Thursday, September 30, 2010
Liesl’s Choice This Week:
LEGALLY BLONDE by Amanda Brown
I got this book in a book exchange in 5th grade and didn't open it until this past summer. I recently went through a phase where I wanted to be a personal defense attorney and go to Yale Law school. I had this whole plan - I was going to graduate and start my own firm and eventually get married and then I would be this lawyer woman who was really successful and had an amazing family...it wasn't a very practical plan.
I now have a new career path but that is beside the point. This book is about a girl names Elle Woods who is Delta Gamma sorority president and goes to USC. She has a very "hot" boyfriend and 2 very good friends and a very wealthy family and she seems to have it all but...Warner (her amazing bf) breaks up with her just when she is expecting a proposal. She is devastated and mortified and sooooo sad so she devises a plan.
One of the reasons her boyfriend broke up with her was that he wanted to pursue an career in law and need to focus and become serious about school and because he was going to transfer to Stanford Law. Elle applies to Stanford Law even though her family and friends think she is crazy and out of her mind, and gets excepted. She packs her bags and heads to Stanford to win back Warner and (I think) to prove everyone wrong - that she can go to law school. She soon realizes though, that law school is no joke and she struggles to fit in. Her fellow classmates all call her Barbie and don't think she belongs there. She struggles to make friends. Warner is surprised when he runs into her and they hang out and she does all the crazy things to try to get him back and they kiss once or twice. She gains hope, she loses hope, she wants to give up, she presses on.
I can't give away the end but I tell you, Elle woods is a fighter! She is the kinda girl that stops at nothing to achieve her dreams. Look to her for inspiration! ( side note...I heard that the movie is really good too! I have yet to watch it so read and then watch!! )
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Portia’s Recommendation this Week:IMMORTAL BELOVED by Cate Tiernan
I'm not sure if I'm allowed to review ARCs, but I'm going to take a chance here and try. Immortal Beloved was one of the books Cynthia gave us to try in the numerous stacks that made their way home with us. The blurb on the back really sucked me in, you know? Who wouldn't want to read about an immortal spoiled party girl who feels guilty and goes good? Anyone really. :)
Immortal Beloved is about an immortal girl, Nastasya (Nasty to her friends) who's on the fast track to a life with no meaning. More accurately - she's been on that path for over a century, is nowhere near getting off it, and her life has no meaning. She and her group of friends, drink, party, steal, shop, travel on a whim, rent crazy expensive apartments, and do whatever they fancy doing be it racing normal teenagers down a mountain, going to 10 different clubs in one night, jetting off on a moment’s notice to China or India or the US.......basically anything that doesn't require responsibility.
When Nastasya watches her friend break the spine of an innocent (but annoyed) cab driver with black magic, she feel so sick about not knowing her friends as well as she thought, and walking away from that cabbie to go party some more when she knows he will be paralyzed for life or maybe even die. Convinced that she's not normal, that something must change, she runs away without notice and seeks refuge at River's Edge-- the house of a woman in nowhere, Massachusetts who she met in France a hundred or so years back.
While at River's, without her friend’s influence surrounding her, Nastasya can try to reinvent herself and heal from the memories of horrible past, while embracing the magic within her. She must deal with jealous roommates, a Viking god, teachers that may be a bit too understanding, a boring job working with a girl scared senseless by her dad, boring clothes, early morning chores, crazy spring cleaning, and the thought of her friend somewhere, trying to hunt her down.....
Through it all, Nastasya continues to be at peace with herself, what happened to her family as a child, the life she's led for the last century, and what she wants from herself and from her experience at River's.
This book was really really really good! I know that sometimes books about immortals can be a bit....all the same. But I found that Cate's idea was something totally new! I liked that the girl got to be immortal for once. I liked that she didn't have to drink blood or anything to stay that way. I liked that she included personal growth for Nastasya in the book. That Nastasya could grow over the course of the book, and that all her life experiences came into play. I liked that she would bring in flashbacks of Nasty's past. It was amazing to see back that far to a place in Nasty's mind and hear what happened from a first-person witness--almost like you were there yourself. I think it was beautifully written and I encourage everyone to read Immortal Beloved - it came out just a couple of weeks ago!
