Anne’s No Rules Friday 07

lacrossestickSticks and Stones

Try-outs for the varsity lacrosse team were on Friday. They promised the roster would be posted today by noon. I’m sitting here, pretending to eat my lunch, waiting for the results. It’s rare that a freshman makes the varsity team. I know that. Still, I have hope. My friend, Aki, and I are both freshers this year. I bet he’ll make it. He’s one of the top underage attackers in the state.

“Don’t worry, Alex” Aki says, shoving almost a full sandwich into his mouth. He talks around the bread and meat. “Even if you don’t make varsity this year, you have three more, yeah?”

“I guess.”

It’s hard to argue with a guy when he’s spitting his lunch on you.

He drinks a long swig of chocolate milk. “Plus, we’ve got athletic scholarships. They already think we’re white-hot gold. Why would they hold back on us now?”

“Alright. Alright,” I say, throwing up my hands. As if to prove my defeat, I take a tiny bite out of my chicken quesadilla. The lunch ladies really didn’t out-do themselves today. It’s hard to swallow, but I chug down half a bottle of apple juice.

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Anne’s Book Club 07

CGC_BlackThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (summary by Amazon.com):

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

My Thoughts on The Coldest Girl in Coldtown:

It’s no secret that one of my favorite YA novelists is Holly Black. Her Modern Faerie series changed so many of my perceptions of what YA could be—definitely for the better!—and Valiant, in particular, was incredibly moving for les raisons personnelles, as the French say. The world-building in her Curse Workers trilogy was fresh and innovative. I couldn’t wait to read her take on vampire lore. As a teen, I inhaled vampire books. Basically, I’ve never outgrown them.

The world-building of Coldest was first introduced in a short story of the same name published in the Eternal Kiss anthology in 2009. I loved the story because of the characters, but also because of the world. I wanted to know more about Matilda, so when the novel was announced I was sad to learn that Matilda wasn’t the main character. To be fair to Ms. Black, Matilda’s story was finished. I just wanted more. Coldest delivered, and I enjoyed Tana’s story just as much—maybe more than?—Matilda’s. In the world of Coldest, when you’re bit by a vampire, you turn Cold. You’re not undead until you drink your first drop of human blood, but you crave it over everything else. You would eat your kid and not even blink. Then you become a vampire, and there’s no turning back. However, if you’re strong enough (and locked up long enough) to resist human blood, the virus will run its course and you’ll remain human.

Coldest is Ms. Black’s longest published work to date at 419 pages in the hardcover version. There are chilling flashbacks of Tana’s childhood (her mother went Cold, was locked in the cellar by her father, convinced Tana to let her out, and she bit Tana. I was a little unclear if the bite was deep enough to infect her or not, but the bottom-line is that she survived). The vampire, Gavriel, gets to narrate his own story as well. I loved the Russian flashbacks! One of my favorite chapters, however, is not from Tana’s or Gavriel’s point-of-view. It’s Chapter 14 by Midnight; a blog entry on items you’ll need to bring to Coldtown. I sympathized with Midnight, and I remember so clearly what it was like to be wrapped up and obsessed with something. If Coldtowns did exist, especially when I was a teenager, I would have been involved on the boards. I would have watched the live feeds of the Eternal Ball. I might have rooted for the vampire hunters, but chances are I’d be a bigger fan of Lucien and his lot.

“And remember, if you do come into physical contact with a vampire, you are legally obligated to report yourself to the authorities. Do not attempt to wait to see if you’ve become infected. Do not attempt to self-quarantine. Call 911, explain the nature of the attack, and wait for further instructions.”

This book is built on vampire lore dating back hundreds of years, but it never feels stale. These vampires are burned by the sunlight. They can be staked. They might be beautiful and exotic, but they are predators; and as a reader, I never forgot that fact. There are strong parallels to the short story, and it was delightful to see how Ms. Black expanded the world. How she created a handful of characters that I rooted for or against (vampire and human alike). The newer lore (21st century new) she played was exciting too. In this world, reality television still retains that voyeuristic nature, but some of these characters are lured by it while others are repelled. It’s a fascinating fictional take on current reality shows and the public’s reaction.

Anne Rice wrote Interview with the Vampire as a short story. It was expanded years later into a novel. One of my Cimmerian Tale aspirations is to write something that starts here as a short story into a novel as well. I only hope I’m a quarter as successful as either Ms. Black or Ms. Rice.

What are some of your favorite short stories that have been elongated into novels?

“The Woodpile” by Frightened Rabbit Inspires Audrey

Ridgemoor Manor

Ridgemoor Manor is supposed to be empty. I mean it’s also supposed to be haunted so I don’t think it can be both. Empty and haunted.

