If you thought The Knife of Never Letting Go had tough sacrifices in it, you are in for a tumultuous and tantalizing experience in its sequel. Below, I share my woes as I process the next installment of Viola and Todd’s journey.
WARNING: some spoilers for The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer. Read at your own discretion.
The Premise of Patrick Ness’ The Ask and the Answer
In typical middle-book fashion, miscommunication dominates The Ask and the Answer. Viola and Todd continue to be part of a devastating conflict. Haunted by the events of the previous book, Todd is willing to do whatever it takes to protect Viola. Todd must work with Mayor Prentiss, who has gained more political power. Withholding vital information about Viola, Prentiss corners Todd into total cooperation. As a reward, he tells Todd that he’ll keep Viola safe.
In this book, Todd works under the direction of Davy Prentiss Jr. As such, readers can expect to see a closer look of Davy Prentiss Jr. Readers are up for a heartwrenching conflict between various groups. Like Todd, Viola is an unwilling participant in a group attempting to gain political control. Warring adults battle each other to gain control of this town. Citizens are trampled. New arrivals are on the horizon as the countdown ticks for spaceships landing.
Will Todd and Viola find each other again? Can they make peace between the Ask and the Answer?
Patrick Ness thought of two ideas when he created the Chaos Walking trilogy. First, he thought of information overload. Then, he considered the idea of hearing a dog’s thoughts. The result is agonizing sweetness and thoughtful exploration of humanity. As readers often note, there is a tragic event that takes place in the first Chaos Walking book. I will refrain from spoiling the details of this incident. However, the story remains powerful in its chilling examination of social media oversaturation, censorship, and the conflation of masculinity and its toxic image within Prentisstown.
In 2018, one of my college friends introduced me to Grey’s Anatomy. As someone who’s not a
fan of medical dramas, I did not think the show would resonate with me. I am
not overly fond of doctor and I do not deal with stress well. This show
features characters who are driven, competitive, and very self-assured (for the
most part). Imagine my surprise when I discovered the most beautiful
friendships ever on television to be
on that show. Let me share the love between the least likely pairings ever.
But First, Let’s Discuss Grey Anatomy’s Premise
Anatomy is a double-entendre as a title. On the surface, it may seem to be a teasing
reference to Meredith Grey’s profession as an intern at a hospital. However, as
the series continues to unfold, the show’s writers start to peel back Meredith
Grey’s own social and familial anatomy. The audience discovers more about her
history as a daughter, friend, up-and-coming surgeon, lover, partner, and even
more surprising relationships she has along the way. I could write so many
things about Meredith Grey. I will say this: the show has such a powerful
depiction of relationships, particularly platonic ones, and I will share my
It is my intention to celebrate the gems I find as a reader, writer, blogger, and (small) world trotter. Today, I am sharing a conversation I had with Fox, a queer and non-binary mental health blogger. They have been blogging for a while now and they have been frank in sharing their journey of self-acceptance as someone with mental illness. In particular, I admire their ability to step back and be a force for educational goodness.
This post is a discussion of Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave and its reflection on humanity’s anxiety around the future and the unknown. In particular, I want to talk about Yancey’s focus on the effects of the alien invasion on the characters within the story, especially: Cassie Sulivan, Ben Parrish, and Evan Walker.
Some of you may know that I lived in Egypt in the 90s. I was mostly isolated by my mental illness, but even then, I had noticed the prominence of the Si-Sayed figure. What I didn’t ever expect is that this figure appears in Naguib Mahfouz’s 1956 classic called The Palace Walk.
Give This a Listen: Popular Music Around Mahfouz’s Time**
This is a violin cover of the classic Umm Kulthum song called “Enta Omri.” The song is way too long (at least nine minutes long. And, it doesn’t have awesome variety like a Queen song).
While I did enjoy The Final Empire novel, Brandon Sanderson completely blew me away with the sequel, The Well of Ascension. Here, I will gush, ooh, and ah over this powerful story about morality, duty, and love.
**Image by:Free-Photos on Pixabay Rather than having a blog entirely dedicated to books, I want to raise awareness on my intersectional existence across different communities. One of those landmarks is mental illness. As someone trying to cope with mental illness, I am exploring options for my emotional, emergency toolkit.
The Emotional Toolkit
An “emotional toolkit” is a bouquet of ways to deal with negative emotions. You can read more about it here.
Part of my journey with mental illness has to do with recognizing my own patterns. I get really angry and frustrated by the isolation my condition brings about. When I do feel “up” enough, I reach out only to go “down” again before I can see the relationship through.
