving tributes have killed themselves. Can you imagine having a pack of them hunt you down? It would feel like the dead were having their revenge. No wonder Katniss and Peeta would have nightmares for the rest of their lives.

Plus, how do the Gamemakers even think of this material? Does it never occur to them that their actions will have lasting repercussions in the tributes lives? These mutts are a sick and twisted invention. They are designed purposefully to mentally scar the surviving tributes. How can they justify doing this to children?

I suppose that the only answer is that the Gamemakers refuse to view tributes as children. They’re not people to them. They would never compare Katniss or Peeta to their own children. Tributes are just entertainment, meant to be killed off for kicks. 

Yet, it’s more than a bit unfair that the Capitol gave Cato body armor. Katniss notices it when all three tributes are escaping the mutts. What a ridiculous advantage. It seems like they were rooting for a career tribute to win, possibly to blot out the impossible situation of love between Katniss and Peeta. It probably harkens back to the Capitol wanting to crush any sense of hope in the districts.

Thankfully, they don’t get what they want. Cato is killed by the Capitol’s own creation, the mutts. Not-so-thankfully, the process is horribly slow. They allow the mutts to torture Cato endlessly. Hours pass by without him dying. His torture is the ultimate form of entertainment for viewers. It’s disgusting. 

But perhaps there was another purpose to it as well. Maybe Seneca Crane was hoping that if he made Cato die slow enough, Peeta would die in the meantime. He wouldn’t be forced into a position where he would have to deal with the two victor issue he created. Who could have expected that Katniss would be capable of keeping Peeta alive throughout the entire game? 

No one. Not Seneca Crane for sure.

And yet I still think it’s the wrong move to revoke the rule change. It makes the Gamemakers look like fools more than anything else. How can they go back on their word so blatantly? It isn’t the ultimate form of entertainment to reverse their original decision; it’s just stupidity. 

Otherworld (Last Reality Book 1) by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Is it read-worth? Otherworld first came across as a balancing act gone wrong. The authors didn’t seem to be focusing on anything in particular. This cyberthriller had a boy with a Kishka criminal family, wealthy distant parents, a hard-to-contact best friend with an abusive family, and an obsession for a new video game being released… Throw in a deep, dark conspiracy theory and it was just too much for me at first. It came across as ridiculous. I couldn’t focus on anything in particular.

But, then, something happened and the pieces all started to come together. The storyline captured me and held my interest. I got to know more about Simon, the main character, and his determination to find and rescue Kat got me super invested in him as a character. I wanted him to succeed. I wanted him to be happy. Some of the action-packed fight scenes were so vivid to me that it felt like I was the one stuck in a video game. Blending the lines between virtual reality and reality-reality always interests me and this game was no exception.

And, yet, Otherworld didn’t always do what I expected it to. Certain aspects of the games evolved in ways that were entirely unexpected and even more interesting. Although this first book detailed the risks of such an intense virtual reality, I still wanted to be a part of that world. I still want to learn more about it.

In my opinion, this was the perfect start to a hopefully wonderful series about virtual reality. I loved the characters. I loved the storyline. I’m going to love reading more. 

Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer: Off-Kilter, Unwanted (Ch. 25)

Is it read-worth? I had high hopes for this portion of the book. The previous chapter seemed so fun and high stakes that it really caught my attention. Plus, the vibe of that chapter was completely unexpected. This chapter came across a little disjointed for me. A lot of the events that occurred were incredibly out of place for a vampire-oriented world. Tension building is great and all, but I prefer that it all make sense in the greater context of the story. All in all, it just wasn’t the best chapter in the world. Hopefully the next bit improves.

Spoiler Alerts

Obviously, I was hoping to enjoy this chapter more. And I did enjoy some bits of it, just not most of it. Too much of it was off-kilter for me in the Twilight universe. It kind of felt like those thriller movies where the director relies too much on big action scenes than scenes that actually make sense in the larger story-line. I don’t need explosions and car chases in Twilight. That’s just weird.

But broken down section by section, it wasn’t all bad. Some things were actually quite interesting to think about.

First off, it seems like it would be INCREDIBLY difficult to be a vampire in an airplane. Breathing in the scent of all of the human blood around you in such a tight enclosed space sounds so taxing for a creature whose body literally screams for blood. I wonder if most vampires can eventually manage it or if it’s something most try to avoid.

Of course, I wasn’t surprised that the Cullens had no issue with it. They’re used to being around humans all of the time. Carlisle in particular has incredible restraint. It barely phased them.

I also found it interesting to think about the differences between the Cullens and other vampires. Is it possible for other vampire families to even buy plane tickets? The Cullens live more in the human world than they do the vampire world. I doubt many vampires even bother with human identities.

