Thursday, February 28, 2013

New Releases: Dualed, The Summer Prince, Things I Can't Forget

by Elsie Chapman
Dualed #1
The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

 The Summer Prince
by Alaya Dawn Johnson

The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

 Things I Can't Forget 
by Miranda Kenneally 

Kate has always been the good girl. Too good, according to some people at school—although they have no idea the guilty secret she carries. But this summer, everything is different…

This summer she’s a counselor at Cumberland Creek summer camp, and she wants to put the past behind her. This summer Matt is back as a counselor too. He’s the first guy she ever kissed, and he’s gone from a geeky songwriter who loved The Hardy Boys to a buff lifeguard who loves to flirt…with her.

Kate used to think the world was black and white, right and wrong. Turns out, life isn’t that easy…

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

RTW: Best Book of February

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.

This week: 
What's the best book you've read in February?

Number of books: 1 (Clearly, I am failing epically at my goal.) 

A Storm of Swords
by George R. R. Martin
This insane. For those of you who haven't read them, this is the third book in A Song of Ice and Fire. It's fantastic, possibly the best so far. It kind of destroyed me. When I got to the ending, I screamed, threw the book across the room, and curled up in a ball around a pillow. I read the last 300 pages in one day, ignoring the fact that I had homework that I really needed to do.

I'm still amazed at this book. There were some huge shocks for me. Some characters I hated that I actually came to like.

I'm dying for A Feast for Crows but it will probably have to wait a couple months at least. I need to catch up on reading my other books and calm down a bit.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Outside Comfort Zone

When it comes to writing, stepping outside of your comfort zone can be a good thing. It will make you a better writer by stretching your writing muscles. Sometimes those stories that we feel least able to write will be our best works.

In the beginning, it's best to try all types of writing styles, points of view, tenses, characters, and genres. You'll never know what you like best and what you're the best at if you don't try a lot of different things.

This is especially true because different stories require different things. Some stories are best written in third person, others are better in first. Some stories are better in present tense, others in past. Multiple points of view.

If you get an idea for something new, don't be afraid to give it a try. Write a short story to give a new idea a test run. NaNoWriMo is also a great time to try new things, as well. Use prompts to stretch yourself and experiments with things.

Monday, February 25, 2013

College: Surviving Midterms

Midterm week is upon me once again. It's also the week before spring break so I'm wandering around with a severe lack of motivation. Here are some tips on how to get through one of the busiest weeks of the semester.

Keep strict track of all due dates and exam dates. 
I'm keeping a running list in an Excel document of each day next week and the work that I have to have done before that day. This includes exams, assignments, assigned chapters, and essay due dates. It keeps everything in the same place and shows which days are the busiest.  

Don't leave papers until the night before. 
If you have an essay or research paper due during midterms, start it early. Leaving it off until the last minute can put a lot of pressure on time that you might need to study for another exam. 

Start studying for exams well in advance. 
A few days before an exam, start studying instead of waiting to cram the night before. Your brain will retain the information better and it will take away some of the stress. Make flashcards, review lecture notes, reread chapters, do study guides, or do whatever else helps you study the best. 

Keep up with daily homework. 
Even if it's not due for a few days, don't let yourself fall behind with your regular homework while working on essays and studying for exams.

Give yourself some time off too. 
Don't get burned out. Take short breaks during long study sessions. Give yourself time to relax and unwind so that you don't stress too much.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

New Release: Mind Games

Mind Games
by Kiersten White
Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

Monday, February 18, 2013

College: Making Presentations

In college, you'll probably be giving a lot of presentations. My freshman year alone, I had to make four or five of them. Some of them were as a group, but others were alone. Here are a few tips on how to make nice presentations. Most presentations will require visuals (I usually use Powerpoints), but some won't. This advice mostly caters toward presentations with visuals.

Don't put all of the information on the slides. 
You don't need to put everything in your presentation on the slides. Use bullets to jot down the main points. This will also help keep you on track throughout the presentation. Too much text is hard to read and looks cluttered.

If using videos, add and test links. 
If you intend to use extra material in your presentation, such as YouTube videos, add the links to your presentation and test them before giving the presentation. This will prevent any technical difficulties on presentation day.

Pick professional, attention-attracting backgrounds. 
Don't use the plain white backgrounds that Powerpoint uses as a default. Find something that looks professional, but still attracts attention. Keep bright colors to a minimum.

Animation is okay, but sparingly. 
Animation and cool slide changes are okay, but use them sparingly. Too much can distract from your presentation and potentially make it look gaudy. 

Practice the presentation ahead of time--alone or in front of a few friends. 
This will help ease your nerves because you'll know when you're going to say. This will also allow you to get an approximate idea of how long the presentation will last, if you need to add any more details anywhere, and practice any difficult-to-pronounce words. Alone is fine, but if you do it front of friends they can give you some feedback and ask questions. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Favorite Romantic Reads

It's Valentine's Day and I thought I would talk about a few of my favorite romantic YA novels.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
by Jennifer E. Smith

Anna and the French Kiss
by Stephanie Perkins

Boy Meets Boy 
by David Levithan

Along for the Ride
by Sarah Dessen

Rules of Attraction
by Simone Elkeles

What are some of your favorite romantic YA reads? 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

RTW: Love for Writing

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.

Next week: 
It's (the day before) Valentine's Day! Let's jumpstart the lovefest by blogging about what you love most about writing (and/or reading)!

The thing I love most about writing (besides the feeling of triumph after finishing a first draft) is the characters. I love getting to see all of these characters and letting them come to life. Sometimes I feel like I'm just writing down their story, rather than creating them. It's fascinating watching them grow and change and take courses of action that I don't agree with.

