Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: A Year In Books

If you missed my earlier post, you can find out more about 2011: A Year in Books by clicking here.

A Year in Books

The Night Circus
By Erin Morgenstern

I'll admit this was a somewhat difficult decision; I've read a lot of good books this year. But The Night Circus definitely stood out as the best. It created a world that was unique and beautifully described, and I was in love with the story and the characters. It was amazingly written, and as soon as I started reading it I couldn't put it down. By the time I finished, I knew it was going to make it onto my list of all-time favorite books. It was so breathtaking and engaging that I can't even describe it - you'll have to read it to find out. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. 

To Kill A Mockingbird
By Harper Lee

This one was a lot easier to decide. I've loved this book since the first time I read it, and when we read it again for English class, I only discovered more to love. There are so many characters, stories, and events, and they're all well-written and tie into the main theme. Plus, there are just so many different nuances and comparisons & contrasts - I discover more about this book every time I reread it, and as I've said before, I could easily spend the rest of my life analyzing this book and be perfectly happy. 

What I've Read:
(Other notable books in the same genre, to show what the winning book was compared to.)
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemmingway
1984 by George Orwell
To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemmingway
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemmingway
Our Town by Thorton Wilder

Edited by Sharyn November

This year, I've come to appreciate short stories a lot more than I had before, and so I've been reading more collections of them. I haven't been disappointed by anything I've read so far, but Firebirds was especially awesome. Each of the short stories were unique and I loved every one of them. (Though my personal favorite was Little Dot.) I can't wait to read Firebirds Rising and Firebirds Soaring.

What I've Read
Young Warriors, edited by Tamora Pierce
The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Empire of Ice Cream by Jeffrey Ford

You Have to Stop This 
By Pseudonymous Bosch

I'll admit that there wasn't a lot of competition in this area; I haven't read a lot of comedy/humor besides A Series of Unfortunate Events (which is an interesting blend of comic and tragic.) Still, I can't imagine that there's much out there that I would enjoy more than Pseudonymous Bosch's Secret Series. The humor is so similar to my own I almost could have written the books myself, and over the previous four books, I've come to adore the characters. This book was just as hilarious as the others, and I couldn't imagine a more fitting end to the series.

What I've Read
The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket
The Ersatz Elevator by Lemony Snicket
The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket
The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket
The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket
The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket
The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket
The End by Lemony Snicket
(I'm sensing a theme here, are you?)

Life As We Knew It
By Susan Beth Pfeffer

This book wasn't a typical "dystopian" novel like Divergent or The Hunger Games, but it still fits the definition, and the fact that it was unique was one of the things I liked about it. Although I enjoyed the whole series, I thought this one was definitely the best, and what made it so incredible was that it was so terrifyingly real. I felt as if I was right there with the characters, more than in any other book I've read. Simply outstanding.

What I've Read
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Dead and Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Wither by Lauren DeStefano

13 Curses
By Michelle Harrison

I read 13 Treasures, the first book in the series, last summer, and adored it. Although I couldn't put it down, I was also sad when it ended, because it was so amazing that I just wanted to keep reading. I hadn't realized there was a sequel until I stumbled upon it in Barnes & Noble while school shopping. I bought it immediately, and it was a lot of work to keep from reading it until school started. I loved it just as much as the first book, and 13 Secrets - the third book - can't arrive fast enough. 

What I've Read
Reckless by Cornelia Funke
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud
The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin
Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce
Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce
Protector of the Small quartet by Tamora Pierce

By Laurie Halse Anderson

Though it might come as a surprise, fantasy's not my only favorite genre. I love historical fiction, and I really need to read more of it. This year, I found several historical fiction books that I enjoyed, but the best, by far, was Chains. When I checked it out of the library, both librarians told me it was fantastic, and they were absolutely right. I loved it, and the sequel, Forge, and once again, I'm left eagerly waiting until the next book comes out. 

What I've Read
Dogtag Summer by Elizabeth Partridge
Cleopatra Confesses by Carolyn Meyer
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

By Kate Cann

I loved the characters in this book. That's one of the main reasons I liked it so much. Then there's the fact that it was just perfectly chilling - unsettling enough to be effective, not so scary that it was difficult to read. I loved the setting, too, and the overall concept of the book. Just - amazing. 

What I've Read
Captivate by Carrie Jones
Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
Shiver by Maggie Steifvater
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Other Notable Books:
Of course, these aren't the only books worth mentioning that I've read this year. There have been a lot of other amazing books that I've read this year. One that's probably even better than some of the books above but didn't fit into any of the genres is Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor - definitely one of the most unique fantasy books I've ever read, which is why it was impossible to categorize. Another one was The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, by Jeanne Birdsall. Just as awesome as her previous books - I love the Penderwick sisters. Then there's What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen - I could keep going, but I'll just finish by saying that 2011 was a wonderful year for reading, and I hope that 2012 is just as great. 

Looking forward to a bunch of new books in 2012,


Secret Bookish Project

Happy New Year, everyone! Hope everyone has some exciting plans for tonight. Me, I'm just sitting at home, refining my Big Fun Scary List, possibly making some popcorn, and waiting for 11 o'clock to roll around so I can watch the Coldplay special on PBS. Exciting, right?

One thing that IS exciting is that tonight, I'm finally revealing my Secret Bookish Project. So what is this special-edition-New Year's-post that I've been hinting at for over a week now?

It's titled, "2011: A Year in Books." This year has been a great one for reading. Several of my favorite series have continued, and a few have even come to a close. Having access to the school library has provided me with a ton of books I wouldn't have read otherwise, and the public library has also added some really amazing stuff to their shelves. I've also been able to visit some really cool bookstores and been given awesome books for my birthday and Christmas.

So, in honor of that, I'm dedicating a post to the best of the books that I've discovered and read this year. Think of it as a sort of Grammy awards for books. I'll be posting the best book I've read in a variety of genres, along with a brief list of other books I've read in the same genre, so you can see what I had to compare it to. In addition, there will be a few other special categories that will be revealed in the post itself.

Here's a sneak peak at some of the genres that will be featured:

Classics - Dystopian/Post Apocalyptic - Fantasy - Historical Fiction - Short Stories - Science Fiction

The post itself should appear on the blog sometime later this evening. Until then,


Monday, December 26, 2011

The Reading Room (6)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on the books I'm reading and planning to read. It was inspired by Ren's On Myshelf at the awesome blog, All By Myshelf.

I'd like to start off by saying that I hope everyone's Christmas was as wonderfully bookish as mine was. I've spent most of my break so far reading. I finished Consumed, which I absolutely loved, started Wither, which is about what I expected it to be - not up to par with The Hunger Games, of course, but still pretty good - and I've been marking my page with the beautiful bookmark my boyfriend gave me for Christmas. To top it all off, Christmas morning I found myself the owner not only of a stack of new books, but my very own Nook simple touch eReader.

