Tuesday, December 27, 2011

We Are Young

Well, ladies and gentlemen, we're trapped in the thick of Winter Vacation, and I'm running out of Swedish fish.

I am not, however, running out of things to do. Now that we're past Christmas, and I've taken the time to play with my new toys, I'm back to work, finishing up our APChem Break Assignment, as well as working for this blog, thinking up all of the good intentions I'm going to start 2012 with, and staring listlessly at the prompt for an APEng essay I really don't want to write. Plenty of Sara Bareilles and Kate Nash is playing in the background, and I'm debating the effectiveness of clove chewing gum.

Winter Break really should just go on indefinitely. I'm never this productive during school.

Anyways, I've currently been occupying my time in the 1920s, between the pages of Jillian Larkin's fabulous Flappers series. The first two books, Vixen and Ingenue (Delacorte Press, 2010 and 2011, respectively), were simply spontaneous decisions, from the store and the library, respectively, and their stories have proven to be just as exciting. They follow the lives of society darling and flapper-in-training Gloria Carmody, her best friend Lorraine Dyer, as well as Gloria's secretive cousin Clara Knowles, from Chicago to New York, from private academies to the sleaziest speakeasies. The series totally reads as a dishy, bubbly soap opera, seriously popping with drama. The suspense builds as each girl's story is told alternating by chapter, and each flapper comes with her own problems. While some points proved predictable, you'll never guess what sort of a showdown all these secrets are leading to.

One of my favorite aspects about the books was the time period. The 1920s were easily one of the most interesting periods of American History, and I love reading about them. Vixen and Ingenue evoke an era, much like Anna Godberson did with her YA Luxe series, set in turn-of-the-century New York (and coincidentally enough, Godberson also just came out with a series set in the 1920s, called Bright Young Things). The language, the fashion, and the society rules set on display in these books really did hearken back to the glittering past.

Larkin also did well with her complex and varied female cast of characters (I make the distinction in gender because it seemed as though the men were sort of ignored or only used as romantic interests, serving as only a set of lips to kiss). Gloria, Lorraine, Clara - and later on, Vera- all made for compelling characters who you could both hate, as well as root for. Even secondary stars like Maude, Leelee, and Coco, were fun to read. They are by no means role models, but they certainly are like real personalities.

So that's what I've been spending my time reading. Unfortunately, Larkin's next book, Diva, doesn't go on sale until some point in 2012, so I may just have to start swimming in the symbolism of Fitzgerald to get my flapper fix.

#18. Jillian Larkin's Vixen (Flappers #1)

#19. Jillian Larkin's Ingenue (Flappers #2)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ophelin' So Good

Usually school-mandated reading carries the stench of death and essay questions along with it, but not so in my APEnglish class. I genuinely have never enjoyed Shakespeare as I have while reading Hamlet with my friends. While we aren't yet finished with the book, I can definitely tell you some of the things that are making it so thoroughly tolerable:
1. We're finding ways to make it fun.
The sight of a student, hunched over their desk, eyes glazed over, and desperately trying to hang on to the garbled Middle English for dear life, is a common one throughout our school district's mandatory Shakespeare-a-year English program. While by the time you've reached Senior year, like I have, you've managed to translate the stories a little bit, most people still have at least a little problem sorted through the "thee"s and "thou"s, and even then, the story itself is rife with deep meaning and thought, which may be hard to follow. My friends and I entertain ourselves, and avoid doing APChemistry homework, by doing some serious doodling (example provided above, of what resulted when my friend Catherine questioned Queen Gertrude's ability to recount the exact events of Ophelia's death, but hadn't attempted to save her). Others for this past Shakespeare section have included "Anime Dead King Hamlet" as well as "Cast of Hamlet as Animals".
2. Our teacher embraces media portrayal.
I swear, half of our class would be lost in the wandering, word-y world of Hamlet if it weren't for Kenneth Branagh. His movie version provides not only entertainment, but also serves as a sort of plotline MapQuest for those in our class struggling to follow the story, even if his is transposed into a later time period. Our teacher, Mr. C, understands that some students learn visually, and simply seeing actors portray the characters on screen may help them better comprehend the play, versus just reading it.
3. Our teacher also doesn't crowd us with information, but lets us sort it out peice by piece.
Hamlet is a complex play, considered by many to be one of the best in the English language. That may be a hint as to why an overload of assignments and essays and worksheets doesn't serve much use to the knowledge-hungry: you're forcefeeding what we'd willingly eat. Don't stuff us. Mr. C. only assigns one worksheet every one-to-two chapters to make sure we're following along, and gives short "reading check" quizzes during class every few days to review. While the student is trying to sift through the difficult nature of the story, don't throw a giant boulder of an essay in for them as well.
So, that is my brief post on why our Shakespeare study this year is going so well.

Also, if you just so happen to be reading Hamlet as well, check out this. You won't regret you did. :)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Only the Best...

Have you ever judged a series - whether it's of television, movies, or books - based solely on their fans?
The hordes of screaming teenage girls, and their mothers, whose hearts are ready to bleed for a pale, brooding, everlasting skinnyboy, or his tan, intense, buff nemesis? Or what about a greater portion of the planet, who are perpetually ready for turning their Snuggies around backwards and waving a stick in the face of another person, or eating jelly beans that, more likely than not, will make them gag? To be perfectly honest, I like Harry Potter as much as the next person who's read them each at least 8 times, and I love making fun of the Twilight franchise as much as the next sarcastic teenage biblio-hipster, but the best fans in the world are not those who obsessively gather costume components or overpriced merch galore.

The best fans in the whole world are Sherlock Holmes fans, because they are the ones who make the Sherlock Holmes movies.

Or, in the case of the BBC, the Sherlock Holmes miniseries. :)

My dad and I went through all three episodes in the space of two days after recieving it last year for Christmas, and while I thought it was a beautiful representation of the classic character, I had not had the benefit of viewing my favorite episode of the three, A Study in Pink, without having first read the original Sherlock novel, A Study in Scarlet, upon which it was based. Recently, I remedied the situation, and as I read the book, my eyes only grew wider. While Pink was an entirely different story than Scarlet, the connections between the two were so masterfully tied together, that they had to have been only a work of the utmost love for the character.

A Study in Scarlet, the global introduction to the slightly-crazed genius of Holmes, also served as his introduction to Watson, and the meeting of the two within the episode mirrors the book almost perfectly. The modern setting of the TV miniseries, however, adds so many more possibilities for showcasing the deductive skills of Holmes, as well as a modern understanding of his character: a little showy, a little sociopathic, all incomparable in brains. The two are definitely different in many respects, but the bits and peices they share alike are total treasures.

(They, however, aren't the only superSherlockfans: for instance, in the Robert Downey Jr.-helmed blockbuster, the simple scene where Watson enters the apartment to find Holmes shooting the letters V.R. into the wall are replicated from "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual", which I read last summer. The entire movie is filled with subtle homages to the classic works involving the titular hero.)

All I'm really trying to convince you of with this post is the classic greatness of the book A Study in Scarlet, along with the masterful interpretation of the BBC series.

If you have not already, ask Santa for both. :)

#17. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oh, the Disappointment and Approval

So, I believe the saying is, that "the honeymoon has ended"?
I'm beginning to figure out all the faults and foibles of my once precious Kindle Touch. Many thanks to Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Princess Ben for pointing out these problems to me (more on that lovely book in a minute!).

For instance, whilst reading, I started to notice that random quotation marks had seemingly disappeared from the text. While it typically isn't that difficult to discern when a specific character has ceased speaking, it was certainly annoying to find yourself halfway into a paragraph, still reading the text in the particular voice of a character, only to find it wasn't the character speaking at all! Also, occasional words were misspelled. I had to read a sentence three times over before my story-soaked brain could fully understand that doing something "inces santly" wasn't from some kind of Latin or fantasy language, but instead, the word "incessantly" with an incredibly incorrect space in the middle. It was so irritating that I was incensed enough to look it up online, where I discovered that typographical errors in eBooks are, if not frequent, simply commonplace! Here's how I feel about it: if you're going to read a book electronically, you should be able to read the same thing all those people who bought the physical books read. There shouldn't be that big of a difference between the two, let alone major errors in punctuation and spelling!

Then, my heart broke into a million pieces. Maybe I shouldn't have started with Mindy Kaling, whose cover art for Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? was so gosh-darn cute. I know that it was cute, because I like looking at cover art, and even though it was a little harder to maneuver to the cover on a Kindle, I did it, just for the sake of seeing the artistry: the cover of a book ensnares your attention immediately, and demonstrates the story and atmosphere of what you're about to read in a mere glimpse. The battle of books over my heart and shopping cart has been decided by cover art before. Which is why the fact that Kindles don't come with cover art for all of their eBooks is completely soul-crushing! I LOVE the beautiful, glossy photos on the front of a novel! Tell me why I'm not allowed to have it now?

