Oops…Unintentional Hiatus

Hey everyone! I wanted to shoot you guys a quick message to let you know that I’m still here, but things have been pretty crazy lately. I’ve just really been too busy to devote much time or effort to this blog, but I’ll hopefully be getting back to it soon!

See, we just wrapped up the school year, which was crazy enough with all the grading and the planning and the everything that comes with that. On top of that, my family is hard-core renovating our lake cottage by ourselves, so now that school’s out, I’ve been recruited to help with that more often than not.

But uh, I also fell off the blogging wagon a while back because I entered a new relationship with someone and it’s going really well. (Yay!) So that’s obviously been taking up a lot of my time as well.

SOON. SOON. I will be back to updating my book reviews!

I Need Some Recommendations…Would Love Your Feedback!

Ok, fellow readers, I am calling on you…Ironically, this comes just a day after posting that I don’t take recommendations easily from people…

IGNORE MY CONTRADICTIONS.

So here’s the deal. I was going through my school bookshelves lately and pulling off books the kids had never showed any interest in. A few of them I brought home with me because I love them.

And it suddenly dawned on me. When was the last time I’d read a really good YA supernatural story?

I’m talking old-school, mid-2000s YA supernatural stuff. Angels and demons (like Unearthly or Sweet Evil), ghosts (like Anna Dressed in Blood), vampires (like Vampire Academy or, yes, Twilight), magic (like A Great and Terrible Beauty), or zombies (like Die For Me).

Like, is it just me or have we stopped writing these stories? I know they flooded the market for a long time and we got really tired of them (and the love triangles they always seemed to have), but they still have to be out there, right? I feel like what I see anymore is either a straight-up fantasy novel, contemporary romance, or sci-fi. And that’s not quite what I’m looking for. I want what would essentially be YA Urban Fantasy.

Can you help me? Have you read anything lately that reminds you of this? Ideally, I’d like a book that’s come out in the last, say, 3 years, but I won’t be terribly picky. Leave a comment if you have! I really want to see how these kinds of books have changed since I was reading these in high school and college!

Top Ten Opening Lines

Hallelujah! A Top Ten that I am more than equipped to do! I often think about this, especially since ALL OF MY REVIEWS START WITH FIRST LINES. Some of them are downright hilarious, others are real and full of wisdom, others jump you right into the action. I’m not going to make a distinction between these. I’m just going to give you the ten I enjoy most, for any reason.

Let’s get started!

Top Ten Opening Lines

1. “Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After.” -The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle

2. “There are lies in life we accept.  Whether it’s for the sake of ignorance, bliss or, in my case, survival, we all make our choices.” -Walk the Edge by Katie McGarry

3. “Check this out.  This dude named Andrew Dahl holds the world record for blowing up the most balloons…with his nose.  Yeah.  That’s true.  Not sure how he found out that was some kinda special talent, and I can’t even imagine how much snot be in those balloons, but hey, it’s a thing and Andrew’s the best at it.” -Ghost by Jason Reynolds

4. “Top three awful moments of my life: Meeting my biological father at ten, breaking my arm in three spots at nine, falling into a hole and being trapped there overnight with a dead body at eight.  Other than that, I love my life.” -Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry (is she the queen of first lines or what?)

5. “Brit had been fired from the Yum Yum Shoppe, which came as a  shock to approximately no one.” -Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

6. “Shooting an arrow into a crowd of people on the Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro is highly illegal.  Good thing I A) don’t care, and B) can’t be seen.” -Lovestruck by Kate Watson

7. “I make cakes.  It’s what I do.  It’s what I love.  But today, I’m standing over a mermaid, wondering what’s wrong.” -The Sweetest Thing by Christina Mandelski

8. “Henry calls me at 12:01 the night before homecoming.  Or technically–and assuming the alarm clock I knock off my nightstand once a day is even in the right time zone–the morning of homecoming.  “Cleveland.  I need you.  Put some pants on.” -The Dead Queens Club by Hannah Capin

9. “The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.” -Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

10. “There is blood under my fingernails.  I wonder how many of my people I’ve killed this time.” -A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

Please Excuse My Absence

I just wanted to shoot you guys a little note.  I’m still here, I’m still reading and writing and watching movies related to YA.

