What I’ve Been Reading

Long time no see, readers. School has been [INSERT TORNADO MADE OF PAPER]. But AP exams are over! (They went mostly well, if I pretend the English exam never existed.) And that means blog-time.

While I haven’t been writing much for the past many months… I haven’t been reading that much either. I’m reading Gideon the Ninth right now, which is an absolutely epic book that should’ve taken me a week to read, but I’ve been plugging away at it for a month and twenty days because of exams *groans*. I’ve read more in the past day-and-a-half than the three weeks before that.

There is a bright side to not reading much though (look at me, being an optimist). It’s super easy to review all of the books I’ve read this year in one post! (I mean review in its loosest sense. It’s been a while since I’ve read these so I can’t do in-depth reviews.)


The Poppy War and The Dragon Republic by RF Kuang

This is a super fun book. I love that it’s based on Chinese history and it’s really well written. I love Kitay and Rin’s friendship.

Five stars for both. I’m so excited for book 3.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

I read this one for school, and I appreciate the writing and the satire and all that, but I didn’t really like it. I felt more sympathy for the antagonist than the protagonist, so I couldn’t really get behind the protagonist. I thought it was weird that John Proctor the thirty-year-old slept with Abby the sixteen-year-old and then she was blamed for seducing him.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

It was okay. Too much romance for my taste. I didn’t care that much.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire

This is currently my favorite book. I reread it two months ago and now I want to read it again. The plot is mindbending and the writing is beautiful, but I love this book for its characters. I love Dodger. I want to read it again. 💚

Rating: 5 out of 5.

There are actually six stars for this book.


Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This series is written like a fairytale and I adore the writing style. It’s the definition of “whimsy”. 💜

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

This is the prequel to Every Heart a Doorway, although you could read it by itself. The writing style makes me swoon. This one’s even better than Every Heart a Doorway. I love the way it explores family relationships.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Okay, so I’ve read seven books these past five months, and three of them are by Seanan McGuire. In conclusion, read Seanan McGuire.

Debbie and the Large Pumpkin

Once upon a time, there lived two mice who were the very best of friends. Debbie and Gwenie were inseparable. They did everything together: the mundane and the exciting. They would talk and laugh endlessly and it was said they even breathed in time. It would be surprising if someone thought they didn’t have a telepathic connection.

They were the very best of friends at birth, and to all it seemed they would continue to be the very best of friends until they were buried side-by-side. That is, until last September, when the annual city-wide pumpkin-growing competition began. Debbie decided she’d enter because it could be fun. Gwenie didn’t think it was worth the effort, but as any good friend, she encouraged Debbie. Neither of them expected this pumpkin-growing competition to be the end.

***

Debbie wanted to win this competition. She needed to be the Pumpkin Champion. She didn’t know why, but the title seemed more important than life itself. So she gave her life to the pumpkin. She watered it and gave it fertilizer. She put the pot on wheels and rolled it around the yard to follow the sun across the sky, her little mouse muscles straining as the wheels forced their way through the grass. She whispered to the pumpkin, loved it. At night, she stood on top of it and wielded her rake to fight off any animals that might come to devour it.

Debbie did not eat, she did not sleep. Gwenie brought her food like clockwork, but she never smiled. Debbie now breathed in time with the pumpkin, not Gwenie. Debbie was snappish and skittish, never allowing Gwenie near the pumpkin and never straying far from it. After a few weeks of this, Gwenie stopped trying to speak to Debbie at all. She left the food on the back porch and vanished.

Debbie was not always with her pumpkin. Everyday, at a random time (to throw off sabotagers), Debbie set a crate over her pumpkin to protect it and left the garden. She peered over her neighbor’s fences, scoping out the competition. As she watched the pumpkins, a sense of victory filled her. Her pumpkin was significantly larger than any of these ants. Except for Tessie’s pumpkin. Tessie was outside at all hours, polishing her pumpkin. Her pumpkin appeared as large as Debbie’s.

***

The day before the Ultimate Public Pumpkin Weighing, Debbie was pacing circles around her pumpkin. Most of the pumpkins weren’t even a quarter of the size of Debbie’s. Debbie’s pumpkin had outgrown four pots and she could barely push it around the yard anymore. But still, she was not guaranteed the Pumpkin Championship. Tessie’s pumpkin was just as large. Debbie just might get second. Debbie could not lose everything she had worked toward, everything she had ever wanted.

That night, Debbie drilled a small hole in the top of her pumpkin and dropped pebbles inside. The pumpkin was halfway full when she ran out of pebbles in her yard, so, in the middle of the night, Debbie took a wheelbarrow to Gwenie’s house and stole all her rocks. Gwenie did not see.

***

Debbie won the Pumpkin Championship by a large margin. Her pumpkin was nearly five times as massive as Tessie’s (thanks to the rocks). Tessie ran from the competition sobbing as Debbie accepted her ribbon. Nothing had ever felt so good.

The next day, Debbie invited Gwenie over for pumpkin pie in celebration.

“Congratulations,” Gwenie said when they were seated at the table.

“It was nothing.” Debbie shrugged like it was actually nothing.

Gwenie gestured to the pie with her fork before taking a bite and saying, “We’re eating your pumpkin.” It pleased Gwenie to eat the horrid pumpkin.

“I had nothing else to do with it.”
“I thought you loved your pumpkin,” Gwenie exclaimed. Debbie had chosen the pumpkin over Gwenie, so it must be worth something.

“Meh.”

“You’re not wearing your ribbon…,” Gwenie observed.

Debbie laughed. “I’m not going to brag about winning a dumb ribbon for having the biggest pumpkin. What would people think of me?”

Gwenie blinked in surprise. “We haven’t spoken in months because of this pumpkin! You broke our friendship for the pumpkin and you don’t even care about it anymore?”

Debbie cocked her head. “We’re friends.”

“Are we? I’ve been talking to Katie down the street lately.”

Debbie frowned. “Oh. Well.”

“I’ll forgive you if you say you regret it,” Gwenie said. She wanted to salvage their friendship.

“I could say that, but it wouldn’t be true.” Debbie shrugged.

The Cat Lady | Short Story

November 28

To My Dearest Diary,

I thought Emperor Mozzarella loved me, at least as much as my other cats do, but clearly, I was wrong. He vomited all over my most cherished rug and completely ruined it! I can’t believe the Emperor would do such a horrible thing! I thought he respected me. I suspect it was revenge for giving Cherry the Cheshire the fancy cat food instead of him. But Cherry the Cheshire, the poor dear, is at the end of her life, and she needs a little coddling in these last months.

It really was a marvelous rug: very plush and very beautiful and very white. I inherited it from my mother. I was pleased when that abhorrent woman died because it meant I could have such a wonderful rug. 

I wanted to publicly shame the Emperor for destroying that magnificent rug by forcing him to give a stand-up comedy routine in front of the other cats. I expected him to embarrass himself, and I even gave the other cats permission to fling rotting vegetables at him. But he once again disappointed. He’s surprisingly skilled with cat puns, and the bucket of rotting vegetables remained unflung. Even I couldn’t prevent a small chuckle from escaping. My punishment was a failure. I’m afraid the Emperor rather enjoyed it. But don’t worry, I’m still holding a grudge. I will eventually have my revenge.

