Sunday, September 15, 2013

Eleanor and Park

I have to say that I was also pretty underwhelmed by number 19 of 2013.

This is a somewhat frequent problem I have been having lately for young adult fiction. I still appreciate much of young adult fiction and many of my favorite books are actually young adult (case in point: Harry Potter and TFiOS). Eleanor and Park, however, did not follow in that example.

I really don't have much to say about it, mostly because my opinion of it really isn't good or bad, just indifferent. It just didn't live up to the quality of some young adult fiction out there. It's generally pretty well-received, though, so this is clearly not the opinion of everyone.

I think I gave it two stars ("It was okay") on Goodreads.

The Little Prince

I wasn't sure whether or not I should be able to include number 17 on my book challenge list because it is technically a children's book... and also very short.

I decided to include The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery ultimately because it's often included in the sort of lists that are called, like, "books you should read in your lifetime" and reading books that I "should read in my lifetime" is the kind of thing that I want to be a side effect of my challenge.

I thought it was a beautifully written children's book that grappled with some not-specific-to-childhood issues. It's clear why adults enjoy it just as much, if not more, than children do.

I decided a few years ago that, every year for their birthdays, I would give my youngest cousins (now ages 6 and 2) a book that either I really enjoyed at that age, or one that I happened to enjoy later that is appropriate for their current age. If you want to know whether I'd recommend it, I plan to give one of them this book for one of their upcoming birthdays. So yes, I do recommend it, and enthusiastically!

Playing Catch-Up

I should clarify. I am several books AHEAD of schedule for my goal of 30 for this year. But I am almost the entire summer behind on blogging... Oops!

Number 16 was a non-fiction pick, the author of which has been recommended to me by enough people to prompt me to check it out. And I actually found it on extreme clearance at Half Price Books for like a dollar or two, if I remember correctly!

It was definitely interesting. Although, for me, it was a little over-hyped and not as compelling as it was made out to be. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't mind-blowing, to be honest.

I think the concept of his other book, Outliers, seems a little more interesting to me, so I will have to check that one out (I wasn't unimpressed enough to be completely turned off from the author).

Despite my underwhelming experience, I certainly learned something, which is always a plus.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


#15 is also a reread. I continued the end of 2012's endeavor by continuing the Harry Potter series with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by, none other, than J.K. Rowling.

I am not going to review each of these as I read them, but can I just say: I have such a new found appreciation for Azkaban. It was never one of my favorites in the series, but it is so important to all the subsequent books in the series and gets really compelling toward the end, even reading it for the sixth time!

(I will also note here that, according to my Goodreads profile, I am not only on track for my goal, but I am A BOOK AHEAD! YAYAYAYAYA!!!)

I have been reading the series while also reading new books, however, so stay tuned.

TFiOS Magic

Book #14 is a reread from last year.

I can't give The Fault in Our Stars by John Green enough praise, but for the sake of avoiding redundancy, I will redirect you to my original review here.

I reread it for a Speech piece for two of my students and I am SUPER excited to see what comes out of it!

Books in Birmingham

Last week I joined our national qualified students and a fellow coach to the Speech and Debate national tournament (through the National Forensic League) in Birmingham! It was a blast, and I am proud to have had students competing in such a prestigious academic contest.

During the small amount of down time I had alone in my own hotel room and between competition rounds that I judged, I was able to work on my thirteenth book of 2013:

This one was recommended to me by a friend and, after having read the description, it was one I knew I'd enjoy. I had no idea it was used in the high school curricula of so many schools. In fact, many other judges at the tournament commented on the book I was reading with high praise (they also complimented the my Catcher in the Rye "Holden Caulfield thinks you're a phony" shirt, which you can buy here).

I understand their praise! It so accurately highlighted the struggles and characteristics of an individual with autism (though, now that I think of it, it was never actually stated that the protagonist has autism... interesting), while also providing a compelling story.

Anyway, four stars!