But my stress feels like it’s through the roof right now and at the moment, this blog is just one more thing on my plate, one more deadline hanging over my head.

I promise I will be back, once I can calm down.  I’ve had an excess of grading lately, a lot going on at school, the stress of yet another school shooting on my mind and listening to people who don’t understand talk about what is or isn’t the problem, the frustration of a website I rely on daily failing at every turn, and other general life issues.

The only two things that seem to successfully calm me down are reading and singing.

A lot of the time right now, I can only maintain my sanity if I avoid watching the news and if I stay off the internet.  So it’s not that I don’t love you lovely people (because I do), but I have to take care of myself at the moment.

Thank you for understanding.

Back To School!

Hey everyone!  I’m just going to take a stab at it and say that most of you are either back at school or heading back to school soon (if you even are still in school).  So I thought share some encouragement and a few other words of advice.

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I know not everyone (most people?) don’t look forward to going back to school.  Homework, stress, tests, bullying, and more can be really awful.  I get it.  Not every moment during the school year is going to be a winner, even in your best year.  (Remember the time I was stalked during my senior year?)

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still great things that can happen during the school year.  Get involved in some kind of club.  Meet new people.  Try something new.  Go to a football game or a concert or a play–whatever you’re interested in.  Schools typically try to foster a sense of community where they have all kinds of activities and ways for parents and grandparents to come and be proud of their kiddos for something.

I’ll admit, school has already started for me and in the weeks prior, I was semi-dreading it.  I’ve spent the last two months living alone, singing Broadway tunes at all hours and doing whatever I want whenever I want.  My social interactions have been limited to a few moments a day, usually talking to a cashier or a few family members or friends, usually over text.  (Introvert needs to recharge her batteries for the school year.)

Even through all of that, I’ve also been looking forward to this year.  I like setting up my classroom for a new year.  I love getting to know my students and having some fun with them.  (It’s always great to read The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe early on in the year and see them freak out about how excited I get over the story.)  And I’m excited to see my friends again too.  (Yes, teachers get excited about that too.)  I have a good feeling about this school year.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but you’ve got this.  It’s a clean slate.  If you need to, start fresh.  The trick to that is dedicating yourself to whatever it is you’re trying to change.  I see it every year: students tell me they’re going to stop being slackers but they do nothing to change their habits and eventually slip back to what they’ve always done.  You have to truly want to change before anything’s going to happen.  It’s a bit like running a marathon: you’re not suddenly going to be awesome overnight.  It takes time and probably a few setbacks along the way, but you’ll get there if you keep trying.

If there’s a problem, talk to your teachers.  I promise, if they’re any good at their job, they want to help you.  I had a girl a few years ago who struggled with reading at the pace she needed to to keep up with the class on the novel.  When she told me, I printed off SparkNotes for her so she could at least follow along that way and help her remember what she read.  Your teachers can’t see or know everything, so tell them.  I don’t always know about the animosity between two students, especially if they normally avoid each other.  If I happen to put them in a group together, I want to know something’s wrong.

If it’s something serious like bullying or depression or something going on at home, I still want to know about that.  I will turn Mama Bear in .04 seconds when I know my students are going through a rough patch.  And there’s always a way to get you help.  Your teachers, your friends, your family, they care about you.  They can’t always know something’s wrong if you don’t say something.

I want all of my students to succeed.  I want to do what’s best for them at all times and get them interested in the English language and reading and writing.

The school year, at least in part, is what you make of it.  It’s about attitude, about choosing joy.  Don’t always focus on the bad.  Are you really going to let your day be ruined because you tripped over your feet in the hallway and a few people laughed (it’s happened to me) or are you going to move on?

You’ve got this!  Go tackle this school year with style!

My Holiday Pet Peeve: “Are you still single?”

Alright everybody, I know I am not the only one out there with this particular pet peeve, so we’re going to cheer each other up right now.