November 29

To My Dearest Diary,

James called and that good-for-nothing son-of-mine said he’s coming over tomorrow evening, despite the fact that I told him I’d rather he didn’t. He’s so inconsiderate. But the child said he’s “worried about me” and that I need “human companionship.” What did I do to make him think he’s worthy of my companionship? He’s not worthy of the floor I walk on, and I thought I’d made that clear. I don’t understand why he can’t be more like his sister. Even when they were kids, I always told James to be more like Mary Sue, but he never did listen to me. And now look where they are. Mary Sue lives in The Big City and is the CEO of Really Fancy Tech Company. James, on the other hand, has done zilch with his life. He’s a failure. A nothing living in an average suburban home with an average job and an average wife and horrid children that shower him with their sickly love. But Mary Sue. She’s made it in this world. Her name is known. She has power. She’s successful, and I’m proud of her.

At this point of my speech, James usually rolls his eyes and points out that Mary Sue is unhappy, goes through men like normal people go through waffles, and she hasn’t called me in five years, while James, the angel, has checked up on me nearly every day and “actually cares.” However, his points don’t make any sense and his argument is as stupid as he is. I’ll concede that Mary Sue is unhappy, but happiness doesn’t relate to success and is therefore unimportant; I am allergic to waffles (I do love a good pancake though) and therefore I do not eat waffles (because they would kill me and I rather like life) and therefore Mary Sue’s relationship with men is perfectly healthy; and she hasn’t called because she’s successful and successful people are often too busy to call their mothers. I’m so proud of my little girl.

James, though… I do not appreciate it when he calls. If anything, it only inconveniences and irritates me. James fully knows this and calls only to spite me for loving Mary Sue more when they were children (and now). And I know for a fact that he does not “actually care.” If he did “actually care” he would blindly follow whatever I say, wouldn’t he? This is why I prefer cats to people. (And diaries to cats.)

November 30

To My Dearest Diary,

I’ve been thinking about what James said yesterday, about how I need more friends. After a significant amount of thought (I wasted thirty seconds of my life thinking about what James said. I can’t believe myself), I’ve come to the conclusion that he has once again proved himself to be incompetent.

I’m anything but lonely. I have so many friends! There’s Cherry the Cheshire, Sweet Milly, Tibby the Tabby, Colby and Jack, Margaret, Cheddar the Yellow, Emperor Mozzarella, Tommy—I haven’t seen the poor dear in ages. I wonder where he’s gone—, Reina the Yellow, Raisin the Bald, etc. So many friends! Except for Emperor Mozzarella. We’re currently not on speaking terms.

James, that filthy clod, repetitively commands me to find friends. He doesn’t think my precious cats count. He says I should “be friends with things that can speak.” That narrow-minded lump can’t comprehend the fact that my cats can speak, at least to me, and are the only friends I need. What more could I want? Other than Emperor Mozzarella, they are doting and kind and so, so sweet—qualities that he himself does not possess! And he insults my friends?

And I have you, Dearest, as well, don’t I? You’re my best friend, and even better than the cats (don’t tell them I said that). I do love the cats, but sometimes on the longer days, it becomes all about me, me, me, and it becomes tiring to pretend to care about all their yowling. Raisin the Bald, especially, is quite narcissistic. Sometimes they don’t worship me the way I want them to. But you, Dearest, are wonderful in ways the cats could only dream to be. You listen so well. I can tell you all my secrets and never will a word of it reach the others. I confided in Tibby and Tommy once, but the poor things love to gossip. I gave Tibby and Tommy the silent treatment for three days. They learned their place after that.

Dearest, you understand me like no other can. You love me like no other can. You never want anything from me. Oh, the cats are good company, but they don’t compare. It’s constantly feed me, change my litter, love me. They expect so much from me! Is it wrong to sometimes take instead of give? Is it wrong to sometimes want things for me instead of always living for others?

November 31

To My Dearest Diary,

James visited yesterday. It was rather unpleasant, and his voice provoked a terrible ache in my left ear. He brought hot chocolate, which was nice. I made some for myself, but when I sat down on the couch across from him, he eyed my hot chocolate like I should have made him some. The nerve! If he had wanted hot chocolate, he should have kept it at his house. He gave it to me as a gift, and since it’s a gift, I have the right to do with it what I please. And I’d rather not waste hot chocolate on ungrateful little urchins.

James kept trying to make small talk. I detest small talk. I remained silent and glared at him until he left. That made me feel successful.

Then I had to go lie down because of my ear.

Wait a moment, Dearest, would you? The phone is ringing. It must be my darling Mary Sue.

November 31,

To My Dearest Diary,

Dearest, I’ve returned! Did you miss me?

James called again. I apologize once more for giving birth to such a barbaric son.

He sounded horrendous. I’ve always told him to enunciate, but that boy never did listen to his wise mother. And he wonders why I think he’s stupid. 

He seemed worried. About Mary Sue of all people. I don’t understand why anyone would even think to be worried about her. She’s perfect! There’s no aspect of her life and/or personality that could be any cause for concern.

He said she’s lonely and upset. I told him he was speaking nonsense and to get off the phone. That arrogant child ignored my command and stayed on the phone. He said he’d tried inviting her for dinner, but she refused to come over because she didn’t want to see James’s wife because she gave Mary Sue a ceramic catfish for James’s half-birthday three years ago. Which is absurd because Mary Sue has never held a grudge. I suppose she hasn’t talked to me since I gave her a glass flounder for Christmas five years ago, and I suppose other people would call that a grudge, but I promise it’s not a grudge. I don’t know what it is, precisely, but I assure you it’s not a grudge. She has always been such a sweet-tempered girl. She was frequently nice to the other children and she was so funny! She’d make her classmates weep with tears of joy. The teachers said she was aggressive, but they didn’t understand. My Mary Sue is an angel.

Anyway, I’ll send her a cat to keep her company. It’s worked so well for me. Probably Emperor Mozzarella. It’s a brilliant plan. I won’t have to deal with the Emperor anymore and James can’t pester me about Mary Sue’s supposed loneliness either because at least I tried.

Emperor Mozzarella is getting out of hand. On top of defecating on treasured rugs, he is now picking fights with the other cats. He ate all of Cherry the Cheshire’s fancy cat food and has sparked a war between the two of them. I usually stay neutral in my cats’ affairs (to keep up appearances as I supposedly love them all equally), but, due to prior infractions, I find myself inclined to support Cherry the Cheshire in her endeavors. All the cats will say their goodbyes to Emperor Mozzarella tomorrow. Personally, I will be saying good riddance.

November 32

To My Dearest Diary,

Everyone said their goodbyes to Emperor Mozzarella today. It was a sad occasion for the cats. There was much weeping. Despite their differences, the cats love the Emperor. I don’t understand them. How can they forgive his faults and choose to love an inconvenience?

I was planning to cut Emperor Mozzarella from our family. I wasn’t going to give him a way to contact us again, but Sweet Milly begged me with tears in her feline eyes to give him a stationary set. Either Sweet Milly is kind to everyone, or she and Emperor Mozzarella are in a secret relationship. I can’t wait to give the announcement to all the cats! (You can’t tell because you can’t see because you’re a book and therefore don’t have eyes, but I’m waggling my eyebrows suggestively.)

November 35

To My Dearest Diary,

Mary Sue, the darling, sent me a letter today.


To My Dearest Mother,

I know I’m currently not speaking to you because of that atrocious glass flounder you gave me for Christmas a while ago. Don’t let this letter deceive you because I’m still not speaking to you, and I’m definitely not forgiving you.

You have angered me and I know it was revenge for cutting ties with you. I’m scolding you because how can a mother so gruesomely spite their own favorite child? It’s cruel. You are a horrible woman and I hate you.

