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The One in Green and Gold

I'm going to Homecoming this weekend! I'm very excited to return to my beloved Virginny for a few days, and to see my darlin' Carlin and my sorority family (I now have a Little Little Little Little Little!!) and RA friends and freshman hall friends and student government friends, and--I think you get the picture. I've basically been skipping around in circles for the past few days. Perhaps this will not come as a very big surprise, but Carly and I have plans to sit and read/study in Swem. Really. I think we're actually going to block out an hour or two and go smell books and play with the computers and kick underclassmen out of "our" Swem tables. There is pretty much no one else I would rather do this with. In preparation for Homecoming (and because I'd been thinking about doing it for months and months), I got my hair cut:

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It's actually shorter than it looks in that picture, if you can believe it. All in all, I got about five or six inches cut off--which was a lot more than I thought I would. I actually really love it, even though I can't do much with it. (It needs to grow out an inch or two before I can braid it or wear it in a normal-looking ponytail) I got it cut on Sunday, but I kept forgetting about it and jolting every time I saw myself in a reflective surface. My mom did point out a flaw in the haircut--namely that my plan to do my vision of Hermione Hair for Halloween has been somewhat ruined. I'm not sure I can crimp/curl/frizz it without looking like a poodle, but we shall see!

Homecoming is making me super nostalgic, so I will just leave you with this--a picture of Freshman Alex molesting the often-molested statue of Thomas Jefferson in Colonial Williamsburg:

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P.S. Posted another (longer) teaser for Black is the Color. See if you can find it ;)

The One That's 5x5

Alas, must do a quick post before I dig back into writing! Here's a fast 5x5 meme for all of you book lovers! 5 Books I've Read Recently 1. Divergent by Veronica Roth 2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins 3. Across the Universe by Beth Revis 4. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins 5. Firelight by Sophie Jordan

5 Books I'm Planning to Read (in the near future) 1. The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman (must... finish...) 2. Delirium by Lauren Oliver 3. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins 4. Revolution by Jennifer Donnolley 5. The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

5 of My Favorite Books 1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling 2. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien 3. Matilda by Roald Dahl 4. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot 5. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

5 of My Least Favorite Books 1. Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence 2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte 3. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein 4. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne 5. Moby Dick by Herman Melville

5 of My Favorite Book-to-Film Adaptations 1. Howards End 2. Pride and Prejudice 3. The Princess Bride 4. Lord of the Rings 5. Blade Runner

Now it's everyone else's turn to answer... :)

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The One in Defense of the Girl Who Was on Fire

I CANNOT BELIEVE I ACTUALLY HAVE TO WRITE THIS POST. Maybe I'm just feeling particularly protective of Katniss after what she's been through, but I need to get this off my chest before I HULK-SMASH my keyboard. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

This post at Forever YA has me REALLY worked up. Obviously there is some serious Team Gale sour grapes there, but the implication that Katniss just surrendered to a meaningless life and gave Peeta children against her will--that she could have had this glorious future in rebuilding the country and stepping up to be a real leader--grates on my already frayed nerves.

I can't claim to understand Katniss completely. For example, I still have NO IDEA why she would ever vote in FAVOR of having a Hunger Games with the Capitol children. And she votes "Yes... for Prim," which makes even less sense because she went into the HG to protect Prim, and after everything that happened to Rue and the Capitol children being bombed--you'd think it'd be the last thing she'd want.

But, I digress.

First, from what Plutarch says as Katniss is being brought back to 12, she's basically been banished there. She's not allowed to leave. And even if she could, she's been discredited at her "trial" and has been reduced in the public eye to what amounts to a confused, troubled girl who killed their future, "respected," leader Coin in a fit of insanity. They might have executed her for it, if the doctor hadn't put that argument forward (Is that what everyone really believes? Sad...). So that's a wrinkle in the idea she can go out and be a trailblazing leader. It's likely she has no legitimacy left.

