Thursday, April 25, 2013

Favorite YA Boys

This morning, as I was rushing to eat my cereal and get ready for one of my last 9 am classes ever, I read the posts on my blog feed that had been published during the night.

One of these was a fantastic commentary by Zoe Marriot on the condescending views many people of my beloved YA genre. It perfectly explained a lot of the reasons I love about YA novels and the feelings I hope to evoke in readers when/if I ever get published. If you're interested, read it here. Seriously, amazing.

But at the end of that article, in the "you might also like" section, there was a link for Zoe's review of Divergent from when she won an ARC before it was published. As you might have noticed, I am a little obsessed with Divergent. For oh, so many reasons. So, despite running out of time before I needed to leave, I read her review.

Because it's a compulsion. And I cannot stop myself.

And it was a perfect review. HERE.


Zoe described so many of the reasons I love Divergent and Veronica Roth. But the idea that hit me the most?

"I didn't swoon over Four for a second. I fell in love with him, quietly and deeply, just as Tris did."

I read that and had to just sit and let it sink in for a minute. That is exactly how I feel about Four. He is by far my favorite YA boy. I really like some others that are all pretty close in their ranking in my heart (Jace, Will, Jem, Lord Hector, Alex, Julian, Xander, Ky, Mal, Augustus, Percy, Po, Saf, Brigan....the list goes on...).

But Four? Something about him stands out. Because I fell in love with him quietly and deeply, rather than my usual hard swooning. He surprised me. And every little thing he did endeared me to him. His courage, his strength, his ability to let Tris be herself rather than be consumed in him, his tattoos (oh, his tattoos), everything. Just the thought of him makes my heart splutter a little.

And the thought that maybe someone exists out there who has even a few of his qualities, makes me want to find him. (And make him get some of Four's tattoos...)

I am such a fan of our wonderful Theo James who is playing Four in the 
movie. Not my favorite picture, but it's from the article Veronica 
put on her blog announcing his casting. *source

I know some people find this kind of literary affection strange, but most of y'all are YA readers, so I assume you understand.

So, my question to y'all:
(I am from Texas after all, don't make fun)

Who is your favorite YA boy?

And: What made you fall for him? What stands out about him?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The END is in Sight

I've been missing from this here blog for a few days. And I'll likely be missing for another week or so, unfortunately.

BUT.

In T minus 6 days I will be done with all of my big assignments for the semester. Which means, forever. I'll still have some smallish stuff I'll have to do (like almost all of the reading questions for a whole online class that I kept missing and procrastinating), and I still will be seeing clients til the 10th, but the big stuff will be done.

And I'll have much more time for the things I enjoy, like keeping up with my blog, reading all of your blogs and such.

I'm so excited to be done I really can't handle it sometimes.

I'm going to read non-stop, finish planning my novel so I can start writing after graduation, catch up on sleep, visit bookstores.... The list goes on and on.

My question to you, dear blog friends:

What do you recommend I do to celebrate being done with Grad School?!

What books should I read? What food should I eat? What movies (on Netflix because I poor) should I watch? What tv shows do I need to get hooked on?

Basically, what are your favorite things to do when you don't HAVE to do anything?


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Road Trip Wednesday - National Poetry Month


April is National Poetry Month! Share your favorite poem(s) or poet.



From YA Highway:
Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.
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I don’t have a lot of experience with poetry. I like it, but having never taken a literature class in college (other than “masterpieces of American literature” which did not include poetry), I haven’t had much exposure to it.

There was one poem I studied my senior year of high school that I kept for years. But unfortunately, it is currently in a heart-shaped, red-striped box in my brother’s basement. I don’t know it’s name or the author, but I do know it’s about loooove… And that I loved it way back in the spring of 2005.

(I know that’s not that far back for some people, but it feels like forever to me).

I wrote a poem a few weeks ago. It’s about my horrid case of senioritis.



Current favorite poem:
I saw this poem from Grumpy Cat on Pinterest the other day. It’s kind of mean and violent, but I just can’t help loving it. Because Grumpy Cat makes me happy, in a weird, twisted way – you know.


Favorite Poet:
Will Herondale. From The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. So, really, it's Cassie Clare, but I'm sure she would appreciate the credit being given to Will. He’s my favorite impromptu poet. This is my favorite of his random songs. Though really, all of them are good. 

at least, this is where Pinterest took me


On the subject of demon pox, did you know this t-shirt exists?! I think I might gift it to myself for graduation.



I would love, love, love some direction on some good poems and poets. Please share your favorites with me!!! Culture me up a bit. 