I know - in my earlier blog posts, I was debating whether I wanted to get a nook. I was still debating at the beginning of December, when my mom found me studying the Barnes & Noble website for the umpteenth time. She told me that I should just get one - she thought I'd enjoy it. A week or so later she and my dad started asking questions about which one I wanted, and I had a feeling that I was getting one for Christmas. And I was kind of excited about it. Now that I've played around with it, all my doubts are gone. It's just - so - epic. No, it's not exactly like reading a real book, but it's impressively close. Plus, it came with free downloads of Dracula and Pride and Prejudice. 

So, what are some specific additions to my reading list after this bookworm's-paradise-Christmas? While a list of every book I received would be unnecessarily long, there are a few that have stood out and made it to the top of my reading list.

The first is Clockwork Prince, the second book in The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare. I bought Clockwork Angel last fall when I was supposed to be homecoming dress shopping, and it was really good. I especially love the setting, although the characters are pretty awesome too. The only problem with these books are that they don't come out fast enough. Plus, I just can't see how The Mortal Instruments series could ever measure up.

The second book I can't wait to dive into is Entice, by Carrie Jones.   Need and Captivate are some of the best pixie/fairy novels I've ever read; there's the traditional myths like the pixies' vulnerability to iron and war with were-creatures, mixed with really unique elements like the pixie queens and being pixie-kissed. Plus, I love that the were-creatures in these books aren't just werewolves, but include a were-tiger and a were-falcon. I definitely recommend the series - the first book is Need, the second is Captivate.

Then there's The Warlock by Michael Scott. I had mixed feelings about this series when I first started The Alchemyst, but once I got into it, I was hooked. Although my personal favorite is The Sorceress, I haven't been disappointed by any of the books yet. They're exciting, the characters are intense, they have so much mythology even I don't even recognize all the gods and goddesses, and it's definitely one of my favorite series of all time. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when it ends

That's it for this unusually long post. I'm sure more books that I got for Christmas will be showing up in the reading room at least throughout January. And remember to keep watching for the secret new year's project I mentioned last week - it'll be making its appearance soon.

Wishing you a book-filled new year,


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Reading Room (5)


The Reading Room, as the title implies, is a weekly update on what books I'm currently reading or planning to read. This blog feature was inspired by Ren's On Myshelf at the awesome blog, All By Myshelf. 

As you can see by my Shelfari widget, I've finished The Son of Neptune, which only got more disappointing and harder to read as it went on, and started Wonderstruck, which so far is much more promising. I love the way the story is told, and I'm already intrigued.

What else is on my reading agenda? On my last trip to the school library, I picked up Consumed by Kate Cann. It's the sequel to Posessed, which I read over the summer and really enjoyed. I didn't know there was a sequel until I saw it on the shelf, and I'm really excited to start reading it.

And then there's Wither.

I'm fully aware of the current trend towards novels in this genre, and I hate following trends. I promised myself I wasn't going to read it. I told myself over and over that there wasn't any point, that while it might be pretty good or at least decent, the chances of it being something spectacular were slim.

I can't help it. I just love dystopian-society novels so. freaking. much. Even before I read The Hunger Games, I loved books like The Hermit Thrush Sings, The Giver, and 1984. I wasn't going to read Wither. I wasn't! And then I saw the front cover up close, which is pretty cool. I read the inside jacket flap. I skimmed the first few pages. I saw the amazing quote on the page after the title. And I found myself checking it out, right alongside Consumed.

I know. I need help. But I'm glad I've decided to give this book a chance, because judging something just because its genre is popular is almost like judging it by its cover. That's what I'm telling myself, anyway.

So that's my recent reading activity. I'll be back next week with more. Before I go, I have two pieces of awesome news: one, my blog currently has six followers, which I find amazing since not that long ago I only had four. Two, I'm working on a secret bookish project that I plan to unveil around new year's. It's nothing too big, just something a little exciting. That's all I can say about it right now, but keep an eye out for unusual looking posts for the rest of 2011.

More than ready to spend my Christmas break reading,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Reading Room (4)

The Reading Room, as the title implies, is a weekly update on what books I'm currently reading or planning to read. This blog feature was inspired by Ren's On Myshelf at the awesome blog, All by Myshelf.

The most exciting update for this week is that I am now the proud owner of my very own hardcover copy of You Have to Stop This by Pseudonymous Bosch, the fifth and final book in The Secret Series. I started reading it the second I got home from the bookstore and finished it within a few days. It was awesome, and the perfect ending to the series.

Since I was a little distracted by that and some other books, I'm still working on Beth Revis's Across the Universe. I'm about halfway through, and while it isn't as spectacular as I was expecting, it is coming close to meeting my expectations, and I'm definitely glad I got it from the library. I'm also reading The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan, and I haven't been as happy with that one. Heroes of Olympus isn't nearly as good as Percy Jackson and the Olympians as a series, and The Son of Neptune isn't as good as The Lost Hero, which I actually really liked. It's hard to read about Percy in another setting and really hard to read about him from third-person POV. It's the other characters and the humor that have convinced me to finish the book, but I highly doubt I'll be reading the rest of the series. I prefer to remember Percy and the others fondly as they were in The Last Olympian.

As for books I'm planning to read, today I made another trip to the public library, to return The Night Circus (which I loved, loved, loved, loved) and to check out Wonderstruck. It's a new book by Brian Elznick, author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and...well, okay. It's a 600-page picture book. But that's part of what made The Invention of Hugo Cabret so unique and amazing, and if Wonderstruck is even half as awesome, it'll be a pretty incredible book. I can't wait to start it.

Hopefully, this and one or two other books will be enough to keep me occupied at least until Christmas - which is one of the best book-receiving holidays of the year. :)


Monday, December 5, 2011

6 Degrees Reading Challenge 2012 Participation Post

Yet another awesome thing from Ren at All by Myshelf. If you haven't heard of it, check it out here. It looks pretty awesome, and I've decided to give it a try. Basically, the idea is to read six (or more, depending on your level) books that are connected to each other. The official post has more details, and I highly recommend you take a look. This is the first time I've attempted, so I'm going to be starting small-ish - I'm going to try level 2, connecting and reading 12 books. I don't have my list of books yet, but I'll update this post once I do.

In addition to giving me something to make reading even more interesting in 2012, this challenge has gotten me thinking. So I wanted to ask you, my Few Faithful Followers (there are five of you now! Isn't that exciting?), what do you think? Would reading challenges of my own make my blog more interesting? What about writing challenges/prompts? If you're interested, let me know, and I'll start trying to come up with a few ideas.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Reflections on NaNoWriMo 2011

So, December is upon us once again, and that mean not only the beginning of the holiday season, but the end of NaNoWriMo. Although part of me is sad that it's over, most of me is glad; reaching 50k was a struggle this year and required lots of late nights and long writing sprints, and I don't know that I could have taken it for much longer. As it is, I'm definitely going to need a week or so to recover, though I do want to get back to my novel before too much time passes so I can finish it.

So, if NaNoWriMo was so exhausting this year, why am I even a little bit sad that it's over? For many reasons, which I can sum up in one statement: because it's awesome. This is my third year winning NaNoWriMo, and it feels just as good as my first. There's an amazing sense of achievement and accomplishment that only comes from reaching a seemingly impossible goal.