On this date: In 1972, Mac Davis hit number one with the single "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me". (Earworm anyone?)
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Last night, I sat in an old revival theater and watched the amazing documentary Race to Nowhere. From their press release:
Our high-pressure, high-stakes culture has invaded our schools and children’s lives, creating unhealthy, disengaged, unprepared and stressed-out youth. Educators, parents, and students are embracing Race to Nowhere, a new documentary film that exposes the insidious silent epidemic in our education system. The film tells the stories of young people pushed to the brink, burned-out educators, and deeply frustrated parents.
The place was packed (not least because parts of it were filmed at our elementary school - some of the people involved in the film are alums) and it was great to see so many people interested in hearing another point of view about our educational system.
I have two school-age boys and we've already seen some of the stress-related symptoms in both of them. They are both awesome students and play instruments. Right now, they are both playing rec soccer (we bowed out of the Division 1 team because I'm not completely insane), one has travel baseball and then there are the guitar lessons. We do not have one free weekday evening, and several days a week there is more than one activity. Right now, one son is up late trying to cram in the required saxophone practice before bed because he just got home from soccer. They are overscheduled. I know that. All of it will end on November 13th (not that I'm counting) and then we will revisit the things they REALLY want to do. When your kid pleads not to go to batting practice on Sunday because he really needs a day off, it is a wakeup call.
Which is why this film is so timely. I can't recommend it highly enough. Even if you totally subscribe to the type A, AP Classes, sports, music and volunteer-work way of life for your high school student, it is worth checking out. The list of upcoming showings is available here.
After I got home, I had an impromptu talk with my oldest son about what defines success. When I asked him that, his answer was "Stanford". I asked him why, and interestingly, he didn't have a ready answer except that it is the 'best' school. "What if the best school for you is a small, private college in Wisconsin?" I asked. "Or somewhere that you can study music?" Not that I'm knocking four-year colleges - on the contrary, but maybe not for the reason that everyone thinks. I honestly don't think it matters all that much where you go to get your basic degree.
What matters to me is that the school have a strong dorm community so that there is an easy and logical transition from my house to the big wide world. Living in the freshman dorms, you have a roof over your head, your bills are paid and you have access to food (boy do you - freshman 15 anyone?), but there is nobody looking over your shoulder telling you what to do. My boys need this transition because except for summer vacations, I don't want them living in my house once they turn 18.
I went to UC Santa Barbara. I can't lie, it was great. There was a lot of work, but we had a lot of fun and somehow I managed to graduate in five years after an amazing year spent abroad (that is another post altogether). Could I write without a college education? Sure. I don't need my college education to do what I do now. Guess how many creative writing classes I've taken in my life? My son guessed 'like a hundred'. The answer is one. Freshman year. The guy teaching it said I basically had no talent and I managed to scrape by with a B. I never took another one.
Yes, my college degree gave me options. Did it need to be from Stanford in order for me to be 'successful'? Obviously not. It took me a long time to find the one thing that I love to do and apparently don't completely stink at (yes, with my college degree I also recognize bad grammar when I see it). But there are other options. It's heartbreaking to see kids actually take their own lives because they feel that they have none.
On this date: In 1985, George Clooney made his debut on The Facts of Life.
Monday, September 20, 2010
First, we have a blog post by Douglas Martin on 20 reasons to date a writer. All of them adorable and almost none of them true, at least in my life.
Then the insanely hilarious blog-answer from agrammer. My favorite answer is number 2:
Writers will romance you with words. We probably won’t. We write for ourselves or for money and by the time we’re done we’re sick of it. If we have to write you something there’s a good chance it’ll take us two days and we’ll be really snippy and grumpy about the process.
