Monthly Archives: January 2012

Maximum Ride Spork: Part Sixteen

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Chapter 47

Nudge is laying around in a cave, thinking about stuff, including how Ari used to always follow Max around. Which would make me think he was living with the flock and Jeb, but there was never mention of this previously…

JPatterson, care to explain the things that actually matter? I’d really rather know the flock’s relationship with Ari than some random story about hot dogs.

Nudge angsts a bit more about how everyone’s dead… then proceeds to go crazy over kabobs that Fang brings. Because death is so much less important than food.

And then Iggy and Gazzy show up and yay!

Chapter 48

Now we’re with Max, who’s putting on a new sweatshirt. Over her wings, which would be impossible. Unless her wings are trailing out of cuts in the sweatshirt (which, well), or they’re so well indented into Max’s back that it doesn’t matter, which would mean she got some weird genetics to have indents in her back and her wings are pretty small, or her chest is just really small, meaning she might have a smaller heart and lungs, which would give her lower blood flow and less oxygen, which seems counter intuitive towards flying, not to mention that getting her wings out of indents and through a shirt wouldn’t be easy…

Honestly, this book.

Blah blah blah, Max leaves Ella and Dr. Martinez with a backpack, which somehow she wears I guess? The narration never bothers to tell us how she manages it what with her wings. C’mon, JPatterson, don’t be lazy!

Chapter 49

We’re now on part three (did I mention this book has parts?), “School–what could be scarier than that?”

Ha ha.

(Not to mention that this is the third part in a hundred and sixty pages. Really brilliant, that.)

Max goes to look for Nudge and Fang, and finds them plus Iggy and Gazzy. Completely ignoring the fact that Iggy and Gazzy shouldn’t be there, she spouts some sentimental stuff:

Relief and joy flooded through my body and soul. …

And yes, I did say soul.

Is there something I’m missing, or does that make no sense? Why does it matter if Max said soul?

Chapter 50

Blah blah blah, everyone reunites and Max finally acknowledges that Gazzy and Iggy shouldn’t be here. They go on about their adventures and continue to bash at the question of why the Erasers didn’t kill the flock when they had the chance.

Then:

Maybe in about twenty years I would get the hang of dealing with boys. And maybe not. (pg 163)

I’m still not buying it that there would be so much of a gender split among kids raised in a lab and then in seclusion. I’m just not buying it.

And then Max hugs Iggy and Gazzy and remarks that Iggy is almost five inches taller than her (how she even got such a specific length from a hug, I don’t know).

Blah blah blah (SO MUCH BLAH), the flock head off to find Angel.

Chapter 51

And apparently parents are something that the flock “obsessed about, talked about constantly, cried about”, only I’m saying no, they obviously aren’t, or it wouldn’t take till a hundred and sixty-five pages to even hear of this (and even then we just get told it, which is totally good storytelling). The most we’ve gotten is Max making sarcastic remarks about parents and Nudge randomly deciding to find her mother.

It’s like this book is meant to be bad.

Max tells everyone about the chip in her arm and says she feels “a coaster current in my face.” A brief-ish Google search finds nothing for this term, so I’m assuming that I’m either way out of touch with slang or JPatterson has no idea how teenagers talk nowadays.

And then Max acknowledges that it’s strange it took four years for the Erasers to find them! Now we just have to see if this ever actually gets answered. I’m guessing no, or that it’ll make no sense if it is.

Chapter 52

Oh… Oh my god.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this, but all of us in the flock have an inborn sense of direction. I don’t know how it works. We just always know which way we’re going. (pg 167)

JPatterson, bird DNA does not cause superpowers!

I mean… I just… how could anyone buy this, even for a moment? Mind reading–okay, I guess, pretty bad but acceptable. Mimicking voices–well, rather bad again, especially considering it’s so pointless, but whatever.

But some bizarre inner compass that pops up just when the flock need it?

NO!

That’s bleeping stupid!

I really wish I could throw this book at a wall right now. I imagine that’d be pretty fun.

(Fun fact: I wrote out that whole rant, and then NekoShogun took a look over the spork and told me that birds typically know exactly where they are, and this is actually more plausible than their other powers. I’m leaving the rant for entertainment value, but I will freely admit I am in the wrong here. Though (and of course there’s always a though or a but or some continuation) I must say, I still have to wonder why it took so long for this to get mentioned. I’d think it would be relevant the moment they started flying.)