And that made me wonder if it was worth avoiding human blood just to have access to more human amenities. Spending hundreds or even thousands of years outside of normal human society sounds boring. You’d have no sense of community. It’d probably make you just as crazy as James seems to be for challenging such a large family of vampires.

Yet, of course, James isn’t just crazy. It’s insane how extremely intelligent he is. Tricking Bella didn’t seem to require a lot of actual effort on his behalf, but he somehow managed to do it without alerting any of the vampires protecting her. I wonder if his abilities as a trickster are built into his extraordinary talent as a tracker. Maybe there’s more to his supernatural ability than we are led to believe.

But the beginning of chapter twenty-five of Midnight Sun did have me unimpressed with Bella. She had been super selfish in escaping from Alice and Jasper. They were trying SO hard to protect her. Bella used their lack of understanding about humankind against them.

I had always thought, while reading the original Twilight book from Bella’s perspective, that Bella was pretty stupid. I couldn’t think of anything more idiotic than blindly trusting a man who was trying to kill me. Why didn’t she even think about asking Alice for advice?

Yes, I know she was in a rush to defend her mother. I get that. But she had someone right next to her who can envision hundreds of possible futures. Why didn’t it ever occur to her to take advantage of that?

She also could have just tried to call her mom. But whatever.

Now that I’m a little bit older than I was when I first read the series, I don’t blame her quite as much. It’s only a minor (stupid) annoyance that Bella is so gullible. Realizing that she’s just a normal teenage girl is what makes me less annoyed. Bella isn’t the adult Meyer tries to make her out to be. She is just a kid. She isn’t always going to make the right choices. Sometimes, she does stupid stuff.

And I should have remembered that when I was younger, too. I mean obviously her failing for Edward was the biggest wrong choice that Bella ever made and she did that right in the beginning of the series! I didn’t even like him as a teenager. He’s a creep.

Alice’s pain during those first few pages of this chapter did remind me of my original annoyance, though. It is curious, however, that Alice never realized that Bella’s mom had never been there at all. James didn’t have her mother. It was a trick. Considering how clearly she was seeing everything else by the end, it was odd to me that she missed such a huge detail about the scene.

I also found Edward’s perspective extremely off-putting during this chapter. He seemed so distracted by the most random things. He even thought about how nice the roadways were in Arizona while he was rushing to go save Bella. It felt like an advertisement for Phoenix in the middle of a life or death scenario. It was just weird.

And I understand that people think weird thoughts when they’re in shock or extremely stressed… But it was still weird. Meyers almost lost me with those oddly placed random details about Edward’s hunt for Bella.

It was a WTF moment.

Of course, the increasing tension of the situation brought me back in. Jasper in particular is great during these scenes. He brings so much energy to the room and comes across as a real soldier instead of a teenage vampire. I had never really understood the extent of his strength during the first Twilight books. I’m excited to get to know more about him.

However, the car ride in general eventually lost me. Like I said earlier, it was just so out of place and off target for a vampire book. It was supposed to help build the suspense, but I really hated the vibe. I don’t read vampire books for fast and furious car rides. I just don’t.

A lot of this chapter is just really disjointed in comparison to what I expect from a vampire book. Between Bella’s choices, Alice’s inability to see the future, the car chase, and Edward’s absent-minded thoughts about nice roadways, it was just a bit off-kilter. Hopefully the next chapter will be better.

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

Is it read-worth? I hate to say that I completely and utterly don’t recommend a book or an author to anyone, but that’s honestly how I feel about Rupi Kaur’s work. It is just so disappointing to read an author that is so highly acclaimed and be so disappointed by their writing. I don’t buy books to instagram caption their one liners. I buy them so I can read them. The fact that her writing consistently lacks any substance is emotionally grating. Add in the fact that they’re supposed to be empowering for women and their lack of development is almost offensive. 

I first read Rupi Kaur poetry after visiting a local bookstore. I was picking up a couple of collections of poetry to read in a nearby park. It was nice out and I wanted something that would really move me. The clerk recommended her new collection, Milk and Honey. Without even reading the first page, I just added it to my over-growing pile. It had to be good if it was someone’s first and only recommendation to me, right? 

Wrong. 

I didn’t get a chance to start reading it that day. I think my pile of books was ten to fifteen books high and I was particularly excited to read something else I had grabbed. When I got home, I decided to look more into Milk and Honey. It was my only real impulse buy that day and I was curious as to why the clerk had recommended it to me. I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people were absolutely raving about it. They said her work was powerful and thought provoking, a true testament to the inner strength of women around the world. Wow! I was so excited to read it.

And then I did. 