Welcome to my first installment of Chit Chat. In these interviews, I introduce and celebrate influential figures in my own life. My hope is to showcase talented people who are making a difference.
Meet Ashley Jean
Ashley Jean and I met in college and we have maintained a friendship since then. She is clever, artistic, and creative. I just think the world is in need of her beautiful presence.
Here is my first chit chat ever on the blog, with the wonderful Ashley Jean.
First of all, as a debut author, how would you describe your influences? Are there certain stories that resonate with you?
When I was a young creative writing major in college, I had big aspirations. I wanted to be the female version of Kurt Vonnegut. His writing was extremely eloquent, and quite sad, too. Beneath those humorous lines were some hard truths. I have a similar comedic tone and gravitated towards all of that post-modern writing.
But I’m not Vonnegut. I tried being that guy, and only Vonnegut is Vonnegut. It wasn’t until I read Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, that I realized the most memorable, relatable stories are the ones you pull from your core and put on the page. There’s such a genuineness about her [Rowell’s] storytelling, and that’s when my goals changed, and quite drastically. I just wanted to be Ashley Jean, and write whatever Ashley Jean wanted to tell.
This is the kind of female empowerment I like: learning from women, who at the end of the day, want you to be your authentic self. I couldn’t do that with Vonnegut. There’s that whole “Anxiety of Authorship,” notion. I know Rowell has gotten a lot of flack lately, but I couldn’t have done that if I didn’t identify with Cath.
What was your writing experience like? Did you discover that certain tips work best for you? Is there a routine you follow?
Honestly, the very first fifty or so pages were easy to write. I had a lot of anger and sadness inside of me and diligently wrote as a means of healing. At some point though, those hostile feelings caught up to me, and I couldn’t touch the manuscript. The pain I wrote about was too close to home. But because I knew my writing was important for this community, I followed one rule: write every day.
I participated in NaNoWriMo, and finished the manuscript! Since then, I’ve adopted the 2,000 words a day for 30 days. Every 1K words should take about an hour of your time. Dedicating 2 hours of writing a day, especially when you’re drafting, is key to finishing and having a body of work to edit. This is how I’ve completed two subsequent novels.
Okay, so for those who have not heard about your novel, how would you describe its premise?
Set in the late 90s and early 00s, a young fangirl, Aijae Cruz (pronounced AJ) who has spent of the majority of her teenage and young adult life, learns to live outside of the safe spaces she’s created in fan fiction. In college, she meets a pair of women who thrive on going to concerts, particularly within the emo scene. She tags along on their misadventures and falls in love with the lead singer of famous emo band, Memorable Editions. Martin seemingly falls in love with her, and for Aijae, it’s as if her fan fiction has come to life. But there’s a bit of a plot twist–Martin doesn’t love Aijae and has only wanted her for one thing: sex. Aijae must come to terms with this nightmare, and battle fans, her friends, and herself in order to succeed in becoming the music journalist she knows she’s capable of being. Will everyone else see her that way, or do they think she only gets work by spreading her legs?
Since you are a composition teacher and an artist, would you say that art is a common theme in your work? Particularly for Love from the Barricade, how did you address music as both a fan and an artist?
Definitely! Many of my characters are artists or have some artistic talent to some extent. However, for this novel, in particular, I wanted to make sure that readers knew that Aijae knew she wasn’t perfect, but that neither of the fans who criticize her are, either.
Too often, in most music scenes, women peg women against each other. Women have a lot of rules to follow when it comes to the boys in the band, and I am tired of that notion. If a girl wants to have sex, why not give her the space to have that type of a relationship? Similarly, if a guy in a band wants to have a purely monogamous relationship, why can’t he? Just because he’s a rockstar does not automatically mean he is not human. Does he always have to be portrayed as vagina-thirsty?
If we want to create feminist spaces in the music industry, we have to give people the agency to be individuals. We can’t say every fangirl is a groupie, and that every rockstar is a dick. There’s a gray area. Similarly, some fangirls are absolute jerks, regardless of their size and stature. Not every skinny girl is a “bitch,” or wants to have sex for that matter.
I tried to depict the most common personalities in the industry so that my readers can make a choice as to who the real villain is.
Because I was once an emo music fan, I am curious about what your favorite emo bands were. What was your favorite lyrical witty line that you loved?
I followed Fall Out Boy, Paramore, My Chemical Romance, and Taking Back Sunday on tour the most. These were bands I HAD to see when they came to town. There was no question. I was on that barricade. I’m actually in a Fall Out Boy video and getting hurt on the barricade, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
My absolute favorite line is from Fall Out Boy’s “Hum Hallelujah”: “You are the dreamers, and we are the dream. I could write it better than you ever felt it.”
