Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Review: The Shadowhunter's Codex by Cassandra Clare and Joshua Lewis

ISBN: 1442416920
Published: October 29th, 2013
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Read from June 25th to 29th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The Clave is pleased to announce the newest edition of the Nephilim’s oldest and most famous training manual: the Shadowhunter’s Codex. Since the thirteenth century, the Codex has been the young Shadowhunter’s best friend. When you’re being swarmed by demons it can be easy to forget the finer points of obscure demon languages or the fastest way to stop an attack of Raum demons. With the Codex by your side, you never have to worry.
Now in its twenty-seventh edition, the Codex covers it all: the history and the laws of our world; how to identify, interact with, and if necessary, kill that world’s many colorful denizens; which end of the stele is the end you write with. No more will your attempt to fight off rogue vampires and warlocks be slowed by the need to answer endless questions from your new recruits: What is a Pyxis? Why don’t we use guns? If I can’t see a warlock’s mark, is there a polite way to ask him where it is? Where do we get all our holy water? Geography, History, Magic, and Zoology textbook all rolled into one, the Codex is here to help new Shadowhunters navigate the beautiful, often brutal world that we inhabit.
Do not let it be said that the Clave is outdated or, as the younger Shadowhunters say, “uncool”: this new edition of the Codex will be available not only in the usual magically-sealed demonskin binding, but also in a smart, modern edition using all of today’s most exciting printing techniques, including such new features as a sturdy clothbound cover, a protective dust jacket, and information about title, author, publisher, and so on conveniently available right on the cover. You’ll be pleased to know that it fits neatly into most satchels, and unlike previous editions, it rarely sets off alarm wards.
The old woodcuts and engravings have been replaced as well: instead, you’ll find lavish modern illustrations by some of the brightest luminaries of the fantastic. Creatures, weapons, people, and places have been carefully and accurately rendered by the likes of Rebecca Guay, Charles Vess, Jim Nelson, Theo Black, Elisabeth Alba, and Cassandra Jean. Chapters are beautifully introduced by the drawings of Michael Kaluta, and along with our condensation of the classic 2,450-page tome, A History of the Nephilim, you will find a selection of the best of the lovely illustrations of that volume by John Dollar.


This is a companion book to both The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices series. A good comparison is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in the Harry Potter series. This one isn't a textbook per se, but Clary studies it like a textbook. Clary, Simon, and Jace have also all "written" in it just like Harry, Ron, and Hermione have Fantastic Beasts.

This book has just about every bit of information you could want on the Shadowhunter world. It's definitely a good resource. It is not, however, fun for straight up reading. In fact, the characters regularly remark how boring different information is in their notes, and all that did was remind me how bored I was too. This will be good as a reference in the future if I need to look something up, but I'll admit that I really only skimmed most of it for Clary, Jace, and Simon's notes.

For the most part, those were enjoyable, but I do have to say that there were many times where it felt unnatural. Like I couldn't imagine them actually writing down something that they apparently did or where they felt the need to add too much context (which was clearly for readers) than they would have otherwise. I'm being nit-picky here, but that did feel forced throughout the book. And that made the notes less believable.

Overall, this is something die-hard fans will want in order to have more information on the world even though they're sure to know a large portion of it already. It definitely feels more like a resource than something to sit down and read though.

Oh, and maybe I should go ahead and add that this contains spoilers for The Mortal Instruments. As far as I can tell, it was published after the fifth book, and I would make it through that one at least (if not all six) before picking it up. I myself haven't read The Infernal Devices yet, so I don't know if I read any huge spoilers without knowing it, but since the characters from that series aren't the ones writing in the book, I feel like I was pretty okay.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

It's Just Not Hogwarts

When the Fantastic Beasts movie comes out, we're supposed to get some sort of information on the American wizarding school. I don't think much has really been said about the role it will play in the movie, but from my understanding/guesses we're going to at least know it's name and location and probably some other stuff.

I'm really, really excited about that. Of course I am. But it also feels a little weird. I mean, I've spent more than ten years of my life wishing Harry Potter was real so I could go to Hogwarts, but in actuality, even if Harry Potter were real, I wouldn't be at Hogwarts. Because I'm still American. If I were a witch, I'd wind up at the American wizarding school.

Which would still be really cool, and I'm excited to get more information about it for that exact reason. But there's still feeling there that it's just not Hogwarts. I'm sure it's awesome, and if I really got to live in the Harry Potter universe and go there, I'd probably be full of pride for my actual school. I'd be almost guaranteed to have fonder feelings for it than Hogwarts.

But as things stand now, I just don't. Because the fact is that I read the Harry Potter books and yet don't even know one thing about the American wizarding school. So dreaming about the Harry Potter universe being real also means dreaming about having been born in Britain instead so that I could go to Hogwarts instead. Because the American wizarding school is just never going to be the same as Hogwarts.