What a total disappointment Milk and Honey was. The words were more evocative of a self-pitying teenage girl writing Facebook statuses about her jerk of an ex boyfriend than a powerful woman standing up to her oppressors. Not a single poem in the entire collection came across as powerful. The language used, the writing style, the poorly drawn illustrations on each page… It was heart-breaking to have such high expectations of a book just to be so completely let down.

I honestly put the book down and thought I read the work of a first grader. Literally anyone can write in Rupi Kaur’s style as long as they

write a sentence and

break 

it 

down into parts 

with a sketch at the bottom. It felt like something her grade school teacher had told her she did a great job on and she had never improved from there. Her topics just changed a little bit. 

I don’t personally understand the allure of a poetry collection full of writing that can barely be labeled as poetry. Rupi Kaur writes sentences and just places line breaks somewhere in them so that they vaguely resemble a stream of consciousness poem. There is absolutely nothing poetic about the majority of her poetry. They may be aesthetically pleasing to look upon (for some readers), but there is so little substance behind the words. Most of the “poetry” sounds more like tweets and Facebook statuses than they do poetry. It is absolutely shocking that her writing is so highly acclaimed and yet adds so little to the literary world. 

It is also shocking that people have such deep reactions to them. I can’t explain it. 

I watched a video on Youtube the other day, one made by Raphael Gomes. It’s titled “I tried foods people ONLY PRETEND to LIKE.” It includes food like candy corn and La Croix seltzers. How people feel about those foods is exactly how I feel about Rupi Kaur’s poetry. Because she writes so vaguely about such important and poignant topics, people pretend to like her writing. It’s easy for them to take a picture of one of her poems, caption it, upload it to Instagram, and say that they’re woke. I think I even did it the first time I read Milk and Honey. They let you feel more educated about real world problems because you shared an easy understood poem about it. Look at you! Fighting for women’s rights. 

Unbelievable.

It is such a cop out to the complexity of women’s issues and the actual emotions women feel to reduce them to the level of Kaur’s writing. What is so wounding about this is that there are thousands of poets who deserve more acclaim for their writing. People who write provoking and powerful work should be receiving the acclaim that Kaur has wrongfully received. 

Propulsion by Felicia Zamora immediately comes to mind for me. That poem resonates with such strong emotion and really calls attention to a specific problem women of color face. The writing doesn’t use overly complicated words or phrases, but it has so much meaning and depth to it. It doesn’t resort to vague half statements and illusions. It is possibly one of my favorite pieces of writing. You can absolutely say something profound about women’s issues (and racial issues) in an interesting and well-developed way. It is possible. You do not need to reduce them to the standards of Rupi Kaur’s writing.

What also comes to mind to me are a couple of spoken word poems by Bianca Phipps that are available right now on Youtube. Her work is just outstanding. Her poetry is beautiful and sad and strong. The Heartbreaker Poem in particular perfectly captures the actual emotions of women. It does not rely on overly complicated language in order to do so, similar in nature to Rupi Kaur’s writing, but it says so much more than hers. Of course, it is delivered vocally instead of in writing, but it is such an outstanding poem that I definitely recommend you give it a listen.

Some people might infer, based on those two poems, that I do prefer slightly more advanced linguistics in my poetry. You might think that it’s just the simple words Kaur uses that turn me off to her writing. Maybe I’m one of those people who want my poetry to be absolutely littered with overly complicated phrases and long words. But I’m not. It’s absolutely possible to write amazing poetry with simple words. Most of the time, I actually prefer poetry that does so. But Rupi Kaur does not write amazing poetry. While sometimes saying more with less can be powerful, her version of saying more with less is actually less. Words strung together that look like poetry are not always fully capable of being poetry. 

At this point, you may be asking yourself why I even bothered to read The Sun and Her Flowers then? And the answer is simple: the book is free with my Kindle Unlimited subscription. I wouldn’t lose anything except for time. I remembered from the first book of hers I read that it would also be barely anytime lost. I think I read the entire book in under an hour, with pauses to try to add value to each poem with mixed success. I am a very quick reader, but anyone could read this book in an hour. 

I also hoped that, because she had been greeted with such high praises from readers, she would add more value to her work. The poems would be longer and more developed upon. She had had great success with her first collection. Why not improve upon her poetry to gain more success? 

I’m not sure she followed that path, however, and I don’t completely blame her. Why would you bother to write good poetry when what you’ve written before sells? 

I should have listened to my gut instinct when I read the first poem in the collection and was shocked by how utterly underwhelming it was: 

on the last day of love

my heart cracked inside my body

Are you kidding me? This is what we give praise to? I had forgotten the extent to which I was disappointed by the first book. 