And while reaching the 50k destination feels AMAZING, the process of getting there is even better. In what other month does advice from famous authors arrive right in your inbox? When else do you fully appreciate the amazing team of OLL staffers, who handle the crazy-busy job of running the office, write their own novels, and still make time to shout out encouragement in the form of pep talks, blog posts, and videos? There are teams of designers creating book covers in less than 24 hours, caffeine-fueled word wars at all hours, and some of the best forums on the internet, all in one place. And we all have that writing buddy we barely talk to during the rest of the year but know we couldn't get through November without. (magicx_girl, I'm looking at you! Your messages and challenges were so much help during this novel - I don't know if I would have won without them. Thank you!)

You can summarize NaNoWriMo in one simple sentence: "You write a 50,000 word novel in one month." But really, it's so much more than that. It's being free with your writing, allowing yourself to let go; it's the amazing things that come out of your moments of despair, it's the incredible sense of community in the forums and the comfort of knowing that you're not alone. These are the things that make it such an amazing experience. These are the things that have made me come back every year since 2009, and will keep me coming back for years to come.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh, that crashing sound? Don't worry, that was just my fourth wall...

The end of NaNoWriMo is fast approaching - there's only a few days left until that magical 30th day of the month and the 50,000 word finish line. Although I'm not quite at that point yet, I'm pretty confidant I'm going to make it, and I'm happy with my novel and definitely eager to keep working on it into December. Overall, I would say this NaNoWriMo has been a success. Except for one tiny little thing...

I think I may have broken the fourth wall more times this year than last year.

Some of you may remember my novel from last year. Names like Katarina and Benjamin might sound familiar. And if you read my blog last November, you know my novel's plot: three characters, who are aware that they're characters, go on a quest to have 50,000 words worth of adventure in one month. They're confronted with obstacles such as evil wizards and the Inner Editor (I.E.) and aided by the muses Eleanor and Ferdinand. There are scenes showing both the characters on their quest and their author documenting it. The characters are aware that they have an author, and that author (me) is referred to multiple times. Basically, the entire point of this parody/humor novel was to break the fourth wall.

The problem is obvious, right?

Off to try and keep the fourth wall from disintegrating completely,

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What I'm Writing

It's amazing how when you're truly absorbed in a what you're writing, you don't notice anything else. And when you stop, you realize things that you were able to ignore for the past hour or more; your arm itches. You're thirsty. You have to go to the bathroom. But none of that mattered until now, because you had to write.

That's how I felt last night. I started off just trying to increase my word count for NaNoWriMo, since I was about six thousand words behind at the beginning of the day. Then I started writing some scenes that took on a life of their own, and ended up writing over 3,000 words in one sitting, adding a few more after that and bringing by daily total to over 5,000.

It's one of the most amazing things, when you can get that involved. There's no feeling like it, when you're so wrapped up in the story that you don't even have to think about what you're typing. Combining a bit of advice in with this week's writing update, I would say that if you're working on something that you really love, you should have at least one moment like that, one time where the writing comes as easily as breathing and the story takes on a life of its own.

I've been writing seriously for several years, so I know that sort of thing isn't going to happen every time you pick up your pen or sit down at the computer. There will be times when you can't think of anything to write, when you have to struggle through, maybe even start to hate your story. But when those times do come, they're magical, and it makes all the struggling worth it.

Feeling much more confident about winning NaNoWriMo after that last writing session,

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Album Review: Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto

Coldplay's latest album Mylo Xyloto came out on October 24, to the relief of many fans (including myself) who couldn't stand another day of waiting. There have been both good and bad reviews of the album, and I've been meaning to throw my two cents in for awhile, but haven't had the time. However, I finally forced myself to sit down and finish my review (during NaNoWriMo season, no less), so here it is.

So...the thing that bothered me about the new album when it first came out wasn't that it sounded different than anything I was used to. It wasn't that there was a mix-matched array of upbeat songs with complex riffs, haunting songs with beautiful instrumentals, distorted electric-guitar songs and songs that included almost nothing except piano chords and vocals. It wasn't that there was also a duet with Rihanna mixed into this.

It was that it worked. It worked really, really, well. Every song fits seamlessly with the rest, and as a whole album, it's probably one of Coldplay's best, if not the best. In terms of continuity, it's definitely giving Viva La Vida/Death and All His Friends a run for its money. Needless to say, I am in the group of Coldplay fans who adore Mylo Xyloto, and have to fight my exasperation with those who don't. (To be fair, it did take me a few listens for some of the songs to grow on me, though I loved others instantly.)

Before I get into song-by-song-reviews, I'd also just like to point out that it's the only Coldplay album I almost immediately bought the complete version of. That just proves how well all the songs function together.

1. Mylo Xyloto
The title track is an awesome instrumental and a perfect introduction to Hurts Like Heaven. I like how this song starts off softly and gradually builds, with more sounds added as it goes on. It's a great opener for the album.

2. Hurts Like Heaven
I read somewhere that the new album was inspired by graffiti, and it's clearer on Hurts Like Heaven than on any other song. I love the chorus, the verses, basically all of the lyrics, and from what I've managed to decipher of the meaning, I like that too. A critic (I'm paraphrasing here) complained that it seemed as if Coldplay was writing about a dystopia where people rebel by spray-painting, but that's what I like about this song. It definitely has a non-conformist/unique attitude to it, but it's not angry.

3. Paradise
Awesome song. Just amazing. It's both traditional Coldplay and incredibly unique - a sort of Clocks meets Violet Hill meets something else entirely. I love the violins at the beginning. The lyrics are haunting and heartbreakingly beautiful. The concept is definitely something I can relate to, and I have a feeling this is going to be one of those Coldplay songs that's going to stick around for awhile.

4. Charlie Brown
iTunes described this song as a "Coldplay classic in the making", and they hit the nail right on the head. I think every Coldplay album has one song that is just so moving and breathtaking that it's impossible to describe, one that fully encompasses the whole theme of the album. For Mylo Xyloto, that song is Charlie Brown. From the first time I heard the instrumental, I knew this was going to be something spectacular, and it only got better with every line of the unforgettable lyrics. It's such an inspiring, amazing song, and I can't stop listening to it.

5. Us Against the World
The beginning of this song is really nice, with a softer acoustic sound. It's probably one of the songs on the album that sounds the most like earlier Coldplay songs, without being repetitive. It reminds me of songs on Parachute like Sparks or Don't Panic or Swallowed in the Sea on X&Y. I love the lyrics, too - very poetic.

6. M.M.I.X.
I don't have a lot to say about this song because I haven't spent a lot of time listening to it. It works well as a transition to Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, but it's not one of my favorite introductions on the album. It's short, like the other two, but doesn't really make the most of that time like they do.

7. Every Teardrop is a Waterfall
I'll admit that when it first came out I was a little skeptical - it sounded a lot more like U2 than the Coldplay I was used to - but it's definitely grown on me. The guitar riffs are phenomenal. I would love to be able to play them. The lyrics are catchy but still really meaningful; in fact, the entire song is like that. It has great fast-paced music and is one of the few Coldplay songs I actually want to dance to, but its meaning is miles above some of the other music that's out there. It was a great first single for the album.