But I digress. My Kindle and I aren't officially broken up just yet... we're just taking a break.

So I can talk about Catherine Gilbert Murdock (whose name I just LOVE saying, for some reason) 's Princess Ben (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). It's a book I've read three times now, and I have no short amount of confidence in saying it is a really great teen-fantasy novel. This story, of a princess who-doesn't-wannabe, who, through magic and hardwork, learns about herself, her true love, and what it really means to be a princess, is one of my faves in the Teen section of our library. So, I bought it. The book is divided into four parts, which individually display different sections of her personal journey, from spoiled, over-emotional, chubby girl, to self-assured, confident, slightly-less-chubby girl (but she realizes that appearances don't have significant importance, so the fact that she still remains "more than slender" is no biggie). It's a coming-of-age novel, essentially, set in the fantasy world of Montagne, across the mountain Ancienne from neighboring Drachensbett, who are preparing to wage war. Ben - full name: Benevolence, truly one of the worst names you can inflict on a child, in my opinion, particularly if they grow up to be a full-blown terror - is your normal teenage girl on the inside, even if, on the outside, she wears a crown. She has as much trouble dancing in high heels as we modern girls do! Anyways, what I'm trying to say is that Murdock manages to tell a beautiful fairy-tale, while successfully transplanting in identifiable characters and familiar emotions, that make Princess Ben a fantasy world that's all too accessible for today's teenage girls.

# 16. Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Princess Ben.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Another problem with the Kindle Touch? I can't lay out the book covers in a line to show you what I've been reading. Oh, well. I still love it.

Anyways, I would have posted earlier, but unfortunately, college app deadlines prevented me from doing so. However, this isn't a sob post about how busy I am. In fact, I HAVE TURNED IN ALL OF MY COLLEGE APPS!!! Except for one, which isn't due until January. But I'm not worried about that right now. I'm more concentrated on enjoying the Christmas season.

And my new Kindle Touch.
Which I've still decided I kind of hate, but it's just so wonderful I can't say it out loud.

On this wonderful new device, I managed to read three books over the Thanksgiving Break. I didn't really like one book of them enough for it to warrant it's own post; however, I did enjoy them all. Just some more than others. So out of the three, I'll rank them for you (#1 being the best, #2 being the worst):

#1. (or my #13 for my goal)
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) from Mindy Kaling
Confession time: I really don't enjoy the Office television series. This makes me the one, singular person in my family who doesn't watch it. They make fun of me for it. Mainly, because they all know the reason I can't stand it: I hate awkward or uncomfortable situations, and frequently leave the room during these sections of TV shows or movies, which, for the Office, is practically every five minutes. Anyways, even though I don't like the show, I loved this book, written by one of the stars and writers, Mindy Kaling (aka Kelly Kapoor). This carefully-curated collection of memories, reflecting on her life, was awesomely funny. Another reason I enjoyed it may be that I could draw so many parallels between our lives, which may be taken as either good, or weird. Anyways, I think I'd like to be her best friend.

#2. (my #14)
Anna & the French Kiss from Stephanie Perkins
To all of the other book bloggers out there who claimed that this novel was completely mis-titled, I concur. What originally looked like nothing but the fluffiest of girlish unicorn marshmallow-goo reading material, was actually pretty solid. I don't have much experience reading teen romance, but this one was pretty cute. I liked it. While not all of us can relate to the experience of having your ultra-rich poser writer Dad having you sent to boarding school in Paris for your senior year, and while there, meeting a really wonderful guy who unfortunately already has a girlfriend, but nevertheless, embarking on strange/crazy/fun nighttime Paris adventures with him, and pushing through problems between friends to end happily ever after, Perkins made the book kind of relatable, and Anna, an interesting (if slightly melodramatic) character.

#3. (my #15)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Want to know the real reason behind reading this book? It wasn't the fact that many other friends have read it and liked it. It also wasn't the fact that even our school librarian has recommended it to me. It is simply because it is being made into a movie... a movie that just so happens to star just a handful of my favorite actors/actresses in the whole wide world (Emma Watson Nina Dobrev Logan Lerman Mae Whitman). Which is why, even though I thought the book wasn't as great as everyone hyped it up to be, I will still be seeing the movie. I just didn't find the coming-of-age story of an emotionally- and mentally-damaged freshman very interesting. Or pleasant. I don't know, maybe it's just tying back to the whole "uncomfortable" thing. I mean, I mostly read books for pleasure - because they're mentally or emotionally stimulating - and if the entire book is just awkward to read, then it really isn't a pleasurable experience for me. But it was okay, and everyone else I know seems to love it, so go ahead.

That's it for me so far this week. The rest of my free time has been taken up by applications, but now that those are done with and squared away, maybe I'll just take sometime to indulge in the luxury of being able to do my homework. And maybe I'll make some Christmas cookies, too. :)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I Hate Myself for Loving My Kindle

Sing it, Joan.

Seriously, though. I was always one of those printed-paper die-hards, who vowed never to turn the non-existent pages of a Kindle for as long as they lived. I promised to uphold the virtues of all that is inky and sort-of-musty-smelling-after-a-while and good, and read only paper books forever. They said that eReaders were the future; I said that technology would ruin us all.

But it's just so pretty.....

And way more easy to handle than normal books. And I love the fact that I can upload books instantly, instead of dragging my butt to whatever Borders or Barnes and Nobles is still somehow open, and trying desperately to find this book that I want, and deciding whether I truly want it or not because it's waaayyy overpriced. Also, they have a load of classic literature available for free, and while I do wonder how they are paying these authors the royalty they deserve, I do appreciate the fact that I have two new Oscar Wilde books downloaded and ready to read this weekend. And it's so easy to handle, I've already zoomed through two new books I've been wanting to read for a while, but haven't gotten the chance to just yet.

That being said, I do have a couple of misgivings.

Some aspects of the Kindle - I have the Kindle Touch - are not so easy to manipulate. For instance, highlighting? Is a pain. And while I appreciate the ability to share your opinions, as well as the fact that you finished the book, with others automatically upon turning the book's last page, that was kind of difficult as well. There are actually a couple of aspects that are almost impossible to figure out. Also, I know this sounds kind of stupid... but the feeling of a cold peice of metal just can't match up to the warmth, and personal texture of PAPER. It's not what I was raised on, what I like. The Kindle just feels more impersonal than actual books.

So, my heart is still conflicted over this admittedly awesome peice of machinery. I hate it, I love it. I hate myself for loving it. While I will always appreciate the convenience and effieciency of a Kindle, real, printed books will always be better.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Dark Days

It's been another one of those weeks. Just generally depressing, where I barely manage to crawl my way to the weekend, feeling like I've only just escaped the jaws of doom. You think I'm kidding.

However, there is no way I'm turning this post into another, dad-dubbed, "mopefest."

[Then again, he is the one who refuses to kill the giant, man-eating spiders in the garage, and pokes fun at me when I've realized that one of them has suddenly disappeared, so maybe he just generally thinks people should deal with their own problems. Which is why I'm going to hide one of said spiders in his bed. (Jk, Dad.)]

Instead, I'm going to spend my time singing the praises of a truly great book.

Flashback to seventh grade. Ignore my icky hair, and the uniform we were forced into every day: focus on the book in my hands. Any given day, it would have been one of two: Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty, or Meg Cabot's All-American Girl. I read these two books, back to back, almost all the way throughout that particular school year (yes, people noticed; no, I didn't care.)

Flashback to eighth grade. Ignore the fact that my hair looks even worse, and that I'm wearing the same baggy school sweatshirt every single day. Instead, take a peek into my soul, into the bookshelf in my heart, and see which space is rather conspicuously empty.

During the summer between seventh and eighth grade, I had lost Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty. It had remained missing ever since... until last year, at Thanksgiving, when a large bag of books returned from my cousin's house had yielded the evidence of my one time "loan," that ended up lasting over three years. Consider the hole filled. However, my previous paper love had shriveled, into what I assumed was merely a schoolgirl infatuation. I had grown older, and known much more impressive, daring, classic books, than a young-adult yarn, about a secret Order of girls who could work magic.

Having to endure the rather unhappy past few weeks, filling out college applications, and scholarship applications, and just feeling older than I should, I was missing the vigor of my childhood. I haphazardly rifled through the contents of my bookcase to find suitable material, and just as I was reaching for my copy of The Phantom Tollbooth, I knocked this one off the shelf, onto my foot. What a painful, happy accident.