Haha! Just because we can, doesn't mean we will. Reminds me of one summer when I was home from college and cleaning houses for a living. Mom (an ER nurse) asked me once why I didn't just tackle our kitchen in my spare time and my answer to her was something along the lines of I didn't ask her to stitch me up in her spare time so don't ask me to clean anything in mine.
On this date: In 1975, the Bay City Rollers make their US debut.
What was that? Did I just do an entire blog post by cross posting other people's blogs? Why, yes. Yes I did. It's a busy week.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Portia's Pick this week:
CATCHING FIRE by Suzanne Collins
I believe I did a review on THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins the other week. No, I don't believe. I know I did. So you all probably read it by now! Which means I can review the amazing book number 2! In this amazing trilogy! I know I read a wide variety of genres, but I don't read a whole lot of rough and tough survival in the wild books, but this is a series that sucks you in so fast, you don't know what hit you!
The whole summer after Cynthia lent me THE HUNGER GAMES, I was begging for the 2nd book. She said that someone (unnamed for their own sake) was in possession of it and they should be done soon. And they would return it and I could read it. It was a bit unfair-looking back- to give me the first one without the second one because I would have had to wait and wait and wait after that start and that's just not right! The suspense can't do good things for my blood pressure. (That's the argument I give my teachers about too much homework in case you're wondering and it has yet to work.) But at least I read them pretty close to the release date. :) After many careful and lengthy negotiations with the person who previously borrowed this book from Cynthia (without my permission I might add), I was given CATCHING FIRE and thought that with all my school work, I wouldn't need MOCKINGJAY for a while, so I lent it to this person who needed it. Alas, I finished CATCHING FIRE two or so days later on a Friday(!!) and needed MOCKINGJAY immediately! But this person still had it. Thankfully, they thoughtfully gave it to me unasked on Monday. :)
CATCHING FIRE was just as good as the first! The whole storyline had an amazing twist of a Quarter Quell games that calls for Katniss and Peeta to reenter the arena with other hunger games victors in a fight to the death. They must deal with new allies, new plots, new threats, new twists, new information, new attention to Katniss from an old friend, and a game bigger than Katniss or Peeta suspected.
I was surprised that Suzanne Collins could tie in another hunger games with Katniss and Peeta and still have it work without seeming like she ran out of ideas. I liked that she threw new twists in to mix things up. New lies for the Capitol and new discoveries about the bigger picture. I liked that she tied in old information from the other book that you were confused about or thought was pointless, and she built upon information and characters that you thought were unimportant. I liked that she didn't fudge everything for the good guys and make everything go right for them. She put in betrayals and deaths and you never knew who to trust, who was lying, who was sane, who had was skill, who knew what about who, who wasn't who they seemed, or who loves who and meant what they said. She was able to link stories, pasts, characters, and motives for actions without seeming too random and complicated or over thought.
This is a great book and a great series! I was reading MOCKINGJAY the past 2 days, and I literally walked to school while holding 2 textbooks and reading it. I was almost late for PE because I was reading in the locker room this morning! Because you never know what could happen to anyone, you have to read to find out what happens next!
THE PRINCESS DIARIES by Meg Cabot
I loved these movies and so, on a trip to the store I was browsing through the book section and found this book! I was in desperate need of something to read and had started the book but never finished it so...
This book is about a girl named Amelia (who goes by Mia) whose mom is going out with her math teacher and is in love with Josh the most popular senior guy in school. She is kind of known as a freak by the popular people and isn't totally happy with her life. Well, one day her dad comes to visit and tells her that she is the heir to the throne of Genovia. She is a Princess and she isn't happy. Her grandmother comes to visit also and gives her princess lessons. In her lessons she wants Mia to become used to the paparazzi so she leaks to the news that Mia is a princess and the secret is out. She eventually accepts that she’s a princess.
Now I was surprised by how similar the book and the movie were. There were a few differences, such as the book takes place in New York and the movie takes place in San Francisco. In the movie, Mia is brunette and in the book Mia is blonde. In the movie Lily and Mia are friends the whole time and the one fight they do have they fix right away, in the book lily and Mia get in a fight because Mia has to go to princess lessons and can't help Lily with her T.V show "Lily tells it like it is". Lily stays mad at her practically the whole book. Another big difference is that Mia's Dad is alive in the book and in the movie he’s dead.
