Thursday, December 30, 2010


I'm not very tight-lipped about which are my favorite books in the whole world. In fact, I don't even usually have to tell people, because they can figure it out for themselves. For instance, since the same yellowed, dented copy of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has been in my travel pack every single summer since I was eight, you can hazard a guess that I like it. Since I've read Pride & Prejudice nine times in the few years since I first read it in the winter of eighth grade, you may have an inkling of my preference. And you don't even have to wait around for me to show you what's lurking at the bottom of my backpack; all you have to do is ask me the simple question, and I will almost immediately give you a top 5 list.

Jane Eyre has been on that list since last January, when we read it for Sophmore English. Soon afterwards, I jumped on to Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair (which has a strong tie to the classic), and the Masterpeice Theatre version became my favorite of all of the series.

So, of course, as soon as I heard that there was a modern interpretation of my favorite coming out, I was as anxious to pick it apart as everyone else. Too many times is a book hawked as a revamped classic, but is quickly revealed to be no more than a shallow shell of the story, leaving us not with a renewed love of the classic novel itself, but instead, the wish that they would just leave the literature alone. However, I sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, loved Jane, by April Lindner. Like, a lot.

People who have not yet read Jane Eyre would enjoy the plotline, about a young East Coast dropout, forced to seek a new way of life after the tragic death of her parents, becoming the nanny of a rich rock superstar. However, to those of us who have, the book provides plenty of opportunity, not only for reflection back on the classic novel itself, but on the clever connections between the old and the new. I, personally, enjoyed being able to spot the ties that bound the two together, to form the same story that has proved timeless. For instance, St. John Rivers? Named River St. John. I won't lie, it made me smile :).

In the Author's Note, Lindner revealed that she was inspired to write Jane after seeing all of the modern interpretations of Pride & Prejudice, and how she wanted the classic she loved the most recognized as well. You can tell that the painstaking modernization of the novel came from a place deep in her heart. I am so glad that she wrote it, because it allowed us other members of Team Charlotte to come forward, too, and enjoy her wonderful interpretation of a classic favorite :).

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Since Christmas...

I have managed to go through five of the books I received for Christmas in the few days since then. Granted, these books were not terribly long, and in fact, the are some of the few YA novels that I've read in a while. However, I did enjoy them, and the fact that I have been able to read at all is a welcome addition to my daily schedule. Hooray for Winter Break!

The first I read was I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend, by Cora Harrison. To be perfectly honest, I approached this book feeling a little conflicted. After my first perusal of Pride and Prejudice back in the eigth grade for a book report, I found in Jane Austen a voice I loved to read, especially in describing the society of the time in which she lived. That being said, some of the fiction that I have read in the past based around actual people have been neither interesting, nor historically accurate.

However, from the first page, the book was both. Well, mostly interesting, but some of it was accurate :). The author's notes in the back of the book do signify that while the particulars of the story are not exactly true, the overall facts are: Jenny (really also named Jane, like her famous cousin) did send a letter from the boarding school where she and Jane resided, and really is credited with saving the life of her famous cousin by smuggling out a letter to her family, detailing Jane's extreme sickness. Also, the main romance in the story is true, but to give away any more than that would be giving away the book. :)

All in all, even though it was a little slow in parts, and there were a great load of characters in it (some of whom were a little forgettable), I enjoyed the book. (However, if you plan on buying it any time soon, make sure to check out the UK version... the cover art is so much cuter!)

The next four books I read are actually part of the Once Upon a Time series from Simon & Schuster, which feature retellings of classic fairy tales: Golden (Rapunzel), Wild Orchid (The Ballad of Mulan), Before Midnight (Cinderella), and Sunlight & Shadow (Magic Flute), all by Cameron Dokey. Its a series of books that I've been reading ever since middle school, but one that I've only decided that I needed to collect recently. I have always been a sucker for a good fairy tale, and these novels only seem to lend more magic to them. They aren't that thick, only about 180- 200 pages each, but they still manage to pack in a good story, and, of course, a happily-ever-after at the end. Other authors in the series include Tracy Lynn, Debbie Viguie, Nancy Holder, and Suzanne Weyn.

Now I am left to sort through the rest of my Christmas presents. I'm leaving the best - and the thickest - for last, with MFK Fisher's The Art of Eating (the collection of her five best books on food, released for her 50th Anniversary in 2004), and the new Autobiography of Mark Twain, vol. 1. However, first I am going to read Jane, by April Linder, a book I've been looking forward to reading since I heard about it in early November.

Everything I recieved for Christmas was awesome, especially the books (and the Junior Mints :)). Thank you so so very much, to those who know me so well!

(ps. Pictures would have accompanied this post, if not for me screwing up my camera. I accidentaly turned off the flash somehow, and now all of my pictures just turn out sort of sepia-toned).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas for Kids

I just get such a kick out of Christmas trees. I love to see them lit up and decorated, mainly because everyone has such different styles. Some go for the themed tree, like a friend, who had a sparkly pink tree every year, decorated with her meticulously curated Barbie doll ornament collection, and with extra sparkly tinsel. Some go for the less-is-more tree, sparsely decorated save for a string of lights with brightly colored bulbs. Then there's the everything-but-the-box-they-came-in method, which involves practically throwing everything you've got at the tree -lights, tinsel, ornaments, all - until it threatens to pancake all of the presents stored underneath.