It’s also kind of a shame because sometimes she is so close to writing good poetry that I want to scream. I can see where she’s going. But I’m always left wanting more from her writing. This collection, The Sun and Her Flowers, includes so many pieces that I wish she had improved or elaborated upon. It’s very frustrating for me. Because of how they are written, even her longer pieces just come across more as sentences or conversations that she removed the punctuation from and inserted line breaks in. It’s ridiculous. I don’t want to read poetry that makes me dislike poetry.

It is especially disappointing because her books are supposed to be all about empowering women. Instead, they’re reductive. The majority of her poetry comes across as poorly written, emotionally insecure, cliched, and overall disappointing. How is this book so popular?

Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer: Yes! Finally! (Ch. 18-19)

Is it read-worth? These chapters weren’t so bad. I enjoyed them at times, hated them at others. I think some of the actual writing in these chapters was of decent quality, especially compared to many of the scenes in the original series. I really love getting to know some of the side characters more, especially Rosalie.

SPOILER ALERT

To be perfectly frank with you guys, I was a little bit underwhelmed by the beginning of chapter eighteen. I was not looking forward to reading more and my earlier optimism was long forgotten. Edward’s condescending explanation for why he should drive Bella’s truck home from the trail kind of turned me off to this book more than I expected. I don’t know why it bothered me so much. Of course, Bella definitely wasn’t in a state to drive after how dizzy their run made her, but their kiss seemed a little bit extra. It was too extreme. Especially considering that it only impacted Bella to such a large extent. The blood drinking vampire was largely okay. 

Plus, I’ve never personally fainted from kissing someone so it’s hard for me to imagine. Have you? It’s probably realistic for people who are prone to fainting, although I’m not sure Bella falls into this category. I wonder if she fainted a lot in Arizona. 

However, I didn’t mind their conversation about Edward’s age. I was hoping they would have it soon. I couldn’t really remember when it happened in the first Twilight book so it felt like a welcome surprise. Thank my memory for small delights! 

Thinking back on it now, though, it is a little bit strange to me that Bella was so surprised at Edward’s age. He’s old! But vampires in most folklore are pretty old and I would probably have been expecting older. The last one hundred years is pretty recent for immortal beings! I guess it’s pretty hard to put two and two together when you’re looking at someone who appears to be seventeen.

I do kind of wish Edward remembered more from his human life during this conversation. It’s very sad to me that he has such a limited memory of his human parents and his mortal life. From the way Carlisle describes his mother, she at least deserved a more well developed memory on his behalf. It’s hard to imagine forgetting the people who loved and cared for you. I wonder a lot about what his father was like.

I also wonder if that means Bella will forget about her family in the future. Will memories of Charlie and Renee quickly fade into the background? Mortal memories must be completely different from immortal memories. Everything seems to intensify as a vampire so I understand why memories of so long ago would eventually fade. But it’s still a little bit sad to lose such valuable memories as the years pass by.

Of course, that means I do completely understand why Carlisle felt like he should change Rosalie into a vampire, hoping she would be Edward’s perfect match. With his human memories gone, Edward would need something to ground him to humanity. Love could do that. Also feeling like you doomed someone to spend eternity alone must be horrible. Rosalie’s beauty would have spoken to someone like Carlisle. He would have seen something in her face. I would have probably done the same thing he did.

But of course I adore Rosalie. Edward doesn’t. He does not seem to give her any benefit of the doubt. Even immediately after she became a vampire, Edward was passing judgement on her. He ridiculed her for moping and feeling bad for herself. Meanwhile Edward is CONSTANTLY moping. He’s like the KING of moping. How hypocritical is that? Rosalie can’t have time to process her own emotions regarding the end of his human life and he can spend the last one hundred years brooding about what an evil creature he is. 

I think a large part of it is that he knew she was supposed to be his life partner and felt a bit of resentment towards Carlisle towards trying to set that up. He would never, however, admit to himself that he felt negativity towards Carlisle. So instead he takes it out on Rosalie. That is so completely unfair and immature in my opinion. Rosalie deserves better than that. I think that she is possibly the strongest, most well-developed female character in the entire series. She has so much inner strength that it is unbelievable. I hate the way Edward regards her.

However, I did enjoy hearing more about her from Edward’s perspective. I love getting to know more about her and Emmett. I can’t imagine the impossible feat of strength it must have been for her to travel so far with him human in her arms, bleeding. Hearing the story from Edward’s perspective was much more telling than learning about it from Bella’s. He was actually there to see her face and hear her beg for Emmett’s life. Her fear and need to save Emmett felt very, very real compared to a lot of the writing throughout the Twilight series. Good job Meyer! 

I also enjoyed hearing more about when Alice joined the family. While I find her character a lot less interesting than I did during the original Twilight series, I do still want to like her. It was hilarious that she made sure to arrive while Edward and Emmett were away from the rest of the family. Why bother knocking down a wall when you can walk in the front door? I love it.

