[credit | karen @ i-doll]
I probably scared you all for a little while there, but after an inadvertent and lengthy hiatus from blogging, I'm back (and as overenthusiastic as ever)! I'm returning with a bookish tag post, an endeavor made possible by the inimitable Alyssa @ The Devil Orders Takeout.

(I have a bit of a backlog, so I'm going to try and spread out tags and do them one at a time! They're also going to be super out of order.)

Presenting the Bedtime Book Tag

Alyssa has tagged me for the Bedtime Book Tag! I'm rather unlike Alyssa in that I do not sleep. It takes me at least twenty to thirty minutes to fall asleep every single night, and even then, I'm incapable of sleeping in past around 8:30 in the morning. It's certainly a struggle, and it may be an unfortunate contributing factor to my short stature.

That said, here is the tag in all its sleepy and not-so-sleepy glory. 

1. A book that kept you up all night.

this series has the best covers. no one can convince me otherwise
Funnily enough, I don't actually stay up late reading books. (I stay up late doing rather less exciting things, unfortunately. Like homework, because it turns out that I have responsibilities.) But I did once get up at 4:00 am, completely of my own accord, without even setting an alarm, because I needed to finish Leigh Bardugo's Siege and Storm, the second book of the Grisha Trilogy. If you know me, you know that Siege and Storm was my absolute favorite of the series, because it was flawless, and also NIKOLAI LANTSOV, MY LOVE. And Alina being the force of nature she is and so much thought-provoking subtext about the handling of power and gorgeous writing and rich worldbuilding and—

Siege and Storm pretty much wrecked me, which made for an enormous letdown when I finally read Ruin and Rising (the book is fairly controversial, so if you'd like to discuss, feel free—just make sure you indicate in your comment that you're being spoilery so that you don't inadvertently reveal the third book's plot to other readers).

2. A book that made you scared to sleep.

what is up with this design tbh
Okay, true story: I'm actually ridiculously terrified of everything. I am so easily frightened. It's actually kind of sad. It's probably because I have such a stupidly vivid imagination—yes, it helps me out when I'm doing ~artsy things~, but it also means I DO NOT DEAL WELL WITH SPOOKINESS.

So it follows that Joseph Delaney's Revenge of the Witch scared me out of my mind when I read it a few years ago. It's actually not too bad of a book if you're into atmosphere and action (although I can't be sure because it's been a while), and I'm pretty sure I read at least two books of this series, but that much dark-and-creepy? No thanks. I'll take a sweeping, bloody high fantasy any day.

(PS: Also this seriously reminds me of John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series for a few reasons—title parallels, of course, and then the grumpy but amazing mentor—but we all know which I prefer.)

3. A book that made you go to sleep.

*mourns the unfulfilled potential*
Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen was ridiculously hyped by its publisher, and I think there wasn't a single person in the YA blogosphere who wasn't looking forward to its release at least a little bit. Beautiful, dangerous-looking cover? Check. Gorgeous premise promising plenty of politics and intrigue and magic and blood? Check. Even I couldn't help but be swept up in the excitement.

When the book came out, book bloggers' reviews were all over the board. Some loved it and others loathed it. Still others could only react with a solid "meh." "Mixed reactions" is putting it lightly. But I pushed past my misgivings and borrowed Red Queen from the library.

...and was roundly disappointed. Of course, I know there are many who would disagree, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was reading a mashup of The Selection and The Hunger Games. The parallels were too blatant to ignore. The characters didn't appeal to me, and the prose felt more concerned with being quotable than actually telling the story in an interesting, effective way.
on the bright side, miyazaki gifs make literally every situation better

4. A book that left you tossing and turning all night in anticipation of its release.

it's been over two years since this brilliance entered the world! how time flies
Despite how loudly I've trumpeted my love for it from the figurative Internet rooftops, Rae Carson's Fire and Thorns trilogy is still, in my honest opinion, criminally underrated. It's gloriously empowering in its unashamed display of feminism, body positivity, and diversity. It stars a tremendously brave, fierce heroine with an amazing head for politics and strategy. Its characters are achingly human and also deliver the best sarcasm and witty banter (Storm, I'm looking at you). Its magic system and worldbuilding are straight up awe-inspiring. So of course I was eagerly anticipating the release of the final installment, The Bitter Kingdom.

(Psst. Since it is a finished series and all... I think I've just picked out your next series binge read for you. I mean, no pressure. But.)

5. A book that has your dream ship.

While nearly all my ships are my 'dream ship' in some form or another, Sean Kendrick and Puck Connolly from Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races are probably one of the pairings closest to my heart. Theirs is a relationship founded on mutual respect for each other's skills and admiration for each other's personalities. They help each other and are proud to see each other succeed and are willing to stick by each other through the thick and the thin. They're very different people who complement each other when they come together. Also, they're super in love but stubbornly refuse to acknowledge until near the end of the book, which makes for the slowest, most painful burn ever. Be still my shipping heart.
tfw you find no face scary but also identify with him? oops

6. A book that would be your worst nightmare to live in.

what a mind-blowing, gorgeous, important, terrifying book
All the Rage by Courtney Summers is a stunner in more ways than one. It's a devastating, insightful, no-holds-barred commentary on the poisonous rape culture that fills society today. It's the story of one flawed, hoping, heartbreakingly real girl trying to heal around the cracks in her armor. Its prose is as piercing as shards of glass, and it'll leave you angry and afraid and drained and so much wiser than you were going in. I'm not kidding when I say that I think this book should be required reading for every high school in the US. That said, the small town the book is set in is a nightmare for sure, and I'd hate to live inside this book. It's filled with narrow-minded people who are more inclined to defend the town's golden boy than listen to the girl he raped. The weather there is also really, really, really hot, and to say my heat tolerance is low would be an egregious understatement.

