Sunday, June 30, 2013


My sister and I went to an ImagineDragons concert this weekend in Kansas City, MO, and it was awesome!   Most people I've asked haven't heard of this indie(ish)-rock group, and I only began listening to them a little less than a year ago, when they popped up on my Spotify radio channel when I was listening to another group.

I like this band because they don't only sing of one topic, like love, and their songs are clean. The main vocalist, Dan Reynolds, has an excellent, unique voice, and the other members of the band are very talented. ImagineDragons' lyrics are deep, unique, and make you think. This band is fairly new; this tour is their first one ever, but they are doing an excellent job, and the seats at the Starlight Theater were sold out. This group's music is similar to One Republic, if you're curious, and here's their website if you want to learn more about them or watch some of their music videos.

Some pics of my sis and I in beautiful Kansas City (and I tried to flip them, but couldn't figure out how w/ my inferior technological skills) :

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Review: Extras

Extras by Scott Westerfeld
Genre: Dystopian Sci-Fi
#4 in the UGLIES series

"It's a few years after rebel Tally Youngblood took down the uglies/pretties/specials regime. Without those strict rules, the world is in a complete cultural renaissance. 'Tech-heads' flaunt their latest gadgets, 'kickers' spread gossip and trends, and 'surge monkeys' are hooked on extreme plastic surgery. And it's all monitored on a bazillion different cameras. The world is like a gigantic game of American Idol.Whoever is getting the most buzz gets the most votes. Popularity rules.

As if being fifteen doesn't suck enough, Aya Fuse's rank of 451,369 is so low, she's a total nobody. An extra. Her only chance to escape extra-land is to find a big story to kick-something wild and unexpected.

Then Aya meets a clique of girls who pull crazy tricks, yet are deeply secretive of it. But the Sly Girls are hiding something bigger-an explosive that may change the face of the brave new world forever. If Aya kicks this story, she'll be propelled into the world of fame, celebrity...and extreme danger. A world she's not prepared for."

Fame. Danger. Surge-Monkeys. How cool does that sound? And this is a great read. It took me a while to get into, possibly because the main character, Aya, was obnoxious at first. But she realized her flaws and tried to change, and once I was half-way, whoosh! I couldn't and didn't want to put the book down.

Extras has some great plot twists and excitement, and continues to address deep issues like the other novels in the series do. I didn't like this novel as well as Uglies, Pretties, Specials, but I still enjoyed this novel. I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 and recommend it for older middle-schoolers and up.

What I learned: Sometimes you have to lie to find out the truth. Fame isn't always (usually) as good as it sounds/looks.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Review: The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Dramatic/Realistic Fiction 

Quote from the back: "'This powerful first novel...tells a story of fierce cruelty and fierce yet redeeming love. Both transform the life of Amir; Khaled Hosseini's privileged young narrator, who comes of age during the last peaceful days of the monarchy, just before his country's revolution and its invasion by Russian forces. But political events, even as dramatic as the ones that are presented in The Kite Runner, are only a part of this story. In The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini gives us a vivid and engaging story that reminds us how long his people have been struggling to triumph over the forces of violence-forces that continue to threaten them even today.'"

This was a beautifully written book and I was in tears several times throughout it. It was definitely not a 'light' read; there is a lot of violence and tragedy. But there is deep love and forgiveness and it opened up my eyes to the suffering people had to face during the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan, how important love is between right and wrong, and that people's actions can affect their children.

I was frustrated with the main character, Amir, a lot in this novel, but he grows and changes at the end, which I believe is similar to real life, for no one's perfect. Other than that, the characters were mostly like able and I really loved learning about the Afghanistan culture. There are also many great motifs and lovely symbols throughout the novel (look at the title, hint, hint). I liked A Thousand Splendid Suns better, but I still loved this book and give it a 4 out of 5. I would recommend it for older high-school students and up.

What I learned: What a kite runner is, how dramatically life changed during the Taliban's rule in Afghanistan, especially in Kabul, and what a Hazara is.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Review: Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Genre: Non-Fiction

Incerpt from back: "One of the most popular introductions to Christian faith ever written, Mere Christianity has sold millions of copies worldwide. The book brings together C.S. Lewis's legendary broadcast talks of the war years, talks in which he set out simply to 'explain and defend the belief that has been common to nearly all Christians at all times." Rejecting the boundaries that divide Christianity's many denominations, Lewis provides an unequaled opportunity for believers and nonbelievers alike to hear a powerful, rational case for the Christian faith. It is a collection of scintillating brilliance that remains strikingly fresh for the modern reader and at the same time confirms C.S. Lewis's reputation as one of the leading writers and thinkers of our age."

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was pretty easy to read, more so than the other novels by him that I have read, and the arguments made a lot of sense. Also, it was funny in places. I know, who thought that scholarly, dead men could be funny in their non-fiction novels, right? This one definitely was in places, and gave the brain a brief respite. Lewis also uses quite a bit of similes/metaphors/descriptions to prove his points, and they really clarified his ideas and pressed them into the reader's mind.

And don't fret about the 'Christian' content. Lewis doesn't hit you over the head, and this novel is sensitive to all kinds of audiences. It actually seems to be more for those who don't hold to the Christian beliefs than those who do, although both can gain new insights from it. This is a great read for anyone (no matter the spiritual beliefs) who is interested in the deeper aspects of life, like morality, faith, and the concept of God. I give it a 5 out of 5 because it was so well written and tackles great topics. I recommend it for anyone around late high school age and up.

What I learned: So much! But here's two: Sometimes you must act like you love someone so that you actually will; feeling follows action. Morality is different than our human instincts (like motherly love) because it is often what tells you which instinct to act upon.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Tigers and Rhymes

It's poetry time! People in our culture don't read poetry much (unless it's in school), which is a shame, because it can be so beautiful and meaningful. This is one of my favorite poems because of the imagery and rhyme scheme.

The Tyger by William Blake

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright                                    
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?                                            
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ale or Mead?

It's always important to do research for a novel, especially for a historical novel. A few weeks ago, in one of my writing classes, my professor was reading a chapter of my current writing project, a YA novel that takes place in a medieval-type world.

My professor noticed that I had said that my main character took a swig of mead, and kindly informed me that more than a few sips of mead would knock a normal person out. Who would have thunk? Not me apparently, because I don't live in the middle ages, and didn't do enough research. Since I didn't want my character to get drunk, (it is YA, after all :), I changed the mead to ale. I probably have more cultural oddities like this in in my novel, but now I'm on the hunt to get everything right, even the drinks, because readers will catch it, and then will want to kill me!

Some other interesting things I learned while researching/editing parts of this novel:
    -They don't say 'okay' or 'alright' in the middle ages. What else can you use for those expressions?!
    -People back then used animal skins (bladders) to hold water while traveling. Yum
    -Peasant houses were made from straw and mud.
    -Nobles didn't eat raw fruit; it was seen as unhealthy and unsanitary. No wonder they didn't live long...
    -The crossbow was invented in the early-ish middle ages period.
    -"You dried neat's-tongue" is an insult Shakespeare used. Your guess is as good as mine of what it means.