Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Book Series Review: Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness

Out of everything I have ever read, watched, seen and listened to, there are six things that have happened in fiction and art that have made me cry. These six things are:

  1. Dobby's death in the Harry Potter series 
  2. the ending of the second Narnia movie
  3. when Klaine broke up (both times)
  4. the last chorus in Waving Through a Window from Dear Evan Hansen
  5. The Art of Racing in the Rain 
  6. the entire Chaos Walking trilogy. (I was crying throughout, ok, it's time to explain)
Out of everything that I've ever read in my entire life, the Chaos Walking trilogy has put me through more emotions than everything else combined. I've never cried, shrieked, or made more of a scene on a public transport train before reading those books. I feel like these books have altered the way I view reading, and I will be surprised if anything I ever read again will surpass the ridiculously high bar that has now been set by these books. I love them so much and I love the characters so much and I honestly don't know what to do with all the love I am experiencing right now so I am channeling it into getting more people to read this series. Yes. Please read this. 

Okay, I should probably discuss why I love this series so much, right? That is the next step. Okay. 

Disclaimer: I will never be able to give this series the full justice it deserves.

The basic idea behind the first novel is a future civilization of humans living on a planet called New World after an ugly war with an alien species. Except, all of the women on the planet are dead and because of a germ released by the alien species, everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts always. It is a place where one is perpetually surrounded by Noise. The protagonist of the first book is a boy named Todd Hewitt, just on the cusp of becoming a man. He is the last in his town to become a man, and he has a very adorable talking dog. (I'm not doing the book much justice am I) One day, while Todd is walking in the forest, he comes across a silence in the Noise, and he uncovers a dark secret hidden in the Noise, and soon has to start running for his life. 

The first novel has many twists and turns and surprises, and even though there are a few moments you do see coming, there are also many others that have you in your seat, gazing down at your book, completely shell shocked at what you just read. The threads from the first book continue and are resolved in the next two, with each book piling on more depth and a deeper understanding of the world where the book is set as well as the main concepts of the book. 

The world building in this series is phenomenal, and you are painted a beautiful portrait of a world similar yet also quite different to our own. (I don't want to spoil everything, but as you see more of New World you also see the different cultures and dialects of the beings that live on it and it's fascinating). 

The deeper messages the book conveys are so incredibly powerful and vary from how powerful love is and how powerful your love for a person can be to redemption as well as sacrifice and forgiveness and trust(I have yet to really further analyse these themes but just reading the series as a whole makes the themes obvious as you can see the different parallels and recurring ideas). 

The writing style is so unique. In the second and third books the narrator alternates between two and then three characters and each has their own way of speaking. I usually dislike when books switch between several narrators, but Patrick Ness is such a literary genius that it all flowed together perfectly and I couldn't stop turning pages. The second book contained the most romantic battle scene I've ever read and it was so powerful I cried in the middle of Chapters and then collapsed on the floor and cried some more in the aisles when I couldn't find the third book twenty minutes later and then hallucinated seeing Daniel Radcliffe working there. The books have a lot of pages but are still each easy reads because of the way it is written, simply and beautifully.

The character development of even the secondary characters is better than what I've seen in most primary characters in most of the other books I have read. The two main characters are on a whole new level of complex and incredible and are both now on my list of top 5 favourite fictional characters. I empathized with both of them and fell completely in love with both of them, understood their actions even when they were being foolish, and remained in awe the whole time at how well-written they were.

Lastly, the romance in this series. Holy. Moly. I have never been able to fall in love with a fictionaol relationship so easily before. I felt every emotion both characters felt and cried at every turn and just wished for their happiness. I felt their pain. I felt their love. Both characters were teenagers and I couldn't believe how seriously the author took teenage love, and how he put these two people together and made them fall for each other and made me fall for their falling for each other. There was such an excitement-inducing slow buildup to the two characters officially getting together, but it also was clear all along just how in love they were with each other and how they were meant to be.

I've never read or watched anything like that in my life where love between teenagers was represented as such a powerful, unbreakable thing. Patrick Ness has a remarkable understanding of teenagers, and I've never seen an author respect and understand what it is truly like to be a teenager and to feel such strong emotions. It was the least stereotypical romance I've ever had the pleasure of reading about. Both characters were flawed but they both loved each other so much nonetheless.

I think the peak in my emotions was the four minute long voice recording I sent to my friend while tears poured down my face of me explaining why I loved the series so much and in particular the two main characters and their love for one another. There are tear stains in my book.

