Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

First, a reminder to enter my blogiversary giveaway.
Title: Shatter Me 
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: YA (dystopia)
Why I read it/how I found it: I followed Tahereh Mafi's blog, and heard about it there.


No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon.
But Juliette has plans on her own.
After a lifetime without freedom, she's finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she'd lost forever.

Have you ever read a book and thought, dang it, why can't I write like that? That's Shatter Me. The prose was beautifully crafted. I'd heard about the strike-outs before, and I wasn't sure how I'd feel about them, but even when the first one came up I didn't need to get used to it. It was a natural extension of the story and Juliette's character. I also really enjoyed the characters in this book. I can't say that Juliette will make it into my favorite protagonists of all time, but I do appreciate what she went through and the layers that Mafi put on her. She has anger, feelings of abandonment, loneliness, but she's always trying to do the right thing. For me, that's a crucial part of me liking a character--I'm all for the good guys. The love interest, Adam, was awesome--tough but caring. He turned out totally different than what I'd been expecting when first introduced. As for Juliette and Adam's relationship, I did have trouble buying the fact that they supposedly knew each other before, they both liked each other, but never spoke. They were sitting along the same chain fence for six years without any friends but never talked to each other? I didn't buy that part of it, but the rest I could get into. Mafi really knows how to write sexual tension. Whew! As for the villain, Warner, he was an interesting, twisted character. I really didn't like him, but in the good way that you're supposed to not like a villain. The few other characters, James and Kenji, I also really liked, with their own unique personality. This book has a lot of great action, and it's always moving through with hardly ever a slow moment. The ending though, I'm not sure how I'm liking it yet. I'll have to see how it gets incorporated into the next book to see if the plot development works or not.
Other information: There are two more books to this trilogy, currently untitled. Shatter Me has been optioned for film by Twentieth Century Fox. You can find Tahereh Mafi's website here.
On a non-book review note, Happy New Year! May 2012 be an awesome year for all of you.
And a song with Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon Levitt (in case you haven't heard it yet):

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top Ten Books I'm Glad I Picked Up in 2011

First, have you entered my blogiversary giveaway? You should.

Now, here's a list of my top ten books that I'm so glad I picked up this past year.

1. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White
 Last year, I entered college and got into this mindset that I was too busy to read. Or, at least read things outside of my classes. I hardly read anything for fun. Then, a girl in one of my classes suggested this book to me. And I'm so glad that I picked it up. I remembered how much I loved reading, and how fun it was to lose yourself in a book. Paranormalcy re-vamped my love for reading with its characters and humor.

2. Divergent by Veronica Roth
I thought I was done with dystopian books for a while. But then I picked up Divergent, and man, I'm glad I did! I remembered how creative people can be and that I really do enjoy a good dystopian novel.

3. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Before, I was never crazy about contemporary. But Anna and the French Kiss was just too much fun, and this book has made me more open to the genre to show that I can really love any type of book as long as it hooks me.

4. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
This book was so interesting and so intriguing, it had me getting shivers down my spine. I loved the complexity of Mara's character and I'm just so glad I got a chance to read it.

5. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
An awesome, thought-provoking read that made me think so differently about my actions. I loved this book.

6. Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
I'm glad I finally picked up the first series by Suzanne Collins, because the themes in her books are rare to find, and I feel that they are so important to read about. Plus, the awesome story doesn't hurt it at all, either.

7. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
This was an awesome book to escape into, and had such a great creep factor.

8. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
 I used to be afraid to read this book because I thought it would be too graphic for me. But I'm glad that I picked it up because it talked about an important and hard issue to bring up, but at the same time, it felt safe.

9. White Cat by Holly Black
I loved the interest in this book, the unique world-building, and the characters. It was a lot of fun to get sucked into this book.

10. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

Ah, Wilde. So witty, and yet in this piece, so dark. This was an amazing look into vanity and sin, I'm glad I finally picked it up.

What are some of the books you're glad you picked up during 2011?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blogiversary Giveaway!

Like the new look? Exactly one year ago today I was bored, home from my first semester of college, and thought hey, why not start a blog? So I did. And in my less-than advanced skill on the computer, I settled for the layout I had the past year figuring it'd only be for a little bit. And man, am I glad that finally after a year it is gone!

Anyway, you're probably here for the giveaway to celebrate with me my past year of blogging. What will I be giving away? Well, how would you like one of these:
 Signed by this lady:

This is Ally Condie, the author of Crossed in case you didn't know.
Aha, now I have your interest, don't I?

All you have to do is fill out this form. Before you go skipping along to it, I will let you know that you get extra entries for following this blog, following my new blog A Writer's Guide to The Hunger Games, and/or following me on twitter.