Second, Katniss doesn't just settle for Peeta. She CHOOSES him. She chooses him over and over again in MOCKINGJAY. The moment that he came back so badly hijacked and damaged? Even Gale recognized that Peeta--from that point on--would completely fill Katniss' world. And, yes, she does abandon him to go to District 2--likely because she's in incredible emotional turmoil, pain, and can't stand to be around someone who confirms all of her worst fears about herself. But the moment she chooses Peeta, actively and wholeheartedly, is (in my mind, at least):

It's a long shot, it's suicide maybe, but I do the only thing I can think of. I lean in and kiss Peeta full on the mouth. His whole body starts shuddering, but I keep my lips pressed to his until I have to come up for air. My hands slide up his wrists to clasp his. "Don't let them take you from me."

Peeta's panting hard as he fights the nightmares raging in his head. “No I don't want to..."

I clench his hands to the point of pain. “Stay with me."

His pupils contract to pinpoints, dilate again rapidly, and then return to something resembling normalcy. "Always," he murmurs.

Up to that point, after her phone call with Haymitch (in which he flips the situation around and asks her how Peeta would be treating her if she were the hijacked one), she's trying to get him back. She's trying to remind him of who he is and who he is to her. This seemed to be the moment where he really starts to come back to himself. Later, we still see him affected by flashbacks (these are cited at the end of the last chapter), but never once is it hinted that he still feels these urges to kill Katniss, or even hurt her. She didn't settle for an abusive husband, she didn't condemn herself to a life of misery--she chose a life in which they can both help one another heal.

It was clear to me from the beginning of CATCHING FIRE, with the quiet moments of them comforting each other on the train, that Gale didn't stand a chance. Gale was never going to understand what she and Peeta had gone through together, and that was made perfectly clear by the fact he couldn't begin to fathom her distress at seeing her prep team so badly treated.

Besides, all along, what have Peeta and Katniss been doing, both inside the games and out?

“You’re still trying to protect me. Real or not real,” he whispers.

“Real,” I answer. It seems to require more explanation.

“Because that’s what you and I do. Protect each other.”

She, Peeta, and Haymitch are a little dysfunctional family--but they're the only ones that really understand each other. It's sad that she and Gale can no longer be friends, but all of his actions and planning in 13 make it perfectly clear that his fire and desire for revenge far out-powers even her own. Go back and re-read the beginning of CF, when she mentions the uprising in District 8. Look at his reaction. This wasn't a new aspect of his character. They have two completely different visions of the world; at one point they might have been in line with one another, but I think it was only on a superficial level. They both might have thought, "The Capitol is evil," but Gale was the one thinking, "And I'm going to find a way to bring them down."

Apparently because her mom (don't get me started on HER), Prim, and Gale are all gone, she just thinks, "Well, shucks, I guess I'll be a housewife and pump out some babies." WHAT? Katniss tells you that they all go back to their own routines. She hunts, Peeta bakes, and Haymitch drinks. That's what she wanted from the beginning. They find comfort in the normalcy of it, and that's what allows them to start healing again.

Third, since when has Katniss EVER been a revolutionary? Since when has she ever felt the same burning desire Gale did to get out in the world and shake things up? All along, she's motivated by her desire and need to protect the people she loves. She goes into the Hunger Games not to take a stand against the government, but to protect Prim. She agrees to take up the mantle of Mockingjay because it'll mean her loved ones will be taken care of in a way they otherwise wouldn't be. She's an accidental revolutionary; people are inspired by her, but she's not actively trying to inspire THEM. They're reacting to her natural reaction to these hugely violent, terrible, traumatic events.

If you want to get really technical here, Peeta is the politician of the two. Katniss and Coin acknowledge this over and over again. He's the one that plants the idea in Katniss' head that they shouldn't just be pawns in the Capitol's games. He's the one that tells her that they should live and die on their own terms, and not let the Capitol control their actions. This directly inspires a good portion of her most important "revolutionary" moments. See: the berries in book 1. Or the scene of her pleading with the guy in District 2.