Some things that are the same are the characters. One of our family’s favorite characters is Paolo the hairstylist. He has some awesome lines in the movie. This is a quote from Princess Diaries 2 the best that I can remember. Mia: "I look like a moose!" Paolo: "Yes, but a very cute moose! You make all the boy mooses go mmmmwwwwwaaaaa!" (think moose sounds) anyway... it is definitely a good book and the movies are equally good so go read!!
On this date: In 1620, the Mayflower departs England.
Monday, September 13, 2010
But I do listen to a lot of music to get in the mood to write. Certain songs just tug at something and put me right in the place I need to be for a certain scene or chapter. These are a couple of the songs that I listened to over and over (and over) while writing my new paranormal romance (we do have a title but I didn't ask Agent E if I was allowed to share it yet):
1. The Script - Break Even (I listened to this so much that for awhile the book was called Barely Breathing. It's not anymore, but I still love this song.)
2. The Style Council - You're the Best Thing (Mmm. Paul Weller. Is there anything else to say?)
3. Everything But The Girl - Missing (Seeing Tracy live is practically a spiritual experience for me. Plus, in this live version we've got go go dancers!)
4. Neon Trees - Animal (Don't know why this one worked, but it did.)
On this date: In 1916, Roald Dahl is born.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Although my experience that day was limited to what we all watched on screens, author Meg Cabot has an important and moving blog post about what she saw out her window in NYC that September 11th. Click on the link and check it out even if you do nothing else to remember what happened nine years ago today.
On this date: In 2001, everything changed.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Just a tiny bit late, I give you...the Lit Chicks and their recommendations this week:
Liesl’s Choice this Week:
EVERMORE by Alyson Noel
This book is about a girl named Ever, whose family dies in a car crash on their way home from picking her up from cheer camp and she blames herself. Through a very complicated chain of events she ends up with psychic powers. She doesn’t like being known as the "freak" and so she wears a hoodie and listens to her iPod really loud to drown out the noises of peoples thoughts. She meets this super hot new guy named Damen who seems interested in her but no one seems to understand why. Damen makes her feel normal and they become a couple. Ever likes him but he has weird habits and she gets suspicious and kinda freaks out that he’s cheating and stuff.
Damen ends up being immortal and is being distant to protect her from this lady Drina who was Damen’s wife in a past life but he left her to be with Ever. With a lot of adventure, drama, and romance it ends happy and the sequel is also good! This book I liked because it had a mix of genres and was a gripping story! I liked the little bit of history woven in, and i really don't like historical fiction. It was perfect if you like the immortal type stuff.
Go read pronto!!! You can even borrow ours...if Portia lets you!
Portia’s Pick Today:
A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS by Eva Ibbotson
There's a teacher at my school names Ms.Turner who is very up-to-date on the latest and great YA books. She works in a book store during the summer months or something, but she gets all the newest releases and has all the sequels and everything! And she's so great about lending her books out with no second thought. She's a great resource to take advantage of.
One day she had a bunch of bins of books outside her classroom up for grabs. While rifling through, I found A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS, which has been a really good book. It was one of the only promising books in the bin, to be frank, but it proved to be excellent.
A COUNTESS BELOW STAIRS is about a Russian countess after the Russian revolution who lost her father and all possessions fleeing to England with her mother and governess. Having lost everything, Anna takes a job as a temporary servant at Mercham, preparing the house for the returning Count. During her weeks of work, she comes to love Mercham and her fellow servants. When the Count returns, she slowly finds herself falling in love with him, and him with her, but Count Rupert has a cruel fiancée waiting in the wings, and there's nothing either of them can do.