Pride and Prejudice... and Progress

It seems as though I am a bit behind in reviewing my 2013 literary experience. I'll start with what was my twelfth book this year:

I have really enjoyed reading many "classics" that I would have read sooner had I been an English major (lucky English majors!) and Pride and Prejudice was a continuation of that endeavor. I bought the book a few years ago, but in typical me fashion, it was among a pile of purchased books left to plow through that eventually got forgotten after I bought a new stack to read.

This one (and Jane Austen novels in general) has been highly recommended by a friend for quite a while. Honestly, this type of genre is not typically my favorite, but as was the case with Gone With the Wind I knew I'd enjoy it once I finally finished it.

It always boggles my mind what people lived for during this time period. Like, it's crazy how a successful marriage meant one that included wealth and status (even if it meant marrying your first cousin). Older novels tend to remind me of the differences in societal norms between my world in the here and now and that of the worlds of other times and places. This one was no exception! Yay, classics!

Sunday, June 9, 2013


11 books and still going strong! I'm really hoping I'll be able to make 30 this year.

For book #11, I read the last John Green novel I hadn't read yet, which I borrowed from a friend.

Katherines, like all John Green books, was a pretty quick read. I read it in one sitting. I wasn't super impressed. Like, it was a John Green book, so it was good and I liked it. But it's definitely the least enjoyable of all his books. It was cute and it was funny, but it didn't yield the emotional connection that Looking for Alaska or The Fault in Our Stars or even Paper Towns did.

So now that I've read all of his books, I can rank them from best to least good (I don't like to say "worst" in this case because that seems to imply that John Green has bad novels).

1) The Fault in Our Stars. By far!
2) Looking for Alaska
3) Paper Towns
4) An Abundance of Katherines
5) If you can count this one because it was only half written by John: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

This book is fantastic and one of the best nonfictions I've ever read (though, admittedly, I rarely read nonfiction).

There's a lot of technical and research-based discussion, of course (which is very thorough), but as a whole it reminded me of how much pressure was thrust upon me as a child to "be more outgoing," "participate more in class," and "speak up." I can't help but wonder how different my early education and entire childhood could have been if teachers and other adults had learned to value quiet leadership, thoughtfulness, and independent work. Susan Cain actually answers much of this and I won't spoil all the details for you. But I will give you a hint: The Extrovert Ideal. Another hint: it's not a thing in Asia....

Cain doesn't advocate for everyone to become introverts. That's not good for society and also not possible (also explained at length in Quiet). What she advocates for is balance, and I agree that a balance of the two within a person and within a society can do great things.

I highly recommend this book to anyone really. Extroverts will understand their friends, families, and coworkers much better (after all, 1/3 to 1/2 of all people are introverts), and introverts will learn to embrace their tendencies and use them for good.

Here's a comprehensive and fantastic TED talk with Susan Cain:

I'll leave you with an awesome "Manifesto for Introverts" that is in the front cover:

1) There's a word for "people who are in their heads too much": thinkers.
2) Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
3) The next generation of quiet kids can and must be raised to know their own strengths.
4) Sometimes it helps to be a pretend extrovert. There will always be time to be quiet later.
5) But in the long run, staying true to your temperament is key to finding work you love and work that matters.
6) One genuine new relationship is worth a fistful of business cards.
7) It's OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
8) "Quiet leadership" is not an oxymoron.
9) Love is essential; gregariousness is optional.
10) "In a gentle way, you can shake the world."- Mahatma Gandhi 

Monday, May 27, 2013

On a roll...

According to I am still three books behind schedule in accomplishing my goal of reading 30 books in the year 2013. I am hopeful, however, because I have really been plugging along since I graduated. I am loving it! A bookworm's paradise... :)

Look Me in the Eye by John Elder Robison was another one of the books I got on my book shopping spree shortly before the semester ended. As I completed the classes necessary to receive my minor in Child Psychology, I developed an increasing interest in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Asperger's in particular. I'm not sure why exactly, but I as I read this book I discovered that I can relate to individuals with such a diagnosis on some small level. That is not to say that I believe I have an un-diagnosed variation in any way, but I think be open to relating to others is important in understanding people complexly.