All of the trees are good to me. There's a certain magic to them, and I can literally spend hours sitting in our living room, watching ours.

Our tree is fake (I know, it's terrible), and decorated with the same set of themed ornaments as we have for the past few years. It's become familiar to me, which is why I like it. We have other decorations too (like the entire collection of Nutcrackers leering at you from our fireplace mantle, sheesh), and while I'll always love our various Nativity scenes, or the wreaths hung up everywhere, my favorite will always be the tree, and the things underneath it.

Well, more like underneath, and then a little to the side. Regardless, our beautiful tree stands tall above what I believe is the most precious sort of decorating: our Christmas books. We pretty much have a collection of books for every season. All our tea party-bunny rabbit-Easter books are out around Springtime, and all of our spooky stuff is out around Halloween, but our Christmas book collection is by far the most expansive, and the favorite among the family.

They total in to about forty-three books, with doubles of The Polar Express and The Nutcracker, and a pop-up carousel of The Night Before Christmas. I've read all of them, multiple times. Each one will sufficiently infuse you with holiday spirit.

My favorites, though, are easy to pick out. These are the ones that bring me the most joy, the ones that traditions have formed around.

1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
A classic, and one that will always have its place in my heart. Mainly because of Jim Carrey :)

2. The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg, illustrated by James Bernadin
In my opinion, the best Christmas book under our tree. It details the story of a girl, learning the truth of the season, through a story about how candy canes are decorated. I really love this one.

3. The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell, illustrated by Paul Micich.
I have to make sure no one else is in the room when I read this one, because it always, no matter how many times I've now read it, makes me cry. It is about the gift of a small angel to the newborn baby Jesus, and it is the most beautifully illustrated book in our collection.

4. Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera.
The Cheerleader's favorite. A pretty cute book about a spoiled girl, who learns the true meaning of Christmas, thanks to her mysterious Auntie Claus.

5. Alabaster's Song and The Crippled Lamb, both by Max Lucado, and illustrated by Michael Garland and Liz Bohnam, respectively.
Our mom has this huge thing about Max Lucado's children books, particularly the ones about Punchinello & the Wemmicks, which we read to our Sunday School class every spring. Out of the two Christmas books of his we own, I like the Crippled Lamb, which does not make me cry, the best, as opposed to Alabaster's Song, which does make me cry. Another thing I like about the Crippled Lamb is that he wrote it with his daughters, which I think is something I have always wanted to do with my Dad.

There are plenty of other good Christmas books, of course. And if you ask my siblings, the youngest two would probably say they like Alan Katz and David Catrow's silly dilly song collection, Where Did They Hide My Presents?, the best. However, mine were chosen because they always manage to remind me of the greatness of the holiday, and why we celebrate it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snowdogs and Schoolwork

And then I blinked, and December was nearly halfway over.

I think I just need to get a handle on my schedule, because I will sit down and type if someone reminds me to do it, but if I get distracted, then, well... I tend to lose focus completely. With so much going on (getting excited about the holidays, having your teachers drown you in homework before said holidays, etc.), it's really hard to keep a straight head. However, we are entering the last week of school before break (!!!), and even our teachers are starting to have a hard time keeping it together. Cases in point: Spanish teacher, who, after our presentations are turned in on Wednesday, is going to let us watch Toy Story 3 (in Spanish), and Journalism teacher, who, after our newspaper goes out on Wednesday, has pretty much said we could do whatever we want for the rest of the week. Granted, the rest of the week is onlly 1.5 days, but still. We'll take freedom whenever we can get it.

Speaking of freedom, I'm practically loose of the first Reading Assignment (Book) of the year: after 24 dialectic journal book logs, four papers, and two in-class timed essays, I am only one peer-edit away from the Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Not that it was terrible, or anything, but I just really didn't enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed other school-mandated books. I was especially surprised to hear that some of my classmates enjoyed this book more than Jane Eyre, seeing as though Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books ever, and this one barely piqued my interest. I really didn't enjoy having to mark out every inch of symbolism, rhetoric, and progression of character for every single plot point for either of them, but with the Scarlet Letter, it was just a little more... irritating, I guess. At any rate, I scored better on all of my papers for the Scarlet Letter than for Jane Eyre, so while it did nothing for my soul, it did improve my grade, for which I am thankful. :)
While school has inspired me to avoid Puritan villages (c.1800s) at all cost, our current weather statuses have inspired me to read a little about the Klondike. The snow we experienced late last month gave me reason to read Call of the Wild by Jack London. This book, I really loved. I don't usually like animal books (except for The Jungle Book, by Rudyard Kipling), so the fact that I found this tale of a family dog's kidnapping, and immersion into the hard snowdog life, inspiring, is surprising. I liked how Buck's sort of final transformation into a creature of the wild, and reversion into his natural self, is triumphant and celebrated, when in society, acting "like an animal" is frowned upon. Buck was once a family dog, petted, pampered, and pretty tame, but all of a sudden, he is thrust into this world he knows nothing about, and he has to learn all the new rules to survival, the Laws of Club and Fang. However, instead of his growing aggressive nature and strength attracting negative light, he is viewed heroically, and all he does is viewed sympathetically. I really liked this book, and I'm going to read White Fang soon.

