Welcome to my blog! I hope you enjoy your stay :]

Monday, December 3, 2012

"I had Christmas down in AFRICAAAAAAA!"

YOU GUYS. We're in DECEMBER. How did this happen? And Advent started this Sunday. We are so freakin' close to Christmas it's crazy.

Of course, to get to Christmas, we must survive finals week first. Gulp. Next week I only have one final, but it's a doozy. (Chemistry, have I told you how frustrating your are? Oh, I have? Well. Can I say it again?) And I have two portfolios due, with papers and stories and poems . . . and I'm sure everyone is going as crazy as I am at the moment.

So how about a Christmas-y song?


Muahaha. If you haven't heard of STRAIGHT NO CHASER, this is a travesty, and allow me to fix it. They have a multitude of amazing (and funny) Christmas songs. I just love them to pieces.

Happy December, everyone, and good luck on finals!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Cows?



It's kind of weird, actually. Every month, one or two people stumble upon my blog by searching "cows."

I have but one post where cows are mentioned. It is this post, with two silly poop jokes told to me by two silly kids. One is about a zombie. One is about a cow. This post is my 3rd most viewed, topped only by my Sleeping Beauty post and a giveaway post.

Obviously something needs to be done about this. People's cow needs are not being met!

Now, if people want to talk about cows, I can talk about cows. I've had a year of AVS. I worked in the dairy, I had a calf watch shift, I vaccinated, I learned how to brand, I studied diagrams and breeds and reproduction  . . .

Besides, I like cows. They're cute. And as long as you keep them feed, they'll love you forever.

My sister has this adorable little cow toy. It's super cute - it's head and back come off and go back together, like a little puzzle.

However, if you turn the cow over, it's not anatomically correct.


This needs to be addressed. Because cows . . . well, cows do not have six teats. Their udders have four compartments, so they have - drum roll, please - four teats!

 
See? Four milk producing compartments. And fun fact: the rear compartments produce more milk then the front. Also, to produce one gallon of milk, 500 gallons of blood have to circulate through the udder.

That's a lot of blood.

Now I send you forth! Go out into the world, spreading proper cow anatomy and milk production facts to those less fortunate. Educate the world.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Ghost and the Goth


One of my favorite TV shows is Dead Like Me. It's not on anymore - excuse me while I cry - but it was awesome. It was about this girl, Gerorge, who died when a toilet seat fell out of the sky and hit her. But she didn't stay dead. Or, yes, she was dead, but she was still here. She became a reaper.

And you know that guy who was Inigo Montoya? ("You killed my father. Prepare to die.") He was in that show. So you know it was awesome.

Alona Dare–Senior in high school, co-captain of the cheerleading squad, Homecoming Queen three years in a row, voted most likely to marry a movie star… and newly dead.

I’m the girl you hated in high school. Is it my fault I was born with it all-good looks, silky blond hair, a hot bod, and a keen sense of what everyone else should not be wearing? But my life isn’t perfect, especially since I died. Run over by a bus of band geeks—is there anything more humiliating? As it turns out, yes—watching your boyfriend and friends move on with life, only days after your funeral. And you wouldn’t believe what they’re saying about me now that they think I can’t hear them. To top it off, I’m starting to disappear, flickering in and out of existence. I don’t know where I go when I’m gone, but it’s not good. Where is that freaking white light already?

Will Killian–Senior in high school, outcast, dubbed “Will Kill” by the popular crowd for the unearthly aura around him, voted most likely to rob a bank…and a ghost-talker.

I can see, hear, and touch the dead. Unfortunately, they can also see, hear and touch me. Yeah, because surviving high school isn’t hard enough already. I’ve done my best to hide my “gift.” After all, my dad, who shared my ability, killed himself because of it when I was fifteen. But lately, pretending to be normal has gotten a lot harder. A new ghost—an anonymous, seething cloud of negative energy with the capacity to throw me around—is pursuing me with a vengeance. My mom, who knows nothing about what I can do, is worrying about the increase in odd incidents, my shrink is tossing around terms like “temporary confinement for psychiatric evaluation,” and my principal, who thinks I’m a disruption and a faker, is searching for every way possible to get rid of me. How many weeks until graduation?
-
Goodreads

This book is targeted at a younger audience then Dead Like Me was, but Alona reminds me a lot of George. They're both have a sarcastic and cruel humor. They're both young, dead, and stuck here. They both have unresolved family problems.

The Ghost and the Goth is so cute. When I try to describe it, that's what I come up with - it was cute! But it's so true.

I was pleasantly surprised with the level of character growth. I was expecting a cute, light read, and it was, but that doesn't mean the writing was poor quality. The characters have depth and issues and good arcs - they don't end exactly where they started. Will and Alona are both very likable characters. I loved them together. At first there's this animosity, because Will is the school outcast, and Alona is this queen bee cheerleader type. But they're forced to help each other out and spend time together, and they don't hate each other quite as much as they thought. It's predictable, yeah, but it's cute. Sometimes books are allowed to be cute.

It's also highly addictive. I don't know exactly what made it so, but I went through all three books in the series like a bag of Christmas Bells. (Peanut Butter Cups, in bell shapes! Try them! You'll like them!) That is to say, quickly. You can't just have one, y'know.

So, The Ghost and the Goth - Do I recommend it? Absolutely, yes! Pick it up if you're looking for a good, fun read. You won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Me, and America's Next Author Contest

Hey everyone! So, I entered a contest, and I need your help . . .

I entered my short story Falling in this online writing contest, and a part of the contest is based on public support. I would really appreciate it if you went and checked it out - you can find it here. You can write a review and leave a rating if you'd like.

I'm proud of my little story, and I hope you'll all enjoy it. :]

Thanks for your help!

Litterary Giggles and The Eyer Affair

If you're and English major, or read a lot of classic literature, then you need to read this series. Seriously, guys. My sister has these books and they've sat on our living room shelf for years and years. I discovered them over Thanksgiving break, and now, I'm tempted to name my future puppy Thursday Next.
 
