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Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

My current thesis research is somewhat tedious and boring. I have to identify the minerals and rock fragments in a bunch of sandstones and while I DO have to pay attention to what I’m doing, I’ve been doing this so long now that it’s somewhat mechanical. I also have to do this quickly.

So I HAVE to listen to things to keep me occupied. Music doesn’t quite cut it – it’s too easy to let myself get distracted. Podcasts are great, too, though I prefer audio dramas, of which there are very few quality productions – all of which I am now caught up on – and I haven’t been given any recommendations that I’ve liked.

Enter audiobooks – my new favorite thing. But in my new dalliance into audiobook listening, I have also found that there are good books, and there are good audiobook readers. But finding where these two spheres cross is a difficult task.

The first audiobook I listened to was Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files book, Storm Front, read by James Marsters – the platinum-blonde vampire from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He did an excellent job, and I’ll be starting his reading of the second Dresden Files book in a few days.

I was in the middle of the second Sirantha Jax book by Ann Aguirre, and I was so wrapped up in the story I managed to get my hands on the audiobook so I could continue it while I worked. Unfortunately, the reader of that series grated on my nerves. Her attempt at using different voices for different characters went too far to be taken seriously and entered the realm of cheesiness, and she was a bit nasal-y to begin with. Needless to say, it was difficult to listen to, because it went wildly against what I would have imagined on my own.

Another problem with audiobooks is that they’re expensive. I’m limited by whatever my public library has available (Audible costs more than I’m willing to pay every month). So, I’ve taken to Twitter to beg my audiobook-fiend friends for recommendations.

One of my friends recommended Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series, which begins with Crocodile on the Sandbank. The library gave me the version read by Susan O’Mally, though the internet tells me there’s another version read by Barbara Rosenblat, which has good reviews. I’ve also checked out the second book, The Curse of the Pharaohs, which is also read by Susan O’Mally. I’ll say right now – I absolutely loved it. So much that I just finished it today, and I’m devoting this week’s blog post to it.

crocodile-on-the-sandbank

Amelia Peabody is a Victorian era spinster, but she owns it in a similar manner to Miss Fisher, of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. It also helps that she’s fabulously wealthy, intelligent, and curious about the world, especially ancient Egypt. In this, her first adventure into the mysterious, she travels to Egypt and meets young Evelyn Barton-Forbes. Evelyn is running from a scandal, as well as two potential suitors, and Amelia takes her under her wing. The two women get along splendidly, and Amelia didn’t want to travel on her own.

They spend days wandering down (up?) the Nile in search of ancient Egyptian ruins, and stumble upon their acquaintances, Radcliffe and Walter Emerson, at their own archeological dig. Radcliffe, the elder, has become seriously ill, and the curious Miss Peabody makes herself at home bringing him back to health and helping with his research.

Suddenly, the group finds themselves haunted by what appears to be the new mummy they uncover in a tomb. Not long after, one of Evelyn’s suitors appears, and they all begin to unravel the mystery of the wandering mummy, because it can’t possibly be a real mummy, can it?

There is plenty of mystery, romantic love triangles, witty banter, and snark from all of the characters. Each one has a unique and lively personality, and I love every single one of them. I will admit I found the mystery itself somewhat predictable, but there were enough twists to throw me off plenty of times. Honestly, though, it was the characters and their interactions that kept me interested in the story.

Amelia is a feisty feminist of the Victorian era. She needs no man to make her happy, and appears resigned to die a spinster, though it doesn’t seem to bother her. She wants to explore the world and learn, and she’s starting with Egypt. She has a particular interest in archaeology, and wants to dig in the sand like any man. If I was a rich heiress, I’d probably end up just like her.

Evelyn is a sweetheart, and loyal to a fault to those she loves. She also happens to be a fantastic artist, and demonstrates intelligence that lets her follow in the footsteps of Amelia. She’s not the flimsy damsel in distress of many Victorian era novels (though of course, this was written in the 70s). I could almost see her as a younger, more artistic version of Amelia. Their characters interact much the way that sisters would, and it works well in the story.

Radcliffe Emerson is a more modern man of the Victorian era, though he tries to disguise it with sexist jokes. These soon stop, as he slowly realizes that Amelia is not like most women. He’s witty and snarky, but has an intelligence to match Amelia’s, and an admirable devotion to his archeological work. He’s the best kind of nerd, and sexy to boot.

Evelyen’s various suitors are less interesting. Walter Emerson is adorable and the most likeable. Lucas is a jerk and a character I enjoyed hating for most of the novel. Then there’s the other foreign guy who is just plain annoying, but in a way that is not frustrating to read. They’re good for the story though.

My favorite part of the novel was the way Emerson and Miss Peabody danced around each other. They infuriate one another, but at the same time they both clearly admire each other. Their relationship grows and evolves naturally and it was really fun to listen to.

I cannot wait to see what adventures these characters will run into next. I only hope the snarky, witty banter between Amelia and Radcliffe continues. I normally have to be in the right mood for mystery novels, but these characters are engaging enough that I don’t need to be in the right mood for Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson.

Happy reading!

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A couple years ago I read the Scarabaeus series by Sara Creasy. It was a mere two books long (Song of Scarabaeus and Children of Scarabaeus), and when it was over I felt bereft. It was the best sci-fi adventure I’d ever read. Full of suspenseful, tightly-written adventurous plot, with just the right amount of romantic subplot to satisfy the hopeless romantic in me. I wanted more of the same, but Goodreads seemed only able to recommend novels where the sci-fi plot/romantic subplot ratio was reversed. I wasn’t feeling it. So I asked Twitter for help, and someone recommended Grimspace by Ann Aguirre.

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For whatever reason, once I got my hands on it, I was afraid to try it. What if it wasn’t as good as Scarabaeus? No, it seemed much safer to revert to my urban fantasy addiction. And so, Grimspace sat untouched on my shelf for a good two years before I picked it up to read again. A couple weeks ago, my roommate mentioned that she was re-reading the series, and I remembered that I actually owned the first book. She and I have an almost identical taste in books, so I figured now was as good a time as any to jump into the Sirantha Jax series.