This was a really cute love story. The fiancée Muriel was horrifying, and you find yourself appreciating the history while in despair over Anna's inner struggle. I recommend it to all! It's a good historical fiction and very interesting. Not boring. :)
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Hoarders is a trending topic on Twitter today because last night was the premiere of the new season on A&E. There weren't many hoarding shows on television when I wrote Dirty Little Secrets. There was the documentary My Mother's Garden (whose praises I've sung in many a blog post) and a special on TLC along with a couple of Dr. Phil episodes that focused on the disorder. Now, both A&E and TLC have hoarding series and for the most part I think it's a good thing. The only way to neutralize dirty secrets is to shine a spotlight on them and get them out in the open, and I think these shows do a lot to start the dialogue (despite all of the snarky, ignorant comments that show up on the Hoarder's Facebook page after every episode). Bringing the disorder out into the mainstream will hopefully give others the courage to speak out and get the help they or their loved ones need. There is only one time when my feelings about these shows falters and that's when there are kids involved.
I just watched the Tivo'd episodes of the new Hoarders on A&E series back to back. For the first half hour after they were over, all I could say was 'wow'. A&E has certainly outdone themselves this season by finding some of the most difficult subjects to show on TV. (If you haven't seen them, you can watch them in full on A&E's website.)Both episodes were intense, disturbing and heartwrenching but I found myself with tears in my eyes for much of Teri's story because of her kids.
(This is a photo of Teri's living room before the cleanup.)
For the first time since I can remember, one of the organizers felt the need to call Child Protective Services because of the living conditions in Teri's Hawaiian home. I've had the pleasure of striking up an online relationship with Geralin Thomas, one of the show's organizers, and I know how difficult some of the episodes can be on them, so I know it wasn't a decision that the show took lightly. Although the children ultimately stayed in the home, emotions ran high for everyone in that episode and eight year old Jordan cried repeatedly during her interview. That was the point when I started asking myself if this was all okay. Who are we to sit and watch the misery that children are going through?
On the one hand, I think it's good for the kids to realize that none of this is their fault. One of the main points of my book was that the kids can't take responsibility for the mental disorder of the adults around them. It would be a good thing for other kids who are living in hoarding situations to see kids just like them on TV and know they're not alone. Those are the good things. But then I wonder how the kids might feel at school, with their friends and a few years down the road to know that their difficult lives were laid out on television for us all to digest and comment on.
I don't have an answer. Guess it's good that I'm not running the network.
On this date: In 1940, my dad was born. Happy Birthday POPPA!!!!!!
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Liesl’s Pick this Week:
THE SECRET OF SHADOW RANCH by Carolyn Keene
I will ETERNALLY admire mystery writers. I have no clue how they do it! I mean you read it and you wonder what’s going to happen, you are in suspense and on the edge of your seat and then the person who is the protagonist solves the mystery and it all makes sense. I have NO idea how they do. I've tried and i have declared it impossible for me, Liesl, to write a mystery so i will enjoy the work of other fabulous writers and i will enjoy high school.
This book is one of my favorite Nancy Drew books (yes i still read Nancy Drew). This particular Nancy adventure is about a trip Nancy takes to Arizona with her friends Bess and George to visit their uncle’s ranch. When the girls arrive to the ranch they are told by Uncle Ed that they can't stay because the ranch is haunted. Well everyone knows that Nancy can't resist a mystery, and so she convinces Uncle Ed to let them stay and they help solve the case as well as have tons of fun shopping and going to hoe- downs and treasure hunting and all the fun Arizona experiences. Definitely read this - even younger kids can enjoy this book. This is a book that you are NEVER too old to read -
also read all the other 52+ Nancy adventures!
