Learning to Meditate

background balance beach boulder

Think of one word.



My mind races.
Other thoughts enter,
I cannot

Forgive yourself.

Try again.

Try again…

Will I ever be
Able to do this?
I cannot

Transcendence requires patience.

Don’t rush.

Don’t rush…

There’s no way
To empty my mind.
I must give

For today, perhaps.

Come back.

Come back…


This post was inspired by Jade Wong’s World of Words prompt this week, shanta, which is a Bengali word meaning calm and peaceful. This reminded me of when I tried to learn to meditate and how reaching any sort of calm was so hard. Patience, young grasshopper, patience!

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American Chimera – 3.5

American Chimera Cover Small

“So you knew, from the first day, that she was a female spider?” the interrogator asked.

Dr. Worthington sleepily answered, “Were you not certain? I mean, I knew the government could be lax, but I didn’t-”

“Just answer me yes or no.” The interrogator tapped her pen a single time on the table next to her, the loud crash moving the orchid sitting on it. “Was she female on the day she was born?”

Dr. Worthington lifted a brow. “Yes…but I don’t understand why that’s important. You should know what she is based off my story – she’s some kind of experiment, a chimera if I’m right. I would think the fact that she’s a genetic monstrosity would be more concerning to you.”

The interrogator’s eyes narrowed, pointed at the old woman. “When did you decide to believe that Dani Huffman was a genetic monstrosity?”

“You know when,” Dr. Worthingtown scowled. “June 18th, 2081. She was eight at the time, and if it weren’t for the war and the Accords, I would have just seen what Janie saw – a little girl.”

“A little girl? You saw a giant spider as a little girl?” The interrogator stood. “Either way, you failed to report what you knew to be a chimera.”

“And what would have happened to me, to her, had I done so? Dani is an intelligent girl, and she’d become a fine young woman if allowed.” Dr. Worthington shook her head. “I’ll cooperate now. There’s no reason not to, especially when I might give information that may bring her comfort. However, I am glad that I gave her a few more years of freedom. I just hope that you realize what you’ve done by capturing her and us is wrong.” She stood from her chair, wobbly as she held onto the arms. “Now…get me my walker. I’ll be needing it to get back to my cell.”

The interrogator nodded and grabbed the neoprene sleeve over the walker’s bar. “Yes. Of course.” She scooted the walker over to the elderly woman and escorted her out.


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American Chimera – 3.4

American Chimera Cover Small

I gripped my hand into a fist and gritted my teeth. “I don’t know what she is. She’s bigger than the biggest spider ever recorded, and there’s no telling how big she will get or how long she will live. If you decide to keep her, it will be your responsibility to care for her, and I genuinely don’t believe you will.”

Janie nodded enthusiastically. “I will, Doc, I will!”

“My God,” I said, “What is wrong with you? Worse – what is wrong with me?! You have a truck full of starving dogs, and you expect me to believe that you’ve got the ability to care for an exotic animal? A spider will never love you, and something this big might one day turn around and kill you. You can’t possibly care for this thing.”

Janie picked the poor thing up. “You say she’s a lil’ girl, Doc?”

“Yes, but that’s not the-”

“Then I’ll call her Daenerys Charlotte, because I thought she she was gonna be a dragon but she turned out to be a baby…a little baby girl.” She wiped her eyes and reached for her wallet, taking out a debit card that I was certain she’d not owned the last time I’d seen her. “I’ll care for her. I’ll do it.”

I held my breath and my fists for a few seconds and considered my husband at home, how I’d planned on working five more years before I’d join him in true decrepity. “Alright,” I said. “I’m taking your dogs, and you better bring her in every month with her visits paid. She’s too dangerous to toy around with, and I will have her seized as soon as things even start to look bad. Understood?”

“Yes, Doc! Oh, thank you so much!”

I groaned and turned around to my computer. The fecal sample was coming through, giving a nice analysis of the protein shake’s suitability as food on the screen. I looked at the analysis, saw what she had eaten and what she hadn’t. “I can’t tell if your Daenerys is going to be healthy or not – whatever she is, it’s nothing I’ve ever seen before. I don’t even know which Phylum she should be classified into. If you want my advice on what to feed her, though, get down to the store and buy her some baby formula. If she seems sickly or doesn’t eat it, come back and I’ll take another look. For now,” I bent over the baby spider clinging to its mother’s shoulder, “Nothing is obviously wrong. Make an appointment at the front desk for two weeks from now and pay up.”

