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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Oz the Great and Powerful Poster


Who else is super excited for this? The poster looks amazing - the Emerald City, hot air balloon, twisters, and whimsy of Oz - and I cannot wait to see what they come up with!

'Til next time!

Friday, May 11, 2012

book review: twenty boy summer by sarah ockler

Title: Twenty Boy Summer
Author: Sarah Ockler
Publisher: Little, Brown Books


Synopsis: According to Anna’s best friend, Frankie, twenty days in Zanzibar Bay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy every day, there’s a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there’s something she hasn’t told Frankie–she’s already had her romance, and it was with Frankie’s older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.
TWENTY BOY SUMMER explores what it truly means to love someone, what it means to grieve, and ultimately, how to make the most of every beautiful moment life has to offer.

My Thoughts:
The plot has two equally important aspects. One, focusing on the death of a boyfriend and family member, is an emotional journey that works into the protagonist's decisions and catharsis of her first love's passing. The second, focusing on the first family vacation after the tragic death, is a physical journey that drives the story in the best way possible. It's a journey of friendship, reactions and decisions to life altering events, and the divide between who does and doesn't have the right to grieve. It's truly amazing.

The characters are an incredible part of the arc of the story. One of my favorites was Anna, a curly-haired girl with a conscious. It's hard not to see that this girl, the protagonist, was based entirely off of Sarah Ockler. A second character that isn't present for the story but plays a huge part is Matt, Anna's neighbor and love interest who dies unexpectedly of a broken heart, literally. Frankie is Matt's younger sister and Anna's best friend. She's a dynamic character who goes through a lot within the journey of Anna's story. Some may see her as annoying and whiney, but she is grieving for her loss, and it's important to take a closer look at her journey; it is nearly as important as Anna's. Adding to these main characters are Matt and Frankie's parents, Anna's parents, and of course some of the twenty boys that are alluded to in the title.

The concept revolves around a family vacation, the dealing with loss, and the competition of the A.B.S.E. (Absolute Best Summer Ever, during which Anna and Frankie are to kiss twenty boys in all). It's extremely unique, and I can't say I've heard or read anything that even rings true to it. The family situation with the death kind of reminds me of the family set-up in the musical Next to Normal as well as the concept of the eldest child's death, but the two stories couldn't have been more different. All in all, I enjoyed it thoroughly.


And here's my attempt at making sure it sticks with you that this novel is deeper than two boy-crazed girls ravashing the beaches for guys. Some major questions dealt with in the novel include...
  • Does somebody outside of a family have the right to grieve over a loved one to the same extent?
  • Is there a defining point in someone's life?
  • If so, how do we move on from that point?

As always, Ockler's writing is marvelous. She has a way of weaving the craft in such a dynamic and intriguing way that you can't help but comment on her story-telling triumphs. A big part of a book for me is world building. I've heard many people comment on this aspect of novels, and it often puts them off of it; for example, one of my friends hated how Collins in The Hunger Games seemed to drag on and on describing every single detail about every single outfit and building ever. I definitely believe there's a talent to be harvested in this area, a balance between being descript and overbearing. If there is a "sweet spot," Ockler has hit it. She's done a fantastic job. The narrative is also well done, which could be expected because I could see that the character may be based off of her.
The Verdict: The novel may be even more delicious than a Va-Va-Vineapple smoothie. It's the quintessential vacation story with the emotional strength of a bestseller. Two thumbs up!


'Til next time!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Clean Up On Aisle 12

Have you guys been noticing that a significant amount of music videos take place in grocery stores? Upon this occurance, I quickly googled it and found a snappy column on how it may be a reference to the "starving artist." I think not. If not that, why?


I think a major part of it may be the lighting. Grocery stores do have great lighting... well, at least some of them.


Maybe it's because they are so diverse. I mean, there's the produce section, the deli counter, the bakery, the canned veggies aisle, the boxed cakes aisle, the check out lines, etcetera, etcetera... Plus, they have carts... choreographed cart dance? Cart surfing? There are many, MANY options.


A connection to the public? Everybody has to go grocery shopping... maybe it has an "Everyman" kind of familiarity about it...

Maybe they are cheap to rent out. They do close down at night.

Either way, I love 'em. They're good stuff.