7. A book that reminds you of nighttime.

the cover and interior are almost as beautiful as the actual words
I know, I know, you are all in awe of this most spectacular of cop-outs. THE WORD 'NIGHT' IS IN THE TITLE. In all seriousness, though, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus is one of the most gorgeously atmospheric and all-around brilliant books you'll ever read. I push this book at everyone, and for good reason (though to be fair, my book recommendations are always for good reasons *flips hair*). With a lovely and layered cast of characters, a whole lot of flawless prose, and a lushly magical yet mysterious ambience, it truly evokes the enchantment and splendor of nighttime. Plus, the premise is to die for and the settings are all so well-done. What's not to love?

8. A book that had a nightmarish cliffhanger.

forever confused about the color of kestrel's dress
I kind of just want to scream "EVERY YA SERIES EVER," but I know that's not rational. So. I'm going to pick Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Crime, the second book in The Winner's Trilogy. I'm not going to tell you all about the ending to the book, obviously, but suffice it to say that it left me completely broken. It was emotionally taxing for me, brutal for the characters (especially my queen Kestrel), and so gorgeously written it was absolutely UNFAIR. I have zero idea how book three is going to use all the ridiculous and terrifying plot threads slammed into my face at the end of book two. Honestly, I am so afraid to try and pick up the pieces of my heart with the last book of this series, because the ending of the second book alone did so much damage.

what did i tell you about miyazaki gifs

9. A book you actually dreamt about.

deliberately looked for an image of the new american editions because i personally loathe the old ones
I read the Harry Potter series in around second grade and haven't really been able to get back into the fandom since (which I know is going to earn me some glares from my blog readers). But that meant that in elementary school, I had several rather vivid dreams centering around elements of the series. The most memorable and strange one involves Lord Voldemort attempting to murder me in the nursery where Lily Potter was killed—only his killing curse keeps missing me, because I am surrounded by small polar bears running around me in frantic circles. Honorable mention goes to the one dream I had about making friends with Lord Voldemort over tea.

(This is the same brain that my writing comes from! Come to think of it, that explains a lot.)

10. A book monster you wouldn't want to find under your bed.

(Mild Throne of Glass spoilers; proceed with caution!)
i love how literally none of the cover illustrations actually look like aelin and yet literally no one cares
Okay, real talk: Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass series contains some seriously frightening monsters. I mean, it could be argued that a lot of the main cast members are monsters themselves. (You know you're in for bloodshed in a book when the heroine is described as, and I quote, a "fire-breathing bitch queen.") Plus, if you ever find an Ironteeth witch like Manon Blackbeak under your bed, you know you're not long for this world. And then there are all the other monsters faced by the main characters! Valg princes, Wyrdhounds, skinwalkers, that strange and enormous lake thing from Heir of Fire—I just. The monsters in this series are terrifying, but then again, any good high fantasy series needs to have something scary with very sharp teeth.

TL;DR if you find a ToG monster under your bed, you're about to be sliced into very tiny pieces and probably eaten. Run.
bless whoever made this gif tbh. also, more miyazaki

So, my grand return. Let's talk books + odd sleeping habits in the comments!

I also wanted to give a shoutout to the lovely Leah Bauer @ Heart Full of Ink, who tagged me for the Halloween Book Tag. While I won't be putting up a post, as the season has come and gone (alas!), I'm very grateful that she thought of me and encourage you to check out her blog!

I'm not tagging anyone in particular—I feel like I've been doing a lot of tagging—but if any reader would like to steal this for their blog, go right ahead! 
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Welcome to the fifth round of #LitLove, a bimonthly series here on the blog!

So what is #LitLove?

It's a collaborative post series that happens every two months. It debuted in December 2014, featuring myself and four other lovely writer/bloggers, dubbed ATTAC:

Alyssa / Topaz / Taylor / AnQi / Christina (that's me!)

Officially(ish) speaking:
#LitLove is our chance to spout our love for the written word in all its forms, and it happens once every two months. It was born from a feverish Twitter fangirling session (as so many good things are) and then put into action. We've got a veritable army of ideas cooking, and we plan to spotlight everything from authors to tropes in the future.
Previously, we've featured brilliant writers Kate DiCamilloRoald Dahl, William Shakespeare, and Edgar Allan Poe. Today we're taking the series in yet another direction by featuring one of America's most intriguing female writers, Sylvia Plath.

Haven't heard the name?

No worries! I'm here to fill the gap in your reading life labeled 'Sylvia Plath.' Here's an excerpt from her Poetry Foundation bio:
Sylvia Plath was one of the most dynamic and admired poets of the twentieth century. By the time she took her life at the age of thirty, Plath already had a following in the literary community. In the ensuing years her work attracted the attention of a multitude of readers, who saw in her singular verse an attempt to catalogue despair, violent emotion, and obsession with death. [...] Intensely autobiographical, Plath's poems explore her own mental anguish, her troubled marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughes, her unresolved conflicts with her parents, and her own vision of herself. [...] [Joyce Carol Oates] wrote that Plath's best-known poems, "many of them written during the final, turbulent weeks of her life, read as if they've been chiseled, with a fine surgical instrument, out of arctic ice."
I was first introduced to Sylvia Plath's work when I read her first and only novel, The Bell Jar, for a literature honors project at school during freshman year. (You might have read my rave review of that particular book.) When I learned that she was primarily a poet, I immediately set out to read some of her poetry. This new interest came at a particularly opportune time, since I was growing more and more interested in writing poetry myself. I think reading Sylvia Plath has really influenced the way I look at and approach poetry, and I know it will continue to do so in the future.