I haven’t regretted a single moment of it. Granted, I haven’t reached the end of the first book yet, but I didn’t have anything else I really wanted to write about this week, and I can’t stop thinking about this book, so why not write an early review?

Sirantha Jax is a jumper – she has the special gene that allows her to fly a spaceship through “grimspace,” this world’s version of faster-than-light travel. Grimspace is a weird thing. I won’t try to describe it, but when I read the description, it reminded me of the faster-than-light space travel in Farscape. Lots of colors, like we’d imagine a wormhole or something. The weirdest part, I thought, was how every human jumper has a finite number of jumps in them. They tend to “burn out” if they jump too many times (though what exactly this entails remains a mystery), and if they don’t want to burn out they choose to retire instead.

The thing is, there are very few of these people left (that the government knows about, anyway), and Jax was just involved in a crash after her last jump – a crash she has no memory of. The government, and her employers, are holding her prisoner and interrogating her about the crash, and her life is pretty much the most miserable thing ever.

Enter March: a man she’s never met, but breaks into her cell like Luke Skywalker with Han Solo’s attitude. Under the impression that her life with the Corp (the government in the book’s universe) can’t get any worse, she decides to make a run for it with March and his ship’s crew of rag-tag criminals/vigilantes. The ship and crew have a very Firefly-esque vibe going on, but with plans like the Serenity movie.

Forgive all the pop culture references. This book just really reminds me of a bunch of my favorite things.

The plot thickens when Jax and March reach their first destination: a planet on the outskirts. They finally tell Jax their plan: they want to train a new generation of grimspace jumpers who last longer (Jax herself has been jumping far longer than the average human), by somehow incorporating alien DNA into their biology. So the team goes on a mission to recruit alien jumpers, and hijinks ensue.

The universe is a rather dark and twisted place, but our protagonists provide enough heroism, humor, and romance to balance the darker sides of the story. The story itself is tightly written, and the POV is a sort of blend of third and second person. Somehow, it works for Sirantha Jax. The cast is also refreshingly diverse in several different ways, and we need more stories like that.

When I’m at work, I think about Grimspace. When I’m home, I can’t wait to get into bed and get back to reading Grimspace. It’s been a while since I felt this way about a book. Thankfully, I can borrow my roommate’s copies of the rest of the series, but I bet I’ll be buying my own set once I graduate.

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Arcadia's choice

Arcadia’s Choice, the 3rd part of the Arcadia trilogy by Jesi Lea Ryan came out last week, and I was given an advanced review copy! I tried to finish it for last week’s blog post, but school makes reading fast rather difficult. So, here I am finally with my review!

Let me start by saying I absolutely adore Arcadia (Cady) Day. She’s the kind of heroine I wish I saw more often in YA novels. Cady struggles to understand the difference between what she wants, and what she needs, and when it’s ok to put herself before others. Considering she’s a compassionate empath, this is considerably more difficult that it might be for a regular person. Cady also reminds me a lot of myself – she wants to make everyone happy, and that is an impossible task, something she learns throughout the trilogy. I enjoyed watching Cady grow as a character during this series, and every time she made a smart, strong female character-like decision, I felt proud of her. She goes through some really crazy things in this story, and comes out of it all strong. Her characters ends up in a totally different place from where she starts. Not so secretly, I’m hoping we’ll get to visit her world again in the future, but I’m content with the story as it ends.

Now, as for this book all by itself (I mean, obviously you should read the first two books before you read this one, but this is a book review, after all) – lots of things happen. It almost feels too busy, but everything happens for a very specific reason, and it all leads to Cady figuring out what she wants to do with her life after this part of her story is over. It’s fast-paced, and it’s exciting, and everything from the first two books gets resolved with plenty of surprises along the way. Some things I predicted, but just as many of them I didn’t see coming. I would happily hang out with these characters for another whole trilogy if given the chance.

I will say there is a bit of a love triangle, but it’s a subplot, and it becomes clear who the decoy really is early on in this book (if you hadn’t figured it out in the second one – which really, you should have, because Cady is NO Bella Swan). Honestly, there’s so much going on it’s a wonder she even has time to deal with it, but she does, and she’s mature about it, and takes care of herself. Cady is an excellent role model for young adult women. I can’t wait for my sister to be old enough to read these books!

As for the empathy – I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love how unique this story is. The supernatural element is a variety of psychics, which is refreshing in a world full of vampires and werewolves (don’t get me wrong – I love those too, but sometimes I like something a bit different). It actually reminds me a bit of a young adult, less-dark-humor version of Carolyn Crane’s Disillusionist trilogy (I also highly recommend that series).

So, if you’re sick of vampires, love young adult urban fantasy, and want to read about a fantastic, mentally strong female character, I highly recommend the Arcadia series. The finale does not disappoint!

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Nine by Night: A Review

A little while ago I offered my blog for a cover reveal of Nine by Night, a collection of 9 urban fantasy novels. I also got an advance review copy of the book in order to write some reviews! So here are my thoughts on the stories from Nine by Night that I’ve read so far. More to follow! You can purchase the collection on Smashwords or Amazon for $0.99 for a limited time!

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Witch Hunt, by S.M. Reine

This book is worth reading just for the miles-a-minute twists at the end. But there’s much more to it than that, I promise.

As the first book in a collection of 9 urban fantasy novels written by women, I was expecting a story narrated by a female protagonist. Pretty stereotypical thought for me to have, and I feel a bit guilty about it, so I’m sorry. Moving on. Once I got over my initial disorientation, this story gripped me from start to finish. At its heart, this story is a mystery novel in magical clothing, which in my opinion makes it much more fun than a regular mystery novel. Our leading man is Cesar Hawke (great name, btw), and he wakes up to find himself accused of a murder that he has absolutely no recollection of committing, not to mention he doesn’t consider himself a killer by any means. He must go on the run to uncover the truth about what happened that night, and the adventure is never dull. Like I said before, towards the end there are a variety of twists and turns. But while this can often clutter the story, author Reine executes them beautifully. I was never once confused without a good reason (usually right along with the main character), and I liked the fast pace of solving the mystery at the very end.

The characters were all believable and had distinctive personalities. I hope in future novels in the series we can learn a bit more about their backgrounds, and maybe even see Cesar interact with his sister.