When Bella asks Edward to come into her home, my prior sense of enjoyment was partially interrupted. He absentmindedly wondered if she thought that he needed an invitation in order to enter her home. While we obviously know he does not, I almost wish that he did. Beyond just wanting to avoid his creepy stalker-y behavior, it bothers me that vampires in the Twilight universe have so few weaknesses. It takes so much effort to kill one! The sun doesn’t bother them. Garlic doesn’t do a thing. They can enter your home without a problem. They can even eat food if they want to! They just have to throw it up later. In the real world, I feel like they’d have at least a few weaknesses for humans to exploit. They wouldn’t be so impossibly stronger than us. 

Everything dies one day after all. It’s kind of a bummer that the only thing really capable of killing a vampire is another vampire. I mean how am I supposed to imagine groups of vampire hunters in this world then?

Of course, there are werewolves… but still. I want more options than that.

I also absolutely one hundred percent hated Bella’s reaction to finding out what a creep Edward is. The fact that she was embarrassed of her own behavior (talking in her sleep) instead of focusing on him being a complete and total stalker is completely laughable. In a bad way. I cannot believe that a supposedly mature and well-rounded main female character wouldn’t be horrified by his behavior. She is supposed to be the best of us! How does she not see what a red flag that is? 

Obviously I knew her reaction was going to be completely dismissive and on the edge of flattered. It was still disappointing. Edward’s behavior is not romantic! It’s not! Why does Meyer insist that it is?

And then when Charlie goes on to disable Bella’s truck so she can’t sneak out? Yuck. I hate it when parents act like that. Bella never gave Charlie a reason not to trust her. She is not the type of person to sneak out. Why does he think it’s justifiable to mess with her vehicle? I understand that he’s her parent and he’s trying to protect her, but it feels like a total violation of the trust between them. Why can’t he just trust her? And wouldn’t it be more likely for Bella to ask to do whatever she wants to do? He usually encourages her to socialize. 

Regardless, over-controlling men seem to be a common theme in the Twilight series.

In any case, I did start to like chapter eighteen again soon thereafter. I really love hearing about the science behind vampirism. Hearing Edward ponder the evolution of vampires was right up my alley. However, I do believe it makes more sense that vampirism would come long after the evolution of humankind. It is often described as some type of disease. It would need time to develop. I think he was coming at it from a more religious perspective, believing that the same greater force created both at the same time. That’s fine too. I’m open to all theories when it comes to my supernatural creatures.

Similarly, I particularly liked hearing more about vampire science in chapter nineteen. It was my huge ‘YES! FINALLY’ moment with this book. I’m finally getting a little bit of what I asked for! According to Carlisle’s research into vampires, vampires consume blood and it is absorbed directly into their muscles instead of processed by their circulatory system. Nothing else is capable of moving throughout their body at all. How interesting is that? I want to know even more now!

It got a little bit awkward, however, when Bella asked Edward about sex. I don’t know how Meyer does it, but she makes all sex very unsexy. Plus why wouldn’t vampires be interested in sex? They can’t sleep after all. They’re probably bored a lot of the time. 

During the beginning of chapter nineteen, I was excited to get back to Edward interacting with Rosalie. As I’ve said many times prior, I can’t get enough of her! Even just imagining her facial expressions and reactions to things makes me laugh. I was disappointed again by Edward’s thoughts about her. He was so surprised by the true depth of her character. She isn’t the shallow person he makes her out to be! He always assumes her reactions are because of petty explanations. They aren’t. 

Rosalie’s dislike for Bella has more to it than just being spiteful that Edward found someone he thinks is prettier than herself. Rosalie feels like Bella is giving up everything she has personally ever wanted. The chance to be human and live a normal human life is so valuable to Rosalie that it absolutely enrages her to see someone want to give it up. She doesn’t want to watch Bella make choices that she herself would regret. It causes her physical and emotional pain to do so. 

And that is so admirable. Every one else seems to have come around to supporting Bella and Edward’s relationship. The fact that Rosalie wants to stay true to what matters to her is so impressive. I love the fact that she doesn’t just blindly tell Edward to go for it. She genuinely wants a better life for Bella with kids and marriage and human happiness. She isn’t even sure if years of happiness are worth the risk of possibly losing her grasp on humanity. I love it. Edward needs to stop passing such critical judgement on such a strong and caring person. He’s being a jerk.

He’s also being a jerk in other ways. Edward is so constantly dismissive of his family and his species when comparing them to Bella: “I hated that Bella referred to herself this way, as though there was something wrong with her, and not the other way around.” If vampirism is relatively common, why does he continue to view it as such a disability? If anything, it’s an improvement. Also, stop hating on your family! You have spent the last decades with them! They deserve more than being compared to some teenage girl you just met. 