8. Major Minus
Okay, I'll be honest: it's not my favorite song on the album. I do sort of like the guitar intro, but the opening lyrics, which repeat in some form or another throughout most of the song, seem kind of simple. The same thing could apply to the meaning - I don't mind it, but it doesn't seem as deep as their songs usually are. None of that bothers me that much, though. The main thing I like about the song is a bit farther in, at "I hear them climbing the stairs..." etc. I like the lyrics there, just not the way they're sung. The song isn't bad - after all, it's Coldplay - and there are several parts of the lyrics I really like, such as "but they don't believe a word, it's just us against the world" (which carries the theme from an earlier song) and "Hear the crocodiles ticking round the world" (which, if I'm not mistaken, is a Peter Pan reference.) It's one of those songs that will probably grow on me, but it's not one of the strongest songs on the album.

9. U.F.O.
I really like the guitar on this song - it's so soft and pretty. The sound is nicely layered without being too busy, and the instrumentals and vocals perfectly compliment each other. It's short and sweet, but definitely not too simple - it has just the right amount of everything, right up through the fantastic ending.

10. Princess of China
This was the song I was looking forward to hearing most, because the title was so intriguing; it was the one I was the most skeptical about once I found out it was a duet with Rihanna; and it's the song I've been the most surprised be. I'm truly shocked by how well it worked. The "oohs" are really strong on this song, and the parts Rihanna and Chris Martin sing blend together really nicely, even if I do feel like her voice overpowers his in one or two places. Overall, it's a fantastic collaboration between two awesome artists.

11. Up In Flames
At first I was sort of indifferent to this song - it didn't stand out to me at first. But I think this is one of those Coldplay songs you don't appreciate until you really listen to the lyrics. They remind me of songs like Sparks or The Scientist in their tone, and they're so heartfelt. You can tell he means every word he's singing. And even though it doesn't have the intense, sweeping sounds of some of their other songs, that sort of thing would be out of place here anyway. After a few listens, I've decided this song is definitely a keeper.

12. A Hopeful Transmission
Similar in sound to Mylo Xyloto, and really helps with the continuity of the album. It's also a wonderful transition between the softer Up In Flames and the more upbeat Don't Let it Break Your Heart. The title really fits, too, since it feels like it's getting more hopeful as it continues. Overall, it's a great song in the perfect place on the album.

13. Don't Let if Break Your Heart
I love, love, love, love, this song. It's right up there with Hurts Like Heaven on my list of personal favorites on this album. I love the synthesizer/whatever instrument is making those awesome sounds in the background. I love the lyrics. I love the message. There's not a whole lot to say about this song, other than that I love everything about it.

14. Up With The Birds
I really like the way this song starts off - it almost sounds like a hymn. It's also very dynamic, and the lyrics read like a poem. It swells a little, then gets quiet, and becomes yet another beautiful Coldplay song with perfectly matched instrumentals and lyrics. Although it's not the most powerful song on the album, I think it was definitely a sweet ending - it leaves me incredibly satisfied with what I just heard while at the same time wanting more.

So to conclude, while this album is different from their previous ones, if you really think about it, all of Coldplay's albums have something unique about them. If all the albums sounded the same, people would be complaining about that - and believe me, they have, even about this album. I don't think it's repetitive or too out there. I think it's Coldplay trying something new, and their success just about blows me away.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Reading Room (3)

The Reading Room is, as the title implies, an update on my reading list and what books I'm currently absorbed in. This blog feature was inspired by the Ren's On Myshelf at the amazing blog All By Myshelf.

This week has been an AWESOME one for gathering books I've been wanting to read. I finished The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud over the weekend, and I absolutely loved it. I didn't realize how much I missed reading about the antics of the wise-cracking djinni Bartimaeus until I checked out this book from our school library. If you've never read this series before, you definitely should. The Amulet of Samarkand is the first book, and if you're anything like me, once you start reading, you won't be able to stop.

The same day I checked out The Ring of Solomon, I also checked out Across
the Universe by Beth Revis. When I saw it, I was immediately intrigued; there wasn't a lot of information on the back cover, but it was enough to make me curious and make me want to read more. I'm only a few chapters in so far, but I think I like it. It definitely has some very familiar paranormal and dystopian elements, but there's also some sci-fi to it. And although it doesn't quite match up to Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It in terms of how lifelike it is, I definitely feel like I'm right there with the characters. Most of the time, I describe popular Young Adult books as "hit and miss", and while Divergent was sort of a miss, I have a feeling this one's going to be a hit. Hopefully I won't be disappointed.

My reading list only kept improving after that. I went down to the public library last night and realized that it had been far too long since the last time I was there. There were lots of new books I didn't recognize, all of which looked really good. I was just looking over the new book by the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret when the librarian called me over, saying she had something for me to read. She walks out from behind the circulation desk with nothing other than...

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. As she described it, my face "lit up" when I saw it. I've been wanting to read this book for well over a month now. I started reading it as soon as I got home - never mind the fact that I was already reading another book. (As any member of my family could tell you, if I'm not reading at least two books at once, there's something wrong.) It's amazing. I can't put it down. I was reading it all throughout school today, and can barely stay away from it long enough to write this blog post. While I was down there, I also grabbed The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan. It's the second book in The Heroes of Olympus series, and while I don't think the series is as good as Percy Jackson and the Olympians, it's still worth reading.

Then, just when I thought things couldn't get any better, I was informed by a friend that they had the new Christopher Paolini book at a semi-local bookstore. And after I informed my mom of this, she was kind enough to pick it up for me while I was in school. I'm more than excited, although I'm still debating whether I want to reread the other three books before starting this one. It's what I did with Brisingr and it was nice to refresh my memory, but that's also what they have the synopsis for. Either way, I'm very excited to start reading this book...and to continue reading all the others that have come my way recently. I know what I'm doing over Thanksgiving break...

Off to go back to The Night Circus,

Friday, November 18, 2011

What I'm Writing

Hello, everyone! If you've looked at a calendar recently, you've no doubt noticed that it's November. And if you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know what that means for me: National Novel Writing Month.

Because I haven't given you a writing update in awhile, I'll start off by telling you a bit about this year's novel. It's a fantasy (what else?) about a girl named Audrey who goes to visit her uncle David as she does every summer. This year, however, she finds out that he's been keeping secrets from her: he's the guardian of a gateway into another world, the true heart of the earth. Here, the earth is flourishing, and everything related to it comes alive. This land is under the protection of Adaina, queen of the earth who rules over growth and new life, but is threatened by her former co-ruler Iresh, king of the earth, who rules over the other half of the earth's cycle, death. David steps in to help fight off the threat, knowing that if the heart of the earth is destroyed, it means dire consequences for his own world, and Audrey finds herself pulled in too.

