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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