Friday, January 24, 2014


I found a collection of Mozart's letters translated into English on Scribd. I don't normally use Scribd; usually only my mother uses it, to look up books on knitting and crochet. But I found my Nano draft, which is about Mozart, so in a research frenzy I decided to read through them and take notes.

Here are a few of those notes:

  • Born: 17th January 1756 in Salzburg, Austria. Father: Leopold Mozart, an intelligent, ambitious man who's always used his knowledge of music to get ahead. Wolfgang and Nannerl were the only two of Leopold's seven children who survived.
  • By the age of four, Mozart required only 30 min. - 1 hour to learn a piece of music. By age five, he was composing short pieces.
  • In 1769, letter (in Latin) to his sister: "I should like to know the reason why indolence is so highly prized by very many young men, that neither by words nor blows will they suffer themselves to be roused from it."
  • At the very least, he knows Latin and Italian (and, I presume, German). Very knowledgeable about opera and singing, as well.
  • Apparently fond of a poet named Herr Gellert (though I believe "Herr" might be a title, not a first name.)
  • August 1771: "I don't like to sleep after eating."
  • 1777: he gets up at 8:30 in the morning, spends the entire morning composing/writing, then afternoons giving lessons to various individuals, and then after supper he converses with his students or reads a book.
  • He always refers to his mother as "mamma," even in 1777 when he is almost 20 years old.
  • Seems to be very honest and good-natured; in a letter to his cousin, he rhymes the entire thing.

This is a somewhat short list, but rather specific. And it sort of makes me rethink making him the bad guy in my Nano draft; it's easy to see why no one touches him in regular fiction. But I still want to make him a bad guy, even if it's just because he's too good-humored for me. I think I've settled on making a Bad Guy By Neglect.

Perhaps one day I'll manage to organize and edit this Nano draft into a proper novel. And while he might not figure quite so large a role as the villain, he might still make a great source for tension, busy as he is with all that opera-writing.

Have a blessed day. :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Quick Update.

So, I planned on doing a book review of Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve, but I still don't know how I feel about it. Sort of uneasy-concluded-finished-with-it sort of attitude. Yea, it doesn't make much sense to me, either.

So, quick update of my life:

  • I went to visit my sister two hours away from where I live, and to take a tour of a college just a few blocks from where she lives. It's the furthest I've been from my house in years. It was like a freaking Lord of the Rings adventure for me.
  • That college? Yea, it's very... big. Grand, classical furniture, really good technology, two theaters and nice people and living on campus all four years. I'm applying, but I have no clue if I would actually go there, unless they offered me a full scholarship.
  • I was meant to go to another college tour, too, but my mother has trouble navigating big cities like where my sister lives, so we called and rescheduled for sometime next week. My mother's car is a stick-shift with no power steering, and the city in question has, like 90-degree roads* because it's located in the foothills of some mountains. 'Nuff said.
  • I've gone driving more! Instead of the small Mustang, though, it's our big ole Suburban. And that thing's a freakin' tank. Still, my dad has relaxed some and says I've been improving already.
  • I went to Hobby Lobby. Apart from bookstores, craft stores are among the greatest places to be. They're just so interesting. Miniature Victorian-style dollhouses (about five, all of which would come up to my waist if they'd been set on the ground); strange owl and frog statues; expensive-looking paintings of flowers, street corners, and paths in the woods; many, many decorative crosses; and a whole aisle of stickers. It's like some creative world that exploded inside a mundane building.
  • I have had a snow day today and yesterday. And we didn't have school Monday, either, because of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And I went to visit my sister last Friday. So I haven't ben in school for a pretty darn long time, and I'm getting a little giddy. (Oh yea, and we don't have school tomorrow, either.)
  • My laptop has -- again -- shut down on me. This is the one I just got for Christmas. I don't know if it's me, or if I just get really terrible laptops. 

So, yea. This is what's been going on. I've started free online courses on Coursera and Open2Study, one on water and one on morality, so I'm not completely academic-free. I've settled on a relaxation day tomorrow; watching TV, maybe going to the library. Not much.

Anyways, I hope you have a blessed day! (Especially if it involves snow and no school!)