There are tear stains in my book. 

source

Patrick Ness, I just want to thank you for creating this beautiful underappreciated world and these extraordinary teenage characters and for being the reading highlight of my summer.

In conclusion, I think this is one of the longest blog posts I've ever written and if you manage to make sense of all this word vomit, then good for you. The main point I'm trying to make is that Chaos Walking is beyond words astounding and I'm so thankful I came across it. Writing this post was semi therapeutic for me as no one who I've ranted to about it has cared very much. Being able to write down all my feelings on the subject was helpful.

please read this book

-Oakstar 

Friday, 1 September 2017

Nineteen Years Later

So, this is it.

Nineteen years later.

The last day where we know canonically what is going on in the magical world of Harry Potter.

I can only picture it in my head. Children giving their parents fleeting hugs goodbye as the train comes rolling into the station, the whistles signifying the start of another nine to ten months of cold, echoing hallways and warm fires and running to Herbology in the rain and racing up the towers to get to misty Divination.

My sentence structure isn't great today because I'm simply not okay. Everything seems a little off balance.

For nearly half my life, in my mind, Hogwarts has been a safe place I can escape to when normal life hurts too much to process, when I just need to remind myself that love and friendship and bravery are stronger than fear and that the most important things in life can't be taught in school. It was somewhere familiar. It was the world off of which I built everything I am today and everything I will continue to be.

I've said it so many times before but I simply don't know where I would be without Harry Potter, and frankly, I don't know if I would like myself. Reading those books and connecting to Hermione and feeling empathy for every single character was the first time I really understood empathy and the start of me trying to figure out exactly who I am today.

I can't believe the timeline is over. The books that sparked a decade of movies, a musical adaptation, a puppet show, a play, several interesting types of chocolate, and the hearts and minds of millions of men and women around the world. I am so blessed and lucky to be a part of the Harry Potter generation, to witness its everlasting growth and impact on so, so many people. I owe who I am to a bizarre combination of Hermione, Luna and Ginny. I owe my love of reading to the series itself. I subconsciously chose the school I have been attending for over three years because its uniform reminded me of the Hogwarts uniform. But most importantly, we all owe everything to Joanne Rowling, who created the fully immersive universe that gave everyone something to hold onto.

I am so, so grateful.

Every first of September I get slightly more Harry Potter obsessed than I am on an everyday basis, but this year it touched me more than other years. Harry has completely grown up and so has the Harry Potter universe, and I am growing up too. Maybe it's how we will never again be able to reenter the canon Harry Potter timeline, just like how sooner than I realize, I will never be able to reenter certain periods of my life.

Maybe it's how everything ends, even everything we love.

But.

We will still keep introducing Harry Potter to our children, and their generation will probably fall just as hard, and Harry will live on, just like the love represented in the series about him, and we will keep on discovering new things to love about the series, and it will have an everlasting impact on all of us in some little way, whatever that little way may be.

So for now, I will try not to cry and try to accept the exciting changes that will come.

I'm not going home, not really.

source

Friday, 18 August 2017

Love Yourself (for what's on the inside too)

There is so much talk in our current society about body positivity and loving yourself for no matter what you look like. The fact that you are beautiful no matter your freckles, your scars, the size of your nose or your disproportionate neck. And while I agree that this is very important as I've seen people I love get down on themselves about how they look, and it is important we love ourselves in the body we have as it is only ours, I think that we are not discussing something that is equally important yet just as awful of an issue. That is the matter of loving ourselves for what's on the inside as well.

I personally don't care that much about what I look like. I don't think I'm particularly disgusting, but I don't think I'm amazingly attractive either. I struggle with a couple aspects of my appearance but at the end of the day I am able to push past them and love myself  nonetheless, and I can even name things that I genuinely like about the way I look.

happy bean stagedooring Dear Evan Hansen
due to an accident, one of my front teeth is darker than the other ones, but I still smile really wide in photographs.


However, when it comes to my own character flaws or the mistakes that I make, I have trouble accepting and forgiving myself. I bother my own self and the little things that bother me start to eat me alive.

I'm too awkward, I'm a procrastinator, I lack motivation (you get the point).

And when I'm left alone with my thoughts, I begin repeating those phrases to myself over and over, letting them take control of me and my happiness and the confidence in myself. Because I am perpetuating them through my mindset, I even begin acting on them, proving to myself that I am nothing but my own negative traits.

