Espresso Expressions: Times and Places and Stories

black espresso

Is there a time and place for everything?

…in literature?

This week’s spotlight!

Okay, the basics: what is your name, how old are you, and what is your life in a nutshell?

My name is Tyler-Marie & I’m 17 years old. Describe myself? I’m about to begin my second year of university life. I love everything & anything English (hardcore Doctor Who, C.S. Lewis, and tea fan)…Yet, getting on a deeper side, I’m sort of in a love affair with story. I want to watch great stories, read great stories, write great stories, and live great stories. This probably explains why I’m an English & Journalism major.

Real and Fantastical stories—they all fascinate me. I’m also a believer of Christ. He is truly my reason for everything. I could only hope to incorporate Christ like truths into everything I write and do. Well, here’s a quote that describes me a little better: “She quietly expected great things to happen to her, and no doubt that’s one of the reasons why they did.” Zelda Fitzgerald.

What’s your blog name, what’s it all about, and what’s been your biggest challenge?

Livingwithfrecklesandwords. It’s quite a vague name—I mean what kind of blog is that? But, that’s sort of the fun part about it. The readers have no idea what to expect when they read the blog. It’d be the same thing as if they met me. All they would see is my freckles and hear my words. Yet, that’s just at a first glance. Once they read my blog, they see so much more. So, that’s basically what my blog is—it’s getting to know me.

My biggest challenge has been building up a community via cyber space. I sort of feel like the new girl who just moved in a completely new house in a completely new neighborhood in a completely new city—it’s intimidating. At first, you just sit by yourself at the lunch table, wondering if anyone is really hearing you. I’m sort of at the “new kid at the lunch table” phase.

Favorite book? Worst question EVER, I know.

Jane Eyre. Sort of a funny answer. I absolutely adore the moral center of Jane though. She makes one of the toughest decisions, since she has to turn down her love and do what is right. Jane Eyre isn’t just a good book to read, but one that teaches lessons. Jane’s the kind of character that gives you something to yearn for. Alice in Wonderland is also a close second.

Currently reading?

Divergent! Yes, I have been reading classics for a while and decided to hop onto the Young Adult Lit train while I could. I already love it so much. It’s nice to read a novel whose author isn’t dead.

Lastly (and most importantly), what caffeinated goodness can we find in your hands most often?

Earl Grey tea with French Vanilla creamer. Yes, there are many Starbucks frappes that I love, but nothing beats this drink. In the morning. In the afternoon. Or at night. I love Earl Grey tea. A perfect companion to any story.

____________________

          Tyler-Marie suggested that we explore how time periods affect literature. I absolutely believe that time periods affect literature. But how? It’s one of those things that we pretty much take as a fact when someone says so without stopping to wonder why. Then I got to thinking that the greatest novels—the ones that many a high school student vetoed in favor of Spark Notes—communicate themes and ideas that are universal. These ideas don’t expire or become less applicable in changing cultures and periods of time. Yet, their novels rely heavily on the culture of the time. One of my most favorite novels, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, falls into this category.

For such a timeless story, I still couldn’t see it taking place in, say, 1973 or 2013. Only the Roaring Twenties, with its ridiculously lavish parties, vast gap between the wealthy and the poor, ever-loosening morals, and gilded carelessness could handle this story. Gatsby works diligently towards his wealth so that he and Daisy can build a life together. Their love burns ever so brightly…and then burns out quickly, affecting everyone around them. The Twenties was a decade of extreme prosperity that lasted for just a blip in time and burned out just as quickly and just as terribly. I know that this has been a very condensed comparison, but my point is that the novel mirrors its time period and the country’s mood.

Other times, the settings within books trigger the “what if” questions within the said time period. Entering the 21st century, less and less people—especially teenagers—care about what goes on in the world around them. I find myself (as an adult) trying to shy away from current events and politics all the time. Dystopian novels, such as The Hunger Games and Delirium show us pictures of what our world could be if we ceased to care about the happenings in the world around us. I know that dystopian stories have been told decades previously, but the mood in the 21st century seems to be asking these “what if” questions more than any other generation.

Even Shakespeare, whose iambs will never come easily to me, communicates themes in plays like Hamlet and King Lear that have remained relevant for centuries. However, his time period inspired him. Obviously today’s society is completely inadequate for these Shakespearean plays. Creative as we are, we do not have the glory of the Renaissance enriching our work.

Call me crazy, but THIS is why I love Hemingway and Lauren Oliver, Fitzgerald and Veronica Roth, C.S. Lewis and Julie Kagawa. Each author, of stories both realistic and fantastical, finds themselves influenced by different time periods, different cultures, and different backgrounds. Oh, literature.

