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?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book Review: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

Title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Author: Michelle Hodkin
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: Young Adult (???)
Why I read it/how I found it: Michelle Hodkin is coming to my local library.

Description: Mara Dyer doesn't think life can get any stranger than walking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.
She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed. There is.
She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. She's wrong.

Review: Usually when a book I read is young adult, I put the genre it is in parenthesis. As you can tell, for this book I didn't. I only put question marks. Because really, anything else would be almost insulting; it's one of those fabulous books that you can't just put in one category. It's so creepy, so would it go under horror? Because of Mara's PTSD that makes her hallucinate would it be a psychological book? Or is there something beyond, that means Mara isn't crazy and it's paranormal? And of course there's the romance of the novel to tie in as well. This book has everything. Sometimes a scene would be so funny or similar to something in a contemporary novel that I'd forget about the underlying question of what really happened that night Mara's friends were killed, and what does she have to do with it. And then the next page I'd be getting that wonderful sensation of getting creeped out. I loved trying to go through Mara's mind and seeing what she sees, wondering if she's crazy or if there's something more to her. It's something that I really want to go back and read more in-depth and maybe get a little English major on it and analyze. The rest of the characters were a breath of fresh air. They weren't typical stereotypes. Her entire family was unique and I could see them all as a person, not a name on print. And Noah. Oh, Noah, how could I not talk about you? Admittedly, when first introduced I thought, "Great. Another one of those bad boys that only our heroine can make fall in love with her and forsake his heartbreak ways." But Noah has so much more to him than that. He's not a perfect person, he's done bad things in the past, but he has reason to care for Mara. It's a wonderful romance.
And oh my heck, I need to get to the next book (which isn't out yet). The ending is killer!

Other information: There is at least one more book, I don't know if there'll be more, and I couldn't find any information on that. You can find Michelle Hodkin's website here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My first book club!

I'm so excited because tomorrow I'll be going to my first book club meeting. Hooray! I've never had a book club before, so usually I turn to the internet to talk about books I've read and adored (or disliked...but let's focus on adored). I'll always turn online to get more opinions, but I'm really excited to have a whole group of people to talk books with.

This all started a few weeks ago at the English Society opening social. Amongst the English Society, you can break off into interest groups. They had a table of already-existing groups and blank sheets to start your own, if it could gather enough interest. I was looking around at the groups, and some of them were subjects such as Shakespeare, Poe, C.S. Lewis, poetry, all things that make you think of classics.

Now, I love Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis, and Poe and poetry are things I can enjoy, too. But that's the stuff I read and talk about in my classes. I spend homework analyzing all of that. If I was going to spend my free time in a club, I wanted it to be something I read outside of a class.

So, amongst the Shakespeares and poetry, I took a blank sheet and made the group, Young Adult. Bam. I'll admit, I was anxious people would just want to show off and be smart and not join my group, but they did.  The initial interest sheet was filled, and there are probably at least 15 people still interested in it. I'm pretty happy with myself.

It's taken the English Society a while to get us all organized, but I met with a girl I'll be co-leading the group with today and I'm so excited for this. It's gonna be totally awesome!

Have you ever been in a book club? Ever start one? And, do you have any suggestions for what we should read this upcoming year?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Book Review: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

First blog's passed 100 followers! Whoohoo!! I'm in the triple digits now! Thank you all so much for following me. :) I'll have a 100 follower give-away soon, I promise. I just need a little more time so it'll be awesome. Now, the review:
Title: Nightshade
Author: Andrea Cremer
Publisher: Turtleback Books
Genre: Young Adult (paranormal)
Why I read it/how I found it: Andrea Cremer was at a book signing I went to with Kiersten White and Stephenie Perkins.

Calla is the alpha female of a shape-shifting wolf pack, destined to marry the pack's alpha male. When she saves a beautiful human boy, Calla begins to question everything—her fate, her existence, her world, and the orders the keepers have asked her to follow.

Obviously there's a TRIANGLE going on here. I'm pretty sure whenever there is one in a book you'll be hearing it from me because I'm pretty exhausted from reading them. I guess two people falling in love isn't complicated enough these days. On the up side, it wasn't the worst triangle I've ever read about. If I wasn't so tired of them I might have actually enjoyed it. But as it is...meh. When first beginning the book, I thought that Calla's character was a little forced. You know, strong, tough girls are popular so let's just make her strong and tough. Eventually, getting to know her world and read more, her tough-girl personality made a lot more sense to me and her character was natural. I suppose here it was a strong this is her character beginning without giving me reason why, and making it in the beginning feel too forced, however eventually she started to feel more real to me. In relation also to Calla's world, I loved it. I loved the mythology and the unique spin on werewolves. I wish that things had been cleared up at first instead of 150 pages in, but I was able to follow the storyline, so I guess that's what's important.

Other information: This is a trilogy. Wolfsbane is out now and the third, Bloodrose, will be out February of 2012. A companion novel is also in the works. You can find Andrea Cremer's website here.