ERAGON by Christopher Paolini
Okay, so first I have to warn you all that not everyone likes fantasy. I've found that a lot of girls like chicky books and cute books and beach reads and pretty much everyone hates all school reading material (so sorry if John Steinbeck or whoever is reading this :)), but fantasy is one genre where most people I know can't agree. Either you like it or you don't. No, that's not true. Either you like a book, or you don't. And I think it's pretty 50/50. For example - I thought everyone loved Harry Potter when I first read them in 2nd or 3rd grade. I got all the new ones when they came out. I knew everything about the storyline and the characters and all the hidden secrets and the who says what to who about who's on who's side and all that. So it was news to me when my dear friend in 5th grade kindly told me that Harry Potter was boring. I could only gape open mouthed at her in shock! How could anyone not like Harry Potter? They are only the best fantasy--and possibly the best period--books ever written! Everyone like Harry! But alas, no. They do not. Since then, I have had numerous people inform me of their dislike of Harry Potter. Though I have been equally shocked every time, I am started to realize that not everyone likes the same book. You can't please everybody no matter how interesting your characters are, how intense the plot line is, how amazing the actual writing is, or how much somebody else likes it.
ERAGON, for me, was one of those books. I thought it was amazing. I thought it was the coolest idea. I was cheering for people and booing for people and yelling at people's rash decisions and crying and laughing and wishing I was an elf, or had magic, or had a dragon. It was one of those fantasy books where you want to be where they are. One of those books where the writer makes you feel bad for being weak and human and unmagical. One of those books where you rave about and other people can only get to page 39.
I first read ERAGON in 5th grade. Actually, I think I read the second book, ELDEST, first. I got Eldest in a book exchange in 5th grade (I exchanged ERAGON, before I read it in that same exchange.) and read that one first. I know some of you are probably angry that I spoiled it, but the 2 books are so different that I didn't really spoil anything. I read ERAGON soon after that, though.
ERAGON is a bit like Lord of the Rings in the detail. Or so my mother told me when I described it to her. Christopher Paolini invented an entire little country. Or not so little. He made up 5 or so different races, with their own languages, customs, religions, families, specialties, characteristics, abilities, buildings, lands and power. Eragon is a farm boy who lives in Carvahall with his cousin and uncle, Garrow, after his aunt died and his mother mysteriously left him with Garrow. While out hunting for meat for the winter, Eragon encounters a strange blue stone that appears out of nowhere. Eragon takes the stone home thinking it might be valuable and bring his family some much needed money, but instead the stone hatches and brings him a bright blue baby dragon within a few days. Eragon tries to hide the dragon in the forest by his home, but in a couple weeks the dragon grows out of its little tree hideaway and starts leaving traces of its existence. Eragon starts to grow worried. When he first touched the dragon, he developed a silver mark on his hand. With this mark comes a mental connection with his dragon, soon named Saphira. Eragon has joined the ranks of the fantastical dragon riders. When deadly strangers visit his home, kill his uncle, and destroy the farm while he and his cousin are away, Eragon must take extreme measures. He escapes Carvahall with the town storyteller, Brom, and his dragon, Saphira, chasing the Ra'zac without telling anyone.
Brom and Eragon aren't on a little day trip. They must elude the Empire and the tyrannic leader, Galbatorix. They must travel fast, but keep Saphira hidden on the road. Eragon must learn how to defend himself with a sword and learn how to control his new magical power. They are 2 outlaws on the run, but even though Brom and Eragon are teammates, Eragon remains suspicious about Brom. Who is this so-called storyteller who knows the history of the legendary dragon riders? How is he so skilled with a sword and knowledgeable in magic and the ancient language? What is his personal history?
Eragon can't trust anyone, and he is new to his powers and this new world outside of Carvahall. He and Saphira must make their way through dangers they never dreamed about. Abduction, death, prophecy, secrecy, impossibly distances to travel in little time, elves, shades, wars, and more. Can they survive and take up the mantel???? We may never know.
Actually, you can know. Heehee, if you read the book. I know fantasy isn't for everyone. I know not everyone likes the same books. But as far as fantasy goes, this was a well written, intriguing book. I loved the rest of the series (though we still await the concluding fourth book) and I can't wait for the finale. The characters were very interesting with their own motives and stories and the way everything was interlinked--sort of like Harry Potter. This is definitely a book I would recommend to people, myself. Though don't blame me if it's not your forte. If you don't like ERAGON, you’d better like Harry Potter!
On this date: In 1969, the first ATM opened for business.