Friday, December 30, 2016

My Year in Books 2016

My goal for this year was to read 35 books. For most of the year, I was trailing that goal by 4 or so books, but in the last few days I blew through a few (thanks to Kasie West's books being so good!) to end with a solid 34. So close! But here is my year in books. (Also a link to my Good Reads year in books.)

Of the 34 books:
Only 5 were by men.
22 were YA.
16 were SFF.

Some of my favorites were:
On The Fence by Kasie West
P.S. I Like You by Kasie West (I couldn't just choose one).
Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

What I'm looking forward to in 2017:
Shadow Run by AdriAnne Strickland
Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab
A Conjuring of Light by V. E Schwab
Shadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Things I've learned about my favorite authors:
I will forever read anything Kasie West writes. I loved her Pivot Point duology and then read The Distance Between Us and loved that, but somewhere in my reading, forgot how much I like contemporary. In the last week, I've read three of her books, (which helped me almost beat my goal for the year) and couldn't put any of them down.

As much as I try not to say it, I still love Cassandra Clare. I thought that the Shadow Hunter world would get old to me after two series, but I loved learning about Emma and Julian, and being in that world again. It was a long book, but I didn't want it to end. It pulled me in again as those books always have.

I've never read Alice and Wonderland, but after reading Heartless, it is in my TBR pile right at the top. I loved the way Marissa Meyer described her Wonderland, which made me want to read the source material.

What were some of your favorite books? Who are your go-to authors to read?

Friday, December 16, 2016

What I've Done to Keep Writing

It's been a struggle to keep writing while also having a day job as a teacher. As an introvert, I am very tired at the end of the day after being around so many people, especially teenagers who have so much energy. I do not get my energy from being around them, like many of my extraverted colleagues. And while I very much enjoy teaching and getting to know my students, it's something that leaves me very tired at the end of the day.

Additionally, I stare at a computer screen for a big portion of the day. Since I teach students science, we do a lot of labs and discuss the concepts in that way, but I always have a powerpoint to at least organize my thoughts (even if it's just bullet points).

Guillermo Del Toro hand writes his thoughts too
From his exhibition at the LACMA
Then there's answering emails. All our students have chromebooks (we're a one-to-one laptop school), so in addition to emails from parents, colleagues, the school district, and random science people, I also get emails from students every day. That's a lot of email to go through. I'm the type of person who likes to reply back ASAP so that I've answered all my emails and don't have any responses hanging over my head. We also have lots of assignments that are turned in over our web-based management system, so I grade almost everything on the computer. Again, this means a lot of screen time.

When I get home, the last thing I want to do is to use more brain power to write on a computer. I don't have clear thoughts on my story because my day was filled with minute-to-minute decisions of other things. I cannot force myself to look at a computer for the rest of the night. But obviously I still want to write. I have this story (that I've started twice) that keeps swirling around in my head, that I have to finish. But it's been so hard to keep writing on the computer.

Instead I've been handwriting in a journal every night before I go to bed. Writing out scenes instead of typing isn't something that makes sense to me and my brain, so I've been world-building and character-building and even plot-building. Even if it's just for half an hour, I've been thinking about it and writing down something. That way, when I get to the week, I can outline and actually start the real writing.

I know this is nothing new to lots of people, but it's not something I ever really considered for some reason. Living in this technical world, I guess I just forgot about using a journal.

So that's what I've been up to. I'm starting this story over for a third time (yay) and hopefully with all the world-building and brainstorming I've been doing, this will be the correct vision (of a first draft).

Are there days when you just can't get yourself to look at a computer screen? What do you do instead?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Movie Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

As a semi-obsessed HP fan, I of course had to go see Fantastic Beasts. I was fairly excited, because I love Eddie Redmayne and the idea of him in the HP universe made me giddy.

Thankfully the movie theater was not packed, as it isn't on a Saturday at 10 am, (this is the perfect time to see a movie in Philly, because there are no screaming babies in the theater, unlike every other time of day, which includes all types of movies), and I could enjoy my movie with little interruption.

I really enjoyed the Beasts part of the movie, which is obviously the main focus. They did a great job showing us the different species and what cool things they could do. And for that part, I give it an A+. The niffler beginning sequence was great. It was adorable and playful, and had that humor J.K. is known for. I really liked Newt and the Bowtruckle, and that relationship they had. It showed Newt's caring side and how much of a Hufflepuff he is.

It was super weird to hear wizards without British accents, since that is something I associate very closely with Harry Potter. It was also weird that non-magic people weren't called muggles. We all knew it going in, but it was still weird.

As for the movie, there were a few things that bothered me.

I didn't not connect with Newt Scamander. He had almost no backstory and only a "kooky" personality, that while charming, didn't resonate with me. He felt like a blank slate. We got some glimpses into his past at the end, and I'm sure the other movies will get into it, but the lack of backstory made him feel flat with no real motivation. There needs to be some of this for the audience to care about the character, even if it's the first in a series of movies.

While the villain was a cool concept, if I were a No-Maj in the movie during that time, I don't think I would think of an obscurial as a monster, but more of a natural disaster. It looks like a tornado. I don't think I would associate an odd mix of swirling gases as a monster. So to me, it didn't make sense that they were trying to fight against it. Obviously bullets don't work against hurricanes...

Overall, I think I'd give it a B+. Mostly because it's an HP movie and the beasts were interesting.

What did you guys think? Was it as good/bad as you thought it would be?