Puppy says: Hello, I am cute.
 
My mom says I am allowed to buy a puppy next fall, when my sister goes to grad school. But only if I can pay the extra dog fee, and pay for the food, AND still pay for college.
 
But this is beside the point.
 
 



 
Welcome to a surreal version of Great Britain, circa 1985, where time travel is routine, cloning is a reality (dodos are the resurrected pet of choice), and literature is taken very, very seriously. England is a virtual police state where an aunt can get lost (literally) in a Wordsworth poem, militant Baconians heckle performances of Hamlet, and forging Byronic verse is a punishable offense. All this is business as usual for Thursday Next, renowned Special Operative in literary detection, until someone begins kidnapping characters from works of literature. When Jane Eyre is plucked from the pages of Brontë's novel, Thursday must track down the villain and enter the novel herself to avert a heinous act of literary homicide. - Goodreads
 Let's get this straight upfront: you do not have to be a fan of Jane Eyre to be a fan of this book. I know this, because I am not a fan of Jane Eyre. I thought Rochester was old and creepy and I didn't like Jane, but mostly, I thought Rochester was old and creepy. (I read it in high school, so maybe I was just immature. Psh, who am I kidding? I'm still immature.) Despite the title, Jane Eyre isn't a huge part of the story, and I actually really loved how it was incorporated.
 
And Rochester?
 
Oh, Rochester . . . well, he's not creepy here. I actually kind of loved him. A lot.
 
Actually, I loved all the characters. Let's do a quick roll call:
 
Uncle Mycroft -  quirky and brilliant inventor. I would love to jump inside this book and snag a few of those inventions for myself.
 
Spike - deals with the capture of Supreme Evil Beings. He's the only agent assigned to his area because, well, it takes a special kind of person to go against the SEBs. I love the scene where he first meets Thursday - Muahaha. Funny, funny.
 
Acheron Hades - the bad guy. He's a lot of fun. He's very evil, too, and he requires his little minions to do wicked things every day, like drive over the speed limit - through a mall. There's also this things about Felix's face, which is just gross, so I won't go into that.
 
Jack Schitt - I laugh every time I see his name. "Schitt" sounds like . . . Okay, I know I'm immature. I'm sorry. Jack works for Goliath, this weapons corporation that has too much control and not enough limits. Jack Schitt is this annoying bad-guy who's technically not a bad guy, because Hades is the bad guy, but whatever. He so is.  
 
Pickwick - I have to mention Thursday's pet dodo, even if he's not in this book much. At first I was imagining the dodos from Ice Age, those really dumb birds who had three melons stockpiled for the ice age? Yeah. Pickwick has grown on me, though.
 
And there's many, many more. But you'll just have to read the book to meet them.
 
 
 



Saturday, November 24, 2012

Winners Announced!

Hey everyone! I was fully intending to announce the winners sooner, but my brother was feeling generous and decided to share his cold with me. So I've been blowing my brains out through my nose that last few days . . . actually, you probably don't want to hear about it.

Anyway! Winners! Yay!

Sarah figured out my clues, so she won her pick of the books. (I named by basil plant Dorian because of the book, The Picture of Dorian Gray. The painter who creates the picture of Dorian is named Basil.)
 
Sarah chose The Forsaken!




Brianna won Untraceable. Her favorite book of the year (so far) is Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews.
 


Natasha won Starters. Her favorite is The Fault In Our Stars by John Green.



Congrats! Brianna and Natasha, you have e-mails waiting for you. After I have you mailing addresses I'll send you prizes out to you!


Thanks to everyone who entered!

Friday, November 16, 2012

New Design!

I'm the kind of person who has to change the color of her nails each week - and if they're not painted? Gasp! How boring!

So it was high time for me to change up my blog design. I experimented some last night, but I think I like it better now. What do you guys think? Give me your feedback!

Also, there's a new tab at the top of my blog! ContemporaryMadness is my brother's etsy page. I put some samples of his pictures up with a link to his shop. Check it out sometime. I think he's pretty talented, but then again, I'm a little biased. :]

Thursday, November 15, 2012

2 Things

1st thing: The Dudes of YA

My brother tells me all the time that I'm too feminist, because I only read books written by girls, and when was the last time I even read a book that was written by a guy? Because of course, no guys write YA. And apparently all I read is YA.

Ha! Just goes to show how little he knows.

(Just kidding, Tommy boy. I love you.)

2nd Thing:



I was amazed that Cassandra Clare got a book deal after she plagiarized in 2001* (back when her name was Cassandra Claire, and she wrote Harry Potter fanfiction). This is why I've never read her books, and why I don't plan on ever reading them. Plagiarism just isn't acceptable, and I'm not going to support someone who's done it.

If this were just a movie I'd say it looks great, I can't wait to see it. But because this is based on Cassandra Care's book, I'm going to pass. Even if it does have Lilly Collins in it.

Does anyone else have any opinions on this?



*I'll link you to a post about this. If you search "Cassandra Clare Plagiarism" there is a lot of stuff out there. The original stories have all been removed, so it's hard to know what sources are reputable, but I think it's pretty universally acknowledged that Clare was kicked off the fanfiction site because she plagiarized.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Me, saying hello, folks. Oh, and a GIVEAWAY. There's that too.

Hello there, folks. I hope the fact that I'm breaking my radio silence and actually writing a post doesn't give you all a heart attack. That would be very unfortunate, and I don't have a defibrillator on hand. So hang in there.

I have a stack of YA books that don't fit on my shelf, and they're just screaming "Give us away!"

