Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter Sunday!

Happy Easter and last day of March! I also believe it's the end of Lent, so happy that, as well!

Easter is so much more than bunnies and Easter eggs. It's so much more than candy, gifts, and going to church in your best clothes.

Today, of course, is a blessed day: it's the day of that most central event of Christianity, the resurrection of Christ. It's that symbolic day that Jesus came back to life.

The Easter bunny and eggs are symbols,of course: the white bunny for innocence and purity, the eggs as a symbol of rebirth. But they are poor substitutes for the real story behind the holiday. It's one of the reasons I am glad I am not atheist: because it's a holiday with meaning behind it.

(Not that I have anything against atheists. I'm just kinda sad that holidays like Christmas and Easter mean nothing to them, because they don't believe in the story behind them.)

It's the day Jesus came back, guys. For the three days He was dead, Christians died for Him. There was no quabble between Catholics and Protestants, no debating the methods of baptism. There was a single type of Christian: those who upheld the belief that God's Only Son died for them, and would come back.

And He did. He rose from the grave on Easter, to show the world that He is God's Son, and death cannot hold Him.

If you're not Christian, that's cool. If you don't believe, then that's fine. But I do believe, so I wrote a short post on why this story means a lot to me. It's Easter Sunday, and a Christian holiday, so I feel entitled to write a post on my Christian beliefs.

Have a truly blessed day. And here's an Easter song from Veggietales ('cuz that's how I roll) for you to listen to. =)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Follow Friday #38

[YAY! Spring Break! I have all of next week off. I'm so happy; I can finally watch Downton Abbey and Doctor Who uninterrupted. And also, it's Good Friday. Happy Good Friday, if that's what you believe in!]

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: Tell us about the most emotional scene you've ever read in a book -- and how did you react?

Ooh, that's tough. I'm not much of an emotional person; I rarely cry. Like, ever.

But I did finish reading Between Shades of Gray (Ruta Sepeteys) recently. Oh goodness, that whole book is heartbreaking. Especially the end, but I'm not spoiling that. I don't think I cried, but I came mighty close. It was certainly emotional when I set it down -- I almost didn't pick up another book the next day.

And if we're going awhile back, I remember when I read the Warriors series by Erin Hunter. I became really attached to those characters. It's about the lives of these wild cats who live in a forest in 4 distinct clans, and the interactions between those clans.

I first read those books in 4th grade, and by the end of middle school I'd read most of them at least once, if not twice or three times. I remember a scene in the 3rd book where a cat dies, and I cried for hours. (Of course, I was in middle school, or perhaps 5th grade -- I was a little girl who loved every book, regardless of anything.)

Well, that's... really it. I don't get overly upset about things -- of the books I do get really attached to, they don't often involve something overly emotional, or if they do, it's forgotten, because it's balanced with humors and layers of depth that makes me somewhat more peaceful about it. What can I say? I'm a bit desensitized. We all are, in some form.

How about you? Any emotional scenes that left you in tears? I'd love to hear! Have a blessed Friday, and an awesome weekend!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Cleaning and Cleaner Words

Technically, it's spring now!

I say "technically" because it snowed Sunday and Monday. We actually had Monday off as a snow day. But now the weather's all clear and sunny and sort-of warm, like a real spring day. Yea, our weather's unpredictable. Wouldn't have it any other way -- keeps life spicy.

(I don't think that's the proper expression. Maybe it's "It's the spice of life." Oh, well.)

Anyways, I've finally cleaned my room! A little. I actually found my copy of Strunk and White, and a notebook of Quotes-I-Like. Really, I just took the dirty clothes out of my room, cleared off my desk, and organized that one row of my "reference" bookshelf. (Hint: it includes a book I had to read for a Psychology assignment, a book on cat body language, and a book on ghosts of the American South. Haha, "reference", like it's actual research and I actually read them cover to cover.)

I'm even using sunlight instead of my regular lights. Instead of a curtain, I just have a blanket over my window, because my old curtains let in too much moonlight/lamplight at night and I couldn't sleep. I've pinned it back and it's awesome. It reminds me of those days when I was a little kid, sharing a room with my little sister, and I griped at her to save power.