It's a bit ridiculous to be bothered by that at all since all of this is fictional anyway, but sometimes feelings aren't entirely rational. And I can't help being slightly upset knowing that I would have two impossible hurdles to jump in order to get to Hogwarts. Because if the HP universe suddenly became real, I was younger, and I still retained my knowledge of the books, I just don't know if I could enjoy myself at the American wizarding school like I would at Hogwarts.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Getting Just a Little Distracted by One Direction

I love One Direction. I always love One Direction. I became three years ago, and despite my parents' beliefs that it wouldn't last a year, I'm still a fan. However, there's no denying that how much of my attention they consume at any point in time fluctuates. If they're not doing much, then chances are it's easier to push them to the back of my mind and only half pay attention to whatever is happening.

When they're on tour though, I can always be counted on to know exactly what is going down at any particular time. Even if I'm in school and insanely busy, part of my attention is focused on what One Direction is up to on any particular day.

This tour, however, hasn't been quite like that. As I've said in past posts, I've been insanely focused on writing recently. So much so that I've focused on little else, including social media. That means that I haven't been keeping up with One Direction's tour as closely as in the past. I was interested and aware of some things, but it wasn't to my usual level. I was just too focused on writing to pay it that much attention (and also reading any second that I wasn't writing).

That was until yesterday. My sister is currently in Sweden, and while she was there, she went to One Direction's concert. I got texts from her about everything that happened yesterday, and after the concert, as she had a five hour drive back to where she's staying, she kept texting me about everything that happened at the show.

Even though I wasn't there at all, it kind of reignited my tour fuel in a way that is similar to how I have felt after my own concerts in the past albeit on a significantly smaller scale. Now I've spent a good portion of today getting up to date on One Direction's whereabouts. Luckily, today was also the day that I finished the draft I was working on, and while I still have two other smaller projects, I always give myself a short break after finishing a draft. That's allowed me to freak out about One Direction without feeling too much guilt, although how distracted I'll continue to be when I launch back into writing again remains to be seen. I don't think I'll have too much trouble. Time management is typically one of my strong suits.

Life Post: Writing, Reading, Writing, and More Reading

It's been almost ten days since I last did a life post. I haven't really done anything note-worthy in those ten days. I've really been focused on reading a ton in order to get caught up on my reading challenge, and aside from that, I've been spending a ton of time working on my fantasy story. That's really all I've been doing.

It's really not all that exciting to talk about although the chance to sleep in and read some pretty good books and work on the story I've been spending years on has me in a pretty decent mood I would say. I'm only one book behind on my reading challenge, which is nice. And in the next couple of days, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have a (very) rough draft of the final book in this fantasy series I've been working on since high school. I still have substantial (and I mean substantial) edits to do of the entire series after that, but I'm still feeling pretty good about having a really rough version of it all finally completely down.

I've also managed to post several videos recently though, so I'll go ahead and mention those. I did a phone vlog a few days ago that was mostly about rearranging my bookshelves. I also talked about five of my favorite book covers and then I went through what my horcruxes would be if I ever made some.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

On Reading Self-Published Books

I know some people are hesitant to read indie authors because there's really no guarantee about the quality of the work. Going into it, you have the chance that whatever you're picking up is unedited or just all around terrible. I understand why that makes people hesitant.

I've read a lot of indie authors that I really love though, and I absolutely love reading indie books. Yes, sometimes I read some terrible ones. One time I read (or tried to read) an indie book, and a year later, I'm still trying to figure out what it is I even read. (I truly have no idea. Nothing about it made sense, and I couldn't explain what was going on if I tried.) But the good have outweighed the bad. I've definitely enjoyed more indie books than I've hated them.

Sometimes I go a bit easier on grammar mistakes or typos that I find in indie books. Those don't really bother me unless they become excessive. That might go back to my years of reading fanfiction. I do think indie authors should have their books looked at by an editor before publishing, but I'm willing to go easy on that sort of thing overall.

And one of my favorite series ever, the Star-Crossed series by Rachel Higginson, is self-published. Honestly, I don't talk about those books enough, but I love them. (I also haven't bought the last two books or the novella yet, and I desperately need to. The series was finished before, so the three new books caught me by surprise.)

I think it's pretty amazing to watch how certain aspects of publishing are changing due to the Internet. I don't expect traditional publishing to disappear, and I don't want it to. However, I like the fact that self-publishing is a reasonable option right now for authors who want to go that route, and I enjoy reading those books.

We live in a pretty interesting time as far as how the publishing industry is changing, including ebooks from traditional publishers as well as self-publishing. I'm excited to see how it changes in the future too.