On Goodreads, I gave this one three stars. There are a lot of things I liked about it, but let's get the few negatives, and the reason why it didn't receive a higher rating from me, over with. There's a large chunk of the book in which Robison explains in great detail the things he was interested in as a child and as he grew older. While I find it interesting that his greatest interests manifested themselves in his book in this way,  and will venture to say that this is a manifestation of certain characteristics of individuals with Asperger's, these are not my interests, and therefore were dry parts of the book for me. However, I enjoyed all overarching themes of the book and, while I reserve four- and five-star ratings for books that BLOW MY MIND, this particular read was definitely more than "OK" to me.

Robison is an interesting case of Asperger's, in that, due to the relatively recent incorporation in the DSM, he wasn't diagnosed until he was in his forties! This made me think a lot about labels and how they affect people. Robison briefly discusses the plasticity of the brain and mentions that the way children overcome Asperger's is likely strongly related to the types and quality of experiences they have in their lives, and how these experiences encourage a child to develop socially and intellectually. (Interesting side note: Robison experiences this phenomenon as a sort of waxing and waning of social development; whenever he felt more socially aware, he felt less in tune with his intense interests, and vice versa.) Because the author had no diagnosis growing up, I can't help but wonder how a label of Asperger's would have changed his experiences and social development. He seems to fully believe that the label would have made his experiences ten times better, but I'm not so sure. And what I mean by that is, I don't know.

The diagnosis of Asperger's would have given Robison and everyone he knew an explanation for his behavior and characteristics. He argues that he wouldn't have felt like he was just "weird" and that the many counselors and psychologists he saw wouldn't have labeled him as a "sociopath." This is probably all true. However, it's worth noting that perhaps the WORST side effect of labels is that they change the expectations of the individual. Considering what the general public knows about Autism Spectrum Disorders and Asperger's, it's probably fair to say that the average person would not expect an individual with Asperger's to thrive in a position that requires management and frequent interaction with people. On the other hand, if we consider an average person without an Asperger's diagnosis, the general public would likely expect that person to not only interact with other people on a regular basis, but to do it well and effectively. Before Robison received his diagnosis, he found a profession in which he honored his greatest interests, and also required a great deal of positive socialization, and he thrived on both counts. 

I'm not going to claim that labels are either inherently GOOD or inherently BAD, except to say that I acknowledge their necessity. But I think it's an issue that's worth considering, especially when the upcoming version of the DSM will eliminate Asperger's as a diagnosis. The plan is that any child that would be diagnosed with Asperger's will soon be lumped into general Autism Spectrum Disorders. I haven't decided how I feel about this change, but I know that there is one important identifier that distinguishes the two. Both diagnoses indicate a degree of social impairment, but while individuals with autism want to spend their time alone, individuals with Asperger's desperately want to connect with other people. As for me, I feel this distinction is significant. This issues brings us back to the idea of labels. The general publish already has an idea of what they know to be Autism and what they know to be Asperger's and, for many people, the two are very different in many ways. I wonder how the elimination of Asperger's will affect how a child is perceived.... Only time will tell. I would be interested in knowing how Robison feels about this issue.

As demonstrated by my lengthy rant, I certainly found Look Me in the Eye to be very thought-provoking. And with that, I'll leave with my favorite line from it:

"I don't know if it's an Aspergian trait or if it's just me, but I was never affected by celebrity. No matter how famous a musician was, he was just a guy with a broken guitar or an idea for a sound effect to me. But I could never explain that simple reality to other people."

Unlike Robison, I have always experienced the phenomenon of "celebrity," but I find that to be an unfortunate truth. The idea of romanticizing other people is dumb... but that's a whole other soapbox for a different day. :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Graduate Life

On Sunday, my commencement speaker said all of the stereotypical things: "Congratulations, graduates," "Your liberal arts education will prove to be incredibly valuable," "Go change the world," blah blah blah.

What he didn't, but should have, said was: "Get ready for this next transition during which time you live at your parents' house and sit on your computer and read all day, because you will feel useless, lazy, and like a loser."