And so the Christmas season is upon us. I finally finished my Wish List, and holiday cookies are baking in the oven. The candy cane trees are in full bloom, and sugarplum fairies are beginning to swarm. :) Only 4.5 days until I get out of school for break, but hey, who's counting?

Friday, November 26, 2010

I'm Thankful For...

Whew. Thanksgiving is always a whirlwind, with food to make, and family to entertain, and plenty more balls to juggle. However, we do get through it each year, and each celebration is more fun than the next.

We were all thankful for plenty yesterday, but here's what I'm thankful for today: leftover food practically spilling out of the fridge, the new Harry Potter movie, having leftover Cranberry Pie for breakfast, and even more new books...

As it turns out, some of the family who came over yesterday also came bearing belated bday presents, and I got a new cookbook! Yay!

Also, my aunt had been cleaning out some old stuff in her house and found about 16 of my Mom's old Nancy Drew books from the '70s! Super Yay!

Not to mention that in that bag were some of my books as well, ones I had lent to my cousins. After approximately 3 years of wondering where the heck my copy of A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray had got to, I now have it back in my possession! I wonder if I will still think of it as one of my favorite books once I reread it...

Anyways, the day after Thanksgiving brings plenty with it to be thankful about as well.

Including the fact that now Thanksgiving is finally over with, ALL of the Christmas decorations go up, and cookie season begins :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Snow Day Like Today :)

It snowed here on Sunday night.

The children watched the flakes fall past the window with glee, and studiously shirked all homework and responsibility in the anticipation of a snow day. However, the Public School System had different ideas.

Instead of a snow day, or even a 2 hour delay, school was in session as normal, and children all throughout the district grumbled. And I can't forget to mention the fact that the snow was so bad, that even though we still had to go to school, I wasn't allowed to drive. Instead, my sister (the cheerleader) and I had to wake up a full half-hour before we usually do to make it to the bus stop on time.

But lo and behold! Not long before we got to school, we noticed something of interest: It was snowing again! The day's temperature was not to get above 30 degrees, and it was snowing like crazy.

First period, Chemistry. Easy to concentrate in, because the windows are at the back of the class, but when our teacher left for a bathroom break, he came back to find us all climbing over desks and stuffing into windowsills to get a better look.

Second period, AP US History. Spent entire period halfheartedly taking notes, while watching the football stadium bleach out.

Third period, Journalism Class. After editing only about five articles, Heidi (co-editor) and I ditch the Macs, and spend the rest of the period taking cell phone photos of the snow-adorned cobwebs on the fire escape, the snow-topped flagpole, and the students sneaking off of the grounds to save their cars from thier icy prisons, and go home safely.

Fourth period, AP English. More half-hearted work. Looking out of the window has become a reflex every five minutes.

During lunch, we took more photos, and then learned some interesting news from a friend: Her school, which had already had a late start that morning, was now being released early! At 12:30!

How abominable of our school officials to keep us this long.

Fifth period, PreCalc, was when the good news finally broke: We were going to be released early. (But only 30 minutes early, pshah). Teachers officially give up trying to teach anything.

The end of the day bell finally rung, and the Cheerleader (whose head was smarting from an anonymous snowball) and I could finally go home.

Later that day, the School District wasted no time in calling and saying that today, school was going to be closed.

And that was the story of how I got out of both a PreCalc test and a Spanish project today.

And is also why I have time to write this much.

Anyways, I'm trapped inside, and I like it that way. However, a lazy day calls for lazy reading materials: Nancy Drews, and The Partridge Family's mystery books :) In other words, the stuff I read in the 3rd grade, accompanied with what my Dad calls the "fried pork rinds of literature".
I enjoy them (the books, not the pork rinds, ew). The Nancy Drews are lifelong favorites, and after finding a couple of the Partridge Family books from my Grandma a while ago, those have made their impact on me, too. It isn't that I learn anything in terms of value from either of them, and it isn't that they are great works of literature or anything, but they do their job. After drowning in a sea of symbolism and rhetoric at school every day, it's nice to read something... uncomplicated. Something you don't have to look too hard into. Which is nice.
All I can really say, is that I would have been in PreCalc, taking that test, right about now.

Happy Almost-Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Exciting Movie News

Something good to brighten a dismal, almost-winter day: the new Jane Eyre movie trailer!

I've been waiting for news of this project for a while, pretty much ever since I read about it in Mia Wasikowska's interview with Teen Vogue last year, when she announced that she would be playing Jane.

Even though I only read this book for the first time last January, and as a part of an English assignment no less, I still love it so much that I've managed to read it twice since (including once when I was supposed to be concentrating on horror novels this October. oops :) ).