*Not literally 90 degree angles. Just really, really steep hills, and confusing turns -- like, fork in the roads instead of the neat square intersections like what I'm used to around home.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Hello, people, and happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. :)

To be honest, I know little about him, only as much as any average public school student might discern from your average history class: that he was a famous civil right's activist, he did this great speech in which, at some point, he says, "I have a dream!" Etc.

It makes me a little sad, that such a name, spoken with such awe and respect as it is, is barely known to me. Sometimes, I just want to look him up, study every inch of his life: why, what made this man stand up and say something, when so many others didn't or couldn't? What makes his name so famous, when others, just as great, blend into the background of history?

And other times, I think to myself, Why can't I remember him as I like to remember historical figures, as little things all mixed up together -- why can't I see the things like what he had for breakfast every morning, and how much or little he loved his kids, and what sort of job he had for a living, besides writing speeches and standing up against the white folks, since I can't imagine either of those pastimes making a lot of money.

This is my major problem with learning a limited amount of what-happens-in-the-real-world: I end up split two ways, between studying the emotionality of his public persona and the tiny details that make up every inch of his ordinary life. Why they can't teach such stuff in classrooms, I don't know; all I know is the limited amount of information I am given, the amount you would expect history classes named such vague terms as "world history" and "AP US history."

I suppose I have a dream, too, and that's to learn more about the people behind the historical figures. And I wish I could say I will start with Martin Luther King, Jr., as he seems like an interesting, bold sort of person to have known, and even after his death there must be accounts somewhere. But I grudgingly have an AP biology test on cellular respiration, an AP government test on the presidency, and other such non-specifically-person-oriented things to study for.

Happy remembrance, people. And have a blessedly free day.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Driving Lessons

So, I drove for the first time today.

And I do do not mean this is the first time I've driven today. I mean that I've been asking for driving lessons since I got my learner's permit, and my parents have finally relented and took me out in our white mustang for a first lesson.

Driving, obviously, is not a skill that comes naturally.

I have avoided any major incidents, but according to my father, I need to work on my steering. And staying to the right side of the road. And accelerating. But hey, I didn't crash into anything -- my dad jerked the steering wheel before I had a chance to do so.

People apparently do not like first-time drivers. As I'm going along at about 5-10 miles an hour in my little neighborhood, two cars pull up behind me, and my dad indicates for me to pull over and let them pass, and, like, I can see their faces looking down at me from their big cars -- they are scowling at me. Completely annoyed, as if they hadn't once been in my position.

We drove up and down the relatively straight road, learning to turn and when to press the gas -- and which one is the gas, and which one is the brake -- and then we ride around the block. I pushed the accelerator all the way up to 15 miles an hour. My hands are still shaking.

I should've started learning to drive several years ago, back at age 15 (and 6 months, as per state law). But I didn't even get my learner's permit until I was sixteen, and it's taken me over a year to convince my parents that driving in the 21st century is a skill I must learn to possess.

And let me say, we probably should've never invented automobiles. Driving is as stressful as it gets for me, and I'm one of those ultra-slow, careful drivers. (I learned that in go-carting. They kicked me off the track, I was driving so slow.) And, yes, it's nice to be able to travel to relatively far away places with relative ease, but dang -- is it hard to keep your attention on mirrors, road, and which pedal your foot is pressing.

And, since I don't take pictures of our family car, please enjoy a photo of my cat. I'd bet Sarabie is perfectly happy avoiding all cars. And traveling in general.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it -- Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else.
And then, one day, Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to friends at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it's never that simple. And it turns out she was right. Jack's heart had been frozen, and he had been taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now it's up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him.
Anne Ursu, acclaimed author of the Cronus Chronicles, has written a stunningly original fairy tale of modern-day America. Inspired by the Hans Christian Anderson story "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is in turn a remarkable middle-grade adventure, a dazzling ode to the power of fantasy, and a heartbreaking meditation on how growing up is as much a choice as it is something that happens to us.

~Print copy, 312 pages
Published: 2011 by Walden Pond Press

Well, darn. I should know better by now that I get restless over books about growing up.

