The Final Grade: 2010

Christmas is past, and we are approaching those final few days. I can't believe it, but 2010 is already coming to a close. It is not just the end of a year; it is also the end of the first decade of the 2000s. How crazy is that?!

With the New Year coming, it is time to make some resolutions, but FIRST, I need to give myself a final grade on the resolutions I made at the start of this year.

1. Establish more consistent writing habits. This was supposed to be like 15 minutes every day or something, which I didn't do. I did, however, write practically every day for the second half of the year thanks to a little website called 750words. This is a big improvement for me, even if most of the "writing" I did was gibberish. GRADE: B

2. Finish 2 of 4 short stories. This is my sad face. Major fail here, but I did work on them on and off throughout the year. GRADE: F

3. Work on 2009 NaNo story. Another major fail. The bright side is I did NaNo again this year with a different story and got much further. 2009 NaNo isn't abandoned. It's just on hiatus while I work some kinks out. I did actually plot it out, which is kind of big for a pantser like me. GRADE: D

(I'm starting to regret doing this...)

4. Write down my ideas. Yay! Finally something I can give myself a positive(ish) grade for! I'm not what you would call organized about this, but at least I'm putting it down somewhere or telling someone about it. If I had my way, I would just hoard it away in my head. This counts as progress, yes? GRADE: C+

5. Blog more. I know, we only run consistently once a week here, and it's the Randomosity post at that, but I'm kind of surprised that I managed to keep this up! And look, we somehow managed to get over 50 followers. Am I surprised? Yeah! It's awesome! All of this is a big deal from the inconsistent, half-dead thing this blog used to be not so long ago! I'm definitely going to have another blogging-related resolution for 2011. GRADE: A-

6. Read more. Done done and DONE! I'm so proud of this one because I don't think I have ever read this much in a year without it having to be for school, and even then, I think this is a new record! 35 books! That's a lot of reading for a slow reader! GRADE: A+

So I have a C average for the year of 2010. This makes me somewhat depressed, but now I have the determination to do better next year! All in all, I'm pretty pleased with how some of these resolutions went.

I will be back after the New Year to post my new resolutions and maybe wax poetic about 2010. Until then, be safe and have a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

How was your 2010? How did your resolutions and/or goals go? What was your final grade?


Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
I hope all your wishes come true!


Books of 2010

Many people are already signing off for the holidays. I know, I'm ready to go on vacation, and this non-stop rain is not helping much. There are few things I hate more than driving in the rain.

In any case, I'll probably pop in again this week just to wish you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS before my long weekend, but before then, I thought I'd share my favorite Books of 2010.

Firstly, at the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to READ MORE and I have SO kept that resolution. In 2009, I read a total of 10 books (at least, according to my Shelfari), and this year, I've read 35! Go me!

Secondly, this was totally my Year of YA (with a helping of MG), and while there were some not-so-great books, there were also REALLY AWESOME ones. I confess I've got quite a bit of the YA skeptic in me, especially since my brush with YA when I was in high school was brief and left me not very impressed, but I'm very happy I got back into the genre because it's really changed and grown. There are just SO MANY CHOICES now, and some of these books were just so good.

I'll probably finish a couple more before the year is up, but this is my list of faves as of today. In no particular order of favorite:

1. The Hunger Games Trilogy: Okay, so I sort of cheated. That's 3 books, but I read all of them this year, one after the other within days of each other. The first 2 in the same week, and then Mockingjay when it came out a week later. Catching Fire is my favorite. Cool concept. Kickass heroine. Captivating supporting characters. Adrenaline rush. What more could I ask for? Well, maybe more Finnick. I love him.

2. A Great and Terrible Beauty (the Gemma Doyle Trilogy): Libba Bray! Yeah, I'm late to the party, but wow, can she write! I loved the Victorian setting, the effortless detail, the believable (likable and sympathetic, yet frustrating and flawed) girls. I think the first book was my favorite, so I listed it. (See! Not cheating!)

3. Incarceron: It's a grab bag of awesome as far as I'm concerned. Intrigue, adventure, mythology, Victoriana, dystopia, Sci-Fi. You don't think it'll work, but it does. Plus, it's about a prison that has become sentient.

4. Behemoth (Leviathan trilogy): As with the Hunger Games trilogy, I think I liked Behemoth, the second book in the as-yet-unfinished trilogy, the most (so far) because I'm already invested in the characters and have a feel for the world. Alek's a little bratty in the beginning of the first one but grows into an admirable boy, and that's the Alek I get to start with in the second book! Then there's Deryn, a girl pretending to be a boy so she can serve in the Air Force, who is also all kinds of badass (and dead clever to boot).

5. The Parasol Protectorate series (Soulless, Changeless, Blameless): Okay, I'm cheating again, but these deserve to be on here. I can't pick between them. They're Victorian! Steampunk! Supernatural! Romance! and all around fun times! Oh, and they're a comedy of manners that mixes vampires, werewolves, and one plucky heroine with a penchant for wielding her parasol as a weapon.

6. The Adoration of Jenna Fox: One of the quieter books I read this year and shorter than the others, but so very good. It's a small book that explores big concepts: coming-of-age, what it means to be human, discovering your identity, and the power of love.

7. The Demon's Covenant (Demon's Lexicon Trilogy): I liked the first book, but I LOVED the second. There's more snark, more magic, and lots more Alan and Nick Reeves. The only brother pair I love as much as them are the Winchesters from Supernatural! But seriously, the snark. It's HILARIOUS.

8. The Replacement: Love, LOVE this book! Quite different from most of the paranormal YA that I've read this year, The Replacement doesn't focus on the romance (though there is some of that) and it's told from a teenage boy's point of view. I adored Mackie, who struggles to live a normal life in a world that is hostile to someone of his constitution. The folklore is interesting, the relationships poignant (the scenes with Mackie and his sister, LOVE!), and the setting creepy with just the right amount of unsettling.

9. The Lost Books of the Odyssey: Not YA and also more like a collection of shorts - some not even complete stories. I'm a huge Greek Myth nerd, so I adored this book. Written in spare yet vivid prose, the book re-imagines different scenes from the Odyssey (which is itself one of my favorite stories EVER).

10. The Lost Hero / If I Stay: So, I wanted 10 entries, but I couldn't pick between these two. I very muchly enjoyed The Lost Hero partly because I quite enjoyed its predecessor, the Percy Jackson series. While the way the book is written isn't much a departure from Riordan's style, I really liked what he did with the mythology, how he's expanding it to include more and to make things BIGGER. It's pretty exciting. If I Stay was just a beautiful, bittersweet coming-of-age story. I loved the themes about growing up and love and loss and family, and I love the motif of music.

SO those are my picks. I know I have many. I suck at choosing.

What books did you love that you read in 2010?

Have a wonderful, warm, relaxing holiday my friends! I'll be back next week before New Year's to do some resolutions and talk about things I'm looking forward to. Later!


Book Review: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

I probably shouldn't start off doing reviews with such a negative one, but this review is a form of catharsis that will hopefully help cleanse my mental palate.

Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

Pros: Pages can be used as kindling to start a fire.
Cons: The story, characters, and plot.

Rating: 0 out of 10 stars
Grade: F

Book Blurb: Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

Alz's Take: Let's be clear: I read the first book, Hush, Hush, and didn't like it except as fodder for Krispy and me to make fun of. It suffered from a bland heroine, her irritating and stupid boy-crazy best friend, and one of those typical YA alpha-stalker I-love-you-for-no-reason love interests who happens to be a fallen angel named Patch.

So I picked up Crescendo with a philosophical mindset, expecting a book full of badly-written tripe but with some lol-this-is-so-bad moments.

What I got instead was a brain hemorrhage and cardiac arrest. This is one of the worst books I've ever read. I'm not exaggerating. And I've read a lot of bad books.