Janie nodded and wrapped the towel back around her baby. “Thank you, Doc. Thank you so much.”

I stepped out of the room after her and watched as she and Brett actually paid for the visit. I instructed the vet techs to collect the horde of dogs, and eventually they left.

At the time, I didn’t actually expect them to come back, and I wasn’t very concerned over the life of the spider.


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Book Review: Catching Fire

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51tk519fuhlCatching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Amazon Link

The first book, The Hunger Games, was perfectly ok. It outperformed my expectations, though I found some of the word choices and style a little stifling. What I’m looking forward to with this book is the relationship with Gail and Peeta. I also don’t have any idea what’s going to happen – after the first book, what can the characters do that will be even half as exciting? Now that the games are over, how can Collins come up with something that will even come close to as heart-pounding?  Since the series was so popular, I have to think there’s a surprise waiting for me!

Non-Spoiler Review

We still have too many instances of the words “blood” and “roast,” but stuff like that isn’t enough to keep me from reading. Collins’s style isn’t my favorite, but she does very cleverly get into Katniss’s head and uses her first person narrator well.

However, this book wasn’t nearly as exciting, sensible, or creative as the first one. A lot of time is spent establishing why Katniss is (spoiler for the first book) now considered a rebel for her act of eating the berries at the end of The Hunger Games. I didn’t think her act all that treasonous, and even more so I thought the Capitol’s response to her actions altogether ridiculous. Similar to the first book, as well, Katniss is often the last person to find out about conspiracies and problems at which she is the center, and it just doesn’t feel reasonable. The first book could get the benefit of the doubt because 1) It’s YA, and some melodrama is excusable 2) Katniss was literally ripped from obscurity and put in the spotlight 3) It was pretty exciting. This book didn’t have 2 and 3 going for it, so the entire problem felt out of place to me.

If I ignore the premise’s unlikelihood and the melodrama of it all, I suppose the book was “Ok.” I wouldn’t tell someone they were wrong for enjoying it, and I’d still say continuing the series after book one isn’t a complete waste of your time. Similarly, I’d also assert that you don’t need to continue if you don’t want to.

3/5 Discoball Snowcones

3 Discoball Snowcones


Too quickly, I found out what happened between Katniss and Gail after the games: a fairly contrived idea of rebellion forces Katniss toward Peeta, and Gail is just ‘far away’ now. It was a disappointingly quick resolution to what I thought was the only exciting thing remaining unfinished from book 1. There was some more development, but it felt forced and Katniss didn’t really have much say in whether she chose Peeta or Gail.

Next… was this plot basically a dumb repeat of the first plot? Katniss and Peeta are thrown into the arena then defy the capitol by defeating their games. It’s kind of nutty, really. The idea that all the victors are thrown back into the arena for the quarter quell was silly in the first place (as was the explanation that it was all a plan to kill Katniss). The idea that so many competitors were in on a plan that Hamich, the coach, failed to tell Katniss about? Ludicrous.

I would say this was a terrible book, but it still had some elements of tension even if they felt really contrived. I don’t have high hopes for Mockingjay, though.

Next week:

I will finish this series next week as I read Mockingjay. Stay tuned to see how it goes!



The amount of sugar I got was pitiful. “What’s this shit?” I asked the sharecropper who rented my land.

He looked to his feet, embarrassed. “Didn’t rain much, so nothin’ grew. This all we got to give ‘less we starve.”

“Then why aren’t you starving?” I ripped the sales report from his hands. “What did you do with this money you got?”

“Spent it on food for the winter.”

I shook the report at him. “That was my money. You’ll give double the percentage next year.”

“Ain’t gonna be no next year. We’re moving west, and you’ll get nothin’.”


This was written for the February 13th Flash Fiction Challenge at the Carrot Ranch: sugar report. While the definition of sugar report is something entirely different from what I wrote about, I’ve been thinking about this story for a while this month.