I relearned my love. This book really affected me as a kid, simply because it was filled with strong, smart heroines, who all grew up feeling repressed, desperate to find a way to control their own lives. They're all just trying to figure life out, trying to find a way to make their own way. I got that then, and I get it now.

I'm serious. It's just a great book. Read it. Preferably as soon as possible.

[Disclaimer: Take into account I am a girl. An occasionally girly girl. Quite often, a very romantic girly girl. This book would typically be classified as a "girl" book. So, if you are a guy, a guy's guy, you may not understand why I like this book so much. Just sayin'.]

But really. I really love it. I have all of the rest in the series, too.

However, you can bet that I'm never lending them out to anyone ever again.

#12. Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty (Delacourte Press, 2003). Red-headed, spirited Victorian-era young lady, Gemma Doyle, is forced to move to London, and keep her magic and secrets hidden, after the murder of her mother.

Friday, November 11, 2011

She's a Fighter

You know those weeks where there are only four school days in the week, and yet it manages to drag on for an eternity - an eternity of way too many homework assignments, and not enough time for breathing - and by the end of it, everyone around you, from your friends to the people who sit behind you in AP Eng, are super cranky? And no one actually thought the week went very well anyways, and you aren't even able to grudgingly say that at least a lot of work got done, because in actuality, the bare minimum of work got done, and you actually have a load of work sitting in your inbox that you're staring at sadly until you finally fling yourself at it Sunday night?

What I've just described is TOTALLY my life right now.

It's hectic. It's difficult. It's all so unforgiving, and merciless in it's battery. I didn't even get to watch any TV until Thursday night, when the weekend officially commenced! Terrible, terrible. I swear, my head may explode. Especially when my mom and I are having conversations like this:

Me. "Gosh, Mom, I'm so stressed right now. Can I have a hug?"

Mom. "Sure, honey." *gives hug* "Why do you think you're stressed? Do you think it's because you're missing all these scholarship and college application deadlines?"

I'm definitely not, by the way. Missing the deadlines. No, my mom, I think, actually ENJOYS giving me cardiac problems. I think she's just going to keep needling me about college, and stressing me out, until I eventually crack down, and agree to go to UW, closer to home, instead of California.

Anyways, the brief - extremely brief - amount of free time I was allotted by the Universe was spent reading Tamora Pierce's last book in the Beka Cooper [my favorite of all Pierce's heroines] trilogy, Mastiff. Seeing as though the fantasy genre falls under my very general category of "escapism," I thought that this book would be my savior, whilst I was pinned by the unyielding onslaught of suck that was my week. It was, but it didn't necessary save me. It more of just acted as a crutch as I limped along through Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Don't get me wrong: it's not bad, or anything. In fact, if you're a fan of Beka, or Tamora in general, please pick it up. Really. It's just that, I'm not sure of whether I just didn't have the time to absorb it fully and in its entirety, or if I had just reached that point where I was so stressed, I hated everybody... but I didn't really like it. I felt that there were aspects of it that were a little gimmicky, or out of place, or just wrong... but I also can't honestly say that the terrible week I had didn't impact my reading. I think I may have to go back and revisit it later, at a point in time where I don't feel like the only sunshine in my life is present when I'm sleeping.

Besides, we read Oedipus Rex and Antigone in AP Eng this week, and I may have reached the point where I'm just tired of fictional people I like (mini spoiler alert!) dying.

Anyways, I managed to find other things to get me through the week as well, such as endless jamming to One Night Only's "Say You Don't Want It," Blue Raspberry Jolly Ranchers, Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate (pictured above), and the fact that one of my best friends imported Royal Wedding English Breakfast tea from England, and has promised to give me a tin.

Anyways, here's to you having had a better week than me. It may have even managed to ruin my weekend, too. Maybe some Harry Potter is in order...

#11. Tamora Pierce's Mastiff. Beka Cooper leaves a recently-buried fiance, and the guilt about her relationship with him, behind, in order to track down the people who stole the king's son.

PS. While I only fought the stressful forces at play in my life, I would like to remember those brave souls who have fought the dangerous and deadly all over the world with our country's armed forces. Today is Veteran's Day, a day for honoring those who have entered onto battlefields, knowing they may never come back from it, but feeling that what was at stake was worth it anyways. To those brave and beautiful men and women who deserve our eternal thanks and gratitude, I can only say, "Thank you, bless you, and well done." <3

Saturday, November 5, 2011

New Haul

It's only when you have one of the busiest weeks ever that you really appreciate how much stuff ended up coming together!
I finished Madeleine L'Engle's a Wrinkle in Time (still as excellent as ever, in case you were wondering), as well as my Marvel Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch bday present (which, once you get past the overt '90s-ness of it, is pretty awesome!).
I received my new, hardcover copy of Tamora Pierce's Mastiff [Beka Cooper Book 3] in the mail a few days ago, and then one of the biggest windfalls of new material happened this morning, at the Puyallup Fairgrounds' bi-annual Antique Show. Trolling through the entire showroom, I snagged a copy of J.M.Barrie's Peter and Wendy (Grosset & Dunlap, 1911), and two cooking pamphlets from 1936 and 1940, as well as Early Americans Recipes: Traditional Recipes from the New England Kitchen (Phillips Publishers, 1953). I love old children's classics, and I'm always looking for cool, vintage beauty, housekeeping, etiquette, and cooking books, so I always manage to find at least one awesome source of reading material here!
But that's not all! I also picked up the Secret in the Old Well [a Dana Girls mystery] from "Carolyn Keene" (Grosset & Dunlap, 1944), as well as 5 new-to-me Nancy Drews (Grosset & Dunlap, 1953, 1963, 1964) to add to my collection!
So, it's nice to know that even if I almost lost my mind this week, what with all the things that needed to be done, I could still take the time to get through some reading I've been trying to finish, as well as beef up my bookshelf. :)

#9. Madeleine L'Engle's a Wrinkle in Time. Social outcast Meg Murray, as well as her brother Charles, and a neighborhood boy named Calvin, travel out of this world in order to save Earth from the Dark Thing, and get Meg's father back.
#10. Marvel's Ghost Rider: Danny Ketch. A teenage boy finds himself transforming into the Spirit of Vengeance, with the help of an otherworldly motorcycle.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Man, This IS Scary...

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Of course, the threat of a looming pile of Calc homework and Chem studying doesn't make it so happy for ME, but, you know... it's a holiday. :) And if there's anything worth celebrating, it's buckets of candy, pop-culture-referencing costumes, haunted houses, and Ghost Hunters Live Investigation on SyFy.

Now here's something truly scary: I've been attempting to reread one of my favorite books, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, for the past TWO WEEKS. Yes, I'm being serious. Two weeks spent on a 210 page book. And I'm only on page 129. Curse you, AP teachers, who expect too much out of our mostly-apathetic teenage minds! [Especially on the topic of molar volumes in relation to a gas...] Yeah, I've been stuck with a lot of homework recently, which means a severe lack of reading time for me.

Geez, do these trick-or-treaters never stop coming??? Well, at least SOME of them are still young enough to actually be out there...

At any rate, here's my costume for tonight. My Mom works as an administrator at Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle, so when her Operating Room team got new scrubs, I got some of their old ones! :) Work in a little Frankentein, and you've got me: the ill-fated experiment of a demented OpRoom surgeon, who held such control over what kept a man from death, that he tried to do the same with life. Or something. Anyways, I like it.

And here's what I plan on reading as soom as I escape Camazotz. My Dad, one of the coolest people EVER, got it for me for my bday two weeks ago, along with a $50 gift card to a comic book store in Tacoma. He and the Cheerleader usually make fun of me, for my full support of Nicholas Cage and the Ghost Rider franchise, and technically we aren't allowed to have the movie in the house because my Mom doesn't like it (she doesn't allow HellBoy for the same reason), but I still really love the guy. Top 3, probably. This is the Danny Ketch version, not Johnny Blaze, though, so I'm excited to read it.

Anyhow, Happy Halloween once again, and all that. Tomorrow marks the first day of NaNoWriMo 2011, so I'm praying for all you daring souls who actually think you have a chance of making it to December 1st with your heads still screwed the right way 'round. You guys go face that challenge, while I face the challenge of handling this nasty grease-based makeup and the inevitable acne outbreaks that follow. One of us is bound to succeed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Playing at Princess

I remember wanting to be a princess, of sorts.

