Friday, November 30, 2012

Book review: Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it - Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else.

And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it's never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack's heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it's up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she's read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn't the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbsis a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.

I didn't love this book. And here's why:

1. It took way too long to get interesting. If I didn't have it on audio (and if it wasn't the only one that had been loaded onto my phone) I probably would have put it down with a bookmark and not reopened it and then realized it was due and said oh well. Seriously, I didn't really get interested until Chapter 15. Fifteen! Out of 25! That's way too late. Especially since it's billed as a fairy tale, but all those fifteen chapters mostly focus on Hazel's life at home.

2. The best characters in the whole book only have one scene, maybe two. And there's a few other things like this -- things that could have been so much more if the author had pushed a little. Instead, she mentioned them and moved on.

3. Hazel was too thick headed, I think. There were a few times she walked into something, even having been warned, and I was like, what are you doing?

I think those are the top three. I didn't hate the book. It was just all right, though.

Although you all know I love books written for a younger audience, it's possible I was just too old for this and/or too much of a writer myself to enjoy it. (Sometimes I get too wrapped up in the mechanics of the story -- the writer makes me see what's supposed to be happening backstage, makes me look up -- any other writers get that?)

Anyway. It's all right. But certainly not my favorite read of the year.

Anyone read Breadcrumbs? I'd love to hear what you think!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

DIY project: Art from a favorite quote

Hey friends! Today I thought I'd share a project I completed recently. I previewed it waaaay back forever ago here. And here's the (almost) final product!
Just gotta go back and fix that wonky R
This project was a combination of a couple inspiration pins. The lettering idea came from here:

                                                                      Source: via Abbey on Pinterest

And the style of painting came from here:

                                                                    Source: via Abbey on Pinterest

What you need:
Paint (I used four blues + a little white)
Foam brushes
Letter stickers (I got mine at Walmart -- their actual intended use is to put your license number on your boat)

What I did:
First, I cut out the letters using an exacto knife. Yes, it's tedious, but I wanted to lay them out without having them stuck, because I knew I would be crooked or off center or something. I used some of the white space to create an apostrophe. :)

Then I stuck the letters in place. Truth: I still had to move them around. But at this point it was mostly small adjustments, like fixing two letters that were too close together.

Approximately three weeks later, I got to painting. I followed the directions of my inspiration pin pretty closely -- and I'm sure she does a much better job of explaining the process -- but I will do my best here.

Here are the paints I used:
Purchased at Walmart for less than a dollar each. I definitely recommend the brand on the right over the brand on the left -- the FolkArt paint came out in globs and was much more difficult to work with for this particular project. I did, however, LOVE the colors. So, give and take I suppose.

To start, I made a base by swirling some of the lightest blue and some white paint.

I think I kind of sucked at the swirling, but it didn't matter much in the end how this first layer looked.

Next, I began making stripes. I'd made several before I realized I wasn't documenting this part well enough, so the photos I have are once several stripes have been made.

As you can see in the middle picture, you start with a line down your canvas. Then, just alternate brush strokes to the left and right. It's not meant to be perfect -- it's abstract! You can see my left-right action best in the stripe on the left in this photo:

That's basically it for the painting! Make as many stripes as you want till it looks good. I didn't wait for the paint to be dry to start the next stripe -- which gave it more of a blended look, I think. But you might try it both ways! See what works!

When the paint is dry-ish but still tacky, you can peel off the sticker letters. My peeling process went better than I expected, with only one problem with that pesky R. I used an X-acto knife to get under the letters. Easy peasy.

Every time I paint, I keep adding and adding till I'm afraid if I add one more thing I'll ruin it. It's nearly impossible for me to stop fiddling with the project. Anyone else have that problem? Even now I'm looking at the final picture, wanting to add some more light blue on the right. Hmmm...

Overall, though, I really love the way it turned out. I'm still figuring out where in our house will be it's permanent home. (Maybe ironic given the quote I used?)

Have any of you done a DIY recently? How'd it turn out?

Monday, November 26, 2012

This weekend I... [Thanksgiving 2012]

Get ready for lots of pictures. Since I've been gone so long (whoops? sorry. spontaneous blogging vacation), first I'm going to start with...

Last week I finished the worst group project everrr and presented in class, finishing up my Monday night class. I still have to go to class, but I just have to listen to others present. Woo!

Last week, my dad learned to use emojis.

Last week/this weekend I took Pat home for Thanksgiving. Or really, he took me since he was nice and drove.

This weekend, I watched Pat try to bond with the cat and bond maybe too much with Chewy the dog.

This weekend I met my cousin's baby, Contessa Rose!