I really enjoyed the sense of humor in this novel. Through all the drama I had a lot of laughs, and I think the humor would appeal to both men and women (as long as you’re not too uptight!).

I look forward to reading more by this author!

Justice Calling, by Annie Bellet

I absolutely loved this one. It’s shorter than the others I’ve read so far in this collection, but it’s one of my favorites. The main character is a female gamer and comic-book-store-owner, and on top of that – she’s got some real magic up her sleeves. Our heroine, Jade also extremely brave and capable when it comes to protecting those she loves.

The story centers around some dark magic that’s been used to freeze a bunch of shifters in their animals state to gain power from them. It’s pretty dark, but the author has a great sense of humor that gets pulled out at all the appropriate moments. Werewolves are all right, but I love seeing a bunch of characters that happen to be people who turn into animals and AREN’T consumed by wolf-pack mentality. This type of shifter story was extremely refreshing in that regard.

I also enjoyed the little bit of romance weaved into the plot, because it’s not the focus, and it has plenty of room to grow in later books. I’m pretty sure this is the first urban fantasy novel I’ve read whose heroine is also a total nerd (all the sci-fi/gamer/fantasy/etc. references were excellent), and I can’t wait to read more of Jade’s story. This story was really fun.

Rust & Relics #1: Torrent, by Lindsay Buroker

I can’t remember the last time the opening chapters of a book terrified me as much as these did. I made the mistake of starting this book right for bed and couldn’t stop until the main characters were safely back in civilization. You see, the beginning of this novel brought back scary memories of watching The Descent.

But if you can make it through those first couple chapters, the plot thickens considerably. Our heroes are archaeologists, which is a fun twist for this genre that I haven’t seen before. Their chosen profession is hunting for archeological treasure and selling it for profit. Not super lucrative, but they get to travel around in a camping van that has so much personality, it’s practically a character all on its own. As far as I can tell, this story doesn’t follow any of the well-known mythical creature myths that I know about, which makes it all the more interesting. It is very much a mystery that gets weirder with every chapter.

The author also has a fun sense of humor. I absolutely love the character of Simon, who is a total nerd, and also hilarious in his own right. Delia is our curious, intelligent heroine and I find her to be a very relatable character. She is more or less following her dream to become a female Indiana Jones, and while it’s not as lucrative as she might have hoped, she stands by it because it’s fun. I wish I could be so brave. Temi is a bit of a mystery, but I’m looking forward to seeing her character grow.

There are so many strange happening in this book it’s a wonder I can keep it all straight – but the author is clearly talented, and I’m able to hold it all together until the final reveal… Which is only a half reveal. There is clearly a lot more left in this story, and I can’t wait for book 2!

Arcadia’s Gift, by Jesi Lea Ryan

This book is fantastic! One of those books I got so wrapped up in I couldn’t put it down. Cady’s story is unique. She’s a twin who suffers a psychic break after her twin sister is killed, and gains herself a bit of a superpower – empathy. Add that to the craziness of high school life, and you have a supernatural novel full of conflict, excitement, adorable moments, and an idea of what it’s like for a family to lose a child and a sister. All these things are weaved together brilliantly by author Jesi Lea Ryan. Cady is a really fun character, too. She’s just your average teenage girl until her whole life changes in one terrible moment. She handles herself well, and is completely believable as a teenage girl. Cady is definitely someone I’d love to have been friends with in high school.

Once again, a romantic subplot is woven into the story without becoming the focus and taking away from the overarching plot (which if you can’t tell by now is my favorite style of romance-writing). There’s a hint at a love triangle forming, but rather than rooting for one of the boys, I am Team Cady, all the way. She is a very strong young woman, and I can’t wait to read the final chapter to her story.

Book 2, Arcadia’s Curse is out now, soon to be followed by Arcadia’s Choice later this year. I enjoyed Curse even more than Gift so I can guarantee that the sequel won’t let you down.

Once again, you can find the book for sale at Smashwords and Amazon releasing at $0.99 for a limited time! That’s only $0.11 per book! It’s almost like stealing, but instead you’re supporting 9 independent authors! Go you.

That’s all for now – I’ll post the rest of my reviews either here, on Goodreads, or on Amazon as soon as I finish reading the rest!

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Another fabulous cover by Damonza! What do you think?

NINE BY NIGHT

Nine By Night-E-BOOK Cover2

 

About NINE BY NIGHT

“From vampires to empaths, to the grim reaper himself, this bundle will keep you on the edge of your seat. I dare you to try and put it down!” SHANNON MAYER – author of THE RYLEE ADAMSON NOVELS and THE NEVERMORE TRILOGY

Nine books. Nine bestselling authors. Nine heroines that take names—and chances—while confronting dark foes, whether by force of arms or magic, that threaten their entire world.

Over two-thousand pages of epic reading await! Let the adventures begin.

From NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author, SM REINE, WITCH HUNT –– Shaman on the run. Isobel Stonecrow speaks with the dead…for the right price. She brings closure to the bereaved and heals broken hearts. But when she resurrects someone for the wrong client, she ends up on the OPA’s most wanted list.

From NYT and USA Today Bestselling author, CJ ELLISSON, DEATH’S SERVANT –– Jonathan Winchester has clashed with his werewolf alpha one too many times. He returns to Virginia to find work and meets a young waitress, Raine. As their relationship progresses, Jon’s embroiled in more intrigue than he bargained for and a danger bigger than he can handle.

From bestselling author, LINDSAY BUROKER, TORRENT –– When Delia chose to major in archaeology, she imagined herself as the female Indiana Jones of the Southwest. She didn’t imagine herself stumbling across decapitated bodies in old mine shafts or learning that monsters are real…

From bestselling author, ANTHEA SHARP, SPARK –– What if a high-tech game was a gateway to the treacherous Realm of Faerie? Superstar gamer Spark Jaxley’s life might look easy, but she’s part of an elite few who guard a shocking secret; the Realm of Faerie exists, and its dark magic is desperate for a foothold in the mortal world.

From bestselling authors BOONE BRUX and CJ ELLISSON, DEATH TIMES TWO –– The V V Inn has a ghost problem. New grim reaper, Lisa Carron, accepts the job. She quickly learns the hotel is full of the dearly departed—and she’s working for vampires. Throw in Asa, a young vamp hot enough to melt the Arctic ice, and Lisa realizes she’s way out of her element.