The above videos are only from some of the most popular musicians... There's also quite a few more that anyone could easily find upon taking the time to type "grocery store music videos" into your nearest search engine.

Maybe it's because grocery stores are an assembling of commercial branding...

Thoughts?

'Til next time!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Music Monday: Duets

I'm a TV addict. No, I'm serious. I nearly have to have a TV on at all times if I'm in the same room as one. Now, you can imagine how many commercials a TV addict goes through. When I saw the advertisement for "Duets," a show that is set to premiere on ABC on May 24th, 2012, I had to double take...

I said to myself, "Self, is this REALLY another singing reality show?"

Self answered. "No. This is not JUST ANOTHER singing reality show. THIS is Kelly Clarkson, Robin Thicke, Lionel Richie, and Jennifer Nettles going head to head to show that two voices are better than one..."

I said, "What?! You cannot be serious. Not one of those artists should be kicked off a show for singing duets. And not only singing duets... but singing duets with people they CHOOSE. Forget a competition! They should just have a weekly show where that's all they do... except maybe they should just collaborate with each other. No one gets kicked off."

"My sentiments exactly..."

Exhibit A.


Exhibit B.


And Exhibit C.


I may be biased because duets are my favorite thing in the entire world... but they're just fantastic. I can't wait. May 24th can't come fast enough!

'Til next time!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Friday, March 30, 2012

Adventures in Caking: Hunger Games

Last weekend, while waiting to go to The Hunger Games movie adaption, I decided to bake a cake in commemoration of the opening. This is what I came up with in the late hours of the night. I wish I had fondant to smooth some of the rougher edges, but it turned out well regardless. It was delicious! Enjoy!










'Til next time!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Whitney's "The Rivals" Comes to Life

All of those who read "The Rivals" by Daisy Whitney would be interested in this article I found in the University of Minnesota Duluth's newspaper, The Statesman. It's all about a case study pertaining to prescription drugs that enhance academic performance. Read a preview and then follow the link to read the rest!

---

A case study: Prescription stimulant abuse on campus

BY ALEX KORTE
korte029@d.umn.edu
Prescription stimulant abuse is on the rise on U.S. college campuses. Professor Rebecca de Souza is wrapping up a four-semester-long study on stimulant abuse here at UMD.  Photo by iSTOCKPHOTO
Prescription stimulant abuse is on the rise on U.S. college campuses. Professor Rebecca de Souza is wrapping up a four-semester-long study on stimulant abuse here at UMD. 
Photo by iSTOCKPHOTO
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem. In fact, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health says that nearly one-third of people ages 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug non-medically.
Regarding college campuses specifically, use of prescription stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin–traditionally used to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)–are also on the rise. ONDCP cites one study at a large university that reported 34 percent of students had used a prescription stimulant medication during times of academic stress.
UMD Assistant Professor Rebecca de Souza, who teaches health communication courses in the Department of Communication, is witness to these numbers here on campus.
“I asked my students in my class, ‘Have you heard about [prescription stimulant abuse]?’ and almost everybody raised their hands and almost everybody said that they either knew somebody who was doing it close to them or that they themselves did,” de Souza said. “They all had heard about it and seemed to think it was the norm.”
INTERESTED? Continue reading...
 ---
 Extremely interesting! Let me know what you think!
 'Til next time!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

book review: the rivals by daisy whitney

Book Review: The Rivals by Daisy Whitney
Publisher: Little, Brown Books


When Alex Patrick was assaulted by another student last year, her elite boarding school wouldn't do anything about it. This year Alex is head of the Mockingbirds, a secret society of students who police and protect the student body. While she desperately wants to live up to the legacy that's been given to her, she's now dealing with a case unlike any the Mockingbirds have seen before.
It isn't rape. It isn't bullying. It isn't hate speech. A far-reaching prescription drug ring has sprung up, and students are using the drugs to cheat. But how do you try a case with no obvious victim? Especially when the facts don't add up, and each new clue drives a wedge between Alex and the people she loves most: her friends, her boyfriend, and her fellow Mockingbirds.
As Alex unravels the layers of deceit within the school, the administration, and even the student body the Mockingbirds protect, her struggle to navigate the murky waters of vigilante justice may reveal more about herself than she ever expected.

The Rivals is a sequel to Daisy Whitney's The Mockingbirds.