In Defense of Mockingjay

Spoiler alert: There are spoilers for the entire Hunger Games series (particularly the last book) in this post.

For whatever reason, Mockingjay has received a lot of flack since it was published. I can't say this for sure, but from my experience, it seems to be everyone's least favorite of the Hunger Games books. For me, on the other hand, it's my favorite, which isn't surprising considering final books usually are. I know I've talked in the past about how I tend to love endings.

There's something satisfying to me about seeing where the characters end up and how the story actually ends. I think that for a lot of people endings wind up being disappointing if they diverge too far from what that person had imagined in their head. Sure, I've had that problem before, but most of the time it's not something I struggle with.

I think I'm really good at suspending any expectations when I go into things and staying optimistic about whatever's actually happening. I think that's the same reason that I don't usually feel as upset about movie adaptations are other people sometimes are. For whatever reason, I just go along with the flow with that sort of thing. If something happens with a character that doesn't entirely mesh up with what I imagined, I just accept it. If a movie changes something from the book, I just accept it.

There are exceptions to that, of course, but most of the time I'm okay with things even if I'm not ecstatic. I rarely get angry or all that upset. I don't know why that is. It's like it's just a natural reaction to me, not something I'm trying to strive for.

With Mockingjay though, I kind of feel like it may be more than that. I didn't just settle for what happened in Mockingjay, I was quite happy with it. Well, as happy as I could be when my favorite character as hijacked and lots of other characters died or were hurt. Sure, that wasn't great in a certain sense of the word, but the entire book felt exactly like what needed to happen to me.

I've always felt like each of the characters reacted to things how I would expect. I love (again, only in a certain sense of the word) that Katniss' PTSD was dealt with and not pushed aside. It wouldn't have been right to have her be entirely okay, in my opinion, and I like that she wasn't. Same with other characters.

And I know a lot of people are frustrated about the suggestion of another Hunger Games at the end of the book, but I thought that was a realistic option that would have been brought up in those circumstances. Others are mad that Katniss agreed, but I've always seen that as her gaining Coin's trust in order to shoot her later, not because Katniss actually wanted another Hunger Games. I also don't think it's far fetched that the other characters who did vote yes would do so for various reasons. It wasn't right, but people do things like that after what they'd been through.

The entire book was just great to me. People are completely entitled to hate it, but I'm always willing to defend it. To me, it was the right way for the series to end.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Book Review: Dumbing Down America by James R. Delisle

ISBN: 1618211668
Published: August 5th, 2014
Publisher: Prufock Press
Read from June 15th to 18th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
At a time when the U.S. education system consistently lags behind its international peers, Dumbing Down America shows exactly why America can't keep up by providing a critical look at the nation's schools through the eyes of the children whose minds are languishing in countless classrooms. Filled with specific examples of how gifted children are being shortchanged by a nation that believes smart kids will succeed on their own, Dumbing Down America packs a powerful message: If we want our nation to prosper, we must pay attention to its most intelligent youth. With more than 35 years of experience working with and for gifted children, author James R. Delisle provides a template of what can and must happen in America's schools if they are to fulfill their mission of educating every child to the fullest potential. Dumbing Down America is a must-read for any individual who believes that the unfulfilled promises to gifted children must begin to be met in America's schools today, not someday.


This book is a bit difficult to review because I had different feelings about different parts of it. I really don't want to turn this review into laying out all the different parts of the book and discussing how I feel about every single one of them.

What I'll say instead is that I think Delisle had some good points, and he also made some arguments that I didn't entirely agree with. The biggest thing that brought the book down for me is that I could easily see arguments against what he said at times, and I don't think there was enough information to really counteract those arguments. I would have liked if there was more there that would help his message feel stronger, but as it was, I had a hard time getting fully behind things he said. I didn't agree with some of it.

I also want to go ahead and throw it out there that I was an honor student in high school and did the AP classes and all of that. I guess I'd be considered a "gifted" child although I never heard that word used for really anyone in my personal experience during school, but I was in higher level classes. I'm also currently studying secondary education in college, so that viewpoint and what I've learned affected how I viewed this book as well.

The biggest thing for me I think is that Delisle seems to think that gifted children are being neglected even more than other children, but his concern is more for gifted children who also don't perform well in school. (Delisle seems to admit that gifted children who do perform well in school are going to do well despite anything else.) But the thing is, I agree that gifted children who aren't performing well need educators who will help them reach their potential, but I have trouble seeing how that is unrelated to helping any other low performing students reach their potential like Delisle seems so convinced that it is.