I’d love to read some great poems – you know, when I’m done with all my crazy assignments in 3 weeks.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

You Are More Beautiful Than You Think

Have you seen this? It showed up at least 7 times in my facebook feed yesterday. Check it out

Dove's Real Beauty Sketches

Seriously, check it out. Sorry I don't know how to embed videos. Someday I'll learn.

A retired FBI sketch artist drew women, without seeing them himself, as they described themselves. After being drawn, the women were told to get to know a person assigned to them - a stranger. Then the stranger went in and described the women they talked to.

Without fail, the women described themselves much more harshly than the strangers saw them. In most cases, the differences were huge.

We are taught to be so critical of our appearances. By companies who benefit from our insecurities. Who see us as nothing but a statistic, a faceless person who can provide them with money.

Do they realize what they do to us? I like to think that they don't. But I don't know.

You, dear reader, are more beautiful than you think. Those flaws you think are so apparent that surely everyone sees? They don't. If they do see them, they don't focus on them or care nearly as much about your imperfections as you think.

How much better would we view ourselves if we could see ourselves the way strangers do?

I have a pretty positive view of myself, but I often wonder how much better it would be if I could see myself as others do.

Cut yourself some slack. Everyone else does.

You ARE more beautiful than you think.

Another great resource for defying the beauty standards of the day? Beauty Redefined. Check it!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Note to Self - Shards and Ashes


A book review of Shards and Ashes, edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong

Note to Self:


In case you ever forget, Self, dystopian stories are freaking awesome. Or post-apocalyptic – there are distinctions, but sometimes they are hard to remember. Basically, thinking about what could happen if the world as we know it ended, or what could cause the end of the world, or just any crazy thing like that is oh so fascinating. If you ever doubt it, Self, don’t.

You love these kinds of stories. And there is good reason for that.

The thing you may not love as much?

Reading 9 short stories of you favorite genre. The stories are awesome. And then they end. And you’re left thinking…what?! How is that all?!?!?! I want more!!!!

And as frustrating as that can be, it really does show the quality of those short stories. Dammit.


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I recently read Shards and Ashes, a collection of short stories about dangerous futures, written by 9 amazing, best-selling authors.  Who are these authors and what stories did they write, you ask?  Well….

Hearken by Veronica Roth
~ In the future, where death can come at any time and happen any where, people gifted with perfect pitch are chosen to become Hearkeners, or people who can hear and dictate a person’s song of life, or their song of death.  When Darya’s sister asks her to make a life altering decision to hear the death song of the mother who failed her in every way, she must face realities about herself and the life that formed her into who she is.

Branded by Kelley Armstrong
~ After the devastating results of the scientific modification of people’s DNA, living Outside means certain death. Unless of course, your boyfriend is actually a werewolf and the two of you are cunning enough to attempt an escape from behind the walls to join the Branded, just make sure the hybrids don't get you first.

Necklace of Raindrops by Margaret Stohl
~ When the only real currency that matters is in the form of beads of liquid, or raindrops, would you chose to save your beads to live a long, healthy life, or spend them and live the short life you have to the fullest? And what happens after the Jump that ends your life, anyway?

Dogsbody by Rachel Caine
~ Limited resources often necessitate sacrifices, even the sacrifice of thousands of children on a train leading to their death. When you are one of the few randomly chosen to live, do you stay hidden to survive, or rise up the ranks of the dogsbody’s with the hope of one day, with the fateful help of a long-lost friend, enacting revenge on the murderer responsible for countless deaths?

Pale Rider by Nancy Holder
~ What’s a girl to do when her search for batteries ends up with meeting a super-hot German boy who awakened an unknown power in you? Travel with him to a castle to solve the mystery of the magic, and the end of the world, of course!

Corpse Eaters by Melissa Marr
~ When a god, not one any religious books have told us about, shows up with lizard creatures that feast on corpse soup, Harmony decides that risking her life to fight the evil in her world is more important than anything else. Chris wants to keep her safe by leaving their hometown and ghostly memories for the un-occupied parts of America, but what can he possibly do to make her forget her quest for vengeance?

Burn 3 by Kami Garcia
~ The ozone layer is completely gone and living in the sun means burned, scarred, wrinkly skin; skin which some criminals, will do anything, or take anyone to get. When Phoenix’s sister goes missing, how can she hold the Skinners responsible, when the government knowingly turns a blind eye?

Love is a Choice by Beth Revis
~ The spaceship heading to a new world is kept safe through the twisted schemes of a dictator who knows that in order for their quest to survive, people must be kept under control; the smallest spark of rebellion could mean failure and certain death to the human species. When Mag decides the time for rebellion is now, Orion must choose between his love for her and his knowledge that in order for their resistance to succeed, they must bide their time.

