Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Upgrading is Compulsory

Painting is harsh.  It doesn't help that there is no light in my room and I could only paint when there was enough daylight, around 10am to 2pm everyday.  To most people, this schedule would be fine, but, as a vampire, I found it taxing.  But I braved the sunshine with bravo and competed this project within a week!

The color change is due to my only source of light after sundown, an orange paper lantern from Ikea.

 As you can see my room was pretty plain before.  Just some plain walls and empty windows. After almost 8 years of white walls, I was itching for a change. The process of painting is definitely messy.  Originally, I didn't have anything covering the floor, but my appalled  mother insisted on the newspaper and it quickly became the bane of my existence  I swear, every time I moved, that paper tore.  However, thanks to that newspaper, I succeeded with no lasting drips on the carpet! Finally, I moved back in...

The colors are soft chinchilla on the walls and a darker blue on the trim and door

... and I am in love with it.  The blues are so calming and the white curtains give it such an airy feeling.  I was worried that the room would be too dark, but it's definitely not.  I also love my cloud of chalkboard paint.  Does it look familiar?  I modeled it after the cover design of The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (One of my favorite books).  Currently, I'm been using the board as a permanent To Do List.  It's still a work in progress, I plan to buy some track lights for above my bed and create a wall clock above the stairs but those projects are in the future and right now I just want to pet the walls and revel in my achievement.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 374
Rating: 4/5

     When Thomas wakes up i the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name.  He has no recollection of his parents, his home, or how he got where he is.  His memory is empty.
     But he is not alone.  When the lift's doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade, a large expanse enclosed by stone walls.
     Just like Thomas, the Gladers don't know why or how they got to the Glade.  All they know is that every morning, for as long as anyone can remember, the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened.  Every night, for just as long, they've closed tight.  Every thirty days a new boy is delivered in the lift.  And no one wants to be stuck in the Maze after dark.
     The Gladers were expecting Thomas's arrival.  But the next day, a girl is sent up - the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade.  And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.  The Gladers have always been convinced that if they can solve the maze that surrounds the Glade, they might find their way home...wherever that may be.  But it's looking more and more as if the the Maze is unsolvable.
     And something about the girl's arrival is starting to make Thomas feel different.  Something is telling him that he just might have some answers - if he can only find a way to retrieve the dark secrets locking within his own mind.

This book is unstoppable and I mean that in the most literal sense.  There are no pauses in the action, no time for the reader to accustom themselves to the world.  Plus, like Thomas, you have no idea what is happening or why.  It's written in third person limited which was really weird to me.  At the beginning, I didn't catch and remember Thomas's name so every time the book mentioned him I thought they were talking about someone else. :P I found couldn’t but it down due to the fast pased action but I found when I did put it down, I didn't feel the urge to pick it up again for a few days.  However, I’m glad I finally did.  I read the last 2/3 of the book in one night!

I loved the characters, especially Minho and Newt. I loved how this group of 50 boys was functional even though they didn't agree 100%.  A scene in which they argue the fate of Thomas was great at showcasing this.  The leaders of their community all have different thoughts but have the common goal of surviving the Maze.  I thought it was a great way of showing the government in a small scale. Also, none of the characters were perfect.  Thomas was a loner who doesn't appreciate his first friend and Minho has a terrible anger management problem.

As a dystopian, I found the story to be good and not overused.  Unlike most, the characters in The Maze Runner are separated from the world.  They can't remember it.  All they know is how things work and the words for them but there are no previous memories attached.  There is also no oppressive government, only WICKED the organization responsible for the boy's predicament.  In fact, the boys have created their own democratic system in the maze which functioned well until WICKED begins to make changes in their environment.

All in all, I really enjoyed The Maze Runner.  It wasn't a difficult read, nor did it leave me deep in thought, but I did devour it. Plus, I could hardly bring myself to turn off the lights when I finally finished.  I was actually shaking and terrified that a Greiver would enter my room as soon as darkness fell.  This book is no Cloud Atlas, but it had great imagery and a bounding story line that could keep a sloth interested.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Weekly Photos #2

Looking back at this last week of photos, I can see that I've found it much harder to take photos everyday.  I live a pretty routine life which has led me to taking some of the same photos.  Plus I've found it hard to remember to take photos until I get home which also leads to a ton of repetition. There are only so many things I can photograph in my room.  I'm going to try to find some inspiration for pictures on pinterest and hopefully I can really love what I put in this space in 7 days.

