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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Resolutions

I decided to set goals for myself this year instead of doing resolutions, since--like most people--I just throw those out the window within the first month anyway.

It was a good but crazy year for me. Unfortunately this was not true of my goals.

1. Read 100 books. 
This obviously did not happen. In fact, it was the worst reading year for me since I started keeping track of exactly how many books I've read in 2010.

2. Read 10 classics. 
I was a lot closer with this one. I read six classics over the year. Most of them were assigned for class, but it still counts. 

3. Complete 25 hours of volunteer work
This one was complicated by my lack of access to volunteer opportunities that are local enough that I can walk to them.

4. Do push-ups every morning for a month
I think I made it a week in the beginning of the month. Push-ups aren't really my thing.

5. Do five things I've never done before
This one I actually accomplished! I went to a jazz ensembles performance on campus, donated blood, attended Relay for Life (where I spent the entire night and walked about 20 miles), went to a concert, and hard boiled eggs (it counts).

Here's to an even better 2014! 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Favorite Books of 2013

This year saw my worst reading record since I started keeping track in 2010. I'm not really sure what happened but I'm determined to do better next year.

Grand total: 37


A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
I finished this one on February 25th. My friends can attest (as they were there for most of my reading it) that I spent a lot of time in a state of insanity. Like at the end when I screamed and pushed it off the couch. The fact that I've had the fourth book for almost as long as I've been done with this one and still haven't read it is almost a crime. Fantastic characters, as usual, and plot twists that I certainly never saw coming. 

The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien
I took a class on Tolkien one semester and, of course, it included the reading of the entire LOTR trilogy. This one was my favorite. I love the story and I love Aragorn and Legolas and Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin and Eowyn and Faramir. 
Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton
To be honest, I bought this book because it was on sale and the cover is gorgeous. I didn't have high expectations for it, but it blew me away anyway. The writing is beautiful, the concept original and a bit creepy, and the characters are well-rounded. I look forward to reading the rest of the series at some point in the future.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: Halloween Week

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
I'm only two chapters away from the end of Return of the King so I'll be finishing that today. Sadly I didn't get to read Allegiant over the weekend because it was delayed in the mail and didn't arrive until Monday. I haven't decided yet if I'm going to start it tomorrow or Friday, but I will definitely be reading it this weekend.

What I'm Writing: 
Hopefully, after I finish RotK, I'll have some more free time on my hands and I'll be able to start up daily revision goals again.

What Inspires Me: 
I stayed up until one last night watching Pacific Rim for the first time and I can honestly say that I don't know what took me so long. Just everything. It was weird because I fell in love with the music first and to see it in the movie was disconcerting, but also awesome in a way.

What Else I've Been Up To: 
Halloween! It's tomorrow and I don't think I've been this excited since I was a kid getting ready to go trick-or-treating. I don't really have any special plans. Other than going to class dressed up and hanging out with my friends all afternoon. My costume this year is a Star Trek science officer, so I carved my pumpkin in the shape of the insignia. I'm happy with the way it turned out, considering it's my first pumpkin carving attempt.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: October 23

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading: 
I finished The Two Towers last week and now I'm into Return of the King. The first few chapters were a little slow but now I'm really getting into it. I'm totally jealous of everyone who is currently reading Allegiant. My copy won't be here until Friday, which is probably for the best, but I have every intention of taking a break from everything to read it this weekend. Can't wait to get my hands on it!

What I'm Writing: 
Nothing as of right now. I spent a good bit of yesterday afternoon writing a paper comparing the One Ring to the Elder Wand. I've been doing a fair bit of brainstorming lately but nothing concrete. I've considered giving NaNoWriMo a shot, just to get myself writing again, but revisions come first.

What Inspires Me
A friend watched Pacific Rim and recommended that I listen to the theme song even though I have yet to see the movie. Ever since then I've been on a bit of a soundtrack kick, especially since I need some kind of background music while I study. There's something really epic about doing stats homework while listening to the Skyrim theme, or writing a paper for a class on Tolkien while listening to the Hobbit soundtrack.

What Else I've Been Up To
Staying inside as much as possible. Apparently we've decided to completely skip autumn because the first frost arrived on Sunday and the first snow on Monday. It still isn't sticking, but I don't expect that to hold off for much longer. Don't get me wrong, I love snow, but I prefer it to wait until at least after Halloween.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What's Up Wednesday: October 16

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading
I am well into book 2 of Tolkien's The Two Towers and hoping to finish it by Friday. After that, I'll be immediately leaping into Return of the King. I thought I would have time for House of Hades by Rick Riordan this weekend but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. It arrives in the mail tomorrow and will be my reward for finishing the LOTR trilogy. I'm also making my way through B.F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior for a research paper and, I have to say, it's fairly fascinating.

What I'm Writing
Papers for class. CK revisions have been put on hold while I read LOTR and write a paper for Tolkien and another paper for Grammar. Hopefully in another day or two I can get rolling again.

What Inspires Me
There's a song, Light 'Em Up by Fall Out Boy, and I'm completely obsessed with it right now. It took me about four days to realize the reason why I felt like I'd heard it before was because I did, it's in the Sea of Monsters movie. It's really upbeat and catchy and I've pretty much been listening to it every morning to wake myself up.

What Else I've Been Up To 
I watched the series finale of Heroes on Thursday and now I'm stuck in that weird state where I really want to watch more but there isn't any more to watch. I know a lot of people bash the show as it goes on through the seasons and while, no it's not as good as the first season, I still really loved it. If things ever settle down again, I'm going to start watching Star Trek the original series again. I took a break midway through the second season to watch the first season of Heroes and "the first season of Heroes" somehow turned into "all four seasons of Heroes."