Now that I'm sixteen, I don't use sunlight much. I don't know why. I can't get past how good it feels to see and not run up the power bill at the same time. And to have a desk that doesn't look like it's owned by a messy five year old. And to actually be able to see the floor of my room.

It's not a really popular chore, but I recommend cleaning. Not like, every day, but like once a month or whatever, when the stuff piles really high. That feeling of accomplishment has me bouncing like I've drunk too much sweet tea. Like I've drunk too much of my version of sweet tea, which has way too much sugar in it.

What does this have to do with words? I mean, other than the fact that I'm using words to write this blog post and not just posting random pictures to get my point across.

I started my fourth or fifth draft of my novel. (I can't remember which. Counting is not high on my list of skills, alright?) The words are just flowing. I forget the homework piled up, the end of the nine weeks being two days away and my math grade still too low, and the stress of the AP exams being a month or two away.

The words feel... cleaner now. I don't know. I started writing a new draft because the plot still didn't feel right and I can't change it without changing the ending, so here it is. Apparently, there's a big difference between kidnapping and going along willingly-yet-reluctantly (don't ask). Perhaps because it's a 4th-or-5th draft that's changed dramatically, but it really makes me happy how easy it is as-of-now.

There'll be hard spots later on, of course, especially in the true middle-to-end of the story, but I can't help feeling tickled by the reminder of why I write. For these days, when I can just let it flow from head to hand to keyboard and computer. It reminds me that writing my first novel isn't so impossible as that little voice makes it seem, and that perhaps I will be published one day. Perhaps people will love my work one day, and there's purpose to these words that let themselves out of my head.

I feel like I'm just waxing eloquent now. I mean, I mean it -- I am genuinely smiling for the first time in awhile -- I'm just not sure why I decided to share any of this with you.

Well, there you go. A blog post on my feelings and just how messy my room is. Next week I'll try to actually plan something out for you. (Do you notice how often I use the word "actually"? Is it distracting you? Because I just noticed it and it's kinda distracting me.)

Anyways, happy spring! Have a blessed Wednesday (and Thursday and Friday)!


Friday, March 22, 2013

Follow Friday #37

[Whew! Thank goodness it's Friday!]

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure as far as reading? Is it a genre, or is it a certain type of book?

I love epic fantasy. You know the type: other worlds, adventure, magic. The works. If it avoids tangling romance into its already complicated mix, even better.

Don't get me wrong. I love plenty of types of reading -- as soon as I finish reading my current book, the Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (fantasy), I plan on picking up Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (historic). And after that, Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (memoir).

But really, fantasy is my genre. The medieval type, with a strong heroine and no romance and weird premises, that is my style. Hard to find books like these at my local Barnes and Noble, but they're worth it. One of the reasons I write -- so I can add to the meager collection of my specific style of book.

Really, though, if it's fantasy, I'll consider it over other types of books. Even with romance, I might choose the fantasy over, say, a memoir or a general fiction. What can I say? It's a guilty pleasure.

What about you? Any special preferences? Have a blessed Friday!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Quick Update and Apology

Hello! I apologize for my brief, unintended hiatus. It's been schoolwork, headaches, and 2 or 3 Law and Order: SVU marathons.

So, it's Wednesday...

Update on my life: meh. We have spring break the first week of April, so the teachers are ramming information down our throats, especially in the AP classes. Exams are in May, so they all plan on spending the month of April reviewing for it. Which means, they have to get through teaching everything they have to teach before spring break.

Anyways. Enough of schoolwork! Here's a list of songs I love and decided to share with you. Listen, love or hate.

Owl City -- Shooting Star
Krystal Meyers -- Make Some Noise

The Corpse Bride (yes, the movie!) -- Tears to Shed
Britt Nicole -- When She Cries

Linkin Park -- New Divide
Skillet -- Monster

Have a blessed Wednesday and Thursday! Keep Calm and listen to music!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Can one girl unite two worlds?
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend the court as ambassadors and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift -- one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the page.

~Print copy, 451 pages (from the library)
Published: 2012 by Random House

I agree with a statement in that last paragraph, up there in the summary: the rich, complex world bit.