You can find the trailer, as well as more information (like the casting!), on

Btw, the release date is on March 11th, 2011, for the US, and it is rated PG-13.

Happy almost-Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nursery Crimes

Sometimes you find an author who just really gets what he (or she) is doing. One who completely gets that the point of a good story is to entertain, and commits their work to that goal entirely. Among this list are included: Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, Douglas Adams, and Jasper Fforde. While I am a huge fan of all, today I am particularily interested in discussing the last on the list.

My love of Fforde's books started around February of last year, since reading his first in the Thursday Next series, The Eyre Affair, after finishing Jane Eyre for school. I read the rest of the series this past summer, and I quickly realized something: don't even bother trying to explain the plot to anybody. All you'll get is a raised eyebrow, possible supplications to God on the behalf of your sanity, and maybe even a worried inquiry about how long you've been sitting in the sun. So don't even try to explain it. Just make them read the book, too, and then they'll understand :)

This year, I picked up some more of his books: the Nursery Crimes series, starring Detective Jack Spratt, and Sergeant Mary Mary. Upon first observing the cover, and then reading the first few chapters, I was a little confused, because the first book in the series, The Big Over Easy, about the murder of Humpty Dumpty, seemed entirely too familiar. After a few moments of confusion, it hit me:

The summer before I went into the 6th grade, we got a nanny, Miss Lindsay. SHE READ THIS BOOK. In fact, this fantastic woman, who also introduced me to a lot of other great authors, including Jane Austen, whom I love, also introduced me to Jasper Fforde. In fact, I remember her one day, while we were playing with a Slip 'n' Slide, reading the book, and taking notes in the margins. When I asked her why, she told me that she was annotating so a friend of hers, who was going to read the book next, could follow the story a little easier :)

Amazing how some things just come full circle like that, huh?

Anyways, my personal favorite of the Nursery Crimes books is the second (out of two), the Fourth Bear. As I mentioned earlier, I'm not going to even bother trying to explain the plot to you. Just do yourself a favor, and read it :)

(Disclaimer: There is no way you'll be able to appreciate this series completely without having read the Thursday Next series first. Just saying.)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy NaNoWriMo!

So, even though I am not able to participate this year, due to many pre-existing obligations (namely school and some insane need to get a perfect 4.0), I completely support and congratulate all of the brave souls embarking on their various writing vehicles this month for NaNoWriMo!

For those not in the know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month! Participants pledge to devote their time during November to writing a book (at least a total of 50, 000 words, about 175 pages). If they succeed, they have the option of getting their book published, as well as a nifty tee! It's a super cool process, and I celebrated my first NaNo last year.

I only got about half way through my book. This was probably due to the fact that though I drafted three seperate possible story arcs, I did not choose the strongest one, but the one that I had the most enthusiasm about, a sort of YA horror/mystery deal. Regrettably, the plot lacked a sturdy line to follow, and careened violently off path about 4 pages in, sort of like a roller coaster that bursts off the tracks while climbing up the beginning hill, and runs, to your horror, uncontrolled, around the rest of the amusement park. Or something like that.

Anywho, though I am not actively participating this year, I actively support those who are! Have a lot of fun, guys!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

October Post Failure :(

I am so sorry, but the Nightmare Novels posting to celebrate October and Halloween seems to have been a bust. In the end, I only got the chance to read about 3 novels, because life has just been so overloaded this month!

First of all, its my bday month. Which does, indeed, take up a lot of my time and thought process (I'm one of those completely weirdo kids that enjoys indexing their bday list to the point of ridiculousness). So I celebrated, and definitely ignored my reading obligations in the process.

Secondly, school has been mental. For instance, at least an hour of every single day of the past two weeks has been spent working on an essay of some kind. In short: monumentally lame. But it could be worse: I'm only taking AP English and AP US History, but my friends are taking AP Chem as well. So, I could be in their shoes, which would probably be very tight and uncomfortable.

Anyways, Happy Halloween! Hopefully your month has been more fruitful than mine. Eat some candy, and don't smash anyone's pumpkins. Because that would be mean.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Nightmarish Novels #s 2 & 3 - Frankenstein & Hound of the Baskervilles

Thank my AP US History teacher, for giving me multiple essays; my AP English teacher, for giving me even MORE essays; and my Journalsim teacher, who is teachng us Co-Editors-in-Chiefs how to lay out a newspaper; for the lack of time I've been able to spend reading. Well, not true. While I do get time to read, I do not necessarily get time to write. I'm usually too emotionally and physically drained by the other things I'm forced to write to write anymore (Also, my Mom's been using my computer for her Master's classes, soI guess I have to thank her teachers, too).

However, non-sarcastic thanks to my Chem teacher for extending the due date on our homework, so I actually have time to write! ( Before rushing to finish an AP US History essay as well as memorize a Spanish essay and revise a AP Eng project...)