Today, I'll be discussing two of my favorite Plath poems. Ordinarily, I'd just pick one, but with Plath it's just too difficult! So here's "Lady Lazarus" and "Witch Burning" for you all.

(Note: I've been stretched a bit thin lately writing/commitment-wise, so this might not be my best analysis + discussion, but DO NOT BE FOOLED. Plath is pretty much my poetic sun and stars.)

About the poems

"lady lazarus"

"Lady Lazarus" is, I believe, one of Plath's best-known poems. It is at once a confessional and a persona poem, meaning that it draws on Plath's personal experiences / emotions and takes on the voice of a character at the same time. It reimagines the biblical Lazarus (who was brought back from the dead) as a woman in a more updated context. The poem is sourced from Plath's Collected Poems and was written from October 23–29, 1962. You can read it here.

"witch burning"

"Witch Burning" is somewhat lesser-known. It's also a confessional / persona poem; Plath's works tend to be confessional, as she was one of the pioneers of that type of poetry. The title explains a lot of it, really—it centers on the experience of a witch before being burned at the stake, although the poem's tone feels, to me, less mournful and more pure or empowered. The work from her posthumous collection Ariel (1966). You can read it here.

What these poems mean to me

I'm incapable of pinpointing exactly what it is that I love so much about Sylvia Plath's writing. Its unashamed honesty? Its fiercely vivid, unsettling descriptions? Its juxtaposition of dark, evocative imagery with lighter poetic forms? These are all certainly part of it. 

But what truly makes Plath's style so enthralling? I don't think it can quite be summed up in words by anyone, and I certainly couldn't do it justice. Instead, I'll talk about some of my favorite lines from each poem (although honestly, any Plath line is more or less a favorite for me). 

(These are just my own interpretations, and if you want to discuss further in the comments, please do! I'm always up for poetry talk.)

"lady lazarus"

I have done it again. / One year in every ten / I manage it——
While the biblical Lazarus is brought to life by Jesus, Lady Lazarus resurrects herself without any outside help ("I have done it again"). It's a power that she has used before and one that gives her a sort of authority over everyone around her. I personally can kind of feel that here, in these lines that feel at once weary and triumphant.
O my enemy. / Do I terrify?——
The boldly feminine yet undeniably threatening persona of "Lady Lazarus" has a certain deadly magnetism to her. She's secure in her ability to rise from the dead, which gives her a fearsome kind of confidence. But she's also very aware of the scrutiny she gets because of that ability. She regards those who scrutinize her as 'enemies,' and she wants to know: are you afraid of me?
Out of the ash / I rise with my red hair / And I eat men like air.
These last three lines make up one of the most iconic poem endings you'll ever read, period. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favorite part of this poem. The rhyme is incredibly powerful without being tacky in the least, and it's undoubtedly chilling. Also, GIRL POWER.

"witch burning"

I inhabit / The wax image of myself, a doll's body.
There's so much wonderful subtext here. This line pretty much speaks for itself—it has so many dimensions, and I really think it opens up new areas for interpretation every single time one reads it.
What large eyes the dead have!
This line in and of itself is wonderfully arresting in its simultaneous playfulness and morbidity. I love it. To me, it feels like a play off what the heroine tells the wolf disguised as her grandmother in the Red Riding Hood fairytale: "What large teeth you have!" That innocent fascination, combined with the darkness of bringing up the dead, is a beautifully clever contrast.
We grow. / It hurts at first. The red tongues will teach the truth.
"The red tongues" in this case is taken to mean fire, which I think implies a sort of healing and reaching upwards that the narrator achieves through a lot of sacrifice and hardship. I love this notion a lot, and I keep it very close to my heart.
I am lost, I am lost, in the robes of all this light.
I think this is a gorgeously cathartic ending for the poem, and it's one that really rings true to me. The narrator has had a hard time coming into her own throughout the piece, and so this kind of light-filled 'ascension' feels like a wonderful release for her.

That's all from me, but don't go just yet! There's more #LitLove to be had:

* Unfortunately, Taylor won't be participating in this round.

Do you love Sylvia Plath as much as I do? What about confessional poetry? Let's nerd out in the comments!

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Hello all! The gloriously witty and always-insightful Heather from Sometimes I'm a Story was kind enough to bestow upon yours truly the Infinity Dreams Award. Thank you so much, Heather! Here's my response:

  • Thank and follow the blog that nominated you.
  • Tell us eleven facts about yourself.
  • Answer the questions that were set for you to answer.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers and set questions for them.

Eleven facts

  • I love anime and people seem to forget that a lot. (Fairy Tail / Kuroko no Basket / Sword Art Online / Soul Eater fans? HIGH FIVE.)
  • I've eaten squid ink pasta. (It was really good!)
  • I've been writing about teenagers since third grade. Yay for inadvertent YA writing!
  • I'm basically incapable of writing fanfiction. Whenever I attempt to, it comes out as a puddle (so does most of my writing, but with my original work I can usually salvage something).
  • I'm probably that one suspicious girl in the corner wearing a hoodie. Especially if said girl has ink/pencil stains on the side of her left hand. (Hey, hoodies are comfortable.)
  • My favorite Studio Ghibli movie is Spirited Away, but honestly ALL their movies are my favorites on some level.
  • I just made a resume website thing in an attempt to be more "professional."
  • I am so into Halsey's music right now you don't even know.
  • I'm thinking of doing Communication or Media Studies in college, with possibly a Creative Writing minor.
  • I'm super pumped because I get to take Diversity & Justice and Graphic Design 2 at school for second semester this year.
  • Unfortunately, that also means I need to get both Health and PE out of the way in first semester—usually it's one per semester—which IS GUARANTEED TO MAKE ME CRY. I kid you not when I say that these two classes are the most awful ones in the school. I detest them. (On the bright side, though, once I get these credits out of the way, I *never* need to take another Health or PE class again.)