So . . . How about a contest?**

This is how we'll do this. I'll give you some clues, and the first person to e-mail me with the correct answer will win their choice of one of the following books:

 
 
Starters by Lisa Price
 
 


Untraceable by S.R. Johannes
 
The Clues:
 
1. I have a basil plant. His name is Dorian.
 
2. I am an English major, and literary references make me happy.
 
3. Dorian is just wild for the classics.
 
 
The Question: 
 
The first person to e-mail me (teddycavygal at yahoo dot com) and tell me why I named my basil plant Dorian will win one of the above books!
 
If no one comes up with the right answer by Wednesday, the 14th, I'll give you more clues.

 The clues have been solved. Comments giveaway is still open. - comment to win Starters or Untraceable. :]
 
 But wait, there's more!
 
After the winner chooses their book, I'll still have two left. I'll pick two winners from the comments for each of the remaining books.
 
So, there are two ways to win here. E-mail me with your answer and/or comment on this post, telling me what your favorite read of the year (so far) is.
 
As soon as someone guesses correctly, I'll update letting you know which book they chose. The comments giveaway of the other two books will stay open until Wednesday, the 21st.
 
 
 
 I hope this all makes sense. Feel free to e-mail or leave a comment with any questions.
 
Good luck! :]

**UPDATE: My clues have been solved. :] Our winner chose The Forsaken, but Starters and Untraceable are still up for grabs, so comment away.**

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween (with two 'l's)

Fun fact: I keep trying to spell Halloween with one 'l.' And 'habit' with two 'b's. And 'always' with two 'l's.

When I'm writing away from my computer, I use my phone as spell check. I'll type the word into a text message and see in my phone corrects the spelling or not. When I don't have my phone, like during chemistry lab, I try to scribble my letters enough that the word is mostly still legible, but you can't really tell how I spelled it. So if it's spelled wrong, no one will know.

Anyway, most of my professors have handwriting that is barely legible, so I figure I'm good.

Alright, enough chit-chat. Let's just get to it, shall we?


My Favorite Halloween Reads!
 
Roald Dahl
Specifically, The Best of Roald Dahl
Sure, you know him for Matilda and The Twitches, but he didn't just write children's books, you know. I absolutely love Roald Dahl's short stories. They're creepy and disturbing and just so fantastic. If you love Roald Dahl or short stories or creepy-ness, check them out. You'll thank me.
Before I Fall
Lauren Oliver
 So perhaps this isn't a Halloween read, per se. But it could be, if you let it. It's about a girl who dies in a car accident, and then relives that one day seven times.
 
And because we're talking about spelling, I'll admit that I first typed her name "Lauren Olive." I almost didn't catch it.
 Wildwood Dancing
Juliet Marillier
Okay, again, maybe not a Halloween read intrinsically. But it has magical creatures! And dancing in the forest! And frogs that talk! And it's set in Transylvania!
See? It totally sounds like a Halloween read now.


{: Happy Halloween! :}

Friday, September 21, 2012

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Adventures in Gabi Land

So, in January I got my ears pierced. The Claire's lady marveled and asked "How have you gone 18 years without getting your ears pierced?" To which I responded: Fear. A deep, terrifying fear of things like needles and pain.

Then she laughed at me when she asked for my ID and I handed her my Driver's Permit.

I still don't have my licence.

And, apparently, I'm the last person in my graduating class to not have one.

I still really, really, really suck at driving. But my driving skillz are not the point of this blog post.

Anyway. So I love wearing earrings. For a while it was a pain to change them, because it HURTS when you don't do it right. Like, it has to go in perfectly straight, and if you hit the side of the hole it STINGS. And sometimes, it BLEEDS.

But now it's all good. Mostly.

Claire's had a big promotion before school started, buy 2 get 1 free, and then a spend $20 get $10 off. So I stocked up on earrings. My favorites were these cute butterflies, all blue and beautiful.

I'd had the butterflies in for a while (because I'm still nervous about changing my earrings . . . I don't like pain! ) and they got a little gunky, as earrings do. So I dropped them in some rubbing alcohol to clean them up.

I had done this before, on my mom's advice, with the posts I got my ears pierced with. It works wonders! All the gunk floats off and they're all shinny and new-looking!

Um. Apparently, there's a difference between putting high-quality earrings and putting cheap butterfly earrings in rubbing alcohol. Also, it's not a great idea to leave said cheap-quality earrings in rubbing alcohol overnight.

Here's why: today I pulled my gorgeous butterflies out of the alcohol and they were, um, no longer gorgeous-looking. The jewels were falling out, and their was this white film over the earrings, and just, yeah. They're ruined.

But the metal was all shinny and clean!

So folks, learn from my mistakes. Don't put your cute, cheap earrings in rubbing alcohol overnight. just don't.


(And on a completely unrelated note, my brother just told me he wants to get new jeans. So his butt can be eye-candy. Um, ew?)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ballad Woes

My university is big on torture. Reading our poems aloud in class is supposed to, like, be good for us? What? I don't buy it for one second.

I'm working on a ballad right now. It's due tomorrow morning - and, guess what - I've got to read it in front of my class. Which is kind of making the whole writing thing difficult. Because you know what? Rhyming is hard. I have so much respect for Dr. Seuss right now. I can come up with rhymes, but then my lines feel awkward and forced.

What's making things easier is that I have a new goal - not to take any of my poems too seriously.* Last week our assignment was based around "The Empire in the Air" by Kevin Pruffer, which is about a plane being blown up by a bomb. The example ballad for this assignment is about a plane crashing.

Which is why my poem is about witches. It's kind of wonderful to write something and not worry about being profound - I'll leave that to my classmates. Who are all poets. That's right: I am the only non-poet in the class. Everyone else has been writing poetry since high school, and here I am, the short story writer, taking the class because my advisor told me to.

Woe is me.

Anyway. I wanted to share a song I'm sure you've all heard by now. Basically its been playing on repeat in my brain for the last week. And basically, I love it.

 
Oh! And Matchbox Twenty released a new album earlier this month! This makes me very much happy, and my family not so much, because apparently they can't appreciate good music.
 