I'm tempted to say that the plot of The Rivals was even better than The Mockingbirds. Whatever. I'll say it. The plot of The Rivals was even better than The Mockingbirds. Keep in mind that's a pretty opinion-based statement.

Anyway, the thing I liked about The Rivals is that it's not so one-tiered as the first book. Instead of just one plotline that consumes Alex, a variety of different things are going on in her life and at Themis. This multi-focused approach was exactly what I was looking for, and I really enjoyed it!

As in the first book, Whitney keeps her amazing writing style intact. Of course, that writing style would be praised for such a clear voice for her characters. The concept remains strong throughout the novel, and I all in all really enjoyed it.

I hope there's another one! :)

So the verdict...

Daisy Whitney hits another homerun with The Rivals. Witty, imaginative, and maybe even better than the series opener, The Rivals is a novel that will keep you wanting to always turn that next page.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

book review: the mockingbirds by daisy whitney

Book Review: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
Publisher: Little, Brown Books


Some schools have honor codes.
Others have handbooks.
Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.
Themis Academy is a quiet boarding school with an exceptional student body that the administration trusts to always behave the honorable way-the Themis way. So when Alex Patrick is date-raped during her junior year, she has two options: Stay silent and hope someone helps, or enlist the aid of the Mockingbirds-a secret society of students dedicated to righting the wrongs of the student body.

I'll be honest. The only reason I picked up The Mockingbirds is because the cover is just amazing. I mean, look at how that red just pops! It nearly begs a reader to pluck it off the shelf and read it. That's exactly what I did! You should too!

But, as you can read from the overview above, it's an intriguing concept, no? Furthermore, for those who haven't read it, the Mockingbirds is an underground justice organization at a boarding school. Of course, the plot lives up to this fantastic concept and just gives a smash of a book. I can't say anything bad about it in aspect of plot, characters, or storylines. It was all "legit," if you're the kind of person to use that word.

Whitney's writing style wasn't phenomenal, but it does serve the purpose of the book and gives a realistic voice to Whitney's character, Alex. And really, isn't that what we want in a book written in first person? The writing style was natural. I could hear Alex through the book's prose; that was important to me. Additionally, this was a nice change because some authors, regardless of whether their character calls for it or not, write everyone as these insanely intellectual and witty individuals. Newsflash! 99.8% of the population is neither witty or intellectual (I just made that stat up. Don't quote me on it... but I think you understand my point). Although that kind of narrative is essential in some cases, it isn't for many characters. I'm glad to see that The Mockingbirds didn't overstep its boundaries and stuck with having a well-developed protagonist.

One last point. The whole idea of the Mockingbirds is that they act as the Boo Radley and Atticus Finch (You better get this reference, or go and check out To Kill A Mockingbird right now.) of Themis. I love it when books reference "canon" works, don't you?!

Overall, I enjoyed this book tremendously. A review for the second book (The Rivals) is coming soon! :)

The verdict (which is again appropriate in the "case" of The Mockingbirds)...

Daisy Whitney's The Mockingbirds deals with tough subjects with natural elegance. It shouldn't be missed.

'Til next time!


Friday, February 10, 2012

book review: an abundance of katherines by john green

Book Review: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Publisher: Penguin Group, Inc.


When it comes to relationships, everyone has a type. Colin Singleton’s type is girls named Katherine. He has dated–and been dumped by–19 Katherines. In the wake of The K-19 Debacle, Colin–an anagram-obsessed washed-up child prodigy–heads out on a road trip with his overweight, Judge Judy- loving friend Hassan. With 10,000 dollars in his pocket and a feral hog on his trail, Colin is on a mission to prove a mathematical theorem he hopes will predict the future of any relationship (and conceivably win the girl).An Abundance of Katherines was a 2007 Michael L. Printz Honor book and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. It was also named one of the books of the year by Booklist, Horn Book, and Kirkus.

If you look at my latest couple posts, you'll see that I've created a trend of John Green works. As I have set my sights on some other titles, I'll be taking a break of John Green for the time being. I do feel, however, that An Abundance of Katherines was a good title to end on, though.

The thing about John Green books is that they're just my reading style. An intellectual group of teens cope when their tiny world is shaked. They use logic, philosophy, math, etc. to help in this aspect. I assure you that "Abundance" was the same way. Seeing as the protagonist is a genius/prodigy, it made for a good story simply stuffed with a billion facts, but I feel that it felt short on the usual zing and verve that I've grown to love in Green books.

