Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thank You and Happy New Year!

Before 2010 rolls in, I'd like to thank everyone who has ever visited this blog. I love getting new readers and your comments always make my day! When I first started this blog, I never expected anyone except for my mom and sister to read my posts, so I really appreciate that you've taken the time to come over here and leave a comment. I'm very grateful for all your support and encouragement.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Retrospection: The Best Books of 2009

In 2009, I read a total of 154 books, which is a far cry from the 30 or so books I read last year. I'd like to acknowledge some of the best books I read each month, since I can't pick just one. (Just a side note: several of these books were not published in 2009, but I only read them this year.)

Best Books of January
The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester
Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

Best Books of February
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

Best Books of March
Nothing But Ghosts by Beth Kephart

Best Books of April
Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller
Warriors (Power of Three): Sunrise by Erin Hunter

Best Books of May
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Undercover by Beth Kephart
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Best Books of June
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Girl Overboard by Justina Chen Headley

Best Books of July
Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter
Slept Away by Julie Kraut
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev

Best Books of August
Warriors: Bluestar's Prophecy by Erin Hunter
Pendragon: The Soldiers of Halla by D. J. MacHale
The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson

Best Books of September
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Best Books of October
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Forest Born by Shannon Hale
Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Best Books of November
The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart
Warriors (Omen of the Stars): The Fourth Apprentice by Erin Hunter

Best Books of December
The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Calamity Jack by Shannon, Dean, and Nathan Hale
The Espressologist by Kristina Springer

Friday, December 25, 2009


Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Polar Express

I watched The Polar Express again last night for the third time, and I have to say that it is my favorite movie ever.

I love reading the picture book and seeing how the storyline was expanded in the movie to add more action. I love the characters and the animation and the music and the setting. So many of the scenes were amazing and left me with this weird happy feeling.

Most importantly, I love the message in the movie. Near the middle of the story, the Conductor says, "Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can't see." And I think that basically sums up what the holiday season is all about.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

there is a lot of awesomeness contained in this post*

Yesterday was the first time I actually experimented with all the settings on my dad's camera. For all the photos below, I basically used the same "close-up" setting, but many of them turned out quite differently from what I expected.



These next two are my absolute favorites!



This one came out too dark, but I still like the hints of blue:


This is one of my favorite ornaments:


* as quoted by my sister Maya

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Out of heaven, to bless the high places*

(Stealing this "happiness list" idea from Cuileann for today)

- Calamity Jack in the mail yesterday! I wish the inside was in color, but I finished it today in one sitting and it was great!


- Lindt milk chocolate bars with white chocolate on the inside. Yum...

- This song. It's overly happy but fun to sing along to.

- My new socks! They are so comfy and I love wearing them!


- Our Christmas tree. (It looks basically like last year's.) It reflects off the piano and makes my etude practices more tolerable. :-)

- I am (hopefully) going to see "Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel" on Wednesday!

*from The Trickle-Down Theory of Happiness by Philip Appleman

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Guest Post: LM Preston on Trusting in Yourself

Yesterday, I posted up a review of LM Preston's upcoming debut novel, Explorer X- Alpha. Today, I'm excited to present the very first guest post on my blog. Here's LM Preston on "Trusting in Yourself."

*****

TRUSTING IN YOURSELF

Trusting your own gut feelings is one of the best gifts of being a human or an intelligent being. We all get that little ‘twinge’ when something just isn’t right. When that happens…LISTEN TO IT! Trust yourself or your ‘gut’ some call it. Trust it at all times, it will never steer you wrong.

When I was young I lived in the inner-city of Washington , DC . The neighborhood I called home, had gangs, drugs, muggers, killers, and lots of kids and family nearby. However, with all of these things present, I didn’t realize that my gut instincts were strengthening with each day I played outside, walked to school, to the bus, or traveled the city alone.

I never understood why my grandmother, affectionately named NaNa, didn’t want me to leave my block to go to the store alone. Or why, I wasn’t allowed to cut through the alleys to get to my cousin’s house, and the numerous list of things I was told to watch out for.

My main character in EXPLORER X – Alpha realizes that something isn’t quite right with the immunization he is given. Aadi takes the initiative as asks the Doctor why it is being given to him. In addition to this finding, Aadi confirms his concerns with others.

Here are some steps to take in trusting yourself in all things;

LISTEN TO THAT ‘TWINGE’ IN YOUR GUT

When you are in a situation with a friend or an adult, and you get that feeling that something isn’t quite right, then you are most likely correct. Learn yourself, and test this ability.