The contest will be closed next Thursday on January 5, 2012 (wow, we're going to be in 2012!).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dream Team: Gilmore Girls Edition

A few months ago, I made this post about who from NBC's The Office I'd pick for the jobs that go into making a book happen. This post is the same idea, only this time using the character's from Gilmore Girls.
Jess Mariano as my CP. He published his own book on a small press, and he knows his stuff. Besides Paris, he was the one who could keep up with Rory when she talked books. He'd give amazing feedback.
Paris Geller as my agent. She gets whatever she wants. She might be intimidating, but that's why she'd be awesome with getting me the best deal. The insanity with dealing with her would be worth it in the end. I think.
Rory Gilmore as my editor. She already has background as an editor on the show, too, and she's always constructive with her criticism but supportive as well.
Olivia (one of the most obscure characters, I know, but she was still in the series) as the cover designer. She's the one character who's most artistic and I think she would be able to make an amazing design for the cover.
Richard Gilmore in charge of marketing. He knows business, and as he showed in the episode with Rory's mock business group, he knows how to appeal to younger audiences, too.

This is my dream team according to the cast of Gilmore Girls. I think I would be quite satisfied with this crew.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I have a childish habit

I've been writing forever. Or at least what my nineteen years feels like forever is (which, to some people like my mother, isn't so long to them). But, for as long as I've had the ability to put pencil to paper and form words, I've written. And so of course, as a kid, I didn't know proper terms like manuscript. I just wrote stories, that's what I called them, that's what everyone else called them.

Now, ten years later, and I still fight back to write or say "story" when I refer to my own work. But I'd rather say "my story" instead of "my book" or "my manuscript." I don't know what it is. I want to be grown-up and professional, out of my self-illustrated cover and table of contents smudged in pencil and into real shiny covers and formatting. But I can't let go of my stories. Maybe it's habit, and maybe it's something else. Maybe it's holding on to the excitement and thrill I got as a kid writing down the people and places in my head. It may also be that I've always focused on the actual story and not the writing (which, of course I learned a few years ago is actually important).

Now that this is out in the open I just might keep on referring to FORGET ME NOT as my story. Because despite everything I know now, it's really that child-like excitement that keeps me writing.

(And for kicks, here's a picture from my childhood)
Me and my brothers. First day of 3rd grade for me. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Red Ryder BB Gun

I hope you all are doing well. I just got over the flu (blech) so I've been a little out of it the past few days. But I'm just glad I came down with it before Christmas and not during.

Last night, my family and I watched the classic movie, A Christmas Story. It's one of those movies that we just have to watch every year. I think it's funny watching it in the retrospect of a more adult-like person now and reminiscing more than being the kid. And last night, I reminisced on my own Red Ryder BB Gun.

Well, not an actual one of those, of course. But the one present that I want so badly I would have done nearly anything to get it. For me, my ultimate Christmas gift would have been a kitten. I knew my parents would never give me a cat, but hey, Santa was the one giving gifts at Christmas, not the parents. I knew if I were really good, I'd wake up on Christmas and under the tree there'd be a cute little kitten under the tree sleeping in the early hours of the morning. My mom told me that Santa wouldn't get me a cat because he also knew what my parents didn't want me to get. But I believed so much that I'd get a kitten. This happened for several years until I realized just how accurate my mom was in that Santa wouldn't get me a cat because my parents didn't want one. I'd pretty much given up.

Then I went into middle school. And uh, yeah, I guess you can imagine the type of 'tude I got. My dad was puzzled about it, but thought that maybe if I got a cat like I'd always wanted, I'd be loving to the cat, and therefore more loving to my family (they were really the only ones who got the 'tude from me). So, after many months, he finally convinced my mom to get me a cat. I didn't wake up on Christmas to a kitten sleeping under the tree, I had to wait until January to pick one out, but it was still considered one of my Christmas presents.

And so after many, many years, I finally got my own Red Ryder BB Gun.

What Christmas present was your Red Ryder BB Gun? Have you given anyone the present they wanted more than anything?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Some Lesser-Known Christmas Songs

If you're anything like me, around the halfway point between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you're going CRAZY because of all the same Christmas songs playing again and again and again, the same tune and words just with different voices and arrangement, or that same popular song played on the radio fifty times a day (how many times am I expected to hear Taylor Swift whining as usual about her freaking boy issues during Christmas?!)...

First, I really do like Christmas music. But the situation above makes things a little tiresome for me about this time. That's why I want to introduce you to some Christmas songs you might not know, and if you do, your ears probably haven't been boxed in by them yet.

This one is my all-time favorite (and this original version specifically). Mary's Boy Child by Harry Belafonte. I have so many childhood memories of listening to this song during Christmas and marveling about how miraculous Christmas is.

I was raised on The Beach Boy's Christmas Album. This is one of their songs, Little Saint Nick. I LOVE dancing to this and decorating the tree:

And, for a last one, Christmastime by Hilary Weeks. This one is so cozy and makes me think of all the amazing things that Christmas is:

On a completely unrelated note, I would like to proudly declare that I have not yet been put under torture submission to hear any of Justin Bieber's Christmas songs. It's a beautiful, wonderful feeling to be free of such horrid pop culture.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Major Blog Award Catch Up

I don't know what it was about last week, but I received three blog awards!

First, thanks M.E. for the Liebster Award!