The main problem (and quite possibly only one) was that "Abundance" is written in third(ish) person. That being said, everytime I picked up the book, I was confused for maybe about a half of a page, trying to adjust to this change from Green's usual writing style. I also felt a disconnect from Colin, the main character. I could understand the story fine, and intriguing as it was, I felt no sympathy for the recent dumpee. I've come to the conclusion that this makes me sad.

The one thing that Green is so good at, though, is coming up with these attractive female counterparts for his protagonist. I saw it in Looking for Alaska (Alaska Young), Paper Towns (Margot Roth Spiegelman), and the protagonist of The Fault in Our Stars (Hazel Grace Lancaster), and it was also apparent in "Abundance" (the beautiful Lindsey Lee Wells). This may factor into the fact that John Green is a guy writing from a guy's perspective... or in Fault writing about a girl.

In the end, I rather enjoyed An Abundance of Katherines, although the other John Green books would leap off the shelf for my lending first. And heads up: if you're not much one for calculus, you may not enjoy this book especially; one of the main plot points is Colin trying to find a mathematical formula for relationships. Given, that's not what it's all about, but it does take up a majority of the book.

And the verdict (which is appropriate because Colin's friend loves Judge Judy)...

John Green offers a brief look at recovering and rediscovering what truly matters in life. Another of his books is worth more than a quick skim or glance.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Please, sir, I want some more."

Well, well, well. Mr. Charles John Huffam Dickens was born 200 years ago today. Let us take some time to recount his literary mastery through memorable tidbits of his thought throughout his 58 years.

Picture from http://www.charles-dickens.org/
"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." -A Tale of Two Cities

"Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces – and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper – love her, love her, love her!” -Great Expectations

“I wear the chain I forged in life....I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.” -A Christmas Carol

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” -David Copperfield

“It is because I think so much of warm and sensitive hearts, that I would spare them from being wounded.” -Oliver Twist

“The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.” -Nicholas Nickleby

“No one who can read, ever looks at a book, even unopened on a shelf, like one who cannot.” -Our Mutual Friend

Don't just skim over them. Read them, really read them. They're good, I promise you... Maybe you could make a birthday cake that looks like books for Charles today. That would be fun. Then you could make a cake and eat it, too. At any rate...

'Til next time!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

book review: looking for alaska by john green

Book Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green
Publisher: Penguin Group


Before. Miles “Pudge” Halter's whole life has been one big non-event. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-butboring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into a new life, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same.

I recently learned that Looking for Alaska was the brilliant John Green's first mainstream book. Unlike other authors whose first books seem exactly like a first book (or series, ahem Suzanne *cough* Collins), John Green does wonders with "Alaska."

As you can see from the overview above, Miles goes to a boarding school called Culver Creek, gets nick-named Pudge, and meets the amazing Alaska Young. And let me tell you, she is fantastic. I just said this in my last post about Green's latest book, The Fault in Our Stars, that I rather enjoy his use of male protagonists and stories. I assure you. This first read does not disappoint. In fact, I was rather surprised that it was his first book since it's so well written.

At any rate, what I most liked about this book (among many, MANY other things) are the characters. It takes something special for certain characters to be remembered. In this book, it's pretty hard to forget them. It's their "quirks!" I tell you! :) According to kids at Culver Creek, everybody has something that they do. For Miles/Pudge, it's memorizing last words (I loved how this fit into the plot). For Chip/The Colonel, it's just memorizing things. For Alaska, it's poetry.

It also made me laugh out loud. (ahem... this is an indicator of a fantastic book for you readers out there... I hope you agree.) I seriously had to put myself in seclusion when Lara stands up and yells in her hard-to-speak-"i"'s accent towards the end... Oh, man! If you read it, you know what part I mean! :D I'm laughing just thinking about it.

The final verdict...

Despite being his first book, Looking for Alaska has John Green delivering a modern YA classic that will have pranksters, planners, and parents scrambling for centuries to come.

book review: the fault in our stars by john green

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Publisher: Dutton Books


Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. What is this book? A tearjerker, a novel, a hybrid of philosophy and death and happiness and life, a perfection in imperfection, blue, and the truth.