On Thanksgiving Day, I was at my mom’s side, who are generally all Catholics, married young, and had a boatload of babies.  This goes for my aunts/uncles and my cousins.

Then there’s me and my three brothers.  Not one of us has a significant other and I don’t think any of us are actively looking at the moment either.  While I wouldn’t turn down a date if one came my way, I’m a little more focused on things like looking for houses and my job and doing whatever I freaking well please to whenever I freaking want to.

But who gets asked the dreaded question?

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Oh, right.  Me.  Not my brothers.  Me.

I hate this sexist question.  With a bloody passion.

Only the funny thing was I didn’t get asked this question yesterday.  And I had a fantastic time.  One of my younger cousins and I nerded out about history and Bing Crosby and made plans to have an old Christmas movie marathon.  I hung out with my uncles and brothers and watched football and knit a shawl.  (Yes, my uncles gave me some crap about it, but I can take it.  In fact, I prefer it to being upstairs with the aunts.)

It was only this morning that I found out someone had asked about my relationship status.  One of my aunts, who is typically described as “nosy” inquired with my mom about my status.  Was I single?  Was I even looking?

“Well, she’d better hurry up and get you those grandbabies!”

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…This is actually pretty mild for what I’m feeling right now.  No one, no one has the right to tell me how to live my life like that.  Yes, I’m 27 and I do feel the pressure of the “biological clock” and all that, but I also want to be with the right guy and have a family together.  I don’t want to settle and then get divorced and then be a single mother dealing with custody battles and all that.

One of my aunts has done that and it was horrible.

But then here’s the best part.

When asked if I was even looking, my mom said she didn’t know.  So my aunt goes, “Well, she should start going to bars and looking!”

Why. In. Zeus-loving. Hades. Would. I. Do. That?

First of all, I never frequent bars.  Ever.  I have only set foot inside a bar I think twice in my life.  And not once have I actually had a drink there.

Secondly, as if that didn’t nail home the point enough, I don’t really drink.  I may have the occasional sangria at home, but I don’t drink in public at all.  I don’t see the enjoyment in it.  I’ve never been drunk and I do not relish the thought of ever being drunk.

And thirdly, I’ve kind of been down this road already.  One of my previous boyfriends was a fairly heavy drinker and during our relationship, I found myself a couple of times trying to keep pace with him.  I drank more than I really wanted to and I didn’t care for drinking just to keep someone company.  Another of my boyfriends had worked at a bar in the months before we met and spent most of his nights drunk.  By the time we met, he was on probation of drunk driving, but at least he’d sworn off alcohol after that.  I didn’t know it at the time, but later I’d learned he’d replaced alcohol with other drugs.

As you may be able to imagine, this makes me more than a little hesitant when it comes to dating now.

My mom’s on my side at least.  She almost turned to my aunt and said, “Why would she go shopping for men at a bar?”  To us, at least, it sounds horrible.  I’d be putting on a front the whole time just to meet someone who probably wouldn’t even be compatible with my introverted, bookish personality.

But she didn’t say that, only because she realized that’s how some of my cousins have/have probably met their significant others.

One of my cousins is actually a bartender and a serial serious dater.  He dates a girl for about a year, nearly gets engaged, and then something happens to break it off.  Two months later, he’s serious with a new girl.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

That’s not the life I want.  I want to be with the right person, someone who finds it interesting that I read all the time and have quirky interests.   I want someone who has their own quirky interests as well.  But all I keep seeing are dude-bros who still have the mentality of a college frat boy and want brainless arm candy.

And I’m not doing it.

So, if this holiday season, someone asks you if you’re still single and you’re as fed up as me, here are some types of responses you can give them:

1. The Truth

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2. The Evasion

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3. The Funny Truth

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4. The Response I’ve Always Wanted to Say

“Hey, if you can find me a guy who is X, Y, and Z [fill in with your own requirements, like tall, bookish, and nerdy] then I’ll be happy to date them.  But I haven’t been able to find that person yet.”

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Happy Holidays, everyone!  Don’t let family bother you too much.  They do (usually) mean well, even if they do make us mad sometimes.