Hartman's world is fully thought out, fully alive. Religion, politics, terminology, technology -- all was perfect-clear to me. The dragons, when they become human, are saarantrai; their lesser cousins, who can't fly and can't turn into a human, are quigutl. Everything has a name, a place.

The premise itself, of course, is interesting. I wouldn't have picked it up otherwise. A dragon-human treaty? Dragons that turn to humans, to become scholars? And tension when a royal member of the family is suspected to have been murdered by a dragon? Of course I picked it up.

The writing was decent. It was pretty lyrical, actually, the type of writing you expect from a fantasy novel: not Tolkien, not Lewis, not Rowling, but a mix of all of the above. And I don't meant that it sounded like a knockoff; rather, it sounded like a classic.

I could have done without the romance, though. That summary made me think Kiggs was some old, grizzled man from the dragon wars. Really, he's the same age as Seraphina... and he's betrothed to his cousin, the second heir, Glissenda... and of course, romance has to blossom.

I say this too often, perhaps, but I am not a fan of romance. The romance played a decent part of this novel -- I don't want to say a large part of it, but a good amount-- and I felt it didn't really belong there. I'm kinda picky that way. Let me explain.

For example: in the Hunger Games (the first book, anyhow) the romance was necessary. It blended in, it was integrated, and it was necessary: if Katniss didn't at least pretend to love Peeta, in a convincable manner, she might have to kill the boy who had once saved her life. In Seraphina, however, it seemed like a side note: something extra to add in. It didn't feel like that at all. Just sort of, oh look here's two teenagers -- they should fall in love.

Seraphina also cried a decent bit in this novel. I couldn't fathom why. It wasn't that she was weak, it was just that... she cried a good amount of tears. I could understand some tears, especially in your typical patriarchal-world-where-women-are-nothing. But Seraphina didn't seem like that much of a crybaby. She seemed like a deep character: her love of music that led her to a palace, the true hatred she feels for herself for what she is (read the book to understand that), the awkwardness around family and strangers because she cannot feel like she truly belings. 

The other characters were pretty cool, though. I loved the secrets, and how it tore apart her friendships with others; Kiggs was an alright character, and I liked Glissenda. And Orma, her uncle and teacher.

But really, overall, the good outwieghs the cons doublefold. A little bit held me back, but I did really like this novel -- its world, the premise, the characters. A definite 4 stars.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Follow Friday #36

(I love the number 36 -- such a lovely even number. Perfect square; and divides by four. *sigh* I have had a long week. Pardon this little side note on numbers.)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: What is a book you didn't like that all your friends raved about or what book did you love that wasn't popular?

The first part of that question:
I didn't like Twilight.* My sister is absolutely obsessed with it -- though I don't remember if she actually read the book, or if she just watched the movie and heard the hype -- and is Team Edward, apparently.
I read the entire Twilight series. I kept hoping it would get better, but it never did. I wanted to see the hype, I really did; I even bought a copy of New Moon, which sits on my bookshelf right now, with my own money (as opposed to getting it from the library). But it just never flew with me. Bella seemed too stuck in herself, and too obsessed with Edward. Edward might've turned out a cool guy, if he wasn't so stuck in himself, too, moaning about how such a bad guy he is.

The second part:
Can I answer more than one book?
I read a lot of books that other people haven't heard of, for whatever reason. Sometimes it's YA, sometimes it's MG, sometimes fantasy or science fiction or whatever. It's kind of interesting, and a lovely feeling -- it feels like a secret between me and the author; not any of that generic junk you find off any bookshelf, or that's so popular, it seems generic simply because it appeals to so many.
Here are a few titles:
Varjak Paw by SF Said
The Divide by Elizabeth Kay
Dragon's Bait by Vivian Vande Velde
The Minstrel's Daughter by Linda Smith
(This list is kinda subjective. I don't know the level of popularity these books have, or perhaps have had in the past. But most people I know would look at me funny if I made some reference to the book.)

So, that's my answers. What were yours? Any special love for the unpopular books? Any disdain for popular books you feel shouldn't make the cut?