Fourth, why is everyone all pissed off that she has kids with Peeta? Katniss says in both HG and CF that she doesn't want kids BECAUSE SHE DOES NOT WANT THEM TO END UP IN THE GAMES. BECAUSE THE WORLD IS NOT SAFE FOR THEM. Peeta has wanted kids all along, yes, because his vision of the world and his hope for the future have always been stronger than hers. It takes him "five, ten, fifteen years" to convince her to have kids, because it takes her "five, ten, fifteen years" to be convinced that peace has a chance of sticking, and the darkness of the world isn't going to consume them.

And that "terror" Katniss describes? That's the terror that most first-time mothers feel bringing a child into a world that is less-than-perfect. I thought the fact that she eventually did have kids ended the book on an optimistic note, because it implied she was at a point in her healing that even she believed the world could and would become a better place. Like Peeta would ever harass her into having children against her will--that's an insult to both of them.

Also, I also think it was a good decision to leave the children unnamed--you've seen what happened with the next generation of HARRY POTTER and TWILIGHT. I doubt Katniss calls them "Boy" and "Girl." to their faces, guys.

And, and, AND--why in the world are people claiming she'd be a terrible mother? Where are people getting that from? Granted, I'm sure it's difficult for their children to see their parents still suffering over all these years, but I do think Katniss has a strong maternal instinct. She's the one that provided for her mother and sister for years. You can see it in how she treats Prim and Rue. For as tough and standoffish as Katniss can be, she can also be very tender. She comes outright in the epilogue and says that her children make her incredibly happy, and have been a large part of why she's healed as much as she has.

Fifth, I think people who saw this trilogy as a big statement on war and politics and revolution must have been disappointed by MOCKINGJAY (especially that guy that came up with the whole Pearl Conspiracy Theory). For me, it’s always been a look at how violence and grief affects us on a personal level. This is why I valued the romance aspect of the series, even as everyone else was saying that the politics were the most important aspect. Romance was important, because it was important to Katniss and any future life she might have had.

At the end of this book, I was just glad to see Katniss out from under the thumbs of others. She was free from being forced to be a player in a game she never wanted to play.

Sixth, can we at least drop the idea that "fire" is a good thing? She's not ever going to be a "Phoenix." She can't rise from these ashes stronger than ever. Fire is used to symbolize the revolution and revolutionary movement, but it's Cinna who thrusts the title of "Girl on Fire" onto her by designing those costumes. And what did fire do to her and Peeta at the end of the book? It leaves them "fire mutts"--scarred emotionally and physically. Mutations of their former selves.

To conclude this long, rambling post, I'm going to steal from my roommate Julia, who posted under me in the FYA comments. She's one smart cookie:

It sort of reminds me of the end of The Dark Knight–it would have destroyed Gotham (Panem) to learn that Harvey (Coin) was actually a murderous lunatic, so Batman (Katniss) takes responsibility so the people can unite against him. A big theme of both Batman and The Hunger Games is the power of symbols: Katniss is much more powerful as an icon than as herself, and she knows this very well. Now, she gets to peacefully live out her life as a symbol of the devastating effects of the Hunger Games on young people, which fits a lot more comfortably than Hero or Leader.

The One with Thoughts on Mockingjay

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS BELOW THE CUT!!!

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I'm still recovering from reading this in one sitting yesterday. My thoughts haven't completely cooked, but I wanted to start trying to form them, if only so I can dig in and discuss with you lot!

- I'm forming this hypothesis that Buttercup actually represents Katniss in the story. Survivor, tough to win over, someone who people (apparently) enjoy playing games with. I teared up at the end when she breaks down and tells the cat that Prim is dead and not coming back.

- "The Hanging Tree" was SOO creepy and used so perfectly. I kept trying to figure out the melody of it, but I don't think that was, you know, the point. UGH. Suzanne Collins, you killed me.