I hope you all have a great week!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading
I finished Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien last week and I was kind of surprised how much I enjoyed it. I was told as a kid that Tolkien's novels are slow and full of too much description, so I never gave them a shot. Now I'm glad I haven't continued to let that deter me, because I'm really getting into the series. I'm into The Two Towers now and would probably enjoy it more if my Tolkien professor hadn't told us that we have a quiz over Fellowship and Book 1 of Towers on Monday. In addition to that, there's also a stack of books on neurolinguistics sitting on my desk for a research paper.

What I'm Writing
Not really much of anything the past couple of weeks. I'm still making steady progress on CK's revisions, but classwork is consuming my life.

What Inspires Me
This might sound kind of strange, but the sun. I live in a place where winter equals weeks of overcast skies and snow.  We got a glimpse of that when it rained all weekend. But today the sun is out and it's actually warm outside and it's just so gorgeous. 

What Else I've Been Up To 
Classwork, mostly. It's midterms week around here and while I don't technically have any midterms, I do have a lot of exams and projects due. I'm seven episodes away from the last episode of Heroes and I haven't been able to watch any in a few days. That's going to be my reward this weekend for getting all of my work done.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

New Releases: Where the Stars Still Shine; All the Truth That's In Me; Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer

Where the Stars Still Shine
by Trish Doller
Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She's never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love--even with someone who seems an improbable choice--is more than just a possibility.

 All the Truth That's In Me
by Julie Berry
Four years ago, Judith and her best friend disappeared from their small town of Roswell Station. Two years ago, only Judith returned, permanently mutilated, reviled and ignored by those who were once her friends and family. Unable to speak, Judith lives like a ghost in her own home, silently pouring out her thoughts to the boy who’s owned her heart as long as she can remember—even if he doesn’t know it—her childhood friend, Lucas. But when Roswell Station is attacked, long-buried secrets come to light, and Judith is forced to choose: continue to live in silence, or recover her voice, even if it means changing her world, and the lives around her, forever. 

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
by Katie Alender
Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She’ll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family’s French roots.

But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette.

Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

What's Up Wednesday

I thought I might try something new on Wednesdays. What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk to help writers stay in touch.

What I'm Reading
It's a complicated mixture right now. My main focus is on The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien for a class (on Tolkien). I have about two weeks to read it so that's taking a good amount of my time. Also on my shelf with bookmarks in them are Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (a reread I started before the movie came out, to give you an idea of how long I've been at it) and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen.  

What I'm Writing
The occasional short story that strikes my fancy mostly. I'm neck-deep in revisions for Cursed Kind. Some of the changes are relatively major so I need to be sure that they're making sense and fit with what's already there. Mostly clarifying motivations and upping the stakes. 

What Inspires Me
My friends, in more ways than one. I have the three best roommates a college girl could ever ask for. Last weekend we went to the halloween store for costumes and ended up with masquerade masks. Which then inspired me to write a short story featuring them.


What Else I've Been Up To 
TV. Lots of TV. The premieres for my fall shows began this week with Castle. Not at all happy with that premiere. Last night was NCIS (next week is going to break me) and NCIS: Los Angeles (mixed feelings). Then this morning I watched the premiere for Marvel's Agents of SHIELD and it was amazing. In non-airing television, I started watching Heroes last week and I'm so addicted. I finished the first season on Sunday and I'll be finishing season two today. Also, hockey (go Red Wings)! It's preseason but I missed this sport so much. I'm ready for the regular season to start.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Heroes and Why I Can't Stop Watching It

I know I'm late to the Heroes party (given that it was cancelled four years ago) but I'm addicted. Like genuinely "can't stop watching, thinking about it all the time, curled up in bed for hours watching episode after episode, seriously considering staying up all night" addicted. It's one of those shows that I probably should have saved for Christmas or summer break because I would easily finish it in less than two weeks.

If you've never seen it, Heroes is about a group of people with special powers trying to save the world. It reminds me of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD (which starts today and I'm SO EXCITED) and X-Men, but it's also it's own show.

I started watching it on Tuesday and I finished up the first season on Sunday, despite the fact that I have Actual Things to do (like go to class. Once I get started, it's really hard to stop. I expect to finish the second season tomorrow, if not today. 

My favorite thing about the show is the characters. There isn't anyone that I totally love all the time and there isn't anyone that I totally hate all the time (except maybe Jessica). They all make good decisions and horrible decisions. They all have their own histories and their own motivations and their own lives and they all handle the discovery of their powers in their own way.

Then there's Sylar. I shouldn't like Sylar. Sylar isn't complicated like the others. He's terrifying and he knows what he wants and he's going to get it no matter what it takes. He's also played by Zachary Quinto but when I look at Sylar, I don't see Spock. I can barely see how they're played by the same person and, to me, that's incredible.

There are the powers. Some of them are the usual go-to special abilities (mind reading, healing, flying, invisibility) and some of them aren't. I really like some of the ideas for the powers, like the guy that can take on others' powers by being in close proximity to them and the guy who can paint the future.

Finally there's the cliffhangers. I love and hate the cliffhangers. Every episode ends one with "To be continued." EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. Which is why I spent my Friday night sitting in bed for eight hours straight (except for the shaky half hour break I took for the new Legend of Korra). It's really hard to find a good stopping point because there isn't one. 

If you've watched Heroes, no spoilers please. I've heard the quality goes down as the seasons go on, but I intend to find out for myself anyway.

Monday, September 23, 2013

College: 5 Tips for Reducing Procrastionation and Getting Stuff Done

In an attempt to organize my life and make sure I'm staying on top of things for once, I've started a new routine. It seems to be working so far, though we'll see if I can stick with it as the year goes on.

1. Move to a different area 
I'm used to doing my homework sitting in bed or on the couch, but I find doing work in a place where I would normally relax makes it difficult for me to concentrate. So I cleaned off and organized my desk and set up shop there. It helps to put me into a focusing mindset and cut down on distractions. For especially long study sessions, a trip to the library can be big for motivation.

