Sunday, November 4, 2012

Amateur Sonnets

Recently I've been sort of into writing sonnets. I'm not a particularly poetic person, but in the past few months I've been reading more poetry than I ever have before and I've been learning a lot about it.

When I first started learning to write serious poetry (aka not the silly rhymes we all wrote in grade school), sonnets were my favorite. Despite my love for writing and creative things, I'm really more of a left-brained person. I like things to be organized and logical. And sonnets are very organized and make a lot of sense. I never really liked how poetry was considered so "free," etc. etc. I felt like that just meant that we ended up with a lot of stupid poetry.

Sonnets, though, are a challenge to write no matter what. No complete amateur could write a sonnet. (Although of course, there are plenty of stupid sonnets out there. But that's not the point.) Even after I've written a dumb sonnet, I feel pretty good that my meter and my rhymes are right on.

So here are my amateur sonnets. You will probably see more of these as time goes on and I try to really learn the art of the sonneteer.

This was a sonnet I wrote in the Petrarchan form, about the Petrarchan form.


So, Petrarch, I hope you're happy now?
Now rookies, pros alike have used and torn
apart your form, a tiny lamb now shorn.
Without its wool, does sheep become a cow?
The last I heard, the word ABBA, you know,
referred to an eighties band, not a rhyme form.
I think, Petrarch, it might be time to mourn
the painful death of your sonnet. But how
could we, just maybe, save its loveliness?
Convince the world it's not worn out and sick?
That there's still more to say about that girl
with eyes like flowers, skin like snow, and tresses--
No, now the world is fixed on politics.
Petrarch, your sonnet's for a better world.

Get the irony? ...Eh? Eh? Okay, moving on.

This is one that's rather more corny, but I'm pretty attached to it. It's in the Shakespearean form.


Photo by Felix Neiss on Flickr

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Bookish Horizons

One or two of you may have already noticed something...I created a new blog.

Here's the deal. As you can probably tell, I love books and I read all the time. Since I've starting learning to speed read, I can read faster than I've ever been able to before, which means I've been reading more books.

So lately, with my new-found speed-reading super power, I've been drawn once again to the enticing possibility of joining The Classics Club. I learned about the Club a few months ago, and ever since I've wished I could join. But there are too many other things to worry about in life, I decided. Things like school and having a social life. I couldn't possibly decide to read 50 books outside of school--I already do enough reading in school!

Well, I've been having a lot of epiphanies lately about life, my life in particular. I'm not doing myself any favors by allowing school to take over my life, especially as I'm about to get married. Eventually school is going to be over, and then what? Will I be a shell of a human being? Yes, I love school, but what I really love is learning. If I allow school to get in the way of my learning, then I'm totally missing the point. Whether I got an A or a B isn't going to matter in 50 years; what I learned and internalized from the class, and how I applied it to other things in my life, is going to matter.

And now that I've learned to speed read, I'm even more ready to take my learning to a whole new level. I know there are so many classics I haven't read and always wanted to. And not just classics, but thousands of other books that could potentially change me as a person.

Photo by Rodrigo Galindez
And of course, what's better than joining a community of people that are all trying to do the same thing I am? I have the chance to motivate myself to read great books, respond to them, and join in a community of discussion with hundreds of other people who are reading the same or similar books.

But I realized something...the Classics Club is for bloggers. To join, you need to review the books on a blog. But my blog? It's not a book blog. I've written about books on here before, but book reviews just don't seem to have much of a place here. Pass the Chocolate is a writing blog, not a reading blog. As dear as it is to me, it can't fit that purpose.

I used to see blogging as a one-blog thing. A true blogger has one blog where they write whatever they want to write. And that's it. But I've learned from other bloggers that it only makes sense to have different blogs for different purposes. And once they outlive their purpose, it's time to move on to a different blog.

So, has Pass the Chocolate outlived its purpose?! ...No! Of course not! I enjoy the randominity of this blog. And I also enjoy the coziness. I welcome new readers, of course, but I enjoy having only a few, most of which know me personally. I like not feeling like I have to impress everyone. This blog is here to stay.

But if you want to check out my new blog (including my list of more than 50 classics I'm going to read over the next five years), here's the link: http://classicsandbeyond.blogspot.com/. I'm sort of falling in love with it. Join me in my book blogging journey!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Literary Halloween

Okay, I'm going to be honest. Normally, Halloween isn't my favorite holiday. But this Halloween is different! Special! Exciting! Frightening! Bloody! Gory! Ghastly! Ghostly! Ghouly! Literary!

Literary?

As any writer, reader, or English major knows, the best way to improve a holiday is to literar-ize it. I mean, look at Christmas. You have Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. Look at Valentine's Day. You have stupid rhymes written on hearts posing as gifts. Look at Thanksgiving. Those lame paragraphs about a fantasy land of pilgrims and Indians loving each other (aka great fiction) that you had to read in grade school.

And out of all these wonderfully literarized holidays, you get Halloween, which, if you can believe it, is exponentially more literary.

Dracula. Frankenstein. Edgar Allen Poe. Wuthering Heights. Twilight.

(What? No--Twilight isn't on there because it's about vampires. It's on there because it's frightening how rich Stephenie Meyer is for such horrific writing.)

(Har, har. English major joke. If you like Twilight, no offense was meant.)

Anyway, I decided to "literarize" my Halloween by reading Frankenstein! I've heard so many great things about it, and I'm excited to read this classic piece of literature for the first time.

Also, even more fun, I have written two zombie haiku. Here they are, for your reading pleasure, so you can literarize your Halloween!

The invitation
said "Please bring finger foods." Guess
what the zombies brought. 

This one is dedicated to my fiance:

He likes me for my 
Brains, not my body. I knew
he was a zombie!

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A New Direction

So, for once in my life I am actually going to write a post that I told you I was going to write. Like I wrote in my last post, I am thinking of going a different way with my writing.

Disclaimer: I haven't actually decided on this idea. It's sort of like breaking up. Yes, maybe you think a certain other person is attractive, but you're not actually leaving your boyfriend/girlfriend for that other person. You're breaking up because the relationship itself isn't working out, not because you fell in love with someone else.

Photo by hashmil on Flickr
I'm not sure that analogy made sense, but basically, I'm not "leaving" travel writing because I'm infatuated with another genre. I'm leaving it because it's not right for me. And now I'm dating around in other genres, and there is one that particularly intrigues me.

Biographies.

If you're a student (or possibly if you're not a student), that one word alone might be enough to make you drowsy. Your immediate reaction? Boring. My immediate reaction to your immediate reaction? Exactly. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Letting Go of a Dream

I am stepping away from my dream of being a travel writer.

Wait. Hear me out.

This is not a "boo-hoo-poor-me" post. Far from it. I've been asking myself some hard questions and reevaluating my long- and short-term goals. I've been asking myself what I really want.

When I was single, the idea of being a travel writer seemed practically perfect in every way. I knew I wanted to write, and I knew I wanted to travel. What else did I need to know? I could get paid to travel! What more could I possibly want???

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Have a Confession.

I love chick flicks.