When I was a kid, and twirling around to the Beauty and Beast soundtrack in my favorite dance-class tutu, I'm sure I would have wanted nothing more in this world than to be a real princess. However, as you get older, you begin to realize something about princesses: They always need to maintain total control. Over themselves, over their appearance, it's a cool, calm composure at all times. Not very fun for someone who can't even manage to get her hair to turn out the same two days in a row. Also, when it comes to those old medieval princesses, it isn't what you thought when you were a kid, either: sure, there may have been a joust in your honor at some point, but it was far more likely that you were married off at the age of twelve to someone twice your age whom you'd never met. Besides, there were plenty of those revolutions and beheadings and ill-tempered husbands (hello, Henry VIII) to look out for. Doesn't seem too grand to me.

Being a reasonable child, I learned to resign myself early on to living vicariously through the heriones in my favorite books. Also, helped along by the fact that my mother kept a very strict eye on what us kids watched (meaning only G-Rated, besides The Prince of Egypt and Harry Potter before I turned 11), I cultivated a deep love for all things Disney, a love that continues on to this day. Due to these terms of escape, I avoided the typical, Pink-Sparkles-and-Unicorns Barbie-princess route, and instead chose to veer off into the untamed lands of classic children's literature and world folklore fairy stories. This is, essentially, why I am now INCREDIBLY picky about how people treat them these days.

(For instance, despite my burning, passionate love for all things Disney, I hated Tangled the first time I saw it. This personality defect on my part has since been remedied.)

Anyways, whenever I see a new fractured fairy tale or "book about books" hitting the shelves, I'm a little skeptical. The Once Upon a Time collection (from various authors), for instance, was something I initially approached with trepidation, but quickly grew to love. Same goes for Alex Flinn's books, as well as Jasper Fforde's. Geek Charming and Cindy Ella from Robin Palmer, not so much. However, these are all young adult novels.

The true test of whether a fairy-tale-based book is okay, is whether kids will read it and love it, and if adults can read it and get it. Fairy tales were designed with kids in mind, so they should be able to understand and enjoy it, but if that same happiness translates to older people, who've spent way more time with these characters, then you've got it on lock. The spell is complete, you've captured your audience. And with Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm series, about two young girls who discover they're the descendants of the famous Brothers Grimm, there's plenty of pixie dust to go around.

It's a testament to my lack of willpower, that, on the car ride home from buying my youngest sister a new book to read, that I flipped open the cover of the first novel, The Fairy Tale Detectives, and proceeded to keep it from her until I finished about an hour later. What can I say? It's a really good book, and a great series. One that I felt no guilt about hoarding from my sibling until I had already gone through. The best part, for me, was that they were equal-opportunity in their fairy tale characters - while some are direct from the all-star Disney team, they also feature familiar folklore favorites, and even a Shakespearean hero (or villian, as he wants you to believe).

And you can tell that the resurgence of fairy-tale popularity is making it's mark on the mainstream: two versions of Snow White's story are being produced with major names headlining, and the storybooks are even scrambling on to the small screen (speaking of which, once you get into this book series, you may start raising your eyebrow at the premise for the new show Grimm, premiering on NBC soon. Suspicious, suspicious...). At any rate, if there's any time to be jumping on the fairy tale bandwagon, it's now, and if your sibling is complaining about not having anything good to read, it's this book that will solve your problems.

#5. Michael Buckley's The Sisters Grimm: Fairy Tale Detectives.

#6. Michael Buckley's The Sisters Grimm: The Unusual Suspects.

#7. Michael Buckley's The Sisters Grimm: The Problem Child.

#8. Michael Buckley's The Sisters Grimm: Once Upon a Crime.

(Yes, I reread four of them. I'm entering into the College App death zone, okay?)

(Oh, and if you're wondering about the big, sparkly crown? It's there because now, technically, I am a princess - I won our school's Daffodil Princess pageant! Woo hoo! Now onto the bigger part of Pierce County, and who knows? Maybe I'll end up as Queen of the entire Royal Court? :) )

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bored Out of Mind

As of last Tuesday, the teachers of our school district have been on strike. This means that since last Tuesday, we have had no school. This means that since last Tuesday, I've been stranded at the house with my younger siblings and recently-moved-in Grandma. This means that since last Tuesday, I have had NOTHING. TO. DO.

You would assume that the natural thing for a bibliofreak like me to do is read, right? I did, but it just didn't go so well. After a long search for a new mystery series to get obsessed over, I attempted to fall in love with Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher series, by way of its sixth installment, Blood and Circuses. While I did find the book pretty interesting, mainly because of the impressive early 20th century speech patterns and slang, it just wasn't what I was looking for (and was also a little too graphic in some parts). I guess you just can't force love. It's going to take a lot more to find a series that can stand up to the ones I already care about.

After that, I got a little restless. I also managed to acquire a pretty darn-awful cold, to the point where it got really hard for me to talk. Deciding to make the most of my newfound silence, I picked another book off of my shelf, one that I have always heard nothing but good things about: The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. This is the favorite book of so many people I know, I feel bad about wondering whether they even read it after I was done. Could it REALLY be such a well-liked book? Was Holden Caulfield REALLY such a source of, well, not inspiration, hopefully, but of identifiable understanding? If so, I really worry about my friends.

I didn't hate it or anything. I very rarely hate anything, and even then I change my opinions later on. I liked the interesting portrayal of New York night life, and the post-war emotion, and the speech and slang of the '40s. I liked Phoebe. I had a lot of mixed emotions about Holden. As I described it to my Dad, "I sort of hated him. Like, a lot of the time." He was an overly emotional, spoiled brat, who decided to ruin all good things that came to him. He could have been any of the number of emo, cynical hipster jerks who goes to my high school. He had such a hateful, unhappy personality that I couldn't help but feel like he would end up getting the worst in life, simply because he expected it. Heck, with his reckless behavior, he encouraged bad endings to join up with him.

And yet, he was easy to relate to. How many people feel like him, like they're surrounded by "phonies", like they don't know what's worth living for, like they want to take a gamble with the universe for the sake of finding a better existence? He provided miserable company, which I, in my sorry state of stuffy nose and throbbing throat, welcomed. And while I was glad our time together was short, he did provide interesting conversation. I hope he doesn't choose to visit again soon.

I also hope our school district and teachers resolve their matters quickly, because despite the lingering Summer weather, I am managing to depress the hell out of myself with poor book choices. I know this could be set right with an AP Calc assignment or something.

#3. Kerry Greenwood's Blood and Circuses (of the Phryne Fisher series). High society noblewoman Phryne Fisher temporarily ditches a life of luxury to take up the post of a horse rider, in an attempt to find out who is sabotaging a traveling circus.

#4. J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Unhappy and lonely, Holden Caulfield behaves badly in 1940s New York after getting kicked out of yet another boarding school.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

God bless all of those killed in the attacks on September 11th, 2001, and may their families and friends find solace in the fact that their burden of loss will never be something they have to bear alone. Our country will forever be standing behind them, and their memories will never be forgotten.

May the enduring American spirit keep us strong through trying times to come, as well as find cause for hope in those we've lost in the past.

Please think of those whose lives were unfairly stolen in this act of violence, and their loved ones, today.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Beginning of the End

Long time, no see, right? However, I refuse to regret the lost time, for in the space of these couple of weeks, I have finished my summer reading (Wuthering Heights was slightly less insufferable the second time); went on a beautiful, wonderful, blissful, all together way-too-short vacation to Central Oregon (SunRiver Resort=heaven); and started my senior year in high school.

While I do mourn the loss of my beautiful and fantastic AP English class of yesteryear, I do think that this new one is going to be crazy fun, as well, even if it is my first period of the day. It'll just have to wake me up then. :) And while it is rather large, as opposed to my intimately acquainted Junior English class, that is because it is the ONLY class currently offering AP Senior English, so we're all stuffed in. How lovely is that? It's only a matter of time before we start seeing ideas bouncing around the classroom and smacking people in the brain. And my new English teacher is pretty cool, too. After the sudden departure of our now-retired AP Senior English teacher in June, I am happy to see that we have found someone just as qualified as she was to fill her place. :)

Anyways, want to hear what I've been reading? Mainly just rereading, because it's nice to be able to come back to those few that you love so dearly. For me, it was Tamora Pierce's Trickster's Duo: Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen. Out of her magnificent fantasy canon, this is my second favorite series, the first being the adventures of the Beka Cooper trilogy (the last book of which comes out on October 25th, ten days after my bday). I also read the newest Alex Flinn fantasy, Cloaked, which I found entertaining, and, after many recommendations from my best friend's Mom, I read Janet Evanovich's One for the Money, which I didn't find interesting at all (In truth, I found it kind of gross. But I felt obligated, so I finished it).

So, that's what I've been up to in my extended absence. Don't worry, I'm back now, and more ready than ever to start blogging, big-time. I find beginnings are one of the best places to set a challenge, so here's a challenge to myself, for which you may hold me accountable: By the end of this school year, I shall have read at least 50 books. Hopefully, this will force me to update more frequently, so I'm setting the bar at one blogpost a week as well. So, with the start of the school year, I start my 50. Let's go!