Foggy Mornings/the empty room I was stuck in with 4 friends for 6 hours/my attempt at avocado deviled eggs/fancy shoes/adorable iPad app (Happy Street)/lockers at my gym/light filtering through the curtains

As you can see I sunk pretty low this week.  Happy Street, curtains and lockers oh so exciting!  Ah well, all I can to is take more.  I hope you enjoyed them slightly!

Good Things:

Who knew that exercise could make one so peppy and happy?  I was thoroughly enjoyed that I had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch one day that I couldn't stop talking about it...

Philosophy Class
I'm always amazed when I achieve a good mark on a test or final.  This week I learned what I got on my final from last semester and I blew my expectations away.  I feel a lot less worried for the IB test now :)

How about you?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Car Adventures

I live in the middle of nowhere.  Okay, I'm slightly exaggerating, but the town I live in is as boring as the middle of nowhere.  There are three tiny towns where the pinnacle of excitement is the movie theater. Though I love movies, it can get old quickly.  Therefore, I've decided to start exploring my county.  My goal is to find new campsites, hiking trails, beaches and, ultimately, places that make me love where I live.  A couple days ago, I started this endeavor.  Two friends and I took a 30 min car trip up into the hills that surround the bay that our town is located on.

Driving a mom van up the hills was a little terrifying for the two
of us not driving but we made it safely!
Once we were there it was beautiful.  It was a 'warm' winter day (about
50-55° F) but there was still a ton of snow. 

By the ocean, it never snows, so we reveled in this rarity.           

We also spent a lot of time cow gazing.  There was the cutest baby
but it was too far away to get a picture.
All three of us can't wait to go back. It was so peaceful.  We saw a sign
for a town 30 more miles down the road and we plan to visit it soon!

Do you ever search for new places near home?  What have you found? How do you suggest finding places?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Weekly Photos #1

Just a couple of my favorite daily photos I've taken this week.

first salad of the year! / frosted leaf I found in the parking lot at school clay dusted pants after ceramics / morning drive scenery / fashionable bowling shoes / glass teapot / beach scenery

Favorites of the Week:

Oil-Free Moisturizer by Neutrogena
I swear my face has never been this soft!

H.P. Lovecraft on Audio CD
As an audio book n00b I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I'm loving to hear Lovecraft's work on the way to school every morning.

How has your week been?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Birthday List: 17 Goals for 17 Years

I have never completed a New Year’s Resolution in my life, and, personally, I blame it on the cliché. Perhaps, if I retitle it and base it on a different holiday, I will finally find strength to complete my goals. I found the idea for my little list from the blog A Beautiful Mess.  They mentioned their own birthday lists and I thought it was a great take on the typical New Year’s tradition.  In Emma’s own words it is “a list of goals for the upcoming year that corresponds with our age”.  Therefore, because I'm 17, I'll have 17 goals. Though a little late, almost a month exactly, here's my birthday list!

1. Decorate my room so I love it

2. Grow out my hair

3. Bake from scratch

4. Take Ceramics all year

5. Declutter and buy less

6. Spend spare time on test prep books

7. Read a fatty cold war book

8. Take a picture everyday

9. Go camping

10. Eat more salad

11. Spend less time on the internet

12. Make Christmas Cards

13. Swim 

14. Stay Hydrated

15. Write in a Journal

16. Make Sushi

17. Use reusable bags

There are so many things that could be added to this list but I feel that these are the goals I need to be reminded of. I also wanted to make these goals specific and as completeable as possible. I always find it easier to do something if you know the exact requirements.  No wishy washy stuff like ‘Get Fit’.  I can’t wait to look back next year and see how many of these goals can claim fulfillment!  Do you have any resolutions this new year?  If you're still searching check out this generator.  It definitely inspired me.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
Publisher : Random House
Pages :  509
Rating: 5/5

A postmodern visionary who is also a master of styles and genres, David Mitchell  combines flat-out adventure, and Nabokovian love of puzzles, a keen eye for character, and a taste for mind-bending philosophical and scientific speculation in the tradition of Umberto Eco and Philip K. Dick.  The result is a brilliantly original fiction that reveals how disparate people connect, how their fates intertwine, and how their souls drift across time like clouds across the sky.

No, that summery doesn't draw me in either, but it was on the back of my book so I'll include it. However, I will attempt to do better. Cloud Atlas is an amazing anthology written by one person, so not an anthology at's six stories that fit together like Russian nesting dolls (are they Russian...). Basically, you get half of a story five times then a whole story then the end of the 5 stories backwards to the way they were initially presented. Make any sense? No? Well, the first half and the last half are the same story. Get it now? If not I don't know how to tell you. I can say I've never seen another book formatted this way but I really liked it. It was easier to see how the stories tied into one another and it felt like you were uncovering the stories as the characters were. My memory was the only problem, by the time I was reading the ends of the stories; I had forgotten what happened in the beginning! However, a few quick rereads put everything back in to perspective.