I can't be the only one who does this. Who lets the less wonderful things about themselves take consume them, until they feel like nothing but the things that keep them up at night.

It's not something that's good or healthy. We should be doing the opposite. We should recognize that we have flaws and recognize that it's okay to have them, that we are human and living and breathing and making mistakes and growing from them.

We can't be stagnant and pretend that we are perfect, godlike omniscient beings, because that's when we truly become unlikeable people. But we can't wallow in our own self pity due to the things we believe are wrong about ourselves.

We are imperfect, messy, mistake making creatures, and we learn from making mistakes. We should love ourselves enough to be able to realize our flaws, figure out the real reasons behind them, and then work toward growing and stopping doing the actions that are hurting ourselves and others.

To end the confusing jumble of words I'm sure this post was, I want to stress the idea that loving yourself, period, is the key to literally anything else good in life and is the key to true happiness. I'm not saying that I have this all figured out, but I think we can all figure out the best way to love ourselves together.

-Oakstar

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

DEH, Chris Colfer, and Summer Camp

I've been very quiet on the blogosphere recently, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking and growing and experiencing lots of different things in life.

I've been on two road trips since I last posted. The first one was to New York City to see Dear Evan Hansen. This has been my favourite musical for about six months, and it has given me as well as the people around me so much joy and a sense of belonging. Waving Through a Window is the most played song on my phone, and half of the soundtrack is on my top twenty five most played. It is such a beautiful story with complex colourful characters and the entire cast is so talented. Ben Platt's vibrato is my favourite thing ever.

The day I spent in New York City was absolutely perfect. This was my second time in New York City. I don't know exactly how to put this, but something happens to me when I stare up at the billboards for Broadway in Times Square. I see dreams surrounding me. Suddenly, there are little bursts of stars everywhere and I have an out of body experience.




The other one was to Boston for two nights to see Chris Colfer on his last Land of Stories book tour. Yes. After casually mentioning my obsession every few posts for the last year, I got to see my role model in person. I asked him a question about Struck by Lighting, which was the movie I watched and the book I read that helped me come into myself over the last few years. I got to connect with Chris for a brief moment and he thanked me directly for reading his book. It was one of the best nights of my life. The road trip itself was a blast as well- I went with my mom, one of my dear friends and her mom, and we got to explore Boston the next day and meet several interesting people; aspiring writers and artists and musicians.

Apart from those two equally amazing trips, the past month I've been working as an assistant counselor at a summer camp side by side with some of my other dear friends. Getting to the camp happens to take an hour and a half but public transit and the building is four floors and sweltering hot, but I've discovered that it was all worth it. Each day created a new memory. I had never been around that many kids before and I was surprised to find out that I actually really do enjoy children, and in the end it was hard to say goodbye to them.

  Catching up, some of my July favourites were:

Music: I've gotten really tangled up in the band Oh Honey. They have such sweet music and harmonies and they are very underappreciated.

Shows/Movies: I bingewatched all of season four of The Fosters, and I'm rewatching Glee again.

Books: Currently rereading The Humans (this time for school, which I think I ranted about at this time last year), as well as reading Gone and The Knife of Never Letting Go (Manchee is the goodest boy).

Food: The metro where I'd get off to work at the summer camp sold bubble tea. I'm not going to go any further into it for fear of embarrassing and outing my bubble tea addiction.

All in all, the last month has been pretty fantastic for me, and now that I'm free pretty much 99% of the time I am probably going to be blogging about a lot more.

How was your July? Let me know in the comments!

-Oakstar

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Would You Run


The following poem is inspired by my time at Arrowhead Museum and my understanding of Herman Melville's time there, as well as my own brief time there. 

Would You Run

Would you run through the meadow,
If within the long blades of grass there were creatures yearning to bite at your ankles
Would you run?

Would you run through the fields,
If you knew that soon the clouds up above and cast a shadow, making them devoid of light 
Would you run?

Would you run down a lonely road,
If darkness lingered along the path, waiting to snatch you as you passed it by
Would you run? 

Would you run to the trees,
If you could discover the maggots that live under ripped up bark 
Would you run?

Would you run up to your room,
If the ocean below you was but a dipped, rickety floor, but below there still swam sharks just like the sharks in your head
Would you run?

Would you run far north,
If the mountain ahead would reveal to you secrets you had been keeping from yourself the whole time you stared and wondered
Would you run? 

