14 Best American Pieces that I love from 2015

Earlier this year, I discovered the Best American Series. Every year a new book is published for each category by collecting the best short stories or essays of a topic. This post will detail my favorites from each collection that I read. This is a long post and has many suggestions that are linked online if I could find it. I have also created imaginary book covers for the story pieces that have been and will be posted over time on my Deviantart page.

In February, I started with the Best American Mystery Stories of 2015. It featured a variety of authors from an acclaimed British writer to newly published authors. Here are my top 5 Favorites from the collection of mysteries.

1.The Adventure of the Laughing Fisherman by Jeffrey Deaver

Starting in the most peculiar manner, the story grips the reader with its inventive storytelling style. Additionally ever since I started watching Sherlock, I have gained a new love of observational and intellectual crime-solving. When I realized that elements of the story was inspired by Sir Doyle’s own characters, I  enjoyed the short story even more. I also found that after rereading the story there was such obvious foreshadowing that I missed.

2. Rosalee Carrasco by Tomiko M. Breland

A masterful told story about modern day bullying is represented in Rosalee Carrasco. The format was unique because each character told apart of the story and each one was expertly developed. Each character has clear flaws which makes them realistic to the reader. The use of repetition and having an omniscient presence made it a cohesive work.Though I would not consider this story a traditional mystery it still has some elements such as a victim and a perpetrator.

3. The Home of Craigmillnar by Joyce Carol Oates

The most impactful in light of modern political controversy as it addresses the church’s main scandal of abuse. It also tackles the idea of taking justice into one’s own hands instead of the law’s courts I enjoyed the wild way plot details were revealed and loved how the story came full circle. Kind of a spoiler but I was definitely surprised by the twist ending because I did not expect the short story to shock me.

Next, I read the Best American Essays of 2015 because I had not really explored essays much outside of school or some news articles. I liked the mix of story like pieces to more speech performance essays.

1. This Old Man by Roger Angell

“Yes, we’re invisible. Honored, respected, even loved, but not quite worth listening to any more. You’ve had your turn, pops; now it’s ours.”   (Angell, 16)

I found the piece a humorous take on growing old. I loved the references to things that served a dual purpose of relating something to the reader and dating the writer. Personally I thought it was helpful to a person who like me thinks about life events and death a lot. I am not morbid but  I often think about the future so it was quite informative. Additionally the quote made me smile due to how true it is. People need to realize that important lesson as they grow older -coming from a young one :).

2. A Message to the Twenty-First Century by Isaiah Berlin

“And in the end the passionate idealists forget the omelet and just go on breaking eggs.” (Berlin, 34)

The piece was created to be read in the absence of the author to receive a honorary degree which can be seen in the diction and complex message. As a history lover I fancied the references as it allowed to get a deeper connection to the text. Though it is kind of related to This Old Man, I find it fresh and powerful. Overall, a pretty philosophical piece that perfectly  penetrated my perceptions.

3. Difference Makers by Meghan Daum

“But if there’s anything Matthew taught me, it’s that having certainty about your life is a great luxury.” (Daum, 87)

I really resonated with this piece because I often think  about life events that are so far off in my life like children similar to the death mentioned above. There is a deep application for how she worked constantly to help future generations because she did not have her own kids which I find inspiring. I believe it is a piece to read for all the people who say that they hate children because it will open their perspectives and I also feel hating children is weird. I understand if you do not want your own but you can not say that statement because it is ageist. For example that is like if I said I hated old people (obviously I don’t that would be ridiculous) because I am stereotyping an age and thus is unfair. Anyways the story is realistic in that it contains the tops and pits of her story and so it makes it more interesting.

Then I read the Best American Short Stories of 2015. I found it even more enjoyable then the mystery collection due to the variety of topics and styles.

1. Moving On by Diane Cook

A futuristic story that had a new take on love, relationships, and society. Especially nowadays, dystopian stories have been a craze but this piece strays from the norm and does not focus on the world that the character is existing. It rather focuses on the emotion of the main character who is a woman who has lost her husband and is moved to a single women shelter. The plot smoothly weaved past events with the present. I enjoyed the sweet nature of the women’s actions and thought-provoking ideas that are touched on.

2. Jack, July by Victor Lodato

To start off I would like to display a couple of quotes to demonstrate how creative the literary devices are in this piece:

“Weeks? Again, the word proved thin, suspect.” (Lodato, 157)

“His words, stay with me, had seemed to the boy vaguely futuristic, a beam of light from a spaceship.” (Lodato, 159)

I just love the imaginative words used throughout the story.  I absolutely  appreciated how the style of writing complemented the plot. It is told in a choppy and inconsistent way which  reflects the conditions of drugs present in the story. There was a feeling that time dragged in even though it was only presenting a day in the character’s life which connects perfectly with how being a meth user impairs time perception. Lodato excellently created the mood of the story and made me feel invested in the main character which is a drugged youth.