The range of stories told in Cloud Atlas is amazing. Everything from mystery to romance to sci-fi included in just 500 pages! There is easily something for everyone, just look at the scope of these six stories and tell me you’re not interested in any of them.
  1. Adam Ewig is crossing the Pacific with a doctor who collects human teeth and a runaway stowaway in his cabin.  
  2.  Robert Frobisher was never one for subtle.  He falls in and out of love easily and struggles through life while composing his life's work.  
  3.  Luisa Ray, aspiring serious reporter, cannot believe she's stumbled upon such a story but people start to get hurt and she starts to wonder if she's next!
  4.  Timothy Cavendish just wanted to escape the gangsters trying to kill him and now he's trapped in a nursing home with a torture-happy nurse.
  5.  Somni-451 lived the same life day in and day out slowing working her way toward freedom from the Papa Song Corporation.  She lives, completely unaware of reality until someone breaks her out.  
  6.  Zachry has lived a normal on the big island with his fellow Vallymen, the canbalistic Kona and his goats until a woman Prescient arrives and asks to be lead to the home of the devil.
This is one of the most influential books I have read this year. I will admit that I saw the movie first but trust me when I say they are not the same story. For me, the movie was more focused on the connections to others, romance and growth via the actors and their parts and the book was stories of people standing against the will to power. The "will to power" is a philosophical concept created by Friedrich Nietzsche. The cliff-notes version is that all of mans actions are based out of a desire for power and a desire to reach the highest possible position in your life. Nietzsche makes a very persuasive and agreeable argument for this pessimistic idea. Cloud Atlas does its best to show that will to power is not a necessity in a human. All six main characters embody this idea and send a powerful message of belief. Belief in free will, in humanity, and in each other which is something I find hard to believe in. As at unwilling believer in the worst it was great to read something so hopeful. If you ever feel stuck in a rut I would suggest giving Cloud Atlas a try.

 "Fantasy. Lunacy.  All revolutions are, until 
 they happen, then they are historical 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Typical Thursday Night?

 How many people spend their break, lying on a bed, 

 watching hour after hour of Dance Academy,

studying for a test they're not taking? Raise your hand if you think I have no social life.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini
Publisher : Balzer and Bray (Harper Collins)
Pages :  387
Rating: 4/5

     Given the chance, fifteen-year old Peregrine "Perry" Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons.  The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin.  But that isn't happening - not if his parents have anything to do with it.  Concerned their son lacks social skills, they ship him off to summer camp to become a man.  They want him to be outdoors playing with kids his own age and meeting girls - rather than indoors alone, with only his gaming alter ego for company.  Perry knows he's in for the worst summer of his life.
     Everything changes, however, when Perry gets to camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals.  There he meets Mortin Enaw, one of the creators of C&C, and other mythical creatures from the game, including the alluring Ada Ember, whom Perry finds more beautiful than any girl he's ever met.  Perry's new otherworldly friends need his help to save their princess and prevent mass violence. As they embark on their quest, Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero.  But to save the princess, Perry will have to learn how to make real connections in the human world as well.

I like to think of this book as a mix between Percy Jackson and Dungeons and Dragons.  Although the story and characters are nothing like Percy’s, they evoked the same feeling of a nerdy kid trying to make his way through puberty with a couple monsters thrown in.  Ned Vizzini is one of my favorite authors and I picked up this book without reading the summery so I had no idea the Creature & Caverns characters would actually become reality!  I thought this would be a feel good story of a RPG playing nerd trying to understand puberty, I mean it IS like that but with a fantasy world on the side.

Perry Eckert is a 15 year old New York dork.  With Creatures & Caverns and mathletes on the mind it’s no wonder he’s a ‘late bloomer’ and can’t get a girl.  His divorced parents, worried for the boy playing a RPG alone in his room, send him into the scary world of normal summer camp.  No math, no science, just a cabin and a lake.  Addicted to his game Perry can’t imagine weeks without it, but soon upon his arrival he spots a C&C character running through the woods! Perry can’t help but follow and finds himself in the World of the Other Normals, where everything is different but not. His companions might be human if you take away the frog head or the blue hair or the tail or the permanent glittery nail polish.  With his new friends Ada and Mortin he embarks on a quest to save a princess or just kiss a girl.

Perry is an incredibly awkward, cringe worthy pubescent boy.  I know, lots of books have that cute, awkward nerd with social problems but Perry takes it a step farther.  There were times when his humiliation was painful but being 15 is painful. Thinking back 2 years I know many a boy who can share his problems.  He starts off as a C&C loving loner and slowly becomes more and more socialable but retains the awkward.