 
Poor them.
 
 





*And also, to butcher punctuation on all of my blog posts. Enjoy. ; ]

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mad as a Hatter (Or pre-vet student)

I thank God that I was born in the age of the internet, because I don't know how on earth I would do my chemistry homework without it. My textbook is so little help it's ridiculous.

And, oh yeah - I'm going insane.

I have a big test this week (and about a million other things due and to do). Why on earth am I a double major? Why on earth did I decide to do pre-vet? My humanities and English classes are so easy . . . why the heck did I have to complicate things with science?

This is what chemistry does to me.

Anyway. There's not really a point to this post, I guess, except my brain needs a break from molarity and molality and trying to manipulate problems to find the darn answer. So - want to see what books I'm excited for? When Thanksgiving break comes along, I'll burrow myself inside these beauties and forget all about this chemistry-thing.





AHH! I want to read them all right now. I've got to wait until break, but oh my gosh, don't they all look amazing? The Ghost and the Goth came out a while ago, and I have no idea how I missed it. The entire trilogy looks like something I'd absolutely love. I was blown away with The Scorpio Races so I'm kinda bouncing in my seat waiting for The Raven Boys, and Shannon Messenger has the most amazing blog, so I'm expecting her debut Keeper of the Lost Cities to be pretty amazing, too.

Can it be Thanksgiving yet?


*Spell check doesn't think "molality" is a real word. Ah, to be that innocent. It so is a real thing, I promise you. It's moles of solute per kilogram of solvent, denoted by a lowercase m. It is not to be confused with molarity, M, which is moles of solute per liter of solution.

Look! You learned some chemistry! Yay!

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Method to the Madness

 
 
Things are getting crazy. School started - actually, I'm on the second week. It's so crazy! Gone are the novels and library books, here are the textbooks and classes all day. Summer break, come back to me!

I'm a dual major, pre-vet and creative writing, so I would have gone to school anyway. People simply don't let you perform surgery on their beloved pets unless you've had some instruction. That's just the way it goes. But as for the creative writing bit, do you really need an education to create good stories?

I had never stopped to think about it until my sister asked me. I was going on about how it will take me five years, plus some summer courses, to get through all the credits for both my majors. That's when she asked me why I was even doing creative writing. Is it really necessary? Can't you write without majoring in it in college?

Yes. Absolutely. Although I think it's becoming more common these days for authors to have gone through a creative writing program, there are still plenty of successful authors who don't have an English degree. One of my instructors started out this semester by telling us that creative writing isn't something that can be taught - it's something you have to practice and discover yourself.

So why study it? Because taking classes can help you. It's the old you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink kinda thing. I believe this, and that is why I'm studying creative writing.

So far, these elements have made me enjoy and appreciate my creative writing major:

1. Prompts. Sometimes it's easier to sit down and complete an assignment following a prompt or rubric then it is to just sit down and stare at a blank piece of paper. I've found that many of the short stories I'm really proud of came out of class assignments. Sometimes it takes a little push to get you started.

2. Feedback. It's great to let friends and family read your work, but they can't give you unbiased feedback. Professors can. And professors aren't afraid to hurt your feelings - they just want to help you improve. Having an unbiased and trained eye critique your work can be such an asset.

3. Stories. I absolutely love reading short stories for class. I've been introduced to so many amazing authors and amazing stories that I never would have found on my own. Reading and studying amazing writing can help inspire and improve your own.

Plus, it's always fun to meet other writers. :]



*Photo credit: isn't in pretty? It's mine! I took it on my phone. No copyright infringements for me. :]

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Minorities in YA

You know how LGBT literature is this big thing right now? Maybe 'big thing' isn't the right way to put it. It's popular. There hasn't been much of it traditionally, then there were a few books, and now there are more popping up all the time.

Well. Did you know that only about 4% of Americans call themselves lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender? Link (This statistic fluctuates. I've also seen it at 2% and 3.5%. I'm using this percentage because I can link to it, and it seems a little more recent.)

Now here's another question. Have you noticed the lack of books about other minorities, such as stories with non-Caucasian characters?

According to this article, in 2010 over 16% of Americans were Hispanic or Latino.

And then we have this data, from this report:

How components of the U.S. population are projected to change by 2050:

Racial/ethnic groups20052050
Foreign-born12%19%
White*67%47%
Hispanic14%29%
Black*13%13%
Asian*5%9%

Note: *=Non-Hispanic
American Indian/Alaska Native not included

The projections show that by 2050:

•Nearly one in five Americans will have been born outside the USA vs. one in eight in 2005. Sometime between 2020 and 2025, the percentage of foreign-born will surpass the historic peak reached a century ago during the last big immigration wave. New immigrants and their children and grandchildren born in the USA will account for 82% of the population increase from 2005 to 2050.

•Whites who are not Hispanic, now two-thirds of the population, will become a minority when their share drops to 47%. They made up 85% of the population in 1960.

•Hispanics, already the largest minority group, will more than double their share of the population to 29%.  Link to source 

Okay, wait a minute. Do you see how off-kilter this is? It seems like everyone is so excited about LGBT lit and adding something to Young Adult shelves that is noticeably lacking. But according to the above survey, LGBT people account for only 4% of the population. That's 4%, while the Hispanic and Latino population is at 16% and growing rapidly. In less than forty years, that population will "more than double."

So then, if we are concerned about including minorities in YA lit, why do I look around and see Caucasian girls on all our covers, and why are only 1 out of maybe every 15 books about a non-White character? Granted, often a character's ethnicity is left ambiguous. But basing by our covers, and the racial descriptions we do get in the text, I think this is a fair assessment. What do you think? Am I totally off base?

It seems to me that we're focusing on the wrong minority. I'm not trying to say that LGBT lit isn't important, or that we shouldn't include them. It's just when you look at the percents (4% vs. 16%) and then look at how those numbers are reflected in YA right now ( I speculate that the number of LGBT characters is pretty even with non-Caucasian) . . .  it just doesn't make sense.