I'm also listening to Christmas music. Yes, in September.

I also spent at least an hour searching the Internet for recipes with pumpkin in them. My love of fall has carried over to an obsession with pumpkin.

And today I made beignets for the first time, and I've already eaten about 15 of them.

Okay, I'm getting carried away with the confessions. Back to the original one.

I love chick flicks. Even the most ridiculously corny ones, like that one with Amy Adams where she goes to Ireland. (Okay, I liked it except for the ending.)

I guess what I should really say is that I love watching chick flicks, which is very different. I am not the sort of person who recommends my favorite chick flicks to everyone I know, including guys. I am not the sort of person to analyze each one as though it were a great work of film. (And conclude with dramatic sighing that the incredibly complex characters have reached a beautiful, if flawed, kind of love, which only the most enlightened can appreciate.) Actually, I'm sort of a closet chick flick addict. I don't go around telling people.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Falling Into Fall

Oh, autumn. Finally.

Well, okay. Autumn isn't really officially here, I admit. The leaves haven't really changed yet...the weather hasn't gotten that much colder...but you know what? I say it's autumn, so it's autumn.

And since it's autumn, it's only fitting that I be sitting here on my sofa, wrapped up in a blanket, blogging, and drinking hot cocoa. (And I am.)
Photo by dtaylorcreative on Flickr

I've always thought of myself as a sort of any-season kind of person. There are good things to like about every season, I always told myself. ...Then again, I grew up in San Diego, where seasons don't exist. It wasn't until this year--the first time I have ever actually lived through all four seasons in a row--that I realized I love the colder seasons the best. Fall and winter.

Not to knock spring and summer. There are lots of things to love about spring and summer. I'm just not really a warm-weather kind of person. I'm not very outdoorsy, I don't like swimming, I don't like wearing shorts, and I really don't like heat.

What I do love is going back to warm, hearty foods like potatoes and squash. Chili and soup. I love finding ways to incorporate pumpkin into everything. Adding a generous helping of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves to cookies, cupcakes, even brownies, anything I can think of to bake. I love just turning on the oven again!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Changes in Life...but Not the Blog

Seeing as it's been exactly a month since I last posted, I decided to get back here and write again.

For once, I actually have a really good reason to have temporarily ignored my blog. I got engaged. And since then, my life has been rather a whirlwind.

I started thinking about the way I've been using my blog. Since I've gotten engaged, I've gotten way more into stuff I wasn't quite so interested in before. I always liked cooking, but now I cook four times a week, at least. I clean a lot more. And I'm actually interested in all those little crafty projects and little fix-it tips. I have no problem with this. I'm glad I'm starting to become genuinely interested in all the domestic things I never really cared about before. But as soon as I thought about that with reference to my blogging, I had to cringe. Is that what would happen to my blog? It would be lost in the blogosphere as just another domestic "mommy blog," with endlessly cheery anecdotes about kids, homemade decorations, and "delicious yet oh-so-easy and only 60 calories!" recipes? Would I have to resign myself to more than three exclamation points per post? (Or whatever the rule is.) Would my blog--without me even bearing children--end up just another...mommy blog?! (There goes my first allotted exclamation point.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pinterest

I have a newfound love. Its name is Pinterest.

I can hear you now. Your mind is probably going crazy with one of two things. You're either thinking:

"Oh my gosh, I love Pinterest, too! Isn't it just the best ever?!" 

Or

"Great. Another one bites the dust. Pinterest is a huge time-waster." 


Photo by Natalie Lucida
Boldly cooking where no cook has cooked before...
or something...?
And I would have to agree with...both of you. All of you. Whichever it is you're thinking. (Okay, you get my meaning.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

How to Find Gems in the Library: 8 Tips from a Novice Library Lover

Are you the sort of person who tries to use and appreciate the library, but you just can't seem to make it work for you? Do you keep taking home stacks of books and then returning them without finishing them or even cracking them open? Or do you just have trouble finding anything to like at the library unless you arrive with a specific recommendation?

I was once one of you. Now, however, I've learned to see the library as a magical place, and I always bring home books that end up being my favorites. Now, I wouldn't say that I'm a library expert by any means, but here are a few tips from a novice library lover that might help you find books in your library to love.

Tip #1: Find the genre(s) that appeals to you. 
Picture from the public domain
If you love YA fantasy, then wander around in the YA fantasy section. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I used to have lots of reasons to ignore my favorite genres. I thought I "should" be reading certain genres, or I knew lots of people who read sci-fi so I would go look for sci-fi.

My advice: if you want to explore a new genre, find a trusted friend who has read a lot in that genre and ask them for a specific recommendation. There are great books and horrible books in every genre, and you don't want your first venture into the world of sci-fi to be the worst sci-fi book ever written. When you're just wandering, stick to what you know you like.

Tip #2: Judge a book by its cover. 
Yeah, I know, you're not supposed to do that, but there's a reason the book publishers used that specific cover; they were trying to appeal to the kind of audience that would probably be interested in that kind of book. So look for covers you like. There are, of course, plenty of fantastic books with ugly covers, but it's not so easy to weed them out. Save your tolerance of ugly covers for recommendations; don't force yourself to choose an ugly cover when you're just browsing.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Inspiration!

Okay, obviously I have not been doing so well in the blogging department. I've been feeling guilty about that. There just never seems to be enough time!

But today I saw THIS.

(Thanks to Holly :) 

I promptly abandoned the chapter about dialects (yawn) and looked up more Lindsey Stirling. In my personal opinion, she is amazing. 


Even if quirky modern violin dancing isn't your thing, you have to admit she's an admirable person. She found what she loves to do and she just does it, even though it's different and some people say she can't make it. I mean, really--who cares? 


Can we all say that together now? Who cares? Who cares if you get rich and famous? Who cares if you're not as "good" as someone else (and, um, who defines "good")? Who cares if people criticize and say you're not good enough or your talent isn't good enough? The way our world measures success sure is mystifying to me anyhow.

Even though I'm not a dancing violinist (or a dancer, or a violinist), Lindsey Stirling inspires me.

So I'm saying goodbye to the guilt. Yes, I am a college student and I just can't write every day. But I have to remember that writing is what I love, and I can't abandon it. And I don't have to tie myself down to what I think people will like. I have the freedom to write whatever I want and not have to worry about whether people like it.

I'm still going to write as much as I can the rest of this month, but I'll be out of town and such, so I won't be able to write every single day. But I will write. Even though people (including myself) might think I'm not good enough. Who cares? 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum

Have you been wondering when I would EVER finish my next book for the summer reading challenge? Well, I have too, but after many snatched moments of reading, renewals, and returning the book to the library prematurely (and rescuing it two days later), I have finally finished reading Mort Rosenblum's biography of the world's most beloved food.

Photo courtesy of Everjean
The reason I took so long with this book certainly had nothing to do with hating it. I loved every second of Rosenblum's story of chocolate. He covered pretty much everything a layman could possibly want to know about the chocolate world, from cacao farms to the finished final products and the companies that sell them. The business of chocolate is a fascinating one.