I got a box in the mail from you the other day. I thought you were finally making up for that failure of a Christmas present. I thought you were finally considering my feelings. And then I opened it and you know what I found? NOTHING.

You were seeking revenge against your own daughter and you toyed with my emotions.

I don’t appreciate that. How many times do I have to tell you? You never listen.

You know, it was always like this when we were children and you were middle-aged. You were always making promises and never following through. For example, that &$@%ing parent-teacher conference. You promised you’d be a good mother and be quiet and not embarrass me, and what did you do? YOU YELLED AT THE &$@%ING TEACHER and made the rest of the year #*$$ for me. You embarrassed me. Precisely what I told you not to do.

You’re a disgrace of a mother and I am ashamed of you.

With Love,

Mary Sue


To My Dearest Daughter,

You are such a sweetheart. You bring excitement to my dull, cat-filled world. I am so proud of you and all your accomplishments. Take pride in the knowledge that I love you more than James.

I am so sorry that the box arrived empty. It was not my intention to spite you. When I originally mailed it, there was a lovely cat in there, Emperor Mozzarella, who was sent to be your friend. I love my cats so much and I wanted to send you my love in the form of a cat. He must have run away. He always did want to conquer kingdoms and form his own empire. It’s why he demands that everyone call him the “Emperor.” It’s really quite pretentious, isn’t it?

Love Always,

Your Mother


Emperor Mozzarella must have run away (and—oh, dear—Tommy, too). I’m so disappointed in him for disappearing. I thought he was better than that. Maybe I went too far when I forced him into the stand-up comedy routine. He must have been angrier than I thought.

I haven’t seen Sweet Milly for a few days either. She most likely ran away, as well. Probably because I refused to give Emperor Mozzarella a stationary set. She always did have a stubborn streak. This is unfortunate. She was my favorite, but don’t tell the other cats that.

November 41

To My Dearest Diary,

I’m far angrier than what’s considered an acceptable level of angriness. I’m angry at James, angry at myself, angry at my cats. &$%@, I’m even angry at Mary Sue. And now I’ve written “angry” so many times it’s lost all meaning, and I’m angry at that too.

Mary Sue has left already, but James is still in my living room like a cloud of stink you just can’t get rid of. I left him alone. He’d better not ruin the coffee table.

Margaret died just now. I am sad. 

It makes me feel melancholy. I have the strongest desire to constantly sigh gloomily. I’m upset with Mary Sue. She made me feel this way.

It was awful, darling. She was a hurricane. She stormed in and you could see the smoke pouring out of her pores. The world shrunk in her presence, like she took up more space than she should (despite being a relatively short person). And she brought the box.

The one I sent Emperor Mozzarella in.

And then she started screaming absurd things. She claimed that I’m an awful mother, that I sent her an empty box to toy with her emotions, and that I mailed her a letter afterward to mock her. I strongly disagree with all of these accusations. I am an amazing mother, just ask any of my cats or my children. I sent her a cat to make her happy, as if that can be considered “toying with her emotions,” and the letter I sent was completely honest.

I took offense.

James, that disgusting sea lamprey of a son, just sat there, letting his dear mother absorb insult after curse after insult, and did absolutely nothing to defend my pride. I blame him entirely.

Mary Sue, in a final display of dramatics, flung the box at my feet. It tipped on its side and spilled tens or hundreds of decorative fish, clearly revenge for my supposed allegations. Margaret, the poor dear, happened to be napping on the floor when the box fell on her and crushed the life out of the poor thing.

She’s dead now.

I, as any sane person would when their cat has just unexpectedly been crushed to death by a large box of decorative fish, both screamed and generally panicked.

James, of course, reacted in turn by unnecessarily demanding that I tell him what was wrong. As if I owe him an explanation for anything.

Mary Sue just stood there looking stunned and a little bit peeved at my ruining of all her theatrics. The poor darling was always a bit delicate. Endearing most of the time, but never good in a crisis.

I don’t quite remember if I told them that Margaret had died, or if they intuitively guessed, or if they’re secretly psychics and they read my mind. But either way, this lead to the most absurd accusation of the night.

Mary Sue began to speak. “&$@%, Mom. What are you—”

James, that rude little boy, cut her off with a glare. He faced me and said with a strange look on his face, “Mother, you know your cats aren’t real. You have allergies.”

Dearest, can you believe it?

They’re so silly. Of course my cats are real. I’ve had them for years. Children do tend to weave the most fanciful lies, don’t they? Lies so absurd they couldn’t possibly pass for the truth. And besides, I’ve had my cats for years! They can’t be implying that I’ve been imagining them for years, can they? That means they must be real, doesn’t it? They are real, aren’t they? I’ve had them for years… Are they real? Tell me they’re real, Dearest. Dearest? Answer me! Don’t ignore me!

Dearest… You’re real, right?


Photo by Immortal shots from Pexels

The Keyboard

To create a story is to create a world and characters so vivid that the reader cannot bear to accept it as only fiction. To create a story is to allow the reader to breach a space that fundamentally belongs to the writer, and as they peer into its depths, it becomes its own reality. I’m awed that it is me who lurks behind a keyboard and builds worlds, that it is me who toys with the nonexistent reader’s emotions and plays god to my characters. Despite being wholly unqualified, I try to create stories that will entrance readers and lure them into the make-believe.

The story’s foundation is built in the writer’s imagination, in isolation and darkness, hidden and inaccessible. It begins as an idea that is so easily blown beyond reach. The barest brush at the edge of one’s consciousness and then nothing at all, a wisp of smoke, a dying flame, a final breath. The idea is sneaky, a small mouse hiding and darting across the edges of vision when no one’s looking. To capture the idea, one must be constantly vigilant, hunting and prepared to pounce. The pen sets the trap. At the briefest whisper of an idea floating by, the pen is touched to paper. It rips across the page. It constructs an inescapable prison to store the idea so it will never be forgotten. The keyboard bides its time in the background, preparing for the war it anticipates.

Once captured, the idea is welcomed into the brain. In the mind, the idea festers. It swelters and parasitically feeds on thoughts, leaving no space for anything else. It grows like a fungus, and you allow it, nurture it, cherish it. The idea is a needy infant. It requires constant care and attention to grow. The mind is the mother, willingly throwing all of herself to the idea. It soon eats too many thoughts and is too large to contain within the mind anymore. Pieces of the idea overflow and escape and the mind frantically tries to recapture them, but there is too much. The idea can no longer be contained. It demands to be free, yet the keyboard continues to lie patiently in wait. Brief notes are scribbled, but the keyboard remains mostly untouched as the idea grows into something worthy of it.

Pen cannot keep pace with the flood of ideas that pours from the mind during the exodus. Something always escapes while the pen is preoccupied with decadent flourishes. One must turn to the keyboard to find what the pen lacks: speed. There is something beautiful about the pen, about thoughts flowing in one’s own hand, but as speed increases, legibility is sacrificed. Even the most perfect words are worthless if they cannot be deciphered. The keyboard is cold and mechanical, but endearing, as it never once falters at the barrage of letters that spill from the fingers in a hurricane of story. Every flailing limb of the idea struggles and pushes to escape first. They tug and demand and pull the consciousness every which way. The keyboard is attacked, the fingers venomously striking the letters, matching the speed of the rushing ideas and the keyboard’s hunger for words. Clicking fills the air and becomes music.