Picking up Green's latest published material, I felt a pang of... sadness? Discomfort? I don't know. I do believe that one of my favorite aspects about Green's books is that he has strong male protagonists that are real. And when I say real, I mean REAL. In a world where very few YA books have this, I rather enjoy it.

But as I started reading "Fault," I was happily amused. It too is about real things, incredible things that make a reader ponder. It's about death and dying and honesty. In the end, it wasn't about the fact that Green was writing from the perspective of a 17-year-old girl, but that, like always, he was writing about the thoughts and actions that create a life (a tragic one, in this case).

That being written, I enjoyed the novel to the nth degree (and that's a lot). Although it seems like Green did struggle with the mindset of a female point of view in the immediate beginning, it did not detract from the story. And just a heads up to John Green fans: don't expect this to be some sappy, lovey-dovey book because it's about cancer and a futile relationship and what not; it's not. It's just not. It has the same wit, flow, and vigor as Green's other books.

The final verdict...

The Fault in Our Stars works not only as an awe-inspiring story of cancer, love, and loss, but as a perfect constellation aligned between its first and last words. John Green outdoes himself again!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Neat "Bittersweet" Treat

Hey fellow pupils!

You'll remember (from my last post, obviously) that I read Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler. So good!

Anyway, just before every chapter started was a rather representative cupcake that Hudson would supposedly sell at Hurley's diner. Long story short, my mouth was watering nearly the whole time reading. In turn, I needed a cupcake, and I needed a cupcake NOW! Pronto, amigo. Grab me los cupcakes.

But there wasn't a cupcake. Well... it took a week, but I finally got around to making one rendition of a Hudson/Ockler original.

The one I made:

Chapter 5: Opportunity Knocks You on Your Butt Cupcakes: Vanilla cupcakes baked over a blend of chopped pineapples, butter, and brown sugar inverted on a warm plate and served with vanilla bean ice cream.

Sounds amazing, right?

Well, here's what my version looked like: YUM! It tasted even better than it looked! It was warm. The ice cream was cold. The pineapple was the perfect side! :D <--- cupcakes make me happy.


With the left-over cupcakes, I made some birthday cupcakes for myself. :)





P.S. My 21-year-old brother's birthday was a few weeks ago. I thought I should share this picture of his cake...


Hahahahaha! So funny!

'Til next time!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

book review: bittersweet by sarah ockler


Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances… a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.
So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life…and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.
It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last….

I was thrilled with this book! As a guy, it may not seem like a book I would read, but there's something you should know about me. I live in Duluth (which has lake-effect storms), my dad ices our backyard every year to make an ice rink (meaning I'm familiar with the freedom of ice activities), and I enjoy nearly any book that has hilarious characters, a fantastic plot, and intrigue to boot! And let's face it... cupcakes. That said, this book was just the cat's pajamas for me. And if you like just a plain awesome, fantastic book too, I highly recommend it to you!

We'll start with plot. Sarah Ockler did wonders with this book. When starting, I was thinking, Oh, it's going to be like the Cutting Edge or Cutting Edge 2 or Cutting Edge 3 or... I think you get my point. But there is so much more you can do in the winter world of ice skating and hockey. This book is the perfect example. An ex-figure skating champion, Hudson hung up her skates and hid her cares away behind the facade of the "Cupcake Queen of Watonka" at her mother's diner. Now, three years have passed, and she wants out. She wants out of the small Lake Erie town. Out of the messed up dynamics that she calls her home life. Just out. Then, everything starts happening. Her opportunities arise with a letter in the mail, smoldering into an active, raging fire as the winter continues. "She has another shot at her dreams." What will she do? I can guarantee you it's a fantastic journey!

The characters! By far some of my favorites in literary terms so far. I don't want to disclose everything about the plot and such, as I want you to find out for yourself ;), so here are just two of my favorite characters that had me smiling a ridiculous smile throughout the book. First, Hudson's younger brother Bug. Probably the most intelligent 8-year-old ever, he's just amazing. Turtle-shell glasses, smarter than all get out, and witty comebacks that catch you off guard at times, I could definitely see him as clear as day. Another one of my favorite characters was Dani, Hudson's co-worker and best friend. Going for not-smoke breaks, making jokes practically all the time, and playing an integral part in the story, she was just a hoot! Ah! I can't tell you enough!