This weekend I played lots of games with my family!
This weekend I went disc golfing! or really I watched everyone else disc golf :)

This weekend I took 1983712902387 pictures of Tess. 

 This weekend I laughed as Tessa seemed to grow another foot and got held in the funniest positions I've ever seen. Cutest baby everrrr.

This weekend we had a campfire, which Pat said was his favorite part. :)

This weekend I spent time with my family and Pat, and it was awesome.

Hope you all had a great weekend/week/are doing well in general!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Book review: Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher, or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, helped you see the world as a more profound place, gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it.
For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago.
Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded, and the world seemed colder. Wouldn't you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, receive wisdom for your busy life today the way you once did when you were younger?
Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man's life. Knowing he was dying, Morrie visited with Mitch in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final "class": lessons in how to live.
"Tuesdays with Morrie" is a magical chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie's lasting gift with the world.

Before reading this book, I knew that it was a book everyone loved, and that's about it. I'd heard it described in ways that led me to believe it was life changing, one I'd want to read over and over again.

My feeling after reading?


It wasn't bad. I didn't ever want to quit reading it. But it wasn't life changing, either.

Morrie is wise. I agree with pretty much everything he says. We (everyone) should be more focused on family and people, less ambitious about money and power. What really matters is the way you treat people, the interactions you have with them, the effect you have on them.

But really, of all the lessons Mitch learns from Morrie, that's the only one that stuck with me. I couldn't tell you any of his other wisdom because I don't remember it. (and I read it very recently.)

Maybe I'm seeing it too much through my own creative writing experience.

If you've done any classroom creative writing, I'm sure you've heard the phrase "show, don't tell." And I wonder if maybe that's why none of it stuck with me -- it's great to hear an old man tell me all the things he's learned about life, but I think they would stick with me more if I'd actually known Morrie, if I could see him living his life that way and see what it actually looks like.

I also know that creative non-fiction isn't always completely true. That sounds like stating the obvious, but many may take this book as absolutely true. Morrie was interviewed for national television and you can still find those videos, and Mitch Albom constantly talks about the tape recorder he used. But even if we were both there in the room, my perspective of events might not be the same as Mitch's. So I guess I'm also wary of that (as I would be in any memoir or piece of non-fiction).

So, like I said above, I didn't hate it. But I didn't love it.

Have any of you read Tuesdays with Morrie? Was it what you were expecting?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Book review: The Talisman

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

On a brisk autumn day, a twelve-year-old boy stands on the shores of the gray Atlantic, near a silent amusement park and a fading ocean resort called the Alhambra. The past has driven Jack Sawyer here: his father is gone, his mother is dying, and the world no longer makes sense. But for Jack everything is about to change. For he has been chosen to make a journey back across America--and into another realm.

One of the most influential and heralded works of fantasy ever written,The Talisman is an extraordinary novel of loyalty, awakening, terror, and mystery. Jack Sawyer, on a desperate quest to save his mother's life, must search for a prize across an epic landscape of innocents and monsters, of incredible dangers and even more incredible truths. The prize is essential, but the journey means even more. Let the quest begin...

My dad has been telling me to read this book for as long as I can remember. My dad doesn't read a lot, so when he recommends a book, you know it's going to be good.

I resisted, with the same answer every time: I don't want to read a scary book.

My dad insisted it wasn't scary and I ignored him until I stumbled upon this audiobook at the library.

He was right: it isn't scary. So don't let the typical Stephen King scariness hold you back.

The Talisman is a typical epic journey -- Jack has a quest to find the Talisman, a mystical object in another (dangerous, confusing) dimension, though he doesn't know what it is or exactly where, other than that it's in a hotel on the east coast. He's not even really sure what it will do.

But he has great motivation: he's been told it will save his mother's life.

Jack's journey also helps him connect with his father, who died five-ish years before the start of the book and who could also flip into the other dimension.

But his journey is dangerous, and there are a lot of people out to get Jack.

I liked this book. A lot. I gave it four stars on Goodreads.

I believed Jack as a character, mostly, and believed his motivation to save his mom and understand his father was enough to get him through all the stuff he has to go through -- which is a lot. A lot.

I liked the characters a lot, especially one named Wolf. Wolf is a human/werewolf and has the loyalty of your favorite puppy. He's sweet and innocent and fierce. I loved Wolf.

But all the characters are unique and believable. There's nothing in this book that's like anything I've ever read.

And you find yourself pulling for Jack, and Wolf, and the other "good guys." Which is a sign of a great book -- when you want the characters to succeed.