Second, thank you Crystal Licata for One Lovely Blog Award!

I've gotten these two awards before, so I'm passing on giving them out again, but seriously guys, I love it when people think of me when they give out awards.

And so last of all, I want to thank Krista for the Beautiful Blogger Award!

And so for this award I'm passing it on to five awesome bloggers!

1. Jaye Robin Brown
2. S.P. Bowers
3. E.R. King
4. Erin
5. Ruth Josse

Again, thank you M.E., Crystal, and Krista. And be sure to follow those I've passed the award on to. :)

As for me, I'm in finals week. I'm hoping to finish mine by tomorrow, but I might be pushing it as late as Thursday. But after that, I am FREE and going back home to California where there is relative warmth in comparison to where I am now and most other places in the U.S. And once I'm done with finals I'm going to start work on revising FORGET ME NOT. Isn't it the most wonderful time of the year?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Book Review: Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs

Title: Forgive My Fins
Author: Tera Lynn Childs
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: YA (fantasy)
Why I read it/how I found it: MERMAIDS

Lily Sanderson has a secret, and it’s not that she has a huge crush on gorgeous swimming god Brody Bennett, who makes her heart beat flipper-fast. Unrequited love is hard enough when you’re a normal teenage girl, but when you’re half human, half mermaid like Lily, there’s no such thing as a simple crush.

Lily’s mermaid identity is a secret that can’t get out, since she’s not just any mermaid – she’s a Thalassinian princess. When Lily found out three years ago that her mother was actually a human, she finally realized why she didn’t feel quite at home in Thalassinia, and she’s been living on land and going to Seaview high school ever since, hoping to find where she truly belongs. Sure, land has its problems – like her obnoxious, biker boy neighbor Quince Fletcher – but it has that one major perk – Brody. The problem is, mermaids aren’t really the casual dating type – when they “bond,” it’s for life.

When Lily’s attempt to win Brody’s love leads to a tsunami-sized case of mistaken identity, she is in for a tidal wave of relationship drama, and she finds out, quick as a tailfin flick, that happily-ever-after never sails quite as smoothly as you planned.

MERMAIDS! I haven't read a book about mermaids ever, I think. Unless you count the Hans Christian Anderson story. But, anywhoo, I will say to this book that I loved the world it created. My favorite part was diving down in the sea to go to Thalassinia and seeing how Childs structured their world. That was fantastical and magical and I loved it. for the rest of it...I was not as wowed as I'd hoped starting this book. Generally, I don't have too much of a problem with MC's annoying me. But I did with Lily. She had these "problems" and got all woe-is-me about them, when frankly I didn't see them as too much of a problem if she stopped being so idiotic and stubborn. I'll have you know I've never called an MC a whiner before, until I read Lily. She complains a lot and thinks her life is the worst ever. Overdone. I can't even see why Quince liked her. He was pretty cool, and made most of the book okay to go along with, but why he was attracted to Lily, I will never know. I wished that the plot would have been a little less predictable, but was. Very much predictable. I knew what would happen about fifteen pages in.

Other info: This has a sequel, Fins Are Forever. Tera Lynn Child's website is here.

If you happen to have read an awesome mermaid book, please let me know about it! I'm dying to read a book about my favorite mythical creature that I can gobble up and adore!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Top Ten: Book Covers

All right, so this has nothing to do with improving writing like my other Top Tens, but this one's just too much fun! :) I may have loved the book, I may have hated it, or fallen in the middle, this list is just of covers that I think are beautiful.




4. For me, this one is all about the actual book cover. A computer screen can't give justice to the sheen and color of this one:




What about you? What are some of your favorite covers?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Review: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins

Title: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: MG (fantasy)
Why I read it/how I found it: Sequel to Gregor the Overlander.

In the months since Gregor first encountered the strange Underland beneath New York City, he’s sworn he won’t ever go back. But when another prophecy, this time about an ominous white rat known as the Bane, calls for Gregor’s help, the Underlanders know the only way they can get his attention is through his little sister, Boots. Now Gregor’s quest reunites him with his bat, Ares, the rebellious princess Luxa, and new allies and sends them through the dangerous and deadly Waterway in search of the Bane. Then Gregor must face the possibility of his greatest loss yet, and make life and death choices that will determine the future of the Underland.

I really love this world that Collins created. She always manages to show that nothing is black and white, everything has gray. This theme especially rings true in this second book of the Gregor series. I find myself very involved in the different creatures in the Underland, not just the humans, and finding ways this works in our own world. I loved the characters in this, too. Boots is just as adorable as ever, I loved getting to know Ares more, and Twitchtip was another awesome addition to both the theme and the cast of characters. I appreciate what Collins is able to explore here for younger readers, which I frankly think kids aren't being exposed to early enough these days. The ending is really thrilling, and goes for a total twist that you never expect. I'm looking forward to finishing this series.