It's funny how being the depths and throes of a challenging and stressful semester, the end seemingly out of sight, will prompt one to want nothing more than a damn break. All I wanted was to be done, free... graduated. Now that it has been a week since my final final, I want nothing more than a schedule, a routine, a reason to leave the house. 

As a college graduate, I have to worry about obtaining a "real" full time job that will sustain me for at least a year. No more "summer jobs" or "little part time jobs." Because I am hoping to stick with the school district (in order to keep my fun, decent-paying part time job with the school district), whatever this job may be won't begin until the fall. And I have made the decision to not actively look for a summer job until I find a slightly more permanent job for September. This means I only work... on Fridays. 

Thus the completion of two novels in the past week. So, yay! There's positive outcome of being semi-jobless at your parents' house...

Holy god was this book fantastic. 

I may be one of the last book lovers in the world to have read this one, but for some reason I never did. I'm not quite sure why its genre is Young Adult because it certainly grapples with serious topics. And also? Let me just point out that teenagers are the ones who are mostly currently reading classic "adult" novels like Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye. 

Anyway, there are a lot of things I like about this book, but one of those things is that it constantly brought my attention to the complete bullshit that I've always thought Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs to be. Like, as humans, there may be times of hunger, or thirst, or lack of shelter, and in some cases these times are long periods with inadequate amounts of these purportedly "basic needs." But, as humans, these "basic needs" do not have to be fulfilled for us to need the fulfillment of friendship, love... intellectual fulfillment. I have never had the misfortune of having my "basic needs" fail to be met over long periods of time, but we've reached a point in time in which a thirst for knowledge is imperative. If this weren't the case, we wouldn't have awesome organizations like the Book Wish Foundation, arranging to establish libraries in refugee camps. Refugees in Chad and elsewhere have daily struggles that I could never imagine, BUT THEY STILL REQUEST BOOKS AND KNOWLEDGE. I think that speaks to both the resilience and and ambition of the human race.

Sure, The Book Thief is a story about a young German girl in Nazi Germany. Many stories are. But among other things, it's also about the power of words. As someone with a thirst for knowledge and a passion for both the spoken and written word, that part of the story spoke to me.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Graduating and Reading

Today I finished my FINAL (undergraduate) final. Yay! It feels so good, but it is also kind of scary.

The best thing about graduating from college: graduating from college.

The worst thing about graduating from college: the panic attack that ensues concerning, like, getting a grown-up job and stuff. So it goes...

Anyway, at some point I stopped caring about studying (I put my trust in my lasting knowledge from the past four years- it was a more than adequate strategy by the way!) and made a trip to Half Price Book (oh how I love that store). It's probably one of my favorite places to be because 1) Half Price = new books! 2) it's next to a Caribou, and 3) it's next to a Panera. It's like a trifecta of awesome.

I still love my Kindle, don't get me wrong, but damn. There's something to be said about actual physical books. I also have a dream to have a HUGE kick-ass cataloged home library, so I better start now. :) So I brought a stack of dumb books I had acquired mostly during my teen years and got a measly $9 for them, which I used to go toward my purchase. I got six new books and I can't wait to read them ALL (and then some) this summer!

The first book completion of summer is Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.

Holy wow, where has Kurt Vonnegut been all my life? I mean, I wouldn't call it my favorite book of all time, but it is certainly thought provoking, and while I read I was all like, "WTF is this business? What is happening?" and it was so peculiar that I couldn't help but keep reading. I will definitely be picking up some more Vonnegut novels.

Sometimes I wish I had been an English major. Not really, but just so I could have been inherently and necessarily exposed to so many classics, some of which I probably won't be otherwise. I have a newfound interest in the classics because, like, they're classics for a reason. Many of them have been around and relevant for many many years, and I want to see what all the hype is about, I guess. Some of them, I'm like, "eh, alright, I guess I get it," but some of them I'm like, "ALSDKFJASLDKJFASKJD NO WONDER." I want to experience more of that. :)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Book #6 (yay!) and more dieting fails

Well, so, dieting never happened. I'm still a vegetarian, though! Which is pretty impressive. I've gone without a big juicy burger for almost three months.