February is Black History Month, and sharecropping is a part of black history that’s often been glanced over. Sharecropping is where tenants pay rent to work the land, wherein payment is usually in the form of a portion of the crops. Landlords (usually the people who used to own the plantations) would be harsh in their demands, and sharecroppers would often be trapped since they had to work harder to pay their rent. It doesn’t sound like slavery really ended after the Civil War, does it?

But we also forget that America’s history is shaped by the frontier (aaaand different atrocities associated with that, but that’s for another day). African American settlers helped define the west as part of a way to find new adventures and burst out of the sharecropping/oppression/abuse cycle. That’s why I chose to give that glimmer of hope at the end of the story: the west, the frontier, the ever-shifting upward momentum was a chance many grasped at. Black settlers are getting a well-deserved historical re-examination nowadays, and I’m excited to see what things historians find next.

Sharecropping was also a thing poor whites participated in; I had a white middle-school teacher who grew up as a sharecropper in Georgia, and man did she have it rough as a kid. When I think about her, about the continued wage-slavery imparted by sharecropping and other worker-abusive practices, I think about how people of all races and colors can be helped by the same policies, laws, regulations, and, most of all,


Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Duyog – #Gogyohka #TankaTuesday

artistic blossom bright clouds

My voice flows
Your gongs clamor
Cacophonous duyog
Yet perfect symbol
Of our yearning.


This is a first on the H.R.R. Gorman channel! Jade M. Wong, who is a super duper instagrammer (I’m not, I just looked at her page and was wowed), has a new prompt called “World of Words.” In this weekly prompt, a non-English word is chosen as a starting point for inspiration. This time, it was duyog, a Bisaya (from the Phillipines) word meaning “musical accompaniment.”

And lo and behold, Colleen Chesebro’s prompt this week was to use synonyms for harmony and love. How perfect does duyog fit for that? I couldn’t help but combine the prompts.

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American Chimera – 3.3

American Chimera Cover Small

I screamed and nearly had a stroke when the black legs and fangs stuck out from the white blanket, the spider screaming like a small child. I even jumped back when it flailed helplessly, and I had thought I’d seen everything already, being a vet for thirty-some odd years. I pointed at the creature in Janie’s hands. “What are you doing with that?”

“It came from an egg I found in the holler,” Janie answered. She handed the screaming pile of towels over to me, hands gentle. “At first I thought it was a dragon, but didn’t turn out that way. It’s cryin,’ though, and I can’t make it stop. It won’t eat bugs, and it poops everywhere. Help me out, doc, and I’ll give you the next paycheck – no, next two paychecks – I get. Please.”

I nodded and reached out my hands to take the child with all the gentleness Janie seemed to be insisting. The spider continued to scream for reasons unknown, the sounds it made breaking my heart despite the terrifying appearance. “Do you have a fecal sample?” I asked.

Brett nodded and held up a canvas grocery bag. “The thing won’t stop poopin,’ Doc. We got you covered.”

“Then you go give that to the technician. Tell her to run a metabolite scan and bring me the results.” I nodded to Janie next, ushering her to the wooden door covered in bite and claw marks from the years of business I’d had in this building. She followed into the exam room, her face paling as I placed the spider in its towel on the steel exam table. It didn’t seem to like the cold table either, but at the time I didn’t realize exactly what I had my hands on.

Instead I unwrapped the thing and, while I gloved my hands in nitrile, looked briefly over its body, finding that it had no distinguishing marks that would let me know what species it was. It lacked the bulbous pedipalps, so I suspected instantly the creature was female. Even though I’d seen tarantulas and camel spiders before, I’d never heard of a spider this size. “When did you say you hatched this thing?” I asked, hoping it was close to dying.

“This mornin,’ real early,” she said. A hand reached up to her face to wipe some mucous from her nose. “I fed it bugs, but it didn’t eat ’em. All I got down it was a vanilla protein shake.”

“Good lord,” I muttered, or perhaps something equally as disdainful. I put my gloved hand up to its body and turned it on its back, and at that moment I felt something I shouldn’t have. I readjusted my hand despite the frighteningly big fang on its mouth, then took a better hold of its abdomen. There was a heartbeat, distinctive as if it had valves, within. With one hand I held the spider down, and with the other I removed my stethoscope and placed it in my ears.