Other information: This is the second of fives books in the series. Suzanne Collins's website is here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011


Last night I officially completed the first draft of my W.I.P. Time to blow the horns! WHOOOO!!! Personal Novel Finishing Month has been a success.
So, for anyone who's curious (and me to record):

Working Title: Forget Me Not
Genre: YA Fantasy
Idea came: March 4, 2011
Bumps along the way: I started to write it seriously around April, but had to scrap it mid-June and start over.
Finish date: November 30, 2011.
Word count: 67,000
Brought to you by: Josh Groban, Josh Groban, and oh yeah, Josh Groban. I couldn't listen to anything but him for some reason. Especially this song:

For those curious about the premise of it, let's just say that when I heard this song I was kind of freaked out about how well it fit my MC's situation:
(As you might tell, music is huge for me when it comes to writing).

And right now is really the perfect time for me to be finishing up my first draft, because now I can focus on my last week of class and finals week. Then over Christmas break I'll be able to dive right into revising.

So since November tends to be a productive month for finishing projects, have any of you finished a draft lately?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Announcing A Writer's Guide to The Hunger Games!

I've been a huge fan of The Hunger Games for a long time now, in case you haven't noticed. And whenever we're given the advice to "see how published books have done it" I've always flipped back to The Hunger Games Trilogy. And so earlier this month I decided to start a blog just on that--seeing how Suzanne Collins manages to capture her audience in this series.

This week I made my first two posts on it. So if you're a fan of The Hunger Games or just want to get insight into how Suzanne Collins manages to hook so many readers, be sure to follow my new blog--A Writer's Guide to The Hunger Games.

In other news, I'm now 62k words into my W.I.P. with three more chapters, two more days, and three thousand more words to meet my goal.

What book do you always look at to see how the author did it? How's your W.I.P coming along?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Somebody Has a Gun

I've read a book somewhat recently that I feel sort of takes Michael's stance on action. It's like the author was thinking, "Well, as long as things are blowing up and people are fighting, that'll make my book interesting!"

I wish sometimes authors (and screenwriters and anyone making a story) could see that they're pulling a Michael here. Now, obviously there needs to be action, and for some stories it's appropriate to have guns and that type of action. People have guns in TV shows and movies because it is exciting, like Michael said. But Michael fails to realize that usually before the big fight that he wants to emulate in his improv class, there's character development and conflict and mystery. They may start out with a big scene, but then it peters out and we get the plot. Bursts of action may come in the middle, but sandwiched between those there's other crucial elements that make a story interesting and worth reading/watching.

But really, seeing/reading anything that just seems to down on the action without incorporating other elements can just be tiring. This may be more of a jab toward action movies than books, but this is something we can all fall into and I've been thinking about.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Review: Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley

Title: Bella at Midnight
Author: Diane Stanely
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Middle grade/little YA-ish (fantasy)
Why I read it/how I found it: browsing through the library and it looked intriguing.

Bella has grown up thinking that she was just a simple peasant girl. But suddenly, Bella's world collapses. First, her best friend, Julian, betrays her. Then she finds out that she is, in fact, Isabel, the daughter of a knight who abandoned her in infancy. And now he wants her back. Bella is torn from her beloved foster family and tries to accept her new life with her deranged father and his resentful wife. But when she finds out about a terrible plot that threatens the kingdom, she sets out on a journey that will lead her to a destiny far greater than she could have imagined.

This book has some charm to it. It takes a spin on the Cinderella story, and one in a way that I haven't seen before. The parts where Bella is a peasant and growing up are sweet, and when she's taken away from that happy place it's sad. Overall the plotline is interesting and has compelling stakes, and the ending is satisfying to any happily-ever-after lover. The reason that I couldn't completely get into this book was because it shifts first-person POV frequently. And not in a Shiver type of way where it's between two POVs, it's at least eight different characters (and those are the ones I can just think of off the top of my head). I found this unsettling, because I was always jumping not only from head to head, but also story to story. Halfway through the book we leave Bella and the characters she has for new characters, who do end up being her stepfamily, but it's such a transition it shook me up.

Other information: I couldn't find anything more on this book, or a website for the author.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

PerNoFiMo Check-in

All right, because I need to be accountable to somebody for my Personal Novel Finishing Month, I've come to tell you guys my progress.
I am now at 58k on my W.I.P. Whew!
I think I'm going to be closer to 65k when I finish, but I tend to underwrite my first time through, so after everything goes through and it's finished, it should be longer.

And, to amuse you, a video called Harry Potter in 99 Seconds. Because I am both a nerd and easily entertained.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book Review: Crossed by Ally Condie

Title: Crossed
Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Young Adult (dystopian)
Why I read it/how I found it: It's the sequel to Matched


In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.
Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever. 