Miasma by Carrie Ryan
~ The swamp plague is everywhere, along with the beaked doctors and their plague-eating beasts, and there is no beauty to be found. Except in Frankie’s eyes when she sees the beautiful flower gardens of the Oglethorpe family. With her sister on death’s door, Frankie will do whatever she must to keep her alive, maybe even accept help from a stranger who long ago fell in love with her eyes when she was mesmerized by the flowers.
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I really enjoyed all of the stories, especially the thrill of reading some of the scarier ones late at night. This was my first collection of short stories and overall I was very pleased with it.

You know, other than the infuriating reality that the stories I got sucked so deeply into were only 30 to 40 pages long!!!

I really wanted more from all of them. Especially Hearken, Love is a Choice, and Miasma. I mean, there was only one that had a definitive ending, because the narrator died. And even that one I wished was longer! The other 8 all could have gone on.

Please, authors, PLEASE! Write more later!

I doubt it will happen though, because isn’t that the point of a short story? To write something incredibly engaging, give a little hook or hint as to what might actually be going on, then end semi-abruptly, making the reader remember the story forever and ever, always wondering what happened next because you only gave them 40 pages of mind-blowing goodness that ended with a crazy making cliffhanger that is never resolved?

That is the point, right?

FYI, these editors also have a collection of Paranormal short stories called Enthralled.

You can bet it is on my TBR list.

Because I am a glutton for punishment.

Ugh. 

(10 points to the first person who catches the reference I made to the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld).


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Ramblings...

*If you're looking for something substantial to read, you can skip this - it basically has no purpose other than to distract me from studying.

I am supposed to be doing research for my 2 group presentations next week and my group paper due the week after that. I have too much to do and absolutely no motivation to get it done. Well, maybe 10% of the amount of motivation that I should have. Crud.

But instead, here I am doing what I would much prefer doing - looking at blogs, thinking about writing my story, and writing blog posts.

It's difficult to be in the last stretch of grad school for a career you're no longer very excited about. Because all I want to do is focus on what I want my career to be now, and that is write novels. I still like therapy when I'm in the room with a client. But that's it.

Or maybe it's not that I don't like it. Because I do. But I'm not passionate about it. I never have been. I looked forward to it. Felt that it was the right thing to do. Wanted to help people. But I was never passionate about it. The thought of it never kept me up at night with excitement. I never got distracted from other things because I couldn't stop thinking about it.

I'm passionate about writing now. I never thought that would happen to me. I thought therapy was the way to go for me. The thing I could do, do it well, and enjoy.

And well, it looks like there are other things I could do. The level of success is still to be determined. But the enjoyment just blows therapy away.

And I don't really know how to reconcile these things. And so then I am stuck.

How do YOU deal with conflicting desires like this? Should I just suck it up and do what I've invested so much time and energy into, that I'm good at, that benefits people? Or should I invest time into my new passion and see where that goes?

I can't leave therapy behind completely - I have mounds of student loans to pay off and need a job to do it with! Plus, even if I were able to write for a living, I would probably still want to do therapy at least one day a week.

But if I don't invest into the writing dream, will I ever get there? I don't know. HELP!!!

Other things on my mind today:

1. I joined Twitter. I have NO CLUE how to use it. I haven't tweeted anything yet. I'm following some people, but I'm confused. Does anyone have a Twitter FOR DUMMIES book I can borrow? Or just some hints on how to get started? Cause I'm clueless.
     - When I got home from my mission in 2010, after not using any social media or electronics for 18 months, my sister asked me, "Do you know what Twitter is?" I said no - I didn't even know what kind of a thing Twitter was! A restaurant? A hygiene tool? A way to punch stupid people, aka twits? No clue. She looked at me, dumbfounded, and said, "Wow, you really are an alien!" Alas, I believe I still am - PLEASE HELP!

2. Thursday night I looked up independent book stores in my area. Because truth be told, I only know of Barnes & Noble and a few Half-Price Books in the area. I wanted to find something a bit more homey and less commercialized to give some business to. You know, support small business and all that. In all of the big city I live in, there are only 4 independent book stores. How sad is that?! There are two that I am interested in and can't wait to check out. I was planning on taking a break from studying by going to the closest one this afternoon. But then I realized I really should wait til the bulk of my assignments are done. Use it as an incentive to actually do my work and all. it's the smart, responsible thing to do. But ugh - I don't want to be smart and responsible.