From bestselling author, JC ANDRIJESKI, ROOK: ALLIE’S WAR EPISODES 1-4 –– Like most humans, Allie distanced herself from Seers, a race of human-like beings discovered on Earth. Yanked out of her life by the mysterious Revik, Allie finds out her blood may not be as “human” as she thought, the world is nothing like it appears to be…and she has more in common with Seers than she ever wanted to believe.

From bestselling author, ANNIE BELLET, JUSTICE CALLING –– Gamer. Nerd. Sorceress. Jade Crow lives a quiet life running her comic book and game store in Wylde, Idaho. After twenty-five years fleeing from a powerful sorcerer who wants to eat her heart and take her powers, quiet suits her just fine. Surrounded by friends who are even less human than she is, Jade figures she’s finally safe. As long as she doesn’t use her magic…

From bestselling author, JESI LEA RYAN, ARCADIA’S GIFT –– Teenager Arcadia (Cady) Day’s family tragedy unleashes a hidden power. After experiencing what can only be called a psychic episode, her home life crumbles. As her emotional control slips away, Cady begins to suspect that her first psychic episode was just the beginning…

From Urban Fantasy author, KARA LEGEND, WILD NIGHT ROAD –– One innocent hex sets off a chain reaction of trouble among the shifters of the Kinraven that threatens war between werewolves, seraphim and witches. Lilith Darke will do anything to be free of her seraphim master. All hell breaks loose when rival packs face off only to discover a new, deadly threat that will take all their magick to survive.

NINE BY NIGHT releases 8/03/2014 on Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other e-book retailers.

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Nine By Night

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This week I was asked to host a cover reveal for Nine by Night, a collection of nine urban fantasy novels. I love this cover!! I’ve been sitting on an advanced review copy for a couple of days and I was to excited when I saw the cover photo in my inbox. It’s gorgeous.

I’ve already read Jesi Lea Ryan’s Arcadia’s Gift and reviewed it on Goodreads. I can’t express enough how much I love that novel, and its sequel Arcadia’s Curse. I am absolutely dying to read the conclusion to the Arcadia trilogy, which is set to come out relatively soon, so stay tuned for news on that.

I’ve just started reading SM Reine’s Witch Hunt, and I’m already hooked. I’ll review each of these as I finish them, but I have to say I can barely wait to read Annie Bellet’s Justice Calling. A heroine who’s a gamer nerd sorceress? If that was all the description said, that would be enough to get my attention.

In other reviews, my apartment complex here in Houston occasionally has food trucks. Tonight’s was Korean-Mexican (“korean cuisine with mexican in-between!”). It was absolutely delicious. I ordered some kind of Korean BBQ burrito thing and with the first bite it was like an explosion of flavor in my mouth. Definitely give it a try if you’re in town and try not to be too skeptical!

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Well, I appear to have survived my first week in Houston, TX!

This place is not at all what I expected, and I haven’t reached a decision about whether or not I could see myself living here for a couple years. Luckily, I have 2 more months to think about it and get to know the place.

If you’ve never been here before, this is what it’s like. There is green EVERYWHERE. All along the bayou, on the boulevards, the sidewalks, in yards and gardens. The plants here are absolutely amazing. I imagined a desert or industrial type landscape, but it hasn’t been like that at all. Many parts of the city I’ve seen so far are actually very beautiful. The humidity is real, though. I’ve hardly spent any time outside since I’ve been here, because the air is not very comfortable to just sit in. I’m learning that less cloudy days have lower humidity, and one of these days I’ll be brave enough to go lounge by the pool while I read. But then you have random 5-minute rainstorms come through, and you must run for cover. I’m used to bi-polar weather, but this is on a different level. I’m also learning the joys of air conditioning. I’m from Seattle, where we usually must fight against the cold to find a house temperature that doesn’t cost too much on the electricity bill, but still keeps us warm enough to function. Here, it’s the opposite. I’m trying to figure out how much warmth I can stand before I desperately need the air conditioning to keep me at a reasonable temperature. It’s a delicate balance, but it’s also nice to be comfortably warm for a change. A bonus for this climate, though, is the amount of volume it adds to my hair. I keep it short, so a little climate-controlled volume is actually pretty awesome.

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Being from Seattle, I’m used to everyone ignoring each other when they pass in the street. When I moved to Montana, the opposite was true. I got used to politely nodding and/or smiling at people as I passed them in the street (though less so on the college campus). Houston is a massive city. Once again, everyone goes back to ignoring each other. I ran into someone at the gate to get into the apartment complex, he was struggling to open the gate. He finally opened it just as I made it to the gate to try to help, and as we passed each other, I tried to smile at him, because hey, he’s probably my neighbor. No response. So, it’s weird going back to that after being in Montana for so long.

As for my job, I’m an intern for an energy company. So far, my job has essentially consisted of looking at squiggly lines all day and trying to interpret them. I’m not even kidding. Squiggly lines. Theoretically they mean something, but sometimes it’s hard to tell.

This internship has so far been an interesting experience, and not so much for the job itself, but for the… setting. For one, I’ve got a swanky office all to myself. My name is even on the door! I have two computer monitors and a huge desk! I’ve never experienced an office job like this – the Google office I worked in was all open plan, no cubicles or anything, and tiny desks. Not that that was bad or anything (it was much easier to talk to my friends that way, or lean over to my neighbor to ask for help on a difficult task, etc.), just different.

I’m also used to jobs that keep you to the clock. You clock in when you arrive, you clock out for lunch, you clock back in after, and you clock out when you leave. No cell phones or personal calls or fun internet breaks while you work (those were the rules, anyway). This internship, though? Totally different. As long as you get the work done, and can show you’re making progress, there’s actually a lot of freedom. It’s taking some adjusting to get used to. I mean, I made a phone call to set up my internet installation at my home during business hours and NOT on my lunch break! I was allowed to leave a few minutes early to go to happy hour with the office mates! I’m not going to lie, I could get used to a job like that. Plus, I’m actually using my geology knowledge and skills, which is more than I can say pre-graduate school.