…Oh, and some of the hawks Fang and Nudge met are following the flock. Despite the fact that there were babies at the nests and that the flock are human and birds don’t just follow people for no reason and that it makes NO. SENSE. WHATSOEVER.

This is one paragraph, people! How could a book possibly be so excruciatingly nonsensical and stupid in a single paragraph?!

(Spoiler alert: when I review this book, it’s not getting any stars. None.)

After a while their… “markers” come into view (am I just being dumb or does that not make sense?) and they land, heading towards a strip mall.

And after Fang jokes about Max getting her hair done, she says the most she ever did was whack at it with scissors when it got too long. Which brings me back to why Max is so sexist against guys–she doesn’t exactly have a lot of stereotypically feminine attributes.

So they’re ten miles away from the School, and Max doesn’t want to fly in for… reasons, despite that it’s ten miles and they should at least fly closer than ten miles.

A guy in a fancy car pulls in by the “little bank machine.” He gets dubbed a jerk by the flock ’cause he’s acting angry, and another car crashes into his and he yells a bunch of swear words (including one that’s foreign to Max that she tucks away for later use–though I doubt she’ll ever swear at all) and oh no, the car was being driven by Ari!

And there ends the chapter, and thankfully I can now end this spork part.

I really, really hate this book, guys.

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Review: May Bird and the Ever After

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May Bird is, surprise surprise, different from the other kids. More comfortable exploring the woods around her house in Briery Swamp with her cat, Somber Kitty, than she is with socialization, May  doesn’t really have friends. So when she finds an old letter somehow addressed to her , asking for her help and providing a map to a mysterious lake, May’s curiosity gets the best of her.

Then she slumped. She felt as heavy as a sack of beans. But then, a sack of beans never got embarrassed or did stupid balloon tricks in front of other sacks of beans or forgot to l0ck the bathroom door. Come to think of it, life was probably easy for all the beans of the world. Being a sack of them wouldn’t be so bad. (pg 17)

Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately), this lake is a portal to the Ever After; the land of the dead. After barely escaping once, May eventually finds herself dragged to the bottom of the lake only to be saved by the houseghost for White Moss Manor (her home), Pumpkin. Now in the Ever After, she has a choice: go north, to the Lady who wrote the letter, or find the Book of the Dead and learn how to get home. But while she’s in the land of the dead, May Bird is not dead and if she is caught, the Bogeyman will surely suck her into nothingness.

So on the surface, May Bird, the first book of a trilogy, is rather generic. Outcast kid finds his or herself in an alternate world? Not exactly screaming originality. What makes the book so amazing, then, is the writing: rather than just lay down some cliches and call it a day, the book’s author, Jodi Lynn Anderson, takes the time to make the characters human and put some thought into what goes on, ultimately creating a unique story.

“Didn’t you know bees are psychic? Oh, of course not. Live Ones don’t know much of anything, of course. Now, let’s see . . .” (pg 87)

That writing, right? It’s pretty fantastic; the prose mostly reads effortlessly, mixed with appropriate amounts of charm and whimsy as well as suspense and drama. What the prose often fails to do, however, is to capture the emotion of a moment: certain sections read a bit jarringly, as if they’re only going through the motions rather than truly describing the action. It’s irritating, but ultimately doesn’t sully the book too much.

Then there’s the characterization, which is often uneven. May Bird and Pumpkin are amazingly human characters, and their eventual friendship feels completely natural–May always seems to have the right reactions to the book’s events, keeping her grounded in reality as the book itself leaves our world, and while the book is fully from May’s perspective Pumpkin’s character is still equally well developed, usually cowardly but capable of real boldness once his self-esteem has been raised.

“It can’t be anything good,” Pumpkin said, pulling his knees up in front of his face so that only his eyes showed, and his voice came out muffled. “They aren’t supposed to be up here. Oh no, not good at all.” (pg 149)

There are two characters introduced near the end of the book, Beatrice and Fabbio, that aren’t as good: Beatrice is the better of the pair, with more promise of future character development, but Fabbio is pretty much just a stereotype. His English is half broken, his ego is huge, and he seems to be intended as some sort of comedic relief character without any comedy.