I chose this book for the "pretty cover" category. I found it while in the library looking for a biography of Hemingway, and I happened to wander over to the section on (non-cookbook) food non-fiction. (I had no idea that section existed. I think I could live there...)

Of course, what first attracted me was the giant letters on the spine that read CHOCOLATE. But it wasn't just the subject matter; once I took the book down from the shelf, I saw the sophisticated cover with pale blue vertical stripes, brown and gold lettering, and a delicate drawing, outlined in gold, of cacao pods, cocoa beans, and a chocolate bar. And, of course, the clever subtitle. There were no rave reviews splashed across the cover demanding that the reader open the book or photos of the author scarfing down chocolate. Just the blue stripes with the hints of gold, seeming to say indifferently, "Open and read if you can possibly measure up to the level of sophistication required to appreciate me, but I'm certainly not going to beg."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Top Ten Things I Love Most About Non-Fiction: Part III

Note: I actually wrote almost this entire post yesterday! And then I meant to finish it "later" but...later didn't come until today, as you can see. Sorry! More to come! 


5. The book can be (relatively) good even if the writing is bad. 
A prime example of this is The Teacher Who Couldn't Read by John Corcoran. The writing style is sloppy and childish, but it was written by a man who had barely learned to write. If you're busy critiquing the writing style of that book, you're missing the point. Another, milder example is A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. The writing is pretty bleh (and sometimes vomit-inducing) but the story can be worth it. (Don't take that as a recommendation for all audiences. Only if you have a strong stomach.) This is rarely the case with fiction, at least for me. Never is the plot so interesting that I can summon the will to slog through horrific writing.

4. There are often fantastic illustrations or photos within the pages. 
This one is pretty indulgent and I wouldn't even say it's usually true, but it still seems to happen a lot more often than it does in fiction. (When fiction does have illustrations, I usually can take them or leave them. Exception: Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Again, requires a strong stomach, but for different reasons.) I might have added this to the list because I've been busy reading books about chocolate with both illustrations and photos. It doesn't get much better than that.

3. It's not an escape from the world; it's an adventure into it. 
People are always talking about reading as an "escape." Well, that might be what some people need, but it's certainly not why I read. I don't read because I want to do less; I read because I wish I could do more. I wish I could spend weeks tasting French food, observing Buddhist monks, or building houses in Africa, but there are only so many experiences a poor college student can have (at the moment). And as much as I'm enjoying the experiences I am having, I like to be able to cram in more, however vicariously.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Top Ten Things I Love Most About Non-Fiction, Part II

7. The feeling of knowing the author personally. 
Of course, this doesn't always happen (remember, I'm writing about a very wide genre here), but often while reading a non-fiction book, I get a real sense of who the author is and what he or she is about. Even if the author is trying to be objective, they will occasionally insert notes about their own research process, sometimes even using the pronoun "I." Rather than in fiction, in which the author is a mysterious being who is either godlike or a minion simply transcribing the words on the page, non-fiction is powered by the person with the pen--their passion, their zeal, their desire to educate, influence, and change. I'll often turn the last page of a non-fiction book feeling like I've known the author for years, even though all I've done is read his or her book.

6. Instant application to real life. 
Sometimes this isn't true. Sometimes your knowledge of the rarest species of sloth does not actually change your life. But I would venture to say that most bestselling non-fiction applies, at least in a minor way, to real life. Often non-fiction educates us about an everyday thing that we never thought much about. Sometimes it encourages us to make a change because we never realized what we're missing. Sometimes all it changes is our attitude and the way we experience things. Whichever way, non-fiction generally applies easily and readily to some facet of our lives.

To be continued...


P. S. I'm sorry these are becoming so awfully short! While getting into some really wonderful habits, I'm apparently neglecting some of the ones that are most dear to my heart! I'm going to try to get better, but until then, please bear with me...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My Favorite Genre

As you may know, I am not a big fan of fantasy or sci-fi. To tell the truth (the whole truth, and nothing but the truth), I don't really like fiction either, unless it's classic literature, select historical fiction, or really excellent. So that leaves my favorite genre: non-fiction.

I really hate the fact that the name we use to designate the broad genre of non-fiction is just saying what it is not. As if fiction is what really matters, and non-fiction is just the secondary genre that you have to read occasionally for school or whatever. Non-fiction doesn't even get its own name; it's defined by what it is not.

But I digress. On to more important talk on the glorious nature of non-fiction. Here are...

The Top Ten Things I Love Most About Non-Fiction


10. You might actually learn something. And it might actually be fun. 
Publishers are trying to get books bought and read these days--which is why they publish non-fiction books that are so fun. It's such a wonderful feeling to know that I'm not wasting my time, I'm learning fascinating facts about wildlife in the Australian outback. Or whatever.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tragedy Strikes

Ahem. Well.

Yes, I've missed two days. I know it's a flimsy excuse, but I've been busy. But don't worry--I'm now more committed to NaBloPoMo than ever!

Anyway, without further ado....

A experienced a tragedy today.

I had to return a book to the library...before I had finished it. 


I know! You're shocked! I can imagine you now, having dropped your 70% cacoa chocolate bar (since, I assume, you always eat chocolate while reading this blog--for your sake, I hope you do), you are temporarily paralyzed, your mouth gaping in disbelief--and now you are burying your face in your hands, fighting back tears, hoping against hope that it's NOT TRUE.

Okay, congratulations; you've made it through my eye-roller exaggeration of the day.

Worst of all, it was a book I was really enjoying: Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum. It's exactly my kind of book--a non-fiction book about chocolate. Could it get any better?

I have been reading it too, whenever I get a spare moment. But I checked it out at the same time as I checked out Committed. I wasn't ten pages into Chocolate when I had to renew it. A fatal mistake.

I was honestly a little surprised at how sad I was to have to return it. I mean, I'm planning on going back and getting it tomorrow (I doubt anyone will have checked it out before then). But there's just that bitter sadness knowing that I failed. When I checked that book out of the library, there was an expectation that I would finish it in time. That book put its trust in me. It needs its pages loved, savored. And I betrayed it. I loved it and left it.

I just hope it takes me back...

Anyway, being a little more practical--you can all expect a post on that book very soon. After I get it back from the library (after begging it to come home with me), I only have about 75 pages left. It won't be long now...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Just checking in...

Disregard the date above this post. This post counts for SATURDAY, not Sunday, since I haven't actually gone to sleep yet. Ahem.

Lately I have been working on building up habits. Habits like...blogging every day. And eating healthy. And exercising. And getting my homework done before midnight. (Which tonight, unfortunately, did not happen...but not for lack of trying!)

The wonderful thing about habits is that once you have them, it's easy to do the right thing. The nasty thing about habits is that it's so much easier to get into bad habits than it is to break them. And it's so much harder to get into good habits than it is to break them. 


For more talk about habits, I recommend The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. What he says about habits, and how to get into the very best habits, has really stuck with me in the past few years since I've read the book. I just discovered another great tool to help build good habits called HabitCal. It's an extremely simple, easy-to-use (and completely free) tool that just helps you track how well you're doing with your habits. If you're like me and you like to check a box, cross something off, or create anything else visual to show how well you're doing, HabitCal is great. It's awesome to click a box green! (You'll have to try it to see what I mean.)