Vegetarian triumph: I have kept off the 5 pounds I lost when I was actively dieting.

Vegetarian fail: The above is impressive (I would even say miraculous) because sometimes it feels like all I eat is junk food, cheese, and carbs... and eggs. I eat more veggies than I did as a carnivore, but not nearly as much as a vegetarian probably should. I need to work on that.

The cool thing, though, is that, while I celebrated a friend's birthday at Pizza Luce, ALL FOOD was conveniently 0 calories! ;)

Anyway, school/senior/graduating stresses + a long (yet successful!) speech season with the high school kids = NO READING FOR ME, EVER.

BUT, I did manage to slack off and do the senior slide thing long enough to read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, of course.

I've been meaning to read this one for years! And in my endeavor to tackle as many "classics" as I could, I finally got to it. Actually, my brother was reading it for his 11th grade English class. And I was like, "I'm gonna read this before you have to bring it back to school, okay? Okay." I read it in just a couple days.

It was pretty great! Probably not in my Top Ten, but definitely in, like, my top 20? I love the whole Green Light metaphor and the Life Goes On idea.

I will say, I'm ready for a couple more modern reads again. My friend is starting a book club- one book a month with wine at the end to discuss. :) Excited to find out what our first book will be!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Also, dieting?

Not in my list of things I have the self-motivation or self-control for at the moment. So, not only am I an unhappy camper. I am an overweight unhappy camper.

I miss my books :(

Speech will be over in approximately six days. I love coaching, but I also love my free time.

Then there's school. That, I don't love. Graduation is in approximately one month, at which time I will have time to read books. Lots and lots of books. I will be one happy camper. Until then, I am a sad camper.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Diet Fails and Triumphs: Update 1

I'm not sure what the secret is to following all dieting rules all the time, but I think it's pretty clear that I have NOT found it... 

I've made myself some "food rules" in addition to my 1200 net calories per day limit. Basically things like only one soda a day, only one treat a day, work out at least three days a week, etc. One huge change I have made to my diet came about after watching a documentary called "Forks Over Knives." It turns out that meat has way more protein than we actually need, and that societies who eat a ton of meat have much higher prevalence of heart disease, cancer, and other major health problems. They advocate for a completely plant-based, whole foods diet. I can't go that far, but I have completely cut meat out of my diet. I still eat fish, but (unless it's all in my head and, like, the placebo effect), I feel so much better. Meat makes me feel full and bloated and I haven't felt that way in the past month or so (which is how long I've been eating vegetarian meals).

Based on the last time I stepped on the scale, things are actually going pretty well. I've lost 4.5 pounds which is actually super impressive. I did pretty well for a while. I went to the gym, I followed my food rules, and I was feeling great. 

Last week, all started going to hell. A new week's assignment started for my "Couch to 5K" running program and it KICKED MY ASS. I went the first day and barely made it through the workout. The second day, it was even more rough so I just walked until I burned a couple hundred calories. Then I skipped the third day and haven't gone since. My excuse is that it's midterm week and "I have no time." UGH.

Then... a ridiculous two-day, 20-hour speech tournament happened. They provide all food for coaches/judges. All the sweets/treats were so yummy and they didn't really have low-cal options. I was all ready to get back into the groove when... let's just say I got to the point in the month where I want to EAT ALL OF THE FOOD. And that happened. Also, stress from midterms.

Here's to getting back on track and getting the courage to step back on the scale and assess the damage... 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Weight Loss

My mom is a damn good cook.

Which can be dangerous.

Actually, the meals she cooks us are mostly very healthy, but they're so good, I normally want second and third helpings. Also, all the snack food she buys for my dad and brother taunts me 24/7. I'm a choco-maniac, so the cookies, doughnuts, etc. ALWAYS find their way into my mouth.