2. Turn off the Internet 
Shut down any open tabs that aren't related to your homework. It'll keep you from being tempted to click over to Facebook or Tumblr "just for a few minutes." If you give yourself short breaks, don't use websites that are known time sucks. I tried to use Tumblr for homework breaks, but I would give myself five minutes and take half an hour.

3. Minimize distractions
Close the door, put your phone on silent, tell your friends that you need some study time, put in earplugs, whatever it takes. My friends know that if my door is closed that I'm working and not to disturb me unless it's for something specific. I also find putting in headphones without music playing can help, but I prefer quiet rock or instrumental music.

4. Make a "to do" list 
Every day, make a list of the things that you need to accomplish and then check them off. Break large projects into smaller steps and do a little work at a time. Quantifiable goals (read X chapter, complete Y assignment, find Z sources for a research project) are better than vague ones (do research, work on term paper, start powerpoint presentation). Check syllabi regularly and keep a calendar with due dates on it. Designate days for regular tasks. For instance, Tuesday is my laundry day and Saturday is my "work that isn't homework" day.

5. Use rewards
Find a reward that works for you. It can be something small for each task completed or something large for when you finish off your list. For instance, if I finish my list for a day then I can spend the rest of the day watching my current TV show (which, right now, is Heroes).

Friday, September 20, 2013

Flash Fiction: Kiss in the Rain

This is a bit of a sequel to last week's piece “The Umbrella.” I thought of it while I was sitting in stats class for some reason. I just really love "kiss in the rain" stories.

It’s sunny when Jake texts me. We’ve talked every day since the time we shared the umbrella. Turns out we went to rival high schools and are both obsessed with old cartoons. It gives us a lot to talk about.

Walk with me to the lake? 

Meet me in ten. 

It’s a nice day, probably one of the last few for a long time, so I pull on a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. Jake’s waiting for me outside the building, dressed in a muscle shirt and cargo shorts. He pulls it off strangely well.

It’s only a fifteen minute walk down to the beach from campus. My hand brushes against Jake’s several times before he finally catches it and twines his fingers with mine.

When we get to the beach, there are clouds rolling in from across the water. “You don’t think it’s going to rain, do you?” I ask.
 
He shrugs. “You know anything can happen here.”

I nod. It’s been sunny and warm one day and snowing the next before. The weather is about as unpredictable as an angry cat.

We wander down the beach, kicking off our shoes to wade in the water. It laps at my ankles and I laugh, spinning in circles. Before we know it, the clouds are blocking out the sun above us and the temperature is dropping.
 
I’m about to suggest that we should head back when fat drops of rain start falling.

“I think it’s us,” Jake says as he grabs my hand and spins me into him. I brace my hands against his chest for balance.

“Maybe.” The rain comes down harder but I barely notice. Jake is looking at me with those beautiful eyes and I feel like I’ll never be cold again. He reaches up to brush my wet hair out of my face before he kisses me.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Releases - Frozen, The Burning Sky, Tumble & Fall

Frozen
by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
Heart of Dread #1 
Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies?

 The Burning Sky
by Sherry Thomas
Elemental Trilogy #1 

Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she's being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death.

Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he's also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal.

But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life.

Tumble & Fall
by Alexandra Coutts 
The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the Earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that's left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

RTW -- To Boldly Go...

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

  This week’s topic: 
This month's Bookmobile selection, STARGLASS by Phoebe North, takes place on a generation starship. But the characters wouldn't be there if their ancestors hadn't left Earth with the hope of their descendants one day colonizing elsewhere. 
Would you go on a generation starship, if given the opportunity? Why or why not?
 
At the time of writing this, I'm watching Star Trek: Into Darkness for the second time in three days. While I would prefer to be the person born on the ship so that I could have a chance of seeing new worlds, I would go on a generation starship if given the chance. 

There's nothing like the chance to travel the stars, the chance to see things that no one has seen before and may never see again. Sometimes I love this world, but the idea of finding a new one and building civilization there--a world that would hopefully learn from the mistakes of this one...

Also, stars. Being able to travel among the stars. It wouldn't be easy and I'd have to give up a lot of things I love (horses, hiking, privacy), but if I had to, I would.

Monday, September 16, 2013

College: Tips for Cold Season Reprint

This is a partial reprint of my post from last September. It's cold season once more. I was sick two weekends ago and the cough is sticking around. At the same time, most of my roommates got sick along with half of campus. Here are some tips on how to get through it as quickly as possible.

Drink plenty of fluids
The biggest thing when you're sick is to stay hydrated. Keep a bottle of water or your favorite drink in your bag when you're running around campus. I also recommend tea, especially green tea. Peppermint is my personal favorite for when I'm sick, especially if there's a sore throat involved.

Rest
This is the best thing for getting better. If you have the chance to take a nap, do it. If not, try to relax and get as much sleep as possible. If you're sick, I don't recommend running around outside, especially if it's cold. The more running around you do, the more likely it's going to take longer for you to get better.

Skip class only if you have to
On a similar note, don't skip class unless you have to. Sometimes it's better to skip class if it means you'll get more rest and recover faster. At the same time, it's hard to make up for lost class time in college. Even if you have someone to get the lecture notes from, it's not the same as being there and being able to write them down in a way that you'll be able to study from easier. There's also the risk of missing quizzes, tests, and assignments.

Keep a ration of supplies 
Around this time, make sure you have supplies, just in case. Just whatever makes you feel better: soup, medicines, vitamins, Kleenex, whatever. It'll be easier to have this stuff now rather than waiting to get sick and have to go to the store for it. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Flash Fiction: Umbrella

It's raining and gloomy outside right now (and has been off and on for the past few days). I was staring out the window when this little fic popped into my head.


Rain poured down when I stepped out of class. I reached into my backpack, but the only things in there were my books and my paper.

I took out my umbrella the day before, to give myself more room. Right.