Delisle also reiterates over and over again that certain students are just smarter or more intelligent, so they're going to perform better (if given the right attention in school) than other students. I got the impression from the book that Delisle almost feels like educating these "smarter" kids is more important than educated all kids, and I have a problem with that point of view. It was never outright stated, but it was the impression I felt after reading the book.

The last thing that really bothered me is how little the potential classism or racism that goes into gifted programs was discussed. Delisle briefly mentions it, and he states that the programs themselves aren't the problem but that the educators may be less likely to notice these kids. He also states at one point that an American who were to take the equivalent of an IQ test in a different culture, wouldn't score well because of the differences in cultures.

The thing is, he mentions how IQ tests can be used to find gifted children over and over again with little acknowledgement of immigrant and ESL students for whom those IQ tests may not be effective. He even discusses some of the failings of standardized tests without really talking about how those problems can be exacerbated for ESL students. Even students from lower classes can struggle more with the tests if they were written with middle class students and their experiences in mind (which they often are). There was absolutely no comment about that at all.

I would have appreciated more discussion about why exactly gifted programs are often associated with racism and classism. Because there is a reason. It may not be the idea of the gifted program that's the problem, but there are clearly ways these programs are being affected that is a problem. It's a huge problem too, and I think addressing that would greatly help more people see Delisle's side. Because if those problems aren't addressed, then people are going to continue to have those feelings about gifted programs, and one comment that is nothing more than "that's not actually a problem" isn't going to convince them otherwise.

Overall, this wasn't a bad book. I do think it had some good points. It's just that I wasn't entirely convinced by the end of it, and there were some glaring problems to me. I'm not sure if I would bother recommending this to anyone.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: Speak Now by Kenji Yoshino

ISBN: 0385348800
Published: April 14th, 2015
Publisher: Crown
Read from June 11th to 16th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A renowned legal scholar tells the definitive story of the trial that will stand as the most potent argument for marriage equality.
In 2008, California voters passed Proposition 8, rescinding the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state. Advocates for marriage equality were outraged. Still, major gay-rights groups opposed a federal challenge to the law, warning that it would be dangerously premature. A loss could set the movement back for decades. A small group of activists, however, refused to wait. They turned to corporate lawyers Ted Olson and David Boies—best known for arguing opposite sides of Bush v. Gore—who filed a groundbreaking federal suit against the law.
A distinguished constitutional law scholar, Kenji Yoshino was also a newly married gay man who at first felt ambivalent about the suit. Nonetheless, he recognized that Chief Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision to hold a trial in the case was momentous. Boies and Olson rose to the occasion, deftly deploying arguments that LGBT advocates had honed through years of litigation and debate. Reading the 3,000-page transcript, Yoshino discovered a shining civil rights document—the most rigorous and compelling exploration he had seen of the nature of marriage, the political status of gays and lesbians, the ideal circumstances for raising children, and the inability of direct democracy to protect fundamental rights. After that tense twelve-day trial, Walker issued a resounding and historic ruling: California’s exclusion of same-sex couples from civil marriage violated the U.S. Constitution. In June 2013, the United States Supreme Court denied the final appeal in Hollingsworth v. Perry, leaving same-sex couples in California free to marry.
Drawing on interviews with lawyers and witnesses on both sides of the case, Yoshino takes us deep inside the trial. He brings the legal arguments to life, not only through his account of the case, but also by sharing his own story of finding love, marrying, and having children. Vivid, compassionate, and beautifully written, Speak Now is both a nuanced and authoritative account of a landmark trial, and a testament to how the clash of proofs in our judicial process can force debates to the ultimate level of clarity. 


This book essentially recounts the entire story of the Hollingsworth v. Perry trial from the very beginning all the way to the Supreme Court. Sprinkled into that story are bits of the author's own experiences that parallel what is happening in the trial.

As someone who was in high school for the bulk of the events described in this book, I was somewhat aware of what was going on with the case, but I had very little knowledge of all of the ins and outs of it. I never really knew exactly what it was that went on over the course of the case. This book does an excellent job of telling the story of the trial and going through all of the arguments made by either side. The author writes about how important the case is because it forced both sides to lay out their arguments and see how they held up in debate and fact-checking.

One really great aspect of the book is that even though you know which side the author falls on the issue, both sides arguments are presented, so you see the full extent of what was argued in court. As someone who's not extremely knowledgeable about law, I was also able to follow along easily and was never confused as to what exactly was going on.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about Prop 8 and this case or gay rights in general. It does an excellent job of both fully telling the story of the case and also never being boring or dry. I actually felt like I was on the edge of my seat at times while reading even though I knew the final outcome of the case. The personal bits that the author added also add to the book beautifully. This was just all around a really incredible book.