Once again, the way that Condie can spin descriptions amazes me to no end. Crossed is just as poetically written as Matched, and with all of the rich imagery the setting has, it makes for breathtaking sentences. As description is one of my weak points, I just ate it up. In Crossed, I felt like I really got to know the characters more. Their struggles, wants, and past were fleshed-out and stunning. I wasn't sure about how I'd feel with Ky taking half of the book through his POV, as I'm not generally a fan of adding in a second POV in a sequel, but Condie really made the right choice. There are things he tells us that Cassia would never be able to, but things he wouldn't be able to tell Cassia and through us, her. I feel though, that this book wasn't as much about the plot as it was the characters, and I felt the same way with Matched. Everything else about it was so beautiful that I couldn't bring myself to care, although now I have expectations of the third book. And part of that is action. While I'm sure more character growth will be needed in the third book, it's come to the point where I hope we get a lot more action and plot.

Other information: There is a third book (still untitled, and today I went to a signing with Ally Condie, and she said that she and the publishers are still struggling with a title). Matched has been opted for film by Disney. You can find Ally Condie's website here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

It's for the Kids

I don't know about you, but I've been following news for The Hunger Games movie since...well, since it was announced that it was opted for film. And I've loved seeing big news companies covering the story. I always get really excited and read through the articles and the comments, too. And, amongst all of the hyped-up fans, I've always noticed a different kind of comment: "This is just Battle Royale for kids." Followed by more snark about how it isn't violent enough and it's toned-down and dumb.

Ok, even if I wasn't Peeta-crazy, say what now?!

I am very much aware of the similarities between Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, although I haven't ever read the former. But I really think this is just one of those ideas that gets used a lot, so there's no way to really say the idea was "stolen."

However my main beef with these types of comments is the dismissal of it being "for kids" in such a condescending way. I'm 19, so maybe I get riled up at this comment because I'm in limbo between childhood and adulthood and get in the defense about that part of me still in kid mode. But I'd hope anyone would look at these comments in a similar way that I do. And that's "well, why shouldn't there be a version of this for kids?"

There are concepts, themes, and ideas in The Hunger Games that kids should learn and be exposed to. I admire Suzanne Collins' skill, because while she does portray the horror of the situation, she doesn't do it in a way to alienate a majority of the YA audience with vast depictions of violence (depending on the kid, I'd think anywhere from ages 12-14 they could read this book). If she had created another Battle Royale, then I don't think the book would have reached as many kids (or adults), even with the same themes and storyline.

I feel the same way with Speak. It took me a long time to read Speak because before I thought, "Ew, rape. It's going to be so graphic!" But I finally decided to read it, and Laurie Halse Anderson is able to talk about rape in a way that doesn't mask the troubles and terrors that come with rape, but she also doesn't make it into a big scene that scarred me with too many details.

I know some people have a much more relaxed view of what kids should be exposed to. And I know some people are stiff-necked about it. I fall in the middle. Laurie Halse Anderson explained in a note at the end of my copy of Speak that, "America's teens are desperate for responsible, trustworthy adults to create situations in which they can discuss the issues that are of high concern for them." I don't believe in making an overly-graphic novel for a YA audience (and I don't consider The Hunger Games to be overly-graphic, so I wouldn't exactly say I'm a prude about it), but I don't believe in covering up subjects, either. It all comes down to the "responsible, trustworthy" part. Kids are expecting truth, but they're expecting it in a form they can become comfortable with the issues. And that's where books like The Hunger Games and Speak come in. Two different genres, two different subjects, but both targeting to YA and their needs.

So, to those negative commentors, yes, The Hunger Games can be seen as a Battle Royale for kids, but I don't think that makes it worse. I think it makes it even better.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tips for Baking

Last week I made a cake for my friend's birthday. I'm pretty much the designated cake-maker among my circle of friends. Since coming to college and living with people who see me make the cakes, but have no idea why I do certain things the way I do has made me realize how much my mom knew about baking that most people don't know.

So here are two things I've learned from my mom that are really helpful when you want to make a cake.

1. Put down the Crisco! I found out coming to college that people will put Crisco and flour on their pans so the cake doesn't stick. Way better option: get some wax paper and trace the bottom of the pan. Cut out the wax paper and put it at the bottom of the pan. Your cakes will come out (don't worry about the edges, they don't stick) and just peel off the wax paper. Seriously, it's 100 times better.

2. Freeze your cakes. Before you put the frosting on, it's best to let your cakes freeze for an hour or more. This makes them stiff, so it's easier to spread the frosting around. And my roommate noted that when I frosted the cake, there weren't any crumbs getting all up in the frosting. I've been watching this be done this way for so long, I didn't even know crumbs were an issue.

There you have it. Two easy ways to make your cake-baking experience easier! Do you have any culinary tips others don't often know about?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Yay for Blog Awards!

Thanks so much to Juliemybird for this blog award:
It certainly is lovely! The roses are beautiful.

And of course, I need to pass it along! So without further ado, I pass this award to:
1. Amanda the Aspiring
2. Abby Fowers
3. Bethany Elizabeth
4. Magpiewrites
5. Paige

And you know if I gave them an award, they're totally worth it to follow. So go on and follow them if you aren't already!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Yeah, I just wrote down PerNoFiMo, not NaNoWriMo. Because while I'm not officially participating in NaNo, I'm trying to embrace the spirit of it.