This might sound like a really detailed idea, but I didn't start with this much. I started with "There's a girl who goes to visits her uncle, there's a gateway to another world in his garden; in the other world, stone and iron come to life, and everyone's fighting against some sort of dark king." I didn't even decide that this was the idea that I was going to write until October 31. As you can see, I'm "pantsing" it this year. (1)

Because of this, I've gotten off track several times in the last few weeks, and it's taken me awhile to really develop my idea and get the plot going. I'm still not entirely sure of my direction, but I've gained some momentum and I have a feeling that over this weekend and the last week and a half of NaNoWriMo, I'm going to be making a lot of progress and connections and overall making my novel into something halfway decent I can finish in December and edit at some later date.

Word-count wise, I'm about 5,000 words behind. This month has been incredibly busy. There have been things I just can't avoid (like school, homework, choir practices and dance class) and things I could avoid but really don't want to (like reading, sleeping, and playing the hunger games trailer over...and over...and over...) and all of that has caused me to get behind. However, I'm ready to get caught up and back into it. I've promised myself I can download a new Foster the People song if I'm on track by the end of this weekend, and some sort of reward if I complete NaNoWriMo for the third year in a row. Whether it will just be another winner's shirt, the "A Very She & Him Christmas" album or the new book in the Inheritance Cycle, (2) I'm not sure, but just knowing that there will be SOMETHING is enough to keep me motivated - plus the threat of never-ending shame if I didn't finish.

So that's my writing update for this week. Back to writing my novel...


Footnotes (3):
1. "Pantsing" - a NaNoWriMo term referring to jumping into a novel with little no plot and writing "by the seat of your pants"

2. It's not until I list the things I consider rewards that I realize what an Alternative Music Junkie/Bookworm I am.

3. Right now I'm reading The Ring of Solomon, the prequel to The Bartimaeus Trilogy. Hence the inclination towards footnotes.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Reading Room (2)

Yes, I've finally come up with a name for my weekly reading updates! Incase you haven't read my earlier post, my new feature The Reading Room is an update on the books I'm currently reading and planning to read, and is inspired by Ren's On Myshelf at All By Myshelf.

So, this week: we're still reading To Kill a Mockingbird for English class, and I'm still loving it. As I mentioned earlier, I'd already read the book and its one of my favorites ever, and I love analyzing and discussing it. Today in class we each shared a favorite quote from anywhere in the book and discussed why it was significant to the story. It was definitely one of the most interesting things we've done - right up there with comparing and constrasting Atticus Finch and Bob Ewell and rewriting the trial from another point of view.

Otherwise, the list of books I'm planning to read keeps growing. A girl in my class let me borrow Fallen by Lauren Kate after I saw her constantly reading it in class and asked her if it was any good. Unfortunately, because it's at the bottom of my to-read list and I've been so busy, it's still sitting in my locker. Hopefully I'll be able to bring it home and read it this weekend. I'm not entirely sure what it's about, to be honest - but I'm more than willing to give it a try.

And here's another exciting book-related piece of news: the fourth book in the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini is finally here. Appropriately titled Inheritance, it's the last book in the series, and I'm definitely excited that its finally out. Sadly, I have a feeling that this book's going to end up being my Christmas present, so I won't be reading it for awhile unless I can convince my dad that it will work better if we just both order it and read it now instead of worrying about who's buying it for who for Christmas. (We came very close to both buying Brisingr for each other two years ago. True story.)

Well, that's all for now. I'll be back next week with another update!

Off to do some reading,

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What I'm Reading (1)

First of all, I'd like to apologize for the lateness of this blog post, although technically it is still Wednesday. I haven't had a chance to write the post until now - which proves one of my earlier concerns, that Wednesdays are going to be way too busy for regular blog posts. Starting next week, my reading updates will be posted on Tuesdays. Now, onto the main event.

Right now, I'm reading The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock
Holmes. It's a collection of short stories about the famous detective, and I love it. Not only are the stories themselves phenomenal, but reading the stories has given me a new appreciation of the movies and how closely followed the original stories -
even including direct quotes from Holmes about Watson. (Sherlock Holmes was one of the few movies I've watched without reading the book first.) If I wasn't a Holmes fanatic before, I am now, and once I finish the short stories I'm definitely going to be reading the rest of the books.

Besides Sherlock Holmes, I'm also reading To Kill a Mockingbird again for English class; I read it before and loved it, and am immensely enjoying what we're doing in class (even if no one else is.) Rereading the book is giving me some new insight into the themes and subplots, and I already have pages of notes - I could probably spend the rest of my life analyzing this book and writing about it and be perfectly happy.

Although those are the only two books I'm in the middle of, my to-read list doesn't end there.
At the same time I checked out Sherlock Holmes from the school library, I also got Divergent. Yes, the book that's been on the front page of the Barnes and Noble website for months and fits in nicely with the other bestselling books for teens. Yes, that Divergent.

It's not like me to read something that's so - mainstream, I know, but I couldn't resist. The Hunger Games excepted, I think that dystopian thrillers are way overdone and on the verge of becoming a fad. I complain about how cliche they're becoming to anyone who will listen - but at the same time, I love anything dystopian so much. I'm a little skeptical about this - after all, I don't know that anything could quite measure up to the Hunger Games, and as with any popular genres (paranormal romance springs to mind) it's hit-and-miss. But we'll see.

I'm also planning to read Quatrain, by Sharon Shinn, which I checked out from the public library last week. I'll be honest and say that I'm not sure that I would have picked up the book if I'd never heard of the author before, but I've read Sharon Shinn's adult and young adult books, and so far I haven't been disappointed.

And finally, as if that weren't enough to keep me busy, my reading list also includes Snow Falling on Cedars. My English teacher recommended it to me after she found out that I'd already read To Kill a Mockingbird. She said that Snow Falling on Cedars has a similar theme of prejudice, and let me borrow one of her copies to read. I haven't had a chance to look at it much yet, but I have a feeling I'll like it - my teacher said it's about a Japanese character in World War II, which is my favorite setting for historical fiction.

So that's my update. It's definitely going to be enough to keep me busy for the rest of the week at least; hopefully I'll have some new books to write about Tuesday.

As an ending note, I haven't had any suggestions for more appealing titles than "What I'm Reading" and "What I'm Writing" for my reading and writing update features. Anyone have any ideas?

Off to read through my mountain of books,


Friday, October 21, 2011

What I'm Writing

So, I've discovered two problems with my new system of blog posts. The first is that I forget to post. I promised new features starting last week, and completely forgot. I'm lame, I know. I'll have to figure out some way to remind myself; maybe I'll set up weekly appointments in iCal.

The second problem is naming these features. "What I'm Writing" sounds so very dull and bland, and I dread the thought of weekly posts titled "What I'm Reading." I need something more exciting and snazzy. Ideas, anyone?

Moving on. Unfortunately, I haven't had a lot of time for writing lately; school and other activities have left me completely swamped. I have managed to make some progress with the short stories I said I was going to write way back in August; I wrote one a few weeks ago for an English assignment, and have the first few hundred words of another. It doesn't sound like much - well, it isn't - but I have been writing quite a bit, it's just all been papers for school. (I think my best work was the welcome page for a hypothetical website on Ancient Egypt, for my history class. Apparently, I did learn something from my eighth grade english class, because I was supposed to persuade people to visit Egypt.)

