Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Review: The Death of Jacob Track by Natasha Gilbert



Jacob Track is back from the dead, and he’s looking for answers. He saw her blue eyes, her blonde hair - he knows it was her - and what he wouldn’t do to get his hands on her… But what happens when you know the truth that no one else does? How to do you cope with knowing who did it when the whole town believes he committed suicide? And what happens when the people you think you can trust turn out to be the worst kind of evil?

How would you go on?

The Death of Jacob Track by Natasha Gilbert explores the human condition in ways one would never expect to see from a book with an outwardly typical murder-mystery appearance (with the exception of the whole being undead tidbit, of course). In reality, The Death of Jacob Track is a book that defies all expectations; with every flip of the page, the reader becomes progressively tangled up in spectacle and deception. With it’s third-person omniscient point-of-view and nonlinear storyline, this book is fast-paced, heart-stopping, and manipulative in it’s own right. Characters one once believed to be genuine no longer feel right. What the reader thinks happened may not have actually happened at all, even if the character witnessed it with his or her own eyes. Nothing about this book is trustworthy… and that is the absolute beauty of it.

The Death of Jacob Track, the first installment of the 33x series, primarily focuses on group of well-liked high school students among other family and friends of the dearly deceased. Their complex spider web of relationships with one another and their perplexing inner-thoughts -courtesy of convenient omniscience- only sweetens the mystery behind Jacob Track’s true death. Narrative credibility is continually questioned and tested throughout the novel as new developments arise and true intentions are revealed. The Death of Jacob Track is one of those books that cannot be put down until the latest twist presented is resolved.


Now that the novel has been properly introduced, I’d like to cut the formalities. The Death of Jacob Track is a book that kept me on my toes for hours. And by hours, I mean it only took me that long to read, considering the plot had the pace of a speeding race horse (and yes, that’s a good thing in this case)! If I’m remembering correctly, we follow our group of teens through their sophomore, junior, and senior year of high school, making three years of whoa-wait-what?! And all in 350-ish pages!

I’ve gotta say, those three W’s really describe my reactions while reading this book. The plot twists, the character development, and even the some of the subtle details of it all made me stop and think about how these events might pertain to the mystery as a whole. Mystery, however, isn’t exactly how I would categorize this book. Sure, mystery is definitely a large part of what makes this book great, but -without giving too much away- I feel as though there are trace elements of sci-fi; perhaps even dystopian, if you look at it in the right light. The Death of Jacob Track is one of those books that’s difficult to tie down and examine. There’s so much to analyze, yet so little information given. It’s a very strange paradox, but it definitely keeps me wanting more. Guess I’ll just have to wait for the second book in the series then, eh?

If I had to compare this book to anything (which is very difficult, mind you), I’d have to say this is an odd lovechild of Rick Yancey’s The Fifth Wave and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde. Nobody is quite who they say they are, whether they’re hiding themselves purposefully or whether they’ve been conditioned. Something has infected them: changed them deep in their personalities. Their memories are fabricated, their feelings have been manipulated… and someone they thought they could trust has been behind it the whole time.

Now, I can hear you saying to yourself, “But what about the bad stuff, Sarah? Surely this book can’t be perfect?” And to that, I say; “You’re most definitely right.” This book isn’t perfect. Then again, is any book -with the exception of One Hundred Years of Solitude- truly perfect? I digress, The Death of Jacob Track has a few flaws that I’d like to just point out and get out of the way for anyone interested in reading.

I have absolutely no problems with the pace of this book, nor do I have any qualms with the point of view; however, convenience tends to be a bit of an issue. There were a couple key plot points that seemed a bit too contrived to be realistic. For example, a well-hidden lever to a secret chamber is stumbled upon on a hunch. To me, having a suspicious hunch about a very inconspicuous object for no reason other than “why not?” is a bit too… well… easy for me! It felt like the author was forcing the story to the juicy parts - which I can totally relate to - it just didn’t make for quality believability.