So, that's what I've been up to the past couple days. Trying to get into lots of good habits that I've lost. Today I've been swamped with homework and other important things...not to mention, I just realized that the next book I've been reading for the reading challenge is due in 2 days! And I still have 150 pages left! So hopefully I'll be able to finish the rest of that over the next couple of days, and then I'll have a blog post up about it. I've been enjoying the book immensely (check out my Goodreads widget...it shouldn't be too hard to figure out why). I can't wait to write about it!

A quick note about progress on NaBloPoMo. I have been loving it so far. Blogging every day has really gotten me into a blogging frame of mind. I always have lots of ideas for posts now, whereas before I used to avoid blogging because I "couldn't think of anything to write about." Writing so much has kept me a lot more...sane. (And trust me, I've needed it.)

Last, I would like to thank you all so much for reading and commenting! I keep close track of the page views of the blog and of each post, and each one really counts to me. And getting comments--even small ones--totally makes my day! Thank you for being part of this blogging journey with me. (I feel like I've been using the word "journey" way too much lately...is that super corny or what?) I'm learning a lot about writing, and I wouldn't have the motivation to do it without your support!

Thank you! And have a wonderful day!

Friday, July 6, 2012

5 Words You Always Wished Existed

Have you ever tried to describe something and just wished there was an actual word for it? As I've been learning French, it's started to become increasingly clear how many words we're missing in the English language. For instance, a plural "you." (The Southerners were awfully innovative with "ya'll," but...we're not going to go there.) There are countless words that seem to be missing from English.

Personally, I would like there to be multiple words for the idea of "love." I think there should be different words each for familial love, friend love, and romantic love. And maybe another separate word for a love for things or loving to do something. As it is, I constantly declare that I "love" the cat down the street that I've seen twice, the computer lab on campus, my professors, the manager of my complex, reading classics, and my roommates. What do all these things have in common? ...Well, nothing, really. I don't love my professors in the same way as I love the cat down the street. In fact, I feel totally differently toward each of them. So why must I use the same word for a different feeling?

Photo by Mauro Cateb
A guy named Gelett Burgess understood this sort of experience, and he decided to take action. He realized that there are lots of concepts that we talk about all the time and need words for, so what did he do? He came up with new words, of course!

Unfortunately, this valiant endeavor was rewarded with very little attention. Out of the 100 words that Burgess proposed, only one of them survived and is actually used: blurb. (However, it's not used exactly the way Burgess originally intended. The original definition: "Praise from oneself, inspired laudation.")

Some of Burgess' words seem like they would actually be pretty useful. (Find the full text of his book here.) For example:

Gixlet: One who has more heart than brains, an entertainer. 

...I know several gixlets. Maybe it's a good thing it's not a real word...

Or how about this one?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Experiencing Books

A year ago, I liked to write straightforward reviews of books. I liked to critique, examine a book's flaws as well as its good points, and give it a certain number of stars. Nowadays, though, as you may have noticed, I avoid doing that. Actually, I have no desire to do that anymore. The thing is, books have come to take on an entirely different meaning to me lately than they used to.

By Juan Antonio Flores Segal
I hardly have time to read for fun while I'm in school, so when I do take a few minutes away from my studies to crack open a book--without any assignments or deadlines looking over my shoulder--it's like drinking a glass of clear water after trying to strain mud through my teeth. So, of course, I'm not going to look for the one speck of dust floating in it. When I'm done, all I'm going to remember is how refreshing and beautiful the experience was.

That's why, lately, I've been more focused on writing about my experience with a book than I have been on critiquing it. Reading is so much more personal to me than it has ever been before. I feel like I'm having a conversation with the author. Trying to rate it would be like leaving a deep discussion with a friend and saying, "Hmm...well, it was fun, but not my favorite conversation...3 stars."

That's why my reviews of The Sun Also Rises, Committed, and Notre Dame de Paris were more of my thoughts on related topics than they were actual reviews. I feel like if I didn't enjoy a book--especially a book that is generally regarded as a classic--then it's probably my fault. Maybe I just wasn't engaging in the conversation enough. And frankly, I don't have time to not have a wonderful experience with a book.

Half the experience, of course, is where and when I read the book. I'm beginning to believe that if I read a book outside on a sunny day, then I will probably feel totally different about it than if I read it under my covers in the middle of the night with a flashlight. (I did that all the time when I was a kid...maybe I should resurrect the tradition.) Or if I read it snuggled on the sofa with hot chocolate on a snowy day. Or if I was trying to read it, but kept pausing to laugh at my roommates singing along to Justin Bieber.

I hope that you all have similar experiences with many of the books you read. Sometimes I get caught up in just crossing another book off my internal list and don't focus so much on--as corny as it may sound--the journey. That is the true reason I love books.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

In the past few years, the 4th of July has become less and less exciting for me, as pretty much every holiday seems to do as I get older and more boring. (Now, the best thing about holidays is just getting enough sleep.) Today, though, I got to spend the holiday with my sister and her kids, and I remembered what the 4th means to a kid. It means pancakes for breakfast, parades (and incessant waving in order to have candy thrown to you), outdoor barbecues, fireworks and sparklers, and red, white, and blue everywhere. It means a special day, which is exciting no matter what the special part actually is.

Funny enough, the kids' excitement may have been just the thing to remind me of what this day really means.

I was looking forward to the parade mainly because I would get to sit and relax in the sun for a while and watch the kids. But of course, at the very front of the parade was the flag, and we all stood.

Normally, the sight of the flag, especially on the 4th of July, is not a particularly exciting event. I've stood for the flag and put my hand dutifully over my heart hundreds of times. But today, something was different. As I put my hand over my heart, I realized what that signified. I was saying that this flag is close to my heart--this flag, and everything that it stands for.

Have you thought today about what it stands for? I didn't, until that moment. It stands for liberty. Pride in the fact that we care about liberty--even at the expense of wealth or power, if need be. And whether we are conservative or liberal or moderate, Democrat or Republican or Independent, no matter what political party we identify with or which politician we vote for, we're trying to protect our liberty.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Notre Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo

You may have noticed (if you ever happen to glance over at my Goodreads widget) that I was reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo, for a good long time. No, I didn't simply forget that it was there (although that wouldn't be a bad guess). I actually was spending several weeks on end immersed in this classic tale.

Okay, "immersed" might not be the right word. It was more like I dipped a toe into it every once in a while. Hence, the embarrassingly long time it took me to finish. I kept it off my summer reading challenge list because I was already a good way into it before the start date of the challenge. (Ahem. Yep, it took me a while.)

I started reading it with absolutely no intention of finishing it, by the way. In my English class, my teacher put us in groups of three, and we were supposed to help each other out with topics and material. We each chose  a book for the project (if you haven't already heard, mine was Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell). Whitney's was Pride and Prejudice, which I had already read, but Holly chose The Hunchback of Notre Dame, which I had never so much as considered cracking open. Lately, I've been trying to branch out and read lots of different authors rather than lots of books by the same author, and having read Les Miserables, I had an unspoken agreement with myself that I would keep Hugo on the back burner. But Holly's passion for the book was contagious, so I hopped on over to the library and picked myself up a copy.