Last year I tried it, and I failed. I think part of it was that I decided a week before to do it, I didn't have an outline together, and this idea wasn't one that I could just spit out. I needed time to research and plan. So when it came time to write I hit a lot of brick walls and around 20,000 words I realized I would be using none of what I'd written. Plus, I spent a day driving home to California for Thanksgiving and a day driving back up to school. And once at home, I didn't want to write. I wanted to spend time with my friends, family, and cat.
Seriously, how could I write when I hadn't seen my kitty in 3 months?
I wasn't planning on doing NaNo this year. But then, a little idea I had began sprouting. And this one doesn't really need an outline or research, just a general idea and then I could run with it wherever I wanted. So tempting not to try again, except for a few things...

I'm sure you all know how it goes.

And, to top it all off, I'm still on a W.I.P right now that took a back seat when I came back to school.

I wanted to get in the spirit of NaNo though, and so what I decided was to have my own PerNoFiMo, or Personal Novel Finishing Month. This is going to be the month, guys. By November 30, I will have finished the first draft of my W.I.P. I'm currently at 45,000 words and hope to be anywhere between 65,000 and 75,000 by the time I finish. Anywhere between 20k-30k more to go.

Not quite (at all) 50,000 words, but it'll be a great accomplishment nonetheless.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review: Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Title: Gregor the Overlander
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Middle grade (fantasy)
Why I read it/how I found it: The author wrote The Hunger Games trilogy. I had to check out her other series.

When Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. This world is on the brink of war, and Gregor's arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland's uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it -- until he realizes it's the only way to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance. Reluctantly, Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.

This is a book I wished I'd picked up when I was younger (and when it came out, I was it's target audience). But I must say, better late than never. This world is really unique for a children's fantasy, because of how dark it is. Usually for kids a fantasy world is magical and sparkly, with only a streak of darkness to it. Yet despite the gloomy setting, it's not really oppressive or too scary. And I never thought I'd like a book with spiders, cockroaches, bats, and rats. But I did. And on top of that, I was really impressed with the characterization of Boots, Gregor's two-year-old sister. It's always been difficult for me to create a believable character under the age of five, and I find when they're in books they tend to be minor characters. She was believable in her age and understanding, but had her own personality at the same time. And of course, all of the other characters were amazing. I'm always impressed with how Suzanne Collins can make her characters breathe life, and the characters in Gregor the Overlander weren't any different.

Other information: There are four more books to this series. Suzanne Collins' website is here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

An Easy Tip

This is something that I learned in my class on writing literary criticism:

To see the pattern of your sentences and how long they are, wherever there's a period make a dot on the margin. This way, you can visualize the length of your sentences and see what areas are either lacking in dots or abounding in them. And, this doesn't take up a lot of your time (it's the whole fixing it that takes longer).

This helped me a lot in writing my essay, because it's important to have a lot of different sentence lengths when writing an essay. And in general, I think writing creatively a variety of sentence lengths is good, unless one is making a point with the length of syntax.

Just something quick I thought I'd share. :)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Inspiration of Awesomeness

I love it when I come across things that inspire me. Maybe not with a specific idea, but something that's so awesome it just makes me want to be awesome, too.

A few weeks ago I discovered one of these. I'm probably coming in late to the craze, but better late than never, right?

I've been completely taken away with Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. Yeah, it's pretty amazing. Here's the first part of it:
So if you haven't seen it yet, I'd suggest watching the whole thing (and it's only about 40 minutes, so it won't take too long). It's amazing.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Review: The Death Cure by James Dashner

Title: The Death Cure 
Author: James Dashner
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Genre: Young Adult (dystopian)
Why I read it/how I found it: I read the first two in the series, The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials so of course I need to finish the series!

Thomas knows that Wicked can't be trusted, but they say the time for lies is over, that they've collected all they can from the Trials and now must rely on the Gladers, with full memories restored, to help them with their ultimate mission. It's up to the Gladers to complete the blueprint for the cure to the Flare with a final voluntary test.
What Wicked doesn't know is that something's happened that no Trial or Variable could have foreseen. Thomas has remembered far more than they think. And he knows that he can't believe a word of what Wicked says.
The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine.
Will anyone survive the Death Cure?

This may be the most action-packed of the entire series, although that's hard to say because they all have a lot of action. But in this book especially, I saw it play out just like an action movie. There's certainly never a dull moment, and at times I realized how emotionally invested I was in these books, characters, and their lives and decisions. Now, in the midst of all of this action, I felt a little like Dashner added in a lot in the middle because he had an idea of the beginning and end, but needed filler for the middle. Just a lot of action and exciting stuff to add some pages onto the book. As for the ending of this series, I'll say that I'm satisfied. I'm a little disappointed with one aspect of the end (but won't say what so there'll be no spoilers), but not feeling cheated as a reader.

Other info: This is the conclusion to The Maze Runner Trilogy. The first book has been opted for a movie by Fox. You can find James Dashner's blog here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Winner of 100 Follower Giveaway

The signed copy of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin goes to...Jenna Miller! Jenna, I'll be emailing you to get your address. Please respond in 48 hours in order to ensure the book goes to you.