I want to see more ethnic characters in YA. How about you?




Okay, in the nature of full disclosure, the story I am writing right now has a Cherokee main character loosely based on my grandma. Her racial background kind of snuck its way in there, and then I realized how few characters like her there are. Thus: this rant.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Problem with Love Triangles

I despise love triangles. Sometimes, if I start a book and a love triangle develops (and it's part of a series), I'll just stop reading the book. And here's why:

1. Love triangles are almost always under-developed.

I know, it's hard to create developed and real characters. But if you're going to have people falling in love, can I at least see their appeal? And no, amazing hair and pretty eyes does not count. Not in a lasting relationship, at least. My problem with love triangles is that often so much is taken up with the girl whining about having to choose a guy, so that the actual guys get cast into the background. We see their attractive physical appearance but their personalities often get short changed.

2. You know who's going to get the girl.

Really, authors? Let's be honest. We know from the start who's going to get the girl. When you drag us through an entire book (or heaven forbid, and entire series) with this love triangle, when we ALL KNOW HOW IT'S GOING TO END . . . it gets old. Fast. I find these girl characters in their boy dilemmas extremely irritating. When they're always wondering which one, which one? Oh, I can't choose! it gets annoying. Especially when it's so obvious who she's going to pick.

3. I always fall for the wrong guy.

Every. Single. Time. Okay, so not every time, but almost. It's hard to watch a character I love get rejected - and when it happens again and again, I get kind of tired of love triangles.


Now, that being said . . . I have read love triangles done right. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen. (And isn't it so marvelous when it does?) Have you read any really good love triangles? Share your thoughts!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

3 Reasons to Read . . . Bluefish

First day, new school, no way out. It sucks being with Grandpa in this new town. It sucks that they left the old place without finding Rosco. Travis doesn't want to do anything, especially try to get by in his classes, which never seems possible, anyway. He's a Bluefish - stupid, angry, alone.

Then, suddenly, there's a girl. Velveeta. She's up in his face and she's not backing down. She is as loud as he is quiet, as outgoing as he is shut in. She's pretty, in a funky, scarf-wearing sort of way, and she's smart - way smart - smart enough to figure out that Travis has a secret. And she should know. She has a few of her own. She's not sure what's up with him, but she's determined to find out. So is McQueen, the teacher who just might be the one to unleash something in Travis that has been held back for a very long time.

With a cast of utterly believable characters, Pat Schmatz has crafted a story rich in moments of trust and connection, told with humor, heartbreak, and fearless honesty. - Jacket description


1. Travis. Travis is a private and reserved person. I loved that his story is told in 3rd person, because the more reserved narration fit his character so well. There is just a little bit of distance when "he" is used instead of "I," and that distance helped develop Travis's character. Travis has secrets and hurts and fears that he doesn't let anyone know. Sometimes 3rd person can make it harder to connect with a character, but in this case it's really the opposite.

2. Velveeta. Interspersed throughout Travis's story are notes from Velveeta. Velveeta is a loud and outgoing person, so this 1st person narration fit her character just as Travis's 3rd person fit him. These notes also add so much to the story. We slowly discover a side of Velveeta she keeps hidden, and her character really becomes multi dimensional.

3. The emotion. There are funny parts, there are sad parts, and there are touching parts that pull it all together. It's so easy to root for these characters, and feel like you know them, and want them to end up all right. The end is left kind of open - there are threads and things that have not been tied up and resolved, and I loved that. Life goes on for Travis and Velveeta and everyone else past the last page, and that's really how it should be.

I really loved this book. I had never heard of it before I discovered it in the library, and now that I've read it, I don't know why it's not being talked about more. It really was an amazing story. I highly recommend it. Give it a try - I hope you'll like it as much as I did.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

3 Reasons to Read . . . TEXAS GOTHIC

Amy Goodnight's family is far from normal. She comes from a line of witches, but tries her best to stay far outside the family business. Her summer gig? Ranch-sitting for her aunt with her wacky but beautiful sister. Only the Goodnight Ranch is even less normal than it normally is. Bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face. - Synopsis taken from Amazon


3 Reasons to Read

1. Seriously? You had me at "hot neighbor cowboy." From the very first meeting between Amy and Ben (the cowboy) I pretty much adored them. Their conversations are funny and quirky and their relationship is just so much fun to watch.

2. Ghost hunting! My sister and mom love those ghost shows, the ones where they go to supposedly haunted places with their gadgets and such and try to determine if there's really paranormal activity. Reading this book was almost like watching one of those shows, except for funnier, and with some magic thrown in.

3. The Goodnights. I loved all the dynamics and interactions. Phin is a genius but she's pretty clueless about a lot of things (like sarcasm and flirting), and I loved the family animosity between her and cousin Daisy. Daisy is a psychic and Phin is the science geek, with crazy gadgets and everything, and their rivalry was adorable.

To sum it up  . . .

Texas Gothic was a great, fun read. The characters were all enjoyable and the plot moved at a quick pace, and although parts of the plot were pretty predictable, the story was fun enough that it didn't really matter. I liked that the characters were in college, and I also liked the real-life bits about the dig and processing the bones and artifacts.

This book was perfect for a hot summer afternoon, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a fun read.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I blurbed Defiance!


"Look at her cape, now look at your cape. Sadly, you do not have a cape, but if you had one, it would not look like hers. Read Defiance and you can pretend her cape is your cape." - Gabi

(Not really, but this is so good, can't you see it on the cover?)