Besides short stories and essays, most of my creative mental energy has been focused on preparing for NaNoWriMo. As the countdown on the website excitedly proclaims, there's only ten days left until it starts. Not having much of an outline isn't worrying me as much as the fact that I have two ideas and no idea which one to write. Earlier in the month, when I didn't have any idea what I was going to do in November, I realized that I needed to pick the idea with the most "momentum." Whatever I chose, I needed to feel excited enough to get through an entire month writing at a breakneck speed.

I expected that would make the decision easier, but it hasn't. One idea is a fantasy with a fully developed world and concept, and I know the scale of the plot and what it needs to accomplish, but I don't have any conflict or an antagonist, and I'm not sure I'll be able to come up with something I'm happy with in the short amount of time that I have. The other idea, also fantasy, is very vague: the setting is vague, the plot is vague, the characters are vague; but I also have a vague conflict and a vague villain, which is better than none.

I'm still very undecided. I'll make some notes and hopefully reach a decision before the end of the month; if not, I suppose I'll just have to sit down on November 1 and start writing. Maybe my fingers will make the decision for me as I type, and I won't even have to think about it - muscle memory will write a brilliant novel for me. It could happen. Maybe. Possibly.

Probably not.

Oh well. Off to make a pro-con list for the novels, I suppose,


Monday, October 10, 2011

So here's what I'm thinking...

Remember the last post, where I said I wanted to add some more structure to my blog and have regular features? If you didn't get a chance to read it, just scroll down. I've put some thought into what I want those features to be, and here's what I've come up with so far.

Books: Frequent book reviews - whenever I finished a book that I think is worth reviewing, which will probably be every week or so. I'm also planned to add weekly updates on what I'm reading, what I've finished, and what I'm planning to read next, inspired by Ren's "On Myshelf" at the awesome blog All By Myshelf. The tentative day for posting these updates is Wednesday; if that doesn't work, I may have to move it to Tuesday or Thursday.

Writing: I hesitate to call what I'm planning to post advice, because it's going to be more like a discussion on a certain topic - I'll talk about what causes the problem, if there is one, what other people say about it, and weigh in with my own two cents. Hopefully it'll be more helpful if I'm not trying to solve all the writing problems of the world with my not-even-close-to-all-encompassing knowledge. If you have questions or subjects you'd like me to discuss, leave a comment and let me know. I'm planning to post this every other week on Fridays. The weeks I don't post writing advice/discussion, I'll post updates on what I've been writing recently.

Music: This is probably the area in which I have the least structure; I'll be posting album reviews when I can, and other posts about music will make an appearance. I'm also going to try to include more top ten/favorites lists (like this one) and might make this a regular feature at some point in the future. (It probably won't be restricted to just music, either - I'll include books, authors, and other things.)

Religion: I know this is something that I haven't talked about a lot in my blog, and it's not going to become the main focus or anything; however, I do feel like I need to bring it into my posts somewhat. So I've decided to have a Christian-themed post every Sunday. The reason for this isn't just because church is on Sunday, but because these posts will probably take a little longer to write and I'd like to have the weekend to work on them. The content of this will vary - sometimes it might be a few Bible verses and what I think of them, sometimes it'll be longer and more in-depth, sometimes it'll be short, sometimes even humorous, maybe it'll focus on a significant event in history. I hope you'll enjoy the posts - all four of you, my awesome followers. (I'm not being sarcastic. You really are awesome, even if there are only four of you.)

That's all for now. Having regular posts should improve this blog; if you have any other suggestions or improvements I could make, don't hesitate to leave a comment and let me know! The first of these new features will show up tomorrow, on Friday; I'll start with an update on what I've been writing, and post advice/discussion next week.

Off to start writing all these blog posts,

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nothing Ever Really Happens

So it's been over a month since my last blog post. I'm sorry about that. Nothing blog-worthy has happened since August 20th. School started. I like most of my classes, have two awesome teachers, and am irked that the library is never open during my study hall. I've made attempts to write a few short stories, but nothing has gotten very far. I've contemplated NaNoWriMo, gone to golf practice. Finished every day with homework, then gone to sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Boring, I know.

Even this blog post isn't about anything particularly interesting - it's actually about the fact that nothing interesting has happened recently, and how much that effects this blog. Because writing posts about what's going on in my life is so dependent on me, well, having a life, I've been thinking about some features I can add to make my blog posts more regular and get more people interested in them. (I'm painfully aware of the fact that I only have four followers - each one of you is awesome for finding my random ramblings worth reading!)

So anyway, here are some of the things I'm thinking of adding as semi-regular blog posts. If you're one of my four awesome followers, let me know if there are any you'd be interested in or if you have any other suggestions!

-Book Reviews
-Music Reviews/Discussions
-Writing Advice
-Writing updates and story excerpts during NaNoWriMo or other major projects

Hopefully with these and a few other ideas that are floating around in my brain, things will start to pick up around here.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

On Short Stories

I've managed to solve my writing conundrum mentioned in the previous post. Looking through the short story ideas I've jotted down, I've come to the conclusion that when you take into account the business of my schedule because of the upcoming start of the school year, I probably have plenty of plots to keep me occupied until November. I've started making notes on one of my ideas and plan to start the story in the next few days.

Although I'm not against trying new things in writing, I have to admit that I'm a little apprehensive about spending so much time only writing short stories. Recently, I've come to appreciate them a lot more; I used to hate writing them and never really sought them out to read. Still, my writing is usually on one of two extremes - either a novel-length project, or an extremely short, mostly descriptive piece, less than 1000 words. Writing something in between, something that has a full plot but can still fit into around 5000 words, is hard.

I think it's mostly because I almost never have a full plot planned out before I start a novel. Even when I have a basic idea, most of it falls into place as I'm writing - after the first 5-10 thousand words, I start to make connections and brainstorm ideas that will add to the plotline of the book. You can't exactly do that with a short story - or rather, you can, but you have to make those connections after the first few hundred words.

It's probably good to challenge myself - I'll never be able to improve my skill with short stories if I don't write them. Between now and November, I'll probably be able to write around five or six stories, and it'll be interesting to see how they turn out. If anyone's interested, I'd be willing to post excerpts here on the blog or links to my account if I decide to upload any of the stories.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The End! ...Now what?

An important event took place yesterday. Not only did one of the awesomest movies ever come out, but I finished the second draft of my novel, Battle for the Throne. It's the first book in a traditional/epic fantasy trilogy entitled Battles of the Elements, and I've been working on it for about two and a half years.

The second draft was actually harder to write than the first, because there was so much that needed changed, while still keeping the basic plot and certain scenes the same. Still, I enjoyed it - I had some great ideas and brainstorms that really tie together the next two books, and my characters feel much more realistic. While it still needs some work before it's ready to go out to publishers (minor things, like moving a few scenes around and editing spelling, grammar, and consistency) I've definitely made progress.

However, having finished such a massive project does leave me with the question - what am I going to write now? Today's a grayish, rainy day, so I planned to stay inside and write, only to realize that I'm not in the middle of a novel, or even a short story. In fact, I don't have anything planned for writing until NaNoWriMo in November.