A lot of FOB’s earlier songs had so many messages about writing. I love all of those lines, too.
As an indie author and a person of color, what elements of your own life or your own culture did you incorporate into this novel?
Aijae HAD to be Mexican. And she had to be a Mexican who struggled to find a culture. When you’re a Mexican-American raised in a primarily white neighborhood, you aren’t going to fit in in any of those spaces––Mexican or American. You are going to experience microaggressions from your friends that don’t understand that, either. Let’s be honest–punk rock is very white. But that’s also why the punk rock, emo–whatever scene is such a magical place. Aijae could fit in there if she physically fought hard enough.
I also really wanted to talk about body-shaming in general. I get that skinny is the “norm,” but to say that “skinny bitches” don’t experience shame, bullying, and suicidal thoughts as a result of body shaming, is false. I grew up skinny my entire life and never once felt fucking normal. When I was in college, I was especially ostracized by my friends, and they often put me in situations that felt like hazing and made me ashamed of my body. I won’t wear a bikini. Don’t tell me my stomach is “flat enough”–that’s not the issue here. The world has taught me that bones are ugly, so I’ll hide them when I can.
What I want my readers to know is that despite what “seems” to be a privileged status–reversing it and hating on someone–will never result in the equality we are all striving for. We have to realize when we say hateful things to one another and stop that.
That’s the biggest goal of this novel: is to help women find unity in the music industry. Because right now, there is none of that.
Since this is a book about music, I have to ask, what are your go-to hype-up songs?
Sad songs tend to pump me up. So…
“Famous Last Words” – My Chemical Romance
“Idle Worship” – Paramore
“Waiting for the End”- Linkin Park
“Dark Blue” – Jack’s Mannequin
“Perfect” – Simple Plan
“Everything is Alright” – Motion City Soundtrack
And then there’s the odd one out, “Good Old Days” — Macklemore
Maybe a snippet from the story?
“With age, everyone finds their palate in food, in people, and in hobbies. I’d grown to appreciate adventure in small doses, like driving hours to see a band I’d just seen the night before…”
Way back in February, I went to the library and grabbed my first Sarah J. Maas book. It was her first published novel, Throne of Glass. My nervousness as a people pleaser was an all-time high. This was the case because Sarah J. Maas has been criticized a lot over the years on Book-Tube. Reading Sarah J. Maas’ books now is a form of self-care and expression to me. Let me discuss this further.
Damsels No More
Maas’ Throne of Glass: Caleana
Maas’ first series has a typical premise, akin to The Hunger Games and Battle Royale. An assassin is ordered to be the king’s champion in a tournament. I acknowledge the criticism of Celaena as a character.
Let me tell you why Celaena matters to someone like me. She gets to be herself, unabashedly, despite the scoffing of many (male) characters. As the books get bigger, so does my love for Celaena. When people point out that she is not shown as a heartless killer, I wonder if they’ve considered Celaena’s complexity.
Because, yes, she could’ve been a ruthless killer, but the point is her inner turmoil and grief. Maas shows us a girl who had difficult circumstances, a traumatic past, a love taken away from her way too soon.
To me, Celaena is strong, not because of her assassin storyline. No, she’s strong because her heart experiences death, torture, and unfairness without ever losing her innocence. I have never seen a book character with a dog like Fleetfoot. Nor have I seen a character search for answers in stillness, in reflection, and in reaching inward.
Throne of Glass: Lysandra
I have not read Assassin’s Blade yet but Lysandra became a total favorite of mine. Her backstory was equal parts sad and unique. Her relationship with Celaena developed beautifully. Plus, she has made bold choices to break free from abusive relationships.
Besides, she and Evangeline have strong parallels in their upbringing, which strengthen their relationships.
I am here for all the girl gang love.
Throne of Glass: Elide
Oh, my favorite girl. I have never related to a character more than I have with Elide. Her timid nature, coupled with her secret, is one of the reasons I love this series so much.
I have yet to see what will happen to Elide. She is already rocking my world quite a bit.
The loveliest, sassiest, and the most incredible princess in my world. I miss her.
So…What Does That Mean For Me As a Critical Reader
I recognize the flaws in Maas’ writing. There are cringe-y sex scenes in later books. Sarah J. Maas has not included enough diversity and sometimes, there are messed up gender roles in her books. My approach is to be critical of these things, but I also admit that I enjoy her stories. Her characters mean a lot to me and I fly through her stories.
You can be critical of something and still enjoy it.