When I was at my apartment, I was doing a pretty decent job at dieting. I ended up losing somewhere between 10 and 15 pounds because, if I wasn't supposed to eat it, I just didn't have it in the kitchen. I was in full control over what foods I made available to me. Now that I'm living at home, I can't just not have junk food in the house. My mom buys a TON of healthy things- all fresh vegetables, tons of fruit, whole wheat bread... But that stuff doesn't sound very good when there's a cupboard full of chocolate.

I joined a gym and did pretty well at going three to four times a week... for about a month. Then the last couple weeks I've sort of fell off the wagon. Last week, I went once or twice. This week, I haven't gone at all. It's so easy to say "forget it." It's funny how quickly I forget how good it makes me feel after even just 30 minutes on the treadmill.

I need to get better at both these things. I can't just eat tons of junk food and not go to a gym I'm paying for for the next five or so months I live here. I would really like to feel great about my health this summer (when one has to wear less clothing).

So, as a last-ditch effort, I will be blogging about my workouts and dieting once a week as an attempt to feel perhaps some accountability. And maybe blogging about The Struggle (because it will be one) will help too? Wishful thinking.

So here we go- maybe my next post will have good news!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Paper Towns

So, like, I'm pretty much super-student.

I have a busy ass schedule. I'm a full time student, I work two jobs, I volunteer a few hours a week, AND I DRIVE ALL OVER THE DAMN PLACE TO GET EVERYWHERE.

Those are things I have to do. The following are things I still miraculously find time to do:

-Go to the gym three days a week (like, OMG, that's impressive considering RUNNING SUCKS)
-Do all the assigned (yet completely unnecessary) textbook readings for my classes that "ain't nobody got time for"
-Go to most of the not-required-of-me Speech tournaments to support those angsty teens (and basically live vicariously through them when they earn lots of shiny ribbons/medals/trophies)
-READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! For fun!

I have just finished my fifth book of 2013, Paper Towns by John Green, and I am so totally on track for my goal of 30 this year.

It was pretty good and John Green-ish. I mean, it was more teenagery than TFiOS, which annoyed me at times. In fact, a lot of the middle was annoying basically because I feel like he was making gooshy themes/lessons superobvious and spoon feeding them to me. I do not want to be spoon fed those types of things while I'm reading. I just want the feel them, you know?

But. BUT. The ending, as always in John Green style, was wonderful. I actually enjoy reading about teen characters that aren't sucky and bratty all the time because, guys, they exist in real life.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that I pretty much rock at balancing my life, but one area of my life that is a GHOST TOWN at the moment (like, I won't even use the word lacking because it's nonexistent) is my social life. NO SOCIAL LIFE WHATSOEVER. That needs to change because I have a feeling that the older I get, the more difficult this will be. I think I am already an old lady at heart.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

#4... Strong start!

I am proud to report that, upon the end of month #1, I've plowed through book #4. Although I still have many months to stay on this track, I'm glad I've found time for leisure reading. Which is no small feat considering the fact that I'm two weeks into my LAST semester at the University of Minnesota.

Anyway, the fourth book I've read in 2013 is one that most people have read for school, but I never did.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

It was pretty good. I didn't realize how long Christopher McCandless spent "living off the land." Pretty impressive and I could/would never do it. I hate nature. Also the cold. It wasn't amazing or my favorite book of all time by no means, but it was definitely worth reading.

Other things I have impressively accomplished in the past two weeks:

1. Actually completing all the assigned textbook readings on schedule. The classes in my major are notorious for useless required textbooks that never actually help you when it comes to the tests. The professors literally say that they will not test you on the information in the textbook and that all questions will be based solely on lecture. Is this a motivator for taking the time to read the textbooks? No way. I still don't think it's necessary. But I guess I decided that it can't actually HURT and that one extra repetition of the intake of information might actually cause a small boost when it comes to testing time. And let's face it, I don't always give lectures my undivided attention anyway. We'll see if I follow through.

2. Discovering my own speech coaching strategies. No matter how involved you've been with high school speech/debate, there's always a learning curve involved when you start coaching. It takes a couple years to figure out what works for you and what makes the kids better. I've come to a place where every practice seems really productive and it's showing in their performances, which is cool to see.