How do you feel about soft tacos?

I don't really eat tacos a lot? But I've never experienced a particular dislike for soft tacos on the occasions when I have eaten them. I suppose I have a fairly good opinion of them on the whole. Unless they're sentient and they're coming for me in order to avenge their fallen brethren.
bilbo being #relatable

Favorite Disney movie?

This should go without saying, but: Mulan ALL THE WAY. Mulan is such an amazing, resourceful, courageous character (both in the movie and in the original ballad, although the two versions differ in many ways). Plus, the movie has sass everywhere and much girl power, and when I first saw it, it was the one Disney movie I could really relate to—the main character was Asian (hooray!) and she didn't fit into the typical definition of 'femininity' (although again, movie Mulan is very different from ballad Mulan). I think it completely changed the way I looked at storytelling and at my own identity.
what a dork. i would say 'protect' but you don't need protecting
the animals in this movie have so much sass
Close second is probably Big Hero 6, though. There's an adorable huge balloon robot and an equally adorable main character. There's diversity and sass. There are super cool action scenes (I mean, that's honestly a necessary thing sometimes!). I just love Big Hero 6 a lot, and I feel like it's not appreciated enough.
*still screaming*

Best villain ever?

Oh my goodness, this is so difficult. There are lots of tired, cliché, uncomplicated villains out there, but there are also layered, fascinating, magnetic ones. Currently, my favorite villain is Talis, the amoral AI overlord of the world featured in Erin Bow's The Scorpion Rules (it's a straight-up genius YA dystopian that comes out later this month; I was lucky enough to snag an eARC). He's snarky, brilliantly strategic, and utterly remorseless, but with a surprising and breathtaking depth to him. Definitely one of the most memorable villains I've ever read.

Favorite musical?

Of the musicals I've actually seen in person, I have to say my favorites are Fiddler on the Roof and Wicked. (Although in the case of Wicked, I may be biased because I saw it in New York. On ACTUAL BROADWAY.) Fiddler on the Roof has elements of culture, history, and family that I didn't think I'd enjoy but ended up absolutely loving, and the dialogue, music, and character dynamics are spot-on + so well-done. Wicked is absolutely hilarious in some parts but powerfully reflective in others, as it looks at the strange power of friendship, the twisting nature of time, and the boundaries between good and... well, wicked. 

How much do you hate spoilers?

This is how I react when I see one for a fandom I'm not in and want to get into, or one for a fandom that I'm in but am not too deeply invested in:
i've been waiting to use this for forever
Now, this is how I react when I see one for a fandom I'm really into:
look i'm not in the asoiaf fandom but i still love daenerys? oops
In sum: I hate them a lot. Please don't bring them anywhere near me. In fact, KILL THEM WITH FIRE. (Or alternatively, please use spoiler tags. I'm really not a big fan of getting a bunch of spoilers and then being forced to go into a show or story or film where everything is a foregone conclusion.)

What’s the best thing about your blog? 

Honestly? Probably the title. (FOREVER PROUD of my blog title.) The actual content, on the other hand—well, anyone who's been here for a while knows that sometimes my posts can become puddles of caps and sappy thoughts. If you're looking for a ~quality~ blogger with her act together (and an actual posting schedule), you'd be best served in continuing your search elsewhere. Although for those of you who have put up with me for a while: thank you! You're the greatest.

What are three books that everyone must read before they die, period?

  • All the Rage by Courtney Summers, for its discussion of rape culture, its take-no-prisoners attitude, its powerfully dynamic and unavoidably human main character, and its gut-wrenchingly visceral prose.
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, for its lens into the tide of history, its deeply passionate and distinctive cast of characters, its sweeping and masterful writing, and its paragraph of a first sentence.
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, for its unique and stunningly emotional narration (courtesy of Death), its heartbreakingly wonderful characters, its historical setting, and its grasp on what makes us human.
End of discussion. *bows*

Discuss your opinion on corn on the cob.

Honestly? I think it's generally delicious, but it's very dependent on the kind of corn. For example, yellow corn here in America tends to be very sweet and nice (in my experience), while corn in Korea tends to be more whitish and honestly kind of tasteless (but nonetheless amazing once salted). Overall, though, I like it, and since I tend to eat more corn on the cob around my birthday month, it holds a pretty positive connotation for me. 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Honestly, I'm pretty open to whatever comes my way as long as a) it's related to books, publishing, media, and/or the Internet in some way, b) it pays enough for me to support myself, and c) it allows me to write novels, poetry, and the like on the side. Of course, being a full-time poet and YA author would be the dream, but I realize that that's not really feasible until I have at least a few books under my belt aka a vaguely (that's a BIG 'vaguely') reliable source of income.

Do you have a favorite punctuation mark?

What can I say? I'm a walking cliché & I love ampersands. I love fonts with pretty ampersands. I love the geeky Latin origin of ampersands. But I'm also quite partial to semicolons, especially when used correctly; I really don't know why other people seem to find them so intimidating. I've got a weakness for em-dashes as well, which you've probably noticed if you've been reading the blog for a while—I tend to overuse them, I think.