It also seems pretty fitting that I read this in June while we're awaiting the outcome of another marriage equality case from the Supreme Court, a case that is also mentioned in the end of the book. That added a bit more to the experience of this book I think since I knew that that is so close to coming, and that tie in to something mentioned in the book that is really about to happen while I was reading added a certain dimension to my experience with the book I think.

I received this book for review from the publisher.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels with Introduction by Gareth Stedman Jones

ISBN: 0140447571
Published: August 7th, 2002 (first published in 1847)
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Read from June 7th to 14th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Originally published on the eve of the 1848 European revolutions, The Communist Manifesto is a condensed and incisive account of the worldview Marx and Engels developed during their hectic intellectual and political collaboration. Formulating the principles of dialectical materialism, they believed that labor creates wealth, hence capitalism is exploitive and antithetical to freedom.
This new edition includes an extensive introduction by Gareth Stedman Jones, Britain's leading expert on Marx and Marxism, providing a complete course for students of The Communist Manifesto, and demonstrating not only the historical importance of the text, but also its place in the world today.


I'm giving this book five stars on Goodreads, but that's for this edition itself and not the Communist Manifesto. I don't think I can rate (or even review) the actual Manifesto. How would I go about that? There are various ways to rate it, and I'm not sure which I would focus on. There's the impact it had politically, and I could focus on whether or not I agree with what it says. Or I could think of it purely from a literary standpoint. Instead, I can't get away from the fact that it's an important historical document, and I can't bring myself to rate things like that. It certainly affected the world in a way that puts it in a different league for me. One that I can't come up with a good way to rate.

I enjoyed this edition and the introduction in it though, so I'm giving that five out of five stars. While I'd read the Communist Manifesto several times for different classes already, I feel like the introduction in this edition told me significantly more about the sort of climate that Marx and Engels were writing in than I had ever known before.

I didn't know most of the information presented there. I didn't even have a good understanding of how Communism fit in with the other political movements of the time, namely socialism. I enjoyed getting that information and understanding more what led Marx and Engels to write the Manifesto in the first place.

Since in my classes I read either this edition or just the Manifesto with no introduction or anything like that, I can't actually compare this edition to other editions that are available, but I can say that I found this one helpful. The introduction material is actually longer than the Manifesto itself, and being me, I found that really enjoyable and interesting. I think it's definitely beneficial to most people who, like me, wouldn't have a great understanding of that historical context.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Life Post: Dog Sitting and Working On The Society

This whole "I feel like I'm in the beginning stages of being sick" thing is apparently going to be an ongoing thing. I've felt the same way today that I have the past several days. I also took a nap today, and I woke up from it feeling even worse. I'm hoping it goes away without getting worse than this, but who really knows.

Today was the first day in a week that we didn't have to take care of my aunt and uncle's dogs, and it felt strange not going out there twice today since we'd gotten that down to such a routine. I was pretty productive today in comparison to the past week, and I think it's because I wasn't spending that time with the dogs. Still, it was fun getting to spend time with them and everything while they were gone.

Tomorrow I'm going to get back to working on The Society, which I haven't touched any of since before school ended. It sounds a bit daunting after I've put it aside for so long, but I'm also excited about it of course. I've been working on it so long, and I'm sure I'll get right back into it once I open up those files again and everything. That's going to be the biggest thing I focus on for the next couple of weeks I think.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Life Post: Family and the Scariness of the Future

That headache I had yesterday really might have been a sign of bad things to come. I think I'm getting sick. After I wrote that, my throat started to bother me, and I couldn't stop coughing. Now it's been hurting. My head isn't like yesterday though, so at least there's that. I'm really hoping my allergies just decided to flare up or something, but this is strange because I never get sick around this time of the year.

Despite that, today was a pretty nice day. It was my cousin's high school graduation part, so I got to spend time with some family, including people I don't get to see that often. It was a pretty small portion of my mom's side (and my mom's side is huge really) and my cousin's other side of the family was also there, but it was still really nice to see the people that we did and talk to them. One of my cousins is moving from the east coast to Alaska with her family, so this also served as a sort of going away party (even though they already lived out of the area).

I also had to start answering the "what year are you in college?" questions with "a senior" for the first time today, so now I'm getting all sorts of more detailed follow up questions about what I plan to do after graduation. That's slightly terrifying. It's especially nerve-wracking when I don't have a conventional answer, and I don't know how people will react. They could easily say they don't think I'll actually manage to do it, but they didn't. They all sounded really excited. It helps that a lot of my family lived in Japan already and loved it, so they're excited about me possibly living there too. And I have another cousin who wants to move there too. For some reason, Japan is just really popular with my family, and that's probably what originally jump started the interest in moving there for me too.