Nothing to do for it now. I had to cross campus in order to get back to the dorms. I stuffed my hands into my hoodie pocket, scrunched up my shoulders, and stepped out.

Within a few steps, the rain was running down my face.

A few more and I could feel it soaking through my hoodie and my jeans rasped against my legs.
I pulled the hood up over my head, but it did little to protect me from the driving rain. I hunched over as a cold wind blew out of the north and blasted straight into my face.

I should have stayed in bed.

I was only about a quarter of the way across campus when a boy’s voice caught my attention. “Umbrella?” he said.

I looked over to see him staring at me, his umbrella held at an angle so there was enough room beneath it for two. His hair was black and cropped short above rough features and a powerful build. I recognized him from my math class, where he sat in the front and scribbled constantly in his notebook.

“Thanks.” I stepped underneath it, feeling the immediately relief of getting out of the rain. I was still soaked but at least I couldn’t get any worse.

“Where do you live?” he continued as we kept walking.

“Nelson.” I pushed my hood off my head, running my fingers through my scraggly hair. “What about you?”

“Same. My name’s Jake, by the way.” He switched the umbrella to his other hand so that he could reach over to shake.

I clasped his hand briefly, enjoying the momentary warmth on my freezing skin. “Nora.” 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

New Releases: Fangirl, Antigoddess, Living with Jackie Chan

Fangirl
by Rainbow Rowell
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

 Antigoddess
by Kendare Blake
Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

 Living with Jackie Chan
by Jo Knowles
Companion to Jumping Off Swings
After fathering a baby, a teenager moves in with his karate-loving uncle and tries to come to terms with his guilt — and find a way to forgive.

This isn’t how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he’d be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around, partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home — new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Chan-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget. But Josh can’t forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a loser? How could he have done what he did? He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella’s jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn’t happen. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was a True Karate Man? 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

RTW -- Quarterly Check-In

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

  This week’s topic: 
Quarterly check-in: we did one in March and one in July. Now that we're 3/4 of the way through the year, how are you doing on your goals?
  
What? No. Not possible. We can't be three-quarters of the way through 2013 already, right?? Wow. Goals-wise, I'm back in school, which means I'm back to settling into my usual routine. 
 
My reading goal for this year was 100 and, once again, I won't be meeting it. I'm up to 23 right now. I'd be higher, but I'm currently reading three books at the same time (one classic, one reread, and one for class). I also set a goal to read 10 classics and I'm up to 2. I'm taking a class on Tolkien, though, and I'm counting each of his books that I have to read for class as classics on my list.

My only writing goal was to write and that's going relatively well. I don't have a new WIP yet, but I have been working on revisions for my dragon-girl novel. They've been on hold while I'm getting settled, but I'll be starting work again very soon.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rose Under Fire is HERE

Rose Under Fire
by Elizabeth Wein
While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY. IT'S HERE. I hesitantly read Code Name Verity last year after weeks of hearing glowing recommendations and praise. I'm cautious about reading books that I've only heard good things about, because my expectations can end up being far too high. 

My expectations were extremely high going in...and absolutely blown away. It was a gorgeously written book that shattered my heart and contained one of the most amazing plot twists I've read. 

I'm so excited to get my hands on this book!

Monday, September 9, 2013

College: Getting Involved on Campus

Classes are starting and students are heading back to school. College isn't all classes and homework and partying. There are lots of clubs and events that students can get involved in.

Start looking into your options early. If there's a club fair, go wander around and find out more about anything that catches your attention. Most clubs have interest meetings that you can attend without committing. Here you can find out more about the club and what they do. I recommend attending these meetings widely and then cherry-picking the ones that you're really interested in.

Consider getting involved within student government. This can be a great opportunity for leadership experience, planning events, meeting people, and getting your voice heard.

Be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. Pick one or two clubs to begin with, keeping track of the time commitment involved. Some clubs require more time than others, especially those that put on a lot of events. Clubs typically are always open to new members, so in a year or two if you decide you have room for another, then you can always join later.

If you attend college close to home, consider staying on campus during most weekends. Typically there are a lot of events on weekends, in addition to it being some of the best homework time. At the same time, be open to new experiences. Do things that you've never done before. You never know what you might enjoy.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Flash Fiction: Don't Stay Out After Dark

This fic was inspired by this Tumblr post containing the writing prompt "Use some or all of these in a story or poem: A vampire, a stolen debit card, and a coconut."

Everyone knows the streets aren’t safe after dark. Sometimes, if I can’t sleep, I’ll tug back the curtains and peek out the windows.

Outside, the world is dark and silent. It seems that even the stars are afraid to come out. The trees rustle. Garbage tumbles through the streets. An occasional stray cat or dog will dash down the alleyway.

If I look closely, I can catch a flash of movement in the darkest shadows, the predators of the night hunting for anyone foolish enough to get caught outside after dark.

Anyone like me.

I pull my coat up closer around my body, trying to block out the cold winter wind that is cutting through my layers. I wouldn’t be out here if it wasn’t for my stupid debit card. I’m sure it was in my pocket when I left the grocery store, but when I got home and checked, it was gone.

Really it’s Lisa’s fault for sending me out so late in the evening to buy a coconut of all things. Pregnant women want the strangest things.

Three blocks from home. I stay alert, keeping to the parts of the road lit by the streetlamps above as much as possible. My heart pounds in my chest, probably alerting anyone within a five-mile radius that there’s a piece of prey moving about in their territory.

I haven’t even managed to find my stupid debit card. Someone probably picked my pocket on the way home. Maybe it was that little girl that bumped into me as I walked out the door. Or the old man with the hollowed eyes that I gave my pocket change.

I’ll have to call the bank in the morning. Unless, of course, I die and then I won’t have to worry about it.

Two blocks from home. I move a little faster, the wooden stake tucked in my jacket knocking against my ribs.

One block from home. I can make it. Relief blooms in my stomach. I can see my house, a light still on over the porch.