I've been running through my options. Sadly, I didn't get the second draft finished in time to do the August edition of Camp NaNoWriMo - even if I could make up for the six days of writing I've missed, I don't have a plot idea that's developed enough to use, and with school, sports, and extracurriculars all starting this month, I just don't have time. I don't know if I have enough time between now and November to revise my NaNo novel from 2009 - I thought I would, but revising always takes longer than I expect it to. I have a few short story ideas, but nothing that's going to keep me busy for three months. I can use this week's prompt from Sunday Scribblings to keep me busy until tomorrow, but after that...I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do.

Off to puzzle over this writing dilemma,

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Back to School Commercials

August 3rd. For me and all the other students in my area, this means that there's only 25 days left until school starts again. The reminders of the end of summer vacation are every where - the pencils and backpacks on display at the stores, the fall clothing catalogs that have been arriving in the mail, and on television, where back-to-school commercials have been airing since mid-July.

I have to say, the new Target commercials are pretty awesome, and a few others have been funny or just advertising something really cool. However, none of them have been able to measure up to this:

...Which may be the best back to school commercial, EVER. Make sure you watch it all the way to the end - that's the best part.

I've never seen this commercial on TV, only on Youtube, so I'm not sure how old it is or when it first came out, but it still has to be one of the awesomest things I've ever seen.

Off to complete my back-to-school shopping list,

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Album Review: Vanessa Carlton - Rabbits on the Run

As you might know, Vanessa Carlton's new album Rabbits on the Run was released yesterday, July 26, after a VERY long wait. I've listened to all the songs a few times, and now I'm here to give you my official review.

Overall Album Review
At least in my opinion, the new album has some significant differences from the previous ones. The piano instrumentals are still there and beautiful, but they're not on every song, and the entire thing is quieter and more subdued. It seems like Vanessa's been experimenting with some new sounds and instruments, and overall I'm pleased with the result. I did miss some elements of her old sound and didn't think her voice was as strong in some places, but I think the album has the same fundamental Vanessa Carlton sound, and a few of the songs are some of her best yet.

Individual Song Reviews

1. "Carousel"

This was the first single released from the album - it came out back in May - and I absolutely love it. It might be my favorite song on the entire album. The piano is amazing and blends nicely with the other instruments without being overwhelmed. This was the first time I'd heard the children's choir that Vanessa featured on some of her songs, and I think it worked well here. I love the lyrics, too.

2. "I Don't Want to Be a Bride"

I've been listening to a live version of this song on YouTube for awhile, and it's something I feel like I can relate to - sometimes, the idea of a white-picket-fence life really doesn't appeal to me. I was anxious to hear the album version to see how it differed, and I have mixed feelings. I like the additional instruments and don't mind the minor changes to the lyrics - they still create a beautiful image. I also especially love the new sounds (instruments and background vocals) after the second chorus. However, one thing I was really disappointed in was the children's choir on the ending. As far as the lyrics go, it's my favorite part of the song, and while the children's choir sounds nice, it sort of drowns out everything else and I thought Vanessa's voice was much stronger on it's own, at least to deliver these last few lines.

3. "London"

This is a very delicate and pretty song, and I like it a lot - it's probably my second or third favorite from this album. Though the piano isn't prominent at first, there's a beautiful instrumental towards the ends, and I love the violins that come right before it. The lyrics, too, are beautiful, and very metaphoric - I love the thought of a "knife-throwing kind of love".

4. "Fairweather Friends"

I thought this one sounded a bit more like her previous albums - it was more intense than some of the other songs. The piano might be my favorite piano-from-a-Vanessa-Carlton-song ever, and it's definitely going on my list of songs I want to learn to play. The lyrics are very strong and poignant, but still show a vulnerable side. I love the idea of "magical thinking" - she explained it in a show as being the idea that you can only deal with so much reality at a time. I also love the first verse - "some other girl in your spellcasting plans for a life" - and the piano/violin instrumental in the middle is to die for. (Those are two of my favorite instruments, and I love hearing them together.)

5. "Hear The Bells"

It's a quiet and subdued song, with haunting lyrics. I don't have a very strong opinion about it; while I don't dislike it, I'm not sure if I love it. The music is very soft, like the rest of the song, so it doesn't stand out much, but it's nice towards the end. I did like the bridge, but was unsure about the verses.

6. "Dear California"

This one is VERY different from her usual sound. I wasn't thrilled about the first verse, where she mentioned being "out on the roof sneaking a cigarette" because - well, smoking seems utterly pointless to me, but it also didn't seem to fit with my usual expectation of fantasy piano-pop - but we already knew this album was different, so I guess that's just my personal opinion. Otherwise, the song is very free-spirited, which I liked - though it didn't sound like Nolita Fairytale, I could see how she might have the same mentality while writing both. There was another great metaphor in this song - "like a paper cut to the heart".

7. "Tall Tales for Spring"

I'm going to start by saying that I don't like the first verse. By including "God rests His head Sunday afternoon" "The wicked in me is surely wicked in you" and "I pray to a ghost that we'd never met", I'm sort of confused about what the meaning of this song is and whether it's something I'm comfortable with. I did like the second verse, which included a Stephen Hawking reference and the phrase "Our minds hold the chaos that started everything." "Madness of the heart" in the chorus is another great phrase. While I'm unsure about the electric guitar mixed in with the piano instrumentals, I did think the song ended strongly, switching from "Madness of the heart" to "Madness in the stars." There was a very chaotic fantasy feel to the whole thing.

8. "Get Good"

I liked this song much more than I expected I would. It fits more into the pop/folk genre, which I find interesting - in a good way. I liked the descriptions and the first verse about "have you lost your constellation eyes?" The meaning is really sweet and encouraging, and though I did miss the piano, I'm okay with the guitar that replaced it.

9. "The Marching Line"

This might top "Carousel" as my favorite song from this album. The song reminds me of the aftermath of a storm on the ocean - especially the lyrics about "ships on gray seas." The the last verse and the instrumental is absolutely gorgeous; the piano chords are wonderful throughout and build up nicely towards the end. I was unsure about the ending, thinking it might have been better to end it before the line about "fortune tellers", but it's beginning to grow on me.

10. "In The End"

This song was very dark; the lyrics were unclear and hard to understand. While the music starts of nice, I though the overall song was a bit of a letdown, and didn't think it was a strong ending to the album. "The Marching Line" would have done better as the last song, I think.

So while it wasn't what I was expected, I am happy with this album.

Off to download some more songs,


Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Nook: Part 2

I've continued researching the Nook (Barnes&Noble's eReader). I've read a few reviews, and they all seem to be positive - despite a few features that people don't like, the device itself sounds like it works well.

Also, after reading the information on the Nook that's available at the Barnes&Noble website, I've managed to scratch one of my "cons" off the list in my previous blog post: the fact that with a Nook, I wouldn't be able to organize my shelves. You CAN organize your electronic books in absolutely any way you want, at least on the nook color.