The short of it is that this book is a wallow of self-inflicted teenage angst featuring a heroine whose main motivation throughout the book is getting back at and hurting her boyfriend for reasons she sewed up out whole cloth and jealousy. Also, there's a mysteriously vague plot about a Nephilim blood society that seems of little threat or consequence because of how poorly-organized and clumsy they are, except that they are very threatening and full of consequences because the author says so. Curious? Want to know exactly what they do and how they're going to implement their nefarious plans, and what they have to do with the heroine? Congratulations! You won't find out any of that in Crescendo because it's almost entirely setup for the next book. Want the resolution and revelations that come at the end of a book? Congratulations again! You won't get any of that here either. Even granted that this is the middle book of a trilogy, Crescendo fails as a standalone; if you haven't read Hush, Hush, you won't really know (or care) what's going on, and the lack of any resolution or clear answers gives no sense of satisfaction upon reaching the absurd cliffhanger ending.

Click below to read an extensive diatribe of how and why this book fails on so many levels.

Nora Grey in the last book had barely any personality. In this book, she's pathologically insane and suffers from such a massive overdose of teenage angst I'm surprised she didn't vomit blood and collapse into spasms by chapter three. I'm willing to put up with teenage angst because this is, after all, book two of a YA romance, but Nora Grey is exclusively responsible for her own misery, for all that she blames it on Patch. Repeatedly. For whole pages at a time.

In the very first chapter, Nora tells Patch "I love you," but he doesn't immediately respond because he's distracted by something dangerous and hurries Nora away to safety before departing.

Nora then spends the rest of the book trapped in a maelstrom of tears and otherwise adrift on the boundless seas of self-pity because Patch didn't immediately gush his eternal undying love for her. One moment Nora loathes Patch and wants to tell him "screw you" for being a playboy and counting her as a conquest, and the next moment she's ablaze with desire for his sweet, sweet embrace and willing to forgive and forget everything. One moment she thinks it's for the best that they separated because she's protecting Patch, and the next she's spewing venom and vituperations because he hasn't called or texted her. She swings back and forth between these states literally between one page and the next.

Patch is hardly a presence in the book; mostly all he does is appear to save Nora's life and/or rescue her from danger, and her response is to rail at him that she doesn't need his help and why doesn't he love her and what's he doing with Marcie Millar. The ingratitude is, shall I say, palpable. Especially since she throws herself into incredibly dangerous situations in exceedingly sketchy places with extraordinarily threatening people with the mindset that she's going to get back at Patch for cheating on her and not loving her by putting herself in danger and forcing Patch to watch when she makes out with shady guys she's not really interested in. She tells herself that since Patch is her guardian angel, he'll be forced to protect her no matter what, and he deserves all the hurt because he led her on, while at the same time telling herself she's hurting him to drive him away for his own good even though it hurts her too. Huh?

I don't think I've ever wanted to throw a book against the wall so badly, but I have more respect for walls than that; if this thing hadn't been a library book, I would've taken it outside and run it over with my car. I've read my fair share of bad books of my own volition, but my masochism was tested to the limits with Crescendo. Nora is infuriating, self-centered to egomaniacal extremes, and I hated her with such ferocity my blood pressure skyrocketed throughout the entire book.

Another thing that made me despise her was her utter lack of trust and faith in the people closest to her. Bad enough that she refuses to listen to anything Patch tries to tell her, but Nora also turns on her more or less blameless mother with such boomerang alacrity that I was rendered inarticulate with fury. Without spoilers, let us say that an enemy of Nora's tells her something briefly about her mom, and right off the bat Nora believes this person with no further questions or explanations. For the rest of the book she internally rages at her mother with a passion nearly equal to her Patch-angst and consciously decides she's going to have her little say (essentially spitting in her mother's face) and then walk away forever without giving her mom a chance to say anything. Drama queen and teenage angst are not the words for it. I had to keep a box of tissues handy to wipe away the foam of rage from my mouth.

Oh, and there was a plot in the book. There were some very leading hints and some very vague ones dropped here and there that mysterious things are going on, but contrived plot devices do not a plot make. Crescendo is 90% Nora Angst and 10% Plot (Twists).

The culmination of the plot all happens in the last several chapters of the book, and then it's one plot twist after another in such rapid succession I had trouble keeping facts straight and understanding why these twists were important, especially since at least one of the twists (which had its own totally unnecessary and implausible twist) was an overly complicated way for the author to make the whole plot of this book viable—without this twist to explain away things from the first book, this second book wouldn't make sense (not that it does anyway). Thanks to barely-there and poorly-rounded characters and how the entire book is one great violation of the Show-Don't-Tell narrative adage, the revelation of the villainous mastermind was neither shocking nor interesting, especially since his cardboard-cutout motivations and about-face personality change were bought wholesale from Generic Evil Villains Inc.

Thanks to the confusing tumult of the twist-laden last quarter of the book, there is very little sense of satisfaction or resolution (there's going to be a third book, after all, so you can't answer everything, though apparently Ms. Fitzpatrick thinks it's even better not to resolve anything at all), particularly as this book suffers from Twilight Syndrome: there's lead-up to a dramatic climactic end-fight that we don't get to see because the heroine falls unconscious, and by the time she wakes up, it's all over and we only get a secondhand glossed-over description of the action.

Then, just when everything seems like it's winding down to a disgustingly saccharine out-of-character-for-this-book happy-dappy ending, BAM! You thought those plot-twists were over, eh? Think again, sucker! Take another plot-twist right on the last page along with a cliffhanger life-or-death ending!

Alz's Conclusion: Reading Crescendo killed off significant portions of my brain. Go read The Hunger Games instead.


Randomsity on Fridays

December is rushing by really fast. Christmas is coming up fast, and I'm still trying to figure out what presents to get people.

I also realized it's been a long time since I did a goals/resolutions progress report. Oops? This will be remedied before year end! I'm afraid of how many resolutions I broke, but on the other hand, I did keep some up!

Let's get to it. Friday 5.

1. We did the White Elephant thing at work this week. While it is fun, it always stresses me out a little, what with the stealing of other people's things and/or getting something you want stolen. I mean, it's a little against the Christmas spirit, isn't it? What are your opinions on this?

2. Speaking of the holiday spirit, have you heard about this? Google's Chrome for a Cause extension keeps track of how many tabs you open when you're browsing, and each tab you open helps raise money for a charity. Pretty cool, right? Easy too! Plus, I'm a huge fan of tabs and tab a lot, so it's nice to know it all adds up to something!

3. While I was weirded out by the 80 degree weather we had last weekend, I'm starting to kind of miss it. I know, I have no right to talk, considering the snow storm that hit the Midwest, but it's cold again here and mostly I hate getting up in the mornings when it's cold.

4. Season 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender is probably my favorite. It's hilarious. I'm watching it again with my friends since they haven't seen it. The sister's favorite episode is episode 2 because she loves Aang's "crazy dance" during music class. I thought it was just something she found particularly funny, but no, my friends think so too.

5. There are a bunch of movies I want to see: Dawn Treader, TRON, The King's Speech, and Black Swan. Has anyone seen any of these? Recs?

That's it for me, friends! Good luck with last weekend shopping! That's what I'll be doing.


Randomosity of a different sort

TGIF FOR REALZ FRIENDS. I've had a long week. I don't know, but I am SO READY for it to be over.

In fact, I can't really come up with 5 even remotely interesting things to blab about, so instead, I will help SPREAD THE WORD about Beth Revis' EPIC CONTEST OF EPIC.

It is truly epic, friends. She's giving away Across the Universe swag packs and ARCs and even a signed hardcover, first edition. There are 100 prizes.

And the fun part is she's just sending out the prizes. So join the fun and you might get a surprise in the mail for the holidays!

So here's the link again in case you missed it: EPIC CONTEST OF EPIC.

I for one can't WAIT to read this book!

I'm off to the Rose Bowl Flea Market this weekend, folks. Wish me luck in finding some Christmas gifts, goodies, and cheap books! :) HAPPY WEEKEND!

