Review: Grave Mercy

Ah. This book. This is my official favorite book of all time. I dare anyone to prove me wrong.

It’s a borderline obsession. Maybe not so borderline, actually. I have reread this book so many times that I have lost track well into the thirties. And that was over a year ago.

obsessed

That’s right. I’m dedicated. That’s the lie I tell myself everyday.

Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage to the respite of the convent of St. Mortain. Here she learns that the god of Death has blessed her with dangerous gifts and a violent destiny. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. But how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who has stolen her heart?

Plot:

Alright then, I’m just going to say right now that this book is historical fiction about fifteenth century France. So, if historical fiction and French history repels you, you may not think this book is the greatest. That being said, I do not think you have to be knowledgeable about the topic to enjoy this book. I did not even know that the setting, Brittany, was a thing until I read this book. It is heavily political without being boring.

Characters:

Ismae: She is one of my favorite characters of all time. What I specifically enjoyed was her growth through the book. Some characters, while they may be good characters and enjoyable to read about, are fairly static throughout the book. Ismae, on the other hand, is very dynamic, starting off as a naive girl who blindly follows and develops into a free thinker, able to formulate her own ideas and sticking to them even when everything she has been told goes against this. I believe this to be an admirable trait, and she serves as a role model for her readers.

Duval: I don’t think I am giving anything away when I mention that he is the main love interest in the book. One could comprehend that just by reading inside the book cover (which is different from the above listed description). I absolutely adored Duval. He has a point other than his relationship with the main protagonist (freaking finally, am I right fellow YA readers?) and he is very smart, doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and has a dry sense of humor that I very much appreciate. You know what, just read the damn book, then you’ll understand. Duval is one of those characters one must experience first-hand through the story.

Anne: As the heir to the Breton Duchy, Anne is under tremendous pressure for someone so young (she is twelve or thirteen during the events in the book). She is trying to manuver against France and keep power with the duchy, while aso trying to marry a husband with enough power to secure Brittany. Needless to say, Anne is very mature for her age, poised throughout the book, even in circumstances where people twice her age would crack. Sometimes, especially around her little sister Isabeau, she is more like other children and has a sense of humor similar to her half-brother Duval. The relationship between Duval and Anne was also very well done. I think she may be a little too mature for her age, but given the time period her actions are a bit more realistic.

Beast and de Lornay: These characters were introduced as Duval’s friends near the beginning. I really loved Beast, with is kind and likable demeanor, but I did not really like de Lornay. That is, until the end. I will not give anything away, but everything wraps up very nicely.

Chancellor Crunard: A shadowed character if there ever was one, from the beginning not much is known about Crunard, at least from Ismae’s perspective. As more facts are brought to light, Crunard becomes more and more integral to the plot. I will stop here, to avoid giving anything away. Just go read the book, damn it.

Count d’Albret: d’Albret is the main antagonist of the book, and he is pretty f*cking slimey. Sometimes I would read his descriptions and just cringe. I mean, read this line

He is tall and fat, and a brisly black beard covers his face. Amid all that blackness, his lips stand out like wet pink slugs.

The slug thing creeps me out. While not particularly subtle or complicated, d’Albret is a very real threat in this novel and his schemes thicken the plot significantly.

Sybella and Annith: While not mentioned much in the book, Annith and Sybella influence Ismae and help shape her into the person she is. Without the help of Annith and Sybella, I doubt that many of the things that played out in the book would have occured. The next two books in the trilogy, Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart, follow their storylines, so check those books out for more information on Sybella and Annith.

The Abbess: The Abbess is one of those people you hate becuase of how bitchy they are, but you can’t help but admire just how bitchy they are. Even though you know she is on the ‘good’ side and she is the abbess of the convent Ismae follows, she is a hardcore bitch but is so damn good at it. She twists people words and corners them so adeptly that it is really awesome and irritating at the same time, especially for Duval.

Writing Style

You’re either going to love or hate this writing style. It’s first person, present tense (not that uncommon), but the language is more antiquated, even when discussing Ismae’s thoughts. The perspective of the book is limited to Ismae, so we don’t get any other POVs or outside information. I liked this aspect because the entire point of the book is Ismae’s journey through emotion and the era; knowing all the plot twists and throwing in anachronisms in general would just be distracting. Sometimes the writing can be a bit choppy and the timing of events questionable, but nothing glaring enough to detract from the novel as a whole.