There’s a flash of darkness behind the tree in my front yard. Ice rushes through my veins. I reach for the stake, not about to get murdered right in my front yard. At least not without a fight.

The vampire steps out, his white fangs gleaming in the darkness. It’s probably the porch light that drew him in, the universal sign of someone being out after dark. He’s lithe with red eyes and a thick black cloak.

I don’t know why they have to wear those things, considering vampires don’t actually get cold. Must be a provision in the Vampire Code.

I wait for him to make some sort of sarcastic remark, ask me why I’m out so late, but he just attacks. Simple, straightforward. I like that.

I ground myself, watching him come. Vampires move faster than anything I’ve ever seen. I can feel the panic building in my veins but I don’t let it overwhelm me.

Three, two, one…I bring the stake out of my jacket and slam it straight into the vampire’s heart. I’m allowed a few seconds of enjoyment over the look of utter shock in his eyes before he disintegrates into a pile of dust.

“Gross,” I whisper, brushing what I can off my jacket. I run the rest of the distance to the door, pushing my way inside and slamming it behind me. I flick on the hall light and something glints at me from the floor. I growl as I lean over to pick it up.

It’s my debit card.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

New Releases: The 100, Conjured, Starry Nights

The 100
by Kass Morgan
In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland... before it's too late.

Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust - and even love - again.

Conjured
by Sarah Beth Durst
Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

  Starry Nights
by Daisy Whitney
Seventeen-year-old Julien is a romantic—he loves spending his free time at the museum poring over the great works of the Impressionists. But one night, a peach falls out of a Cezanne, Degas ballerinas dance across the floor, and Julien is not hallucinating.

The art is reacting to a curse that trapped a beautiful girl, Clio, in a painting forever. Julien has a chance to free Clio and he can't help but fall in love with her. But love is a curse in its own right. And soon paintings begin to bleed and disappear. Together Julien and Clio must save the world's greatest art . . . at the expense of the greatest love they've ever known.
 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Tracking Productivity

When you're working on a WIP, sometimes it can be useful to keep track of how much you are progressing. This is especially true when setting word count goals. There are a number of different ways to track progress when drafting.

The easiest is to write down what the word count on your document is before starting a period of drafting and then again at the end. This can be difficult to remember to do, however, especially if you're anxious to get started on a scene.

When I used Word for writing, I would change the text color to red at the start of a writing session and then, to see what my word count for that day was, I would just select the red text. This works well if you remember to change text color before you start writing and then remember to change it back to black before you start another session.

Some programs have functions that keep track of session word count on their own. Scrivener does this and allows you to set goals that it lets you know when they are met.

Once you've figured out how to track your daily word counts, the next step is to decide how to record them, if you wish. You could use Word or Excel to record them. I keep a simple Excel sheet with the days of the week and a column for me to input word count. It's also set to auto-sum so that I can see my weekly word count. At the start of each week, I clear off the records from the last week so I can start with a clean slate.

You can also use more advanced worksheets, downloaded or created on your own. I used to have one that had a new sheet for each year, a box for each month, a column for each week, and a cell for each day. It requires a good level of dedication to remember to record the word count for each day, however.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

New Releases - If You Could Be Mine, The Boy on the Wooden Box, Relic

If You Could Be Mine
by Sara Farizan
Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

The Boy on the Wooden Box
by Leon Leyson 
Even in the darkest of times—especially in the darkest of times—there is room for strength and bravery. A remarkable memoir from Leon Leyson, one of the youngest children to survive the Holocaust on Oskar Schindler’s list.

 Leon Leyson (born Leib Lezjon) was only ten years old when the Nazis invaded Poland and his family was forced to relocate to the Krakow ghetto. With incredible luck, perseverance, and grit, Leyson was able to survive the sadism of the Nazis, including that of the demonic Amon Goeth, commandant of Plaszow, the concentration camp outside Krakow. Ultimately, it was the generosity and cunning of one man, a man named Oskar Schindler, who saved Leon Leyson’s life, and the lives of his mother, his father, and two of his four siblings, by adding their names to his list of workers in his factory—a list that became world renowned: Schindler’s List.

 Relic
by Renee Collins
After a raging fire consumes her town and kills her parents, Maggie Davis is on her own to protect her younger sister and survive best she can in the Colorado town of Burning Mesa. In Maggie’s world, the bones of long-extinct magical creatures such as dragons and sirens are mined and traded for their residual magical elements, and harnessing these relics’ powers allows the user to wield fire, turn invisible, or heal even the worst of injuries.

Working in a local saloon, Maggie befriends the spirited showgirl Adelaide and falls for the roguish cowboy Landon. But when she proves to have a particular skill at harnessing the relics’ powers, Maggie is whisked away to the glamorous hacienda of Álvar Castilla, the wealthy young relic baron who runs Burning Mesa. Though his intentions aren’t always clear, Álvar trains Maggie in the world of relic magic. But when the mysterious fires reappear in their neighboring towns, Maggie must discover who is channeling relic magic for evil before it’s too late.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Book Thief Movie

I am so excited for this movie! The Book Thief is one of my favorite books of all-time and the fact that it's being made into a movie is both exciting and terrifying.

AND THERE'S A TRAILER.


This movie is going to be beautiful and heart-shattering. There'll be a box of tissues with me when I go to see it, mark my words.

Monday, August 26, 2013

College: More Tips for the First Day

Last year, I posted five tips for the first day of school. This year, now that the first day of the semester has come around once more, here are five more tips.

#1: Pay attention to the syllabus
I know it's boring and that, for the most part, they're all basically the same but it's still important. This is when you'll find out what the class entails and when major assignments are due.

#2: Know where you're going
Look up which classes you have when and what rooms they're in ahead of time. If you're like me and you're afraid you won't remember, write them down somewhere or put them into your phone.