Sure enough, there it was. A four-valve heartbeat. I noticed now that the creature was generating heat, that it was breathing with lungs, that it wasn’t an ordinary spider at all. I eyed Janie while she shivered on the other side of the exam table, and after a few moments listening and confirming that I wasn’t finally going insane, I took the stethescope out of my ears. “What is this?” I asked. “This isn’t a spider, and you haven’t been forthcoming-”

Janie burst into tears. “I found the egg in the holler back in June, and I kept it warm and cozy since then. I listened to it wigglin’ at night, and I…this is mine, Dr. Worthington, and you cain’t take it away. Is it gonna live?”

I huffed. “I’ve never seen anything like this. She’s…she’s not a true spider, not as far as I can tell.” I brushed my gloved hand against the creature’s stomach, and it began to settle down from the crying.

Bare-handed, Janie reached out and stroked one of its legs. I saw the lack of fear in her eyes, the love she had for this poor, pitiful monstrosity. She cooed at the baby girl and slowly picked her up.


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Witty Nib Writing Club – 5 Tips for Rewriting Prose

06092019 Writing Club

This month in the Witty Nib Writing Club, we’re focusing on a major editing skill – rewriting!  Join in the prompt here and start honing your skills.

5.Critically Read The First Version You Made

I don’t mean just remember what you wrote last time.

Unless there’s a good reason to ignore what you’ve already done, look at what you’re trying to replace and figure out why. Write some of those things down if you want. Know where you are and where you have to go. I’ve rewritten the entirety of novels before, but I needed to understand what sorts of things went wrong the first time.

Another point of reading critically is to decide if you need to rewrite or if a passage just needs editing. It’s really great if you can have an alpha or beta reader, because they can give you another perspective. Rewriting is done when a scene in its entirety needs to change. This usually happens to me when the process to get from A to B doesn’t make enough sense.

Read it critically. Make notes about what you want. Then put it away as much as you can. If you use the old version too much, you’ll end up with the old version at the end.

4. Does It Need to Exist at All?

On major hurdle I have toward rewriting is getting rid of useless statements and passages. If I wrote it in the first place, it needs to be there, darn it!

But we all know that’s not necessarily true. When you read, you want the author to give you good stuff to read. A bunch of useless babble can slow down the book, make it confusing, or make readers focus on parts that aren’t important. This isn’t Victorian England, and you’re not Charles Dickens – in today’s market, you aren’t going to be promised payment per word before you show your chops.

Here’s some tips to  clean out unnecessary stuff:

  • Did you skip over it when you read the paragraph? People skip things when they read, and it’s for one two reasons: either the info isn’t worthwhile, or they’re looking for something different. If you skipped it when reading, consider if it needs to be moved or get the ax.
  • How many times do you say it? If you’ve given that piece of information before in a similar manner, you might not want to do it again. Give the statement a good think.
  • Do you feel bored? Don’t fool yourself that you’re bored because you’ve written/read it before – try to think critically about it. Get rid of boring.
  • Delete it. Read the paragraph/passage again. Did it flow? If so, you can probably keep it out.
  • Give yourself a break. Don’t work on that story for a while; when you come back, you might have a fresh enough outlook that you can read what you actually wrote, not what you intended to write.
  • Listen to your beta readers! If they’re bored with a passage, pay attention – even if you don’t need to delete it, figure out what kind of oomph the passage needs.

3. Remember, Rewriting Isn’t Editing

Part of why I suggest writing something brand new without using the old version as the skeleton is the temptation to change individual words or fix grammar and call it good enough. Changing words and grammar is important, but sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes, you want to add a new feeling, change the logic of how the characters got to a certain plot point.

Put away the old version while you’re rewriting. Make something new, make what you think you want this time. Think about where you want to go and write it. If you use the old version, you’ll end up with something substantially like the old version. Remember, it’s fine to edit, but when you need to rewrite – i.e. when you need to do something substantially different – it can be helpful to get rid of what you don’t want.