I almost considered trying to read the thing in French. After my common sense came to the rescue, I chose a small, lightweight English copy, bound in plain green hardback, probably published in the late 19th or early 20th century. The pages were old and delicate and carried the smell of a different time.

I planned on just reading a few portions, for Holly's sake, so I would understand her project a little better and be a better group member. My first mistake was to start from the beginning (although not from the true beginning, because the first page was unfortunately ripped out). I read 90 pages the first day (despite having other homework to do). After that, I was hooked.

But the unfortunate truth was that I didn't have time to bury myself in a thick tome, no matter how classic, and still keep up with school and the whole social thing. (No man is an island, they say--apparently, I'm a buzzing metropolis, whether I like it or not.) So I started a kind of strange habit: reading while walking to campus.

Maybe it's silly, but it's a 20-minute walk to campus, each way. That's forty minutes I could be reading. Once I realized this, Hunchback started getting read, little by little, a few pages a day.

By ell brown on flickr.com
After the story had become weaved into my day, it started to embroider itself into the edges of my life, in such a tiny way that I hardly noticed it. Instead of walking home on cracked sidewalks in the sunny, dry Utah heat, I was treading through the streets of Paris in the rain, watching La Esmeralda dance, in the imposing shadow of Notre Dame. For the first time in a long time, I really felt the meaning of getting lost in a book. The first day I walked to campus after finishing Hunchback, I felt useless and empty without it. I realized how big a part of my life it had been.


Such is the beauty of Hugo's writing. I had the same sort of experience with Les Miserables. Even though the lives of the characters couldn't be further from my own, they were still totally ingrained into my life somehow.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Reading, Reading, Reading. :)

I saw this meme over at A Room of One's Own the other day and, since I'm kind of a bookish blogger (not a book blogger, per se--just a bookish one), I thought I might do it, just to change things up a little. Do you snack while you read? If so, favourite reading snack: Not surprisingly, I love to eat chocolate while reading. The darker the better. What is your favourite drink while reading? I don't drink anything while reading as a general rule, but sometimes during the winter I curl up with a mug of hot chocolate and a good book. It's more my living a romanticized fantasy than it is a habit, though. Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? The idea used to horrify me, but now I do occasionally mark my books. I really treasure the notes I've made in the margins of some of my books, but I don't really like to sit there with a pen as I'm reading. I like to buy used books with margin notes. It's like a strange connection with the reader before me. How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open? I use "bookmarks"--aka whatever smallish slips of paper are handy. I mercilessly dog-ear the pages of my school books, but I refrain from dog-earing my favorites. I'm not afraid to leave the book lying open. I don't try to keep my books pristine; I like my books to look well-loved. Fiction, non-fiction, or both? Non-fiction for sure, unless it's classic literature. I do occasionally read modern novels (I'm currently reading one, as you can see from my Goodreads widget), but they're usually historical novels, or at least realistic. I don't like fantasy or sci-fi. Are you a person who tends to read to the end of a chapter, or can you stop anywhere? "I'll just read to the end of the chapter" is my go-to excuse to read when I should be studying, so I usually read to the end of the chapter. I don't mind stopping in the middle, though. Are you the type of person to throw a book across the room or on the floor if the author irritates you? I will definitely throw it. The heavier the book, the more satisfying the throw. The moment I finished Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged provided an excellent book-throwing moment.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Being a Kid.

Today is the start of NaBloPoMo! I'm excited. As you can see, I have already added the badge to the sidebar, so you don't forget (and I won't either). This is going to be a fun month!

The theme for the month, rather inconveniently, is "Kids." Thankfully, this includes "kidding around" in addition to actual children. We'll get to that eventually. For now, on to the more obvious meaning of the word.

You might be wondering what a single college student might possibly have to say about kids. I hardly ever even see kids--the only kids in my life, really, are my sister's.  I'm the youngest in my family, so I don't even have younger siblings to write about. Obviously, I'm not going to be giving any parenting advice, or recounting hilarious anecdotes of the "kids-say-the-darndest-things" variety.

I don't really know a lot about raising kids, but hey--I was a kid at one point in my life. (Arguably, I'm still rather a kid.) Albeit probably a rather unusual kid, but still a kid nonetheless. 

By andreshm1 at fotocommunity.com

I was the sort of kid who spent as much time outdoors as possible--not really to play sports, but because it was much easier to imagine that I was in some kind of enchanted forest that way. I was always somewhere else in my mind. When I wasn't outside, I was reading books like Dealing with Dragons and Ella Enchanted. I imagined myself in magic castles, on pirate ships, in space. 


But my most exciting dreams weren't fantasy--they were of my own future. I spent most of my childhood wishing I were older. I wished I were 16, or in college, or married with kids. I was so aware of my own ignorance, naivete, silliness, awkwardness.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Joining National Blog Month!

For a while now, I've been reading about blogging challenges where bloggers commit to blogging daily for a month. I've read the testimonials--blogging daily helps bloggers to improve their blogging at lightning speed and gets them more readers. (Unlike the other interesting idea I've heard--from a very inexperienced blogger--that it's better not to give your readers too much material all at once...are we playing hard-to-get?)

So, as the next month approaches, and as I learn more about the awesome website BlogHer, I'm going to take the plunge and blog every day during the month of July! Think I can do it? Well, I hope so! So, put on your seatbelts and let's get rolling!

You may also notice that the theme of the month is "Kids." ...Yeah, maybe not super appropriate for a single college student with basically no kids in her everyday life. I probably won't be writing a whole lot about kids. But, as a nod to the theme, I will start the challenge off with a post about kids on July 1st. From there on out, though, no promises--who knows what will come out of my typing fingers.

Of course, this will mean that I won't have as much time to deeply ponder the things I write. Lately, my posts have been written over the course of several days, and I go over and revise them a few times before they get posted. Posts during July won't be quite as well-thought-out, and will probably be shorter as well. But I hope that you'll find a little time to jump on and read my posts and, if you feel so inclined, leave your thoughts in a comment. I welcome comments and I always personally respond to each comment.

I'm excited to get blogging! Happy NaBloPoMo!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert

Well, life has been quite the whirlwind of excitement lately--as it tends to become--so even though I finished Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert *gulp* nearly two weeks ago, this is the first minute I've actually sat down to blog about it. (I'm giving you this explanation in consideration of your feelings since I know you've all just been weeping into your pillows every night wondering when I was going to tell you what I think of this book.)

(Okay, I apologize for that over-the-top sarcasm...)

Committed was a little bit different than I expected. Knowing that Gilbert wrote it after (during?) she and her fiance were traveling aimlessly around waiting to get the go-ahead for a green card wedding, I expected it to be similar to Eat, Pray, Love, and to include more about her actual traveling. (I believe I was slightly misled when I read an excerpt from the book, which happened to be one of the few portions which was about the people she met during her travels.) Most of the book consists of Gilbert's thoughts on the abundant research she's done on marriage. As a marriage skeptic trying to come to peace with marriage, Gilbert tries to uncover as much as she possibly can about marriage--the good and the bad. She shares various theories, statistics, words from experts, and stories from her own family (some of my favorite parts).