P.S. For those of you looking for a post of more substance, I popped in on Wednesday with my Post NaNoWriMo Thoughts. I know, I need to get on a blog schedule. :P Please enjoy.


WiP Wednesday: NaNoWriMo Aftermath

For your mid-week reading, I present to you What I Learned From NaNoWriMo This Year. This will probably sound a lot like what I learned from NaNoWriMo last year, which begs the question, have I really learned it if I'm not applying it?

1. Semblance of a Plot Outline Helps...a lot. I'm an odd kind of pantser, friends. I don't like planning too much, and I can't really handle the outline thing (working on it!), but the thing is, I'm also one of those people who can only write blind up until a certain point. Now, this might be my Inner Editor talking, but I have to stop when every writerly instinct is telling me the myriad strands of plot lines are going to be one huge FLAMING MESS of HOPELESS TANGLED YARN if I don't figure out what the heck I'm doing.

This year, I restarted a story from scratch. So I had a better idea of plot events, which meant writing scenes with forward momentum was a lot easier than it was last year.

2. Don't Think Too Much. Thinking too much stifles me. That's why NaNo's GAG THE INNER EDITOR AND WORD VOMIT attitude helps so much because it is an explicit, consistent, and constant reminder for me to shut the Inner Editor up.

I didn't do as well with this aspect this year; I was still thinking too much about plot and scene placements. BUT I did have my moments. It didn't involve epic wordage so much as a rather pretty piece of world building.

This story-verse's version of Heaven had always consisted of just one celestial city. Now there's three.

3. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! Lots of people have mentioned this already, but one of the biggest revelations you can get from NaNo is you get A LOT done when you prioritize your writing / writing time! This November, I almost never had big chunks of time to write, but instead of trying to wait around for chunks of time, I just cut out smaller bits of time wherever I could and dedicated it to writing.

4. SOME words are better than NO words! I didn't write a lot every day (I don't think I ever made the average words per day you'd need to finish 50,000 words in 30 days), but I did write and now I have 10,000 words more than I would've had.

Besides, I think I'm coming to the conclusion that for certain things, I'm just not the kind of person who can spew words. Wish it were so, but the extent of that for me seems to be reserved for academic paper-writing (on a deadline) and what I like to call "random crack fic" [you know, the kind where anything goes and your characters do ridiculous things like infiltrate your friend's/co-writer's/other people's story-verses, hunker down in stranger's houses, and eat everything in sight (including but not limited to the kitchen sink). The bright side is usually everything can be replaced, saved, or otherwise regurgitated in pristine shape.]

So that was my NaNoWriMo experience. I'm actually pretty proud of myself because the personal goal for this year was to have 10,000 words at least (a doubling of last year's 5000 or so), and I did just that.

(I also try to ignore the fact that Alz started NaNo a little over halfway through the month and hit 50,000 words with like 3 days to spare, but then again, she is a true Word Monster and I'm not daft enough to compare myself to that level of output. It's like how I strategically sat far away from her during AP Lit testing because I didn't want to hear the furious flipping of her pages as she churned out her essays. FAST, the Alz is.)

What did YOU take away from NaNoWriMo? Did you reach YOUR GOALS?

Now, please excuse me while I attempt to recover from the lingering bits of my cold, sleep deprivation, and general holiday related stress. I love the holidays, but man is good cheer exhausting! See you Friday!


'Tis the Season

Hello, hello friends! It is December. HOW is it already December?! I don't know about you, but the year has just flown by!

I will have a NaNo-y post up for you next week. Most people did it this week, but guys, I'm seriously too tired for words. I caught a random cold, had to tackle some last minute NaNo-ing through it, work has been crazy (how did I get so behind), and I maybe had too much fun over the long weekend.

So Friday 5 to kick off the Holiday Season, and then I promise a post with more substance the next time I virtually show my face around here. :)

1. December really snuck up on me. I was all prepared to get some gifts out of the way on Black Friday/Cyber Monday/whatever-sale-thing-that-helps-me-save-money, and I totally FAILED. Let's just say there were things I should have bought last weekend, but for some reason, I thought I didn't have to.

2. On the flip, I did my first early morning Black Friday shopping excursion! I mean, I think I might've done early-ish outlet shopping with the fam before, but not anything where I was up at 5:30am and ready to shop by 6:30am.

3. Friends, I stood in the check-out line at GAP for 2 hours. 2 HOURS. It was like a Disneyland ride line, but without fast passes and minus the thrill of the ride.

4. On the flip, I scored 4 nice wool sweaters for $10 each. BUT the real steal of the day was the dress I got at H&M for $5, and then they gave me a $5 gift card for December. WIN.

5. My consumerist tendencies reared its ugly head in this Friday 5, but like I said, I don't usually do this! I only indulge once in a while, and seriously, who can resist a good deal?

BUT let's end this post with something less spendy but equally relevant to the holidays - FAMILY, FRIENDS, and FOOD.

I love holidays because we have big family gatherings, and I like seeing everyone and eating together. We're big on food. Food is one of my Great Loves (up there with Sleep).

Now, I'm not a cook; like I survived college on ramen, pasta, and Trader Joe's frozen instant dishes (they're actually really good). That and you wouldn't believe the amount of deliciousness that surrounds UC Berkeley. ENVIABLE.

But, once in a while, I like to make something. This desire usually shows up during the holidays. For the past 2 years, my contribution to Thanksgiving has been guacamole because it's relatively easy and avocados don't cost me a dime. (I've had an avocado tree in my backyard my entire life and never took proper advantage. I didn't really like avocado until college, go figure.) BUT my tree-friend decided to take a break this year, so I had to make something else.

Luckily for me, the LA Times posted up a bunch of recipes, including this one for Hedgehog Potatoes.

These were mine, and they were a hit. :D

Secret ingredient: butter. The sister thought they looked like little animals.

How were your Thanksgivings for those of you who celebrated? Any of you do the Black Friday thing and/or made EPIC purchases? Do any of you have easy dishes for a sad cook like me to try?

Have a fabulous weekend, friends! And STAY WARM. It's been freezing here (and I don't even mean SoCal low-60s freezing)!


Happy Thanksgiving!

Short post today to mostly say this will be the only post this week since it will be Turkey Day on Thursday, and I've got a 4 day weekend. This means, I will be stuffing my face, but also hopefully I will be madly trying to close the gap in my NaNoWriMo word count.

While I've still had my lows and moments of existential crisis this year (like I still don't know what the heck I'm doing with myself), this has also been a semi-charmed 11 months for me.

  • I've won more things this year than I have EVER won in my life: books, ARCs, pins, T-shirts, um a freaking LAPTOP (Aesil, my love).
  • I've lived it up with my besties and homeslices.
  • I got to read Alz's amazing thesis and will wait in anticipation with her until she finds out if she's got her Master's.
  • I got a better hang of this whole blogging business.
  • AND I've met so many sweet, awesome, and cool beans people through the blog.

For all this and more, I am SO THANKFUL. This blog started this year with like 15 followers, and now there's over 60! So, THANK YOU.

I leave you with a pic of the Butterbeer cupcakes my talented friend made last weekend. (I did the frosting, so some of it is kinda ugly. :P )

Have a happy, relaxing, and delicious-food-filled Thanksgiving weekend! I hope you get all the things you want during those post-Thanksgiving sales too! See you next week!

P.S. Harry Potter movie, by the way, was so good. LOVED IT.

P.P.S. You can find the butterbeer cupcake recipe we used at amybites.


Randomosity on Fridays: Harry Potter Edition

I am SO EXCITED for tonight because I'm going to go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Yes, I am totally jealous of you people who saw it at midnight. I would've been there, but you know, work the next day on 4 hours of sleep isn't exactly fun. So yes, I settled for tonight.

I don't know about you, but I totally associate Harry Potter movies with the winter holiday season, probably because many of the movies came out during the winter. But there's just something very...wintery about it all. Maybe it's the snow and scarves and such (I don't see much snow).

In any case, here's the Potter themed Friday 7 (for the 7th movie)!