(Props to you if you see what I did there. *twirls*)

Describe the best trip you ever took.

I'm fortunate enough to have gone on lots and lots of wonderful, eye-opening trips in my lifetime so far. But my best trip was definitely the one I took to Korea the summer after third grade. I got to attend elementary school for about a month—at the same school that my mother attended when she was tiny!—and I learned a lot and made lots of friends (turns out being from America at a Korean school does great things for your social status). And oh my goodness, Korean school lunches are perfection. (The students there actually refuse to eat the school lunches because they think they're low quality. Imagine how they'd react to the cardboard we're typically given in America.) I also took taekwondo classes for the first time while I was there, which was at once terrible and amazing, because a) it was incredibly hot and humid, which isn't great if you're engaged in intense physical activity every single weekday, but b) that also meant I got to eat a veritable mountain of ice cream. Plus, taekwondo is a lot of fun. And of course, visiting Korea is always wonderful because I get to see family (the vast majority of my relatives live there) and practice my Korean (fun fact: I actually picked up the dialect of my mother's hometown within two days) and eat delicious food (so much food).

Honorable mention goes to my most recent trip to Korea, about two years ago, in which a hairdresser asked me whether it's true that everyone in the US carries a gun everywhere. (Wake up, America! THIS is how the rest of the world sees us.)

I hereby bestow this award on

...some lovely recent-ish commenters who also run stunning blogs. (I was going to also give it to Alyssa, but I know you're dealing with the tag backlog of the century, so.)

Chiara | Aneeqah | Adelyn | E.R. | Alex | Ana | AnQi | Morning | Samantha | Aimee | Jo

Some questions for you all

  1. If you could steal the wardrobe of one book character, whose would it be?
  2. Your life has just become a novel! Write a short pitch for said novel.
  3. What's your favorite foreign film? 
  4. What does breakfast typically look like for you?
  5. If you could make a PSA on any subject and have it broadcasted to the entire world, what would that subject be?
  6. What is your stance on unicorns?
  7. Favorite obscure word?
  8. Who is your favorite non-human(ish) fictional character (think animals, robots, etc.)?
  9. Go back to the very first post you made on your blog. Is it cringe-worthy or surprisingly okay?
  10. You have to assemble a team of nine bloggers—including yourself—for a grand and dangerous adventure, Fellowship of the Ring-style. Who would you choose and why?
  11. What is your favorite soup?

Thanks again, Heather! And congrats to the award recipients.

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I'm very excited to have a new poem up today in Textploit, which is a gorgeous online publication run by and for Very Cool Young Creatives age twenty or under. (I totally made up that label, but I like to think that we're all in some kind of not-so-secret club.) Textploit has published several brilliant young writers that I really admire, including Meggie Royer, Lydia Havens, and Lucy Wainger. Plus, they've also published my ridiculously talented writer friends Rona and Margaret. Who wouldn't be thrilled to be in such wonderful company?

Also, I love that Textploit is dedicated to helping young people publish their art in an online publishing world that often isn't very friendly to them. From their submissions guidelines:
People always talk about “finding your voice,” but breaking news: you already have a voice. Let’s hear it.
The poem, "Creation Myth," is very loosely based on parts of a Korean creation myth (look, my titling game is so strong) called the Cheonjiwang Bonpuli (that's 천지왕 본풀이 in Hangul). It's most often retold on Jeju Island. The poem's first stanza is a vague reference to the very beginning of the myth: the earth and the sky are originally supposed to have been one great void, and the earth is formed when a gap appears in the middle of this void. Everything heavier than the gap falls down to become the earth, and everything lighter rises to become the sky. From there, everything that exists in the sky and on the earth forms from two large drops of dew—one in the sky, one on the earth. This is very loosely referred to in the second stanza. The poem's last stanza contains a reference to a "second sun," as the Cheonjiwang Bonpuli states that there were originally two suns in the sky. (The extra one is later shot down by one of the sons of Cheonjiwang, the leader of the gods.) But again, all of this is very vague in the poem.

In addition, "Creation Myth" is the first of my Adroit mentorship poems to hit the Internet, so you may notice a difference in style that hasn't shown itself in previous poems of mine you may have read. It's a good difference, though, I think. Hopefully more new and improved Christina poetry (read: more archetypes, more femininity, more intersections between body and nature, all that good stuff), courtesy of a fabulous summer and an even more fabulous mentor, will be coming your way in the near-ish future!

In short: surprise, Christina wrote another mythpoem. (You don't see them in the open often but goodness, do I write a lot of them.) You can head over to the Textploit website to find my poem here.

What a great way to finish off the summer! (School is starting tomorrow. HELP.) What do you think of my poetry? Or of mythology-based poems? Let's chat!

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Oh no, summer's all but gone! I must say August was rather languid—but in a good way, I think (I hope!).

I was also kind of good at Twitter this month. (Or I was bad at life. Your pick.)