Now I have to find information on the other things that concern me, and decide whether I want a nook or a nook color if I do buy one. The nook color functions more like a tablet - one review described it as a good middle ground between tablets like the iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab and basic eReaders like the Kindle. The problem is that although I would prefer the screen to be in color, I don't really NEED a tablet - it would be more portable than my laptop, true, but we've already established that I dislike touch screens, and I don't mind carrying my laptop around. Plus, the color screen is LCD, meaning there's more potential for glare - and the nook color is somewhere around $250.

So I'm still debating whether the bigger, color screen, and the features that the nook has that my laptop and the original nook don't, are worth the extra $100 - or whether an eReader is worth $150 at all.

Hoping to get to a Barnes & Noble soon to test out both the nook and nook color in person,


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Grilled Zucchinni-Cheese Sandwich

In the middle of this steamy, scorching Wednesday afternoon, I found myself confronted with a difficult dilemma: food. Even if it was approaching 90 degrees, I could only survive for so long on ice cream and fruit. I needed something more filling and substantial - preferably something that wouldn't take a lot of effort and wouldn't require lighting the oven.

I was looking through our Food Network magazine last night, so I had a few ideas floating around in my brain. The first one that came to mind was 'dressed-up grilled cheese sandwich.' I didn't have all the ingredients that were in the magazine recipe, but I thought I could manage some cheese and tomatoes. I went downstairs, sliced the cheese, and began assembling the sandwich.

Then I went over to the fridge and realized we didn't have any tomatoes. I started looking for something else to add, and my eyes landed on the plate of grilled zucchini left over from last night's dinner.

Thus, the grilled zucchini-cheese sandwich was born.

It was surprisingly good. I layered the zucchini (sliced into round pieces, drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper and grilled) and cheese on two pieces of bread, seasoned it with a little oregano from our garden and stuck the whole thing in the toaster oven - I didn't want the clean-up that using a pan on the stove involved. (I used Monterey Jack cheese and Italian bread, because that was what we had, but I'm sure anything you would want to use would taste good.)

Anyone else have any recipes that have been created completely by accident but turned out to deliciously? What about dishes for keeping cool on a hot summer day?

With no end in sight to this heat wave....


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nooks, Kindles, and eReaders...oh my.

I like technology for the most part. That being said, there are some gadgets that I just don't think I could use. Most people accept that I'm not a big fan of touch-screens, which is why I haven't jumped onto the iPad/touch-screen device bandwagon. But the one thing that people are always shocked I don't own is an eReader.

They're just completely baffled, especially if they know how much I read. They get this look on their faces like they've landed in a parallel universe. If they're in my room, they just gesture wordlessly to my overflowing bookshelves. They explain to me that that is the one thing they'd think I would use the most - wouldn't it be easier than cramming eight books into a suitcase for one-week vacation?

Yes, it probably would. But the thing is - they're not REAL books.

And this is where it all goes downhill. People smile, nod and back away slowly, because I am clearly crazy.

Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but not much, because the makers of kindle have recently created commercials that pretty much mock people who prefer real books. In the advertisement, someone points out that a kindle isn't a real book, and someone else explains that the kindle is just like a real book, but better, and the other person is just being silly.

1. A Kindle is not a real book. It might have some nice features, but it's not a real book.
2. Amazon has just lost a potential sale.

I know, I'm getting awfully worked up about this, but Amazon made fun of something I take very seriously. It's not like I'm launching a campaign against kindles and the people who have them, I'm just refusing to buy one myself.

Still, even though they're not real books, even I have to admit that eReaders are pretty cool, and I've been thinking off and on about buying one. Since the Kindle's out, that leaves me with the Nook from Barnes & Noble, which I was leaning towards anyway. It's from a major bookstore, which makes me feel better - don't ask me to justify my reasoning, it just doesn't bother me as much that it's not a real book when it's from a place that's focused on selling real books.

There are a couple of problems, though, that I still have to work through before I buy one.

1. I just don't know if I can get over the it's-not-a-real-book thing. My friend Cynthia has a kindle, and she said that the lack of a cover really bothered her. They do make covers, which you can open and close, but still, you only read words on one side of the cover, where the nook is, so I don't know how much that would actually help.

2. I love my bookshelves dearly, and as odd it might sound, I enjoy organizing them. I can always store my potential nook in it's cover on the shelves with the other books, my system is based on genre, and with a nook, I would have books of all genres in the same place, and I wouldn't be able to separate them. The only thing that I can think of that would make it okay is if you can organize books on your nook by genre, or rearrange the order however you want. It wouldn't be quite the same, but it'd be better.

3. I don't know if it's going to be cheaper in the long run; I haven't compared a lot of prices, but for example, "A Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin is the same price in paperback as it is in the electronic format from Barnes & Noble, and since I'm a member, I get free shipping. The nook is $139, or $249 for the nook color, while my 5-shelf bookcases are $35 from Wal-Mart.

4. I also go to the library quite frequently; while I've read through quite a few of the books in our public library, there's still the school library, which I really haven't even started on yet.

5. I also lend books to my friends a lot, since I have a ton, and I couldn't do that with my nook - even if there was some software that enabled this, none of my close friends have nooks, so it wouldn't be that useful anyway.

6. Plus, there's the simple fact that it's an electronic device and so it just has some inherent problems. How long is it before there's some virus for nooks or something else that causes them crash and I lose my books? No danger of that with my shelves - the only 'crash' would be if they fell over. I haven't been able to experiment with a nook or kindle to see if it really is possible to have no glare in the sun. Plus, since it's wifi enabled, you wouldn't be able to use it on an airplane when it was taking off or landing. Even though I don't fly a lot, it's still something to consider.

As you can see, it's going to take a lot of thinking and research to decide if the pros - instant downloading, the ability to take more on vacation without packing an extra bag (my purse is currently big enough for short trips - something else the people at Kindle like to poke fun at) and that it would save space overall - outweigh the cons.

I'll be looking at a lot of reviews and doing some research; I'll keep you posted on what I find and how it affects my overall decision.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Ultimate Summer Camp

...And the best part is, you don't even have to leave your own backyard!

Yes, everyone, it's finally here, the long-awaited "Camp NaNoWriMo." What is Camp NaNoWriMo? It's a version of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month -, if you're not already familiar with it, although if you've been reading my blog you should be.) that you can do in the summer months. It's definitely helpful if you're like me, and can novel your heart out during November but can't get more than 10,000 words a month during the rest of the year. I'm not yet sure whether I'll participate in the July or August session, but I AM going to give this a try.

More Reasons You Should Do Camp NaNoWriMo

1. It is created by the folks at the Offices of Letters and Light, and therefore is made of awesome
2. It's the perfect solution to the I-want-to-write-a-novel-in-November-but-stuff-keeps-getting-in-the-way problem.
3. It's the perfect solution to the I-want-to-participate-in-NaNoWriMo-more-than-once-a-year problem.
4. You'll be doing something productive with your summer and will feel better about yourself.
5. It is going to be FUN.

This list should have made you as excited about this as I am, so I'll give you the link.

Off to find the deep-woods bug repellent and marshmallows,