2. Merge the Old and New Versions

It helps me, once I’m done, to re-read the old version and try to see if there were old parts that I forgot in the new version. I have to be really critical about this, though, because I didn’t think the element was important when I started the rewrite. Usually, I rewrite for a specific scene to get from point A to point B, and the things I add back in are hints or foreshadowing that I had left out.

Another reason to merge the two at this point – being selective with what you use from the old version – is you can examine who the characters are. If you’ve finished a book or story with dynamic characters, you may want to check afterwards to be certain you have the right stage of character. You will want to make sure they don’t know twists or secrets they learn later in the book.

1. Save The Old Version

I can’t stress this enough – SAVE OLD MANUSCRIPTS! You probably won’t come back to it after enough time has changed, but you never know. As well, just having that older version on your computer gives you more evidence of when you wrote it, gives you a record of your process, and may contain ideas that you’ll want to re-use later.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rewritten a story then wished I could at least compare it with an older one and make sure it was the best it could be. Save it for peace of mind if nothing else.

When I write a book, I create a dated version. If I’m just adding a chapter to the end, I just keep the same file. When I need to edit or rewrite any portion of the file, I’ll create a new version with a new date. At the end, I’ll put all the versions except the final one into a folder, then zip them together. You can use 7zip to compress it further than you can with just a .zip file.

At some point, you’ll declare your work done. Be proud of where you’ve taken it.

Other Places Full of Neat Hints

Other people have a ton of advice about editing and rewriting.

Necessary Fiction’s “A Month of Revision” (Strongly recommended – lots of tips for novel writers)

7zip zipping software can help you store a lot of archival information in a small space. You’ll never have to feel bad about taking up too much memory on your laptop or desktop ever again!

Do you have any more hints or tips that I’ve missed?  Something you’d like to focus in on?  Leave it in the comments!  Or, better yet, feel free to talk about it in your own response to Witty Nib Writing Club’s prompt!

American Chimera – 3.2

American Chimera Cover Small

The Huffmans were the type of people I prayed would bring their dogs in for shots or neutering. They were backwoods folks – deep, deep backwoods – and that often meant their dogs ran around half feral, spurting out litters. Half the pups would die of parvo and most of the rest be drowned in a gunny sack to hide them from the government. At the same time, even if the Huffmans or those of their ilk lugged their pets in to see me, they rarely brought any money. Sometimes the government would subsidize the sterilizations, sometimes they wouldn’t. Most work done on those animals was gratis, performed with the hopes that I’d at least prevent something worse from happening down the line.

So when I heard that the Huffmans were coming in with a truckload, I sighed with relief at the same time that the muscles just next to my wallet clenched. I heard the baying of their hound mutts long before I saw Janie Huffman through the front window as she got out of the truck, something swaddled in a white towel in her arms. Brett Huffman hopped down from their old truck soon after, his face white as a sheet and his steps uncertain.

I gulped. They didn’t pay any attention to the dogs howling in the back – not when they scrabbled at the sides of the truck, not when the biggest dogs jumped out and ran wild, and certainly not when the littlest dogs cried to escape. Whatever was in the blanket, I thought, had to be deathly ill and concerning the Huffmans deeply.

The bell on the door dinged as they rushed in and ignored the lady manning the front desk. They looked through to the back, finding me easily while Janie held tight the bundle in her arms. “Dr. Worthington!” Janie shouted. Tears ran down her face, and Brett wrung his hands a few feet behind her. “Dr. Worthington, you’ve gotta help us. Please, please help.”

This was only fifteen years ago, mind. I was already old, my husband already retired, fiddling in his woodshop and coasting out on our nest egg. I put my hands in my pockets and resolved not to give out something for free that I would regret later. I tried to keep my feet planted where they were, but I’m afraid my voice may have betrayed my resolve by handing out tones of concern. “What’s wrong, Janie?”

Her lips quivered. “My baby,” she said, “My baby – I don’t know what to feed it. I hatched it from an egg, Dr. Worthington, but I didn’t plan it out at all. You gotta help me.”

I raised a brow, curious what she had brought in that was the size of a loaf of bread but had hatched from an egg. I was foolish enough to reach forward to the blanket and take a corner. “May I see? Is it a girl or a boy? Dog? Cat?”