On the blog

That one time I was offline *gasp*

  • (This actually happened on the last day of July, but my July recap was already posted by then, so.) I went to help out at a speech and debate fundraiser—a car wash, actually. I basically stood waving a sign trying to get cars to come over. It was ridiculously hot and I was standing in near-direct sunlight for around an hour and half. So of course I ended up developing a headache? And my eyes started hurting? And...?
  • The Adroit Journal's 2015 Summer Writing Mentorship Program has officially come to an end. We mentees have been happily swapping final portfolios and telling each other how brilliant we are. (Seriously, though. Reading my fellow mentees' work is pretty much getting a free look into the future of the writing world. It's an honor and a joy.) I'm so grateful to Adroit, Peter LaBerge (who runs the journal and the program), my mentor Aline, and my peers for making this experience amazing. If you're going to be in high school in the coming school year—anywhere in the world!—and you write (fiction, poetry, journalism, scripts, experimental prose, etc.), I'd highly recommend applying to this program when apps open in spring 2016. 
  • My month itself was pretty uneventful! I'm gearing up for the school year, spending a lot of time (too much?) at home and/or with my family, and enjoying summer while it lasts.
  • At one point, though, there were wildfires in the mountains near where I live, and some passing winds blew the smoke from those fires into the city. When I say it was everywhere, I seriously mean everywhere. It was blanketing my neighborhood; it was cloaking the downtown area. The air quality got so poor that it was officially labeled "unhealthy." It was a pretty unsettling but interesting experience, I have to say. 
  • I went to a college information session featuring the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign, Johns Hopkins University, and Georgia Tech. 
    • I feel like I got a lot of good insights into each school, but I left feeling like the University of Illinois and Georgia Tech really weren't for me. (They both felt really STEM-focused, and while I admire and support anyone working with STEM, I myself don't plan on going into one of those fields. I feel that if I go to college somewhere that's really STEM-focused, then I won't be as much of a priority as STEM students while I'm there. Obviously I don't really want that.)
    • I'd already gone to a UChicago session once before, so I knew that their well-rounded liberal arts-based curriculum really appealed to me, plus I really liked their flexibility and their willingness to recognize a variety of intersecting interests. 
    • But I hadn't known much about Johns Hopkins before the session, so it was really cool to learn that they have a very flexible open curriculum and place an emphasis on research (even for non-STEM students!). They're also a liberal arts school, though not a lot of people know that.
  • I got my schedule for school! I'm taking it pretty easy school-wise this year so I can work on my extracurriculars and Do Productive Things. I also took my school picture and oh my goodness. WHY do my pictures always end up being so terrible?
  • I'm super nervous for sophomore year, though. Oh my goodness. I know there isn't much reason to be, considering I'm only taking two IB classes this year, but I can't help it.

I've been watching

Oodles of good stuff to tell you all about this month! Lots of history, action, gorgeous visuals, and more.

I watched The Bletchley Circle on Netflix this month, and wow. This is such a cool show. Basically, this is a British mystery miniseries set in 1950s England, almost a decade after World War II, and it follows a group of four women—former code-breakers at Bletchley Park during the war!—who solve mysteries together now that the war has ended. Millie, Lucy, Susan, and Jean are linked by their intelligence, their friendship, and their shared desire to make a difference in the lives of civilians, though they no longer do intelligence work for the government (and are bound by law to keep their work at Bletchley Park a secret). What results from this incredibly powerful character dynamic is a clever, twisty, delightfully feminist series of mysteries that is also stunning in visuals and soundtrack. NYT has called it "a clever, entertaining way to pay tribute to women who in their time were often overlooked and underestimated, and nevertheless found ways to never be ordinary," and I couldn't agree more. Definitely a must-watch if you like mysteries, girl power, suspense, great characters, or any combination thereof.

Since one of the movie theaters near where I live has been selling tickets half off for Tuesday showings, my family and I decided to go see the new Mission: Impossible film. Yes, this movie definitely wasn't perfect (kind of generic, honestly, and nothing mind-blowing), and it certainly skated on the surface of ridiculousness more than once. But it was a lot of fun! There's something about the banter, action, and style of the Mission: Impossible franchise that I've always liked.
yay for motorcycle chases

I also watched the animation film Song of the Sea, and oh. Oh my goodness. What a treasure this movie is. I'd HIGHLY recommend this movie for fans of The Secret of Roan Inish and The Tale of Princess Kaguya—this is very, very high praise coming from me, considering how much I adore those two films. But I'm 100% not kidding when I say that Song of the Sea combines the wonder and mythology of Roan Inish with the absolutely brilliant art of Princess Kaguya. The art is gorgeous, the characters are adorable, and the movie is filled with magic and whimsy. Love love love. (Also I love watching non-US animation movies because the way they're approached is just so different and exquisite.)

(On a mostly unrelated note, this was nominated for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature along with Princess Kaguya and I'm SO bitter that they weren't given honors. Although the film that did end up winning was Big Hero 6 and I love that a lot, too. So. Tough year, I guess.)

My family borrowed this from the library, and I don't think I was anywhere near prepared for the emotional rollercoaster and intellectual insight that this film would provide. Idris Elba delivers an absolutely magnificent performance as Nelson Mandela, and Naomie Harris gives an equally brilliant one as his wife, Winnie. I think this movie did an incredible job of capturing the blatant racism and violent struggles that the apartheid system in South Africa was both born out of and reinforcing. There's also so much food for thought in terms of violence, protest, and ideals. This is not a comfortable movie because history is not comfortable. But it is, without a doubt, a very necessary film and stunningly executed. I loved it.

We went to see the Korean film Assassination (암살) at a local movie theater, which was cool because theaters in my area never show Korean movies. This was was a film about the Korean independence movement against Japanese colonial rule in the 1930s. Jun Ji-hyun (sometimes known as Gianna Jun) stars as talented sniper Ahn Ok-yun and kicks so much butt I can't even. I really appreciated the variety in the characters, as well as the action (Korean films tend to get a little more bloody than American ones, so that was an interesting change). But I think the most interesting aspect of this film was seeing the patchwork of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and western culture that existed in Korea and China in the 1930s. It was both aesthetically very intriguing (think of all the clothing styles and architectural bits mixing! cultural blending is fascinating oh my goodness) and very cool how all the characters could slip in and out of different languages. Admittedly I had to read subtitles here and there to be able to follow along completely, but I still really enjoyed the movie.