- YOU ALSO KILLED PRIM AND FINNICK AND I AM STILL VERY DISTRESSED. I called my mom after finishing last night and tried to explain why I initially felt very disenchanted about things. It really has to do with Prim's death, and how she was the one that Katniss originally entered "the arena" of war for. Then again, I felt like I knew Finnick better (and, let's be honest, loved him even more after we leaned about how tragic his life as a victor was) and I actually had to put the book down and walk away for a moment when he died so horribly. Not that Prim's death wasn't horrible, but decapitation? I'm so glad he got to spend time with Annie, that they were able to get married in what was one of the few bright spots of the entire book (even if that, too, was only for show)

- PEETA. I'll be honest: I spoiled myself on Saturday. I knew how the book was going to end, which characters died, and so on and so forth. I realize this is crazy talk for those of you that went offline to avoid them, but I knew that this book was going to be dark, and I knew with work yesterday that I wasn't going to be able to sit and read it. (After I bought it at lunch, I was really distracted for the rest of the day. I should have hid it in my desk, but I kept sneaking peeks!) I overemphasize with characters, get bad secondhand embarrassment, and get overly worked up and stressed out in stories and situations like these. I needed to be able to come to terms with what happened before I read about it, otherwise I was never going to be able to enjoy the book.

That's all to say that I knew what was coming with Peeta. I knew he wasn't going to die, and that he and Katniss would end up together, but I totally underestimated how much it would wreck me to see him hijacked. In retrospect, this is an incredibly brave move on SC's part, because people loved Peeta for his sweetness. They loved him for his gentle nature and his interactions with Katniss and his hope for the future. What happened to him, for me, was worse than death, because she still lost the boy with the bread, only now she had to be reminded of it every time he looked her way. I was SO MAD AT HER for leaving him to go to District 2, because if the situations were reversed, Peeta would not have given up on her so easily.

It was smart, too, for another reason: SC was able to show without a doubt that Peeta wasn't a pushover. He wasn't weak. All along, people have been saying that Gale matches Katniss' strength and "kick ass" nature, but I think Katniss has always been somewhat of an unreliable narrator, especially in the beginning as she assesses how well she'll be able to handle things. She was never going into the Games to be a revolutionary or make a statement--like President Coin observes, it's Peeta who's the revolutionary, at least in his attitude and approach to the Games. While Katniss has reconciled herself to the dying, he's the one that tells her that he doesn't want to be a piece in their games, that he wants to die on his own terms. That idea fuelled many of her most important moments: the berries, her attitude about Gale's attack plan on District 2, etc. The truth is, even after he's hijacked, Peeta is still fighting to die on his own terms, to not become what the Capitol was trying to make him by pumping that venom into him.

What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that.

Yep. 'Nuff said. Gale always rubbed me the wrong way, and I thought (despite the kissing action) it was clear that things between him and Katniss were never going to work out because they wanted two very different things and, ultimately, had two very different viewpoints that couldn't be reconciled. I'm sad they lost their friendship, but, at that point, it didn't matter to me how loyal Gale was and how hard he fought to protect her and fight beside her--that wasn't what Katniss wanted or needed. People are going to complain there wasn't enough romance in this book, but I don't think this was the place for fluff. Besides, you can glean a lot about how much Katniss cares for a person by how tenderly she treats them. Take, for instance, when they're in the Capitol and how she has to grit her teeth to help clean Gale's wounds versus how carefully and sweetly she cleans Peeta's wounds. Peeta and Prim are the only ones (and Finnick and Haymitch on occasion, I suppose) that bring out this side of her.

- I was texting back and forth with Anna as we read and we were both doing bouncy claps over our prince, Peeta, making it through. My two favorite lines were definitely:

"You're still trying to protect me. Real or not real," he whispers. "Real," I answer. It seems to require more explanation. "Because that's what you and I do. Protect each other."

So after, when he whispers, 'You love me. Real or not real?' I tell him, 'Real.'

Ummm, I know I said there was no place for romance--but GUUUUUHHHH. Gorgeous.

- And a few funnies:

"Finnick?" I say. "Maybe some pants?" He looks down at his legs as if noticing his outfit for the first time. Then he whips off his hospital gown, leaving him in just his underwear. "Why? Do you find this" - he strikes a ridiculously provocative pose - "distracting?"