How do YOU think time periods affect literature? Quite a bit or not at all?

Don’t forget to send me an email with an Espresso Expressions topic at coffeeshopreads@gmail.com!

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Book Review: Requiem – Lauren Oliver

Publisher: HarperCollins

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian

Series: Delirium #3

Pages: 432

Release Date: March 5, 2013

Rating: 4/5

Summary from GoodReads:

They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.

But we are still here.

And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.

Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.

But we have chosen a different road.

And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.

We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.

__________

I AM A BASKET CASE OF EMOTION

As there are too many prominent characters within the Delirium series, I’ve decided to skip over my usual character analyses. Where do I start? I am sitting here at 1:30 am, completely unsure of how I feel about this book. I will say that this trilogy did not go out with a bang. Ninety percent of the book (from Lena’s perspective) consists of the resistance planning and attempting to stay alive while regulators and soldiers, who have teamed up with Scavengers, hunt them down mercilessly. I think that Oliver tried to cram a bunch of new characters into Requiem and couldn’t quite make me care about them. That said, the character development in Julian, Alex, and Lena is beautiful. I would say that Lena, who grows immensely in Pandemonium, solidifies her new self in this third book. The decisions and observations she makes while fighting jealousy and the toll of time within herself make me admire her so much. She’s real. She feels so deeply. Julian, oh Julian. He’s nearly perfect. The way he struggles—and succeeds—in proving himself to the group while having to work much harder than anyone, as he’s not used to the roughness of life in the Wilds…all without complaining…really touches my heart. Don’t throw up on me yet. What I mean is that he’s the light, the purity among all of the cynicism within the Wilds communities. Alex. Let’s just say that every time. Yes, every single time I read his name in the book, my heart skipped a few beats. I was completely in tune with Lena’s emotions. His character has done a 180 since Delirium, but who can blame him? While Julian is the “light,” I feel that Alex is the rock, for Lena at least. Lastly, let’s look at Hana. Oliver does an amazing job of getting the reader into the mind of a cured person and allows the reader to see all that’s happening in Portland, which increases the dramatic irony. I was completely surprised by Hana’s life and some of her secrets! In Requiem, she is far from the carefree teenage girl who helps Lena escape in Delirium. She has her own issues and ways of dealing with them.

If you’re looking for gushy romance and happiness and kissing scenes, don’t look here. All of that stuff takes a backseat to make room for Oliver’s deeper messages. Yes, Oliver does focus on relationships, but she focuses on their core, on what lies behind them. The Resistance takes center stage for much of the novel. I loved that, but I also hated it. I love the points that Oliver communicates to the reader, although the constant cycle of “run-plan-hide-get attacked” got old. I understand that this stuff is a daily part of the Wilds lifestyle but Oliver’s concentration upon it definitely overshadows other smaller aspects of Lena’s life. Moreover, there are certain places in the novel in which Lena blatantly speaks to the reader directly, which I thought was way less effective than building those points more into Lena’s thought process or plot line.

The World—

Love it! Oliver’s world in this series is so believable. She explains the purpose and reason behind the world’s constants so precisely and leaves no plot holes. Not once did I find myself asking, “Okay and how exactly did this happen?” The Wilds are cruel and unrelenting, exactly like the cities, yet completely opposite in every other way. The cities are filled with fear and need for order and conformity. Oliver describes everything from fallen trees, beautiful clearings, run down neighborhoods and slick labs.

The Themes—

Faith vs Sight

Fear of the unknown

Safety and Ignorance vs Freedom and Risk

Final Thoughts—

It’s worth the read. While it’s not action-packed, the emotions are RAW every step of the way. I’ve read reviews in which the reader thought Lena was whiny, but the fact that she overcomes her moments of selfishness and immaturity impresses me more than her simply not having to face them. These moments are what make her authentic as a character. I will tell you that Oliver does not spell out the ending of the novel. She leaves it open and solidifies just enough to get her point across. She leaves the reader with a ray of hope, the knowledge of what is to come. The ONE thing I absolutely hated was when, at one time, Oliver has Lena switch from her 1st person POV to speaking directly to the reader. I feel, honestly, like that route is taking the easy way out. Deep thematic elements impact the reader so much more when they come across as character realizations! If you already identify with the character, you also identify with their hopes, dreams, failures…and epiphanies. [End rant here]    

Memorable Quotes—

“He who jumps may fall, but he may also fly.”

“But maybe happiness isn’t in the choosing. Maybe it’s in the fiction, in the pretending: that wherever we have ended up is where we intended to be all along.”

“Who knows? Maybe they’re right. Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings. Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it. But we have chosen a different road. And in the end that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose. We are even free to choose the wrong thing.”

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