And last but not least, I watched the Cartoon Network series Over the Garden Wall on the recommendation of a friend. I really didn't know what to expect going in, but I came out super happy. This is kind of like a dark fairytale, but with some amazingly odd humor and really pretty backgrounds thrown in. It's fabulous. Wirt (pointy hat) and Greg (holding frog), the two main characters, are utterly adorable to watch, and I love the bluebird Beatrice's sass game so much. (And Wirt is BASICALLY ME.) Here, I'll show you:

Their character dynamic is so precious. Also, yay for magic everywhere. Plus, each episode is only a little over ten minutes long, and there are only ten or so episodes, so you can easily binge-watch the series in one sitting (which I did). 

Help, someone teach me how to Instagram

Remember, I'm @clocksandcages on Instagram if you want to follow along!
look at this gorgeous cake my mother baked. (meanwhile, i was being annoying.)
#bravenewotms is somewhat underway.
udon is my first and greatest love, tbh.

How was your August? Is the school year starting for you? Let's chat in the comments!

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Hey all! Alyssa (from The Devil Orders Takeout, naturally) created the awesomeness that is the Milk Tea Book Tag and tagged me for it, because milk tea is a Prominent Thing in Hong Kong (where Alyssa lives). And, as Alyssa points out, why should only western delicacies be subjects for book tags? 

I think this is very, very cool, although I've never tried milk tea. I should get on that. But first! Here's my response to the tag.

Tea: the foundation of your reading life

dashti my precious fierce kind queen i love you
This book is basically MY EVERYTHING. I read it sometime in elementary school, and it's been near and dear to my heart ever since. It has almost all of the elements that have set the bones of my reading skeleton: a fairy tale retelling plot, a diverse setting (I believe it's based on the Mongolian steppes? I mean HOW COOL), a kind and courageous protagonist, and a romance that makes my heart melt.

To be frank, Shannon Hale's books have influenced me so much—not only this one, but her Books of Bayern series and Princess Academy as well. So much girl power and magical goodness. So much brilliance. If you haven't read anything from her, you should get on that ASAP because I can assure you, your childhood has a Shannon-Hale-shaped hole in it.

Milk: a rich, smooth book

dragon books at their ABSOLUTE FINEST tbh
This duology is so, so precious to me. There are incredibly original, well-executed dragons, absolutely masterful worldbuilding (basically these are fantasy worldbuilding textbooks, please read and learn), epic diversity (one of the important characters in the second book is a trans woman of color? YES), nifty magic, plot twists and politics like whoa, and delightfully fleshed-out characters. Seraphina is a heroine who uses her head and heart equally, and she's also a nerd, which is great for us fellow nerds. In sum: I have no idea why these books are so underrated. The Internet should be ALL over them.

Sugar: a book you love but is controversial

okay but like the covers for this series are PRETTY HIDEOUS
okay these covers are pretty hideous as well but like WILL HERONDALE so i don't care
I've lumped nine books under one heading. My blog, my rules. 

Cassandra Clare's work as a whole seems pretty controversial in the literary world. She gets a lot of love and a lot of hate for pretty much anything she's done in her entire online/authorial career. But I absolutely adore the Shadowhunter world—I have zero shame about this, so don't try to get any embarrassment out of me—and I just love the characters and action scenes and relationships and magic system and everything. AND this series is just aesthetically really gorgeous, which works great for—you guessed it—aesthetic trash like myself.

Of the two series, though, The Infernal Devices has stuck with me more. Tessa and Jem and Will are on my imaginary list of Top Triumvirates, honestly. (Right up there with The 100's Bellamy/Clarke/Raven, as well as LotR's Legolas/Aragorn/Gimli.) Plus the Victorian era! And period-drama-style wit! Ugh, I have so much love for this series I can't. Also, the last three Mortal Instruments books weren't quite as great as the first three, at least for me, but oh my goodness. I just love Simon and Isabelle and Magnus too much to let them go? 

Ice: a book just for fun

This is a ridiculously fun, action-packed read that I picked up at the start of this year. It's definitely a must for steampunk lovers—the worldbuilding is really clever, and the banter is honestly so, so precious. Plus, there's an adorable ship and a firecracker of a heroine and some creepy villainous goings-on. It's not too heavy and a perfect mood-lifter, so it fits really nicely under this category.

Silk stocking: a book that's much better than it sounds

SHIIIIP — also i'm so so glad this got redesigned
I honestly thought I would loathe this book. It's super super out of my comfort zone—a fluffy Hollywood romance? Yeah, typically so not for me. I thought I was in for something shallow and corny. But Dahlia Adler pretty much hit it out of the park, with meaningful character dynamics, refreshingly realistic dialogue, incredibly readable narration, and SHIPPING POWER. She's probably one of my favorite contemporary authors period, although to my chagrin, I've yet to get my hands on Under the Lights (the sequel to Behind the Scenes). *adds to to-do list*

Yinyang: a book with foreign influence

the title text treatment though. also YAY for non-whitewashed covers

NOTE: By foreign, I'm going to assume you mean non-US or non-western. (I live in the US anyway, so.) 