3. Mr.Voice by Jess Walter

A lovely tale that describes a young girl’s life affected by her mother’s marriage. The language really made the characters come to life. Also the way information was conveyed was unique as seen in the quote, “I remember their wedding more clearly than I remember either of my own: Mother wore a light-purple mini dress, and she put me in a dress that matched it- in hindsight, perhaps not something a nine-year-old should wear.” That one quote gives the reader a variety of info from how the narrator had been divorced and remarried, how her mother was one to break social tradition, and how impact the event was. The father figure represented in Mr Voice is inspirational in his actions and his behavior which is great in a world of writings which portrays father figures as bad or absent.

Finally I read the Non required Reading of 2015. I loved the variety of pieces and seemed relevant to my taste as it was chosen by young people. This book is the one I would recommend to read in full length. Also since I loved this one so much I read the 2013 version which featured special distinguished pieces in the front which showed some random creative selections.

1. Fear Itself by Katie Coyle

Coyle’s story is the funniest story of the whole collection and is unique with its historical and fantasy elements. The plot itself sounds ridiculous when explained; the story follows a girl who encounters a wax Franklin Delano Roosevelt and subsequently falls in love. The concept and execution was wonderful. Additionally, the main trio of friends were introduced and described in an interesting format through a game they played in which they would receive a label from an overall theme like for example first ladies. I would also say that the ending of “Fear Itself” is also the best.

2. Dynamite by Anders Carlson-Wee

The only poem of the bunch it spoke of a child play that progressed into savage war. The horror genre of poetry often features supernatural or other magical elements while this piece was more demented violence.

3. Contestant by Daniel Alarcón

An interesting piece about how a crazy reality show led to an awful crime. “Contestant” is a nonfiction that expresses the huge social and culture impact created by the Peruvian version of the show called The Moment of Truth. It kind of reads like fiction because of the insane plot details in addition to the uncertainty of the ending.

4. The High Road by Bryan Stevenson

A very moving piece of sliver linings and positive outlook in an utterly bleak situation. It tells the tale of a man visiting a prisoner to reveal his legal prison. The short piece is very powerful and especially reminds me to be grateful.

5. Our Neighbor’s House by Emily Caroll

An expertly colored comic which mirrors Red Riding Hood’s a little bit. I find it beautiful to look at especially because of the red contrasting to the black. It jumped out at me in the book as it was the only graphic story.

I would totally recommend any of these stories to check out and overall a book from the Best American Series. If you have any short stories that I can check out I would love it.

 

 

Spotlight on Poetry that makes me think and feel

Picture Collage is made from pictures of https://www.poets.org/. From the top right: Maya Angelou, Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman. 

For many years I have written various types of poetry but this year I hope to read more of other poets so here is some selections of what I have discovered. All of my selections are from famous poets to encourage you to explore more poetry.

Maya Angelou has always been an inspiring figure to me through her multitudes of work in various areas that have made the world a better place. From poetry to activism in civil rights she has done so much for generations to come. “Phenomenal Women” is a well known poem of hers that cements her image as a foremost feminist. A major feature of her style that I love is how she makes her poems accessible to all meaning that it is not too complex or high brow. A clean simple anthem for any young girl or women to enjoy.

Edgar Allen Poe is a famous writer known for his horror/creepy stories and poems. I actually have a full book of his, but I have not read most of it. Edgar Allen Poe Book CoverHere are three ones I enjoyed from what I have read so far. First is the well known “Raven“, that as an animal is often used to represent Poe. I loved the cadence of the lines and the mix of repetition and an odd lines to pique the reader’s interest. Also I kind of dislike very descriptive poetry because it seems unnecessary or written to fill up space but Poe uses words carefully. Each one evokes a specific image especially in the setting. The other one the I had to share was “Serenade“. This poem hits me on a personal level because one of my first real poems was one called “Night” which described my view of a starry night.

The welcoming cover,

Of the night,

Stars light up,

The Darkened sky,

When most are at bed,

I lay awake,

At this mystical time,

I take in,

The night that makes,

Everything anew,

Deafening silence,

Large shadows creeping,

With a cool breeze,

I reflect upon,

The past day,

And the day to come,

Oh night,

What a beautiful time.