3. Getting a gym membership and GOING TO THE GYM. This is probably my best recent accomplishment. I went three days in a row this week! I hate running... hate it. But I've actually come to enjoy going to the gym because it's the one part of the day that I get to have "me time." Also, I'm totally doing the Color Run, so I clearly need to get in shape.

Monday, January 21, 2013


After finally having finished and submitted my graduate school applications, I finished my third book this year.

Considering the awesomeness that is TFiOS, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan was completely mediocre.

Cool writing style, as always, relatively cool characters, and it has it's cool moments.


The story was BORING. And the ending was ridiculously cheesy. A ton of Will Graysons telling Tiny they appreciate him? Come on! Unlike some other Green titles, this one was just WAY too young adult.

You've done better, Mr. Green.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Books and Brothers

So it's halfway through January and I've already finished book #2, so it's looking pretty promising thus far. I just love having the time to read, and it helps that this one was good.

I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, by the way. It was actually amazing. I would probably give it like 4.5 stars. Which is a lot for me. It might be in my top ten. What was really interesting, was that it kind of reminded me of a deeper, modern-day Catcher in the Rye.

The kid, Charlie, is so likable, lovable actually, I would say. He likes a lot of cool books and movies, and loves listening to records and making mixed tapes for people. He hangs out with a lot of cool, really great people. Not to mention he has a really mature view of the world. I love when I read a book and feel like I would be friends with the protagonist if he/she was real.

Also, there were a few shockers. And it ended absolutely beautifully. Now I have to see the movie, which, undoubtedly, will pale in comparison to the book, since I read the book first and everything.

My weekend was nice, not just because of the awesome book. My brother and I are fighting less and less frequently and he's turning into a pretty cool kid (though he certainly has his teenagery, douchey moments). The thing though, is that he doesn't read. He's very uncool like that. Also, he never wants to hang out with me, which is normally fine, but sometimes isn't.

This weekend, my brother asked me two things:

"What book should I read?" and

"Do you wanna go ice skating with me?"

Okay, so he asked about the book because he had to read something for his English class, but it was fun finding a book he'd enjoy. I told him to read The Fault in Our Stars which is one of the greatest books of all time, in my opinion.

He started reading it, while I was reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and it was kind of a cool moment. He was apparently 17 pages in and he said, "I'm kind of interested in this book," which made me smile and which is also when he asked if I wanted to go ice skating with him. It was nice that he wanted to do something with me so we went and it was fun. Yay, brothers. :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Casual Vacancy

The first book of 2013 is hereby completed!

This morning, I finished The Casual Vacancy by the brilliant J.K. Rowling. This was the first ebook I purchased on my new Kindle Fire HD that I got for Christmas and I bought it with high hopes.

I'm really disappointed that it didn't meet my expectations or live up to the legendary Harry Potter series. It's possible that, had it been written by another author, I would have been more impressed. But, because of everyone's high expectations, I kind of feel indifferent about it.

It was alright. A million characters and tons of plots and storylines to keep track of. It was hard to get through the first half. The second half was much better, but I still did not mind putting it down... 

Three stars. Sorry, Jo.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Locks of Love

Today I crossed off a very fun/big/important item on my bucket list: "donate hair to Locks of Love."

Which meant I had to say goodbye to a lot... a LOT... of hair! I was kind of terrified. But not terrified enough to not do it, which was good. And the lady who cut it was so nice! It really was a fun experience.

It's already weird looking at these photos and seeing
how much hair I had!

I love this picture! The best part was the
ceremonious cutting of the ponytail. :)

Hopefully this means taming "the beast"
will be less of a chore...
This photo is Awkward Town, USA and bad,
but there you have it: short hair and stuff. AND CURLS.

This was really an awesome experience and I'm glad I did it! Yay for Locks of Love and crossing off bucket list items!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Best and Worst Books of 2012

I forgot that, a year ago, I had the intentions of making a best/worst book list at year's end. So here we have it.