But do I need to ask, 
One more time
Because you wouldn't run, my darling, 
You would fly. 

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Moments

I write stories in my head as well as things like this, and they never come out on paper in the same way that they are imagined. Life never comes out the way it is imagined either, in the moments we plan before we are struck by sleep. It is never something absolutely perfect, but it can come close when we are caught up in the present.

Most moments like that, for me anyway, feature people. Her dancing on the marble floor as the sun set behind the obelisk. The night we laid on an empty tent platform under the stars and spoke words of the significance of our existence.  

Humans are strange creatures. They look for meaning in each other and in their own everyday lives. They hold onto near perfect little moments as if they last lifetimes. As much as my early life was spent trying to fight the fact that I was human, I see now the subtle beauty of our imperfect minds. We cling onto our good feelings; construct monuments and temples around them, until we find a lot of it. Perfect moments that work like dopamine inside and outside of us, giving us breath so we crave more.

Humans imagine those moments as if they are perfect, and in their minds they create crystalline worlds to which they can escape when reality comes crushing on their shoulders. Life goes by fast in waves of passion and pain and feeling, and then those waves return in the land of the semi-conscious before dreams, with heightened sense and emotion, little shooting stars behind the eyelids.


In this world, people fight, and cry tears of anger, and fall out of love, and diamonds don’t shine, they refract light coming from someplace else. But humans hold onto the hope of something more than a refraction of light, more than an awkward aversion of the eyes, and something more than what we've come to know in our every day mess of our lives. 

______________
so here's another writing thing
-Oakstar

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Some Writing

This started off with an idea for a song, but grew rapidly into something that was not quite a poem or a story, but rather a piece of some sort that I can not really explain. 

The writing itself is rather rough. In fact, by the standards I have set for myself, I would rate it very low.  I haven't taken much time to proofread and edit it- basically, what you see is a string of my thoughts put down on the page. I didn't inspire myself off of anything tangible. I hope you enjoy nonetheless, and if you have any ideas for titles, please comment down below as I have absolutely no clue.

________________________________

It seems to be written in our human code that we should fight against our own selves. We don’t believe we deserve things the way we want them. We don’t believe we have it in us to achieve what we desire. Every day seems a battle against what we had won before.

We don’t know why we fight so hard. We fall into a pit of darkness, truly uncomprehensive of the damage we have done unto ourselves. We blame others because we are too afraid of facing the shame. It appears that every last inch of life has been sucked out of us, by the cruel, cold world of which we are a part.

But slowly, as we embrace the night we have become, we realize there is a glow of warmth.  It is merely anything there, barely enough to hold our life, but enough, if strongly believed in.

That is because we think we’re ash, but we’re actually ember. And through all of the smoke and burnt dreams, we will rise again. We will conquer. We will prevail. Holding onto whatever essence of humanity we have left, we will stand up. Across an eternal pit of grey we will reach out one to another, and for a moment, our fingertips will touch. And there will be a ripple that races across the world and the solar system and eventually the galaxy. And we will stand, forever at the epicenter of a massive earthquake of love. Love will undulate across everything that matters, everything that exists, tangible or intangible.  We will create energy untouchable by no other than God Himself, and our energy will be what will revitalize the souls of creatures young and old.

But in that moment of rich, profound complexity and connectedness, it will all seem so simple. Just people, reaching out to form a bond.

Because no one understands, and we don’t understand, why humans love so deeply and so powerfully. We don’t understand why we cling so tightly to the bonds that we form, and we don’t understand why we form these bonds. Is it purely for the survival of our species, or is it for something that we do not yet have the capacity to explain? Is it really that hard to let go, or have we made it hard for ourselves for reasons we choose not to comprehend?

And as the stars twinkle above us, as our souls mesh together to create a fabric that time cannot touch, we will decide that we are better together, and that we will never be able to fall out of love. We could stop loving the parts of ourselves that we see in each other, but we could never stop loving the reasons we chose to love so fiercely in the first place. And in that instant we will reside for a forever.
We are a host of memories and dreams and reality, and all that we withhold seems to become one, showering us with rays and rays of light.

Days of cynicism seem to fall behind us, making a crooked path for optimism and radiance.
And we glow. We glow because we are so in love with each other, with ourselves, with everything that lives and breathes and completes us and our world.

 Love is the only thing.   

_____________________________

Much love,
Oakstar