If your friend tells you that you should sneak out to go to that great party that so-and-so is going to, then you feel this tickle in your tummy, and you hesitate. This is your gut talking to you. It’s telling you … hold on … don’t jump into this.

Listen to it. Find out how your gut talks to you. Think of all those times you got into major trouble, and ponder over what you felt just before you did the deed that got you into that mess. That’s how you learn how your psyche talks to you.

TAKE A STEP BACK, AND ASK QUESTIONS

Never, ever, feel like you don’t have the right to ask a question. Asking a question only gets you in trouble when it hasn’t been asked, or the person of whom you are asking the question doesn’t want to give you an answer.

Don’t think I’m right on this? Test it, and think back to times when the person of whom you asked a question reacted negatively. In most cases, it is because they don’t want to give you an answer.

Asking the question is never, ever wrong. You have the right. So use it when you are in those situations where your gut is telling you that something is just not adding up.

IF IT DOESN’T ADD UP THEN IT DOESN’T ADD UP

When something doesn’t make sense, or the story just sounds down right disjointed, and your gut is telling you that something is off. Then trust your gut, something is off.

This is a saying my Nana used to tell me when I would give her a scenario of what a friend told me, or did to me.

“Honey, if it don’t add up, it won’t add up.. Something is definitely not right with that story.”

Do you know in each instance she said this, she was absolutely correct.

TAKE ACTION

If you get that feeling something isn’t right take action.

In EXPLORER X – Alpha Aadi and Eirena, his co-pilot investigate their gut feeling that something is off about their camp with their team. They find that terrible things have been done to them.

There are several ways to take action. Here are some:

- Just tuck the knowledge away, and wait for the truth to reveal itself. Believe it or not this happens a lot in life. The truth has a way of coming out. Sometimes it happens quickly, and sometimes it takes a long, long time.

- Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in order to get the answers you want. You can ask anyone questions, and that may solve the mystery.

- Run away or stay away. If you are in a situation where an adult or a peer appears to be leading you in a direction that you feel is not safe. Run. There is no harm in running away from or staying away from someone.

TAKE ACTION

Realize that you have control of your destiny. No matter what happens to you in your life, you can learn from it all and become a better person. Making the same mistakes will become harder the more you learn to trust your gut instincts, and yourself.


by: LM Preston, Author of EXPLORER X - Alpha,
www.lmpreston.com

*****

Thank you very much!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Explorer X- Alpha

by LM Preston

This book takes place waaayyyy in the future, when space travel is easy, quick, and accessible. Aadi is disappointed when his parents send him to space camp rather than sports or technology camp. But after receiving an camp immunization for his travels in space, Aadi and a couple of friends realize that they are part of a sinister plot to take over not just Earth, but other planets and galaxies as well. When Aadi and his friend Eirena crash on a distant galaxy, they are immediately thrown into the raging conflict between the natives and are forced to change and use their powers for survival.

I'm not usually a big fan of science fiction, but this book caught my eye because the story seemed to be original and interesting. The beginning was a little slow and several sentences were phrased really awkwardly (I thought that more contractions could have been used, for one.), but the plot picked up and the writing eventually became less uptight. I thought that the book was full of action- after the slow start, there was straight action all throughout the ending. There were a lot of suspenseful parts as well, and I almost felt like I was watching a movie the whole time.

I also liked reading about all the cool technology incorporated into the story. My favorites were all the simulators for racing and practicing how to use the space vehicles... they sounded awesome!

I would probably recommend this book to teenagers from around 12 to 15, especially for those readers who prefer comic books and such. I think this book would really excite those people and get them interested in reading more!

Coming out in February 2010.

(Review copy provided by publisher.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Kidz Book Buzz Blog Tour: Just Grace and the Snack Attack

by Charise Mericle Harper

Just Grace and the Snack Attack is a short, fun book about the ever-interesting life of a third grader named Grace. When conflict arises in the lunchroom over exotic and strange food, Grace's class is required to do a unit on food from around the world in order to solve the problem. Grace decides to learn about unusual potato chip flavors as part of her project.

As short side stories, Grace gets jealous of her best friend, makes a "zine," and more.

This book is the fifth one in the Just Grace series. Even though I haven't read the first four, I had no problem following the storyline and keeping track of characters. The writing was simplistic, but great for younger children. I loved how there was some sarcasm and "oblivion" weaved into the writing - younger readers probably wouldn't catch it, but it really added to Grace's character and narration.

There were tons of sketches throughout the book as well... perfect for reluctant readers. They also helped explain some of the more vague aspects of the story.