Cover

I really liked the cover, but even I have to admit that it is a bit generic. Not too much, mind you, but it’s nothing very new. That being said, it does accurately portray what the book will be about (the crossbow even specifically pops up in a few seens) without gilding the lily.

grave mercy

Final Thoughts

I know that this book isn’t perfect. I know that it has flaws and that some people may not like it. Even still, it is definitely my favorite book because it is unique. I feel like so many books these days, especially in YA, are so bland and overdone. Too many carbon-copies are being shipped out via assembly line to be bought up by fifteen-year-old lonely school girls.

It is set in the 1400s in Brittany, France (who honestly knows where that is in middle school if you don’t live there?), the main character challenges the established mind set and religion not because she thinks that everything needs to be revolutionized, but because she cannot personally dedicate herself fully to the task, and the main love interest is not some asshole, generic guy with no other purpose than be hot (Ismae even notes that he isn’t super handsome) and hold the protagonist down. Everyone in the book, with a few exceptions, just felt real. Christ, this book made me research the history and politics of Brittany. If it could do that, it’s some pretty powerful shit.

Score:

9.1

READ IT

 

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Fictionpress

Dear people, 

Thank you for giving my blog views. I have neglected this page for a long time, but somehow still got views, so thank you.

Speaking of views, I have been publishing on Fictionpress.com under the name Ismae Rienne. My ongoing story is called Sonorous, and it is focused on music (surprising, right?).

I think it’s pretty good, so check it out if you are so inclined. I will put a link in here somewhere. 

https://m.fictionpress.com/u/1091593/Ismae-Rienne
Ah, there it is. 

On another note, I am working on a lavender handbag, which is pissing me off. But what else is new, am I right? 

Updates and Other Nonsense

Hello peeps, 

I know it’s been radio silence for a while, but this is my blog so I do what I want. I’m just posting some off my recent hobbies for people to maybe see (I’m not desperate for attention btw, but it does seem like that)

Crochet:

I just opened an etsy shop with some jellyfish and bags! It’s called flashysplashycrochet and I will be adding more items when I get around to working on some

Music: 

I am working with my new microphone on a piece featuring flute and clarinet, now that I have something to get a good sound with. I’ll give you a hint: Charlotte Church

School:

In about two weeks I will be moving off the Fordham University in NYC. I’m both stressed and excited, but it will certainly be an adventure.

That’s pretty much it for now. I have another post in the works, but who knows when I’ll get around to that. 

Sex Education: Fun Times, Good times

Ah, sex. Great dinner topic, am I right?

Many people are very uncomfortable with this subject and I can kind of see why. It’s the same way people are uncomfortable with discussing their recent bowl movement with their neighbors. Not only is it TMI, but also it is kind of a warning sign you should maybe pick a different living community.

At the same time, it is a natural part of human life. Why should people be embarrassed?

In school, at least in the USA, sex is not covered until seventh grade in public school. Sure, teachers go over basic anatomy in fifth and sixth grade, but nothing about intercourse; its just a basic run down of puberty so girls don’t think they are dying when they first get their period.  If you go to a private school, though, the admin has a lot more leeway with sexual instruction, so some worm their way out of teaching it at all.

Cause ignorance is bliss, right?

I’m going to narrate my experience in the sexual education system. My experience may be different from others, but that goes without saying. Without further ado, let’s dig in.

In fifth grade, there was a special day where girls and boys split up into unisex groups and went to separate classrooms for “The Talk.” My group went to the science teacher for the gifted program. There we sat down and the teacher presented a PowerPoint with information about the general female anatomy and menstruation. There were no specifics regarding male genitalia that I can remember and the presentation took about twenty to thirty minutes. After that was the question period where the teacher would answer questions, or we could write one down on a piece of paper and she would answer them at the end. The whole process went smoothly, and the teacher did her best to explain everything clearly.

In sixth grade, the same information was presented by the science teacher, but this time it was worked into the regular class schedule, so girls got physical information on both sexes.