#1. Alex Flinn's Cloaked. Utilizing her talents for transforming traditional fairy tales into teen fantasy, Flinn brings some of the Brothers Grimm's not-so-famous stories into the light of a modern romance.

#2. Janet Evanovich's One for the Money. Out-of-work Stephanie Plum attempts to make some fast cash by catching court-date evaders for her cousin's bail-bond business, but this proves difficult due to a possibly-innocent old flame, and a dangerous stalker.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Killing Sunshine Time

Every August, a mysterious illness befalls teenagers all over the world, when the advertisements for back to school shopping start to play on TV, and the sounds of the ice cream truck and splashing at the pool gradually start to fade away. In the last two or three weeks of summer, their skin becomes sallow, and their eyes lose the gleeful shine that arrived with the presence of the sun. They will willingly forgo pleasure outdoors, choosing instead to spend their time cooped up indoors in silence. Some are lucky; they escape from the affliction until the very last week before the return to school, but then, a harried frenzy accompanies their every action, and they rarely leave the confines of their quarters. It may be karmac retribution for falling asleep that one time in Chemistry, or maybe that one time your English teacher caught you with gum, but whatever the reason, you are still struck with that yearly torture, in the form of a paper, titled, SUMMER ASSIGNMENT.

No matter how you think you can outrun it, by starting your Chemistry problems in mid-July, or by keeping careful track of how much you have left to complete them, the book reports and notes refuse to budge, and you are unable to enjoy the last dregs of summer, thanks to the major amounts of words and lines and math problems in your way. The best way to confront them is to just hack away at it, and hard. Here are some helpful tips on how to best kill the remnants of your sunshine time with the assistance of classic literature:

1. Don't avoid it. It is there, and it is waiting for you. Every time you take a dip in the pool, every time you run barefoot through the grass, every time you blissfully consume a Fudgecicle, it sees you, and bides it's time, because it knows that sooner or later, you'll have to pay attention to it. Why spend your summer under that sort of dreadful cloudcover? Remove the possibility of a major storm later, by sweeping away the clouds now, and doing your homework.

2. Don't leave it alone. Upon starting these dreadfully tedious tasks, you'll be strongly tempted to walk away, or maybe you'll do it innocently, on, say, a trip to the kitchen for some water. Regrettably, your television is on the way to the kitchen, and it wants your attentions just as much as your assignment does, which means it will ensure that you do not return to said assignment for the duration of at least an episode of Warehouse 13. Instead of allowing this terrible accident to befall you (repeatedly), make sure you have everything you need before you sit down, including a snack and a drink.

3. Don't forget predestined events. These include family picnics, trips to the beach, camping excursions, etc., during which you would not want to miss out on the fun, do to the lodging of your nose between the covers of a Science textbook. You may think you have a whole month left between July and September, but if that month includes two weekends away, a baseball tournament, band camp, and a family reunion, then you'll be shocked to learn that's not much time to complete your assignments. Plan it out on a calendar, and learn how many days you really have before impact.

Use me as a lesson, kids. Seeing as though I'm taking AP Calc next year, I had a set of problems to complete, and for AP Chem, I had a series of assignments from a textbook. Seeing as though I'm not hot for either Math or Science, they were some tough goings. However, they were nothing compared to AP Eng. for Senior year, which saw me reading (and taking pages upon pages of notes on) a hefty portion of the Bible, as well as almost all of Hamilton's Mythology, and, as some pretty dense frosting on top of the cake, 2-3 pages of notes per chapter of Wuthering Heights (I could have chose differently, but those choices included Moby Dick and Anna Karenina). This last assignment is going to be accompanying me tomorrow, as we leave for our annual trip to Sun River, Oregon, and it is definitely not by my choice.

So don't wait, and just get it over with. The only antidote to your terrible illness, is the beautiful, bright "A" that you will start out the school year with, when you turn in all of your careful work.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Spy

Who, as a kid, didn't dream of becoming a spy?

I read about Harriet, from Louise Fitzhugh's Harriet the Spy, in elementary school, and promptly took to recording everything I saw and heard in a little notebook (which was also promptly lost). In middle school, a friend introduced me to Ally Carter's Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, and I graduated into the ranks of the Gallagher Girls and their amazing, top-secret boarding school. However, now that I'm in high school, I decided maybe it was time to play with the big guns.

There were a couple of reasons why I originally picked up a copy of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale. The first reason was, understandibly, a love of the Bond movies. In fact, this fascination (coupled with other draws from the realms of fantasy) led to a brief foray into the sport of fencing when I was in the seventh grade, including the nicknaming one of my practice-mates Miranda Frost, in honor of the devious character from 2002's Die Another Day (I lasted eight months, in case you care). The second reason had mostly to do with the amazing centenary cover art. :)

Regardless of the "why"s, I sat down and read Casino Royale. In one sitting. It certainly was fast-paced and action packed, and had plenty of derring-do... but all I really got from it was a reasonably thorough knowledge of the game of baccarat (which is described extremely well), and a deep desire to rewatch the Daniel Craig movie. Because, and I'm being perfectly honest here... James Bond is a total jerk, to the point where it was distracting for me. For the most part, it's okay, because his attitudes towards women tend to revolve around them altering his focus. I also get that this book was written in the '50s, so attitudes towards women were a little different. However, that does not excuse his completely outrageous behavior in specific parts, especially the ones in which he discusses Vesper Lynd, his love interest (who I also, admittedly, sort of hated). I still feel the need to rewatch Craig in all his blonde glory, to figure out what I really saw in this guy, Bond, in the first place.

I then turned to less hearty fare, in an effort to reclaim the wonder that I once felt when regarding the word "spy", and picked up something a friend had recommended, Linda Gerber's Death by Bikini mystery. While well-written, it was predictable (which is nice sometimes, but not when dealing with spies), and I also felt a reasonably thorough dislike for the main character.

All of these misadventures were so lacking in any real adventure, that I'm forced to beg, on my knees, CAN ANYONE FIND ME A GOOD SPY BOOK???

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Scary Camp Stories

The act of sharing scary stories around a roaring campfre is an age-old tradition, as old as the history of story-telling itself, when tribes would gather to listen to the words of a wise man. These days, a wise man knows not to orate the tales of Big Foot, the Missing Miners, or the Ghost Whatever, at our campfires, unless they also wish to contend with the blood-curdling screams of my little brother (but I can't poke that much fun, because, a very short time ago, that was me). It seems that the exploits of terrifying creatures and phenomena have been expelled from our camp grounds forever, so we lie around, reading books, instead.

However, maybe we haven't heard the last of the Boogey Man. A handful of tent-pitchings ago, my Dad stowed Mary Roach's Spook in his duffel, and later still, Stiff passed through his (and my) hands, too. The interest in both science and the scary proved too much for us to withstand, and we enjoyed both books immensely, and still reference them casually between episodes of Ghost Hunters (Our family is devoted. No judging).

So this interest in science and spookiness is what prompted me to pick up Death from the Skies: the Science Behind the End of the World (Yes, the cover art work did factor). :) It didn't feature things that went "bump in the night", but instead, Philip Plait, Ph.D., focused his attentions on things that went boom in the sky. Things that could possibly destroy us all.

While the book was informational, interesting, and a great conversation starter, it did confuse me a little. The chapters on various space happenings, like stars going supernova, gamma ray bursts, etc. start out with attention grabbing stories of woe and destruction, then meander through easy-to-follow descriptions of the phenomena themselves, and then finally evolve into the epic conclusion: You're not going to die. At least, not right now. In a while. And for the problems that may affect us, lots of smart people are working on it. So, relax.

To be honest, I feel like it acted as a sort of calming reassurance, for all potential scaredy cats, which contradicted everything the book had promised, with it's eye-catching cover, and apocalypto chapter openings. I felt like it didn't take the topic seriously; therefore, it hindered me from really taking any of it seriously, and didn't get me invested in the information. The message of "Don't Panic" made the entire purpose of the book seem slightly less interesting.

Maybe it's because I'm not enough of an astronomy aficionado. Maybe it's just the same lesson we learned camping: if you have to worry about the chicken hearts, the campfire won't be as fun.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Eras Will End

This past weekend, my father and I went on our very first (official) college road trip. We rolled past seemingly endless fields of wheat and windfarms, in our efforts to reach the very edge of what is defined as Washington territory, to inspect the separate universes of Central, WSU, Whitworth, Gonzaga, and Eastern. It wasn't that I had to pick one out just yet, my parents said, but that I had to start forming ideas about this upcoming ladder rung of life.