Janie shook her head, tears flowing down. “I don’t know what to do. I’m scared I’m gonna kill it, Doc.”

The moment I tugged on the corner of the blanket, I heard a screech like that of an infant. I let go of the blanket immediately and took a step back. “Is that a human baby in there!?”

Brett reached forward, taking my forearm in his meaty hands. “It’s not what you think,” he assured. His hands twirled around at the blanket, a finger pointing. “Show ’er, Janie.”

Janie clutched the swaddled creature even closer and gave me a desperate frown. “You won’t take it away, will you?” she asked. “I ’member what you did to Roy, takin’ him away when he got sick.”

I sighed. “If you pay for services rendered, I won’t have to hold it as collateral. If you care for this creature more, I won’t have to get it seized from you.”

“I’ll care for it,” Janie said. “I’ll give you all the rest of my dogs if I can keep just this lil’ one. I’ll keep my job, stop smokin’ weed, whatever it takes.” She put her hand on top of the bundle.

I settled myself down and nodded. I’d take these people’s dogs – that wasn’t a hard offer to argue – but I had a sinking feeling down deep in the pit of my stomach that they’d stolen someone else’s child. There’s no way these two had passed parental tests, no way they hadn’t been sterilized a decade ago. I put my hand back on the corner of the blanket and tugged it with more vigor this time. “I’ll help the baby out. Here, let me look-”


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Book Review: The Hunger Games

When I looked over my performance based on the Amazon’s 100 Books to Read Before You Die, I noticed one easy way to knock three titles from the list was to read the Hunger Games series. I think Amazon messed up by making each book a separate entry, but you know, whatever.

The Book

51fpao2bjxlThe Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Amazon Link

I have never read this series because I’ve always found the premise of televised child murder to be an unlikely future for pretty much any current society, much less the future of America. I guess other people would disagree with me, but that’s the way my dice rolled.

Even so, it’s critically acclaimed, there are movies (which I haven’t seen), and I suppose it’s relevant to a modern audience. Let’s see what’s inside!

Non-Spoiler Review

I will admit that this was a fun read. I’m not sure I liked the juxtaposition of clearly YA-characters beside brutally murdered 12-year-olds, but I can also see myself finding the book edgy and “real” if I were a teen. So it probably fits a YA audience well, but parents might want to think about letting an advanced 9 year old read it without guidance or discussion.  

Anyway, I thought the pacing was excellent. The chapters left me hanging perfectly such that I wanted to keep going and find out what happened. I thought Katniss’s struggles were compelling, even if naggingly contrived.

I even think the touches of romance were well done. While I will say more in the spoilers, just know for now that I am VERY picky about my romance in books.

Lastly, my beefs with the book. I still think the premise is crazy, but if I could put that behind me, it was worth the time I spent reading. Collins also used a lot of weird word choices repeatedly, like ‘roast,’ and I kept getting drawn out of the immersion because of this. Finally, some of the plot points felt contrived, and the final solution felt too easy.

4/5 Discoball Snowcones

4 Discoball Snowcones


I’m going to shock some of you: I thought the romance subplot in this book was good.

Honestly, I kind of want to know how things go with Katniss and Gale when she gets back home.  Her experience with Peeta was harrowing, and now they share a bond which can’t be simulated otherwise.  Katniss pretended to love Peeta in order to eke gifts from sponsors and viewers, so the entire nation thinks they’re in love, further complicating matters.  However, Gale has much more history with Katniss, and he’s shown a long-term devotion.  I actually liked this subplot, which is very unusual for me.

Lastly, I’d like to complain about the contrivance concerning the ‘rule change.’  During the middle of the games, the announcer declared 2 people could win the Hunger Games if they were from the same district.  Then, right at the end, when Katniss and Peeta had won, they revoked this rule change.  Katniss and Peeta decided to commit suicide simultaneously.

Honestly, what did the game makers expect?  Force the competitors to work together, then suddenly pull the rug out from under them?  I felt like this change right at the end was such fake BS, invented just so Katniss could ‘insult’ the capitol.

Still, overall, I’d say my complaints are weak sauce.  I definitely intend to finish this series, now.

Next week:

I’m reading the second book in this series, Catching Fire.