If you want to create your own blurb for Defiance, then head on over to C.J.'s blog. Oh, and you might just win a pre-order of the book . . . just sayin. :]

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Storyteller

"Anna and Abel couldn’t be more different. They are both seventeen and in their last year of school, but while Anna lives in a nice old town house and comes from a well-to-do family, Abel, the school drug dealer, lives in a big, prisonlike tower block at the edge of town. Anna is afraid of him until she realizes that he is caring for his six-year-old sister on his own. Fascinated, Anna follows the two and listens as Abel tells little Micha the story of a tiny queen assailed by dark forces. It’s a beautiful fairy tale that Anna comes to see has a basis in reality. Abel is in real danger of losing Micha to their abusive father and to his own inability to make ends meet. Anna gradually falls in love with Abel, but when his “enemies” begin to turn up dead, she fears she has fallen for a murderer. Has she?
Award-winning author Antonia Michaelis moves in a bold new direction with her latest novel: a dark, haunting, contemporary story that is part mystery, part romance, and part melodrama."

When I first picked this up, I was expecting a sort of light read. Maybe that's my fault - the synopsis does talk about a murderer. But many YA books have murder and it doesn't tear you apart. And it wasn't that people were killed that made this book so different. It was everything else.

And it's everything else that keeps me from absolutely loving it. If I took away my emotions while reading this and just examined it on a level of technique and storytelling, my review would be quite different. I would be exalting everything that happens, because it reveals the complex layers of the characters, adds depth to the story, and it's art. And really, the fact that this book left me feeling so depressed and broken speaks to just how talented the writing is.

So really, my quandary is this: am I more willing to love books that have a happy ending than books like this? Because everything that happens in The Storyteller could happen in real life, and does happen. You see things like this on crime shows and in movies. But somehow it feels more real here. The fairy tale mixes with reality and helps set the terrible things in stark contrast. I think that the made-up world makes the real seem more real than maybe other fiction books do.

It does bother me that I can't love this book like I love my favorites. The writing was just so fantastic, and the entire book is brilliant. I'd recommend this book, but I'd have to warn you first. Don't expect a light, happy fairytale; you won't find one here.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Good ol' William

I used to hate Shakespeare. Maybe because among Jr. High kids that was the popular opinion to hold, or maybe because his language was just too darn foreign. Or maybe because I never had a teacher who could make it fun and relevant to me.

The thing is that I used to hate our good friend William. When I was in high school I had the most amazing English teacher. He taught the senior English classes, but because I'd moved from a different district and was in advanced English classes, I got to have him for two years.

One of my absolute favorite units was Shakespeare. We watched the Globe Theatre production of Othello. (I may or may not have had a bad-guy crush on Iago.) It was in that class, with this teacher, that I discovered that I'm really good at explicating sonnets. And that - gasp - Shakespeare can be kind of . . . fun. (And if I'm being honest, I'll admit that learning all the dirty innuendos made Shakespeare a heck of a lot more entertaining. Just saying.)

I don't know where you are right now - a Shakespeare hater or lover - but I've found that the more I've studied him, with a variety of amazing teachers, the more I've come to appreciate him. I've heard the theory that Shakespeare was just the Stephanie Meyer of his time, writing for public consumption and not trying to create time-enduring masterpieces. But when you look at this, it's hard to discredit his contribution to our world.




So, thanks Shakespeare. Where would we be without you?
 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Scarlet theories!

Hey guys! Today I am over at Books: A True Story talking about what I predict will happen in Scarlet, the sequel to Cinder, and answering a few interview questions. Come on over and say hi! There are cookies and punch. Well, maybe not, but it's still pretty awesome. Plus, if you've ever wondered what Idaho kids do for fun, here's your chance to find out.

But don't read my theories unless you've read Cinder. I don't want you all to blame me for spoiling it for you. :]

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Knock knock

Okay, I thought this was just the funniest thing ever. Say it out loud to get the full effect:

***
Knock knock.

Who's there?

Little old lady.

Little old lady who?

I didn't know you could yodel!

***

Ha! Okay, so maybe I spend too much time babysitting children. But kids are pretty cool, you know? I love how seriously they take things. Last week the 6-year-old and I were watching an old fairy tale show while the others were taking a nap. At first I was kind of creeped out by the show - it was photography animation like Wallace and Gromit is, but the characters were all carved out of wood and the animation was not very smooth. After a while I decided it had a certain charm, and we settled in to watch.


One of the stories was King Midas. The 6-year-old was asking a million questions about how he was turning the food to gold, and what would happen if he couldn't eat, and so on. And then we get to the part where the king is going to put his arm around his daughter, and the 6-year-old gets this look on his face. His mouth falls open and he's staring transfixed at the screen, and I know that he can tell what's going to happen. He stops asking me questions and just watches. After the king touches his daughter the 6-year-old turns to me and whispers, in awe,  "He turned her into gold."

And the entire time I was thinking; I want to write a story like that.

That's pretty much the feeling I had the entire time I was reading Insurgent. It was the first book I read post-finals and I was craving something made-up after my grueling science tests. I was all curled up on the sofa, and I hadn't moved an inch since coming home. There were many parts that made me bite my lip or smile. And then there was this one part - it kills me that I can't be specific, but it would spoil it for you - I totally wasn't expecting, and I gasped. And then I kind of sat there staring at the page in shock for a moment.

Until I realized that my brother was laughing at me. "You're really tense," he commented. I tried to ignore him watching me and continue reading, but then it happened again a few pages later. This time I yelped.

After that my brother kept an eye on me, so he could laugh at my expressions. I'm so very glad I could amuse you, brother-o-mine.



What was the last book you read (or movie you watched) that made you gasp, yelp, laugh, cry, insert-emotion-here? Does your reading ever provide your friends and family with free entertainment? I'd love to hear your stories. :]

Friday, May 25, 2012

Books for Summer

Summer is my favorite part of the year. I'm pretty certain that unless you're a ski or snowboard enthusiast you'll agree with me; there's just something so wonderful about days so hot you sweat the moment you step outside, the smell of barbecue in the evenings, and laying around outside reading. I love books that embody the feeling of summer, so I thought I'd recommend my favorite summer reads.