Besides the minor grammatical and syntax errors here and there, The Death of Jacob Track is a fairly well-written book. I feel as though the writing could have been jazzed up a bit here and there, and jazzed down a bit in others (specifically cutting a good portion of character’s physical descriptions, as after a while they do get a bit redundant), however, as a whole the book was well balanced and made it’s point. I can totally appreciate that.

I can also appreciate how Gilbert takes the time to describe mental illness from a whole new perspective. One of our characters, Zacchya Packers, suffers from major clinical depression and suicidal tendencies. It’s interesting how we observe her journey from a very personal and intimate perspective, while also maintaining distance through other characters. It truly showcases how mental illness is interpreted individually, and there is no true way to handle situations of that breed. It’s all about perception and reaction.

Now, who should read this book? The Death of Jacob Track explores a lot of ideas and controversial issues that many authors are a bit hesitant to touch on. This is definitely an interesting read for those who are struggling to cope with mental illness, however, I feel this book would be better fitted for a science-fiction buff. This book makes you question the fine line that separates ethics and experimentation. It also sings to any psychology majors out there.


Being quite lucky, I actually discovered The Death of Jacob Track through the author herself. Natasha and I met a few years back at a Gerard Way concert, believe it or not! We’ve since kept tabs on each other through social media - hence how I found out about her first novel! Having not known about her writing endeavours, it came as a pleasant surprise to me. Of course, I wanted to support a fellow aspiring author by purchasing her book and giving it a thorough read… and here I am!

Natasha was kind enough to speak with me about her book and let me pick apart her brain a bit. The following exchange occurred on Friday, May 26th, 2017.

S: So I have to ask, because it is a running question in my creative writing community, are you a plotter, or a pantser? In other words, do you sit down and plot everything out before you write or do you just let the writing take you where it may?

N: I’m normally a plotter; however, when I started this book, it just kind of came up out the seat of my pants… [The book] took forever to write, by the way. I now have a plan for book two (which I’ve finished), and book three (which I’ve started).

S: I was just about to ask you about the progress of your second book! How long did it take you to finished the first and second books?

N: A year and a half for both. I mean… each one took a year and a half a piece, so three years for the first two.

S: That’s dedication! Is it just you that writes, edits, and publishes your work, or do you work with anyone else?

N: I worked with a company called Book Fuel. They helped edit and publish it.

S: In your book, we are presented with a very close-knit gang of well-liked high-schoolers ironically named “The Misfits”. Their relationships with one another and their personalities are quite interlocking and complex. Would you say that the process of developing these characters was difficult, or were they perhaps based off of anyone in the real world?

N: Some of them are very loosely based off of people I know. [Each character is based off of] either one person or a few people. But some of the characters, like Zacchya, I had a light picture in my head of what I wanted her to be. But it’s weird how you think a character is going to turn out and it’s like the character itself tells you “that’s not how it happened” or “I wouldn’t do that”. It sounds crazy but it’s like they want to make sure their story is told.

S: Lastly, an ongoing theme in your book is coping with loss and mental illness. Would you say the implementation of such subjects was more-less a device for plot progression, or were you attempting to reach out to your audience through your character’s struggles, perhaps?

N: Well I know that a lot of people struggle with depression and mental illness. I’ve had some light depression in my life as well, however, nowhere near as strong as my characters. It’s something that needs light shed upon it. It’s a real issue. I worked in a mental hospital for four years. Some of it kind of rubbed off [on my work]. The character that caused Zacchya issues in [the mental hospital], Terrible Theresa, was based on a real person. She was a nightmare. I make her sound better than she really is.

S: Well kudos to you for being so strong-willed! It’s awesome that you’re providing your readers with such relatable characters. Thank you so much for speaking with me!

N: Oh, yeah! This has been super fun!

My point? I’d say this book is definitely worth a read. In all of my years of reading, and in all of the two hundred or so books that I’ve read over the past two years, I can’t say that I’ve read anything quite like The Death of Jacob Track.

Give it a go.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I Have No Memory of Writing This

I draw elephants when I'm scared of mice
It's quite ironic, isn't it?
The most inconsequential triviality 
Can send me spiraling into stressing
And worrying. And ruminating. And brooding. 
So I draw elephants.