I created this by accident a few years ago, during a winter blackout. You simply wiggle a flashlight beam around on the floor, and Buttercup tries to catch it. I'm petty enough to enjoy it because i think it makes him look stupid.

- I still feel sad about the bittersweet ending between the two, even though they grew together again and it's clear that, though damaged, they did find some happiness. I find it weird that some people are claiming Katniss is a terrible mother based off of those two pages. Yes, Peeta was the one who wanted children, but she did relent and you know she wouldn't have if she felt (as she did in the first two books) that it was too dangerous and terrible of a world to bring children into. That's what gave me the most hope about the ending.

- I have a few complaints about the book. Like with HG and CF, I still have a hard time visualizing the set up of places and events. I think this might be because her writing style lends itself to reading as fast as possible, without stopping to process, but I was really confused about the Capitol's layout and the action there. SC has this thing, too, where she'll have Katniss get knocked out/injured/pass out, and then, in the next scene, another character will fill her in on everything she missed. That trick is a way to save the book from running on too long, but it always feels like cheating to me. She only did it once or twice in HG and CF, but here it must have happened a good four or five times.

- Also, I--like Katniss--was really disoriented by the end of the book, particularly in the way she was locked up/drugged/allowed to go crazy, the trial we never saw, and why her reasons for killing Coin NEVER come up during her trip back to 12. What the WHAT? Did everyone already know exactly why she did it? Did they also have reservations about her?

All in all, a heavy, heavy, heavy book. I know I shouldn't have been, but I was still surprised by the darkness. I'm glad SC didn't pull any punches in the end--that would have been a great disservice to both her characters and readers.

What did you guys think?

The One on the Move

Hi, hi! Talk about a busy week! Sorry for not popping in to say hello, but I worked late almost every single night last week so I could get everything off my plate in time for vacation this week. I even went in yesterday (Saturday) to finish one last thing, only to realize how stupid that was of me--because, um, duh, they turn the A/C off on the weekends. So I did feel like I was cooking in a glass box for the hour or two I was there. Oh well!

Orlando's airport is really interesting, by the way. Even the shuttle from the gates to the main terminal feels like an amusement park ride (or at least a very fancy pants subway). There's even a Hyatt hotel inside of this terminal, which is both strange and actually pretty smart. And, and, and! I got to have Panda Express for the first time in months upon months. So, really, I'm quite happy and impressed with Orlando so far. Internet high-five!

Right now, I'm parked besides this ENORMOUS blow up picture of DanRad as Harry Potter in what I think must be a little Universal Studios store...? My parents and younger brother should be coming in (hopefully) by 4:30... I'm trying to figure out which Star Wars shirt my dad is going to be wearing, if any. I can totally see him wearing this black one, but, on the other hand, he's the type that always gets dressed up to fly. I think that's probably a holdover from his childhood/upbringing. Does anyone else still feel like they need to wear a nice shirt and slacks to travel?

Other than that, I've been using my blogging time (and the rest of my free time!) to try to meet the ridiculous deadline I gave myself to finish my WIP. And, as my battery is about to die, I must bid you all adieu--but I promise to stay on top of blogging this week!

The One in the New Skin

Ah, if you're reading this on ab.com, you'll see that I threw up a quick new layout last night. I consider this one an ~in between~ layout until I can actually redesign the coding. After trying to futz around with Photoshop Elements I realized I needed to download real Photoshop to actually accomplish anything, so I'm currently playing around with a trial version of Photoshop CS5. It is... very different than CS3, which was the Photoshop I used on my last computer. Well, in any case, you'll have to forgive me because my web design skills are a wee bit rusty. This is the original image of the girls, if you're interested:

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Actually, I made it last night while I was watching Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I usually need something on in the background when I'm working in Photoshop, but this posed a bit of a challenge because it was in Swedish with English subtitles, so I kept having to look between the windows which slowed everything down. The movie is excellent, by the way--really, one of the best I've seen this year. I'm really bummed that they're going to make an English language version, if only because there's no way they'd ever be able to improve on the original.

More later--must keep writing!!