The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight


"Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it." - From Goodreads


My thoughts:
This book was so cute. It's a short read, just a bit over two hundred pages, and it's a pretty perfect way to spend an afternoon. I thought Hadley's relationship with her dad was very well done- the conclusion felt real and believable. And the romance with Oliver was adorable. I was smiling like a fool when I finished.


Because of Winn-Dixie


 "The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket--and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of WAR AND PEACE. They meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar.Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship--and forgiveness--can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm." - From Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Because of Winn-Dixie is one of those rare cases where I think the movie actually does the book justice. I love Opal's voice and how sweet she is as a character, and it's so much fun watching her make friends in a new town. This is a classic I revisit each summer.

Shadowed Summer


"Iris is ready for another hot, routine summer in her small Louisiana town, hanging around the Red Stripe grocery with her best friend, Collette, and traipsing through the cemetery telling each other spooky stories and pretending to cast spells. Except this summer, Iris doesn’t have to make up a story. This summer, one falls right in her lap.

Years ago, before Iris was born, a local boy named Elijah Landry disappeared. All that remained of him were whispers and hushed gossip in the church pews. Until this summer. A ghost begins to haunt Iris, and she’s certain it’s the ghost of Elijah. What really happened to him? And why, of all people, has he chosen Iris to come back to?" - From Goodreads


My Thoguhts:
I love, love, love the voice and atmosphere of this one. It feels like summer - the heat, the humidity, the cicadas, the aimless feeling that comes when there's no school. The relationships between the characters is spot on for their age. This story is just so much fun to read.

Holes



"Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnats. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys' detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the warden makes the boys "build character" by spending all day, every day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption."- From Amazon

My Thoughts:
Like Winn-Dixie, Holes is an amazing book that became an amazing movie. I love the absurdity of it, and how the absurdity is used to tell a story with a lot of truth. Also, while you're dying in the hot summer sun, it will make you appreciate the fact that you're not at Camp Green Lake digging holes.



What books would you add to this list?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

All grown up

There is a story here, and it doesn't need a single word to be told.








Unless you are that dog, in which case the story is: "I want that ball!"

Friday, April 13, 2012

Madapple

This book will make you angry. Not because it's a terrible book with writing that will make you cringe, but because it's so good. 

The synopsis from Amazon: "THE SECRETS OF the past meet the shocks of the present.

Aslaug is an unusual young woman. Her mother has brought her up in near isolation, teaching her about plants and nature and language—but not about life. Especially not how she came to have her own life, and who her father might be.

When Aslaug’s mother dies unexpectedly, everything changes. For Aslaug is a suspect in her mother’s death. And the more her story unravels, the more questions unfold. About the nature of Aslaug’s birth. About what she should do next.

About whether divine miracles have truly happened. And whether, when all other explanations are impossible, they might still happen this very day.

Addictive, thought-provoking, and shocking, Madapple is a page-turning exploration of human nature and divine intervention—and of the darkest corners of the human soul."


I read Madapple last spring, but we just studied Conrad's Heart of Darkness in class and it made me think about this book again. They are so similar; they're both about ideology, although they don't exam it in quite the same way. And yes, Madapple will make you angry. Aslaug grows up isolated and she only knows what her mother has taught her, which isn't much. When her mother dies Aslaug is completely alone, with no knowledge about how people or the real world works. People take advantage of her naivety, she's used, and she's falsely accused because she just doesn't know how to handle the situation. And none of it is her fault. (Did I tell you this books would make you angry? Yeah. It will.)

Madapple tackles a lot of heavy issues. Our main character is so naive and child-like and we see these issues through her innocence, which makes them confusing and hazy. As they gradually become more clear you will become more angry - seriously, I can't emphasise the anger I felt while I read this book. It was entirely intentional by the author, which I admire, but at times I wasn't sure if I wanted to finish it. The most gut-wrenching part is that Aslaug is too naive to see how she's being manipulated and used, and there's no one there to defend her or help her.

The best way to describe this book is this; if you love studying literature and dissecting books, you'll be glad you read Madapple. I would highly encourage anyone who wants to major in English to read this. Or anyone who wants to be a writer - oh, your emotions will be so manipulated! There is so much talent in this work, it really stands out from the YA crowd.

                                                                              

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Title Love

After the cover, the thing that most draws me to a book is the title. Here are some of my favorites:


A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
I think the title and cover work so well together on this one. The title is so evocative, and it's such a perfect fit for the novel.


Enna Burning by Shannon Hale
It's beautiful and sounds slightly dangerous, and it's my favorite Shannon Hale title.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
I don't know if I can coherently describe why this one affects me the way it does. I love how final it sounds, but determined.

No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman
I love how funny this title is. I cried and cried at the end of Old Yeller and A Dog Called Kitty, so I really appreciated this book. Why do all the dogs have to die?



Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
The one is more about how well the cover and title work together. (The hardcover, not the paperback. I don't like the new cover design they gave it.) From the title we know that she's a taxi dancer, and I love the expression on the girl's face. What is she thinking about?






Now, for comparison, I offer you one of my worst titles from the past. At the time I was convinced I was a genius, but now . . . .

H.A.M.S. - Have A Mother Society Orphanage
I was in seventh grade. I was eating left over Easter ham, and through an IM conversation I convinced a friend that there was an orphanage on Warm Springs Avenue called HAMS, and that they had a job opening in the laundry department that her sister could apply for. She completely bought it. That is, until she called me to get more information about the job and I couldn't stop laughing. This was partially inspired by a true story: there really was an orphanage on that street in Boise, once upon a time. Now there are only rich people living in their fancy houses. We used to drive down that street and pick out our favorites, imagining ourselves living there.

The story wasn't much better then the name. Also, I printed the whole thing out in pink ink. No one would read it the entire way through because the color was slightly nauseating. (Or that's what they told me, anyway.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hello Lovelies, and Happy Tuesday

How do you spell "lovelies"? It looks all wrong, but that's what I get when I sound it out. Love-lies. Lovelies. Plus, my spell-checker isn't highlighting it. Why doesn't it look right?