In seventh grade, the school required students to take a comprehensive class about health. This class included dietary, physiological, and sexual education for one semester. This was the class most kids were introduced to sex via the school system. They may have had prior knowledge, as I did, going into the class. My teacher began with the basic anatomy, the whole shindig. She kind of glossed over what sexual intercourse actually was, opting for the ever-popular approach, “does anyone not know what sex is?” Like a middle schooler is going to honestly answer no. After that, she took several days to discuss the whole thing, and it was very informative.

Eighth grade gets a little sketchy. My original teacher moved to Texas due to a family situation and my class received a replacement teacher. He gave us a newspaper to read and annotate about the Lake Worth Lagoon for a month. Then he gave us a pamphlet on sex ed and had us read it out loud in class. That was it.

I just love knowing tax dollars went into this very in depth instruction.

Oh, but I left off the best part. So, we covered the organs and contraceptives like condoms and the pill, and that was fine. Then, we get to the page on emergency contraceptives like Plan B, and he just skips over it. A girl in class asked about them and he just said, “If you’re abstinent, you won’t have to worry about it.”

Well, thanks, asshat. Now I’m sure I’m going to join a convent.

At the time I was irritated, but I already knew what it was, so it wasn’t a huge deal. Then, I moved to High School and everything was dandy. I became acquaintances with a girl in my Marine Science class and she seemed pretty chill. Then, after the second week, I never saw her again. Apparently she got knocked up before school started and dropped out of high school at fourteen years old.

Who’s not worrying about it, again?

The people teaching teenagers to be abstinent aren’t going to suffer the consequences of this ignorance-based education. They aren’t going to have a kid at fourteen, drop out of high school, possibly get kicked out of the house, and be on welfare by the age of fifteen.

Later, when I was a junior in high school, I was talking to some sophomore girls. One thought using tampons would make her lose her virginity, one didn’t know that you don’t urinate out of your vagina, and the other decided to have sex within a few months, didn’t matter too much who with, just to “get it over with.”

10/10 sex ed right here.

Abstinence-based sexual education has gone on far too long.

So the next time you are embarrassed discussing the birds and the bees, think of the teenagers too embarrassed to ask if condoms prevent STDs in class, and certainly to their parents. If the adult is embarrassed, the teenager learns that sex is an embarrassing topic.

I was going to cite something here about teen pregnancy rates and the correlation to increased awareness of sexual activities and risks, but I found a beautiful article I would like to share instead.

Here is the link to the article

The entire platform of this ‘news site’ is being pro-life (A topic for a different time). The article popped up when I searched for information, and my interest was piqued. I did not want to share inaccurate information, so I checked it out. The main idea of this article is to demonstrate how areas with comprehensive sexual education show little to no reduction in STI or pregnancy rates. The article cites this study as its main support.

I checked out the study. First of all, the article uses the quote “There is little evidence that educational curriculum-based programs alone are effective in improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes for adolescents.”¹

This is very interesting, as I would have thought it was the opposite. I feel like knowing about HIV in the first place would make one more cautious when banging someone, but apparently I was wrong.

Plot twist: I was not wrong.

The article fails to disclose the rest of the abstract (where they took this quote). When taken in conjunction with the rest of the abstract, the quote takes on an entirely different meaning.

“There is a continued need to provide health services to adolescents that include contraceptive choices and condoms and that involve
them in the design of services. Schools may be a good place in which to provide these services. There is little evidence that educational
curriculum-based programmes alone are effective in improving sexual and reproductive health outcomes for adolescents. Incentive-based
interventions that focus on keeping young people in secondary school may reduce adolescent pregnancy but further trials are
needed to confirm this.”²

I know, WTF. This is completely different from what the article was stating. In reality, the study supports that these sexual education programs are needed. However, one must go to school in order for these curriculum-based programs to work. Given that five out of the eight studies were conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, I can see why attending school may be an issue when there is no monetary incentive; one could be working and earning money instead of attending school.

It’s almost like they took this one statement out of a credible source in order to further their political and monetary (the site relies on kind donations from its supporters) agenda with little regard to the misleading and manipulative nature of their information. I’ve never heard of that before.

And people wonder why I’m a cynical teenager.

References:

¹ Hoffman, Matthew Cullinan. “Major study: Sex-Ed programs don’t reduce STI’s, teen pregnancy, HIV.” LifeSiteNews, http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/major-international-study-finds-no-improvement-in-sexual-health-outcomes-fr. Accessed 24 Sept. 2017.