I'll start with the worst, so that we can end on a high note.


I had to put this one on the 5 worst list mostly because of its lack of content. Like I originally said, the first chapter was great, but it just wasn't funny past that. Also, it just dragged on and got boring to read.

I also had to include this one on the naughty list merely because the writing sucked. I mean, it's to be expected: these people are not writers. Also, I got a lot out of it, but it didn't reveal much more than is revealed on their TLC show.

This was a really disappointing end to the series. The story was comparatively boring and the world of Panem continued to be under-described. Ms. Collins, take a page out of Jo's book (pun intended).

I was NOT a fan of the second book in this series. In fact, I was so much not a fan, that I refuse to read the third one. Just too much going on, I guess. And too many mundane details.

This one was BY FAR the WORST book of the year, perhaps the worst I've ever read. Cheesy, boring, shallow, terrible writing, etc. If I happen to notice another book by this yahoo, I will laugh. Out loud.


This one kept me laughing and kept me reading, even though nothing super compelling happened. It was thought-provoking, however, so it deserves 5th place!

Reading this one was kind of a spiritual experience and also made me rethink what we're taught when we're part of a university. I generally believe I have a good quality education, but Beck sheds light on what really matters and that there's more to life than what you learn from professors.

Fahrenheit 451 is brilliant. Bradbury was one smart dude. He predicted, sometimes metaphorically and sometimes literally, many major flaws with today's society. My mind was blown. Round of applause for Mr. Ray Bradbury, may he rest in peace.

This story is beautiful and it was beautifully written. First of all, I didn't even know about this part of World War II. Second, it totally tugged on my heartstrings, always a plus. I don't think this one is very well known, but I highly recommend it. 

Okay, I'm pretty sure I read this masterpiece in two settings and sobbed intermittently. John Green is one awesome dude. What's even better is that he doesn't underestimate a teenager's ability to take in deep subject matter, and he doesn't limit his readership (many adults love it too!). Very very powerful read and I recommend it to anybody and everybody. Congratulations, Mr. Green-- your novel has rightly earned 1st place in best books of 2012!

*Note: I am not including books I'd already read prior to 2012, for obvious reasons.

New Year, New Renovations

My blog is boring. I know it is. All I really blog about is book reviews and how much I'm failing at my book-reading goals. It started out fun, and I still sort of enjoy it, but it's too limited. Why not blog about other things?

Hence, the new name and design. 

It's inspired by one of the most beautiful songs ever written, in my opinion ("Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory, the original/1971 version, of course). This was one of those movies that I watched over and over again as a child, probably every day for a year and many many times in other years. Our VHS tape of it is probably ruined from overuse. Hey, I was a kid who was in love with chocolate (STILL AM) and thought Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory existed until an embarrassingly old age. 

But I digress.

The lyrics of the song have deeper meaning than chocolate-making, and especially resonate with me now. I think many of us (especially students) focus so much on their future and getting to a certain happy, enjoyable, ideal life situation that we forget to appreciate where we are now. Which is something I'm working on. Okay, I'm living with my parents when I wish I had the funds to pay for school AND my own place, I'm getting tired of being tired and stressed, and this hour-long commute to school is becoming unbearable. But what I should do is enjoy the time I have with my family in their beautiful house and neighborhood, appreciate their willingness to help and my opportunity to get a higher education, and use those long commutes as a time to reflect. 

Another thing that's bogging me down is my graduate school application process. I got to a place where I was extremely overwhelmed and afraid of not getting in anywhere. While being rejected at all five schools to which I'm applying would disappoint me for a time, I need to consider and be aware of the possibility that I will be doing something else next year. At first, the idea terrified me-- my biggest fear is failure. But feeling sorry for myself wouldn't get me anywhere, nor would it lead me to becoming a licensed speech pathologist. So I've decided that I don't NEED to get into a graduate program right away if it just doesn't happen. It would give me the opportunity to stay at my awesome jobs and earn some more money first to actually pay for it.

Anyway, to spare you further ranting, I will leave you with the song that inspired my renovated blog and my new attitude: