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Archive for April, 2012

How I feel about dystopian novels

Apr
27

9 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Uncategorized

Truth be told, I’m not sold on most YA dystopian novels. But I couldn’t help but notice that, as of late, I’ve been slowly but surely hopping aboard the Dystopian bandwagon.

While I may not have actually read very many, I’m much more open to reading them now.  I think it’s because of the diversity within the dystopian genre.  Before, it all seemed the same to me.  But now there are little twists – many thanks to sequels.  In fact, many of th YA dystopian novels out there are parts of trilogies or series.  This is the one downfall, for me, personally.

It’s already challenging enough for me to become interested in a dystopian novel, being an almost strictly contemporary YA reader, especially when I begin reading one already knowing it won’t have an ending.  That’s the thing about dystopians.  No matter how nicely they tie together in the end, it’s never really the end.  There’s always a book or two or three after.  This makes it difficult for me to become attached to any one story.

Did I enjoy The Giver, The Pledge, and Bumped? Yes.  But did I read the sequel to The Giver? No.  Will I read the sequels to The Pledge and Bumped? Maybe.  I like them all as they are.  They’re solid stories.  When dystopians, in particular, stretch out over a series of installments, I tend to grow more and more impatient with the stories.  The Hunger Games is a perfect example of such annoyance; I grew tired of the repetition, of the lack of resolve.

Of course, I think being primarily a contemporary reader has shaped my reading habits and preferences, and I realize that’s a factor in my disliking of many dystopian novels.  Most contemporary novels that I read are stand-alones; they are not part of series.  Plus, there’s typically less world building and more character growth (the lack of which is usually my biggest complaint with dystopians – that the characters change, but not necessarily so deeply).  Contemporary novels also usually have more elements that I can relate to, naturally.  These elements keep me sucked in, or are the things interesting me from the beginning.  Getting bogged down in political/government agendas, regulations, parties, etc. in dystopian novels is a big turn off.

If there were a way to mash the two – contemporary and dystopia – I’d probably be more of a dystopian reader.  But, as it stands, while their little twists and clever ideas are pulling me in, it’s still difficult to keep me 100% tuned in and interested.

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Whip it Up Mondays! {3}

Apr
22

11 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Memes, Whip it Up Mondays

photo credit: slightly everything via photopin cc

When I’m not reading, blogging or doing homework, I’m cooking. Cooking is a lot like reading and writing: it brings ingredients together to create a single dish that tells a story of flavors, family, friends and experiences. And just like with books, you don’t have to be the creator. Sometimes we’re all just looking for a little eye candy. So here’s a little food for thought!

I don’t know if you all know this, but I’m a total foodie. A foodie is “someone who has an ardent or refined interest in food.” Cooking is all about discovery for me – seeing which ingredients work well together, what flavors can be created, and what new foods can be tried. So now I’m bringing this discovery to TGR!

Every Monday I’ll be sharing a new food find, recipe, and of course, some eye candy.

This week: Civet Coffee

 

So, by now, you all should know how much I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE coffee. Really. Beyond obsessive.

But you probably don’t know just how far that love goes.  Case and point: civet coffee. Now, what in the world is civet coffee? To answer that, we have to first meet the civet.

Hello, civet!

I bet that’s not what you were expecting, right? An animal? But, believe me, this little guy is very important when it comes to civet coffee. And before you ask – yes, he remains alive!

Civet coffee is, in fact, one of the world’s most expensive coffees (it can go up to $160 per pound).  This is because of how it’s made. And how it’s made is by the civet.

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?

The civet eats coffee berries (which contain beans). When the civet begins to digest the berries, ” proteolytic enzymes seep into the beans, making shorter peptides and more free amino acids” (yay Wiki).  The civet then, well, excretes the beans, which remain intact. The beans are then gathered and washed and dried and roasted.  And when they’re brewed, you get a more aromatic and  less bitter coffee!

I know it sounds crazy. And don’t worry if that’s what you’re thinking. When I brought it home, my family dubbed it the “poop coffee” and then took great pleasure in watching me drink it. But it’s really not gross.

See? It looks just like normal coffee in my cup. 

I was fortunate enough to have a friend buy me a small bag from this site, which, when you buy from them, you end up supporting the civet sanctuaries. You don’t get a lot of beans to grind, so make sure you use it sparingly.

As for the taste – I made sure to try it black, and found it to be strong, but with a combination of fruit and nuttiness.  I think what contributes to enjoying a cup of this is its novelty, of knowing it’s so expensive and made in such a unique way. But if you’re feeling adventurous and really, really want to try all that coffee has to offer, then I say go for it.

This coffee truly made my day when I got it. I think it takes a true coffee lover/devotee to appreciate something like civet coffee.

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Follow Friday (33)

Apr
19

23 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Follow Friday, Memes

Follow Friday is now acknowledging and promoting the following of blogs through their RSS feeds! Because this site is proudly powered by WordPress, there’s no GFC (Google Friend Connect) option. BUT, you can follow TGR through my feed by clicking HERE or over to the right, in my sidebar. You can also subscribe through email!

 

 

 

 

 

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Fight! Fight! If you could have two fictional characters battle it out (preferably from books), who would they be and who do you think would win?

James Potter versus Severus Snape.

I don’t know why. I just think it would be epic. Fight to the death for Lily?

Team Snape, baby!

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This week at The Grammarian’s Reviews

Vote for TGR at the Independent Book Blogger Awards – help me get to BEA!

The YA tribe

{new feature!} Whip it Up Mondays (2)

In My Mailbox

REVIEW! Perfect by Natasha Friend

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The YA tribe.

Apr
18

13 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Uncategorized

So this article over at the Huffington Post was brought to my attention – “YA Cover Girls on Top”

Apparently since I’m a 20-something YA book blogger, I’m part of a YA readers “tribe.”  The word “tribe” just immediately makes my mind wander to “primal,” which definitely isn’t the point of the article at all.  The article is instead about this:

YA readers are part of a tribe; and YA covers signify that the book is special, meant just for members of their tribe. ‘This is ours, not yours,’ the book cover declares. As a lifelong reader, writer, and lover of literature, I want to be part of this tribe, which, like all groups, is full of contradictions. I have a lot to learn from book bloggers and — I believe — a lot to offer them. And I decided I want a book cover that will attract this tribe to my novel The Earthquake Machine, a book that asks the reader to think critically about everything from immigration to limitations imposed by gender.

Lowry goes so far as to say that “YA bloggers’ [have a] fetishistic love of book covers.”  To prove this, she says she’s witnessed some strange things, particularly in vlogs: “YA bloggers often go so far as to caress their favorite book covers, an activity I have dubbed ‘cover stroking.’”

In my almost two years in the book blogging world, I have not watched someone’s vlog in which they “stroked” a cover. And I’m quite glad that I haven’t. But it got me thinking. Lowry also mentions how cover reveals have become this major aspect of a book’s promotion.  And maybe I just don’t get it because I could care less about a cover reveal, but how much do they really influence us? How much do they influence you?

Are we really placing THAT much importance on covers in the YA book market? Are we inadvertently falling in love with and promoting unattainable and/or unrealistic qualities and standards of beauty for women?

I pulled these covers from the Barnes and Noble Teen bestsellers list:

What is it that you first notice about them? Perhaps the flawless skin. The beautiful make up.  The dresses. The sex appeal.

Do any of those things contribute to your liking, or attraction to, any of these covers? I’d say the above covers are aesthetically pleasing. I certainly wouldn’t call any of them hideous.

Is it our liking of these beautiful covers that creates the cover trends we ultimately begin to complain about? For a period of time, I remember, covers were detailing close-ups of dramatic eyes. Then we had enough of that and close-ups of lips became the new eyes. Then it was whole faces. Then it was legs.  Each time, the covers seem to focus on at least one part of the female anatomy – from head to toe.

But what does that say of our “tribe”? Could book covers still be aesthetically pleasing and, uh, stroke-worthy, if they didn’t plaster seemingly perfect girls on them? I think so. There are plenty of covers I like purely for the fonts or colors. But I do think there’s something to be said for the covers we, as YA book bloggers, as a majority, favor.  And the ones above are perfect examples. The good news, as Lowry mentions, is that “bloggers may still value images and ideas of beauty that are limited enough to be harmful; but if book covers lead young readers to books that ask them to think critically, then one of these days bloggers may begin demanding more covers, and books, that acknowledge more expansive notions of female beauty.”

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Whip it Up Mondays! {2}

Apr
15

10 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Memes, Whip it Up Mondays

photo credit: slightly everything via photopin cc

When I’m not reading, blogging or doing homework, I’m cooking. Cooking is a lot like reading and writing: it brings ingredients together to create a single dish that tells a story of flavors, family, friends and experiences. And just like with books, you don’t have to be the creator. Sometimes we’re all just looking for a little eye candy. So here’s a little food for thought!

I don’t know if you all know this, but I’m a total foodie. A foodie is “someone who has an ardent or refined interest in food.” Cooking is all about discovery for me – seeing which ingredients work well together, what flavors can be created, and what new foods can be tried. So now I’m bringing this discovery to TGR!

Every Monday I’ll be sharing a new food find, recipe, and of course, some eye candy.

This week: Microwaveable Potato Chips

 

Guess what I bet you didn’t know? Yep – those potatoes you have just sitting in your pantry? You could be turning them into deliciously healthy, non-processed potato chips.  BUT WAIT! Don’t go!

I know your mind is swimming with images of fryers and grease and the all-important ticking of the clock, reminding you of the time you just can’t spare for making measly potato chips.

But what if I told you that you wouldn’t have to use a fryer? What if I told you that you could use your microwave?

And that’s precisely what I’m telling you. You can make your own potato chips in the microwave. In the span of four minutes! And the best part is one potato can yield you a bunch of chips, and you get to season them however you’d like. You can also store them for several days  – so you can make a bunch and not worry about finishing them!

When I first came across the microwaveable potato chip idea over here, I didn’t know what to think. I almost felt cheated that I didn’t know I could have been easily making my own chips all this time, flavoring them exactly how I want them, without having to buy bags and bags of processed chips. I always assumed a fryer was needed, and I was not about to waste a bunch of oil just to fry thinly sliced potatoes. So this idea of utilizing your microwave to make your own chips is just ingenious to me.

Are you ready to see how easy it is?

INGREDIENTS

microwaveable potato chips

medium russet potato
parchment paper
salt
optional seasonings: chili powder, Old Bay seasoning, powdered cheddar, etc.

DIRECTIONS

Using a mandolin, v-slicer, or knife, slice one medium russet potato (peeled, if you like) as thinly as possible, taking care that all slices are the same thickness. Line the turntable tray of your microwave with parchment paper and place the potato slices on it without overlapping. Salt lightly and sprinkle with your choice of seasonings.

Microwave at full power–watching closely–until spots of brown begin to appear, about 4-6 minutes. Turn off the microwave for 1 minute. Microwave again at full power until the slices are golden brown. (Be very careful not to over-brown or they will taste burned.) Remove from the microwave and allow to cool. Repeat until all potato slices are cooked.

For salt + vinegar chips: Dip each potato slice into cider vinegar before putting it on the parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt before microwaving.

I don’t think it gets any easier than that! Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of potatoes laying around while I’m at school, so I have to wait until I’m at home to indulge in this neat little cooking treat. But if you have potatoes going unused, I highly suggest giving this a try!

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In My Mailbox (29).

Apr
14

27 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Uncategorized

In my mailbox

Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter.

The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland.

 

Still haven’t gotten The Immortal Rules, but I did manage to get these.

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REVIEW! Perfect by Natasha Friend.

Apr
13

0 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book reviews, Four Stars

Perfect by Natasha Friend

Isabelle Lee has a problem, and it’s not just Ape Face, her sister, or group therapy for an eating disorder, or even that her father died and her mother is depressed and in denial. It’s that Ashley, the most popular girl in school, is inviting Isabelle to join her at lunch and at sleepovers at her house, and this is presenting Isabelle with a dilemma. Pretty Ashley has moved Isabelle up the social ladder, but is it worth keeping the secret they share?

MY THOUGHTS:

This is one novel, I think, that handles eating disorders really well – it neither glorifies nor pities them. Instead, it treats the disorders on a variety of levels, from families to friends to school to day-to-day emotions.  It stresses that every case is different for every individual, but that there is still the opportunity for coming together. For me, this aspect kept the reading hopeful, despite being bitterly dark, at points.

Reading Perfect is like slogging through chewing the rind of a lemon. At first it’s sweet, and just a story.  But the more you chew – read – the more bitter it becomes.  You experience the cloud of oh everything’s fine with Isabelle’s family, and then you get to also experience the spiral of unraveling the truth, of needing help, of feeling happy, sad, lonely all at once.  And, just like a lemon, it’s refreshing at the end.

I wouldn’t say that the description is entirely accurate.  I feel that the story is less about Isabelle being concerned about moving up the social ladder, and more about how she feels after getting to know Ashley and how their secret applies to them both, but differently.  It’s a much deeper read than its summary permits.  Yes, Isabelle’s only thirteen, and her age is reflected in her actions, speech and thoughts.  But there’s still something deep to be found in them, which is what really surprised me.  This even applies to her sister, April (Ape Face), who is only ten. Friend accurately captures the hasty development of maturity that the girls learn to acquire, despite their young ages.

Perfect isn’t the happiest read, and it will make you think, but it’s nice for a seemingly honest portrayal of what people of all ages may be going through, for whichever eating disorder.

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Follow Friday (32)

Apr
12

19 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Follow Friday, Memes

Follow Friday is now acknowledging and promoting the following of blogs through their RSS feeds! Because this site is proudly powered by WordPress, there’s no GFC (Google Friend Connect) option. BUT, you can follow TGR through my feed by clicking HERE or over to the right, in my sidebar. You can also subscribe through email!

 

 

 

 

 

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What is one book I would be nervous to see made into a movie adaptation?

Anna and the French Kiss. Or Daughter of Smoke and Bone. In the case of Anna, I just don’t think any actors could take the place of Anna and Etienne; I don’t think it would work, and I don’t think they could capture all of their essence. In the case of Smoke and Bone, there’s just so much awesome that I think a lot of it would be left out in a movie.

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This week at The Grammarian’s Reviews

Vote for TGR at the Independent Book Blogger Awards – help me get to BEA!

“Good” versus “Bad” reading and writing

Top 10 Tuesday

{new feature!} Whip it Up Mondays

In My Mailbox

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Writing and Reading: a discussion.

Apr
11

5 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Uncategorized

“Good” versus “Bad,” Making and Breaking Stories, and Workshops

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately – what makes and breaks a story, for me.  Between blogging, engaging in literature-based discussions in my classes, and going through the Hell known as the writers’ workshop, well, it’s easy for me to begin thinking and then talking about these kinds of things.

Just earlier tonight I had a discussion with a friend about the misconception writers and readers may have about “good” and “bad” stories and “good” and “bad” writing. Both my friend and I feel that there are clear distinctions between the two. For instance, just because I don’t like the Hunger Games, it doesn’t mean I think it’s a “bad” book, or “bad” writing. I don’t like the Hunger Games because I have issues with the characters, dialogue and some plot points. Meaning, I have issue with how the story is conveyed to me, not its literal make-up.

In a workshop setting, I think this sometimes becomes misconstrued, or a little too black-and-white. In my workshop experiences, if the other writers did not like a particular piece, they dubbed it “bad” writing, or equated it to not being able to write well. But I don’t think this is always the case. To be a writer, you must also be a storyteller. And I think sometimes the roles of storyteller and writer become blurred together, though I feel that they’re separate. I think you can have a great story to tell, but, at the same time, be unable to convey it well. Likewise, I think you can construct a very eloquent piece of work, but have it lacking in its actual content, or story. Because of this, I don’t think you can simply label a book “good” or “bad.” There are too many factors – most of them based upon opinion.

When it comes down to it, what makes and breaks a story for me are the characters. If there’s any disconnect between me and the characters in a story (presumably a majority of them, depending on how many are involved), I begin to lack the will to continue reading. I want the character to be a person to me – as real as they can be, whether they’re admirable or despicable. If they simply seem like a cookie cutter (without that being their intention), or uninteresting (again, without that being their intention), then I don’t see the point in me learning about them.

Going along with that, I also place importance on dialogue. The characters may appear to be as real as real can get, but if a disbelieving or ridiculous or lacking or cliched line of dialogue is tied to them, I start to become wary. They can’t just seem real; I need them to sound real as well. What they’re saying has to matter to me, on some level. If it doesn’t, then I know I’m not very emotionally invested, and possibly even interested, in the story.

Characters are what hold my attention – they’re what I cling to when I read. This unfortunately means they can both make or break it for me.

What about you? What makes or breaks a story for you? How do you view “good” versus “bad” writing? What have your workshop experiences been like?

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Independent Book Blogger Awards

Apr
10

1 COMMENT • This post is filed under: Uncategorized

 

 

 

 

 

Goodreads and the Association of American Publishers is having a contest for non sponsored blogs to win all-expenses-paid trips to BEA this year!

Do you know what this means for me? A heart attack from excitement, that’s what! I never got to go to BEA last year, which was the first year I’d ever heard about it (thank you, blogosphere!). And, as it stands, I won’t be able to make it this year, either. Finances really are a pain in my butt.

But I’d LOVE to go. Capital L-O-V-E. It’s not just about the swag or books. It’s my future. If I’m going to make it in the publishing world, I want to know what it’s like. I want to speak with authors and their crews. Really, I think of my going to BEA as one big field trip, or compressed internship. Attending the conference would benefit me in so many ways.

…Can you tell I’m a student? Hah!

But really, I would appreciate any and all support in this contest. I won’t tell you to vote for me . But I will say that if you’d like to help and think TGR and myself are deserving of this trip, then you can click the vote button to the right of this post, in my sidebar.

Thank you!

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