² Mason-Jones AJ, Sinclair D, Mathews C, Kagee A, Hillman A, Lombard C.
School-based interventions for preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy in adolescents.
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 11. Art. No.: CD006417.
DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006417.pub3.

Flute Update

As usual, I have done some work with my flute over the past few months. I apologize for not posting in a while, but things have been a little crazy.

Original Song

C’est La Vie

Original Piano Song

Ievan Polka

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

I also did some more, but these were my favorites. I also did Memory from Cats, New Year’s Day by U2, Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angel Sings, and Jingle Bells.

Crochet is Hard?

You may walk through a store sometime and see the cutest top ever. It could be blue with little crocheted designs on it. You think to yourself “Wow, that’s really nice!” and check the price. If this cute piece of work is out of your price range, you may just do the calculations in your head an suddenly a brilliant idea comes into your head. ‘If I just had one of my friends make this for me, I could get it for real cheap or even free!’

Good for you, you have a generous friend who can crochet (or knit, we do not discriminate here at cynicalteenager). You can make them spend hours, possibly days crocheting this top for you for no cost to you. Nice.

crochet-1

Now, I’m just a little salty that everyone thinks crochet is sooooo goddamn easy. Honey, if you think crocheting is that easy, do it yourself. Reading a crochet pattern is like reading a different language. I like to challenge people to tell me what certain crochet patterns are saying.

Here’s a quick, easy, little example:

ch 22.

Anyone with any crocheting experience knows exactly what this says, but do other people?  Here’s another example, but a little more complicated:

Sc in 2nd ch from hook, *dc in next ch, sc in next ch; repeat from * across-21 sts

This is still pretty simple, just with a few more steps.

Try this one:

colour:0 sc8, colour:4 sc1, colour:0 sc5, colour:4 sc2, colour:0 sc2, colour:4 sc5, colour:0 sc2, colour:4 sc1, colour:0 sc3, colour:4 sc2, colour:0 sc4, colour:4 sc1, colour:3 sc15, colour:2 sc1, colour:0 sc9, colour:2 sc1, colour:3 sc5, colour:2 sc1, colour:0 sc9, colour:4 sc2, colour:0 sc2, colour:4 sc6, colour:1 sc13

Good luck with that one.

crochet-3

Let me tell you, crochet is time-consuming and expensive as well. A thing of good yarn costs like $3 right now, and most projects take more than one skein. It may cost someone ten dollars to crochet that top for you and probably at least ten hours, depending on the hook size, speed of the individual, and complexity of the pattern.

So next time, please do not underestimate the effort that crochet requires. If someone, including your grandmother, gives you a crochet gift, show the love a little with a thank you note 🙂

New Flute Covers!

I have done some more flute work since my last post, so here are my covers:

Danny Boy

Seasonal Feathers

Suo Gan

I am planning some Christmas covers, little short clips of some songs. Nothing really major, because they take a surprising amount of time to record and mix.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and has a wonderful holiday in December!

 

President’s Own United States Marine Band!

Right now, the President’s Own Marine Band is about to play and I’m very excited! There is a good turn out:

Right now they are just warming up, but they are playing some cool stuff. One of the songs, Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral from Lohengrin, my band has played before.

The concert is about to begin, so bye for now!

Hurricane Matthew

I just wanted to put my two cents in about the coming hurricane. So, if you don’t live in or around Florida, this may be an unfamiliar topic. Well, the recent hurricane, a category 4, has been tracking closer and closer to my home, and I am getting a little freaked out. So, if no one reads this, I don’t mind because this is just an exercise of relieving stress.

You see, I live on the coast, a five minute’s drive from the beach. I live a thirty second walk from a major river. We are forecasted, at this point, to have sustained 100 mph winds. Needless to say, I am a little frightened. I am not sure what to do because we have done everything and the cone keeps tracking further west closer and closer to my home and I hope very much that we do not get the eye wall. If that happens, I am not sure how much of my house will be left. (Hey, I can always say my house was destroyed on the goddamn FAFSA and get some f*ckin’ money for college)

So, for any of you Floridians out there, stay safe and, for those of you far and away from Florida, wish me luck!