I’m not a big fantasy nerd.  I don’t like Lord of the Rings or anything that takes place off earth or with unhuman characters.  I find it hard to picture the world or feel sympathy for any of the characters when taken away from a real world setting.  I ran into this problem a few times with the World of the Other Normals (precisely the underwater part and some of the creatures) but I wasn’t put off.  Vizzini did a good job creating this world and how it connects to ours.  Questions about Mortin’s capability to switch universes kept me enthralled in the Other Normal’s world.  Thankfully my questions were the same as Perry’s and unlike some other books he asks them and receives an answer!

I have to say one of the best things about this book was its pacing and jokes.  I read this book in less than a day.  I couldn’t put it down.   Between the embarrassments, questions and laughs I found myself done practically before I’d even started.  Along with the quickness, I found myself stopping to laugh or just gaping in shock at the craziness on the page many times.  There was one time where I legitimately stared at the words for a good minute with a shocked smile on my face (trust me you’ll know what I’m mentioning).   Though almost 400 pages long, to me it felt short and sweet and, while I probably won’t reread The Other Normals, I’m glad I read it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Year Long Challenges

This past year I haven't read much, with Netflix and the internet in my room it's hard to make myself read.  Isn't it simpler just to scroll through Tumblr or rewatch Firefly again?  However, this doesn't aide my brain in any way except to craft better stories (you should see the dreams I have...) or creepily fangirl over people. So I thought I'd attempt various book challenges this year!

1. Off The Shelf - I have a problem. There are 200 books sitting in my room unread and I thought this challenge could help. My goal is the level 'Making a Dint' in which I attempt to read 30 books already have on my shelf (pre Jan 1st 2013)


2. Where Are You Reading? - This challenge just seemed really cool and interesting to me.  You keep a google map with all the cities you read about in books.  It would be really cool to look back at the end of the year and see all the places you 'visited'.

While those are the only book challenges I am going to join I'm going to set a challenge for myself. Along with reading a lot more I am going to try to watch 100 movies.  I'm sure this won't be hard for a girl who watched season 7 of How I Met Your Mother in two days, but I think it will be good for me to actually keep track of how many movies I watch.

(isn't it cute, you can tell I spent so much time on it... :)

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Publisher : Penguin Classics

Pages :  817

Rating: 4/5

Anna Karenina has beauty, social position, wealth, a husband, and an adored son, but her existence seems empty.  When she meets the dashing officer Count Vronsky she rejects her marriage and turns to him to fulfill her passionate nature - with devastating results. One of the world's greatest novels, Anna Karenina is both an immortal drama of personal conflict and social scandal and a vivid, richly textured panorama of nineteenth-century Russia.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first Tolstoy novel I’ve read; it’s not even the longest.  Granted I didn’t read either of them by choice but what does that matter?  I read them thoroughly, unlike some of my classmates…anyways; Anna Karenina was a good read.  It is a grand romance and, like most classics, leaves you overwhelmed because of life.

Unlike the title may suggest, only half of the story is centered upon the adultery and love between Anna and Vronsky.  The other half is the storybook romance between country boy Konstantin Levin and city girl Kitty Alexandrovna.  This romance is ADORABLE!!! There are a few moments when I’m sure I “Ahhhh”ed out-loud.  They’re basically a YA romance in a classic. 

Anna was a very annoying character.  That’s kind of the whole point of the narrative but the fact that I thought her every action was stupid did not help me finish this book.  Anna, and Levin, has a tendency to think too much basically.  While I think this is a common problem, hell I have it, it leads to a slow moving story.  They both are halted in doing what they want by how that action would look to the outside world.   However the whole story shows the reader another perspective and leads you to question.  For example, should you mold yourself to society’s norms or do what you truly want, what’s the difference between your perceived reality and the real one, and so on.  It’s truly a thought provoking book.

Tolstoy, unlike say Nathaniel Hawthorn, is an easy classic to read.  His writing style isn’t too different from the modern he just likes to write down every thought in a character’s head which leads to these epic size yarns.  However, if you want to read something to impress others I can’t suggest a better book than one by Tolstoy.  I mean how awesome is it to say you've read Anna Karenina?!

OH! I saw the new Anna Karenina movie with Jude Law and Keira Knightly and thought it was ridiculous, not in the good way.  I didn’t like it.  It just wasn’t the book. I know, everyone whose read any book turned movie says that but hey, it’s true.  But if you liked the movie you’ll like the book.  The story is the same but with TONS more Levin and Kitty and more of view inside the minds of the characters.