The one weird thing about this job that bothers me is the lack of women in science-related positions. Maybe it’s just this company, but I’m the ONLY woman on my team. Most of the men are much older than me, too. Almost all the women I’ve met are in administrative or assistant-type positions. It’s really strange to be sitting in a big meeting, and be the only woman in the room. Every other job I’ve held, and all through school, the gender divisions have been pretty well split down the middle for all positions. I suppose the fact that I’m a woman in an internship position should be encouraging for the future of the company, but it’s still a little hard to get used to.

I’ve also had the pleasure of trying to sleep on an air mattress. A friend of mine was successful with this for his entire 3-month internship. But my air mattress? Somehow magically developed a pin-hole puncture after two nights. Pro-tip: Three layers of rubber cement plus tens of layers of duct tape won’t work.

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Rather than fight with the mattress for the rest of the summer, or straight up buying a new one, I decided I didn’t want to wake up feeling like I was in a water bed for any more mornings/middles of the night. So I went to IKEA and bought the cheapest roll-out foam mattress I could find, and I have slept well the past few nights. I do not regret the expense.

On the major plus side of doing this internship over the summer, I have no school work to deal with. Sure, I should probably type up my field notes (which I will, I promise), but other than that – I’m basically on vacation when I’m not at work. So, I’ve started working on my novel again! Typed up 3 pages of edited outline material. It’s a lot of work, but I’m getting through it. 11 more pages to go! I forgot how much fun I have while working on it, and how excited I am to begin re-writes. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get through these outline edits, send them to my writing partner, and get started writing some scenes before the summer is out.

I’ve also got time to cook delicious things like butter chicken with broccoli and mushrooms.

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AND I’ve had time to have a bath. With a candle, a glass of rosé, and my kindle.

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I am, of course, also taking this time to catch up on some TV shows and fiction reading (The Immortal Crown by Richelle Mead just arrived and it is SO good and I’m only 50 pages in!). Which brings me to the next thing I want to share with you all…

I know I already wrote a post about book-shaming, and how it infuriates me when someone tries to tell me (or anyone else, for that matter) that I should be embarrassed about the books I like to read, an article recently came out from Slate that has me swearing at my computer screen as I read. Don’t read it unless you want to get angry about something. I firmly believe that you should read whatever you want to read, regardless of other people’s opinions. What you read literally has zero effect on them, and if they’re going to judge you for it, you probably don’t need them in your life. Since I’ve already articulated how I feel about this, I suggest taking a look at these two responses to the Slate article that made me really happy.

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My roommate and I are fans of the young adult science fiction and urban fantasy genre, which means we share a lot of books and like to go to the same movies and watch the same TV shows. I think I have the best roommate ever. The most recent stories that fall into this category are Divergent, The 100, and Star-Crossed. I enjoy all of them for different reasons, but mostly I want to focus on the female protagonist/main character in each of these, because I’m starting to see a trend of strong, young, female leads that I like.

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I would just like to note how happy I am that I found a movie poster that didn’t do the stupid female pose that is so common with action movie posters. This one is much better.

Divergent was recently made famous by the new movie, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James. It is based on the first book in a trilogy of the same name by Veronica Roth. My roommate read the books ages ago, and loved the movie. I loved the movie, and immediately started reading the books. I’m currently almost finished with Insurgent, the 2nd novel in the series. Divergent is in the same realm as The Hunger Games trilogy, as far as themes go. It’s set a little ways into the future, after the world has theoretically been destroyed by a crazy war. Details of this war have not been given, and the entire story (what I’ve read so far) takes place behind a giant fence that encloses what remains of Chicago. These days, everyone in the city is divided into 5 “factions”: Dauntless, Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, and Amity. Each has their own purpose, and the goal is the keep the peace. The cool thing is, everyone is allowed to choose their faction at age 16 – after they take an aptitude test. Most stay in the faction they were born in, but a significant number will transfer to a different one. Once they’re chosen a faction, they have to pass initiation in order to stay there. When they fail initiation, they become factionless. The factionless wander the seedier parts of town, relying on the goodwill of Abnegation to get food and clothing. They’re completely ignored by the rest of the factions. So we have Beatrice, born into Abnegation, and given “inconclusive” aptitude test results – she is Divergent. Being Divergent is a big scary thing, because it means you have a broader personality, you aren’t happy doing just one thing. Some people (the antagonists, in this case) think this is dangerous. So Beatrice chooses Dauntless, because it’s much more exciting – they jump off moving trains, zip line off the roofs of buildings, climb ferris wheels… I can see the appeal.

Now, I know there are some rumblings about having to be special in order to save the world and whatnot (seeing as the two main characters of this story are both Divergent), but I decided not to care about that, because I think the rest of the story is more interesting, and I am not really all that philosophical about this kind of thing. It’s a story. Stories are often not perfect. Moving on.

I find her a lot more interesting than Katniss because Tris (as she calls herself when she joins Dauntless) appears to have more of a personality. I always thought Katniss was a bit boring because she always just let things happen to her. She doesn’t try to lead a revolution, the people around her essentially make her do it (maybe it’s just me, but that’s how I felt about her). Tris, on the other hand, has some agency. Like the tagline says, she makes choices. She chooses Dauntless after being told she has aptitude for Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite. She’s the first one to jump down a big dark hole to enter the Dauntless compound. She works extremely hard to become strong enough to stay in the Dauntless faction. She makes it all the way through initiation, only to be thrown into a war with mind-control and crazy simulations.

A lot of really bad things happen when that war starts, and it results in some serious PTSD for Tris. She can’t even hold a gun, she has intense guilt, and no one acknowledges that she has PTSD. She can’t catch a break from the people who are supposed to care about her and be her friend, and she spirals. It takes capture and near-death at the hands of the antagonist faction (I’m trying to avoid major spoilers here) to snap her out of it, force her to start feeling like herself again.

In short, Tris is a very dynamic character, and I continue to watch her pull herself out of the chaos around her.