The idea is sloppily captured on the page in the rush. Word vomit is splattered to the edges of the sheet, contradictory and directionless and pointless. There are ugly words and cloudy images that must be refined or excised. My mind changes from a loving mother to a soulless surgeon. The love I felt for the leaching idea becomes clinical detachment as I appraise the words with a critical eye. With cold efficiency, I slice into my story, butcher it, maim it, the backspace pummeled, even as my heart cracks and shrivels. I raze my story, decimating the contradictory, the directionless, the pointless, with knives and guns and bombs and keys blazing. It becomes a war zone. Unrecognizable. I assault the keys, my anger expressed through the ferocity of the frantic strokes. The keyboard finds a cruel joy in the vicious destruction of all the words it ever loved.

And then I slow and melt from the violence-starved butcher to the artist. I paint over the fractures with beautiful words. The keys are pressed slowly, gently, each letter carefully considered and caressed. The furious typing is replaced with a graceful dance as the story grows. I nurture the story, feed it and love it once more with beautiful words until it blooms into something lovely, but this time my love is requited. The story sheds its ravenous hunger. It is content and complete. It no longer impedes on my every thought. It settles, finally placated. I breathe a sigh of relief, the battle over and casualties counted.

All throughout the creating and expelling and destroying and rebuilding of the story, the keys clatter. It’s deafening. It’s a wild dance of only the hands. A key is pressed lightly and the finger moves on. There is no proof that the key ever changed except for the letter that has burst into existence like a firework. The letter’s moment of glory is immediately surpassed by the next letter that appears, then the next and next, like bullets fired in quick succession. It quickly becomes nothing on its own, insignificant, but powerful taken in tandem with the other letters. The keyboard hungers for these words. It will become enamored with a beautiful turn of phrase, a romantic. It will encourage a mediocre one to flower, a friend. It will ruthlessly slaughter an inadequate one, a slayer.

The keyboard, a thin, unassuming sheet of squares, is so much more than what it seems. It houses the twenty-six letters, a meaningless jumble of symbols that combine into an innumerable number of words, which are combined in endless, infinitely different sentences and paragraphs and pages and stories. The keyboard allows stories to be told, to exist. It allows worlds to be created and demolished. It is the conduit through which stories can leave a writer’s mind and come alive. And yet, unlike the story, the keyboard does not gloat nor posture. It elegantly accepts praise and continues to work, bearing the vicious tirade of punching fingers as it destroys and creates from ruins.


Connect with me on Twitter @arachnid_weaver.

Want to lose weight this New Year? Introducing the new calorie-free diet

Do you want to succeed in your New Year’s resolution of losing weight? Look no further than the calorie-free diet. Forget keto and intermittent fasting. Calorie-free dieting is the fastest way to lose lots of weight and keep it off. What’s more, the diet is naturally free of sodium, sugar, fat, artificial flavors or colors, and other toxic substances! There’s no catch. The calorie-free diet will make you happy and healthy.

The best part about this diet is that you don’t have to exercise and you can eat whatever you want. Want to watch Netflix all day and eat only chocolate cake? Go ahead! We won’t judge. We’ll join you.

What to do

Calorie-free dieting is super easy. Just set the table like you usually do; play a recording of clinking silverware, chewing, and muffled conversation (available for download on our website); and imagine eating whatever you want by reading a detailed description of the experience (found in our cookbook).

Our cookbook, The Calorie-Free Lifestyle for the Trendy, is stuffed with delicious recipes for our signature calorie-free food. We’ve included an exclusive excerpt here.

The Apple

Your teeth skate against the waxy surface of the apple before finding purchase and breaking the skin with a mild popping sensation. You savor the resistance from the fruit as your teeth move through the flesh. With a sudden release of pressure, the bite is in your mouth and no longer attached to the fruit. You use your tongue to push the bite to the left side of your mouth and secure it between your teeth. As your teeth come together, you can feel the fruit collapse beneath the force, condensing. The apple bleeds. It tastes sweet and tart. You pulverize the bite and drink the juice, then swallow the fruit. You can feel it slide down your throat.

You take a second bite. It doesn’t taste as interesting, the memory of the last bite still fresh in your mouth. It becomes less of a pleasure and more of a way to satisfy your hunger. You rotate the apple and chew around it counter-clockwise. When you are left with only the core, you turn it so the bottom faces you and bite into it. It’s wasteful to not eat the core. You reach the center of the core; it’s studded with seeds. After a moment of deliberation, you bite into it. The seeds are hard pellets in your mouth. The contrast between the texture of the seeds and the fruit interests you. You are not bothered enough to spit out the seeds. You crush them between your teeth and a bitter, fruity taste coats your mouth. It is not entirely unpleasant. You quite enjoy it. You think about the amygdalin in the seeds turning into cyanide inside your body. You wonder how many seeds you’d need to eat for it to kill you. You reach the stem of the apple. You look at it for a moment then put it in your mouth. You chew vigorously but fail to break the rubbery stem. You spit it out and put it in the pile of chewed apple stems in the corner that you’ve been meaning to clean out.

Warning: The calorie-free diet may lead to malnutrition, starvation, and death.


Connect with me on Twitter @arachnid_weaver


Photo by Ella Olsson from Pexels

I joined Twitter!

Greetings, multiple humans and single armadillo!

In the words of the great Pinocchio, I have become a real teenager. Three days ago, I acquired a Twitter account. (I mean, I still have to try coffee, so I’m not totally a teenager yet, but we’re getting there.) I even have one follower! (Thanks, Sophia Ismaa.)

So if you guys want more of my characteristic wit and charm in short, digestible tweets, hop on over to the Twitter @arachnid_weaver. Also because I’m lonely and I don’t want to feel like I’m writing into a void.

*Proudly shows off my three tweets*

Print them out and hang them up, if you’d like!


Photo by Tina Nord from Pexels

The Garden of (American) Dreams

Greetings, humans. I’m going to steal another post from English class because it’s just so easy. I will most likely continue to do this. Therefore, expect uncharacteristic, serious topics like this because that’s what we do in English, though I will attempt to make them lighthearted and entertaining because that’s what I do always.

This week’s topic was the American Dream. (We’re reading The Great Gatsby.) Background: The American Dream is the idea that in America is the land of opportunity, that anyone can achieve their dreams no matter where they start if they work hard. However, the American Dream appears to be an ideal that’s not real for many.


Let us imagine a garden. This garden is imaginary because as we established in the last post, I am a terrible gardener and any real garden of mine would surely turn to either a field of gravel or a luscious plastic paradise. This imaginary garden is actually where my last remaining cactus now lives.

So let us imagine this garden together. There’s a fence. In fact, it is a white picket fence. The garden is a predictable and neat rectangle. As this garden is imaginary, there are many different microbiomes and the plants are semi-sentient. Predictably, every fresh-faced, dewy young plant has the exact same dream: to grow in the sun-warmed soil, to spread their leaves, to photosynthesize, to exist, to be. But often to be the greenest, to outgrow and outcompete all the other plants, to spread their roots the widest and spread their seeds the farthest, to be the most beautiful plant, the most useful, to live in luxury, to be glorious, to have more.