Okay, so when I was making the form to fill out for the giveaway, you might have noticed my super random question about cheese. Well, that's because the form looked a little blank, so I decided to add in a random question and that was the one that came into my head. But only two people answered the third option, "Why yes! My favorite's gouda!"

So I'm feeling that not a lot of people got the reference. And so, to bring you out of the dark, a clip from She's the Man (sorry about the quality, it was all I could find :/)
Yeah, pretty much one of the funniest movies ever. I'd quote this all the time with my friends in high school.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Yes, I am a Christian

Yes, I am going to venture into that realm in which we're not supposed to go. Religion. With a sprinkle of politics. Oh snap.

But you can breathe again, I'm not going to try and convert you. I just want to explain things that are often misunderstood, and have been recently.

Last week, a prominent Baptist minister, Dr. Robert Jeffress talked about why "born-again followers of Christ" shouldn't vote for Mitt Romney because he's "not a Christian." He says:
The Southern Baptist Convention, which is the largest Protestant denomination in the world, has officially labeled Mormonism as a cult. I think Mitt Romney's a good, moral man, but I think those of us who are born-again followers of Christ should always prefer a competent Christian to a competent non-Christian like Mitt Romney... A lot of people say they're Christians and they're not, but they do not embrace historical Christianity. And I, again, believe that as Christians, we have the duty to prefer and select Christians as our leaders. (Source)
Now, if you didn't catch that I'm in Utah attending Brigham Young University, and if that didn't tip it off to you, I'm a Mormon. My parents converted as adults, so about half of my family isn't Mormon and I've heard of their diverse beliefs. I grew up in California, and I've been in Utah for school for just over a year now. I attended church every week since I've been born, went to early morning seminary, as well as church camps and devotionals. I've been to a few services of different religions with friends growing up and talked with my friends about their religions, from Catholicism to Jehovah Witnesses to Hinduism, and I'm friends with several Atheists. I'd say between how I grew up and my own devotion, I have a sound understanding of other beliefs and of my own. At least enough to explain my opinions.

First, the official name of the "Mormon" church is The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-Day Saints. We got the nickname "Mormon" from our scripture, The Book of Mormon. But church leaders have made it clear this is not our official name, because we want to highlight the fact that Jesus Christ is at the center of our church.

Whenever we pray in church or private, we always end with the phrase, "In the name of Jesus Christ, amen." Two weeks ago I went to my bishop to get what's called a temple recommend, basically a form that gives me permission to enter into the temple, which is the holiest and most sacred of all LDS buildings. In this interview, he asked me, "Do you have a testimony of Jesus Christ?" I answered, "Yes." If I had answered, "no" then I wouldn't have been allowed to go into the temple. Any member who doesn't have a testimony of Jesus Christ can't be a part of this extremely sacred place. It's essential to us that we believe in Him. Even The Book of Mormon, which is often criticized because it isn't the Bible, has the full title of "The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ." In this "un-Christian" book, a name or title which references Christ is in every 1.7 verses.

Dr. Jeffress and others are perhaps startled with our "image" of Jesus. We don't believe in the trinity. We believe that God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings who are "one" in that they have the same goal. We also believe that Jesus came to the Americas after his resurrection as a fulfillment of the scripture found in John 10:16: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also must I bring, and they shall hear my voice." This visit to the Americas is recorded in The Book of Mormon.

These, among a few other reasons, is what Dr. Jeffress claims make us not Christian, because we don't, as he put it, "embrace historical Christianity." I'll tell you a bit more of what I and the other Mormons believe:

I believe Jesus was born to the virgin Mary, with God as His Father. I believe in the words of the Old and New Testament. I believe that He healed the sick, walked on water, raised the dead. I believe He suffered for our sins and died on the cross for us. I believe that without Him, I wouldn't be able to progress into heaven. I believe that on the third day, He was resurrected from the dead. I believe He'll come again.

Any other Christians disagree with any of that?
Mormons do differ on some points, there's no denying. But so do several other Christian faiths differ among each other. That doesn't make them any less Christian. Because in the end, we all believe that Jesus Christ is our way to salvation. And that is what makes us Christian.

On the "cult" thing, I can see why an outsider would see that. We do what our leaders tell us, generally. Some mistake this for blind faith. I'll tell you, though, that there isn't one principle or belief I haven't studied out and prayed about on my own. We are told to ask for ourselves. I've done that. I'm not going by blind faith. I'm choosing this on my own free will, after a lot of thought on the matter. Also, our temple can seem secretive, which suggests a cult. I've heard crazy things like we sacrifice animals and babies there and we get married naked (none of these are true, in case you were wondering). We, however, prefer the term sacred over secret. What happens in there is so special that only those completely devoted and mature can understand it, and thus participate and see it once the temple has been dedicated to the Lord. I've only been in one part of the temple. I'm approaching the age where I can go in farther, but I'm waiting so that I'm ready. Do you see? Nineteen years of preparation and I'm still getting ready. How could someone claiming we're not Christians and a cult go in and understand? They can't. It would become a mockery, and it already has to those who don't get it.