1. As promised, here's another look at my sister's Dark Marked shoe. This time a close-up. We bought a pack of fine-tipped Sharpies - easier to maneuver. She found me a reference, and I drew it on. I penciled a rough sketch first, outlined in Sharpie, and then shaded and put in the green patterns.

Plus, I've had a lot of practice drawing it onto her arm with eyeliner when she dressed up as a Death Eater or Slytherin for Halloween / midnight premiers / conventions.

Trust, Sharpie is a lot easier.

2. I was totally not interested in reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone when I first heard about it. I was wrangled into buying it for an after-school class I was taking. Finished the first book in a week. Later, I bought Books 2 and 3 together. Read Chamber of Secrets in 2 days. Read Prisoner of Azkaban in a day. Best. Assignment. Ever.

3. I was Sirius Black for Halloween one year. I made the sign out of cardboard, which took me forever because I couldn't, for the life of me, find an exacto knife. So I carved out those rectangles with a razor blade. Think I ended up with a blister on my finger. But it was kind of worth it.

4. For the 6th book, we pre-ordered a copy, but my sister also wanted to go to our local Borders' midnight release party. There was a trivia contest where prizes got better as the questions got harder. Luce got a low-level prize - a temporary tattoo -but the store guy gave her 2 because she was waving around the Azkaban sign I'd made for my costume. Prize of the night though was a copy of Half-Blood Prince at midnight. You wouldn't have to wait; you'd get the book first. My sister won that prize. Freaking EPIC.

5. My favorite book of the 7 is Prisoner of Azkaban. This is also my favorite of the movies. My least favorite book is Order of the Phoenix (too long!). I adore the Marauders (wish there was more about them), and I have a total school girl crush on Professor Lupin. If I were to be sorted, I'd totally be Ravenclaw. Beyond doubt, my sister is a Slytherin.

6. For the first 2 movies, my sister, friends and I would play Where is Oliver Wood? And we'd spend the entire movie looking for him in the background scenes. Loved that guy.

7. If you haven't, you should totally check out Potter Puppet Pals. My favorite one is The Mysterious Ticking Noise.

What are your Harry Potter stories? Which books did you like best and least? Who are your favorite characters? Which House do you belong in? Are you excited about the movie?!

I'm off to see the movie tonight! Happy weekend everyone!!!

P.S. My sister was looking at Noble Collections' Harry Potter catalog while I wrote this post. We were discussing Lucius Malfoy's awesomesauce pimp cane - you know the one with the silver snake head handle and hidden wand (totally want it!) - when my sister says, "That's because he's a classy man. I mean look at him."


Maniacal Monday: Let's Nano at Last!

Hello, hello! It's been approximately a very long time since last I posted anything. I have slightly more excuse than usual (Krispy is my shining bloggerstar) because I have been furiously finishing my thesis that I might earn my MFA in Creative Writing and have a beautiful piece of paper to stick on my wall and admire while I'm eating Cup o' Noodle and wearing holey socks and trying to write, as my father so fondly hopes, the next Harry Potter.

Yesterday I printed out three copies of my thesis novel at Staples and today I handed it in. Two years of grad school, two years of slave labor, two years of feedback and critique and the support of the most amazing and talented classmates and professors, and I have completed my first novel. (Well, second. Technically my first novel was my first NaNoWriMo effort, entitled The Magical Valley and the Search for Pooka, and I made no effort to make it anything other than a silly magical romp of romping magical silliness.)

Want to know what two years of grad school workshop looks like?

The neatly stacked bit at the pinnacle is one copy of my monstrous thesis, which sounds really exciting if I describe it as an pan-mythological apocalyptic urban fantasy, though when you read it it's probably not nearly as exciting.

The rest is two years' worth of workshop: say, 4 to 5 submissions per semester x 4 semesters, x 8 to 10 copies of each submission (one for each classmate and the prof to write crtique upon), x 20-30 pages per submission + 3 thesis copies x 530 pages each = a two-foot-tall stack of paper. Fortunately my writing program offered basic free printing.

It was a long hard road and a long hard haul, but ultimately quite rewarding. I like to think that I have grown as a writer.

When I earned my driver license, I titled myself Alz, Scourge of the Roads. Now I'm thinking I should add another title: Alz, Killer of Trees.

Now that the crazy is over with, I'm ready to relax by tackling NaNoWriMo. Yes, after all that summer-into-fall thesis frenzy, NaNoWriMo is my idea of relaxation. I'm not going to be writing a novel. Instead this is going to be creative playtime, to flex my writerly muscles and pursue other tones, points of view, stories, and magical zombie unicorns. You can watch my progress on my NaNo page here. I re-activated my account today after handing in my thesis and asking myself, "Alz, do you really want to try writing 50,000 words in two weeks after you just wrote a novel and have to wait a month for your pass/fail notice?"

I said to myself, "Yes, Alz. Yes I do."


Randomosity on Fridays: Shopping Edition

Another week has passed my friends! It means we are THAT much closer to HARRY POTTER! I was so going to do an HP Randomosity today, but I decided to save that for next week. I am SO excited.

I'm also still VERY behind in NaNo, but things are starting to move forward faster. Yay!

Anyway, I had a rather eventful SHOPPING weekend and a little more shopping went down today, but hey, I had a coupon!

So I now present you with (mostly) Shopping related randomness.

1. I was a total shoe monster and got like 4 new pairs of shoes this weekend. In my defense, they were REALLY GOOD deals, like REALLY. I mean, look at theses beauties.

2. The sister was responsible for 1 pair that I did not know I was getting. She went to a sample sale and scored me a pair of TOMS. They're light blue and very comfy.

She bought herself a very Slytherin pair: two-toned in green and white. She then requested I Harry Potter-ify them. So I did.

Yeah, that's the Dark Mark all up on those shoes, drawn on with Sharpie. We're contemplating adding something to the other shoe. I'll post some close-ups next week for Harry Potter randomosity. :)

3. I went to Sephora today because I had a coupon and bought pretty things.

4. Also from this week, I saw this new trailer for The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I'm excited for Harry Potter, sure, but after that, it's going to be Narnia!

My, my Prince (King) Caspian. You seem to have lost your princely accent, but I still love you.

5. OK GO also premiere their newest vid for the sweet, lovely song "Last Leaf." You should check out The Last Leaf vid at their website. It's super cute, creative, and involves hundreds of pieces of toast. Yeah, toast.

So that was my week. Oh, and I made some more headway in my NaNo word count, but there is a very long way to go. How was your week / How is your NaNo going?

What are you shopping splurging on this holiday season?

Hope you all had a Happy Veterans Day, and have a fantastic weekend!

P.S. Randomly, I found a pic I took of my sneaky secret costume that I wore to work. Sneaky and secret because I wasn't sure anyone was going to dress up (a bunch of people did, though I was like 1 of the very few people who did last year) and because I was pretty sure no one would recognize me anyway.


I did a fake bob, gold eyeliner, and a head-to-toe black, skinny-jeaned outfit, complete with kick ass black shoes. I felt pretty awesome, not gonna lie. Black really is flattering.


WriMo Wednesday: Beginning at the Beginning

I have a confession to make: the first 800 words of my NaNoWriMo project are a prologue. I don't even know if it's a good prologue or a necessary prologue, but there it is. My muse decided You must start here, so here I have started. It also took me an entire week + a few days for me to finally get it all down, and last night, I finally started Chapter 1.

The point of all this is that beginnings are hard. I sucked at writing intros for English essays and college papers. Trust. I was hard-pressed to write the rest of my paper if I didn't have an intro down first. It's why I often had really crappy intros, which I had to go back and revise later, but they needed to be there to direct the rest of my paper. You always hear about the importance of the thesis sentence. Well, it's true.