Mama went to school with Jonathan Ridgemoor so it hasn’t even been that long. It’s just the weeds and peeling paint that make the house look so decrepit.

“Martha, this is so stupid,” I say crossing my arms over my chest.

“Oh come on, Betty. Don’t be such a Fuddy-Duddy!” Martha replies pulling my arm off and looping it with hers as we walk, our Mary Jane’s tapping in synchrony along the street. “And, Jimmy said he’s bring Roy.” She nudges my side with her elbow, like Roy means something to me.

“It’s just an old house. What’s the big deal?” I whine, my voice high and pitchy.

Martha shakes her head while she laughs, her blonde curls bouncing. “If it’s just an old house, Betty Marshall, then a quick gander won’t hurt nothin’. Oh look! There they are!”

She squeals at the boys and I think she looks like a pig as she prances over in her pink gingham dress, smudgy black lines up the back of her legs. I sigh and follow. Martha and I have been friends since we could walk, but lately she’s been completely khaki-wacky, especially when it comes to Jimmy.

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Jen’s Book Club

I just recently finished my subject for this week’s book club. For the fifth time.

Before I unveil the title, I would like to tell you why my heart is sunk deep into this novel.

I like it because it’s harsh. I like it because it promotes weirdness. I like it because parts of it are so heartbreakingly true that I had to close it to wipe my leaking eyeballs. I might have been crying. I might have been laughing. I don’t cry and tell.

Harsh. Weird. True. Heartbreaking. Funny.

That about sums up John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

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From Goodreads:

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Okay you guys, yes it’s a love story and a beautiful star-crossed one at that, but it’s also about facing the multifaceted agonies of death. It’s unexpectedly raw and unassuming. John Green doesn’t make death out to be something that is full of strength and courage; he makes it real. He makes it hurt because it does, and in his own words, “it hurts because it matter(s).” This is true in love and loss and life, and that’s what you get in this gorgeous novel.

Pick it up. Try not to cry. I dare you.

 

“The Woodpile” by Frightened Rabbit Inspires Julie

Curses

Heavy iron thunders and I’m conscious, bit by bit and then all at once. From a corner of my stone-walled cell, the scent of burning violet flowers chokes me. My stomach curdles. I try to roll away from the corner with the incense stick, and my ribs sear with pain. Right. Beto kicked me so hard I couldn’t breathe.

At the thought of the guard captain’s name, I want to spit, but my lips are mashed. The inside of my mouth and half of my face is bloodied. With my tongue I probe the slanted edge of a front tooth. The exposed roots tingle. Guess they’re done using me for my looks.

Footfalls sound heavily at the end of the hall, and I relax my body against the crackling straw. If they think I’m waiting for them, planning something, they’ll do worse than break my ribs. Then voices banter, muted through the stone and wooden door. Shift change.

The newcomer is the basso voice, the heavyset guard with piggy eyes. Replacing the young one with the deformed ear. The one who sometimes gives me a little extra food or water. Slitting my eyes, I see he’s put rations through the slot for me. If only I can get to them before Piggy realizes I’m awake.

“What’s happening outside?” asks Ear, stopping too close to my cell. “I heard the sound of troops, horses leaving. Are we at war?” His voice cracks. continue reading ...

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Audrey’s No Rules Friday

I love flash fiction. It’s such a challenge to create a fleshed out piece in so few words. I’m very fond of 100 word story challenges, so I decided to share a couple here. The first one I wrote about 2 years ago and the second is new.

Love Bean

Her eyes electrocuted him. When he gazed into their murky blue-green depths, a jarring current ran through him, stopping his heart. He knew only her and the sensation of being burned from the inside out. He lived a lifetime in a brilliant flash. She held everything he had ever wanted and would ever want again: ecstasy and joy, sorrow and hope. He steeled himself against the urge to leap over the counter and pull her lips against his.

“Here’s your coffee, miss.”

A smiled flitted across her face. Turning away from him, she left behind the lingering scent of lightning.

Bean Love

Lightning never strikes twice. That’s what my mother always told me. My coffee cup rattles softly against its saucer.

“I’m so sorry, June,” sniffles Mark’s cousin Anita. I nod and put the coffee down feeling queasy.

It’s the smell. It used to remind me of the little place down on Fifth. But now? All I can see are rich grounds crumbling between my fingers, leaving their scent as they fall and scatter on a glossy black box.

He laughed and swung me into a hug when I said it’s the wrong day for golfing. My mother was wrong about lightning.