In the center of the garden, we have the prime spot. There’s a tree that provides shade for those snobbish plants that need something like three hours of full sun and an hour and thirty-eight minutes of partial shade. The center of the garden has the most fertile soil. It’s a deep chocolate, like crumbled, moist brownies. It’s imported from an earth-like exoplanet that has far superior soil, untouched by human pollution. The center plants require vintage wine and hand-fed grapes every six hours. In addition to exquisite wine, the plants are fed melted ice water only from the purest snow of the Arctic. It’s a lovely place to be, but it’s rather small and exclusive. All the plants there have been there for generations, and when they die and rot in the chocolate soil, their seeds take root and grow where they died. As they will always grow and die in the center patch. Life is good in the center; sure, they have their problems, like everyone else, but it’s hard not to envy the center. The center patch of the garden is what all the other plants want, what we work towards, but the plants in the center just had the luck to grow there, I suppose, just like any other plant had the luck to grow where they grew. And we can’t really blame the center plants for being center plants; they didn’t choose for their seeds to be there, just like the plants in the desert didn’t choose to be there. But that doesn’t stop us from hating them, or at least the idea of them, a little bit. Their vintage wine and Arctic snow-melt and imported dirt…. Jealousy and a sense of entitlement are a bitter mix.
Most of the plants grow in the area encircling the center. Life’s pretty good for us. We don’t have the purest water, but it’s still clean, human-grade drinking water that rains down on us like clockwork from the sprinklers. Sometimes we’re thirsty, but most of the time we’re not. There are no shade plants, and the sun sometimes burns, but most of the time it’s warm. The dirt isn’t great, but it’s good. We don’t have imported soil, but we do get store-bought, eutrophying nitrogen fertilizer occasionally. Life’s pretty amazing actually, and yet we moan and envy the center patch. It’s only natural. After a plant’s grown some, reached its old plant dreams, it isn’t usually satisfied. It makes new dreams. It doesn’t stop growing, it wants more. It’s only plant nature. We can’t really blame ourselves for wanting, but we can’t help but be a little disgusted.

There are also other areas in which plants struggle but where it’s not quite so bad as the desert, such as the bog and the mud pits and the marsh and the patch of eternal darkness in the corner. However, we will only mention them in passing because this is already far too long and there’s still much more gardening to be done.

The desert is the worst of the worst place to be, Supreme Cactus help those who end up there. It only gets water when the fickle clouds feel like it, and even then it falls from the gutter. The only other source of water is when a stray cat bothers to urinate on it. The sun burns, an inescapable oppression; the “soil” is cracked and dry, indistinguishable from the rock of the moon, where no plant dares grow. Contrary to expectations, there are plants in these inhospitable wastelands, where the days are brutal and the nights are brutal and where no plant belongs. There are a few plants, my cactus, for instance, who grew up in the desert and thrived. We point at these exceptions and exclaim, “Look! It is possible to reach the dream, even from the desert with nothing to begin. The other desert plants must not be trying hard enough. They must be irresponsible or unintelligent to not have beaten the impossible odds. In this garden, all you need is hard work to reach the dream, not luck or good soil or anything else. Those other plants must have gotten what they deserve.” The desert is spreading, you know, mingling with the middle patch as we erode our lands with unsustainable agriculture. This terrifies us. It makes our soil all the more precious. Oh, we care. We sympathize. We toss the desert our excess water, some fertilizer, to soothe our consciences. We worry and talk and read and write stupid articles about gardening, but at the same time, we clutch our soil all the tighter because Can you imagine living in the desert? and watch the center patch like hungry cats. We shrug and think, “Well, there isn’t enough space here for everyone. Someone needs to live in the desert.” But most of the time we don’t think about the desert at all. It’s only at the fringes of the garden. We can barely even see it. And the plants in the desert? They can barely see us. The desert is infinite, all-consuming, inescapable. The “dream” belongs in quotation marks for the desert. It is a joke. A whisper of a possibility you’d need a microscope to see. As Langston Hughes, an eloquent shrub, put it, “America never was America to me.” (To make this quote work, we’re going to pretend I named my garden “America,” even though I would never name a garden, let alone such an idyllic name, the pessimist that I am. Note that I don’t like metaphors and that this is absolutely not a metaphor for anything. It is simply an imaginary garden that I have to replace the real garden I failed to sustain.)

We must also mention the weeds: the dandelion seeds that float over the fence, the clover that crops up from nowhere. We see them as ugly. We spray them with weed-killer (poisoning nature). We call them “foreign,” “invaders,” “aliens,” like the little green imposters from Mars who plant themselves among us. We think they’re taking our space, that we somehow deserve the garden more because we were here first, like petulant children claiming toys (The native grasses were here first anyway. Kentucky Bluegrass is actually from Europe). We believe our dreams of glorious plant life are somehow worth more than theirs, even though we all dream the same dreams at night. We will correct this error here: dandelion and clover are beautiful and these “weeds” are flowers, actually.

That is all I have to say. I have no profound conclusion. But I am a mere semi-sentient plant and can therefore barely have thoughts, let alone profound ones. Goodbye, humans. Dream of gardens tonight.

Note: Maybe I won’t kill this garden. Since it’s not real, it shouldn’t die unless I want it too, right?

Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels

The Kite Runner || A Book Review

“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime.” 

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.


I had ridiculously high expectations for The Kite Runner because the librarian and my English teachers said that it is life-changing. My life has not been changed. Nevertheless, it’s a lovely book.

I don’t love the writing style, but it’s okay. There are a lot of words in Farsi that are defined the first time they are used. This is fine for the ones that are used a lot, but for the less common words, I often forgot the definition and it led to confusion later.

My favorite parts of the book are the characters and the plot. The main character has a lovely arc and I like seeing him grow up. The plot is beautiful and I like the parallelism. However, I wasn’t really absorbed into the story. I read the book like you’d read one in an English class. I was noting literary devices and appreciating foreshadowing and I wasn’t in the story.

I also loved how the book included Afghan culture. There seem to be many similarities between Afghan and Bangladeshi culture and I got super excited whenever I read something familiar, especially with the food.

Overall, I would recommend The Kite Runner, but it’s not a must-read.

5/5

Middlegame || Spectacular Sci-Fi

Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.

Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.

Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.

Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.

Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.


I loved this book. So much. It’s a new favorite. It would be good for fans of Vicious by V.E. Schwab.

The writing is gorgeous, but it is heavy on metaphor and imagery. It’s a little hard to read, and I was rereading a lot of passages, trying to figure out what was going on. After a while, I got used to the writing and it went a lot smoother. I’m a little suspicious of the writing, though. I’m prone to drooling over beautiful writing and ignoring what is actually being said.

The plot is intricate and brilliant, but it’s confusing. The story jumps right in without much background information, so it was especially confusing in the beginning. It was also confusing at the end with the time travel. You could say that the plot is layered like an onion, but you could also say that it’s stingy with information. The reader and the characters spend much of the book in the dark.

Middlegame is a long book, and the pacing is slow, especially for the first half. However, I enjoyed the first half more than the faster-paced second half and it was very compelling. I couldn’t put it down.

The characters were lovely, and I especially adored Dodger. Usually, the characters are my favorite part of a book, but in Middlegame, the characters seemed less important than the plot. However, they did have wonderful arcs and I loved seeing them grow up. They were very relatable.

The atmosphere of Middlegame is amazing. It’s mysterious and by the end, it feels like the book has revealed the secrets of the universe.

Rating: 5/5

Too Many Amazing Books

I’ve been reading so many wonderful books lately. They’re all new favorites and I want to read them again already.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 5/5

standing on the fringes of life…
offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see
what it looks like from the dance floor.

This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being A WALLFLOWER

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that the perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Stephen Chbosky has created a deeply affecting coming-of-age story, a powerful novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

Summary from Goodreads

I can’t believe it took me so long to read this. The characters are amazing and I love the book. And Stephen Chbosky is writing a new book!

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian 5/5

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart–and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

Summary from Goodreads

This book is so lovely! The characters and their relationships are my favorite part of this book. I love Judy and Art’s friendship, especially.