It also feels reductive that Edward reduces Bella’s concept of forever as such a short period of time. If he truly believes that she is vastly more mature than her peers, she would have a longer version of forever. But of course I don’t necessarily disagree with him. What teenager, or person, has a real concept of forever? I don’t really believe that even vampires are completely unchanging as decades pass. Outside triggers must eventually work their forces on them. It is just a slower process. How I wish we got to see more vampires break up.

I was a bit surprised at how much more realistic Esme feels during this book. During Twilight, she was definitely very far into the background of the story. She’s still a side character now, but she has more character traits. I like the fact that she’s a homebody and is quite happy for the rest of her family to bring her news of the outside world. Who doesn’t love the idea of a homebody vampire?

Thinking about the entire family now, however, it is a little bit strange that Carlisle and his family have met so few other vampires like themselves. He has travelled the world and has met seemingly hundreds of vampires, but very few others have developed a “conscience” about their food source like himself. I wonder if there are smaller groups of covens, outside of the Cullens and Denalis, that abstain from human blood as well. Maybe they just haven’t found each other yet.

However,it does sound absolutely gruesome to be created as Edward and Carlisle were. Carlisle believed that his slow change is what resulted in his more reserved and kind personality and immortal desires so he inflicted the same wounds he had experienced onto Edward. I am very much so looking forward to more information about Carlisle’s past and his thoughts on the vampire universe.

But are my chances very good that Stephanie Meyer will go into more detail? Not so sure. I had to wait eighteen chapters to get these tidbits of new information. Here’s to hoping! 

Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer: Edward Creeps Me Out (Ch. 16 – 17)

Is it read-worth?

I’m actually starting to enjoy Midnight Sun, but I think that’s just because I love having things to complain about and this book gives me plenty. I find Edward so deeply unnerving. He makes me incredibly anxious. His relationship with Bella is absolutely the stuff of nightmares. Of course, they’re not nightmares in the horror story vampire sort of way, but I’ll take what I can get. Creepy abusive stalker boyfriend? I guess it works. 

You know what doesn’t work? The absolute romanticization and normalization of Edward’s behavior. The Twilight series is 100% marketed towards young female readers. Telling them that controlling boyfriends are the epitome of romance isn’t healthy. Maybe if this was a spoof, or if it made it clear that this behavior is unhealthy, I’d be fine with it, but it doesn’t and I’m not. 

I find it profoundly concerning that Edward is so completely comfortable sitting in Bella’s room while she sleeps. She has no idea that he is even there. Even when Charlie enters the room, Edward doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t think there is a chance in the world that anyone will notice him. He. Is. So. Comfortable. There. And no one in his family has ever called him out on this horrible behavior. I hate it. 

It is very creepy and very scary and a very unhealthy, controlling pattern of behavior. The fact that Stephanie Meyer keeps returning to him sitting in Bella’s bedroom is driving me insane. I don’t want to read about him stalking Bella anymore. This isn’t a romantic gesture. This isn’t cute. Why is she pretending that it is?

If you think stalking is cute, you need to realize it isn’t. Do not be Edward.

I also hate the fact that Edward stalks Bella seemingly 24/7. He always knows what she is doing. Even when he’s outside of her room, in the woods, he knows every move she makes. He knows what part of the house she is in. When she has a conversation with her father, Edward can hear every word they speak. He knows everything that happens in her life. Bella has absolutely zero privacy. I found it insanely disturbing when Midnight Sun disclosed the extent to which he listened to her conversations at school. Finding out this behavior extends to every part of her life is… violating to an extreme. It feels like she’s his property to protect, not his potential partner. They are not equals if he feels like he can involve himself in every facet of her life. 

And can you imagine that happening in your own life? Wouldn’t you feel claustrophobic and anxious? I would always be watching what I’m saying and thinking about how someone always has their eyes on me. I would be frightened. It is not romantic. It is scary. People do this in real life to their partners and it is toxic, harmful behavior. Everyone has a right to privacy. Bella is not Edward’s prisoner.

It is very strange that no one ever calls Edward out on how toxic it is. I feel like Alice must know the real extent to which he watches Bella, at the very least. She can probably see him do it. Yet, she never says anything about it. Instead, she acts like it makes sense because Bella is just a fragile human. He has to watch her or she might die. 

The other Cullens know, at the very least, that Edward sneaks into her bedroom at night to watch her sleep. No one finds that strange either. How is the entire family normalizing such invasive patterns of behavior? I am surprised that Rosalie hasn’t mentioned how awful his behavior is. It is not okay to say that it is alright for Edward to act like this just because Bella is human. That is a poor excuse. It also leads to the development of further controlling behavior that occurs later in the Twilight series. The toxic and abusive nature of their relationship compounds as Edward gives himself more and more leniency in regards to controlling Bella’s behavior. He just excuses it as “for her benefit.”