I love the feeling of a particularly good writing day when the words are just flying onto the page almost faster than I can type them. The way the rest of the world just disappears and my heart feels like it's flying and it's just me and my laptop.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New Releases: Pivot Point, Out of the Easy

Pivot Point
by Kasie West
Pivot Point #1
Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

 Out of the Easy
by Ruta Sepetys

It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street.

Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

Monday, February 11, 2013

College: Reading Books for Class

I'm an English minor so many of my assignments involve reading books for class. Reading books in high school is not the same as reading books in college. Oftentimes in high school there will be a certain number of chapters assigned per day, sometimes chapters may be read in class, and in my classes there will be a sort of study guide of questions to answer while reading.

College is not typically like that. Here are some tips on how to handle required novels.

Step 1: Write down deadlines 
This information may also be in the syllabus, but if it's not make sure to write it down. It makes it harder to forget and keeps it as an accessible reminder.

Step 2: If the professor assigns chapters, keep up. 
It can be really easy to say "I'll just catch up this weekend" and end up falling way behind. Don't let this happen.

Step 3: If the professor just assigns a deadline, figure out how many chapters per day have to be read and actually read that many chapters 
It's also really easy to fall behind doing this. Don't let this happen. When you're figuring out the chapters, it can also be a good idea to give yourself a few days of wriggle room. There will be some days where you will be just too busy to read, whether it's with homework or other obligations, and it's a good idea to give yourself that leeway.

Step 4: Take notes
This will be a huge help when it comes to reviewing for exams or writing papers. If you have any thoughts while reading, jot them down. There's a possibility that you might be able to use one of them as a springboard for an essay thesis.

Step 5: Use your resources
Use any resources that your professor gives you and the Internet. Use Sparknotes before you read to get a feel for the story and after as a review. Don't just use Sparknotes, however. There is no substitute for getting the information first-hand from the story. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

New Releases: Etiquette and Espionage, City of a Thousand Dolls, The Whole Stupid Way We Are

Etiquette and Espionage
by Gail Carriger
Finishing School #1
It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to finishing school.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is the bane of her mother's existence. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper etiquette at tea--and god forbid anyone see her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. She enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But little do Sophronia or her mother know that this is a school where ingenious young girls learn to finish, all right--but it's a different kind of finishing. Mademoiselle Geraldine's certainly trains young ladies in the finer arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but also in the other kinds of finishing: the fine arts of death, diversion, deceit, espionage, and the modern weaponries. Sophronia and her friends are going to have a rousing first year at school.

 City of a Thousand Dolls
by Miriam Forster
Nisha was abandoned at the gates of the City of a Thousand Dolls when she was just a child. Now sixteen, she lives on the grounds of the isolated estate, where orphan girls apprentice as musicians, healers, courtesans, and, if the rumors are true, assassins. Nisha makes her way as Matron’s assistant, her closest companions the mysterious cats that trail her shadow. Only when she begins a forbidden flirtation with the city’s handsome young courier does she let herself imagine a life outside the walls. Until one by one, girls around her start to die.

Before she becomes the next victim, Nisha decides to uncover the secrets that surround the girls’ deaths. But by getting involved, Nisha jeopardizes not only her own future in the City of a Thousand Dolls—but her own life.

 The Whole Stupid Way We Are
by N. Griffin
It’s Maine. It’s winter. And it’s FREEZING STINKIN’ COLD! Dinah is wildly worried about her best friend, Skint. He won’t wear a coat. Refuses to wear a coat. It’s twelve degrees out, and he won’t wear a coat. So Dinah’s going to figure out how to help. That’s what Dinah does—she helps. But she’s too busy trying to help to notice that sometimes, she’s doing more harm than good. Seeing the trees instead of the forest? That’s Dinah.

And Skint isn’t going to be the one to tell her. He’s got his own problems. He’s worried about a little boy whose dad won’t let him visit his mom. He’s worried about an elderly couple in a too-cold house down the street.

But the wedge between what drives Dinah and what concerns Skint is wide enough for a big old slab of ice. Because Skint’s own father is in trouble. Because Skint’s mother refuses to ask for help even though she’s at her breaking point. And because Dinah might just decide to…help. She thinks she’s cracking through a sheet of ice, but what’s actually there is an entire iceberg

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

RTW: Best Book of January

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.

This week:  
What's the best book you read in January?

The first month of my Year of 100 Books has come to a close. I only managed to read three books last month (though, in my defense, I did finish one Martin novel and start another). All three books were great, but when it comes to the best it isn't a contest. 

 A Clash of Kings
by George R.R. Martin

The second installment in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. I was so excited to read this book after adoring the first and it did not disappoint. I'm still in shock over some points. This book may very well have destroyed my heart. I've already started the third book in the series, A Storm of Swords. 

I'm getting into this series late, but this is definitely a case of "better late than never." The story is perfectly weaved, the characters lifelike, and the setting gorgeously built. Each book is huge but doesn't really feel like it. I've read books a third of this size that felt twice as long. 

This is also the first book that I've literally thrown across the room in frustration. Four or five times to be exact. I'm going to say that as a good thing.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Favorite Sick Day Movies

I came down with a cold this week, of course when I need to do a ton of homework, and I don't feel particularly inspired on what to blog about.

So, here are a few of my favorite sick day movies for when I'm curled up with a blanket, a glass of tea, and some soup.

Ever After
Also my favorite Cinderella interpretation ever. 

The Avengers
Princess Diaries 2
The Proposal
The Three Musketeers
What are some of your favorite movies for a sick day?