On Youtube the other day, I posted the Unpopular Opinions Book Tag, so you can check that out if you're interested. I rant about a few annoyances I have that usually stay in my head. Because of that, I might have ranted just a little too much.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Life Post: Is It a Migraine? I Don't Know, but It Sucks

I'm actually posting another life post only a day after the last one. When's the last time I managed that? Not that there's much to say other than the fact that I've been sitting in my room all day trying to move around as little as possible in the hopes that my headache will go away and it hasn't. No lie, guys, this is the worst my head has felt in at least a very long time.

I'm used to bad headaches because they tend to come along with both my allergies and my period. Plus, I get terrible headaches from the heat, so they're especially common for me in the summer. I think my allergies and the heat worked together to really do a number on me though. I've tried multiple times of pain medicine throughout the day, and none of them have worked. I'm in enough pain that I also feel a bit dizzy and walking seems like a hazard.

It might actually be a migraine. My mom and sister both have migraines, but while I have headaches pretty frequently, I don't think they're migraines. Occasionally though, I do think what I'm experiencing is a migraine, and this might be one. It's fitting the migraine symptoms a lot more closely than my headaches typically do, although after witnessing my sister's really severe migraines, this seems like almost nothing in comparison. But it still really sucks.

It just hasn't been a fun day.

On the bright side, the next time I have one of my more usual headaches that aren't as bad as this, I'll be more likely to remember that it could be much worse. Maybe that'll help me feel better.

I have responsibilities though, so I've been forced to leave the house today and still have to again later today. The smart thing might be to sleep, but I actually slept in today for the first time in ages, which means I cannot find the will to actually fall asleep. Ugh.

At this point, I'm just hoping that it will be gone by the time I wake up tomorrow.

And I did not at all plan to rant for that long about my head. Apparently I had built up some frustration over the course of the day. Who knew?

Luckily, I had decided to take a break from writing for today anyway, so I wasn't struggling to get words down when the pain was at its peak earlier today. God knows that probably wouldn't have helped.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Life Post: The Summer So Far

More than two weeks since my last life post. Wow. I didn't mean for that to happen.

I have been absurdly busy for summer, but it hasn't been anything that's interesting to talk about. It's also all the same sorts of stuff for the most part, so I don't want to talk about it over and over.

I've been writing, of course. I just posted the final chapter of my Twilight fanfiction, so that is complete now. I'm really proud of it, so it's nice to see it all online, even if letting others read your writing is always nerve-wracking. I've also been updating my Hunger Games fanfiction since I last wrote one of these. I've also gotten a couple of one-shots up that had been sitting on my computer for quite a while in various states of completion.

Other than what everyone's been able to see, I've been working on two different one-shots. Both of them probably won't be up for a while as I'm going to push them aside now to work on the sequel to my Twilight fanfiction and also my original fiction (which I sadly haven't touched in a while).

Aside from writing, I've been dog sitting for my aunt and uncle. Honestly, the most note-worthy part of that is that I had car trouble one day when I had to drive to my aunt and uncle's, and it was kind of like a nightmare for me come to life. I am happy to report that I drove out there today though with absolutely no problems, so hurray for me. That's all I'll say about it here since I talked more about it in this Youtube video.

In addition to that, I've also posted several other life or phone vlogs recently in an attempt to get more videos up. I also did my monthly wrap-up and TBR, and then I reviewed episodes 251 through 255 of Naruto Shippuden over there as well.

I've updated my writing blog with one (pretty bad) poem and two pieces of flash fiction since my last life post.

All of this plus as much reading as I've been able to get in pretty much encompasses my summer so far. That actually sounds like more written down than I expected it to.

Book Review: Tennessee Curiosities by Kristin Luna

ISBN: 0762759976
Published: November 23rd, 2010
Publisher: Globe Pequot
Read from June 7th to 8th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
The definitive collection of Tennessee's odd, wacky, and most offbeat people, places, and things, for Tennessee residents and anyone else who enjoys local humor and trivia with a twist. 


This is pretty much a normal sort of travel guide that lists various attractions and talks about them each a bit. Except this one is supposed to focus on the "odd" attractions that people are less likely to know about. I think some of the things listed seemed to fit that better than others, but I do have a list of things I really want to visit now. Most of the stuff in this book sounds interesting.

You don't really read a travel guide for its writing, but honestly, the only reason I gave this four stars instead of five on Goodreads is because there were several phrases that the author seemed to use repeatedly. This probably wouldn't have been as noticeable if I were flipping through the book more instead of reading it, but as it was, I picked up on it. It was to a point where it just got a bit annoying, but it wasn't really anything to detract from the actual point of the book.