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At first glance, my roommate and I were extremely skeptical about Star-Crossed, one of the CW’s latest sci-fi creations. I mean, first of all, it comes from CW, which means it has to really impress me to get me to keep watching. Currently, we only watch Vampire Diaries and The Originals on that station. Granted, we were less than impressed with the first couple episodes of this show. It was hard to see where it was trying to go. But I kept at it (because I’m a sucker for sci-fi romance, ok? Deal with it), and I think it’s actually turned out pretty interesting. Before I go on, though, I’d like to point out that things are not looking good for a second season of Star-Crossed.

Once again, this show is set in the future, but only by ten years (it’s 2024). In 2014, a spaceship full of Atrians (humanoid aliens with random black “tattoos” all over the place) crashes into Earth. Battle ensues, and humanity locks them up in a sector, much like District 9, where houses are made of box cars.

My roommate and I think this intense segregation would not really be our first reaction to a bunch of humanoid aliens showing up. The Atrians crash landed – they weren’t intending to take over. But now that they’ve been segregated for ten years, some of them are a little pissed. Several of the leaders have their own agenda regarding humans, nevermind the fact that humans greatly outnumber them. But the story centers on two people – a human girl, Emery, and an Atrian guy, Roman – the origin of the name of the show. There’s a lot going on in this show at the point I’m at, but I want to focus on Emery.

At first she seemed like a delicate flower – in the hospital for most of her life because cancer (?), her first experience with public school is when she finally gets to leave the hospital and join the rest of society. But then she starts developing this relationship with Roman, and he pushes her away “to protect her” from the human-hating faction of Atrians, but he doesn’t properly explain himself. Eventually she comes out and says she doesn’t need protecting, it’s not what she wants out of a relationship. She shows time and time again that she’s brave enough to stand up for equality between Atrians and Humans, and yet he continues to try to keep her in the dark. To her credit, she tries to move on with someone else. Eventually, though, Roman gets the hint – she doesn’t need to be taken care of, she wants to be his equal. When he figures that out, they get to start again, and it’s a much healthier relationship than what they started with.

There are a lot of other things going on in this show that are beyond the scope of this post, but I just have to say I love all the interesting things they do with their native plants. The friendships that develop between these characters are really well done – things seem to progress naturally, and I really like how the younger generations especially are more open to friendships with the aliens. It’s not the best show ever, but I definitely like it. Also, Taylor is to Star-Crossed what Caroline is to Vampire Diaries. The popular girl doesn’t always have to be the stereotypical mean girl. Though it’s not focused on, it was implied at one point that the aliens are all bisexual, and the fact that most humans base their attraction on gender is laughable.


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Yes, those are bodies falling out of the sky. The CW’s new show, The 100, is based on The Hundred by Kass Morgan. Sometime in the near future, humanity went through a nuclear war. A small fraction of humans survived on a space station, now called the Ark. 97 years later, the Ark is failing – there are too many humans to support. They made laws like only one child per family. If you were under 18 and broke any kind of law, you were locked up. If you were over 18 and broke a law – you got floated into the black.

The people in charge decide to send the 100 child prisoners to the ground, to see if they can survive. At first, it sound ridiculous – sending a bunch of teenagers to a radioactive-recovering Earth, and letting them fend for themselves. Honestly, I still struggle to get past the plausibility of that, mostly because what you’d expect really does happen. It’s chaotic. There are a few sensible people, and there are a few bull-headed assholes who just want control, and declare that there are no rules, which is rather contradictory. Six episodes in, they’ve started to rally together, and the intergroup chaos has died down a bit. But they’ve also encountered things like mutated deer, “grounders,” and glow-y things.

creepy mutated deer

Despite my problems with some of the decisions of the characters (if everyone on the space station is going to die anyway, why don’t they just send everyone to Earth to have a fighting chance at survival?), I find the premise pretty engaging. Like I said, I’m a sucker for sci-fi like this. But once again, I want to focus on Clarke, the main character. She hasn’t dazzled me with her personality yet, but she is the most mature person down on the ground, as far as I can tell. She starts a relationship with a boy on the ground, and when his girlfriend from the space station arrives, she steps back, completely understanding that he never expected to see his girlfriend again. Inevitably, the girlfriend finds out about them, and Clarke is very mature about what happened. Amazingly, they both move on (the boy is still hung up a bit on Clarke, so yes, there’s still drama, but the girls are ok). The problem I have with Clarke is that she almost seems too perfect. She’s always the voice of reason, she’s very mature for her age. In the last episode I saw, though, she finally had a mental breakdown, and it made her seem more like a real person. I’m surprised it took as long as it did – being stranded on a broken planet away from the only life you ever knew would be traumatizing. I have hope she’ll get more interesting. Granted, I haven’t read the books this show is based on, but that’s a project for this summer.

What I’m trying to get at with these three shows is that I’m seeing a more consistent trend of strong, mature young women emerge in popular culture. We’re catching on, especially on the CW, of all places. I’ve talked about this kind of thing in the context of the Vampire Diaries, which is full of strong female characters. These CW shows may not have the most coherent plots, but at least they’ve got female characters I can relate to. It’s a step in the right direction. Besides, Vampire Diaries turned out really well, I think. If you’ve got anything to add about these shows, or want to defend your favorite female heroes as well, feel free to do so in the comments!

More of this please!

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***This movie is now in theaters! Go see it! It’s excellent!***

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know that Richelle Mead is my favorite author. She writes both YA and adult urban fantasy, most notably the Vampire Academy series and the Succubus Blues/Georgina Kincaid series. She crafts the perfect blend of fantastical plot, excellent characters, humor, and romance in all of her novels. Mead’s female leads are always strong, three-dimensional women. She also has a degree in comparative religion, so you can tell she did her homework in every novel she’s written.

But let’s talk about Vampire Academy, as it’s just been made into a movie by the guys who did Heathers and Mean Girls and came out on Friday!