On to Ockler's writing. I was thoroughly impressed with Sarah here. I have never read one of her books before, but I have a respect for any writer that can create what she's done here. While reading, I could feel the suspense throb. I just had to turn that next page and begin the chapter. Her descriptions, so lively, so accurate! I could feel the lake effect snow. I could sense Hudson's anticipation to leave, her feelings rise and fall with each decision she made. Amazing. It takes a veteran seamstress to stitch a quilt like that. Go, Sarah Ockler! :)

My verdict. I recommend this book to everyone near and far. I could go on for hours gushing about it, but I want to pass the puck onto your rink. (See what I did there?) It's not just about figure-skating, or hockey, or cupcakes... It's about life! I definitely hope to see this on the big screen one day. When it happens, I hope they don't change a thing about it. YES, IT'S THAT PERFECT!

If that review's not enough for you, take a look at the commercial for the book. It's what got me hooked on the book in the first place. :)


'Til next time!

Monday, January 16, 2012

book review: iron fey series by julie kagawa, the giver by lois lowry, and ordinary people by judith guest

My winter break has finally drawn to a close. Sad as it is, I look back fondly on it. In an attempt to recall the month, this post is dedicated to the one activity I've spent most of my time doing to fill my days:  reading.

When my break started, I declared, "I'm going to be busy this break! I have a strict reading schedule." Overall, I think I stuck to it. In little less than a month, I have completed 6 books! In chronological order, here they are with a brief synopsis, written by yours truly, and a short glimpse at my thoughts on the story.

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa


When Meghan Chase discovers that she is actually the daughter of King Oberon of the faery Summer Court, her best friend Robbie is Robin Goodfellow (aka Puck), and her mortal half-brother is exchanged for a nasty doppelganger faery, our heroine decides to enter the Shakespearean world of the Nevernever to fetch her brother. With an Iron Realm that threatens the existence of the Summer and Winter Courts, she takes more than she bargained for in the end as a love triangle between a star-crossed lover (Prince Ash of the Winter Court) and a best friend (Puck) arises.

I was intrigued by the cover of this book for awhile and had it on my radar. Not having extensive knowledge about A Midsummer Night's Dream or anything pertaining to the faery world, I dove in maybe not prepared but incredibly excited. Julie Kagawa happens to be a phenomenal writer, and her words are like butter. So smooth. So descript. A dark-twisted plot in the realm of faery left me hungry for more!

The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa


Meghan Chase is dragged back into the Nevernever to appease the Winter sidhe Ash, who she's clearly in love with. When the Sceptor of the Seasons goes missing, the whole gang goes on a death chase trying to destroy the Iron Fey once and for all.

The second installment in Julia Kagawa's Iron Fey Series, The Iron Daughter is just as phenomenal as the first. A closer look at the Iron Court definitely was in need, as it was a new concept, and I thoroughly enjoyed the twists that it held. Ash controlled by a bug? Puck comes in to save the day? I definitely agree. Worth the read!

Ordinary People by Judith Guest


In the aftermath of the death of a son and brother, the Jarrett family, comprised of father Calvin, mother Beth, and son Conrad, deals with the trauma the death of Buck has inflicted upon the entire family. Conrad, who attempted suicide after Buck's death, tries to heal and figure out his role in the world. Calvin, the struggling father figure who longs for control and honesty, tries to make things the way they were and understand. Beth, the perfectionist caretaker, withdraws herself from the situation, upset about those who dwell on the past as she tries to move on.

I LOVE this book. The story is so rivetting, so life-like and real. The grief-process is nailed as well as two different points in life, as it is told in the perspective of Conrad and Cal back and forth. After reading it, I watched the movie starring Judd Hirsch, Timothy Hutton, Donald Sutherland, and Mary Tyler Moore. Amazing. They each performed out Guest's characters with such grace. I think this book is a purchase I'm willing to make, as well as a read that you should consider.

The Giver by Lois Lowry


Soon-to-be 12-year-old Jonas lives in a society where the sex appeal is taken from everyone, everyone is assigned a job, and only certain people can do certain things. One job title, the Receiver, holds the emotions and memories from times past. When Jonas is given this responsibility, he learns of the injustice of the system. What will he do? Is his entire life a lie?