Brave Face by Shaun David Hutchinson 5/5

Critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants—described as having “hints of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five” (School Library Journal)—opens up about what led to an attempted suicide in his teens, and his path back from the experience.

“I wasn’t depressed because I was gay. I was depressed and gay.”

Shaun David Hutchinson was nineteen. Confused. Struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn’t see himself. The voice of depression told him that he would never be loved or wanted, while powerful and hurtful messages from society told him that being gay meant love and happiness weren’t for him.

A million moments large and small over the years all came together to convince Shaun that he couldn’t keep going, that he had no future. And so he followed through on trying to make that a reality.

Thankfully Shaun survived, and over time, came to embrace how grateful he is and how to find self-acceptance. In this courageous and deeply honest memoir, Shaun takes readers through the journey of what brought him to the edge, and what has helped him truly believe that it does get better.

Summary from Goodreads

It’s incredible.


Random note: Those reviews were so short…. I just love these books too much to have coherent thoughts.

How to Write Efficiently

  1. Come up with an idea.
    1. This is best done during your waking hours. Notice everything. Your next slice of inspiration could come from anywhere. Constant vigilance.
    2. Keep running commentary about everything. Don’t let it be bland. For example (of what not to do), “Textbook. Pencil. Homework. Bored. Bored. Bored. Bored. Meeeehhhhhh. *Stretch of silence* Bored. Bored. Bored. Chemistry. Bored.” Make it interesting. Make it explosive. This serves the double purpose of both giving you writing ideas and decimating boredom.
  2. Develop your idea.
    1. This is best done at night while trying to fall asleep as there are no outside distractions, such as homework, colors, or pretty books.
    2. Warning: This method will keep you up at night with ideas swirling through your head. Before you know it, it’s past midnight.
    3. Warning: if you happen to come up with a decent idea, you’ll need to turn on the blinding lights, get up while being half-asleep (which is an accident waiting to happen), and write down your idea. Crud, it’s 1:00 a.m.…
    4. Warning: this method will result in you being excessively sleepy the next day.
    5. Fuel yourself with caffeine instead of sleep.
  3. Blast music so you can forget that other humans exist.
  4. Your best writing happens in the evasive “zone”. So you should wait to do your hardcore writing until you have gotten into the zone.
    1. Start with flash fiction or a writing prompt or a blog post.
    2. Edit previous writings.
    3. Post the flash fiction/blog post.
    4. Get distracted and respond to comments on your blog.
    5. Get even more distracted and start reading Wikipedia posts loosely connected to your story, starting you on an inescapable trail of breadcrumbs and links leading you farther and farther away from your topic.
  5. Take a break and get a snack. You deserve it. You’ve been so efficient. Beware: you’re leaving the zone and you have to get back to it in order to work on your short story. But it must be done because your hunger would also call you out of the zone.
  6. Get back to the zone. This time it should happen faster, hopefully.
  7. Read through your notes on your story so you don’t forget anything and accidentally break your established background information.
  8. Read articles on writing because you’re a horrible writer and must discover the secret before you start because your first draft must obviously be as good as your favorite novel and one of these random internet articles must hold the key, despite them all saying the same things.
  9. Write a little.
  10. Delete it and try again.
  11. Reread what you wrote yesterday and redo it.
  12. Wonder at how your favorite authors magically think amazing thoughts and then somehow pull the right words in the right order from thin air and make a novel.
  13. Reread your favorite passages from your favorite novels and marvel at the words.
  14. Despair.
  15. Write a little more. Now you’re figuring it out. Hours pass and you don’t notice. Your characters and scenes and descriptions are perfect and everything is sunshine and roses and perfection. You don’t suck!
  16. Edit. Reread what you wrote. You do suck.
  17. Edit. Edit. Edit. Nothing may remain the same. Everything must be improved. The words awing, the story logical (or logically illogical). It’s unrecognizable from where you started. Seriously. It was supposed to be about a cupcake-zombie apocalypse and it’s morphed into a melodrama starring salmon.
  18. Be proud of yourself. You did it! It’s awesome and done and you don’t suck!
  19. Reread it. A little worm of dread wriggles inside of you as you realize it’s horrible. Delete.

The Sleepwalker | Flash Fiction

Hello, peeps of the universe. Today, or tomorrow, or whenever I find the time (what is time, anyway?), I’ll be doing a writing prompt! (Is “doing” an accurate verb? I’m not really “doing” a writing prompt. I’m writing an explosion based on the fuse that is the writing prompt. But actually, I’m just rambling.)

This writing prompt will be done with no prior planning. Basically, it will be word vomit. But hopefully, it’ll be entertaining word vomit. Either way, it will help me sharpen my writing sword to a lethal point so I can viciously stab all the fictional villains. [Insert mental image of Arachnid trying to press buttons on her laptop with a ginormous sword.]


The prompt: What started off as a sleepwalking problem leads to a night of adventure when Dane gets behind the wheel and does what he was too afraid to do when he was awake. (This prompt was stolen from BookFox.)

Diana carefully watched Dane across the table from her in the small cafe. It was nearly closing time and there were no other customers, only a waiter cleaning up the nearby table and willing them to leave so he could go home.

“Look, I love you, Diana, but you have no idea what you’re talking about. So what if I sleepwalk? I don’t have a problem. It’s harmless.”

Diana leaned forward, her voice dropping to a whisper even as anger laced her words. “Harmless? Do you even know what happened last night? Have you seen the news?”

Dane slowly shook his head.

“An unidentified man let all the butterflies out of the zoo.”

Dane barked a laugh. He had braced for something terrible to come out of Diana’s lovely mouth, like vandalism or arson or murder. “That’s all? So what if a few more butterflies are flitting around the city? Let them be free.”

Diana shook her head in disgust. “You don’t understand. It always starts small, and you tell yourself it’s nothing, and maybe it is then. But it escalates and you don’t even notice. This is bad, Dane. You need help. You could do something you’d regret.”

He drank the rest of his tea while Diana’s words rolled around inside his head. “Diana, trust me, it’s nothing.”

She abruptly stood up. “It seems you don’t have to even be asleep to say things you’ll regret.”

***

Hours later, the night was blue and sleeping. Dane was only a lump under the covers, Diana’s scathing accusations forgotten in the fog of sleep. The world breathed softly, the wind brushing the curtains in greeting, and the floorboards creaked as Dane’s feet thudded softly against them.

He didn’t fit neatly in the world anymore. He was outside of the calm and his body outside the control of his mind.

***

The garage door rumbled open. A car rolled out, Dane behind the wheel. The car lurched onto the empty street, weaving in and out of the lane like it was drunk, occasionally careening onto the sidewalk.

The car coasted to a stop after a while, half on a lawn and leaning against a precariously tilting mailbox. Dane clumsily stepped onto the pavement and stumbled to the door. He rang the bell, and when no one answered, he rang it again. Again, the door remained closed, the night still and quiet. He broke the silence and pounded against the door.

A moment later, Diana opened the door, wearing purple pajamas and glaring both furiously and sleepily. She rubbed her eyes. “What do you want?” She noticed his glassy-eyed stare. “Dane.”

Dane dropped to his knees and pulled a slightly squished cinnamon bun out of his pocket and held it out to Diana in an offering. He mumbled, “I love you. Marry me?”

Diana, usually unshakeable, was shocked. This was unexpected, to say the least. She thought that his sleepwalking would culminate in various criminal activities, not a proposal. “What? No. Goodnight, Dane.” She closed her front door, rolled her eyes, and went back to bed. Dane could find his own way home, as he had every night for the past few weeks.