But the elephant is always smaller
Than the hole in my chest
His massiveness does nothing but sit
In my stomach and churn
Like a lump or two of sugar in tar
Coagulating like sick at the bottom.

And even when the mice find their way in
My brain pushes them with a broom
But straw bristles do nothing as poison does
I have no poison
So they just scurry behind other thoughts
And squeak when I forget

Have No Fear!

I'm still here!

Hey everybody, just wanted to let you know that I haven't gone anywhere. I'm just having a little trouble posting right now heavyset I just sent my laptop in for repairs, so I have been limited to just my cellular device. I might be posting here and there with it for the next couple of weeks, but it's a very cumbersome process, what with autocorrect and what have you.
I've been putting off sending laptop in because of finals, but it was only a couple months old and they will cover repairs under my warranty, so I figured I should just hunker down and do it now that I don't need it. The one bad pixel led to another which led to another and now there's a six inch long black line running down the vertical meridian of my screen, and it's only growing. So I'm laptopless for the meantime. I beg for forgiveness, just know I'm not going anywhere, and my blog is still very much alive!

 Thanks so much, and sorry for any typos! I can't be bothered to spell check a mobile post.

-An Amish

Friday, May 19, 2017

A New Page, Missing The Old Page

It's been 33 hours since I said goodbye to my creative writing class.

This semester has brought so many good things. I can't even begin to tell you how far I've come. Writing was always bittersweet for me - I'm a creature of immediate gratification. Anyone who has attempted to write anything of importance knows that it's a tedious and meticulous process of trial, error, and retrial. I was the kind of writer that could brainstorm characters and plots for days on end, but when it came to the actual writing, well... to be frank, it just took too long. It's not necessarily that I'd get bored with my stories. No, it was a bit more selfish than that. The fact that my book wasn't completed and published within a week really put a damper in my motivation to work. I feel like there might be some people out there who relate.

But this semester has brought the writing process out into a whole new light. I see it now as a therapeutic escape from the real world. I realize now that I've been writing about the wrong things. I don't want to write cheesy love stories anymore. I want to write about much bigger things... the rise and fall of hubris, the fine line between good and evil, why someone might blindly obey against their own morality - all of these things are why I write. I've decided that exploring my own curiosities in my writing is a great way to KEEP writing. I figure myself out in the process and learn things I wouldn't have known previously. In a way, it's a little scary, because sometimes I find myself writing things I didn't expect, but I suppose that's just part of the process now.

I've found that writing shorter stories (despite my larger-than-life ideas) has been a happy medium as of late. I think the gratification that comes from having a finished piece of work that actually WORK is a lot better than having thirty unfinished first-ten-pages. I think as time goes on, I'll be able to hold out longer and longer, and I might work my way up to novel length. I also think that posting my stories in installments is another good way to combat my lack of selfish motivation - being able to share what I've written with others and receive feedback for every chapter is definitely a confidence booster. Not only that, it makes every chapter feel like it's own finished work.

I'm sincerely going to miss my creative writing class. The discussions and experiments were such an amazing step for me as a writer, that I couldn't imagine going on without it. Alas, I must, but if I could do it all over again, I would. 

Wade Bradford, your class was a safe space. I have never felt more comfortable in my own creative skin. Even when I was criticized, it was never hurtful, or embarrassing. Being surrounded by fellow authors-in-training helped to combat my anxieties, and having a professor that actually CARED was... refreshing. Thank you once again for everything.

And thank you to my lovely witches in House Glowdark. You were the best house I could have ever been last-minute-ly thrust into. Your input was what made my work this year absolutely sky-rocket in quality, and I appreciate every single last one of your critiques and compliments. Kayden, Marissa, Alondra, Shaundee, and Holly, you'll forever be my writers-best-friends, so I hope you don't mind if I send you some drafts from time to time. ;)

And last but not least, thank you to everyone I had the pleasure of meeting this semester. Thank you all for creating an amazing creativity-friendly environment. It was an honor working with all of you, and I hope I'll be seeing most of  you around. Also, feel free to hit me up and send me anything you want a second opinion on. I'm always down to help a fellow writer out. <3