Even though it wasn't quite like I expected, I loved Committed from the get-go. Reading Gilbert's personal and down-to-earth writing was like a breath of fresh air. I've said it several times and I'll say it again: Gilbert is one of my writing role models. I hope that someday my writing will be as real as hers is.

That said, this book brought me face-to-face with my ideas about marriage. I won't get political (heaven forbid), so I'll stay out of that ballpark; my experience with the book was actually much more personal, since I'm very comfortable with my political views on marriage. I started to really think about marriage in relation to myself. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

What is Creativity?


As you know, I love Elizabeth Gilbert, and I love what she has to say here about creativity. This made me reflect on a question I've thought about quite often in the past few years: what is creativity? Where does it come from? Are some people more creative than others?

I was originally inclined to say that anyone and everyone could be a creative genius if they really worked at it. I don't like to put people in boxes and say that some people are just simply more creative than others. I like to think that quality work depends on consistent effort more than anything else.

But I realized that it isn't quite so cut and dried. Take Mozart. Mozart, a child prodigy, began composing his first symphonies when he was about four or five years old. Now, really. How many four-year-olds have you ever met who could compose a symphony? Or paint a masterpiece? Or write a poem that was remotely good? Or even cook their own breakfast?

Clearly, not just anyone can be a Mozart. Even if I decided to start devoting every second of my day for the rest of my life to learning to compose, I wouldn't be able to go back in time and make myself that way as a child. Maybe Mozart had a bit of a jump start--he was just born with talent, while the rest of us are a little more average when it comes to natural talent. But then we run into a problem: that's saying that we're each born with a level of creativity, and implying that nothing we can ever do will ever change that level. Maybe we can reduce our creativity by ignoring it, but no matter what we do, we can never exceed our maximum capacity.

I don't know about you, but that conclusion is a little hard for me to swallow. Doesn't effort mean anything at all?

Okay. Maybe I have an unhealthy obsession with this topic. Like I said, I've been thinking about this for years. I've actually been working on this post for a couple of weeks, trying to organize my thoughts, and it's just occurred to me that maybe what I need to be writing about--rather than speculating about the origin of creativity which I probably won't come to any kind of conclusion on anyway--is why I care about it so much.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

When asked whether he would admit to there being symbols in his work, Hemingway said, "I suppose there are symbols since critics keep finding them. If you do not mind I dislike talking about them and being questioned about them. It is hard enough to write stories without being asked to explain them as well. Also it deprives the explainers of the work. If five or six or more good explainers can keep going why should I interfere with them?"

Well, after reading that, I resolved not to attempt to be an "explainer"--if Hemingway disdained explaining his work, then I certainly don't want to try. (And I doubt he would consider a 19-year-old college sophomore to be a good explainer.) So I'm going to do the best I can in this review of The Sun Also Rises to take a leaf out of Hemingway's book and just be as simple as possible.

There is such a beauty in this book--a beauty similar to The Great Gatsby, which is still stuck in my mind after a year and a half. It's not remarkable that these two books are so similar in style, considering that Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were contemporaries and very good friends. I kept thinking, as I read it, that the biggest difference between the two novels was the openness of the characters. The Gatsby characters are completely closed off, completely fake, never say anything that's on their minds. Hemingway's Sun characters, on the other hand, run around puking up emotion and slime and base humanity.

Okay, sorry, that may have been a little too crude. But as the characters' hearts spilled out all over the streets of Spain, I couldn't help but think how little it mattered, how easily they might change their mind the next day, how little the world cares about the petty problems and idle cares of these perpetual drunks who have never spent a single minute trying to make anyone happy but themselves.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"Excuse me, I have some Spain in the oven..."

The Sun Also Rises (which I've almost finished) has given me quite the appetite for all things Spain. That, and the fact that I generally spend a lot of time wishing I were somewhere exotic...well, more exotic than Provo, anyway.

It all started at the library. (That gloriously troublesome place.) I had to return a copy of the movie "Eat Pray Love," and I figured since I had walked all the way there, I might as well browse for a biography of Hemingway to augment my experience with The Sun Also Rises. One thing led to another, and I ended up walking out not only with the biography, but with Cooking Spanish (a very classy-looking cookbook) and "Discovering Spain!" (a corny-looking documentary from the '90s).

(I also happened to walk out with a book about chocolate, but that's beside the point.)

I have yet to actually sit down and watch the DVD, although I've made several attempts. The cookbook, on the other hand, has made my weekend quite the adventure.

Yesterday I dragged my roommate to the store, where I spent a solid hour searching for ingredients for Spanish recipes. I came home and immediately made the simplest-looking recipe in the book: a tortilla.

If any of you are as ignorant about Spanish cooking as I was, you should know that a Spanish tortilla is actually nothing like a Mexican tortilla. (Except that they're both round.) A Spanish tortilla actually consists of thin slices of potato surrounded by egg fried to perfection. (According to the book, whether onions and garlic belong in the dish is an ongoing argument in Spain.) The book made a very big deal about this dish, saying that despite the simplicity, it's very difficult to get it exactly right.

Well, I'm sure my tortilla wasn't exactly right, since after all, I'm just a poor white American who has never so much as tasted authentic Spanish food, but it was delicious all the same.

After scarfing half my tortilla, I hiked Stewart Falls with a couple of friends. (Which was amazing, by the way. You drive half an hour and suddenly, you're hiking over rolling green, forested hills, surrounded by squirrels and caterpillars and forget-me-nots. We're not in California anymore, Toto.) To my delight, one of my friends went who actually lived in Spain for two years not too long ago. We spent most of the trip talking food and Spain and culture; I told him about my tortilla and the other recipes I was planning; he described the festivals, the people, and the diversity of Spain. (He also taught me how to say, "what's up, dude" in Spanish. I can't wait to go to Spain and use that phrase.)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Summer Reading!

When I found out about Jillian's Classics Club, I was tempted to commit myself to reading 50 classics in the next five years--and then realized that I'll probably end up reading about that many classics in that time anyway, being an English major (and considering all the internships and minors and whatever else I'm still planning to do, I'll probably be in school for that long, too). And I certainly won't have time to read 50 classics in addition to all those classics that I will certainly end up reading for school.

Anyway, before I started furiously listing all the classics I've always wanted to read and posting enthusiastic comments all over Jillian's blog (and neglecting my far-more-relevant-to-life studies), I realized how impractical it would be to take part in such a hefty book challenge, particularly since I've never participated in a book challenge before.

But even after I decided that being a good student was more important than indulging my classics/blogging fantasies, I remained intrigued. For a while I've been trying to do more reading outside of school. Let's face it, I waste plenty of time that I could be spending on more valuable pursuits. In my efforts to start using my time more wisely, I even checked a couple of travel books out of the library (in which I still have yet to get past the first chapters). And yet, here I am, still watching old episodes of Say Yes to the Dress on YouTube. (Yes, I spend my time watching giddy brides try on ridiculously expensive dresses that they will only ever wear once. It's my gateway drug...) I've been thinking how motivating it would be to be part of a reading challenge. It might get me reading some books I might not have read otherwise, and hey, it would be an adventure. At the very least, it would get me reading more, even if I didn't finish.