***

Diana slid into the chair across from Dane the next afternoon and folded her arms. “Do you know what you did last night?”

Dane looked surprised. “I sleepwalked again? But I woke up in bed this morning.”

“You proposed to me. With a cinnamon bun.”

Dane flushed. “I—You were dreaming,” he spluttered.

Tess of the Road || A Book Review

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl—a subspecies of dragon—who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

Returning to the fascinating world she created in the award-winning and New York Times bestselling Seraphina, Rachel Hartman introduces readers to a new character and a new quest, pushing the boundaries of genre once again in this wholly original fantasy.


  • This book is ridiculously amazing.
  • It’s not for everyone, though. It’s really slow, and there isn’t much of a plot. It’s mostly just a character arc. But it’s a heck of a character arc.
  • For what little plot there was, I was confused for much of it.
  • THE CHARACTERS. Tess is an amazing character. She’s so developed and she seems like a real person. She has faults (many of them) and dreams and shames and other person-y things. She feels real, and I love seeing how she changes over the course of her journey.
  • The cover is a bit misleading. There aren’t really any dragons the way the cover implies. There’s a large, four-armed lizard and a really big snake, to say the least, but the dragons are in human form. It is fantasy, but it reads almost like historical fiction.
  • I love that the heavier topics were thoroughly discussed.
  • The book is really slow, but it’s compelling. You want to keep flipping the pages and keep reading and reading and reading (Warning: homework will suffer).
  • This takes place in the same world as Seraphina, but it’s necessary to read it beforehand. However, it is nice to read it first so you get a grasp on the world. There are also a lot of character cameos and references to Seraphina.
  • The writing, like in Seraphina, is gorgeous. I really love it.

The Upside of Unrequited || A Book Review

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli || 3/5

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back. 

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?


  • The writing style was lovely.
  • I appreciate the pacing.
  • I like that it takes place in the Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda universe and that we get to see some of our favorite characters, but it seemed somewhat awkward to force them to show up. But it made me happy, so *shrugs*.
  • Aside from Molly, our main character, the other characters weren’t developed at all.
  • I wasn’t attached to Molly or any of the other characters. I didn’t find Molly relatable.
  • Molly was constantly thinking about dating and boys and etc. etc. It got repetitive.
  • There’s not much of a plot.
  • Overall, it’s a decent book, though somewhat boring. I’d recommend it if you enjoyed Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

Read More

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda || A Book Review

Leah on the Offbeat || A Book Review

What If It’s Us || A Book Review

Kingdom of Ash || A Book Review

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas || 5/5

Years in the making, Sarah J. Maas’s #1 New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series draws to an epic, unforgettable conclusion. Aelin Galathynius’s journey from slave to king’s assassin to the queen of a once-great kingdom reaches its heart-rending finale as war erupts across her world. . .

Aelin has risked everything to save her people―but at a tremendous cost. Locked within an iron coffin by the Queen of the Fae, Aelin must draw upon her fiery will as she endures months of torture. Aware that yielding to Maeve will doom those she loves keeps her from breaking, though her resolve begins to unravel with each passing day…

With Aelin captured, Aedion and Lysandra remain the last line of defense to protect Terrasen from utter destruction. Yet they soon realize that the many allies they’ve gathered to battle Erawan’s hordes might not be enough to save them. Scattered across the continent and racing against time, Chaol, Manon, and Dorian are forced to forge their own paths to meet their fates. Hanging in the balance is any hope of salvation―and a better world.

And across the sea, his companions unwavering beside him, Rowan hunts to find his captured wife and queen―before she is lost to him forever.

As the threads of fate weave together at last, all must fight, if they are to have a chance at a future. Some bonds will grow even deeper, while others will be severed forever in the explosive final chapter of the Throne of Glass series.


  • This book took me over a month to read. It was at no fault of the book, which I loved every moment of, but rather my life (aka homework). That’s a record for me. I think the length of time it took me to read the book distorted my perception of the pacing. I thought it dragged, but I have no idea if it actually did. That said, I don’t believe it did, because thinking back on the plot, there weren’t many moments where nothing was happening. It was an action-packed book. Which is to be expected as, you know, it’s a war.
  • This book is a very hardcore fantasy. (I read a fluffy contemporary afterward and it was jarring.) Through the first third or so of the book, there are no lighthearted moments to lighten the mood, and even after that, fun moments were few and far between. Our characters suffer a great deal.
  • I was planning to reread the series before I read Kingdom of Ash, but I didn’t get a chance (see note about homework). However, I unexpectedly didn’t have a problem with this. Yes, I remember very few details about the prior books in the series, but despite not having read the series for just over a year, I jumped right back into the story without missing a beat.
  • I appreciate the lack of detailed sex scenes in this installment of the series.
  • I love how conclusive the ending is. Kingdom of Ash is a worthy conclusion to this epic series.
  • The character development is lovely. I love seeing how the characters grow and change due to their experiences.
  • The writing style is, as always, gorgeous. It’s a work of art.
  • A random note: I noticed that the characters’ knees buckle a lot in dramatic scenes. I’m wondering if this is a normal thing or are the characters’ knees weirdly weak?

Extreme Spoiler Section. You have been warned.

Stop right there if you haven’t yet read the book. (In which case go read it now.) This is an EXTREME spoiler section. I will be discussing the ending. I hold no responsibility if your eyes betray you and read the following section without your permission. This is your final chance to turn back. You have been warned.

  • I really like that before the ending, Aelin loses the majority of her power. I like that she becomes an average Fae, and she still manages to defeat her enemies. I like that she’s not overpowered magically, and she still remains so powerful.
  • I like that she relies on her friends to defeat Maeve and Erawan instead of being the sole hero.
  • I like that in the end, it is not Aelin who ends Maeve or Erawan, but her friends.

What if the Day Were Eight Hours Longer?

Time is, unfortunately, limited. There is only so much you can have. It is also elusive. The slippery thing always seems to slip through your slippery fingers, doesn’t it? There never seems to be enough to go around.

They say you can make time, but can you, really? You can only rearrange time, redistribute it. Imagine that time is a carrot cake. You can give adequate slices to some, slivers to the undesirables, and crumbs to the vermin, but you still only have one cake, or twenty-four hours, to give away. If you need more time for something, you have to cut the time from something else. And unfortunately, things must be prioritized and it’s usually the things you enjoy that you find yourself having no time for.

But what if you could make more time? What if you could bake another cake? What if some gifted magician out there concentrated really hard and snapped his fingers and the day was suddenly, magically, twelve hours longer?

I was listening to a podcast, Ear Biscuits, the other day that posed this question. What if the day had an extra twelve hours? There are some stipulations: You wouldn’t need to sleep any longer and you wouldn’t have to work more. So if you truly had extra time, what would you do?

First of all, even though we don’t have to, I’d sleep more. Because couldn’t we all use some more sleep? The world would be a much happier place if only we weren’t all sleep deprived.

Second, though, I have no idea. There’s a difference between what I’d probably do and what I want to do.

In all honesty, if I had extra time, I’d most likely just work more. I’m like a goldfish, the amount of work I do expands with available time. (Note: The things about goldfish expanding with available space is a myth, but let’s just go with it because I like the analogy.) Even if I ran out of work, I’d probably find more. There’s an endless list of things I could do in order to be more productive. I could double-check my assignments, I could do the next day’s homework, I could study for the test in three weeks, I could read ahead, etc. That’s just how I roll.