 

It seems so simplistic and childish now but it did get an honorable mention. I enjoy the Serenade’s sentiment which struck me after reading a series of Poe’s love letters to various ladies even though this one does include a mention to a love called Adeline. I love the line, “And on the spectral mountain’s crown.” A eloquent piece of admiration. My last selection is “Eldorado” which describes an explorer’s quest for finding “El Dorado.” The endless journey is aptly described by Poe and was fitting for me because I had just watched the movie, El Dorado. The movie has the opposite plot but of course has the same idea of thirst for gold.

Walt Whitman is through and through an American poet. I knew I had to read “O Captain! My Captain!O Captain! My Captain!” because it is such an iconic line and I wanted to read and digest it fully. For those of you who do not know the poem was written after Lincoln’s death. It is a beautiful poem that shares compassionate sentiments about the struggle that Abe succeeded and the sadness that his assassination cut his life short.  The allegory of real life to sailing perfectly describes the emotion and events that had occurred.

Emily Dickinson is known as a famous recluse whose poems were published after her death.  Her name has such recognition that I had to read some of her work. I would like to highlight her poem called “I’m Nobody! Who are You?“. It expresses her sentiment about how she likes to be a ‘nobody’. The short and simple stanzas tell a unique view of being famous.

So that has been what poems I read and enjoyed recently. Please comment below with your suggestions for me to explore.

 

 

 

 

 

Proper Picks

I’ve decided to start this series, Proper Picks because I think it is great to promote and share things, people, and places that make you feel something. Personally I rarely am obsessed with anything so I decided to have this to share my true favorites. I will break into various categories to reflect the contents.

For Everyone:

Stutterhug by Samantha Davies on Taptastic

This comic is beautifully drawn and has wonderful visual storytelling. She frequently updates with short stories that feature no words but communicate a lot of meaning.  On her tumbler she also posts colorful sketches as featured above. Additionally on mobile, if you swipe fast enough it appears to be a colorful animation.  It can be interpreted to have deep meanings or can be appreciated as cute stories.

Avocado Toast by Ingrid Nilsen on YouTube

I love Ingrid’s upbeat and positive videos and this recipe demonstration is actually the first that I made a recipe inspired by a YouTube video. I personally find most recipes often have many ingredients I do not have or take a lot of time and effort however the avocado toast recipes is so simple and delicious. I now eat this often as it is a tasty meal that is on the healthy side.

Bomber Jackets

An item that I have wanted for years but never got and now that it is a popular trend I feel it is too late. Anyways I love the jackets because there are so versatile and there are so many variations to choose form. From colorful, patch-filled, vintage ones to  sleek and monochromatic ones there is a jacket for everyone.

For thinkers:

New Age Creators on YouTube

The channel is a diverse group of creative people who express thoughtful ideas through their videos. The main contributors are Ana Marta, OrinsEyes, Marie Jacquemin, Chase vs Everything, and Croque’s Corner. Their expression is conscious, beautiful, and has multiple perspectives due to the various members. Very artsy and more importantly meaningful. An important small YouTuber collaboration to watch for.

Will Darbyshire‘s videos on YouTube

Though he has only been on YouTube since 2014, he has created memorable and thoughtful content. So far he has created sixty-one different videos that convey empowering and relatable ideas. Will is in the process of producing his first book called, This Modern Love which demonstrates his brand wonderfully. I tend to binge watch many of his videos in a row when getting inspiration for writing.

Mitchell Davis‘s Music on Soundcloud

MitchellDavis

Though Mitchell Davis in known more from his YouTube videos and acting, I have him on my first Proper Picks because of his music. Every once and a while he will drop some experimental  tunes on soundcloud. Listening to them evokes  something within because I have not listened to anything like it.  I would totally recommended it if you like weird lyric-less music.

For the T.V Show lovers:

Grace and Frankie on Netflix

One of the new original series featured on Netflix, it revolves around Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin) who have both become divorced by their husbands because both of the men are in love with each other. For me this is a first because I usually do not like drama however this show changed that genre in my eyes. The right amount of humor and seriousness leads it to be an enthralling show. There are many ways to appreciate the show from the diverse representation, women talking about things other than men, and the pleasant depiction of old people. I also find that the dynamic of the characters of Bud and Coyote kind of remind me of Sean and Gus from Psych. I just finished the second season and though I feel that it ends with Grace and Frankie being unlikable and ridiculous it still is a show worth watching.

Be Cool, Scooby Doo

The twelfth version of the classic show, Scooby-Doo, Where are You?, it departs from the usual tropes. I had grown up watching the different variations of the show. The main points to note when watching is that they were trying to not focus on the romantic parings at all, it takes place after their senior year, it has more of a comedic tone after the last dark incarnation, and a change in art style. Many have complained about the drastic appearance change however I feel it makes sense considering the new tone of the show. A big disclaimer is that the mysteries are not hard to figure. Yes, I know I am old to be watching a cartoon show however there are too few characters for it to be challenging to solve on your own. Though that may seem a big issue it is actually fine because it is the humor of that show that makes me keep watching.