King and Straub also created such a cool other world. The Territories, the other dimension Jack can visit, is so different from America. The people are different, the creatures are different. There are even regions to the Territories. The Blasted Lands, which come near the end of the book, were especially fascinating.

One quick warning: though the book isn't scary, per se, there is a lot of graphic stuff. Violence, for one, but also detailed descriptions of the violence. And a weird fixation on genitals, which are described often as part of character descriptions. Weird.

But none of that really ever made me want to stop -- and this was a long book. Twenty four full discs. I wished a little bit that I wasn't listening to it sometimes because it would be easier to skip the graphic parts, but I also loved the narrator and the way he read the characters, so we'll call it even.

Have any of you read The Talisman? It's definitely not my "normal" book (if I even have a normal anymore) but I loved it. What did you think?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday [11.15.12]

Hey friends! I'm linking up again with Sar, Meghan and Sarah Grace to share what I'm thankful for this week!

First of all, if you didn't hear the sad news, our fish Omsoc died on Tuesday.
Although he looks droopy, he was alive in this picture. I'm not morbid.
I'm definitely not thankful for that.

But, as dramatic as it sounds, I am thankful for the time we had with this little fishy! He was very entertaining and he was our first together pet. He will be remembered!

Also, I'm thankful that Pat was willing to take care of the... ahem... funeral.

And that he was sweet enough to actually check the toilet for me several hours later because I was scared I would see a little fishy body floating in the water.

He's so good to me. :)

However, I'm also thankful I'm not sporting a black eye today. Pat accidentally hit me in the face Tuesday when I was trying to steal his hat. Whoops!

I'm thankful to live with people that will not only let me start watching Christmas movies in early November, but will watch with me. We watched It's a Wonderful Life Sunday and it was wonderful. :)

I'm thankful I get to be home in less than a week, spending time with my family and Pat.

I'm thankful I have warm clothes to wear, as so many don't and this week it's finally gotten cold.

What are you thankful for this week?

PS. Enter this giveaway! You know you want to!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

100 follower giveaway!

Hey friends!

So as you may have noticed, I recently reached 100 followers! This is super exciting for me not because of the numbers, but because I'm so grateful so many of you have chosen to stick around.


Anyway, to celebrate, I'm going to give you things! Maybe. If you win this giveaway!

First, the prizes.

I went shopping right round about 98 followers and then impatiently waited to reach 100. I tried to buy the kind of things I'd love to get in the mail. Here's what I've got:

Cute recycled notebooks, my favorite kind of pen, Sharpie pens, in fun colors (these are what I use in my color-coded planner :) and two pairs of fun socks:

And I already know I'll be throwing in a few extras. Possibly some chocolate? Maybe some stationary? We'll see!

Also, some lovely ladies have agreed to help me celebrate!

Genna from Freed at Last is offering up a $10 gift card to Amazon and some ad space on her blog!

And Kate from Begin Anyway is throwing in a $10 gift card to Target!

Tamara from Lehmann Laughter is sending out some home decor -- love these!

Enter through the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And may the odds be ever in your favor. :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

For the love of YA

I love to read. You guys have probably picked up on that by now.

Something else you may have noticed is that I love to read books aimed at teenagers -- Young Adult books.

A final thing you may have noticed is that I am not a teenager.

So. What's with all the YA?

I recently read The Perks of Being a Wallflower (review here). And I started to hit on the idea when I said this:

"I think this book probably speaks to a lot of teens where they're at, and that's what YA is all about. Young adults go through a lot of stuff. For a lot of teens, deciding whether to drink, have sex, do drugs -- that's the world they're facing."

I love that.

I LOVE that.

I love that teens can find books that deal with the exact feelings they're dealing with.

I love that even when they feel like no one in their world can understand them, they can find a character going through something similar they can relate to. And they can find a character that comes out on top, that gets the best of the challenges they face, that succeeds in the face of all that is wrong in the world.

And it's not just contemporary YA (realistic YA as opposed to sci-fi YA).

Because even if you're not tossed into the Hunger Games yourself, you can relate to Katniss' love for her younger sister. You can relate to her will to survive. Her fear, her terror, her hope, her doubt.

Those are all real things that real people feel, even if they're not in the Hunger Games.

And I love that many of these things aren't "teen" issues. They're human issues. Regardless of how far past my teenage years I am, I still feel left out sometimes. I still feel ignored. There are still mean girls and All-American guys. There's still family issues. There's still hope and despair and love and devotion.

These are the feelings you get when you read YA.

Here's something you all might not know -- I've always dreamed of writing YA. I was a creative writing major, and still hope to someday write that novel.