Strangely enough though, when it comes to writing fiction, I tend to have no trouble with the beginning. It's everything else that gets me. Of course, that isn't to say my beginnings are any good or that they're the right beginning, but they put me in a place to be able to write the rest. For me, my beginnings must set the stage for me and the reader; the tone has to feel right to me, and there has to be a hook for the reader. It's kind of a lot of pressure if you think about it too much. That's why it's the hardest for me to turn off my internal editor when I start. (Yes, that's probably the reason it took me a week to write 800-some words. That and being really distracted by watching True Blood. I finished Season 1!)

But now I'm on Chapter 1, and the pressure is slightly off. The prologue was all SRS BSNS, but now I'm into the fun, ridiculous stuff. Hopefully, the ball will get rolling.

Here's how it starts:

Casey knew it was going to be a bad day when she woke up to an angel leaning over her bed. She reacted by throwing her alarm clock at his face.


Endings are hard too (I also hated writing conclusions), but I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

Do you find it hard to start too? How do you know if you're beginning at the right beginning? Who else is very, very behind in NaNo wordage? Do you think we still have a chance?!


Randomosity on Fridays: November, November

The first week of November has past, and I am already abysmally behind with my NaNo word count. You can all see my shameful wordage on the sidebar there. It's okay though because I'm not daunted! (This is how I start all NaNos - that is, with optimism.)

Okay, the real reason I'm behind is because I've been watching True Blood. Yeah, I finally jumped on the bandwagon. You may recall, my friends' Halloween costumes were True Blood-related, so I had to begin the series. It's a lot funnier than I thought it'd be and quite addictive.

ANYWAY, Friday 5 and Halloween pictures. :)

1. Being a wind-up doll requires more work than I originally thought. Must make improvements to wind-up key in future. I'm wearing like a million necklaces. All in all though, the costume was a success!

2. I have a lot of friends with November birthdays. It makes the holiday season very fun, but also very difficult when it comes to gift buying. Time moves by in a rush starting like now.

3. Luce has hidden talents. She sewed the double skirt of my sister's Peter Pan costume AND crocheted a cowl-scarf in 2 hours!

4. This is turning out to be like my luckiest year ever! I won 3 books recently, including a signed copy of SHIVER. (Thanks Tahereh & Sherrie!!!) I should go buy some lottery tickets.

5. And pictures pictures pictures!
Dancer at the Edison

Inventor and Doll

Beel and Sookeh (or Bill & Sookie, if you prefer)

Steampunkers & Bill: partying 1800s style

Hope you all had a fun and safe Halloween! Now onwards to a glorious November! Those of you doing NaNo, push on! How are your Novembers looking?

P.S. Have you seen this Poem of Novels / A Poem for a Fallen Angel on Tahereh's blog? It's awesome! I love it!


Randomosity on Fridays: Halloween Edition

Happy Friday my darling cupcakes! I'm excited for Halloween even though my costume is still only at about 90 percent. It's ok though because I still have tomorrow and Saturday (sort of)! Alz had to come over and teach me her crafty wire skills. If all goes to plan, there WILL be pictures.

My sister's costume is mostly complete though. Best $8 on fabric she ever spent & it helps our grandma has skills.


1. My sister and I have eaten like 3 bags of mini Reese's peanut butter cups. Yeah, we don't buy candy for Trick or Treaters. We buy it for ourselves.

2. We have also never carved a pumpkin before. Seriously, never.

3. I can watch Supernatural, but I'm a total chicken when it comes to horror movies. I have to watch in the day time with people and something to hide behind.

4. Something else I'm kind of scared of is the fact that NANOWRIMO begins on Monday! What the heck?! How did this happen? I was supposed to be all organized and prepared this year!

5. A book I finished reading recently is PERFECT for Halloween. I am, of course, talking about The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. It is a creepy, beautiful, achingly sweet book. I ADORE Mackie, and I love how he has such a great non-supernatural support group - an awesome sister, cool friends, and parents who are involved in his life and care about him.

I also can't mention Halloween books without mentioning my literary crush and hero, Ray Bradbury. No, I'm actually not talking about The Halloween Tree (another confession: haven't read it!). I actually mean The Dust Returned, which is a beautiful sort-of-collection of short stories about a normal boy whose family is a motley crew of supernaturals. Isn't the cover gorgeous?

Specifically, one of the early "chapters" is the short story "The Homecoming," originally published in 1946. The writing is lyrical, the story exuberant and bittersweet, and if you get the special illustrated edition of just "The Homecoming," the illustrations by Dave McKean are a perfect match.

I just love the design and typography of this book!

Happy weekend and happy Halloween! Don't eat too much candy, and watch out for little monsters. And for those of you not Halloween inclined, get ready for November!

P.S. Emy Shin (formerly Sandy Shin) is celebrating her recent move to her new blog with a giveaway! You can win an ARC of MATCHED by Ally Condie. Go check it out and say hi!


DOs and DON'Ts of NaNoWriMo

As promised, lovelies, here is the NaNoWriMo post. Most of you know what it is, but here's a friendly reminder in a nutshell. The month of November is National Novel Writing Month, "30 days of literary abandon" where nothing matters except WORD COUNT. That's right, quantity over quality. You hit 50,000 words and you win.

I'll be doing it this year, and if you are too, I'd love to be your buddy since we are clearly crazy people together. Just click my participant badge on the side there. I'm kangaru.

Anyway, here are my and Alz's tips for staying chic in the midst of NaNo madness.

DOs and DON'Ts of NaNoWriMo

DO bring a butt-kicking attitude. As they say, confidence can do wonders for your looks and books. Work it!

DON'T delete!!! Remember what we said about confidence? Yeah well, confident people don't worry about suckage, and I did mention this is about QUANTITY, right?

DO let yourself suck. Yes, we're giving you permission. We're even ENCOURAGING it if it means you up your word count. And yes, you will suck, but that's the beauty of being human. (Unless, of course, you're like the novel-writing equivalent of Mozart, in which case, don't talk to me.)

DON'T freak out too much about plot points. You can fix them later (just make a note somewhere for yourself). Unlike zits, they are not red and prominently displayed on your face.

DO have some kind of plan before you start though. Fortune may favor the bold, but it helps to know where you're going.

DON'T think sleep is more important than writing. I know, you need your beauty sleep, but hey, the whole sleep-deprived vampire look is IN.

DO keep your caffeine and candy/snacks stores well stocked. No on likes a grumpy writer, and hungry writers are grumpy writers.

DON'T procrastinate. You let one day slip by without writing, and it turns into two, then three. Before you know it, you are on a one way trip to FREAKOUT Land when the last week of November rolls around and all the people you've told ask you, "So how's that novel coming?" and you've only got 100 words written, and no, your name and the title don't count. Trust, you CANNOT write 10,000 words a day for 5 days and hope for it to have any semblance of being a novel. ROME WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY.

DO kill characters when things get boring. Seriously. Do it. Alz does it every time she gets bored with a scene. Besides, it'll show those uncooperative people who really holds the power here. Mwahahaha!

Alternatively, you could also just blow something up. If anything, it will at least make you feel better.

DON'T forget to save and back-up your file. It's like always keeping some gloss and powder in your bag for touch-ups. Or you know, having a back-up printer the night before a paper is due because yours will inevitably jam while you're trying to print it.

DO congratulate yourself for whatever you manage to write. It's awesome. You're awesome. We're all awesome. Just don't try to sell it.

SO, you all ready for this?! Do you have DOs and DON'Ts for this month of madness? Please share!

Now, I'm off to be pre-occupied with Halloween! See you Friday!


Randomosity on Fridays: Getting to know me/you!

This is a not so usual Friday 5! I had some stuff in mind, but now that I'm sitting here typing this, it has all slipped my mind. Don't you hate it when that happens? I can't believe it's already getting to the end of October!

1. My sister was studying this weekend, so I stole The Lost Hero from her and read it in like a day. The set-up for the new series is quite intriguing! Also, PERCY!!! Yes, I already wish the next one was out, but mostly because I like the direction this is heading and I can't wait to see if what I suspect is indeed true.