Overall, something that elementary students will definitely enjoy. (This book is targeted towards kids around 9-12 years old, but in my opinion, it would be more enjoyable for those in the 7-9 range.) And despite the reading level, older readers will also get a kick out of this!


Check out the other blogs on this tour!

The Hungry Readers, Our Big Earth, All About Children’s Books, Looking Glass Reviews, Fireside Musings, Green Bean Teen Queen, KidzBookBuzz.com, Book Crumbs, My Own Little Corner of the World, Reading is My Superpower, Never Jam Today, The 160 Acre Woods, Carrie’s YA Bookshelf, Everyday Reading, Cafe of Dreams

(Review copy provided by publisher.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fanfiction: Chapter 3 (Gringotts, the Wizarding Bank)

FYI... you'll be seeing a lot of weird house-elf names in this chapter...

At the Great Hall, an assembly was there. Dumbledore was at the staff table, his hands on the microphone. “Students, we are now going to learn about opening vaults in Gringotts. Tomorrow, we will take a trip to Gringotts. You each have to bring a Galleon and come. You will open your own place in Gringotts to keep your money. If you are scared, don’t worry. The tiny cars that you ride in are fun, trust me.” The little kids smiled. “A few house elves will be in cars behind you to ensure safety,” he added.

The next morning, the elves woke up delightedly. “Dobby sir needs to help today,” he said whenever a student approached. He also had to give his gift to Dumbledore. When Dumbledore walked past, Dobby stuck his head out. “Professor Dumbledore, Dobby sir has a gift for you,” he said, presenting a badly wrapped brown package.

When Dumbledore opened it, he found two socks. One was blue and gold with patterns of moons and stars, and the other was red and green with Sorting Hats all over it. Dumbledore barely had any socks and was utterly delighted when he got his gift.

“Um, well, thanks, Dobby,” Dumbledore said awkwardly. Dobby started to sob with happiness, and then stopped. Dumbledore then pulled off his ratty old socks and pulled on Dobby’s socks, which caused Dobby’s eyes to leak with happy tears.

“Dobby sir needs to go now. We is making food for the big feast!” And Dobby disappeared.

Hogwarts got ready for the big trip. They traveled through the Hogwarts train to a place with bricks. Dumbledore tapped on one of them to enter Diagon Alley, where Gringotts was.

Teachers were keeping close watch over the students. “Weasley!” Professor McGonagall snapped. “Where in the world is your Galleon?” Ron Weasley looked at her sadly.

“Professor, I don’t have any. I don’t have money. My mum needs it to keep us,” he explained.

Minerva’s eyes widened.

“No money?” she repeated, staring after him.

It didn’t matter. Dobby was pushing through the crowd, clutching a bulging sack. “Dobby has money for you, sir!” he squeaked, opening the bag. He pulled out a handful of shiny Galleons and gave them to Ron.

“Thanks a lot, Dobby!” he said excitedly. “How can I ever pay you?” Dobby’s tennis ball yellow-green eyes welled up with tears.

“Nothing, sir! It are nothing, this is!” Dobby said, disappearing again.

Dumbledore stood at the front of the crowd. He pointed his wand at his throat and clearly said, “Sonorus!” His voice was magically amplified. “Students, please follow the group of house elves you are with. They will lead you to your cart. Gryffindor elves, you are Winky, Dobby, Rizzy, Frizzy, and Meemo.” Rizzy was enthusiastic.

“Frizzy gets to be with me!” she crowed. Rizzy and Frizzy were twins. Dumbledore cleared his throat.

“Ahem. The Hufflepuff elves are Cakey, Sticky, Potty, Weemee, and Apple. The Ravenclaw elves are Dummy, Stupidy, Dusty, Cleany, and Neat. The Slytherin elves are Kreacher, Darkly, Nasty, Meanly, and Voldemort.”

“Ahhhhh!” cried the Slytherins in fear. People winced.

“Is the real He-Who-Must-Not-Named here?” Winky asked fearfully. “The house elf named Voldemort is not the real Dark Lord. The house elf just prefers that name,” Dumbledore assured them. Draco Malfoy, whose father was a helper of Voldemort, smirked.

“We got all the dark and death eater type ones,” he said, smiling. Then Dumbledore pointed his wand again to his throat.

“Quietus!” he muttered, making his voice regular again.