And what sucks is that there's this weird perception that just because a book is written for teenagers means it can't be a good book. I hate that. I've seen people review YA books on their blogs and call themselves teenyboppers, act almost embarrassed that they've read something like The Hunger Games or Insurgent. What's with that?

My favorite author, Sarah Dessen, writes contemporary YA. She once spoke at BEA and said this:

"Worst of all, though, was when a novelist and national book award winner came to my alma mater to speak. I was lucky enough to be introduced and was completely starstruck. 'This is Sarah,' they said to the author. 'She writes young adult books.' The author looked at me and smiled. 'Well, someone's got to do it,' she replied...

When I read a great book, I'll recommend it to a friend, or praise it on my Twitter feed... But teenagers, especially teenage girls, they take it to a whole other level. They shriek. They fill online reviews with endless exclamation points. They say, 'This is my life. This is my school. These are my parents. How did you know?' I so remember that feeling of finding something in a book that resonated with me, that made me feel like I was somehow less alone in the world, not the only one who thought this or felt this. ... it's what brings me back to the computer, on bad writing days, after not so great reviews, when I'd much rather be watching reruns of The Real Housewives on Bravo.

Because despite the intended dis, that national book award winning author was right. Someone does have to write for teens and children. Someone needs to reach out to them in their homes, in their schools, in their hearts, and show them, whatever they're going through, whatever they feel, they are not alone. It's a big job. It's not for everyone. But today especially, standing here, I am so, so glad that one of them is me."

Ah. Gives me chills.

Have you guys read much YA? I highly, HIGHLY recommend it.

Just for reference, here's a list of the YA books I've reviewed on my blog.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Chime by Franny Billingsley
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Divergent by Veronica Roth
The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Missing You by Meg Cabot
Moonglass by Jessi Kirby 
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Pandemonium (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi 
Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares
Stay by Deb Caletti
Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han

And here's some other YA you might know and possibly love.

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (and all his books)
The Matched series by Ally Condie

Beth Revis, the author of Across the Universe and its sequels, is holding an awesome contest where you could win almost 50 signed YA books. Amazing. Obviously, I'm entering this post and hoping to win.

But regardless of the contest, this is something I love. This is one of my passions. And I'm glad her contest encouraged me to share it with you.

So tell me... What's your favorite YA book?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Book review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Description from Goodreads (below) can be found here along with other reviews. Linking up with Blonde... Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

It is the story of what it's like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie's letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. 

All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates, family dramas, and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where all you need is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.

Through Charlie, Chbosky has created a deeply affecting novel that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller coaster days known as growing up.

I went back and forth a few times between giving this book three or four stars on Goodreads. I didn't hate it. But I didn't love it. Maybe I should even actually give it two, which Goodreads says means "It's OK."

Charlie is an interesting narrator. At the start of the book, he seems to only have had one friend, who committed suicide, and now he has no friends. He often stands on the sidelines just observing life.

Then, a mentor-type English teacher challenges him to actually start living.

Charlie makes friends with just the people to help him do that.

I've seen reviews for this book that questioned its appropriateness for a Young Adult audience, or people who were uncomfortable with a lot of the things talked about. 

And it's true that there is a lot of content that many parents might find questionable. Charlie talks about masturbation and date rape. He does drugs. There are some sexual scenes, and some characters do intimate things with people they don't really care for. Charlie drinks and does drugs. And he's only 15 at the start of the book.

If I was a parent and my teen was reading this book, I'd want to have those awkward conversations with them about all of these topics, just to make sure they understood the consequences of sex and drugs and alcohol.


I think this book probably speaks to a lot of teens where they're at, and that's what YA is all about. Young adults go through a lot of stuff. For a lot of teens, deciding whether to drink, have sex, do drugs -- that's the world they're facing.

So I think Charlie is a character they might be able to relate to.

I guess I'm just saying, be prepared for some adult content with this book.

Other thoughts:
1. I related to Charlie's challenge of making sure he lives his life as much as he observes other people living. I'm a wallflower.

2. One thing I really related to was a scene where Charlie gives everyone a perfect gift and they're all shocked. I think that was spot-on for someone who finds him/herself on the sidelines a lot. You have time to notice things and know people, even if they don't know or notice you.

3. Charlie cries a lot. And he thinks too much. He was hard to relate to in most ways, and honestly a little whiny, which my writing teachers always said was a big no-no.

4. I had heard people say they never saw the ending coming, so then I was trying to guess the ending the whole time, and I was waaay off. And now you'll try to guess too.

...This is maybe an awful review. It's kind of a heavy book. It left me more with feelings than with thoughts.

Have any of you read The Perks of Being a Wallflower? What did you think?


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