But back to the chapters. When Bella is talking about her truck being old enough to be Edward’s car’s grandfather, I do wonder why Edward doesn’t immediately make the connection between their own ages. He could be Bella’s grandfather a couple of times over. Considering his own internal dialogue of self-pity and hate, I wonder why the age difference doesn’t bother him quite as much. I understand that he still has the body of a teenage boy, but his mind should have (at least in part) developed beyond that point. Edward even points out the difference in his maturity levels versus other teenagers. Does that not play any role in his relationship with Bella?

During their truck ride, Bella also discloses that she made sure no one knew she would be with Edward that day. Her father had no idea and she told Jessica that Edward had cancelled. If he accidentally kills her during their day trip, no one will associate it with him. It won’t create problems for him.

I remember that, in the original Twilight book, this was supposed to be a kind, caring, selfless gesture for the man that Bella loves. But it didn’t really come across as that then and it doesn’t really now. It’s just stupidity. Bella is a young teenage girl that just met this guy. Why should she risk her life for a boy she barely knows? Answer: she shouldn’t. 

I do enjoy the fact that Edward agrees that her reaction to his warning was uncalled for: “I hadn’t told her so she would try to make herself more vulnerable to me. I’d told her so she would run away from me.” Bella was never supposed to feed into the dangers Edward presents. She was supposed to be wary.

However, I do wonder if his reaction to her statement was genuine. Obviously Edward doesn’t really want Bella to avoid him. I wonder if his warnings were subconscious manipulation of her. The more you act like you’re being completely honest with someone, the more they will trust you. His warning obviously had the opposite response of what he was supposedly going for, but I wonder if he expected that, at least in part. Bella seems to prefer acting in ways that demean her own self worth. She doesn’t argue or stand up for herself or protect herself from killer vampires. 

I feel like that lack of self preservation in Bella kind of relates to her upbringing, however. Even in their conversations about Bella’s mother, Renee, it is obvious that, while Bella loves her mother, Renee is childlike and inconsiderate. She doesn’t take personal responsibility for things. Bella grew up mothering her mother instead of being catered to like the child she was. Would her sense of self preservation be stronger if she had ever been her mother’s priority? Or would she still insist on sacrificing parts of herself, even her life, for the benefit of others?

When they arrived at the trailhead, I was actually distracted from all of that musing by how distracted Edward was by Bella’s bare skin. I had no idea that someone could be so fascinated by bare arms. It is not exactly the most scandalous or revealing apparel. Wouldn’t he be more distracted seeing Bella sleeping every night? It was so weird.

And then I found myself distracted by that train of thought with a question… Why doesn’t Edward’s heart beat? Even if he’s a vampire, how else would nutrients and blood pass through his system? What is animating him? It could just be that his heart beat is so minimal that it’s practically undetectable, but it doesn’t feel entirely possible that his heart just doesn’t beat period. What would be the point in drinking blood if it can’t run through your entire system? I’m so confused. I want a scientific explanation behind vampirism in the Twilight universe more than anything else. Can’t Meyer just change one scientist into a vampire and have them perform a series of studies? I want to understand how it all works. 

I could be getting so distracted by such trivial matters because of how sick I am of Edward though. He is so melodramatic that it causes me physical pain. Everything about his ongoing internal dialogue is beginning to wear on me. This whole “monster in the shadows” vibe is just absolutely exhausting. I’m not enjoying it anymore. 

Plus, I don’t really know how realistic it is that every good vampire in the Twilight universe hates themselves. Why do they all feel like monsters all the time? It’s so cliche. Vampires are inhumanly beautiful and strong. They glow in the sunlight. The Cullens do all of this and don’t even ingest human blood. Personally? I’d feel more like a god than a monster. 

I also find it unrealistic that Edward seems to think Bella is going to be absolutely terrified and turned off by his sparkly skin. I understand that he was horrified by the sight of Carlisle, but thinking back on that now it was probably because that was the moment where he realized he was no longer human. He was distantly other. Bella has not been scared of almost anything vampire related to date. Why would his glittering skin be the last straw? It is more of a beautiful oddity than a terrible sight.

After Bella and him begin to relax in the field together, I also had a good bit of confusion regarding Edward’s distraction techniques. The sudden burst of mathematics does not seem to fit his character. Edward never seemed especially inclined towards mathematics prior. I understand he was trying to distract himself from the allure of Bella’s blood, and he’s supposedly very intelligent, but it seemed like such a strange transition from his normal brooding self. If anything, he seems like the type of person who would distract himself with theoretics and philosophy, not try to do math in his head. The second musical distraction made much more sense. 