Forever a Glowdarkian,

-A Friend

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Spenserian Sonnet

a b a b b c b c c d c d e e

The leather bound books sit upon the shelf, 
Collecting dreams that drifted from my sleep, 
And turning pages inked all by themselves, 
Have overlooked the blots of last night's weep. 
The haunted midnight chime does sweetly reap 
The aging parchment of the library. 
As quill and ink do pair and aptly keep,
Mortality is likely to bury. 
Even such timeless tales of folk faerie
Are not immune to rot, as things of dreams 
Will drown at dawn in aging's airy sea, 
For death must understand what may not seem.

Though binding blood might break the fractured spine,
At least these dreams they must collect are mine. 

Sunday, May 14, 2017


I wrote this December 15th, 2015. Enjoy!

Pessimism (n).
Perpetual Energy and Self-Sustaining Inability to Maintain or Improvise Simple Matters

People Engage in Surreptitious Situations that Inadvertently Minimize the Improbability of Sanctioning Morality.
Post-Effigetic Systems "Surprisingly" Inspire Minimal Imagination in the Surviving Masses, yet
Painful Endurance Strives to Sedate these Innocents, Making Inaccurate Surmises of their Mentality.
Practically Every "Savior" Suspects the Impossibility of Mediating, Implying Sadness were the Monster. oh,
Pity those Extremely Stupid Souls who Invoke such Mindless Injustices on the Smarter Mankind, for
Provoking Enragement of the Smarter Selves will Indefinitely Mar their Innovative Survival Mechanics. the 
Perfect Environment finds Solace in Selection, an Inoperative Mechanism in Society, Modernly.
Pests should Expire, Simmered Slowly in Materials Impure and be Shown no Mercy.
Pessimism Is Simply Sense: Including Melancholy, yes, but Involving Statistical Measurements.
Past Encounters Shall Surface Impendingly, Masquerading as Improbable Scenarios to Many, but
Pessimists Expect; thought Scorned by the Several Ignorant, Miraculous, Idealistic Swine of Misunderstanding.

Pessimism (n).
definition refined:
Predicting Eventual Settlements of Situations Idiotically Misconstrued by Impractical, Simplistic Morons!

A Petrarchan Sonnet

a b b a a b b a
c d e c d e

Truly do I feel the seaward breezes.
In faith, in part, I might forget to breathe.
And under urchins I might choose to seethe, 
For lapsing waves have plagued me with freezes.
Wintry lips have met Poseidon's teases
With angry Tempest's gnash of salty teeth;
Who dragged the praying God from underneath
To do with him whatever she pleases.
And languidly I wait for tides of blue
And pink of sunset sickness in the sea 
To melt away the words I long since spoke.
In foaming reveries I dream of you,
As memories churn foggy with debris,
You are the final swallow of the choke.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Insecurity and Hindsight

In another life,                                 I would like to think that I was the perfect version of myself.
I would like to think that my hair fell in long tresses like roses on a trellis.
I would also like to think that it smelled like roses on a trellis.
In another life, I would have hoped not of such selfish things as perfection.

In some other dimension, I can see myself sitting on the edge of a freeway overpass.
I count the lights that fly between my feet much like roaring bugs in summer.
I keep a tally of how many remind me of cliche movies.
In some other dimension, on the edge of a freeway overpass, I wouldn't think about falling.

If I wasn't myself, I know I could be everything that I've ever wanted to be.
I'd be a successful writer. I'd know to bake oatmeal cookies from scratch.
I wouldn't waste time worrying over the inevitable and the indescribable.
If I wasn't myself, I know I'd be more of myself than I have ever been in my life.

      In another life.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Into the Belly of the Beast!

A short scene by Sarah Gay

Oura: A quirky, witty girl of twelve. Dry and cynical.
Mino: A rough-and-tumble boy. Smart. Oura’s twin brother

(Setting) Inside of a whale.

Mino enters, followed by Oura who carries a book. Mino holds a magnifying glass, a pad of paper, and a pencil in his mouth.