Finally, there’s the two villains: the Bogeyman, and Bo Cleevil. Bo Cleevil is unseen for the novel, left to just be an imposing figure in the distance; despite this, he still manages to come off as a cartoonish villain along with the Bogeyman, who seems to lack any real motivation other than… nothing.

A minor nitpick with the book in general, too: Anderson doesn’t seem to have decided how spirits work. In the book, there are two types of spirits: specters, who were once living, and ghosts, who never were. The issue isn’t really with that, though, but how they move: it’s implied that all spirits float, though a remark is made that it often takes a bit to learn how. The problem is that characters seem to go back and forth at random; sometimes they are floating forward, sometimes they’re running or tiptoeing. It is, like I said, pretty minor, but nevertheless kind of annoying.

But that’s enough of that: I need to give the book a score!

Four out of five stars!

May Bird and the Ever After is really a great book. Its characters are, if not always great, full of color, and the plot and setting are vibrant and wholly engrossing. A few flaws prevent it from being worthy of five stars, but I still heavily recommend it.

In the Dark: Chapter Two

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It’s been just over eleven hours since I departed–I’ve since left residential areas and am walking in a forest, following a busy road maybe twenty feet to my right. The time has been uneventful; I didn’t encounter anyone else during the night, and I was able to continue walking as I ate my “lunch” (a simple sandwich). I’ve been contemplating leaving the forest, maybe trying to hitchhike, for the past half hour; I don’t really want to go out into the light and expose myself, but if I can reach my destination faster… It’s difficult to decide.

I also have to figure out how I’ll feed myself. I have food packed for the next day or two, but that’s it. I have some money, of course, but I doubt it’d last me more than another day–and my journey is supposed to take a week. If only Jonathan hadn’t been so abrupt with me, I might have had time to plan…

It was one A.M., our usual meeting time. I had been waiting there, in the park nearest to my house, for the last hour, practicing turning off my mind and letting the dark do my thinking for me. I was like that when he arrived, sitting on a bench with my hood pulled down over my face and letting the shadows wash over my consciousness.

I had seen him coming maybe half a mile away, walking from wherever it was he lived in the east. I didn’t open my eyes, however, until he was sitting right next to me.

“How far?” he said once I had taken off my hood.

“Three quarters of a mile,” I said, picking the high end of my estimate.

“Impressive.” He didn’t sound sincere–but he never did.

“What are we doing tonight?” I asked when he didn’t speak further.

“Combat practice.” He stood up, heading towards a largish clearing.

I hesitated a moment before following–we had practiced fighting in concept before, but something in his tone and his way of speech implied we’d be doing something more.

It turned out I was right–when we both reached the clearing, he had me stand ten feet away from him and told me to ready myself.

“Attack me,” he said, and waited.

This time I didn’t hesitate–I immediately grabbed the shadows around Jonathan, pulling them tight against his body. He struggled visibly for a moment, but I kept the shadows in place–then, all of a sudden, I no longer controlled them and instead of surrounding him, they leaped towards me and I was the one immobilized.

I, too, struggled physically at first, but whereas my shadows had had give to them, I couldn’t move a muscle–couldn’t even breath.

Then he released me and I fell to the ground, unable to regain my balance in time.

“You can’t incapacitate someone stronger than you, Tobias,” Jonathan said. “You have to fight.”

I got to my knees, panting, keeping my head pointed towards the ground. Then, as fast as I could, I punched forwards, sending the shadows flying towards Jonathan. Looking up, I saw him stagger and I drew to my feet–a force punched me, hard, and I went flying backwards before I could even register what was happening.

Jonathan was walking towards me, shaking his head as I stood up.

“You should have seen that coming and stopped it,” he said, and I grimaced. “I’ve had pupils years younger than you who’ve had more power and control.”

My stomach churned with shame.

“But I can’t keep teaching you forever. The migration is tomorrow–you’ll be going.”

The shame turned to elation mixed with uncertainty, but I just nodded my head.