Shadows on the Moon is a Cinderella retelling set in a Japan-inspired kingdom. Just hearing that description makes your eyes widen a little, right? RIGHT. It's also got revenge, illusions, intrigue, and gorgeous writing. It's fabulously diverse and really well-done. Plus, although Cinderella retellings have obviously been done to death, this story is a stunner and handles the retelling aspect nicely. This book isn't appreciated nearly as much as it should be and you really should read it so we can talk. 

I'm Tagging

...you! I would tag specific people, but Alyssa tagged a whole crowd, some of whom are mutual blogger friends of ours. So, dear reader, if you've stuck with me this long and you'd like to steal this tag for your own blog, go right ahead!

Isn't this a fabulous tag? Do you agree with my book choices? Let me know in the comments!

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Another mini-review—this one goes over Virginia Boecker's YA debut The Witch Hunter, which I think could have been a lot better.

Release Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Category: YA
Genre(s): Fantasy, alternate history
Pages: 368 (hardcover)
Format/Source: Paperback ARC, Received from publisher (Many thanks to Little, Brown!)
Your greatest enemy isn't what you fight, but what you fear.

Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past—if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.


a fun light read that, in retrospect, didn't click with me super well.

I first heard about The Witch Hunter because the author, Virginia Boecker, is part of the Freshman Fifteens (which you may remember as the group of 2015 debut YA authors that includes my lovely COMMON ROOM mentor Kim Liggett). At the time, it sounded like a really cool, action-packed, twisty YA fantasy—and you all know I'm always up for that. So I was ridiculously pleased to receive an ARC in the mail from Little, Brown.
and look the title page is gorgeous
The book was a really fast read—the pacing felt a little jerky at times, going back and forth from action to calm a little too quickly sometimes, but overall it was very snappy and speedy. There was lots of action and fight scenes, which is always nice, because I love reading fast fight scenes. This book is a definite page-turner. Actually, I was originally planning on rating this book a solid four stars, because while I was reading, I definitely enjoyed myself. It wasn't anything mind-blowing, to be sure, but it was fun.

However, I eventually decided to lower my rating because The Witch Hunter didn't hold up so well in retrospect.

While the characters were pretty endearing on the surface (resident 'mean girl' Fifer especially), none of them stood out to me as individuals I was deeply invested in. The heroine, Elizabeth, seemed serviceable but nothing special, and while I appreciate her willingness to question her own morals and address her flaws, she seemed very readily convinced to switch sides when it was convenient. Most of the side cast kind of fell flat, including the sweet but incredibly bland love interest (whose relationship with Elizabeth frankly screams instalove). Although the dialogue is cute here and there and I didn't outright hate anyone, there's not a ton of attention given to developing characters in a realistic and dynamic way, and that hurts this book overall.

I haven't read a lot of alternate history books, so when I figured out that this was one of them, I got really excited. Especially because this is an alternate spin on the Reformation in England, aka 1500s aka one of my favorite time periods ever to learn/read about. I thought that witch hunting, alternate Reformation, and magic would meld to produce an incredibly complex, layered storyworld. Unfortunately, it didn't really feel like that was the case. The magic wasn't anything all that different from what's already out there, as there wasn't a hugely original magic system. The rest of the worldbuilding wasn't that extensive, either; to me, it felt like a light fantasy world with a thin layer of semi-history on the surface. It wasn't bad worldbuilding necessarily; it just wasn't all that good, either.

The prose was fairly decent in that it did its job and let scenes play out without grating on my nerves, but it didn't stand out to me as especially well-crafted. However, I do tend to focus on style a lot as a reader, so it could be just me who wasn't satisfied by the writing. Also, at times I was really annoyed because the writing style itself felt like something of an anachronism, flip-flopping between a 'historical' tone and a modern one—I don't know about you, but I don't think the word 'okay' has a place in ANY version of sixteenth-century England. (According to Google, it didn't really come into use until the mid-1800s.) Little things like that kept bothering me as I was reading, and I think these distracting inaccuracies detracted significantly from my reading experience. Then again, I nitpick a lot, so they probably won't have quite as pronounced of an effect on many other readers.

Additionally, you can kind of see the twists coming from a mile off. I say this as someone who's usually ridiculously bad at guessing plot twists. It's really, really easy to surprise me with a plot because sometimes twists can be staring me right in the face several pages in advance and I. Won't. See. Them. But in this book nothing felt all that shocking, which was a letdown because the blurb seemed like it was promising a thoroughly convoluted plot.

There's also another thing that really, really bothers me about this book that feels very problematic. It's kind of a spoiler, so I'll enclose it with a button, but it forms a large part of my reasoning behind my rating. So I feel it's my duty to inform you all.


In the book, Elizabeth has a 'relationship' with the the king of Anglia, the alternate England where the book is set. It's essentially rape. But the book never delves into the trauma that this must have caused for Elizabeth, effectively using rape as nothing more than a plot device and spending little to no time exploring Elizabeth's resulting emotions or her recovery from this abuse. The rape doesn't really factor into Elizabeth's character at all, and it's not used to discuss sexual violence in depth. To me, that's incredibly disappointing and I feel it trivializes the experiences of survivors.

I'd say give this a shot if you're looking for something quick and fun, but go in knowing that it's not perfect. If you're looking for a truly groundbreaking YA fantasy, I personally think that you'd be much better served elsewhere.

Favorite Quotes

I'm quiet for a moment, enchanted by the idea of something stealing over you, settling into you, and telling you, with absolute certainty, who you are and what you're meant to do.

So what do you think? Is this something you'd like to try out or is it not for you? Or, do you have a favorite debut of 2015 so far?

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