2. Shopping this past weekend was successful! Not only did a find a nice dress for my costume, the dress is also totally okay for wearing when it's NOT Halloween! Don't think I outright said it yet, but I'm going to be a wind-up doll of the Victorian/steampunk variety.

3. My co-blogger (yeah, I have one... she's here somewhere...), Alz, is furiously working on her MFA thesis, which is soon due. This means I have recently been bereft of her company, but I wish her well. Cheer her on as she approaches the finish!

4. I'm going to start watching True Blood this weekend. My friend's costume has something to do with it and I would like to get the reference. Plus, said friend bought me Season 1 for my birthday. It's about time I started watching it.

5. Now, here's where things get a little different. The lovely Jen at Unedited did a Why You're a Stalker post yesterday. It's short and cute, and it's a cute way to let everyone get to know everyone else a little better.

So without further ado, here's my random set of stats.

Who are you?

Easy Answer: Krispy, 24, Writer/Procrastinator/Chocolate-eater

More detail

Unabashed nerd
Internet addict
Loves dogs
TV show marathoner
Sometime, wannabe poet
Karaoke mic hog
Muse at best in shower
California girl
But I don't like driving
Laughs a lot
Weakness for shoes and jewelry
Giant sweet tooth
Slow reader
Food lover

I think that's quite enough about me. I want to hear about YOU. Your turn to spill. Tell me about you! Also, anyone else going to read Lost Hero or has anyone already read it? What did you think?

By the by, I've got my Nano profile linked in the sidebar for those of you who are NaNoing this year. Let's be buddies! :)

Peace out for the weekend, friends!

P.S. If you haven't heard about this or checked it out yet, take a look at the It Gets Better Project. It's definitely worth your time. Let's raise awareness about the dangers of bullying and let our youth know it gets better.



Teaser Thursday

Talk of NaNoWriMo is popping up everywhere lately. This post was going to be about that very topic, but I'm switching it up with a Teaser THURSDAY. I'm also tired and my brain is too preoccupied for writing an actual NaNoWriMo post.

So despite my distraction, I've been working on that new short (it's not very horror-ish) and finally making good use of my moleskine notebook. It was within those sporadically used pages that I found a snippet of a poem or something that I scribbled last year. If I recall correctly, I think it has something to do with the in-universe folklore of my NaNo project from last year.

So for your viewing pleasure, some lines:

She sits upon her sliver of moon,
tossing comets that trail...
Golden dust
from her hands.

Hoping to catch celestial fish,
she casts these
Glittering lines and
in the dark
It rains stars.

Have you found any interesting snippets lately? What random side things do you do to world-build? Can you rec me some good poetry?

See you lovely peeps on Friday for Randomosity. Stay warm and dry (it's cold and rainy here)!


Randomosity on Fridays

Hello lovelies! I hope you had a nice week. Mine was okay but marred by my inability to predict the traffic on my daily commute. Anyway, LET'S IGNORE THAT and celebrate it being FRIDAY! Yay!

Here's a quick five.

1. In other news, I'm trying my hand at writing horror. Just a short story, but eh, we'll see how it goes. Must be Halloween getting to me. That and my frequently RAGE-inducing commute. Yeah. Horror.

2. I think I need to cut back on the caffeine intake. I love coffee, but I've been drinking a lot more of it than usual. It's losing its effect. In college, I used to cold turkey it a week or two before I knew I would need it - say midterm week. Speaking of college and coffee, I really miss the bianca mocha from Cafe Strada by campus. It is arguably my favorite coffee drink. SO GOOD.

3. My sister's home and has The Lost Hero with her. She's not done yet, so I need to control myself and not steal it from her.

4. My epic summer of concerts has finally come to an end (I think). September ended with Muse and Vampire Weekend. This month finished it all off with Maroon 5 and opening act, One Republic. SO. MUCH. MUSICAL EPICNESS.

5. I'm putting together my costume for Halloween. Last year, I was Alice in Wonderland (harhar). This year, I'm going steampunk because steampunk is awesome. Also, I love Victoriana and accessories, lots and lots of accessories.

Those are my 5. What are yours? What are you planning for Halloween? Have a splendid weekend!

P.S. As a reminder, the amazing Tahereh is giving away more money for books on her blog. You have until Oct. 19 to enter!

P.P.S. For those of you who follow college football, specifically PAC-10 football, this weekend is the formerly epic match-up between USC (frequent Pac-10 and National champs) and my darling California Golden Bears (frequent breakers of my non-existent heart - that's how much angst they've wreaked upon my college life). Now, neither team is as good as they were in past years and Cal hasn't upset USC since 2003 (the year BEFORE I started college), but it's still kind of exciting. Plus, the game is down here this year, which always makes me nostalgic for my freshman year when I made a trip back home to see the game with my friends. So, for old times' sake, GO BEARS!


Your MG Lost Heroes

Surprise, a post for me early in the week! What's the occasion? Well, today is the release day of Rick Riordan's The Lost Hero, the first book in his 2nd Camp Half-Blood series. You may have heard of the first series; it went by Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The second series is called The Heroes of Olympus.

I am SO EXCITED to read this book. I'm going to drop everything else I'm reading for this. No, seriously.

But my sister has called dibs. She sort of loves Percy Jackson, and who am I to come between a love like that? The only other book she was this excited for this year was Mockingjay.

Anyway, this got me thinking about the MG books I read when I was actually, you know, in the age-range of the target audience.

I'm putting in a disclaimer now that I did not read a lot of fiction before 5th grade. I was, however, very into Greek mythology. I read every Greek mythology book I could get my hands on at my local and school libraries until I ran out of books and had to move on to other mythologies. So I would have absolutely loved to have had the Percy Jackson books back then. Don't get me wrong. I do very much like the books now, but if I had read them as a 6th grader, I would've thought they were the best thing since sliced bread or peanut butter on bread sprinkled with sugar and toasted. (Try it! It's good!)

Back in my elementary school days, I loved reading The Boxcar Children series, enough that I collected the books. I still have a bunch I haven't read because I outgrew them before I could get through them. Then there was The Black Stallion series because I went through a horse phase, and who doesn't like a good boy-and-his-horse type survival-adventure story? Hmm, that's probably why I read The Horse and His Boy like second when I tried the Chronicles of Narnia.

Julie of the Wolves is a book that has stayed with me over the years, as well as Island of the Blue Dolphins - the first full-length novel I ever read by myself.

The Bailey School Kids series appealed to my mythology/folklore/supernatural-loving heart, and seriously, who could resist such intriguing titles as Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots or Angels Don't know Karate? How about Monsters Don't Scuba Dive?

Now, I love love love the contemporary MG series about a certain boy wizard named Harry Potter and the movie counterparts, but back in the day, I was THRILLED when they announced an Indian in the Cupboard movie beause those books were so freaking awesome. What kid doesn't dream that their toys will come alive?

So, now it's your turn. What MG books did you love when you were a middle grader? What MG books do you love now?

I'm off to start a new adventure at Camp Half Blood!

P.S. Be sure to check out Tahereh's newest EPIC contest at her blog: FREEEE MONEY. Yeah, you read that right. Use it to buy some new (or old favorite) MG books!


Randomosity on Fridays: NYC Picture Edition

Happy October, friends!

It's been another long and weird-weathered week. Last week, it was record-breakingly hot, and this week, it's raining and winter-cold. It's like California forgot what Fall is supposed to be like. In any case, it's back in the 80s again this weekend. I don't even...

ANYWAY, let's make this short and fun. I went to New York City a few weeks ago, where I had many adventures with the sister and my college roommates. One of them was our gracious hostess. For more deets, just refer back to my NYC Edition of Randomosity.

One last thing before I go, it may only be the first week of October, but November is just around the corner. You all know what that means: NANOWRIMO! Any of you joining in the writing madness? I'm already signed up. You can find me here: kangaru

Happy weekend, everyone!


Greenhouse Club

Cool fire station in SoHo

Cool wall!