It’s dark in the forest, but the brush slows my progress to a crawl and so I finally decide to head out by the road. It takes a few minutes to reach it–the flora is thicker as I near the forest’s edge, and I have to force myself through vines and bushes. I pull my hood up as the sunlight reaches me and pause a moment, using my eyes to scan my surroundings a moment before turning to the left and walking directly at the side of the road.

I continue like this for a few hours before my hunger starts to reach intolerable levels and I decide to take a rest–I’ve been awake for sixteen hours now, and it’s time for “dinner”. I duck back into the forest and find as comfortable a place as any–a small bed of pine needles. I take off my backpack and set it on the ground, then sit next to it and dig out one of the sandwiches I made, contained in a plastic bag. I eat quickly, and when I’m done I close the backpack and lay down next to it (I don’t wish to crush my only food source by using it as a pillow). I’m tired from the long stretch of walking, and despite the light and the hard ground I fall asleep shortly.

Adventures in Netflix! Episode 7: Ironclad

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Welcome to Adventures in Netflix! Today I will be reviewing the 2011 historical medieval action movie Ironclad.

When you get right down to it, Ironclad is a fairly straightforward movie. It pits Baron William De Albany (Brian Cox), Templar Thomas Marshall (James Purefoy), and a ragtag band of  rebels against the tyrannical King John (Paul Giamatti) and his army of Danish mercenaries. The rebels seek to hold Rochester castle against John’s ruthless siege long enough for the French army to arrive and save the day.

"Mean Barons, always pushing me around, never letting me rule the way I want to."

The  siege itself is impressive; the brutality of medieval warfare is depicted with bloody, graphic detail, and the camerawork in the melee scenes does an excellent job of  making the violence and gore feel uncomfortably real and  personal. The special effects of the siege engines, and the damage they wrought, were equally impressive, and showed just how powerful even ancient war machines could be.

This probably isn't going to end well. For either of them.

The acting was, for the most part, adequate. Paul Giamatti was excellent as a vindictive, spiteful King John, and gave probably the strongest performance of anyone. Many of the others, especially James Purefoy and Kate Mara (who played Isabel, the lady of the castle and Sir Thomas’s love interest), tended to be a bit flat, especially during the quiet moments (though to be fair the characters themselves aren’t much more than fairly standard, flat archetypes to begin with). And let’s be honest, Ironclad really isn’t trying to be anything other than what it is; a gritty, gory medieval action movie.

"I. WANT. MY. KINGDOM BACK! I WANT IT!"

Aside from the action, which is of course  the main draw of a movie like this, my second favorite part of the movie was the music. I thought that It did a wonderful job of setting the tone of the movie and evoking a strong sense of place, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

Since you can't take a picture of music, here's a pretty lady with a mace.

All in all I quite liked Ironclad. While it definitely had it’s issues, it did enough right to be an intense, enjoyable, action packed experience.

Maximum Ride Spork: Part Fifteen

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Chapter 41

So, there’s absolutely no reason for this chapter break. There is no stop for narration, no time-skip, the chapter before this wasn’t even nearing normal chapter length, and that chapter only barely had a dramatic point to stop at.

Oh, well.

Dr. Martinez is trying to help Max get back to her “friends” (Nudge and Fang), and after a bit of omniscient narration telling us that Dr. Martinez was thinking (honestly, book!) they decide to go get Max an X-ray. This means going to Dr. Martinez’s vet practice under the guise of a school report:

The three people behind the counter smiled and nodded as if this was totally believable. Maybe it was. How should I know? (pg 128)

I dunno, Max, you’ve seemed to have a pretty good idea of what’s normal or not until now.

But the quotes don’t stop there!

Two seconds after I walked in, I froze in the doorway, feeling the blood rush out of my face and a wash of terror sweep over me.

There was a man there.

In a white coat. (pg 128)

So Max has no problem fighting with the horrible creatures that are trained to brutally hunt her and her family down (not to mention having nearly stopped her from escaping the School), but a white coat totally does her in. I’m all for characters showing actual signs of having gone through trauma, but I feel like this is a bit much. (However, I must say I have no real experience with PTSD, personal or otherwise, and thus cannot say for sure.)

Anyway, Max gets her X-ray and it’s just muscle damage, no bones (she has bones in her accordion wings–brilliant, that), and OH NO! Max has a tracking chip in her arm!