Hello my lovelies! (It still doesn't look right.) Lovelys. (Nah.) Loves. (It sounds like doves! Loves, doves, loves and doves.) (Did you know that there are no white doves? Yeah, I'm serious. When you see white "doves" they're actually pigeons.) (Look! You came here and you actually learned something!)

Happy Tuesday!





Friday, March 23, 2012

BAM WOW KAZING

First, can I just squeal a little bit about how awesome The Hunger Games movie was?

It's so odd to be into the next THING. I mean, I never got into Harry Potter or Twilight the way my friends did. I never loved either of those series, although I did read all of the Harry Potter books. They didn't have the BAM WOW KAZING connection with me that other books did.

The Hunger Games is a different story. I read it, and it was BAM WOW KAZING. I loved Katniss. I cried. I screamed. I stayed up until 3 a.m. I was left gasping at the end, feeling like I wanted to throw the book across the room and scream, and at the same time go right back to the first page and read it again.

At first I was dead set against The Hunger Games becoming a movie. What if they ruined it, like the Ella Enchanted movie? I loved the books, but I didn't want them to become the next THING, like Twilight, where you read it and love it because that's what popular.

Once I saw the trailer, and found out the Suzanne Collins was collaborating with the screenplay, I began to get excited. Maybe they wouldn't ruin it. Louis Sachar wrote the Holes screenplay, and just look how awesome that movie is. Right?

And The Hunger Games movie was awesome. It followed the book so well, and I loved that we were able to see other things, because we weren't limited to just Katniss' experience. Although there were things about it I missed, I did think it was a wonderful adaption and a great companion to the book.

But here's the thing - when I'm reading a book, it's such a private experience. (Unless, of course, I'm reading out loud.) Especially when it's written in 1st person. I become the main character, I experience the world with her, and it becomes a part of me. It's an odd feeling that so many other people have that same world as a part of themselves - but at the same time, it's amazing. I loved overhearing the conversation in the theatre before the movie, and after the movie was over. I loved the chuckles and squeals as certain characters came on, or when THAT LINE was said. And even though sometimes I feel snooty because I read them before they were THE THING, I'm also so glad they became the next thing. Because I feel like they deserve it. They're definitely not perfect books (what books are?), and maybe sometimes I get exasperated with the number of dystopians following along in the wake of The Hunger Games' success. But that there is this enormous community of people who have all fallen in love with the same book is amazing. Watching The Hunger Games spread across the internet was so cool, and giving the book to friends or lending my copy and watching them fall in love as well is so amazing.

Good books need to be shared. So I'm okay with being apart of today's big THING.

Happy Hunger Games, people.

P.S. Aren't capitalized words SO FUN?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Worth Remembering

I'm just popping in to direct you to this lovely bit of advice: here. Because I'm too lazy to steal the graphic or say anything meaningful, but I still thought it was worth sharing.

Have a lovely week. :] I swear I'll write a real blog post soon!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Absence of Religion in YA

One of the most important aspects of any books is creating real characters the reader can relate to. In young adult (YA) books, authors will include things like drugs, alcohol, cussing, and premarital sex in their books, because they assume these things are present in the lives of teenagers. To some extent they are - I won't venture a guess at any percentage, but I do know that my high school had a lot of people into all that. However, I would also venture to guess that the majority of avid readers are not into all of this.

So, yes, to some extent, adding these things to your character's life will make them seem like a real teen. But it's here that we start getting into some treacherous territory: do authors really think that this is all teens do and think about? I sincerely hope not. Because many real teens are involved in other things - like religion.

"While America is becoming a more diverse nation, at least 80 percent of teens still identify as Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Mormon or Jewish, with most teens adhering to their parents’ faith tradition, the report said." Source

80%. 80%!!!!!!!!!! Can we all just look at that statistic again? 80% of American teens are religious.

"The research found that devout teens hold more traditional sexual and other values than their nonreligious counterparts and are better off in emotional health, academic success, community involvement, concern for others, trust of adults and avoidance of risky behavior." Source

"Substantial majorities said they:
  • Were affiliated with a local congregation (82 percent).
  • Had few or no doubts about their beliefs in the past year (80 percent).
  • Felt “extremely,” “very” or “somewhat” close to God (71 percent).
  • Prayed alone a few times a week or more often (65 percent).
  • “Definitely” believed in divine miracles from God (61 percent).
Fifty-two percent said they attended worship two to three times a month or more often." Source

82% are affiliated with a local congregation, and 52% attend worship regularly. These statistics are astounding when you compare the number of religious teens to the number of books that include religious teens. Do 80% of teen books have religious characters? Do 50%, even?

No. I couldn't find any numbers on this, but from my own personal reading experience, religious teens in the general YA book market are virtually nonexistent.* In fact, I can only think of a handful of books that I've read which include religion in some way, and almost every single one of them is written for the younger middle grade audience.

Can I just say, what the heck?

Authors include sex and swearing to make their teens more relatable. "The research found that devout teens hold more traditional sexual and other values than their nonreligious counterparts and are better off in emotional health, academic success, community involvement, concern for others, trust of adults and avoidance of risky behavior." 82% of American teens are religious. Why, then, do so many YA books think drugs and sex are going to make characters realistic?

For the most part, religion isn't even a part of YA character's lives. But if 82% of teens ARE religious, why is this not represented in the books we read?

I'm not saying we need more teen books that teach religious messages. What I am saying is that we need more books that reflect society - if you want to write a realistic character, stop ignoring religion. Not all teens drink. Not all teens have premarital sex. We need characters who reflect values that many teens believe.

Wee need religious teens in YA fiction.


*Excluding Christian Fiction for teens, which is not shelved in the regular Teen section.