*I didn't underline Twilight like I underlined the other books, because Twilight is sufficiently popular that you could recognize it as a book or a reference immediately; it seemed a bit extraneous. As I said, I didn't really want to hate the book, and I don't mean any slight against it by not underlining it. Just wanted to make that super-clear.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Eleanor Updale

When a petty thief falls through a glass roof in his attempt to escape the police, what should have been the death of him marks the beginning of a whole new life, After his broken body is reconstructed by an ambitious young doctor, he is released from prison, and -- with the help of Victorian London's extensive sewer system -- he becomes the most elusive burglar in the city. He adopts a dual existence as a respectable, wealthy gentleman named Montmorency and his degenerate servant Scarper. But Montmorency must always be on his guard. The smallest mistake could reveal his secret and ruin both his lives.
Eleanor Updale's writing is witty and wholly original. With a unique perspective and a voice reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe, Montmorency is a cleverly told, gripping adventure story.

~Print copy (from the library)
Published: 2003 by Orchard Books

I've read this book before. So, immediately, you know that this is a book that caught my spark.

Where to begin?

First off, I like that name. Montmorency. It rolls off the tongue. It sounds really dramatic and exotic and a cool name to have if you're a character from an adventure novel.

I love the premise. Montmorency, or Prisoner 493, is broken; a young doctor by the name Farcett stitches him up again... and shows off his nearly-naked body as a science exhibit for the Scholarly Circle (not the actual name of the group). You know, the rich, snooty scientists, who examine his body as if 493 is not a human being but some sort of practice mannequin. A doll, with scars to show off, so the doctor can tell the crowd how he fixed this problem on his thigh and ask how he might get into that wound on his back.

So, when Montmorency gets out of prison, he writes a note. He dresses like a servant and delivers that note to a fancy hotel, which tells the manager to rent out a suite with a good view to a Montmorency -- meanwhile, he, as the servant Scarper, would prepare the room for his master.

Quite an ingenious plan, really. He learned of the sewer system in one of those scholarly meeting, and he decides to use those sewers to get around the city, stealing valuables and then just dropping down into the filth, out of sight, while the police search vainly aboveground.

As I said, genius premise. I think it kind of speaks for itself.

I really like Montmorency the character, as well. For a prisoner, servant, and snooty elite, he was a good choice for POV. (In 3rd person, of course.) He had freedoms the rich didn't have, and he had the money most servants didn't have, and as a prisoner he'd attended those lectures to show him off, and he learned a great deal from them -- a luxury most prisoners didn't have.

More than that, he was devious and quick-minded, and a darn good actor. He is, of course, morally ambigious and a criminal, but Updale wrote this cleverly enough that he's a really likeable criminal.

My third point: the adventure. The action. His getting around society and fooling everybody makes for a good story, and I didn't mention the surprise at the end. I kind of thought it almost abrupt, that last quarter or so of the book; but in retrospect, you can look back and see how it built up to it. I'm not telling you that ending.

I didn't really have anything against this book. Or if I did, I didn't really notice. I give this a definite 5 stars.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Follow Friday #35

Happy 1st of March! Lovely, green month, full of unexpected weather. It could snow, or it could be seventy degrees outside. You can never tell with this finicky month, and I have no breaks off from school, but at least green is a pretty color.

Anyways.... Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee.

Q: Confess your blogger sins! Is there anything as a newbie blogger that you've done, that as you gained more experience you were like -- oops?

Um, not really. I had horrid color choice. Still do, but I like this scheme a lot better than some of the others I've chosen. I've been blogging close to a year now, so I hope I've learned something.

Truth is, I've focused more on everything else than on my blog and on my writing. I think that's what I've realized is the biggest blunder -- letting myself slack on self-imposed writing/blogging deadlines. If I can't keep my own deadlines, how will I ever keep to others' deadlines? Little wonder I do poorly with homework.

The question today probably meant more of an extended incidence, but I think most of my blunders are not the sort of blunders that happen once and I go, "oops!" They're the sort of blunders I repeat over and over, because it's a by-product of my mindset. I really have to work on this; perhaps March is the month I'll actually get around to being social. If I can drag myself out of my own little world.

So, really.... I forgot where I was going with this. Dang it. I think I meant to say that that pretty much sums it up. sorry -- I'm writing this at like, 10:15 pm. It's past my bedtime. So, good night, have a blessed Friday and weekend!