Kreacher muttered to himself. “Yes, poor mistress needs me, she is not getting well without poor Kreacher, yes scums, filthy mudbloods, roaming ‘round the house, came here on Dumbledore’s orders, the barmy old codger is the headmaster, oh poor Kreacher! My mistress is needing me, the house is out of control, who is there to take care of poor mistress?” he muttered darkly as he helped Slytherins into tiny carts.

After this comes a giant description of Gringotts, which I'm sure you're all familiar with. Then...

After everyone had got into a cart, the goblins took everyone to a section of Gringotts. There were lots of tiny doors which only goblins could open. If a person or house-elf tried to open it, they would go mad. One by one, goblins opened the doors and put the money in it. Then they sealed the door and placed a label on each door.

On the way back, the students found a Death Eater guarding a door. “What do you have?” Dumbledore asked politely.

“Oh, I am guarding something for my master. It is a weapon,” the Death Eater replied furiously, his eyes flashing.

“Oops,” he said, covering his mouth and narrowing his eyes at Dumbledore. “Why did you make me tell you? It is none of your business, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore!” the Death Eater yelled, pulling out his wand.

It was too late. Dumbledore had already sent a hex at the Death Eater. The Death Eater was stunned. “Okay,” he said, looking at Griphook, a goblin. “Could you open this up?”

Griphook nodded and opened the door. Inside was a grubby little brown package.

Dumbledore picked up the package and opened it. Inside was a double wand with a sword attached. “So,” he said, smiling. “This is the weapon. Let’s see what Voldemort will make of this. He won’t be too happy to hear this.”

He pointed his own wand at the package and said, “Avada Kedavra!” The package burst into flame and then disappeared. “Thanks, Griphook,” he said. And then everyone got into carts and went through the tracks out the door.

Coming up... Quidditch games, songs, and more!

Part 1
Part 2

Friday, December 11, 2009

Exaggeration

an original, rule-breaking sonnet from school:
(14 lines/1o syllables in each line and a halfhearted and pathetic attempt at iambic pentameter)

The funny thing is that I don't agree
With anything at all you say to me.
You smile and go on like nothing is wrong,
But your voice sounds like an out-of-tune song.
You know, if you want to stop by my "place,"
You'd realize your works are lacking a base.
Pause when you get to the end of most lines
and you'll find poems in emerald mines.
Your thoughts are clich├ęd like a dusty fringe
And they way you explain them makes me cringe.
It's silly how you think that you're always right,
As if you have some amazing foresight.
And even though you'll never read my clue,
The ironic thing is: this is for you.

(Poetry Friday roundup here.)

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Resurrection of Dobby and Winky!

Remember my Harry Potter fanfic? (Part 1 and 2) And remember how I said that I had lost 160 pages of it?

Well, it's all back! My sister recently recovered the whole document and it's still intact. YAYYYYYY!!!! I am so excited.


I'll put up Chapter 3 over the weekend. :-)

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Midnight Clear

by Katherine Paterson

A Midnight Clear is a compilation of 5 short Christmas stories, ranging from the topics of holiday volunteer work to Christmas preparations and more. All of the stories are wonderfully told and manage to convey a message in about 20 pages. Each one subtly brings up a different ethical value such as good sportsmanship and perseverance, but the theme of compassion and kindness is present in every story.

I read this fairly quickly and enjoyed it; some of the stories are a little old since this book was published in 1995, but they are interesting all the same. Children from ages 9-12 will most likely enjoy this, but there's something in here for everyone.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Links Around the Internet

For Poetry Friday today, I was going to put up a sonnet that I had written for class a couple weeks ago. But I forgot it at school. So I'll put that up next week.

As for now, I read several wonderful things this week online that I'd like to share:

Danielle has a lovely, mouth-watering, original poem up today for Poetry Friday.

On her blog, Steph Su has a thought-provoking piece up about YA literature in classrooms. Go over, read the post, and put in your two-cents about it!

I discovered a website yesterday which is perfect for the obsessive Harry Potter fan: Average Wizard. (For those of you who know about My Life is Average, Average Wizard is like a Harry Potter version of MLIA.) It has little tidbits about Harry Potter in people's lives, ranging from funny to just plain awesome. I'm going to see New Moon on Sunday (it got postponed from last week) and now I'm tempted to go dressed as a student from Hogwarts...

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Happy Birthday, Danielle!

I'd like to shout out to a very special girl... Danielle! She's turning 17 today and I wish her a very happy birthday! She is a very interesting person and so much fun to talk to, and her blog is wonderful as well. (Plus, I think that anyone with the blog title "Sesquipedalian" is automatically awesome.)

So please go on over and wish her a terrific birthday!