Oura: It smells like fish in here.
Mino: Whale’s aren’t fish, Oura. They’re mammals.
Oura: Still smells like fish.
Mino: Oh, would you stop your whining and let me do my field work? Did I complain last week when we took a trip to Venus?
Oura: Yes, actually. (Mimicking him) It’s way too hot, Sissy! Why couldn’t we have visited Jupiter?
Mino: Oh, shut it! You know Jupiter would have been more interesting anyway. That big red storm looked pretty cool.
Oura: Jupiter is a gas giant, Mino. How would we even explore it in the first place if there’s no surface to explore? We’d just get sucked to the core and be spaghettified!
Mino: (Jokingly) And who doesn’t like spaghetti?
Oura: You’d say anything just to prove yourself right, wouldn’t you?
Mino: (Smiling) Only if it proves you wrong.
Mino begins studying a hairy structure.
Oura: Your stupidity gives me acid reflux.
Mino: Hey, come check this out!
Oura follows and observes.
Oura: That’s the whale’s teeth, right?
Mino: Absolutely not! This is baleen hair!
Oura: Okay, what is it used for?
Mino: It’s what the whale uses to eat. It sucks up a bunch of ocean junk, then filters out plankton to consume. Look! You can even see some leftovers if you look close enough…
Oura: (Looking, then thinking) … So they’re teeth.
Mino: (Exasperated) Honestly, Oura, how did you pass the fifth grade?
Oura: You’re the one that thought we could escape the gravity of Earth by using an old truck engine and diesel fuel.
Mino: But you still tried it, didn’t you?
Oura scoffs and busies herself elsewhere. Mino begins sketching and taking notes.
Oura: (Impatient) Oh, would you hurry up? Mom is going to have both of our hides if we’re late for dinner again! She’ll skin us like seals!
Mino: Whoa, whoa, sensitive topic. (Shifting) And whose fault was it last time?
Oura: Hey, outer space is kind of a big deal.
Mino: (Gesturing to the cavernous space around them) We’re inside of a living, breathing, blue whale. You know, the largest mammal on the planet? More massive than any other dinosaur that ever walked the stinkin’ Earth? Kind of a big deal. (Pause) Just… go sit over there and busy yourself with your reading.
Oura: Yeah. (Observing in obvious disgust) It’s really… fleshy.  But whatever you insist, Darwin.
Oura sits on the whale floor and begins reading.
Oura: (After some time) I don’t get what’s so cool about the ocean anyway. Everything smells like bad sushi and the salt water makes my hair crackle. It’s honestly like… the worst place ever.
Mino: How could you even say that? The ocean is great! Millions of years ago, whatever we evolved from crawled out of the very same waters to form humanity! We came from the oceans, Oura. Don’t you think that’s cool?
Oura: If you think about it, Mino, the oceans are just a byproduct of cosmic activity. You, me, and the ocean our great great great great biological ancestors crawled out of- we were all formed from the remnants of pre-earth supernovae. Isn’t that just a bit more… I don’t know... epic?
Mino: Yeah, it’s pretty cool, but I still think the ocean is cooler.
Oura: Why though? It’s just water and smelly, slimy fish. It’s pretty stupid, really.
Mino: Why do you always do this?
Oura: Do what?
Mino: You’re always invalidating me. At least I support what you do.
Oura: (Defensively) Well what you do isn’t important to human progress, Mino! Why should I support something that doesn’t even matter?
Mino: (Hurt) How could you even say that? The ocean is the most unexplored frontier of the Earth. I want to help discover it.
Oura: I’m not going to even bother explaining why I have you beat there, too.
Mino: Why does it matter? Shouldn’t you just be happy for me or something? Even if you don’t mean it, shouldn’t you at least pretend to care?
Oura: You know I’m not that kind of person. I wouldn’t lie to you.
Mino: Sometimes I wish you would.
Mino returns to his drawing. Oura grows restless and begins tentatively exploring the whale’s intricacies.
Mino: Would you stop fidgeting? It’s distracting.
Oura: Fine. If it gets us out of here quicker.