3. I can't wait for City of Bones to come out in a few months. Sis and I were looking at production stuff for the movie and can I just say? Kevin Zegers is a freaking stud. I can't wait to see him as Alec. I'm a little obsessed with him at the moment. So much so that I looked at his imdb to see if there were any movies he's in on netflix. Well, I found one from 2006 - It's a Boy Girl Thing - about him and that chick who played Summer in the Mentalist, who magically switched bodies because they were arguing in front of an old Axtec statue of the god of sorcery. It's a pretty cheesy movie, but I ended up liking it more than I expected. Mainly because it was hilarious watching Kevin act like a girl in a guy's body. And you know, he's incredibly hot. His dimples make me melt inside. And his lips. And... and... well, everything about him. If you're in the mood for a cheesy rom-com with a gorgeous male lead, check that one out.
From Cassandra Clare's Tumblr *here
I love him. Seriously.

Okay, I guess that's enough of a distraction. Back to studying. Yuck.

Hope you're all having a fantastic weekend!

Friday, April 12, 2013

If I were a Character in a Book...


Writers know; good characterization in books is crucial to telling a good story. Characters need to have goals driving their actions, observable traits, development through the story, a combination of stable characteristics and fluidity to change and surprise the reader…

Basically, characters in books are complex with each thought, action, and desire thought out. Each little detail has a purpose and a plan.

Are we that intentional in our lives? Do we have the same depth that authors, editors, and readers demand from their characters?

And if not, why?

I came along this train of thought as I was trying to figure out how to create characters, thinking about the characters in my story. They are there, but they are very slow at showing themselves to me. I don’t even know their names yet! (This is probably because I am in the planning stages until I finish Grad School – I really hope they open up to me more once I start actually writing!)

I sat there thinking about my own characters, reading as much as I could from various writing tips to know what I needed to consider, and had the thought…

“What if I were a character in a story? What kind of character would I be? What defining characteristics would stand out to an author and be seen as important to include in the story of my life?”


In some ways this was a very exciting thing to ponder on.

But in a lot of other ways, with my life as it currently is, it was actually quite disheartening.

I’m not sure that a character like me would make the editing cut into a final draft.

I’m not sure people would find me engaging and interesting.

I’m not sure I have those fun quirks we come to love in our characters, which maybe aren’t necessary to the story, but make those characters come alive in our minds.

I’m not sure I have those things that make us love our characters.

But I want to.

If I plan to make my characters engaging, endearing, and exciting, why would I not want to be that way myself?

So for the past few weeks since I made this world-shattering realization about myself, I’ve been thinking and searching and evaluating myself more than ever before.

Because if my life were a book, I would want people to want to read it, want to get to know me, and ultimately, be changed by reading about me.

Over the next weeks, months, and years as I begin my journey as a writer, I’ve decided that I am going to ask myself the same questions I ask about my characters.

Because I want to understand myself the way I hope to understand my characters. Also, I want to be more intentional in my life and find ways I can make changes to become who I want to be.

Some of those things will be personal for only me.

But some of those things I plan on sharing here to reveal my character to you, dear reader.

And maybe as I share my experiences with understanding myself, you will be encouraged to understand yourself more as well.

So – here are a few quirky things about me. Things that, silly or inconsequential as they may be, make up a part of my identity.

1)    I eat Cheetos Puffs like they are going out of style. I don’t know why I like them so much, but I can’t stop eating them. It gets to the point that my tongue gets a little raw. (That’s referred to as food trauma, did you know? Any hurt or cut in your mouth that is caused by food: food trauma!) It’s absolutely ridiculous and yes, not the best for me. But I have a small stomach and don’t eat a lot, so it may not be nutritious, but it’s not pushing me over a healthy, normal amount of calories. Most days at least. 

2)    My favorite candy is Laffy Taffy. Though I love chocolate, the past year or so I’ve been on a more fruity candy kick. Laffy Taffy is seriously the best. (There have been multiple times over the past few months that I have gone to the grocery store for 4 things. Milk, cereal, Cheetos Puffs, and Laffy Taffy. What the?)

3)    Recently, I’ve started painting my nails more consistently. I consciously changed this because I wanted my internal book character to have painted nails. It’s been just over 2 months of keeping them painted and I am loving it. I even got a compliment from a worker at Firehouse Subs. She said, “you always have the cutest nail polish!” I did a little mental happy dance, because to at least one person, my character would be known as having my nails painted.  Yes!