I loved the writing of this book. Beautiful voice, kind of American-ish and reference-y. Hazel is a lovely character; very creative, and misunderstood, an outsider in fifth grade, but she never gave up being creative. She daydreams, reads stories, and thinks in story terms. Exactly how I was. And still am.

But she was always a little dependent on Jack. And while I have little experience in friendships, I didn't really see... why. They had adventures, she could always count on him to not judge her, but she seemed very focused on him. She looked into his classroom and made faces at him while his teacher's back was turned, she met him outside... at one point, she remembers how they were pretending to face down a dragon, and when she suggested that she rescued him, he refused.

Gender played a rather nuanced role in this, I think. It's not just growing up. Yes, she changes over the course of the story, as she sees things that are real, not fairy tales, that are horrible and somewhat depressing. She walks into a woods wanting to bring her friend back, and she finds that anyone who is looking for something goes in there, and not all of them remain sane. But some of the things dropped in there, it had a way of... I don't know. Looking at things nuanced.

Hazel was always there to comfort Jack, through his mother's fall into depression, but she's not enough. It's stated that he willingly goes with the white witch, over and over again. She's always trying to bring him up, she's always looking at his drawings and smiling at him and trying to remind him who he really is. And the only mention of Jack reciprocating this is when he gives her a baseball signed by a famous player, right after Hazel's dad leaves.

So there's that. And, while we're mentioning stuff like this, everyone around her keeps telling her it's weird that she and Jack are still friends, even her mother. That a boy and a girl can't be friends. And even I can see that in real life, and it makes me a little sick to my stomach to think about that. That things get separated in real life, and in books, and I know it's being realistic, but... along with what I mentioned above, it sort of curbed my taste for it. I think it is a thoughtful commentary on gender, except with perhaps a bit of bias towards the male side. (Not that I blame Miss Ursu. We all grew up in patriarchy, as much as it turns my stomach.)

But the setting was amazing, as well as plenty of the characters she meets in the lost woods. A forest, where people looking for something end up? And it does strange things to their minds? And they almost never find their way out, because they almost never find what they're looking for? Pretty cool. And like I said, written pretty well, too.

And, of course, I'm a sucker for fairy tale re-tellings. And the white witch, she wasn't some mustache-twirling evil villain, but neither was she some shades-of-gray villain, either. She's sort of... well, a cold-hearted woman, scientific, almost. It's said, in the book, she "lives in a palace of ice with a heart to match."

So, overall, I... don't even know what I would give this. I would recommend it to most people, I suppose, though only if asked. Mostly, these sorts of books I just keep in my head and ponder over, never specifically recommending or un-recommending to people. Kind of literary-ish and fantasy-ish at the same time, like a myth or a fable. And I am not entirely sure what I pull out of it.

I guess I give it a 3.25 stars. I did like it, but it doesn't rate as high as a 4 stars, an actual "I loved it."


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams

Just a year apart, the Chapman girls were as close as sisters could be. Hope could always count on Lizzie, and Lizzie could always count on Hope-- always.
But even sisters have secrets. Big secrets. And if Lizzie has her way, she'll take the biggest secret of all to her grave.
With Lizzie in lockdown, can Hope discover the truth and save her sister, or is it already too late?
Carol Lynch Williams's PEN Award-winning first novel in verse will captivate and haunt readers after the final page.

~Print copy, 484 pages
Published: 2010 by Simon and Schuster

Yes, the "novel in verse" part jumped out at me. Main reason I picked it up.

It's described as a thriller, I think, and the part of her sister trying to commit suicide is thrilling. But it's more... I don't know. Literary-ish? Contemporary-ish? I wouldn't really describe it as thriller.

The ending, of course, picks up and seems thriller-ish. But most of the novel is about Hope, told from her view, and how she's comparing the before and after, and trying to figure out after the fact why her sister would want to try and kill herself.

I suppose I expected something faster. Maybe a bit... lighter, perhaps even childish, since Hope is 12 years old. But it deals with some heavy stuff.