(As someone who has been longing for boarding school since the publication of the first Harry Potter novel, no less than vines covering worn stones and wrought iron, with new friends and hidden staircases left to be discovered inside its walls, will satiate my craving for a literary existence :) ).

While the prospects of a newly-formed, freely-lived second life away from my parents are exciting, and as the classic saying goes, every ending is also a beginning, what about the time BEFORE the ending? The train is heading full speed at an ice wall. The wall may yield to a brighter and warmer climate, but what about 100 yards back, when all you see is an end, and all you can do is brace yourself for the cold shock?

Childhood has always been, at least to me, one of the most easily misplaced luxuries. It sits on your bedside table through elementary, middle, and high school, but one morning, you wake up, and decide you want to take it with you, but it's gone. You wanted nothing more than to have nothing to do with it for the longest time, and then, when you want it the most, it has taught you all it can, and it has to leave. In a sort of Mary Poppins sort of way.

One of the only authors that I've encountered, who has been able to fully articulate my tight-chested feelings on the subject, was Annie Dillard.

"Must I then lose the world forever, that I had so loved? Was it all, the whole bright and various planet, where I had been so ardent about finding myself alive, only a passion peculiar to children, that I would outgrow even against my will?"
Her book, An American Childhood, is one of the most treasured in my collection. She is at the top of my list for Writers I Would Most Like to Talk To. However, the novel also gives me anxiety: I refuse to lend it or recommend it to anyone remotely close to me, because the feelings detailed inside are so real and so familiar, it would be the equivalent of tossing out my own journal to the wolves. It is a beautiful thing, to be able to retire the old, oft-spoken catchphrase of Teenage Rebellion, "No one understands me!", but a frightening one to consider that maybe, instead, the multitudes can. And even worse, do.

The fact that a second childhood is possible to experience, is enough of a reason to read this book. For all literary-minded, fire-hearted, suburban straightlaced and straightjacketed girls everywhere, Annie Dillard gets it. However, she has breached the ice wall. Pretty soon, I'll have to do it, too.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Realistic Ride

Let's just face facts here: I like some "realistic teen fiction", but, honestly, the majority of it just doesn't appeal to me. The main offenders tend to be the stereotypical characters, simplistic plots, and weird drama, that really just don't fit into reality, and therefore, shouldn't belong in this branch of YA reading. It just strikes me that going through the same sort of books, where characters just barely change names and hair colors, is pretty unexciting, and kind of a waste of my valuable reading time. I'm rarely surprised by these sorts of novels, and therefore, don't spend a lot of time thinking about them.

This is why I read books by Sarah Dessen. While she shares a library shelf with these aforementioned bores, she manages to make her heroines relatable, funny, and endearing, by steering clear of the regular pitfalls of "the pretty, damsel-in-distress, airhead" and "smart, and therefore ugly, nerdgirl" types. And when it comes to plotlines, she doesn't just craft a regular ride around the park, following an easy-to-traverse path, filled with varying potholes and speed bumps of conflict, but instead, crafts entire scenarios that are special, and different enough to prove their title of "reality".

No one lives in plain, old Regularsville, U.S.A. No main love interest would prove himself worthy with just an average smile and cheerful wave of his hand. Everything in her books has a depth to it. Everything has a backstory, which I find very important. There's reasoning, and thought, to it all, and that glue binds the whole of the unique scenario she's set up, into a cohesive miniverse. It makes her characters relatable, and her situations believable. She gives her "realistic teen fiction" an appropriate reality in which to exist. That's why I love to read her books.

Along for the Ride would definitely not disappoint fans of her other material. While it doesn't include the emotional impact I felt from some of her other recent work, like Lock and Key and Just Listen, she still proves to me that there are some YA books of this genre that are worth looking out for. Thanks, Sarah, for the entertaining reading.

(Also, I've got What Happened to Goodbye lined up, with plans to read it before summer's end. )

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I love books. A lot. However, this statement, being a generalization, has the capacity to be incredibly untrue. There are books I think are okay; some that I respect enough to finish, but not enough to stock in my personal collection; even a couple of books that I've really rather hated. Then again, there are the books that are so completely brilliant and amazing that I can't help but love them until their pages turn brown and break down from too many messy fingerprints, and the spine becomes so worn that the slightest nudge will cause it to fold open like a fan. Usually, it takes time for a books to be able to demonstrate my affections in this way, but for hometown hero (Tacoma, represent!) Frank Herbert's Dune, this transformation has taken place only in the stretch between two summers.

Originally, for me, it was one of three book recommendations from my father. I asked him for interesting science fiction reading material, after having enjoyed Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game in Freshman English, and I recieved what he dubbed "practically the trifecta of SciFi literature". This grouping included the first of Issac Asimov's Foundation series, William Gibson's Nueromancer, and Dune. Out of the three, the only one that fitted my sensibilities was Dune, and when I say I enjoyed it, I mean thoroughly. (It's own cover dubs it "Science Fiction's Supreme Masterpeice", and even though I don't have that much experience in the field, I would like to agree :) ). It is currently the Number One book I recommend to friends, and one that I can always count on for entertainment, regardless of how many times I read it.

I would also like to briefly note the irony of the fact that I finished this past rereading just as a summer storm was coming to fruition. (Dune is set on the desert world of Arrakis).

Anyways, what I'm trying to get at is there are many reasons why I choose to make the statement that I love books (a lot), and Dune is one of them. So you really need to read it. Like, now. (Besides, it's summer, and the frequent mentions of "sand" and "heat" make it a reasonably appropriate beach read :) ).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer Days When School Might Come in Handy

Not often have I experienced such total longing for the book-club style of our Junior AP English class, as when I was confronted with the closing of the classic Steinbeck novel, Grapes of Wrath. Anyone who has journeyed from Oklahoma to California with the Joad family before, has also been faced with the symbolism-packed, Bible-allusion-laced pathway from poor to tragically destitute, while noting many a critique of the government, and society in general, along the way. Unfortunately, it turns out that I am either too lazy to go through and pick apart every important detail and dissect it for meaning, or not creative enough to get past basic understanding. (I sure hope it's not either of them, actually). So, in the end - and especially at the end, for those of you who have read it and know what I'm talking about - I was left simply confused, and more than a little frustrated that I had spent that much time following these heart-felt and carefully molded characters, and yet had no idea what had happened to them along the way. Well, I did know one thing: every single one of the characters I had taken a special liking to, like the Grandparents, and another one who I'm not going to ruin for those who haven't read it yet, ended up dead, which was pretty depressing, and probably was one of the biggest reasons why I didn't really like the book.

I should probably address that: I really didn't enjoy Grapes of Wrath. It's hard for me to say that I didn't enjoy a book, and especially one that has been branded a classic since the early 20th Century. I understand that it was an important breakthrough in terms of getting people to register the impact of the Dust Bowl and Depression on a personal level, and it was a rallying cry against the big pig bankers and farmowners who were grabbing and clawing at people's livelihoods at that time, and if school has taught me anything thus far, it's that if a book makes you feel bad, that makes it a great book, but really, I really, really did not enjoy this book.

But I can still understand why people - as history has demonstrated, a LOT of people - really care about this book. And like I said, I wish I had the benefit of experiencing it along with a larger group of people, like my lovely Junior AP English class from this past year, who might help me understand, and therefore, enjoy it, a little bit more. And therein lies one message I clearly absorbed from the Grapes of Wrath: It's a terribly hard thing, to have to do it alone. When the people come together, that's when important things happen. Tom Joad knew that the people needed to come together, and devoted himself to the cause.

However, I'm not going to be the first to announce a need for our English class to regroup over the summer, for the summary and review of a book that we were never officially told to finish. :)
P.S. You know you've paid way too much attention to your English teacher when you finish tie-dying, you look down at your hands, and the first thing that pops into your head is Lady Macbeth. "Out, damned spot!" :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

What a Way to Start the Summer

Due to some severe, chronic overscheduling on the part of my mother, and partial laziness on my part, an entire week of summer enjoyment has passed us by, and I'm only halfway through Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath! However, I've decided to make up to you for it, by enlisting my sister. I don't give her much credit, but between Gymnastic and Cheer practices, she reads a lot, too. And while we don't tend to read the same books, she really tries her hardest when she finds a good bit of fluff lit that I just have to see. So, for the first time, I'm having a Guest Poster: my sister, The Cheerleader, talking about one of her favorite summer reads. Thanks, Delly Beans!

My sister and I have very different preferences when it comes to what we like to read. For instance, she loves mystery novels and classic lit, while I prefer to read teen romances and real life fiction, like Sarah Dessen’s books, Just Listen and What Happened to Goodbye. We try to share books with each other, and most of the time we don’t like the plot or hate the characters, but we at least try to finish it. Then out of the blue we’ll find books we both love, like Howl’s Moving Castle.