4)    I am an ankle sock hoarder. Not just normal, boring, white socks. I’m talking socks with designs and colors and excitement! Today, my socks are blue and grey with little pink hearts, black and white lines, and darling little whales with water coming out their spouts. So fun. I wear these socks with my canvas shoes. I know normally you wouldn’t wear socks with that kind of shoe, but I do. Because I want to. I’m proud of my socks and I want people to see them! Target is feeding my addiction. They always have tons of fun socks for $1.50 a pair. If I see them, I literally cannot stop myself from buying at least 1 pair. It’s a problem. But not. Because I love it. Here's an example from Target online. I want them all. 

That’s all for now. I’ll revisit this topic again from time to time when something hits me.

*(A picture of me painted by a former roommate, Allie. She made one for each of our 5 roommates and together they decorated our living room for a year. Amazing. Loved it. But now I have no idea where to put this picture. It's in my brother's basement. It feels weird to put it in my room...)


But now I want to know about you – what things make you unique? What would your character look like if you were in a book? What quirks do you have that make you into a real, relatable human being? What would you add to your inner-book-character if you could?

Please share, I really do want to know!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Note to Self - Looking for Alaska


A book review of Looking for Alaska by John Green. Mild spoilers.

Note to Self:
 

Sometimes you are really going to hate a book at certain points because things you don’t want to happen, happen and things you do want to happen, don’t and you’re going to be mad at the author for this.

Don’t be mad at the author.

Just keep reading.

These books are usually the ones that mean more when you finish. Because they make you forgive the author for putting you through such heartache by making that heartache mean something.

And they make you think. They make you feel and ask and wonder and search.

And then they make you different.

Those are the best kinds of books.
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Looking For Alaska is one of those books. 

I’m noticing a trend with this John Green fellow. His words are like manna to my soul. Then he crushes it. My soul, that is. And then somehow, in some way, with the most perfect melody of words and ideas, he heals it again.

How do you do this, John Green? HOW?!

I am in awe.  (And fighting off the jealousy of wanting to create words like he does, but I’ll put that aside for now).

In so much awe that upon finishing the book, I couldn’t do anything else that required brain power. It needed to recuperate. So I cleaned my bathtub.

Because after a story like Looking for Alaska, I just need to soak my body.

So those words,
read way too fast,
can soak into my soul.

And well, if I’m going to soak my body, I need a clean bathtub.

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Looking for Alaska is a story about finding yourself. About being brave and taking risks and doing stupid things.

It’s about your first time making real friends, first cigarette, first kiss, first blowjob, first time saying ‘I love you’ to the girl asleep next to you. Your first prank, first loss, first time dealing with the crushing weight of guilt. 

About going from a person who lives through books to being a person who lives a story worth remembering and putting in a book. (fictional story, but you get the idea, yes?)

It’s a story about forgiveness and searching for answers and being silly when all you want to do is curl in a ball and cry.

And then sometimes still curling in a ball and crying. Because, as we learned from the Fault in Our Stars, emotions demand to be felt. Even, or especially, when we try to run.

It’s about the Colonel, Pudge, Alaska, and Takumi. And a little bit of Lana, the Eagle, Jake, Sara, and Kevin, too. And a stripper in an inappropriate setting.

A story about loss and what-if’s and the anger of grief slowly melting away.  About learning that anything that comes together will eventually fall apart. Sometimes too soon.

It’s a story about finding answers to life’s biggest questions:
~What happens to us when we die?
~Why do good people get rotten lots in life? 
And. and.
~How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering?

It’s about loving your crooked neighbor, with your own crooked heart.*



* quoted in the book, ascribed to Auden. No first name given. And I am not proficient enough in poetry and literature to know who that is.

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Recommendation:

5 stars! Count ‘em   *  *  *  *  *
-  Highly recommend to people looking for a read that is deep, but doesn’t necessarily always feel deep.
-  Highly recommend to people who love beautiful words usage.
-  Definitely recommend for feminist – major female character is vocally feminist!
-  Hesitantly recommend for people who mainly prefer stories with idealist, happy endings.

Tissue Count:
3
Should have been more but I was in bed and too lazy to get up unless I literally couldn’t breathe anymore. Be prepared with at least 5 if you are a crier.

Details for more cautious readers:
Has drinking, smoking, and drug references, all used by teenagers.
Mentions teenage sex often, including two semi-intense make out scenes (kissers on top of each other, with touching of breasts) and a description of a male receiving oral sex.
That said, I don’t think this should turn most people away from reading this story. Most of these things are portrayed in a negative light (well, the substance use and oral sex at least), rather than romanticizing them as something good. If you have more questions or concerns in this area, let me know.