Update:

The hurricane ended up veering north ( wobble baby, am I right?) Everything is good in my area, but there was a lot of flooding up north. We really lucked out here!

Why I Am An Atheist

Two years ago, in my sociology class, my teacher asked for a show of hands around the classroom for the representation of different faiths. There were about ten Catholics, nine Protestants, two Jews, one Buddhist/Christian (a kid with parents of different beliefs), and other assorted Christian denominations like Lutheran, etc. Then there was little old me who raised their hand when the teacher asked about atheists. He was interested in knowing my opinion; all of the kids were. I simply shared that I could not reconcile what I have personally observed in the world and what I held in my world view with some sort of God or supreme being.

Everyone seemed cool with that except this one girl, whom I have know for many years and disliked for the majority of that time. She decides to say, “I will pray for you.”

What the f*ck?

I did the traditional “I’ll be thinking of you” bullshit that atheists always do when confronted with people like this.

I understand that when people say things like this, they mean well 99.999999% of the time. They genuiely wish to express that they care for you and hope for the best for you. And that is great when someone is sick, in a bad relationship or breakup, lost their job, or some other terrible thing occurs in someones life. I would probably say the same thing to someone religious (or at least the atheist equivalent).

But what did I say that warranted that kind of response? I don’t have cancer, bitch. And it isn’t you job to save me from a hell I don’t belive exists, either.

Below are some of my reasons for being atheist:

Heaven/Hell 

Personally, I believe that, should people go to heaven or hell after death (I have an open-mind, anything could happen I suppose), it should be based on a merit system rather than a I-prayed-six-times-a-day-and-was-a-priest-and-could-recite-the-entire-new-testament kind of system. Volunteered in orphanages in Southeast Asia? Lobbied for environmental protection? Good job.

Hold on, wait just a minute! You forgot Jesus was the reason for the season? Your ass is burning for eternity! You married the same gender? Damnation. You forgot that women didn’t have the right to choose? F*ck you and your sinner ass!

In what way does this system make sense?

Blind Faith

What bothers me most about established religious teachings is the willfull ignorance of followers. When a person of another belief system or no belief system brings up a relevant point about someone’s religion, suddenly it becomes a matter of faith.

God supposedly gave us brains for a reason, but religion of any kind gives us the excuse to simply forget that things like evolution and other ideas exist. If I was on the same level as any god, I would want my creations to be thinking beings! If I wanted a colony of bees, I would not have given my creations the degree of thought humans possess. And, if I did want my creations to follow me to that degree, why would I leave room for doubt in their minds? I am all-powerful, right?

atheism 1

Sayings that will never be disconfirmed

In Christianity there is a saying “God works in mysterious ways.” So, when there is a supposed miracle, God has worked his magic to save the day. But when ISIS decapitates another journalist or another woman gives herself a coat-hanger abortion because she can’t get one legally or when a boy about to go to high school blows his brains out to escape what seemed to be a charmed life, God is still working his magic. As someone who has seem what life can throw at people, be it the death of a parent, the loss of a child, sickness, and depression, I don’t think any god worthy of praise would allow these things to happen.

The problem is that no amount of logic or reasoning or proof otherwise will ever be able to disconfirm this belief. It is vague enough to ellude contradiction but concrete enough to warrant belief. If someone can figure out a logical trap for this statement, I will give them five hundred dollars.

Religious beliefs are littered with these statements, of which have no possibility of falsification.

Morals

A popular question thrown at atheists is the notion of “If you don’t believe in God, where do you get your morals?”

There is a simple answer: your brain. More specifically, the judgment section of your frontal lobe. That’s pretty much what is doing the governing anyway. Last time I checked, the Bible didn’t bitch slap you of it own accord everytime everytime you said the word ‘shit’. No. That’s not how it works, people. Society declares the morals of the masses, not a book written by people two thousand years ago or more. As it should, otherwise we would still be stoning adulterers to death instead of going on Judge Judy for ‘pain and suffering’.

So, there you have it. Probably the most unorganized blog post by an atheist you will ever find. If you don’t like what I think, that’s fine. I am not trying to convert people. On the contrary, figure out what works best for you to acheive your own happiness. That is all I want.