#3: Arrive early 
Get to class early. I tend to be fifteen or twenty minutes early the first week, just so I know how long it takes me to get there and I know I won't be late. This is also a good time to meet your fellow classmates and sometimes the professor.

#4: Sit toward the front
Choose a chair toward the front of the room. Not only is it easier to see and hear, but you're less likely to get distracted. Plus the professor will be more likely to notice.

#5: Come to class prepared
Bring notebook, pens, pencils, and any textbooks that the class requires. It's usually fine not to have the textbooks the first day, but there have been classes where I've needed them right away.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Releases: Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy; Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock; Texting the Underworld

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy
by Elizabeth Kiem
Marina is born of privilege. Her mother, Sveta, is the Soviet Union's prima ballerina: an international star handpicked by the regime. But Sveta is afflicted with a mysterious second sight and becomes obsessed with exposing a horrific state secret. Then she disappears.

Fearing for their lives, Marina and her father defect to Brooklyn. Marina struggles to reestablish herself as a dancer at Juilliard. But her enigmatic partner, Sergei, makes concentration almost impossible, as does the fact that Marina shares her mother's “gift,” and has a vision of her father’s murder at the hands of the Russian crooks and con artists she thought they'd left behind. 

Now Marina must navigate the web of intrigue surrounding her mother's disappearance, her ability, and exactly whom she can—and can't—trust.

 Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
by Matthew Quick

Today is Leonard Peacock's birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather's P-38 pistol.

But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart-obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school's class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.

 Texting the Underworld
by Ellen Booraem
Perpetual scaredy-cat Conor O'Neill has the fright of his life when a banshee girl named Ashling shows up in his bedroom. Ashling is--as all banshees are--a harbinger of death, but she's new at this banshee business, and first she insists on going to middle school. As Conor attempts to hide her identity from his teachers, he realizes he's going to have to pay a visit to the underworld if he wants to keep his family safe.

"Got your cell?"
"Yeah . . . . Don't see what good it'll do me."
"I'll text you if anything happens that you should know."
"Text me? Javier, we'll be in the afterlife."
"You never know. Maybe they get a signal."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

RTW -- Favorite Beach Read

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments. 

  This week’s topic: 
Summer is winding down, but it's not over just yet! What's your favorite beach read?
 
This is always a tricky question for me because, even though I live within walking distance of a fairly nice beach, I rarely ever go there in the summer. And when I do go to a beach, I'm not usually there to read. If I'm on vacation somewhere where I can just lay out on the beach for hours on end (read: Florida), then I usually just read whatever's in my stack.

However, if I had to pick a book to read on the beach, I'd either go with something summer- and beach-oriented (Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler, for instance) or something light and romantic (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith) or something comfortable and familiar (Tamora Pierce's Immortals quartet or J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series).

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Write On Con Starts Today

Reminder that the fourth annual Write On Con starts today! I've attended every year and it's always a fabulous learning experience, especially as I've never been able to attend a live writers' conference. It runs all day today and tomorrow, and all posts and chats will be archived if you aren't able to check it out right away.

For me, somehow the conference always falls the week before I go back to school, so I don't know how much I'll be missing while I'm running around trying to get everything done before I can go back.

The line-up looks amazing this year, as usual! It's shaping up to be better than ever.

Monday, August 12, 2013

College: 5 Things to Do the Week Before

At the time of posting, I have four days until I go back to school. I've officially left the denial phase--(What do you mean summer is over? It's June! It can't be over)--and moved into the anxious phase--(So much to do and so little time to do it. How am I going to get all of this done? Why didn't I start earlier?). Here are some tips to help with that frantic week before.

Get with roommates about move-in arrangements, if you haven't already
If you're not commuting, then find out when you can move in and make arrangements with roommates. It's important to know who is moving in first and how things will go. If you're really organized, you can decide which side of the room each of you want or you can just do what most people do and first-come first-serve.

Pick up last minute items
If you haven't gone shopping yet (and if you're not waiting to get there so you don't have to ship all your stuff like me), then get out there. The closer to the start of the semester, the more things start to look picked over.

Pack up everything
Try not to leave packing until the last minute. You may find out that you need more totes or boxes than you expected, and run into problems if you're packing on the last day before you leave. Try to organize things to make them easier to find when you're unpacking. If you're a freshman, be careful what you pack. If you realize you need something, someone can always send it to you or you can just wait to come home over the holidays. 

Say goodbye to friends and family
Leaving people behind is tough, so make sure to set aside a little time in the craziness to hang out with friends and family before you leave. 

Make sure you have everything
Small things are easy to leave behind. Make sure you have any important documents, your school ID if you already have one, any textbooks, your phone charger, your laptop charger, and anything else that you're going to need.

Friday, August 9, 2013

New Members of the Family

I've grown up in an animal-loving family and so we've always had furry creatures of some kind in the house. Last winter, while I was home, my mom decided that she wanted another guinea pig. We'd kept them for years, but they all passed on before I went away to college and she hadn't gotten another one since.

I named the new guinea pig Oswin, after Clara Oswin Oswald on Doctor Who, even after he turned out to be male.

At the start of the summer, Mom decided that she wanted to breed him. So we bought a little female--Ziva, named after Ziva David on NCIS--and put them together. She took and I worried that she wouldn't have her babies before I left to go back to school.

Wednesday night I was sitting in bed, their cage in my room, and I heard a strange squeaking noise. I got up to check it out and, sure enough, she'd already delivered two babies and was in the process of having a third. I sat up to make sure everything was okay (guinea pig deliveries are commonly difficult) but she did fine and turned out to be a very attentive mommy.

Guinea pig babies are born with their eyes and ears open, and able to eat solid food (though they do nurse).

Babies' first outing! They're not even a day old yet here...



 These later ones are from an outing the next day, only one day old.