However, since this is a purely hypothetical situation that can’t actually happen, let’s talk about the things I’d want to do. I’d probably just do more of the things I already do in my (rare) free time. Ergo, I’d read, write, blog, and draw more. I might even spend time with actual, real-life human beings instead of conversing with my textbooks. (I wouldn’t recommend them as partners in conversation. They’re very dull, very dry, they have poor taste in humor, and they only talk obsessively about one topic.) I might take up a new hobby, go on an adventure, who knows? I’d really like to have time to just sit and think (aka daydream) and people watch. (People can be really entertaining.)

So, in conclusion, this year, I’m going to try to be more efficient at doing my homework and I’m going to attempt to not go overboard with the amount I work, all in order to create free time. Think of it like I’m concentrating my work into a smaller sliver of time, without diluting the quality, somehow. (Except it’s not really true that it’s my New Year’s Resolution. I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. I think if you have a goal or some plan for self-improvement, you shouldn’t wait for the New Year as an excuse to start. That seems a bit like procrastinating. Make your goal happen now. And besides, New Year’s Resolutions are notorious for never being kept anyway. My goal isn’t really a New Year’s Resolution. It’s a goal I’ve had since October, but one I’ve utterly failed at. I just thought I should tie in this post to the New Year somehow because I didn’t want yet another holiday to pass by without acknowledgement.)

And what would you do, dear nonexistent reader, if you suddenly found twelve extra hours plopped into your hands?

I’ll Give You the Sun || A Book Review

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson || All the stars and then some

“We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.” At first, Jude and her twin brother Noah, are inseparable. Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude wears red-red lipstick, cliff-dives, and does all the talking for both of them. Years later, they are barely speaking. Something has happened to change the twins in different yet equally devastating ways . . . but then Jude meets an intriguing, irresistible boy and a mysterious new mentor. The early years are Noah’s to tell; the later years are Jude’s. But they each have only half the story, and if they can only find their way back to one another, they’ll have a chance to remake their world. This radiant, award-winning novel from the acclaimed author of The Sky Is Everywhere will leave you breathless and teary and laughing—often all at once. Printz Award Winner Stonewall Honor Book.


  • This is a new favorite.
  • From the first page, the writing style pulled me in. The writing makes this book. It’s full of gorgeous artistic metaphors that I can’t properly describe. You’ll just have to see for yourself.
  • I’ll Give You the Sun is explosive.
  • It made me feel things. It made me turn pages. It made my imagination explode with color. It made me want to create.
  • I’ve always loved to draw, but I’ve had a dry spell recently. This book inspired me to make art again, and for that I’m grateful.
  • I love the characters. I fell in love with them. They’re all unique and complex with stories and secrets.
  • I love that the characters aren’t goody-two-shoes. They don’t always make the right choice on the first go. They’re selfish and they’re jealous. They make rash decisions because of their emotions, and they regret it, and they apologize. In short, they’re human.
  • I love the complex, cyclic plot. I love how everything was interconnected and played larger roles you didn’t see at first.
  • I was completely absorbed in the book. I usually read before class starts, and I stop when the teacher starts talking, but while I was reading this book, I was unaware of everything around me and I may have accidentally read partway into class. (Totally worth it though.)
  • Overall, I HIGHLY recommend this book and I have to reread it soon.

Where did you go?

Greetings, peoples of the blogosphere!

It’s been a rather long while, hasn’t it? But don’t worry about me; I haven’t spontaneously combusted or anything, in case you were wondering. Instead, I’ve been slowly drowning in an expansive ocean of homework, from which I couldn’t reach my laptop in order to ensure you that I was, in fact, alive. I did, however, possess an abundance of paper and various writing utensils, so I attempted to write you a letter notifying you that I remained in existence, as I’d hate to worry you. But you know the unreliability of leaving notes in bottles. *Shrugs*.

But while you need not worry about the state of my aliveness, I’m afraid you must fear for my humanity, as recently I’ve felt as though I’m simply a homework robot.

With the semester ending, school has gotten very intense, and unfortunately, when you never seem to have enough time, it’s the things you enjoy doing that must be cut out. I’m afraid that school will not be getting any mellower with midterms approaching, so expect sporadic, unpredictable, and unanticipatable blogging. (Apologies for using three adjectives in a row that mean the same thing. It usually annoys me, but I couldn’t help but highlight the delightful contradiction of expecting the unexpected. It makes me simply giddy.)

I’m planning to post once a week for a while. Probably until mid-January. Most likely on Mondays.

So, that’s it for this mishmash of a post summarizing the last 27 days without you peeps (A Summary of a Summary: homework.).

In conclusion, abrupt goodbyes.

Flashback || A Book Review

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Flashback by Shannon Messenger || 5/5

In this unforgettable seventh book, Sophie must let the past and present blur together, because the deadliest secrets are always the ones that get erased.

Sophie Foster doesn’t know what—or whom—to believe. And in a game with this many players, the worst mistake can be focusing on the wrong threat.

But when the Neverseen prove that Sophie’s far more vulnerable than she ever imagined, she realizes it’s time to change the rules. Her powerful abilities can only protect her so far. To face down ruthless enemies, she must learn to fight.

Unfortunately, battle training can’t help a beloved friend who’s facing a whole different danger—where the only solution involves one of the biggest risks Sophie and her friends have ever taken. And the distraction might be exactly what the villains have been waiting for. 


  • This book was… not what I expected.
  • I thought it was going to be super action-packed. Just look at the cover! But it wasn’t. The majority of the book centered around the characters talking and planning.
  • And I love character development, I just didn’t expect so much of it.
  • My biggest issue with this book was the pacing. There’s some action in the first hundred pages, then little action in the next five hundred pages, and then LOTS of action in the last hundred pages.
  • I love the character development in this book for Fitz.
  • However, the other characters were neglected a bit.
  • I love the writing style.
  • I love that the world was further developed and we got to learn new things about it and see more of it.
  • I love that the story is character-driven.
  • Overall, it’s an amazing series, and I love it so much, but this isn’t my favorite book in the series. I still love it, though.
  • I love seeing the characters growing up.

Lord of the Flies || A Book Review

Lord of the Flies by William Golding || 3/5

At the dawn of the next world war, a plane crashes on an uncharted island, stranding a group of schoolboys. At first, with no adult supervision, their freedom is something to celebrate; this far from civilization the boys can do anything they want. Anything. They attempt to forge their own society, failing, however, in the face of terror, sin and evil. And as order collapses, as strange howls echo in the night, as terror begins its reign, the hope of adventure seems as far from reality as the hope of being rescued. Labeled a parable, an allegory, a myth, a morality tale, a parody, a political treatise, even a vision of the apocalypse, Lord of the Flies is perhaps our most memorable tale about “the end of innocence, the darkness of man’s heart.”


  • By terms of symbolic meaning, this book is a masterpiece
    • I love how it portrays humans as savage animals
  • Entertainment-wise, it’s a resounding meh.
  • The pacing is slow.
  • The characters are shallow and two-dimensional. They have one or two defining characteristics, but that’s it. They exist to be symbols, not people.
  • I kept forgetting characters. They all have interchangeable names, especially Roger and Robert.
  • The writing takes some getting used to, but once you get in the flow of it, it’s fine. It doesn’t really stand out, though.
  • The ending was jarring. It didn’t flow from the rest of the book. It’s like, alright, now things have gone too far. Cue madness. Cue chaos. Okay. Let’s end it right now and tie it with a pretty pink bow.
  • It was boring, and I didn’t care about the characters or what happened to them.