So the Erasers took years to find Max and her family… why? And why do I get the impression this will never be explained?

Chapter 42

Max wants Dr. Martinez to take the chip out, but it was implanted a long time ago and Max’s tissue and blood veins and all that jazz have grown around it. Okay, sounds reasonable.

Then there are men’s voices in the waiting room and Dr. Martinez has Max hide in a closet, where she squeezes in behind some white coats and makes a remark about irony. Which makes total sense, because seeing a man in a lab coat is totally traumatic but hiding behind coats is just ironic.

But Dr. Martinez fends off these people who seem to be looking for Max, and then gets Max to agree to stay another night.

Chapter 43

We’re back with Nudge and Fang, and Fang is trying to talk Nudge out of finding her parents in this trailer park they’re in. And then not a page later, he starts helping her. For… reasons, I guess.

They find the appropriate address and wait outside as a woman leaves the mobile home. And then an Eraser comes up behind them, identified by his laugh.

Because all Erasers laugh the same? Really, I just can’t make this stuff up.

Chapter 44

Nudge “jackknifes” to her feet, and after looking up the word in a dictionary, it looks like she’s either getting to her feet while doubled over or she’s doing it quickly at an abrupt angle, neither of which make much sense. Anyway, she gets to her feet and finds three Erasers, who start out looking like “male models” (which gives me the imagery of the School just hiring a bunch of models to be their bloodthirsty animals) and then they turn into wolf men and aaaaaaa.

And Fang recognizes Ari amongst them, who apparently was a kid and is now a grown-up Eraser. And then he makes a Three Little Pigs reference. What is it with Erasers and the Three Little Pigs?

Fang makes cryptic references to a plan and for some reason the Erasers don’t immediately attack (well, I guess if they’re models they’re not likely to be intelligent) so Fang and Nudge get the jump on them, Nudge pushing on into a cholla cactus. Yes, specifically the cholla cactus. Why Nudge’s internet education up in the mountains would include cholla cacti… no, never mind, that’s logic.

A bit of action that I can’t make heads or tails of later and Fang is on the ground, being beaten by the Erasers. And you know, I have to wonder why the woman who may or may not be Nudge’s mom is not hearing any of this. But anyway, Nudge grabs some paint cans and sprays Ari in the face (Ari, who is on top of Fang… How Nudge maneuvered into a position to do this, I have no idea) and she and Fang manage to get into the air.

And then Ari takes out a gun (yep, these are some idiotic models right there–use the gun FIRST!) but Fang and Nudge manage to escape and they decide to go back to the hawks.

Chapter 45

Now we’re with Angel and Jeb is there and she’s suspicious, and then he holds out a tray with “delish-looking” food. He then goes off on a story about Angel’s appetite and how she ate four hot dogs when she was three, when the rest of the flock only had two. I assume this story is meant to be funny or touching or something, but it’s not and instead is just a poor way of introducing the fact that Angel needs 3,000 calories per day but she’s only been getting 1,000.

More boring stuff happens and Angel says she hates Jeb, then the chapter ends.

Chapter 46

So it would appear Max has seen the Andy Griffith Show, as she mentions “Mayberry” (the town the show took place in) in passing. You know, I’d still like to know where Max gets her pop-culture references from. Was Jeb an Andy Griffith fan, did she find it on her own, etc. etc.

Oh, and Max is a horrible person, too:

I. Am. In. Heaven,” I said, inhaling deeply.

I ate enough raw cookie dough to make myself sick, and then I got high off the fumes of gently baking cookies. I could see the chocolate chips melting through the oven window.

Note to self: Show Nudge and Angel how to make chocolate chip cookies.

If I ever saw Angel again. (pg 147)

I… I’m speechless. I honestly have nothing to say.

Well, I do have one thing: why just Nudge and Angel? Doesn’t Iggy cook? Wouldn’t Gazzy like cookies and to be able to make them? Is Max really so sexist?

Blah blah blah, Max eats some cookies and then there’s an abrupt scene change to that night, where Max is telling Ella she’ll have to go tomorrow.

And then Ella, who’s known Max all of, what, two days? says Max can’t leave because she’s like a cousin or a sister! And you know, they’ve just become so close over those couple days. Blah blah blah, chapter ends.