I'm relatively certain that the one with the brown face is a female, already named Indy after Indiana Jones because she was the most adventurous on day one. The one with the black face and the one with the white spot I believe are males. I haven't named either of them yet, so suggestions are welcome. Bonus points for names that are TV show/movie/book references.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

New Releases: Gated, TMI, Out of Play

Gated 
by Amy Christine Parker
Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?

In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved here following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader.
Will is her Intended.
The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound's underground fortress--the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she'd rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands.

 TMI
by Patty Blount 
Best friends don’t lie.
Best friends don’t ditch you for a guy.
Best friends don’t post your deepest, darkest secrets online.

Bailey’s falling head-over-high-heels for Ryder West, a mysterious gamer she met online. A guy she’s never met in person. Her best friend, Meg, doesn’t trust smooth-talking Ryder. He’s just a picture-less profile.

When Bailey starts blowing Meg off to spend more virtual quality time with her new crush, Meg decides it’s time to prove Ryder’s a phony.

But one stupid little secret posted online turns into a friendship-destroying feud to answer the question:

Who is Ryder West?

 Out of Play
by Nyrae Dawn and Jolene Perry

Rock star drummer Bishop Riley doesn't have a drug problem. Celebrities—especially ones suffering from anxiety—just need a little help taking the edge off sometimes. After downing a few too many pills, Bishop wakes up in the hospital facing an intervention. If he wants to stay in the band, he’ll have to detox while under house arrest in Seldon, Alaska. 

Hockey player Penny Jones can't imagine a life outside of Seldon. Though she has tons of scholarship offers to all the best schools, the last thing she wants is to leave. Who'll take care of her absentminded gramps? Not her mother, who can’t even be bothered to come home from work, let alone deal with their new tenants next door.

Penny’s not interested in dealing with Bishop’s crappy attitude, and Bishop’s too busy sneaking pills to care. Until he starts hanging out with Gramps and begins to see what he’s been missing. If Bishop wants a chance with the fiery girl next door, he’ll have to admit he has a problem and kick it. Too bad addiction is hard to kick…and Bishop’s about to run out of time.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

RTW -- What Animal?

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments. 


  Next week’s topic: 
If you could be any animal, which would it be, and why?
 
My answer to this question varies depending on how I look at it. If I read it as which animal would I be, the answer is a horse. Like a lot of young girls, I was bitten by the horse bug. Unlike a lot of young girls, I never grew out of it. I was about nine, a friend of my father's offered to let me ride his old gelding, and the moment I was up on his back, I was hooked. It completely broad-sided my mom--who was and still is a huge horse person--because, as she likes to tell me, prior to that I was terrified of horses.

After that, though, I was hooked. I'd set up jump courses in the backyard and gallop over them, pretending to be a champion show jumper. In 2004, I fell in love with Smarty Jones and horse racing and decided, if I couldn't be a racehorse, then I'd become a jockey. 

I'd become a wild horse, not a Mustang because they aren't as free as they used to be, but something where I could gallop over miles of open land.

If I read the question as what animal would I choose to be, then the answer is a bird. Probably some kind of bird of prey, like an osprey, eagle, or hawk. I'd love to be able to fly, really fly.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Buying Tally: 2013

A few years ago, I decided to keep a tally of all the books I bought or checked out of the library to see what the trends were. Ever since then I've kept a list of books and my reasons for picking them up and posted the results each August.

2010 results
2011 results and analysis
2012 results

August has come around once again so it's time for the annual tally. My list has taken a hit now that I'm at university and don't go to the library as much as I used to. The only books that count for the list are ones that I've bought to read for pleasure. I have a whole set of novels that I will read for pleasure but bought for class (it's on Tolkien).

I'll summarize the results to begin and then break them down. In brackets are last year's percentages for comparison.

Book in series: 29% -- [30%]
Author: 29% -- [20%]
Word of mouth: 18% -- [17%]
Add to collection: 12%  Genre research: 6%
Classic: 6% -- [3%]

Looks like my habits are staying relatively the same. I expected series books to be high, because they make up the majority of my pre-orders. I'm a little disappointed that premise, which was a major factor last year, has completely disappeared from the tally. It's not really a surprise, though, because when I'm at school the vast majority of books that I buy are ordered and I tend to stick to series and authors that I know unless I'm physically inside of a bookstore.

Genre Research
  1. Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen - My love of historical novels was a recent one and this book was a product of that sudden interest. I also had an idea for my own historical so I was looking to learn more about the genre. 
Book in Series
  1. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin - Second book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. 
  2. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan - Third book in the Heroes of Olympus series. 
  3. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin - Third book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.
  4. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare - Final book in the Infernal Devices trilogy.
  5. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin - Fourth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.
Author
  1. Every Day by David Levithan - It was David Levithan. Also the premise sounded incredible and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.  
  2. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling - It didn't really sound like my thing but it was her first book since Harry Potter so... 
  3. Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler - I loved Twenty Boy Summer and this one sounded like a great read.
  4. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith - I just have a feeling Rowling could write amazing crime novels.
  5. Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor - She's a friend.
Classic
  1. Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - I was a little torn on how to classify this one because it was on my mental "to read" list for years because it was a classic, but I bought it because I wanted to read it before seeing the movie.
Word of Mouth
  1. Slam by Nick Hornby - This book was recommended to me years ago and when I found it in a store for less than a dollar, I knew I had to get it. 
  2. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry - I've heard so many amazing things about this book and I'm tired of not having read it.
  3. Cinder by Marissa Meyer - I haven't heard a word against this book yet.
Add to Collection
  1. Wolf-Speaker by Tamora Pierce - Read a hundred times but didn't own 
  2. Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce - Read even more than above but also didn't own 

Monday, August 5, 2013

College: Buying Textbooks

It's almost back to school time. Back to school time comes with the semester tradition of buying textbooks. I'm weird in that I actually love the feeling of my textbooks arriving and flipping through them for the first time, but I still hate buying them. Here are some tips to get you through this textbook-buying season.