Korean BBQ in K-Town

Heeey Olympus, I mean, Empire State Building

View from the balcony of my roomie's place

More food! Home-made brioche

My history crush, Hamilton, at the Met.

Sister on a Percy Jackson adventure at the Met

She also did some lunges.

Books of Wonder

Visiting Mr & Mrs Hamilton at Trinity Church

Badass Peace Fountain next to Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Hamilton at Columbia University


Randomosity on Fridays: BANNED Edition

Happy Friday, everyone! It has been one long week for me, so I can't tell you how relieved I am it's the weekend! This week, I'm doing something a little different for my Randomosity on Friday.

I felt a like I should do a bit more on the whole Banned Books Week thing, so instead of my usual 5, I'm going to point you to this handy-dandy list of the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books of the Past Decade.

I'm bolding the books on this list that I've read.

1. Harry Potter (series), by J.K. Rowling
2. Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
4. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
5. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
7. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
8. His Dark Materials (series), by Philip Pullman
9. ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (series), by Myracle, Lauren
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
11. Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
12. It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
13. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
14. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
15. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
16. Forever, by Judy Blume
17. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
18. Go Ask Alice, by Anonymous
19. Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
20. King and King, by Linda de Haan
21. To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
22. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry
24. In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak
25. Killing Mr. Griffen, by Lois Duncan
26. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
27. My Brother Sam Is Dead, by James Lincoln Collier
28. Bridge To Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson
29. The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
30. We All Fall Down, by Robert Cormier
31. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
32. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
33. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
34. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, by Carolyn Mackler
35. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison
36. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
37. It’s So Amazing, by Robie Harris
38. Arming America, by Michael Bellasiles
39. Kaffir Boy, by Mark Mathabane
40. Life is Funny, by E.R. Frank
41. Whale Talk, by Chris Crutcher
42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi
43. Blubber, by Judy Blume
44. Athletic Shorts, by Chris Crutcher
45. Crazy Lady, by Jane Leslie Conly
46. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
47. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, by George Beard
48. Rainbow Boys, by Alex Sanchez
49. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
50. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
51. Daughters of Eve, by Lois Duncan
52. The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson
53. You Hear Me?, by Betsy Franco
54. The Facts Speak for Themselves, by Brock Cole
55. Summer of My German Soldier, by Bette Green
56. When Dad Killed Mom, by Julius Lester
57. Blood and Chocolate, by Annette Curtis Klause
58. Fat Kid Rules the World, by K.L. Going
59. Olive’s Ocean, by Kevin Henkes
60. Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
61. Draw Me A Star, by Eric Carle
62. The Stupids (series), by Harry Allard
63. The Terrorist, by Caroline B. Cooney
64. Mick Harte Was Here, by Barbara Park
65. The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien
66. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, by Mildred Taylor
67. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
68. Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez
69. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
70. Harris and Me, by Gary Paulsen
71. Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park
72. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
73. What’s Happening to My Body Book, by Lynda Madaras
74. The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
75. Anastasia (series), by Lois Lowry
76. A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving
77. Crazy: A Novel, by Benjamin Lebert
78. The Joy of Gay Sex, by Dr. Charles Silverstein
79. The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss
80. A Day No Pigs Would Die, by Robert Newton Peck
81. Black Boy, by Richard Wright
82. Deal With It!, by Esther Drill
83. Detour for Emmy, by Marilyn Reynolds
84. So Far From the Bamboo Grove, by Yoko Watkins
85. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, by Chris Crutcher
86. Cut, by Patricia McCormick
87. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
88. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
89. Friday Night Lights, by H.G. Bissenger
90. A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle
91. Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George
92. The Boy Who Lost His Face, by Louis Sachar
93. Bumps in the Night, by Harry Allard
94. Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
95. Shade’s Children, by Garth Nix
96. Grendel, by John Gardner
97. The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
98. I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte
99. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
100. America: A Novel, by E.R. Frank

I know, it's sad. There are a lot of classics on there I have not read, but I do plan on reading many of them.

So, how many books on the list have YOU read? Which ones are you surprised made the list?

Check out my awesome Threadless shirt, Fahrenheit 451
Finally, I've been mentioning To Kill A Mockingbird a lot when I talk about a banned book that I love, but there's another book I'd be remiss not to mention. It's a book by one of my favorite authors (though it's not one of my favorite books by him), Ray Bradbury. Of course I mean, Fahrenheit 451, a book about a future where books are illegal and firemen burn them. Now, Bradbury has said he didn't intend for the story to be about censorship, that it's more about the dangers of mindless TV, but how can a book where book-burning plays such a big part NOT bring to mind the dangers of censorship and the importance of intellectual freedom?

So I encourage you to READ, explore, and THINK. Make your own decisions.

Celebrate BOOKS!

For more Banned Books Week awesomeness, check out Le R and Tahereh's Banned Book Bonanza - where they and a bunch of other bloggers review their favorite banned books.

Have a lovely, lovely weekend, friends. I'll catch you on the flip side.


Banned Books Week & THANKS!

Quick mid-week post because I couldn't hold back any longer, and plus, it's an important week.

FIRST, I'd like to say a ginormous THANK YOU to everyone who stopped by and commented on our Compelling Characters blog post. We really had no idea it would be received so well, and we loved reading your comments (and posts)! So thanks!

And what the who now?! We got to over 50 followers in the course of like 2 days, my head is still reeling from the quickness! (That or my head is still recovering from the UNREAL EPICNESS that was MUSE at the Staples Center, but I digress.)

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to those of you who thought we were cool enough to follow! YOU are the coolest.

Wasn't that blogfest fun? I'm still reading posts!

SECOND, it's Banned Books Week here in the U.S.!

The week celebrates the importance of intellectual freedom and the freedom to read. Intellectual freedom and the effects of censorship are both important topics, period, but they're important to me because I'm an avid reader, who learned A LOT from books. My parents are great and super involved in my life, but they let me read whatever I wanted to read, trusting me to choose what I thought was okay for me, and for that I am very, very grateful. (That and I think they were just really glad I was book-inclined, rather than playing-inclined.)

So all of this is also about individual choice, and I am a big fan of that.

I planned on celebrating by reading SPEAK, but I got my hands on both Blameless by Gail Carriger and The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. So I'm celebrating by just READING what I want, when I want, and how I want (which at this juncture is both books at the same time). I do plan on reading SPEAK soon though.

Speaking of celebrations, the writers at The League of Extraordinary Writers are posting on banned books all week. So go check that out!

I'm a big fan of often challenged and banned To Kill a Mockingbird, which is poignant, beautiful, and brilliant.

What challenged or banned books are YOU a fan of?

See you Friday!

P.S. My dear Alz did a fun post way back about Animal Group Names. Here's a fun follow-up I saw tweeted: A Guide to Supernatural Collective Nouns.

I know I need that. I've got angels and beasties and all sorts of anthropomorphic what-have-yous running around. And don't get me started on the tangle of cosmic serpents!


Blogfest - Writing Compelling Characters: Who was that again?

It's Sept. 24th, which means The Great Blogging Experiment is underway! Check out the other cool entries on the topic!

Alz and I discussed for a long and frantic time how we should approach this. I wanted to have our characters debate each other to the death, but you don't know them, so that wouldn't be very compelling, and Alz pointed out that they would probably just tear the blog apart (I think they only hear the 'to the death' part of my plan). So, we settled on a list of characters we found compelling and not so compelling and why.

Yeah, this was a little rushed, so I probably shouldn't have watched Fringe but it was SO GOOD. Ahem. Alz wrote up the descriptions after we discussed and I went to sleep early. Thanks, Alz!

HERE'S OUR POST on Writing Compelling Characters!


LIKABLE Compelling

BOOK: Soulless by Gail Carriger
CHARACTER: Alexia Tarabotti - Soulless, Victorian, a bluestocking, and quite conscientiously conscious about all of these things.

Krispy - She's confident but also very aware of her flaws and even insecure about them. She's compelling because she deals with all the craziness in her life head on with such delightfully plucky aplomb and poise.