Anyways, Nightmare Novels #2, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. This is actually a reread, namely because I thoroughly enjoyed the book the first time, and because last weekend was the PSAT around here. The book had all its 625 SAT words highlighted and defined. (Even though, of course, the reading section is my best section :) ). Anyways, I love the old-time classic horror stuff, and this book always fills the bill. I rememeber that the first time I read this book in the 9th grade, I was confused because of all the differences between the book version of the Frankenstein Monster, and the movie and pop-culture version that everyone is acquainted with. While the book's monster was yellow-skinned, black-lipped, had long black hair, and was originally designed to be a handsome fella (turning out horribly wrong), there are no bolts in his neck, he is not green, and his head is not flat-topped and rectangular as other representations give me cause to believe. Not to mention that he develops to be quite eloquent, instead of that whole groaning-and-broken-words type vocab. In my head, the book version is much scarier, so since it seems the world is currently undergoing a sort of Monster-Renaissance, would someone please make an accurate cinematic representation of the book? For me?

The third Nighmare Novel I read, Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was also a reread but with less a lengthy interval between readings: I originally read it earlier this summer, stemming from my introduction to the Sherlock Holmes book series. Of course I enjoyed the book, duh, seeing as though I love mystery and horror, (though in nowhere near equal parts), but the combination is absolutely perfect. The entire thing was great. It was also a suitable launching point for me into the world of Holmes & Watson, though I am a little upset that I can't find a good movie version anywhere...

So thats what I've been reading. I'm running out of time, as well as suitable Halloween reading material. Soon enough November will be upon us, Washington will manage to get even rainier (ha, Washington, rainier, Mt. Rainier, haha, nevermind), and I'll be able to start working through all the "fall" books that have been piling up during my foray into the realm of fear-fiction.

I feel the need to bake something with pumpkin in it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nightmarish Novels #1 - The Island of Dr. Moreau

For the month of October, I'm devoting my precious reading time to all things scary, spooky, creepy, and terrifying. Face it, it's the best time of the year to read this sort of stuff! On a dark and stormy night, sitting at home all alone, while the spindly, twisted limbs of trees outside reach to you for relief of an unseen pain, creaking and moaning as they suffer... their brown, shriveled departed leaves skitter along the ground, whispering among themselves about what is to befall you... the moon calmly watches high above, having watched you many times before, while the neighborhood stray cat slinks away from its gaze...

Okay, so yeah, October is definitely my 2nd favorite month. Its entirety is spent in preparation for Halloween, and is easily symbolized by the cracked, mad smile of a glowing pumpkin. Candy pours from everywhere, and SyFy manages to get even wierder with a slew of "horror" movies you can't help but openly laugh at. How can you NOT get into the spirit?

First book on the list is The Island of Dr. Moreau, written by H.G. Wells in 1896. Even if you don't enjoy it along with buckets of candy corn or a mug of Pumpkin Spice Latte, this book packs a punch, for all its 140 pages. Though not officially classified as a horror novel, it's a pretty freaky one, and was released into protests and claims of blasphemy and evil. Where the Time Machine showed the more wonderous aspects of future sciences, this one shows its capacity for horrible misuse, by the infamous Dr. Moreau. Some of its images of "Beastly Monsters" stay with you.

It really was a good book, and one of the first ones to really freak me out in a while. Like, a little bit less than Nightmare level, but definitely above Avoiding the Anatomy &Physiology Classroom. At any rate, it was a good start to October. Now for even more terror... bring it on! MWAHAHAHAHA

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Back to Business

The start of Fall, and school, has ushered tension and stress back into the hearts of students everywhere. Back to backpacks, buses, and book reports; salutations to school lunches, study buddies, and secretly texting underneath your desk when the teacher has their back turned. And Jambo to Junior Year. Hello to Heck.

AP English and AP US History are keeping everyone's nose firmly lodged between the pages of a textbook, and Chemistry and PreCalculus have everyone snoozing in their seats. Spanish 7/8 is as fun as ever, and a welcome addition to the same-old, same-old schedule is a Journalism class, which has me quaking in fear everytime I hear the word "deadline" (however, I must be doing something right, because I made the position of Co-Editor In Chief!). In short, it's back to the grind.

The problem with school is that it is just so... daily. There is no respite from the mountains of homework we religiously hack at with our pencils and calculators.Sunday truly is the day of rest, the one day of the week I can actually lie down and read. And seeing as though it is as vital to my personal health and well being as breathing, I have been reading as much as I possibly can.

In order:
Beka Cooper by Tamora Pierce
Audrey, Wait! by Robin Brenway
Airhead by Meg Cabot
The Firm by John Grisham
Uneasy Relations by Aaron Elkins

After carbo-loading on classics during class, I find myself craving something sweet: marshmallows like Audrey, Wait! and Airhead. Light, fluffy, make you feel good. And feeling good is necessary, especially when you translate from sunshine-yellow, lemonade summer days, to braving the warfield of teenage drama, and getting your first parking ticket (*sob*). Beka Cooper is actually more of a security blanket, a well-worn favorite, a cup of hot chocolate (which, naturally, goes well with marshmallows :) ). Books like The Firm or Uneasy Relations are steadfast roadblocks, to distract me from actually completing my homework on time. Which both helps, and hinders, I guess. But both procrastination and effort are equally necessary :).