This is also a series with books focusing on each (I think) state, and I kind of want to buy the Indiana one just to see what attractions made it into there for the area I live in. I think this sort of travel guide is a great idea.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Book Review: This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl

ISBN: 0525426361
Published: January 28th, 2014
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Read from May 25th to June 6th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A collection of the journals, fiction, letters, and sketches of the late Esther Grace Earl, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 16. Photographs and essays by family and friends will help to tell Esther’s story along with an introduction by award-winning author John Green who dedicated his #1 bestselling novel The Fault in Our Stars to her.


The synopsis of this book is pretty self-explanatory as to what to expect in this book. It's a collection of things Esther wrote interspersed with bits written by her family and friends, including an introduction by John Green.

I've been a nerdfighter for years, and I've wanted to read this book since I first heard about it. It took me a while though because I'm just so terrible at actually reading books when they come out. Still, I'm incredibly happy to have finally gotten to This Star Won't Go Out. I've known of Esther for years as well, and I appreciated getting to read her writing, including some fiction that she wrote.

The book is emotional in parts. I cried during John's introduction and then again that the end. The book is organized chronologically, and I was bracing myself for the end when I knew things would get sad, and of course, they did.

There's really not much to say about this book. While in many ways it's just a collection of diary entries and other writings by a teenage girl who has cancer, I think that's part of the point. I really admire Esther and the way she wrote about her cancer and her life even in her own diary. It was a nice, if at times heart-wrenching, book. One that I'm not entirely sure I can describe the experience of reading.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Family Photos

A week ago I wound up going through several photo albums that my family has. The ones I looked at were only the actual albums and the ones that were most accessible. I know there are more photos in other places. (I think the bulk of photos are in my parent's closet. They used to be, but I haven't asked about their whereabouts in years.)

I have no idea why certain photos are in albums that fill up exactly one shelf of a bookcase in the living room while everything else is in various other places. For some reason, that's just where they wound up. I wouldn't label them as the most important. They're important in their own way, of course, but my parent's have an entire album dedicated to my cousin's wedding there while the bulk of me and my siblings' baby photos are elsewhere. (I think we each have albums dedicated to us in babies in individual boxes for each of us full of various other baby stuff of ours, and I think those are actually stored up high in each of our own closets, but I also haven't looked for those in years.)

My reasons for searching through the photos was that I needed photos of one specific childhood friend of mine who I was helping make a birthday scrapbook for. I knew we had plenty of photos that had her in them, but I wasn't confident they would have wound up in the random selection I could easily access. (She had, for the record, and I found more than enough for the scrapbook. Not surprising looking back considering she remains my closest friend from elementary school.)

I hadn't been expecting to get sentimental when I got out the photos, but of course, I did. I'm too sentimental of a person to not go through each and every picture regardless of seeing that the friend wasn't in those particular photos. That wasn't unusual as I get like that every time I look at photos, but this was the first time I had ever bothered to think about the arbitrariness of the particular photos chosen for this shelf. I think it came about because I was looking for a specific person, and many of the albums were so random within themselves that I didn't know what I would find on any particular page.

That made me realize how scrambled and scattered my family's pictures are. If I want photos of one particular thing, I'd have no idea where to look unless the photo wound up framed. Event specific photos are limited to our baby albums, a couple wedding albums (my parents and for some reason the one cousin), and a few vacation albums that are actually only about half a specific vacation and half random other photos.

Needless to say, my family wasn't one to carefully put together albums and organize every single picture we took. I think it's kind of nice in a way. Not if I want to find something specific, but it does add a nice feeling to randomly flipping through photos. I wind up seeing the most random of things that I forgot happened. It's like a game of chance, and I never know which memories I'll stumble upon. In a way, I prefer it to neatly organized photos.

Even if I would love to be able to find specific pictures from time to time.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Book Review: The Write Life by Courtney Danyel and Connie Brentford

Published: March 19th, 2015
Publisher: Moonlighter Media
Read from June 1st to 4th, 2015
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Are you suffering because you don’t meet your word count goals? Does the blank page taunt you even when you’re not in front of your computer? Do you spend days rewriting one sentence? The inability to produce words has created writer misery and suffering for ages and no writer is completely immune.
This book was created to relieve your distress, encourage your creativity and help you maximize your word count. We want to help you become the productive, prolific writer you know you can be. Whether you’re a procrastinator, you haven’t written a word for years, or you struggle with a low word count each day, our advice can help you create new habits and banish writer’s block forever.
Included in the book: 23 questions that help you pinpoint your writer’s block Tools to help you avoid distraction and measure your progress Specific habits to help you create maximum productivity Quick tips that help you change things today How to find the perfect environment for your writer cave Where to go online for help and community when you need it How to push through when your topic is boring How to adjust the way you think to produce a higher word count 10 Quick Exercises that will have you producing words in less than 10 minutes 20 Abstract Prompts that give you the freedom to expand on your ideas 51 Topical Prompts in specific book genres like science fiction, mystery, nonfiction topics and more Where to sign up to get the best online prompts for continuous creativity How to overcome perfectionism when you write Proven creativity exercises that help you get words on the page
This book is full of advice, exercises and prompts to help you identify and change your bad habits and fear into productivity and confidence. Don’t let fear of criticism, perfectionism or the dreaded middle of the story keep you from writing. We teach you how to manage your time and give you the resources and skills to help you create the writing career you deserve, starting today.