It is also incredibly strange that the most sexual tension the Twilight series has ever had is when Edward is close to killing Bella. Isn’t that a bit messed up? I read once that Meyer avoided premarital sex to appeal to a more religious audience. I don’t know how true that is, but I can believe it. It just seems completely strange that a scene where Edward is close to murdering someone is more sexually toned than actual scenes where Bella and Edward have physical contact. 

I am also slightly confused by Edward’s constant back and forth in regards to the perceptions humans have of him. He seems to believe that everyone is simultaneously drawn towards him and intensely repulsed by him. When Bella leans in to smell him and he has that moment of weakness where he must lung away from her, Edward begins to think about how he is designed to be the perfect snare for human prey. His face, his voice, and even his smell are supposed to draw people in. So it’s slightly confusing that 50% of people are extremely attracted to him and the remainder are almost always creeped out by him. I wish these two sensations could be described in conjunction with each other at least once. Maybe it’s some type of natural human intuition to be fearful of something so unnaturally beautiful, or some inner warning signal. I’d love to go into more detail eventually.

When they begin talking about the Cullen’s family’s moments of weakness in regards to human blood drinking, I did find it more than a little bit sadistic that Carlisle requires the family to attend the funerals of anyone they have harmed. When Emmett killed his two victims, he was present at their funerals. He had to listen to people talk about the person that they have lost. He had to watch them cry and feel pain. In no way does him bearing witness to that make up for the damage that he caused. 

If anything, it comes across more as adding insult to injury. You wouldn’t attend a funeral for the cow you eat. It wouldn’t make a difference to the cow. It wouldn’t make the cow’s family feel better. You already killed and ate the cow. Someone definitely wouldn’t forgive the person who murdered them just because they showed up for the funeral and felt bad for a while. The only thing it would do is make you, the murderer, feel better. Edward was exactly right when he said their attendance at the funeral and any money they sent to the victim’s family was a “weak recompense.”

After so long of a life, I also found it concerning that Edward believes he’s in love after knowing Bella for such an incredibly short period of time. It is especially worrisome because their love is so all-consuming and complete. There is very little to no room for growth in their relationship. 

Even in books about soulmates, their love tends to start small and grow larger. It isn’t necessarily immediate and total. For example, the Night World series by LJ Smith is almost entirely based around soul mates meeting, but they are almost never immediately in love. They have to get to know each other first. It takes time. I wish Twilight had followed a similar route.

Instead, it seems to have no scope for the growth of relationships. Almost all of the other strong relationships in this series involve one moment where the couples know they’re in love – Jasper and Alice, Rosalie and Emmett, and Esme and Carlisle. All love is spontaneous and complete. Or else it has a short shelf life such as in the case of Bella’s parents.

And that’s not necessarily just a vampire thing either. Werewolf imprinting is also included in that description. That love may change in nature as the years pass, but it never gets stronger beyond that point. It is always unbreakable. 

Beyond just wishing for that type of relationship to be tweaked a little bit, I wish that some of the relationships included break ups and life changes. The Cullens are immortal. It is odd to think that they will spend their entire existence with one person. Do vampires really never change as the world around them changes all the time? It’s very weird to think about, but that could just be my humanity showing.

I am also not really sure I find the concept of someone’s “second half” to be as compelling anymore either. In high school I thought the idea of someone being your perfect match to be quite romantic. The idea that you’re not complete until you find the right partner for you? It seemed to make sense to me. How can you be whole if you’re alone? I don’t agree anymore. I think I’d rather spread this idea that people, “even” women, are everything they need to be and more. They don’t need someone else to make themselves complete. They just need to focus on developing themselves and their own strengths. You are complete by yourself; work on that. 

Maybe that idea wouldn’t work too well for a book though, especially one like Twilight. Romance books feed off of the idea of a perfect match. I have enjoyed books with similar ideas before though – books like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – so maybe they’ll become more popular and it’ll be easier to see that there was something there after all.

I am curious as to what a Midnight Sun version of New Moon would hold for us as readers now that I’m thinking about werewolves. Obviously Bella and Edward are not together for most of that book. I can’t imagine how annoying Edward will be if Meyer decides to adapt that storyline to his perspective as well. Will the entire book just be long-winded monologues about how sad he feels for himself? 

However, I am excited that it would be a long break from thinking about Bella and stalking Bella. Maybe Edward could make a friend? His entire life seems to be defined by Bella though so I don’t really know how Meyer would pull off a whole book without her. It’s not like Edward does anything interesting during his free time. Are we just going to read about him pouting for an entire book?