I'm sure that once we hit October tomorrow, all will get easier. Teachers will acknowledge the students who've somehow managed to survive the September Chaos, and with my sister at cheerleading practice 3 days a week, the house may be quiet enough in the afternoons for me to finish my homework faster! Which means reading less of my textbooks, and more of the works that are threatening to pancake the bottom three shelves of my bookcase (all unread books go on the top shelf, and let's just say that this cup has been overflowing for awhile).

I'm so ready for Winter Break already.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Currently residing in Sunriver, Oregon (aka, the last bastion of Summer, seeing as though school starts up again next Thursday), I'm finding it a bit hard to devote enough time to things like blogging while I'm forced to watch my last dregs of summer sun slip down the drain below the horizon. However, I'm taking time now, and here's what I've had the time to read, between floating the Deschutes river in kayaks, and shopping around Bend.

First on my reading list was Glory, Passion, and Principle by Melissa Lukeman Bohrer. It details the lives and accomplishments of "eight remarkable women at the core of the American Revolution", as it proclaims on the front cover. Remarkable, indeed. Judging by how important these women were, I was surprised to have only known three out of the eight, seeing as though the courage, integrity, and ability these women possessed practically outshines their more famous male counterparts. Of course, these women were forgotten soon after they were recognized, because of the simple fact that they were, indeed, women. However, Bohrer does a spectacular job bringing these women out of the dusty pages of long-forgotten history, and into the lives of women today, with no short amount of adventure, and a little modern feminism thrown in for good measure.

The women included are: Sybil Ludington, a practical parallel to American Girl's Felicity, whose long, treacherous journey puts Paul Revere to shame; African-born slave-poet Phyllis Wheatley, who turned the hearts of Americans and Britains alike with her words; First Lady Abigail Adams, who was never afraid to point her husband in the right direction; author Mercy Otis Warren, documenter, critic, and satirist of the war; old, but steadfast Lydia Darragh, who saved her family, while doing her best for her country; legendary Molly Pitcher, whose lore attracts as much skepticism as it does pride; soldier Deborah Sampson, an American Mulan, minus the dragon and the man; and Native American Nancy Ward, who overlooked racial barriers on her quest to save her freedom.

After reading about those historic women, I was up to read another fierce female's story, in a lighter, slightly girlier format. Sunriver Books & Music rapidly provided me with Candy Apple Red, Electric Blue, and Ultra Violet, the first three books in the Jane Kelly mystery series by Oregonian author Nancy Bush. All three solid, bouncy, popcorn reads, with a stereotypical leading lady working as a process server/wannabe private investigator, solving crimes with barely a misstep (until you reach the third book, which was definitely the weakest of the three). It is definitely vacation reading, something you can read by the pool (which I did), and is enjoyable, without being emotionally taxing or dark.

At any rate, I'm here for a few more days, and the inescapable grasp of the American Public School system is reaching ever closer. I wonder what's going to distract me until then.

(P.S. I would have lovely Oregon photos in here, but our vacation home's wifi connection is spotty at best! Sorry!)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Literary Sort of Day in Downtown Tacoma

Last Thursday, my sister, father, and I celebrated summertime (as well as the fact that I have finally finished all of my assigned summer reading, YES!) by heading to spend some time in Downtown Tacoma. This family excursion allowed us to have some fun on the Link, swing by the weekly Farmer's Market and get some flowers for Mom, arrange letters in Tollefson Plaza, as well as explore some new places that we haven't been before around the city.
First, we hit up King's Books, because now that I won't be freaking out about my school books, I need some new books to freak out about. I'd never actually been inside the unique bookstore before, but now that I have, I can assuredly say that it is probably the best bookstore I've ever seen. The floor is covered with mismatched rugs covering random spaces, wooden tables and folding chairs afford you places to peruse your new purchases, and bookshelves lean different directions in places (but it's more like they're trying to give you a hug, then threatening to cave in on you!). Best of all, and the part of the bookstore that Dad loved the most, was the wonderful, large, black cat that takes up residence in the store, named Atticus. This cat looks like a miniature jaguar and enjoyed itself immensely when my dad started petting it. The cat is a jewel, much like the bookstore itself. This place was like a humongous scavenger hunt, and finding the coolest old books was the ultimate prize. My sister and father both walked out with two books a piece, while I led the way with five. More information on this spectacular bookstore can be found at:
However, the Link, Farmer's Market, and King's Books had robbed us of the majority of the time we had to spend with our father before he had to get back to work. Before we said our goodbyes, we traveled down the rabbit hole to pick up some tea from the Mad Hat Tea Company. The entire place smelled delicious, and we quickly picked out some tea of our own to take home with us. I grabbed the Mad Snickerdoodle tea, from India, with the flavors of Almond and Cinnamon, while my sister went for Frank's Fancy, from China, a mix of Chocolate, Coconut, and Vanilla. We're going to try both this week to warm up the chilly mornings while we vacation in Sun River, Oregon. If you want to view a complete tea list from Mad Hat Tea Co., or see ordering information for the tea, then check out:

For a day spent in Downtown Tacoma that was completely Hello Cupcake-less, it was a great one. Hopefully we'll get to spend some more time in these fantastic stores, and find even more cool literary-minded places along the way.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Seeing as though later today I'm leaving for a camping trip (3rd one of the summer!), I thought about which books in my "To Be Read" Pile are coming with me. While sorting through various titles and covers, it led me to think, what are my favorite books I've brought with me in the past? Which are my favorite books to go camping with?
After some deliberation, I've come up with my Top 3. All deal with the outdoors, though in different ways, and all are books I'd highly recommend. Though you may think that one or two of them are more for a younger set, I believe that if you haven't read them yet, screw the age limit, and read them anyways. They're that good.