I read this book when I was in 4th grade, but I didn't really get the full effect. When I came across it on a top-banned sci-fi book list, I just had to read it again. It ended quite abruptly for my taste, but it's a wonderful story to get kids thinking about society and the things a society structure can force on its citizens. Moving and intriguing, it's more of a sprint than a marathon.

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa


This last book in the series narrated by Meghan Chase ends with a bang. Banished from the Nevernever, Prince Ash and Meghan Chase learn of a war looming between the Winter, Summer, and Iron Courts. A false king has risen, forming a civil battle between the Iron Kingdom. Will Meghan Chase bring peace to the Nevernever?

I had to order this online as my local Barnes and Noble did not hold it. Nevertheless, the wait was great. Not only did I read the previous two books on this list, but my anticipation only grew. The Iron Fey Series was to be a trilogy before it became a four-book wonder. What a thrilling and fast-paced end to a phenomenal read. :) For those YA readers out there, I highly recommend it.

The Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa

 
After being banished from the Iron Kingdom, the home of his beloved, Prince Ash of the Winter Court seeks to become immune to the threat iron holds over Winter and Summer faeries alike to rejoin his love interest, Meghan Chase. If that means traveling to the Testing Grounds, beyond the Ends of the World, he's fine with that. A couple new (and new-ish) characters join in on the journey in the final book of the Iron Fey Series.

This book was a bit slower moving than the others, but when the action hit, it hit hard, beautifully, and heart-wrenchingly (is that a word?). The last 100 pages are the perfect glimpse of Kagawa's prose. This finished out my winter reading boom with a bang!

Total # of pages read over break: 1866

Monday, January 9, 2012

So Long

"I'm so glad we had this time together.
Just to laugh or sing a song.
Seems we just get started and before you know it.
Comes the time we have to say, 'So long.'"


Sally Jean Habermann
Nov. 14, 1996-Jan. 9, 2012

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Resolute Desks

I'm admittedly not one for New Year's resolutions. Let's face it, I'm a procrastinator at meeting my own goals. I'd like to think it's because I'm too busy helping other people with theirs, but that would be a lie. I'm just lazy.


So now that I have this nifty blog, why not set those pesky little phrases that I call goals into motion? Right? Well, we'll see if this helps anyway. Thanks, Jana, for this idea. ;)

Resolution: noun: a firm decision to do or not to do something.

I. Have one day a week where I don't look at a screen of any sort. This is harder than I previously thought. But I figure my eyes will forgive me for the torture I've put them through as I shuffled from computer to television to iPod all too much in the past months if I do it. Which brings me to my next point...
II. Read some classic novels. Do I need to tell you that I have a stack of Wuthering Heights and Tale of Two Cities and all those other classic novels sitting on my checkered table? I need to read them. Ahhh! I doubt I'll get through three of them in the year, though. Oh well.
III. Get at least 1,000 followers on my parody twitter. I thought it would be so easy, especially because I share the account with a classmate. It needs to happen though for my self-esteem's sake.
IV. Start a daily devotional. This is something that seems so trivial. I should have one by now, but I'm lazy. I need to do that.
V. Get involved with a Christian organization at school.
VI. Make some friends. I'm lacking in this department. Who knew that an introverted reader/writer/blogger would want friends?
VII. Finish my novel. I started this in September. When was that? 4 months ago? I'm still on my first draft. It's harder than I thought. I WILL PREVAIL!
VIII. Finish my play. Did I tell you guys I'm penning a play as well? I'm not sure if I'm going to actually have it be a play or musical yet. If it's a musical, the libretto's done. I just need some musical talent. We'll see. I have to solidify the plot first. It needs something.
IX. Be involved in the community. If I want to be a city planner, I should probably get on this ASAP just so I can get a feel for the environment and have some minor experience under my belt. Summer sounds like a good time to do this.
X. Be kinder. I think everyone should do this.
XI. Be a better brother.
XII. Witness to people. This is one of the biggest because I feel that a lot of my close friends are unsaved even though they're "good" people. I was challenged the other day with this: If I really care about someone, I should share the gospel with them. There is such a thing as "loving someone to hell," too.

That's about all I could think of at this very moment. I wish you all a happy and healthy new year! :)

'Til next time!

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