Parks and Recreation

 

Most of you have probably heard of the show however but since it reached Netflix I have renewed my love for the show. To be truthful I have not watched the last season because I am saving it for when I feel down. Though based on The Office’s documentary format it takes it and spins it on its head due to lovable characters and hilarious situations. The couples throughout the season made me emotionally involved but of the show my true OTP has to be Leslie and Ben. I think one of my favorite parts of the show is that the main cast of characters care for each other which is different from most T.V shows that revolve around drama around envy or hate. Overall a light-hearted show with good messages that showcases the wonderful talents of Amy Poehler.  (Also Poehler’s book Yes, Please is hilarious and hearty)

That’s the end of these favorites. I hope you enjoyed. Please comment below with some suggestions of your favorites because I am always looking for new things to love. ❤

Literary Spotlight: Agatha Christie

For many years I have enjoyed reading but especially mystery. Cam Jansen Mysteries, Nate the Great, The Boxcar Children, A to Z Mysteries,   Encyclopedia Brown, and Nancy Drew were a few my reads as a child. When I matured in my selections, I sought to find clever novels with intricate plots however I disliked the huge amounts of violence and sometimes too serious nature that were apparent in modern best sellers. Discovering the hidden to me yet famous name of Agatha Christie whose work in crime fiction has impacted the genre for years, made me especially hooked to the mystery plots. Ever since I have devoured every book of hers I could land my hands on, even adding many to my book collection. Her  books are always exciting to read because they often have twist endings or imaginative solutions. Her unique characters make you enthralled by the plot and the process of solving with their special quirks. Miss Marple spunky independence and Hercule Poirot’s particular sensibilities makes their cases a fun read.

For those who have never heard of her, Agatha Christie is the Queen of Crime Fiction and holds the title of best selling novelist of all time and is only out sold by Shakespeare and the Bible.  She was apart of the illustrious Detection Club of writers and also has written the longest running play called, The Mousetrap.A Murder is Announced book photo

The first book I read of hers was A Murder was Announced, which was an interesting choice because it did not include her signature and most famous character Poirot, instead it featured the sweet Miss Marple. I had picked it up at a train station and was looking for any mystery that would entertain me. I was engrossed by the plot and finished the book in one sitting. A couple of years of later I made a fake trailer for that book for a class.

The novel is very inventive and clever due to its use of various of plot devices. I loved the unique characters and unpredictable story line. It features historical elements of the era and some jolly fun humor. Miss Marple is shown as a quick wit dear that helps the poor inspector solve the puzzling case.

The book that epitomized the amazement I have for mystery fiction is  in the book of And Then There Were None. It is the book that has been adapted numerous times in different medias and is considered her masterpiece. It is marked apart because of the absence of a detective and the unusual plot. The success of this novel can be validated with the title of the world’s best selling mystery novel and seventh best selling overall. I would be surprised if any reader knew the ending before reading the epilogue. The novel explores the depths of theme of justice and morality and is one of the most serious in her collection. Though based on a black face song it holds such literary importance that it will be hold in great regard for years to come. Recently it was adapted loosely last Boxing Day on BBC 1 in a risque version of the story.

Last year, I read The Life and Times of Hercule Poirot by Annie Hart which examined the character that was featured in her most prominent books. It pulls information from various places to reveal a guide that will interest any fan of hers. I particularly liked the behind the scenes view of Christie’s character development including how she actually grew to hate the “insufferable man”. Every chapter gives more insight into his relationships and character.

Presently, I have read almost every book she wrote (excluding her romantic novels as I found them saddening) and am now looking for a series to fill that void. Her work will always hold a place in my bookshelf.

I would recommend any book as a great place to begin, except of course the last book, Curtain which is best saved for last.  If you enjoy a cozy and wholesome mystery or an intrigued-filled murder there is novel for you in her reptoire. At any rate, you know about or more about a dame whose literary importance is timeless. I am looking for new authors to read so write some suggestions in the comments below.

New Beginnings

“Begin, be bold, and venture to be wise.”-Horace

For me this start has been a long time coming. I have wanted this to happen for years but it never came to term. To introduce what I want to create in this space, I will simply say that I want to express my thoughts through words and images. In the close future I will focus on books, writing, and art. Hopefully it will relieve me of my constant habit of suppressing or staying quiet about how I view, feel, or understand the world. In the process I want to bring attention to things that matter to me.

A new journey begins for me today. A sunrise marks it for me.

 

 

Picture taken of Dale Chihuly’s glass sculpture.