I read this entire book nestled up in a chair in my backyard in the sixth grade, and only when the sun was setting. I felt it lent the book a certain magic. This book isn't about the outdoors the same way the other books are, in the way that it deals with a girl, rather than a boy, and involves mythical creatures, like pixies and sprites and fairies, instead of the all-too-real dangers of the actual world. However, the story does include the woods behind this girl's house, so I feel it is worthy to make this list. The story always reminds me that there are things lurking in the trees that we don't know exist, and that nature has secrets of its own. Perfect things to remember when it's two o'clock in the morning, you're stuck in your tent with only a flashlight and a sleeping bag, and you can't remember which path leads to the camp bathrooms.

BOOK 2: MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN BY JEAN CRAIGHEAD GEORGEI love this book. I originally got it in the second grade, read it, and promptly decided I was going to run away into the woods like the main character, leaving this shallow world behind for a natural lifestyle. The only reason my plans were thwarted were because a) I didn't know where to find any woods, and b) my parents are too observant. These crushed dreams haven't stopped me from revisiting this book series many times in my life, and wishing I could live like Sam. This is a perfect book for anyone going on a camping trip, especially if they are in elementary or middle school. How I envy anyone reading this book for the first time. And do you want to know a secret? Up until last year, I buried this book at the bottom of my camping kit every trip, just so I could use it as a sort of manual if I ever got lost in a forest.

BOOK 3: INTO THE WILD BY JON KRAKAUERIf assigned reading during the school year has the power to ruin books for high schoolers forever, you'd think that a book assigned for summer reading would only double the destructive power. However, this book was assigned to me last year, and it changed my life forever! This book is amazing. Everyone should be required to read this spectacular nonfiction book, the doomed journey of Chris McCandless into nature. This is an incredibly powerful one and I'm only repeating how fantastic it is because I feel like I have to really get the point across. Just, please, please, please, read it.

So there are my Top 3. All three great, and all have journeyed onto campsites with me sometime in the past. Now I've still got to find which books are coming with me this time...

Monday, August 2, 2010


I'm definitely a romantic, in every sense of the word. I know the true value of a happy ending, something Jane Austen has taught me just as well as Walt Disney has. "Love conquering all obstacles" and "happily ever after", however, are not phrases you find popping up throughout your local news program. I firmly rely on my assortment of fairy tale reduxes to give me my fix. If those fairy tales are set in modern day New York, then it's only all the better!

That's where the book Beastly, by Alex Flinn, comes in. I was originally interested in this novel because it was being made into a movie, starring some of my favorite actors, including Vanessa Hudgens and Neil Patrick Harris. Originally set to debut on July 30th, the movie is now set to premiere on March 18th, 2011. This has allowed me time to actually read the book, and now, more than ever, I am psyched to see this movie.

The reworked modern take on the classic Beauty & the Beast story follows young Kyle Kingsbury, as he majorly ticks off a witch, gets transformed into a beast, and, ostracized from his embarrassed father and shallow friends, longs to find his true love. Cue the "aaaaawwww"s. It's an adorable book, and a very quick read (as in, I read it all before I had to drop off my siblings to their a.m. swim class this morning).

So, all in all, great book, can't wait to see the movie. And they lived happily ever after :)

Saturday, July 31, 2010


So, I'm kicking back and relaxing here on the beach looking for something to read. I exhausted my magazine stash before we evern arrived at the hotel, so my choices were few. After the disaster that was Wuthering Heights, I was not too keen on reading another romance, but I wasn't about to do my (still unfinished) summer reading work at the beach, so I settled down with The Last Song, by Nicholas Sparks.

My mom was surprised that I was even attracted to this book at all. I'm usually into the classics, mostly the wordy, hefty ones that pack a wollop along with it's textbook buddies when you swing your backpack around a crowded hallway. However, I thought it would make a good beach read because 1) setting in the book: beach, and 2) it doesn't require much brain power. And I really wanted to see the movie, because Miley Cyrus is pretty cool. Mom thought Nicholas Sparks was too chick-lit for me, but I was already aware of it's girliterature status from the get-go (see Miley Cyrus' face on the cover).