Movie Poster

Vampire Academy is a 6-book series that centers around Rose Hathaway, a half-human, half-vampire (called a dhampir) and her best friend, Princess Lissa Dragomir. In this world there are two types of vampires: the Moroi (the “good” vampires with souls, who only drink blood to survive, use magic, and are not immortal) and the Strigoi (the “bad” vampires without souls, who drink to kill, can’t use magic, and are immortal). Strigoi like to eat Moroi, so Dhampirs, like Rose, are trained to be guardians for the Moroi, as using Moroi magic for defense is frowned upon by the upper classes. Moroi have one of 5 elemental magics – earth, water, fire, air, and one that I won’t mention because they don’t know about it until about halfway through the first book – so go see the movie if you want to find out what it is! Strigoi lack this magic. In the first book, Rose and Lissa have run away from their school – St. Vladimir’s Academy – because they have reason to believe that Lissa is in danger. The story begins with their recapture, and they must pick up in school where they left off. It soon becomes clear that Lissa is still not safe.

Vampire Academy came out around the same time the Twilight books did, but it’s about a million times better because the characters actually have personalities and act like real people. Plus, Rose Hathaway is a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, the media largely ignored this superior work (I’m not biased AT ALL), until now. I’m sure some of you think popular culture is a bit saturated with vampires at the moment, which is true. But isn’t it always? Dracula, Interview with the Vampire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries, Vampire Academy… These franchises have spanned the last couple decades, and Dracula always seems to come back in one form or another. Why? People love vampires. There are multitudes of books written about this phenomenon.

So after I read Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, I found myself reading a book about the history of vampire lore, and I discovered that the names she uses for the two types of vampires in her world (Moroi and Strigoi) are real. Not real in the sense that vampires exist, but this particular myth really did originate in Russia. See? She does her homework.

I could go on and on about this, but I want to talk about the Vampire Academy Movie. First, I’d like to point out that Richelle Mead loved the movie. Many people have expressed skepticism that she was essentially paid to say she liked it, but I’ve read a lot of her blog posts now, and I think she likes to be honest with her fans. She loved this movie, and so did I!

**EDIT: My review is more for an audience that has read the books. If you haven’t read the books, I suggest you check out this review instead.**

I used to be extremely skeptical about my favorite books being turned into movies. Many readers have this problem. But one thing I’ve come to understand over the last couple years is that movies and books are different mediums, so of course they can’t be exactly the same. Once you accept this, watching movies based on books you loved will be much more enjoyable. That said, it’s been several years since I read the Vampire Academy series, so I have to say that the storyline was coherent enough in the movie that I could follow it with extremely vague memories about what happened.

My favorite part of the movie was the cast, especially Zoey Deutch as Rose Hathaway. Everyone did a really good job, and I was really happy to see that Dimitri is played by a real Russian actor. But Zoey takes the cake for best performance. The entire time I was captivated by how perfectly she conveyed Rose’s sarcasm as well as how much she cares for her best friend Lissa. Zoey Deutch IS Rose Hathaway.

dimitri vs rose

The weakest link may have been headmistress Kirova, and that may just be because I remember her differently from how I saw her in the movie. First off, I thought Kirova was a dhampir, but in the movie she’s a Moroi. I also got the impression that she just really wanted to follow the rules of her institution, I didn’t think she was really that vindictive towards Rose. So, while she didn’t match the memory I had of her, the character in the movie was still really fun. Her costumes were quite elaborate (I mean really, check out those nails!).

While we’re on the subject of characters – there was great chemistry between all the major players: Dimitri, Rose, Lissa, Christian, and Mason. The romance between Dimitri and Rose comes to a slow boil, and it’s not the focus of the story, which was great (it’s not the focus of the book either). Plus, the last scene between the two of them was the most perfect thing I’ve ever seen. And I hate sappy romance. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I’ll just say that Rose is an amazing character. I loved Christian Ozera in the books as well, and I was pleased to see that I was not disappointed. I wanted to give him a high five after this particular scene:

Lissa was just as I remembered her from the books – pretty timid, until she hatches her plan for school domination, and the crazy starts to happen. She and Rose compliment each other as characters, and I was pleased to see that translate over from the books. And Mason was, of course, his adorably sweet self. I have so many feels about Mason, but I won’t drop and spoilers for anyone.

Many people expressed fear that this movie was written as a comedy, based on the trailers. I’d like to reassure everyone who’s read the books (and I suppose those of you who haven’t and have no idea what this movie is) that it’s not a comedy, but like all of Richelle Mead’s books, it has a strong comedic element. Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, Richelle Mead writes with the perfect blend of drama, humor, romance, and excellent characters. We are lucky that the screenwriters were able to translate that into film so brilliantly.

Now that I’ve talked about all the things I loved in this movie, I can say a few words about its flaws. The pacing seems a bit fast, but I suppose you’d always get that. They sort of skimmed over Rose’s arrangement with Dimitri for extra training lessons – she’s just suddenly having one with him. I think the level of weirdness associated with a Moroi who hasn’t claimed a magic type yet was played down. In the book it seemed like a really big deal, but in the movie they almost instantly realize that Ms. Karp and St. Vladimir had the same problem – and I’m certain this is all to do with pacing. The movie clocks in at 1 hour, 45 minutes, which says to me they had a little more time to slow things down. I can’t think of much more than that, and I’d probably have to go see it again with a critical eye. At first glance, I really enjoyed this movie, and I felt it stayed true to the book as much as a movie can.

So, without further ado, I give you the trailer! But you must ignore the 2/14 release date. They moved it up to 2/7, so it is out in theaters RIGHT NOW. I am praying to all the deities in Richelle Mead’s Age of X series to help this movie do well in its first weekend so we can have the green light to make the sequel! I have to see Adrian Ivashkov on the big screen. I really do.

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“The book is always better.”

This is a phrase everyone is familiar with when it comes to movies and TV shows based on novels. We’ve all heard it before, and for a while it was “common knowledge.”

In recent years, I have come to realize that this is not actually always true, and it’s a lot more complicated than that opening phrase makes it seem. “The book is always better,” is a myth, and I’m going to crack it my way.

I choose to think of books vs. movies as two different art forms – two different ways to tell the same story. Then you have to consider who is behind the scenes. In the case of a book, it is mostly just one person letting their imagination run free, with some help from editors and beta readers. In the case of a movie, you have the writer, the director, the actors primarily, as well as an entire film crew that can vary in size. It is inevitable that these two groups will have the exact same ideas for how the story should be told. Very rarely does the original author get to write the script and be actively involved in the movie’s creation (whether or not those movies are better than other book adaptations is a debate for another time).