Oura plops down on an indistinct mass of whale. A loud, rumbling “awoo” resonates through the capacious, mammalian expanse. The whale floor rocks precariously. Oura, frightened, tosses her book off stage in shock.
Mino: Are you okay?
Oura: Yeah, I think so.
Mino: Jeez, Oura! What did you do?
Oura: What you told me to do!
Mino: I didn’t tell you to sit on the whale’s trachea! It probably thought it was choking.
Oura: (referring to the smell) That makes two of us, then.
Mino: Would you just zip it about the smell? I know it’s not the most pleasant scent, but those sulfur volcanoes on Io must have been 300 times worse at least. This shouldn’t even phase you. I mean, if you can stand smelling a farting moon for hours on end, the inside of a whale shouldn’t even-
Oura: (interrupting him) Oh my god.
Mino: What?
Oura: (frantic) Oh my god, no, no, no! This can’t be happening.
Mino: Sissy, calm down. What’s wrong?
Oura: My book! It’s gone! It’s the one dad got me before he left overseas. The one about the conservation of angular momentum in relation to the formation of the solar system! Oh no, no, no!
Mino: It must have fallen into the digestive tract...
Oura: I don’t know what I’m going to do. (Hopeless) That book is everything to me.
For a moment, it’s quiet. Oura cries softly.
Mino: (suddenly) I’ll find it. Give me two minutes.
Oura: What? Are you nuts? What if you get lost in the bowels of the whale?
Mino: I think I know my whale anatomy.
Oura: Oh god, at least let me come with you!
Mino: No way. The whale might be huge, but it’s intestines are a bit too narrow for two people to fit comfortably. And besides, if you think it stinks now… (a shudder) Trust me. You’re better off just staying here.
Oura: Wait, Mino!
Mino has already begun his confident descent into the belly of the beast. Oura sits alone. She hugs her knees.
Oura: I hope he doesn’t take too long. The last time he left me alone like this, he went to explore the bottom of the Mariana Trench. He left me sitting on the precipice for hours, and let me tell you, there’s nothing appealing about watching your brother descend into the unknown darkness of the deep sea. (A pause) I worry about him… but I guess it’s no different than the void of space. (A beat) What’s taking him so long?
Oura begins to pace.
Oura: I really hope he knows what he’s doing. I’d be in deep trouble if I came home without him… again. Mom would be devastated if anything happened to him. And what if Dad came home one day and found out I lost my own brother? He’d never bring me books ever again. I don’t know what I’d do… I’m such an idiot.
Yet another “awoo” bellows from deep within.
Oura: (Suddenly paranoid) What if he’s gone too far? What if he gets sucked into the stomach acid and gets digested? Why isn’t he back yet? He said two minutes. It has to at least have been five already. Ten, even. What if he got seasick? (A realization) How do I get out if he doesn’t come back? I have zero knowledge of whale biology. The teeth - hair, whatever - is way too thick for me to squeeze through. I obviously can’t take the back door… where is the blowhole!? Oh my god… I need a pharmacist.
Oura sits again and begins violently crying. During her episode, a rather sticky Mino returns triumphant, book in hand.
Mino: I’ve got it!
Oura doesn’t hear him through her fit. Mino sits next to Oura and puts his arm around her shoulder.
Mino: Hey, don’t worry! I’ve got your book back. You can stop crying now.
Oura: (Looking up) Oh, thank god!
She hugs him
Mino: Jeez, if this is all it takes to get your affection…
Oura: I’m so sorry, Mino. I’m so so so sorry. I’m sorry I’m such a bad sister. I’m sorry about complaining. I’m sorry about everything. Please don’t hate me. I was so worried…
Mino: Hey, hey, champ. I’m okay. It was just a meter or so inside- at the top of the digestive tract. It was nothing, really. I’m just glad you got your book back. I didn’t mean to scare you by leaving you out here by yourself.
Oura: It’s okay. (A sniffle) I don’t mean this the wrong way, but can we go home now?
Mino: Of course.
Another hug.
Oura: (Pulling away) Holy mackerel, you smell disgusting!
Mino: Yeah, (smiling) I know.