All in all, it was pretty good. It was a solid, emotional novel, about one young woman's coming of age journey over the course of a summer, and also explored themes like love, betrayal, forgiveness, loyalty, trust, and pain. It was a really cute story, and I regret not going to see the movie in theaters. I'm interested to see how Miley portrayed the main character, Ronnie Miller, through her eventful summer. From this novel, I can understand why Nicholas Sparks is a popular author for women, though I did find the ending a little drawn out. I'm not going to rush out and buy Dear John or A Walk to Remember or anything, but if I'm ever in need of a tear-jerking romance ever again, I'll be sure to keep an eye out for his books.

Friday, July 30, 2010


In reading Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, in our English class last year, it rapidly became one of my favorite books. The darker, supernatural style of writing thrilled me, and the book possessed some of my favorite plot pieces: a strong, independent heroine; a dark, brooding male lead; the conquering of obstacles; and finally, a happy ending. It was a great book, and I was eager to read more.

However, as you probably know, Charlotte Bronte wrote only Jane Eyre, and not much else. Undaunted by this, I chose to read Wuthering Heights, written by her sister, Emily. Also lauded as a stunning work of Gothic nature, and boasting one of the most popular romantic male leads of all time (besides Mr. Darcy), I was excited to get started. Not soon after starting, I realized this: There is barely a single likable character in this novel.
A lot of people said I came down too hard on it, but it is a truly truly truly dark Gothic. Their favorite romantic hero is a conniving, evil man, frequently referred to as "goblin", "vampire", etc. The woman he's in love with is a spoiled, petulant, overdramatic manipulator. The only tolerable characters in here are Ellen Dean, the narrator, and Mr. Lockwood, to whom the story is being told. Some people said that I would appreciate the book more when I got older, and I assure you, I will definitely not. Nueromancer, I 'll grow to understand, but Wuthering Heights? I'd only recommend it if the life you're leading is far too light and cheerful, and you need to become as bitter and depressed in as short a time as possible.

The one thing the book was professed to have, and actually did, was a happy ending. That's because it ended, and I was happy.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


The first book I read that introduced me to Hispanic culture at all was called Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan, in the third grade. I remember our teacher reading it to us in class, all of us sitting in a circle on the floor, criss-cross applesauce, hands in our laps, and cherishing the few beautiful Spanish words that were included. The strong, loving main character Esperanza worked hard to help her mother recover from illness, and provide money to bring her Abuelita up to California from Mexico. One of the things I loved most about her was her name, Esperanza, which in Spanish, means "hope".

So many years later, I find I am reading about a new, entirely different, but no less inspiring, Esperanza, in The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. This story is about a young Latina girl growing up in a hard Chicago neighborhood, and her longing to leave all of the hardship behind. This neighborhood, full of lecherous older men, abusive and controlling fathers and husbands, mothers who don't know how to handle their children, and girls who feel trapped in it all, made me wince as much as smile. I remember friends who had to read it, analyze it, cut it up into little tiny peices and suck all the symbolism, tone, and story out of it in Freshmen English class, and they completely hated this book. However, if you are steel enough to get through the unfairness, and empathetic enough to go through Esperanza's life with her, then I would definitely read this short compilation of vignettes told from Esperanza's point of view, about the neighborhood she lived in, and the hope she had for getting out.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Bit About Books and I, a.k.a A Happy Beginning

Reading has always been my main source of entertainment. In elementary school, I remember waking up before the sun, sitting in the corner of the room I shared with my sister and, regardless of the time or whether I was even fully awake, sitting with a flashlight perched on one knee and a book propped up in my hands, transporting myself to an entirely different world until the world I lived in interfered, namely my father coming in to wake us up. In those simpler times, I would tear through a Magic Treehouse or Nancy Drew before I shrugged on my school uniform and ate my Cocoa Krispies. Now, as a high schooler, the reading material has aged as I have, and though I find I am available less and less to enjoy the pasttime which I had previously devoted so much of my life to, I am not above sneaking my well-worn copy of Pride and Prejudice underneath my math desk, or cramming my new copy of Beastly into the crevice in my science notebook. I love the written word, and will always cherish printed books.
Books have always permeated my life, even leaking into some of my other passions, like cooking, or fashion. A breif stint in the sport of fencing may have been caused by books like Treasure Island or Pirates!, and R.L.Stine's Dangerous Girls series coupled with an obsession with Dracula were definitely behind an ill-fated 3 day stint as a wannabe goth in the fifth grade.
I pursue cookbooks by M.F.K. Fisher as voraciously as I do books by Ian Fleming, and I am not a half bad cook (I am actually just an okay, "meh" sort of cook :) ). It is impossible to think of food and not have Alice's tea parties in Wonderland come to mind, as it is impossible to think of gardening and not have the image of Mary, Dickon and Collin playing in their Secret Garden spring into my head. And as I grow older, and read more and more books, more characters seem to crowd my mind and project their stories into the world around me.
Books will always be a part of my life. Through this blog, I will be able to share my thoughts on such things, and hopefully get some good feedback in return. Book recommendations are always welcome, and I look forward to sharing my love of the written word with others, particularly ones my own age. The kids in High School nowadays do read, and I hope that this blog will encourage and invite more to join in on the fun.
And me, I'll always be here to listen. Until next time, I'll just be Playing in the Pages. :)