The first thing I really have to say about this book is that it was shorter than I would have expected. It's seven chapters long, but each chapter feels incredibly short. I'd say each of them took less than ten minutes to read. There are tips and all of that, but everything is brief. The entire book could probably be read easily in one sitting, although I didn't do that.

Overall, I just considered this book okay. There was no information or ideas in it that I didn't already know, and I imagine it is stuff most authors would know as well. There were prompts, questions, etc., but I don't imagine they are things I will ever go back to. I do feel like all of this information could easily be found through blog posts, and nothing about the book made it feel like it warranted being paid for when you can get the same information for free online. If it had been longer with more advice, maybe I would feel differently.

On top of the briefness of the book, there were tons of quotes by well known authors. While those can be enjoyable, it only served to make the actual information in the book feel like less.

It's definitely not a bad book. There is good advice in there. It's just not anything new or exciting, and it's also not old information said in a new and interesting way. If people were to ask me for some ideas for dealing with writer's block, I think there are other places I would rather point them to, but if they already had this book anyway, it would be possible it would provide them with some help.

I received this book for free from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

How I Feel About Movie Soundtracks

I like music about the same amount as the average person. I listen to it daily, and if I don't actually listen to music for a certain period of time, I'll start singing inside my head (or out loud if no one is around) instead. I can't really go without music for an extended period without craving it.

That being said, I'm not a "music person." By that I mean that I don't have a deep knowledge of music. I took a music class this past semester, and I remember feeling so out of place on the first day even though I wasn't the only one who wasn't a music major. I ended up really enjoying that class, but at the end, I was still very aware that I didn't get music in a certain way that the music majors did. I played both piano and clarinet as a kid, and I was even in choir for a length of time. Still, it's not the same for me. I guess I love music, but it's not like books or words are to me. I like music like the "average" person who reads but not obsessively and doesn't write likes books.

All of that is to say that I really enjoy movie soundtracks when I listen to them on their own, but I also don't typically notice them during the actual movie. I get that that's actually important and how it's meant to be. I've listened to movie composers talk about how the goal is usually to make the music not noticeable.

But when I think of movie soundtracks, there are two pieces of music that immediately come to mind: Hedwig's Theme from Harry Potter and the Star Wars Theme. Of course, both of these come right at the beginning of their respective movies during the title card/opening/etc., so that makes them more noticeable. They also happen to be from some of my favorite movies ever, so it's unsurprising that they resonate with me. I'm not alone though as I think those are two pieces of music that most people can easily identify.

Of course, they also have something else extremely important in common: They're both composed by John Williams. That fact alone is why I would name him as my favorite composer if asked. I may not know a whole lot about music, but those two songs in particular have really stuck with me. They're not only two of my favorite bits from movie soundtracks, they're two of my favorite pieces of music period. Each of them bring such a sense of nostalgia to me. They really do have a sense of magic as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Three Musical Artists I Want to See Live

I've been extremely lucky in that I've gotten to see almost every single one of my favorite artists perform. I'm so thankful for it, especially when it comes to Little Mix and One Direction. However, there are several other artists I would love to see perform that I haven't yet. Here are a few of them:

Miss A. This one would be a bit harder to pull off than a lot of other artists just because they're a Kpop group. You don't get many Kpop concerts in America. If I wind up living in Korea someday like I'm considering, it would be more plausible but still probably unlikely. I'd consider myself to be insanely lucky if I actually managed to make it happen.

Taylor Swift. I've seen a lot of different pictures, videos, etc. of Taylor Swift concerts and they always look like incredibly well put together shows even if you take the music out of it. After 1989, I'm especially eager to go to one of her concerts because I'm obsessed with that album to an extent that I never was with her other music.

Demi Lovato. Like with Taylor, here concerts look like so much fun to me. I think it would be amazing, and I just think she is an insanely talented person.When she last came to Indianapolis, I really wanted to go, but the timing of the concert and stuff wasn't really ideal. Fingers crossed that I get another chance in the future.

There are others of course, but I think I'd single these three out as the ones that I would choose first if I had a choice between various different artists and had to pick one out of them. Of course, concerts can be a bit difficult considering how much they often cost and you have to hope that they come near you and all of that. Still, hopefully everything will line up one day. We'll see what happens.