Now, personally I feel that a majority of other Christians recognize Mormons as fellow Christians. This has been floating around my facebook:
I've been blessed to come across so many who while they don't share my beliefs, accept me and my religion, even if we do seem (and are) a little strange. This is a response to a very minute number of people, as well as some who might have had some question marks over their heads about this.

For the comments--please no negativity. I've heard it all, and I'm still going to church and reading my Book of Mormon, so you'll be wasting your time trying to convince me otherwise. And if you have any questions, feel free to ask, I'd love to answer. :)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Title: Blood Red Road
Author: Moira Young
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: Young Adult (dystopian)
Why I read it/how I found it: Moira Young was at a book signing I went to this week.

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when four cloaked horsemen capture Lugh, Saba's world is shattered, and she embarks on a quest to get him back. Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the outside world, Saba discovers she is a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba’s unrelenting search for Lugh stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Ok, so this book has a lot of great action in it. The world is ruthless and brutal, so the characters in it need to fight a lot. There's never a slow moment in it, which I very much appreciated. However. I don't think this book was the best fit for me. Why? This book is written in dialect. I cannot stand it when prose is written in dialect. I mean, there's a difference between showing voice and writing how people speak. It was just difficult for me to get past it. I had to read for large amounts of time to get the rhythm of it down. And, frankly, I didn't think there was a point to it other than showing they're uneducated and tough, which is stereotypical to give the characters a southern dialect. But even worse than that is there were no quotation marks. Sometimes I'd read something and then realize it wasn't Saba narrating it, it was someone else saying it. Also, Saba's character growth was too fast for me. She was a follower of Lugh, not showing an abundance of backbone, but then she turns all bad-a and can fight like no other. I'm all for character growth, but not a 180 change in two pages. However, the relationship between Saba and her little sister Emmi was adorable to read. That progressed very naturally and beautifully. I feel like the world needs a lot more description in the upcoming books in the series, because while it isn't lacking, there are questions that need to be explained.

Other information: This is a series (unsure of how many there will be right now). Also, Ridley Scott's production company has picked up rights to Blood Red Road for a movie.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The 100 Follower Giveaway

Yes, last week I passed the 100 mark on followers. *cue confetti and noise blowers* You guys are all AWESOME SOCKS. Yeah, that's right, not just awesome and not just socks, but awesome socks (ok...I literally have no idea where that phrase came from, but I'm running with it).

Now...what do I have for all (one) of you?

A signed copy of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin. In case you want to know more about it, here's my review. But to the point: it was ah-mazing.

So, no need for blog posts or twittering or anything like that (unless you want to, but you don't get anything extra). The only thing is that you must be following my blog to enter the 100 follower giveaway.

Fill out this form and you'll be good to go. Contest ends next week, October 20 at 10:00 AM MST.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Early Work blogfest

Juliemybird has put together a blogfest on the early work of our writing lives. You can find out about it here.

Well, first thing's first. Julie asked that we include a picture of a dinosaur or wolf in our blog post (well, we get an extra entry, and that's easy enough). Snaps if you know this awesome movie:
In first and second grade we had these writing journals and that's where I started to actually write my stories. There's not too much from first grade, except I wrote an awesome one where a princess wanted a pet (me...I always wanted one but didn't get one until I was 13) so she runs away from her family (are you hearing me Mom and Dad?) and has a pet lion that doesn't eat her, a pet monkey, and doves that send messages to her family. She's very happy with her pets and her treehouse.

Then in third grade I branched out and wrote my first chapter book. It was about a mermaid princess who had to marry a prince she didn't like, and she fell in love with a common merman who was so handsome and cool. And of course in the end she gets to marry the awesome merguy that she loves.
My mermaid princess had a seashell bra, but this one's otherwise close to mine.
I wrote some other stuff through my other elementary years, and then come seventh grade Lord of the Rings was in. So I wrote about elves and human relationships, and how a king had taken a half-elf, half-human girl as his daughter because he loved her mother, who died. Then the princess is rescued by three elves who take her to the elvish lands where she finds out that her dad is an elf. Naturally, she falls in love with one of the elves who journeyed with her, while the other two were more comic relief characters. There's lots of archery in it, of course. So yes, thank you Legolas for that inspiration.
Look at him. He was the most attractive one to a 13-year-old girl.
I did try a bit in the contemporary genre. I played volleyball since sixth grade, and so in high school (freshman year) I wrote In It For the Spandex, which featured preppy girls joining the volleyball team to get out of P.E. and their clashing with the jock girls. Lots of teenage drama in a very Disney channel-esque fashion with plenty of cute boys and homecoming dances to go around.
Spandex was always my least favorite part of volleyball. Too short, too much bunching! we're pretty much up to where I am today, at least, as recent as 5 years. So what about you? What was some of your early work about?