1. Shop around 
Compare prices on a variety of different websites. Find out what your classmates use and recommend. I tend to buy my books from Barnes & Noble because A) I trust them, B) the pricing tends to be relatively low in comparison to other places, and C) my shipping is free. A good way to keep costs down is to rent textbooks instead of buying them, though I prefer the option of reselling mine at the end of the year. Also, if you're looking at other sellers on a website like Amazon, watch that they don't run out of stock before you place the order.

2. Remember to take tax and shipping costs into consideration
When you're comparing prices and coming up with an estimate, don't forget to take tax and shipping into consideration. I like to know about how much my textbooks are going to cost, and there was one semester where my estimate was a lot lower than the actual cost because I forgot tax and shipping. 

3. Buy from classmates
Another, generally lower cost option, is to buy used books from classmates who have already taken the class.

4. Know if there are required online codes or software 
Some classes require textbooks that come with an online code, CD, or other software. If you have a class like that, be careful that any textbook you order comes with it. Some of these codes can only be used once and, therefore, require that you buy a new book.

5. Consider e-reader editions 
E-textbooks are sometimes cheaper if you have the device. Be aware, though, of whether or not the professor allows e-textbooks to be used in class. I've had professors who didn't allow us to even have our laptops out during class and may have frowned upon e-readers as well.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

New Releases: The 5th Wave, The Boy on the Bridge

The 5th Wave 
by Rick Yancy
The 5th Wave #1
After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

 The Boy on the Bridge
by Natalie Standiford 
Laura Reid goes to Leningrad for a semester abroad as Cold War paranoia is peaking in 1982. She meets a young Russian artist named Alexei and soon, with Alexei as her guide, Laura immerses herself in the real Russia--a crazy world of wild parties, black-market books and music, and smuggled letters to dissidents. She must keep the relationship secret; associating with Americans is dangerous for Alexei, and if caught, Laura could be sent home and Alexei put under surveillance or worse. At the same time, she's been warned that Soviets often latch onto Americans in hopes of marrying them and thus escaping to the United States. But she knows Alexei loves her. Right?

As June approaches--when Laura must return to the United States--Alexei asks Laura to marry him. She's only nineteen and doesn't think she's ready to settle down. But what if Alexei is the love of her life? How can she leave him behind? If she has a chance to change his life, to rescue him from misery, shouldn't she take it?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

RTW: Best Book of July

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link - or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments. 

  This week’s topic: 
What was the best book you read in July?
 
Reading-wise, July got off to a great start and finished with a not-so-great ending. I read four books, all of them within the first two weeks. I enjoyed all four of them but none of the really stood out to me, which makes picking one for this post a little difficult. 
I'm going to have to go with... 

 
When I bought this book, it was on sale at a Books a Million. I remembered it from a new release post the year before, when the cover caught my eye. I picked it up and when I finally chose to read it, it wasn't with high expectations. 

I was surprised with engaging writing, unexpected twists, and characters that I fell in love with. I devoured the book in a morning and immediately added the sequel to my to-buy list. I'm glad that I decided to give this book a chance and I'm still in love with that cover.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reading for the Movie

I'm the kind of person where, if a movie is being made out of a young adult book (I don't really do this with adult books, simply because there are so many movies made out of them that I want to see that I don't have the time or the money), then I have to read the book before I see the movie.

Ironically, because of this, there are more movies that I dislike in terms of the book than movies I like. There are some movies that I think complement the book well (Hunger Games, for instance) and some movies that I have problems with but still love (Harry Potter) and some movies that are so different from the book I just barely consider them connected (The Lightning Thief). And then there are the movies I can't stand to watch because it's like they took a wood chipper to the book and then tried to fill it with sawdust.

Why do I do this to myself? Why do I read a book before going to see the movie if I know that it could potentially ruin the movie for me?

Well, there are a few reasons. First of all, there's the simple thing that I prefer books to movies. I love reading. I read the book so I can fall in love with the characters and the story, before I see someone else's version of them. And also because, if I don't fall in love with the story or the characters, then I know I probably shouldn't go see the movie.

I'm currently rereading The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters in preparation to go see the new movie next weekend. It's been so long since I've read the series that I've forgotten a lot of the details, and I want a refresher of how things actually happened. Partly so I can try to figure out how they're going to fix all the mistakes they made in the first movie.

Part of my drive to do this comes from tradition. Not too many years ago I was a stickler for the book when it came to movies. If the details weren't exactly right, I didn't like the movie. Now I accept that movies and books are different ballgames and that not everything can be the same. But I still read and reread the books because I like to see how they compare.

What do you think? Do you read the book before you go see the movie?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Updates: July 29

This is my last Monday Updates post. As of next Monday, I'm going to start up my college tips weekly blog on Mondays, since it's almost the school year. 

Song of the Week: Here's to Us by Halestorm

How's Life?
Well, there are only two days left in July and I'm still trying to figure out where the rest of my summer went. Seriously, it can't almost be August, can it?

How's TV? 
Watched the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Friday. There was a point in the middle where I wanted to just stop because I didn't want the series to end. It was a fantastic finale, definitely one of my favorites. Now I'm trying to decide which on my long list should I watch next.

Silver Linings Playbook is an amazing movie. I already knew Jennifer Lawrence was a fantastic actress but she still managed to surprise me.

Taken 2 isn't nearly as good as the first one, but it's a decent movie overall. 

How's Reading?
Books read: 0
I'm not doing very well reading-wise again. I blame Buffy. I'm currently working my way through a reread of The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, followed by a reread of Sea of Monsters in preparation for the movie coming out next week.

How's Writing? 
Total words: 2,738
Best day: 1,153
Been writing off and on this week, still no new WIP but that's okay. I might wait until I'm settled in at school before I start anything new. I don't want to get into a rhythm with revisions or writing and then have to break it if I don't have to.