So I went in search of a more do-able reading challenge. In my quest, I found A Novel Challenge, which led me to this reading challenge by Reading Writers. It's simple enough--only 8 books required for the next 3 months, and the categories are pretty open-ended. And better yet, it starts today (which gave me a few days to think about it after I found the challenge). So I decided to take the plunge!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Reflection, Discovery, Lying Upside-Down

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." -Marcel Proust

Tonight as I was sitting in my room, attempting to study, my roommate Michelle came in. "I want to do something!" she exclaimed. "I can't do homework anymore! I just want to...I don't know, do something!"

I thought a moment. "Okay. Let's hike the Y."

If you're unfamiliar with BYU, there's a giant white Y on a mountain, visible from pretty much anywhere in Provo. Hiking up to the Y is fairly commonplace among the students, but I just did it for the first time last weekend and I loved it, so I was eager to do it again tonight. I'm not sure what prompted me to make such a random decision, but within the next ten minutes I was dragging my roommate out the door and into the thick, hot evening air.

One of the best little decisions I've ever made. Michelle and I had a great talk walking up and down that mountain. We talked about life, goals, God. Things that matter.

It made me wonder...how often do I take a minute to focus on the things that really matter? How often in life do I honestly step back and say, Okay. I've been trudging through every day and doing my best. But now it's time to reflect on why. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Did I Decide to Study French?

This is the question I was pondering--well, more like grumbling--to myself as I struggled to stay awake, doing French homework, in the wee hours of this morning. I admit I ask myself this question often enough (particularly when my teacher is trying to explain the pronunciation difference between the words "tu" and "tout"). Having grown up in California, I'm quite aware that Spanish--or even Chinese or Arabic--is the more useful language. Who on earth speaks French in the middle of Utah, after all?

But as I was walking to school this morning I was gently reminded of all the reasons I decided to take French in the first place. I was walking with two of my classmates, Tyler and Sadie, discussing why we chose to take French instead of the ever-so-useful Spanish, and Tyler said that there's more to a language than usefulness.

And I remembered everything that's always drawn me to French. The way the vowels flow over the consonants, the gentle lilt of the words. The way it sounds foreign and exotic, but yet inspires some form of deja vu, some distant memory prodding my consciousness, a whispered call from an age of romance and castles and knights in armor.

My dad spent two years in France before he was married, living among the people and learning the language. I remember occasionally asking him at the dinner table to say something in French. He would indulge me, his voice lowering to a gentle murmur. I remember just the way his voice would change, even the way his expression would change, as though he were a different man. Then, of course, I would ask him what he said, and it would always be something like "you have smelly feet." But even my father's silly phrases had the delicate beauty of French.

I knew I wanted to learn French when I read Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love. She writes about her love of Italian; she loves the way it sounds and she's determined to learn it even though it's only spoken in one small country. Every word is delicious to her. I feel that way about French (when I'm not having conjugations pounded into my brain). It's not just about being able to talk to people. It's about having this language, a central piece of a cultural puzzle, burned into your being. Learning a language changes who you are--and every language has the potential to change you in a different way.

Now, there are certainly practical reasons for learning French. France is the most visited country in the world, so it's a very important language in the tourism industry, which is where I'm hoping to go with my career. French is very valuable for an English major; much of the Western canon was originally written in French (much more so than Spanish). But at the core of it is that I love French. I want to master the sounds and the words and that subtle, lilting tone. I want the words to come spilling out of my mouth without any effort, a rhythmic singing. I want French to be part of me.

So I trudge through the tests. And the pronunciation. And the conjugations. And the grammar. Why? Because it's worth it. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Changes!

Do you like my new look? I do. :)

Guys, my blog needs a revamp. Not just in the look, but in purpose. For the most part, I've been gearing my blog toward my friends, trying to write about stuff you guys might find interesting in a way you might find interesting. (It's entirely possible that I've been failing miserably on that...) Anyway, I've begun to realize that what I really want to do is get more into my niche and start blogging more like an English-major aspiring-travel-writer. And I want to be more like a real blogger and maybe actually get other people in this world to read my blog. (Who knows, we'll see...)

My first instinct was to create a new blog for my new purpose. But, at least for now, I've decided not to do that. I've tried that before and I haven't been too successful. I also think I might need to get the hang of blogging more before I go creating more blogs. So I'm going to stick it out with this one and see if I can't make it work. (I have a relationship with my blog...I just don't want to break up...)

This means several of my old posts will be deleted. Let's face it--I wrote a lot of really dumb stuff! And I don't necessarily want that to be in the archive for all to read (and judge me for). I'm in for a fun walk down memory lane with my blog. Yippee. (Sometimes my walks down memory lane involve less nostalgia and more covering my face and moaning in shame.)

(Yeah, so maybe my past-bad-writing guilt is a little extreme. I'm a perfectionist.)

Anyway, I'm telling you this for two reasons. One, so you have the opportunity to go down memory lane with me if you so desire and read the old posts before they are gone (but I advise strongly against it; it's really not worth your time...). Two (this one is more important), so you're aware that this blog won't be the same as it used to be. Since I'm going to be reaching out to a different audience, I'm going to be writing about things you might not care about...like Victor Hugo and Italy and books you may not have heard of. (Although I don't know how you could possibly not care about Italy.) These are the things I really care about and this is what I want to be doing someday for a career, so it's about time I got started.

Here's to a brighter and more wonderful tomorrow for the blog! See you soon!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Wondrous World of Literary Blogs

I am really coming to love literary blogs.

For those of you who have yet to personally discover literary blogs, I encourage you to find one that fits you. Book bloggers are always so cute and lively. Some are sarcastic and critical. Some are over-the-top enthusiastic. But they're all passionate about books, writing about books, and talking about books. Here's a literary blog I found recently as an example.

Reasons I Love Literary Blogs:
  1. I love books. You know that feeling you get when you finish an amazing book? And you just want to talk to someone who will understand and share your feelings...but your family members/roommates are busy eating popcorn and watching NCIS and don't care about any ol' book from two hundred years ago. "Victor Hugo, who's that?" Literary blogs give you a great chance to connect with someone who feels just the same way about the book that you do. 
  2. Literary bloggers are intelligent (and if you find one that isn't, then find a new one). They offer great new ways to look at books that I've never thought of before. 
  3. Unlike the authors of reviews in a newspaper or magazine, bloggers are super easy to connect with. You can comment on their blog post and they--or other readers--might respond to you within hours. If you get into a literary blog, it can become a kind of community. 
  4. Book bloggers are some of the more adorable bloggers there are. Even the sarcastic ones. They might actually be cuter than food bloggers. 
  5. Chances are, the blogger is really no different from you and me. Maybe they've read more books, but they're probably just an average Joe. Their blog post might very well just be a few random thoughts about the book that they just shot into the blogosphere. Blogs have a great casual, informal feel; you feel like you're talking with a peer, not some high-and-mighty literature expert. 
  6. They're a fun AND intellectual way to use the Internet (like I was talking about in my last post)!
So there you have it. Six great reasons to find a literary blog to love! 