I am a huge fan of The Vampire Diaries. Don’t knock it ’til you try it. But after I finished the first season, the idea of waiting an entire summer for more of these characters sounded like torture. But hey, the series is based on a series of books, so they’re probably good, right?

Wrong. The Vampire Diaries novels were dreadful. I forced myself to read three of them before I had to give up before I tore them to shreds. They were terribly written. And apparently in the books, male vampires can’t get it up, so they just suck each other’s blood instead of have sex. Gross. Also, Damon is about 1,000 times more creepy in the books, and I am totally in love with that character in the show – so that was really unfortunate. I mean sure, he eventually redeems himself for a while, but the storyline goes to hell. Somewhat literally. For a while Elena becomes this weird, childlike, angel-creature, and abruptly loses all of her personality. Not that it was particularly great to begin with – she was more like Caroline was at the beginning of the show. Elena’s character in the show is brilliant – she has agency, right from the start you know that her greatest desire in life is to keep her loved ones safe, and everything she does reflects that (including all of her ill-fated and stupid decisions). In the books she’s a spoiled brat, the most obnoxious kind of stereotypical popular high school girl you could ever find. Julie Plec is a far better storyteller than L.J. Smith could ever hope to be.

Game of Thrones is my other favorite example of a show being better than the book it’s based on (I want to be clear that this is merely my opinion, but I know several people who share it). The benefit of the show is that you get to cut out all of Martin’s useless information that wasn’t edited out of his novels. Seriously, look at those things. They’re huge. The story flows much better on screen than it does in the books. But there are people who still like the books better. That’s fine. I don’t.

Another thing I have learned, related to this, is that if I read the book right before I see the movie, I end up hating the movie. But if I wait to read the book until after, or it’s been years since I read the book, the movie is brilliant and enjoyable. The Hunger Games is a great example of this. I thought it was an excellent film, and it told the story beautifully. Only later did I hear everyone complaining about it because certain things were changed or left out, but I still enjoyed the film. I might even go as far as saying I thought it was better than the book. When I went to see the 7th Harry Potter film right after I re-read the book for the umpteenth time (I think I literally finished it about three days before I went to the theater for a midnight showing), however, I thought it was terrible. Everything was wrong. But the friend I went with hadn’t read the book in ages, and she absolutely loved it.

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Last week I went to see Mortal Instruments: City of Bones with my awesome roommate who likes the same TV shows and books as me. Though Clary seemed a bit passive in my opinion, I really enjoyed this movie. I have since started reading the book, and I’m enjoying that immensely as well. Is one of them better than the other? Sure, Clary is more active in the book (at least until Chapter 7, I haven’t gotten very far yet). But that’s not the only aspect that’s different. Personally, I thought many of the events in this story looked fantastic visually. Magic (though the Shadowhunters would take offense at that word) often does look really cool in movies. I had a similar experience with Beautiful Creatures, though I haven’t read the book yet.

So maybe the question is not whether or not the film is better than the book, but how we perceive the different mediums. I have stopped questioning which is better, and I look at them as separate entities. Both are telling stories, and some methods work better for one than the other. Don’t be so harsh to judge movies by their books. I think we should encourage book adaptation instead, because clearly Hollywood is running out of ideas when they just keep remaking what they’ve already done. There are billions of books to choose from, waiting to be told with a different tool.

This is why I am thrilled that one of Richelle Mead’s novels (Vampire Academy) is finally being adapted into film. Sure, the vast majority of the world’s movie-going population might be tired of vampires, but I never will be, and this is a brilliant story – FAR superior to that dreadful franchise featuring sparkling vampires. Ugh. Give me Rose Hathaway over Bella Swan ANY day!

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The first week of Camp NaNoWriMo is coming to a close on this 7th eve of April.

I am behind on my word count.

Yes, I’m admitting it. Because I am hoping all of you who are reading this will leave comments that will shame me into writing and not sleeping. I am not worried, though. I still have several weekends ahead of me, and several days this week where I managed not to plan anything else. I won’t make any excuses, because none of those I might supply are truly valid. But feel free to shower me with guilt.

What is my word count? As of this moment (I am going straight back to writing just as soon as I complete my obligations to the blog pact) I have 7,809 words. I should have something like 11,669. Oops. Still, I managed 3,000 on one day this week, so 4,000 doesn’t seem so difficult to make up. Technically I am one of two people in my cabin that are behind with today’s word count. Unfortunately for me, that other person doesn’t seem to be participating at all. So. I better get my act together, because I’m feeling terribly guilty about being at the end of the line.

So far this week, my MC Jude has been kidnapped, forced to watch a brutal, in-cold-blood murder, and listened to some people discuss pancakes (what is it with my NaNo novels and pancakes?). My characters are currently residing in the Rocky Mountains, and my antagonist is a really dreadful psycho. This novel about a post-pandemic earth is much darker than things I’ve written in the past, as it turns out. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. I suppose I will have to promise my main character a happy ending to make up for all this badness.

I have completed three chapters, and I will begin the fourth in a few minutes. And that is all the news I have on that front. I am still having fun, even though I’m already terribly behind. It is early days yet, though.

Last week I finally saw the movie One Day, starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess, based on the novel of the same title by David Nicholls. In short, it is about two people who meet on graduation day, and instead of falling instantly in love, the story of their relationship is told over the span of twenty years. This is refreshing after so many boy-meets-girl stories that are essentially “love” at first sight, or perhaps over the span of a few weeks. Both characters, Emma and Dexter, are unique individuals, and neither of them define themselves by their relationship with or feelings for the other. They each lead their own lives. They make great memories, and they fight. They have romances with other people. The whole time you wonder if they really will ever end up together. I really enjoyed this movie, and now I am DYING to read the book (kind of like I’m dying to read ALL THE BOOKS, but right now, this is the one that’s next on my list – after I read the complete-as-of-now works of Richelle Mead). The story of Emma and Dexter isn’t just about their relationship, it’s also very much a “we’ve graduated from college, now what?” tale. We get to see them figure out how life works after education. It takes both of them a while to figure out what they want to do with their lives, but when they finally do, it has nothing to do with the other person, and everything to do with the characters as individuals.

Alright, I know this is short, but I have more words to write!

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