Untitled Short Piece

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((Because untitled stuff is COOL!))

Up the edge of the building; a jump, and she soared across the gap, landing on the other building and stumbling slightly before continuing her run. She didn’t dare look back; anything that might slow her down was a danger—jump! Over the bedding of pipes, nearing the edge of this building; another jump and she cleared the space, this time sprawling to the ground upon reaching the next building.

No! She pulled herself forward with her hands as fast as she possibly could and continued the run. She could almost feel it behind her, and she doubted it would make a sound even if it was there. What was it? And what had it done with Mark?

There, a door! She skidded to a stop, altering her course for the small building now in her sights. If she could just reach it…

There it was in front of her, seemingly out of nowhere—almost human in appearance, but impossibly thin, with white, sickly-looking skin, a bald head, and mutilated ears plastered to the side of its head. It was still wearing the suit from before—but it was ripped nearly to shreds. The monster snarled at her, and she stared into its putrid green eyes for a brief second before screaming and punching it, then hastily turning around and sprinting off in the opposite direction. She heard its unearthly, sickening scream, but she didn’t look back, didn’t slow her pace.

She could feel tears running down her face, clouding her vision—jump again, this time miraculously landing safely, allowing her to keep at her pace. She had to keep running… she heard it scream again, and she dared a glance backward—it was racing after her, just landing on the building. Back around—duck just in time to dodge some wayward beam, raising her head to see another building’s edge. More jumping, more running, seemingly endlessly; but the beast was catching up as they raced across the rooftops. Twenty feet behind her, fifteen feet, ten feet… and then its sounds vanished; she looked behind her, and it was gone.

She stopped running, crouching down clutching her side, wheezing heavily. Where had it gone? What was it doing? It already had Mark—couldn’t it just leave her alone? The tears were still there, and she wiped her nose and sniffed, then straightened back up. She had to get out of here…

Another small building, near the far edge of the building—a way off the rooftops, into safety. As much as she hated to, she forced herself to run; she had to be fast, or it might come back.

Oof! It was in front of her again–she had collided with it, sending it sprawling to the ground. “No!” she shouted, stumbling back. “Get away from me! Leave me alone!”

It spoke in some garbled language, standing up. It was right at the edge of the building…

Screaming, she lunged forward, ramming into the beast’s chest. It staggered backwards, snarling again—she rammed it once more, and it went toppling off of the building, shrieking for a moment before falling horribly silent.

But that scream… That wasn’t the scream of the monster.

It was human.

Trembling, her body racked with nausea, she turned around and found herself face-to-face with the beast.

“Mark…” she choked as the monster closed in, its mouth opening to reveal rotten, yellow fangs…

No.

Growling, screaming, she punched it just like before—right in the face, causing it to stagger back and scream again. But it recovered quickly, quicker than she expected and it hurled forward, knocking both her and it to the ground. She screamed, pushing her head forward to collide with the monster, but it hardly reacted, grabbing her and sniffing her neck.

She was crying again, feeling dead already, but she wouldn’t give up—instead, she tried kicking it, tried scrabbling at its grasp, scratching it, trying anything to make it stop, but the beast seemed impervious.

Pain. Sharp pain, in her neck, burning and forcing its way through her head, down to her heart, through her body.

She went limp, not moving for minutes, oh so painful minutes. But then, ever so slowly, she realized the pain was fading until it no longer existed; just a memory. The monster wasn’t a memory, though, laying on top of her and apparently dead. If it wasn’t for the creature, she would have thought she was dead too. She felt only its weight; nothing else.

Groaning, still crying, she sat up, the monster’s body falling to the side, its legs still on top of hers. She then stood up, shaking furiously and looking down at herself.

Was that a white tone in her skin? No, it couldn’t be—it couldn’t be. But it was growing, wasn’t it? Right from that point on her wrist, pushing away the tan color and leaving a horrible white. She pushed the wrist against her nose, examining it with a horrible, sinking feeling in her stomach.

The tears were coming down even harder as she threw herself off the building.

((This was originally written for the ImpishIdea forums for the Impish Stories “project” (in quotes because it’s not really a specific thing) and posted here after applying the critique I received.))