First of all, her father died -- her mother became a prostitute -- and she's mostly being raised by a neighbor. Her sister, her only true family, has now been locked in a mental hospital. She's clinging to her friend's innocence, her friend Mari, who's mostly concerned with boys and crushes on a celebrity, and trying to forget all but boys and crushes, as well, though it isn't really working.

And, while on the surface it does seem like that -- like a little girl, dealing with everything by going off with her friend -- it really seems more about the denial. She knows her sister kept a diary, that would explain why she tried to kill herself, why her mother's so desperate to find it. But it's only in the last 84 pages that she goes and actually reads it. Most of the almost-500 pages is memories, trips to the psychiatrist who's on Lizzie's case, and trips with Mari.

So, yea, it does seem kind of literary-ish. I saw the ending, how it'll fall out, from a mile away -- or, well, two hundred pages into the book -- after I got the whole prostitute-and-dead-father-and-practically-neglected thing. But I still don't... Well... I can't really say I regretted reading this book, even though it wasn't at all how I expected it to be. I've had a slight inclination to write off most MGs as childish, buying into the whole "mainstream fiction" thing, much as I've tried hard not to.

This opened my eyes to the fact that, yes, "literary" exists in every age group, and yes, while it isn't my favorite genre, I do recognize that it isn't all so... light-hearted and action-y.

And I have put more "-ish"s at the end of words in this post than I have since perhaps middle school. Or perhaps even before. But I don't have a definitive opinion on it. I give it a 3, sort of an okay, not because it is like everything else I usually read, but because I am sort of reserving my opinion. Which is to say, I don't know how I feel about it.

I would recommend it to anyone who actually likes literary, and knows this is literary.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Resolutions" I Might Actually Keep

It's the first day of 2014, guys. The ending of a year, the beginning of one. I suppose I should be happy for a clean slate this year, but we all know that in school, it's not "clean." I still have to do my projects from before break. (Namely, and AP Lit project on WW1 and a textbook assignment from AP Bio.)

But I don't want that to spoil my first few days, at least. And my last few days of break. And since I didn't finish reading the book I told myself I'd finish yesterday, I think I'll post some of my New Year's Resolutions.

(As a side note: why do they call them "resolutions?" You've resolved to do something, yes, but you rarely get around to them. So aren't they more under the category of, "Promises I Only Intended to Keep?")

Anyways. I hope to:
  1. Finish at least half of my TBR pile. (The whole pile is numbering close to fifty, now.) 
  2. Paint my room over. (It's my little sister's old room, and the most atrocious yellow color. Also, she left a few foul-mouthed messages written across them.)
  3. Get my driver's license. (I've only got my learner's permit right now.)
  4. Turn 18 years old in April. (That one should be easy to keep.)
  5. Graduate in June. (Also easy. I'm pretty much guaranteed it at this point, as long as I keep showing up to school.) 
  6. Work on my knitting. (As in, at least every week. Right now, it's looking pretty sad.)
  7. Work on clay. (Something I've always wanted to do, but now that I have clay and space to work with it, I find myself reluctant to start.)
  8. Put up some puzzles. (I have half a dozen of them sitting around my room.)

This seems like a rather paltry list, and doesn't even include my writing resolutions, but it towers over me with all the menace of Cerberus.* I'm not used to proactively doing things for myself. I read a book, I wait for someone to order me to do chores. Watch some documentaries on TV. I barely even do my homework for myself.

Which is why I've set the threshold so low. Some puzzles, working with clay, turning 18 years old. Though, really, these are all big milestones. At 18, I'm officially an adult. Officially Not a Child Anymore. And I have an entire lifetime in which I have to proactively do things for myself. So I've got to get a head start a few months beforehand.

This post seems rather serious to me, for a day we're all supposed to be celebrating. There are no exclamation points, no smilie faces. Just talk of my plans. I've never been good at humor or light-hearted material.

But I suppose that's what New Year's is about. The beginning of a year, and talk of what's going to be done. (Or what might be done.)

Have a blessed Wednesday, New Year's, and life, everyone.

*Cerberus the three-headed dog from the Underworld in Greek mythology. It's extra menacing because I'm not overly-fond of dogs, since we own an Australian Shepherd who barks at everyone but my mother.

Zazu says to keep to your resolutions.