If you're at a loss as to how to look for book blogs, try IceRocket.com or on Google's blog search engine and type in the name of a book or author you love. 

Happy blog reading!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Virtues of Facebook

Ah yes, the Internet. We have the world at our fingertips and yet we just use it to watch stupid cat videos. 

For many of us, this cynical sentiment pervades the edges of our consciousness whenever we log onto Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, or any number of social sites. This is such a waste of time! What am I doing with my life?! I've had these thoughts and many others just as pathetic. Several times in the past I've resolved to solve my problems and stop wasting my time by minimizing my time on social sites. Just take a Facebook fast! That'll do it, right?

Wrong! The truth is, we can just as easily waste time off the Internet as on it. If we're not on Facebook, we might be watching infomercials. Or eating donuts. Or throwing spitballs at the ceiling. Or wasting away on the sofa. Or all the above. All useless activities. But we could also choose to spend our time reading a good book, learning calculus, or taking a hike. It doesn't take rocket science to be able to distinguish between a good and a bad use of our time.

The same is true for the Internet, even social sites like Facebook. In fact, you might even argue that it's especially true for social sites. How, you ask?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 14th

St. Valentine's Day. Single Awareness Day (S.A.D.). Whatever you want to call it. Happy February 14th!

As I sit here eating Valentine's chocolate and pondering the pros and cons of this day, I would like to add my voice to the boiling pot of mixed feelings on the most romantic day of the year.

I have mixed feelings myself. On the one hand, Valentine's Day has always been special with my family. We have a rather unusual family tradition: each year, my siblings and I come up with a surprise to show my parents how much we love them. So I grew up believing Valentine's Day to be a celebration of any kind of love. I like that version of Valentine's Day.

But here I am, for the first time, celebrating Valentine's Day far away from home at a university that is particularly romance/love/dating/marriage-oriented. The telltale signs of Valentine's Day are everywhere. You can literally smell it. (I would know the scent of Valentine's chocolate from a mile away.) And do we really need a day on which we gather in masses to profess to the world that we're in love? Why can't we just stick to personalized holidays like anniversaries?

So in an attempt to resolve my confusion a little, I'm going to make a list of the pros and cons of Valentine's Day.

Pros:

1. Chocolate. Obviously. If someone decided to start calling February 14th "National Chocolate Day," I would not be opposed. (Actually, maybe I should start up that campaign...)
2. Like I said, it can be a celebration of love for anyone. My roommates have all gotten each other Valentine's candy, cookies, etc. (Except for me...I guess I should get on that.) I'm eagerly awaiting my parents' reaction to their 2012 Valentine's surprise. There really are a lot of people to love in this world; why not have a day to remind ourselves?
3. Chocolate in the shape of hearts. (Very different from plain ol' chocolate.)
4. Seeing other people get surprised with flowers. Aw.
5. Chocolate wrapped in red. It's a very attractive color for chocolate.
6. People are more friendly in elevators. (Just a personal observation.)
7. There is an abundance of chocolate in my kitchen right now.
8. Ummm...pink? (It's a nice color...)

Cons:


1. Extreme commercialization, and not in a good way. Every time I go into the grocery store, I see these hideous fake roses and Palmer's Valentine's candy (I'm hesitant to call it chocolate. It's more like chocolate-flavored sugar). If I had a significant other, I would rather he do absolutely nothing than get me one of those cheapo gifts.
2. Unlike special, personal holidays like anniversaries, for people who do not currently have a significant other, Valentine's Day is a very loud, obnoxious reminder that "NOBODY LOVES YOU!!!" Even though you know that in fact, the only reason you're not dating someone right now is that you are actually secure in yourself and you're waiting for the right person to come along... What was obvious every other day of the year is now less obvious, even to you.
3. Pink and red, though both very nice colors, don't look very nice together.
4. People are more friendly in elevators.

Well, you can see that the pros outweigh the cons...but as the list clearly shows, Valentine's Day has been misnamed.

Happy National Chocolate Day!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why You're Single

Good news! I haven't disappeared off the face of the planet!

Also, shockingly, I have some spare time to blog. (I know, it's crazy.)

You know what's been bugging me lately? Gender stereotypes.

After writing a short, annoyed post on Facebook about this, I decided it wanted further explanation. According to the stuff my guy friends have been posting on Facebook (no offense, if you're one of them), nice guys are fed up with finishing last. Why are they single? Because they are nice, obviously. The only difference they can see between themselves as all the guys with attractive girlfriends is that those guys aren't nice and sensitive.
Seen this floating around?

Shall I list the people who could potentially be offended by this?

1. Girls with nice boyfriends. "Oh, so it's only the pretty girls who have jerks for boyfriends. I get it."
2. Girls with no boyfriends. "Right, I'm just waiting for a boy who's 'bad' enough for me."
3. Nice guys with no girlfriends. "So no girl will ever be interested in me. Thanks."
4. Nice guys with girlfriends. "Sooo...is my girlfriend ugly, or am I actually a jerk?"

But of course, that's beside the question, because being offended is a choice and if we're really going to go that way, someone could be offended at just about anything you say. Let's get more to the point.

I don't understand why guys need to separate themselves into categories of "bad" and "nice." If you're single, there could be an innumerable amount of reasons why, such as:

--You're looking for the wrong kind of girls (aka the insecure ones who like guys who treat them like dirt).
--You're too nervous to ask her out or take any kind of step past friendship.
--You're focused on only one girl and she happens to not be interested in you (not because you're "nice," but for some other reason. Like, you could actually have faults).
--The right girl hasn't come along yet and you just have to be patient. (Proverbs 3:5, anyone?)

These are only a few of the many reasons you might be single. I'm not saying these are necessarily bad; I'm just saying that you shouldn't blame being single on being "nice" when that makes little sense compared to other reasons. (I might get put in the insane asylum for saying this, but is being single actually bad?)

When you say that girls only like bad boys, this is what you're doing. First, you're saying that all girls are insecure. Second, you're saying that it's not your fault you don't have a girlfriend; it's the fact that girls want the wrong things.

But let's stop criticizing the men here for just a moment and acknowledge that a lot of girls are similarly at fault, even though they might be less blatant about it (or maybe not; there might be more Internet evidence that I have yet to see). Girls often attribute the fact that they're single to things like "guys are just looking for Barbie." Is this true? I mean, really, what are you saying? You're saying that all guys are so superficial that all they care about is that their girlfriend has a certain kind of body.

Yeah, okay, some guys really are that superficial. Some girls really are insecure. But we all need to stop putting everyone in a stereotype just because of their gender. We all want different things in relationships because we are all individual people who are very, very different from one another.

Look around, folks. Plenty of girls are dating guys who treat them well, and plenty of guys are dating girls who don't look like supermodels. Maybe you're the one who is attracted to the wrong kind of person.