So the latest book I’ve tried to get her to read is called Beach Blondes, by Katherine Applegate. The story is of a girl named Summer, who was invited by her aunt to stay with her for the summer in Crab Claw Key, Florida. On the way there, she’s told that her future involves three new guys: one that will seem a mystery, one that will seem dangerous, and one that will seem to be the right one. Summer ignores this until, to her surprise, she does meet three guys! Suddenly she’s thrust into the crazy life of Crab Claw Key where she makes great friends and has many adventures.

I first read this book last summer when I bought it, but I decided to re-read it because it just felt like the right way to start off my summer. The book has a big soap opera vibe to it, with all the drama that Summer goes through, which made it very enjoyable. However I found the main character, Summer, rather annoying. I might be just me, but I felt she could have handled all the situations she goes through better. Summer seems to be very confused with every choice she has to make, especially involving love, and I might not be able to understand her difficulty, because I’ve never been in love so I’ll have to wait and see.

Summer’s not the only character though, there’s also Marquez, a fun loving party girl who paints, and has her own boyfriend drama throughout the plot. Then there’s Diana. Diana is the daughter of famous romance novelist Mallory Olan. Mallory, never called Mom, is Summer’s aunt too. Although Summer is excited to go to Florida, Diana is not excited for her to come in the least bit.

The book Beach Blondes also has sequels. After Summer’s first summer in Florida, her friends come visit her in her hometown of Bloomington, Minnesota for winter break in Sun-Kissed Christmas. Then she goes back for spring break to Florida in the appropriately titled, Spring Break (also known as Spring Break Reunion). Finally Summer spends her last summer before college in Florida rediscovering what she wants in life in Tan Lines. I haven’t read Sun-Kissed Christmas, but I’ve read the rest and enjoy them all immensely.

What I find funny is the Spring Break book is very small compared to the summer books so I did some exploring on the internet, and I discovered each Summer book is really three books combined. Beach Blondes is a collection of June Dreams, July’s Promise, and August Magic while Tan Lines is a collection of Sand, Surf, and Secrets; Rays, Romance, and Rivalry; and Beaches, Boys, and Betrayal. As I found this out, it became obvious that these collections were an extreme re-release. While Beach Blondes and Tan Lines were both released in 2008, the collections of stories inside them were originally released in 1995 and 1996. My guess is that this was to bring in more profit from a later generation, and I believe it totally worked because I couldn’t even tell these books were written in a different decade. So good job to Katherine Applegate for writing great stories that I think teens will love.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Loose Ends Fit to Tie

And so, with a gasp and a shudder two mornings ago, students crawled out of darkened hallways, cast aside the shackles of the textbooks and binders that had bound them since September, and walked into the sunlight of summer (metaphorical sunlight, of course. After all, we are still in Washington).

While I love my friends, my teachers, and my school, summer has always served as a bastion of childhood freedom: freedom from drama between friends, freedom from the regular, daily torture of early wake-ups, etc. Homework has always managed to impose itself on my summer enjoyment, seeing as though even before the days of summer assignments, my mother would always gift us with shiny new math, spelling, and reading materials as the school year ended, in the expectations that we would still know how to divide fractions by the end of August. Summer assignments have acually only gotten better over the years: this year, it involves a huge collection of books to choose from, including Dickens and Twain, and last year, Annie Dillard's An American Childhood impacted me to the point where I'll probably end up rereading it again this summer. :) The AP Calc and AP Chem book assignments awaiting me, however, are proving a little less easy to get excited about.

So, in the end, despite the fact that I'm beginning summer after ending, scholastically, one of the worst semesters of my life, nothing will keep me from bounding out the doors of district-mandated school attendance with a spring in my step. I have way too many books on my bookshelf, that have been sitting there way too long, to be in any way sorry to be leaving the school year behind. Things I'm excited to read this summer:

1.Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck. We started it in class about 7 days before school ended. It's too good not to finish, right?

2. Mystery books I've been hoarding for forever, in wait for a good vacation on which to enjoy them.

3. Books too long and classic to be fully enjoyed during the school year.

4. American History and Southern Regionalism-based classics.

5. Assorted readings and rereadings that all don't fit one category, but definitely all fit in my bookcase, and therefore, my heart!

Monday, May 30, 2011

How Tragic.

The school year can end only so quickly.
Even though most of us have already experienced a sense of relief - mimicking the relaxation that accompanies the final day of state-mandated school attendance - after the realization that AP testing has drawn to a close, we still have to steel ourselves for the trials that lie ahead. The hard stuff may be behind us, but we still have to suit up for the worst to come, like my second round of SAT testing this upcoming Saturday, and Finals, on the 13th and 14th of June. The approaching close of a year also signals a farewell to the graduating class, and I'm sad to see some of my favorite seniors say goodbye. Before we can reach the sunny shine of summertime, it seems we have to experience the tragedy of the end of the school year.
(Not to mention the tragedy that an A- I recieved last semester and the fact that our school district refuses to weight students' GPAs is preventing me from becoming one of our school's prestigious Grey Gowns next year. That means I have to watch as kids who swam by all of their high school career in regular and honors classes are honored, and some of us who busted our butts in AP are left out of the fun. Boo.)
However, those AP classes where our work has finally paid off now get the chance to experience a little less high-tension classwork. Sure, we still get assignments, but they mainly take the form of in-class presentations for AP US History, and art projects for AP English's reading of Macbeth.
Macbeth, by itself, was definitely not one of my favorite peices of Shakespeare's work. In fact, I found it pretty boring. As a district, our school system decided that teachers have to assign one of Shakespeare's tragedies every year, which has led to our perusal of Romeo and Juliet freshman year, and Julius Caesar last year. (Next year, as seniors, we will have to read Hamlet.) I really liked both of those, to the point where I even read A Midsummer Night's Dream over the summer between 9th and 10th grade. However, I'm not sure whether I've just become tired of his writing, or tired of people complaining about not being able to understand his writing, because this wasn't nearly as enjoyable an experience for me as his works have been in the past.
I am enjoying the art project bit, though. We were able to choose the medium we wanted to work with, so I decided to go with one with which I was already relatively familiar: a comic book. :) I think it turned out pretty well. However, it is yet to be decided whether my junior year will end with misery, or with mirth. Maybe I could end up turning this tragedy around?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Well, It Sounds Like a Good Enough Answer, but I've Marked "C" Four Times Already...

When gazing out into the distance in a studying-induced haze yesterday, I realized something: Hey, I can actally READ again! After having ritually sacrificed a part of my soul and sanity on the altar of college preparation yesterday, I realized that after 3 hours of filling in bubbles and scratching out a couple of essays, AP US History testing was finally done with! Relishing my renewed freedom from practice tests and reference books, I discovered that my bookshelf was no longer bound from me.

(However, instead of immediately running into the now-open pages, my Dad took the Cheerleader out of school early, and the three of us celebrated with mall food court Chinese and an afternoon viewing of Thor). :)

The thing is, though, that my mind still was hooked on AP knowledge. I really wish I had done better. Don't get me wrong, I know I did pretty okay, to at least a passing grade level. However, I also know that there was plenty I could have done beforehand to get an even BETTER score. Everyone agreed afterwards that they wished they had commenced with the "freak-out studying" earlier, and it was only the ones with the best prep books and study habits that survived with their self value intact. Here are some bits of advice for future AP students - slightly obvious, but none the less true.

1. You need to ignore your friends. Obviously not completely, as in, make sure you're still on speaking terms by the end of it, but, for the most part, ignore their study habits and feelings about the test. Most of my crew didn't study hardcore until the week before, and attempts any earlier than that were roundly ridiculed. Study as much as you think you need to, regardless of criticism. Also, ignore the school-wide mythology that surrounds the test: that "one guy with a photographic memory who read the entire textbook the night before the test and got a perfect score" does not exist.

2. Cover material again after your teacher goes over it, and pay EXTRA attention to the material that they DON'T. My friend may have shown up for the test dressed exclusively in red, white, and blue, but certainly even the AP US History gods couldn't help her when confronted with a subject we never even covered in class. The point of AP testing is to gauge your mastery of the material. Therefore, master ALL of the material.

3. Realize that the test won't be as serious as you think it will be. It's fun, and don't forget it. Of course, the test ITSELF won't be fun, but the comradery you experience as a group will be. For instance, my friends organized study groups during lunch, after school, even in the middle of particularly useless classes, and we came away with not only a deeper understanding of the material, but a lot of hilarious inside jokes ("Was he the fat one?"). When we all opened our essay booklets, and an audible terror swept across the room, it was followed by a louder round of giggles, as we realized that, yes, we were sunk, but the rest of the crew would be going down, too. It's a bonding experience, so make the most out of it.

