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

 

Advertisements

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? 

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.

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 🙂

College Tours

Hi everyone! I just got back from a college tour, which is part of the reason for my lack of post activity. I have some book reviews in the works, but those take FOREVER to write. I mean, I like to write them, and if I did not like to write them, then I would not write them. But, they are time consuming, especially when I have multiple ones I am working on at once. So, I decided to write to describe my recent college tour to put something out there on my blog (after all, isn’t that what a blog is for?). I hope someone finds this interesting, amusing, or otherwise worth their time 🙂

So, to begin with, I went to seven campuses on the east coast. In order, I went to Princeton, Columbia, Yale, Brown, Harvard, American, and Georgetown. Ya know, the unattainable, unaffordable, and unwelcoming ones? But, I’m always up for a challenge. However, the most remarkable thing about this trip, besides the price tag, was how little of my cynicism was reasonable. Overall, the universities were more welcoming, affordable, and warm than I expected.

For a little background, I did very well on the SATs, pulling in a 760 reading score and a 770 math score ( my school did not pay for the writing), and I maintain a 4.0 GPA and 5.0 HPA. So, I thought, why not?

I then mentioned to my dad that it would be neat to actually experience the college campuses in person before applying. We then planned a trip, flying into Newark and out of D.C. and driving using a rental car.

Let me tell you, this trip was f*cking expensive. I mean damn. A freaking Holiday Inn cost my family $200 a freaking night. Yeah, a Holiday Inn. It ain’t the effing Plaza. Not to mention, the rental car company, Avis, took us to the cleaners. $500 baby, with a three-day-early return. And airfare. Jesus Christ, $1100. So, there goes my college fund. Thanks a lot, I appreciate the help Avis, American Airlines, United, Expedia, and Holiday Inn. Love ya.

Now that I have that out of my system, I shall now impart my opinion on these schools here, so if any strapped for cash student wants to hear about my experience, listen up.

Princeton: One thing that can be said about Princeton is that it is beautiful. Seriously, this is one of the most beautiful places I have been. When you hear ‘Ivy League’, this is probably the image conjured. The buildings looked like castles and everything, from the chapels to the restrooms, were amazing.

Another notable facet of Princeton is that frat houses are not recognized. Rather, the students reside in themed housing or little eating clubs. This was a common theme among Ivy Leagues, but some, like Brown, were a little more open with frats and sororities. I thought that this was a good idea, an effort to keep away bad press.

Columbia: The best part about Columbia is not necessarily about the school so much as the area it is in. Centered in NYC, a bustling metropolis, Columbia has many opportunities for students to get part-time jobs or internships to boost their resume. This is mainly why I am interested in Columbia.

Columbia’s academics seem focused around the Core, a set of classes required by all undergraduate students, including a physical education component. Fitting is with a more liberal arts education, Columbia was the most formal when it came down to distribution requirements, which may be a good or bad thing.    

Yale: This school was my favorite! It was beautiful, had great academics, and had residential colleges. What are residential colleges, you ask? Well, I had no freaking clue either, but I really like the sound of them. Basically, groups of undergraduates are placed in groups and all live in one little area/building with their own crest and name. Think of Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Yeah, sounds pretty cool, right? That’s what I thought, at least.

Along with this, the requirements were different than Columbia. Rather than having classes be required for graduation, certain areas were required for graduation. So, instead of taking only ENC1101 and only ENC1101 for the credit, you could take a creative writing class,  a science fiction class, or a how to write lab reports class. I really thought this flexibility suited me better than the rigidity of Columbia, while not being as loose as the next university, Brown.

Brown: I have conflicting feelings about Brown. On one hand, it is a very exciting school, full of opportunity and freedom. Brown does not have any distribution requirements, a far cry from Columbia’s Core curriculum. That being said, there are many cases where your concentration may require many credits for completion and as an incoming freshman, how does one know what to take?

Another component that had me a little leery was the financial aid package (btw, I’m hopefully going to do another little rant post on this…needless to say, my family cannot afford $60,000 a year, that’s bullshit). All the Ivy Leagues, and most other colleges, provided financial aid packages to incoming students on a need-basis. I really agree with this. How can the best institutions in the world offer merit packages? Isn’t getting in merit enough? Most of the Ivy Leagues provide financial aid without loans, but Brown automatically works a loan into the award. I know that it is only like $5,000 a year, but any mention of loans (and therefore debt) has me running for the hills.

Besides these observations, Brown was a terrific university.

 

Harvard: Harvard was probably my second favorite school that my family and I visited on the trip. Very similar to Yale, Harvard had area requirements for graduation, allowing for more freedom in scheduling. Again, Harvard also had a shopping period whereby students could try out different classes without committing to a schedule. I really liked this idea, because I am sure everyone has experienced that time when you signed up for something and had the realization that it was not really for you ( there was a time that this hippie lady kept saying I was a crystal child or something, but I was just trying not to piss my pants from laughter. Ah, the good old days). The only thing that was a downside for Harvard was that students had to declare their major at the beginning of their sophomore year rather than the end of the year. I don’t think this would bother me too much, but some people may not appreciate it.

 

American: The accessible and attainable school of the bunch, I really liked American University. Their internship and study abroad opportunities are what really drew my eye. Being centered in Washington D.C., American had connections in the embassies (half a mile away) and the capitol ( a subway and bus ride away). The acceptance rate was 25% rather than 6%, so I will definitely apply to this school.

 

Georgetown: This school is probably my least favorite. I just thought it was a tad uppity and rather snobby. That may be just my own impression, and I am sure that there are plenty of nice people who go here ( I had the pleasure of meeting a few). However, the requirements for entrance are worse than the Ivy Leagues and the campus was definitely geared for more graduate students. The main benefit of Georgetown is its situation in D.C. and the opportunities afforded to the students. Overall, while a very prestigious and excellent school, I feel that it was not for me.