BOOK: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
CHARACTER: Katniss - This 17-year-old BAMF cares deeply for her family and is their sole breadwinner. She can shoot a squirrel in the eye in the dark from a hundred paces with her bow and arrow. She's forced to engage in a fight to the death with twenty-three other teens in a booby-trapped arena beneath the thumb of a ruthless totalitarian government.

Krispy & Alz - What more can you ask for?
Krispy - Katniss is actually a very reactive heroine rather than active, but she's still incredibly compelling. Of course, the compelling circumstances help, but still, you always hear about the importance of having an active protagonist and here we have one who mostly doesn't act until she is forced to/has to. What makes her compelling then? When she does act, Katniss does so with courage and determination. She tries to remember what is important to her and to be true to herself.

Alz - I also found that Katniss's occasional indecisiveness and uncertainties made her compelling. Ordinarily I find a female protagonist's indecisiveness about boys or what to do about etc. to be wishy-washy same-old same-old, but because Katniss is normally such a strong character (and also because of her circumstances) it's refreshing to know that she still worries about these things. Also, she doesn't wallow in self-pity or drama, indeed, Katniss is a very practical-minded and down-to-earth girl.


BOOK: Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
CHARACTER(S): The Warden - Ambiguous and manipulative, full of hidden depths, intrigue, and questionable ambition.
Keiro - Ambiguous intentions and actions, moral yet immoral, a loyal cheater, sort of not good but not bad either.

Krispy - Both of these characters are compelling for their ambiguity. I was never quite sure where either of them stood, especially Keiro. They're both blatant about their own ambitions, but they act in ways that sometimes hint at something deeper - that they might have less selfish motivations.

Alz - I was never sure if I liked Keiro or not, but I cared enough to want to know what would happen to him. You keep reading because you want to get a better grasp of who they are. Even with the Warden I was never really sure if what he claimed in his more emotional moments was true or all an act.

MANGA: Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
CHARACTER: Light - He's a teenage genius whose disillusion with the system and good intentions develop into a giant God-complex. He thinks he has an absolute sense of justice and, when given the nigh-undetectable supernatural power to inflict his moral vision on the entire world, he does not hesitate to murder as, when, and who he deems unworthy of life—and whoever gets in his way.

Krispy - Here's a great example of a protagonist who is not necessarily likable (I stopped liking him real fast as the story progressed), but is super compelling. I was actually rooting for his antagonist - the guy sent to catch him - because I liked the antagonist more, but I was still pulled along by Light's brilliant machinations.

Alz - Even if you don't like him, you find yourself invested in his plans. You kind of want to see him get away with it, even if you don't agree with his methods or even his ideology. He's supremely intelligent and though he has good intentions, well, you know what they say about the road to hell.


BOOK(S): Havemercy & Dragonsoul by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett
CHARACTER(S): Rook & Thom - Listed together because in both books, their first person narratives are on the same plot-line. Rook - no-nonsense, foul-mouthed, rough-around-the-edges Airman of the Esar's Dragon Corps, who grew up in the roughest parts of the capitol city. He doesn't give a flying *bleep* what you think of him, but if you're on the same team, he'll have your back. Thom - a street kid who managed to pull himself out of the slums by intellect. He's smart, well-mannered, University-educated, and in the first book, he has the dubious pleasure of having to rehabilitate Rook (and the other Airmen) into (at least) presentable members of Society.

Krispy - They're very different characters with very different views of the world and ways of approaching situations. Thom is easily likable, but Rook is a huge JERK a lot of the time. Still, Rook ended up being my favorite character because he's also funny, honest (like in a character sense, his actions and words feel authentic), and has these moments where you get where he's coming from and why he's so antagonistic. Thrown together, Rook and Thom have a lot of personality clashes ,but there's also growth. Nothing comes easy for these two, but you want to see if they'll manage to work together or even understand each other a little. The dynamics of their volatile relationship is what drives the story forward.

Alz - I only read Havemercy but I have to say that Rook and Thom were my favorite POVs in that 4-person-POV story. They have a very intense relationship that starts off based on bullying, hatred, fear, and disdain, but neither guy is going to give in to the other. The sizzling chemistry practically burns the pages of the book to a cinder. Rook is indeed a big fat jerkface quite often, but he makes no excuses for himself or for others; Thom is a little more stable a character, but hard work is his ethic and he sticks to it grimly in the face of people like Rook who want nothing better than to make him give up.

BOOK: The Tamir Trilogy by Lynn Flewelling
CHARACTER(S): Brother & Tobin - Here we have a creepy baby ghost. "Brother" was killed as soon as he was born so that his twin sister could magically assume his male form and escape the execution her female nature would have brought upon her.

Alz - Their relationship is fascinatingly ambiguous and often violent as Brother haunts Tobin; Brother knows everything while Tobin knows nothing. They grow up together, the ghost who was robbed of his life and the boy who doesn't know he's really a girl.



BOOK: Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
CHARACTER(S): Nora Grey - Boring name indicates boring non-personality, too much teenage angst, zero sense of self-preservation/caution, beyond poor taste in friends, not enough wits to compete with a potato in a first-grade spelling bee.
Vee Sky - Nora Grey's best friend, boy-crazy, fewer brains than a mummy, criminally stupid, criminally juvenile, criminally existent.

Krispy - Maybe you can tell Alz didn't like this book much. Nora was okay to me, but there was nothing about her that really drew me in. She was kind of just...there.

Alz - I freely admit that my descriptions are perhaps a wee tad bit biased. I suppose that Nora was all right, but she lacked any strength of character or interesting/unique characteristics to separate her from a thousand other generic YA-romance heroines. As for Vee, though, I feel I was probably too gentle and generous in my description...

BOOK: Joust by Mercedes Lackey
CHARACTER: Vetch - So overwhelmingly pitiable and pathetic that the author feels it is necessary to explicitly tell us on page 12 that "he was truly the most miserable of boys," after 12 pages of telling us how horrible and pathetic and terrible his life is, and then 5 pages later he's whisked out of said horrible life into a brand new life where everything conveniently, and coincidentally happens to go exactly right for him for the rest of the book.

Alz - This is a classic case of show, don't tell. The author spends the entire first chapter telling us how miserable Vetch is, and then it becomes pretty much a non-issue for the rest of the book. Vetch is very much the angry downtrodden serf-boy, and he was extremely irritating because I felt like rather than outside circumstances making him feel that way, he adopted the attitude and styled himself to suit it. Vetch has no personality beyond the cardboard rebellious-serfboy cutout and his struggles are pretty much nonexistent.



BOOK: Shadow Magic by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett
CHARACTER: Caius - one of the 4 first-person POV characters; a young, very talented magician. He's eccentric and charismatic, witty and funny, and strange enough to keep most people on their toes. He also has a rather dark reputation, which adds to his air of intrigue.

Krispy - So I kind of loved Caius. He's the type of character I like - seemingly composed and good-natured on the surface, but harboring some sort of unpleasant past. The thing is, by the end of the book, I didn't feel like I'd gotten to know him THAT much better than when I started, even though I spent a quarter of the book in his head. I didn't feel like he'd changed very much over the course of the book, which is a problem when the book is heavily character-based.

So that's our post! Agree? Disagree?

I guess the takeaway message is that compelling characters come in MANY DIFFERENT forms. You can love them, hate them, love to hate them, but no matter what, you're drawn to follow them on their journeys. Also, it takes more than just likability, cute quirks, or badassness to make a compelling character. They have to be real, flawed and human. They need to ring true to the reader, and I think most importantly, they need to grow and change to be truly compelling.

Be sure to check out other takes on the Compelling Characters topic by visiting the link at the top of this post! Have a glorious weekend!

P.S. This is a great article from Nathan Bransford about the role of parents (or lack thereof) in kidlit: In Defense of Dead/Absent Parents in Children's Literature

P.P.S. I'm seeing MUSE this weekend! I didn't even realize! It's going to be EPIC!!!