When it comes to the books, the prep I used was Fast Track to a 5: AP US History, as a companion to our school textbook. It was relatively well organized, and was extremely condensed. The things I appreciated about it the most were the AP Tip Sections sprinkled throughout, telling where information may come up on the test, and where to use it to your best advantage, as well as the focus points of the time period that were highlighted at the beginning of every chapter. Another great prep book was 5 Steps to a 5: AP US History, which two of my friends used. That one had a particularly useful glossary in the back, with the names and info of important phrases, occasions, and people.

So, now that I'm done with APUSH, and I'm totally prepared for the AP Eng test on Wednesday, I have plenty of time to get geared up for the ACT and SAT in June. :) And Finals, of course.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Interrupted Study Times

With my first of two AP subject tests coming up on the 6th, I should probably be studying right now. Instead, I've been sucked into the high drama world of Rosewood, where four fabulous falsifiers have been getting into quite a lot of trouble for eight full novels, while sucking down mugs full of couture hot chocolate. I may not have a good grip on all the study material, but hey, what can I say? These books are killer.

As in, they've been keeping me up at night, demanding to be read, forcing me to hide flashlights in various places around my room within easy reach of my loft bed, and giving me about an 11:30 pm bedtime. They took advantage of the fact that I had halfdays of school this week: I got through three of the books in that time. I know more about the high school hiearchy of Rosewood Day High School than I know about what we learned in PreCalc this week (just kidding. We never learn anything in PreCalc anyways :) ). However, I appreciate the series' soap-opera-esque status among YA novels, and I relished the experience of actually being able to READ, after being caught up in a time comsuming project for so insanely long: with that 100% A+ scrawled in red across the top of my Nancy Drew research paper (along with 3 stars, 3 smiley faces, a "wow!", a "yeah!", etc. scrawled throughout the paper as well), I am now free to pursue whatever literary series and stylings I so choose, and right now, I'm craving a whole load of drama, drama, drama, in a super-sugary format.

Thank you, Sara Shepard. Now that I've finished the last six books of the series within the space of a week, I may finally be able to concentrate on my APUSH study materials. Ha ha, yeah, right. :)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sharing Time

Bedrooms. Desserts. Boyfriends. There are just some things in life that are not meant to be shared. Case in point: It's Spring Break right now, and vacation lodging plans usually entail the Cheerleader and I stuck squished into a queen sized bed. Not terribly comfortable, seeing as though she seems to practice her moves in her sleep (and I've got a sore spot on my shoulder to prove it). While my sister and I are reasonably close, and in fact, a lot closer than some of the other pairs of siblings we know, we don't really share that much, other than interesting gossip pertaining to celebrities we love, and well-meant hair/ makeup tips(the sporadic "boy, your hair sure looks awful today"s not included). However, after the disastrous elbow-to-neck-at-3:00am incident, we did manage to find a better way of sharing this week: I traded her Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle for the first two installments of Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series, Pretty Little Liars and Flawless. It seemed to work out for the both of us (and with a bedroom to myself now, we seem to be on better terms, as well). I have to hurry up now, because she wants to check her Facebook, and she's probably going to hover over my shoulder until I let her. Anyways, the trade did work out really well. I've actually been pressing her to read Howl's Moving Castle for some time now, seeing as though we both happen to share a penchant for Miyazaki, and that specific movie of his is one of our favorites. She enjoyed the book, but she is one of those people who is just so trained on fast-paced soap-opera-esque drama books that she kept leaning over and asking what was going to happen next, if this person was this, or whatever. Apparently, I need to hurry up, because she says that if I don't, then she's going to implode, and then she'll "never learn how to drive." (she just got her learner's, by the way). I really enjoyed the Pretty Little Liars books. I haven't really had much interest in them before now, and haven't been following the television series, but I do have enough of an interest in teen-girl magazines to know the basic plot. However, even with that minor exposure, I still managed to find a few discrepancies between television and print. But not enough to make me dislike it, or get me confused. Honestly, I don't like that many dramatic YA novels, but this series is pretty cool. And the benefit of my coming into the series at this point is that not only is it already over, so I can read them closer together, but the Cheerleader has already collected them all for me. :) Happy Spring Break, even if it is winding down for most of us now. My sister needs to use the computer.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Reprint City

So, I definitely tell most people that I'm Co-Editor-in-Chief of our school paper, mostly because I'm proud of my job, and I feel that the work I produce is pretty good (yes, that is my minor ego flaring up a bit, but don't you need a bit of an ego to have a blog anyways?). And while there has been some definite drama raging in the Journalism room recently, I remain a solid supporter of our staff and their work, which is why I've been throwing myself with a little more force into my work recently (and Nancy seems to be, once more, suffering for it. Do you think that when my teacher says, 6 pages, double spaced, she'd be okay with a 10-pager? Because I suck at revising, and that's where I'm at right now). Anways, one of the topics I write about for our newspaper is frequently books, obviously, because it just so happens to be a subject I'm fluent in. The only reason I'm mentioning this is because my Dad is getting tired of my infrequent posts, and feels that I should spread my work to a wider audience by supplementing my withering blog with the articles I submit to the paper.

So, here's my stuff. Or, at least, one of them. (But be forewarned: Obviously, I write a little differently for my peers). Enjoy.

Building a Booklist for Summer
[submitted for the May issue, being released April 28].

You may be trying to get ahead of the competition. You may be looking to escape from present uninteresting circumstances. You may be under the jurisdiction of another overpowering party. Honestly, there are plenty of reasons why you might be induced to pick up a book this summer (or an eReader, whatever). However, the real problem that always seems to accompany the pleasure (or threat, depending on your scenario) of reading, is figuring out what you are supposed to read.

It is clear enough if there is an actual list. This is classified as the “Teacher Told Me To” approach. Either the school supplies you with a catalog of books they expect you to choose from, or an especially industrious teacher hand-selects a few for the class to explore themselves. Regardless, the books you end up with, by applying through this approach, tend to be the classics. There isn’t anything wrong with that. Classics are celebrated, time-treasured pieces of literature: they are famous because they are great, and popular; not just because some nut named Dickens or Austen sat down at a typewriter two hundred years ago and said, “I’m going to write a book that will be inflicted upon the developing minds of adolescents two hundred years from now!” No. Dickens is known for his enduring comic characters, and celebration of the downtrodden hero, in books like Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol. Austen is known for her expertly crafted romances, which find new love with every passing generation, in books like Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Emma (and, in this generation at least, she also seems to be well known for her zombies). So heed your teachers. The books they pass under your discerning eye may actually be worth something more than the opportunity to say that you actually read one. (And, as always, make sure you get your assigned summer reading done on time. Trust me: summer is much more fun with a clean conscience and a light backpack).

Other ways of pursuing a serious lit-fix is by being adventurous. Summer is a time of freedom, without restrictions, and without people judging you by the kind of stuff you read. So, go ahead, pull out a couple of girly, frou-frou, romance-y novels. I promise I won’t tell. Or maybe steal a couple of those cool non-fiction biographies or science books off of your Dad’s library shelf; we won’t call you a nerd. All closet biblio-freaks are safe during the summertime. This is a better time than any to satisfy your fluffy, sugary Young Adult novel sweet-tooth than any other. No one can chastise you for your choice of literary sustenance from the comfort of your own home, so have at it!

Or maybe your idea of an adventure is fulfilling a quest, like they do in those books you read when no one else is looking (just kidding, fantasy books are awesome!). Setting a cool theme for books to pursue can make for a really interesting activity, and may even turn out to be a major accomplishment. For instance, are you a huge spy movie fan? Then you may already know that the character of James Bond was based off of a series of books by Ian Fleming. Reading a few of those may give you a closer insight into the film series! The same goes for all films based off of movies, like the Lord of the Rings series, the Harry Potter series, or the Twilight series (once again, we’re not judging), so maybe it’s time you read some of them, instead of just appreciating the cinematography. Or, why not go for the whole box office list? Some of the most loved movies of all time emerged from library shelves. The Princess Bride: William Goldman. The Godfather: Mario Puzo. Geez, you could make a blog out of this thing… now wouldn’t that be a way to get into your next year’s English teacher’s good graces?

The moral of this story is, good reading material can come from anywhere. You just have to give it a chance, and maybe do a little hunting, until you can find books that will really interest you. The best part is, I can already read you the Epilogue: it ends with you, spending your summertime lost in the pages of books, but emerging having found a true treasure: Knowledge. (Now wasn’t that nice?) So go have fun.